Here's something special for admirers of the work of H. P. Lovecraft. Check out this video of a performance of Roy Magnuson's "Innsmouth, Massachusetts, 1927":
Surely, this isn't the first symphonic composition (other than film music) inspired by one of HPL's stories? I really don't know. Anyway, in this case, of course, the story in question is The Shadow Over Innsmouth.
What fun! Let's hope for more HPL-inspired music from Mr. Magnuson!
I recently changed my ISP from Earthlink to Verizon. Because I had been with Earthlink for over twelve years, my Earthlink homepage contained a lot of material that I decided to move to my Typepad blog (which is where you are now, of course). But some of that mass of material was also out of date, and so I've been going through old files in order to decide what to keep and what to throw into the digital trashcan.
As I was revising my CV, I was reminded of my first academic publication, which was a review of the Reclam edition of Kant's Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics That Will Be Able to Come Forth as Science. The odd thing about my review was that I wrote it in German. Consequently, my first academic publication was in German, even though English is my native language. There's a little story behind how this happened, and I thought that you might enjoy reading it. So here it is.
When I was living and studying in Munich, I shared an apartment with a German political philosophy student who was also the co-editor of the HfP-Zeitung, which I guess you could call the once-a-semester student magazine of the Hochschule für Politik. (Or at least that's how I remember it. I apologize if I've misremembered.) He had a copy of Kant's Prolegomena for review, and since I too was a philosophy student, but one who specialized in German idealism, he asked me to write a short review.
Well, I'd never written much German prose, yet I figured that I could give it a go. By that stage of my graduate school career I'd read Kant's Prolegomena in English many times, of course, but I first had to read it in German to write the review. Now I was doing this slightly two hundred years after the publication of the book. So my job wasn't to say whether or not it was a good book. It was written by Kant in the 1780s, which means that it's of tremendous philosophical importance, regardless of what one thinks of it. So, instead, I wrote a few paragraphs trying to explain some of the basic ideas in clear, simple language. (Which wasn't all that hard to do, since my German prose was itself fairly simple.)
Naturally, my prose was imperfect, but my roommate was kind enough to correct my mistakes (which he had to do anyway, since he was co-editor of the magazine). My review was then published in the winter semester issue of the 89/90 academic year, and so there I was with a little piece in German that also happened to be my first academic publication.
My review covered slightly more than one page of the magazine. I've scanned the two pages and uploaded the images below. I erased another review that appeared at the bottom of the second page, just in case the author (my roommate the co-editor, in fact) doesn't wish it to be reprinted without his permission.
It was really not much more than a bit of fun, but it was a worthwhile exercise that no doubt contributed to improving my German, which, after all, was why I was studying in Germany in the first place.
If you would like to download the review as a single PDF (1.3 MB), then click on this link.
This had me laughing. I've been watching the second season of Elementary, and in the episode entitled "Paint It Black" Sherlock says the following: "My father is a Lovecraftian horror who uses his money to bludgeon his way to ever-more-obscene profits."
I can't recall ever encountering a more mainstream reference to Lovecraft than this one. According to the credits, the episode was written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe. Well done, Mr. Wolfe!
I added that parenthetical "continuing" since Mr. Edsall has been writing about this sort of thing since at least the early 1990s, when he co-authored a book entitled Chain Reaction: The Impact of Race, Rights, and Taxes on American Politics. I read that book when it first appeared in hardback. Even though it's over twenty years old, it's still as relevant today as it was back then.
In two earlierposts I discussed two books about Jack the Ripper, Donald Rumbelow's The Jack the Ripper and Paul Begg's Jack the Ripper: The Definitive History. In this post I want to say something about Philip Sugden's The Complete History of Jack the Ripper. I suggest, though, that you read the earlier posts before reading this one.
I got the 2002 revised edition of Sugden's book through my local library, so, once again, my copy is a little beaten up. But these photos of the cover and the table of contents will give you an idea of what to expect.
First of all, hallelujah, Sugden's book contains maps! This addresses one of the main complaints that I have about Rumbelow's and Begg's books. At the very beginning of the book you'll find a general map of the Whitechapel Murders. Here's a photo of it.
As you work through Sugden's account, you'll find smaller maps relating to each individual murder.
Sugden's book is crammed with noticeably more detail than either Rumbelow's and Begg's books. So the maps are a great aid to understanding his reconstructions of the events. For this reason alone, I prefer his book to Rumbelow's and Begg's.
Sugden's book contains extensive notes to document his claims. He clearly did an enormous amount of digging. Unfortunately, however, there is no bibliography, although there is a long list of archival sources. It's not that I can't live without a bibliography, but it would be useful to have one.
One thing that differentiates Sugden's book from Rumbelow's or Begg's is that Sugden writes very little about the social history of the East End. Instead, he concentrates on the murders, and since his book runs to 500 pages, he provides a mountain of factual research and documentation. Sometimes it's a challenge to work through all of it, but ultimately it proves to be worthwhile. I admit, though, that some readers might find the level of detail overwhelming. In that case, Rumbelow's book might be a better choice, since even Begg's book is fairly heavy reading at times.
As to the identity of Jack the Ripper, Sugden regards Montague John Druitt, Aaron Kosminksi, Michael Ostrog, and George Chapman as the most likely suspects. He exonerates, as far as he is concerned, Druitt, Kosminksi, and Ostrog. He considers Chapman the best candidate, that is to say, the least unlikely suspect, and judiciously concludes that the case against him has not been proven (which, Sugden is careful to point out, is not the same as saying that Chapman should be considered innocent).
Of the three books, I like Sugden's the best, although it is certainly the most demanding because of its length and attention to detail. Readers should keep that in mind when trying to decide which of the three to read.
Thomas Frank looks at the swindle being perpetrated by higher education.
Because I worked as an adjunct for a decade before I left academia in 2003, I can fully appreciate Frank's remarks about part-time faculty. But I also felt the poignancy of his remarks about wildly overpriced textbooks, rampaging administrators, and ballooning student debt.
In an earlier post I wrote up a few of my thoughts on Donald Rumbelow's The Complete Jack the Ripper. In this post I'd like to say something about Paul Begg's Jack the Ripper: The Definitive History.
My photos of the 2004 revised paperback edition are of a somewhat battered copy from my local library. Thus they aren't of the best quality, but they'll give you some idea of the book's cover and table of contents.
First, a few words about the apparatus. Each chapter of Begg's book contains numerous endnotes that cite many different sources. In my post on Rumbelow's book I complained about the lack of notes. So in this single respect Begg's book is superior to Rumbelow's. Unfortunately, Begg's book, unlike Rumbelow's, doesn't have a bibliography, so you'll have to work through the notes if you want to find suggestions for further reading. This is annoying, since putting together a bibliography is not all that difficult to do. Begg's book, like Rumbelow's, does not contain a single map. Once again, as I mentioned in my earlier post, I don't have a map of the East End in my head. I assume that many readers are in the same situation. Consequently, a map would have been helpful. Overall, therefore, simply because of the endnotes, I prefer Begg's book from the scholarly point of view.
Begg's book contains much more social history than Rumbelow's. If you prefer to read
a Ripper book that mostly concentrates on the murders, then Rumbelow is probably your
man. Of course, the social history is interesting. The extent of poverty and violence in the East End matters for understanding the Ripper's crimes, but knowing about it doesn't really help in trying to determine his identity. So you can take your pick based on the degree of your interest in historical context of the murders.
As for the identity of Jack the Ripper, Begg looks at the traditional suspects at some length and, fortunately, doesn't pay much attention to the wilder candidates. Begg ultimately plumps for Kosminski. Here's what he says on page 351:
So who was Jack the Ripper? The sad fact is that nobody knows and nobody is likely to know. Having said that, somewhere there may be a document - perhaps misfiled at the Public Record Office, in the archives of a library or maybe sitting in a dusty box in someone's loft - that will reveal all. As things stand, I think Aaron Kosminski is the leading contender, not because I think he was Jack the Ripper, but because of all the policemen who expressed an opinion, Anderson is the only one to have expressed certainty. We need to find out why.
Begg is referring to Robert Anderson, who was appointed to the CID during the Ripper investigation. He fingered Kosminksi in his memoirs, but not by name. Only Donald Swanson, in his marginalia to his copy of Anderson's book, identified the killer as Kosminski. Subsequent research by Ripperologists has found only one Kosminski who fits the bill, namely, Aaron Kosminski. Begg's case against Kosminski isn't conclusive, but it's certainly food for thought.
In conclusion, I should say that I greatly enjoyed Begg's book. I recommend it to anyone interested in Jack the Ripper.
It always brightens my day to receive a new episode of Dark Adventure Radio Theatre in the mail. This time we defy death with Harry Houdini. I mean, how great is that? As you can see, I'm an admirer of the series.
During the past couple of years I've gotten interested in the work of Colin Wilson. In the future I'll explain why that is so. I'm most interested in his fiction, and recently I've been going through his crime novels. Wilson often wrote about serial killers, both in his fiction as well as his non-fiction; therefore, I've been brushing up on my knowledge of serial killers. So, of course, that requires reading about Jack the Ripper at some point.
One of the best known books about the Ripper murders is Donald Rumbelow's The Complete Jack the Ripper. It has seen several editions since its initial publication in 1975, and I've photographed the cover of the 2013 edition. Rumbelow's book is an enjoyable work of popular history, although I have to admit that I would have preferred it to be more scholarly. I'm not a big fan of history books without citations. There are no notes of any sort, not even for the quotations, and the bibliography is less than a page. I'm not sure why publishers find this acceptable. I guess, perhaps, that scholarly apparatus puts off some readers, but the lack of proper citations undermines to some degree the intellectual seriousness of any historical book. Sadly, though, we just have to live with this sort of thing in true crime writing.
Some books on the Ripper murders contain a fair amount of social history. Rumbelow includes a bit of this, but it's mostly confined to the first chapter. He then constructs vivid accounts of the murder victims and the police investigation. Along the way he argues, somewhat plausibly, that Elizabeth Stride, who is traditionally considered one of the five canonical Ripper victims, was not killed by Jack the Ripper. Instead, Rumbelow claims, on the basis of the eyewitness testimony, that she was murdered by someone who was "clearly passionate" about her, and thus not someone who had merely picked her up on the street.
The heart of the book, containing almost half of its pages, is Rumbelow's discussion of Ripper suspects. One thing that I've noticed about Ripper books is the way in which the
detailed accounts of the murders provide no real clue as to the identity of the killer. When it comes to naming names, readers inevitably encounter discussions of Melville Macnaghten's papers, Robert Anderson's autobiography The Lighter Side of My Official Life (and Donald Swanson's marginalia in his copy of Anderson's book), asylum records, arrest records, and the like. That is, really nothing in the earlier chapters of a typical Ripper book gives us much help in determining the identity of the Ripper. Rumbelow's book is no different in this regard. He looks at many suspects, even the farfetched ones put forth over the years, but doesn't settle on one as the most likely. The book ends with chapters on the Ripper in popular culture and other Ripper-like killers.
Overall, I liked Rumbelow's book and am happy to recommend it. As I indicated above, I would have preferred more scholarly apparatus. Another defect, as far as I'm concerned, is the lack of maps. Maybe other readers have a map of the East End in their heads, but I don't. Even a simple street map would have been a great help. Many publishers pay little attention to this sort of thing. (Military history books routinely have atrociously inadequate maps. Why authors tolerate this sort of thing is beyond me.) But Rumbelow's book is soberly written and free of wild speculation. If you're interested in Jack the Ripper, Rumbelow's The Complete Jack the Ripper is well worth your time.