There's special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it wi There's special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come. The readiness is all.
If readiness be all, then this volume is a staple on any bookshelf. Ready to be opened for quick quote checks, ready to be heaved at home intruders (it's really heavy), it is useful in so many ways. It stays open on the window shelf, so the afternoon breeze can choose its special pages. Additionally, there are several sections dealing with Shakespeare's life, the Plague, Elizabethan art, and the people of the Great Poet's time.
The extras are worthwhile. For instance, Tudor London was a genuinely filthy place, but as editor G.B. Harrison makes clear, it was still beautiful in its own way. There was no smog to grime the buildings, half-timbered homes stood on narrow lanes, and the Thames was still clear. The old City was all but wiped out in the Great Fire of 1666. Maybe that's why I love having this huge volume on hand, so I can imagine olden times filled with silver tongues.
Confession: I also use this to come up with the many passwords I need for all of my online apps. That's because the bottom of each page has highlighted words and their meanings. It helps.
Christmas came early this year! A whole set of uncut Robert Louis Stevenson books. RLS! This is better than coffee ice cream, meat pies, and pecan rolChristmas came early this year! A whole set of uncut Robert Louis Stevenson books. RLS! This is better than coffee ice cream, meat pies, and pecan rolls. Shazam!
I have already reviewed the story itself here, so I will use this review for the actual physical book. As we increasingly turn to e-books in the current century, it is always a pleasure to hold a book which was made when printing presses were considered to be state-of-the-art and most folks couldn't even afford a book, let alone a set.
Those Scribner sons did a mighty fine job with this volume. Red cloth with gold lettering and the type of paper one doesn't see anymore. This is a well-brought-up book, the kind you can introduce to others with pride. Gorgeous. The previous owner(s) took good care of this baby, and I hope to continue the tradition.
Book Season = Winter (it's a winter's tale)...more
This poor book. It managed to survive more than a hundred years via the hands of other owners. Then it fell into mine, and now the spine is off and thThis poor book. It managed to survive more than a hundred years via the hands of other owners. Then it fell into mine, and now the spine is off and the pages seem to gasp when I get near. It really isn't my fault. I just love Marlowe! While others went on and on about Willy Shakespeare, I always stood firm behind my mighty poet, whacked-out though he was.
...Marlowe's place is at the heart of English poetry, and his pulses still thrill in our verse.
How can anyone read Marlowe's TAMBURLAINE THE GREAT and not feel the power of the words...words which seem to have as much power as the weapons of torture used on the conqueror's victims. Jove will stoop before his sword!
In 1593, as the plague raged through London yet again, Christopher Marlowe sought safety in the little village of Deptford. Turbulent blood was spilled when Marlowe was slain in a drunken quarrel. He was buried beneath the towers of St. Nicholas. His words live on.
One thought, one grace, one wonder, at the least, Which into words no virtue can digest.
Book Season = Winter (ride in triumph through Persepolis)...more
William Hastings was a loyal Yorkist who served King Edward IV during the Wars of the Roses. When the King died, Hastings got caught between the machiWilliam Hastings was a loyal Yorkist who served King Edward IV during the Wars of the Roses. When the King died, Hastings got caught between the machinations of the the widowed Queen and the incoming Protector, the future Richard III. Hastings ended up losing his head.
However, he will be forever mentioned because he was the first patron of one of the most beautifully illuminated Book of Hours, now known as the Hastings Hours. This was one of the last of the great Flemish hand renderings, before the printing press signaled the eventual end of these artistic masterpieces.
This book is a small (can be held in one's palm) but highly effective overview of the Hours. It has artwork on every other page, with the lives of the saints in full view (St. Erasmus always makes me a bit queasy). The commentary by Janet Backhouse is a perfect accompaniment and is another example of the type of classy publications by the Pomegranate Books publishing group.
Hawthorne has always freaked me out a bit. I say that with respect, but he and Washington Irving remind me of chilly October nights, full moons, rustlHawthorne has always freaked me out a bit. I say that with respect, but he and Washington Irving remind me of chilly October nights, full moons, rustling leaves, and scarecrows. In other words, New England. In this collection of tales, Hawthorne lures the reader in with parables of good versus, well you know what. Very Puritan-ish.
It was old Esther Dudley, who had dwelt almost immemorial years in this mansion, until her presence seemed as inseparable from it as the recollections of its history.
These are tales, not stories. Perhaps one needs to have some Salem Witch Trial blood (which Hawthorne did) to produce such works. My poor battered copy sits defiantly on the New England shelf, knowing it harbors original strangeness.
Sometimes we find the end of the rainbow in secondhand bookshops. This little (literally) jewel found me when I was browsing books in Gloucester. I waSometimes we find the end of the rainbow in secondhand bookshops. This little (literally) jewel found me when I was browsing books in Gloucester. I was on my way to view the magnificent effigy of Robert II in the cathedral, so it seemed fitting to have some Robert Louis Stevenson in my hand when I did so.
When you have read, you carry away with you a memory of the man himself; it is as though you had touched a loyal hand, looked into brave eyes, and made a noble friend; there is another bond on you thenceforward, binding you to life and to the love of virtue.
If you're going to visit royalty, bring some with you.
Book Season = Summer (flower of the hedgerow)...more
It would be rather silly of me to review these Shakespearean poems. The language is magnificent, and I don't really get involved in the 'shadiness' ofIt would be rather silly of me to review these Shakespearean poems. The language is magnificent, and I don't really get involved in the 'shadiness' of the Fair Youth. It's enough that I've had the joy of reading these eloquent demonstrations of love and yearning, one of those a-ha confirmations of life's beauty.
This specific volume is an oldie, being printed in 1901. I have almost killed it, resulting in bookcover surgery. The publishers included a lovely little glossary plus a preface to each work and fitted the book to smaller dimensions. A gem.
Book Season = Year Round (words are easy like the wind)...more
Before the advent of The Internet, there were subscription programs for book deliveries. It was like Christmas every time a brown paper package arriveBefore the advent of The Internet, there were subscription programs for book deliveries. It was like Christmas every time a brown paper package arrived from the folks at Granta, you just never knew what each volume would contain. While it's nice to see a revival of subscriber services again (Powells has the best), memories of Granta goodies endure whenever I chance across one on my shelves.
GRANTA 31 is a mind-blower. Check this out:
1.) Isabel Hilton She has the cover piece on Alfredo Stroessner, the dictator of Paraguay from 1954 to 1989. It's a whopper.
2.) Salmon Rushdie His essay, IS NOTHING SACRED?, looks at whether religious mentality can survive outside of religious dogma. The stream of questioning looks at several verticals, even books.
I grew up kissing books and bread.
3.) Christopher Hitchens ON THE ROAD TO TIMISOARA looks at the state of Romanian affairs during the downfall of the Iron Curtain and Ceausescu's assassination.
4.) Bill Bryson The wordy traveller takes on Norway, reindeer, and the Northern Lights.
5.) Margaret Atwood In this elegant short story, Atwood writes about the Egyptian myth of the rebirth of Osrisis.
There's more, but that's just icing on the cake. As the Delfonics sang, "Didn't I blow your mind this time, didn't I".
And time does indeed flit away, burbling and chortling. Cheshire Charles of Carroll created such whimsical poWe are building little homes on the sands
And time does indeed flit away, burbling and chortling. Cheshire Charles of Carroll created such whimsical poetry, it was frabjous to read his collected poems, albeit usually in a public space with curious onlookers trying to determine exactly what was in my book. That's because I had the gorgeous clothbound edition with the knockout dragonesque design by Coralie Bickford-Smith.
All in the golden afternoon Full leisurely we glide
There is so much to love and marvel over with Mr. Dodgson. Snobby phantoms, mock turtles, fluttery bakers...each page a candy store of words and letters. Every time I thought I had a new favorite, but onward came the next page and memory started anew.
They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care; They pursued it with forks and hope
Obviously, there are untold numbers of Lewis Carroll poetry books, so let me make a case for this specific volume. A member of the now famous Penguin Cloth Classics, it merits a place in your collection, even if you don't purchase p-books. Meticulous notes, ribbon marker, and bio plus the aforementioned cover art make this a Top-Shelf addition (and a nice little gift, if need be).
I think of that strange wanderer Upon the lonely moor
That was Lewis Carroll, a strange wanderer in a lonely world.
Book Season = Winter (when midnight mists are creeping)...more
This is a behemoth of Shakespeare's works. Sonnets, dramas, comedies, histories. Everything. This is the proud tome that stays open on a bookstand, loThis is a behemoth of Shakespeare's works. Sonnets, dramas, comedies, histories. Everything. This is the proud tome that stays open on a bookstand, lording it over the smaller p-books. Of course, it has to sit on its own stand, as it's not built for mobility. Handy yet monstrous.
If you make it to the end, the Appendices bring a boatload of facts to the reader. Witches And Witchcraft, Tortures And Punishments, Cuckolds And Horns...Elizabethan strangeness.
Books by Robert Louis Stevenson tend to migrate into my collection, which means I might have different publications of the same title. While I have reBooks by Robert Louis Stevenson tend to migrate into my collection, which means I might have different publications of the same title. While I have reviewed the work in another edition, I actually used this 1957 version to do the actual reading. The illustrations by Cheslie D'Andrea are black and white comic book style and this simple mass market book was perfect for the constant page turning. Again, a favourite RLS tale so I guess I'll collect some more....more
The definition of "tushery" = the use of affectedly archaic language in novels. This word was coined by the great Robert Louis Stevenson for his own BThe definition of "tushery" = the use of affectedly archaic language in novels. This word was coined by the great Robert Louis Stevenson for his own BLACK ARROW, a swashbuckling tale of the Wars of the Roses. RLS was not the biggest fan of his own Lancaster versus York story, so he invented a word to describe the use of the many antiquated words in this historical novel.
"Ay, friend, a whole tale of tushery. And every tusher tushes me so free, that may I be tushed if the whole thing is worth a tush."
Tush, mush. I love this tale of red rose against white rose, as it was the first book to enthrall me in the tangled web of 15th century England. Here we have Richard Crookback as the Duke of Gloucester, the leader of the Yorkist armies but not yet Richard III. Characters change sides, swords clash, and arrows fly, especially black arrows. Stevenson never disappoints.
In the early 1900s, the E.R. Du Mont company published a collection of Shakespeare books, including this starter volume on his life and writing methodIn the early 1900s, the E.R. Du Mont company published a collection of Shakespeare books, including this starter volume on his life and writing methods. It's a neat little package with a bio, commentary, notes, and critical comments.
The book is broken up into five sections:
I. LIFE OF SHAKESPEARE Israel Gollancz provides a date-filled review of the great dramatist's life, including etches of family gravestones and a copy of William Shakespeare's will.
II. SHAKESPEARE - THE MAN Walter Bagehot poetically describes the works of Shakespeare in an effort to ascertain the inner workings of the man himself. ...surely people do not keep a tame steam-engine to write their books.
III. SELF-REVELATION OF SHAKESPEARE Leslie Stephen writes a commentary on Shakespeare's characters and what they reveal or don't reveal.
It's always nice to know that sometimes I bring up the rear when it comes to reading certain books. Apparently, I am one of the last book lovers on eaIt's always nice to know that sometimes I bring up the rear when it comes to reading certain books. Apparently, I am one of the last book lovers on earth to finish this sci-fi classic. Most appropriate, given the content.
In the country of the blind the one-eyed man is king.
The Wellsian short story served as the basis for this Wyndham classic, but the author also reached further into the ways the industrial revolution had made functionaries of humans. Civil service. Existence with no focus. Overreliance on so-called leaders (noted here as 'The Americans'). Take away the normal daily routine of the average citizen and chaos ensues. In essence, sauerkraut belongs in a barrel, not in a can.
...one kind of community's virtue may well be another kind of community's crime...
Other times, other customs. The spectacular becomes the commonplace. The various themes explored by Wyndham are spot-on and rather scary. As a reader, I certainly worried more about the remaining humans than I did about the plants. The hero grew on me, especially with his ability to adapt quickly because of the new freedom he perceived.
I also have strange plants in my garden. Echium (Pride of Madeira), which is nasty when rubbed against. They have now re-seeded without my assistance and are taking over most of the remaining space. They should be learning to walk soon...I plan to be on their side.
NOTE: while there was a movie title with the book's name, the real movie related to this book is 28 DAYS LATER. Replace the zombies with the Triffs.
With greedy hands, he digs for treasure, and is happy when he finds earthworms!
I found earthworms. This 'new American version' kept me digging and I f
With greedy hands, he digs for treasure, and is happy when he finds earthworms!
I found earthworms. This 'new American version' kept me digging and I found occasional gems. Adapted by C.F. MacIntyre in 1941 with the goal of bringing Goethe to a wider audience, the words and phrases are modern and everything moves along rather quickly. Like the soil turned over by the overworked worm, one gets a rich flow in sections, sufficient enough but not necessarily memorable.
You worry about so many things which may not happen And weep for things you may never lose.
The witches' section is raucous, irreverence created as milkshakes. Mephistopheles remains brilliant in this translation, to the point where I started imagining Ronald Colman-type voicing. Part I does not do Faust himself much good, as here he does not gain sympathy.
You need just what you do not know, and what you really know is worthless.
As any gardener knows, earthworms produce treasure in the rich hummus soil of their work. So, though I did not find the doubloons I was looking for in this version, I nevertheless walked away wealthier for my reading. My recommendation would point this version as a very good beginning to Faust. Alas, MacIntyre never published his translation of Part 2. It sits in a locked box in the UCLA library. Mephistopheles doesn't like to lose.
I'd like to give myself to the Devil, if I weren't the Devil myself!
This is the 1954 Folio Society edition of Shakespeare's Hamlet, with a nice intro supplied by Richard Burton (before he became THE Richard Burton). AThis is the 1954 Folio Society edition of Shakespeare's Hamlet, with a nice intro supplied by Richard Burton (before he became THE Richard Burton). A great play, obviously, though one which always seems to cause agitation in readers because of the protagonist's lack of get-up-and-go. I always saw Hamlet as a perfect corporate player, one who realizes the odds and then waits like a cobra to strike.
The highlights of this specific edition are:
1. Introduction by Richard Burton The Welsh actor always loved words and he wrote this intro before he became an international boxoffice success. Burton describes the reflections of John Barrymore and John Gielgud on the role, while also noting that everyone has a bit of Hamlet in them.
Here is the play. Read it. The greatness is here in the bald, printed line.
2. Designs by Roger Furse Furse was one of the top set decorators of British film and stage, known for his collaborations with Laurence Olivier. The illustrations are the ones he designed for Oliver's film, capturing the moodiness of scenes.
3. Publication by the Folio Society Always beautifully presented, this is another Folio book to proudly own. Set in 11 point Plantin type and bound in Chatham, this is a Hamlet to park in your driveway (figuratively speaking).
This classic story by Rudyard Kipling, telling of the adventures of Mowgli who is raised by wolves in the jungles of India, gets the Ingpen treatment.This classic story by Rudyard Kipling, telling of the adventures of Mowgli who is raised by wolves in the jungles of India, gets the Ingpen treatment. That is, the illustrations are by Australian artist Robert Ingpen, who brings the animals to life in the best edition I have seen of Kipling's tales for children.
This is the hour of pride and power, Talon and tush and claw.
Kipling. His pen could write with a silver tongue. The sounds and denizens of the jungle come alive with his words. Now add these incredible pictures of Bagheera the Panther, Baloo the Bear, and the Monkey-Folk...known as the Bandar-Log.
Here we sit in branchy row, Thinking of beautiful things we know; Dreaming of deeds that we mean to do, All complete, in a minute or two - Something noble and grand and good, Won by merely wishing we could.
And Kaa the Python! A snake of 30 feet length who could knock down a large-sized man. Ingpen does him justice (this isn't Disney).
Additionally, this volume contains the story of THE WHITE SEAL, who strives to find an island where man has not tread. TOOMAI OF THE ELEPHANTS and HER MAJESTY'S SERVANTS round out the collection. And, of course, RIKKI-TIKKI-TAVI, the little mongoose who took on Nag the Cobra.
This is a magnificent book. Full parchment paper, heavy dust jacket, illustrations galore, green satin bookmark. Worth every cent.
Book Season = Summer (steam rising from the ground)...more
This is another wonderful volume of the Charles Dickens collection from 1911 and the David D. Nickerson company. Although the volume starts with the fThis is another wonderful volume of the Charles Dickens collection from 1911 and the David D. Nickerson company. Although the volume starts with the final section of BARNABY RUDGE, the majority of the book belongs to HARD TIMES. Or perhaps it should be entitled "Harsh Times", as Dickens spared no expense to express just how he felt about the effects of the Industrial Revolution on northern England in the 19th century.
It took me a while to warm up to any of the characters in Dickens' shortest novel. Perhaps it was due to the fact that I wasn't thrilled about the setting, the pollution-filled Coketown. The black smoke chokes the inhabitants, the smokestacks create a simoom of hot, dusty darkness. I could smell it.
The whole town seemed to be frying in oil.
It's a case of logic vs. nature. The rural landscape is destroyed. The children are taught facts and figures. The circus is rundown. Fairies do not exist here. Depressing. Yet, it all becomes engrossing as the separate titled sections (Sowing, Reaping, Garnering) tell the reader to hang in there, some folks will be getting their just rewards.
"Nothing that a Noodle does, can awaken surprise or indignation; the proceedings of a Noodle can only inspire contempt."
Thanks to Dickens' usual spot-on descriptions, the players come to life. Mrs. Sparsit, with her eyes 'like a couple of lighthouses on an iron-bound coast', is the nosy hen. Bounderby the false capitalist. Even the names can be spit out...BIT-zer, grad-GRIND, SPAR-sit, BLACK-pool. Teeth grinding.
I didn't buy the interlude between Harthouse and Sissy, just felt it didn't fit and was inserted to get an irritant out of the way. But everything else was the usual Dickensian page-turner, albeit pages that feel overwhelmed with soot.
What did I think? WHAT DID I THINK?? I thought this was grizzeat!
This translation by Robert Fagles simply effloresces (winged words, baby) from startWhat did I think? WHAT DID I THINK?? I thought this was grizzeat!
This translation by Robert Fagles simply effloresces (winged words, baby) from start to finish. Fagles puts the izzle in the sizzle, so to speak. Granted, I can dig the Homer experience by any translator, but this serves as the foundational version...start with Fagles, then move on to the overladen fluidity of the others.
Whatever warms your heart
First, let's begin with the introduction by Bernard Knox. Whammaniskey! Racing feet and striving hands surf through his words and ideas. Terrific here-we-go 'isms and then it's off to the show with storm-tossed Odysseus. Let's call the gods to witness, for lost souls come alive in this rendition.
The gods don't show themselves to every man alive
Poseidon the Earth-Shaker. Achilles the Breaker of Armies. Nestor the Noble Charioteer. Hermes the Giant Killer.
Rouse got me going, Lattimore kicked it, and I haven't yet reached the others, but my boy Fagles makes this Homer journey a delight. The rhythm is there too, like hearing song notes materialize from a sea-blue Sinatra session. I will sing these praises down the years.
Book Season = Summer (sing of the clashing rocks)...more
This is a delightful edition of Hawthorne's Greek mythology for young readers. With a heavy cloth imprint, 150 gsm premium paper, and the 1920s illustThis is a delightful edition of Hawthorne's Greek mythology for young readers. With a heavy cloth imprint, 150 gsm premium paper, and the 1920s illustrations from Virginia Frances Sterrett, this is one of those books that takes pride-of-place on the bookshelf. Essentially a reprint of the 1921 Penn Publishing volume, this is a win-win for youngster and adult alike.
Mr. Hawthorne wrote these tales as a way to have the myths explained for younger ears. And I do mean "ears" as these stories are meant to be read aloud to children, who will appreciate the wonder of Jason and the Golden Fleece, the terror of the Minotaur, the humor of Giant and the Pygmies, the adventures of Ulysses, the sadness of Mother Ceres, and the shock of the Dragon's Teeth. With his New England Puritan touch, Hawthorne turns these famous characters into accessible good-vs-evil allegories, and the illustrations make everything work together.
Sterrett's artwork is art-deco-ish with lithe males and elegant women. Really a treasure, such a shame she died so young.