Tuesday, February 12, 2008


An excursion among my books

I've had a big stack of boxes stored here at the shop for some time. A while. Ok, ok, several years. And this week I finally cracked them open to sort it all out and see what the heck was in there. After many dusty boxes with nothing in them but fodder for Goodwill, much to my delight I unearthed a wayward part of my Christopher Morley collection. One entire box that got here somehow, instead of to our old apartment, during the move-before-last. I thought my Morley books looked a little thin when I unpacked the library at the new house last fall, but I knew they'd turn up eventually. Now I'm admiring them greatly, all over again - their quiet design sense and fine attention to detail, even their content - so I thought I'd share a few with you this week. I'll start off with a nice fat one (apologies for cropping the cover title - my scanner is recalcitrant):

Fifth Avenue Bus (Doubleday 1934). A doorstop of a book sweetly subtitled: An Excursion Among the Books of Christopher Morley / With a Note by the Conductor. This copy is a little worn around the edges, and the green spine cloth has faded a bit. But the good news is that the book is signed, twice. Once on the front free endpaper, and again on the title page, shown here:

Morley's signature has such dash - I particularly admire the trailing descender on the y. I've seen his signature so many times, and he almost always wrote this way. But in this case his signature really fills the page nicely. Now, about that attention to detail - it's hard to read in this image, but the little open book device has some Latin printed on the banner beneath it:


Fruit of the leaves - Doubleday used this same emblem on at least one of the books of a writer Morley championed while working at Doubleday himself, Joseph Conrad. Folia reminds us, of course, of folio leaves, i.e. pages of a book. A fine motto, very neat.

More Morley later this week. And before I go a quick cat report: Hodge is settling in nicely at our house, he was (mostly) asleep on my lap last night while I read Montaigne. Every time I reached over him to turn the page, he'd Mrreeow quietly. We kept this up for nearly an hour. Not bad, considering a mere week ago he was hiding in the back of the closet, hissing if we got too close.

COL - Cat on Lap is always a valid excuse to not do the dishes, vacuum the floor, pick up, answer the phone, etc. Glad he's settling in, along with books, pets make a house a home.
So jealous of CM.
Was thinking of him all morning.
Read a bit from Pipefuls; tried (in vain) to find a biogr. or some titles on the net.
CM enriches your everyday life.
David Foster Wallace often signs his books by 'deleting' his printed name and then signing underneath it, similar to Morley.
Jodi, that's just what my mother said when we bought the house... "Are you going to get a cat? A cat really makes a house a home." It's been twenty years since I had a pet of any kind. And here I find it's never too late to let some more love into your life - he's a dear one, for sure.

Antony, don't envy Morley, he had a difficult life, surely - an Elizabethan poet trapped in the body of a potboiler journalist. He says in "Inward Ho!" (quoted here in "Fifth Avenue Bus"):

"I shall fail, as all men do; but I shall be happy. And I shall laugh, as I have always laughed; and I shall go through my terrors in secret."

He felt things so deeply. It's all there in his writing. I do wish someone would write a biography - it would be something else.

Borges, yes, I've seen many other authors sign this way. I do have a signed DFW book at home, I'll have to look at it tonight.

No post tomorrow - looks like another snowstorm will keep me at home. Back on Thursday with another Morley book.
Someone DID write a biography: Helen McKelvey Oakley, THREE HOURS FOR LUNCH: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF CHRISTOPHER MORLEY, A BIOGRAPHY, New York: Watermill, 1976. 382 pages. Ms. Oakley died in 2003. She was one of the founding members of the Christopher Morley Knothole Association.
Thank you anon, yes, I do know of this book and I have to say I haven't read it yet. I donate a small amount to the Knothole Association (joined two years ago). Perhaps I should have said I'd like to read a big thick *contemporary* biography. No offense intended.
Great to see your Morley gems. One of my prized possessions is a gift from my wife, of letter he hand wrote:

Green Escape
Roslyn Height
New York

Groundhog Day 1931

Dear Miss Corey- The groundhog comes out of his hole long enough to thank you for your friendly letter. Messrs. Doubleday Doran & Co. of Garden City, N.Y. will be glad to send you a pamphlet containing some of the information you ask for; and here is the signature you requested-

Sincerely yours
Christopher Morley.

The only signed book I have of his is Human Being; this works out since it's one of my favorites.

Looking forward to seeing more in the coming posts.

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