Monday, April 11, 2011

Commas and Laundry-Slips




I've already derived significant enjoyment from the new Oxford World's Classic edition of Verne's Around the World in 80 Days, and I haven't even started the novel yet.

Instead, I'd like to direct your attention to William Butcher's Introduction, which is the source of my delectation. Now, habitual readers of Introductions to Penguin and Oxford classics, specially the older volumes, are probably accustomed to highly scholarly and usually tempered prose, as I am. Butcher is certainly knowledgeable. He's also quite enthusiastic. And ... indignant!

In discussing the lack of in-depth studies on Verne's original manuscripts (including earlier works from which Verne drew inspiration for this novel), Butcher sounds positively miffed, not to say grouchy:

"Equally amazingly, there has been no systematic study of the manuscripts. Although large research grants are given to analysing commas in the laundry-slips of quite marginal literary figures, the handwritten pages where that archetypal modern hero Phileas Fogg makes his first faltering steps have never been transcribed." (Introduction, p. xii)

By the standards of an academic Introduction, this ... is ... madness! He's a fire-starter, this one.

And please please please, if anyone can find out where to apply for such a grant, I'd love to hear from you. Marginal literary figures never receive enough attention, which is, of course, why they remain perennially marginal.
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