Dreams and Nightmares

“The covers of this book are too far apart.”  Ambrose Bierce
 
Prolific author Isaac Asimov once described a dream he’d had.  He’d died and gone to Heaven, where he confessed to the recording angel that he didn’t belong there: “I’m an atheist.”  The angel said, “We decide who qualifies. Not you.”  Asimov pondered this for a moment and then asked, “Is there a typewriter here that I can use?”  Waking, he saw significance in the dream. Heaven was the act of writing, and he had been in Heaven for more than half a century.
 
“I conceive that the right way to write a story for boys is to write so that it will not only interest boys but strongly interest any man who has ever been a boy. That immensely enlarges the audience.”  Mark Twain
 
New York pharmaceutical manufacturer Eugene Scheifflin (1827-1906) was a big fan of Shakespeare. He also loved birds. He hit upon an epic plan to introduce to the United States every type of bird mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays. Starlings made a brief appearance in Henry IV. The king ordered a soldier never to mention his brother-in-law’s name again, causing the soldier to dream of buying a starling that would repeat the name over and over. “Nay, I’ll have a starling shall be taught to speak; Nothing but ‘Mortimer,’ and give it him.”  Over a two-year period, at great expense, Scheifflin imported 100 starlings to New York.  Today there are almost as many European starlings in North America as there are people.  Starlings are estimated to cause at least $800 million in crop damage in the United States every year, bring havoc to air traffic, and carry dozens of diseases deadly to livestock and humans. Ironically, four hundred years ago Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth warned,“What’s done cannot be undone.”
 
“The older I get, the more acutely I am aware that the vast majority of what is written remains unread.”  Jhumpa Lahiri
 
Have a happy June filled with quiet moments for reading whatever you want. 
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*Written by Carol Cail — Read more from Carol at carolcail.com
*Originally published in June 2018

 

Bacon, Bookmarks, Barrie and Bloomers

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.

*Written by Carol Cail — Read more from Carol at carolcail.com
*Originally published in April 2017

A Book is Like a Garden…

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

*Written by Carol Cail — Read more from Carol at carolcail.com
*Originally published in February 2017

A Few of Our Favorite Things…

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!

*Written by Carol Cail — Read more from Carol at carolcail.com
*Originally published in December 2016

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