Thursday, April 12, 2012


More Morleyana

A long-time reader brought something special to my attention recently and I spent copious amounts of time exploring this gem of an online exhibit, courtesy of the Harry Ransom Center: The Greenwich Village Bookshop Door: A Portal to Bohemia 1920-1925. Bookseller Frank Shay knew all the good people (and most of the bad) in literary 1920s New York, not least among them our old friend Christopher Morley, who signed Shay's famous bookshop door both as himself and as his alter-ego John Mistletoe. Included in this exhibit, and what kept my attention the longest, is Morley's 1921 diary, fully scanned and completely readable in what is one of the nicest, most natural-feeling e-readers I've seen yet (not that I've used many, mind you, I still prefer a good old book in my hands). A bit from the diary - Sunday November 27th, 1921:

"How astonishing is the perpetual liveliness of the mind, skimming among visions and projects, coming hauntingly near Truth sometimes but always thwarted by that mysterious veil and cloudiness that hides the Essence."

High-flying thoughts such as these are mixed in with worries about the family budget, complete with columns and numbers scribbled out. Alongside who he would meet for lunch. In other words, the diary runs the gamut from the boringly mundane to the completely profound, just as we'd want it to. My heart broke in a thousand small ways as I read about his striving and worrying, his determination and humor, his gossip and opinions. Amazing that this diary wasn't lost or destroyed, doubly amazing that the door itself wasn't either. Highly recommended, if you have at least a few hours to spare. (Thank you, Antony.)

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