From the preface: "He's one of those rare artists whose impact upon our culture is as irreversibly dramatic as the asteroid which slammed into the sur...moreFrom the preface: "He's one of those rare artists whose impact upon our culture is as irreversibly dramatic as the asteroid which slammed into the surface of the earth some 65 million years ago, snuffing out all dinosaur life in a flash."
Well I'm sure you can see the joke in the last three words of that sentence, which shall one day join "Now I know how Joan of Arc felt" in its magnetic attraction to countless ragged claws scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
Simon Goddard is already renowned as the Smiths uber-geek for The Smiths: Songs That Saved Your Life, which detailed every Smiths tune, the recording history, lyrical borrowings, etc. Mozipedia expands that to Morrissey's solo songs, and, even better, includes entries on all his cinematic, musical, and literary crushes, James Dean to Diana Dors, New York Dolls to Anthony Newley, Ronnie to Reggie Kray. Plus all the various collaborators and musicians and hangers-on that've populated Moz snow-globe since 1959. Just a fascinating treasure trove of facts, a diverting tour of the brainscape of our weirdest singing asteroid. Hell, it's only here, in this witty, chatty encyclopedia, that I found out that Albert Finney recorded a solo album for Motown (!) in 1977. Or (in the lengthy entry entitled "Sex") that he lost his virginity -- whatever that means -- at age "12 or 13".
They don't make fanatical encyclopedias better than this. I should also add that randomly flipping through this substantial 500-page book was much more rewarding than clicking around on a Moz-devoted website, another example of how digitizing everything really ain't gonna make the world a better place. (less)
This essential reference work could be improved by identifying the speaker and target for each insult. Still, this is a surprisingly heavy and hilario...moreThis essential reference work could be improved by identifying the speaker and target for each insult. Still, this is a surprisingly heavy and hilarious treasure-trove. Organized initially by play, but with a handy subject index at the rear. Some of my favorites:
"I'll carbonado your shanks!"
"Chill pick your teeth!"
"I'll no pullet-sperm in my brewage!"
"Now is the woodcock near the gin!"
"Unless hours were cups of sack, and minutes capons, and clocks the tongue of bawds, and dials the signs of leaping-houses, and the blessed sun himself a fair hot wench in flame-colored taffeta, I see no reason why thou shouldst be so superfluous to demand the time of day."
This was one of my most exciting random library discoveries: a book about trees (zzzzzzzz) written by someone whose prose sparkles and snaps like M.F....moreThis was one of my most exciting random library discoveries: a book about trees (zzzzzzzz) written by someone whose prose sparkles and snaps like M.F.K. Fisher or Gore Vidal. Each tree species is reborn in Donald Culross Peattie's geeky trivia, vivid purple prose, and poetic license. He's also a connoisseur of history and wood, so Antiques Roadshow fans will drool over some of these entries. Here he is on the Butternut:
"When, all unwary, you pick up a Butternut's fruit where it has fallen on the ground after a windy autumn night, you learn your first botanical lesson about this tree, for the sticky, rusty hairs of the husk leave a brown stain upon the fingers. You try to wipe it off but find that you cannot, nor can you scrub it off; only time will cleanse your hand. For this is no ordinary stain; it is a genuine dye. Even the white inner bark yields a yellow or orange dye that has been used for a century and a half by the southern mountaineers in dying their homespuns. During the Civil War, the backwoods Confederate troops were sometimes dressed in homespun 'uniforms' of butternut-dyed cloth, and they became known as 'Butternuts'. So the very name of this tree has become a synonym for tattered glory."
[I should also mention the many beautiful engravings in this book by Paul Landacre, who died in 1963 from complications of a botched suicide attempt.](less)
Imagine Keats's negative capability being put to practical political and economic use. Too bad we Americans don't read Canadian writers, because if th...moreImagine Keats's negative capability being put to practical political and economic use. Too bad we Americans don't read Canadian writers, because if this book were as omnipresent as Freakonomics hereabouts, the world would be an entirely different place. Essential. (less)
Despite her name and her image, she ain't a prude. Plus she's a prose genius. And I know lots of prudes and pushy arseholes who could use a heavy dose...moreDespite her name and her image, she ain't a prude. Plus she's a prose genius. And I know lots of prudes and pushy arseholes who could use a heavy dose of her advice. Essential reading.(less)