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Gothamist (via Shelf Awareness) brings a little video of Gramercy Typewriters, the oldest typewriter repair shop in New York. Still going strong after more than 80 years.

And here’s another.


Another quiz from Buzzfeed who’s tag line makes the claim that no one but a true expert will score better than 10/13.  I can confirm (as a clear non-expert) though I insist I did better than I expected.

El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Buenos Aires. Photo: M4CAQUE/FLIKR

Conde-Nast Traveller brings a gallery of photos of 17 places they say book lovers should visit before they die.

“Where are all those activists when you need them —  the folk so keen to move statues of Robert E. Lee, Christopher Columbus and the rest of them?”

Our secular patron saint of printing (the word on the front of the plinth, beneath Franklin’s name is PRINTER) gives passersby on Pennsylvania Avenue a nervous little wave, while looking a bit fed up at finding himself before that controversial new hotel in Washington, in the converted Post Office Pavilion.

An oddity, shown by David Crotty at The Scholarly Kitchen: Merriam-Webster’s backward index card file. We tend to forget that things which are easy-peasy with computers once upon a time required a bit of ingenuity.

There are other videos at Merriam-Webster’s YouTube Channel.

A slightly over-jaunty commentary doesn’t remove the interest of this video introducing you to 10 letters which were once included in our alphabet.

Link thanks to David Crotty at The Scholarly Kitchen.

Coincidence is strange enough. Mathematics is stranger.

Video via David Crotty at The Scholarly Kitchen. If you don’t see it, click on the title of this blog post so you can view it in your browser. This Shakespeare trick only works if you omit the “Selah” at the end of the Psalm. As nobody seems to know what the word means, maybe omitting it is OK by the bard.

To become an adjective an author obviously has to be well known, as well as important and distinctive enough for the adjective to be useful. Byronic, Keatsian, Homeric, Faulknerian, Emersonian, Dickinsonian, Dickensian, etc.. You feel you could go on for ever in this vein. Oxford Dictionaries brings us a disquisition on the question.

Here are a couple of TED videos on the topic, via Open Culture.

(If you don’t see any videos here, please click on the blog post’s title in order to view it in your browser.)

Of course the name has to work. We can’t really talk about a Poeian/ Poeish/ Poeic story, or an Eliotic poem or novel (though the word does appear to exist as meaning having to do with T. S. Eliot, not, as it almost sounds, sun worshipping).

Poster by Hog Island Press. Click to enlarge

I guess it says something about the way Americans view themselves that this phrase exists at all and is indeed common currency. Nobody’s ever heard of The Great Scottish Novel, The Great English Novel, The Great French Novel, The Great Danish Novel, etc., etc. Why do we Americans seek “Great”, and especially why would we think “The” was appropriate or even desirable in such a context? Novels are not in competition with one another. All the novels on that chart are fine novels, some may be great, but why do you need to come up with one winner?

I see this phenomenon as related to the fact that a draw or tie is not considered an acceptable result in American sports. Baseball games can, potentially, go on forever, until one team wins. I just discovered that there are circumstances, too complicated for us to understand, that can lead to an American football game’s ending in a draw, but few people seem ever to have observed this. Football games* end in draws all the time and nobody has any trouble dealing with their team getting one point rather than the three they’d have had with a win. So why do Americans require victory in everything including their self-inflicted great novel race?

The Literary Hub has a piece on this question by Ursula K. Le Guin where she objects to the even sillier question “Where is the Great American Novel by a woman?”. She quotes Pakistani novelist Mohsin Hamid who responds “. . . Bear with me as I advocate the death of the Great American Novel. The problem is in the phrase itself. ‘Great’ and ‘Novel’ are fine enough. But ‘the’ is needlessly exclusionary, and ‘American’ is unfortunately parochial. The whole, capitalized, seems to speak to a deep and abiding insecurity, perhaps a colonial legacy. How odd it would be to call Homer’s ‘Iliad’ or Rumi’s ‘Masnavi’ ‘the Great Eastern Mediterranean Poem’.” The colonial bit does, I think, get to the heart of the “American” part of the matter. American literature grew up in the shadow of British/English literature in a way in which Indian or Pakistani literature, say, did not. Nineteenth-century Americans saw Shakespeare as part of their heritage, and Pope, and Fielding, and Thackeray, and Dickens, and . . . hold on a minute, this is getting embarrassing. Let’s stop and boost our Cooper, and Hawthorne, and Melville. Look, there’s Moby-Dick — we can claim that as The Great American Novel.

Novels bearing the title The Great American Novel have been written by William Carlos Williams and Philip Roth. Williams’ short satire features a little Ford car falling in love with a Mack truck. Roth’s book is appropriately about the “Great American Pastime”, baseball. He analyses in his prologue some candidates for the title, The Scarlet Letter, Huckleberry Finn, Moby-Dick, dismissing each in turn. He debates with Ernest Hemingway during a fishing trip and Hem insists that none of them is any good: he’ll be writing the Great American Novel himself: end of discussion. Of course Roth’s leading man (“Call me Smitty” as the book begins) keeps on with his attempt to do it himself, as exemplified by the book in front of us. (He fails.)

The term “Great American Novel” itself derives directly from the title of an 1868 essay by American novelist John William De Forest. It is an indication of the fickleness of fashion that Forest sets up the putative G.A.N. as an response to The Newcomes or Les Misérables.


* I refer here of course to real football, what Americans refer to as soccer, that puerile abbreviation, needed in English public schools to distinguish it from rugger — Association football as against Rugby football.

Despite of it’s slightly alarming use of an iron, this elementary procedure for removing water stains from your old books does appear to work.

(If you don’t see a video here, just click on the title of the post and view it in your browser.)