The Literary Salon

A free salon wherein patrons and passers-by may view or contribute ideas on literary and generally intellectual matters. The blog will strive to maintain its commitment to wit, humour and perspicuous analysis.

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Location: Toronto, now Ottawa, Ont, Canada

Monday, March 26, 2007

Watch out...

If you thought your commute to school or work was rough, you ain't seen nothing yet. This is footage shot from Iraq, and I'm guessing the driver is an American in some sort of military vehicle.
Note: If the embedded video doesn't work, click here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Vanity, all is

The erudite has a post today from one of my faves, Samuel Johnson. It is one of his more interesting periodical pieces from The Rambler in which he discusses writers and fame, etc. Here is the link for the post.

In addition, I would add David Hume's comments on the subject from his essay "On the Standard of Taste" (if memory serves). As I am working from memory, you must forgive my inaccuracies and misquotations, but Hume says mostly the same thing: only those writers who deserve to be remembered are remembered, and there are many who are artificially popular, owing to party, vogue, etc, but their fame does not last more than a few years (anyone who has been to a vulgar bookstore in recent years can name more than one author who was considered the next big thing but who has since sunk into oblivion). Conversely, Hume says "the same Homer who pleased at Athens and Rome 2000 years ago pleases us today in London and Paris." This was true 250 years ago, and among the literate persons of the world, still is.

I was recently speaking to my supervisor-to-be, and we touched on the subject of forgotten authors, etc. After his many years of reading, teaching, and researching, he has come to the conclusion, and one I agree with, that "there isn't a lot of forgotten gold out there." Yes, there is the occasional mistake in the process of canonization, but forgotten authors who deserve not to be forgotten often break out of their slumber eventually.

People, especially literary feminists, will bring up an example like Aphra Behn (for the record, I think her one of the great British female writers). She was popular in her lifetime, but then fell into oblivion in the following century and especially the 19th, only to be resurrected recently. This is taken as evidence that the canon is thoroughly unsympathetic towards female writers. Then what about someone like John Wilmot, known as the Earl of Rochester? He was an incredibly bawdy writer who similarly was only resurrected a few decades ago, and most still do not read him. Is it a conspiracy? No. It is merely a product of the times: the later 18th and 19th centuries discountenanced ribald humour, to which the Restoration period (1660-1700) was so conducive.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: if the canon is a conspiracy by white men, then dead white men have suffered the most at the hands of it.

To close, I would like to quote the inestimable Samuel Johnson on the same subject, but from a different paper: "There is nothing more dreadful to an author than neglect, compared with which reproach, hatred, and opposition are names of happiness."

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Lotsa Money

The Bank of England has announced that it will place the portrait of Adam Smith on upcoming 20 pound notes. Not only is this of interest to me because my thesis will in all likelihood be on him, but it also marks the first time a Scot has appeared on English paper money.

It is worth noting, despite what the article said, that Smith was not a bona fide economist; in fact, some at the time claimed he had no business writing Wealth of Nations. In his own lifetime, he was better known for his moral philosophy, especially is Theory of Moral Sentiments.

There will be a conference at Oxford on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of the publication of the latter in January, 2009. Abstracts are due this September, however, so I will try to produce something decent by then.
Oh, I almost forgot: I received a phone call yesterday informing me that my application for tenancy of an apartment building here (near Byward Market) was approved, so I'm moving out May 1! All things considered, the place is very decent: it's a bachelor apartment seconds away from the Market, and utilities are included. The only drag is that I have to furnish the place.

Friday, March 16, 2007

What Men Really Think

I'm sharing this humorous "what men really think" video with you. Of course, it, along with many other specimens, ridiculously stereotypes men, a phenomenon no one ever seems to complain about, because it's ok to poke fun at men (in the same way it is all right to make fun of white people but no one else).
FYI, the video is slightly vulgar, so send the kids off to bed and don't show it to your boss (unless of course he's cool).


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Only in the movies...

Some of you may have already seen this, but it is a clean, humorous list of things that only happen in movies. I remember seeing the one about the L-shaped bed sheets a while ago.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

What the f...?

I'm still trying to figure out what this statue represents. At least it provided a hearty laugh!

Unreliable sources inform me that the statue is located in a park in Oslo, Norway.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


I was bored this morning and took the "How Nerdy Are You" Quiz. Turns out I'm

76% scored higher (more nerdy),
2% scored the same, and
22% scored lower (less nerdy).

What does this mean? Your nerdiness is:

Not nerdy, but definitely not hip.

I am shocked and appalled. Turns out I'm not as nerdy as I thought (and these tests are never wrong), but it must be said that nerdiness has a mathematical/scientific bias. That is, nerdness is often equated with those disciplines. It is difficult, in such tests, to be considered a true nerd if one has a humanities background, for instance.

Come to think of it, my assessment is deadly accurate.

I am nerdier than 22% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!