Odyssey Online

Entries Tagged as 'Essay on Bibliography'

Julia Jackson on Reading

November 28th, 2011 · Comments Off on Julia Jackson on Reading

…a thoughtful article here on a topic sounded off on here (Odyssey Online) about reading, and reading books.  Julia Jackson has published a piece on reading via digital devices (versus reading a print monograph) and whether a transcendent reading experience is possible with the former.  Is there something in the hyper-connectivity that simply short circuits a reading experience powerful enough to be like a religious experience?  Or is this yet another case of resisting a technology to better understand circumstance…

Tags: Books · Essay on Bibliography · Essay on Technology

Charles Simic on Libraries

May 27th, 2011 · Comments Off on Charles Simic on Libraries

While we may have just gotten started with recommending books, a pause to point to poet and critic Charles Simic’s essay in the newest New York Review of Books, titled A Country Without Libraries. It’s a beautifully written piece, and in it he, by way of personal narrative, makes the case for libraries in the ongoing budget crisis effecting public institutions.  For Simic libraries are intrinsic to the “workings of democracy” because they are truly public institutions:

Empty or full, it pleased me just as much. A boy and a girl doing their homework and flirting; an old woman in obvious need of a pair of glasses squinting at a dog-eared issue of The New Yorker; a prematurely gray-haired man writing furiously on a yellow pad surrounded by pages of notes and several open books with some kind of graphs in them; and, the oddest among the lot, a balding elderly man in an elegant blue pinstripe suit with a carefully tied red bow tie, holding up and perusing a slim, antique-looking volume with black covers that could have been poetry, a religious tract, or something having to do with the occult. It’s the certainty that such mysteries lie in wait beyond its doors that still draws me to every library I come across.

The essay is also very much a defense of the print book, which, on Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish prompted some interesting rebuttals of Simic’s version of the role a library plays in people’s lives, (though rebuttals also argue the necessity of public libraries).

More recommended titles next week…

Tags: Books · Essay on Bibliography

Library At Alexandria

February 2nd, 2011 · Comments Off on Library At Alexandria

…with the news this morning out of Cairo turning ominous, this from the Library At Alexandria.  A “know hope” moment, but with today’s violence one wonders what will happen…

Tags: Books · Essay on Bibliography

Future of Magazines, Google and the Press

December 7th, 2010 · Comments Off on Future of Magazines, Google and the Press

…obviously, a hiatus from blogging (and not one that was planned).  Well with the first appreciable snow fall here in Canton, we resume, with a vengeance! (Blogging, tobogganing, blogging while tobogganing and all the joys of winter in Northern New York.) Two things that caught my eye in recent weeks, one, Andrew Sullivan’s comments on the future of Newsweek and magazines generally (more on this this week), and also Alexis Madrigal reporting on the Google Book algorithm.

Tags: Books · Essay on Bibliography · Essay on Technology · Google

Short Essay Upon Dictionaries

September 6th, 2010 · Comments Off on Short Essay Upon Dictionaries

…following up on Oxford University Press’ wondering a’loud about whether they would only publish an online version of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the New York Times believes this might be a better manifestation of the OED as a living breathing chronicle of the English language, and one can certainly see the point.  One can also see, from where I’m sitting, two dictionaries on lecterns in the ODY Reference Area.  They are both open, both, at this moment, open to the west like sunflowers tracking late afternoon sun, and neither is being used. In the real world wherein these dictionaries dwell, books and online publications lead complementary existences, (read the Internet’s progenitor, JCR Licklider), but one can’t help but worry that with the news of an online only OED they’ll be a collective “that’s that” for print dictionaries.  Perhaps with the OED awash on the Internet, the answer is to untether the dictionaries from “reference and let them circulate–let anyone who wants them check them out and take them hither, tither, to a dorm room desk yon.

An idea that suggests using a print dictionary is now like using a mule and plow to turn the soil for the back yard tomato patch, so who uses dictionaries—who sees a print dictionary as a living breathing thing?  I suspect that even the most ardent bibliophile doesn’t think of a dictionary as breathing, since books are, after all, completed objects, gardens harvested.  Their existence is more weathering the reading elements than walking upright, and their fate, whether destined for  pristine care on a regularly dusted bookshelf, or discarded after one read on a Gray Hound bus is entirely chance and favor in the eye of the beholder.  Long lived books are those vegetables that are canned for the this-and-that in the root cellar, to be consumed with joy or botulism, and celebrated archaic.  While not everyone cans vegetables, and you don’t save diamonds-on-the-dollar by doing so, don’t we admire the self-reliant canner?  Might it be that the writer and their dictionary take their place in the living breathing archetype of self-reliance and propels our nation both left and right?  Might for off-the-gridders and bankers alike might a flip of the dictionary be a way to stick it to the man?

Late in his life John Updike published a lovely short essay in the New York Times titled “Books Unbound Life Unraveled” about what books are and do, including Books as Furniture:

Shelved rows of books warm and brighten the starkest room, and scattered single volumes
reveal mental processes in progress, books in the act of consumption, abandoned but readily
resumable…

Which could be the fate of the lectern dictionaries. They look great:  the shelved books upturned into one part lily one part sunflower one part sketch pad (these are dictionaries with pen and ink fingernail illustrations).  Ultimately print dictionaries utility will ungulate upon the urgent umbrage traded over reading and writing online and whether one is really the current a national of readers will sail.   I would like to think that having a print dictionary to consult within a library is one small opportunity to choose one’s word carefully. How many times does one writing at the word processor mean writing  just to make the squiggly red or blue lines go away?  Rather than writing to think about words, how many times at the processing keyboard does one write to rearrange words? Unplug spell and grammar  checkers—hahaha not on my watch, but watch what you do with a dictionary and like Licklider you may find a moment or two when walking to a lectern to consider a word and all those one wouldn’t otherwise meet but for flipping through a dictionary make a connection, one into the etymological guts of English (which is I think where we started).  Take a word out of the dictionary like a book of the shelf for those moments of eating it raw, before working online…

Tags: Books · Essay on Bibliography · Licklider's Legacy

Summer Blogging, Creative Commons

July 7th, 2010 · Comments Off on Summer Blogging, Creative Commons

…just a little ahead of the Creative Commons came Steven Harnard.  Out on a listserv Mr. Harnard published a short post called A Subversive Proposal for Electronic Publishing (the text of said and much commentary from others on his ideas can be found here).  In a word, Harnard calls upon scholars to forgo the traditional model of publishing in a scholarly journal, and instead calls on them to make their work available through a new freely available peer review system, to be built on the Internet.  While there is much scholarship now available on the Internet (as Google Scholar so ably reveals), the wholesale conversion Harnard hoped for never happened. However, he is an interesting precursor to the Creative Commons, and speaks to one of the glaring needs the CC tries to address.

A background on the unfortunate economics of scholarly journal publishing can be found here…

Tags: Creative Commons · Essay on Bibliography · Essay on Technology

Friday Blogging, the Future of Libraries

May 21st, 2010 · Comments Off on Friday Blogging, the Future of Libraries

Walt Crawford is a long time and very interesting commentator on librarianship, and for years has been publishing his own newsletter, Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large.  In the most recent issue, he has a piece called “There is No Future” (it starts on page 3) where he cites to comments on a thread about the future of libraries that recently tied a bunch of library oriented blogs together.  What Crawford does that’s so good is contextualize this particular discussion by describing how many of the opinions blogged fall into patterns common in the literature of librarianship. He’s good at separating the wheat from the chaff…so if you are interested in reading an involved (it’s a bit long) librarian to librarian dialogue on what the future seems to hold for libraries as institutions, and a dialogue that includes both the thoughtful and reactive, give Walt a read…

Tags: Blogging · Books · Essay on Bibliography · Essay on Technology

St. Agnes Branch of the New York Public Library

April 29th, 2010 · Comments Off on St. Agnes Branch of the New York Public Library

…Peter Osnos has written a lovely essay on the life and times of a public library in New York City. Perfect mid-afternoon-break-from-impending-exams reading…

Tags: Essay on Bibliography

Sundry Literary Web Snippets

March 16th, 2010 · Comments Off on Sundry Literary Web Snippets

…break week web surfing (who still says web surfing other than me?) lead to two interesting and eclectic literary posts. First, Flavorwire their 30 Favorite Opening Lines in Literature, and it’s a good list…my only Flavorwire excluded inclusion might be Byron’s I want a hero, an uncommon want from Book One of Don Juan. Also, writing for the Guardian’s Book Blog Toby Lichtig detailed how he has to finish any book he starts, quitting on them is not in his make up.  A fine chronicle of one man’s confessions of themselves as reader, compulsive habits and all.  Pondering who one is as a reader is never a waste of time, web-read or otherwise!

Tags: Books · Essay on Bibliography

Youth Services Librarians

February 9th, 2010 · Comments Off on Youth Services Librarians

…a well written and challenging piece in the Boston Globe by Lawrence Harmon on youth services in the library in Mattapan Massachusetts. Challenging in that it challenges the notion of if-you-build-it-they-will-read, and eloquently details what the Youth Services Librarian (and presumably Youth Services Librarians anywhere) actually have to do.  Challenges the notion that given the realities of staffing, they can function as working bibliographers.  It’s a lucid piece, and if you are interested in libraries, one to mull.

Tags: Books · Essay on Bibliography