ARCHYOLOGY II (THE FINAL DIG): The Long Lost Tales of Archy and Mehitabel by Don Marquis

ARCHYOLOGY II (THE FINAL DIG): The Long Lost Tales of Archy and Mehitabel

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A slender final posthumous collection of vers libre by the most famous cockroach in American letters. Though editor Adams's scant Preface doesn't date any of the individual poems, at least one of them, in which archy stops a German U-boat from sinking an American fleet carrying wartime supplies to France, can be dated almost to the literary cockroach's debut in 1916. Others--archy visits the insects in Washington, archy goes on strike until Marquis (his ""boss"") changes his typeface, archy fends off the advances of jennie the cockroach--could have been written yesterday. Marquis's eye for humbug, and his ear for nonsense, achieve a comic sublimity in ""the inventor's toothpick"" (archy suddenly finds himself laden with a minute but lethal dose of high explosives) and ""archy comes out for simplified spelling"" (in which the cause finds its logical champion: a writer who perforce dispenses with capitalization and punctuation, and whose own terseness is explained by the effort it takes to leap from key to key of the typewriter). Three reservations: (1) Marquis's satires of the Ku Klux Klan (variously called""the ku klux klam"" and ""the krew krux krank"") are toothless; (2) nearly half the book is devoted to ""The Great False Teeth Mystery,"" whose burlesque of serial conventions, though often antically funny (its non-sequitur installments are mainly variations on the challenge of writing a cockroach detective and a set of bejewelled false teeth into the same story), is best consumed in small doses; and (3) archy's friend mehitabel, the cat who claims to be an incarnation of Cleopatra, appears more frequently in Frascino's 36 line drawings than in archy's poems. Despite the thinness, though, any new book from archy is better than no cockroach poetry at all.

Pub Date: April 17th, 1998
Page count: 136pp
Publisher: Univ. Press of New England