While we should likely finish November with something about novels…the business of Novel Writing November, this news trumps all: a librarian in Saint-Omer France has discovered a First Folio Shakespeare. It was out on the shelves! It is now, according to news reports, in a much safer spot and being readied for digitization. A First Folio wandering like a doe in the forest, it gives reason to give thanks.
Thinking along similar Shakespeare lines the Folger Shakespeare Libraries has a digital guide to the First Folios available (Folger Shakespeare Library owns a significant portion of the extant First Folios). Slices of the SLU Libraries holdings on Shakespeare were presented in Odyssey Online, the once and future blog of the SLU Libraries, here, here, and here.
In thinking again on “Novel Writing November,” lets go home to the Adirondacks. Adirondack Perceptions: Adirondack Fiction 1802-2014 is a just published bibliography of fiction, and from the introduction: “This June and July St. Lawrence University senior Jacqueline Colt took Dorothy Plums’ famous 1958 Adirondack Bibliography (with updates in 1966 and 1992) and brought it up to date, recording every work of Adirondack fiction she could document. Working with Special Collections Librarian Mark McMurray the result is a 500 plus title bibliography of fiction within the Blue Line.” Being comprehensive, the bibliography includes well known authors, such as Joyce Carol Oates, and obscure books, titles such as those from the 19th century that are Rip Van Winkles of words, but are here, documented, alive by way of inclusion. Books with marvelous type face on the covers, and book that have all of the wonderful and well documented qualities of old books. This bibliography is like the clarity of afternoon sunlight here in Northern New York–the bright sunlight that can fill a house for the short afternoon, contrasting the cold outside, perfect for reading or even dozing off over a book, and with the help of Adirondack Perceptions perfect for an imaginative jaunt into the Adirondacks.
November is National Novel Writing Month–at least according to NaNoWriMo, an organization that, “is also a 501(c)(3) nonprofit (formerly known as the Office of Letters and Light) that believes your story matters.” Full disclosure, my wife has taken up pen and paper in the name of this endeavor and his having a wonderful time, so, with that in mind, I submit a list of novels available in ODY for the SLU Community of readers…this list is simply culled from the Library of Congress Subject Heading, New York State–Fiction:
In today’s online edition of The Atlantic Mark Yakich has a wonderful essay about reading poetry titled “Reading a Poem: 20 Strategies.” These strategies are really twenty sagely delivered snippets of advice, my favorite of which is:
18. The very best way to read a poem is perhaps to be young, intelligent, and slightly drunk. There is no doubt, however, that reading poems in old age cultivates a desire to have read more poems in youth.
It’s a great essay about all that is different and fulfilling in reading poetry…
Partly under the category of stuff you never expected to find, partly under the category of if it’s out there someone is blogging about it, partly under the category of appreciating human curiosity, is this: Libraries in Videogames, a blog entirely about the libraries one encounters if one is spending time as a character in a video game. Along with the oh-my-gosh quality of it all, there is something that tickles the imagination in thinking about these libraries in games: something in the idea that the folks who design these games perceive a visual metaphor in a library that strikes true in constructs of code that aspire to be labyrinthine. Books on shelves as corridors of secrets, there is something very satisfying about the parallel between getting lost and found in a game, and getting lost and found in a library. Bravo to the Libraries in Videogames folks for trumpeting their peculiar passion…
Slightly Foxed advertises itself as “The Read Reader’s Quarterly.” It is one of the periodical titles in the SLU Libraries collection, we only take the journal in hard copy, we have a complete subscription starting with the first issue in 2004. Slightly Foxed is made up entirely, or almost entirely, of short essays about a particular book, or author, or illustrator, or reason for savoring a book. This is not a journal of literary theory, it is a journal about the life-long relationships that people have with an author or specific title. Many of the essays you’ll find in Slightly Foxed begin like this one, “Well Earthed” by Anthony Longden: “I rediscovered an old favourite the other day. Peering up at the dusty gloom of my highest bookshelves, I caught sight of a name that first captivated me more than twenty years ago. “ The essay is about S. L. Bensusan’s books Village Idylls and A Marshland Omnibus where Longden asserts, “he is little read today…a real pity, since his characters are so vividly drawn, his stories so beguiling.” In fact, reading a particular issue of Slightly Foxed is very much like pulling an anticipated book from a book shelf, it is very much like scanning a range of dissimilar book spines and that small excitement of finding a book that warrants a read, or better yet, a rereading.
Many of the books described and championed are by writers like S. L. Bensusan, writers whom many of us in Northern New York at this moment of history are unfamiliar. When they are not, such as “Through the Wardrobe” by Lomax Allwood in which he describes editions of C.S. Lewis and Tolkein, it is to turn our attention to those editions illustrated by Pauline Diana Baynes, “Her characterization of mood and personality throughout the books is superb.” A wide range of titles and topics get attention here, in a manner that it is fair to think (if in need of another analogy) of Slightly Foxed is as a conversation with a very literate British friend who enjoys recommending books. With that in mind, a sampling of the authors and titles featured in the Spring and Summer 2014 issues of Slightly Foxed (asterisk for those titles in the SLU Libraries collection, and remember Interlibrary Loan for those that aren’t…):
- Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher by Lewis Thomas *
- The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington*
- Captain of Foot by Ronald Welch
- The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth*
- Queen Mary by James Pope-Hennessy
- A Paddling of Ducks by Dillon Ripley
- All the Brave Promises by Mary Lee Settle
- A Question of Loyalties by Allan Maisse
- Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm*
- Our Spoons Came from Woolworths by Barbara Comyns
- A Way of Life: Kettle’s Yard by Jim Ede
- The Golden Age by Kenneth Grahame
- The Great American Bus Ride by Irma Kurtz
- Portrait of Elmbury by John Moore
- The Borrowers by Mary Norton (yes, the movie!)
- The Child that Built Books by Francis Spufford
- Biophilia by E.O. Wilson*
Summer Research, Scott Chapp
Scott is working on a project to develop catalysts for artificial photosynthesis. In plants, photosynthesis converts solar photons into useful fuels; working with Dr. Adam Hill and two other students, Scott is trying to mimic the process with bimetallic compounds. By grafting cobalt and zirconium onto a silica surface, the surface will provide stability for the metals and create an environment for two metals to form a polar bond. When two metals bond they will exhibit properties that neither metal atom would independently. This is important because these metals are far less expensive than the precious metals commonly used in catalysis now, so if these could make solar energy a lot cheaper. Specifically, Scott and his partners have the goal of examining whether this could reduce carbon dioxide, paving the way for energy-dense fuels. Zirconium and cobalt act as a tag team: zirconium binds oxygen, while cobalt attacks the carbon, turning carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide.
The other step is trying to identify the structure and bonds between zirconium and cobalt. Two students are synthesizing the compound, while another is working with Dr. Catherine Jahncke in the Physics Department, using a laser to do Raman spectroscopy. This technique works by scattering laser light off the material we are making. Raman spectroscopy reveals the vibrations of the material, identifying structures and bonds that are in the compound. The work is to find absorbance peaks for the light, and find out where the compound absorbs light, which will ultimately explain the stability of the compound. Much of the work is done in an air free glove box under a nitrogen atmosphere; this protects the synthetic intermediates from contaminants, particularly water molecules.
This work taps into Scott’s longstanding interest alternative fuel sources to fossil fuel, “My brothers and I used to try to describe what we could do to replace fossil fuel. What would work?” Scott approached Dr. Hill about this, and their shared interests launched the summer project.
October 14th is Ada Lovelace Day. One of the events that happened last year on Ada Lovelace Day and will happen again this year on Ada Lovelace Day is called a “Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon.” Paul Doty has created a digital guide to how Wikipedia and Ada Lovelace intersect, with the idea of, in priority order:
- Make a case for the actual authorship of Wikipedia
- Raise awareness about Wikipedia’s strength and weaknesses as an encyclopedia
- Raise awareness of the work connected to Ada Lovelace Day
- Take a reader’s point of view on Wikipedia
“Wikipedia and Ada Lovelace Day” can be accessed through this link. The paths through this digital guide are the clickable graphics, and the citations to articles available on the open web. (The articles are launched into a second browser, close that, when you’re done reading them, to return to the guide.) The guide should take you about 15 minutes to navigate (longer if you pause to read the article!) There is also a bibliography of books and articles on Ada Lovelace, who is a fascinating character…
Of course we think of libraries as great edifices of permanence–think of the massive near rectangle known as ODY. However libraries are like books in that they can weather, whither, or burn. The Library at Alexandria and all that thought entails comes quickly to mind, and in the September 11th version of the Daily Beast Nina Strochlic has a well written essay on the libraries in Chinguetti, in Mauritania. Libraries tended by families that once were central to “a once-legendary, enlightened city.” However, with Chinguetti largely depopulated and the Sahara Desert enveloping it, these libraries are on the edge of ruin. Strochlic capturing the sense of possession the people still in Chinguetti feel for their libraries, and the sense of haunting that the image of the libraries in the past makes real.
One generally does well to avoid sweeping generalizations but one is safe in saying Elmore Leonard is the preeminent American crime fiction writer of the twentieth century. One can praise Leonard’s prose for pretty much every angle and from pretty much every angle. Around the time of his death in August of 2013 a number of journals and magazines republished his “10 Rules for Good Writing ,” which begins with “Never open a book with weather.” To add to this, a couple of weeks ago Atlantic Magazine published “Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules for (Criminal) Success and Happiness,” which features actor Timothy Olyphant reading from Leonard’s 1976 novel Swag, the part of the book where the character Frank Ryan recites his 10 rules for happiness. It’s a great compliment to the “10 Rules for Good Writing” and a great way to think about life through the lens of Leonard’s fiction.