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Between Friends

Welcome to our monthly column,
written by our beloved Carol Cail. 

Read more of her witty wonderful words
on her website: 
carolcail.com 

  • October 01, 2017 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    Doncha love a good simile? Have a few:

    • A woman in high-heeled shoes is “like a cat on scissors…”
    • A set of teeth is “like a row of bombed houses…”
    • A woman so thin, she looked “like a stocking full of hangers…”
    • Kissing him as “like kissing an overripe plum…”
    • His signature was “like a snarl of thread…”

    Word by Word: the Secret Life of Dictionaries was written by Kory Stamper, a Merriam Webster lexicographer, who turns what could have been a stodgy topic into an entertaining revelation of the construction of a dictionary. In addition, the book is chockfull [adj., prob. fr. choken to choke * full, 15th century: full to the limit] of interesting information. Would you have guessed that the first “modern dictionary”, one aimed at everyone, not only scholars, and included everyday words, not just fancy ones, was published in 1721? Plus, it introduced word histories, usage notes, and stress marks so people could pronounce words they’d never heard. Another tidbit from Stamper: When was “OMG” first used in correspondence? The answer is below.

    Scott Douglas’s Quiet Please is an account of his librarian career and a history of libraries. He says children were not allowed to use public libraries until the 1850s. None other than Melvil Dewey advocated the ban on kids; he argued they would be too disruptive and destructive. Times change, fortunately. See the happy young cardholders nowadays, checking out armloads of books and taking part in programs the Longmont Library thinks up just for them. Wouldn’t Mr. D be shocked and awed!

    John Irving, in a book for neophyte writers wrote: “I think of the reader as far more intelligent than I am, but a child — a kind of hyperactive prodigy, a reading wizard. Interest this child and he will put up with anything — he will understand everything too. But fail to seize and hold this child’s attention at the beginning, and he will never come back to you. This is your reader, paradoxically, a genius with the concentration span of a rabbit.”

    “OMG” appeared in a letter to Winston Churchill in 1917. OMG!

  • September 01, 2017 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    Okay, have you ever been three sheets to the wind? Possibly, if you own a sailboat. In which case, you know that the ropes that hold the sails vertical are called sheets. If only three sheets out of four are attached, the boat is going to wobble — as you do when you’ve had a drink too many. If you are curious about how other phrases came to be, such as “raining cats and dogs” and “Bob’s your uncle,” look for The Word Detective by Evan Morris. He includes the origins of some of our odder words, too: newfangled, sideburns, and quack (as applied to a medical man), for example. Alas, our library doesn’t own a copy but it does have a book with the same title, written by John A. Simpson, the former Chief Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. Read Morris for amusement and Simpson for edification.

    Mr. Simpson also wrote a back cover blurb (“Captivating”) for Printer’s Error, which the front cover flap calls a “back alley tour of the history of the book.” Written by married historians J.P. and Rebecca Romney, it’s a light-hearted but educational look at books and how they got this way.

    Our lovely library offers numerous children’s picture books about public libraries for your budding bibliophiles: to name four, L is for Library, Check It Out, Librarian on the Roof, and Dinosaur Goes to the Library. And did you know that the first popular picture book was Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag? It was published in 1928; prior to that, picture books were a novelty that usually only upper-class families enjoyed. This was because until lithography advanced reproducing illustrations was very expensive. You may remember when picture books were mostly black and white for the same reason.

    Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. Joseph Addison

    Try not to have a good time…this is supposed to be educational. Charles M Schulz

    Reading is the next best thing to being there. Carol Cail

  • June 01, 2017 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    Here’s something that won’t surprise you. Recently, British researchers studied stressed volunteers by giving them various activities and checking their heart rates. The activities included listening to music, having a cup of tea or coffee, taking a walk, and — the winner which lowered the heart rate by 68% — reading. (One assumes that the reading was not a daily newspaper or anything political.) The least effect stress reducer? Video games.

    Since 2011, the number of major general bookstore chains’ physical stores has dropped 32%. Meanwhile if all goes according to plan, Amazon will soon have 13 bricks-and-mortar stores. This does not include any of their grocery acquisitions.

    Our library possesses an unusual book with an intriguing title, Nabokov’s Favorite Word is Mauve. The intriguing premise is best described by the jacket cover: “[Author Ben Blatt] assembles a database of thousands of books and hundreds of millions of words and starts asking the questions that have intrigued curious word nerds and book lovers for generations: What are our favorite authors’ favorite words? Do men and women write differently? Which contemporary writer uses the most cliches? What makes a great opening sentence? How can we judge a book by its cover? And which writerly advice is worth following or ignoring?” There are even more questions answered here, such as which bestselling authors use the most exclamation points or -ly adverbs? If you read every word of statistician Blatt’s findings, your eyes will glaze over. But it is amazing reading.

    Another Longmont Library book you might enjoy is Running the Books by Avi Steinberg. It’s about being a young, Jewish librarian in a tough Boston prison. As you can imagine, it is by turns funny, disturbing, and sad.

    According to science fiction author Joe Haldeman, the common advice to neophyte writers to “write what you know” has resulted in a glut of “mediocre novels about English professors contemplating adultery.”

    “Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.” Marcus Tulles Cicero

  • May 01, 2017 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    Our splendiferous Longmont Public Library has a number of books in its collection which are about libraries. The following very different examples just go to show you.

    The Most Beautiful Libraries in the World is not a book to be taken lightly. It is so big and well-endowed, you may want to read it in a cozy corner of the library, rather than wrangle it home in your little red wagon. The color photographs of sumptuous rooms in opulent, historic libraries display sculptures, murals, carvings, gilt, acres of dark wood, marble, and shelves holding ranks of brown books that would surely disintegrate if touched. Not a James Patterson or Danielle Steel among them. Except, of course, in the United States also beautiful Library of Congress, which attempts to stock copies of every US copyrighted book — more than 17 million an counting — plus maps, photographs, drawings, films, audio media, and on and on.

    Down Cut Shin Creek is the opposite of the above book. It’s a plain and skinny nonfiction book about the Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky. The picture are black and white, which is fitting since the setting is the hollows of the Cumberland Mountains during the Great Depression. In the 30s, President Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration sent librarians on horseback into the back country to bring books to adults and children. Also fittingly, you can find copies of this little book in both the adult and children’s sections of the library.

    If you enjoy cozy novels, you may already know about the Library Lovers Mystery series by Jenn McKinlay. Titles listed in the Longmont Library catalog include Due or Die and A Likely Story. Others are stocked by the Boulder Public Library, and all you have to do is let the Longmont Library know that you want them. Isn’t modern technology wonderful when it works? Anyway, as you no doubt guessed, Ms. McKinlay draws on her own experiences as a librarian to give authenticity to her characters and settings. (It’s hoped that her experiences did not include murders.)

    “There are two motives for reading a book: one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it.” Bertrand Russell

  • April 01, 2017 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    In a recent essay in Publisher’s Weekly, novelist Claire Fuller examined the weird ways some readers have marked their places in library books. Her publisher, Tin House, surveyed librarians to discover that, in addition to wine labels, money, and personal letters, there were a surprising number of food bookmarks: pickle slices, french fries, Pop-Tarts, bologna, tacos, cooked shrimp and uncooked bacon. Gentle Reader, next time you’re in the library pick up one of our Friends beautiful and O-so-free bookmarks. Make that more than one, in case it’s lost or stolen.

    Speaking of bacon: “I know not, sir, whether Bacon wrote the works the Shakespeare, but if he did not it seems to me that he missed the opportunity of his life.” James Barrie

    Pop Quiz: What do the following have in common? A shy kitten, an ugly duckling, a poky puppy? Second question: What was your favorite Little Golden Book? These beloved books have been published for 75 years, since 1942. At the beginning, they sold for 25¢ in department and grocery stores. Today Amazon sells them for $3.75 or so, maybe a dollar, used. You can find Goldens at Longmont Library, which also has the adult books Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book, by Diane Muldrow, and Golden Legacy by Leonard S. Marcus. Currently, LGBs include tie-ins to Disney, DreamWorks, and even Star Wars franchises. To date, sales of Little Golden Books have topped two billion copies. If your favorite is The Poky Little Puppy, you helped make him the line’s bestseller of all time.

    Did you ever wonder why ladies’ unmentionables are sometimes mentioned as “bloomers”? No? Then I’ll see you next time in May. For the rest of you…. They were named for Amelia Bloomer, who worked for women’s rights and belonged to the suffrage and temperance movements. She advocated a dress reform that included looser tops and short skirts with puffy pants underneath. Hence, bloomers, which is an “eponym,” a word derived from someone’s name. Not to be confused with “antonym,” an anonymous person, which is what I’d want to be if someone were bandying about my underwear.

  • March 01, 2017 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    Here’s something to discuss around the water cooler. Or not. Publisher’s Weeklyreports that ten books had print unit sales notably higher in the first four weeks of this year compared to last year. The one that sold the most was George Orwell’s 1984, a whooping 38,826 year-to-date units. Other unusually heavy sales, all in the thousands, included Orwell’s Animal Farm, We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Constitution of the United States, Hannah Arendt’s The Origin of Totalitarianism, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal.

    “Truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction has to stick to what you  can make people believe is the truth.” [Small town newspaper in Washington State]

    Tuesday, March 21 is World Poetry Day. UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) established the day in 1999, to “promote the reading, writing, publishing and teaching of poetry throughout the world.” Publisher’s Weekly (again) notes that two poetry books made the bestseller list for April 1, 1916: “The Collected Poems of Rupert Brooke, from the British poet famous for his sonnets about World War I (and for his good looks), and the seminal Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters, an enduring collection of poems about an imaginary small town.”

    Rabelais, who wrote Gargantua in the mid-1600s, and who would be in trouble with Citizens for Unpolluted and Nice Reading today, loved gargantuan words that he surely made up on the spot, i.e., trepignemanpenillorifrizonoufresterfumbledtumbled and squeezed her.” You won’t find that nonce word in Funk and Wagnalls.

    Gustave Flaubert, author of the classic Madame Bovary, was once asked who the real-life Emma Bovary was. Flaubert’s wonderful answer was “I am Madame Bovary.” Flaubert also said, “An author in his book must be like God in the universe, present everywhere and visible nowhere.”

    Katherine Hepburn remarked, “What acting means is that you’ve got to get out of your own skin.” A definition of reading a good book, too!

  • February 01, 2017 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    Read any good books lately? Yale University researchers studied senior citizens who read at least 30 minutes every day versus those who don’t, and concluded that after the age of fifty, reading books can contribute to longevity. This is believed to be due to the cognitive process involved; being engrossed in a  book triggers “empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence.” Newspapers and magazines don’t have the same effect, which suggests that nonfiction isn’t as beneficial to you as fiction.

    A book tightly shut is but a block of paper. Chinese proverb

    How would you like your public library to be housed on a boat? Or in a trolley, a treehouse, or a telephone booth with or without a working phone? Improbable Libraries, a Visual Journey to the World’s Most Unusual Libraries, by Alex Johnson, shows these and many more out-of-the-ordinary libraries around the world. Bookmobiles include such conveyances as rafts, trams, and camel- and elephant-back. Historical note: Did you know that the WPA paid librarians to use mules, horses, and sometimes rowboats to deliver books to remote areas of Appalachia — traveling as many as 80 miles a week?

    A book is like a garden carried in the pocket. Chinese proverb

    Okay, all you word-lovers out there, what is the definition of “nonce”? Right, it’s an adjective that means “temporary” or “for the moment.” Hence, a nonce word is an invented word, often one used for one particular occasion. William Faulkner wrote, “the wagon [began] to fall into its slow and mileconsuming clatter.” (My spell check is still grumbling.) Shakespeare was the king of nonce words, inventing more than 1,700 words, including: critical, frugal, lonely, radiance, majestic, summit, excellent, hint, dwindle, submerged…. Of course, his wonderful inventions became permanent fixtures in our language. “Phantom” may not be a nonce word, but one of its definitions is wonderfully inventive: “A sheet or card inserted to mark the place of a book removed from a library shelf, or a document which has been borrowed.”

    Anyone who says they have only one life to live does not know how to read a book. Author unknown

  • January 01, 2017 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    Let’s start the new year on a serious note. If you don’t want to hear any more bad news, skip down to paragraph three. If you need a smile, skip to paragraph four.

    Internet piracy — copyright infringement — is running amuck. Every time a book is pirated instead of purchased through a normal retail channel, the author loses $2 or more in royalties. It’s a problem for musicians and indie filmmakers, as well. The recourse is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which says the author or his publisher can send a “notice-and-takedown” demand to the copyright violator. Author Damon DiMarco calls this a Whac-a-Mole process. “Take one copy of your work down, three more pop up. Repeat, repeat, repeat.” Pulitzer Prize winner T.J. Stiles (Custer’s Trials) reports, “I spend perhaps 20 minutes a day finding pirate sites that host my books, copies hosted on Google Docs, and videos on YouTube that advertise free downloads of my books…. It’s all time that is lost to creating.” And money lost. “Merely a few hundred pirated copies equals a mortgage payment, a few months of health insurance, etc.” Meanwhile, to get tough, to go to court with one copyright infringement lawsuit, costs at least $150,000. That’s a lot of mortgage payments.

    Here’s an unusual book for your browsing list: Footnotes from the World’s Greatest BookstoresNew Yorker cartoonist Bob Eckstein chose seventy-five bookstores, found interesting anecdotes about each, and illustrated all with appealing color artwork. One little tale involved John Grisham, who was signing books at Burke’s Book Store in Memphis. Of course, he’d drawn a crowd; the line stretched out the door and down the street. After some time, the store received a pay phone call from a customer asking if books were still available, as he was at the end of the line a block away. Mr. Grisham stood and headed out the door with a copy to deliver to the man.

    “Why authors write I do not know. As well ask why a hen lays an egg or a cow stands patiently while a farmer burglarizes her.” H.L. Mencken

    Resolve to enjoy reading even more in 2017

  • December 01, 2016 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    Here’s a Longmont Library book you might find interesting: Favorite Words of Famous People, by Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon. The title says it all. Barbara Taylor Bradford chose “gormless,” meaning stupid, as in “The writer dismissed his critics as gormless twits.” Bob Hope’s favorite word was, of course, “laughter.” No doubt this book was inspired by a Henry James quote: “Summer afternoon — summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”

    An article in Publisher’s Weekly reports that audiobooks are alive and very well. In 2015, 35,574 audiobooks were published, and their sales reached more than 1.7 billion dollars. Meanwhile, e-books have been in a slow, steady decline.

    Here following are wise and witty remarks from wise and witty folks:

    • “Everywhere I go I’m asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them. There’s many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.” Flannery O’Connor
    • “The remarkable thing about Shakespeare is that he really is very good, in spite of all the people who say he is very good.” Robert Graves
    • “People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.” Abraham Lincoln reviewing a book
    • “In every fat book there’s a thin book trying to get out.” Unknown

    Okay, here’s another book you might want to read. It’s The Book (not The Bestseller) and it’s “a cover to cover exploration of the most powerful object in our time.” It begins with the invention of papyrus and carries through to the binding of modern books, all you could possibly want to know. The author, Keith Houston, also wrote Shady Characters: the Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks. Guess where you can find a copy.

    The Association of American Publishers reports that “The publishing industry as a whole loses $80 to 100 million to piracy annually.” More about this next time…

    May your to-read pile runneth over in 2017!

  • October 01, 2016 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    Humorist Roy Blount Jr. has written a bunch of books, many of them in the Library’s catalog. The latest is Save Room for Pie, which is “Food Songs and Chewy Ruminations”, a compendium of exuberant wordplay. Such as this description of the cork being pulled out of a whiskey bottle: “Let’s see if I can spell the sound: f-toong. That’s if you pull it straight out. If you give it a little twist a s you pull it, there’s a squeak — no, a chirp, a tweet even — that drowns out the f and even some of the t…Sort of squee-(thong.” Make you thirsty, wine lovers?

    Blount also wrote this two-line poem: “The neighborhood stores are all out of broccoli / loccoli.”

    Here’s a library you may not have heard of and probably will never visit: Iceland’s Library of Water. An American, Roni Horn, collected samples from 24 glaciers and placed the melt water in floor-to-ceiling glass cylinders to create an artwork of natural historical significance. The library also houses a writers’ retreat and generates weather reports. To see photographs, point your computer to wwww.libraryofwater.is/landing.html.

    While you’re at the computer, hellopoetry.com is a community of poets that you can join by submitting one that you’ve written.

    Humorist Roy Blount Jr. has written a bunch of books, many of them in the Library’s catalog. The latest is Save Room for Pie, which is “Food Songs and Chewy Ruminations”, a compendium of exuberant wordplay. Such as this description of the cork being pulled out of a whiskey bottle: “Let’s see if I can spell the sound: f-toong. That’s if you pull it straight out. If you give it a little twist a s you pull it, there’s a squeak — no, a chirp, a tweet even — that drowns out the f and even some of the t…Sort of squee-(thong.” Make you thirsty, wine lovers?

    Blount also wrote this two-line poem: “The neighborhood stores are all out of broccoli / loccoli.”

    Here’s a library you may not have heard of and probably will never visit: Iceland’s Library of Water. An American, Roni Horn, collected samples from 24 glaciers and placed the melt water in floor-to-ceiling glass cylinders to create an artwork of natural historical significance. The library also houses a writers’ retreat and generates weather reports. To see photographs, point your computer to wwww.libraryofwater.is/landing.html.

    While you’re at the computer, hellopoetry.com is a community of poets that you can join by submitting one that you’ve written.

    A.A. Milne observed, “When we read, we are, we must be, repeating the words to ourselves unconsciously; for how else should we discover, as we all have discovered in our time, that we have been mispronouncing a word which, in fact, we have never spoken? I refer to such words as ‘misled’, which I, and millions of others when young, supposed to be ‘mizzled.'”

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