Sunday, October 29, 2006

Some Sunday Reads

- Sunday Herald art critic Catriona Black (whose name would fit well as a character in Harry Potter) is in the Halloween spirit this weekend, delving into the spooky art of Scotland. "There is an undeniable taste in Scotland for the eerie, the gruesome, the dark side of life," she writes. "Convinced that a veritable coven of ghosts and ghouls lurks somewhere in the shadows of our public collections, I have embarked on a hunt to unearth artistic horrors too terrible to describe."

From fifteenth-century woodcuts of witches (including the first image of one riding a broom) in the National Library to Albrecht Dürer's eerie "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse", and on to eighteenth-century images of the witches from "Macbeth" as well as prints by "the most celebrated horror-monger of art history," Francisco Goya.

Quite a few neat little stories in this piece.

- Paul Collins at Weekend Stubble notes that he's on NPR's "Weekend Edition" (audio and some supplementals here) to talk about the sensational murder of Maria Marten by William Corder in 1827 and its aftermath. Collins has an article about the case in this month's "The Believer" which I have printed out to read today since it promises to be fascinating. If you think you've heard Corder's name in a rare-book context before, you probably have ... a copy of the famous book written about his case, The Mysterious Murder of Maria Marten (by James Curtis, 1828), was bound in Corder's own skin after his execution.

Collins does a great job of sussing out these stories from the nooks and crannies of history (his book Banvard's Folly is a must if you're interested in such things).

- The New York Times outlines a new controversy over what is claimed to be the first novel ever published by an African-American woman. The Curse of Caste; or the Slave Bride, by Julia Collins (serialized in 1865, but due to be published for the first time in book form this month by Oxford) is the first, say its editors; Harvard's Henry Louis Gates says the honor should go to Our Nig, published in 1859 by Harriet Wilson. The dispute, this report notes, "centers on competing definitions of what constitutes a novel."

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