Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Random questions with a few answers

Questions that have drawn me away from writing in the past 24 hours.

  • Everybody knows that Charles Dickens became a crack reporter of parliamentary doings, but what system of shorthand did he use? Gregg? It hadn't been invented yet. Pitman? Maybe. (Answer: Gurney.) Did he and other writers who began as writers of shorthand (e.g., Arnold Bennett) keep using it for short notes and things once they began writing novels?
  • Is there a life cycle to academic book prices? I've been pricing two books I want to buy, one from 1992 and one from 1997, and they're both ridiculously expensive. Does this cycle sound right to you? Freshly published: full price or discounted at MLA; 5 years out, may be discounted and show up on Scholar's Bookshelf; 10-15 years out, priced like a Shakespeare First Folio; 20 years out, $2 on eBay and
  • Will I ever get to see the wronged wife of a cheating politician haul off and smack his face on live television, just once? Am I the only otherwise nonviolent person who hopes fervently to see this?

    Anonymous said...

    I read a book at my State Library in Victoria Australia about the Charles Dickens as a shorthand writer. Gurney was a very difficult shorthand system with many arbitrary symbols which had several parts to them. Gregg and Pitman were very successful because they put the capability of verbatim reporting to people of more average ability. Gurney was more of a system that was pioneered by few academics and the Gurney family who made their fortune in it.

    At the time when Charles Dickens was alive it was common practice to write out whole speeches into newspapers. Charles Dickens was known as one of the best shorthand writers of the time, simply because the difficulty of the art made it out of reach for most other than highly intellectual people.

    Bardiac said...

    I'd pay good money to see a wife of an idiot politician haul off and smack him. But I sure don't blame them for standing by and trying to just get through the public horror.

    undine said...

    Michael, thanks for that information. Is that the book from the 1920s about Dickens and shorthand? I've never seen any pictures of Gurney, but from what you say, it sounds very difficult. Now I'm wondering if any other Victorian writers learned it or if Dickens was the only one, since it was a system put together by academics.

    Bardiac, I feel sorry for the poor wives standing there. I think part of my highly unworthy wish occurs because I had such high hopes of Spitzer; I've been reading about him and silently cheering him on for years, and to see him do something so stupidly arrogant and unworthy is really disappointing. When they do this (and I felt the same way about Bill Clinton), it's hard not to feel that they've let down the republic and the rest of us despite all the "this is a private matter" blather. You can see that civics class or whatever it was in 5th grade hit me hard, but when we elect someone who's smart, competent, and willing to fight for the right things, it makes me angry to see them throw it all away for something as stupid as this.

    gwoertendyke said...

    yes, i'm with you, i recently wrote about this same desire for reciprocity.

    Anonymous said...

    What I don't understand about the wives is why they actually go on the television. I can see many reasons why they might not be able to leave, but that typical scene of the wife standing by her man in public boggles the mind.

    I guess I know the answer: they need to do it for the same reasons they can't leave. Still, it is a trope I wonder about ... why is it so necessary?

    Anonymous said...

    Yes it would be lovely to see; however, it's not going to happen. From Gary Hart on up to the present, and even before (look at Mamie Eisenhower), it's been the same. And more importantly these pols usually make a comeback. Why is that? Is there something in the American psyche that somehow allows forgiveness for the stupidities of these men? Yet it happens nearly all the time and the wives stay.
    Silda Spitzer is an incredibly intelligent and successful woman yet she'll probably stay also if only to shield her three daughters. Is it the power that attracts or do they have too much invested. Everything I've read about her seems to say that she may well be the power behind the throne. In many cases her insight and input changed much in Eliot's compaign. So who can say? We just don't know enough and I'm not sure I want to know that much. My basic loathing of politicians is only increased by debacles like Spitzer's. A plague on then all.

    Beau in Seattle

    undine said...

    adjunct whore, I don't know whether I think she ought to leave him or not, but I guess I do want to see consequences.

    cero, I think the media wants to see the wife there, maybe to show that he's not such a bad guy if someone is standing beside him. As anonymous says, he'll probably be back in politics before too long. How long was Don Imus off the air--4-5 months? Part of the anger is that he was (or seemed to be) doing so much good, and now because of that arrogance or whatever, the corporations can go right on plundering the nation.