Odyssey Online

Government Shut Down

October 2, 2013 · Comments Off on Government Shut Down

The shut down of the United States Federal Government has shut down the Library of Congress (arguably the cultural gem of the nation).  Web sites associated with the Smithsonian are functional, through the museum is closed. More the implications of the shut down as they become clear–an overview of what is and is not open is available from Firstgov.gov.

Comments Off on Government Shut DownCategories: Uncategorized · Yikes!

New Manuscripts by J.D. Salinger

September 30, 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…

Comments Off on New Manuscripts by J.D. SalingerCategories: Books · Essay on Bibliography

Elmore Leonard, RIP

September 2, 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


Comments Off on Elmore Leonard, RIPCategories: Books · Essay on Bibliography

Books We Pretend to Read

July 31, 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…

Comments Off on Books We Pretend to ReadCategories: Books · Recommended Book

Summer Reading

July 19, 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…


Comments Off on Summer ReadingCategories: Books · Essay on Bibliography

Friday Blogging, Sometimes It Doesn’t Work…

July 12, 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…


Comments Off on Friday Blogging, Sometimes It Doesn’t Work…Categories: Books · Essay on Bibliography

July 5th Blogging

July 5, 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.

Comments Off on July 5th BloggingCategories: Books · Essay on Bibliography

Books and Quiet

June 28, 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…

Comments Off on Books and QuietCategories: Books · Essay on Bibliography · Essay on Technology

Books, All Things Robert Frost

June 19, 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.

Comments Off on Books, All Things Robert FrostCategories: Books · Essay on Bibliography

Another Post on the Great Gatsby

June 14, 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?

Comments Off on Another Post on the Great GatsbyCategories: Books · Essay on Bibliography

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