Riba Rambles:
Musings of a Mental Magpie

About the author: Elisabeth in early 2007, photo by Todd Belf
Elisabeth "Lis" Riba is an infovore with an MLS. This is her place to share whatever's on her mind, on topics both personal and political. [more]
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Friday, February 17, 2006
Emo Fill-ups?
Posted by Lis Riba at 12:34 PM

So, last night I stayed up far too late reading fanfic.

Big Bang: Endgame was recently posted, featuring high-quality novel-length Harry/Draco illustrated fanfics, built upon the conclusion of Book 6.

This morning, I once again began to wonder what I got out of these fanfics; why they held so much appeal to me?

Now, I tend to prefer fanfics with antagonistic protagonists: Harry/Draco, Draco/Hermione, Draco/Ron, Percy/Malfoy, and to a lesser extent Harry/Snape, Hermione/Snape, or Snape/Weasley...

And there's just a certain raw intensity to these stories, an emotional jolt if you will, that I don't often find in published professional fiction. [I don't read romance novels, so maybe that's part of their appeal; any readers of the genre care to compare?]

At any rate, sometimes fanfic makes me feel like an emotion-junkie. Quick intense roller-coasters with no consequences (because they're fiction), to perk up or compensate for a dull everyday life.

Back as an undergrad, I took a course in Victorian novels. We looked at some of the early fiction written by and for women, such as East Lynne and Lady Audley's Secret.

Do you know what this genre was called? Sensation novels. And when they were translated to the stage, they became melodrama. The intelligensia of the time scorned them and used terms like "overblown emotionalism," but they were immensely popular among women.

I'm no expert, but offhand, it sounds like they filled a similar niche for their readers that fanfic does for me.

And that's got me wondering what connections and continuities may exist from those stories through to fanfic.

Back in 2003, I remarked upon other popular women's novels throughout history:

Reading Forever Amber makes me interested in doing a further survey of popular women's novels throughout history. I suppose it would start with East Lynne and Lady Audley's Secret from the 1860s as some of the earliest. There's a gap in my knowledge until Gone with the wind and Forever Amber (from the late 1930s and early 1940s). I believe Peyton Place and Valley of the Dolls might qualify for this list, but I'm not certain. The most modern equivalent I can think of in terms of public response might be The Bridges of Madison County, which interestingly enough is the only one on this list written by a man. However, I haven't actually read it so don't know whether it really fits as far as being shocking and socially transgressive. [arguments pro and con are welcome.]

Anybody care to help me out in suggesting other titles for this list? I'm looking for books that were surprise bestsellers among women, even though they were often considered shocking or transgressive among the mainstream, even inspiring public outrage.

I'm sure somebody must've studied the history of popular women's fiction, pointing out the common elements internally (within the prose) as well as externally (audience composition and claims regarding their appeal).

But has anybody tried connecting that to fanfic?

*sigh* It's thoughts like these that make me wish I had more time (and resources) to indulge in academic pursuits.

But I don't, so right now I'm hoping somebody else has had similar thoughts and conducted such research.

Does anybody know of such essays/articles/books that you could recommend?
[Also, suggestions for further reading on the sensation novels, or women's popular fiction through history, would also be appreciated.]

Furthermore, if no such works exist, but this essay has inspired you or someone you know to write about this topic, please be my guest... Just let me know about it so I can read the results.

-- Lis (once again hoping to find vicarious pleasure through somebody else's labor)

PS: Aside to self, for later reading: Pat Pflieger's essay "Too Good to be True: 150 Years of Mary Sue" traces the Mary Sue archetype to the idealized young heroines of stories written by the female subscribers to mid-19th century magazines.

Thursday, February 16, 2006
Gasms at the Nerd Prom?
Posted by Lis Riba at 9:40 PM

Now this is more like it:

via Shadesong, who calls this “Best comment thread evar.

I nearly cried from laughing; I think it broke something in Ian's brain...

Good grief!
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:30 PM

And because that last post clearly needs something silly to counterbalance it, this find, from Natalie Bennett, aka Philobiblon:

My 19th-century blogger, Miss Frances Williams Wynn, is today indulging in what can only be described as pure gossip - albeit it delicious gossip, about Queen Caroline of Brunswick, who was, you might say, a character. A sample:

When the Princess was at Baden and the Grand Duke made a partie de chasse for her, she appeared on horseback with a half-pumpkin on her head. Upon the Grand Duke's expressing astonishment, and recommending a coiffure rather less extraordinary, she only replied that the weather was hot, and nothing kept the head so cool and comfortable as a pumpkin.

Like I often say, truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction has to make sense...

Ugh: another bad news twofer
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:50 PM

From Georgia10 at Daily Kos:

Sen. Roberts: White House Deal To Avoid Investigation Made

Senator Roberts conspires to screw over the American people:

WASHINGTON (AP) - Senate Intelligence Chairman Pat Roberts said he has worked out an agreement with the White House to change U.S. law regarding the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program and provide more information about it to Congress.

``We are trying to get some movement, and we have a clear indication of that movement,'' Roberts, R-Kan., said.

Without offering specifics, Roberts said the agreement with the White House provides ``a fix'' to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and offers more briefings to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

A "fix" to FISA?  A FIX???  A FIX to the law the administration has repeatedly testified doesn't need fixing?     Oh, and Roberts was kind enough to broker "more briefings" as part of the deal? More briefings like the hollow circus that occured when Gonzales took the stand?  

I'd say Roberts should feel ashamed of himself, but that parasitic creature feels no shame. He's an apathetic, amoral minion of this administration, and the American people continue to suffer for it.

From TChris at TalkLeft:

Democrats Fail to Insist on Additional Patriot Act Improvement

Russ Feingold and two other senators had the courage to stand up for your right to privacy. It's pathetic that other senators didn't join them.

The Senate brushed aside an attempt to block renewal of the antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act today, voting 96 to 3 against changes urged by Senator Russell D. Feingold, the act's most persistent critic. Mr. Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, said he wants to make the Senate debate several more days on the bill, and under the Senate's rules he can do so. But today's vote signaled that, once Mr. Feingold has exhausted his moves, the act will indeed be renewed by the Senate before its scheduled expiration on March 10.

Feingold is a national treasure. A heartfelt thanks to Senators Feingold, Byrd, and Jeffords for putting up resistance to the administration's unquenchable thirst for unreviewable discretion to pry into our personal information and private communications.

I can't find the words to express how I feel about these. Once again, read 'em and weep.

Chocolate coating makes it go down easier
Posted by Lis Riba at 6:21 PM

How about some more pleasant subjects after this morning's news-heavy blurt.

First of all, I hope you non-dieting/non-diebetics are enjoying the annual Half-Price Chocolate Sales. [See last year's Piled Higher and Deeper comic strip.]

Ian and I bought two large heart-shaped samplers at heavy discount, one from Russell Stover, one from Whitman's. In typically-geeky fashion, I'm thinking of using their under-the-cover indices and posting a side-by-side comparison of how much chocolate one gets for one's buck, and possibly taste-tests where both have the same flavor.

But that would be an awful lot of work, so if it's just my own edification, I may skip it. Anybody interested?

[Whoa! I just noticed that Russell Stover acquired Whitman's several years back. This may be much less interesting than I originally thought.]

Thinking about chocolates, does anybody else find it difficult to buy chocolates for others -- or, more to the point, make sure that you get the right chocolates for yourself when somebody else is buying?

Ages ago, I found the ACME Chocolate Registry, but the choices it offers just seem too limited to be much use.

But I just noticed that Russell Stover has an online build-a-box assortment generator, with nearly 30 varieties of chocolate to choose from.

Poking about online, Sees Candies also offers a custom mix selection with 65 possible pieces. I don't know if any other chocolate-makers have similar tools.

These are probably too nuanced for practical purposes, but surely someone can construct something in-between these extremes -- more specific than the ACME, and more generic than the manufacturers' lists. I'd suggest at least three options for each chocolate: whether you love a flavor, won't touch it (whether a matter of taste or food allergies), or indifferent.

Oh, hey! Too late for this Valentine's Day, but Consumer Reports rated chocolate gift assortments. I don't know how long this link will remain valid (most of CR's content is by subscription-only), but may prove helpful your next chocolate-giving occasion. I never even heard of some of these brands.

And in my continuing attempts to lure friends to Boskone, Tuesday's Boston Globe offered several worthwhile articles on the subject, including:

It feels so cool that I recognize most of the people quoted in these articles.

Wake up call
Posted by Lis Riba at 9:10 AM

A couple quick things I didn't have time to blog this morning:

Two blog posts gave me a rather disheartening wake up.

First, Steve Soto: "Accept The Fact That Consultants Don't Want A Replay Of 2002:"

Beltway Democratic consultants and strategists have convinced Senate and House Democrats not to make a principled stand against the White House on the NSA spying issue, because the GOP would use this to make the Democrats look weak on national security. ...

Simply put, Senate and House Democrats have decided, based on the advice of the consultants, not to have any replays of 2002. If there is any issue of national security this year, other than Iraq, that is a 50-50 issue where Democrats can risk any losses by taking a stand, then the lesson the consultants have taken from 2002 is that it is better for the party to not let Bush move to their right. The consultants apparently have convinced the Capitol Hill leadership that it was too risky for Democrats to mount an all-out offensive on the NSA spying issue if the polling numbers were no better than 50-50 and if there was any chance at all that Rove would succeed at doing what he clearly said he was planning to do this year: ram national security down our throats this fall. So as a result, there will be no frontal challenge to Bush on the NSA issue this year because the Capitol Hill leadership has decided to play it safe and try and gain parity this fall in both houses by running a cautious and yes, conservative campaign that doesn't get caught flat-footed on national security again like they did in 2002. I'm not saying its right, and I'm not condoning this, but it is now clear to me what game is afoot between now and November.

Second, Pam Spaulding: "Dem action plan: recloset the gays for 2006," which provides multiple signs that "we're seeing the official re-closeting of the Democrats in terms of gay visibility and outreach."

How does the expression go?

“I'm not a member of any organized political party, I'm a Democrat.”

Read 'em and weep.

For Ian, to elaborate on the snippet heard on the radio, Kevin Drum has the latest from Guantanamo, summing up four articles in the National Journal:

The basic message from these four pieces is that the evidence against an awful lot of the Guantanamo prisoners isn't just weak, it's known to be flatly false. ...

According to the National Journal's research, upwards of half of all prisoners at Guantanamo weren't captured on the battlefield. Rather, they came into our custody by way of third parties "who had their own motivations for turning people in, including paybacks and payoffs." Many - perhaps most - of the men rounded up in these sweeps have no connection to al-Qaeda or the Taliban, and the evidence against them is often weak, sometimes nonexistent, and all too frequently known to be fabricated. And yet they remain in prison.

Oh yeah, and SCOTUSblog has been recording the ongoing attempts of the Bush administration to argue that "enemy combatants" have no constitutional rights and thus no access to our court system. [Administration's brief, Hamdan's lawyers' reply]

If the abstract doesn't impress you, read the story of Abu Bakker Qassim and A'del Abdu al-Hakim: military tribunals cleared them, yet they're still being held in Guantanamo with no release in sight. Innocent and held incommunicado for four years.

Finally, and on an entirely different note, an open message to Judy, whom we've been trying to phone the last several days with no luck.

What are you doing this weekend? How can we talk you into coming to Boskone?

Take a look at the list of attendees. Take a look at the preliminary programming schedule.

We'll be there all weekend; we really think you'd enjoy it, and we want you to attend. How can we convince you?

BTW, before last year's Boskone, somebody asked me for advice and I wrote up this brief ConGoing 101. Be sure to read the comment link: there are a few more tips in there.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006
And so it begins...
Posted by Lis Riba at 10:50 PM

Yesterday on SCOTUSblog:

The Bush Administration urged the Supreme Court on Tuesday to move ahead with a final ruling on the constitutionality of the controversial federal ban on "partial-birth abortions," arguing that there would be no value in sending a pending case back to a lower court for another look. It cautioned against any action by the Justices that would "unduly postpone the ultimate resolution of the extraordinarily important question" of the constitutionality of the ban enacted in 2003. The new filing can be found here.

And if that isn't a sufficiently-tempting test-case for the Court's new composition to overturn Roe v. Wade, South Dakota's working up a more direct challenge:

The South Dakota House of Representatives has passed a statewide ban on abortion. There is an exception for the health of the mother. There is no exception for rape or incest; a proposed amendment to that effect was shot down.


The purpose of this bill is not in fact to ban abortion in South Dakota–that part is so much gravy. The purpose is to take the legal challenge that will most certainly follow to the Supreme Court, where it is hoped that Roe will finally be overturned so that South Dakota legislature and every other state legislature may ban abortion to their hearts’ content

That's not just something bloggers are reading into this story; the bill's sponsor has openly talked about the difference Roberts and Alito could make.

And speaking of Alito, now that he's no longer answerable to... well, anybody... he's showing his true colors again:

Justice Sam Alito has chosen his five law clerks. The latest pick is not someone just out of law school, but a former Justice Department lawyer who was a close confidant of John Ashcroft


Ciongoli will be tasked with heping Justice Alito write opinions (translation: he will draft them subject to the judge's approval) on many of the same issues he on which he previously advocated the Government's position.

Can you spell c-o-n-f-l-i-c-t? Apparantly, Justice Alito cannot.

Then again, we already knew -- months before the hearings -- that Alito repeatedly refused to recuse himself from cases in which he had personal or financial interest.

Meanwhile, regarding the President's warrantless wiretapping, I'm seeing rumors that rather than putting Bush's feet to the fire and investigating the matter, some members of Congress (including Democrats) are considering retroactively legalizing it.

Think Progress details one possible scenario:

Senate intelligence committee member Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) said in an interview that he supports the NSA program and would oppose a congressional investigation. He said he is drafting legislation that would “specifically authorize this program” by excluding it from the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

BTW, I didn't have time to blog this observation during last week's Gonzales hearings, but did anybody else hear the frequent protestations, qualifiers, and careful parsing in his testimony? Glenn Greenwald provides a good summary (here, quoting the Washington Post):

Gonzales chose his words carefully, frequently limiting his answers to "this program" or to "the program the president has confirmed." At one point he said senior Justice Department officials, whose concerns about the program contributed to a temporary halt in surveillance in 2004, did not raise objections to the program he was discussing.

I don't know if anybody else had this reaction, but I was immediately reminded of a Dilbert cartoon from several years back (from memory):

Liz:"Sometime I think you love that computer more than me!"
Dilbert:"Of course I don't love that computer more than you!"
Thought balloon: ‘Please don't ask about the laptop...’
Liz:"That computer?"

I think I'll close this post by quoting Senator Byrd's speech today:

We cannot continue to claim that we are a nation of laws and not of men if our laws and, indeed, even the Constitution of the United States itself, may be summarily breached because of some determination of expediency or because the President says “trust me.”


We have only the President’s word, his “trust me”, to protect the privacy of the law-abiding citizens of this country. And one must be especially wary of an Administration that seems to feel that what it judges to be a good end, always justifies any means. It is, in fact, not only illegal under our system, but morally reprehensible to spy on citizens without probable cause of wrongdoing. When such practices are sanctioned by our own President, what is the message we are sending to other countries which the United States is trying to convince to adopt our system? It must be painfully obvious to them that a President, who can spy at will on any citizen, is very unlike the model of democracy that the Administration is trying to sell abroad.

In the name of “fighting terror” are we to sacrifice every freedom to a President’s demand? How far are we to go? Can a President order warrantless house-by-house searches of a neighborhood, where he suspects a terrorist may be hiding? Can he impose new restrictions on what can be printed, broadcast, or even uttered privately, because of some perceived threat to national security? Laughable thoughts? I think not. For this Administration has so traumatized the people of this nation -- and many in the Congress -- that some will swallow whole whatever rubbish that is spewed from this White House, as long as it is in some tenuous way connected to the so-called war on terror.


I plead with the American public to tune-in to what is happening in this country. Please forget the political party with which you may usually be associated, and, instead, think about the right of due process, the presumption of innocence, and the right to a private life. Forget the now tired political spin that, if one does not support warrantless spying, then one may be less than patriotic.

And so it ends...

Life's a Bitch
Posted by Lis Riba at 9:25 PM

Dick Cheney just invited Ted Kennedy on a hunting trip. Kennedy agreed, but only if he could drive.

[In case anybody doesn't get the joke, Wikipedia's explanation of Chappaquiddick.]

And here's a Nohari window worth filling out: Dick Cheney's Nohari!

First comment courtesy of Bitch|Lab; Second via Bitch PhD.

No time like the present...
Posted by Lis Riba at 9:15 PM

I have wasted far too much time on this, but I think I've worked out how to enable sortable tables for my Marlowe in Modern Fiction list and the Elizabethan Theatre Fiction list (when I assign that to its own page)

Not quite ready to go live on the site, but darned close...

Now possibly to attempt some of the things I intended to do this evening...

Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Somehow this seems sadly appropriate
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:35 PM

particularly given my previous post:

Lis Riba --

A hard-core grave robber

'How will you be defined in the dictionary?' at QuizGalaxy.com

Of course, I never actually got to Deptford during my London visit, although I did have the cemetary marked on the map (even going so far as to find out the churchyard's hours).

As long as I'm on this roll, I wish to point out that so far only three people have taken me up on last night's challenge to separate truth from fiction.

So far, the votes are almost evenly split:

  • The first one is the "parody."
  • Second one as the parody.
  • biography left, parody right?

Well, that covers the gamut. I will definitively state that at least one person has gotten it correct, but I'd really like to see a few more attempts before I make my reveal.

Ian says I should stop dragging this out.

I'd prefer people to take a guess first (and please share them with me in the comments), but for those of you who've already tried their hand at identifying the authors, here are the answers behind the monochromatic text.

St George's parish, though close to the cathedral, lay between the cattle market and the butchers' shambles. ... Scholars have argued that these two looming structures inspired the ‘Two lofty Turrets that command the Towne’ mentioned in The Jew of Malta.

Source (highlight to reveal): History Play by Rodney Bolt

The street was malodorous. Dripping blood or gobbets of bloody flesh stained the pavings... No boy could have been indifferent to the morning spectacle, and Christopher no doubt took it in with a taste for sensations.

Source (highlight to reveal): Poet & Spy by Park Honan  

How'd you do? What do you think?

PS: I just noticed in my Blogger Dashboard/Profile that I have written 2701 posts in this blog. This means my latest odometer-rolling landmark entry was about Christopher Marlowe vampire fiction... Figures.

Make me immortal with a kiss
Posted by Lis Riba at 9:30 PM

I wasn't intending to make Marlowe my theme for the day, but just turned up yet another story for my Marlowe in Modern Fiction List.

The article describes a new novel titled Vrolok (hardcover or paperback). Excerpting from the review:

Vrolok takes readers on a journey into the past as we meet Isabella, the beautiful and independent woman who lives in Transylvania more than 500 years ago. Never one to obey rules, Isabella's curiosity leads her to the castle of Vlad Dracula where her life takes a dramatic turn. Vlad has led his troops in battle against the Turks and thirsts for power. Although married to Nicolae, Isabella is entranced by Vlad and is soon joined to him as she could be to no other.

This is not a blood and gore novel of vampires who stalk innocent victims under cover of night, but a literary tale of how Vlad and Isabella intermingle with some of history's most famous and notorious characters. Emotions run high in this tumultuous relationship and the two are often separated for years. Isabella has an inbred goodness that constantly arises throughout her long life, keeping her from becoming a shallow blood- thirsty monster. Over the centuries, the immortal Isabella spends time with playwright Kit (Christopher) Marlowe, the Medicis Godfather's of the Renaissance in Italy, Countess Elizabeth Bathory, Van Helsing of Holland, Wyatt Earp and many more colorful and larger than life historical figures.

The review is so over-the-top praiseworthy that I had to check it wasn't actually a press release. I did discover this is a Print on Demand book, so take that for what you will. [This is the third POD book to mention Marlowe in the past year.* If this continues, I may segregate the list.]

Unsurprisingly enough, this is not the first vampire novel involving Marlowe.

S.P. Somtow's 1995 Vanitas: Escape from Vampire Junction describes Marlowe's role in a similar manner to Vrolok:

This third novel in the saga of teenage vampire rock star Timmy Valentine keeps the shocks coming while bringing its protagonist into confrontation with characters and insights introduced in Vampire Junction and in Valentine (1993). Ever since he appropriated the soul of movie double Angel Todd to resume life as a mortal, Timmy, a castrato frozen at age 13 for almost 2000 years, has been experiencing a "vanitas"-a spiritual malaise-that has sapped his music of its passion. A similar ennui has overtaken Timmy's buddy, art gallery owner PJ Gallagher. ... On the way, Timmy ruminates in flashbacks on the many historical personalities whose lives he has touched, including Christopher Marlowe, Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde and Vlad Tepes.

Given Somtow's reputation (I used to read him before he simplified his name 8D ), I have reasonably high hopes for this one, though I don't feel like finding and reading two prequels to get to the Marlowe goodness.

The second book is Rosemary Laurey's 2000 Walk in Moonlight (since reprinted as Kiss me forever). Modern vampire fiction. A young American heiress travels to England to claim her inheritance and runs into a vampire wearing a rakish eyepatch. Yup, that's Kit Marlowe (Kyd's also a vamp in this storyline) and after 400 years of content habit, he falls for the girl. It's a total Mary Sue story, and I think it counts as the Marlowe fiction I'm most ashamed to have read. [And, oh look, yet more sequels. I can pass.]

And now we have a third. Sometimes trendiness isn't all it's cracked up to be...
Or maybe I need to find another hobby.

* The other two POD titles are Was I Really That Boy? : The Pilgrimage of Christopher Marlowe and Water Lane : The Pilgrimage of Christopher Marlowe Hmm. These share the same publisher as Vrolok. One of their editors a fan? Or do they just publish so much that this is just a blip?

With this my hand I give to you my heart
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:50 PM

I'm not going to sign up for a Microsoft Passport account in order to post in Slate's Fray discussion forums, but I've got a

Today, Slate posted an article explaining “The Shape of My Heart: Where did the ubiquitous Valentine's symbol come from?

This paragraph caught my eye:

The Catholic Church contends that the modern heart shape did not come along until the 17th century, when Saint Margaret Mary Alocoque had a vision of it surrounded by thorns. This symbol became known as the Sacred Heart of Jesus and was associated with love and devotion; it began popping up often in stained-glass windows and other church iconography. But while the Sacred Heart may have popularized the shape, most scholars agree that it existed much earlier than the 1600s.

Not only do I agree with those generic scholars, but I can present proof that the icon existed well before St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was born.

Feast your eyes on this:

This is a silver replica of a gold ring found during the archaeological excavation of the Rose Theatre in London.

The text reads "PENCES POUR MOYE DV," which translates to "Think of me, Gd willing."

And if you look at the top ring in the picture, front and center where it rests upon the second ring, you can clearly make out a heart pierced by two arrows.

The Rose Theatre was built in 1587 and abandoned (or, depending on the source, demolished) by 1606.

Now, I realize this is a replica, but I have seen the original at the Museum of London.

And I think 1587 - 1606 easily trumps the Catholic Church's claim about a saint who wasn't born until 1647.

Meanwhile, if anyone else reading this happens to be a member of the Slate Fray, feel free to enlighten them with this information.

By any other name
Posted by Lis Riba at 6:00 PM
Christopher Marlowe rose © Henrique Rodrigues

This Valentine's Day, I wish to present you all with a bouquet of roses.

And not just any old roses, either...

Several years ago, the Canterbury City Council commissioned David Austin [Wikipedia] to breed a variety of rose named after my favorite playwright. [Source: Canterbury Cathedral Newsletter, Oct 2002 (PDF)]

The Christopher Marlowe English rose has “a colour not usually associated with English Roses: an intense orange-red, paling a little to salmon-pink on the outer petals as the flower ages.” Articles describe the fragrance as tea with a hint of lemon.

The flower debuted at the 2002 Chelsea Flower Show, where it won the RHS Gold Medal.

And, as these photos harvested from the web demonstrate, it is so very pretty:

Christopher Marlowe rose © DECOBUG - Amateur Photography Christopher Marlowe rose © DECOBUG - Amateur Photography Christopher Marlowe rose © Beth's Northern CA Rose Garden Christopher Marlowe rose © DECOBUG - Amateur Photography Christopher Marlowe rose © aprille Christopher Marlowe rose © aprille Christopher Marlowe rose © Treloar Roses Christopher Marlowe rose © A Better Plant Nursery Christopher Marlowe rose © Henrique Rodrigues Christopher Marlowe rose © Henrique Rodrigues Christopher Marlowe rose © Henrique Rodrigues Christopher Marlowe rose © sugarlump Christopher Marlowe rose © David Austin Roses Christopher Marlowe rose © Jackson and Perkins Co. Christopher Marlowe rose © Henrique Rodrigues Christopher Marlowe rose © Marina's Rose Garden of Bexley

Of course, this is but one of several roses associated with Christopher Marlowe.

Besides the Rose Theatre in Southwark (where several of Marlowe's plays were originally performed), there's also this dessicated flower:

Dried rosebud found in Canterbury archives of 1592; Click to enlarge

And therein lies a tale:

This rosebud was discovered in 1957 by William Urry, then Cathedral and City Archivist at Canterbury. It was found in a volume of city court records amongst pages recording cases heard on 12 October 1592 (CC/JB 392 iii). The impression of the rosebud in the paper can still be seen clearly.

Christopher Marlowe was known to have made some return visits to his native city. One of these was in the autumn of 1592, the year before his murder at Deptford. On 15 September he was involved in a street fight with William Corkyn, a tailor, who also sang in the cathedral choir. The incident led to a case in the city's courts, which was finally dismissed on 9 October.

Even though the rose was found with the records of cases heard after the dismissal of Marlowe's case, it has become known as the 'Marlowe Rose', and it has been suggested that the rose was presented as a peace offering by one party in the court case to the other.

Mo' Marlowe
Posted by Lis Riba at 6:45 AM

As I shut off the computer last night to go to bed, I was suddenly hit with curiousity how David Riggs' World of Christopher Marlowe handled that same descriptive passage.

Less mystery for you readers, I'm afraid (Hey, nobody's even tried to play my little guessing game!) but I find it interesting nonetheless:

John [Marlowe] settled in the parish of St George the Martyr on the south-eastern side of the city. This foul-smelling district lay between the cattle market outside St George's gate and the slaughterhouse within the city walls; it was an apt neighborhood for thte aspirant leatherworker. Cart bearing tubs of blood and offal trundled along St George's Street. The town gallows stood just beyond the cattle market, on Oaten Hill, from 1575 onwards. ...

The bellows of cattle being driven to the butcher's shambles and the pervasive odour of blood were among the infant's earliest sensations. [...] Marlowe drew on childhood memories in his Famous Tragedy of the Rich Jew of Malta. The ‘Two lofty turrets that command the town’ (V.viii.11) of Malta recall the twin towers of St George's Gate in Canterbury.

No mention of those 4am early morning bells, but otherwise quite similar in content, tone and implications.

So, with this additional source in mind, anybody care to jump back to my previous post and guess which twin has the Toni which passage comes from the critically claimed biography and which passage comes from the critically acclaimed parody?

PS: Don't look for signs of direct imitation. Of the three books, History Play was published earliest -- with a 2004 copyright. World of Christopher Marlowe first hit shelves in January 2005, and Poet and spy wasn't released until late 2005.

Monday, February 13, 2006
Close readings... TOO close?
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:45 PM

I'm thinking that I may want a few more books between me and History Play before trying to read Christopher Marlowe: poet and spy.

I started reading the Park Honan this evening, and too many passages are too reminiscent of Rodney Bolt's wicked parody.

Compare for yourself:

St George's parish, though close to the cathedral, lay between the cattle market and the butchers' shambles. This may have been convenient for the leather that was the material of John Marlowe's trade, but it wasn't terribly salubrious. Just yards away, animals would bellow and scream as they were herded to slaughter. Barrows of blood and stinking entrails were trundled past the Marlowe front door. ...

As if the screams of cattle and cantankerous sisters were not enough, the sturdy steeple of St George's housed the great waking bell, which was rung at 4 o'clock every morning and was loud enough to get the whole town out of bed. Just across the way from the church tower was Newingate, the medieval gate that was the highest point in the city wall. Scholars have argued that these two looming structures inspired the ‘Two lofty Turrets that command the Towne’ mentioned in The Jew of Malta.

-- Rodney Bolt

The street was malodorous. Dripping blood or gobbets of bloody flesh stained the pavings, and the noises and smells of commerce were incessant even though the scene varied through the week. On market days, egg-sellers and other neat country folk were in the High Street and some of the lanes, through which horses or oxen came by with wagons loaded with offal, decapitated heads, or tubs of bloody entrails: on one side of the parish was a cattle market and on the other the butchers' shambles.

Marlowe grew up near the high, painted doors of the city's eastern gate, beyond which lay a wide, water-filled ditch and meadowland, but urban life filled his eyes, ears, and lungs. Darkness muffled that stir, though at 4 a.m. the bells of St George's, as effectively as the criers in the mosques of Damascus, would rouse the entire city. No boy could have been indifferent to the morning spectacle, and Christopher no doubt took it in with a taste for sensations.

-- Park Honan

Can you tell which of these passages belongs to the serious biography and which to the parody?

Maybe with a few more books under my belt (so the Bolt's not quite so fresh in my memory), the similarities won't be anywhere near as distracting...

Posted by Lis Riba at 8:20 PM

Philobiblon finds the coolest sites:

Beginners' Latin
Latin 1086 - 1733: a practical online tutorial for beginners

Courtesy the UK's National Archives, which also offers a Palaeography tutorial: 1500 - 1800.

Meanwhile, I've been following this weekend's Cheney shooting story. Have a bushel of links, but nothing terribly original to say at the moment.

Oddity in Opera: can anybody explain?
Posted by Lis Riba at 9:11 AM

Something odd happened when I came into work.

My startup page reverted to Opera Startup, my home page to Opera search, and ALL settings and preferences reverted to Opera defaults, even though I'd never actually run Opera v8 under the default settings (v8 was installed over a v7 which I'd thoroughly customized).

Fortunately, I was able to find my custom toolbar file and bookmarks, I think I managed to reset most of my preferences by memory (though I just noticed I have to re-select my LNG file), but what the heck happened!? And how can I make sure it doesn't happen again?

Has anybody else experienced this?

PS: I did not load the preview release of Opera 9; still on v8.51.

PPS Problem solved for now; found iniFDF.tmp in my Opera profile directory which contained my last good Opera6.ini. Replacing that (while making all appropriate backups) appears to have restored (most of) my settings, but I still want to know why and how this happened and how to prevent it in the future.

Come to my window...
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:40 AM

Clearly, I got into Johari a little too late, as I've only gotten two four responses so far.

So, please pick adjectives to describe me.

And because clearly I'm not masochistic enough, the mirror-universe negative veresion: Nohari

Sunday, February 12, 2006
Rambles Reviews: History Play by Rodney Bolt
Posted by Lis Riba at 10:45 PM

History Play by Rodney Bolt is an extremely frustrating book. Utterly brilliant, but not to be trusted unless you already know your history well.

History Play purports to be yet another a well-documented biography of Christopher Marlowe, from his birth in Canterbury until he delivered his last play, The Tempest, to his frontman, William Shakespeare... Yes, you read that correctly.

But before anybody gets the wrong idea, Bolt is adamantly not an authorship kook.

Just as The Onion is a work of satire written in the style of a newspaper, History Play uses the modern biography format to make a very different point than the seemingly straightforward story it tells. The author's afterword gives away the game:

Mark Twain likened writing the biography of Shakespeare to reconstructing the skeleton of a brontosaurus -- using ‘nine bones and six hundred barrels of plaster of Paris’. We work with a handful of facts and a pile of conjecture. Very soon the ‘might have beens’ and ‘we have reason to believes’ build up into ‘as tradition instructs us’ and harden into ‘unquestionablys’. All biographies of Shakespeare, from the wayward to the academic, use the same few-score hard facts knewaded together with legend, then leavened by a dash of Zeitgeist and a large dollop of author's imagination. Poems and plays are plundered for biographical booty, even by those who profess scepticism as to the inferences that can be drawn about the life from the work. A river current in The Rape of Lucrece is likened to one in the Avon; all references in the plays to dolphins are lined up to suggest that, maybe, as a boy Shakespeare travelled twelve miles to see a water pageant staged by the Earl of Leicester in his castle grounds at Kenilworth. And so a story is stitched together. But like statistics, quotations in isolation can be turned to very different ends.

...By assuming the seemingly preposterous I have hoped to shake up our notions of the possible, or at the very least to look a little more sharply at how we construct truth. [...] This book is, of course, an exercise of purest (or most impure) conjecture. But then so is the work of countless other writers of lives of Shakespeare and Marlowe. This story differs only in the degree to which invention has played a role in the outcome, and in the method by which it was told. Other writers have looked at the evidence and deduced a story; I have imagined a story, then supported it with the same sparse evidence. At this distance, the difference between deduction and speculation is paper thin. The book may very well have been called The Impossibility of Biography. It might be placed at a point of convergence of several different strands: of the historical novel that blurs fact with fantasy and doesn't admit the difference; of autobiographies that are so imaginatively written that some readers think they are novels; of novels that are so autobiographical that they approach the same point from the opposite direction; and of Shakespearean biography that carries an unsloughable burden of rumour and tradition.

Does that make sense? It's all a put-on, trying to make a grander statement about the nature of biography rather than saying anything genuine about Marlowe and/or Shakespeare.

I tried to read it as yet another Marlowe fiction, but that proved difficult because Bolt imitates the biographical genre so well. And even then, it took a while to win me over. For the first hundred or so pages, I alternately loved and hated the book, and it gave me a serious case of whiplash as I flipped between the two emotions and fought the urge to fling the book against the wall and forget it.

But how can you not appreciate a book which frequently footnotes a work titled Cum Grano Salis? Or get a load of the "recent rediscovery of a curious piece of late sixteenth-century pornography, First suckes at the breast of Venus (Usually known as First suckes, with, of course, the common Elizabethan s/f visual pun. The work has only recently come to light, in the pristine possession of the American collector Julius Marx)." Now that's comedy.

But even though some of the gags were obvious, the manner in which the book was written kept me guessing. I'm not sure I'd recommend this book to anyone not already familiar with the known facts about Marlowe's and Shakespeare's lives. I at least had the advantage of having read enough other biographies to recognize what was well-accepted and what was Bolt's inventions. But I still found myself checking his notes on material too good to be true...

Hint for telling truth from fiction: all footnotes are false; accurate explanations in the endnotes only.

In conclusion: It's a brilliant and funny pastiche, but not for amateurs or the unwary.

BTW: Get a load of this Amazon review by someone who doesn't get the joke.

I think I may write a rebuttal review on Amazon, just to set the facts straight...

Meanwhile, Oh cool! the Letters of William Herle: " intelligencer and diplomat for the Elizabethan court, written over the period 1559-88" via Philobiblon



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