Category literature

The First Time

1. The first time someone got a wedgie: A.D. 96 Whenever you get up out of your chair (I often have been noticing it now), your wretched tunic sodomizes you. And when you go and try to pluck it out —now straining with your right hand, now your left— you only work it out with groans […]

If There’s One Thing I Hate, It’s a Star-Bellied Sneetch

The morals of most Dr. Seuss books—those that have morals—are usually pretty basic and uncontroversial and there’s not a lot to talk about there. I don’t mean this as a criticism—these morals are for five-year-olds. I just mean that I’m not going to write an essay about Yertle any more than I’m going to write […]

The Aphorisms of Nicholas Chamfort

Chamfort was killed, of course, by the French Revolution—not for being a nobleman, (which he was) but because even as a devoted Jacobin (which he also was) he could not stop dropping witty zings. “Be my brother or I’ll kill you,” was how he summed up the revolutionary philosophy. Chamfort was their brother, and they killed […]

Contemporary Allusion

[Warning: Drier than usual.] I recently read an academic book from 1886 about Elizabethan theater, and the author, A.W. Verity, made a lot of references to literature as he wrote. He made a lot of references to Elizabethan playwrights, of course, and to critics who had edited and discussed them previously, but he also drops […]

The Aphorisms of Johann Kaspar Lavater

Johann Kaspar Lavater is best known (insofar as anyone can be well known as a physiognomist) as a physiognomist but back in his day—the late eighteenth century—he was up to all sorts of tricks, including a 1787 book of aphorisms, Aphorisms on Man. His friend, the painter Henry Fuseli, translated the book into English in […]

The Far Side, 1883 Edition

In 1883, publishers Cassell, Petter, Galpin, & Co. came out with a  series of books “uniform in size and price” (8vo, 1s. each): Cassell’s Children’s Treasuries. Several volumes in the series are idiosyncratic collections of nursery rhymes, the usual Mother Goose fare with an emphasis on Scottish regional rhymes, and the occasional poem by John Keats […]

We Need Diverse Children’s Books, but Not Those Diverse Children’s Books

TW: Really a large number of racist caricatures and slurs. Mother Jones had an interesting article, and some SEO expert persuaded them to put the words “slavery” and “twitter” in the URL, but actually it’s about diversity in children’s books. The article has problems, but it includes a passage that is impressive in its honesty […]