The unusual life of Vincent Poklewski Koziell demands an unusual telling. The author insists that this book is not a memoir. But then what exactly is it? The title suggests merely 'a cocktail of reminiscences'; a series of spirit-wine-beer sodden anecdotes, loosely (hazily) adumbrating the author’s heady, convivial existence. Whilst he narrates the major events of his life – marriage, children, death, gains, losses, change – he does so reticently. The details which usually take main stage in a memoir are, in this book of reminiscences, parenthetical to the dizzying parade of extraordinary incidents. This is certainly not an exhaustive history of one man’s life. But it is an autobiography, of sorts.
A famous name can have an extraordinary impact upon the value of something. With celebrity comes a superpower: the Midas touch. The right name can sell just about anything, and at a vastly inflated price. Kanye West – stellar musician – put his name to a clothing line. The most basic item, a plain white t-shirt, retails for $120. Celebrity memorabilia is the mundane made expensive. In recent auction, a coat once owned by John Lennon sold for £7,000. Elsewhere, a plain, greyish t-shirt worn by Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator II sold for £900. Taken as they are, these items boast no especial worth. Threadbare, worn, basic – but minted by association. Is this not a little insane? Or do these vicariously valuable items boast some significance of their own?
The Centennial of Independence, oil on canvas by Henri Rousseau, 1892.
In an essay of 1924, Virginia Woolf declared that ‘on or about December 1910, human character changed.’ Writing from the vantage point of the ‘twenties, Woolf rewinds past the so-called ‘Great War,’ marking instead the date that the first Post- Impressionist Art exhibition was displayed in London. Is this Bloomsbury aesthete just being facetious? Or is there more to this comment?
Girolamini Ancient Library, Naples.
It recently came to light that London’s Lambeth Palace, home to an impressive historic library as well as the Archbishop of Canterbury, was the scene of a ‘major crime’ that remained undetected for decades. In a sequence of events that might have read as the sensational formula of a Victorian mystery, a sealed letter was sent to the palace by an unfamiliar solicitor. Disclosed within, was the admission of a deceased, former employee of the library.
Aubrey Beardsley lived in 114 Cambridge Street, just a few doors up the road from Classic Rare Books. If accounted for in years, Beardsley barely lived at all, dying from tuberculosis at the age of 26. Measured seismically, though, his life pounded within the late Victorian atmosphere.