As mentioned in the previous post, the first line of Taka-chan and I is
Call me Runcible.
Which got us wondering: What are some other first lines that play off of Moby-Dick?
Call me Runcible. That is what my master calls me—and that is what Taka-chan called me from the time we first met.
I want to tell you about Taka-chan, how I found her on the other side of the earth. It is a strange story, almost like a dream, but who is to say what is a dream and what is real?
This might come as a surprise, but Taka-chan and I is was the first book we’ve published that was written by a dog. A Weimaraner named Runcible. And how did Runcible’s “master” come to call him by this strange name? A little knowledge of nonsense tell you that “runcible” (often “runcible spoon”) is a coinage of Edward Lear’s. In a recent post at vocabulary.com on words invented or popularized by children’s books, Ben Zimmer explains:
What is [the runcible spoon]? Some have suggested Lear made it up to sound like rouncival, an obsolete word meaning “gigantic, robust.” He later illustrated the runcible spoon as having a large round bowl (big enough for a “dolomphious duck” to catch a spotted frog in), but by the 1920s some had interpreted it to refer to a spoon-fork hybrid, much like the modern spork.
But more interesting was what they learned about his eating habits. For starters, no trace of animal flesh could be found amongst the bogman’s stomach contents—his last meal was entirely vegetarian. Even more peculiar, there were no green vegetables to be found—everything in his gut was either seed or grain.
After reading the poetic One Straw Revolution by the master Japanese farmer, Masanobu Fukuoka, Ahmed went one step beyond organic and tried to do low-intervention farming. The tea garden functions on minimal irrigation. They installed a plethora of plants next to the tea plants to feed and aerate the soil. What now exists is a breathtaking vision. The barren area has been transformed into an Eden with a resurgence of wildlife never seen before—recently, a pair of monkeys was spotted. The animals had not been seen in the area for decades.
It doesn’t happen very often, but I love it when I pick up a book simply planning to scan the first few pages and find myself still reading an hour later. It’s wonderful to get completely swept away, and I must say it was completely unexpected when I picked up anarchist Victor Serge’s Memoirs of a Revolutionary (Mémoires d’un révolutionnaire, 1951; tr. from the French by Peter Sedgwick with George Paizis; 2012). I don’t know why I expected this book to be somewhat dry; this is an NYRB Classic, after all, and one thing I’ve learned is that their books are first and foremost superbly written in a manner that utilizes language to capture the reader.
Not long ago I was given a book by Stefan Zweig, an Austrian, called Beware of Pity which is absolutely magnificent.
— Roy Hodsgon, new head coach of England’s football/soccer team currently in preparation for Euro Cup 2012 starting next month in Ukraine and Poland. In the United States, ex-Bulls and Lakers coach Phil Jackson was famous for giving his players books. But as far as we know, he never gave any of ours. Can’t quite see Zweig as an inspiration for football glory, but might be well suited for the current England squad.
In his youth, Monsieur was partial to battles. He would arrive rather late on the field, having got himself up to kill; painted, powdered, all his eyelashes stuck together; covered with ribbons and diamonds – hatless. He never wore a hat for fear of flattening his wig. Once in action he was as brave as a lion; only afraid of what the sun and dust might do to his complexion.
- some more from Nancy Mitford’s The Sun King, which published today. The monsieur in reference is Phillipe I, Duc d’Orléans, Louis XIV’s younger brother (it was traditional to call the younger brother of the king “Monsieur”). Another description from Mitford of the Monsieur: “In spite of being one of history’s most famous sodomites, Monsieur had two wives, a mistress and eleven legitimate children of whom seven died in infancy or were born dead; and he is the ‘grandfather of Europe.’” Makes the English monarchy look rather dull.
When Mme de Montespan and Louis XIV were known to be together behind these windows, the couriers would do anything sooner than pass underneath them—they called it going before the firing squad. Both she and the King frightened people; she was a tease, a mockingbird, noted for her wonderful imitations and said to be hard-hearted… . She received a message to say that her children’s house was on fire. As she was in Saint Germain-en-Laye and the house was in Paris there was nothing she could do about it—she remarked that no doubt it would bring the children luck and went on playing cards.
Today we publish Nancy Mitford’s The Sun King, the story of Louis XIV, the building of Versailles, and the court that lived there and surrounded him. Of course, as anyone who read our previous Mitford history, Madame de Pompadour, will know, there is no lack of court gossip. Written in a style that is distinctly Mitfordesque.
The Nesciobrug (Nescio Bridge) in Amsterdam is a pedestrian/cyclist bridge named for the author. It connects the suburb of IJburg to the city. Photo by Edgar Vonk, used under a Creative Commons license.
Damion Searls will be introducing the Dutch cult author Nescio to the West Coast this week.
Tuesday, May 8th at 7:00 pm
City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco
with Peter Orner
Wednesday, May 9th at 7:00 pm
Co-sponsored by Books Inc and Palo Alto City Library
City of Palo Alto Library — Downtown Branch
Thursday, May 10th at 7:30 pm
Mrs. Dalloway’s Bookstore, Berkeley
with Jeroen Dewulf, Director of Dutch Studies Program, UC-Berkeley