Lifelong Dewey

Reading through every Dewey Decimal section.

Category: 820s

822: Shakespeare is Hard, But So Is Life by Fintan O’Toole

DDC_822

822.33: O’Toole, Fintan. Shakespeare is Hard, But So Is Life: A Radical Guide to Shakespearean Tragedy. London: Granta, 2002. 162 pp. ISBN 1-86207-528-X.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 820: English and Old English literatures
  • 822: English drama
  • 822.3: Drama of the Elizabethan Period, 1558-1625
  • 822.33: William Shakespeare

I’m a firm believer that if you are a reader of English, you need to get at least one Shakespeare play under your belt as an adult. High schools trot out Shakespeare and try to make students understand it, but they’re basically brain damaged until the age of 25 (talk to any neuroscientist, they’re with me on this). If you’ve read one and don’t enjoy it, well, that’s fine by me, but don’t immediately dismiss the idea altogether. Fintan O’Toole’s Shakespeare Is Hard, But So Is Life is an ardent attempt to get people who would normally write off Shakespeare as oblique and antiquated to approach it in terms that they’ll understand.

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823: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

DDC_823

823.8: Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest, 1987. 270 pp. ISBN 0-89577-277-9.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 820: British and Old English literatures
  • 823: British fiction
  • 823.8: 1837-1899

Sherlock Holmes is one of the many iconic figures in literature. So much so that he has migrated into movies and television as well. Appearing first in 1887, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle spent forty years crafting the persona of Holmes along with his trusty sidekick Dr. John Watson. The mysteries span four full-length novels and 56 short stories. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes covers 12 stories originally published in Strand magazine from July 1891 to June 1892.

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827: The Foolish Dictionary by Gideon Wurdz

DDC_827

827: Wurdz, Gideon. The Foolish Dictionary. Boston: The Robinson, Luce Company, 1904. 150 pp.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 820: English and Old English literatures
  • 827: English humor and satire

In the same vein as Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary and other humorous compilations, Gideon Wurdz’s Foolish Dictionary is collection of witty definitions and word origins for the masses. Gideon Wurdz (read as “giddy on words”) is the pseudonym of Charles Wayland Towne, who wrote a few others like this, including Foolish Finance and Foolish Etiquette. His quick quips are pretty lame as far as modern humor goes, but many of the entries are good for a chuckle or two even if his faux etymologies are a bit strained. Of greater interest with this book was the experience of reading a volume that was over 100 years old and to see the marginalia and the illustrations of the day.

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824: Thomas Carlyle by Fred Kaplan

DDC_824

824.8: Kaplan, Fred. Thomas Carlyle: A Biography. New York: Open Road, 2013. 604 pp. E-book.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 820: British literature
  • 824: British essays
  • 824.8: Victorian period, 1837-1899

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) was a man always in revolution. He revolted against the religion of the day, against the industrialist and capitalist social structure, and against the idea that a lifelong marriage should be intensely and continuously happy. He was an ardent Calvinist, but struggled with many accepted religious truths. He championed the introduction of German Romantic literature to the British and penned a masterful history of the French Revolution. He was irascible and crotchety, but many flocked to his ideas. Fred Kaplan’s Thomas Carlyle is a unique and thorough biography of this ideological pioneer.

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820: Sacred Tears by Fred Kaplan

DDC_820

820.9: Kaplan, Fred. Sacred Tears: Sentimentality in Victorian Literature. Open Road, 2013. E-book.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 800: Literature
  • 820: British literature in English
  • +.9: Historical treatment

Anyone who has read any Victorian literature know that there is no shortage of emotion. Women faint, men become apoplectic, and everybody’s feelings are visible on their sleeves. While discussing each other’s works, authors in 19th century England began to put a name to this element—sentiment. There is no single way to define it. Fred Kaplan’s Sacred Tears: Sentimentality in Victorian Literature does, however, try to synthesize all the various arguments surrounding this feature to give us a window into both the literature and the lives of the time.

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821: Very Bad Poetry by Kathryn and Ross Petras

821.008: Petras, Kathryn and Ross Petras, eds. Very Bad Poetry. New York: Vintage Books, 1997. 123 pp. ISBN 0-679-77622-2.

Dewey Construction:

  • 800: Literature
  • 820: British literature
  • 821: British poetry
  • 821.008: Collections of British poetry by more than one author.

Almost everyone, at some time or another, has fancied themselves a poet. Millions of teenagers sulk in their bedrooms and call out histrionically to their muse so that they can profess their undying love, their unmitigated hatred, or their unending ennui with the universe. Adjective upon adjective and detail upon detail use up precious ink supplies as worn notebooks are filled with horrible verse.

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829: Beowulf

829.3: Beowulf. Translated by Seamus Heaney. London: Faber and Faber, 1999. 99 pp. ISBN 0-571-20342-6.

British literature makes up the 820s in the Dewey, but most of it is reserved for literature written in Modern English. When you encounter literature originally written in Old English (or Old Anglo-Saxon), then it goes into 829. Since there’s not really many works from that age, each poet or author gets their own special billing. Works on Beowulf or by the Beowulf poet (nobody knows the poet’s name) have exclusive rights to 829.3.

THE REPORT

This book is a translation of the 3,000 line poem written sometime between the seventh and tenth century CE. The author does not have a name as often referred to as “the Beowulf poet”. There have been numerous translations. I’m pretty sure that if you’re an Old English scholar, you have to produce a translation as a rite of passage.

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