Arcimboldo_Librarian_.jpgThe Bibliothecary Blog

a blog of literary endeavour                                       


Entries by Ed Pettit (375)


Best of both worlds

I've decided to merge the Bibliothecary blog and the Ed & Edgar blog into one massively cool adventure:

The Ed & Edgar Blog: my adventures in the Cult of Poe and other literary endeavours. 

The Biblio blog will still be on the site, so you can always search the archives.  But from now on, I'm going to post only on Ed & Edgar.

Read and enjoy.



At When Falls the Coliseum, David Alfreds makes the case that Akira Kurosawa is the greatest film director of all time. I won't argue. Although I have been remiss in not seeing most of Kurosawa's non-Samurai films. I've always wanted to see Ikiru and High and Low. One of these days I'll get to them.

In January, when the TV crew from Japan was filming in my study for their documentary on Edgar Allan Poe, they gave me several gifts, including a few Kurosawa items: a book of his beautiful storyboard paintings (he was a painter before a moviemaker), a decorated fan with one of Kurosawa's painted images on it and a box of Seven Samurai collectible figures that includes all the samurais from the movie plus a little Kurosawa directing the action and a camera crew.  Each of the boxes has a piece of candy in it, too, but they told me not to eat it as it was expired.  Here they are:


Yours Truly, Ben

A cache of previously unknown letters to and from Benjamin Franklin has been found in an archive in the British Library. Professor Alan Houston found them while researching a book in 2007 (news travels slowly from the academic world):

What Houston had found was the handiwork of Thomas Birch, secretary to the Royal Society and a famously compulsive copyist of manuscripts. Birch had dined frequently with Franklin in London during the summer of 1757. Franklin by then was famous as a scientist for his experiments with electricity, but he wanted to show his British hosts that he was also politically important in the Colonies. Thus he carried with him, as a kind of calling card, a bound book of letters written by him, to him and about him during the Braddock affair. In his autobiography, Franklin referred to carrying a "Quire Book of Letters during this Transaction." The original quire book has never been found, but Birch copied it.

I'm fascinated by the detail that Franklin carried a quire of letters as a kind of press packet. 

And this account of the find by Jennifer Howard in the Chronicle is much more detailed.  Apparently Houton has kept his discovery secret for the last couple of years until he could publish the letters. 


Friday Omnigatherum

An omnigatherum of literary links for your Friday reading:

Science Fiction and memory at the Wired blog

Top 10 Forgotten Pulitzer Prize Winning novels at abe (I've heard of only two of these)

Science Fiction and Sex (wink wink) at io9

Stephen Marche on famous lost works of literature in the WSJ

Jeffrey Trachtenberg on Mark Twain's new book in the WSJ (About time that slacker Twain put out a new one)


Whisky Neat

If you're in the Philly area, Akuza Theatre's Whisky Neat is in its final weekend.  The play is written by Bruce Walsh who is also scripting Brat Productions' Edgar Allan Poe show (a show I'm involved with).  There's a trailer for Whisky Neat.  Looks like a play about drinking, sex and violence.  Can you ask for more than that? 


Dead Poet's Society Day

At the Guardian, Ian McMillan reminds us that April 23rd is not only Shakespeare's death day.  Also dead on this day: Miguel de Cervantes (1616), William Wordsworth (1850), Henry Vaughan (1695) and Rupert Brooke (1915). 

Although Cervantes died on the same date as Shakes, Apr 23, 1616, they died ten days apart because England had not yet switched to the Gregorian calendar.  Brits were still using the old Julian calendar (Protestant Heretics!).  A couple years ago, a movie was made, "Miguel y William," about a supposed encounter between the two poets (and their love for the same woman).  The appropriately named Will Kemp starred as Shakes.  I don't think it's ever been released in America, nor have I been able to find a DVD.  But you can watch the trailer at the film's website.

And here's a little Wordsworth link for today: an intern at the Wordsworth Trust, Emily Hasler, has been blogging about her experience all year at A Grasmere Journal.


Who Is Primary?

I love this.  Abbott and Costello's Who's on First as a Shakespearean dialogue:

Thanks Talk Like Shakespeare.


Talk like Shakespeare

In honor of his birthday, it's also Talk Like Shakespeare Day. Well, at least in Chicago it is, but maybe it'll catch on (do we want it to?). Nevertheless, there are some good links at the Talk Like Shakes homepage, including some cool videos, like the Hamlet Musical from Gilligan's Island.

And here's an oddity: All 154 of Shakespeare's Sonnets adapted for the flute:

The improvisations try to capture something of the tuneful, very rhythmic, occasionally rustic "playhouse feeling" of the period, without losing the intimacy of the Poet's "lark ascending" and "black dog" moments. The mellow flute playing is remarkable for its fresh inventiveness and beautiful sonority.


Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore . . .

We'll begin today with the Bard of Avon. Today is the death day of William Shakespeare. This day is also celebrated as his birthday, but we don't know for certain if that is true. We only know he was baptized on April 26, 1564. We are certain that Shakes died on Apr 23, 1616. Later today, I'll have a couple more posts on Shakespeare and other writers who share death anniversaries on April 23.

But first the Great Shakes.

A couple interviews with contemporary Shakespeareans: Dominic Dromgoole, artistic director of the Globe Theatre, and Michael Boyd, artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Here's Boyd on the Sonnets, which were published 400 years ago this year (another anniversary!):

Far from being a minority pursuit at the RSC, studying the Sonnets is a core activity, he explains. 'They provide one of main agencies of teaching actors. You can really start to dig into Shakespeare’s habits in miniature with the Sonnets. An awful lot of them are miniature plays. If ever I’m in danger of feeling superficial about the way I read the plays, I go back to the Sonnets and just follow all that filigree thought and layered consideration.

The Telegraph interview with Boyd also includes my new favorite sonnet, number 60, which will be read at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford this Sunday:

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown'd,
Crooked eclipses 'gainst his glory fight,
And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth
And delves the parallels in beauty's brow,
Feeds on the rarities of nature's truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:
And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand,
Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.


The Janeites

Austen's tiny writing deskIn "Jane Addiction" in The National, Peter Terzian reviews Clare Harman's Jane's Fame: How Austen Conquered the World:

Our obsession with Jane Austen has turned a dark corner. February brought news of a new book titled Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which splices Austen’s original text with scenes where, according to the publisher’s website, Elizabeth Bennet “wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead”. Weeks later, word came that a film called Pride and Predator, in which a space alien claws up Regency England, was in preproduction, to be scored by Elton John. The forthcoming Jane Bites Back is the first book of a proposed series that imagines the early 19th-century novelist as a vampire, now 200 years old and ticked off at the profitable Austen industry.

Terzian mentions a Rudyard Kipling short story entitled "The Janeites" about a WWI vet reminiscing about the secret Austen society of his battalion. Members would give certain passwords related to the novels and receive Turkish cigarettes in return (I propose this practice be reinstated) and would chalk character names on their artillery guns. When one of the soldiers claims that Jane never had children, the other responds (in his cockney dialect):

“Pa-hardon me, gents,” Macklin says, “but this is a matter on which I do ‘appen to be moderately well-informed. She did leave lawful issue in the shape o’ one son; an’ ‘is name was ‘Enery James.”

James Heldman writes about his discovery of Kipling's story along with a cheeky poem about Jane in Heaven, "Jane's Marriage" for the Austen Society of North America. Heldman observes, "But the principal secret society in the story is made up of Humberstall and his four companions in combat whose devotion to Jane Austen gives them a common bond of civilization and humanity in the face of the demoralization of war." It's this same kind of thrill that, I think, still unites many Janeites, although for them, modern culture is substituted for The Great War.

Kipling's "The Janeites" and his poem "Jane's Marriage."

‘Well, as pore Macklin said, it’s a very select Society, an’ you’ve got to be a Janeite in your ’eart, or you won’t have any success. An’ yet he made me a Janeite! I read all her six books now for pleasure ‘tween times in the shop; an’ it brings it all back—down to the smell of the glue-paint on the screens. You take it from me, Brethren, there’s no one to touch Jane when you’re in a tight place. Gawd bless ‘er, whoever she was.’