Jan Gordon: Some Craftie Arts

"Some Craftie Arts" by Jan Gordon was published in 1930. The dedication reads "To NETTA PEACOCK As a souvenir of our long standing friendship and of seat No. J7."

I remember being annoyed by this book when I first read it. The humour seemed forced and self conscious.

The idea though is quite entertaining. Browsing through the catalogue of the British Museum catalogue, Jan Gordon happens across the entries classified under "Art" and sees much potential for laughter. The dust jacket announces that "Mr. Gordon has made a strange, witty and instructive book from this material, giving at times almost Rabelaisian sidelights on centuries past and present."

To set the scene, Jan Gordon writes: "The catalogue of the British Museum Library stands like a rampart, double ringed about the citadel of the librarians, a monument to the cataloguer's art. Its function is to inform. The catalogue was not planned to amuse nor would the use of the library be enhanced were the readers to hang chuckling over these thick pages."

However, he then comes across the word "ART" (in volume 39 of the catalogue). "What is art?" I ejaculated, imitating the thousands who have parodied Pilate."

The catalogue replied with "The Art of Brewing - see Academies, etc., London." Further entries are in "Roumanian", followed by "The Art of Breathing naturally" and later "The Art of Fascination and the Science of breathing." More practical arts are represented by "The Art of Ticket writing made easy" and "The Art of raising Goats and causing them to produce as well in the town as in the country" and then "The Art of exterminating Field Mice."

Many chapters later Jan Gordon reaches "Art thou weary?" by the author of "Ten Minutes with Mothers" and concludes with "The Art of Short and Swift Writing." This book tired me out and tried my patience on the first reading, but I'm thinking of giving it another chance over the summer.


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