A literary excursion around the clock and through the year in miniature essays about a host of diverse, fanciful topics.
This Book of Hours, unlike traditional breviaries, does not follow the ecclesiastical calendar through the seasons and times of day with psalms and prayers. Instead, Jenkins’ (Encyclopedia of the Exquisite: An Anecdotal History of Elegant Delights, 2010, etc.) book is a collection of curiosities. In its chronological presentation, there are more than 75 chunks of oddities of civilization from, for example, the mounting taste for coffee to old Shanghai’s cabarets. There’s a bit about bebop, a description of rainbows, a history of microscopes and the romance of the Coliseum by moonlight. Clearly, it would be an understatement to call this entertaining compilation of miscellany simply eclectic. Among Jenkins’ myriad notes to quirky human history are quick appraisals of the baths, walks, snacks and naps that were quite fashionable not so long ago. People and places, too, are celebrated. Did you know that the legendary prognosticator Nostradamus was a jam-and-jelly enthusiast? Jenkins also includes several recipes, mostly for desserts—e.g., the Crêpe Suzette. It is an entertaining accumulation, certainly, with frolics, some bibelots and some bagatelles. Some whimsical pursuits are more interesting than others, but most readers will be happy to contemplate the likes of Charles Blondin on his tightrope over Niagara Falls or Nelly Bly’s circumnavigation of the globe. To be taken in measured amounts for best effect, the text, bearing copious bibliography, is accompanied by mannered drawings somewhat reminiscent of Aubrey Beardsley.
A small Cabinet of Wonder, detailing some diverting oddments and minutiae of past times.