Sunday, July 23, 2006

what I seek in a bibliography

My personal library is partially posted on, and I've had an interesting inquiry about the Gabler Bibliography of English language wine books, Wine Into Words, 2nd Edition. I have given the book a rating of 3 stars in my library, and another lister wanted to know why not higher. I think the Gabler book is a fine book, and there is nothing else out there which approaches its usefulness. Gabler has clearly spent more time with American and English wine books than anyone I am aware of, and deserves praise for that.

If I am reluctant to praise the book higher, it is because it is too inclusive and not selective enough. In my experience, there are two types of bibliographies: one is completely inclusive, and lists every last item which ever existed on its subject (author bibliographies are typically of this sort, and should be); the second type is much more subjective, and typically relects the selections of a long term collector or scholar(s). Bibliographies in this second category might include Howes (American imprints). Printing and the Mind of Man (the history of ideas) or the Roth 101 (the photo book). In these cases the bibliographer guides the reader through a large field, toward the books which are (in the author's opinion) truly important. In both cases the bibliographies have also done much to shape the bookselling and collecting markets in their respective fields. They reflect a true connoiseurship. Gabler, who has done much to improve his book in the second edition, still includes many, many mediocre books in the list, books which serve little purpose for the collector unless one just seeks every last English language book on th subject. To me, this lessens the effect of the valuable comments Gabler has included on many entries, and moves the book toward being a checklist.

That said, the book remains very useful and I recommend it if you don't already have it.

Friday, July 07, 2006

now all of your favorite classical works in one handy volume!

The Weekly Standard has a review of a new collection of samples from the Loeb Classical library, along with a short history of the imprint. Already a resource for the inquiring "everyman" more than the classically educated scholar, the library now needs a one-volume edition to reach what passes for the educated today.

"The source of the Loeb Library's cachet may be shrouded from us in a trifling age, but that of their popularity isn't hard to discover: Along with the original Greek and Latin texts printed on the left-hand page as each book opens--texts, to say the least, of circumscribed value to most people--on the right-hand side we find crisp, unembellished English translations. The Loebs are the world's classiest crib, a trot for grownups. They are classics with a safety net. Here was an excellent innovation for those who have mentally mislaid the mastery of the classical languages they gained in schooldays. Here was also a perfect device for those who never learned them, and they make a somewhat larger crowd these days."

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson has died.

Never far from my CD player, Lieberson's recording of Bach's Cantatas BWV 82 and 199, has been a favorite piece of music of mine for the last few years, both a consolation and a provocation to deeper feeling. The NY Times obit today reviews her career.

"...her shattering performances several years ago in two Bach cantatas for solo voice and orchestra, staged by the director Peter Sellars, seen in Lincoln Center's New Visions series, with the Orchestra of Emmanuel Music, Craig Smith conducting.

In Cantata No. 82, "Ich Habe Genug" ("I Have Enough"), Ms. Hunt Lieberson, wearing a flimsy hospital gown and thick woolen socks, her face contorted with pain and yearning, portrayed a terminally ill patient who, no longer able to endure treatments, wants to let go and be comforted by Jesus. During one consoling aria, "Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen" ("Slumber now, weary eyes"), she yanked tubes from her arms and sang the spiraling melody with an uncanny blend of ennobling grace and unbearable sadness."

Sunday, July 02, 2006

ferlinghetti asea

There's a nice short profile of and interview with Lawrence Ferlighetti in today's Guardian. In it he describes his life on a sub-chaser in WWII. "Any smaller than us you weren't a ship, you were a boat. But we could order anything a battleship could order so we got an entire set of the Modern Library. We had all the classics stacked everywhere all over the ship, including the john. We also got a lot of medicinal brandy the same way."