Odyssey Online

Entries Tagged as 'Books'

Doris Lessing

November 18th, 2013 · Comments Off on Doris Lessing

Doris Lessing died this weekend at age 94.  Vicki Barker at National Public Radio wrote this thoughtful and insightful tribute to Lessing’s life and work. We have forty titles by Lessing in the SLU Libraries’ collections, and this list represents a sampling of the literature about Lessing’s works that are here in ODY:

Tags: Books · Recommended Book

Friday Blogging, John Updike

November 4th, 2013 · Comments Off on Friday Blogging, John Updike

The Library of American has just released a two volume edition of John Updike’s Collected Stories.  In the online publication The Millions James Santel has a lucid but very slightly sad review that with remarkable concision states the case both for and against Updike’s work.  At issue is Updike’s “metronomic virtuosity” as a writer, and whether “beauty is enough.”  Perhaps all questions of what beauty can ultimately do are very slightly sad, and while we don’t have the Collected Stories in the collection yet, we will, and we do have 72 books by Updike, including the wonderful pictured collection of short stories (written early in his career).

This little space being sympathetic to Updike a brilliant sunlight just the other side of daylight savings day like today might do well to include an Updike short story, imperfect, beautiful…

Tags: Books · Essay on Bibliography

Lou Reed

October 28th, 2013 · Comments Off on Lou Reed

Lou Reed died over the weekend.  Reed certainly attained a culturally iconic status, such that his death makes one pause (and makes me think how he figures into the living breathing collection at ODY).  The Daily Beast has a nice “set list” of music and performances by Reed on the open web, and here is a juke box of titles by and about Reed in our collection:


Tags: Books · Recommended Book

Friday Blogging: Neil Gaiman on Libraries and Reading

October 18th, 2013 · Comments Off on Friday Blogging: Neil Gaiman on Libraries and Reading

On Tuesday of this week The Guardian published a transcription of a lecture by writer Neil Gaiman on the topic of reading and libraries.  It is long, it is aimed at a British audience, but it is also an impassioned defense of reading fiction and of libraries.  There are many quotable passages in the lecture, among them:

But libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information.

Toward the end of the lecture Gaiman makes the case for a responsible citizens “obligation to day dream.” A wonderful weekend read…

Tags: Books · Essay on Bibliography

New Materials on William Shakespeare

October 9th, 2013 · Comments Off on New Materials on William Shakespeare

The American Shakespeare Center is making it’s annual visit to St. Lawrence, presenting Henry IV Part I, Othello, and The Merry Wives of Windsor. Thusly it’s time to publish our annual selection of notable new materials we’ve acquired, both those new editions of the plays, and new books about Shakespeare.

Tags: Books

New Manuscripts by J.D. Salinger

September 30th, 2013 · Comments Off on New Manuscripts by J.D. Salinger

Late August brought J.D. Salinger news…writing of the upswing in critical work being published on Salinger Michael Cieply and Julie Bosman reported in the New York Times reported that the Salinger estate was in possession of 5 manuscripts by Salinger.  Five. In an unfavorable review of Shane Salerno’s recent work on Salinger written for the Los Angeles Review of Books Cornel Bonca paused from reviewing to describe the manuscripts and the breath of themes and characters that Salinger they reengage, and comes to the conclusion that “they might reroute the course of late 20th-century American literature” (7th paragraph in this long lucid review).

Late summer is a good moment to contemplate Salinger as with the return of students to campus comes the return of youth.  Catcher in the Rye is one of the great treatise on youth, a book to be read when young, a book that makes reading the stuff of youth.  Those of us for whom youth is a memory turn to Salinger has a tangible reminder, for the magic of time travel made real by reading.  The news of new Salinger manuscripts may not make young again, but it certainly infuses early autumn with an optimism that the students here at SLU live out in their academic travels.  It’s good almost October reading news…

Tags: Books · Essay on Bibliography

Elmore Leonard, RIP

September 2nd, 2013 · Comments Off on Elmore Leonard, RIP

Elmore Leonard is the reason to read print books (rather than e-books).  Leonard died in mid August at the age of 87.  He is best known for his novel Get Shorty (which was made in a very popular film directed by Barry Sonnenfeld starring John Travolta, Danny DeVito and Gene Hackman), and he wrote scores of other books and screenplays.  His prose is elegance itself, no matter how gritty or violent the plots of his works become.  Speaking to his prose he claimed that the secret to his success was “I never show off.” His narratives are expertise wrought as invitation–truly they are stories that nudge you to read just a little further, just a little further, another chapter, all the while the night grows longer.  The impossibility of putting the book down is his legacy as a writer of books.  He is such a master that the world inside of one of the stories begs being held.  They are stories for reading at night when the only light the one overhead, and they beg being found by serendipity.  When I read “Tales of Jim Toole’s Tiny Bookstore” I remembered how I found copies of Leonard’s novels in used bookstores in North Country and in New Hampshire.   They are books to be found the way you meet people, by chance or chanced introduction, and like people, they are best understood face-to-face.

The libraries of the North Country Library System have a fine collection of Elmore Leonard books.  In ODY, we have a number of his more recent books that nicely represent Leonard’s voice and talent:

Elmore Leonard, RIP


Tags: Books · Essay on Bibliography

Books We Pretend to Read

July 31st, 2013 · Comments Off on Books We Pretend to Read

…the folks at Book Riot have put together (with interesting graphics!) the list of the top twenty books people pretend the have read.  It’s based on a survey of 828 readers, and, full disclosure, number 9 is one that at least someone here has claimed to have read when it’s more likely it was more a matter of borrowing it from the public library in Manchester New Hampshire and carrying it around.  Life includes episodes of pretending out aspects of our relationships with other people, life with books would, by virtue of being life itself, include episodes of pretending out relationships with stories we haven’t actually read.  It only follows…

Tags: Books · Recommended Book

Summer Reading

July 19th, 2013 · Comments Off on Summer Reading

This wonderful graphic that accompanied a lovely short piece in the New York Times Book Review titled “What I Read that Summer.” We have not explicitly written much about summer reading this summer, although to my mind summer reading is a thing apart.  Words in the warm months are seeds, the long days are gardens for books to make a memory, not memories, a memory–the one you’re working with.  This particular piece is made up of reflections by a dozen contemporary writers on “their most memorable summer reading experience.”  This excerpt is from Louise Erdrich’s response:

And then I found “The Nylon Pirates,” by Nicholas Monsarrat. I thought it would be about pirates stealing women’s nylon stockings, which seemed shockingly tempting. It must have been the last straw, because the librarian refused to check it out for me. Instead, she gave me”Animal Farm.” “Let me know what you think,” she said. I loved it. “Well?” she said when I brought it back. “A great pig story!” I told her. She renewed the book with her special red stamp and handed it back to me. “Read it again,” she said.

This is very much worth a read…a short elegant appraisal of summer reading that captures what summer reading is…


Tags: Books · Essay on Bibliography

Friday Blogging, Sometimes It Doesn’t Work…

July 12th, 2013 · Comments Off on Friday Blogging, Sometimes It Doesn’t Work…

Creation is uncertainty itself.  “Is this going to work?” maybe the great human question–and the history of literature is filled with poignant tales of authors doubting themselves and their work, years into a particular project.  Alex Belth has lovely short piece on “I also appreciate people who push themselves and risk failure,” in which he uses Faulkner’s doubt about The Sound the the Fury as his example.   A book that many would argue is the quintessential Faulkner novel.  Readers also have their moments of doubt–GoodReads has a fun graphic on why people put books down, and which books people have quit the most.  Amongst contemporary books Fifty Shades of Grey is one of the top “didn’t finish” books, and the five most abandoned classics are Catch-22, Lord of the Rings, Ulysses, Moby Dick, and Atlas Shrugged. I have a didn’t quite make it through a re-read of Ulysses story (I couldn’t finish the second book of the Game of Thrones titles either).  A very eloquent new book on “reading in electronic times” is Book Was There by Andrew Piper.  Very thoughtful stuff, and a particularly engaging part of the book is Chapter 4, “Of Note,” where Piper ponders the relation of notes and notebooks to finished manuscripts, and the relationship between handwriting and reading: “When we write with our hands we are also learning to draw, just as when we learn to draw we are learning to think more complexly with words.”  The poet Ted Hughes also observed that “Handwriting is drawing.”  We have a number of titles on handwriting has a study, notably, Handwriting in America: A Cultural History by Tamara Plakins Thorton, and The Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting by Philip Hensher.

Oh, I’ve finished Andrew Piper’s book and will be returning it soon…


Tags: Books · Essay on Bibliography