Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Recommended miscellany #1

Just plain recommendations today. At the greycat blog they just said extremely nice things about us, and I'd like to return the compliment by strongly recommending It's run by Dr Ralph Harrington, the author of one of the papers I mentioned in the recent Trains in literature, and showcases a varied set of research papers in what might classed as cultural history - topics at the crossover of technology, literature, architecture and sociology. I particularly like greycat's papers on the railways. The topic is rather tarred by its association with insightless Asperger-style focus on the technical detail; but these Victorian railway studies go deeper into what they meant culturally. Why were they described in biological metaphor? Why are engine-drivers so iconic? How did train travel shape the Victorian perception of time? How did the railways buy into the symbology of heraldry? What kind of aesthetics underly model railways? What was the cultural geography of the growing inter-war transport network? Just skimming the rest of the site, you find monster bulldozers, transport in LA, atomic advertising, MR James stories, the architecture of Dresden, 1930s kitchens, Anthony Burgess and Islam, English landscape gardening, the popular culture of Cold War submarines, and Alexander Pope. It's all fascinating; the only downside is that it contains so many interesting articles that now I'm going to have to annotate previous posts here.

A second recommendation: Aunt Violet's Book Museum (aka Violet Books). Run by co-curatrices Jessica Amanda Salmonson and Rhonda J Boothe, it's billed as "A Website About Collecting Antiquarian Supernatural, Fantasy & Mysterious Literatures, Vintage Westerns, Swashbucklers, & Juveniles. Just dipping into the essay list reveals a lovely range of eccentrically specific studies, many focused on Rider Haggard and many others on now-almost-unknown authors. Who has heard these days of Georgia Wood Pangborn, Frederick Stewart Greene or Emma-Lindsay Squier? Way way back I always enjoyed JAS's acerbic and dead sensible writing-related posts as "Paghat" on Usenet (what's Google Groups now), so check out also the sections On Writing & Editing and Essays on bookselling & booksellers, as they certainly tell it like it is...

- Ray

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