Thursday, February 26, 2015


“Marginalia are on the march”: and on display.

Related posts
The fate of marginalia
From the Doyle edition (How many words can fit on a page of Four Quartets?)
Note-taking at Harvard (With a Jim Doyle story)

Horizon Bookstore bookmark

The Horizon Bookstore had at least three homes in Urbana, Illinois, before disappearing — which happened sometime in the 1990s, I think. When its South Goodwin home and adjacent buildings were razed to make way for a University of Illinois Chemical and Life Sciences Laboratory, the bookstore moved to a second-story location on West Oregon Street. By 1996 the Horizon was on South Wright Street, with fewer and fewer books.

The South Goodwin store was very much an academic bookstore, something like a tiny downstate version of the Seminary Co-op: lots of university press books, and as I remember it, lots of “theory,” with austere covers and never no photographs. And the Horizon could order anything. Who else would have ordered Nelson Goodman books for me? Well, the Seminary Co-op, but I didn’t yet know about the Seminary Co-op. The West Oregon location had more small-press books and zines. (Remember zines?) I remember many children’s books at the South Wright location and not much else.

The discoloration on this bookmark — tucked into a Nelson Goodman book — is not a matter of sun damage. The top of the bookmark is in fine shape. The yellowing just below the top and down the edge is the work of paper eating paper. There is no permanence.

Elaine and I took count last night: since moving to downstate Illinois in 1985, we have seen twelve bookstores disappear. That’s not including Borders and Waldenbooks. There is no permanence.

Other bookstores, other bookmarks
Gotham Book Mart
Paperback Booksmith
Strand Book Store

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Toward or towards

From Bryan Garner’s LawProse blog: is it toward or towards? Short answer: in American English, toward. In British English, towards.

Fun, fun, fun

The greatest Downfall spoof of all time: Hitler learns about the Rolling Stone Greatest Albums List.

Thanks, Van Dyke!

Staedtler Norica pencil review

I am a hungry guppy, or just a guy with low morals. The invitation to write a review and get a $5 coupon from Staples was one I could not pass up. An extra bit of incentive — write at least 400 characters and get “community points” (huh?) — felt like extra credit. I wrote about the Staedtler Norica pencil:

The Staedtler Norica pencil is a pleasure to write with. Its lead is like the woods in Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”: “lovely, dark and deep.” The Norica writes well, holds a point well, and sharpens easily (because the lead is centered in the wood). The eraser erases cleanly and decisively. I am not entirely sold on the pencil’s design: I’d prefer a painted ferrule. But the combination of black, white, and silver is pleasing, and the pencil is well finished. The price makes the Norica a great value in pencildom. Stock up!
The Norica is indeed a fine pencil. I bought a 36-pack months ago and used just a pencil or two now and then. Then I read a paean by father-son pencileers and thought I should give the Norica a chance. And soon I bought another 36-pack. I’m using Noricas to grade my students’ writing this semester. These pencils make the work more pleasant.

About “community points”: I realized, too late, that they will never turn into money. And to get my $5 off, I will have to buy $50 worth of stuff. I take back my previous self-characterizations: I’m a gullible pup. And I’ve never much liked extra credit anyway.

[Pencileer is Sean’s coinage.]

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

How to improve writing (no. 53)

“. . . publically showcase the work that they are doing.”

I hear the ghost of William Strunk Jr.: “Omit needless words! Omit needless words! Omit needless words!” And needless variants. The adverb is publicly. (Garner’s Modern American Usage and Merriam-Webster will confirm that.) A public showcase? A showcase is by definition open to some audience. But showcase is a tired word, too redolent of The Price Is Right. And “the work that they are doing”? Much better:

“. . . present their work.”

From eight words to three, from thirteen syllables to four. If sentences are, as Richard Lanham says, attention economies, they must respect a reader’s time and intelligence. Revision is courtesy.

Related reading
All OCA How to improve writing posts (Pinboard)

[This post is no. 53 in a series, “How to improve writing,” dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose.]

Go fish

[“Women working in the sardine cannery factory.” Photograph by Bernard Hoffman. Portugal, 1940. From the Life Photo Archive. Click for a larger view.]

On Saturday I posted a photograph of pasta aglio e olio and it spoke to at least two anchovy fans, maybe more. This photograph is for sardine connoisseurs, among whom I proudly number. Does that wording even make sense?

And speaking of making sense, or not: what is a “sardine cannery factory”? A place where they manufacture sardine canneries?

Related posts
Alex Katz, painter, eater Sardines for lunch, every day
City for Conquest (and sardines)
End of the U.S. sardine industry

[I proudly number sounds silly (which I knew) and makes sense. From the Oxford New American Dictionary: “include or classify as a member of a group.” Example: “the orchestra numbers Brahms among its past conductors.”]

Monday, February 23, 2015

Frank Bruni on college

Frank Bruni talks with his English professor Anne Hall about canons, the student as customer, and “the muscle of thoughtfulness”: College, Poetry and Purpose (The New York Times). Much of what’s here puts me in mind of my post Hoagies, pizzas, and English studies.

Recently updated

Ending a sentence with it More evidence that doing so is acceptable.

That post has been getting a surprising number of visits. Pseudo-rules are everywhere.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Clark Terry (1920–2015)

Clark Terry has died at the age of ninety-four. The Washington Post has an obituary.

From YouTube, Clark Terry with Red Mitchell. And with the Oscar Peterson Trio. And with Elaine’s old friend Leo Wright.


The New York Times now has an obituary.

A related post
Keep On Keepin’ On