So I picked up Henry Petroski's, "The Evolution of Useful Things," and wondered briefly whether I already owned it, but "How the fork got its tines," was too good an essay to resist, so at risk of spending fifty cents unnecessarily, I bought it.
Then came a book Geary would love, William Speidel, "Sons of the Profits," which opens, "I'm sure there must have been *somebody* who participated in the construction of Seattle without first determining whether there was a buck in it for himself, but this book isn't about him. This is the story of how the fellas who built Seattle made their money." That had to be worth a buck, almost by definition!
In the first two volumes of "Verbatim," (bound together) a version of ditty I had learned in a linguistics class at the University of Grenoble and long struggled to recall:
Un petit d'un petit s'attend du alle, Un petit d'un petit a degre val. A le quinze sources A le quinze main Coup dent peut un petit d'un petit Degat de regain.Be sure to read this aloud. I think the last line only works if you use French Canadian pronunciation (the author of this version was from Ontario).
Here is another version, written in Brighton: http://www.aescon.com/aesconsulting/french/num1.htmI picked up Lucretius, "On the Nature of Things," which one would have thought should have a forward by Charles de Gaulle, but doesn't (de Gaulle was famous for confusing his own opinions with "la nature des choses").
Bertrand Russell on "The Wisdom of the West" should make good bedtime reading for a while. And when I'm done with that, there's Gassner and Quinn's "The Reader's Encyclopedia of World Drama," which has this to say about Scotland, "The theater in Scotland has always had to grow on stony ground; it is not a native plant." The writers remind us that "It was not until 1736 that the first Scottish playhouse was opened, but it was promptly closed down under the licensing laws. By 1756 it was possible, but only with English players, to put on that remarkable work 'Douglas,' by John Home (1722-1808), which was immortalized by the cry that greeted its first performance: 'Whair's your Wully Shakespeare now?'"
I believe that ought to be, "Whaur's Yer Wullie Shakespeare Noo?"More useful than any of these, however, will be a volume on "Old English Ballads"--which seems to be filled mostly with Scottish verse-- and three slim works on the pursuit of happiness. Since the immigration people still haven't been in touch, I am not presently or absolutely charged with pursuing happiness in the American manner, but I expect that task to fall into my bailiwick in the near future and thus, "Happy Thoughts," collected by Everett Thornton Brown and published in 1912 by the Acmegraph Company of Chicago should come in handy. My favorite dip so far is from Abe Lincoln, "Do not worry; eat three square meals a day; say your prayers; be courteous to your creditors; keep your digestion good; exercise; go slow, and easy. Maybe there are other things that your special case requires to make you happy, but, my friend, these I reckon will give you a good lift."
The other two volumes are from the "Helpful Thoughts" series of publications, "Right Reading" and "Catch Words of Cheer." The latter is beautiful, leather-bound and offers one thought per day of the year. R.L. Stevenson wrote today's, "If we were charged so much a head for sunsets, or if God sent round a drum before the hawthorns come into flower, what a work we should make about their beauty." "Right Reading" alas strikes but one note and having hit it, keeps on hitting; Sir Arthur Helps begins--do not leave reading choices to chance; be methodical--and hands the baton swiftly to Thomas Carlyle-- be sure to read only "good" books. Isaac D'Israeli follows with advice that you should not be "capricious" in your reading and James Russell Lowell adds, "One is sometimes asked by young people to recommend a course of reading. My advice would be that they should confine themselves to the supreme books in whatever literature..." John Ruskin. Waldo Emerson, Arthur Schopenhauer all make essentially the same point: stick with the good stuff.
But what if you've a wilder form of curiosity?Then you may be tempted by "The Flirt," Booth Tarkington's least known volume, "Laura's eyes had lost their quiet; they showed a glint of tears and she was breathing quickly. In this crisis of emotion the two girls went to each other silently; Cora turned, and Laura began to unfasten Cora's dress in the back. 'Poor Richard!' said Laura presently, putting into her mouth a tiny pearl button which had detached itself at her touch. 'This was his first evening in the overflow. No wonder he was troubled!'"
Somehow this masterpiece escaped inclusion in the bibliography of Tarkington's works
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Booth_Tarkington My your weekend be rich in curiosity...but only of the right kind: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQCMhy0LRI0 Carry on. David Ritchie,Portland, Oregon ------------------------------------------------------------------
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