Wednesday, April 30, 2008

This Week in Reading April 27 - May 3, 2008

With the Americana at Brand opening this week it's difficult to think about reading, what with all the lights, crowds, traffic, fireworks, and excitement. But, once the hoopla settles down, reading will be a major activity within the complex. Now there will be, not one, but two major bookstores within walking distance of the library.

Other than the residents who will read on their balconies and in their living rooms, a critical mass of readers, fresh from browsing public and commercial shelves, will converge daily to find spots on Americana benches to read surrounded by idealized images of an American lifestyle that perhaps never was, but might have been. It will be, however, the future of the City of Glendale in many ways.

The readers at the Glendale Public Library welcome their unique new neighbors with open doors and friendly, welcoming information and reading guidance any time it's needed. And we'll spend our lunch time browsing your stores if you'll spend yours browsing our shelves. We're sure there are many hours we can spend together in the enjoyment of each other's enriched environments. We'll be remodeling to keep up.

This Week's Question: More basic then usual, which authors were born this week and what are some of the events to read about this week?

Answer to Last Week's Question: Robert Penn Warren wrote All the King's Men, one of the all time great political novels, in which he delineated how an effective idealist--the populist poltician Willie Stark--moved toward, and then away from, virtue.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Glendale History: Before the Americana at Brand

(click on the photograph to view a larger version in a new window)

As the Americana at Brand prepares to open its doors to the public just a block west of the Glendale Central Library, it seems fitting to take a look back at the neighborhood where the Americana will reside. This photograph (courtesy of the Special Collections Room of the Glendale Public Library) shows Brand Boulevard looking north, dating from around 1936. Harvard Street, which will act as the eastern entrance into the Americana, crosses Brand Boulevard here behind the Western Auto Supply Co. sign on the left and in front of the Famous Department Store building on the right.

Other notable businesses in this image that operated in the area now covered by the Americana include a Pep Boys Auto Supplies store and the Capital Theatre. The tall building in the top center of the photograph is the Bank of America Building, which would be torn down in 1982 to make room for the Galleria II project.

The Special Collections Room in the Central Library contains thousands of photographs, news clippings, books, maps, and other materials that cover the history of Glendale, neighboring cities, and California in general. The collection is particularly useful for local history and genealogy research projects. Special Collections also houses the Cat Collection, one of the largest collections of feline-related materials in the world.

The Special Collections Room is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m and 1 to 3 p.m., Saturdays from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., and by appointment. Please call (818) 548-2037 for additional information.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

This Week in Reading April 20 - 26

For a week with both such sad remembrance and hope for change, there are some very, very big literary names this week. We have the birthdays of Charlotte Bronte, Henry Fielding, Vladimir Nabokov, Robert Penn Warren, Bernard Malamud, and of course, William Shakespeare, whomever he, she, or they was, along with two little known (to Americans) Nobel prizewinners.

Also, there are other popular authors: fiction writer Morris West, mystery novelists Ngaio Marsh and Sue Grafton, suspense writer Alistair MacLean, and humorist mystery writer John Mortimer. It's also a thoughtful week as we have philosophers Max Weber, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, as well as naturalist John Muir.

This Week's Question: Which author born this week said the following? "Once you start illustrating virtue as such, you'd better stop writing fiction. Do something else .. Or join a committee. Your business as a writer is not to illustrate virtue, but to show how a fellow may move toward it -- or away from it."

Answer to Last Week's Question: In a similar tone (to above), dictionaries, which tend to be mostly descriptive, are assumed by many to be proscriptive (or prescriptive), and, by the way, so are public libraries. Actually most dictionaries merely describe what words mean to that culture at the time of publication but meanings can change over time and place and new words get coined. The study and reporting of that word change is called etymology which is the strength of the Oxford English Dictionary. But many people assume that dictionaries prescribe what a meaning, or pronunciation ought to be, rather than what general usage has made it. Not so. The same assumption has been made about public libraries from the Victorian Era on. A public library's collection reflects the changes of interest of the society it serves and changes with it.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hooray for National Library Week!

Pacific Park Branch Librarian, Katherine Loeser, accepted a National Library Week (NLW) proclamation from Glendale City Councilman Bob Yousefian at City Hall on Tuesday.

First sponsored in 1958, National Library Week is a national observance sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and libraries across the country each April. It is a time to celebrate the contributions of our nation's libraries and librarians and to promote library use and support. All types of libraries - school, public, academic and special - participate. This year's theme is Join the Circle of Knowledge @ Your Library.

Some fun NLW videos have been made capturing the humorous side of working in libraries. Here's one that captures the experience of working at the Reference Desk in "Anytown, USA."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

This Week in Reading April 13 - 19

What last week lacked, this week gives back to us in spades. There are authors of very heady stuff, (including, appropriately, even an author named Braine,) and no less than three Nobel prizewinners, Anatole France, Samuel Beckett, and, recently, Seamus Heaney. Then there are strong social thinkers like George Lukacs and Emile Durkheim, avant garde poets and writers of style, and literary greats Henry James, Eudora Welty, and Thornton Wilder.

This Week's Question: It's National Library Week and we've got Thomas Jefferson, who put the Declaration of Independence into great words and whose bequest of his personal library created the Library of Congress. Also appropriately, three very important dictionaries have anniversaries of note in this week: Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language, and the later definitive opus, the Oxford English Dictionary. One of the major arguments and frequent misunderstandings about dictionaries is whether or not they are proscriptive or descriptive. The same different understandings of purpose is often applied to public libraries. What is that argument?

Answer to Last Week's Question: The writer speaking of the follies of Shakespeare commentators included himself in his remarks. He was the obscure ninetenth century Shakespearan editor and literary critic, William Hazlitt, who apparently had a sense of humor.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Are Books Obsolete?

Here's an article from which posits that perhaps books are bit too precious and maybe even elitist! What do you think?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

This Year's Literary Pulitzer Prizes

In the week of Joseph Pulitizer's birth here are this year's winners of the Pulitizer Prize for "Letters, Drama, and Music."


The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Junot Diaz's dark and exuberant first novel makes a compelling case for the multiperspectival view of a life, wherein an individual cannot be known or understood in isolation from the history of his family and his nation.Oscar being a first-generation Dominican-American, the nation in question is really two nations. And Dominicans in this novel being explicitly of mixed Taíno, African and Spanish descent, the very ideas of nationhood and nationality are thoughtfully, subtly complicated. The various nationalities and generations are subtended by the recurring motif of fukú, the Curse and Doom of the New World, whose midwife and... victim was a historical personage Diaz will only call the Admiral, in deference to the belief that uttering his name brings bad luck (hint: he arrived in the New World in 1492 and his initials are CC). By the prologue's end, it's clear that this story of one poor guy's cursed life will also be the story of how 500 years of historical and familial bad luck shape the destiny of its fat, sad, smart, lovable and short-lived protagonist. The book's pervasive sense of doom is offset by a rich and playful prose that embodies its theme of multiple nations, cultures and languages, often shifting in a single sentence from English to Spanish, from Victorian formality to Negropolitan vernacular, from Homeric epithet to dirty bilingual insult. (Publisher Weekly.)

General Nonfiction

The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945 by Saul Friedlander

In this second compelling volume of Friedländer's history of the Holocaust (see its predecessor, Nazi Germany and the Jews: Volume 1: The Years of Persecution, 1933–1939), the author (history, Univ. of California, Los Angeles) takes into account recent scholarship on the Holocaust but avoids bogging down in the intentionalist/functionalist historiographic debate. He succeeds at integrating the analysis of the decision-making processes of Hitler and his coterie with stories of how individuals were affected by these decisions. The narrative largely conveys the voices of the victims clearly, and while Friedländer might be criticized for an overreliance on published memoirs, it is interesting to see how Victor Klemperer's story, already made famous by his published diary, is woven into the general history of the war years. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the story is the manner in which the Nazi regime relied on the consent and participation of the masses to carry out its activities. That orders for deportation and eventual extermination were being issued into the spring of 1945 demonstrates how the Nazi war against the Jews was not merely obsessive but existential. (Library Journal)


What Hath God Wrought: the transformation of America, 1815-1848 by Daniel Walker Howe

This authoritative addition to Oxford's "History of the United States" series is a product of synthesis and astute analysis. Intellectual and cultural historian Howe (Making the American Self: Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln) touches upon the rapidly expanding nation's economy, foreign relations, and social structures, taking into account race, gender, and ethnicity, and bringing special insights to his discussion of religious revivals and the evolution of moral consciousness, reform movements, and political institutions. The evocative title, which was the first message carried by Morse's telegraph, refers to the changes wrought by religious sensibilities as well as those wrought by technological breakthroughs. Howe boldly emphasizes the "communications revolution" rather than the "market revolution" of the early 19th century, asserting that the latter largely happened among 18th-century commercial farmers. On the other hand, he does not emphasize a "Jacksonian America." Andrew Jackson, he asserts, was not as uniformly democratic or influential as his supporters maintain (Library Journal)


Eden's Outcasts: the story of Louisa May Alcott and her father by John Matteson

Matteson (English, John Jay Coll., CUNY) relates that "in the marvelous year of 1868, there were suddenly two best-selling authors residing under the roof of Orchard House…father and daughter achieved their most significant literary breakthroughs in the same month." In his account of Louisa May Alcott and her father, Bronson Alcott, he relies heavily on the journals, letters, and works of both authors to portray their unique lives, also quoting extensively from the writings of famous friends and neighbors like Ralph Waldo Emerson. In doing so, he allows readers to glimpse both the minds of these two literary figures and the times in which they lived. Matteson succinctly covers major events in his subjects' lives, e.g., the publication of Louisa May's novel Little Women and Bronson's attempts to establish "a saintly community of scholars in which money would be unknown." Adding another dimension to his portrayal is his concise and perceptive analysis of both Alcotts' literary works. Matteson's graceful style and careful scholarship confirm his premise that the two were indeed "Eden's outcasts… for both, life was a persistent but failed quest for perfection." (Library Journal)


Time and Materials: poems 1997-2005 by Robert Hass

In this long-awaited volume, his first in ten years, former U.S. poet laureate Hass (Human Wishes) asks readers to consider what we have to pay for living a life in a culture that not only encompasses war and atrocities but also profound love and the tenacity for survival. Time and materials: the price to get something done, to get something fixed, something that we may have "broken." In "State of the Planet," a long poem written in a series of vignettes, he proposes that what might have been done to the planet "was something we've done quite accidentally." No matter. There is a price to pay. In poems that are sometimes elegiac, prophetic, and wise, he asks readers to consider these costs. His style is varied—from short, almost haikulike couplets to long narrative riffs, conversations (so Whitman-like) with the past, present, and future. These poems filled with modern life at the same time ponder the mythologies that create and bind our often flawed but survivable culture. Hass translates Japanese haiku poet Basho when he writes, "If the horror of the world were the truth of the world,/… there would be no one to say it/and no one to say it to." (Library Journal)


Failure: poems by Philip Schultz

The careful, compassionate sixth outing from Schultz (Living in the Past) reverses the plot many poetry books imply. Rather than show an emotional problem (in the first poems) followed by its gradual solution, Schultz begins with warm, even heartwarming, short depictions of love, marriage, fatherhood, and mourning, in which even the elegies find reasons to love life. Schultz addresses the deceased poet David Ignatow: "I didn't go/ to your funeral, but, late at night, I/ bathe in the beautiful ashes of your words." As a reader moves through the volume, and especially in "The Wandering Wingless"- the sequence whose 58 segments and 54 pages conclude the book\-Schultz's gladness gives way to regret and grim fear. Devoted (like several of Schultz's short poems) to the virtues of dogs and of dog-ownership, and to the horrors of September 11, "Wingless" meanders through the poet's own depression and his young adult life before settling on his continuing grief for his unstable, suicidal father. "Why/ did Dad own, believe in,/ admit to, understand/ and love nothing?" It is a question no poet could answer, though Schultz sounds brave, and invites sympathy, as he tries. (Publisher Weekly)


August: Osage County by Tracy Letts

"A fraught, densely plotted saga of an Oklahoma clan in a state of near-apocalyptic meltdown, “August” is probably the most exciting new American play Broadway has seen in years. Oh, forget probably: It is, flat-out, no asterisks and without qualifications, the most exciting new American play Broadway has seen in years. Fiercely funny and bitingly sad, this turbo-charged tragicomedy — which spans three acts and more than three blissful hours — doesn’t just jump-start the fall theater season, recently stalled when the stagehands went on strike. “August” throws it instantaneously into high gear. " (New York Times Review 12/5/2007)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

This Week in Reading April 6 - 12

What do you say for a week that begins with the birth of the Twinkie (tm) and ends up on the birthday of David Letterman? Oh, sure, there's a Nobel prizewinner in it, Gabriela Mistral, who was the first Latin American woman to win that prize, and some fine literary writers, Donald Barthelme and Paul Theroux, for example. But other than Joseph Pulitizer, whose bequest gives the prize of that name to many winners too numerous to keep track of here, (twenty some a year - see who's announced all throughout the week,) there is not a lot of literary depth in reading this week.

Of course, if you like creative science fiction, thrilling fiction, and great muckraking journalism, you're good to go. You'll juist have to look at this week's list to see who these fine writers are.

Answer to Last Week's Question: Okay, if you don't have a favorite poem to share, how about one in your pocket each day? Go to the Academy of American Poets and find out about Poem in Your Pocket. The big day is Thursday, April 17. Get your poem here. We've got lots, at all the branches.

This Week's Question: There are playwrights and poets, too, this week. One of them may or may not have been both, (as we have dealt with before in this space), but can you guess which author this week said the following? "To know the force of human genius we should read Shakespeare; to see the insignificance of human learning we may study his commentators."

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Tempting Titles - Nonfiction - 800s - 900s

Here, in usual Dewey Decimal system order from your librarian book selectors, are some Tempting Titles of recent nonfiction books the library has either ordered or received in the past few months. Click on any title or image link to go to the online catalog and place a request for the book to be held for you when it becomes available.

800s Literature

How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read by Pierre Bayard

Bayard (Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?), a professor of French literature at the University of Paris openly (if not entirely convincingly), confesses to having neither the time nor the inclination to do much reading. Yet he is all too aware that in his profession, one is often expected to have read the literature one is teaching or talking about with colleagues. In this extended essay, a bestseller in France, Bayard argues that the act of reading is less important than knowing the social and intellectual context of a book. He is so convinced of this that he claims there is great enjoyment—and even enlightenment—in discussing a book one has not read with someone equally unfamiliar with it. Despite appearances, Bayard's volume is not a self-help book or a bluffer's guide to great literature, but instead serves to warn people not to try to impress others with how much they have read. The truth is, most of the time they're fibbing and there are many gradations between total reading and complete nonreading, he declares, including hearing about a book, skimming it and forgetting its contents. A little too much impenetrable psychoanalytic jargon sometimes threatens to overwhelm Bayard's argument, but Bayard's at least partly tongue-in-cheek argument about not reading is well worth reading. (Publisher Weekly)

Good Dog, Stay by Anna Quindlen

"The life of a good dog is like the life of a good person, only shorter and more compressed," writes Pulitzer-winning author Quindlen about her beloved black Labrador retriever, Beau. With her trademark wisdom and humor, Quindlen reflects on how her life has unfolded in tandem with Beau's, and on the lessons she's learned by watching him: to roll with the punches, to take things as they come, to measure herself not in terms of the past or the future but of the present. Heartening and bittersweet, this book honors the life of a cherished and loyal friend and offers listeners a valuable lesson: Sometimes an old dog can teach a person new tricks.-- (Publisher description)

"Four woofs for Quindlen! But a dog doesn't have to be old to teach. If only more humans would understand us." This from Taz, who, somewhat embarrassingly, insists he just reads the following for the articles.

Howl: a collection of the best contemporary dog wit from the editors of The Bark.

The second literary salvo from The Bark magazine (after Dog is my Co-Pilot), a mostly-miss compendium of dog-related scribblings, opens with a spectacularly unfunny standup routine performed by a dog named Gracie. ... Those with fortitude will be rewarded, albeit sparingly. Marc Spitz's essay on how his dog changed his life, riddled with pop culture references and self-deprecating humor, is truly a joy. Kinky Friedman's all-too-short piece on the trials and tribulations of sharing a bed with animals will have dog lovers smiling and nodding in recognition, and Nancy Cohen's "The Seven Month Itch" masterfully incorporates the multitude of nicknames owners have for their companions in a story about the search for the cure for a rash. Unfortunately, the gems are all too few. (Publisher Weekly)

900s Geography, Travel, History

The Smart Traveler’s Passport: 399 tips from seasoned travelers by Erik Torkells

A nifty, chunky, pocket-sized guide, offers a wealth of travel-related tips from the silly to the sublime. Organized into nine chapters that cover trip planning, packing, travel-time, safety, lodging, transport, spending, sightseeing and connecting with fellow travelers and family. From suggestions for using Ziploc bags to an unusual use for a Frisbee both savvy and novice travelers will find all sorts of information that will help ease the discomforts—and enhance the delights—of any journey. (BookPage Reviews)

A Man’s Life: dispatches from dangerous places by Mark Jenkins

Jenkins, widely-published travel writer and author (The Hard Way: Stories of Danger, Survival, and the Soul of Adventure), is always up for a challenge, wherever it may be. He’s been almost everywhere, frequently at his peril, and these captivating essays take readers up the most forbidding mountains, through ice caves in Greenland, along India’s "road of blood," and into Afghani war zones, proving Jenkin’s courage, conviction and humanity along the way. (Book jacket)

The Geography of Bliss: one grump’s search for the happiest places in the world by Eric Weiner

Part travelogue, part personal-discovery memoir and all sustained delight, this wise, witty ramble reads like Paul Theroux channeling David Sedaris on a particularly good day. Intent on finding the happiest places on Earth and learning what makes them that way, globe-trotting NPR correspondent Weiner discovers some surprises. ... The author's pronouncements on the nature of happiness are not exactly world-shaking: It depends on cooperative relationships and community; it has spiritual value; it can be attained as a conscious choice. But the author's conclusions are hardly the point—as with all great journeys, getting there is at least half the fun. (Kirkus Reviews)

Autonauts of the Cosmoroute: a timeless voyage from Paris to Marseille by Julio Cortazar

New translation of a whimsical 20th-century travelogue. In 1982, eminent Argentinean writer Cortázar embarked on a 33-day journey with wife Dunlop. Their plan? To travel the autoroute from Paris to Marseille, a distance usually covered in a single day, in a beloved red VW camper van nicknamed Fafner, or "Dragon." They vowed not to leave the autoroute until they reached their destination; to take advantage of motels, restaurants or gas station shops en route; and to stop twice a day, camping at every second rest stop. The couple were anti-explorers in a mundane landscape, slowing down a journey that had been modernized and sped up. What emerges from their trip is a playful, surprisingly intimate account of a marriage in all its ranging vicissitudes. (Kirkus Reviews)

Whatever You Do, Don’t Run: True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide by Peter Allison

In this fun, fearless memoir, Allison shares his experiences taking "guests" through the African wilderness, trips that often don’t go quite as planned-due especially to the unpredictability of the animals around them. Allison is a skilled, funny and vibrant storyteller, dishing arcane bits of wisdom. (Book jacket)

Slicing the Silence: voyaging to Antarctica by Tom Griffiths

As the climate changes and polar ice caps shrink dramatically, author and environmental historian Griffiths provides essential background for understanding how we reached the current state of meltdown. Griffiths weaves journal entries from his own voyage to Australia's Antarctic stations in 2002–2003 with extended chapters on the history of human exploration in Antarctica. (Publishers Weekly) Tags: travel, South Pole, ecological adventure

Alexander the Great Failure: the collapse of the Macedonian Empire by John D. Grainger

A low-key, authoritative look at the factors that ushered Alexander the Great to power, then brought his empire crashing down. (Kirkus Reviews)

Byzantium: the surprising life of a medieval empire by Judith Herrin

Drawing on letters, journals and other primary documents from both political figures and ordinary citizens, Herrin splendidly recreates an empire whose religious art, educational curriculum, tax and legal systems, and coronation rituals preserved the best of the empire’s pre-Christian Greek past while at the same time passing along advances to the rest of the world. Herrin’s history is hands-down the finest introduction to Byzantium and its continuing significance for world history. (Publishers Weekly)

Lincoln and Douglas: the debates that defined America by Allen C. Guelzo

Guelzo gives us an astute, gracefully written account of the celebrated Lincoln–Douglas debates of 1858. These seven debates between two powerful attorneys and statesmen, Abraham Lincoln and Sen. Stephen A. Douglas, starkly defined the stakes between sharply different positions on slavery and union on the eve of civil war and offered examples of serious, deeply reasoned exchanges of views rarely seen in American politics. (Publishers Weekly)

America 1908: the dawn of flight, the race to the pole, the invention of the Model T, and the making of a modern nation by Jim Rasenberger

Nearly one century ago, a year full of inspiring, thrilling, sad and sordid events left Americans eyeing the future with a remarkable optimism. Rasenberger demonstrated a knack for capturing the zeitgeist in a nation determined to grow, and his unique talent is on display again in his take on a year for which he makes a compelling case: More than any other year in the 20th-century's initial decade, 1908 portended America's destiny. (Kirkus Reviews)

The Teapot Dome Scandal: how big oil bought the Harding White House and tried to steal the country by Laton McCartney

A probing study of a scandal that spread even deeper than the standard histories claim—and one that has plenty of lessons for today. (Kirkus Reviews)

Forgotten Continent: the battle for Latin America’s soul by Michael Reid

The forgotten continent -- The Latin American conundrum -- The seed of democracy in the land of the caudillo -- Cold War and revolution : the United States and the left reject democracy -- Failed reformers, debt-ridden dictators : the right rejects democracy -- The rise and fall of the Washington consensus -- The populist challenge -- The reformist response -- Changing societies -- Evolving states -- The stubborn resilience of flawed democracies -- The loneliness of Latin America (Table of Contents) ... A vivid, immediate, and informed account of a dynamic continent and its struggle to compete in a globalized world. (Book jacket)

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