Over at The Dabbler, I introduce readers to a titanic figure from the pernickety world of proofreadnig.
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Those of you who hold Gerard Manley Hopkins in awe – which I assume is every last one of you – should turn today to The Dabbler, where my sister Rita Byrne Tull explains how the great Victorian Jesuit priest was instrumental in setting the course of her life.
This sketch of Father Hopkins was drawn by my son Edwood Burn. A finished version of it will appear in Mr Key’s Shorter Potted Brief, Brief Lives, alongside a score of other portraits.
Today the Guardian yet again employs the preposterous Russell Brand as a commentator. This time his overwritten wittering is about the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, which gives the “alleged comedian” (© Peter Hitchens) another opportunity to tell us that he is a recovering addict. Well, who knew? He may indeed be recovering from drink and drugs, but I think it’s time he sought help for his pitiable addiction to babbling on and on about himself. Several decades in a Trappist monastery would be ideal.
Which brings us to the more important topic of Mr Key, or rather to his cupboard in The Dabbler, which today contains a piece about the role played by comedians in the governance of Britain. Warning: I am afraid Brand is mentioned there again – I really must get a grip! – though only in passing, and you lot will be able to sluice him out of your brains by contemplating, instead, such stars of yesteryear as Wilson, Keppel, and Betty.
Now here is a treat for you lot. The splendid persons at Dabbler Editions, purveyors of e-books to the e-literate, have launched upon the world an e-anthology of Mr Key’s outpourings. By Aerostat To Hooting Yard : A Frank Key Reader contains 147 stories selected by the estimable Roland Clare, who has also written a scholarly introduction. Truly it may be said he has pored over numberless sweeping paragraphs of majestic prose and has actually managed to work out some of the things going on inside Mr Key’s brainpans.
According to the Dabbler, the anthology is “baffling, brilliant, brutal, and hysterically funny”. It is also dirt cheap, well within the means of even the most impecunious reader (few, if any, of whom are as impecunious as Mr Key himself). And remember, you do not need a Kindle to read a Kindle e-book. There are plenty of ways to read this earth-shattering and heart-rending tome on any of the electronic contraptions you might have lying about in your hovel. Just ask your nearest computer whizz person.
So the basic idea is that you go and buy the book from amazon.co.uk or amazon.com or amazon.wherever-you-are. You then award it five stars and post a review explaining that it is the most noble effusion of the human spirit since [insert previous noble effusion of your choice]. You then harry and hector everybody you know, and buttonhole strangers in the street, also to buy the book. And on the seventh day you may put your feet up and actually read it.
Come on, readers. If you cannot make this the bestselling e-book of all time, you can at least ensure that Mr Key is in with a chance of winning the mrs joyful prize for rafia work.
N.B. Those of you active on Facecloth and Twitter should strain every sinew to splurge news of the book all over the place. Remember, you will get your reward in heaven.
Over at The Dabbler today, the tale of Little Dagobert, The Strongest Boy In The Universe. This acts as a preview for the imminent Kindle anthology By Aerostat To Hooting Yard : A Frank Key Reader, published next week by Dabbler Editions. I shall have more to say about this definitive collection next Tuesday, when it will become available. In the meantime, please bear in mind that you lot will be harried and hectored relentlessly until you have (a) bought a copy, and (b) harried and hectored, in your turn, every single person you know to buy a copy, and (c) propelled it, if not to the very top of the e-bestseller lists, at least to the point where I am in with a chance of winning the mrs joyful prize for rafia work.
The monopod flautist Ian Anderson once sang about the time “when the Eve-bitten apple returned to destroy the tree”. I have no idea what he was going on about, and I suspect Mr Anderson may just have wanted something to rhyme with the “sea” and “to be” endings of the preceding lines in his song.
In any case, it is the time before the apple returned to the Garden of Eden that concerns me today, over in my cupboard at The Dabbler, the editor of which found this splendidly apt picture with which to illustrate the piece.
On New Year’s Eve, you will recall, we published Old Key’s Almanacke, a set of eerily unerring prognostications for the coming twelvemonth plucked from the aether by Old Key. Now, in today’s Dabbler, Old Key’s Almanacke reappears … yet each and every prognostication is different! What in the name of heaven can this mean?
The best way to find out, of course, would be to question Old Key himself. But where to find this eldritch figure, shrouded in a moth-eaten black cape besplattered with stars, a pointy hat atop his potato-shaped head? Old Key is famously elusive, and indeed some say he does not actually exist.
Even if he does exist, I have to say that the appearance of two entirely different sets of prognostications casts doubt on the worth of Old Key’s scrying skills. It may be that, slumped over his fiendish diagrams in his mountaintop redoubt, he simply makes it all up.
ADDENDUM : Dear Mr Key, writes Poppy Nisbet, I confess myself befuddled. One minute you say you do not know where to find Old Key, and indeed question his very existence, and then in almost the same breath you describe his appearance and pinpoint his location to a mountaintop redoubt. If anybody is unreliable here, it is you! Please explain what is going on.
I would happily respond in excruciating detail to Ms Nisbet, but unfortunately I have been issued with a notice to cease and desist by Old Key’s legal representatives. They have not specified from what, precisely, I should cease and desist, and I am not taking any chances. Nor would you, if you saw the huge malevolent snorting and stamping trio of horses, Freeman Hardy & Willis, astride which the lawyers came thundering to my door.
Over at the super soaraway Dabbler there is a traditional Christmas story in Key’s cupboard.
Hie thee over to The Dabbler where, in my weekly cupboard, you will find a (very brief) history of ectoplasm. Features astonishing pictorial evidence of the truly uncanny nature of this gooey substance!
Over at The Dabbler, my cupboard contains a selection of newspaper headlines which appeared in The Times in 1789 and 1790. Was it really true that the Irish were not refined enough for opera? Did the paper have a regular “Elopements” column? Is it seemly for a clergyman to eat filberts while conducting a burial service? You will not get answers to these important questions, but they are well worth thinking about, are they not?
Over at The Dabbler today, the final set of Brief Lives for the time being. This week features custard, a duck, and Canadian owls.
You can listen to some of these and other Brief Lives on yesterday’s Hooting Yard On The Air, now available on soundcloud. The show also includes a reading of The Pirate’s Tale by Janet Aichison (age five and a half).
In this week’s Dabbler there is a third set of Brief Lives (or Brief, Brief Lives), involving, inter alia, milk, poultry, and idiots.
In connection with which, Mr Key is about to embark upon a thrilling project which will have the unfortunate effect of becalming Hooting Yard for some while. I will still of course be pouring out sweeping paragraphs of majestic prose, but for a few months there may be fewer postages here than is usual. So if two or three days go by without word, do not fret and imagine I have fallen down a mineshaft or met with some other calamity.
News of Project Thrilling will be announced in due time.
This week in my cupboard at The Dabbler you lot can read about a tortoise, a jar of marmalade, and an invisible pigeon. Yes, we continue with extracts from my (very) Brief Lives, a forthcoming reference work which will be an essential addition to any respectable bookshelf.
My cupboard at The Dabbler this week includes a seagull, a squirrel, and a refrigerator – each of them pertinent to the lives of twentieth-century noteworthies. There are noteworthies from past centuries, too, in extracts from my forthcoming magnum opus Brief Lives. I suspect it will be a long, long time forthcoming. I need to build up a card index.
In my Dabbler cupboard this week I make a convincing argument that the names of the stations on the Docklands Light Railway are as worthy of having their own dedicated forecast on the radio as those oh so evocative shipping areas.
And while we are on the subject of BBC Radio 4, I should note that I learned something very fascinating on Farming Today this morning. Apparently, on no account whatsoever should you ever tell anybody how many sheep you have, even if they have the gall to come out and ask you directly. Remember that.