Sunday, November 25, 2007

Links & Reviews

- In today's New York Times, an article of historic if not necessarily book-related interest: amateur investigators in Russia have apparently discovered the remains of two of Tsar Nicholas II's children, buried just 70 yards from the site where the rest of the royal family was found in 1991. DNA testing is being done now to confirm the find.

- Yesterday, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported on the Shrewsbury Historical Society's decision to sell their broadside Declaration of Independence. Leaders of the society were very surprised at the price the document brought; the Telegram quotes president Dorby Thomas as saying "We had no idea it was worth that much. ... We knew it was worth more than we could afford to just put it on the wall. So no one could see it, and we couldn’t show it to anyone because it was so valuable. What was the point in having it if we just kept it hidden?" Buyer Seth Kaller told the paper that he is working with his client to determine the best way to display the Declaration: "We are discussing exhibit possibilities, and most likely will end up lending it to a major historical institution."

- Ed passes along a really creepy 1953 animated adaptation of Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart."

- Paul Collins notes a Guardian piece on some of the weirdest book titles of 2007, including
Do Ants Have Arseholes?, How to Fossilise Your Hamster and Potty, Fartwell and Knob: From Luke Warm to Minty Badger - Extraordinary But True Names of British People. Of the latter, Amazon's description notes "Every single one has been checked for authenticity and its source is given, as well as extra notes where further fascinating illumination is possible. The book provides a rigorously researched yet laugh-out-loud overview of Britain's eccentricity through the ages."

- A mystery in Waltham Forest (England), where 250,000 library books have gone missing. A library worker told the Guardian "the books were dumped to make space in the refurbished Walthamstow Central Library and, by the time work was finished, there was not enough staff left in employment to sort them, give them away or sell them." Word is that at least two vanloads of the books were destroyed. Library patrons confronted Cllr Geraldine Reardon, cabinet member for libraries, about the rumored destruction; she told them she would answer questions at the next meeting on 28 January. (h/t Reading Copy)

- Also from the Guardian this week (they've really had some excellent book coverage lately), A.B. Byatt has a very worthwhile essay on fairies in English literature, coupled with a review of "The Age of Enchantment: Beardsley, Dulac and their Contemporaries 1890-1930", an exhibit at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, London.

- Richard Cox comments on two recent historical literacy studies: E. Jennifer Monaghan's Learning to Read and Write in Colonial America and Hillary E. Wyss' Writing Indians: Literacy, Christianity, and Native Community in Early America. He writes "Such works on historical literacy reflect scholarship that archivists and others interested in archives can mine for references to the generation of texts that ultimately end up in archival repositories. Careful reading of such work will help archivists to interpret more effectively the sources they are managing, and, perhaps, will assist them in preparing more richly detailed representations of these sources."

- And another Guardian article, this one an interview with essayist Anne Fadiman about her newest collection, At Large and At Small, just out in Britain. Some excellent quotes, but my favorite is this one: "I am very grateful to the electronic world for making my life easier but there is something about holding a book - the smell and the world of association. Even when e-books are perfected, as they surely will be, it will be like being in bed with a very well-made robot rather than a warm, soft, human being whom you love."

- In the Boston Globe, Philip McFarland reviews Philip Gura's American Transcendentalism. In the Times, Peter Ackroyd reviews Charles Nicholl's The Lodger.

- The year-end "best of" lists are starting to appear, so I'll begin adding a few of them to this post each week, even though I have serious reservations about all of them. The NYTimes has posted its 100 Notable Books of 2007, and the Guardian has several writers and other literary figures pick their favorites. The Times' Peter Kemp picks his favorite novels of 2007.

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