Last week was Banned Books Week in America. I hope the loyal readers of this blog enjoyed their local book burning fires and a witty tête-à-tête with a stranger over a cup of pumpkin spiced something. I was somewhat busy last week, so I ignored the festivities entirely, which I hasten to say is in keeping with the holiday spirit.
Matthew Walther wishes all of this would just go away. They urge him to read a banned book. Which book? he asks. Mein Kampf? If that old Hilterian classic appeared in readers’ hands throughout a city during Banned Books Week, would librarians and bookstore owners be slapping each other on the back for a successful campaign? Heil, no, they would not. Walther writes,
In my experience, those with the strongest emotional investment in Banned Books Week tend to be people whose idea of literature is something called “Y.A.,” which they can continue to enjoy well into their 20s, plus whatever they found themselves forced to slog through as liberal arts majors in college in between tweeting and watching prestige cable and old Buffy reruns on Netflix.
Via Dave Lull, from Digital Book World, a large, fascinating graphic on world-wide reading and literacy patterns.
Finland rates as the most literate country in the world judging by newspapers, computers, and libraries, but India wins out if you tally up reading hours per week. Scandinavia does very well generally on the first metric, but the US isn’t far behind.
According to Chris Power, a golden age of short stories has always been shrouded in a misty past and was on the verge of reemerging.
H.G. Wells thought the short story thrived in the 1890s. H. E. Bates said it was the 1920-30s. William Boyd said 1981 was a great year for the story form everyone secretly loved and read quietly in corner booths with their third beer.
While bitter experience has shown poetry exactly where it stands in the marketplace, and the novel has shrugged off multiple reports of its death and maintained pre-eminence, the short story is continually characterised as the neglected form that will be great again. The funny thing is, when you explore its history you find the perception of a distant golden age, an undistinguished present and a return to glory has always been around: the short story has a problem with reality.
Patently a decent man who wanted a better life for everyone, Hall genuinely believed that by alerting his students to the ideological subtexts of their favourite TV shows or pop songs (at one point he claims to be able to hear ‘the less chauvinistic bits’ of Elgar), they might liberate themselves from the hegemonic ‘master codes of the dominant culture’. In fact, by teaching kids that it’s enough to read or watch or listen to what already interests them, cultural studies has served only to trap them in the straitened cell of the self.
Mercy. Who will pull the bucket off our heads, if not our elders? And if our elders are the ones who trapped us in buckets in the first place, what hope do we have for any of us? Is there anyone apart from us who can teach us the truth? (via Prufrock News)
I don’t think I’ve ever lied about reading a book. I usually claim to have read about it, but apparently more and more people wish to portray themselves as readers, at least of select books, just like music fans of any band you claim is legit. Oh, yeah, I love their style.
David Barnett writes, “The 13 books we are most likely to claim to have read have one thing in common: they have all been adapted into blockbuster movies.”
Top of the current list are Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, followed by JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and CS Lewis’s Narnia series. Perhaps more curious is the fact that people claim to have read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collinsand Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, when there are more copies of both novels languishing in charity shops than could be sold before Armageddon, so supply issues are not putting people off trying to read them.
I probably do lie by what I don’t say, which means I should just stop talking. (via Prufrock News)
Somebody mentioned on the radio today that it’s been fifty years since the 1967 Israeli Six-Day War.
I remember that summer well. The live telecasts of UN meetings, the speeches. Abba Eban addressing the General Assembly.
But mostly I remember my summer job.
I didn’t generally have summer jobs as a kid. I lived on a farm. That was my summer job. Hoeing thistles and pulling mustard weeds, fence repair; there was pretty much always something to do.
But that summer I was an orderly. For my mother.
Mom had broken her leg. She’d stood on the kitchen table to clean an overhead hot air register, and the table collapsed. The break was bad, and she came home with a big cast on her leg.
The folks asked me to take care of her for the summer. They’d pay me for it. So I jockeyed bed pans down to our basement bathroom for three months.
One day I was given some job or other to do up in the hay loft above the barn. I forget what I was doing – probably just re-stacking the hay bales. Sometimes that had to be done. I don’t know where my dad and brothers were that day. Mom didn’t need me for a while; I’d left her with the TV on and a book to read.
The San Francisco Examiner reports on a recent fine amnesty carried out by the San Francisco Public Library. Nearly 700,000 books were returned, valued at $236,000.
Included in the recent returns were a collection of short stories titled 40 Minutes Late, which was 100 years past due, and Brass, a Novel of a Marriage by Charles Norris with a due date stamp of 1937, making the item 80 years past due. In both cases, the books were originally checked out by the returners’ great grandparents.
More and more libraries are in fact abolishing fines altogether. They’ve given up the pretense of any control. They just want somebody to come and use their facilities so the cities don’t close them down.
Edwardian readers were expected to share books from their own library with others, and so very special attention was paid to the plate design, to indicate the type of person that the owner was. While the wealthy were able to afford privately commissioned plates by famous artists, the average Edwardian depended on stationers or booksellers for mass-produced plates, or something from a pattern book. For the bibliophile, choosing a bookplate was a delicate process and the purchase commanded quite a price, varying from £2 to £50 – roughly £220-£5,500 today.
I’ve got some bookplates around here somewhere – in my old desk, I think. I used to have a store where I could pick them up, and I had a favored design – an etching of a full-face lion who reminded me of Aslan. It was an Antioch design, but I don’t find it at Bookplate Ink, which claims to have the largest online supply of Antioch plates.
Some years ago somebody gave me one of those embossers with Ex Libris and my name on it, so I mostly gave up bookplates. And of late I’ve bought most of my books in electronic form.
Hey — there’s a business opportunity! Bookplates for ebooks!
In St. Petersburg, Russia, publisher Alfaret has opened a Gothic-style library that is more a book-themed experience than a place to read or check out books. In fact, I don’t think you can check out anything from Book Cappela‘s over 5,000 edition collection.
What you can do is pay about £100 for a four-hour visit to study the collection or buy an annual card, making you a “Book Apostle,” for £3,209. Life-long members are also available.
“Book Capella is not a library in the traditional sense, and it is not a museum, although elements of the museum are presented. It’s also not the bookstore, although you can buy our books here. [It] is a new way for people to communicate with rare books,” Irina Khoteshova, the project director, told the Guardian.
For Black History Month, librarian and poet Scott Woods likes to recommend children’s books that don’t focus on boycotts, buses, or basketball. Here’s his list of “28 children’s picture books, most of them featuring Black children doing what all children do: play, make up stories, learn life lessons, and dream.”
These titles look like great fun for a library afternoon in the short seat section. I wonder how many of these my library has. (via K.A. Ellis)
Mark Seidenberg says if you want to read well faster, you should ignore the speed reading people tell you. “The injunction to take in whole lines, paragraphs, or pages cannot be achieved by the human visual system, short of growing additional cells on one’s retina.” (via Prufrock)
The research group says over a third of Americans are heavy readers, meaning they read more than eleven books in a year, and about half of Americans read at least one but not more than ten books in a year. Only sixteen percent say they did not read a book last year, which is a percentage that hasn’t changed significantly since 1990.
Three-fourth of all readers surveyed said they read printed books most often. That’s far more printed books than they apparently expected to be reading, according to this Book Boon survey from 2013 showing over fifty-seven percent of US readers thought they would be reading mostly eBooks by now.
Maybe great shops around the corner like Blue Willow Bookshop encourage us to keep reading printed books.
I don’t know if we do anything better than other bookstores but I doubt any of them has ever changed out a customer’s vacuum cleaner bag for them. When the Oreck store across the street closed, we had a customer come in distraught because she didn’t know how to change the bag. We have an Oreck so a staffer went out to her car, brought it in, and we changed it. Now that is customer service! We like to think of ourselves as the neighbourhood bookshop with a citywide reach. We do tons of events throughout Houston. We are most proud of our three festivals: Bookworm Bookfest (for picture book and emerging readers), Tweens Read, and TeenBookCon. It’s our mission to connect families to reading.
What shall I blog about on the evenings when I haven’t got a recently finished book to review? That’s going to be my personal dilemma for a while. I picked up a book on the Inklings. It’s excellent and full of points of interest, but it’s about as long as The Lord of the Rings, I think (that’s one of the interesting aspects of reading on a Kindle. Sometimes you’re surprised by the length of a book you bought, an occurrence that never occurs in bookstores). Anyway, I’ll have to actually talk to you until I’ve finished this book. Which means I’ll have to think.
I thought I wouldn’t have to do that anymore, now that I had a master’s.
Anyway, it’s Advent, so a Christmas song from Sissel is always in order. I’ve probably posted some version of this before, but I think I’ve run out of new Sissel Christmas stuff. She bears repetition. This is one she’s recorded and performed many times. The title, “Mitt Hjerte Altid Vanker” means, “My heart always returns.” The singer is saying she constantly turns her thoughts back to Christ and His birth. I like this arrangement, which incorporates a theme from Edvard Grieg in the bridge. This recording was done in Iceland.
“We want literature to take over the streets and conquer public spaces, freely offering those passersby a traffic-free place which, for some hours, will succumb to the humble power of the written word.”
They laid down this artistic installation on one of the city’s busiest streets.
“Thus, a city area which is typically reserved for speed, pollution and noise, will become, for one night, a place for quietness, calm and coexistance illuminated by the vague, soft light coming out of the lighted pages.”
During the exhibit, people walked on the books, took pictures of themselves on the books, and took most of the books home with them. I don’t know whether Toronto’s traffic congestion has changed since receiving this smite from the humble word.
“Literature,” writes Caleb Griego, an editor for The Heights, the student newspaper of Boston College, “seems to soothe the discontents of the mind. Reading allows for us to come away from our own loneliness and relish in the solidarity of it with another. Our alienation is both the cause of anguish and the remedy to it.”