Odyssey Online

Entries Tagged as 'Essay on Bibliography'

Who Uses Libraries

March 14th, 2014 · Comments Off on Who Uses Libraries

PI-library-typology-03-13-2014-00-01Our friends at the Pew Research Internet Life Project, in their ongoing attempt to create a mosaic of what the Internet is and who specifically is Internet-borne, have released a new study on who is using libraries in the United States, From Distant Admirers to Library Lovers–and Beyond. The study identifies and connects the who and why of people who frequent libraries–and comes up with some quite amusing categories for those who do (and do not) come through the front door.  Foremost amongst library users:

Information Omnivores are more likely to seek and use information than other groups, are more likely to have and use technology; at the same time, they are strong users of public libraries, and think libraries have a vital role in their communities. However, they are not quite as active in their library use as Library Lovers, or nearly as likely to say the loss of the local library would have a major impact on them and their family.

One of the “surprise findings” of the study is that only a small portion of library users report suffering from “information overload,” and that many folks (such as the information omnivores) move back and forth between digital and print information sources “seamlessly” (to invoke that ugly word).  Print and digital sources do not seem to preclude one another–this a point made by JCR Licklider back in the 1960’s when he was thinking about something that works very much like the Internet now (see “Man-Computer Symbiosis“), and is beautifully explicated by Eric Ormsby in his essay “The Battle of the Book” which was published in New Criterion back in 2001 (and, for members of the SLU Community, easily accessible through a quick search in Academic Search Complete).  Ormbsy’s essay is a marvelous contemplation of readers and libraries, and as I mentioned the way in which the print and digital happily coexist, facilitate different work.  Facilitate the work of poems, and with National Poetry Month at hand, work that needs to be done…

Tags: Essay on Bibliography · Essay on Technology

Reading the Winter Away

February 17th, 2014 · Comments Off on Reading the Winter Away

Reading has been in the news in the new  year.  Given the winter that has leviathan like levitated over much of the country, it has been a good winter to read–to stay indoors with a book in hand an a large warm ironstone mug of tea at the ready.  About a month ago the Pew Research Internet Project published a report on reading enthusiastically titled E-Reading Rises as Device Ownership Jumps (the good folks at the Pew Research Internet Project have been chronicling all the doings the young and old have with all things digital for quite some time), and while they are indeed much preoccupied with E-Reading they include a glimpse of the sum total of the American reading public (click the table to enlarge):

e-readers7The narrative that accompanies tabulated is here, while E-Reading is expanding, there is a fairly healthy numbers in the Print category…turning reading into a matter of quantitative dissection is, well, worth a retort something like Groucho Marx’s “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read” (which happily returns us to our reading inside in cold weather metaphor). The inspired madness of Marx’s quip speaking to the essential aspect of reading, that we can no more do without our dogs than our books, why do you ask?  This gets to the question of the reader’s lifetime, recently Amazon.com published it’s list of 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime and while Amazon.com is no public library, it’s a good list.  It’s a list that was constructed with a life in mind, with remembering reading as Sven Birkerts did in his book Reading Life: Books for the Ages “I miss those days, the excitement of wandering, that sense of the book as an entity that could hold just about anything between its covers.” Remember that kind of reading?  Look at the list from Amazon and the last book on the grid lower right, Where the Wild Things Are…

Tags: Books · Essay on Bibliography

Holiday Reading

December 18th, 2013 · Comments Off on Holiday Reading

green_xmass_ballWhile at this writing Finals Week everyone in the SLU Community is far too busy with the reading at hand to be sampling the odd book, or the book oddly recommended, it will soon be holiday reading season.  Still dazed perhaps from the considerable chill that late December weather has brought I’m turning to two intriguing book lists that late December Internet wandering brought to my attention.  The first is The Best Food Books of 2013 compiled by Corby Kummer for Atlantic Magazine.  The list includes suggestions such as Sauces & Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way by Tanya Bastinich Manuali, The Book of Schmaltz: Love Song to a Forgotten Fat by Michael Ruhlman, and Saving the Season: A Cook’s Guide to Home Canning, Pickling, and Preserving by Kevin West. An absolutely appetizing range of books–the other suggestions really turns a page from food and is Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Reading List, Books of 2013.  In keeping with EFF’s mission, this list includes titles like Coding Freedom by Gabriella Coleman, This Machine Kills Secrets by Andy Greenberg, and To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism by Evgeny Morozov. Important and challenging reading, but relevant to anyone who spends any time online.

Admittedly not all of this books grace the shelves of ODY or Launders, but once our short Christmas break is done they could be garnered via Interlibrary Loan, or perhaps found at one of our neighboring libraries in the North Country Library System.  Safe travels and happy reading to all…

Tags: Books · Essay on Bibliography

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

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 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

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

July 5th Blogging

July 5th, 2013 · Comments Off on July 5th Blogging

…a day late perhaps, but not short of books!  A while back I posted about American books, here to Odyssey Online.  This is a short list of books that simply struck me as being definitively American, books that spoke directly to the American experience. It is not a list assembled in a particularly systematic way but I could argue the case for each inclusion.  Paula Marantz Cohen has recently published a piece in the American Scholar about the value in talking about literature.  Her point being that reading is self discovery, and sharing this discovery in a conversation a release, a knowing of oneself.  I’m not sure I agree with all of her conclusions, but having a summertime conversation about books in the evening over a picnic supper is not only self discovery, it is frankly a patriotic thing to do.

Tags: Books · Essay on Bibliography

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