[Art in New Hampshire] Beyond Words at the Currier

Hey all, quick note for you on an upcoming exhibit to appeal to the bookish among us. The Currier has an exhibit starting up this weekend highlighting three book illustrators from New Hampshire: David M Carrol, Tomie dePaolo, and Beth Krommes. I’m admittedly most familiar with Tomie dePaolo (as is anyone who watched Reading Rainbow or has young kids, I would imagine.) A quick perusal of the internet tells me that David M Carrol is a naturalist artist and Beth Krommes illustrates children’s books as well.

Per the Currier:

Original artwork from their most popular books will be shown alongside drawings illuminating their creative process. Together with the published books, these drawings offer unique insights into how these beloved publications were produced.

Its an interesting look at the creative process but also the book publishing process, at least from the illustration side, and looks intriguing. The exhibit runs June 16 to September 9, so I’ll be trying to check it out this summer.

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The Librarian’s Shelf: A Book you can read in a Day

Happy summer to you all! And a very hearty congratulations to the class of 2018 who join me in the alumni ranks. I would say we have cookies, but, well, we probably don’t. But we have a reunion! So you should totally join us for that 🙂

Once again, I’ve run into the next month. I will confess, its particularly amusing for a book you can read in a day. Yet here we find ourselves. This month’s pick can be finished in a day, but you could also stretch it into 2 or 3 if you want to take more time with it, and it wouldn’t feel like it was dragging. This was originally a lecture delivered at St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, IN. Today we’re focused on The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and “women’s work” by Kathleen Norris.

Funny enough, this book is probably a better fit for alums over current students, and alums who aren’t able to spend a lot of time reading or studying or simply thinking like they used to. Norris is focused on the everyday here:

We want life to have meaning, we want fulfillment, healing, and even ecstasy, but the human paradox is that we find these things by starting where we are, not where we wish we were. We must look for blessings to come from unlikely, everyday places– out of Galilee, as it were– and not in spectacular events, such as the coming of a comet.

It is very easy, in the grind of the every day, to lose sight of, as Norris puts it, the “sacramental possibility in all things.” After all, to borrow a Saint’s phrasing “The Lord walks among the pots and pans.” It was so easy, when I was young, to imagine I would always feel the greatness of things, to realize the importance of life’s work. It is so hard, when I am less young, to feel those same things when the dishes need washing and the floors vacuuming and there’s work outside the home to be done and a school project to oversee for my son and a hundred and one little nagging duties to be attended to. If you are fortunate enough not to feel those things, good on you! But if there are days you are weary or you can’t see the forest for the trees crashing down, I found Norris’s little book to be a helpful reminder.

It is also a really good, gentle way to get back into reading if you haven’t been for a while. She touches on a lot of important themes and connects them with the everyday, and there is value in that (I think).

Recommendations are hard this month, because what one person can read in a day, another will read in a week. Some potential options, though, would be:

  • an encyclical or apostolic exhortation. Those are generally short but full of goodness
  • A childhood classic. Like a truly good childhood book– Narnia, Anne of Green Gables, A Wrinkle in Time, Little Women all come to mind (although let’s be honest, Little Women is likely not getting read in a day.) Any children’s book that really stuck with you is probably worth revisiting in adulthood, to see if things look different from this point of view.
  • Would it be cheating to say short stories? Flannery O’Connor is always a favorite around these parts, and I feel like PG Wodehouse is probably a good summer pick

The Librarian’s Shelf: Memoir

The Librarian’s Shelf: Memoir

Happy Spring everyone! The good weather that finally emerged at the end of April ran away with me and here we find ourselves in May! Commencement is this Saturday, so a very hearty congratulations to all the seniors. As for me, I will continue my book schlepping well into the summer, as is tradition.

April’s pick was a book I read slightly before April, but the springyness of the book struck me as a good fit for an April highlight. The category is memoir or creative nonfiction. I originally was going to read Erik Larsen’s Dead Wake, which has been in the pile for a few years and which I had started but had to return to the library before I could finish it. I had all the good intentions– and then Four Seasons in Rome went on sale.

The premise is nothing short of dream fuel: a writer is suddenly handed a one year writing fellowship at the American Academy in Rome, expenses paid. He is not required to turn in anything at the end, not forced into certain writing roles. All he has to do is live in Rome and write. Would that I were good enough to throw my hat in that ring. Alas, I’m not likely to win the Pulitzer anytime soon, as Anthony Doerr did for the book that ultimately came out of the experience. The full title is Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World. You can likely place the year just from the title, the funeral being that of St. John Paul II.

What I loved about this book was the way that Doerr could evoke Rome, and my memories of Rome. It wasn’t just the way he captured the light (which is different in Rome than elsewhere), and it wasn’t just the way he captured the dirt and grittiness that exists in the streets, and it wasn’t just the way I could practically taste the food as he wrote his way through the seasonal variety. There is something about Rome, as most TMC students are well aware, that seeps into your bones and nourishes your soul and strips you bare and turns you on end. There is a certain level of wonder and awe and disgust and hominess that worms its way in and never does leave.

A word of forewarning, Doerr has a signature style. His prose is not purple, but he does love a good description. I do too, so this never bothered me. I brought the book to a book club and another participant told me All the Light We Cannot See made her long to red pen whole chapters, which was never something I felt the need for. His style for me is consistent with LM Montgomery and Madeline L’engle; lovely and descriptive and occasionally prone to a tangent about loveliness or an observation of the world. So keep your own tastes in mind 🙂

Other options for memoir or creative nonfiction:

Well, to be frank, a whole lot of our collection is nonfiction being, you know, a college. That said, creative nonfiction and memoir aren’t really in our wheelhouse though we do have biographies:

  • I’ve always liked the historical works of Joseph Ellis, including Founding Brothers, Passionate Sage, and American Sphinx. We have most of his work down in the stacks.
  • For those not yet over Hamilton, we do have Ron Chernow’s biography in the stacks as well.
  • We’re coming up on the centenary of the end of World War I in November.  We have several works of nonfiction and biography right at the entrance to the stacks, including Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, General Pershing’s My Experience in the World War, and E.E. Cummings’ autobiography The Enormous Room.
  • I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you that the Helm room is positively brimming with biographies of the Saints and spiritual memoirs. And don’t forget, Augustine’s Confessions would count for this category!

The Librarian’s Shelf: A book over 500 pages

A Happy Easter to you all! March’s post is obviously a wee bit late, and I’d love to tell you it’s because I was wrapping up this year’s mammoth read… But not so much. March was an odd ball month, with less time for reading than anticipated and thus month’s pick took the brunt of that.

March was meant to be all about Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset. This book clocks in at over 1100 pages and has also been published as three distinct works. It also played a large role in Undset winning the Nobel Prize in literature in 1928. Beyond that, it seemed like everyone was reading this last year. More then one person told me it was an excellent, compelling read. More than one person told me it was a really great Lenten read. And it’s true, the novel is all these things.

It’s also really super long, unlike my dedicated reading time.

I’m about to the end of The Wreath and it is, in fact, a great read. The writing is compelling and the ordinary and the sacred and the natural and the weird are all presented together, as we often experience them in life. I’m a sucker for books that find a way to highlight the strength of the ordinary, that remind us of the importance of life and how we lead it.

That said, this one is going to take longer, so I’ll be reading through in tandem with the coming selections and you’ll get occasional updates with a final review when I’m done.

The Librarian’s Shelf: A Classic You’ve Been Meaning to Read

This wasn’t the book I intended to read for February, but it was the book I picked up at the end of January. The reader’s heart does what it does. I tend to be known as someone who enjoys English novels, someone who has been meaning to read more Catholic authors, and someone who just enjoys reading period. And yet I have had never read anything by Evelyn Waugh. Yeah, I know, it makes almost as little sense as the fact that I first read Chesterton last year (I’m excluding Ballad of the White Horse, which I read my junior year of high school and disliked every moment).

So what made me pick up Brideshead Revisited? Well, aside from having been told by multiple people that it was a good read (not a comforting read, not an easy read, but a good one) I had always put it off to someday because I didn’t have a copy. And then I picked up a copy at Toadstool back in the fall for a few bucks, and I was so certain it would be read in October. But then life happened so I pushed it off. It felt like it just slotted right into the ‘meaning to read’ category with a vengeance.

I really loved the look at the way the twenties devolved into the forties. Waugh apparently was a Bright Young Thing himself, but he’s writing it from a few decades remove and you can tell. There is a nostalgia, and the relief of having lived through The Great War, and the manic frenetic energy of the twenties as you would expect, but there is an overlay of regret that can only come with the remove of time. If you haven’t read it, I really think you should.

When it comes to classics you should read, there are any number of lists to consult, and they’ll have overlap and points of divergence. Given how this library is put together, you should be able to find the classic you’re looking for in either the Ballroom or the Newman Room. A random selection of classics that I have enjoyed for your perusal:

  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  • Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • The Iliad and the Odyssey
  • Edgar Allen Poe. Honestly you could pick anything
  • CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien. And yeah, pretty much pick your work for these guys.

 

5th Annual Catholic Literature Conference

YA’LL. I don’t usually geek out over conferences. I also don’t usually go to conferences. But I am strongly considering this one. The College is sponsoring the annual Catholic Literature Conference again and here’s the lineup:

  • Joseph Pearce: “Innocence and Wisdon in Narnia”
  • Dr. Amy Fahey: “Children’s Literature: Restoring the Imagination for All Ages”
  • Dr. Glenn Arbery: “Lost and Found: The Fortunes of Eve in Milton and Perelandra
  • Dr. Anthony Esolen: “Dickens and the Gospel of Childhood”

Its coming up on April 21st, so there’s still time to consider (I still am)

The Librarian’s Shelf: Poetry

The Librarian’s Shelf: Poetry

We’re wrapping up January, so time to reveal my first book pick of the year. I decided to start with the poetry book (reminder: the list of 12 categories we’ll see this year is in this post). Now, a few caveats to this: I was a politics major, not a lit major, so while I read great gobs of poetry, I didn’t immerse myself in it the same way that a lit major would. I can’t in all honesty say that I have a favorite poet, or a favorite type of poetry. I know I’m rather fond of the Romantics, but that’s the extent of it. I’m comfortable admitting that my strengths lie elsewhere. However, I do enjoy poetry, at least in small doses.

The question, then, was what to pick. There is, well, a staggering amount of poetry within the library, and a decent amount of poetry in my home. So what to pick, and how, and why? In the end, serendipity won out. I was going through our returns at the end of the semester when this little volume peaked my interest. It’s an anthology rather than a collection of poems by a single author. The poems are organized around the seasons, as well as a special section for New Years, which I decided to read on New Years Eve.

I did enjoy a decent number of the poems in this volume. I particularly liked that these were not poems that were word for word about a season. They were more evocative of things one might associate with a season. I will say, for me, a whole book of poetry is sort of like a whole box of dark chocolate truffles– nice in small pieces, but really hard to work through in any short or medium amount of time. I would have liked to spend more time with this one to see if I could get more out of it, but the month rolls on and there we are.

I also found the themes assigned to each season to be intriguing, though I didn’t necessarily feel like all of them were on the nose. Spring is focused on Pan, Diana, Courtship, and the Road. Summer is about birthdays, hunting, madness, nonsense, and music. Fall is for outlaws, soldiers, the sea, evening, elegies and farewells. Winter is the time of snowstorm, separations, hauntings, the night, witches and spells, and drinking songs. The New Year gets renamed “Beyond Winter” and covers love, the muses, and earthly paradise.

I get putting hauntings in to winter– there is an old tradition of ghost stories for Christmas, after all. Summer does feel perfectly suited. Fall is a bit harder,  because I’m still in that mental space where fall means changing, leaving the long lazy days of summer and moving back to the rigid world of both school and work (as opposed to “just work”). All in all, an interesting volume but I wouldn’t suggest it for those who are not used to reading poetry– start with something a little thinner, a little more straightforward; if one can ever describe poetry that way.

Other volumes in the collection to explore for your poetry volume:

  • First, you can find the poetry in the Newman Room, as all the call numbers are in that range of call numbers. You can try the serendipity approach easily; almost ever shelf in that room has some work of poetry on it!
  • The College has always had a certain affinity for Richard Wilbur, and you can find him in the Newman Room– we have several collections
  • I feel like I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Brooks and Warren’s Understanding Poetry, which was a staple of writing workshop for me as a Freshman.
  • Probably the only book of poetry I sought out in my underclassman years was the complete works of Henry Vaughan, which we have. For the Madeline L’Engle fans out there, he wrote “The World” (I saw Eternity the other night/ Like a great ring of pure and endless light)