Familiar Holidays | Newberry

Familiar Holidays

June is not known for its holidays, at least partly because school is generally no longer in session, and teachers can’t get the kids excited about making things to hang in the windows and the bulletin boards, breaking up the daily round of reading, writing, and retweeting. But it is replete with days to celebrate. Today, for example, is Sara Paretsky’s birthday, and tomorrow is the first full day of the Printer’s Row Litfest.

Later in the month, we have Dorothy L. Sayers’s birthday on the 13th, Flag Day on the 14th, Father’s Day on the 17th, the first full day of summer on the 22nd, Waffle Iron Day on the 28th, and Door Closing Day on the 18th. Door Closing Day? Well, it’s not so big an event as, say, Waffle iron Day, but I hope you’ll observe it.

Those of you who have been dropping off donations for the Book Fair by bringing them to the missile just inside our parking lot entrance will NOT be able to do so on June 18th. The doors are being closed that day so we can work on that area. To the best of my understanding, that is the ONLY day those doors will be unavailable, so you would need to hold off just on the 18th (and the 17th, since we’re closed: go take Dad to lunch.) We WILL try to think of a place to donate books on the 18th, but maybe you could wait a day and bring in your crossword puzzle dictionaries and Da Vinci Codes.

You COULD bring in books by a man who was born June 14th. In fact, you probably will. He is one of the most (and least) quoted authors in the history of American literature, the author of a standard concordance to the works of William Shakespeare, a bibliography of Civil War literature (published in 1866, as soon as the war was over), and at least two books on fishing. And one other book, which we are always happy to receive and sell. (We wouldn’t mind the others; it’s just that no one ever drops them off.)

He was born June 14, 1820, and his name was, of course, John Bartlett, the compiler of the book known familiarly as Bartlett’s Quotations. Like the Guinness folks, later on, he wrote his reference book to help settle arguments. You ALWAYS remember the words of a quotation in your own way. You will always meet someone who remembers it another way, and before you start punching each other, it’s good to have a book which will give the authorized version of the quote, showing that you both got it wrong.

The book is in its 18th edition and, of course, John Bartlett himself is no longer around to give guidance. And if you think there hasn’t been a goodly number of punches thrown at it over the years, you don’t pay attention to reference books. See, the full accepted title of this book is Bartlett’s FAMILIAR Quotations, and the editors, over the years, have been accused of political and cultural bias in what they considered familiar and unfamiliar. Do commercial slogans deserve to be included? (Of course, who’s going to misquote “Where’s the beef?” or “Wassup?”) Do you drop quotations from 17th century poets because our culture no longer considers them familiar, or are you just dumbing down the book?

Of course, over the years, Bartlett’s has inspired hundreds of competing collections of Unfamiliar Quotations, or Modern Quotations, or some other kind of quotation to supply what Bartlett’s lacks. (You can always tell when a former ad executive sends books over: there will be fifteen or twenty books of quotations: woe betide the product that unintentionally gets the line wrong.) These sell very well: people have found that online sources are as likely as you are to misquote: you need to look up about seven versions and go with the consensus. Bartlett, by weight alone, gives the user assurance.

So we’ll be glad to have Mr. Bartlett’s work donated on his birthday or Waffle Iron Day. Just not on June 18th.

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