Sunday, November 28, 2010

the damned 100 books thing

So the "BBC 100 books" meme is going around Facebook again. You've seen it -- it's a list of 100 books, chosen by some arcane process, of which the BBC has found most people have read only 6. And you're supposed to go thru the list, marking the ones you've read, & tagging your friends.

Problem is, of course, that the BBC apparently had no such intention in compiling their original list (which can be found here). That list is a reader-voted list of 100 most popular novels. Somewhere along the line, someone monkeyed around with that list, making a bit more highbrow (maladroitly – they added both Shakespeare's Complete Works and Hamlet, separately). It's in that latter form that it's getting passed around as a test of one's literacy. (For a straightforward comparison of the two lists, & their sources, see this blog post.)

What does the phenomenon say about contemporary reading habits, & habits of thought more generally? Well, first & most obviously: when people think about "books" they've read, they think novels. The BBC was explicit about their list being novels; whoever altered the list to "books" didn't really think it necessary to do more than throw in a couple of Shakespeares – after all, the important reads are still novels. Where're the biographies, the books of history, the nonfiction things that squat atop the bestseller lists for ages?

Secondly, most people apparently haven't read a whole lot since high school, and what they've read rarely goes beyond the front displays of Barnes & Noble (or Waterstone's). The vast majority of the books here fall into roughly three categories: classic children's books (and young people's books – Little Women, The Secret Garden); things that are assigned in secondary school (To Kill a Mockingbird, Grapes of Wrath); and books that have been atop the bestseller lists (Harry Potter, Captain Corelli's Mandolin). There's also a fair number of "classics," especially in the later "altered" list – what I would call "warhorse" classics, books that everyone's heard of & agrees are suitably serious (Jane Austen, Dickens, Melville, Tolstoy).

But most interestingly, everyone still wants to feel themselves somehow "well read" – that they've somehow kept ahead of the curve of their peers, those poor schmucks who've only read 6 books from this list. Frankly, I imagine anyone who reads much at all – anyone, that is, who isn't part of that 95% of the American public who never reads a book* – has probably read at least 15 or 20 of these. But I'm not sure there isn't a category mistake taking place here: can we really call the warm bath of looking back over Winnie the Pooh (#7) or Black Beauty (#58) reading in the same sense that working one's way through Ulysses (#78) or Gormenghast (#84) is reading?

*I just made that statistic up.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

most bizarre sentence in a "scholarly" book, episode 237

From K. W. Gransden's Virgil: The Aeneid (Landmarks of Western Literature) (Cambridge UP, 1990).

We all know about Eclogue 4, right? You remember, the one which addresses the Consul Pollio, prophesying the birth of a man child who will bring back the golden age associated with Saturn? The one Virgil wrote in 40 BCE, and in which no-one has any real idea what he's talking about? The one that got taken up by Christian commentators as a prophecy of Christ's birth, & had a great deal to do with Virgil's being enshrined as a "Christian poet" avant la lettre?

Gransden writes, gravely: "It must be emphasized that there is no evidence, and little likelihood, that Virgil was referring in this poem to Christ."

The mind boggles. What precisely would constitute "evidence" that Virgil, writing in 40 BCE, was "referring to" Christ (born ca. 7-3 BCE)? What would make it more or less "likely"?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Addendum to the below (& perhaps a mortal blow for my potential use of Sarah Ruden's version of the Aeneid in next semester's class): These sentences that open her introduction:
I am in awe of scholars who can expertly debate Vergil's political purpose and attitude; I find him difficult just to read. In part, I blame the half-finished state of his epic: only twelve out of the projected twenty-four books exist, and many lines are two- or three-word fragments.
First off, it's bad to start out your intro with an "aw-shucks-Miz-Scarlett-ah'm-just-a-translator-&-don't-know-nothin'-'bout-scholarship"; it may establish your poetic bona fides, but it gives no comfort to those who hope to find in your translation a firm grasp not merely of the Latin language but of the poem as a whole, which has been thought about by scholars – sometimes very fruitfully indeed – for some two millennia now.

But where in the Sam Hill did she get that business about only 12 of 24 books being finished?? Of course, there are indeed around 60 partial lines in the poem. That's explained by Virgil's method of composition: he'd write a prose draft, then versify in blocks; when he got stuck, he'd leave a half-line, which he called tibicines (props), to support the overall structure until he could raise the final columnes (pillars). Virgil had worked on the epic for some 10 years when he died in 19BCE, & he was projecting another three years' work to "finish" it – polish it up, remove inconsistencies like those you find thruout Homer, and finish up those half-lines. But by no means could he have been intending another 12 books.

I'm no classicist, tho I did my stint of Virgil back in high school Latin (books I thru VI, if I remember rightly). But I've got a stack of classicists' books scattered around the house & the office, & nowhere can I find a projected 24-book length to the Aeneid. K. W. Grandsen, in his little Cambridge UP guide (where I also picked up the snazzy factoids about the tibicines & columnes), puts it most forcefully: "It should however be emphasized that the poem, though unrevised, is in no sense incomplete or unfinished (as Spenser's Faerie Queene is unfinished)."

Please, somebody who knows more about this than I do – who's plugged into the most recent Virgil scholarship – prove me wrong. Otherwise I'm going to to irrevocably lose faith in the whole academic publishing industry – or at least in the Yale UP copy editor who let that sentence get onto the first page of this highly-promoted translation.
The Thanksgiving celebration, by the way, was lovely. Not least for the fact that we were invited to some dear friends' house, where the food was delicious and the alcohol flowed freely, & I didn't have to cook anything more than a bowl of Gujerati string beans.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

my Vergil problem

This holiday morning I'm brooding over book orders. Yes, I turned them in weeks ago, but it's probably not too late for revisions.

Here's the deal: After dithering around over Homer translations, I finally settled for Fagles (Penguin), who seems solid enough, & whose texts are accompanied by really excellent extended introductions & notes by Bernard Knox. The Aeneid proved something more of a challenge. I like C. Day Lewis's version, find Fitzgerald's rather bland, & have a fondness for Frederick Ahl's recent Oxford, even though I recognize it makes a hash of Vergil's elegant concision. But I finally succumbed to the publicity materials – wow, they even sent me an e-mail! – and ordered Sarah Ruden's new translation from Yale UP. Academic friends, admit you've done this before yourselves – ordered a book for a class without actually having a copy in hand; please, admit it, so I don't feel like such a jackass. (I did, however, download their PDF of Book I, and liked it very much.)

At any rate, my desk copy arrived yesterday, and I'm having buyer's – or rather, assigner's – remorse. On two counts: First, the translation itself. Ruden is good, there's no getting around it. She translates Vergil's (and for some reason I'm very fond of that old-fashioned Latinate spelling) hexameters into terse iambic pentameter, & there's a kind of electric telegraphy to her lines that make the poem more fast-moving & active than any other Aeneid I've encountered:
The trumpets gave a harsh blare. Turnus raised
The war sign from the tower of Laurentum,
And whipped his horses up, and clashed his weapons.
Instantly all of Latium joined in frenzy
And panic. Its young men grew cruel and savage. (VIII)
But her decision to translate not merely in pentameter – ten-or-eleven-syllable lines – but line-for-line, an equal number of English lines to hexameter Latin lines, is simply mad. Latin is notoriously more compressed than English. (Her own example, from the Twelve Tables, "Si in ius vocat, ito," can be translated no more succinctly than "If a man is summoned to court, he must go" – 5 Latin words into 10 English.) And the hexameter is simply longer than the English pentameter. So her Vergil is of necessity a bare-bones, almost telegraphic version: all sorts of detail, all manner of adjectival richness, have gone by the board.

At times, this reads like Vergil as rendered by Beckett, or by LZ. That's not at all a bad thing – as I say, I admire her version very much; but is it the first Vergil for my junior-level undergrads, almost none of whom have any Latin, many of whom are encountering classical literature for the first time, to read? In some ways, Ruden's ideal reader is someone who already knows the Aeneid fairly well, and who can thereby appreciate this stripped-down version.

And there are a couple of weird moments in Ruden's all-too-brief introduction, as when she comments on enjambments:
I have reproduced enjambments wherever I could, but Anglo-American poetic taste in this connection is fairly stringent. Though making exceptions for emergencies, I took as a ready reminder of what is allowed two lines of A. E. Housman's that I particularly like: "It looked like a toad, and it looked so because / A toad was the actual object is was."
This does not, I fear, given me much faith in Ruden's sense of the poetic line. What about Milton's "sense variously drawn out from one Verse into another"; what about the stunning and expressive enjambments in Spring and All? Why pretend there is some unitary "Anglo-American poetic taste" regarding line breaks (exemplified in a formally retrograde English poet of a 100 years ago), and ignore not merely the whole modernist moment but the wonderfully cunning line breaks of Paradise Lost?

My second moment of doubt is more academic: Yale/Ruden gives us the (English) text of the Aeneid; they give us a brief and unhelpful introduction that focuses mainly on her method as translator (no background about Vergil himself, no situating of the poem within the epic tradition, no historical context); and they give us a glossary of proper names, itself strikingly minimal. What Yale/Ruden don't give the undergraduate reader: explanatory notes, so that one can make sense, say, of the parade of Roman history in VI; any clear sense of Vergil's poetic, how it's related to yet distinct from Homeric epic; maps, so one can figure out the geography of Aeneas' wanderings.

All of this is provided in Ahl, and in spades. Indeed, his Oxford edition has one the best apparatuses I've encountered recently in a scholarly press edition of a translated work. His lengthy introduction (by Elaine Fantham) is a wonder of information, interpretation, & commentary; his notes are lavish and pertinent; there's a bibliography, and a chronology of Vergil, and three very useful maps.

But Ruden, from the point of view of sheer poetry, is by far the superior text. Ahl is accurate but wordy; his own hexameters end up padding the Latin, even as her pentameters end up abbreviating it. Is this a distinction, however, that my students are going to appreciate? Do cultural & historical context – & general understanding – trump poetic elegance on my syllabus, or vice-versa? (Keeping in mind, however, that both versions are after all translations...)

So over the holiday weekend, along with the essay I'm close to finishing revising, I'm stuck with a dilemma: Should I howl "stop press" to the bookstores, and have them substitute Ahl for Ruden at the last minute? (Well, it's not quite the last minute – we won't read the Aeneid till sometime in late March, so there's plenty of time.) Or do I soldier on with Ruden, hoping to supplement all the things missing in her version thru classroom lectures, handouts, and online resources? I suppose I'll decide by the end of the weekend, but thoughts and suggestions would be more than welcome.

(Let me anticipate the first comment: Mandelbaum! Taken under advisement. And the second: Fagles! But Fagles is right out – they've already had enough of his voice after reading the Iliad & the Odyssey both.)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Two of my favorite academic-type blogs have shut down: Michael Bérubé's (again, perhaps this time for good?), and Dr. No's painfully funny and irreverent Acadamnit. I followed MB pretty religiously for a while, probably several years back, but altogether missed his first shut-down & subsequent resurrection. Dr. No – kudos to him for keeping his anonymity intact over 2 years, a couple generations in blog-time – I'd discovered only recently; I'll miss him voicing, with remarkable panache & profanity, grouses I feel almost every week in my own professional life.

Of course, the blog-form is dead. We all know that. As dead as the Atari and the 8-track tape. But while I've thought about shutting Culture Industry down on a number of occasions, I'm pretty dead-set on keeping this thing running.

I write on three occasions (aside from the once-in-a-while event announcement or simply check-in to show I'm still more ore less alive):

1) When I'm reading something & want to "notice" it. That was the idea behind "100 poem-books." I still read, & I still notice, tho I've been so busy I've been keeping my notices to myself & to my notebooks lately. I suspect I'll get back to doing more of that sooner or later.

2) When I've been actually thinking, & want to work thru something in prose. That doesn't happen very often, because I am an incredibly slow learner & actually have very few coherent ideas. And this past few months have been pretty short on thinking, in large part due to the new school the girls are in, whose schedule has just totally fracked my work routine.

3) When I'm trying to avoid actual writing. (Like right now, for instance.) But blog-writing isn't entirely not-writing: it's a way of semi-productively filling intellectual time. I think of Samuel Johnson on smoking:
Smoking has gone out. To be sure, it is a shocking thing, blowing smoke out of our mouths into other people's mouths, eyes, and noses, and having the same thing done to us. Yet I cannot account, why a thing which requires so little exertion, and yet preserves the mind from total vacuity, should have gone out. Every man has something by which he calms himself: beating with his feet, or so.
Of course, I smoke too, so I have a plethora of means of preserving my mind from total vacuity.

At any rate, I'm going to set the "Freedom" program for a few hours of "real" writing now; my newfound regimen of aesthetic asceticism (thus far, an outstanding success) hasn't yet extended to relinquishing my online connections without an external crutch. And I'll be back soon.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Guy Davenport once told me he figured he received at least one book a day – review copies, authors' gifts, etc. I began to feel that way last week, as the postal carrier dropped packages almost every day of the week – things I'd ordered, presentation copies, desk copies for courses, and so forth. It's all good, but heaven help me there really isn't any shelf space anymore.

Once upon a time I had two squat bookshelves in the living area devoted to unread and mostly unsorted books. Three years ago I added a long three-shelfer to my study to take up the overflow, and to shelve books I was working with at the moment. That got retired last year & replaced with a seven-foot-tall job – which is now full as a tick (as Mom used to say), & is even double-shelved (ie books in front of other books). Not to mention that it's surrounded by stacks of books on the floor.

I blame inheritance: First, a few years back I got a biggish carton of books from my Alma Mater, books that had belonged to my first academic mentor of beloved memory, a Hopkins & Austen scholar who passed away some years back. It means the world to me to read Hopkins in her densely marked copies, but my own library has never quite properly absorbed the books. Then an in-law retired from teaching at CUNY and invited me to take whatever I wanted from her library of film studied and anthropology; then my Beckett colleague at Our Fair University retired & before flying to Paris, told me to take what I wanted of thirty years of Beckett criticism; then my bookseller friend pressed upon me (oh & I was unwilling, you bet) the overflow of his enormous Ruskin & Romanticism collection. You get the picture. There have been vast intakes of books over the past years, & the shelving simply hasn't kept up.

I don't mind having too many books. But things just might have gotten out of hand when I spent more time looking for books than I do reading them.

(Worse may loom ahead: our department is moving into a new building at the end of this month, & no-one quite seems to know precisely how much shelf space the new offices will have. My office has been, time out of mind, the overflow valve for the house, the place where I shelve fiction, religion, criticism that I don't need to consult often. What, I wake up asking myself in a lather of cold sweat, if I have to bring a couple hundred books home?)

Sunday, November 14, 2010


In an idle moment today – after I finished The Philosophy of History, and between books 7 & 8 of Paradise Lost – I sat down to think about what I've been teaching over these past decades. I thought about that because I'm reading David Harvey's Companion to Marx's Capital, the print version of his excellent CUNY lectures (which can be downloaded here), and he remarks that he's been teaching the book every year for several decades now; which made me think of David Kastan's introduction to his edition of Paradise Lost, where he remarks that in his 14 years at Dartmouth he taught the poem on an annual basis. How satisfying it must be to dig so deeply into any single text, thought I.

Anyway, it turns out I've taught almost a hundred courses since I began this lifelong trudge; that's including my stint as a TA in grad school, my several years of frantic adjuncting, and my mostly happy years at Our Fair University. What immediately struck me was that when I left aside courses one might call "service" – freshman composition, intro to the major, etc. – I've done remarkably few things directly in my field. That is, if my field is modernism and postmodernism, poetry in particular – and I think it is, right? – probably a quarter of the classes I've taught have been more or less directly in that. Probably a fifth of the classes I've taught have been American lit courses of one description or another, & I've obviously slanted my syllabi in those classes to make them more "modernist" whenever possible (& I know I've taught a good deal more poetry than some of my colleagues – who teach a good deal more drama than I do, & so forth). I've done Bible as Lit maybe a half-dozen times, and a half-dozen sections of Milton and Shakespeare. And then "boutique" courses – graduate seminars on Joyce and Beckett, theory of biography, other things that have caught my fancy.

But given my publication record, I've really taught relatively few classes flat-out directed at modernist or contemporary poetry. Instead, I find with some interest, over a quarter of all the courses I've taught have been creative writing workshops. Oh my. Very interesting indeed, for someone who pretty much stumbled into my own MFA program, never thinking that the CW industry would end up paying a substantial portion of my bills.

If I were somewhere else – CUNY or Princeton, say – I'd not merely have a lighter teaching load, but I'd be able to craft what I taught far more closely to my research agenda. I imagine Marjorie Perloff or Stephen Greenblatt teach (or taught, since Marjorie's retired) pretty much what they damned well please, and the texts they go over in class feed directly into what they happen to be writing. There's a lot to be said for that, both from a scholarly and a pedagogical standpoint. But there's something also to be said for a place like Our Fair University where a modernist scholar like me gets to acquaint himself rather intimately with Milton, or to harness his otherwise useless fundamentalist upbringing to a literary reading of the Bible. It's made me a far broader reader & thinker, I think, than I would have been otherwise. Broader, but perhaps also shallower?

Or maybe it's just made me scattered.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

scattered reading

The "brown bag" lunchtime talk advertised in the last post got talked today. It went over pretty well, I thought – at least, talking thru it did the sort of "cultural work" that I wanted to get done: it clarified to me where I needed to go with the piece, where the holes were. And it was kind of fun.

Briefly, I was talking about antinomian – really, 17th-century revolutionary – texts in a particular Mekons song, situating them in the contexts of various post-punk bands' hat-tips to the English Revolution, Christopher Hill's Marxist historiography of the period, & the Situationists – which as yet don't quite fit. But I should get this a good deal tighter & smarter before I deliver it in a formal context.

I realized, as I talked, that I was doing what I continually flog Christopher Ricks for doing in his Bob Dylan writings – discussing lyrics almost in a vacuum, wholly apart from their song context. But it's damned hard to write about music, especially when you know as little about it as I do. I mean, I know how chord progressions work, I can play my way thru most relatively simple rock songs, but I don't read music at all; and my knowledge of the "canon" of punk, or of country, or really of any given subset of music, is pretty pitifully thin. When I discuss music, I do my damnedest to stay away from the kind of impressionistic description that bedevils much of music criticism; but on the other hand, I don't yet have the vocabulary to describe the sounds I'm hearing without evoking comparisons. (A problem that also afflicts my writing about poetry – poet X "sounds like" poet Y etc.)

Indeed, as I was reminded the other night at the pub, when I listened to a very bright student of mine lament his education, how little he'd read in college, the things he wished he'd learned, I don't know as much as I'd like to about anything. And my reading, which has lately gotten more & more scattered, isn't really helping. I know this & that about a vast variety of things, but there are only a couple of things that I know a lot about: I guess I know LZ pretty well, & modern poetry in general. But I'd like to know the Romantics better; I want to finally get to grips with Hegel, from beginning to end; I want to get a firm grasp of what Badiou is up to; one of these days I want to read Lucan's Pharsalia, and Tasso, and Camoëns, and Ariosto.

But life is short – only so many hours in day, only so many pages one can riffle thru. For the record, right now I'm reading
•Hegel's Philosophy of History (a long-term project, one winding down now)
•Christopher Hill's The Experience of Defeat: Milton and Some Contemporaries (a break from Stanley Fish's big How Milton Works)
•Glenn Burgess's The Politics of the Ancient Constitution (I really want a better grasp of 17th-c. political thought)
•John Guillory's Cultural Capital
•Bourdieu's Distinction (another long-term project)
The Odyssey (a great pleasure, somewhat spoiled by being "for work")
The Aeneid (in the "beige" Fitzgerald translation, while I wait for Sarah Ruden's new Yale)
•several different books on Samuel Johnson & biography (next semester's seminar)
and of course the stuff I'm "teaching," which means Paradise Lost and (this week) Martin Corless-Smith's Swallows. In the interstices, I read slim volumes & chapbooks of contemporary poetry (most memorably lately J. H. Prynne's Sub Songs, which would be memorable if only for its humongous dimensions). It's no wonder that I'm scattered.

Clearly, I'm not cut out to be a scholar at all – or maybe, not anymore. What I need is a gig as a (regular, paid) book reviewer, or a weekly "cultural" column for some upper-middlebrow newspaper. Anybody out there with a job for someone who knows a little something about just about everything, and way too much about things no-one else cares to know?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

brown bagging

(Yes, that's the back cover of Never Mind the Bollocks; click on the image to get a legible version.)

Pound, re-selected

In my department mailbox today two new New Directions Ezra Pound volumes, New Selected Poems and Translations, edited by Richard Sieburth, and ABC of Reading. It's nice to see that Pound is finally getting edited. I grew up on the crunky old black-&-white ND volumes, with their sometimes erratic typefaces & generally awful cover designs. No notes, often no indices, sometimes eccentric tables of contents. But God bless James Laughlin for putting & keeping the stuff in print!

But it is good, as I say, to see that Pound's work is finally getting presented in a from that doesn't make one blush when assigning the book to class. I guess the first big step in the right direction was the 1990 reissue of Personae (ed. A. Walton Litz & Lea Bachler), which cleaned up the texts somewhat & added the 3 "ur-Cantos." Then New Directions issued, in 2003, a single-volume paperback of the Pisan Cantos; the poems themselves are simply offset from the big collected Cantos volume, but they have copious back-of-the-book annotations by Sieburth, who the same year published his massive Library of America version of Pound's Poems and Translations, which has become the industry standard for well-edited Pound.

I suspect New Directions' flurry of publishing activity this year might have something to do with the passing out of copyright of much of EP's early work, which opens the door to such projects as Ira Nadel's Penguin Early Writings, and even the Dover "Thrift Edition" of his Early Poems. At any rate, I haven't spent much time with the New Selected Poems and Translations, except to note that in replacing the dear old Selected Poems he's weeded out a number of the lame early poems & added a number of later Cantos; appendices include the original introduction by TS Eliot and a scrapped intro by John Berryman; and there are lashings of notes at the end, no doubt a welcome addition for Pound newbies and college students alike.

The new ABC of Reading, alas, is barely new at all. There are three additions: a well-turned introduction by Michael Dirda, an index of proper names (THANK YOU, NEW DIRECTIONS!), and an eye-popping magenta hue to the cover, replacing the dour old black. The text itself is still in the same gritty, spectacularly ugly typeface, with the ample margins indicating that this was a mass-market sized paperback blown up to trade size. And there's one loss: on page 9 of the old edition, there was a paragraph entitled simply "ABC"; that's been lost, replaced with a perfectly useless title page. For those who're coming to the ABC for the first time, here's what you've missed:
Or gradus ad Parnassum, for those who
might like to learn. The book is not
addressed to those who have arrived at full
knowledge of the subject without knowing
the facts.
A paragraph I realize that I know by heart, & whose implications I've tried to take to heart.

Monday, November 01, 2010


I seem to have survived another Halloween – this one particularly strenuous: the calendar made it so. With the holiday itself falling on Sunday night, that provided an opening for an astonishingly number of events:
•Saturday morning begins at a wholly ungodly hour with D.'s soccer game

•then a venture to the pumpkin patch, along with some last-minute makeup purchases at the party (yes, you're wondering, why wait till the last minute for the pumpkin? well, when it hits the mid-80s every day, pumpkins simply don't last – they turn into mush, we've learned over the years, in about 3 days)

•then a Saturday afternoon kids' party, which seemed to be mostly populated by 8-year-old boys in that state of adrenaline-drenched excitement that makes me say to myself, God, I'm glad we've got girls

•then a mostly-faculty attended evening costume party; great fun, even tho the conversation seemed to center on 2 of the most depressing possible topics – the internecine struggles in our own shark-snapping-its-guts college; and real-live politics (thankfully, only one Christine O'Donnell costume on display).

•Today, a solo paternal morning featuring morning violin practice for the girls followed by pumpkin-carving with minimal cursing & surprisingly few self-inflicted wounds (J. was working a pre-election phone bank)

•then another kids' party, at a bowling alley no less! – but actually great fun

•followed by the neighborhood kids' party (this is getting old)

•and finally wound up with trick or treating.
So yes, I'm bushed. And facing a looming deadline to thoroughly revise a 45-page piece.

But I've managed to add two pieces to the "Torture Garden" manuscript, & have a new biggish project moving from the back to the front burner. This one, by Ba'al, is poetry. Importunate editors wanting essays and reviews can just leave my doorbell alone for a while. (No, just kidding – I never say no.)

And the postperson delivered a shiny, mint hardcover of Simon Jarvis's Wordsworth's Philosophic Song yesterday (I seem to have lucked out – an Amazon Marketplace seller had it for $24, about 2/3 of what those creeps at Cambridge UP are charging for the POD paperback). After the ecstatic notices this thing got in the British alt-poetry community, I felt obliged to read it myself. And I've been querying every romanticist I meet – So, how's the Jarvis book? (My favorite response: "It's not as mind-blowing revelatory as you've heard, but it's not as abysmally awful and eccentric as you've heard either. It's a pretty good book.")

Now to find time to read it, among the 2 books of Paradise Lost for tomorrow & the various ditherings in preparation for the "brown bag" talk I've committed to end of next week.