Especially Charming.

Adam Kirsch’s very favorable TLS review of The Poems of T. S. Eliot: The Annotated Text (Vol. 1, Vol. 2) includes the following parenthetical remark:

(The book is intelligently designed, with cross-references at the bottom of each page linking poem to commentary and back again; and the whole is beautifully printed and highly legible, even the small type. The ampersands and ellipses are especially charming.)

I wish more reviews paid attention to such things.

Another parenthetical remark is less charming:

In 2014, Johns Hopkins University Press began issuing the Complete Prose, under the general editorship of Ronald Schuchard. (Maddeningly, this edition is only available online by subscription, which greatly impairs both its readability and its reach; but it is beautifully edited, and may make it into print some day.)

Shame on Johns Hopkins University Press! I don’t care what their rationale is, that’s disgusting elitism and an abdication of the responsibility of an academic publisher.


  1. I tried and failed to find online an image of a sample page.

    (The iambs are accidental.)

  2. Accidental but charming!

  3. Anyone know if this new Eliot collection is sewn, or is it a glue binding? (I have ordered the two volumes to an address in the USA, but will be months before they are forwarded to me.) Publishers in the English-speaking world are being very cheap even with “collected works” hardbacks these days, recent hardback editions of the complete poems of A.R. Ammons and Paul Celan have come with poor-quality paper or flimsy glue bindings that completely defeat the purpose of buying a hardback book as something that will last you a lifetime.

  4. Good question. Based on the comparatively reasonable price (around 40 bucks a volume, sadly, fits that description these days for books like this), I fear the answer may be glue. But do let us know when you eventually find out.

  5. Vaguely apropos: the Washington Post has a story today about the steel and aluminum tariffs, which refers to the Dear Leader becoming “unglued,” according to an unnamed source in the White House.

    Does the metaphor derive from the idea of inadequately bound books falling apart?

  6. Another good question!

  7. Indeed it does. Unglued, per the OED, is from the verb unglue, whose first sense is ‘free from the binding or adhesive effect of glue; detach or make loose in this way’. Later meanings include ‘open the eyes after sleep’, ‘detach, separate, dissolve’, and ‘lose cohesion, become detached’.

  8. David Marjanović says

    s/book/door: unhinged.

  9. Michael Hendry says

    I only have volume 1 of the new Eliot but (I just checked) it is sewn in signatures, not glued, so presumably Volume 2 is as well. Even better, the binding, though solid, is not so tight that the book won’t lie flat – a common failing in these degenerate days. I’m particularly disgusted by presses (Oxford, Cambridge, and De Gruyter, for three) that switch over to low-quality reprints after selling out the first printing, and often don’t tell you which you’re getting when you order them from their websites: same ISBN, same description, same high price. I just sent back a couple of Oxford Classical Texts that I bought on their 50%-off Christmas sale that weren’t even worth half-price: greasy plastic covers, blurry gray photostatish print, and of course barely-glued-in pages that cannot be opened even half-way to flat without coming right out. Ugh!

  10. Used to be a time (maybe still true?) when the big university presses printed shockingly low-quality but shockingly low-priced editions of many of their texts in India, for the local market. I don’t know how one did (or does) get them from there to here.

  11. unhinged: well, there used to be other hinged things, besides doors. Just like there are glued things other than books.
    It’s hard for me to imagine the individual in question as a book. More like a Humpty Dumpty who was somehow glued together, but sadly is becoming unglued…

  12. I don’t see anything book-specific in the definition John Cowan cites, so David L’s question has not been definitively answered. Chapman’s “New Dictionary of American Slang” has an entry for “come unglued (or unstuck or unwrapped)” but no etymology or dates.

  13. Yeah, I was thinking of things that become unglued under wear and tear, and which have been around for a long time. Furniture is another possibility. I suppose it’s a fairly obvious image, so maybe it doesn’t connect with any specific physical object.

  14. ktschwarz says

    “St Louis to London” is the review’s title, but the full article requires a subscription. I’m curious what the reviewer has to say about Eliot and St. Louis, since (while visiting for the eclipse last year) I saw Eliot claimed among “Artists of St. Louis” by the history museum, which struck me as dubious. (Our hosts agreed with me on Eliot, but said Chuck Berry was a legitimate claim.) Yes, there is one well-known quote,

    It is self-evident that St. Louis affected me more deeply than any other environment has ever done. I feel that there is something in having passed one’s childhood beside the big river, which is incommunicable to those people who have not.

    which seems to be contradictory to everything else in his life and work. Do the annotations bring anything to light?

    Beautifully printed and highly legible: I always thought highly of Cambridge University Press for physics texts. They resisted the tyranny of Computer Modern and used real typefaces.

  15. Rodger C says

    contradictory to everything else in his life and work


    I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river
    Is a strong brown god—sullen, untamed and intractable,
    Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier;
    Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce;
    Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges.
    The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten
    By the dwellers in cities—ever, however, implacable.
    Keeping his seasons and rages, destroyer, reminder
    Of what men choose to forget. Unhonoured, unpropitiated
    By worshippers of the machine, but waiting, watching and waiting.
    His rhythm was present in the nursery bedroom,
    In the rank ailanthus of the April dooryard,
    In the smell of grapes on the autumn table,
    And the evening circle in the winter gaslight.

  16. ktschwarz says

    Aha, thanks! Proof once again that the best way to find something out is not to ask a question, but to post a wrong answer. This turns out to be the only time the Mississippi ever appears in his work (at least, for this claim I’ve got a critic backing it up). I find it extremely jarring that he starts out with a headnote telling us a precise location, “the N.E. coast of Cape Ann, Massachusetts”, but then he’s at the Mississippi, then after only 14 lines jumps back across the continent to granite teeth and lobsterpots. Unlike Huck Finn, the shape of the poem is not the shape of the river.

    The author of the recent biography has an article on Eliot’s influence outside of English:

    Just days after she published the first full Chinese translation of The Waste Land in June 1937, Zhao Luori saw the catastrophic second Sino-Japanese war break out. Suddenly her translation could be seen to articulate modern Chinese cultural and political trauma. As the 21st-century scholar Lihui Liu argues: “The terrible situation of the 1930s moved some young Chinese poets to identify Eliot as virtually their spokesman.”

    Wow! Was that as strange to Eliot as it was to me? The biographer also cites poets influenced by Eliot in Nigeria, Japan, Mexico, Greece, Italy, and Germany.

  17. one well-known quote

    Well, maybe two. In addition to that letter, he said something similar in an address on “American Literature and the American Language,” which he delivered as part of the 100th anniversary of Washington University, which has grandfather had founded (along with my great-great-grandfather).

    Many other memories have invaded my mind, since I received the invitation to speak to you today; but I think these are enough to serve as a token of my thoughts and feelings. I am very well satisfied with having been born in St. Louis: in fact I think I was fortunate to have been born here, rather than in Boston, or New York, or London.

    But it’s still a stretch to see any connection between “What the Thunder Said” and impressions of the Great Cyclone of 1896 on young Tom.

  18. What an observant-looking little kid!

  19. Been reading completely unrelated horror mystery novel when suddenly encountered this scene.

    A reluctant engineering student in English literature class is trying to figure out what this poem is all about:

    He glanced at the title, then moved his eye down to the epigram, or epigraph, or whatever you called it.

    He stopped. What the hell was this? Nam Sibyllam quidem . . . Whatever it was, it wasn’t English. And there, buried in the middle of it, some weird-ass squiggles that weren’t even part of the normal alphabet. He glanced at the explanatory notes at the bottom of the page and found the first bit was Latin, the second Greek. Next came the dedication: For Ezra Pound, il miglior fabbro. The notes said that last bit was Italian.

    Latin, Greek, Italian. And the frigging poem hadn’t even started yet. What next, hieroglyphics?

    It was a nightmare.

    He scanned the first page, then the second. Gibberish, plain and simple. “I will show you fear in a handful of dust.” What was that supposed to mean? His eye fell on the next line. Frisch weht der Wind . . .

    Abruptly, Dewayne closed the book, feeling sick. That did it. Only thirty lines into the poem and already five damn languages.

  20. David Eddyshaw says

    Dewayne will be ill-equipped to combat eldritch horrors if he can’t cope with even simple Latin. I fear for him. He is evidently doomed.

  21. John Emerson says

    On the Mississippi: one of my pet ideas is that jazz is not specifically southern but rather Mississippian.. New Orleans of course is on the Mississippi but other key cities like St. Louis, Kansas City, etc. are in the Mississippi basin, and even cities on the northern Mississippi — like Davenport Iowa (where Bic Beiderbecke got his start), Bismarck, North Dakota (on the Missouri River) where Charlie Christian was discovered, and Minneapolis, Minnesota where Lester Young spent his early days.

    In Sinclair Lewis’s “Babbitt”, one of the characters shows his vulgarity by saying that he isn’t really into classical music much but likes something he can tap his foot to.That statement looks a little different if you realize that the band that he was tapping his foot to might have been Lester Young’s father’s band.

  22. I am reminded (in reverse) of the undergraduate literary journal that shut down abruptly when the editors realized that all the letters to the editor were from students in the School of Engineering.

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