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It would appear that in spite of his cockroach bias my anonymous contributor knows his stuff.

Book Review: The Annotated Archy And Mehitabel by Don Marquis

With Apologies To Don Marquis

I've been having this bad habit recently of falling asleep with my laptop turned on.  Last night it happened again, and I woke up to find the article I had been working on erased and the piece of work below written in its place. I must admit to some confusion as to why the "insect" in question — as you'll see — refers to my laptop as an old typewriter and wonders why I don't own a computer. True, the laptop in question is ten years old and the keys are a bit stiff, but still…

Of course a cockroach, if my mysterious writer is to be believed in his claims about his heritage, would have difficulty operating the shift key. Holding it down and depressing the letters simultaneously would involve having legs a lot longer then I'd personally want to see on a cockroach. The solitary "I" is set as an auto correct by the software, which explains its existence, but I still think he's avoided using the punctuation only for effect. Not one of those keys involves the shift key to operate.

Anyway, I thought the novelty of his submission merited keeping it intact. I'm sure our readers will be able to discern his meaning without too much trouble and that his insights into one of the greater comic writers of the early twentieth century would be intriguing. So I'll just let him tell it in his own words…

boss I must tell you about this guy don marquis

but before we get started I want you to know how hard it is for me to type not able to use punctuation or the shift key as I'm forced to jump on each key with my head
why you are still using an old manual typewriter when everyone else has computers is beyond me

anyhow back to don marquis he was a newspaper guy back in the days when newspaper guys were writers as well as being journalists yes I know that sounds hard to believe but it was true back in the early days of the twentieth century

don was born in the real dark ages before electricity in 1878 and ended up in new york city writing for the newspaper trade in the teen years of the twentieth century
thats when archy the cockroach the reincarnated vers libre poet was first introduced to a disbelieving world

you see boss they were a lot more skeptical back then than people are today so they had a hard time believing it was a cockroach typing those columns every other day or so in the same plucky manner you see me doing here for you now

you dont believe me boss well hell all you have to do is check out your local bookseller for one of them penguin classic books theyve just put out a whole new version of archys work under the pen name of don marquis of course cause like you some people have ahard time believing that a cockroach can write anything

even in these supposed enlightened times a cockroach is treated like something that needs to be crunched under the heel do you know how many poetic souls are being scraped off soles every day

I digress and Im sorry boss but it makes my blood boil to think of all those souls who will have to transmigrate again to another body maybe not even as evolved as a cockroach
the book the book alright alright the book its called the – help me out somebody boss do the keys for html or we'll never hear the end of it the annotated archy and mehitabel you lazy so and so you couldnt stretch yourself to consider putting a higher case letter on either dear old archy or poor old mehitabel

you know there was never a finer feline thats lived according to what archy wrote for his boss then mahitabel she used to say that she was the reincarnation of cleopatra which was quite a funny but archy was a gentleman and let her have her vanities because she was his friend in an aside id also say that archy was probably just a little more then a  little in love with mehitabel

well if you think people have a problem with same sex spousal things today cross species would have just been too much for the likes of the world back then  even me liberal free spirited cockroach that I am would be hard pressed not to be a little upset by that idea.

but I think archy knew it were a hopeless cause and he wasnt one for an overt amount of brooding

well he must have done some sort of brooding on occasion because he did commit suicide to become the cockroach

oh well thats for bigger minds or ones that arent being bashed against the keys of an old remington every night to figure out

you know that their relationship didnt exactly get off on the right foot with mehitabel mistaking archy for a late night snack and forcing him to hide in the keys of the typewriter

but once she found he was a writer who could properly immortalize her why she was a lot less keen on eating him and keener to talk about herself

toujours gai she'd say always happy archy toujous gai and shed give him that big toothy smile that would probably have made him nervous as much as anything else and go off into the night to try her luck

she was your regular society girl was our mehitabel boss  only being inconvenienced in a minor way by her natural inclinations like motherhood but if she had one weakness aside from her pride and desire to always be a lady it was for the men folk of her species
ah boss the stories shed tell old archy about her men whod leave her high and dry but she kept her tail up proud and plump and it was always toujours gai archy toujours gai

now of course archy working at a newspaper as he did had to give his readers more diverse reading matter than only that pertaining to the life of a cat no matter how  interesting mehitabel thought herself there was news happening in the world at the time as important as her story

periodically archy would go into the field to report from washington d c he found that the insects there were so plentiful that nobody even noticed another cockroach  he reported that in the capital building no attention was paid to him because there were so many  other insects around

it gives you a great idea of the american people he said when you see some of the things they elect

he discovered what we all know too well today that everything is going great and that anybody who says things arent are spreading propaganda of the enemy the department of publicity is doing its best to suppress all rumours that it didnt start itself

washington sure doesnt sound much different today then it did back in archys day does it boss

you know it seems like this don marquis fellow got quite famous off the back of my distant ancestor archy all cockroaches are related boss havent you noticed the similarity yet

sure he may have written a couple of plays and other books and a screenplay or two but who would have heard of him today if it werent for archy and mehitabel the book isnt called the annotated don marquis now is it

they even made an animated movie about the life of archy and mehitabel –
boss I really need your help this time be a pal – Shinebone Alley and you can't say they did that about old don marquis can you.

Well I guess theres no use complaining as thats usually a cockroaches lot even if they are remembered somebody else is taking the credit for their work but as mehitabel would have said to archy if he had complained to her about it
toujours gai archy always smiling toujours gai

Well that's where it ended, this epistle from my mysterious visitor in the night who felt the need to write about the Penguin Classic's release of The Annotated Archy and Mehitabel by Don Marquis. I did some checking up and found that such a book does exist and it includes a really good biography of Don in the foreword by Michael Sims.

This collection is the first time all the poems are gathered together in the order they were first published in the New York Evening Sun as part of Don's column "The Sun Dial". It would appear that in spite of his cockroach bias my anonymous contributor knows his stuff. So from now on I'm going to be keeping a eye out for a slightly stooped cockroach around the house – one with the high forehead, the sign of an unusually large intellect, or of having your head beaten against a solid object repeatedly. I can only hope none of our cats come upon him while he's typing – there's not much room in a computer laptop's keyboard for a cockroach, no matter how small, to hide.

About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site Qantara.de. He has been writing for Blogcritics.org since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.

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