Posts filed under “Books & Literature”
In his recent article about finding Shakespeare in Pennsylvania Dutch, Dr. Boli speculated on an alternate universe in which the Articles of Confederation failed and Pennsylvania Dutch had become the official language of the independent Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Then he was foolish enough to add,
We have just described the least successful alternate-history novel ever. Although, curiously enough, in an alternate universe where everyone is thoroughly sick of reading about alternate universes in which the Nazis won the Second World War, that book is a big seller.
A distinguished novelist who has left occasional comments here for many years replied,
That was my novella, “The Forest of Time” (Analog, Jun 87)
—which, of course, was enough to make Dr. Boli ashamed of himself, because artistically the novella is not unsuccessful at all. It is quite good, and it does indeed take place in a world where the Articles of Confederation failed and Pennsylvania Dutch has become the official language of the independent Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The only criticism that might be ventured against the story is that it needs more Nazis.
It is a principle of all large collections of books that you can find anything as long as you are not looking for it. As example and sufficient proof of the principle, here is Shakespeare in Pennsylvania Dutch:
Gloster. — Now is der winter fun unser unru
Glorreich g’maucht by der sun fun Yorrick;
Un all de wulka os ivver unserm house waura.
Sin deef in de sæ ni fergrawa.…
Was anyone looking for that? No; but once it is found (in “Rauch’s Pennsylvania Dutch Hand-Book,” published in 1879), it becomes clear that it needed to be found.
In an alternate universe where the Articles of Confederation failed, and the English colonies became a string of independent republics along the Atlantic, Pennsylvania Dutch occupies almost exactly the same place in Pennsylvania that Afrikaans occupies in South Africa. We have just described the least successful alternate-history novel ever. Although, curiously enough, in an alternate universe where everyone is thoroughly sick of reading about alternate universes in which the Nazis won the Second World War, that book is a big seller.
A page from the Bible, translated into Latin from the original Irish.
What question do you have about history? No matter: there is one answer: the Irish.
Who founded civilization? The Irish.
Who wrote the Bible? The Irish.
Who discovered America? The Irish.
Who built the Pyramids in Egypt? The Irish.
Who built any random landmark of ancient architecture you can think of? The Irish.
What people were once the rulers and masters of the whole earth? The Irish.
We have all these answers because of a book that, unaccountably, has not reached the attention of mainstream academic historians, but appears to be enjoying a resurgence of popularity among alternative historians, by which Dr. Boli means historians who are wrong. The book is Irish Wisdom Preserved in Bible and Pyramids, by Conor MacDari, and the title already hints at the riches inside. For more hints, here are some of the chapter titles:
The Compact of Rome and England for the Conquest of Ireland
The Bible an Irish Book Altered and Adapted by British-Roman Transcribers
Hebrew a Sacerdotal Dialect Improvised from the Irish Language for the Secret Use of the Priests
The Irish the First Cultural Nation, the Earliest Missionary Teachers, and the Great Temple Builders of the Ancient World
The Four-Pyramid Group and Sphinx, Designed and Erected to Symbolize Man
Every Irish priest is in on the conspiracy to keep the Irish people in the dark about their true history. You want proof? The author has proof:
The writer, in discussing matters with a priest, happened to refer to Irish literature. He said, “The Irish have no literature.” When asked why, he answered, “I cannot speak. My lips are sealed.” We are satisfied that Irish Roman Catholic priests have always been aware of this fraud.
How can you argue with proof like that? We have a second-hand report of an Irish priest who flat-out didn’t say that there was a mighty conspiracy! If you demand more proof than that, you simply do not understand how mighty conspiracies work.
It was very annoying to Dr. Boli that, although many reprint publishers offer facsimiles of this book for sale, he could not find it in any of the usual on-line libraries—except in the form of a very ugly PDF created by some user from a text file and uploaded to the Internet Archive. And thank you to that user, by the way, because even an ugly PDF took a good bit of work, and an ugly PDF is much better than no copy at all.
It is an old cliché to say that following a certain doomed endeavor is like watching a train wreck. But following the reasoning in this book is like watching two trains collide on a high bridge that is simultaneously blown up by anarchists while being hit by a tornado. It is, in other words, a spectacle not to be missed.
This book has inspired Dr. Boli to begin a page in his Eclectic Library devoted to what is euphemistically described as “alternative history,” but which Dr. Boli prefers to call Wrong History.
Rhinorrhea (noun).—The recurring nightmare of the veterinarian at the zoological park.
Digitalis (noun).—A syndrome of unknown etiology in which electronic devices fail in rapid succession when exposed to the patient.
A listing in Google Books:
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, recited into a Dictaphone, applied as a wallpaper pattern, etched in pewter, translated into Latin hexameters, spelled out in cupcakes, mumbled in a monotone under your breath, scrawled on the side of a goat, tapped out in Morse code in your lonely cell in solitary confinement, or skywritten without a note from your mother.
Recently Dr. Boli began the arduous task of adding the series Rerum Britannicarum Medii Aevi Scriptores to his Eclectic Library. It is arduous because there are at least 99 parts in the series, and many of the parts are themselves sets of multiple volumes, and most on-line-libraries have no notion of how to deal with multiple-volume sets. Hathi Trust can deal with them if they are all from the same library’s collection, but the most complete set at Hathi Trust is missing many of the volumes, and Hathi Trust books are restricted in their use in ways that books from Google Books and the Internet Archive are not.
These bibliographical complaints, however, are not our subject today. The subject is the names of the editors, and occasionally of the authors. A large number of nineteenth-century English scholars bore names that Dr. Boli finds himself wishing he had invented for some work of fiction. Here is a short list of such names. In each case it would be worth writing a novel just for the purpose of including a character with that name.
Sir Travers Twiss
The Rev. Walter Waddington Shirley
John Eyton Bickersteth Mayor
The Rev. Oswald Cockayne (editor of Leechdoms, Wortcunning, and Starcraft of Early England, which would certainly figure in the novel)
Sir Thomas Duffus Hardy
The Rev. John Williams ab Ithel
N. E. S. A. Hamilton
The Rev. James F. Dimock
Reginald Pecock, D.D., sometime Lord Bishop of Chichester
The Rev. Francis Charles Hingeston
Edward Edwards (we would make him Edward E. Edwards, and he would reveal near the end of the story that the E stands for Ethelbrecht)
And, of course, the constantly mutating publisher Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans [sic], & Roberts; Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts; Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, and Green; &c. This would be what the photoplay writers call a running gag.
The answer to yesterday’s challenge is…
A one-volume open-source edition of Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica.
Of course it makes complete sense once you know the answer. Somewhere in the vast forest of the Summa you know there must be all the information you need to understand the conspiracy of Jimmy Carter, Lee Harvey Oswald, and the Templars to channel orgone energy via Tesla technology to kill Tupac.