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The First Four Folios and The Tragedy of Macbeth

October 29, 2015

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

I’m pretty sure my earliest memory of Shakespeare is reciting as ghoulishly as possible this spooky incantation by the Three Witches in Macbeth. We were no doubt a menacing bunch of second graders- absent front teeth, scraped up knees- fully committed to making each other squirm with all that talk of eye of newt and tongue of dog.

It’s believed that Macbeth was written by Shakespeare in 1606. While reading the play, I have to remind myself that witchcraft was taken very seriously in England during Shakespeare’s age. Evidence of sorcery was a capital offence punishable by hanging, burning, or drowning. Gulp. James I, then the new King of England, and patron of Shakespeare’s acting company, had even written a book titled Demonology.

When Shakespeare died in 1616 at 52, only half of his plays had been printed. These small, one-play editions are called quartos. Macbeth was not among them. It, along with 17 others, debuted in the First Folio of 1623. The printing of the First Folio, a large memorial volume of his complete works, was arranged by his friends and associates to honor the late bard. The success of the First Folio led to the printing of a Second Folio with minor corrections nine years later. In 1663, a Third Folio added many new plays, most of which were falsely attributed to Shakespeare. The Third Folio is quite scarce because a large number of copies were destroyed in the great fire of London in 1666. Finally, a Fourth Folio, also including the spurious plays, appeared in 1685.

At Central Library, our Rare Books and Special Collections department holds a copy of Original Leaves from the First Four Folios of the Plays of William Shakespeare: 1623, 1632, 1663, 1685 (RB-X Oversize 822.33 G.) This volume from 1935 was published by the Grabhorn Press, a late San Francisco-based arts and crafts printing shop. In addition to the original leaves, an entertaining introduction written by Edwin Eliott Willoughby recounts the labyrinthine saga behind these early printings. Willoughby was the Chief Bibliographer at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. from 1935 until his retirement in 1958.

The first three folios in our edition are represented by pages from Love’s Labour’s Lost, Richard II, and Julius Caesar, respectively. Which brings me back to Macbeth, our Fourth Folio page. Yesterday I realized our particular leaf contains Act 4, Scene 2 from Macbeth, which features the heinous stabbing death of Macduff’s small son and implicit murder of his wife.

He has kill’d me, Mother,
Run away, I pray you.

Jeepers. Beginning in January, in observance of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, several First Folios owned by the Folger Shakespeare Library will tour the country. While SLPL is not a stop, rest assured something wicked this way comes from your local Special Collections. Call 314-539-0370 to make an appointment today to see our original leaves. Boo!

Parlor Dramas and Scrapbook Dreams

December 22, 2014

– South Side Journal, Wed. Sept. 3, 1969 –

113-Year-Old Book Back at Library After 90 Years

Let me see here, I thought, as my fingers examined the shelf of well-worn titles. Aided by an imaginary sleuthing cap, I’d taken it upon myself to prowl the lengthy 3M level of Central Library’s stacks. I was on a mission. 793.1 Fitzgerald, 793.1 Flexner, 793.1 Fogerty… sure enough 793.1 Fowle. There it was, Parlor Dramas, or, Dramatic Scenes, for Home Amusement, the book I’d first read about in clippings from the Library’s 1969-1970 Scrapbook. Neatly tucked alongside its similarly Dewey classified brothers and sisters, William Bentley Fowle’s 1856 collection of amateur plays, half leather bound over marbled boards, was home where it belonged. That’s neat.

One would never suspect that Parlor Dramas’ whereabouts were unknown for 90 years. That’s an entire lifetime. And now, the newspaper articles recalling its unlikely return to St. Louis Public Library were written four and a half decades ago. Back in 1969, Parlor Dramas was discovered in San Antonio, Texas at a book fair held by the local chapter of Brandeis University National Women’s Committee. It was forwarded to Mrs. Samuel Kohn, the chairwoman of the St. Louis chapter, to be included at an upcoming antique show held at the old Arena annex on Oakland. Kohn decided instead to return it to our collection.

From what I can gather after sifting through the SLPL Archives, which we keep up here in Special Collections, Parlor Dramas went missing sometime before 1880. It is listed in the 1870 catalog just below an earlier Fowle book, the breathlessly baptized The Hundred Dialogues, New and Original; Designed for Reading and Exhibition in Schools, Academies, and Private Circles. It seems Hundred Dialogues disappeared off our shelves, too. I found a handwritten missing list from 1877, mistakenly referring to it as “500 Dialogues.” But that collection never made a headline-making comeback.

The archives, including the carefully assembled scrapbooks, date back to the beginnings of the library in 1865, when it was known as the Public School Library Society of St. Louis. We were originally a subscription library open only to paying members. Since joining Special Collections two years ago, I’ve regularly relied on and reveled in this treasury of manuscripts, correspondence, board meeting notes, etc. to answer reference questions and assist visiting researchers. I found myself especially taken with materials relating to former library head Aurthur Bostwick’s seven week trip to China in 1925. Sent by the American Library Association to promote public library development, Bostwick wrote affectionate daily letters to his wife Lucy, seemingly on whatever bits of paper he could find. A Chinese scholar I assisted earlier this year expressed to me just how important Bostwick’s tour was to the modernization of libraries in China. Trip… tour… whoops, back to Parlor Dramas!

I spent a few days reading the plays in Parlor Dramas and researching the pastime itself. Entertaining guests by putting on scripted productions with friends and family as actors was a popular Victorian Age form of home entertainment in both Great Britain and the United States. The contrived plots were often satirical spins on then-current events and characters were generally stereotypes. The affectations of social classes were treated with humor and scandal was common.

The soap opera-like tale “The Fugitive Slave” involves an ‘orphaned’ baby girl born into slavery, but raised by a Quaker family as their own daughter. However, secrets can’t be kept forever and on Marie Eugenie’s 18th birthday the inexplicable truth is revealed to all with oddly joyous results. Another play, “The Tea Party,” features stuffy society women, one of whom is seeking a domestic servant. Enter the unrefined Elsie McSnooksy, a new arrival from Ireland “seeking a place.” She’s not quite the “American girl” that Mrs. Hyson has in mind to serve “tay” at her gatherings.

I’ve thought about how out of place Parlor Games must have been after its magical mystery tour. It was now the very un-Victorian summer of 1969. Woodstock, the Stonewall Riots, and Apollo 11 were big stories on people’s lips and Puzo’s “The Godfather” and Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five” were on the library’s shelves. At least it made the paper.

I’m not sure why it meant so much to me that I found the darn book in its proper place. Items must come and go. We can’t keep everything. Am I woozy from the sentimental nature of the holidays and the approaching new year? Did the scrapbook from 1969 (the year I was born) evoke these emotions of nostalgia? I recently learned that Immanuel Kant, a major figure in modern philosophy, never journeyed from his hometown of Konigsberg, Prussia. Still, he’s remembered as one of history’s great thinkers. But, ringing in my head is a line from Whitman’s Song of Myself, “I tramp a perpetual journey.” I do know I would have been sorely disappointed had I not found Parlor Dramas.

But, it was home and has been for quite some time, and that’s neat.

After the Paunch Comes the Dance

August 11, 2014

English As She Is Spoke

Headquartered in Central Library’s Entertainment, Literature, and Biography Room, my esteemed and always engaging colleague, Sean Parada, is often seen heavily armed with Doc Savage pulps sandwiched between German poetry and early works of Jane Austen. Also in is haul is a notebook of inspiration, where he scratches his latest amusing ideas in the itty-bittiest penmanship I’ve ever seen. So when he clued me into the pure joy that is English as She is Spoke; or, A Jest in Sober Earnest I knew it would be worth my while.

First published in Paris in 1855 and reprinted numerous times, the unintentionally funny Portuguese to English conversational guide had me cackling once I got my hands on it. It seems the author, Pedro Carolino, had limited knowledge of English when he assumed the task of producing an English edition of a Portuguese to French phrasebook written by José da Fonseca. Carolino likely relied on a French-English dictionary rather than directly translating the Portuguese into English. If you’re not confused yet, you will be when you read the lists of “familiar” words, expressions, and dialogues in this delightful book. For me, it brings to mind the telephone game wherein a whispered phrase ultimately gets mangled as it passes from one person to the next. Here is just a sample:

Fishes and shell-fishes:
Large lobster
Dorado, Snail
A sorte of fish
Hedge hog

The chapter on familiar phrases is probably my favorite. Head scratching surreal highlights:

This girl have a beauty edge.
This ink is white.
He burns one’s self the brains.
I have mind to vomit.
I dead myself in envy to see her.
The thunderbolt is falling down.
Have you forgeted me?
Take care to dirt you self.

And can you imagine speaking in this manner to your barber? From Familiar Dialogues Part 1, With a hair dresser:

Master hair dresser, you are very lazy. You keep me back at home; i was to go out. If you not come sooner, i shall leave you to.
Sir, i did come in a hurry.
Yours razors are them well?
Yes, sir.
Look to not cup me.
Comb-me quickly; don’t put me so much pomatum. What news tell me? all hairs dresser are newsmonger.
Sir, I have no heared anything.

Finally, a few insightful adages from a chapter titled Idiotisms and Proverbs (really though, haven’t we heard these all too many times before?):

To craunch the marmoset.
To come back at their muttons.
He has a good beak.
After the paunch comes the dance.

The following editions of English as She is Spoke are available at Central Library. Digital copies of various printings can also be found online at both and Some are more complete than others. I hope you giggled as much as I did, I know Sean and I will be quoting from the book for years to come.

The New Guide of the Conversation in Portuguese and English in Two Parts / by Pedro Carolino; with an introduction by Mark Twain. (RB-K 469.83421) 1883.

English as She is Spoke; or, A Jest in Sober Earnest
/ by Pedro Carolino and José da Fonseca, Introduction by James Millington. (428.3469) 1884. This edition can be checked out.

English as She is Spoke; or, A Jest in Sober Earnest
/ by Pedro Carolino and José da Fonseca, introductions by Leslie Shepard and Millington. (RB-T T55 miniature) 1967.

Spectric Visions

May 3, 2014

The Spectra Hoax

The Spectra Hoax

Just as the colors of the rainbow recombine into a white light,- just as the reflex of the eye’s picture vividly haunts sleep,- just as the ghosts which surround reality are the vital part of that existence, so may the Spectric vision, if successful, prolong, and at the same time multiply the emotional images of the reader.
Anne Knish, 1916

A few months back while researching turn of the century St. Louis journal Reedy’s Mirror, I stumbled upon Spectricism, the ‘school’ of poetry whose nearly impenetrable verse briefly turned the American literary world on its head. The preface to Spectra: A Book of Poetic Experiments (811.52), quoted in part above, outlines the movement’s lofty philosophy. Hailing from unlikely Pittsburgh, the mysterious Spectral poets were tempestuous Budapest-born Anne Knish and her partner Emanuel Morgan.

Turns out these two wordsmiths didn’t exist. The Spectral poetry movement was an elaborate hoax perpetrated by Witter Bynner (Emanuel Morgan) and Arthur Davidson Ficke (Anne Knish), both accomplished traditional poets. Perturbed by the glut of elitist experimental free verse movements of the era, chiefly the Imagists, Bynner and Ficke chose to spoof them. Just months before the volume’s release, the men had holed up in a Moline, Illinois hotel for ten days with ten quarts of scotch and concocted the entire ruse. The ideology and poetry that emerged was pompous, absurd, and wonderfully spirited.

Reviews were mixed, but for the most part Spectricism was taken seriously by critics. Edgar Lee Masters and William Carlos Williams were admirers. Amusingly, Bynner himself was paid to review the work for the journal New Republic! He wrote “…whether or not there be meaning or magic in the book, I can promise that there is amusement in it and that it takes a challenging place among current literary impressionistic phenomena.” However, The Los Angeles Graphic charged that it was “Gibberish, written for one purpose only- to attract attention.”

The deception continued through World War I, in which both poets served, but seemed trivial given the gravity of the period. Finally, on April 26, 1918, Bynner was asked point blank during a lecture whether or not he and Ficke were the Spectral poets. He said yes.

A delightful book, The Spectra Hoax (811.52), written by William Jay Smith in 1961, recounts the prank through recollections by all the players involved. It is full of humorous tales regarding their attempts to bring other famous poets into the fold, keeping the scam alive amid growing suspicion, and the sting felt by those who were taken in by the con.

What I love the most about this story is the notion that the poetry of Morgan and Knish is unintentionally superior to that of Bynner and Ficke when writing as themselves. After the truth was exposed, critic Jerome Eddy wrote a letter to Reedy’s Mirror suggesting the “real Bynner and real Ficke” emerged because they were no longer censoring themselves, thus enabling them to write more freely and unrestrained. Freudian psychology at work. An excellent point was made by Jane Heap, of the Little Review, who wrote, “I confess to a deep ignorance of the nature of the hoax. If a man changes his name and writes better stuff, why does that make the public so ridiculous?”

I might have found the whole affair cruel had I been around at the time. People just want to fit in and feel a sense of belonging, don’t they? There have always been folks who find allure in snobbish exclusivity and that’s their right. Who decides what authentic art is, anyway? All fun questions to consider.

One can compare and contrast the work of Witter Bynner and Arthur Davidson Ficke with their pseudonyms here at SLPL. In addition to the Spectra book, we own many poetry volumes published under their real names, both before and after the hoax. Bynner even wrote another book as Emanuel Morgan in 1920 titled Pins for Wings. He once commented of his alter ego Morgan, “I find now I write like him without the slightest effort- I don’t know where he leaves off and I begin. He’s a boomerang!”

Opus 2

Is the antelope
Over the hills;
Is the wounded deer
Bleeding in rills;
Is the heavy bear
Tearing at meat;
Is the mastodon
Vanished complete…

And I am the stag with the golden horn
Waiting till my day is born.

Emanuel Morgan

Opus 200

IF I should enter to his chamber
And suddenly touch him,
Would he fade to a thin mist,
Or glow into a fire-ball,
Or burst like a punctured light-globe?
It is impossible that he would merely yawn and rub
And say – “What is it?”

Anne Knish

In Tune

March 15, 2014

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This is my first post since we found ourselves snowed/iced in during this bitterly cold Midwest winter! Although we’ve been busy in Special Collections working on both the online Culinary Exhibit and in the actual display in Central Library’s Great Hall, I’ve spent much of my downtime piddling with my new guitar playing the “video game” Rocksmith 2014.

While I own the PC edition seen in the photograph above, I searched the St. Louis Public Library catalog and discovered we have the XBOX version (794.8) at the Carpenter Branch. Cardholders can place a hold on any circulating item and have it sent to whichever branch is most convenient for pickup. I recommend checking out Rocksmith 2014 and giving it a whirl if you have access to an electric guitar or bass. The interface is similar to games like Rockband that were popular a few years back, however the difference is that you’re playing real notes and chords with a genuine instrument. It’s a fun tool for even a complete beginner, as it gets progressively more difficult or easier depending on your accuracy. Tracks by Oasis, Muse, Weezer, and Radiohead have been challenging favorites.

I also looked into books to brush up my admittedly modest skills on those many frosty evenings. Especially helpful was Ultimate Guitar Chord User’s Guide by Michael P. Wolfsohn (Oversize 787.871252). Diagrams are provided for the most basic to the most advanced chords. SLPL has extensive holdings of sheet music, as well. Anthologies from a wide variety of musical genres arranged for piano, vocal, and guitar are available. If country, jazz, or classical is more your thing, we’ve got you covered.

Even though it looks like we’ve thawed out for the time being, I won’t be putting down my guitar anytime soon, thanks in part to the many helpful items offered by our library.

Longfellow’s Hyperion: A Romance

January 17, 2014
Hyperion: A Romance

Hyperion: A Romance

Hyperion: A Romance by Henry W. Longfellow, illustrated with twenty-four photographs of the Rhine, Switzerland, and the Tyrol, by Francis Frith, London: 1865. RB-X Fic

He opened the window of the balcony to hear the rushing of the Rhine. It was a damp December morning; and clouds were passing over the sky,–thin, vapory clouds, whose snow-white skirts were “often spotted with golden tears, which men call stars.”

The first American novel illustrated with photographs, this unique edition of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Hyperion is a recent acquisition by St. Louis Public Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections department. The twenty-four remarkable albumen prints (a popular Victorian-era technique using an emulsion of egg whites and salt) peppered throughout the novel are the work of pioneering British photographer Frances Frith.

Among Longfellow’s earliest works, Hyperion was first published without photographs in 1839. Highly autobiographical and poorly received for the most part, the novel follows the travels abroad of Longfellow’s fictional persona, Paul Flemming, as he grieves over a lost friend and finds new love. Critic Edgar Allen Poe was especially dismissive of the prose work, insisting in an issue of Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine that Hyperion was “…without design, without shape, without beginning, middle, or end…” It’s safe to say Longfellow rebounded from the review, as he went on to become the most widely read and loved American poet of his time! I had some trouble with the sudden “huh?” ending myself, but enjoyed Flemming’s interactions with the local people and affectionate descriptions of the picturesque scenery.

Before penning Hyperion, Longfellow, in fact, was in mourning over the death of his first wife and did pursue a resistant new love while traveling through Germany, the Tyrol, and Switzerland. One imagines Longfellow, like Flemming, spent much of his time discussing Goethe and art with barons and professors, while gasping at gorgeous vistas. Flemming’s romance with the character Mary Ashburton was inspired by Longfellow’s seemingly unsuccessful courtship of Englishwoman Fanny Appleton. His ardent persistence did eventually win out and she agreed to marry him seven years later. Sadly, after many years of marriage and six children together, Fanny was killed in an accidental fire in which Longfellow was also badly burned.

A terrific addition to this edition is “The Artist’s Preface,” Francis Frith’s humble opening words to the volume. An accomplished travel photographer, famous for his images of Egypt and the Middle East, he was obviously concerned his work would not do justice to Longfellow’s exquisite verbal depictions. Especially fascinating to me are Frith’s comments regarding the many changes the landscape had undergone in the nearly thirty years between Longfellow’s journey and Frith’s photography. I can’t help but wonder what another 250 years have done to the castles, courtyards, valleys, and glaciers that made such an impression on Paul Flemming. Perhaps a journey by rail is in my future!

“Thither will I turn my wandering footsteps,” said he; “and be a man among men, and no longer a dreamer among shadows. Henceforth bemine a life of action and reality! I will work in my own sphere, nor wish it other than it is. This alone is health and happiness.
This alone is Life;
‘Life that shall send
A challenge to its end,
And when it comes, say, Welcome, friend!’…”

Longfellow's autograph in Special Collections

Longfellow’s autograph in Special Collections

Been a Long Lonely, Lonely, Lonely Time: Revisiting Creem Magazine

December 13, 2013

When Adele, SLPL’s resident Queen of Rock-n-Roll biographies, recommended I read the recent release Queens of Noise: The Real Story of The Runaways by Evelyn McDonnell (782.42166) she fondly reminisced on her first run-in with The Runaways in the pages of now-defunct Creem magazine, “I thought they were the coolest thing I’d ever seen, teenage girls with guitars.” I hadn’t thought about Creem in years, but did remember its infamous late editor and critic Lester Bangs and provocative underground comic artist Robert Crumb’s “Boy Howdy” mascot. As always, I looked to our online catalog to learn more and unearthed a bevy of Creem-related items. The volume to my classic rock brain has been turned up to 11 ever since.

An anthology of reprinted essays, album reviews, and photographs, Creem: America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine by Robert Matheu and Brian J. Bowe (Oversize 781.66) gave me a taste of what Creem was like in its heyday. Established in Detroit in the spring of 1969, Creem was an unabashedly bawdy alternative to Rolling Stone. Published through 1988, then briefly revived in the 90s, it was Creem writers who coined the terms “punk rock” and “heavy metal.” While popular bands The Stones, The Who, and Led Zeppelin were well-represented between Creem’s covers, albeit often irreverently, the magazine regularly showcased edgier performers like The New York Dolls, Lou Reed, and Roxy Music. Creem also gave significant exposure to Motor City acts such as Iggy and The Stooges and MC5. All are represented in Matheu and Bowe’s book.

An excerpt from the article, “Paul McCartney: The Walrus Was Paul” by Deday LaRene piqued my personal interest right away. I hadn’t realized that Creem was a key player in propagating the urban legend that “the cute Beatle” died in a fiery car crash in 1966 and the band had left dozens of hidden clues concerning his demise. Turns out, WKNR-FM in Detroit disc jockey Russ Gibb took a call from a college student named Tom in October of 1969 who instructed him to play The Beatles sound collage “Revolution 9” backwards which seemingly results in hearing “turn me on, dead man” when the phrase “number nine” is repeated. It’s a bit of a stretch if you’ve ever tried it, but radio station listener and University of Michigan student Fred LaBour ran with the story, concocting a preposterous plot which was published in the student newspaper, the Michigan Daily the following week. The hoax spread quickly as major news sources picked up on the rumor. The Creem article is from the November 1969 issue.

Here at Central Library we have a copy of Andru J. Reeve’s Turn Me On, Dead Man: The Complete Story of the Paul McCartney Death Hoax (782.42166) on the reference shelves of our Entertainment, Literature, and Biography room. Reeve’s thorough investigation includes an appendix titled “…Here’s Another Clue for You All…” which reveals seventy “signs” The Beatles supposedly buried in their songs and album covers. I’d gotten wind of the hoax when I was kid, recruiting my little brother Sean to assist my personal probe. Sleuthing tweens, we excitedly scrutinized our copy of Sergeant Pepper’s in our quest for the truth. The Aston Martin on the doll’s lap… check! The flower-adored burial of a left-handed bass … check! The “OPD” (Official Pronounced Dead) patch on Paul’s uniform… check! We especially delighted in holding a mirror up to the words “LONELY HEARTS” on the bass drum in hopes of reading “ONE HE DIE.” It’s there, sort of.

Further into the anthology is a tender Patti Smith essay titled “Jukebox Cruci-Fix” published in the June 1975 issue. Inspired by her visit to Jim Morrison’s grave in Paris, she writes of departed rock stars, “they didn’t slip their skins and split forever for us to hibernate in posthumous jukeboxes.” Smith also contributed album reviews to Creem, including Todd Rundgren’s A Wizard, A True Star and Velvet Underground’s 1969 Live, all before her legendary debut album Horses was released in December 1975. SLPL owns several books, audio books, and cds by and about Patti Smith.

Just this last May, the aforementioned awesome Adele and I saw Patti at the Contemporary Art Museum. She performed a variety of songs and read passages from Just Kids (B SMITH PATTI), her memoir about her relationship with late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe when they were struggling young artists. She possesses a unique raw genuineness and vulnerability. It was a lovely evening.

Gonzo music journalist Lester Bangs doesn’t have many pieces in the anthology, although his harsh August 1972 critique of the now-classic Exile on Main Street makes for quite a read. Bangs wrote, “This is at once the worst studio album the Stones have ever made, and the most maddeningly inconsistent and strangely depressing release of their career.” I mention this review because in January 1973, also in the pages of Creem, he revised his stance somewhat, writing “Exile is dense enough to be compulsive: hard to hear, at first, the precision and fury behind the murk ensure that you’ll come back, hearing more with each playing.” For Bangs, it seems, it was never as simple as saying “This record is good, you should buy it, or this one is crummy, don’t buy it.” I’m left with the sense he was consumed by an ongoing complicated love affair with 70s rock culture and its idols.

Nothing was more tumultuous than his relationship with his hero, recently departed Lou Reed. As documented in several articles in Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung: The Work of a Legendary Critic: Rock’N’Roll as Literature and Literature as Rock ‘N’Roll edited by Greil Marcus (784.54), the two men engaged in riotous verbal sparring, while seemingly never listening to a word the other said. My favorite bits “How to Succeed in Torture Without Really Trying” and “The Greatest Album Ever Made” center around Reed’s 1975 release Metal Machine Music, which is an hour of swarming feedback. It reminds me of a noisy dial-up modem that never connects. MMM proved unlistenable to many of Reed’s unprepared fans who immediately returned the double album to their local record store. It was pulled from stores after three weeks. Regardless of how you feel about the music, when Reed’s assertions that Beethoven and Mozart symphonies run throughout the record are met with Bangs’ unconvinced “Well then, how did you get those in there? With a pair of tweezers?” you can’t help but giggle.

A second showcase for Bangs’ gifted wordsmithing, Mainlines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste: A Lester Bangs Reader edited by John Morthland (781.6609) is also available at SLPL. To be perfectly honest, some of his essays are too coarse for my tastes, but his distinctive voice and sincerity make for fun reading.

The library is also an excellent resource to discover more about surrealist cartoonist Robert Crumb, who designed Creem icons “Boy Howdy” and “Mr. Dreamwhip” for 50 bucks. Best known for his “Keep On Truckin’” strip and the characters “Mr. Natural” and “Fritz the Cat,” Crumb also illustrated many album covers. We hold a wide variety of Crumb materials. I looked through several volumes of The Complete Crumb (741.5) which are available in Central Library’s Center for the Reader, home to popular fiction and graphic novels. If you’re in the mood for a movie, consider checking out Crumb, a 1994 documentary film available on DVD. It’s a candid portrait of the Crumb’s strange career and life, including his most unusual family.

I have barely scratched the surface in my little exploration into Creem, but have learned plenty. I’m walking away appreciating its wrong-side-of-the-tracks lowbrow appeal and complete lack of pretension. Always smart, but never snobby, Creem believed rock-n-roll was all about having fun and never took itself too seriously.


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