Thursday, December 10, 2009

More on Bibliophagy: Our Primitive Condition

The Book of Pi
Stephanie Krause and Robert Christie
BĂ©atrice Coron
(Image from New York Times)

Yesterday, we looked at Holbrook Jackson's reference to St. John the Divine eating an edible if indigestible book of divine prophecies, but the poor saint was just following orders (and that, perhaps, only in a vision); we see from the above image, however, that some individuals also seek to prepare edible books of secular knowledge, though some thinkers have maintained that to know mathematics is to know the mind of God, so perhaps this book above is also rather too rich for human digestion.

I owe this image to Blake Eskin's New York Times article "Books to Chew On" (March 26, 2006), an essay on bibliophagy that notes such illustrious bibliophagi as St. John the Divine, Ezekiel the Prophet, and every very young child. Concerning puerile bibliophagi, I especially like the quote from that 'famous' collector of books A. S. W. Rosenbach:
"A young child's attitude toward a book is not unlike that of a cannibal toward a missionary."
Eskin tells us that Rosenbach made this remark to explain why "so few first editions of early children's classics have survived." From yesterday's post, we see that a similar remark would also perhaps explain why the original Book of Revelation is missing, and we can now possibly extend the explanation to include the Book of Ezekiel (cf. 2:9-3:4), for we are all the children of God our father, or so implies St. Paul in Acts 17:28, quoting the pagan writer Aratus: "For we are indeed his offspring."

By the way, I say 'famous' collector because I'd never heard of Mr. A. S. W. Rosenbach even though there exists an entire museum and library in Philadelphia dedicated to him and his collection, namely, the Rosenbach Museum and Library. He may not be quite famous, as Eskin merely calls him "the noted book collector," but I've now 'noted' him as well. Apparently, he popularized the collecting of American literature, if we can believe Wikipedia, which also informs us that he helped "assemble the extensive collections of the Huntington Library and the Folger Shakespeare Library."

But he doesn't seem to have eaten any books, though he could have enjoyed such rare delicacies as such as James Joyce's manuscript of Ulysses, which he possessed -- and which, incidentally, is far more digestible than Finnegans Wake.

Mr. Rosenbach might have been tempted, however, by the above-depicted Book of Pi (not pie), which -- though it may indeed be too rich for human consumption -- certainly looks to be considerably more of a testament (taste-ament?) to the digestibility of books than the inspiring original, or even than a certain more lively possible inspiration, where another "Pi" also risks being eaten.

But that's a different blog post . . .

Labels: , , , ,


At 9:24 PM, Blogger John B said...

On the other end, there's Rimbaud's (and, referencing Rimbaud, Kerouac) description of the act of writing as defecating . . . coprophagy?

Or is that a little too septic for your good, clean blog?

At 9:50 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

No, that's not too septic. Big words are such abstractions that the concrete force of the thing-in-itself is happily lost.

Thanks for the tip.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 10:17 PM, Blogger L.D. Durbin said...

Dear Jeffery,

An article appeared in Times Higher today on teaching in South Korea, which might be of interest to you:

Been enjoying your recent entries on books very much!


At 10:49 PM, Blogger Sa-Rah said...

...I felt hungry after looking at the picture on the top... and still am hungry!!

You know, you've been blogging about books for a about three days. There must be a lot to talk about... I guess?

Are you going to write more about books tomorrow, too?

P.S. Like the picture!


At 3:38 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Lee . . . and thanks also.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 3:42 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Sa-Rah, I'm glad that you like the image. As for books, I suppose that there's always more to say . . . so, yes, I will blog about books 'tomorrow.'

Jeffery Hodges

* * *


Post a Comment

<< Home