My wife left me in Amherst Books recently while she got a haircut, and when she came to pick me up she found me drooling over Mapping St. Petersburg: Imperial Text and Cityshape (Google Books, Princeton UP page, introduction), by Julie A. Buckler. I looked up dazedly and said “This book could have been written especially for me. This is why I need to visit actual bookstores; the internet is a wonderful thing, but it didn’t tell me this book existed.” She plucked it from my hands and announced that I had just solved the problem of what to get me; yesterday I unwrapped it, and I look forward to devouring it. I will report back when I have done so.

The other present of Languagehat relevance is a box of books that arrived on the 21st from my pal Jim Salant (author of Leaving Dirty Jersey, which I highly recommend if you don’t mind graphic descriptions of sex, violence, and obsessive drug use—it’s that rara avis, a drug memoir that’s neither tough-guy fake nor weepily repentant, told in straightforward, no-bullshit style and ending exactly where it should). Jim’s grandmother was getting rid of a bunch of Russian books, and he had told me to take my pick; this was the first installment, and it contained poetry collections by Delvig, Baratynsky, Tyutchev, and Sologub, Dostoevsky’s Zapiski iz mertvogo doma (Notes from the House of the Dead), a collection of stories and essays by Ilf and Petrov, a volume of Saltykov-Schedrin containing Istoriia odnogo goroda, Gospoda Golovlevy, and Skazki, a set of Leskov, a Kharms collection… And there’s more to come! I’ve already started acquainting myself with Delvig and Baratynsky, companions of Pushkin who were just names to me; now I’ve matched Delvig with one of my favorite obscure English poets, Walter Savage Landor—both are classically inspired poets who wrote unfashionably dry, impersonal lyrics with impeccable technique (I once wrote a pastiche of Landor beginning “Alas, Ianthe, thou that wast so fair…”).

I also got wine, food, an incredibly warm shirt, and from my excessively generous brother Eric a bunch of DVDs (four Almodóvars and The Motorcycle Diaries) and CDs, among other things. Oh, and we got a gift certificate to, a wonderful site that lets you provide microloans ($25) to small businesses in developing countries: “By choosing a business on, you can ‘sponsor a business’ and help the world’s working poor make great strides towards economic independence. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates from the business you’ve sponsored. As loans are repaid, you get your loan money back.” And then you can loan it to someone else. Let me tell you, it feels great to hit that button and know that you’re helping someone make their way out of poverty. Give it a try!


  1. rootlesscosmo says

    My friend Charles Perry, scholar of Levantine cuisine
    and LA Times restaurant reviewer, did a nice poetry pastiche some years back:
    Beautiful Rêveur
    Softly, o’er the twilight,
    Steals the silvr’y dawn.
    Gently, in the moonlight,
    Sleeps the shady lawn.
    There my loved one waiting
    Weeps in ceaseless grief.
    There the sunset’s plaiting
    Trembles o’er a leaf.
    Oh, once my heart went roaming
    Where the swallow loves to trill,
    Up a streamlet… in the gloaming…
    ‘Mongst the vi’lets on the hill.
    But the play of colors blending
    In the balmy fields of youth
    Stays not Fate’s dire sickle wending;
    Sates no somber serpent’s tooth.
    Ah, would that Love’s surrender,
    Once given, would return
    With kisses mild and tender
    As a maiden’s bow’r of fern
    Ere One’s sweet misty glances
    From ‘neath some briny wave
    The perfumed air entrances
    Seek the solace of the grave!
    My Indian maid is wandering aye
    Through dreamy vales of noon,
    Among the blushing buds of May,
    ‘Neath gushing plums of June.
    But One whose brow is furrowed e’er
    With cank’ring sorrows drear
    Among the restless clouds so fair
    Is floating–far, yet near!
    –Charles Perry (“Classy Writing at Popular Prices”)

  2. John Emerson says

    The true name of the city is Sankt Pieterburg, but the Communists and Russians have succeeded in fooling the world. My Kyrgyz friend called it Petrograd.

  3. Landor pastiche! Landor pastiche! I want Landor pastiche!!!
    Publish it under an assumed name if you must, and then send an email to all of us regular commentators (you have our email addresses, no?) telling us the URL, but let us get it into our hot little hands!
    Or be sensible, and post it here on Hat, with a health warning at the top of the post, like, “See also (the home of the annotated version of Loomis’s “Classic Ode”).

  4. Loved the bookstore story! Merry Christmas to both of you, and I hope there’s plenty of time for reading this week.

  5. All right, I dug through the deepest recesses of my filing cabinet to find the Landor pastiche—the things I do for my readers!
    Alas, Ianthe, thou that wast so free
      Art now bound under by horse-heavy clay,
    And that loose hair that so delighted me
      Is shorn at last for the grave Goddess’ pay.
    No longer mayst thou smile at whom thou wilt
      And take poor lovers’ fancy prisoner;
    The last wine in the beaker now is spilt
      And gone. Alas, Ianthe, for thy hair!
    (Sun. 15 May ’77, late afternoon)
    I also dug up “To Nature (after reading too much Keats),” which starts “Bringer of gentle warmth and pleasantness…” But I’ll spare you that.

  6. Chroniclers of potato rhymes may recall Landor’s “Shakespeare in Italy” for:

    I’d rather sup on cold potato,
    Than on salmon cookt by Plato,

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