Archive for April, 2008


The Two Elsies and Elsie’s Kith and Kin

April 8, 2008

I haven’t been keeping up with writing about the Elsie books as I read them, but let’s forget about that and skip to book #11, The Two Elsies. The two Elsies in question are probably the original Elsie and her eldest daughter, but neither of them is particularly central to the story and several people have babies named Elsie at this point.

Anyway, a little background: in book #8, Elsie’s second daughter and third child, Violet, married Captain Raymond, a naval man and a widower with three children. Captain Raymond is away at sea much of the time, so Elsie and her father — he and his wife kind of moved in with Elsie after Mr. Travilla died in book #7 — say that the kids can come live with them (Violet is continuing to live at home, too). Max, the eldest, is kind of hasty and impulsive, but basically a good kid. Lulu has a bad temper that she has trouble controlling (in other words, she has a backbone, which means that she’s kind of alone in this series) but she is also scrupulously honest. Grace is a sickly but gentle little girl who soon becomes nearly as religious as Elsie was at her age. At this point, the books start to focus in on Lulu and her father, reworking the father daughter relationship that was so creepy in the earliest Elsie books, except that in this version, Lulu is pretty much always in the wrong, and also there’s a fair amount of corporal punishment, described in more detail than I wanted to read. Read the rest of this entry ?


Books bound in human skin!

April 8, 2008

My dad sent me a link to this article, and I thought I should share it here.

I suppose there’s not much one can say about it, besides “Books bound in human skin!” but isn’t that fun to say? Apparently there’s an actual name for it: anthropodermic bibliopegy. That’s fun to say, too.

The article includes this inscription, found in the back of one book found in the Harvard Law Library:

The bynding of this booke is all that remains of my deare friende Jonas Wright, who was flayed alive by the Wavuma on the Fourth Day of August, 1632. King btesa did give me the book, it being one of poore Jonas chiefe possessions, together with ample of his skin to bynd it. Requiescat in pace.

Another story of anthropodermic bibliopegy:

There are numerous variations on the story of a tubercular female countess who is love-struck by French astronomer Camille Flammarion and bequeaths some of her skin for the binding of his Terres du Ciel. In one version of the story, she invites him to her chateau and tells him that he must accept a present upon her death, which he agrees to without knowing what it will be. In a variation on this story, she is moved to do this because he compliments her on her shoulders and she wants him to never forget her. In yet another variation, she actually has his picture tattooed on the piece of her skin that is used for the book. The actual inscription in the book, however, indicates that he may have only known that the donor of the skin was female. Regardless of the exact details, the book was bound with her skin and placed in the library of the observatory at Juvisy.

As you can see, a very entertaining article.


It’s Like This, Cat

April 2, 2008


I’m always surprised when I see anything published more recently than, say, 1930 on Project Gutenburg. And when I do, they’re usually science fiction stories that I have no interest in. So It’s Like This, Cat was even more of a surprise, because it feels like an old paperback I would have randomly picked off the shelf in school in 4th or 5th grade.

It’s Like This, Cat is by Emily Neville, and it won the Newbery Medal in 1964. Apparently it was considered very original at the time, because of the very informal narration, which is not only first-person, but also in the present tense. I’ve never been a fan of narration in the present tense, and Neville’s style is bald and uninteresting, but it’s an okay book. I think maybe it’s originality was most of what it had going for it, though, so now that its innovations are no longer new and exciting, it seems kind of typical. Read the rest of this entry ?