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A Summary and Analysis of Aesop’s ‘The Fox and the Grapes’ Fable

Aesop’s fable of the fox and the grapes is among the most famous of all of Aesop’s fables. What does this little tale mean? And what common everyday phrase did it inspire?

In summary, the fable of the fox and the grapes runs as follows: one hot summer’s day a fox was strolling through an orchard when he came to a bunch of grapes that were ripening on a vine, hanging over a lofty branch. ‘Those grapes are just the things to quench my thirst,’ said the fox. Drawing back a few paces, the fox took a run and a jump, but just missed the bunch of grapes. Turning round again he jumped up, but with no greater success. Again and again the fox tried to jump up and reach the juicy grapes, but at last had to give it up, and walked away with his nose in the air, saying: ‘Oh well, I am sure they are sour anyway.’ Read the rest of this entry

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The Book of Literary Lists: Nicholas T. Parsons’ Trivia-Trove

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle feasts upon the literary trivia to be found in this book of book lists

It will come as little surprise to regular readers of this blog that I love a good book of literary trivia. Having written a couple myself, I know the joy of trying to load every rift with ore, or every page with a surprising fact. Nicholas T. Parsons, who is also the author of a wonderfully entertaining book about the joy of bad verse, wrote one of the greatest literary trivia books for dipping into: The Book of Literary Lists, which first hit high-street bookshelves (when such things were still relatively common) in 1985.

Of course, the problem with literary trivia is that the same facts tend to do the rounds. A few books in, and the reader is left waiting for the same old anecdotes and nuggets to make an appearance. Eschewing the obvious so that such veterans of bookish trivialities will find something new and satisfying, but that relative beginners will still find illuminating, is a difficult task, but with The Book of Literary Lists Nicholas T. Parsons manages to collect together an impressive number of literary facts which were previously unknown to me. Read the rest of this entry

Hello Goodbye Hello: Famous Writers Who Met Each Other

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle discovers the extraordinary meetings of famous writers

J. D. Salinger met Ernest Hemingway. Ernest Hemingway met Ford Madox Ford. Ford Madox Ford met Oscar Wilde. Oscar Wilde met Marcel Proust. Marcel Proust met James Joyce. Some of the most famous writers of the last century met each other, but they also met the great and good from beyond the literary world. And the not so great and not so good. H. G. Wells, for instance, met Josef Stalin.

Craig Brown’s book Hello Goodbye Hello: A Circle of 101 Remarkable Meetings, which was published in 2011, is an interesting ‘dipping’ book: each encounter between two notable people is given a short entry, a mini-essay, outlining the details of the meeting. This makes it a fascinating book to read in fits and starts (probably the best way to read a book like this), since you effectively learn something new, and surprising, about two famous people at once. It’s also a great premise for a book, the sort that must have had writers of such non-fiction books kicking themselves for having failed to come up with such a neat conceit. Each meeting documented in the book is linked by one of the contributors, so that Maxim Gorky’s encounter with Tolstoy leads into Tolstoy’s meeting with Tchaikovsky, just as George Read the rest of this entry