Nightstand IV

More books on a chair.
More books on a chair.

John S. Farmer. A dictionary of slang: An alphabetical history of colloquial, unorthodox, underground and vulgar English. (1980 reprint of Slang and its analogues, 1890). Mostly eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century slang, with an emphasis on the London underworld. In two fat volumes! As great for browsing as it is for reference (“tip us your flipper” = give me your hand: vital information for all time travelers). My only complaint is that the organization is eccentric. Words are gathered together by subject, under a headword that the editor judged to be, I suppose, the most common term — so that, for example, all terms for the female pudenda are listed under Monosyllable (!). Copious cross-references could have cured this defect, but they are sparse.

Malcolm Balen. The secret history of the South Sea bubble: The world’s first great financial scandal. I don’t know how secret any of this actually is, but it’s fascinating to see all the threads gathered together and laid out plainly.

Lapham’s quarterly, volume 5, number 3: Magic shows. At a recent Friends of the Library book sale, I saw a box under the table with a nearly complete run of this fine publication, many of them still in shrink-wrap. Naturally, I snapped them up; at $5 a bag (it was the last day), how can you go wrong?

James Tiptree, Jr. Her smoke rose up forever. I recently read Julie Phillips’s fine biography, James Tiptree, Jr.: The double life of Alice B. Sheldon. Rereading the stories now, there’s an eerie sensation of seeing through the surface of the fiction and catching elusive glimpses of something else lurking there, something darker, sadder, more desperate, more painful than any possible endurance.