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jenn

Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

Battle of the Books

The Battle of the Books and other short pieces - Jonathan Swift, Henry Morley

I'm going to claim "read" on this one even though I haven't strictly read everything inside the covers.  I got through most of it, but after a rather arduous 30+ page rhyming poem, I couldn't make it much further though the rest (which was largely more poetry).

 

The book is cute, if anything over 140 years old can be said to be cute.  I bought it because I was charmed by the cover and the title and the old advertisements in the front and back cover ("To Mothers! Woodward's "Gripe Water' or Infants Preservative...") and really no bibliophile worth their salt could pass a story called "Battle of the Books".

 

Battle of the Books was, once I got past the archaic writing, clever and pretty epic for a short story.  It was written to be satiric, as a representation of the critical movement against the "Ancient Books" by literary critics of the age.  The battle is pitched at St. James' Library (I'm assuming once the library has closed for a good long weekend), with various deities finding it too irresistible not to choose sides, get involved, and make a mess.  

 

I won't tell you who won; that would be a spoiler.  I'd imagine that had I been a contemporary of Swift's (or just much better educated in literary criticism) the ending would have a deeper meaning that as it is, I can only guess at.  Still I enjoyed it - it was epic and fun even without all the insider's knowledge.

 

The next couple of stories are aimed squarely at almanac editors.  These were so acidly satiric they ceased to be 'funny' although the audacious claims remained amusing.  From there on, it's almost all poetry and most of it written as odes to the love of Swift's life, Stella.  Of them, the poem Baucis and Philemon firmly my favourite.