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Slightly Foxed, and British Writers You’ve Never Heard Of…

slightly foxed     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*

Scott Chapp, Summer Research

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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.

Ada Lovelace Day

Ada_Lovelace_headOctober 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…

Libraries Lost to the Sahara

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.

Elmore Leonard’s Rules

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.  Elmore Leonard, Miami Bookfair International, 1989

Herring-Cole Rennovation

While there are already articulate descriptions of the renovation of Herring-Cole Library facilitated by the gift from Jay and Valerie Ireland (both ’77), what we in the LIT division would like to highlight is the focus on maintaining Herring-Cole as a quiet text-centered space. What we have in the restored Cole Reading Room is balance. The expectation and surroundings encourage quiet, individual study, reading, and work juxtaposed with the 21st century reality of student’s digital lifestyle. Thus the beautiful furniture, the elegant desk lamps, the century old books on the shelves upstairs balance the WiFi networking and the in-table power which students are always seeking. One of the great one line explications of the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson is his own assertion, “I like the silence in the church before the service much better than any preaching,” which speaks to the contemplative mind that is the goal of the Liberal Arts. Quiet amidst the digital transmission of academic discourse is a tangible part of a student’s development—in The Power of Silence Graham Turner quotes April Pierrot of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art on the silence essential to an actor’s success:

It’s that inner silence which enables an actor to both listen to an audience and, at the same time, be present in a performance. Then they’re rapt, absorbed—and that quality of raptness in a performer is something that transmits itself to an audience, if they’re receptive and perceptive.

You can see a student late at night by the light of the lamp and laptop rapt, quiet, finding that inner silence while they bring their personality to bear on what they are reading, what they are understanding. Finding their voice, and readying it to bring to receptive and perceptive faculty and fellow students—this is the goal that the setting in Herring-Cole is perfecting set to facilitate.

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New Work from Jon Rosales

Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and class of ’13 SLU graduate Jon Ignatowski have an essay “Identifying the Exposure of Two Subsistence Villages in Alaska to Climate Change Using Traditional Ecological Knowledge” in Climate Change.  Professor Rosales describes their work:

The  article is the latest from Dr. Rosales’ research project Alaskans Sharing Indigenous Knowledge (http://AKSIK.org).  AKSIK focuses on the impacts of climate change on two native subsistence villages in Alaska – Savoonga and Shaktoolik – making their concerns visible, advocating for their assistance, and calling on governments to act on climate change.  This article was written with Jon Ignatowski (’13), an Environmental Studies/English major who accompanied Dr. Rosales during the summer of 2012 to the villages to conduct interviews of hunters, fishers, and gatherers of traditional foods.  The article is the result of those interviews and is based on Ignatowski’s Senior Year Experience and Honor’s work.  The article outlines the specific impacts of climate change villagers are noticing and compares their knowledge of the changes to the scientific literature on climate change.  The result is that both traditional knowledge and scientific knowledge largely corroborate when it comes to the impacts of climate change in the Arctic.  Dr. Rosales is now taking the results of this article a step further and surveying the measurable strength of that traditional knowledge, something that has largely been described qualitatively.

This builds on Dr. Rosales body of work which includes publications in The Huffington Post, Conservation Biology, and The Bulletin of Science, Technology, & Society as well as presentations at conferences such the Society for Conservation Biology, the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences, and the North American Benthological Society, i

Summer Reading, A Last Look Back

At the end of July Ellen Rocco published the NCPR Summer Reading List! While of course summer, at this writing-hour, is something to look back on this list is simply a good read.  It gathers readers from around the North Country who suggest books old and new, fiction and nonfiction, books touching upon North Country topics and books touching upon global topics.  Certainly, most, if not all of these titles, grace the shelves of the SLU Libraries…even as we hurtle toward the start of the academic year, having a book in hand is a “no downside” thing…Ellen’s list is a very useful one looking forward to the fall…

Afternoon Reading in Bars

With a new issue of the FODYLL Bulletin in the works, time to renew our blogging efforts here at the FODYLL blog…and what better way to do that than making the case for reading at the bar.  Juan Vidal does, “My favorite place to read is in a dark bar mid-day.” Dark Bar Mid Day is a wonderful image, evocative, very much like the cover of James Crumley’s mystery The Right Madness.right_madness Come to think of it, Crumley’s work (we have several of his titles in ODY) is especially appropriate for consumption in a bar.Vidal’s short essay is a great little piece on reading…

Poems Work

In honor of national poetry month (and because it is a peaceful slowly unwinding Monday morning) I typed Poems Work into our SLU Libraries Encore search, and, my goodness, did I get back an interesting list of books. So interesting I did indeed feel motivated to blog out what poems work. Here is a baker’s dozen from this serendipitous phrase: