Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Emoticon, or emoticon? (Sorry. Couldn't resist.)

I promise we'll get back to Daniel Deronda by the weekend. But first, a quick update on the Robert Herrick 1648 emoticon front. My post from Sunday about it was fanned into one of those small Internet brushfires throughout Monday and Tuesday. Here's a quick roundup, with apologies to any of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook and are already tired of hearing about this:
--Alexis Madrigal wrote about it on his Atlantic blog, and provided a helpful image.

--That triggered posts from iO9, Engadget, Gizmodo, the Huffington Post, Business Insider, and many others.

--John Overholt, curator of early modern books and manuscripts at Harvard's Houghton Library, was kind enough to offer to check the original 1648 publication of Herrick's Hesperides, and the photo he posted to his Twitter account made the smiley face even harder to ignore.

--Then, to the great amusement of our departmental assistant, a producer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's As It Happens program came looking for me, and I taped a brief interview that aired yesterday. If you're interested in hearing me read Herrick's poem and hedge enthusiastically, I come on about 44 minutes into the program.

--Finally, Slate's Ben Zimmer closed out the day by closing the door: bringing actual research to bear, he made the case against the emoticon. In an essay about James Thurber that will appear in The Getaway Car, Donald Westlake off-handedly describes the New Yorker as "our primary viewer with alarm"; Slate, mostly to its credit, I think of as our pourer of cold water on Internet fun.
Not bad for a couple of days of silliness. Is it an emoticon? Oh, probably not. But barring the discovery of a letter from Herrick saying, "Hey, guess what I did/didn't do?" we can't be entirely certain. And one thing's for sure regardless: I'll never not see it that way now, and it's given me a fun excuse to get people talking about one of my favorite long-dead poets.

1 comment:

  1. Andrea M.1:09 PM

    Whether or not it is an emoticon, Levi, I was excited to hear you on CBC's "As It Happens." Up here in Canada most everyone listens to it as they cook dinner.