January 4th, 2011


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Literary anniversaries

This is a fun little exercise - seeing which books were published 50 years ago, 100 years ago, 150 years ago and so on. I've imposed arbitrary cut-offs based on LibraryThing ownership, which means that, for instance, we lose Brian Aldiss' The Primal Urge and Harry Harrison's The Stainless Steel Rat, but it's a diverse enough array as it is.

Which of these books first published in 1961 have you read?

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
Solaris by Stanisław Lem
The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck
The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone (best-selling novel of the year in the USA)
Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
A House for Mr.Biswas by V.S. Naipaul (1427)
El coronel no tiene quien le escriba/ No One Writes to the Colonel by Gabriel García Márquez
Les Damnés de la Terre / The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon
Thunderball by Ian Fleming
Katz und Maus / Cat and Mouse by Günter Grass

Which of these books first published in 1911 have you read?

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Peter Pan (originally Peter and Wendy) by J. M. Barrie
The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce
Under Western Eyes by Joseph Conrad
Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm
The Story Girl by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Which of these books first published in 1861 have you read?

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Silas Marner by George Eliot
Отцы и дети / Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs
Orley Farm by Anthony Trollope
The Cloister and the Hearth by Charles Reade
East Lynne by Mrs. Henry Wood

Which of these books first published in earlier years have you read?

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (1811)
Michael Kohlhaas by Heinrich von Kleist  (1811)
Undine by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué (1811)
Julie, ou, La nouvelle Héloïse / Julie or the new Eloise by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1761)
The King James Bible (1611)

I invite further discussion and recommendations (or dis-recommendations) in comments.


Having missed the lunar eclipse two weeks ago due to the snowfall (still not completely cleared), I managed to see the partially eclipsed sun rising this morning as I drove to Tienen (where U now spends two days a week). In fact it was pretty difficult to miss, directly in front of me along the line of the motorway, huge and crescent; it would have been terrifying to people in prehistoric cultures who might see such a sight once or twice in a lifetime. No wonder that the ancient Babylonians buckled down to eclipse prediction as soon as they could.

January Books 1) The Hiſtory of That moſt Eminent Stateſman, Sir John Perrott

My first completed read of 2011 is a download from Google Books, rejoicing in the title: The Hiſtory of That moſt Eminent Stateſman, Sir John Perrott, Knight of the Bath and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, a 1728 edition of a manuscript probably written by his son Sir James Perrot in the 1590s, after Perrot's death but before Elizabeth I's. Perrot is important in my project on my ancestor Nicholas White in that they worked together in Ireland when Perrot was a senior English appointee and White one of the most senior Irish-born government officials; also, they both died in the Tower of London (awaiting execution in Perrot's case, awaiting trial in White's) in the trails of the bizarre Denis O'Roghan conspiracy. I was particularly hoping to find our more about this last from this book, since it actually promises on the front page that it will describe "His Fatal CATASTROPHE; His Laſt WILL and TESTAMENT and his DEATH in the Tower, 1592", but unfortunately the writer decides to skip the crucial details with frustrating discretion:
Now havinge related Sir John Perrott's Life and Services thus farre, my wearied Pen is unwilling to proſecute his Storie any farther; partly becauſe the Finiſhing thereof will be laborious, and aske ſome Lengthe of Time and of Diſcourſe; but principally for that the Cataſtrophe of his Life was very tragicall; and to writte all that happned therin, may, perchaunce, breede Offence, and touch the Proceedings of Times paſt too much: Therfore for this time, there ſhall noe more be ſayd of hym, but this, that his whole Life was lyke to a tragical Comedie, in the Beginninge prosperous and joyfull; in the Ende unfortunate and lamentable
So we will not find here the reasons for Perrott's fall from grace, let alone the unfortunate fact that he was unable to convincingly deny having described the Queen as a 'base bastard piss-kitchen'. We do, however, have Perrott's own will, written when he was already under sentence of death, in which he explains of course that it is everyone else's fault, inspired by a startling though perhaps not very surprising source:
And nowe I make my Complaints to God and all good Men, that I have bene moſt falſelie accuſed through the Malice and Envie of ſome wicked and evill diſpoſed Perſons, Schollers of Machiavelli, that I have been a Tratour to my Soveraygne Queene and Countrie
Sir Nicholas White gets three direct mentions, first as helping to deal with the 'Canenaughs' (presumably the Kavanaghs of Carlow), then as one of a number of officials writing a joint letter to the Queen in defence of Perrott in 1585, and then writing a farewell poem to commemorate Perrott's departure from Ireland in 1588.

It's an interesting enough primary source, but I've done enough reading by now to know that it somewhat exaggerates Perrott's achievements and almost completely omits his failings. There are more recent and more scholarly (but also much more expensive) books about Perrott, so I will just have to obtain them somehow.