Tuesday, May 8, 2007

This Week in Reading May 13 - 19

This Week marks the birthday of the patron saint of all populist book bloggers, Clifton Fadiman. In early radio and then television he personified what it meant to be well read without being a snob. The entry about him in the St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture (5 vols. St. James Press, 2000), reproduced in GPL’s database Biography Resource Center, he is called “a man of letters whose effectiveness as a broadcast personality helped him spread the gospel of the rewards of book reading to a wide public.”

Besides being an editor who wrote great introductions to classic literature, a critic, a New Yorker editor, and being one of the judges who chose titles for the Book of the Month Club, he also was the genial host of the radio quiz show Information Please! His greatest contribution, in my view, was The Lifetime Reading Plan (reissued in 1994 as The New Lifetime Reading Plan) which was a sensible list of both popular and classic books that anyone could enjoy reading to become “well read" or just pretend to be so by reading the annotations.

As the St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture also says, “To the general public, Fadiman so personified the world of great books that when one man was asked to name his favorite work of literature, he responded: ‘Clifton Fadiman's introduction to War and Peace.’”

One of his more famous quotes is "When you reread a classic, you do not see more in the book than you did before, you see more in you than there was before."
Read more about Fadiman at the The Information, Please! Almanac in return. This week's question: What current reference almanac has Information Please! Almanac merged with?

Answer to last week’s question: There’s only been one. Most appointed to the post Librarian of Congress were either scholars or businessmen with strong ties. After the profession of librarianship was established in the late 1800s, the American Library association lobbied for a real librarian in the position. The first was Herbert Putnam, head of Boston Public Library. He ran the Library of Congress from 1899 to 1939 when poet Archibald MacLeish was appointed. But L. Quincy Mumford, from 1954- 1974, director the Cleveland Public library, was the first graduate of a professional library school. The two since, Daniel Boorstin and James Billington, are historians.

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