If you cast your eyes to the sidebar of this blog, you will see that there is now a page labelled “Buy My Book.” Technically, it is an ebook. It is a short work of sorta-kinda Lovecraftian horror set in the 9th century, and it is only $3. It is not uplifting reading. Still, if you like the kind of thing I like, you might enjoy it. You can click on that link or this one.
So, I have addictions, like most people. Mostly I am pretty good about acquiring or consuming things I don’t need. But one exception is historical replica-type books. Like these ones:
These are just a few of the books from the relevant shelf; they’re just the ones that look the most different from each other. But I like all of them. Time Capsule is a series of books that Time magazine published back in the day reprinting articles from its pages in a given year. Sadly, the typography isn’t reproduced, and the photos aren’t that great. But the rest of these are much more faithful in their reproduction.
They’re both fascinating and, in the case of Advising the Householder on Protection Against Nuclear Attack, chilling. The Home Guard Manual makes me feel kind of bad, as well — it’s actually for the Australian Home Guard, and it’s in case of an invasion by the IJA, which would have been a pretty bad scene. If things in WWII had gone badly enough that the Japanese were staging a full-scale invasion of Australia, I’m not sure the Australian Home Guard would have the muscle to do it. It would have been pretty horrible.
But others are fantastic. If you, like me, don’t really have the scratch to fill your shelves with genuine antiquarian texts, this kind of thing is a great conversation starter. I’ve had some wonderful conversations just off the back of Dont’s For Husbands (for instance, we are informed that you shouldn’t spend too much time in your flying machine, lest it upset your wife). But in general, they’re interesting in that window-on-history way. The Sears-Roebuck catalogue is particularly amazing, with its glimpse of the aspirational durable household goods of 1909 America. What strikes me about it is just how wordy it is — people were willing to read a lot of text in order to be sold boilers and Masonic cufflinks and hate. Also, an amazing art collection, all in that fiddly engraved Victorian style.
So this is a thing that I like. Tomorrow: Movie Monday again.
OK, so I have a pretty full schedule today and I do not know if I will have time to make a full-length update. I am not even sure what it will be about, although if I can be bothered to do a bunch of scanning it will be about fun illustrations in excavation reports. However, more likely it will be about quackery and a specific quack from Iowa.
Anyway, my real point here is to say that I am giving a talk at Treadwell’s Books in London. You can find the details here. It is a sequel to my earlier talk on Lovecraft and archaeology, but you will be able to follow it if you have not seen or heard the first; I will start out with what I hope will be a good summary.
If you have never been to Treadwell’s and you ever find yourself in London, you need to go there. It is a great place. And the pub across the street, the College Arms, has (or at least used to have) some kind of 19th (?) pornographic etchings on its walls, just hanging out there in front of everybody. I am assuming they did not really look at them closely.
What are all your scholarly interests?
Now, OK, part of the purpose of this blog is to talk about the things that aren’t/weren’t my scholarly interests. And probably most of my interests are not scholarly anymore. I hit the second-finest mesh in academia and didn’t go through. But here they are, from scholarliest to least scholarly.
Burial practice in late Anglo-Saxon and early post-Conquest England, with a side of burial practice in like Scandinavia and Ireland and so on: man, we tend to think that Christian burial is a relatively well-understood thing in the middle ages but we are kidding ourselves. All kinds of crazy stuff goes on and we have only really begun to look seriously at it over the last few decades.
The archaeology of late Anglo-Saxon England generally: setting for above.
The Vikings: boy howdy I love me some Vikings. Not just for the metaaaal aspects but for the weirdness. As a rule, the reality of any historical culture is just plain stranger than its stereotype, and this one is no exception.
The First Crusade: and the career of Bohemond of Taranto in particular. One of those times in history when awful things happen to mostly awful people and I just can’t take my eyes off the resulting train wreck.
Life and Works of H.P. Lovecraft: not a humorous Cthulhu t-shirt. You can wear a humorous Cthulhu t-shirt, it’s cool. I just don’t want to be misunderstood.
Fringe everything — fringe history, fringe archaeology: it’s bullshit and its practitioners are dumbheads, lunatics, charlatans or very nice people who are just a little misguided and yet I can’t look away. It’s fascinating and a lot of their stuff makes for a better story.
Rituals, death and burial, all that kind of thing: what do people do with their dead and why? That last part, that’s the tough part.
How people in the past thought about the past: nothing but a medieval portrait of Julius Caesar wearing a set of medieval armour over and over again.
Everything else ever: I am not an expert on, but have a reasonably good grip on swarms of other subjects, from the conquest of Mexico (train wreck) to the eastern front in WWII (train wreck) to the development of a centralised state in Tudor England (not, like, a conquest-of-Mexico-scale train wreck anyway) to the life and career of Woodrow Wilson (train wreck). I am not good at devoting my life to one thing.
Pop culture, especially comic books: I once thought about getting a tattoo of something Anglo-Saxon-y and related to my work, but I think that if you have a tattoo of Anglo-Saxon art people will probably think you are a racist. My second choice was some Kirby krackle.
An upcoming conference in London, about which more in a bit, has got me thinking about earlier talks I gave which relate to H.P. Lovecraft, history and archaeology. The link I posted below to the Treadwell’s one is expired, but I will see if I can find it again. However, I also appeared on an episode of the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast (“H.P. Podcraft” to its friends) talking about The History of the Necronomicon and Ibid. The interesting thing to me about these minor works of Lovecraft’s is the way he manages to adopt the style and jargon of historians (different in those days, of course) to give his work an air of being authenticity. In fact, Lovecraft famously said that in a story with fantastic elements the other elements have to be totally realistic — have to be handled as if they were a hoax.
I wondered if this were not tangentially related to the work of former Cambridge colleague Tera Pruitt, whose web presence I am not able to find with lazy searching but whose work should be required reading for anyone interested in pseudoarchaeology. You can check out her Master’s thesis here, but there’s probably more out there, and if I find it I shall promote it. Basically, one of the things she noticed about pseudoarchaeology was its tendency to appropriate aspects of actual archaeology, in terms of its language, its organisations, its structures … everything but the actual archaeology, of course. Frustrating for archaeologists but fun for Forteans.
Now, maybe Cornelius Holtorf, in one of his bomb-lobbing archaeology/pop-culture treatises, would say that this isn’t a perversion of the system — this is the system. Me personally, I would not agree, but I can sort of see where he’s coming from. Sometimes what’s really important — and this is certainly the case when we’re talking about Lovecraft and history — isn’t what you say but how you say it.
I never explain this stuff clearly, and I’m not sure I have now.