Odyssey Online

Entries from June 2013

Books and Quiet

June 28th, 2013 · Comments Off on Books and Quiet

A soaking rain through a couple of late June days seems like a good moment to contemplate quiet, rain on a metal roof quiet.  In a piece on reading that very much ties into the current commentary on the benefits of reading fiction, Maura Kelly published a piece in March in the Atlantic called A Slow-Books Manifesto.  It’s about aligning reading to the “slow” or hand made movement, the idea of taking the time to do things rather than buying them. One of the points she makes in this is reading in a quiet place in a quiet way–that the digital infrastructures that surround us (that I’m writing on now) have become overly invasive and that it takes a deliberate effort to push back. Reading a book slowly, attentively, makes a quiet space, it creates offline. In Tolstoy’s Dictaphone : Technology and the Muse (edited by Sven Birkerts) Mark Slouka has a powerfully argued essay titled “In Praise of Silence and Slow TIme: Nature and the Mind in a Derivative Age” where he argues the need that Kelly’s piece on ready is the remedy for.  If there is an original experience one can engage, it’s reading a book (yes a book, not an ebook).  Alberto Manguel’s book  The Library at Night speaks to this in a eloquent and pleasantly weird way, and a new book Quiet : the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain is a study on the value of quiet.  The value of rainy June days and books as a combination…

Tags: Books · Essay on Bibliography · Essay on Technology

Books, All Things Robert Frost

June 19th, 2013 · Comments Off on Books, All Things Robert Frost

In the Virginia Quarterly Review Dana Gioia has written a beautifully crafted essay on narrative voice in Robert Frost’s poetry. Mr. Gioia’s argument in the essay is that Frost’s narrative poems are where his version of modernism is most clearly demonstrated, and in making this case Mr. Gioia provides in particular an excellent reading of North of Boston and New Hampshire.  It’s a wonderful study of Frost, who is a poet with whom the SLU Libraries have a very direct connection.  One of our great rare book collections is the Frank P. Piskor Collection of Robert Frost, a collection that embodies Dr. Piskor’s great admiration for Frost. Within this collection and within our circulating collection we have a number of editions of North of Boston: 1915 Holt, a 1919 Holt illustrated by James Chapin, a 1914 D. Nutt (London), 1977 Mead, and a check-outable Poems by Robert Frost : A Boy’s Will and North of Boston 1989 Penguin Canada.  We have a number of circulating Collected Poems of Robert Frost, 1939, 1942, 1995 (Library of America edition), and a 2012 collection of Frost poems–The Art of Robert Frost–edited by Tim Kendall.

Dana Gioia is a fine writer, and we have a number of his books including: Can Poetry matter?  Essays on Poetry and Culture, Daily Horoscope : Poems, Disappearing Ink: Poetry at the End of Print Culture, Interrogations at Noon: Poems, and Pity the Beautiful: Poems.

Tags: Books · Essay on Bibliography

Another Post on the Great Gatsby

June 14th, 2013 · Comments Off on Another Post on the Great Gatsby

In an earlier post this summer I used the famous Great Gatsby cover known to so many readers.  This week in The Atlantic Edward Tenner (a writer who I’ve linked to often) has a piece on this cover, and the artist, Francis Cugat.  The original is on display in the Rare Book and Special Collections department at Princeton University, and it turns out that Fitzgerald was aware of the cover, and in communication with Cugat about it.

In the article Tenner also quotes a design named Chip Kidd wondering out loud about the future of cover design…Kidd doesn’t see one in a world where readers turn to e-books.  There are certainly no shortage of digital images of book cover art out there on the ‘net (things like the Book Cover Archive),  but as working commonplace art are book covers going the way of the rotary telephone.

Writer James Wolcott is crediting with saying, “Book jacket design may become a lost art, like album cover design, without which the late 20th century iconography would have been pauperized.”  It doesn’t seem like there’s much a place for cover art online, the image shrunk to a thumbnail (size of a postage stamp?), certainly covers like the one pictured here are evocative of a type of books (old paperbacks), and the Cugat cover of the Great Gatsby is evocative of the time and place for each reader, time and place they read the book.   The cover is part of the experience of reading a book, the idea of the book, even a mass produced edition, being itself a unique item, tangible.  If books become ethereal-digital that it would follow that cover art would evaporate.  Sigh…It has to be said that disembodied text is a much more generalized experience that print text, will that pauperize reading as an experience?

Tags: Books · Essay on Bibliography

More on Books

June 11th, 2013 · Comments Off on More on Books

…back in March writing for Time Magazine Maia Szalavitz reported that new research from the University of Leicester suggests no difference in the ability to recall something one as read on a e-book, and something one as read in a book.  Although the same study also suggested that “book readers seem to digest material more fully.” In the terminology of the study, they come to “know” what they’ve read.  Remembering what one has read is remembering what has shaped one–music comes to mind with happenstance but reading remembered is a deliberate stopping. ( Whose woods these are I think I know. His house is in the village though; He will not see me stopping here To watch his woods fill up with snow… ) Back in January I published this post on remembering something written:

A marvelous little vignette by Joe Fassler about two sentences that changed Walter Mosley’s life.  They come from Raymond Chandler’s novel The Long Goodbye and are, “He was looking at me and neither his eyes nor his gun moved. He was as calm as an adobe wall in the moonlight.” As a Chandler enthusiast they resonant with me to, but better still about the piece is that moment of clarity (revelation?) where a particular phrasing catches something perfectly for the reader-recipient.  It’s a moment in a reading life, when words shape one’s understanding of a personal relationship with how the world looks.  Ever reader has these moments, these phrases, and this reinforcement of why one reads…

My own favorite Chandler phrases, since I know you want to know, is from his 1939 story “Trouble is My Business:” I went first, then Hawkins, then Beef wheeled neatly behind us like a door. We went in so close together that we must have looked like a three-decker sandwich.

Tags: Books · Essay on Bibliography