Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Don't forget to call your mother!

Mother's Day is nearly upon us! I put some books in the window that my own (admittedly somewhat odd and cynical mother) might enjoy, such as O'Flaherty's Women, Androgynes and Other Mythical Beasts. She would probably also enjoy this strange masklike thing:

Doug says that these are meant to be painted, but I rather like the raw bare brutality of the thing. I tried holding it over my face, and both Doug and Alan called the effect "terrifying". I would like to wear it on a rampage through the streets, batting my eyes at the ladies so they throw roses at me, but instead I will offer it to you for $20.00! I do hope some street-rampaging comes out of it, though.

Now, gentle readers, you may remember the first Best of Literary Criticism entry, which was written when I reached the halfway point of that glorious and overpowering section. I noted that it's quite a diverse place, Literary Criticism, with zillions of subjects covered and strange ideas aplenty! I have completed the whole thing now ... and I have a Best Of Lit Crit II to offer you!

The last Best Of included a book on obituaries. This Best Of has no fewer than two books on death!

1) A book on "styles of dying in British fiction"! Apparently the author presents over forty major death scenes, and demonstrates that the Victorian death scene is less sentimental and formulaic than has usually been assumed. I wonder how many people there are out there who assume things about the Victorian death scene? If you know any, send them here! $7.50.

2) A discussion of the modern elegy! Sylvia Plath has her very own chapter; less stereotypically, so does Langston Hughes. The author argues that in an age of mass death, religious doubt, and forgotten ritual, the elegy has turned violent, unresolved and anti-consolatory. This is always the hallmark of literary criticism books: both literary and cultural discussion! $5.00.

But onwards from that macabre subject -- along with last entry's Victorian hair garland (made from real hair!), I think I've said enough about death for quite a long time. The rest of the books:

3) Romantically, we have a whole book about rose symbolism. The rose is secular and divine love; Apuleius's ass and the Virgin Mary; beauty, youth, joy and sorrow at the world's transience. ... Of value to dreamwork practitioners, literary critics, students of symbolism and the arts, art therapists, and all those cultivating an aesthetic imagination. Instead of giving your lover (or mother!) a dozen roses, I think it'd be far sweeter to give this. $4.00.

4) Even more romantically, a whole nother book on tower symbolism! Immediately after World War I, four major European and American poets and thinkers moved into towers as their principal habitations. Taking this striking coincidence as its starting point, this book sets out to locate modern turriphilia in its cultural context ... Turriphilia? $7.50.

5) T. H. White's treatise on scandal; this seems to be something of a tabloid biography for the 1700s. It describes, for instance, a Lady Cathcart who died in 1789; she displeased her fourth husband by wearing a ring that said: "If I survive, I will have five". Included also are such notables as the Duke of Queensbury, who "dislocated London's milk supply". That's even worse than dislocating a joint, I assume, though I've never dislocated London's milk supply myself. It's funny how it seems literary to read about eighteenth-century people like this, yet I would make fun of anyone who talked overmuch about Britney Spears! Oh well ... feed your gossipy urges in a more academic fashion, for only $5.00.

6) This one might be my favorite book in the section: a tome describing the careers of more than twenty literary forgers! Vrain Lucas is the name of one who wrote tens of thousands of letters -- supposedly from Galileo, Mary Magdalene, Voltaire and Cleopatra. There's also William Ireland, who created a "lost" Shakespeare play. Others specifically aimed to discredit certain literary figures, while still others just wanted to create proud legacies. (I hope that someday I become famous enough that unprincipled shysters produce "new" works of mine!) The dust jacket also mentions that some of the forgers have become so well-known that their own works are quite valuable: those of Thomas J. Wise, it seems, fetch tens of thousands of dollars. $7.50.

I think that my goal for the weekend shall be to build a tower, in which I will languish -- weeping elegies and smelling roses, creating forgeries that I sell to tabloids to make the bills -- until I die of consumption as every good writer should. But I won't forget to call my mother on Sunday (I hope), and neither should you, gentle readers!

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