Monday, October 24, 2005

Marabou—Atlantis—Wodehouse—The Uke

A poem from Jane Yeh's fantastic new collection, Marabou, appeared in The Guardian recently—have a look!

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If you enjoyed J.M. Tyree's Believer piece on Ignatius Donnelly, author of Atlantis and dedicated Shakespeare cipherologist, I recommend Wodehouse's "The Reverent Wooing of Archibald," from Mr. Mulliner Speaking. In order to woo Aurelia Cammerleigh, Archibald tries cozying up to her aunt, who's obsessed with proving that Bacon was Shakespeare. The hilarious passage toward the end reminds me of nothing so much as Golescu's display of trivia-spouting ambidexterity in Charles Portis's Masters of Atlantis—another book I heartily recommend to anyone with an interest in occult knowledge (and its lampooning).

Scooping him up and bearing him off into the recesses of the west wing, she wedged him into a corner of a settee and begann to tell him all about the remarkable discovery which had been made by applying the Plain Cipher to Milton's well-known Epitaph on Shakespeare [...]

'As in the Plays and Sonnets,' said the aunt, 'we substitute the name equivalents of the figure totals.'

'We do what?'

'Substitute the name equivalents of the figure totals.'

'The which?'

'The figure totals.'

'All right,' said Archibald. 'Let it go. I daresay you know best.'

The aunt inflated her lungs.

'These figure totals,' she said, 'are always taken out in the Plain Cipher, A equalling one to Z equals twenty-four. The names are counted in the same way. A capital lettter with the figures indicates an occasional variation in the Name Count. For instance, A equals twenty-seven, B twenty-eight, until K equals ten is reached, when K, instead of ten, becomes one, and T instead of nineteen, is one, and R or Reverse, and so on, until A equals twenty-four is reached. The short or single Digit is not used here. Reading the Epitaph in the light of the Cipher, it becomes: "What need Verulam for Shakespeare? Francis Bacon England's King be hid under a W. Shakespeare? William Shakespeare. Fame, what needst Francis Tudor, King of England? Francis. Francis W. Shakespeare. For Francis thy William Shakespeare hath England's King took W. Shakespeare. Then thou our W. Shakespeare Francis Tudor bereaving Francis Bacon Francis Tudor such a tomb William Shakespeare." '

The speech to which he had been listening was unusually lucid and simple for a Baconian, yet Archibald, his eye catching a battle-axe that hung on the wall, could not but stifle a wistful sigh.

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Speaking of Atlantis, I'm not convinced there wasn't an Atlantis, or a Lemuria, or in general island continents that have since been lost to the sea. The tsunami and the multitude of hurricanes this year make disappearance by water seem perfectly possible. Then again, a couple months ago I was entertaining doubts about evolution, so maybe just bear with me for a bit. (N.B.: I do not subscribe to intelligent design!)

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Speaking of Mr. Mulliner Speaking: In "The Man Who Gave Up Smoking," our narrator gives us one Ignatius (!!) Mulliner, an artist whose daily schedule involves painting, proposing to a woman named Hermione, and playing his ukulele.

Coincidentally—this morning Dizzyhead Euge sent over a link in which the wizardly Jake Shimubukuro performs "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" on the uke. Jaw-dropping and very lovely. It's also muy conceptual—a song about a guitar, played on an instrument other than a guitar!

Apparently he was on Conan earlier this month, and he's supposed to play in New York again this Thursday.


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