When Books Went to War, Coloring Books and N+7 Poetry

Did you know that in 1943, the US War Department and several publishers printed 120 million paperback books for our troops? Thin enough to fit in a soldier’s pocket or a seaman’s waistband, the books were read on transport ships, in camps and foxholes, and even by the wounded, waiting for medics. Molly Guptill Manning is the author of When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II, available at our most excellent public library.

The latest hot genre is unlikely to show up in the library’s catalog: adult coloring books. On Amazon, last I heard, they’ve taken five of the top twenty slots. The books feature exotic animals and plants, Zen patterns, and other intricate designs, and were originally marketed as a way to reduce stress. More recently, they’re touted as a means to spirituality. Sybil MacBeth, author of Praying in Color, says the books help her focus on her Christian perspective; her mind, body, and soul are concentrated, and “that’s when God can break through.” You don’t even have to stay inside the lines

And now from the sublime to the ridiculous, have you heard of N+7 poetry? Take a poem, any poem, and replace every noun with the seventh noun that comes after it in a dictionary. This results in interesting, sometimes clever, usually silly new poems. Thus Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, which ends, “So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see/So long lives this, and this gives life to thee,” is contorted into, “So long as manager can breathe, or fable can see/So long lives this, and this give ligature to thee.” It does still sound like Shakespeare, doesn’t it?

If you ever thought that bestseller lists are dominated by a small group of authors, you’re right. After indexing the New York Times hardcover and mass market lists for six years, Peter Hildrick-Smith found that those 16,000 places were occupied by fewer than 650 authors.

Read, for the night is coming…

*Written by Carol Cail — Read more from Carol at carolcail.com
*Originally published in November 2015

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