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.
Its Burns Night once again! I did a write up last year for how to celebrate Burns Night, and that all holds true.
Also from last year I leave you with the Toast to the Haggis from the College’s Burns Night:
December 10th marks the birthday of Melvil Dewey, best known for the organizational system named after him. Dewey was also a founder of the American Library Association.
Librarian confession time: I am less familiar with Dewey than with Library of Congress. I cut my teeth in academic and museum libraries, and they all use LoC, not Dewey. I know most librarian have Dewey committed to memory, they know their 500s from their 900s whereas I… have not a clue what those are. And that’s ok! You don’t have to have Dewey committed to memory to appreciate the impact he and his system have had.
There’s plenty of material out on the internet and in library publication around the history and development of the DDC (Dewey Decimal Classification). I’m not wading into philosophies on this one– its a living classification system, and one I don’t use every day. What I will note is that this system predates LoC by several decades, and it was a step forward from fixed locations for books based on accession date. That way lies biology next to Dickens next to Freud next to an Encyclopedia. Easy to find when things were added, less easy to research, oh, any given thing. If you’ve walked into a library– pretty much any library– you have benefited from relative location, whether the spine labels are DDC or LoC.
For the record, I did go find the table of Dewey numbers, and I’ll share it in case you need it (though any public library I’ve been in tends to have signage that says what the numbers mean, bless the librarian who came up with that.)
000 – Computer science, information & general works
100 – Philosophy and psychology
200 – Religion
300 – Social sciences
400 – Language
500 – Pure Science
600 – Technology
700 – Arts & recreation
800 – Literature
900 – History & geography
Finally, a bit of fun: Geek and Sundry has a list of Bookish games! The first one sounds amazing
Happy Sherlock Holmes day! Did you know there was a Sherlock Holmes day? Apparently, those this is somewhat disputed, December 1 is considered the publication date for A Study in Scarlet, which is the first published Sherlock Holmes mystery (and one of the handful that I’ve read). I find Holmes fascinating– the mysteries are intriguing, and you don’t feel like you’ve solved them within the first few pages, which is nice.
Holmes also has remarkable staying power: 32 different actors have portrayed him in English film alone, and there are TV adaptations as well as radio. Basil Rathbone is quintessential for some, but others who have worn the deerstalker include: Peter Cushing, Roger Moore, Christopher Plummer, John Barrymore (yes, those Barrymores), Christopher Lee (yes, that Christopher Lee), George C Scott, John Cleese (yes, of Monty Python), Michael Caine, and Orson Wells. Currently, you have Benedict Cumberbatch in England, Jonny Lee Miller in America, and Will Ferrel has a movie coming out next year. That’s a heck of a list. Its also a heck of a time frame: adaptations of Homles stretch from stage plays in 1899 to a movie that hasn’t been released yet and TV shows still in production. There’s something about the character. What intrigues me is that, as I was typing that list, I couldn’t spot a single miscasting. It makes sense for all of those men to have played that character– since the Cleese role was in a parody, and that makes a certain sense too. How do you create a character that can be played by so many different actors, with different styles?
We have a small collection of Holmes at the library– look in the Newman Room in the PR section and you will spot the Conan Doyle. The stories are also, for the most part, in the public domain so you can find digital copies through Project Gutenberg and DPLA, as well as radio plays on Spotify. I’ve listened to those before– the quality is good, and they feature Basil Rathbone in the Holmes role.
Let’s just gloss right over how absent I’ve been and move to the good stuff, huh? In all seriousness, it is amazing to me how quickly the semester has flown by. I have a couple items worth sharing so you’ll see the blog stir to life once more.
First up, at the beginning of October I was able to visit the Currier again and view two of their limited time exhibitions: Toulouse-Lautrec and Monet. How fortunate for me, since I love impressionist and I have a deep rooted fondness for French poster art.
The Monet just closed this week, so hopefully you were able to go visit. It was a spotlight of 4 paintings tracing the evolution of his painting style. It was wonderful. My favorite of the pieces happens to be the one that is part of the Currier’s permanent collection, so you can still see it without the other pieces. That one is The Bridge at Bougival, which isn’t full on impressionist but its not the style of the times either. The exhibition description calls it “one of only a handful of early pictures that foreshadow Monet’s development of impressionism.” And its true. The exhibit itself had an explanation about how he was playing with depth of field, not using traditional methods but conveying it all the same.
A close runner up for my favorite of the four pieces was Charing Cross Bridge, which I’m sure will seem familiar if you’ve seen any of Monet’s London works. I love the way he captures the light and the fog, and the colors that go into both. That one is from the MFA in Boston, so its not too far afield.
Second was the Lautrec. Man, I love those poster. I don’t even really know why, I just always have. They’re just this wonderful fusion of life in both the beautiful and the mundane, and there’s a frenetic energy in some and a bone-deep weariness in others. They’re just fabulous (and bless my husband for accompanying me when he doesn’t care one whit; he’s an architecture and sculpture fan). The Lautrec is on exhibit until January, and you can see more about it on the Currier’s website.
The Monet didn’t allow for pictures, but the Lautrec did so I had a couple up on Instagram that I’ll share here as well.
And, as always, a few more fun items spotted at the museum:
Most of you have likely heard by now that Richard Wilbur passed away yesterday. Wilbur is a staple of the Rome semester, and every student is assigned a poem to analyze and present. I’m not a Lit major by any means, and I’ll be the first to admit that poetry is not my forte. Still, there is such a beauty in the language that Wilbur uses that it resonates.
If you run into a quoted Wilbur in the next few days, it’s likely to be ‘The Beautiful Changes’ or ‘Love Calls us to the Things of this World.’ Over the course of the last day, my Facebook feed has flooded with fellow alums posting their favorite poem or their Rome poem. Many of Wilbur’s works are on the Poetry Foundation’s website, so I thought I’d share my Rome poem with you.
A striped blouse in a clearing by Bazille
Is, you may say, a patroness of boughs
Too queenly kind toward nature to be kin.
But ceremony never did conceal,
Save to the silly eye, which all allows,
How much we are the woods we wander in.
Let her be some Sabrina fresh from stream,
Lucent as shallows slowed by wading sun,
Bedded on fern, the flowers’ cynosure:
Then nymph and wood must nod and strive to dream
That she is airy earth, the trees, undone,
Must ape her languor natural and pure.
Ho-hum. I am for wit and wakefulness,
And love this feigning lady by Bazille.
What’s lightly hid is deepest understood,
And when with social smile and formal dress
She teaches leaves to curtsey and quadrille,
I think there are most tigers in the wood.
Thursday was Hobbit Day, for those who are fans of Tolkien. This year, it struck me as somehow fitting that Hobbit Day falls on the last day of summer– the final hurrah before the world slowly spins down into winter hibernation. A fine day for a party, but usually cool enough to allow a feast fit for a hobbit’s appetite.
I mean, it should be. It was gray and rainy most of the week, though not cool– tropical storms will do that to a person. Fortunately it cleared up and was bright and warm for the Tea and Shoot today. In the meantime, we have finally started to process our acquisitions! I believe we have somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 cataloged so far, with many more to go, but its a start. Its nice to see those books lined up with spine labels and shiny new bar codes, with shiny new MARC records in the catalog to go with them.
I’ll leave you with a fun Tolkien fact for the day: last Friday was the 40th anniversary of the publication of The Silmarillion. I wish I could find it, but I remember reading somewhere that it represented one of the top ranking pre-orders the industry had seen at the time. Certainly it sold over a million copies that year. We have one: