Thursday, January 18, 2007


Mmm mm

I've had a slow day here at the shop but am consoling myself by painting and blogging. Those things, along with attempting to sell used books: I seem to specialize in pastimes that do not produce much income. Well, that's never stopped me before this! The sun is shining today. Onward in The Reader's Encyclopedia:

Maëlstrom. A whirlpool in the Arctic Ocean near the Lofoten Islands off the west coast of Norway. According to an old tradition, it sucked in all ships within a wide radius. A Descent into the Maëlstrom is the title of a famous short story by Edgar Allan Poe. (p.671)

magliabecchi. A book-worm; from Antonio Magliabecchi (1633-1714), librarian to Cosmo III, Grand Duke of Tuscany. He never forgot what he had once read, and could turn at once to the exact page of any reference. (p.673)

Magnetic Mountain. A mountain of medieval legend which drew out all the nails of any ship that approached within its influence. It is referred to in Mandeville's Travels and in many other stories, such as the tale of the Third Calendar and one of the voyages of Sinbad the Sailor in the Arabian Nights. Also the title of a book of poems by Cecil Day Lewis (1933). (p.673) (Poor ships. And it's that rascally Mandeville again, to wit:)

Mandeville, Sir John (ca. 1300-1372). An explorer whose Travels (ca. 1357), despite their lack of veracity, or perhaps because of it, are one of the classics of travel literature. Hence, anyone who tells an exaggerated story is a Sir John Mandeville. (p.682)

Martin Eden. A novel by Jack London (1909), largely autobiographical. (p.696) (I mention it here because I love this book, and Jack London. No other reason. A great book about striving.)

Mauthe dog. A ghostly black spaniel that for many years haunted Peel Castle, in the Isle of Man. It used to enter the guard-room as soon as candles were lighted, and leave it at daybreak. While this specter dog was present the soldiers forbore all oaths and profane talk. One day a drunken trooper entered the guard-house alone out of bravado, but lost his speech and died in three days. Scott refers to it in his Lay of the Last Minstrel, vi stanza, 26, and again in a long note to ch. xv of Peveril of the Peak. (p.704) (I am part Manx, hence am interested in all things Isle of Man - I hadn't heard this ghost-dog tale before. Then again, I haven't read much Scott.)

Mowis. The bridegroom of snow, who, in American Indian tradition, wooed and won a beautiful bride. When morning dawned, Mowis left the wigwam, and melted into the sunshine. The bride hunted for him night and day in the forests, but never saw him again. (p.746)

Mutual Admiration Society. Any club or informal group of friends who laud each other to the skies; sometimes used cynically of writers who sing each other's praises in print. The phrase comes from Oliver Wendell Holmes' Autocrat of the Breakfast Table (1857-1858). (p.752)

My Lost Youth. Title of a famous poem by Longfellow. (p.752) (Again, I mention it here because I love it so. My favorite late nineteenth-century poem, along with Poe's Annabel Lee, probably because I never had to memorize either one in grammar school. My Lost Youth is set in Longfellow's hometown of Portland, Maine, which I know well. Deering is now a wooded park, and the Maine Antiquarian Bookfair was held in an auditorium next to it for many years. Whenever I see the park I think of Longfellow. By the way, Cunningham's used bookshop faces the statue of Longfellow, in Longfellow Square, a few blocks up the hill - one terrific bookshop.)

Longer entries of note today: macaroni, mermaid (and the Mermaid Tavern), moon, and the muses (who they are, what they are responsible for). As I progress like a slow-moving barge through this mammoth book, I realize how little else I'm reading. I've read a few other books this month, but nothing of note, and certainly nothing new. Conclusion: I think I'll be binging on many single-evening reads in February, when I'm finished with Benét.

I came across your blog while surfing and apparently posted on an older post, November something. But I love old books. Love them. Wish I lived in Bangor, Maine.
Speaking of Portland, Maine: before the St. Lawrence Seaway was dug out, Portland was the closest port for importing and exporting trans-ocean cargo from Montreal, particularly in the winter with the freeze-up. The RR line to Portland, though, was not the first.

The connection with New England to the south by river boat was the Richelieu River, Lake Champlain and the canal system through the Hudson River (Ben Franklin took that route during the Revolution to negotiate Upper Canada's neutrality.

I better stop there. But there is a longstanding connection between Montreal and Portland.
Hi sparroweye, thanks for stopping in - I've been bookhunting in Florida before but it seems like a long time ago, now! I went to bookshops in St. Augustine, Jacksonville and Jacksonville Beach, Daytona (LOVE Mandala Books), etc. But Maine's a great place to search for books - all of New England, really...

Hi Cy - Both of my sisters lived in Portland for many years, so I know the city well - it's grown and gentrified over the past decade, and now rents are so high that I don't know how the used bookshops down there make a go of it. I couldn't if I lived there. Luckily, I don't want to.

Passenger rail service to Boston reopened a few years ago and is very successful. I hope this is a trend for the future, around here (more trains, please).
Wow. You touch so many bases with your referencing Poe's birthday, Longfellow and Portland, Maine.

Then there is Benét and side glances at Oxford.

What is one to do to comment here without running on and on? Your posts are put so simply, yet run so deep. Please keep us posted, it's like a rich holiday cake but with the ice cream flowing over the sides.

One point: you look at this stuff as a Mainer (more as a New Englander I'd say). Oh, and as an Anglophile for sure! I look at it as a displaced Midwesterner and Canadian and as a Québec Francophile. Need I say I could go on, and on, and on . . .
Thanks for the kind words about the blog - as Whitman says "I contain multitudes..." Everyone does, though.

Yes, I am a Mainer, a proudly scrimping yankee stoic - and the family tree is all WASP-y New England on one side, and then back to England, and Manx on the other. But, I read widely, all the time, so I've always got multiple strains of thought going on in my brain at any given time. Glad this is reflected in my writing (I just wrote "wiring" and had to go back and fix it...).
'Wiring' is a-okay, 'wiring' as derived .. de je ne sais pas ou .. after seeing Benèt today. You can be proud of Maine, she's almost as good a state as Iowa :)
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