Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Spectator, 1793

This gem measures 3½ by 5¾ inches.

The Spectator, in Eight Volumes,

Vol. V

Printed for J. Parsons, No. 21, Paternoster Row

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


A popular name for coffee.

How to make coffee, alias ninny-broth; a new invention of buttering turnips; to make a loaf of bread to dance about the table, intermixed with profit and delight.

Poor Robin, 1696.

Which makes some saints low-teachers chuse
Not for their doctrine, but their news.
But when they’re in a fit of zeal,
Their wounded conscience they heal
With ninny-broth, o’er which they seek
Some new religion ev’ry week.

Hudibras Redivivus, Part I, 1708.

Source: Nares’ Glossary, or, collection of words, phrases, names, and allusions to customs, proverbs, etc., which have been thought to require illustration, in the works of English authors, particularly Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Vol. II, K–Z.

(from a page at random)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Armen Melikian: Journey to Virginland: Epistle 1

As with all books that question social, cultural, and religious mores, Armen Melikian’s Journey to Virginland is certain to offend some readers. For the most part, what has been handed down in the form of beliefs and customs goes unexamined, and is embraced as a matter of convenience, identity, and survival. Therefore it takes an open-minded individual to accept the author on his own terms, and to listen without feeling the need to argue with him or change him in any way — in other words, to go ahead and enter his vision or dream. It is not necessary for the two of them to agree. Only madmen are unwilling to entertain the possibility that they do not know everything — madmen, and those whose lives have taught them to be wary, jealous, bitter, competitive, and afraid.

There is, of course, another side of the matter: namely, how well — how inventively, imaginatively, effectively — does Journey to Virginland meet the demands of literature? And equally important, does it live up to and transcend its own demands, and ultimately surprise its author? Because if the writer is beyond surprise, and therefore unable to laugh at himself, his readers will sense it from the beginning. A book that is merely clever and cunning will appeal only to clever and cunning readers. A book that is human, on the other hand, is apt to be treated as a worthy document, friend, and companion.

So what kind of book is this? Most assuredly, Journey to Virginland possesses the requisite humor that serious art must possess if it is also to be human. Likewise, we find in it a compelling sense of urgency: in essence, the time to think and act is now, because nothing less than our self-understanding is at stake:

The choices are literally between transcendence and self-destruction, even through revolt. And as long as there are oppressors in the world of men, the fake currency of saviors will be in high demand.

Ethnicity, nations, religions, politics are, in effect, surface phenomena; we need to dig deeper than that, to the heart of things, and this book, at turns feverish and poetic, and always refreshingly unapologetic, leads us in that direction. Satire and wordplay flow freely in this outsider’s narrative, this twenty-first century life of the artist as a young dog. To the degree that they are obstacles, they yet serve as their own kind of visual-rhythmic accompaniment. After all, as a cursory glance at old English texts reveals, language is a living, changing thing. And so to a degree, conventional meaning is both transitory and a drug. To rely on it exclusively is to be defined by words themselves, and to be enslaved by them. The danger becomes even greater when we approach the old religious texts. Venerable, hoary institutions, beware.

Ultimately, there is no need to compare this novel, or anti-novel, to other books. To those widely read, several will suggest themselves. Melikian is obviously among that number, and cannot believe his work is without influence or predecessor. But Journey to Virginland is different enough, energetic enough, challenging enough, and informative enough to carry its own weight. In the end, Armen Melikian has not only written this book; I think it has written, and will go on writing, him.

Journey to Virginland: Epistle 1
by Armen Melikian

Two Harbors Press


ISBN 10: 1-935097-51-2
ISBN 13: 978-1-935097-51-8

272 Pages. Hardcover.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Dusty Musty Paradise

A Glossary;
collection of words, phrases, names, and allusions
to customs, proverbs, etc.,
which have been thought to require illustration,
in the works of English authors,
particularly Shakespeare and his contemporaries.

Vol. II K–Z

Ka me, and I’ll ka thee

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Carl Larsson: A Family

A biography for children.
Maybe that’s why I enjoyed it so much.

In our old public library,
I would read several books while my mother
looked for her own to take home.

I bought this one this morning,
and read it this afternoon.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Oxford Book of English Verse

The Oxford Book of English Verse

Chosen & Edited by

At the Clarendon Press

(Handling this homemade cover changes the color of my fingertips.)

To my dear Blanche with
loving thoughts and wishes
on her birthday
June 24th 1917

She had nae sooner buskit hersell...

from “Edward, Edward”


(Opened at random)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Every library should have a gold couch

But not every gold couch is a library.

A step back now.

And a view of one of the strangest bookends I’ve seen.

I found it at Goodwill. Really, I’m not sure what it is.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Joseph Hutchison: Thread of the Real

A welcome new release by one of poetry’s most observant,
incisive commentators, Joseph Hutchison:

Thread of the Real
by Joseph Hutchison


ISBN: 9780971367852
Paper. 126 pages.

This is Joe’s thirteenth poetry collection.

You can visit his website here, and his blog here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Golden Treasury of American Songs and Lyrics

The Golden Treasury of American Songs and Lyrics
Edited by Frederic Lawrence Knowles

For Harry with devoted love from “Aunt Lizzie.”
December 1897

(I do wish I took better pictures.)

Monday, June 11, 2012


You’re familiar, of course, with the tissue guards that grace the title pages and illustrations in many old books. Like veils on faces and mists in the grove, they protect what is tender and innermost more surely than any fence or wall, or lock and key. If we are to know anything, or anyone, we must understand the connection between hearts and fingertips. Love thrives by its very weightlessness. A kiss outlives the lips it seeks. It would not be thus, if you, and I, were not so fragile.