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  • feedwordpress 05:01:04 on 2018/10/10 Permalink
    Tags: , , Humane Society, literature, , , premature burial, Richard Blackmore, ,   

    “The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague”*… 

     

    resuscitation-London-Humane-Society_Wellcome

     

    In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, people worried about the difficulty in measuring the line between life and death. Fearful that loved ones would be buried alive, people attached strings and bells to a finger of a person who appeared dead, so that they could detect any movement and commence or continue resuscitation.

    There were also societies dedicated to the resuscitation of people who appeared to be dead, for example, the Institution of the Humane Society of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (Humane Society) founded in 1788 and modeled after the Royal Humane Society of London founded in 1774. The Humane Society’s main purpose was to revive those apparently dead. In Boston and along the coastline, their concern lay first and foremost with the drowned. The London Society’s founders claimed that it had been successful in reviving 790 out of 1300 people “apparently dead from drowning.” The men who brought the Institution to Massachusetts hoped to replicate this effort, restoring loved ones to their friends and family members…

    Early attempts to find the line between life and death: “Who is dead?

    * Edgar Allan Poe, “The Premature Burial”

    ###

    As we take our pulses, we might spare a thought for Sir Richard Blackmore; he died on this date in 1729.  A physician of note, he argued that observation and the physician’s experience should take precedence over any Aristotelian ideals or hypothetical laws, and he rejected Galen’s humour theory. He wrote on plague, smallpox, and consumption.

    But he is best remembered for his passion, poetry.  A supporter of the Glorious Revolution, he wrote Prince Arthur, an Heroick Poem in X Books, a celebration of William III.  Later he authored Blackmore produced The Nature of Man, a physiological/theological poem on climate and character (featuring the English climate as the best), and Creation: A Philosophical Poem.

    While he was praised in his time by John Dennis, Joseph Addison, and, later, Samuel Johnson, history’s verdict has been written by his detractors– main among them Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, and John Dryden– all of whom found Blackmore’s poetry “grandeloquent,” “stupid,” and “leaden.”

    (Readers can judge for themselves at the Internet Archive’s collection of his work.)

    440px-Richard_Blackmore source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:33 on 2018/10/08 Permalink
    Tags: American Splendor, , , Harvey Pekar, , , literature, post office, , ,   

    “It’s a shame that the only thing a man can do for eight hours a day is work”*… 

     

    faulknermail

    In 1921, 24-year-old William Faulkner had dropped out of the University of Mississippi (for the second time) and was living in Greenwich Village, working in a bookstore—but he was getting restless. Eventually, his mentor, Phil Stone, an Oxford attorney, arranged for him to be appointed postmaster at the school he had only recently left. He was paid a salary of $1,700 in 1922 and $1,800 in the following years, but it’s unclear how he came by that raise, because by all accounts he was uniquely terrible at his job. “I forced Bill to take the job over his own declination and refusal,” Stone said later, according to David Minter’s biography. “He made the damndest postmaster the world has ever seen.”

    Faulkner would open and close the office whenever he felt like it, he would read other people’s magazines, he would throw out any mail he thought unimportant, he would play cards with his friends or write in the back while patrons waited out front. A comic in the student publication Ole Miss in 1922 showed a picture of Faulkner and the post office, calling it the “Postgraduate Club. Hours: 11:30 to 12:30 every Wednesday. Motto: Never put the mail up on time. Aim: Develop postmasters out of fifty students every year.”…

    Happily, he had other talents. The curious story in its entirety: “William Faulkner was really bad at being a postman.”

    For a more successful literary postman, consider Anthony Trollope or Benjamin Franklin.

    * William Faulkner

    ###

    As we ponder the post, we might send grudging birthday greetings to Harvey Pekar; he was born on this date in 1939.  Frequently called “the poet laureate of Cleveland,” he was an underground comic book writer, music critic, and media personality,  best known for his autobiographical American Splendor comic series, drawn by R. Crumb and a series of other extraordinary artists, and for the 2003 film adaptation it inspired.

    Pekar source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:41 on 2018/10/05 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , literature, , , , ,   

    “It might help to think of the universe as a rubber sheet, or perhaps not”*… 

     

    mobius strip

    You have most likely encountered one-sided objects hundreds of times in your daily life – like the universal symbol for recycling, found printed on the backs of aluminum cans and plastic bottles.

    This mathematical object is called a Mobius strip. It has fascinated environmentalists, artists, engineers, mathematicians and many others ever since its discovery in 1858 by August Möbius, a German mathematician who died 150 years ago, on Sept. 26, 1868.

    Möbius discovered the one-sided strip in 1858 while serving as the chair of astronomy and higher mechanics at the University of Leipzig. (Another mathematician named Listing actually described it a few months earlier, but did not publish his work until 1861.)…

    The discovery of the Möbius strip in the mid-19th century launched a brand new field of mathematics: topology: “The Mathematical Madness of Möbius Strips and Other One-Sided Objects.”

    * Terry Pratchett, Hogfather

    ###

    As we return from whence we came, we might wish a Joyeux Anniversaire to Denis Diderot, contributor to and the chief editor of the Encyclopédie (“All things must be examined, debated, investigated without exception and without regard for anyone’s feelings.”)– and thus towering figure in the Enlightenment; he was born on this date in 1713.  Diderot was also a novelist (e.g., Jacques le fataliste et son maître [Jacques the Fatalist and his Master])…  and no mean epigramist:

    From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step.

    We swallow greedily any lie that flatters us, but we sip only little by little at a truth we find bitter.

    Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.

    A thing is not proved just because no one has ever questioned it.

     source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:55 on 2018/09/29 Permalink
    Tags: Carson McCullers, , literature, prose, sentence, , ,   

    “Good prose is like a windowpane”*… 

     

    Flaubert

    From a page of Gustave Flaubert’s manuscript of Madame Bovary

     

    Every writer, of school age and older, is in the sentences game. The sentence is our writing commons, the shared ground where all writers walk. A poet writes in sentences, and so does the unsung author who came up with “Items trapped in doors cause delays”. The sentence is the Ur-unit, the core material, the granular element that must be got right or nothing will be right…

    A good sentence imposes a logic on the world’s weirdness. It gets its power from the tension between the ease of its phrasing and the shock of its thought slid cleanly into the mind. A sentence, as it proceeds, is a paring away of options. Each added word, because of the English language’s dependence on word order, reduces the writer’s alternatives and narrows the reader’s expectations. But even up to the last word the writer has choices and can throw in a curveball. A sentence can begin in one place and end in another galaxy, without breaking a single syntactic rule. The poet Wayne Koestenbaum calls it “organising lava”…

    Orwell advised cutting as many words as possible, Woolf found energy in verbs, and Baldwin aimed for ‘a sentence as clean as a bone’. What can we learn from celebrated authors about the art of writing well?  Find out at “How to write the perfect sentence.”

    * George Orwell

    ###

    As we perfect our prose, we might spare a thought for Lula Carson Smith; she died on this date in 1967. Better known by her married/pen name– Carson McCullers– she was an author who (with Faulkner, Wolfe, Welty, and Williams) embodied “Southern Gothic.”  She had many admirers among fellow American artists: Gore Vidal, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, among many others.  From across the pond Graham Greene observed, “Mrs. McCullers and perhaps Mr. Faulkner are the only writers since the death of D. H. Lawrence with an original poetic sensibility. I prefer Mrs. McCullers to Mr. Faulkner because she writes more clearly; I prefer her to D. H. Lawrence because she has no message.”

    Carl Van Vechten’s 1959 portrait

     source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:26 on 2018/09/21 Permalink
    Tags: general store, hardware store, , literature, Lord of the Rings, , The Hobbit, ,   

    “I went to a general store but they wouldn’t let me buy anything specific”*… 

     

    mattern-10-hardware-768x605

     

    The hardware store… holds (and organizes) the tools, values, and knowledges that bind a community and define a worldview. There’s a material and social sensibility embodied in the store, its stuff, and its service, and reflected in the diverse clientele. That might sound a bit lofty for a commercial establishment that sells sharp objects and toxic chemicals. But the ethos is palpable. (And profitable, too…)

    Headlines proclaiming the death of neighborhood retail remind me of all those articles a few years back that wrongly predicted the end of the library. Despite competition from big-box stores and the internet, many local hardware stores are doing all right. In 1972, the United States had about 26,000 hardware stores. Their number dropped to 19,000 by 1990 and 14,000 by 1996, but for the past two decades it has been fairly steady. Hardware Retailing reports a slight annual drop in the number of independent stores, but sales are strong (even increasing) at the ones that remain.

    To understand the hardware store, it helps to trace an earlier genealogy: the rise of the general store…

    How the hardware store orders things, neighborhoods, and material worlds: “Community Plumbing.”

    * Steven Wright

    ###

    As we reach for the hammer, we might recall that  it was on this date in 1937 that George Allen & Unwin published J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit, or There and Back Again.  Widely critically-acclaimed in its time (nominated for the Carnegie Medal and awarded a prize from the New York Herald Tribune for best juvenile fiction), it was a success with readers, and spawned a sequel… which became the trilogy The Lord of the Rings.

    Cover of the first edition, featuring a drawing by Tolkien

    source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:04 on 2018/09/15 Permalink
    Tags: ASMR, Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, , , , , literature, , , slow radio,   

    “Don’t just do something, sit there”*… 

     

    cows

    You’ve heard of slow food and slow fashion. Now the BBC is spreading the gospel of slow radio.

    The British public broadcaster’s Radio 3 programming this autumn will invite listeners to relax to the sounds of Irish cows being herded up a mountain and leaves crunching on walks through the country. Radio 3 controller Alan Davey tells The Guardian this “meditative, slightly old fashioned” radio will provide audiences with “a chance for quiet mindfulness.”

    That sounds a lot like autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), or the pleasant calming sensation many people feel when listening to a range of gentle everyday noises, from softly spoken words to someone raking a zen garden…

    More on soothing sound at: “The BBC is getting into ASMR.”  And for those who can’t receive Radio Three…

    * Buddhist saying

    ###

    As we’re muse on mindfulness, we might recall that it was on this date in 1597 that Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, then a tax collector in the province of Grenada, was imprisoned in the Carcel Real, the royal prison in Seville, Spain.  Apparently a subordinate had deposited tax receipts with an untrustworthy banker.

    Forced to slow down, Cervantes took good advantage of his free time: he started plotting (but probably not actually writing) “El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de La Mancha” (“The Ingenious Nobleman Sir Quixote of La Mancha“)– or as we have come to know it, Don Quixote.  As Somerset Maugham said,”casting my mind’s eye over the whole of fiction, the only absolutely original creation that I can think of is Don Quixote.”

    cervantes source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:30 on 2018/08/28 Permalink
    Tags: Anna Karenina, , , , , , literature, , , War and Peace, Yuval Noah Harari   

    “It is far better to foresee even without certainty than not to foresee at all”*… 

     

    wired_coder_museum

    Humankind is facing unprecedented revolutions, all our old stories are crumbling and no new story has so far emerged to replace them. How can we prepare ourselves and our children for a world of such unprecedented transformations and radical uncertainties? A baby born today will be thirty-something in 2050. If all goes well, that baby will still be around in 2100, and might even be an active citizen of the 22nd century. What should we teach that baby that will help him or her survive and flourish in the world of 2050 or of the 22nd century? What kind of skills will he or she need in order to get a job, understand what is happening around them and navigate the maze of life?…

    “As the pace of change increases, the very meaning of being human is likely to mutate and physical and cognitive structures will melt”: “Yuval Noah Harari on what the year 2050 has in store for humankind.”

    * Henri Poincare, The Foundations of Science

    ###

    As we agree with the Marquis of Halifax that “the best qualification of a prophet is to have a good memory,” we might send insightful birthday greetings to Leo Tolstoy; he was born on this date in 1828 (O.S.; September 9, N.S.).  Widely regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time, he first achieved literary acclaim in his twenties with his semi-autobiographical trilogy, ChildhoodBoyhood, and Youth, and Sevastopol Sketches, based on his experiences in the Crimean War.  But he is surely best remembered for two of his novels, War and Peace and Anna Karenina, often cited as pinnacles of realist fiction.

    220px-L.N.Tolstoy_Prokudin-Gorsky source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:27 on 2018/08/27 Permalink
    Tags: , , , literature, , , , , touriam,   

    “Travel makes one modest”*… 

     

    … or not.

    grand canyon

    GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK

    ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

    Went to the Grand Canyon this past week, and let me tell you, it’s a big ole waste of time! There was dirt EVERYWHERE, and the hiking trail was too long! Also where are the vending machines?? And nowhere to charge my phone! It’s way too deep to even see the bottom! The only thing that saved this trip were the crab enchiladas we ate down the road at Plaza Bonita. BEST MEXICO FOOD EVER! Grand Canyon—more like Grand Blandyon.

    Gina M.,  Los Angeles

    Just one of the instructive one-star reviews of National Parks on Trip Advisor.  For more: “Too Hot, Too Crowded, Needs More Vending Machines.”

    * Gustave Flaubert

    ###

    As we look gift horses in their mouths, we might recall that it was on this date in 1938 that a jealous Robert Frost heckled Archibald MacLeish at a reading of the latter’s poetry at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Middlebury, Vt.  Bill Peschel recounts:

    The gathering was held at Treman Cottage, and Frost was among the attendees, sitting in the back. It was a time when Hitler was on the ascendant, and the United States was divided between warning against the rise of Fascism in Germany and Italy, and those who didn’t want to intervene in another European war. MacLeish was anti-Fascist, and Frost despised MacLeish’s support of Roosevelt.

    That night, as MacLeish read from his poetry, Frost began heckling him. “Archie’s poems all have the sametune,” he said in a whisper that could be heard. When MacLeish read the single-sentence poem, “You, Andrew Marvell,” smoke could be smelled. Frost had accidentally, on purpose, set fire to some papers and was beating them out and waving away the smoke.

    Most people accepted the story of the accident, and the reading eventually concluded. MacLeish was still the center of attention, and he was asked to read from one of his plays. But Frost was not done with him. As [Wallace] Stegner wrote:

    “His comments from the floor, at first friendly and wisecracking, became steadily harsher and more barbed. He interrupted, he commented, he took exception. What began as the ordinary give and take of literary conversation turned into a clear intention of frustrating and humiliating Archie MacLeish, and the situation became increasingly painful to those who comprehended it”.Even Bernard DeVoto, a scholar and friend of Frost, had enough, calling out, “For God’s sake, Robert, let him read!” Frost ignored him, but shortly thereafter, on some pretext, “said something savage,” and left.

    Afterwards, Frost’s defenders tried to kick sand over the events. One friend wrote only of “unfounded allusions” and “behavior not proven by fact.” There were people there who didn’t even notice what Stegner saw that night. But baiting MacLeish had caused a permanent rift between DeVoto and Frost. At the end of the conference, when they met and shook hands, DeVoto told him, “You’re a good poet, Robert, but you’re a bad man.”

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:14 on 2018/08/17 Permalink
    Tags: , American Dream, Animal Farm, , , , , , literature, Russian hackers,   

    “Not every business cycle has a financial crisis. Frequently they do.”*… 

     

    Your correspondent is headed away on his annual pilgrimage to the land of banked dunes and deep-fried delights.  Regular service will resume on or around August 27.  Vacations can be a time for retrospection.  In that spirit, an invitation to think about the last ten years…

     

    2008

     

    2008 was a big year: Senator Barack Obama was elected president of the United States,  “Satoshi Nakamoto” published “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System,” SpaceX became the first private, commercial company to put an object into earth orbit, China wowed the world with it’s host ceremonies for the Summer Olympic Games…  But of course, 2008 was also the start of the Great Recession…  which was bad.  Really bad:

    Total U.S. household net worth dropped by $11.1 trillion in 2008.

    The median income for 25-to-34-year-olds in America, $34,000, hasn’t budged since 1977, adjusted for inflation.

    Median household wealth collapsed.
    2007: $126k
    2016: $97k

    The number of Americans worried about the economy multiplied nearly sixfold.
    2007: 16 percent
    2008: 86 percent

    In 2016, the median wealth of a family headed by someone born in the 1980s was 34 percent below the level of earlier generations at the same 2007: age.

    Mutual funds lost a third of their value: -38 percent.

    The market value of all publicly traded companies was cut in half.
    October 2007: $63 trillion
    March 2009: $28.6 trillion

    From 2005 to 2009, the median value of stocks and mutual funds owned by whites dropped by 9 percent.

    The median value of holdings for African-Americans dropped by 71 percent (probably because of pressure to sell when prices were low).

    Between 2007 and 2013, wages declined for the bottom 70 percent of all workers.

    The retirement savings of black families fell by 35 percent from 2007 to 2010.

    In a 2016 survey by the Fed, 28 percentof working-age adults said they had no retirement savings whatsoever.

    The racial wealth gap, already large, ballooned.
    Whites: $171k
    Hispanics:  $20.7k
    African-Americans: $17.6k

    In terms of household wealth, every group suffered — but some more than others.
    Hispanics: -66 percent
    Asian-Americans: -54 percent
    African-Americans: -53 percent
    Whites: -16 percent

    Consumer credit-card debt at the end of 2017 was over $1 trillion (about 30% higher than in 2008).

    Millennials have taken on at least 300 percent more student-loan debt than their parents’ generation.

    The unemployed took many more weeks to find work.
    May 2008: 7.9
    June 2010: 25.2

    In a December 2017 poll by YouGov, 38 percent of those surveyed said they didn’t know when they’d be debt-free. 30 percent of respondents thought they’d never be out of debt.

    63 percent of Americans say they don’t have enough money in savings to cover a $500 health-care expense.

    In 2017, women had nearly 500,000 fewer babies than in 2007, although there were 7 percent more women of prime childbearing age.

    The suicide rate rose 4 percent from 1999 to 2010: 4,750 additional deaths.

    24 million adult millennials, or 32 percent, still live at home.

    79 million Americans live in a “shared household” with at least one extra, nonfamily resident.

    More college grads moved in with their parents.
    2005: 19 percent
    2016: 28 percent

    As of 2017, only 34.2 percent of homes have recovered their value from before the recession. (Still below 2008 value.)

    From 2000 to 2015, homeownership declined in 90% of all U.S. metropolitan areas.

    [source]

    Frank Rich explores the lasting impact of that crash:

    …the collapse of Lehman Brothers kicked off the Great Recession that proved to be a more lasting existential threat to America than the terrorist attack of seven Septembers earlier. The shadow it would cast is so dark that a decade later, even our current run of ostensible prosperity and peace does not mitigate the one conviction that still unites all Americans: Everything in the country is broken. Not just Washington, which failed to prevent the financial catastrophe and has done little to protect us from the next, but also race relations, health care, education, institutional religion, law enforcement, the physical infrastructure, the news media, the bedrock virtues of civility and community. Nearly everything has turned to crap, it seems, except Peak TV (for those who can afford it)…

    Read the full essay: “In 2008, America Stopped Believing in the American Dream.”

    Then consider Steve Bannon’s take on the same event:

    The legacy of the financial crisis: Donald Trump. The legacy of the financial crisis is Donald J. Trump. And I can give you the specific moment: When they put Lehman in bankruptcy, and the geniuses didn’t understand that it was inextricably linked to the commercial paper market. Hank Paulson, Treasury secretary, and Ben Bernanke, the head of the Federal Reserve, they went to see Bush three days later. They told him, ‘We need a trillion dollars in cash, and we need it by five o’clock.’”

    And in a profile of courage, President Bush says, “Not my problem. You gotta go to Capitol Hill.” They go up to Capitol Hill, they put everybody in a room. They make them all put their BlackBerrys outside, and they walk in, and Bernanke, who’s not an alarmist, says, “If we don’t have a trillion dollars by today, the American financial system will melt down in 72 hours. The world financial system will melt down in two weeks, and there will be global anarchy.”

    And by the way, this was completely brought on by the elites of the country and Wall Street. When I got to Harvard Business School in 1983, a bunch of professors were coming up with a radical idea that’s had a horrible negative consequence on this country and to the fabric of our society: the maximization of shareholder value; this was preached as High Church theology. The whole thing of the financialization of Wall Street, of looking at people as pure commodities and of outsourcing and globalization, came from the business schools and the financial community that had these radical ideas, and nobody kept them in check…

    I think you’re starting to see the deindustrialization of the country. We stopped investing in the country. Domestic investment’s all going over to China. We deindustrialized Western Europe. Brexit and 2016 are inextricably linked, okay?

    Workers know this. It’s the labor vote in the midland counties that drove Brexit. This is what’s so obvious the Democratic Party misses. Donald Trump’s president because of working-class Democrats. The Trump movement is made up of people like my father, the Marty Bannons. My whole household was working-class Democrats. These are adamant Trump supporters because they understand Trump supports working-class people…

    While the prescribed remedies may be wildly different as between the progressive writer and the Nativist provocateur, the diagnosis is eerily similar.  Read Bannon’s interview in full at “Steve Bannon on How 2008 Planted the Seed for the Trump Presidency.”

    More perspectives on 2008 at “Ten Years After the Crash, We Are Still Living in the World It Brutally Remade.”

    And lest we think too parochially, consider this argument that the Georgian War (Russia’s engagement in Georgia) in 2008 was (another) product of the same currents that yielded the financial crisis: “The Turning Point of 2008“… which, in turn, helped spur the growth of Russia’s use of criminal hackers: “It’s our time to serve the Motherland.”

    Kenneth Arrow

    ###

    As we make our way down memory lane, we might recall that it was on this date in 1945 that George Orwell’s allegory, Animal Farm– A Fairy Story, was published.  (The U.S. edition, published in 1946, dropped the sub-title.)   While it has never disappeared from conversation about politics and governance, Animal Farm is enjoying a renaissance in these increasingly Nativist times.  But while Orwell rings only too relevant these days, we might do well to keep in mind his friendly competitor (and one-time school master), Aldous Huxley, and Huxley’s Brave New World:

    In his classic 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman wrote of the difference between George Orwell’s and Aldous Huxley’s visions of fascism.

    “Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information,” wrote Postman. “Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.”

    More at “Amusing Ourselves to Trump.”

    For a nifty cartoon version of the Orwell-Huxley distinction, see here.

    And for a further exploration of this modern day Scylla and Charybdis, see “Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.”

    220px-Animal_Farm_-_1st_edition

    First edition cover

    source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:57 on 2018/08/16 Permalink
    Tags: Ben Jonson, , , comedy of humours, , , literature, ,   

    “A town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul.”*… 

     

    bookstore-slide-2MCD-jumbo source

    It was in Athens in the 4th Century BC that a man named Zeno walked into a bookshop. He had been a successful merchant, but suffered a terrible shipwreck on a journey out of Phoenicia, losing a priceless cargo of the world’s finest dye. He was 30 years old and facing financial ruin, but this catastrophe stirred his soul to find something new, though he didn’t quite know what.

    One day, immersed in browsing a bookstore collection, many volumes of which have been lost to history forever, Zeno heard the bookseller reading out loud a passage from a book by Xenophon about Socrates. It was like nothing he had ever heard before. With some trepidation, he approached the owner and asked, “Where can I find a man like that?” and in so doing, began a philosophical journey that would literally change the history of the world. That book recommendation led to the founding of Stoicism and then, to the brilliant works of SenecaEpictetus, and Marcus Aurelius — which, not lost to history, are beginning to find a new life on bookshelves today. From those heirs to Zeno’s bookshop conversion, there is a straight line to many of the world’s greatest thinkers, and even to the Founding Fathers of America.

    All from a chance encounter in a bookshop.

    It would be an understatement to say that great things begin in bookstores, and that countless lives have been changed inside them…

     

    Why spend time amongst the shelves? “Good Things Happen in Book Stores.”

    * Neil Gaiman, American Gods

    ###

    As we browse in bliss, we might spare a thought for Benjamin Jonson; he died on this date in 1637.  A poet, actor, literary critic, and playwright (he popularized the comedy of humours), he is best remembered for his satirical plays Every Man in His Humour (1598), Volpone, or The Fox (c. 1606), The Alchemist (1610), and Bartholomew Fair (1614), and for his lyric and epigrammatic poetry.

    Eclipsing Christopher Marlowe, Jonson is generally regarded as the second most important English playwright during the reigns of Elizabeth I of James VI and I (after Shakespeare, with whom Jonson had a professional rivalry, but on whose death Jonson wrote “He was not of an age, but for all time”).  Indeed, while Shakespeare’s impact continues apace to this day, Jonson’s impact was arguably even bigger in the relatively-more immediate timeframe: he had broad and deep influence on the playwrights and the poets of the Jacobean era (1603–1625) and of the Caroline era (1625–1642).

    220px-Benjamin_Jonson_by_Abraham_van_Blyenberch source

     

     
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