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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Riddle of the Traveling Skull -- EXCERPT

I am deliberately reading this book slowly, because it's just such a stinking good read--ridiculous fun (and you can take that to pretty much accurately call any connotation you want: ridiculous, truly; and fun).  I don't know where I'm going to find more Keeler when this one's over, though.  This is a limited edition; all the rest are out of print!

Here, 3 tombstones from and a cabbie's description of a red-herring cemetery:

Here lies the famous
The Girl with Four Legs and Six Arms
Known to the Profession
Born Canton, China          Died Canton, Ohio
1917 - 1937
Erected by the Chinese of America


b. 1884 d. 1936
Here lies
18 inches high
20 pounds in weight
Rest in peace, General!


He brought happiness and
cheer to the world, with
a heart that, for sheer
nobleness, conformed with
his 612 pounds of weight!
B. 1885 D. 1935

“Well, it’s the cem’tery f’r circus an’ carnival people.  And been there about—I guess—four years now.”  He was turning the cab about in the width of the narrow crosswise street, but went on talking just the same.  “Far more people goes out to see the place, though, out o’ curiosity, than to see their dead ‘uns.  ‘Specially since it got wrote up in the newspaper.  They go out to read th’ cur’ous tombstones.  For they’s one or two o’ every kind o’ person buried there.  A midget or two—an’—an’ a giant, to boot!  An’ a fire-eater—he’s in the northeast corner—his tombstone says ‘If Hell There Be, He Hath No Fear of It.’  And there’s a couple o’ sword-swallowers.  One of ‘em’s grave hasn’t no stone nor nothing—but is set off, all around, with the swords he used in his act—all rusty now, o’ course.  And there’s a fat man—and a fat lady, too, somew’eres.  And the oldest tent-stake driver in the country—Jed Hopkins—forty years with Ringlings and Barnums—is in another corner.  And there’s two—no—three trapeze queens.  They don’t live long, y’ know.  They allus bust their necks!  And there’s a rubber-skinned man too.  Oh—there’s a little o’ everything in that place, I guess.” . . .  “They say,” he went on, “that half o’ th’ people in circuses and carnivals ‘d ruther be buried there than—than planted with their own folks.  In fac’, lots has been transferred there from older cem’teries.  And—but say—you didn’t know what the place was, eh?  Did—did someone hang somethin’ on you?”


  1. Pretty funny stuff. I find the dialect really well done. Generally, when an author does it that strongly, it comes across as too much, but I can imagine how this person would sound.

  2. When I get around to the actual review (next week sometime), I'll have to quote couple of the more extreme dialectal transcriptions. This is very--VERY--tame by comparison.


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