Thursday, March 27, 2008

Extra Links

I've gotten myself a bit swamped this week, so here are a hodgepodge of things I've love to post individually but haven't got quite enough time for.

- A bunch of elementary school students from Pittsfield, MA (and a few other interested parties) are trying to get the legislature to pass a law declaring Moby-Dick the "official book" of Massachusetts. Setting aside the ridiculousness of the stunt (does anyone seriously think the elementary school students have actually read Moby-Dick and evaluated its importance?), I disagree strongly that Melville's book - important as it is - ought to be accorded "official" status. Thoreau? Emerson? Hawthorne? Not to mention the 'current' official book, William Bradford's Of Plimouth Plantation (so designated in 1897), which retains its importance as an early chronicle of the settlement of Massachusetts.

- J.L. Bell's got some more excellent fact-checks for the most recent "John Adams" episode: here's his quiz about Episode 3, and here are the answers. John also rated a positive mention in yesterday's Globe column by Alex Beam about historically accurate t.v. (Beam's a bit too melodramatic for me, but his underlying point is quite fair).

- John Overholt's got an update on the digitization of Houghton's Samuel Johnson correspondence; he notes that 232 letters from Johnson to Hester Thrale Piozzi are now available, among many other things.

- From BibliOdyssey, a compilation of images from the Othmer Library of Chemical History.

- At PaperCuts, Bob Harris reveals his "Seven Deadly Words of Book Reviewing." Quite a fair list.


Brendan said...

Just a bit of context to the Moby-Dick item: Massachusetts is one of only a few states that affords its citizens the right to free petition, that is, to collect a certain amount of signatures in order to introduce legislation in the House of Representatives. I'm not sure that HB 3964 is such a bill, but it highlights the absurdity of naming a "state book" or a "state fruit" (in Mass, the cranberry) or a "state insect" (in Mass, the lady bug)-- these are designations taken up by people with too much time on their hands or a financial interest riding on it. I'm not sure whether you are surprised that tourism interests and school children have taken interest in such a totally harmless bill or if you're "shocked, shocked!" to find that said parties don't actually have the interests of literature and scholarship at heart.

And not for nothing, but your comment about whether or not the students have "actually read Moby-Dick and evaluated its importance") is kind of a cheap shot, too.

JBD said...

Sure, all this "state ___ [insert noun here]" business is silliness, but if this is what our legislators are taking up their time with, we ought to at least realize it. I'm neither surprised nor shocked by any of this, I just find it ridiculous. And no, I don't think it's a cheap shot to point out that fifth-graders probably haven't read the book that they're out promoting (their teacher is quoted as saying "Both fifth-grade classes have been reading various children's books on 'Moby-Dick", which does not seem the same to me). It might be a cheap shot to suggest that most of the legislators probably haven't read it either, but I think that's also quite likely.