Saturday, August 23, 2008

At Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA, you can have your picture taken with a tiny owl, perched on your finger. My brother did this yesterday, and got several prints, including wallet-sized and a keychain. Andy Warhol would have loved this, I'm sure. Before my brother in line was a little girl with a cast on her wrist, upon which the owl obligingly posed for the camera. The cast was pink, and it was easily the cutest thing to see in the world, my head almost exploded. I wish you could have been there too, if only to have seen your head explode, as well.

Williamsburg is home to William & Mary College, where James Branch Cabell once studied. He's the author of 50 books, and was once notorious for his novel, "Jurgen"- sorry, that should be underlined, as is proper for a book title, but then again, the book was scandalous, when it was published in 1919. It's full of sexual innuendoes, which offended some Boston librarianesses, but it's not vulgar, really, and I don't understand how it wasn't attacked for its blasphemy, which is cavielier and witty, which is typical of Cabell.

He had a house around the corner from me, and I love his books, which are now obscure. In the 1920's, he was a household name, and it was a kick for flappers to tell you they read his books, that branded you as a sort of rebel. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald were fans, and Cabell was singled out by H. L. Mencken as the only southern-based writer he didn't think sucked, which is typical of yankee lit sophisticates at the time, but consider James Thurber's short "Bateman Comes Home"- Cabell was a writer with imagination, style and talent, far beyond the turgid cliches of the sleepy, sultry South.

Thurber as well must have read Cabell, referencing his fictional Poictesme in his very funny "My Life and Hard Times". Poictisme is the setting for several of Cabell's novels, and it's pronounced "Paw-tem", but the author outgrew the fictional setting, and wrote several novels set in Florida, and elsewhere. He died in the fifties, and was buried in Richmond's Hollywood Cemetarey

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