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The Annotated Archy and Mehitabel (Penguin Classics) Paperback – August 1, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0143039754 ISBN-10: 014303975X

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (August 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014303975X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143039754
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #274,177 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Archy and Mehitabel is, to my mind, a distinguished work in American letters. -- E. B. White

Don Marquis is our closest spiritual descendant of Mark Twain. -- Christopher Morley

About the Author

Don Marquis (1878–1937) was a newspaper columnist, poet, novelist, dramatist, and popular author.

Michael Sims is the author most recently of In the Womb: Animals (adapted from two National Geographic Channel documentaries); he is also the author of Apollo's Fire: A Journey through the Extraordinary Wonders of an Ordinary Day, which NPR chose as one of the best science books of 2007; Adam's Navel: A Natural and Cultural History of the Human Form, which was a New York Times Notable Book and a Library Journal Best Science Book; and Darwin's Orchestra: An Almanac of Nature in History and the Arts. For Penguin Classics he also edited The Annotated Archy and Mehitabel and Arsene Lupin, Gentleman-Thief, and he is currently editing The Penguin Book of Victorian Women in Crime. He has written for many periodicals, from the Washington Post to New Statesman.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Richard Schweid on August 10, 2006
Format: Paperback
Generations go by, but Don Marquis's cockroach Archy and his pal, the cat Mehitabel, who originally occupied Marquis's New York newspaper columns nearly a century ago, still have the power to move and amuse, and to speak to us about the human condition. This wonderful roach, a free verse poet's soul in a roach's body, wholly deserves the excellent job that Michael Sims has done in providing us with facts about both Marquis's life and his times. Sims's carefully crafted introduction and annotations serve to put Archy's poems in both the context of their era and of their creator's biography. Michael Sims manages here, as he does so skillfully in his other books, to blend erudition and readability in an engaging and intruiging fashion.

For those who are unacquainted with Archy and Mehitabel, the poems will be a welcome and wonderful discovery. For those who already know and enjoy Marquis's work, Sims's edition will provide a fresh and deeper appreciation.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By S. Replogle on May 6, 2007
Format: Paperback
Archy is a familiar character in an unfamiliar situation, a witty and sympathetic poet stuck in the body of a cockroach thanks to reincarnation. His cat friend Mehitabel is equally interesting, claiming she is actually the reincarnated Cleopatra, which I think most cats believe. Each poem is funny and memorable, made all the more charming by their e.e. cummings style of writing...because Archy the bug is too small to hit the shift key of his unknowing human's keyboard. He's always in character, which is pretty impressive to write as though one were a almost makes you believe in Archy at any age, and that is a treasure.

I cannot recommend this book enough, though I do say that often in my reviews...because I only review books I love or hate. I LOVE this book. I performed parts of it for competitive Speech in high school and a great many people who hear a great deal of poetry thought it was great. It stands alone in terms of style and subject. I haven't read the annotated version, but I think it should be reviewed because it contains all the original poems and extra material. The extra material is new to me, but the poetry is well worth it and the prices are similar. Just buy this book already! You won't regret it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By The bookish on October 5, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I first read an excerpt from the "Archy and Mehitabel" series of newspaper columns (written by the exceptionally dry wit and skilled humorist Don Marquis back in the early 1900s, around the time of World War I) in an old American literature anthology owned by my mother, and remember that as I read it aloud with my mother listening, I had to stop several times because my laughter was making it impossible to keep speaking. That same column, and probably all the others in the series, are presented in this annotated collection. The 'poems' are presented in order for probably the first time since they were originally printed in Don Marquis's original newspaper column. Archy can only type one key at a time on the typewriter, literally by thrusting himself headfirst onto the key. He cannot operate a shift key to create capitalization or punctuation, so the effect of his "vers libre" (free verse) poems are--at least to his mind--unintentionally hilarious. What a great collection! And the annotations add to the background information in helpful ways, giving context to Don Marquis's world of prohibition, WWI, speakeasys, and the slang of the day. A masterpiece of early twentieth-century humor!
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Peterson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 23, 2010
Format: Paperback
expression is the need of my soul
i was once a vers libre bard
but i died and my soul went into the body of a cockroach
it has given me a new outlook upon life
i see things from the under side now

So began the first contribution of a cockroach named archy to the newspaper column of Don Marquis in the New York "Evening Sun". Marquis was one of the leading humorists in the U.S. circa 1915 to 1935 (he was admired and even emulated by the likes of E.B. White and James Thurber), and archy was perhaps his most inspired creation. As mentioned in the above extract, archy had been a free verse poet whose soul, after death, transmigrated into the body of a cockroach. Using Marquis's typewriter, archy the cockroach would bang out his poetry by standing on its frame and propelling himself headfirst onto a key, one slow letter after another. With great effort he could also operate the line-shift lever, but the shift mechanism for capital letters was beyond him, as was all punctuation.

mehitabel is an alleycat who appears in a relatively small fraction of archy's free verse tales. She too is a reincarnated - or transmigrated - version of earlier beings, including, most famously, Cleopatra. mehitabel aspires to the highbrow (unlike archy), but in truth she is a bit of a lush and she tends to be louche; she is the queen of insouciance and her credo is "toujours gai". She does not have archy's social conscience or his penchant for seeing things "from the under side". The addition of her name to the title gave it a poetic ring, but she is most definitely second fiddle. archy is the star.

In 1927 Don Marquis put together a collection of his archy and mehitabel pieces, somewhat revised, and I believe that it has been in print ever since.
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