Library of Unwanted Manuscripts

I’ve been an admirer of the writing of Richard Brautigan since I first read his books In Watermelon Sugar  and Trout Fishing in America when I was a teenager. I was recently reminded of the existence in Vancouver, Washington, of a library for “unwanted” manuscripts — manuscripts that no publisher wanted to publish called the Brautigan Library. Housed in a local library, it was inspired by Richard Brautigan’s 1971 novel The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966, which describes a library for “the unwanted, the lyrical and haunted volumes of American writing.” Authors could place their manuscripts anywhere they liked on the library’s shelves, happy to have them preserved there though no readers could find them.

Inspired by this, in 1990 Todd Lockwood, of Burlington, Vermont, started The Brautigan Library, inviting submissions of unpublished manuscripts and encouraging visitors to read them. Lockwood’s library closed in 2005, but in 2010 its contents were taken from storage and moved to Vancouver, where John Barber, a faculty member at Washington State University, now curates it. It currently contains more than 300 manuscripts, and Barber now accepts electronic submissions. You can browse the catalog here.

The French writer David Foenkinos wrote a novel in which a librarian reads Brautigan’s book and decides to create Brautigan’s library as part of the municipal library that he manages in a little town in Brittany. It’s called Le mystère Henri Pick. In 2019, a French film based on the book was released. You can stream it here.

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Another Caturday in Catopolis

To a cat

Mirrors are not more wrapt in silences
nor the arriving dawn more secretive;
you, in the moonlight, are that panther figure
which we can only spy at from a distance.
By the mysterious functioning of some
divine decree, we seek you out in vain;
remoter than the Ganges or the sunset,
yours is the solitude, yours is the secret.
Your back allows the tentative caress
my hand extends. And you have condescended
since that forever, now oblivion,
to take love from a flattering human hand.
You live in other time, lord of your realm —
a world as closed and separate as dream.

Jorge Luis Borges (translated by Alastair Reid, 1977)

 

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Another World Just Waiting At My Fingertips

 

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Summer Reading

 

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Civilization Begins

I recently stumbled upon a link to Mesopotamia Online which is an immersive exploration of Mesopotamian art objects. The exhibition Mesopotamia: Civilization Begins was on view in 2021 at the Getty Villa. It was organized by the Musée du Louvre, Paris, and the J. Paul Getty Museum.

The digital exhibition is an intriguing look at some of the most amazing ancient art produced along the Middle East’s famous Fertile Crescent between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, centered in modern-day Iraq. The show goes back to the origins of urban civilization when Mesopotamia began to emerge in force around 3400 BC.

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Museum to the Rescue

Italy has opened a new museum to showcase art it has rescued. The museum, which opened in Rome last week, will present rotating exhibitions of looted and stolen pieces that the nation has recovered.

The Museum of Rescued Art, which is housed within the National Roman Museum in the Baths of Diocletian, launched with an exhibition of 100 artifacts, including a number of important ceramics that had been reclaimed by the country’s “art squad.”All the items were seized in the U.S. and returned last year.

According to Dario Franceschini, Italy’s minister of culture, “Stolen artworks and archaeological artifacts dispersed, sold, or illegally exported constitute a significant loss to a country’s cultural heritage and the expression of its historical memory and collective values, not to mention the identity of its people. Despite its intrinsic intangible value, rather than being worth safeguarding, protecting and preserving, cultural heritage has often been targeted for illicit trafficking and material destruction. It is no coincidence that during international conflicts, aggressors frequently, intentionally, and deliberately damage cultural heritage, striking at the very roots of the enemy country’s identity.”

About 100 of the 260 Etruscan, Greek, and Roman artifacts that have been returned to the country over a period of time are now on display at the Museum of Rescued Art’s first exhibition, located right in the heart of the ancient Baths of Diocletian. Visitors will get to view figurines, statues, urns, and coins, many of which are believed to have been looted by tomb-raiders in the 1980s, before they were smuggled out of Europe.

 

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Just Another Marbled Monday

This psychdelic marbled binding is on Le Terrecotte Figurate del Museo Nazionale di Napoli, or, “The Figured Terracottas of the National Museum of Naples.”  The book is by archaeologist and historian Alda Levi (1890-1950) and was published by Vallecchi Firenze Publishing House in 1926. Levi’s work included excavations on the Via dell’Abbondanza, the longest road in Pompeii. She was an influential figure in Italian archaeology during the first half of the 20th century despite being a woman and being Jewish. Levi was persecuted by the Fascist government and survived the Holocaust by hiding in Rome.

This marbling appears to be a pattern called Gloster (also known as Gloucester, Partidge’s Eye, Oeil de Perdrix, and Stein Marmor mit Grießtropfen). This pattern is created by starting with a Turkish base, then a comb with one set of teeth is drawn across the bath twice vertically (or horizontally), once in either direction with the second pass halving the first. Then one or more colors of ink mixed with a dispersant are sprinkled onto the bath, causing those last spots to have open, very fine spots inside them.

 

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Happy Juneteenth

You maybe wondering about the newest U.S. holiday that we are celebrating today. On June 17, 2021, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. signed into law the bill that established Juneteenth National Independence Day, June 19, as a legal public holiday. Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the date Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and delivered General Order No. 3 announcing the end of legalized slavery in Texas. Historically, it has been a holiday celebrated by people of African descent in the United States, as well as people in Canada, Jamaica, Nigeria, the United Kingdom, and other countries throughout the world. Juneteenth is also a “symbolic date” representing the African American struggle for freedom and equality, and a celebration of family and community.

Although two years and six months had passed since President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, many African Americans remained enslaved in Confederate states and also in the border slave states that remained loyal to the Union. The surrender of General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House, Virginia on April 9, 1865 had not impacted Texas. Many plantation owners refused to acknowledge that the war was over and refused to “release” their enslaved workers from bondage. This practice continued even after the issuance of General Order No. 3.

 

A brigade of the 25th Army Corps, comprised of more than 1,000 African-descendant soldiers, arrived in Galveston and captured Galveston on June 5, 1865, a week before Granger’s arrival. They chased the rebel government and soldiers into Mexico. The Black soldiers of the 25th Army Corps also spread the word about freedom, and Civil War historians estimate that thousands of enslaved people escaped to freedom because of the actions of the 25th Army Corps.

The struggle for freedom and equal rights has continued, and so has the celebration of Juneteenth, as people of African descent and others commemorate Juneteenth in their homes, churches, schools, and communities. They attend church services, host parades, races, picnics, oratorical contests, musical, literary, and cultural festivals, and often visit cemeteries to reunite the freed and living with their enslaved ancestors. Since January 1, 1980, when Texas officially recognized Juneteenth as a state holiday, more than 40 other states have passed legislation observing or recognizing the significance of Juneteenth. Historians have observed that Juneteenth remains significant because it is one of the earliest continuously observed holidays that African Americans established in the United States; it signifies for the African American population that America is the land of the free and that the fight for equality is ever present and ongoing.

 

 

 

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At midnight, in the month of June

The Sleeper

BY EDGAR ALLAN POE
At midnight, in the month of June,
I stand beneath the mystic moon.
An opiate vapor, dewy, dim,
Exhales from out her golden rim,
And softly dripping, drop by drop,
Upon the quiet mountain top,
Steals drowsily and musically
Into the universal valley.
The rosemary nods upon the grave;
The lily lolls upon the wave;
Wrapping the fog about its breast,
The ruin moulders into rest;
Looking like Lethe, see! the lake
A conscious slumber seems to take,
And would not, for the world, awake.
All Beauty sleeps!—and lo! where lies
Irene, with her Destinies!
Oh, lady bright! can it be right—
This window open to the night?
The wanton airs, from the tree-top,
Laughingly through the lattice drop—
The bodiless airs, a wizard rout,
Flit through thy chamber in and out,
And wave the curtain canopy
So fitfully—so fearfully—
Above the closed and fringéd lid
’Neath which thy slumb’ring soul lies hid,
That, o’er the floor and down the wall,
Like ghosts the shadows rise and fall!
Oh, lady dear, hast thou no fear?
Why and what art thou dreaming here?
Sure thou art come o’er far-off seas,
A wonder to these garden trees!
Strange is thy pallor! strange thy dress!
Strange, above all, thy length of tress,
And this all solemn silentness!
The lady sleeps! Oh, may her sleep,
Which is enduring, so be deep!
Heaven have her in its sacred keep!
This chamber changed for one more holy,
This bed for one more melancholy,
I pray to God that she may lie
Forever with unopened eye,
While the pale sheeted ghosts go by!
My love, she sleeps! Oh, may her sleep,
As it is lasting, so be deep!
Soft may the worms about her creep!
Far in the forest, dim and old,
For her may some tall vault unfold—
Some vault that oft hath flung its black
And wingéd pannels fluttering back,
Triumphant, o’er the crested palls
Of her grand family funerals—
Some sepulchre, remote, alone,
Against whose portals she hath thrown,
In childhood, many an idle stone—
Some tomb from out whose sounding door
She ne’er shall force an echo more,
Thrilling to think, poor child of sin!
It was the dead who groaned within.
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Do You Need A Reading Sheperd

Shepherd is a curated book discovery tool based on author recommendations: “We ask authors to share their favorite books around topics and themes they are passionate about and why they recommend each book.” Although the website is relatively new, it’s off to a great start. I decided to check it out by using the topic query for one of my favorite subjects: Iceland. The result led me to reading recommendations from novelist Michael Ridpath who has written a popular series on Iceland. 

Ridpath’s suggestions included The Little Book of the Icelanders by my friend  Alda Sigmundsdottir, Independent People by the Nobel prize-winner Halldor Laxness, and Silence of the Grave by the great contempory Icelandic novelist Arnaldur Indridason.

Give Sheperd a spin and let me know what you think.

 

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