At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Saturday, June 05, 2004


Anatomy of Melancholy is long-winded. On any given topic Burton culls dozens and dozens of quotes from Biblical, Classical, Medieval and Renaissance authors. Still, there's some good stuff in there. I thought the librarians out there would appreciate this passage:

King James, 1605, when he came to see our University of Oxford,
and amongst other edifices now went to view that famous library, renewed by Sir Thomas
Bodley, in imitation of Alexander, at his departure brake out into that
noble speech, If I were not a king, I would be a university man:
"and if it were so that I must be a prisoner, if I might have my wish, I
would desire to have no other prison than that library, and to be chained
together with so many good authors _et mortuis magistris_." So sweet is the
delight of study, the more learning they have (as he that hath a dropsy,
the more he drinks the thirstier he is) the more they covet to learn, and
the last day is _prioris discipulus_; harsh at first learning is, _radices
amarcae_, but _fractus dulces_, according to that of Isocrates, pleasant at
last; the longer they live, the more they are enamoured with the Muses.
Heinsius, the keeper of the library at Leyden in Holland, was mewed up in
it all the year long: and that which to thy thinking should have bred a
loathing, caused in him a greater liking. "I no sooner" (saith he)
"come into the library, but I bolt the door to me, excluding lust,
ambition, avarice, and all such vices, whose nurse is idleness, the mother
of ignorance, and melancholy herself, and in the very lap of eternity,
amongst so many divine souls, I take my seat, with so lofty a spirit and
sweet content, that I pity all our great ones, and rich men that know not
this happiness." I am not ignorant in the meantime (notwithstanding this
which I have said) how barbarously and basely, for the most part, our ruder
gentry esteem of libraries and books, how they neglect and contemn so great
a treasure, so inestimable a benefit, as Aesop's cock did the jewel he
found in the dunghill; and all through error, ignorance, and want of
education. And 'tis a wonder, withal, to observe how much they will vainly
cast away in unnecessary expenses, _quot modis pereant_ (saith
Erasmus) _magnatibus pecuniae, quantum absumant alea, scorta,
compotationes, profectiones non necessariae, pompae, bella quaesita,
ambitio, colax, morio, ludio_, &c., what in hawks, hounds, lawsuits, vain
building, gormandising, drinking, sports, plays, pastimes, &c. If a
well-minded man to the Muses, would sue to some of them for an exhibition,
to the farther maintenance or enlargement of such a work, be it college,
lecture, library, or whatsoever else may tend to the advancement of
learning, they are so unwilling, so averse, that they had rather see these
which are already, with such cost and care erected, utterly ruined,
demolished or otherwise employed; for they repine many and grudge at such
gifts and revenues so bestowed: and therefore it were in vain, as Erasmus
well notes, _vel ab his, vel a negotiatoribus qui se Mammonae dediderunt,
improbum fortasse tale officium exigere_, to solicit or ask anything of
such men that are likely damned to riches; to this purpose. For my part I
pity these men, _stultos jubeo esse libenter_, let them go as they are, in
the catalogue of Ignoramus. How much, on the other side, are all we bound
that are scholars, to those munificent Ptolemies, bountiful Maecenases,
heroical patrons, divine spirits,

------"qui nobis haec otio fecerunt, namque erit ille mihi semper

"These blessings, friend, a Deity bestow'd,
For never can I deem him less than God."

that have provided for us so many well-furnished libraries, as well in our
public academies in most cities, as in our private colleges? How shall I
remember Sir Thomas Bodley, amongst the rest, Otho Nicholson,
and the Right Reverend John Williams, Lord Bishop of Lincoln (with many
other pious acts), who besides that at St. John's College in Cambridge,
that in Westminster, is now likewise in _Fieri_ with a library at Lincoln
(a noble precedent for all corporate towns and cities to imitate), _O quam
te memorem (vir illustrissime) quibus elogiis_?

Seems that library funding was a problem 400 years ago too.

Friday, June 04, 2004


McLynn, Frank. Wagons west: the epic story of America's overland trails. Grove Press, 2003 (c2002). 509p index ISBN 0-8021-1731-7, $32.50.

Library Journal: “By putting both the California and Oregon trails together in one book and placing the story in a national context, McLynn provides a very useful starting point for undergraduates and general readers to begin their own investigations into this aspect of American history. He also provides an extensive bibliography to continue those investigations. Highly recommended for academic and public libraries.” Magill Book Reviews: "McLynn's British perspective breathes fresh life into these tales...With well-chosen excerpts from diaries and primary sources, McLynn vividly portrays the sense of restlessness and striving for a better life which motivated the pioneers. Despite considerable historical detail the narrative is lively and fresh. Even those who think they know all there is to know about wagon trains will be delightfully surprised by the multitude of new insights in this engrossing history." Choice: "A detailed account of the migration to settle the US West, c. 1840-49. Maps, photographs, bibliography, and index are valuable adjuncts to this fascinating account of the trek to the West. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/collections." Booklist: “McLynn covers familiar ground, but he covers it well. His analysis of the roots and effects of the manifest destiny concept is especially incisive, and his descriptions of the hardships and adventures of life on the trails are inspiring and sometimes heartrending. Relying on original diaries and memoirs, McLynn eloquently illustrates how diverse groups of people..played their parts in transforming the West while being transformed by it. This work will be a valuable addition to western history collections.” New Statesman: “McLynn has combed the vast secondary literature on every aspect of the journeys…The word epic is overused, but the story McLynn has told, and told well, deserves it.” Publishers Weekly: “Rarely has a book so wonderfully brought to life the riveting tales of Americans’ trek to the Pacific…McLynn relates their travails with a brio and understanding too seldom encountered in books on this naturally compelling subject…What helps make this narrative distinctive is that McLynn doesn’t limit himself to known pioneers…The outsider’s perspective that allows McLynn to offer shrewd comparisons between European and American conditions does make one wish for more analysis.” Kirkus: “Detailed, intermittently interesting, but finally unrewarding study of America’s 19th-century overland expansion…much…in McLynn’s sweeping study is factually questionable and ultimately empty…he overlooks a basic reality of 19th-century life: most of the men who went west...did so not out of some grand sense of Manifest Destiny or adventure, but because they wanted land…McLynn persists in holding a romanticized and eminently European view of the era, as well as an eminently European lack of knowledge about the Native American cultures that Anglo pioneers encountered and battled. That said, he does a reasonable job of charting the rise and fall of such important overland routes as the Oregon and Santa Fe trails and of depicting some of the well-known pioneers and explorers who crossed them…McLynn’s anecdotes and odd bits of fact, which make up the best parts here, are well chosen…Only marginally useful for general readers, and likely to be dismissed by specialists and knowledgeable buffs.”

Thursday, June 03, 2004


I noticed lately that an Amarillo theatre had been adding an art house film or two every week. Well, they've decided to dump them for the summer, and in the fall cut back to one every month or so. At least they tried.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

My trip to Albuquerque was, if not exciting, at least mildly diverting. I had found out that The Boss and her family was going to be in the city on Saturday as well, so after checking into the hotel (Motel 6, my old standby) I gave her a call and arranged to meet them at a restaurant in Old Town, a few blocks of adobe settlements now occupied by arts and crafts shops and restaurants. We got a table on the open-air balcony and ordered salmon, which I washed down with a martini and a Guiness chaser. The Boss's husband and I discussed politics, philosophy, and religion, which generally happens whenever we're together. (During a staff outing at a local eatery she made sure to seat us at opposite ends of the table for that reason--maybe she thinks he is imposing on me.)

After dinner they drove back to their cabin near Corona, NM (which had barely escaped the recent forest fire) and I headed to the art house cinema to see Goodbye, Lenin!, a movie I'd been interested in since finding the DVD for sale all over Munich last October. Though hardly uproarious, it was a cute little comedy, probably more affecting for former residents of the GDR.

Sunday morning I went back to Old Town and wandered around a bit (in the process racking up four points on "Spot the German") before attending Mass at San Felipe de Neri Church, a Spanish Colonial parish in use since 1706. It's not a terribly large church, and the creaky pews were packed. The service was a lively folk Mass, mostly English with a few Spanish hymns thrown in. Being the Vigil of Pentecost, the homily was on the passage in Acts in which the disciples, infused with the Holy Spirit, speak to the crowd in a wide variety of languages. As if to reinforce the point, after the Mass the priest went down the aisle and asked visitors to raise their hand and say where they were from; responses included Germany, Austria, Quebec, and Italy. That afternoon I did some CD shopping, ate Japanese food for lunch and Indian food for dinner (with one of those big bottles of Taj Mahal), and saw Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring, a meditative Korean film about a Buddhist monk and his wayward disciple.

I was pretty tired by Monday so I headed back to Texas in the morning.

Albuquerque would be a nice place to live. I liked the neighborhoods of adobe houses half hidden by xeriscaping, and the ever-present vista of Sandia Peak.

Got my record needle yesterday. I hope having all that vinyl to listen to will curb my appetite for CDs.


Buell, Lawrence. Emerson. Harvard.

Choice: "In this book Buell (Harvard) distills a lifetime of study and teaching on Emerson. Its tone is easy and confident, friendly and inviting...There are fresh analyses of Emerson's contributions to individualism, religion, literature, philosophy, and social reform. Unique are Buell's efforts to "globalize" Emerson, to explore and emphasize him as an international figure with cross-cultural resources. Essential. All collections; all levels." Library Journal: “Wide-ranging in scope and meticulous in attention to detail, Emerson is best suited to the specialist but still accessible to the novice. Highly recommended.” Common-place: “What Buell has to say here about Emerson is not only persuasive but also consistently interesting, surprisingly original, and, best of all, written in straightforward, lucid language. Buell’s discussion of the relationship between Emerson and his prize pupil, Henry David Thoreau, is brilliant. Emerson’s relationships to such religious issues as the decline of Calvinism and the rise of biblical criticism are virtually ignored…Buell’s least interesting chapter (to me) was ‘Emersonian poetics,’ a somewhat in-group discussion intended to salvage Emerson’s reputation from the attacks of politically correct literary critics.” National Review: “a useful book bringing the general educated reader up to date on where we now stand regarding Emerson. Emerson still has much to say to us today, as Buell demonstrates with great competence." New England Quarterly: "Buell proceeds through a series of topics that have already been treated, often with more nuance, by other scholars. Buell is not a fastidious scholar and frequently gets things wrong: titles, dates, names, the sense of Emerson's text. Buell is equally shaky when it comes to Emersonian textual scholarship. Problematic assertions abound. Emerson will be admired by Buell's fans. it is free wheeling, almost funky, and is not afraid to take critical risks. But those who are looking for a more reliable view of the sage of Concord may wish to reutrn to the work of Robert D. Richardson, Jr., and Gay Wilson Allen."

Tuesday, June 01, 2004


Green tea may reduce shoe odor.