Friday, September 25, 2009

Link Proliferation: "Many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore."

Somebody Might Get A Head, But Someone Might Get Hurt interviews Colin Dickey, author of Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius. Dickey's new book explores the wonderful world of 19th Century psuedoscience and some of phrenologies more lurid aspects.

From the interview:

IDEAS: Whose skulls made for the most inviting targets?

DICKEY: The three categories of individuals who were most interesting for finding out about the human mind were criminals, the insane, and geniuses, in the sense that they represented the extreme versions of the human mind .... It was easy enough to get the heads of criminals and the insane. Nobody wanted these, really. You could go to any asylum cemetery and root around and not be bothered, or hang out at the gallows and scoop up an executed criminal. Those two were pretty easy. Getting the heads of geniuses proved to be considerably more difficult.

IDEAS: Just how common was grave robbing for phrenology?

DICKEY: It was probably not too common, though significant enough to be a recurring theme. I think it was really more the fear that this was happening on a much more widespread basis, especially in Vienna, where phrenology began. Among detractors of phrenologists, there was something close to a panic about people’s heads being stolen from the grave. Franz Joseph Gall, the guy who invented it - he was very clear that he didn’t take heads illegally. He got them all through legitimate means, although he said at one point, “If I had Gabriel’s killing sword, Kant and Goethe would have to watch out.”

How Green Were the Nazis?

If you haven't yet discovered the joys of online book retailers AbeBooks' "Weird Book Room," then you need to check it out.

This weeks selections include such fabulous tomes as How Green Were the Nazis?, The Haunted Vagina, and The Waterless Toilet: Is It Right For You?.

Jung, Man, There's No Need to Be Sad

The NY Times has an interest piece on the publication of Carl Jung's "Red Book": the surreally mystical quest narrative/dream journal/psychadelic puzzle that's been locked away from general public for about a century. From the article:

This is a story about a nearly 100-year-old book, bound in red leather, which has spent the last quarter century secreted away in a bank vault in Switzerland. The book is big and heavy and its spine is etched with gold letters that say “Liber Novus,” which is Latin for “New Book.” Its pages are made from thick cream-colored parchment and filled with paintings of otherworldly creatures and handwritten dialogues with gods and devils. If you didn’t know the book’s vintage, you might confuse it for a lost medieval tome.

And yet between the book’s heavy covers, a very modern story unfolds. It goes as follows: Man skids into midlife and loses his soul. Man goes looking for soul. After a lot of instructive hardship and adventure — taking place entirely in his head — he finds it again.

Some people feel that nobody should read the book, and some feel that everybody should read it. The truth is, nobody really knows. Most of what has been said about the book — what it is, what it means — is the product of guesswork, because from the time it was begun in 1914 in a smallish town in Switzerland, it seems that only about two dozen people have managed to read or even have much of a look at it.

The story includes a beautiful multimedia slideshow of book.


zoe said...

another day made perfect by your blog. thanks :)
i'm very concerned with the suggestion that there exists that type of haunting.
but i'm excited about this jung book...i'm hopping right over for the slide show now...thanks!

Monster Scholar said...

The haunted vagina sounds like some paranormal investigator's excuse to bone his clients.

"I have to boink you, there's a ghost in your vag!"

Ms Harker said...

I love reading things about ye olde methods of medicine, the idea that the shape of your skull dictates your psychopathology! Fabulous, I have to get Dickey's book!

CRwM said...


I've seen some pages of the Norton edition and it is lovely, if slightly mad. You're going to dig it.

CRwM said...


The title makes me think of the line from Ghostbusters, "Oh yes, we're totally discrete."