I have a book, “the lives and times of archy & mehitabel” written by Don Marquis. I’ve read this book many times and still enjoy it.
The book I have was published in 1940 and in my opinion, features a character who had to be one of the most unique bloggers in history.
My book belonged to my grandfather, Dad Arthur. When I visited his library I would pick this book to read. When he died it was passed on to my father, and knowing my love for it, he eventually gave it to me.
A Timeless Literary Classic
The book is now faded with age and worn from the many times it’s been read. But that’s the sign of a well loved book, isn’t it?
I smile as I write this because it IS an odd duck of a book. The main character is a philosophical cockroach named Archy, who in his past life was a human who wrote free verse poetry. He discovers a typewriter and begins to type out his thoughts, dreams and complaints. You can see why I say he was a blogger:~)
Archy writes about his life and the multiple lives of his cat friend, Mehitabel, who claims to have been Cleopatra in a former life. He writes about the many characters they meet along the way. His stories are poignant, funny and recount situations that any of us could relate to today.
These stories of Archy the cockroach and Mehitabel the cat still make me sigh and smile in equal measure.
Freestyle Poetry By Don Marquis
One of the things I like most about this book is that it touches on the many difficulties that writers experience today. Archy’s style is unique; he writes on an old manual typewriter, jumping on the keys with his body. Here’s one of his more famous writings:
boss, i am disappointed in
some of your readers they
are always asking how does
Archy work the shift so as to get a
new line or how does archy do
this or do that they
are always interested in technical
details when the main question is
whether the stuff is
literature or not…”
Now tell me, doesn’t this apply to many bloggers? These days we deal with the same struggles Archy did when we talk to people about blogging. The literary side of writing can be easily lost while explaining the technical details.
Writing Style Models Bloggers
Archy would have been very comfortable with the freedom of style that bloggers enjoy. For example, as you can see from his poem, Archy doesn’t pay attention to capitalization or grammar; he writes about what he’s thinking or feeling in his everyday life. Sound familiar?
“the lives and times of archy & mehitabel” is still available. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys poetry written by a different kind of writer. Archy is a lot of fun to read, albeit not always an easy read; this is true stream of consciousness writing. It is also outdated in some of its stories.
I like “the lives and times of archy & mehitabel” because of its past as well as its future potential. I hold this book and know that both my grandfather and my father held it before me. Perhaps, they even laughed at the same lines as I do today.
Someday, I may give this book to my children or their children. I find it strangely comforting that a very early blogger and poet, who just happened to be a cockroach, could be the link between my past and my future.
What about you?
What older books remind you of a blogger’s style of writing?
What books have passed down to you that you continue to read and re-read?
Did you ever have to use a typewriter when writing? If so, what were the difficulties and how did it compare to our modern computers?
Artwork by George Herriman