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Shopping for Groceries with the Romantic Poets

October 25, 2013 | by

Jason Novak is a cartoonist in Oakland, California.

 

5 COMMENTS

The Private Lives of Web Journalists

March 29, 2013 | by

social studies

Jason Novak works at a grocery store in Berkeley, California, and changes diapers in his spare time.

 

2 COMMENTS

Caveat Emptor

January 23, 2013 | by

I was at Moe’s Books in Berkeley looking for material on seventeenth-century shape poems with my not-yet-two-year-old daughter when a wizened man with mutton chops spotted me reshelving the books she was piling in the corner.

“What are you looking for?” he asked.

I quickly learned that he’d spent his entire scholarly life immersed in the study of shape poems. Moe’s must be rich with encounters like this; it’s a four-story bookstore just three blocks from the University of California, Berkeley campus.

He told me about a contemporaneous vogue for something called emblem books. Perhaps the best known emblem book is Hans Holbein the Younger’s beautifully decorated The Dance of Death, in which woodcuts of various scenes and settings depict a skeleton reminding us of time’s wicked work on our health and aspirations. Beneath each woodcut is an epigram in verse. The best-known English practitioners of emblem books, Francis Quarles and George Wither, are hardly known at all, possibly because it’s hard to anthologize poems that are incomplete without an accompanying picture. Read More »

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“Altar”-Shaped

January 14, 2013 | by

A send-up of George Herbert’s famous seventeenth-century shape poem “The Altar,” featuring my own conflicted version of devotion.

Jason Novak works at a grocery store in Berkeley, California, and changes diapers in his spare time.

4 COMMENTS

“Make Time, Not Love”

December 20, 2012 | by

Jason Novak works at a grocery store in Berkeley, California, and changes diapers in his spare time.

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The Year 476: An Illustrated Panorama

November 20, 2012 | by

History is full of linchpin dates around which the world is said to have pivoted. The year 476 is touted as the momentous one in which the Roman Empire fell and the world descended into a dark administrative vacuum inhabited by pillaging, horned demons. The reality is that, after blowing through dozens of emperors over the course of a generation, 476 was simply the year in which the ceremony of crowning yet another emperor didn’t seem worth the cost or trouble, and everyone stayed home.

What is usually absent from the “Rome fell” story is that the eastern half of the Roman Empire flourished for another thousand years. In fact, 476 was when things were just getting interesting.

The sixth-century historian Procopius wrote about his contemporaries in eastern Byzantine Rome in two works: one famous, one infamous. The first, the official history, paints a rosy picture of Emperor Justinian and his imperial accomplishments. The second, the “Secret History,” describes Justinian; his empress, Theodora; and their bosom companions General Belisarius and his wife, Antonina, as wicked, conniving, and so outrageously scandalous and beastly that the whole work has to be read as an act of either revenge or farce. Needless to say, the second one is a delight to read.

The following panels are culled from both works, and from lore about the period: a miscellany on the exciting century that followed 476.

Jason Novak works at a grocery store in Berkeley, California, and changes diapers in his spare time.

1 COMMENT