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Non Sequitur

December 28, 2010

Dec. 22/10 “He deliberately modeled his style on Macaulay … his early style, anyway. I’m going to turn some heat on.”

Dad said this as I was entering “Miscellaneous Essays and the Lays of Ancient Rome” by Thomas Babington Macaulay (Everyman vol. 439, 1926)

On page 526 of the volume, Marshall writes:
“The effect of the poem is greatly heightened
if the circumstances under which it was
written are justly estimated”

This is a heavily-annotated volume, typical of his Cambridge-years books bought in the early to mid nineteen-thirties in England. Marshall writes several long pieces, and makes small margin notes, observations, and quotes. There are several G.K. Chesterton quotes written in.

The job of cataloging HMM’s library is less arduous than fascinating. It is a pity that I can’t take the time to leaf thoroughly through every book – so many of them have margin notes; newspaper clippings which would have either interested Marshall, or that he would have considered relevant to that book or author. But there are too many books to catalogue, and i’m supposed to finish it as soon as possible.

I read a bit about the man who catalogued James Joyce’s working library for the University of Buffalo. He went through it page by page and made precise notes of every little annotation Joyce made. Mind you, the total library consists of less than 500 volumes, and I’m looking at 5,000.

“Something you should know: sand, cat litter, makes a wonderful vise for holding something at an unusual angle” – on repairing a butter-dish lid for my mother, Sabina.

The lid of the butter dish has a ceramic bee, which had a wing broken off. Dad likes to repair things, which is fine except when the object is a lamp, which makes us nervous… not that he’s not competent to do minor electrical work, it’s just… sure, repair a butter dish, but get a professional to do electrical, right?

So dad shows me this plastic container which had some cat litter in it, which he had used to support the butter dish lid as he glued it and it dried. I can only hope it was not used litter. I’m fairly sure it was not.

The litter was on hand on account of Hector, the ghostly mascot here in the Scriptorium. Hector is a beautiful male tabby cat with a distinctive white tip on the end of his tail. Many years ago, my sister Emily brought him and another cat to my parent’s place here in the County (at the time they were living in their first Prince Edward County home, the Bowerman Church at Bowerman’s corners). The other cat took off, but Hector remained.  Who knows why… he’s not the friendliest cat. In fact, he hides from most mortals, and only usually comes out when no one’s around, or when it’s just my dad. For some reason, he only lets dad get near him. I’ve seen my dad interacting with Hector (you have to be very sneaky to get a look) – petting him and making little noises. I dubbed him The Cat Whisperer for that.

I have a pet salamander (Mr. Salads, or Suleiman the Magnificent) who is much the same: I only know Hector is around because he food and water get consumed, and the litter box gets dirty – though in Salads’ case, it’s his four weekly crickets which disappear.

Dad sits at his desk and types away at one of his many current projects. He listens to classical music on his stereo. Or maybe he’s spamming his friends with jokes of questionable taste. His upright piano sits silently against the wall – he’s a great pianist with a surprising repertoire of show tunes, jazz classics. He doesn’t play so much these days due to arthritis; and bad circulation due to diabetes.

This coming July is the 100th anniversary of Marshall McLuhan’s birth, and this December 31st, New Year’s Eve, is the 30th anniversary of his death. As his bronze tombstone, cast by Sorel Etrog reads: The truth shall make you free.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, from the Scriptorium.


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