The Economic Influence of the Developments in Shipbuilding Techniques, 1450 to 1485

Writing a book by day at an august institution like The Huntington, and re-reading Lucky Jim (1954) by night, it’s hard to be seduced by self-importance.  Here, our lucky Jim Dixon considers the article he’s desperately trying to get published in the hopes of being renewed as a lecturer at a red-brick university:

It was a perfect title, in that it crystallized the article’s niggling mindlessness, its funereal parade of yawn-enforcing facts, the pseudo-light it threw upon non-problems. Dixon had read, or begun to read, dozens like it, but his own seemed worse than most in its air of being convinced of its own usefulness and significance. ‘In considering this strangely neglected topic,’ it began. This what neglected topic? This strangely what topic? This strangely neglected what? His thinking all this without having defiled and set fire to the typescript only made him appear to himself as more of a hypocrite and fool.  “Let’s see,'” he echoed Welch in a pretended effort of memory: “oh yes; The Economic Influence of the Developments in Shipbuilding Techniques, 1450 to 1485.

There’s another great line in which his fellow-boarder at his rooming house asks him what got him interested in medieval history in the first place, and Dixon responds to the effect of, “I’m not interested in this.  I hate it!  Don’t we all do what we hate?”  But I don’t have my copy of the book with me now, and I couldn’t find the quotation on the internets.   Continue reading

Aye!

scotsflagAre any of you following the Scottish independence referendum?  It’s a surprisingly big deal around the Huntington, which being a kind of monument to the “special relationship” between the United States and Great Britain in terms of its art, manuscript, and bibliographic collections, is loaded with British people and British scholars, always.  Opinions here vary as to how it will go, and how it should go.  I expect that the results will be some time in coming–it’s early evening in Britain now, but the polls don’t close until 10 p.m. there, so even with an immediate overnight count we may not know until late tonight or early tomorrow morning Pacific Daylight Time.

I was agnostic on the question, being neither Scots nor British nor a British studies scholar, until I saw that Niall Ferguson has been urging a “nae” vote.  Today, he claims that “Alone, Scotland Will Be a Failed State.”  Right.  Just like Canada, the U.S., New Zealand, and Australia!  Failed states, all of them, even the U.S. with its tragic adoption of Euro-style socialised medicine and Afro-style Kenyan anticolonial presidents.  Wait–did you see that?  Even the spelling around here is getting socialised–I mean, socialized!  Good God.  But knowing where Ferguson stands is really clarifying:  as a reflexively Tory doomsayer he’s so spectacularly wrong about everything all of the time, it made it easy to root for an “aye!”   Continue reading

Are you in a Jane Austen novel?

 

Keep Austen Weird!

Keep Austen Weird!

Hilarious post by Mallory Ortberg at The Toast, via a link provided in this thread by Dr. Crazy. Well, are you? Here’s how you will know:

Someone disagreeable is trying to persuade you to take a trip to Bath.

Your father is absolutely terrible with money. No one has ever told him this.

All of your dresses look like nightgowns.

.       .       .       .       .       .

You have five hundred a year. From who? Five hundred what? No one knows. No one cares. You have it. It’s yours. Every year. All five hundred of it.

.       .       .       .       .       .

A woman who is not your mother treats you like her own daughter. Your actual mother is dead or ridiculous.

You develop a resentment at a public dance.

Some of that sounds pretty good:  the five hundred a year, and the dresses like nighties, natch.  What’s not to love? Continue reading

Josephine Baker’s postwar/Cold War “rainbow tribe”

The book that kept Matthew Pratt Guterl indoors all last summer was published last month by Harvard University’s Belknap Press.  Rebecca Onion gives it a nice rundown here at Slate:

Baker was born in St. Louis but moved to France in 1925. Her danse sauvage, famously performed in a banana skirt, brought her international fame. During World War II, she worked for the Red Cross and gathered intelligence for the French Resistance. After the war, married to her fourth husband, Jo Bouillon, she struggled to conceive a child. Meanwhile, her career waned. Guterl’s book is about this period of Baker’s life, as she built her large adopted family, became ever more active on behalf of the nascent civil rights movement in the United States, and re-emerged into fame.

Baker purchased her estate, known as Les Milandes, after marrying Bouillon in 1947. In addition to the chateau, the property boasted a motel, a bakery, cafés, a jazz club, a miniature golf course, and a wax museum telling the story of Baker’s life. As Guterl makes clear, the place was over-the-top, but its ostentation was a political statement. Les Milandes, with its fairy-tale setting, announced to the world that African-American girls born poor could transcend nation and race and find wealth and happiness.

Guterl makes it sound like Baker’s family was kind of a multicultural Trapp Family Singers or a Partridge Family, crossed with the Dionne QuintupletsContinue reading

Spring!

zodiacman

Homo Signorum, ca. 1486, from Guild Book of Barber Surgeons

From The Husband-Man’s Guide (Boston, 1712):

April

In this month sow Hemp & Flax, pole hops, set and sow all kind of tender herbs and seeds.  Restore the liberty of the laborious Bee, by opening her hive.  Let Tanners now begin to prepare to get Bark, and the good Housewives mind their gardens, and begin to think of their Daries.  Now purge & bleed, you that need; for the use of Physick is yet very seasonable, the Pores of the body being open; therefore this and the last Month is th’ best time to remove and prevent Causes of sickness, and for speedy remedy in any extremity.  Let blood these two Months the Moon being in Cancer, Acquary or Taurus, but held to be extream perilous for the Moon to be in that sign which ruleth the Member where the Vein is opened.  So also it is held best to take Purges when the Moon is in Cancer, Scorpio or Pisces.  But an Oyntment or Plaster is best apply’d when the Moon is in the same Sign that rules the Member to which it is applicable.

As it says after one of its recommended decoctions for common human complaints: Continue reading