Ordinarily our battles against the Chicago Manual of Style are waged on the killing fields of English grammar, usage, and style, but occasionally we like to hit our opponent from a completely unexpected direction. This week no less an eminence than “Grammar Girl,” a.k.a. Mignon Fogarty, host of the wildly popular podcast on all things grammatical, provided us with an opportunity to do just that. Inspired, as she told us, by our poking fun at the Chicago Manual and the reverence accorded it by copyeditors, Ms. Fogarty has drawn the following cartoon for her blog:
Sorry, we’ve forgotten: how many satirical cartoons about Abbeville—drawn by Grammar Girl herself—has Chicago inspired? Here, give us a second to crunch the numbers and ah yes ZERO. This is a heady moral victory for the Abbeville Manual and our more enlightened, more stylish creed, one that we have every intention of lording over our orange archnemesis far into the future. Meanwhile, we are sitting at our desks in full Halloween regalia, looking forward to the debaucherous phantasmagoria of tonight’s parade, which we will be joining as soon as it sweeps by our office door. See you there!
Gooood morning art book fans! (Sorry, just wanted to try that opening once.) Today you are in luck: we have teamed up with Bob Duggan of Art Blog by Bob to sponsor a second Abbeville book giveaway contest. The grand prize? One free copy of The Loggia of Raphael: A Vatican Art Treasure, lavishly illustrated with 200 images and worth $125.00 retail. The theme and rules of the contest have been cleverly devised by Bob himself and incorporate his signature blend of humor, art history savvy, and autobiographical nostalgia. For complete guidelines, click here. For a sense of the glory of the prize being offered, as well as of the masterpiece it celebrates, check out Bob’s review of the book here. SPOILER ALERT—he liked it! Here’s the final sentence:
“Nicole Dacos’ The Loggia of Raphael, which speaks to the ears, eyes, and soul of the art history lover, is as much a treasure as the Vatican masterpiece it celebrates.”
As always, many thanks to Bob for his invaluable help in planning, hosting, and promoting the contest. His hard work is your good fortune: enter today!
No, we haven’t been performing any exploits worth enshrining at the Museum, but we did party there last night. That’s because Bridgeman Art Library, an art licensing company we’ve worked with on a number of projects, chose MoSex as the venue in which to celebrate the launch of their revamped website. Ostensibly this had something to do with a “censorship in art” theme, but really they were just being cheeky, something that as a British-based company they are legally obligated to do.
The event took place in two wings of the museum: the Animal Sex wing downstairs and one of the Human Sex wings on the second floor. (There are undoubtedly loftier names for these exhibits, but we don’t remember them, so we’re going with the names we used in our heads.) The Animal wing, as anyone who has visited will recall, is essentially a large-scale biology lesson (albeit an entertaining and informative one) with the exception of several large sculptures of copulating animals. With their combination of fluidity and roughness, these worked suprisingly well asart—although was it just our imagination or was that deer threesome smiling…?
The Human Sex wing was dedicated to sex in video, i.e., modern pornography, though all of its video displays had been replaced with compilations of still images from the Bridgeman collection. Since their collection is composed largely of pre-twentieth-century art, this had the effect of turning a cold shower on whatever titillation factor the exhibit might otherwise have had, while on the other hand creating some witty juxtapositions (e.g. Renaissance nudes on the “Celebrity Pornography” screen). No matter; the images were risqué enough for what was after all a cocktail party, while the party itself fulfilled its most important obligation: providing good cocktails. The lychee martinis (Chambord Liqueur Royale, vodka, lychee juice) were especially choice.
Thanks again to BAL for inviting us to the launch; we had a lot of fun, though not quite as much as that monkey was having with himself in the video above the hors d’oeuvres table.
The results of last week’s poll are in, and it is our knock-down drag-out mano a mano battles with the Chicago Manual of Style that have emerged as our readers’ favorite feature. Apparently all of you like to see that big orange palooka take a hit almost as much as we do. Fair enough; we will be treating you to another Abbeville vs. Chicago bout later this week. Less popular features included our “witty, civilized discussions of art” (see if we ever fish for a compliment again) and our interviews with noted art and publishing figures (we’re hoping the next interview subject we’ve got lined up will change some minds on that one). The people have spoken—or at least, resoundingly clicked—and we will be incorporating this feedback into our future content. Thanks to everyone who voted, and even though we know it’ll be anticlimactic after the excitement of an Abbeville poll, don’t forget to vote on November 4 also.
One last Monday tidbit: as you can see, site redesign is underway, and we are playing with fonts and color schemes like a fifth-grader jazzing up a book report. Apologies if the result is a bit unattractive at times, but we’re confident everything will look stylish in the end. Among the new features we’ve added is a FAQ section (see tab at top of page), so that you may quench the thirst for Abbeville Manual of Style knowledge that has so long parched your soul.
Perceptive followers of this site will notice that we’ve organized our once-slovenly array of sidebar links into four new categories: Arts and Culture Links, Book and Publishing Links, Library and Bookstore Links, and Yachting Links. Why Yachting? Reader, it is not enough for the true gentleman or gentlewoman of style merely to have exceptional taste in the arts; he or she must also cultivate at least one other rarefied, completely unrelated area of expertise. We have chosen yachting as but a token example; you may prefer philately or the steeplechase. (Other ideas can be found by browsing the Travel, Sports & Automobiles, or Interior Design & Lifestyle sections of Abbeville.com.) Anyway, under Yachting Links you will find several fine online sources for nautical news, including the homepage of Gary Jobson, our occasional guest contributor, and the popular Ask the Boater, which posted a short item about us just yesterday.
In addition to tidying up the links we will be tweaking the look and feel of this site in the coming weeks. It is our hope that these adjustments will help make the Abbeville Manual more stylish than even we dreamed possible.
Today’s recommendation comes at you with the deadly speed and surprising grace of a throwing star. Actually, Bookninja is one of those sites that practically recommends itself, from the undeniable cool factor of its name and masthead to its crudely-drawn yet finely-observed Litterati cartoons to its centerpiece, the Hearsay newslog, a treasure trove of literary and publishing news, gossip, and entertainment. Quite simply, Bookninja has earned its self-proclaimed status as “the premier Canadian literary site.” (No big-fish-in-a-small-frozen-lake-jokes, please: it is also, as it goes on to say, “one of the top literary sites in the world,” and when its Canadian roots show through at all, it’s in the unusual number of references it makes to Robertson Davies, Margaret Atwood, and Leonard Cohen. See this hilarious reader contest for examples.) Unlike most ninjas, Bookninja deserves and demands to be seen; we suggest you head over there now. Go in stealth, young grasshopper.
Much of the work we do at Abbeville involves online book publicity, so from time to time we search the Web for advice on that topic. That’s how we came across this article by social media blogger Chris Brogan, in which he discusses publicity ideas for his upcoming book Trust Agents (co-authored with Julien Smith). Most of his suggestions, such as “Warm People Up With Blog Posts,” made perfect sense to us, but this one just made us smile:
Record Conversational Podcasts – Julien and I keep threatening to do this: a series of audio podcasts that are essentially a capture of the conversations we’re having while forming the book. We think it’d be fun, because it’d show you how our idea-forming process works, and it’d give you all the crazy exchanges that happen before we get to the actual writing part.
Ah, yes: as writers ourselves, we know the syndrome well. How quickly the grand endeavor of “writing a book” turns into “blogging about debating whether to record a series of brainstorming sessions for the book we’re going to write.” It’s kind of like that band everyone had in college that never recorded a single song, but generated hours of heated arguments over the band name.
But we tease. We’re sure Chris and Julien will get the ball rolling on this, and we agree entirely with their recommendation of podcasts as a book promotion tool. Click here if you don’t believe us!
In the surest sign that the worldwide economy is in the Slough of Despond right now, a Damien Hirst sculpture has just sold for less than 1 million pounds sterling. Indeed, as the Wall Street Journal reports, the contemporary art market as a whole is suffering, “with many collectors wary of making seven-figure bids for new artworks amid the global financial crisis.” Really—people are no longer staking millions of dollars on elaborately packaged investments that might turn out, at the end of the day, to be totally worthless? But why, why…?
We don’t mean to be flip, but we do see a parallel between the smoke-and-mirrors game surrounding much contemporary art evaluation and the games Wall Street was playing with “credit default swaps” and the like. A collector shelling out for a Van Gogh (if anything at all) instead of a Hirst is simply the art-world equivalent of a Wall Street investor moving his money, for the time being, into safer and more old-fashioned securities. (And of course, in many cases these collectors and investors are the same people.) The element of risk is what drives both markets during good times—and we certainly don’t hope things stay this way forever—but for the time being caution may be a necessary, if brutal, corrective.
Anyway, the collectors and the big names like Hirst will muddle through just fine; it’s the unknown, up-and-coming contemporary artists that are getting the short end of this stick. For those poor souls, it’s time to hunker down in the old mansard, drink absinthe to keep warm, and starve a little more for the sake of their art—which will have plenty of justified gloom and vitriol to fuel it until the day it becomes valuable again.
UPDATE: Of course, if you’re an intrepid art collector like Lisa Hunter, now may be just the time to throw caution to the wind. Thanks to Ms. Hunter and her estimable blog, which we just stumbled across today, for the second opinion.
Anyone using WordPress will have noticed that they’ve just teamed up with PollDaddy to create a convenient new Poll feature. Nifty! We’d like to take this as an excuse to do a little navel-gazing—and solicit some feedback from You, dear reader—with our very first Abbeville Manual of Style Poll:
If you have some other answer—if what you really love is our website reviews, or our original photography, or the way we get cold when it’s seventy-one degrees out—feel free to leave it in the Comments section. Future polls will be a little bit different, and will allow you to step into the role of Arbiter of Style by passing swift, brazen judgement on books, works of art, and the like. Start working yourself into an opinionated lather and enjoy!
Recently the television has been yelling at us about the prospect of a second Great Depression. We believe it’s being silly and hysterical as usual, but it’s true that we’re in for some tough economic times, and tough times require expertly dispensed drinks. We mean advice! And drinks. For example: which cocktails should you mix to celebrate when the Dow straggles upward, cruelly raising everybody’s hopes, and which should you drink to blur the pain when it plummets back down? When the economy is on the rocks, should your whiskey be also? Or should you drink it down neat and take no thought for the morrow?
For answers to these and other burning questions we recommend American Bar, by professional bartender Charles Schumann. Called “the drink mixer’s bible” by The New York Times when Abbeville first published it in 1995, it has lost none of its authority or charm in the intervening years. It includes not only drink recipes (over 500 of them, listed alphabetically), but also a history of all the major brands of cocktail ingredients; a guide to bar equipment, measurements, and terms; and best of all, hundreds of 1930′s-style line drawings of the thoroughly endearing kind you see pictured. We’re doing the Lindy Hop just looking at them.
*Pop* Wheeee! Bottoms up, everybody! Remember, our ancestors weren’t as fortunate as we are: alcohol was prohibited for the first several years of Depression Number One. Not that it wasn’t consumed; it was just mixed in bathtubs along with ingredients like bear oil and Tallahassee Lightnin’. We can do better than that this time around, thanks to the indomitable American spirit and American Bar. You can thank us later for bailing you out of your sorrows.