And Whether Pigs Have Wings | Newberry

And Whether Pigs Have Wings

For the second time this year, someone has donated a rather negligible little children’s book from 1928, Ethel Clere Chamberlin’s Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax. I notice this because I read this book repeatedly when a small child myself: it is a book of trivial factoids from history—stories about the history of spoons, for examples, or shoes, or sealing wax—and what effect this had on my young imagination I hesitate to ponder.

However, as you ought to know, the title comes from the opening of The Walrus aand the Carpenter: “The time has come’, the Walrus said, ‘To speak of many things: of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings.” We had a copy of O/ Henry’s Of Cabbages and Kings come in, but not in the same load as Ethel’s book.

We’ve had a number of interesting things arrive in the past week which, by themselves, are not necessarily worthy of a whole blog, nonetheless ought to be brought to your attention, either as an enticement to come shop next month, or as a grim warning. I was rather touched by that pagelong inscription you wrote to your brother on the front flyleaf of the book you said really helped you deal with your mutual parent’s death but, um, Ernie was either not impressed enough to keep the book, or never read past that page before he passed the book along. You folks DO need to take a quick look at books before you donate them. We could probably sell that business card for the shop specializing in, er, rather esoteric fashion accessories, but you might regret having included a receipt.

On the other hand, we all liked the inscription on one book in that vast collection of children’s books. You don’t mention exactly what the occasion was (if it was your birthday, perhaps you felt that since you knew that already you didn’t need to write it down) but you wrote your name in the book and added “Name written in this book August 7, 1932. Went to a ballgame in the afternoon.” That sets exactly the right tone for the volume involved, and may well be the point which tempts a hesitant buyer to plunk down cash.

I am not alone in feeling that any book called In Praise of Folly ought to be funnier, but Erasmus is a giant name in western philosophy and I am not. In 1925, a Chicago publisher added some cartoonish illustrations to try to give it more of an air of fun. The book, though a limited edition, is not a limited edition that’s worth much. Some of the illustrations, though, are by one Anthony Angarola, a Chicago artist whose artwork for one of Ben Hecht’s novels went a long way to getting Hecht arrested. (On seeing an article about Ben Hecht’s early novels, someone asked me, “Why is that man hugging that tree?” “That’s not EXACTLY what he’s doing,” was all I needed to say.)

I find that Mr. Angarola was really making a name for himself when he was killed in a traffic accident. He is remembered because members of his family went on to various sorts of fame (his son was one of those characters actors you saw on virtually every television show in the sixties and seventies, and a grandson became an artist) AND because he has the distinction of being twice mentioned as an artist of note in the horror stories of H.P. Lovecraft. That’s more than Thomas Kinkade could say.

One of you sent us the Mensch On the Bench (a parody of the Elf On the Shelf), and someone sent us a book safe which is actually fitted out like a jewelry box inside, and somebody dropped off a humorous English-English dictionary with an inscription mildly salacious but only if you catch the pun (you can train up for that: after all, seven days without puns make one weak, as someone told me today. I think I can hide the body until after the Book Fair.)

And there’s the book signed by Shirley Temple, and the other book safe which might be worth millions if we could figure what bank has the safe deposit box this key fits, and…what?

No, dadgum it. Not a single person has donated any sealing wax. Or a ship. Somebody did drop off one shoe. THAT was aggravating. You know we all hate waiting for the other shoe to drop…off.

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