Sunday 2 November 2008

Lord, I am a bird

I really should be sleeping. I didn't sleep last night and then I wrote like mad today because I have to submit my thesis on Tuesday. And I'm sick, yo. But sleep will not come to me, in spite of the fact that it's the only thing in the world I entirely want and love right now.

But making pretty blog posts which glow invitingly from the computer screen in the depths of night is pretty good too. It's telling, I think, that as tired and in need of relaxation as I am, I'd still rather sit goggle-eyed in front of the computer than read Bernard Cornwell. The Pale Horseman is okay but I think I made a tactical error when I chose it. Douglas Adams, I think, might have been more apropos. But here's what I've recently closed the back cover on:

Five Women Who Loved Love by Ihara Saikaku. The cover of this tome invitingly reveals that this is a collection of "amorous tales from 17th-century Japan". I like Japan AND the seventeenth century AND Amor! (But who doesn't like Amor!?)

However, as with the last seventeenth-century proto-porn I read (Aphra Behn's Love-Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister), Five Women was somewhat of a disappointment. It's not that it wasn't good (I think) but that it really wasn't what I thought I was getting - and dang nabbit, marketing does matter.

There were certainly Amors! in this book but except for the last story they always concluded with moral retribution being visited upon the titular desiring females. Plus, the stories weren't porny enough, if I may be crude. There was far too much of the literary equivalent of soft lighting going on here. Ah well.

I should have known this would be the case; I've read Saikaku's approach to the Floating World before and while his contemporaries apparently made said World sound like a rollicking good time, Saikaku tends to conflate it with Buddhist meditations on the meaninglessness of everything, especially wiggy.

I think that in another time and set of circumstances (i.e., not reading at 3 am because sleep is flipping me off and running away), I would have really enjoyed this book even though Saikaku was clearly a player hater.

Herrings Go About the Sea in Shawls "by" Alexander Abingdon. I have by in scare quotes here because Abingdon didn't write this book; he compiled it. And oh, what a compilation this is. Herrings comprises only terrible/funny/unbelievable/mind-boggling things found on students' papers, assignments, and tests throughout Abingdon's teaching career.

I've actually read this book many times before, but not recently. I bought it right before I left Halifax to move to the urban jungle that is Kingston, Ontario to pursue my PhD.

I read this book over and over and over again that horrible first year and it made me laugh hysterically over and over and over again. It helped me sleep. So it did not seem unreasonable to me that it could help me again in similar ways last night. And because I'm submitting my thesis next week, it also seemed a fitting farewell to the lovely Queen's U.

Well, dammit, I sure laughed. Familiarity only increased the hilarity and I think I may actually have caused myself harm in the stomach area with the way I was carrying on. Jeoffy-cat and Sophie-bunny were alarmed by my cackling (which I was trying to keep quiet because hubby was upstairs sleeping, but that just made it even funnier) while Gregory-bunny, old one-eyed Dread Pirate Gregory Bunn, was flopping onto his back in pure joy. That also made me laugh. (In answer to your question, no, I hadn't taken any narcotic painkillers recently.)

So yeah, I think to celebrate the imminent end of my time in graduate school, I will share some choice nuggets from Herrings Go About the Sea in Shawls (the choicest being, perhaps, that when it was first published in 1931 it was called Boners. Teehee.).

Literature and Language:
George Eliot left a wife and children to mourn his genii. (This goes out to Rohan Maitzen of the great blog Novel Readings!)

In conclusion we may say that Shylock was greedy, malicious, and indeed, entirely viscous.

There are some passages in Shakespeare's work, which are quite pretty, as "Spoil the rod, and bare the child," and lots of others.

Describing Tom Sawyer: He was a smart looking boy, very fond of fighting, and he was always sharp at this kind of job. His character was always good sometimes.

Write a sentence showing clearly the meaning of the word "asterisk": Last night my father got drunk and made an asterisk of himself.

An injection is a shout or scream raised by a person too surprised or frightened to make a sentence with his thoughts. It is not quite a human language. The lower animals say nothing but injections. Accordingly ill-natured and cross people by their injections come very near to beasts.

An interjection is a sudden explosion of mind.

Degrees of comparison of "Bad": Bad: very sick: dead.

Pax in bello: Freedom from indigestion.

Ave Domine: Lord, I am a bird.

Bible, Religions, Myth:
The Papal Bull was a mad bull kept by the Pope in the Inquisition to trample on Protestants.

Why was John the Baptist beheaded? For dancing too persistently with the daughter of Herodotus.

The greatest miracle in the Bible is when Joshua told his son to stand still and he obeyed him.

Who was sorry when the Prodigal Son returned? The fatted calf.

The saints are classified so that there be one for each kind of human traits, as shipwreck, child-birth, etc.

Abraham was the father of Lot and had ten wives. One was called Hismale, and the other Hagar. He kept one at home and the other he sent into the desert where she became a pillow of salt in the daytime and a pillow of fire by night.

Eliza came before the King wrapped in a camel's hair, and said: "Behold me, I am Eliza the Tit-bit."

The climate of Bombay is such that its inhabitants have to live elsewhere.

The Esquimaux are God's frozen people.

The Eskimoes hardly have any wives at all.

The Arctic regions are neither hot nor cold, they abound in birds of beautiful plumage and of no song such as the elephant and the camel.

Science and Mathematics:
If anyone should faint in church put her head between the knees of the nearest medical man.

The principal parts of the eye are the pupil, the moat, and the beam.

A cat is a quadruped, the legs, as usual, being at the four corners.

When you stroke a cat by drawing your hand along its back it cocks its tail up like a ruler, so as you can't get no further.

The tides are a fight between the earth and the moon. All water tends towards the moon, because there is no water in the moon, and nature abhors a vacuum. Gravitation at the earth keeps the water rising all the way to the moon. I forget where the sun joins in this fight.

Most bulls are harmless, but cows stare horribly.

The Romans made their roads straight so that the Britons should not hide round the corners.

They gave William IV a lovely funeral. It took six men to carry the beer.

Drake was playing bowls when he was told the invisible armada was in sight.

Oh, the good times this book has brought me. I tried, when I was teaching at Queen's, to begin compiling my own list of such errors. Unfortunately, I have lost the list but I do recall one student opening a paper with the following: "Geoffrey Chaucer was clearly influenced by the theories of John Locke." Ahhh yeah.


raych said...

Ahhhh, cow's DO stare horribly! *single tear*

Hope you slept after all.

Anonymous said...

The Herrings books sounds marvelously funny, I'll have to have a look and see if I can find a copy.

Bookphilia said...

Raych: I didn't sleep that night but I slept last night. I wish I were still sleeping. It was GLORIOUS!

Verbivore: I got my copy on a remaindered book table but I'm sure it's still available. If you do get it, let me know what you think!

Yuri... said...

LOL - as the young people say ;)

My co-workers are wondering what I am laughing at. But I have no answer to give, save that an invisible armada has come into sight!

Glad you slept well...

Rohan Maitzen said...

Wonderful! It sounds like a close relation to Richard Lederer's great Anguished English, which also purports to be made up completely of genuine bloopers--though some of them are just too good to be true. One of my favourites from that volume: "Sir Francis Drake circumcised the world with a 200-foot clipper." Imagine the accompanying graphic... I kept a little file of bloopers myself for a while until it just started to seem depressing instead of funny (the dynamic changes when you have to decide how to respond in the margins, if at all!). I've always been fond of this one, though, which I think is more or less what I deserved for assigning a first-year class the exercise of writing a paragraph on the importance of studying English: "It is important to study English because otherwise we would have to speak an entirely different language."