Q is for "Q." (This is a repost from February 2009.)
"Q Rocks."--Queen Shenaynay, sometime during the last decade
"Q (Quiller-Couch) was all by himself my college education. I went down to the public library one day when I was seventeen looking for books on the art of writing, and found five books of lectures which Q had delivered to his students of writing at Cambridge.
"'Just what I need!' I congratulated myself. I hurried home with the first volume and started reading and got to page 3 and hit a snag:
"Q....assumed that his students--including me--had read Paradise Lost as a matter of course and would understand his analysis of the 'Invocation to Light' in Book 9. So I said, 'Wait here,' and went down the library and got Paradise Lost and took it home and started reading it and got to page 3, when I hit a snag:
"Milton assumed I'd read the Christian version of Isaiah and the New Testament and had learned all about Lucifer and the War in Heaven, and since I'd been reared in Judaism I hadn't. So I said, 'Wait here,' and borrowed a Christian Bible and read about Lucifer and so forth, and then went back to Milton and read Paradise Lost, and then finally got back to Q, page 3.....[I] discovered he assumed I not only knew all the plays of Shakespeare, and Boswell's Johnson, but also the Second Book of Esdras....So what with one thing and another and an average of three 'Wait here's' a week, it took me eleven years to get through Q's five books of lectures."
--Helene Hanff, The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, 1974
(Here's a bonus quote from "Q": "The novelist—well, even the novelist has his uses; and I would warn you against despising any form of art which is alive and pliant in the hands of men. For my part, I believe, bearing in mind Mr. Barrie’s Peter Pan and the old bottles he renovated to hold that joyous wine, that even Musical Comedy, in the hands of a master, might become a thing of beauty.")