The Librarian’s Shelf: A work in translation

July around these parts has a tendency to be hot and humid and thoroughly uninviting. Its opposite from the winter but just as inhospitable if you aren’t used to it (spoiler: I am not). Fortunately, this afforded me enough time to get through my next book, a work in translation/over 500 pages. Yes, I know I wrote about a 500 page book earlier, but the truth of the matter is I’ll be getting through one part of Kristin Lavransdatter, not all 3, so there’s a bit of a category swap needed.

So what else is there that’s a work in translation and over 500? I mean aside from Tolstoy, which I did not read. I picked up Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. And yes, I am late to the Eco party but this happens in a world where there are so many books to read and so little time.

Now, if you pick up The Name of the Rose, don’t make the mistake I did and think this is a mystery. Yes, there is a mystery inside but I can’t really call it a full fledged member of the genre. I read mysteries: Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Louise Penny. Father Brown would make the list too, and I just finished every Phryne Fisher mystery I could get at the local public library. And if you’ve read any of those authors you’ll detect a theme: enjoyable mystery, solvable, but the characters make the piece. They stand out, they’re funny or witty or just good people, or more importantly, *interesting* people.

Eco was, first and foremost, a semiotician and a philosopher. And it shows. This book is long; it clocks in at 512 pages and they are dense pages. There are explorations of symbols, meaning, and a rather intricate look at the life of a medieval monastery. The chapters are even arranged around the liturgy of the hours, which was a nice touch. I did enjoy the book, but I enjoyed it a lot more once I decided it wasn’t a mystery. Think of it as historical fiction that will give you a window into a very rich medieval world and, oh yes, there are a few murders and mysteries and a labyrinth.

In terms of other works in translation, your best friend on campus is the Ballroom. This houses the collection of works in original languages, heavy on the Latin and Greek. This is also where you’ll find all literature that’s not American, with a smattering of English works that predate Shakespeare. The good Bard is our dividing line between the Ballroom and the Newman room, and you could safely argue that a number of those old English works are in translation.

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[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.

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.

 

Dewey Decimal Day

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

The Game’s afoot!

The Game’s afoot!

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.