Monday, April 24, 2006

Ticknor Week

It’s Ticknor Week over at the Lit Blog Co-op. You can read the great funny posts about it from Sam (aka Golden Rule Jones) and Mark (aka The Elegant Variation). And don’t forget—everyone who comments this round is entered into a drawing to receive a complete set of the nominated books!

The book’s premise emerges from the longstanding friendship between Harvard professor George Ticknor (1791-1871) and the epic historian William Hickling Prescott (1796-1859). Ticknor wrote an acclaimed biography of Prescott, turning himself into a Boswell as, apparently, many reviews of the time noted. Multivolume nineteenth-century histories are generally not my bag, but I’m told by my husband that, where Francis Parkman is the historian most people seeking to delve into multivolume 19th-century histories go to first, it was clear to him that all the cool kids would turn to Prescott. He likened it to announcing a preference for Finnegans Wake over Ulysses.

In any case, the novel isn’t really about these men. It isn’t really even very accurate. (The real Ticknor was married with children.) But the jealousy, the ambivalence—and worse—about being a second banana—are very real indeed. It’s an amazing little big book and definitely worth your time.

I had kind of a love-hate relationship with the slim Ticknor myself. Ultimately, I liked it enough that it still rings in my head, I still wonder what I think about some of its experiments. I may post some more thoughts about that myself over at the LBC later this week. Stay tuned….

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