Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Christie all the way

DG reader RPS got me all revved up about Dame Agatha Christie by responding to a recent post about writers' typewriters. Following the trail of suggested links produced these two great images. In the one below, the “Queen of Crime” sets a new Guinness world record for the thickest book. All of the Miss Marple tales (12 novels and 20 short stories) appear in one 4,032-page volume, with a spine 12.6 inches thick.
If you're on the lookout for choice Christie titles, here's a shortlist I pulled together a while ago for the Daedalus Facebook page.

On Agatha Christie's 120th birthday, The Guardian's John Curran put forth a list of his personal Top 10 titles by the world's bestselling novelist. I immediately secured five of the ones I hadn't read (or seen an adaptation of) and had myself a jolly little Agatha-fest. Poirot and his sidekick Captain Hastings starred in many of them, including 1975's exceedingly poignant (and dramatic) Curtain: Poirot's Last Case. Christie wrote it during World War II and had it held back until just before her own death. Here are the others:
1. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926)
A village murder mystery and then some, featuring Poirot and a stunning ending.
2. Peril at End House (1932)
Another Poirot and another corker of an ending. The clues are tremendously ingenious as well.
3. Murder on the Orient Express (1934)
An international cast of perplexing suspects is no match for Poirot, who reveals yet another surprise ending.
4. The ABC Murders (1935)
Poirot vies with a canny serial killer, but his "little grey cells" ultimately prevail.
5. And Then There Were None (1939)
Ten people with shady pasts are invited to an island and are murdered one by one in this superb combination of thriller and detective story.
6. Five Little Pigs (1943)
In this Rashomon-like novel, five characters tell Poirot their interpretation of events as he attempts to help a daughter obtain posthumous justice for a mother convicted of murder.
7. Crooked House (1949)
One of Christie's own favorites, this one is particularly creepy and was frowned on by her publishers. She employs her frequent device of a nursery rhyme and casts her detective as a suitor to one of the family members who live in the house.
8. A Murder Is Announced (1950)
In the village of Chipping Cleghorn—where Miss Marple happens to be visiting—a murder is predicted in the local paper's ads. Set in post-war Britain, this was Christie's 50th title, and her spinster heroine reigns supreme.

9. Endless Night (1967)
Writes John Curran: "Working-class Michael Rogers tells the story of his meeting and marrying Ellie, a fantastically rich American heiress. As they settle in their dream house in the country, it becomes clear that not everyone is happy for them. A very atypical Christie, this tale of menacing suspense builds to a horrific climax and shows that even after 45 years she had not lost the power to confound her readers. The best novel from her last 20 years."

Which are your favorite Christies? I recently read 1973's  Postern of Fate, in which Tommy and Tuppence are grandparents retiring to the country. It was almost all dialogue, with a canny grasp of the way people actually speak: lots of repeating what the other person said and beating about the the bush.
Left: T&T in their first appearance, 1923. Other images from facsimiledustjackets.com.
Guess what? I just looked and we currently have six of these titles in uniform hardback editions, as well as many other great Christie mysteries for less than $5 each. Even I am impressed!

Monday, January 30, 2012


Odred Weary, Drew Dogyear, Regera Dowdy: these were some of the pseudonymous anagrams used by Edward St. John Gorey, a fantastical personage as likely as not to show up at his beloved ballet in one of the massive fur coats that recurringly adorned his dapper men-about-town. Gorey's books are coveted, both out of print and not, whether written or decorated himself or illustrated for another writer. An example of the latter is 1961's Scrap Irony by Felicia Lamport (left and below). She wrote the satiric verses; he provided the inimitable artwork.
Abe Books currently has a worthy profile called The Eerie Glory of Edward Gorey, complete with a video on one of his most outré titles: The Recently Deflowered Girl, written under the pseudonym Hyacinthe Phypps. (It is viewable as a scanned pdf here.)
And Daedalus? We have Edward Gorey Cats and Dogs Postcards. Because some gentlemen and ladies still send billets-doux, and such.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Victorian mashup

More than a few Victorian women found an outlet for both their artistic and anarchic sensibilities in turning the ladylike domain of scrapbooking on its head. Way before the Surrealists and the resources of Photoshop manipulation, they produced these fetchingly subversive images, which come from an exhibit on the subject at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Foto funnies

Lady Gaga's grand-mère?
"Why, thank you; I am rather proud of my ottoman/chapeau combo."
"You don't mess with me; I don't mess with you."
Descending order of ascending woe.
Too bad both the language and stamps are obsolete!
See ya tomorrow!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Find your type

If, dear reader, you also sometimes pause whilst reading to gaze in wonder and admiration at the beauty of the letterforms, you will likewise be besotted by the 1912 American Type Founders specimen book, a digital copy of which is currently on display on the Internet Archive. This 1300-page tome contains hundreds of typefaces as well as wonderful display ads showing how they can be used by the designer. True typographic bliss!

Very art nouveau
These cuts are denoted as "large lady speakers" ... how progressive!
All hail the national pastime!
If this typographic bounty has whetted your alphabetical appetite, mosey over to our website for Type and Typography: Highlights from Matrix, the Review for Printers and Bibliophiles!

As always, we welcome comments. Blogger can be a bit obstructive with trying to get you to sign in, but going the easy way and commenting as Anonymous is totally fine!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

"Hidden" mothers

Shown on the "Hidden Mothers" Flicker group and on How to Be a Retronaut are these oddball studio photographs from days of yore. To keep their progeny steady and secure during the long process (slow shutter speeds), the maters would secure themselves under draperies, with results so ungainly that one wonders why the subterfuge was preferable to just having ma in the shot!

Hundreds of fascinating vintage photos are also collected in Working Stiffs: Occupational Portraits in the Age of Tintypes and America and the Tintype. An affordable alternative to the daguerreotype and the albumen print, these unique images were the 19th century's Polaroids.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Typewriters and the authors who loved them

Penguin Press's webpage featured this poster. Hey, couldn't they find one from Martha Gellhorn? How about Dorothy Parker, guys?
Dorothy Parker at work
[Addendum: An alert reader steered us to these shots of Agatha Christie, one of our (and most mystery readers') favorite authors.]

The works of Edgar Allen Poe are depicted in this sample from Flavorwire of fingernail painting in homage to favorite authors.

Well, it's less permanent than tattooing, and you have to admit it's eye-catching. Below, a good way for Harry Potter fans to remember their spells. Expecto patronum!

European hoopoe
Update on the Audubon rare book sale: the bidding peaked at $7.9 million at auction in New York City to a private American collector. Francis Wahlgren, Christie's international head of books and manuscripts, said this was the third-highest price ever paid for a printed book at auction.