Thursday, April 22, 2010

"Let's be jocund while we may; / All things have an ending day," or, Blogging while busy!

Time is too much with me; late and soon, today, so I only have a few tidbits to share tonight.

First, from a new collection of the letters of Sylvia Beach, owner of Paris's Shakespeare and Company bookstore and publisher and booster of a host of Moderns, there's this wonderfully cryptic note from Beach to Ernest Hemingway, sent June 8, 1931:
Dear Hemingway,

I am very anxious to ask you advice about a matter concerning Joyce—wasn't it stupid of me not to think of it when you were here! Would it be possible for you to find a minute in the short time you are in Paris to call me up or drop in again. Never mind if you can't manage it. I called up Hadley's apartment but she was out.
Yours affectionately,
The fun of speculating about the nature of Beach's question is almost endless--though, given the mountains of Joyce scholarship, I fear that someone (maybe the volume's editor, Keri Waslh?) probably knows the answer. Regardless, Beach's letter does make me think we should all adopt a new rule for living: Be sure to write some thoroughly mysterious letters every once in a while. You do want to give your eventual biographers a challenge, after all, don't you?

Second, while I'm on the subject of books that offer rewards when opened to nearly any page, I'll share a few poems from Robert Herrick, whose complete works I've enjoyed dipping into this past week. The majority of Herrick's poems are brief, many mere couplets that express a single thought--or bit of confusion, as in this poem that I'm not sure I even understand:
"Clothes, are conspirators."

Though from without no foes at all we feare;
We shall be wounded by the clothes we weare.
Then there's this, a bit longer and a lot more clear:

Mans disposition is for to requite
An injurie, before a benefite:
Thanksgiving is a burden, and a paine;
Revenge is pleasing to us, as our gaine.
And it's only right to close with a gentle toast:
"The Coblers Catch"

Come sit we by the fires side;
And roundly drinke we here;
Till that we see our cheeks Ale-dy'd
And noses tann'd with Beere.
With that, I'll raise a glass, close this post, and open a book. I can only recommend you do the same.

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