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Famous Writers Who Lived in New York City's Chelsea Hotel

By Audrey Golden. Feb 28, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Literary travel

If you are interested in New York’s twentieth-century literary history, it’s likely that you already have some familiarity with the Chelsea Hotel. Since the hotel’s opening in 1884, it has served as the home for many different famous American and British writers, from Mark Twain to Dylan Thomas to the infamous Sid Vicious of Sex Pistols fame. Many other musicians also lived in the rooms at the Chelsea, including dozens of those who are also recognized poets, such as Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. In 1974, Leonard Cohen wrote and performed “Chelsea Hotel No. 2,” a song about a love affair inside one of the rooms. Now, the hotel is closed to guests, allegedly undergoing renovations.

     
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Happy Birthday, John Steinbeck!

By Brian Hoey. Feb 27, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Nobel Prize Winners

Since its inception, the criteria for the Nobel Prize in Literature have always been slightly fuzzy. Some have taken Alfred Nobel’s assertion that the prize should determine "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction" as suggesting a kind of preference of idealism in the awarded work, and recent picks like Bob Dylan and Svetlana Alexievich have tended to bear out that reading. If one is wont to understand the award in those terms, then 1962 Nobel Laureate John Steinbeck, who would have turned 115 today, is perhaps one of the most auspicious picks of the last century. After all, the author of The Grapes of Wrath (1939) and Of Mice and Men (1937) virtually never wavered from his devotion to the idea that “In every bit of honest writing in the world … there is a base theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love.”

     
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David Hockney’s Illustrations of the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales

By Audrey Golden. Feb 24, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Literature

David Hockney is an English artist who is well known for his portraits, photocollages, and etchings, as well as for his connection to the Pop Art movement of the 1950s and 1960s. His works are owned by museums across the globe, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Australia, the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, the Tate Gallery in London, and Paris’s Centre Georges Pompidou. In short, Hockney’s paintings and photocollages are featured in the permanent collections of some of the most renowned art museums in the world. But that’s not why we’re writing to you today. While Hockney’s most famous works might be large-scale paintings and prints, we’re excited to introduce you to some of his etchings for the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, which appeared in a book published by Petersburg Press in London (1970).

     
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VLOG: Five Videos on the Art of Gilding

By Leah Dobrinska. Feb 23, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Book Making

Gilding is an overarching term that can be used to describe the art of applying a thin layer of gold leaf or powder to surfaces such as stone, wood, or metal. Gilding was used by the early Egyptians, and, according to Pliny the Elder, it became common in Rome following the fall of Carthage. Gilding today can be found in woodworking, ceramics, architectural and interior designs, and of course, book binding.

Book sellers and collectors use the terms gilding and, commonly, gilt, when referencing a book’s decorative gold appearance. Often we see book sellers describe their books as having all gilt edges or gilt stamped titles. These descriptors tell a collector about the decorative nature of the collectible, but what about the process that goes in to making them so? Let's take a look at some videos of the art.

     
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Literary Giants and the Nobel Prize Museum in Stockholm

By Audrey Golden. Feb 22, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Nobel Prize Winners

We recently visited the Nobel Prize Museum in Stockholm, Sweden, hoping to catch a glimpse of some objects or rare first editions by some of our favorite Nobel Prize-winning authors. Despite awarding more than 100 prizes to literary giants alone over the last century or so, the museum is actually a bit smaller than you might expect. As a result, you’ll find most literary objects on display at the museum as part of temporary or traveling exhibitions. There are a handful of what we suspect are permanent exhibits—including Maya traje belonging to Rigoberta Menchú Tum and a small hippopotamus figurine belonging to Mario Vargas Llosa. What are some of the recent temporary exhibits that gave visitors access to other objects and books of winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature? Let’s take a look. 

     
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Three of the Best Books from Poland

By Audrey Golden. Feb 21, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, History, Literary travel

The twentieth century was a complicated and often tragic one for Poland. The years leading up to Polish independence and the Second Republic were characterized by uprisings against the partitioning powers surrounding the region, and that independence was short-lived. During World War II, Poland was invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany, and many of the most notorious concentration camps were located within Poland’s borders. Once the war came to an end, Communist Poland, within the Soviet sphere of influence, became a repressive state. In the decades that followed, Polish citizens waged acts of resistance against various regime policies, culminating in some ways with the Solidarity movement in the early 1980s. Yet despite—or perhaps due to—its tumultuous political past, Poland has produced some of the most notable writers of the modern period. Are you interested in learning more about Poland and its writers of imaginative literature? We have some suggestions for you.

     
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Visiting the Newberry Library in Chicago

By Audrey Golden. Feb 18, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Libraries & Special Collections

We love visiting many different libraries in the United States and across the globe, but one of our favorites might be the Newberry Library in Chicago. With its diverse collections, fantastic exhibits, and emphasis on public programs, we believe the Newberry has something to offer to anyone and everyone. The library’s collection of manuscripts is vast, housing more than 800 Modern Manuscript collections that make up, in total, about 15,000 linear feet. The manuscript collection ranges in time from medieval works to those of the twentieth century. The Newberry has numerous other core collections, including those on local Chicago histories and American Indian and indigenous studies. Yet the reach of the library goes far beyond its research collections. To be sure, the Newberry also hosts exhibits and presentations, all open to the public. What else should you learn about the Newberry Library?

     
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The Bond Dossier: On Her Majesty's Secret Service

By Nick Ostdick. Feb 17, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, James Bond

It’s early 1962 and James Bond author Ian Fleming is hard at work on his next Bond adventure. At his Goldeneye estate in Jamaica, Fleming artfully plots Bond’s next move, how his foes will oppose him, and the romances at stake. At the same time, just down the beach a film crew is working on the first big screen adaptation of Fleming’s work, Dr. No, with Scottish actor Sean Connery in the title role.

It must have been a surreal moment, but one that cemented Fleming’s place as one of the most popular crime/adventure writers of his time. Still, even with all the fame, fortune, and accolades, Fleming’s tenth Bond novel, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, was crafted just as deliberately and painstakingly as those that came before itwhich is perhaps why the novel was and remains one of the most popular and fastest selling of Fleming’s career.

     
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Read More Poetry: The Langston Hughes Edition

By Leah Dobrinska. Feb 16, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American History, Poetry

We're a little over one month into the new year. How are your new year's resolutions shaping up? One of our promises for 2017 was (and is!) to read more poetry. You should make it a habit to do so, too. Today, we’ll help the poetry cause by presenting poems from legendary poet and author, Langston Hughes.

     
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Visiting Thomas Wolfe’s Old Kentucky Home in Asheville, NC

By Audrey Golden. Feb 15, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature, Literature, Literary travel

Thomas Wolfe lived a very brief life. He was born in 1900 and lived only until 1938, dying of tuberculosis in his family’s stately home in Asheville, North Carolina. Although Wolfe was only 37 years old at the time of his death, he produced some of the greatest American modernist novels, including Look Homeward, Angel: A Story of the Buried Life (1929). In that novel, Thomas Wolfe celebrated his “Old Kentucky Home”—the house in Asheville where he was raised. If you’re interested in learning more about the writer, we recommend taking a trip to Asheville and touring the Wolfe family home. But before you go, don’t forget to read (or re-read, as the case may be) Look Homeward, Angel so that you can be sure to recognize the house that Wolfe painstakingly depicted in his novel. 

     
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Five of the Best Couples in All of Literature

By Adrienne Rivera. Feb 14, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature

Valentine's Day is a chance to celebrate love in all its forms. What better way to do so than to consider some of the best couples, and arguably the most famous couples, in literature? Whether they fell in love at first sight or took a little while longer to work their way into each other's hearts, the following literary couples have one thing in common: people keep coming back to their stories again and again, to see both the best and the worst love has to offer. 

     
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Buying Rare and Antiquarian Books in Costa Rica

By Audrey Golden. Feb 11, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Literary travel

Buying used, rare, and antiquarian books in Costa Rica’s capital city of San Jose can be quite a challenge, but not because of a dearth of bookstores. Rather, unlike many cities in various parts of the world packed that are packed with bookshops, San Jose streets don’t have numbers that allow visitors unfamiliar with the city’s directional methods to locate with ease their intended destinations. Instead, directions are developed almost entirely on landmarks. As such, rather than receiving a specific address for a bookstore, you’ll get directions based on distance to or from a nearby restaurant, church, or coffee shop. For example, if you’d like to find your way to the bookstore Librería Expo 10, these are the directions you’ll need to take with you: travel 225 meters to the east of the “Biblical Clinic.” Or, for instance, if you’re hoping to browse the book selection at Librería El Ahorro, you’ll need to go 200 meters to the south of the church “La Merced.” As you might imagine, it can take a little while to grow accustomed to such directions. But once you get acclimated, there are many rare and antiquarian bookstores to discover.

     
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Charles Lamb vs. Bob Dylan: Rereading and Retelling Shakespeare

By Brian Hoey. Feb 10, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books, Drama

Controversial Nobel Prize in Literature winner Bob Dylan admitted to being flabbergasted when he learned of the honor that’s lately been bestowed on him—but at least he managed to compare himself to Shakespeare in the process. The comparison, though, was an interesting one, and one that takes up the question of how we should approach the Bard’s writing. Dylan’s assertion was that he has never thought about whether his songs are ‘literature’ and that Shakespeare probably would have been in the same boat regarding his plays. Dylan says, imagining Shakespeare’s thoughts leading up to the original production of Hamlet (1599), ““Are there enough good seats for my patrons?” “Where am I going to get a human skull?” I would bet that the farthest thing from Shakespeare’s mind was the question “Is this literature?””

     
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Sam Shepard's Wildly Varied Literary Career

By Audrey Golden. Feb 9, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature, Literature, Drama

Just two years ago, Sam Shepard’s now-famous play True West (1980) was revived on the London stage at the tricycle theatre. About fifteen years ago now, the seminal work was revived for the first time in New York City on a stage starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly. For many theatregoers and movie viewers today, we know Sam Shepard best for his own performances as an actor, in films such as Days of Heaven (1978), The Right Stuff (1983), and All the Pretty Horses (2000). Yet Shepard has a long and interesting literary career that began years before he ever appeared in cinematic features. Between 1966 and 1968, Shepard won six Obie Awards for his playwriting, and he ultimately went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his 1979 play Buried Child. He has published more than 40 plays to date, along with nine collections of plays and short stories.

     
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Kate Chopin's Personal and Literary Awakening

By Connie Diamond. Feb 8, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature

Sometimes it takes an outsider to see our strengths and put us on the road we are destined to travel. And so it was for Kate Chopin in the late 1880s. She is now well-known for her short stories and one famous novel. In the late nineteenth century, however, she was not an author at all, but a widow and mother of five saddled with an enormous debt left by her late husband. Shortly after her husband’s death, her mother died as well, leaving Kate in a state of depression.

     
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How the Iowa Writers' Workshop Proves the Value of an MFA

By Matt Reimann. Feb 7, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, American Literature

Six years ago, author Chad Harbach wrote an essay about the two cultures producing the glut of literary fiction writers today: that of New York City media and publishing, and that of the university MFA program. New York City has long been the hotbed of American cosmopolitan culture, and many of the country’s great writers from the very beginning, like Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, and Edith Wharton helped ossify New York as the closest thing the nation would have to a literary epicenter. Yet in the past few decades, a new titan has emerged, coming from the halls of higher education and graduate creative writing programs across the country. And of all of these, perhaps the most significant has been the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa.

     
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Seven Famous Literary Cafés

By Adrienne Rivera. Feb 4, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literary travel

The idea of the writer in a café is so prominent it has become almost cliché. Depicted in books and movies for decades, it's likely something you have even seen for yourself: young men and women working diligently on their laptops in the local coffee shop. Next time you find yourself irritated by the writer hogging the power outlet for hours while your cell phone dies, consider the fact that these writers are part of a time-honored literary tradition. Businesses all over the world offer up stories of their famous patrons as a means to draw in new customers. These places have become a part of literary history in their own right. If the idea of sitting in the same cafépotentially even in the same spotas your favorite writers did when they wrote the books taking pride of place on your shelves, then the following destinations need to be added to your list of essential locations to visit.

     
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Best Books on Canada

By Audrey Golden. Feb 3, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Awarded Books, Literature, Literary travel

In many ways, writing a short article listing the best books on Canada is an impossible task. The nation is a particularly diverse one filled with prolific First Nations indigenous writers, novelists who are descendants of European settlers, and immigrant authors from Southern and West Africa, Southeast Asia, Central Europe, and other parts of the world. In short, we can’t imagine any kind of singular classification of Canadian literature. We can, however, offer you some of our more recent favorites that make up at least one list of the best books on this country.

     
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How Ulysses Got Published

By Brian Hoey. Feb 2, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Book History

The past few years have been big for small presses. The two most recent Man Booker Award-winning novels were published by the same small press in England: London’s Oneworld Publications put out both Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings (2014) and the British edition of Paul Beatty’s The Sellout (2015). Meanwhile, in the United States, Coffee House Press in Minneapolis put out the first American edition of Eimear McBride’s acclaimed debut tour-de-force, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing (2013) which won the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. Anyone who claims that we are entering a golden era of small press publishing certainly has a point; however, it remains the case that small presses have often been bastions of the literary avant-garde, championing works that would go on to become classics in the face of disinterest or adversity. A prime example of this phenomenon is James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922).

     
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Saving Langston Hughes' Home

By Adrienne Rivera. Feb 1, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, American Literature, Literary travel

The slow and ever-increasing gentrification of New York neighborhoods isn't breaking news to anyone. Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Chinatown are full of newly renovated apartments and upscale restaurants, and those are just a few examples. Yet the transformation of these neighborhoods is a cultural and emotional loss to the generations of people who have called them home. In the wake of these changes, they are faced with the prospect of being displaced due to increasing costs. In some cases, even city landmarks aren't safe.

     
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    How can I identify a first edition? Where do I learn about caring for books? How should I start collecting? Hear from librarians about amazing collections, learn about historic bindings or printing techniques, get to know other collectors. Whether you are just starting or looking for expert advice, chances are, you'll find something of interest on blogis librorum.

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