Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Naked, Save for a Jockstrap, Carrying a Bowl of Goldfish

To the Editor:

In her review of Elspeth Huxley's memoirs, "Love Among the Daughters," (Sept. 22), Anne Fremantle quotes the author as asserting that a Cornell student, during a hazing ritual, "plunged to his death in the ravine naked, save for a jockstrap, carrying a bowl of goldfish."  Nonsense, my dear lady!  Some Cornellian was pulling your pretty leg.

                                                                                                   --Morris Bishop, Ithaca, NY

What did the goldfish know?

As the man who wrote the book on Cornell, Morris Bishop (1893-1973) should have known whereof he spoke when he penned this wry 1968 letter to the New York Times.  A professor of Romance literature, Bishop had been teaching at Cornell for nearly four decades and was the author of a most impressive range of books, from scholarly biographies of Blaise Pascal and Samuel de Champlain (and a number of other distinguished individuals) to collections of his own poems and limericks. (My two clues to the identity of Morris Bishop in my last post, which blogger Kate Jackson seems immediately to have picked up on, were that he was a professor from Cornell and that he was a limerick writer.)

And, as W. Bolingbroke Johnson, Bishop also published a single mystery. The Widening Stain (1942).  Despite occasional assertions that detective fiction was despised by Highbrows during its Golden Age between the wars, in fact many intellectuals were as addicted to it as, well, less highly-browed folk.

Bishop proves himself such a natural novelist in The Widening Stain that it's a shame he apparently didn't write another novel, mystery or otherwise.  But in addition to being extremely well-written, Stain doesn't neglect the plotting aspect and should please more purist fans of the form as well.  More coming soon!


  1. Well, you stole the title of my next post . . .

    1. You know, honestly, I do think this needs to be a book title or something.

  2. I think you have already won the 'best post title of the year' award, and it's only June!

    1. LOL, yes, but all the credit goes to Elspeth Huxley!