"It's all about supporting our library"

Between Friends

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

Read more of her witty wonderful words
on her website: 

  • June 01, 2016 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    Do your remember the first time you visited the Internet? For me, it was an adult education class on how to use this wonderful new invention. It was cumbersome then, a lot of key strokes and wait periods to accomplish anything. But by the end of the class, we were all already addicted. One of the pioneers of the Web was Steve Case, who co-founded AOL in 1985, when only three percent of Americans were online. His new book, The Third Wave, is a roadmap for succeeding in a world of rapidly changing technology. The book’s available at our Longmont Library, natch’, so feel free to take advantage of its availability if you’re eager to launch your entrepreneurship.

    Diane Setterfield’s novel, The Thirteenth Tale, is well-stocked by the Longmont Library in three forms: book, large-print, and CD. It contains an evocative description of love of reading. “I never read without making sure I am in a secure position. I have been like this ever since the age of seven when, sitting on a high wall and reading The Water Babies, I was so seduced by the descriptions of underwater life that I unconsciously relaxed my muscles. Instead of being held buoyant by the water that so vividly surrounded me in my mind, I plummeted to the ground and knocked myself out. I can still feel the scar under my fringe now. Reading can be dangerous.”

    As you would expect in our mechanized society, high-traffic library systems use machines to sort books. In New York, for example, a computerized crane can wrangle 120 pounds of books at a time. In a friendly competition with Washington State’s King County recently, NYPL sorted 12,371 books in one hour, and winner KCPL sorted 12,572.

    Dashiell Hammett worked for the Pinkerton Detective Agency before writing novels. In his memoirs he recalled, “A man whom I was shadowing went out into the country for a walk one Sunday afternoon and lost his bearings completely. I had to direct him back to the city.”

    The May 16th New Yorker contains an article that begins, “At Trail Ridge Middle School, which is forty minutes north of Denver, in Longmont, the old Colorado is giving way to the new.” It’s a story about Sphero robots being used in classrooms to teach kids coding. An Erie teacher is also quoted.

    Don’t lose your way or fall off any walls.

  • April 01, 2016 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    The US Consumer Product Safety Commission says more than 10,000 Americans suffer injuries yearly due to…books. (Get out of the library while you can!) You’ve no doubt guessed that it’s because people fall reaching for books or try to move too many at once, hurting their backs. Sorting and book sale volunteers, be careful out there.

    On the other hand, books are good for your health. Rush University Medical Clinic researchers confirmed that elderly readers often experience slower memory decline than non-readers. A British study found that reading can reduce stress up to 68%. (Unless, of course, you’re reading a daily newspaper.)

    Here’s an observation both exhilarating and depressing: “If not a single book were published from this moment on, it would still take 250,000 years for us to acquaint ourselves with those books already written. Simply reading a list of them (author and title) would take some fifteen years.” Gabriel Zaid pointed that out in 2003, by now the statistics would be even more staggering. Put another way, it’s impossible for anyone to read 99.9% of what’s published. Zaid’s book, So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance, isn’t in the Longmont collection, but another with a similar title is — So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading, by Sara Nelson. Add it to the .1% you’re hoping to get through.

    So obviously you shouldn’t be wasting your time on the Internet, but still you might enjoy FutilityCloset.com. It’s a database exceeding 9000 short articles on history, literature, language, philosophy, and more. For instance, Somerset Maugham commented on Of Human Bondage: “I began with the impossible aim of using no adjectives at all. I thought that if you could find the exact term, a qualifying epithet could be dispensed with…. [M]y book would have the appearance of an immensely long telegram in which for economy’s sake you had left out every word that was not necessary to make the sense clear.”

    There’s never enough time unless you’re serving it. Malcolm Forbes

  • March 01, 2016 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    By the time you read this, the 88th Oscars presentations will have aired. Publishers Weekly pointed out that six of the eight films nominated for best picture this year were based on books. PW also says, “We’ve often checked in on the impact a film release has on a book’s sales, and an Oscar win in a big category definitely provides a sales bump.” For example, last year’s Still Alice, for which Julianne Moore won Best Actress, resulted in book print sales increasing 19%, and Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, for which Eddie Redmayne won Best Actor, saw sales of the Jane Hawking memoir, titled The Theory of Everything, increase a whooping 107%. However, the Sound Editing Oscar didn’t help American Sniper; sales of the book decreased 7%.

    In other news, road/street maps and atlases sales are down almost 1%, again according to Publisher’s Weekly. Gee, do you think there might be a correlation to GPS sales?

    Meanwhile, Romance Writers of America has determined that romance sales exceeded $1.08 billion in 2013. That’s 13% of all adult fiction sales. E-books accounted for 39% of romance revenue.

    Did you know that Dr. Seuss, aka Theodor Geisel, didn’t care much for kids? He’s quoted as saying, “You have ’em, I’ll amuse ’em.”

    If you are interested in science and technology, especially the quirkier type, you should check out (literally, from the Longmont Library). What If: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions. For example, “How high can a human throw something?” After five pages of humorous theorizing and calculating, the answer is Aroldis Chapman, holder of the world record fastest pitch (105 mph) could (probably) throw a golf ball about sixteen giraffes high. Author Randall Munroe, the creator of xkcd.com, has also written Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words,  which can be found at our first-rate Longmont Library as well.

    One book leads to another…

  • February 01, 2016 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    An article datelined “Bucharest” in the October 24, 2015 issue of The Economistmagazine reports that, by Romanian law, convicts can reduce their sentences by 30 days for every book they write while in prison. “This has led Romanian tycoons and politicians imprisoned on corruption charges to indulge in a frenzy of scribbling.” No computers are allowed the inmates; the work must be handwritten. Wealthy prisoners often hire ghost writers to do the writing of them. Plagiarism is not unheard of. Most of the results are — as you can imagine — dreck. “Romanians are delighted that the rich and powerful are being sent to jail..but they are resigned to the fact many will wriggle their way out early.”

    In his book, Pep Talks, Warnings and Screeds: Indispensable Wisdom and Cautionary Advice for Writers, George Singleton derides writers who pursue their muse in coffee shops. “When did novelists, essayists, and poets — especially poets — come to the belief that everyone would be mesmerized, enchanted, and enthralled with having to look at their tortured selves staring blankly at the ceiling tiles before typing out something like, ‘Her collection of Mardi Gras beads/like stringed coffee beans/remind me of the last time I saw her when she slapped me in the face and said, “get lost, loser?”‘” This book is not in the Longmont Library collection, but you can obtain it, and Singleton’s entertaining short story collections, free via Prospector Interlibrary Loan.

    Amazon recently began blocking reviews of books written by friends and family. How does Amazon know who the author’s friends and family are? By checking social media activity — Facebook, Twitter and such. The policy may have changed by the time you read this, as authors and readers have vigorously protested it; authors promote themselves by networking, and Amazon’s criteria defines virtually all of an author’s fans on social media as friends of the author.

    “The closest we will ever come to an orderly universe is a good library.” Ashleigh Brilliant

  • December 01, 2015 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    Need a Christmas gift idea? Plotted is a hot-off-the-press literary atlas. Illustrator Andrew DeGraff has created detailed colored maps of the fictional topography of classic novels: Hamlet, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Watershed Down, Around the World in 80 Days, and fifteen others. The publisher sees the book as appealing to middle-grade through adult readers. Maybe you don’t need a Christmas gift idea; you can get Plotted for free at the Longmont Library.

    Here’s another book you might like: I Work at a Public Library by Gina Sheridan. It’s a collection of weird requests and unusual demands a circulation desk librarian has encountered. Example: A man asks “Do you have any books about how to become a prison guard? Specifically how to become a prison guard if you’ve already had some experience as an inmate?” Our peerless library has a copy.

    Last summer, Dictionary.com conducted an online poll of 2052 people and found that 74% of respondents aged 18 to 34 often noticed grammar errors in social media — correspondence both written and spoken. Across all age groups, 59% said that improper grammar is their biggest gripe regarding the English language. More women than men notice spelling and grammar mistakes, 75% to 66%. Quick, without calling a friend, conjugate the verb “to lie.”

    Speaking of bad writing, the following item appeared in YourHub some time ago: “Fighting over what is the best professional football team in the right-hand turn lane of southbound Broadway Street at University Avenue at 3:53 a.m. Dec. 21, two men were cited…” Apparently the Broncos weren’t there.

    An epigram is a terse, witty expression neatly or brilliantly phrased. Samuel Johnson called remarriage a “triumph of hope over experience.” Two more examples follow.

    “First time I read the dictionary, I thought it was a poem about everything.” Steven Wright

    “I prefer dead writers because you don’t run into them at parties.” Fran Leibowitz

    Drive and punctuate carefully, you hear?

  • November 01, 2015 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    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…

  • September 01, 2015 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    You know how, when a bestselling author dies, finished but unpublished manuscripts turn up in the estate? You have to be suspicious when it isn’t just one discovery, but year after year new books appear. In the case of Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, the find is legitimate. What Pet Should I Get, written and illustrated between 1958 and 1962, and inexplicably filed away by the author, was released by Random House Books in July, with a one-million-copy first printing. Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman,the #1 best seller for two weeks, was unseated by What Pet, which sold 171K print units its first week out.

    Vanity Fair magazine recently ran an article on James Patterson, in which Steven King remarked that Patterson was “a terrible writer” who is “very, very successful.” Patterson himself says his obituary should begin, “He was slowing down at 101, and had only finished four novels this year.” The grammar in that sentence kinda confirms Mr. King’s assessment.* You Patterson fans send your rebuttals to carol@carolcail.com.

    Now for your reading pleasure, here are a few factoids about public libraries according to Publishers Weekly. The United States is blessed with 16,000 branch libraries. (Not counting the mains.) It’s a myth that library borrowers don’t buy books; roughly a third of the people who bought a book in a given month also read one from the library in that same month. Federal statistics show that 1.53 billion in-person visits were made to public libraries in 2011. In 2012, a national survey found that libraries are more trusted than any other institution, including the military, churches, and police. (Congress came in last. Duh.) In 2013, 48% of Americans over 16 visited a library, and 70% of households with children reported that a child visited a library.

    Lastly, here’s an observation from Roger McGough:

    “The only problem
    with Haiku is that you just
    get started and then”

    *I bet you knew that “only finished four” should be “only four.”

  • May 01, 2015 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    Everyone except authors enjoys wit in a book review.  A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote, “[The author] tries to fill this quart-size romance with a pint-size plot.” And authors need to be careful what they title their novels. Joseph Heller’s We Bombed in New Haven was judged by Saturday Review to be “a dud of the first magnitude.”  Library Journal said of John Gardner’s The Wreckage of Agathon, “Wreckage is appropriate . . . more hysterical than historical.” Personally, I’d avoid using the word “boring,” not only in the title but anywhere in the book.

    Coleridge defined poetry as “the best words in the best order.”  Billy Collins, a U.S. and New York State Poet Laureate, knows how to pick words up and lay them down so that readers “get” it.  His latest collection, Aimless Love, is available at the library. In a poem titled “Envoy,” he urges “this little book” to “stay out as late as you like / don’t bother to call or write / and talk to as many strangers as you can.”

    Terry Pratchett, whose humorous fantasy has entertained millions for decades, has a new book out – nonfiction this time – A Slip of the Keyboard, also available at our wonderful library. But you may want to buy your own copy, so that you can highlight such perfect observations as this:  “There was a pond; the fish probably had to get out to turn around.”  And this:  “I make no apology for having enjoyed [science fiction].  We live in a science fiction world; two miles down there you’d fry and two miles up there you’d gasp for breath, and there is a small but significant chance that in the next thousand years a large comet or asteroid will smack into the planet.  Finding this out when you’re thirteen or so is a bit of an eye-opener.  It puts acne in its place for a start.”

  • March 01, 2015 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    The December 15th issue of The New Yorker included an interesting little article about marginalia–the comments people scribble in books, even sometimes in (horrors!) library books. The article presents numerous examples, including the words Pierre de Fermat wrote in his copy of Diophantus’ Arithmetica in 1637, next to an elementary problem of number theory:  “I have discovered a truly marvellous [sic] proof which this margin is too narrow to contain.”  It took another 350 years for the theorem his notes inspired to be proved.

    “Books allow you to fully explore a topic and immerse yourself in a deeper way than most media today. . . .  I’m looking forward to shifting more of my media diet towards reading books.”  This seems not an unusual sentiment, until the writer is revealed: Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook. Book publishers are hoping that the books Zuckerberg mentions online will receive the same “bump” as Oprah’s selections enjoyed.  He plans to emphasize “different cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies.”

    You might find interesting a 2011 Yale University Press book edited by Leah Price entitled Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books.  It is primarily photos of the book shelves of a number of literary writers, and their comments about their book collections.  From the introduction, comes this observation:  “The Strand bookstore in New York sells books by the yard to set designers and interior decorators alike.”  Since visitors taking down a book might guess from its pristine condition that you’ve never read it, the Strand will send you books “ready-rubbed”, roughed up by an “expert handler.”  Depending on what you want to pay, your books may be dog-eared, highlighted, written in, stained, and/or bookmarked with theater tickets; those “mauled savagely” cost the most. (Unpacking My Library is not in the Longmont Library catalog, but there is another by Ms. Price intriguingly titled How To Do Things With Books in Victorian Britain.)

  • January 01, 2015 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    “Better to go barefoot than without a book.”  That Icelandic saying is especially meaningful considering how few folks would go barefoot in that climate.  The quotation’s from a Longmont Library book by Eric Weiner, The Geography of Bliss.  Weiner, an NPR correspondent, wondered how much place determines happiness.  Which countries are happiest and why?  A self-described “mope,” he’s also a humorist to rival Bill Bryson.  Here’s more about Iceland:  “. . . just about everyone in Iceland is a writer or poet.  Taxi drivers, college professors, hotel clerks, fishermen.  Everyone.  Icelanders joke that one day they will erect a statue in the center of Reykjavik to honor the one Icelander who never wrote a poem.  They’re still waiting for that person to be born.”

    A portmanteau is a suitcase having two compartments hinged together; a portmanteau word is one formed by merging the sounds and meanings of two different words–for example, “confusiasm” from confused and enthusiasm.  Thus, something old relegated to the attic is atticquated.  How about slopsyturvy?  Houspitality?  Weddiversary?  Next time you’re stuck waiting at the post office, entertain yourself by portmanscribing your line mates.

    Have you read any of the “Dark and Stormy” books, compilations of the Bulwer-Lytton fiction contests?  They’ve been published since 1986, and you can maybe locate them at a Friends’ book sale or definitely through interlibrary loan.  Only the most awful sentences are winners. (“Bryon the Plainsman seldom spoke a discouraging word but he did when he filed for divorce after discovering his dear and an interloper played.”  Maree Lubran)  Should you want to enter, editor Scott Rice shares insight on the dreaded writer’s block:  “. . . you will be sitting in front of your typewriter or word processor, eyes glazed, fingers frozen, ears ringing, the tip of your nose numb, unable to write.  Do not lose confidence or construe this as a reflection on your essential creativity.  You are probably having a stroke.”

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