Thursday, April 29, 2010

Australian Library's Exhibit Is Unbearably Cute

Blinky Bill Made His Debut In 1933, And Has Been The Best Pal Of Australian Kids Ever Since.
Wall, Dorothy, 1894-1942. Blinky Bill : the quaint little Australian / story and decorations by Dorothy Wall. (Sydney : Angus & Robertson, 1940.)
(Image Courtesy Of Monash University Library.)

For American kids, it's Curious George or The Cat In The Hat. For English kids it's Peter Rabbit. But for Australian kids the most beloved mischief-maker in children's literature is a koala named Blinky Bill. A new exhibit at Australia's Monash University Library highlights the boy-like bear (okay, koala's aren't really bears but you get the picture) along with other childhood literary favorites from Down Under.

The complete adventures of Blinky Bill : containing Blinky Bill, Blinky Bill grows up, Blinky Bill and Nutsy/ told & illustrated by Dorothy Wall. London ; Sydney : Angus and Robertson, 1939.

The books on show, from March through June 2010, were all gifts from a lifelong collector of children's literature, former Secretary of the Monash University Faculty of Education, Lindsay Shaw. And now the whole world has a chance to enjoy this treasure trove of English, American, and Australian books and games, as the Library has created a virtual exhibition consisting of over 100 images from this extensive collection. For those unfamiliar with kiddie lit from Oceania, it offers an introduction to the adventures of one of its most appealing characters, Blinky Bill.

The Final Illustration In Blinky Bill And Nutsy: Two Little Australians (1937).
It clearly Shows That Blinky Bill Has Become An Australian National Mascot.
(Image Courtesy Project Guttenberg.)

The koala is a natural to become a hero of children's stories. Aside from it's obvious cute and cuddly charms, this marsupial's gentle behavior and human-like characteristics make it easy to anthropomorphize. Koalas feed exclusively on the leaves of the eucalyptus tree, and their slow metabolic rate causes them to rest or sleep 16 to 18 hours a day. Can you imagine a more peaceable creature? And these furry critters are virtually silent: males vocalize in mating season, but otherwise the species emits a cry like that of a human baby only when severely stressed. They are also one of the few mammals, other than primates, with opposable thumbs and fingerprints. Full grown male koalas weigh roughly 25 pounds, with females being about half that, making them no bigger than a one-year-old child. They live exclusively in Australia, and not surprisingly have become a national symbol of the continent.

Illustration From Blinky Bill: The Quaint Little Australian (1933).
(Image Courtesy Of BibliOdyssey.)

The woman who made a koala the most celebrated picture book hero in Australia, Dorothy Wall, ironically was born in New Zealand in 1894. As early as age 10 she showed a natural talent for drawing, and later won scholarships to both the Canterbury College School of Art and the Wellington College of Design. She earned a living as a fashion illustrator and book jacket designer before moving to Sydney in 1914 to work for The Sun newspaper. By 1920 her illustrations had been featured in a popular magazine of the day, The Lone Hand, and her first children's story, Tommy Bear And The Zookies, was published that same year. Most of her income came from illustrating the works of other children's authors, and she became recognized for her ability to create fanciful fairies and realistic animals with equal skill.

The Prototype Of Blinky Bill.
Illustration From: The Story Of Tommy Bear And The Zookies (1920).
(Image Courtesy Of BibliOdyssey.)

In the mid-1930's Australian authors began more and more to write stories featuring their nation's unique flora and fauna. Dorothy Wall was part of the trend towards celebrating the native beauty of her adopted home in children's books. She created illustrations for Jacko The Broadcasting Kookaburra in 1933, and for The Amazing Adventures of Billy Penguin in 1934. At this same time she published her first book featuring the character who would become an Australian cultural icon, Blinky Bill: The Quaint Little Australian. Blinky Bill is a combination of a koala bear and a naughty little boy. His adventures involve other creatures native to Australia, including wombats, platypuses, kangaroos, rabbits, and frogs. They also include themes advocating forest conservation, and strong condemnation of the common practice of hunting koalas and other animals for their fur.

The Hunted Becomes The Hunter, But At Least It's Only A Game.
Blinky Bill and Nutsy : two little Australians / story and illustrations by Dorothy Wall.

Blinky Bill's popularity was immediate, and two sequels soon followed, Blinky Bill Grows Up in 1934, and Blinky Bill and Nutsy: Two Little Australians in 1937. Unfortunately the popular appeal of the mischievous yet lovable koala led to pirating of the character as far away as the United States, and, like many authors, Dorothy Wall never earned a penny from most of the toys, dishes, games, and unauthorized books adorned with her appealing illustrations. Eventually she became depressed at having to illustrate the work of other writers just to make money. After a divorce, she and her only child, a son named Peter, returned to New Zealand. Here she once again became a newspaper illustrator, this time for the New Zealand Herald and Auckland Weekly News.

This Blinky Bill pop-up, “Magic-action" book, is an American piracy, published without Dorothy Wall's permission, and containing no mention of the author's name.Wall, Dorothy, 1894-1942. Blinky Bill / [Dorothy Wall].
(Racine, Wisconsin : Whitman Publishing Co., 1935)
(Image Courtesy Of Monash University Library.)

Back in the country of her birth, Dorothy Wall continued to write stories set in Australia. Her publisher frequently hired her for illustrating work on books by other authors to help her make ends meet. At one point she told him she was forced to make simply earning a living her primary focus, giving up on "the honor and glory of seeing [her] name in print." In 1940 one last Blinky Bill book was published, Blinky Bill Joins The Army. It was written as a patriotic gesture to benefit the war effort, and was initially rejected by her longtime publisher as outright propaganda. A complete rewrite was demanded for the once popular author to get the book published at all.

Wall, Dorothy, 1894-1942. Blinky Bill joins the army / story and decorations by Dorothy Wall.
(Sydney : Angus & Robertson, 1940)
(Image Courtesy Of Monash University Library.)

Seeing her new work in print revived both Dorothy Wall and her career, and in 1941 she returned to Sydney telling her publisher: "I'll have to start the battle all over again but feel much better and more able to combat disappointment." Sadly her health did not hold out, and she died of pneumonia less than a year later. Dead at the young age of 48, she left behind her son and the enduringly popular character she created.

Illustration From: A Tiny Story Of Blinky Bill (1947?).
One Of Many Titles Published After Dorothy Wall's Death.
(Image Courtesy of BibliOdyssey.)

A compilation of the first three books starring the enchanting koala, The Complete Adventures Of Blinky Bill, was first published in 1939 and reprinted 15 times between 1940 and 1965. Blinky Bill remained a fixture in the Australian Sunday newspaper comics for decades, and was the star of a feature film in 1992, and of three animated television series in 1993, 1995, and 2005. All of Blinky Bill's celluloid adventures stressed the importance of maintaining the endangered forest habitat of the koala, and of preventing the extinction of animal species worldwide. (Koalas had been hunted nearly to extinction in the early 20th century, and are still considered endangered today.) In 2010 Blinky Bill remains one of the most recognizable literary characters in Australia, and has his own Facebook page and YouTube videos. And early editions of the Blinky Bill books are now highly sought after, and find themselves right at home in the Rare Book Collection of the Monash University Library.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Treasure Discovered at Rare Book Round-Up

The L.A. Times Festival of Books yielded a bonanza for the woman who came to the Southern California Chapter of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America’s Rare Book Round-Up booth for a free appraisal.

A book the woman bought for a dollar at a garage sale was worth $6,000. Suffice it to say, she plotzed when informed.

A metaphysical ambulance is routinely parked nearby to handle such situations. Treated for acute swoon, she recovered fully and danced a jig all the way home.

The volume she presented for appraisal was A Western Trip by Carl E. Schmidt (1904). A lavishly produced book bound in full Russian leather, it records, in diary form, a sporting trip to Yellowstone National Park by the author, and, significantly, contains twelve full-page mounted color photochrome prints by William Henry Jackson (1843-1942), the great 19th century American landscape photographer who took the first pictures of Yellowstone National Park while working on the Hayden Geological Survey of 1871.

“Printed in a few copies ‘for private circulation only.’ An interesting journal of the Yellowstone Country, and because of the circumstances of its printing, extremely difficult to come by” (Eberstadt). “The book is an idiosyncratic example of bookmaking, not only because of its unusual illustrative matter, but also because of the author’s selection of old English type and the binding created in the author’s own tannery” (Dorothy Sloan, Auction 20).

“William Henry Jackson, the greatest of all Western photographers [with the] ability to capture the many scenes of sublime beauty in the West on his photographic plates and stereopticon slides, did more than anyone else to publicize the tourist’s West... Jackson, like the avant-garde writers, the scientists, and even the local colorists of his time, was helping to usher in a new era of realism that would in part replace, and at the same time, as far as subject matter was concerned, parallel the romanticism of an earlier day” (Goetzmann, Exploration & Empire, pp. 499-500).


The photochrome process of color photography used in A Western Trip was invented in Switzerland, and the American rights were purchased by the Detroit Publishing Company c. 1895. Jackson served as a director of the firm's newly-created Photochrome Company subsidiary, and praised the photochrome process in his memoirs as a "process hardly improved today." A variant of chromolithography, the process involved transfer of a black and white photo-negative onto lithographic printing plates.

A Western Trip was the star book of the weekend, appearing out of nowhere to open the eyes of the appraisers and cause heart palpitations in the book's owner, who bought it simply because "it looked nice." Good eye.

Amongst other noteworthy books that were seen at the Rare Books Round-Up was a very attractive copy in dust jacket of the first American edition of Raymond Chandler's The Little Sister (1949). Bought for $25, it was appraised at $750. Another satisfied customer.


SCHMIDT, Carl E. A Western Trip. [Detroit: Herold Press]: For private circulation only, n.d. [1904]. 91 [1 blank], [2] pp. 30 photographs, including 12 full-page mounted photochrome prints. Octavo. Full brown Russian leather, gilt-lettered and with gilt illustration of cowboy on rearing horse roping, t.e.g., fore-edges untrimmed, burgundy silk endpapers. Issued in an very small print run.

Streeter sale, lot 4123, vol. VII, p. 2864 (1969). Howes S-170. Eberstadt 133:975. Taylor, Traveling thru Wonderland pp. 40-41.

CHANDLER, Raymond. The Little Sister. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1949. Octavo. 249 pp. Orange cloth. Dust jacket. The London: Hamish Hamilton, 1949 edition precedes the U.S. edition.

Bruccoli A8. Cooper 38.

Images courtesy Dorothy Sloan.

At Yale University's Library Recycling Is The Law

A Page From: The Passion of Saint Alexander, Pope and Martyr, (Passio Sancti Alexandri martyris papae) circa 975-1075. Reused To Strengthen The Cover Of Flos testamnetorum By Rolandinus, de Passageriis, Published In Padua In 1482.
(Images Courtesy Of The Lillian Goldman Law Library Rare Book Collection, Yale University.)

The last weekend of April 2010 saw celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. Citizens of the world were urged to "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle," to help save our imperiled planet. An exhibit at the Yale University's Lillian Goldman Law Library proves that, as fine an idea as this is, it is hardly breaking news. The collection on display is as green as the Ivy League walls that surround it, but its materials were created in the inky shadows of The Dark Ages.

The bindings of nearly 150 books in the Law Library's Rare Book Collection show that recycling was second nature among European bookbinders as early as the 1300's. These medieval artisans reused the materials they had on hand: discarded manuscripts. The strong, flexible, and prohibitively pricey parchment of these documents proved the perfect product for binding new books. What are now considered priceless volumes, dating from as early as 975 AD, were to these craftsmen nothing more than a serviceable source of scraps.

A Portion Of A German Breviary, Circa 1150-1200. Found Inside The Cover Of Communes i.v. conclusiones, ad gerneralem quorum cunque statutorum interpetationem acommodatae, by Alderano Mascardi, published in Frankfurt by Wolfgang Richter in 1609. This fragment remained hidden until a bomb exploded in the Yale Law Library in May, 2003. Water damage from fire sprinklers caused the book's cover to come unglued, revealing the manuscript page.

The 14th- and 15th-century works featured in Reused, Rebound, Recovered: Medieval Manuscript Fragments in Law Book Bindings, all incorporate visible pieces of older tomes in their construction. Some of these scraps are so tiny they can easily be overlooked, while others are big enough to cover the entire exterior of a large volume. Many of the fragments have remained hidden for centuries. Only when its cover has fallen into disrepair is the secret source material of one of the collection's books revealed.

A Fragment In French, Circa 1475-1525, The Source Of Which Remains A Mystery. It May Be A Deed For A Piece Of Property, And Was Used As A Wrapper For: Caccialupi, Giovanni Battista. De Pesionibus tractatus uere aureus. Rome: F. Minizio Calvo, 1531.

Once exposed, these fragments become a puzzle for scholars and librarians to solve. Discovering the origins of the scraps sheds a little more sunlight onto the Dark Ages. The subject matter, popularity, geographic distribution, changing styles in binding and printing, and evolving script and illustration of medieval manuscripts, are all illuminated by identifying the source texts of each remnant.

Another Fragment Of Unknown Origin, Circa 1350-1450. Twelve Small Volumes Of Corpus iuris civilis, Published In Lyons by Guillame Rouille In 1581, Were Neatly Covered By Pages From A Manuscript Containing Passages From The Bible.

Most of the manuscript pieces in the Yale Law Library's collection have been identified and tentatively dated. The materials chosen for the exhibit bring to light the diversity of texts that have been hidden in the covers of just a small sampling of the collection's rare books. Examination of the bindings has revealed verses from, and commentaries on, the Bible; liturgical materials, including some with musical notation; passages from sermons; a section of Cicero's philosophical text, Dream of Scipio; and, as befits their current home, several slices of legal texts. Most of the fragments are in Latin, but two are from Hebrew texts, two more are in French, and one appears to be in some form of German.

This Volume, Repetitiones decem legum, [Paris, Andre Bocard for Jean Petit, 1507.] Contains Two Unidentified Fragments, Circa 1350-1425. The Page Above, From The Inside Front Cover Contains A List Of Benediction Prayers For The Feast Of The Virgin Mary And The Feast Of All Saints.

The Inside Back Cover Of The Same Volume Reveals A Page From A Completely Unrelated Manuscript, Appearing To Be From Some Type Of Prayer Book.

The sources of some of some of the parchment pieces in the exhibit remain mysterious. On March 19, 2010, over 40 members of the Medieval Academy of America were invited to investigate the display, in hopes of identifying the parent-texts of those fragments which remain orphans. Images of the bindings were also made available for viewing online. This clever strategy has paid off, with the resulting clues from scholars being posted on the Rare Book Collection's blog. Anyone able to make more of these manuscripts illuminated rather than shadowy is invited to contact the exhibit's co-curators, Benjamin Yousey-Hindes and Mike Widener.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Got The Blues, The Mean Reds, Or The Evil Yellows?

Holly Golightly Battles "The Mean Reds" At Tiffany's

Truman Capote's Breakfast At Tiffany's should be required reading for psychiatrists. Nobody ever painted a more terse and pithy picture of clinical depression than Holly Golightly: "You know those days when you've got the mean reds... the blues are because you're getting fat or maybe it's been raining too long. You're sad, that's all. But the mean reds are horrible. You're afraid and you sweat like hell, but you don't know what you're afraid of. Except something bad is going to happen, only you don't know what it is." The National Library Of Medicine has created an exhibit that adds the third primary color to Capote's mental health palette. It's an investigation of what could be called "the evil yellows."

This exhibit, The Literature of Prescription, describes the birth of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's 1892 short story, The Yellow Wallpaper. This literary creation is the world's finest illustration of the old bromide: "the cure is worse than the disease." And the illness was bad enough: a crushing case of post-partum depression.

Charlotte Anna Perkins was born on July 3, 1860 in Hartford, Connecticut. She was a poor relation of the illustrious Beecher Family, including Uncle Tom's Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe. Soon after her birth, her father Frederick left the family. Charlotte, her mother Mary, and brother Thomas were forced to live on the handouts of various aunts and uncles, shuttling from relative to relative seeking charity. Her mother was an emotionally cold, sickly woman who forbade her children to make friends or read fiction. Predictably, the lonely Charlotte began stealing away to the public library, and reading voraciously. She also showed a natural talent for writing and drawing.

Writer And Reader Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

At 18, Charlotte enrolled at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design. She was a talented commercial artist, and for a time made a living designing trade cards. Here she met her first husband, fellow artist Walter Stetson. They married in 1884, and had their only child, Katharine Beecher Stetson, a year later.

Almost immediately after the birth, Charlotte became despondent. She found no joy in motherhood, and felt it did not suit her. She wanted nothing more than to return to her work as an artist. This attitude was considered unwholesome, unladylike, and unacceptable. Walter Stetson wanted a wife, not a business partner. Charlotte's mental frailty became so acute she sought help from the nation's leading specialist in "nervous diseases," Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell.

Rest Cure Proponent Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell.

Dr. Mitchell specialized in treating women suffering from "nervous exhaustion." He believed that the cause of an epidemic of neurasthenia among upper class women was an overdose of education. Women who participated in intellectual activities were "exceeding their natural limits." The cure: an intense period of isolation, total bed rest, deliberate overfeeding of fatty foods like butter and cream, and a complete elimination of reading, writing, drawing, conversation, or any other mental activity.

Charlotte took the rest cure and got well fast. At least well enough to escape Dr. Mitchell's "care" in a month, with the following prescription: "Live as domestic a life as possible...And never touch pen, brush, or pencil as long as you live." The beaten-down patient tried to follow Weir's advice: "I went home and obeyed those directions for some three months, and came so near the borderline of utter mental ruin that I could see over. Then, using the remnants of intelligence that remained... I cast the noted specialist's advice to the winds and went to work again."

An 1892 Illustration From The Yellow Wallpaper.

That work became Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Gothic horror classic: The Yellow Wallpaper. It is the tale of young woman driven mad by the rest cure. The nameless narrator is confined to a locked room with barred windows. In her forced isolation she defies her doctor-husband by secretly writing in a diary. As weeks go by she becomes obsessed with the garish colors and serpentine patterns of the room's wallpaper. She begins to see shapes behind the paper, and eventually becomes convinced there is a woman entrapped beneath it. Hoping to free the imprisoned woman, the narrator begins tearing the paper from the wall. In the end she surrenders completely to her visions, and is last seen compulsively circling the room amidst a sea of tattered paper. Her husband is so shocked by her maniacal behavior that he faints dead away.

Despite having the backing of author and literary critic William Dean Howells, The Yellow Wallpaper was rejected outright by the editor of The Atlantic Monthly. Horace E. Scudder's rejection letter read, in its entirety, "Mr. Howells has handed me this story. I could not forgive myself if I made others as miserable as I have made myself." The story was ultimately published in the January 1892 issue of The New England Magazine. Public reaction was swift, and not positive. A letter to the editor called the story "perilous stuff," and the writer found it so morbidly fascinating and sensational that he wondered if such literature might better remain unpublished. Gilman replied that the story "was not intended to drive people crazy but to save people from being driven crazy."

The Shocking Finale Of The Story, As Illustrated In 1892.

After the story's publication, Charlotte Perkins Gilman divorced her first husband, and in a move shocking for the times, gave him custody of their daughter. She later married a cousin, George Houghton Gilman. The marriage was a happy one, and Charlotte spent the remainder of her life as a writer and crusader for women's rights. She penned both fiction and nonfiction books, as well as essays and poetry, and published her own monthly magazine, The Forerunner, from 1909 through 1916. Most of this work is forgotten today, but The Yellow Wallpaper was rediscovered by feminists in the 1970's, and is now a standard text in Women's Studies classes.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman ended her own life in 1935. Her suicide was NOT a result of depression. A firm believer in euthanasia, she chose to inhale chloroform when diagnosed with inoperable breast cancer. Thanks to her harrowing story, the "Three Color Literary Diagnostic Test for Depression" is complete: the blues are manageable, the mean reds borderline, but evil yellows? See your mental health professional, stat!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Don Draper Eats A Naked Lunch

Portrait Of The Artist As A Psychotic Junkie.
Self-Portrait By William S. Burroughs, 1959.
(Image Courtesy Of Columbia University Library.)

There are a lot of weird parallels, or at least perpendiculars, between junkie hipster supreme William S. Burroughs (and/or his literary doppelganger William Lee), and Mad Men's Don Draper. I couldn't get that idea out of my head after looking over an April 2010 online exhibit: Naked Lunch: The First Fifty Years. Columbia University curator, Gerald W. Cloud created the virtual show to commemorate the celebrations held at Columbia's libraries in 2009, marking the half-century since the 1959 Paris publication of Burrough's most famous work. The archival materials on display, including original manuscripts; correspondence between Burroughs and other literary Beats, such as Allen Ginsberg, Lucien Carr, and Jack Kerouac; and rare editions of Naked Lunch, come from Columbia's extensive holdings of documents related to the novel's creation, composition, and editing. But those Mad Men connections kept buzzing in my brain.

The Hollow Man.
Mad Men's Don Draper.
(Image Courtesy Of Wikipedia.)

The most obvious link is the time frame. Fictional Don Draper, based on real Chicago ad man Draper Daniels, starts out his televised "life" in March 1960. Burrough's junkie phantasmagoria shocked delicate (and even not so delicate) European sensibilities in late 1959, but the first American printing came later, in 1962. So Don and Bill are contemporaries. But the ties that bind these two go beyond their career highs, or just plain highs, in the same decade.

Both men are ruled, if not ruined, by vices. Don's are the standard, and reasonably socially acceptable: tobacco, booze, and broads. Compare that to Bill's big three: marijuana, heroin, and boys. Between the two of them, the waterfront is covered, and then some. But Don's a Boy Scout compared to Wild Bill, which makes perfect sense: Draper wants in on everything Burroughs wants out of.

Baby Burroughs was a wealthy WASP who ate breakfast with a Tiffany spoon. A trust fund tot, he was a grandson of the inventor of the adding machine. The profane patron saint of hipsters was born in staid St.Louis and educated at ritzy boarding schools "where the spindly sons of the rich could be transformed into manly specimens," according to Burroughs's biographer Ted Morgan. Before becoming a real-life and literary outlaw, Burroughs earned a degree in English literature from Harvard University. Little Donnie Draper would have sold his soul for what Burroughs was born with, if he'd ever actually been Little Donnie Draper.

Logo For Mad Men. Note Ever-Present Cigarette.
(Image Courtesy Of Wikipedia.)

Viewers learned in Mad Men's first season that Don Draper is really Dick Whitman. Whitman's deadbeat Dad impregnated a prostitute, and little Dick was the unfortunate byproduct. There was a real Don Draper, but Whitman accidentally killed him (long story), and assumed his identity. So the man we meet as suave seducer Don Draper, is the fictional creation of a killer. Something Burroughs would find far from foreign.

Burroughs notoriously shot and killed his common-law wife, Joan Vollmer, during a drunken game of "William Tell." Details of the crime are murky, but Vollmer apparently placed a shot glass (oh, the irony) atop her head, and Bill's aim was off. Burroughs credited the fall-out with making him a writer in the preface to his book, Queer: "I am forced to the appalling conclusion that I would never have become a writer but for Joan's death, and to a realization of the extent to which this event has motivated and formulated my writing." So without some tragic collateral damage, we have no Don Draper or William Lee, as we know them. Causing a death gave both life. And a writer's life, yet another strange link in that chain.

First Edition Of Naked Lunch. (The "The" Was A Publisher's Error.)
Paris: Olympia Press, [1959]
(Image Courtesy of Columbia University Library.)

Both Burroughs and Draper make their dough as wordsmiths. But one spins a yarn that's the all-time Big Daddy of nightmares, while the other is a silver-tongued shiller of the American dream. Naked Lunch rubs the reader's nose in every form of excrement known to mankind, and quite a few made by odiously inhuman creatures. The book is dirty in the "unclean" sense, and in a double your displeasure, double your discomfort two-fer so sexually graphic that at one point it was banned in Boston. But nobody could accuse Burroughs of being dishonest, nor of glamorizing the junkie life. Like the characters in Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club, he's always trying to hit bottom. It isn't his fault the foundation of the doper's life is quicksand.

"Respectable" career-man Draper is the one who makes his daily Wonder Bread off the big lie. He sells the possibility of a dream life full of young-thinking Pepsi drinkers with Pepsodent smiles riding a carousel through Kodak moments. He's Madison Avenue's brightest young Turk, the pasha of the pitch, the sultan of sales. Draper's downfall is that he's bought into the fiction he sells. Having clawed his way successfully to the middle, even in American there's no room at the old money top where Burroughs began, he's become the poster boy for lives of quiet desperation. Don's doomed fling with a beatnik chick (he's as relentlessly hetero as Burroughs is frankly homo), ends with his resolve to (temporarily) go back to sleeping with his wife on "a bed made of money." He's honed himself to conform to the same consumer culture he soft soaps to saps.

Gentleman Junkie William S. Burroughs.
(Image Courtesy Of Lehmann Films.)

Insiders wanting out, outsiders wanting in. Flamboyantly embracing the outlaw life, desperately seeking status. Life on the junk, life selling junk. Creating a nightmarish truth, concocting a glamorous lie. Writing to save your soul, selling your soul to write. Spectacularly surrendering to the siren song of smack, self-medicating with scotch and soda to maintain the social surface. The psychotic outlaw-addict and the man in the gray flannel suit. Both hell bent on that great American pastime: reinvention. But the artistry of the addict betrays the poetry in his soul. And the Marlboro Man has a cancer at his core. Neither Burroughs/Lee nor Don Draper can escape the one thing they're trying to outrun: themselves. As William Faulkner put it,"the past isn't dead, it's not even past." Or to quote Dr. Buckaroo Banzai, "No matter where you go, there you are."

Monday, April 19, 2010

Kaplan Boxing Archive: From Contender To Champ

Poster For An Exhibit of Materials From The Hank Kaplan Boxing Archive.
(All Images Courtesy Of Hank Kaplan Boxing Archive At Brooklyn College.)

The rags to riches story behind Brooklyn College's Hank Kaplan Boxing Archive just got a little richer: on April 16, 2010 the collection's chief archivist, Professor Anthony Cucchiara, became the winner of a $315,000 endowment from the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) to organize the largest and most extensive boxing collection in the world. "This two-year grant will allow us to process and preserve this invaluable collection that spans two centuries of boxing history," says Prof. Cucchiara.

Finding the funds to organize, catalog, and digitize the 2,600 books, 500,000 photographs and negatives, 1,200 posters, reams of clipping files, scrapbooks, documents, letters, and memorabilia that make up the Kaplan collection was a daunting task. A $50,000 seed grant from Barry Feirstein, Chair of the Brooklyn College Foundation, allowed Prof. Cucchiara and his team, Assistant Archivist Marianne LaBatto and Conservator Slava Polischuk, to begin an inventory of the over 2,000 cartons of material. But the goal was to make the entire collection available to the public, in accordance with the donor's wishes.

A Rare Poster For A Fight That Never Took Place. The Bout Was Rescheduled When Then Cassius Clay, Later Muhammad Ali, Became Ill.

Fortunately, the Brooklyn College academic charged with the task has more than a professional interest in this treasure trove of boxing memorabilia. Anthony Cucchiara works out every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn with Hector Rocca, who trained the recently-deceased fighter Arturo "Thunder" Gatti, as well as "Million Dollar Baby" star Hilary Swank. It was the friendship between the pugilist professor and donor Hank Kaplan, an authority on boxing nicknamed "the sweet scientist," "the human encyclopedia," and "the Lord of the Ring," that resulted in the $3 million collection coming to Brooklyn College.

Hank Kaplan's life story sounds like something straight out of the Dead End Kids. Kaplan was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1919, the son of Jewish immigrants from Lithuania. His father died when Hank was only nine, leaving his seamstress mother to raise four children alone. At times the family was so strapped for cash the children were temporarily placed in orphanages. His interest in boxing began when he suffered a bloody nose in a boyhood fistfight at a charity summer camp for hard luck city kids in upstate New York. He fought as an amateur middleweight, and later turned pro, winning his first and only bout. But this was in the early 1940's, and World War II ended his ring career. Kaplan joined the U.S. Coast Guard upon learning that its Director of Physical Training was former heavyweight champ Jack Dempsey.

Hank Kaplan At His Fighting Weight In The 1940's.

During the War, Kaplan was trained in the disinfection of contaminated ships, and after attending the University of Miami on the G.I. Bill, he began a career with the Centers For Disease Control (CDC). But his passion for prizefighting never waned. He retired at age fifty-five, and began a second career with his first love. In the 1950s and 1960s, he was a publicist for the brothers Chris and Angelo Dundee, who molded the careers of Muhammad Ali and other champions, and he occasionally promoted fights on his own. He served as a public relations consultant to top fighters, founded the Wide World of Boxing Digest, and wrote dozens of articles on the sport for such publications as Boxing World, The Ring, the London Times, and Der Stern. He served as a boxing consultant to Sports Illustrated for 24 years, and later worked for ESPN, HBO and Showtime. Over time Kaplan became known as a scholarly, reliable, and eloquent source of information on anything and everything related to the fight game.

Throughout his life Kaplan collected memorabilia related to the sweet science. Much of his collection was given to him by trainers and fighters he befriended. He knew every boxing champion of his day, including Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Henry Armstrong, Jake LaMotta, Sugar Ray Robinson and Sugar Ray Leonard. He met an eighteen year old kid named Cassius Clay at the Fifth Street Gym in Miami in 1960. By the time Clay became "The Greatest," Kaplan and Heavyweight Champion of the World Muhammad Ali were fast friends.

Kaplan's Comprehensive Collection Includes Products Endorsed By "The Greatest."

But Kaplan's one-man history of boxing isn't just about the champs. He kept detailed records on virtually every professional boxer and trainer in history, and on judges, referees, and announcers, too. Kaplan kept vast files on what he called "fistic arcana," such as mainstream and unorthodox training methods, boxing in the movies, animals in boxing, bare-knuckle fighting, and Jewish and Italian boxers who adopted Irish names. Despite his association with big-name boxers, Kaplan was devoted to the memory of each and every fighter. His files on now-forgotten fighters like Joe Grim, a palooka whose professional record of 6-91-9 was the worst of all time, were as important to him as the rest: "Even when I was 16 or 17, I said there's got to be some way to remember them," Mr. Kaplan told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in 1995. "If someone were to ask me why I keep the archives, I guess that's what I'd say: Someone has to be charged with remembering them."

By the beginning of 1990, Kaplan's collection filled two rooms in his Kendall, Florida home, and an entire two-car garage. Then in 1992, Hurricane Andrew ripped the roof from the garage, putting much of the collection at risk. Kaplan was able to save nearly everything he had collected, but he began to think seriously about what would happen to his vast historical archive after his death. David Smith, a supervising librarian at the New York Public Library, learned about the Kaplan archive from the writer David Margolick, who was researching his book, Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling, and a World on the Brink. Then Smith read a 2005 article in The New York Times that mentioned Professor Tony Cucchiara's devotion to boxing. Smith arranged the introductions that led to Hank Kaplan's archive finding a new home at a college in his boyhood home town.

A Portrait Of Hank Kaplan By Artist Bob Carson.

Hank Kaplan became ill in late 2007, and Prof Cucchiara received a call from his daughter, Barbara Kaplan-Haar, who informed him that her father intended to leave the entire collection to Brooklyn College. Mr. Kaplan died two weeks after that call. "I think Hank liked the idea that the collection would be coming to Brooklyn," Professor Cucchiara said. "And it could be that he thought, since I'm both an academician and a boxer, that I would not let him down." "Some people would want to turn up their noses at a boxing collection," he added. "But the story of America is in this archive. Boxing is more than a sport. It's a lens through which to look at American cultural history." The professor and the donor share an undying admiration for the sweet science, "None of this is for my own glory," Kaplan said of his collection. "I have no dreams of great rewards. My love of boxing comes first."

Collecting Nurse Jackie’s Patron Saint: The Urtext of Memoirs

Suddenly, It's St. Augustine!

That exclamation is neither a message from the Florida Board of Tourism nor the title of a wacky, new sit-com about a talking St. Bernard with identity issues.

It is, rather, notice that recently, within the space of three days, I was struck by a cluster of references to the man who wrote the first memoir extant, the father of all autobiographies, St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo. 

First, I'm skimming through The Erotic Revolution by Lawrence Lipton (1965), "An Affirmative View of the New Morality," i.e. the sexual revolution of the Sixties, and my eye falls upon a single mention of St. Augustine on page 117.

Then, while rereading a fascinating phenomenological study of sexual arousal versus ordinary experience, Smut: Erotic Reality/Obscene Ideology by Murray S. Davis (University of Chicago, 1983), I'm struck by references to Augustine again (and again).

Next, I received, unsolicited, Collecting the Confessions: Selections from the William M. Klimon Collection of St. Augustine's Confessions, a check list of books with introduction by Klimon, published to accompany an exhibition, Oct. 9-20, 2006, held at the Jeanne M. Godschalx Gallery at St. Norbert's College in De Pere, Wisconsin.

Finally, via Netflix, I caught up to Nurse Jackie, the cable series starring Edie Falco as a nurse erratically driving, with dark detours, on the road to sainthood. Within the first two minutes of the show's first episode, Nurse Jackie, in voice-over narration, declares who she is by acknowledging by name and citing Augustine: "Please God, let me be good - but not yet," a neat paraphrase from Book Eight, Chapter Five of the Confessions of Saint Augustine.

I happen to know whence Nurse Jackie's citation because I, too, like William Klimon, have an attraction to Augustine, having read the Confessions and City of God, as well as the works of Thomas Aquinas during a sojourn in the wilderness when I was reading all manner of religious texts - Christian, Judaic, Hindu, Buddhist, Shinto, pagan, you name it - in an effort to read my way out of the jungle I then found myself in. I've also, over the years, studied Western sexuality and mores, and you cannot do that without coming to terms with St. Augustine, who, whether you agree with him or not, has been the primary influence in Western culture upon sexuality and how we think about it. Reject with all your might Augustine's thoughts on sex and you still are influenced by them; the stronger the aversion, the more powerful the grip - which sort of sums up Augustine's personal struggle before his final, full acceptance and embrace of Catholicism.

That wresting match - "the impulses of nature and the impulses of the spirit are at war with one another" (B. 8, Ch. 5) - popularly centers around sin and the "the lower self." In other words, those parts of the Confessions that contain hot-parts, specifically discussion of the human hot-parts, which behave independently from will and desire, i.e. the mystery and wonder of a man's penis rising and falling beyond conscious control. Grossly simplified, from this observation evolved Augustine's philosophy of free-will and original sin.

I interpreted these references as signs to be obeyed but not as a call to conversion. Rather, as an omen to write about William Klimon and how a collector can focus upon collecting one specific book in as many editions as can be found, and by so doing provide an important contribution to our understanding of the book.

"As a longtime student of and collector of the literature of Catholic conversion, it is natural that I should have been attracted to St. Augustine's Confessions. It is, of course, the Urtext of that particular genre. I've known about the book for as long as I can remember but my bibliographic interest in the work was limited until the fall of 1990 when I participated in a reading seminar with the classicist Danuta Shanzer at Cornell University...Coincident with that seminar was the publication of a new English translation of the Confessions...The fact that a fresh translation of such an established work...was possible interested me greatly, and from that point on I kept my eyes open to watch for other translations" (Introduction to Collecting the Confessions).

Intrigued by the translation tradition but frustrated that the scholastic community appeared to ignore study of the translations of the Confessions, Klimon made it his business.

"Why is any of this important? Because the work of bibliographers and book historians during the last several decades has helped clarify the notion that our understanding of texts cannot be divorced from the questions of editions and translations, or even from the physical elements of the books themselves. If we want to understand Augustine, and particularly if we want to understand his effect on Christian thought and culture for the next millennium and a half, we have to investigate not just the texts in isolation, but how and what people actually read. And to do that, we've got to have access to the various editions and translations - but first someone has to collect them" (Introduction).

And there, in his last sentence, is the reason why book collectors, particularly those with a passion in an untilled area of scholastic inquiry, have been and remain key contributors to the study of books and the world from which they emerged.

So, what can happen when a person reaches their book collecting goal?

"As of the end of last year," Mr. Klimon responded to me, "I have given the entire collection to St. Norbert College. There were approximately 144 different editions, probably about 50 different translators or editors--plus works of scholarship, bibliographies and readers' guides, and one LP record of Louis Andriessen's De Tijd (Time) [Amsterdam: Donemus, 1981. LP and liner notes. Performed by Ensemble of the Royal Conservatory of The Hague, conducted by Reinbert de Leeuw]. Notable in one of the later tranches were a 1589 Latin edition from Rome and the second edition of the first printed (anonymous) German translation (Frankfurt, 1760).

"Although I never bought one, during my time as an Augustine collector I was offered or had the opportunity to buy 3 different copies of incunable editions (there were 4 incunable editions of the Confessions altogether, which I assume makes it a pretty popular 15/c printed text). I do wish I had pulled the trigger on at least one." (The collectors' and rare book dealers' common lament)

And so this collection, which grew from one man's passion to amass the only collection of Augustine's Confessions in translation in the world, will now be available to scholars.

Collecting a single book is not unusual at all. Five years ago, I examined a collection of every edition of Uncle Tom's Cabin the collector could track down, including translations into just about every language you can think of (and some you can't). One collector I know has amassed every edition of De Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium Eater, including an edition/copy presented to Ulysses S. Grant by the publisher. Love Alice in Wonderland? Then collect every edition you can lay your hands on; most will be relatively inexpensive and you'll have a lot of fun.

Rare book dealers are often asked by neophyte collectors, "What should I collect?" The question presupposes that there are "right" books and there are "wrong" books to concentrate on. There are no wrong books. The right books to collect are, quite simply and always, the ones that are meaningful to you regardless of collecting trends. Follow your book-bliss.

Here's an area of book collection that no one that I am aware of has yet to focus upon: Collecting the modern memoir, arguably the most popular genre in non-fiction today, a form seemingly irresistible to writers, publishers, and readers, and one that tells as much about us as consumers of such and the culture that spawns so many by so varied a group of memoirists, as it does about the people who write them. We are enthralled by tales of overcoming odds, and of fall and redemption; they are routine best-sellers. Following the Augustinian formula, it helps to have erotic bats in the belfry that screw-up one's life, if not enjoyment (deliver me from evil but not until I'm completely fed up with it). All too often, alas, it's the memoirist dancing the Limbo - "How low can you go?" Pretty low, it turns out but not so low: Soon, another memoirist will raise the ante with a "top this!" tale of rock-bottom. And that memoir will be topped, again.

A modern memoirist at work.

At it's purest, the memoir provides its writer with a means toward self-understanding that, ideally, informs the reader to a similar end; the best are unburdening prayers leading to a satisfying amen by the reader. All too often, however, the modern memoir is a flag staked into the ground simply asserting, I am here!, and it may be that, in a culture that celebrates individuality and freedom yet actually affords less and less (an endless array of consumer choices is not a means to genuine self-expression and individuality), the assertion becomes a rallying cry, the memoirist's story a declaration that we are each unique human beings, dammit, not blank faces in a formless crowd; we are individuals with stories to tell that must be told, even if they're bogus (think James Frey's A Million Little Slices of Baloney). In this sense, even the worst are political statements.

But for honest, profoundly in-depth, sincere self-examination and prayer within which emerged a moral philosophy that has influenced every single person in the Western world ever since, look no further than than this book, No memoir/autobiography is as important and consequential as the Confessions of St. Augustine.

The first English translation of St. Augustine's Confessions was done by Sir Tobie Matthew, a Catholic convert and secret Jesuit priest, and published in 1620. The 1631 translation by Anglican priest, William Watts, his answer to Matthews, remained the standard English Protestant edition until Edward Bouverie Pusey's revision of 1838, and is still in print as the English version in the Loeb Classical Library's bilingual edition.

[MATTHEW, Sir Tobie, trans.]. The confessions of the incomparable doctour S. Augustine, translated into English. Togeather with a large preface, which it will much import to be read ouer first; that so the book it selfe may both profit, and please, the reader, more. [Saint Omer: English College Press] Permissu superiorum, 1620.

[WATTS, William, trans.]. Saint Augustine's Confessions translated: and with some marginall notes illustrated. Wherein, divers antiquitites are explayned and the marginall notes of former Popish translation answered by William Watts...London: Printed by John Norton, for John Partridge..., 1631.

I am the proud possessor of a copy of the now scarce yet always worthless 29th printing of the Penguin Classics paperback edition, this 1961 English translation of the Confessions by the deadly translator and bibliographer, R. S. Pine-Coffin, whose other claim to fame is as author of the Bibliography of British and American Travel in Italy to 1860 (Florence: 1974-1981), a key reference you'll never use - until you have to. Then, you'll scream if you can't access it.

Thank you to William M. Klimon.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Peake Archive Takes British Library To New Heights

Align Center

Mervyn Peake, Self-portrait, submitted to the Royal Academy
in 1931. Now in the National Portrait Gallery.

(All Images Courtesy of the Mervyn Peake Estate, )

He's been been likened to Tolkien, Dickens, Kafka, and Poe, but the work of poet, painter, playwright, author, and illustrator Mervyn Peake (1911-1968) defies comparison. Anthony Burgess wrote in his introduction to the first volume of the Gormenghast Trilogy, Peake's most famous work: "There really is no close relative to it in all our prose literature. It is uniquely brilliant..." Now scholars and readers have a chance to see the creative process of such a singular talent. In April 2010 the British Library announced it had purchased Mervyn Peake's papers, including notebooks, sketches, manuscripts, and correspondence.

Mervyn Peake's White Rabbit From Alice’s Adventures in

Illustration first published in 1946.

The Mervyn Peake Archive includes a complete set of his drawings for Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass. Peake's illustrations, first published in 1946 and 1954, were praised by both Graham Greene and Will Self as being among the best since Tenniel's 1865 originals. Short stories, radio plays, poems, and unpublished material are also included in the collection acquired by the British Library. But the big prize here is the 39 hand-written Gormenghast notebooks, which include plot summaries, character sketches, outlines, revisions, corrections, ink drawings, watercolors, and decorative text borders.

Steerpike, Gormenghast's Villain, Watercolor and Ink by Mervyn Peake.

"If ever he had harboured a conscience in his tough narrow breast he had by now dug out and flung away the awkward thing - flung it so far away that were he ever to need it again he could never find it. High-shouldered to a degree little short of malformation, slender and adroit of limb and frame, his eyes close-set and the colour of dried blood, he is climbing the spiral staircase of the soul of Gormenghast..."

Peake's three volume literary magnum opus has been called a classic of fantastic literature. But if you're looking for the usual fantasy suspects, like filmy-winged fairies, wand-wielding wizards, or tiny twee trolls, Titus Groan, Gormenghast, and Titus Alone aren't the magical potion for you. The trilogy is closer to Shakespeare than J.K. Rowling. Peake once said he considered himself "a painter first and foremost," and it shows in his prose. This writer's alchemy lies in his dazzlingly descriptive style. "Art," said Peake, "is really sorcery."

A Rare View of Gormenghast Over Titus's Shoulder, From Peake's Notebooks.

"Titus the seventy-seventh. Heir to a crumbling summit: to a sea of nettles: to an empire of red rust: to rituals' footprints ankle-deep in stone. Gormenghast."

Peake's canvas-like creation of the crumbling, claustrophobic, castle-keep of Gormenghast, ossified by centuries of arcane ritual yet slowly rotting from within like Hamlet's Denmark, is as demonically detailed as the nightmare world of Hieronymus Bosch. The society within the walls of Gormenghast castle is completely isolated from the outside world. It is defined by a rigid class structure, kept in place by ancient rules of law which are slavishly observed, despite having lost all meaning. Literally walled-off, and surrounded on all sides by impassable geographic barriers, the kingdom is as desolate as the highest mountains of Tibet. Such a place seems inspired by the wild delirium of a fever dream, but its roots lie in Mervyn Peake's very real exposure to three earthly locations.

Peake was an Englishman, but he was born and raised in China. His father, Ernest Cromwell Peake was a missionary doctor; his mother, Amanda Elizabeth Powell, a missionary nurse. He spent the first twelve years of his life in the port city of Tianjin, but led a life very separate from the society around him. Mervyn Peake's boyhood home was in a compound of six gray stone houses, which he remembered as "a world surrounded by a wall. And on the other side of that wall was China."

Peake's 1940 Portrait Of His Wife, Maeve Gilmore.

In her memoir, A World Away, Peake's wife, Maeve Gilmore, described his "strange childhood" this way: "Congregational hymns, tea-parties, a straight-laced upbringing... outside surrounded by dragons and carvings of ancient imagination and disastrous beauty... How could it not have influenced a mind which from somewhere had a vision that finally betrayed it by its richness?" Peake remembered reading the book that would remain his favorite for all of his life, Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, under a tree in that isolated world. He later remarked that his memories of those years haunted him like "some half-forgotten story in a book."

Peake's school years in Southeast England were spent preparing for a career as a painter. He attended The School For The Sons of Missionaries, which was later renamed Eltham Collegiate School. For a short while he studied at the Croydon School of Art, and then spent one year at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Then came another sojourn in a strangely anomalous place.

Lady Clarice and Lady Cora Groan, Sketch From Peake's Notebooks.

"So limp of brain that for them to conceive an idea is to risk a haemorrhage. So limp of body that their purple dresses appear no more indicative of housing nerves and sinews than when they hang suspended from their hooks."

In 1933 a former art teacher of Peake's at the missionary school invited him to join an artists' colony on the island of Sark. Sark is the smallest of the Channel Islands, just over three miles long and half a mile wide. Even today it has only 600 residents, and cars have never been allowed on its shores. It is distinguished by a craggy coastline of cliffs so steep that railings were erected around them to keep children from being blown into the sea by high winds.

Sark is part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, and officially a British Crown Dependency, but the island was ruled by the Seigneur (or in the rare case of a woman, the "Dame") of Sark. The title was hereditary, although it could be sold with the permission of England's ruling King or Queen. From the time of Queen Elizabeth I through the time of Queen Elizabeth II, over 440 years, Sark remained a fiefdom, essentially ruled by a monarch and 39 landowners. It was officially the last European territory to abolish feudalism in 2008.

Mervyn Peake's two years on Sark, 1933 to 1935, were idyllic. (He loved it so he returned to live there with his wife and two children in 1946, and his third child was born there.) But he had to be aware of the island's bizarre legal code, which had remained virtually unchanged since its enactment in 1565. For example, all landowners were required to give their ruler one chicken every year, and legal claims were instigated by going down on one knee, reciting the Lord's Prayer in French and announcing before a witness (roughly translating from the French): "Help me my Prince, someone does me wrong!"

Steerpike And The Object Of His Desire, Fuchsia, From Peake's Notebooks.

"A girl of about fifteen with long, rather wild black hair. She was gauche in movement and in a sense, ugly of face, but with how small a twist might she not suddenly have become beautiful. Her sullen mouth was full and rich – her eyes smouldered. A yellow scarf hung loosely around her neck. Her shapeless dress was a flaming red. For all the straightness of her back she walked with a slouch."

The final location which clearly influenced Peake's creation of the society in Gormenghast, is the source of its darkest and most grotesque aspects. In 1945, as a war artist, Peake was one of the first civilians to enter the German concentration camp Bergen-Belsen. He had already begun work on the what became his trilogy by this time, but his biographer, John Watney, wrote, "For years he had drawn strange worlds. Now he was seeing, in its reality, a monstrous world more terrible than any he could have imagined...."

Peake did not set out to write a trilogy based in the strange world he created. He would have written at least a fourth volume, and perhaps more, had illness not made that impossible. And for an artist, the illness that afflicted Peake, and from which he ultimately died, was especially cruel. In the late 1950's he began to show signs of mental and physical deterioration, and was thought to have some form of dementia. After undergoing unnecessary electroshock therapy and brain surgery, he was finally properly diagnosed as suffering from Parkinson's Disease. Twelve years of long, slow decline followed. Peake confided to a friend that he could no longer write, and could barely draw, and that: "It feels like everything is being stolen."

Mervyn Peake, Self Portrait In Oils, 1933.

Peake's Gormenghast books were out-of-print at the time of his death. They only became successful when reprinted in paperback by Penguin in late 1968. Though the trilogy had been published to fine reviews, its genius was recognized by the public too late for Mervyn Peake to know of it. Having Peake's papers in the British Library will once again shine a light on the darkly brilliant world he so vividly brought to life. Peake once described the goal of his life's work more eloquently than anyone else could: "It is one’s ambition to create one’s own world in a style germane to its substance, and to people it with its native forms and denizens that never were before, yet have their roots in one’s experience."

Note: Some minor changes were made in the biographical information in this piece, thanks to a most gracious e-mail from Mervyn Peake's son, Sebastian. He is the keeper of Peake's official website and of the official Gormenghast website, both of which are extraordinary in their design and detail.

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