I’m right in the middle of reading the great historical whodunit, medieval mystery, Dominican detective novel The Name of the Rose. In part, it’s a book about books. “Books always speak of other books, and every story tells a story that has already been told,” says William of Baskerville, a surely Sherlockian character to his Watson, Adso. Curiosity has been killing certain illuminatiors one of whom is guilty of drawing diabolic doodles in the margins of his manuscript.
…I know what torment it is for the scribe, the rubricator, the scholar to spend the long winter hours at his desk, his fingers numb around the stylus (when even in a normal temperature, after six hours of writing, the fingers are seized by the terrible monk’s cramp and the thumb aches as if it had been trodden on). And this explains why we often find in the margins of a manuscript phrases left by the scribe as testimony to his suffering (and his impatience), such as “Thank God it will soon be dark,” or “Oh, if I had a good glass of wine,” or also “Today it is cold, the light is dim, this vellum is hairy, something is wrong.” As an ancient proverb says, three fingers hold the pen, but the whole body works. And aches.
-Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
I was reading another hypertext when I came across another reference to these complaints and doodles. Here is a little article on this very subject from a new issue of Lapham’s Quarterly. It’s worth a look.
Mary Lee called me at nine on Saturday morning with an idea. Why don’t I come for a visit in Verona for the night? She and Doug visit Italy every year and at Christmas time we had talked about meeting here in Florence, but when it came right down to it it made more sense for me to head north to visit them and stay at the apartment they rent there. I’m glad I did!
As we were walking up a narrow street from their apartment to the Castel San Pietro it stuck me that I was already familiar with the color and mood of the city, I remembered from seeing so many of Doug’s paintings. I saw scraps of them all over. Arches, scrolls, columns, vines, washes of rich color; nothing is hidden but it all exists behind a diffused veil of light that makes it impossible to grab hold of.
This delightful little chart popped up on Boingboing a few weeks ago. It was one of the first things I remember learning about chickens when my mother decided to start raising them. The illustrator got the self-satisfaction of the hen just right. Click to make it a little bigger.
This Sunday a few of us went to a performance in the small Tuscan town Bucine. My friend Casey took us. He knew the guy who was performing and operated the lights. The performance was OK, what I really enjoyed was the countryside. Gene and I played Durak on the train ride there, te stars were out in full force, and the aperitivo in Montevarchi was glorious.