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Another Holiday Reading List

green_xmass_ballOne of the pleasures of spending too much time by the monitor glow of the Internet is one is forever coming across reading lists. In wandering to the Daily Beast on this suitably heavy-skied December day one comes upon Scott Porch’s Best Books About the Volatile 60′s. This is basically a list of books about politics, but it’s an admirable list in the wide range of issues these titles reference, and the number of people who were in play on the national stage fifty some odd years ago.  Some of these books are in our collections, and there would still be time to get some of these through Interlibrary Loan if one did so soon…pour a manhattan into a glass with Fred Flinstone on it, and start a book about the 1960′s? Not a bad plan for a quiet holiday afternoon…

Best Books of the Year

girl_reading   Atlantic Monthly has published its Best Books Read in 2014–that is, the books that folks associated with Atlantic Monthly read most of which were not published in 2014.  Several of the contributors to the article pointed to books by James Baldwin, and Nora Biette-Timmons enjoyed Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle.  Taken together this stands as a fine list of suggestions for holiday reading the holiday reading season upon us…

New FODYLL Bulletin Out

herring_blog   Our 2014 issue of the FODYLL Bulletin has been mailed to the FODYLL membership.  Much of the copy of this issue of the Bulletin is devoted to the renovation of Herring-Cole Hall, and the role Herring-Cole can now play as a contemplative space on the SLU Campus.  We also delved into the archives to find material on the history of the building, and one of the documents we found was a “discursive report” written in 1968 by Paul Malo for the New York State Council on the Arts.  His descriptions of the interior of Herring-Cole is florid, but in the best possible sense of that word.  Here is the portion of Mr. Malo’s text that we included in the Bulletin:

In terms of style, the eclectic quality of the work is characteristic of the turn-of-the-century.  It is eclectic in the truest sense: not simply find expression in the language of a particular historic style, rather it combines stylistic elements from various periods freely.  A generation ago academic architects regarded such a want of consistency as evidencing a lack of knowledge or of taste.  To-day, we are more inclined to recognize the inventiveness of such architecture, and to find visual delight in the juxtaposition of forms.  The Cole Reading Room is a creative work. Its architect is unknown, but a dynamic quality characterizes the vigorous design.

This large wing, a single room inside, was related outside to the Herring Library in material and alignment of elevations, and it is harmonious in general effect.  The character provides an interesting contrast, however.  Where the earlier work is modest in scale and restrained in execution, the new twentieth century statement expresses affluence and self-confidence.  The bold assurance of this design suggests the bravura of Teddy Roosevelt’s muscle-flexing nation.

Perhaps the first impression of the building from this aspect is of its sumptuous richness: the vivid color of the sandstone, so unusual for a building is heightened by stained glass and slate roof with a rich metal cresting.  The principal entrance elevation counterplays a great wheel window above a magnificent classical portico, framing a pair of massive wood doors of Second Empire Renaissance design.  The stylistic unrelatedness of the elements seems to set them off in a new context, and it was probably the intent of the architect so to combine elements in surprising combination, as a poet casts words.

The fenestration and cornice of the side elevations are somewhat neo-classical in design, but are again more inventive that derivative, combining small casement sash at the lower level with larger groups of double-hung ash above.  The change of scale is effective in enhancing the monumental appearance of the structure.

The interior of the new wing, as its name, the Cole Reading Room, implies, is a single high space, but in reality, the actual size is not so great as the impressiveness of the design suggests.  The scale of the interior elements is quite small, so that the whole appears quite grand.  Again, the first impression is of richness. There is lavish use of golden oak woodwork, with wainscoting, fluted Corinthian columns supporting an oak railed mezzanine and bookcases at the upper level.  But the principal features are the elaborate hammerbeam trusses of the roof with decorative metal tie rods.  The ceiling, following the slope of the roof is sheathed in wood.  Some original lighting fixtures remain, of brass with glass shades.

The room is well lighted by windows on each side, at floor and mezzanine levels, and by the great stained glass wheel window above the entrance.  At the lower level, under the mezzanine, small alcoves are defined by the gallery columns, and small casement windows are appropriately placed here.  These intimate spaces contrast effectively with the lofty central space.

Information on becoming a Friend of the Owen D Young and Launders Libraries can be found here.

Shakespeare Folio Found

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.

Adirondack Bibliography

TC-Story of a Pass_sc   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.

Novels for November

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:

How to Read a Poem

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…

Libraries in Games Blog

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, 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


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.