Wednesday, September 5, 2007

All is well, and we have lessons for your children!

Thank you to everyone who expressed concern about our early closing on Friday. We did close due to a medical emergency, but fortunately all is well in that quarter. We (and our families) are all doing fine.

And now! Once again I escape Literary Criticism by means of our exciting blog. (I just finished the E section!) But perhaps I should look to this week's Collector's Item and learn a lesson about such avoidance:

This little booklet was published by McLoughlin Bros. in the late 1800s or early 1900s, and it features the stories of Lazy Charlotte and Envious Minny. Both are punished for their sins (Charlotte's being not darning her socks, and Minny's being the theft of a pretty dress from her sister). At the end is a poetic masterpiece about the doomed attempt to teach a kitten to read. The whole has lasted remarkably well, considering that it's such an old children's pamphlet -- indeed, it is indestructible! (Or so the cover claims.) I must admit that it would be difficult to ruin this little thing -- the pages are made of tough, waxy cloth, and I assume that the colors and printing are cloth-dye. Still, these booklets have managed to become quite rare, and ours is priced at $125.00.

Internet research tells me that the McLoughlin Bros. products represent "the Golden Age of the cautionary genre in America", at least according to the scholar Walter Sauer. I have further learned (goodness, I learn a lot while avoiding the Literary Criticism section) that the whole genre was inspired by one German author, Heinrich Hoffman, who wrote a famous set of books starting with "Struwwelpeter" ("Slovenly Peter"). Hoffman's cautionary tales were known for being bloody and somewhat horrible, as this Affordable and Interesting example can attest:

An actual book rather than a pamphlet, this one isn't dated, but it certainly doesn't appear to be a recent product. I can't tell you much about the contents, because they're in German; but the illustrations are worth far more than a thousand words on their own ... such as this terrifying rabbit with a blunderbuss:

I suspect that the moral of the story is, "Don't fall asleep while hunting or a rabbit will steal your gun and turn it on you," or (more relevantly) "Don't be lazy." (You can judge for yourself, if you'd like to come in and examine the stories -- or buy the book at $7.50.) Which brings us back to the "laziness" problem ... ahem. Writing blog entries isn't being lazy, right? I wonder what an appropriate dramatic punishment would be for avoiding Literary Criticism?

Let's avoid that uncomfortable question by turning to this Favorite:

I found this book a while back in our Photography section, but I anticipate that I'll be moving it to Science Fiction and Fantasy. That seems like a more appropriate place for a whole lot of pictures of monstrous stone-beasts, plus commentary by Stephen King. (The photographer calls himself "F-stop Fitzgerald", har har. I shall refrain from expressing my feelings about such puns in this calm and peaceful place.) King's piece ends with the dark and stormy italicized statement: "... they are watching you," which might be more alarming if so many gargoyles didn't look vaguely sad and pettable. At least, I think they look pettable:

Wouldn't you like one of your very own? You could at least have pictures for $20.00.

Aha, it's past time to close! I win this round, Literary Criticism! I'll see you, gentle readers, next week; and as for you, Literary Criticism -- I'll get you yet.


Unknown said...

Your translation of "Struwwelpeter" is a more literal one than is usual. My resident speaker of German tells me he's generally called "Shock-headed Peter" in English.

O'Gara and Wilson said...

Ah, interesting. I must confess that it is simply the translation I found when researching the "cautionary genre" on the Internet -- credit should perhaps go to the aforementioned Sauer.