Mysterious Telegrams

Bring out your wheelbarrows and let’s all take a trip to the local incinerator. The first truckload of ‘Christmas books’ has arrived. And it’s full of the usual muck: the autobiography of a celebrity sperm, a gloriously bound unfinished short story by a great dead novelist, an utterly-unnecessary otter-filled sequel to a timeless classic (see here, those with strong stomachs) and, horror of horrors, several thousand flimsy books encumbered with long and ‘quirky’ titles, such as How to Brush a Spider off Your Sister’s Back and Reading Penguin Gestures: The South Carolinian Way.

Amongst these, I draw your rapidly waning attentions to the following work: ‘Butter Gone Rancid. Off to the Docks’ and Other Mysterious Telegrams by Walter C Inglesberry. Another tragic title, one sighs. Another sad waste of precious ink and paper. Yet another poor book keeping the complete works of Boris Yashmilye off the bookstore shelves.

So you would think. And you would probably be right. However, what is interesting about Inglesberry’s work (or the title at least) is that it represents a very rare reference to Johannes Speyer in what is, well, relatively popular culture. For it is so: ‘Butter gone rancid. Off to the docks’ was the content of a telegram sent from Johannes Speyer to the famous German academic (then teaching at Frankfurt) Michael von Stürker. What was the meaning of this missive? Well, that’s the point Inglesberry seems to be making: no one really knows.

Or do they?

More on this later…

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2 thoughts on “Mysterious Telegrams

  1. Regarding flimsy books encumbered with long and ‘quirky’ titles, I received unrequested yesterdaty in the post the book, perhaps familiar to yourself, “The Inglorious Antecedent of the Apostrophe in the Mulberry Bushes.”

  2. A beautifully tragic example, Andrew. Still, when the inevitable TV adaptation comes along, I expect they’ll shorten the title to plain old ‘Mulberry’

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