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Six Famous Authors in Costume

By Matt Reimann. Oct 31, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors

If dressing up in costume seems immature or silly to you, well, you may be right. But to cast off foolish fun as unwise would be to ignore that many great minds, from Mark Twain to Virginia Woolf to F. Scott Fitzgerald, have adorned themselves in costume. In doing so, they placed themselves in part of a long tradition, from primitive masquerades to Greek theater to the Globe, in which storytelling is inextricable from costumes and play.


A Brief Reading Guide to Evelyn Waugh

By Adrienne Rivera. Oct 28, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Awarded Books, Movie Tie-Ins

English writer Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh, better known as Evelyn Waugh was an expert satirist as well as an accomplished novelist, short story writer, biographer, and travel writer. He was born in London in 1903 though he preferred the country lifestyle and was a schoolteacher before he moved on to writing full time. He often worked as a special corespondent reporting on conflicts, and he served in World War II. Known for his ability to transform the tragedies of life and his brutal war experiences, his work is often satirical, humorous, and deeply moving. After his conversion to Catholicism, his work took on more religions and Catholic subjects and themes. Though his reputation was that of being self-important, mean tempered, and misanthropic, he was also said to exhibit great kindness among his wide circle of friends.


Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o and the Politics of Postcolonial Language

By Audrey Golden. Oct 27, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, History

Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o is a Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature at UC Irvine, and he is a world-renowned playwright, novelist, essayist, and short story writer. Similar to many authors from the African continent, Ngũgĩ began writing in English, or the language of colonization in Kenya and throughout many regions of the continent. Yet throughout his career, Ngũgĩ has rejected the notion that African novelists must write in the language of the colonizer and has begun writing in his native Gĩkũyũ, a language spoken in Kenya and in parts of Tanzania and Uganda. Ngũgĩ translates his own work into English, and has become what he describes as “a language warrior,” or someone who wants “to join all those others in the world who are fighting for marginalized languages.” If you haven’t read the works of Ngũgĩ, we’d like to take this opportunity to make an introduction.


A Brief Guide to Collecting Pat Conroy

By Brian Hoey. Oct 26, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, American Literature, Collecting guide

Pat Conroy, who died in 2016 at the age of 70, was one of the most acclaimed Southern writers of the 20th century. He mined material from his own varied life experience to write compelling fiction and memoirs on the military brat subculture, life at The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, and his experiences as an English teacher. His nuanced portrayals of subjects sometimes overlooked by mainstream literature have made him a beloved figure among many and a sought after author among collectors.


A Reading Guide to Anne Tyler

By Andrea Diamond. Oct 25, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Pulitzer Prize, Literature

During one of the many family studies courses I took in college, I was introduced to the concept of Dialectic Thinking. Dialectic Thinking describes one’s desire for two conflicting values, such as being connected to others while also having personal space, or seeking familiarity while also craving change. As a young college student, hungry for every good thing the world had to offer, this little piece of vocabulary always stuck with me. It seems so much of life requires choosing one thing over another, because some things simply cannot exist in unison. Sharing my passion for conflict, Minneapolis-born author Anne Tyler uses Dialectic Thinking to create complex, engaging, and relatable characters.


Eight Great Book Adaptations

By Matt Reimann. Oct 24, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, American Literature, Movie Tie-Ins

“The book was better than the movie,” has always struck me as a strange phrase. It's not that I don't believe them. It's that it seems like one is comparing entirely different things when pitting a book against a movie; like saying that the trip to the museum was better than the crème brûlée. Books and moviesor book adaptationsmay tell the same story, but they are so different in their nature, and they provide their own distinct joys.


Hamlet and Opium: The Subtle Influence of Samuel Taylor Coleridge

By Brian Hoey. Oct 21, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry

Samuel Taylor Coleridge is, quite simply, one of the most important English Poets. Full stop. He was praised in his time as a master of metrical techniques and wild imagery, helping to spearhead the Romantic movement (whose members would include Shelley, Keats, Wordsworth, Byron, and others), the impact of which can still be felt in contemporary poetry. Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (1798) remains one of the best known lyric poems in English (fun fact: the active member of Coast Guard with the most shipboard time and exemplary character is officially known as the Ancient Mariner), and its indelible image of the albatross around the mariner’s neck has entered the popular lexicon. In the midst of all of this praise, however, it is easy to overlook some of the stranger ways in which Coleridge has influenced and continues to influence Anglophone literature. Foremost among them: he was one of the fathers of the drug-induced poem.


Visiting the Leslie Marmon Silko Papers at the Beinecke

By Audrey Golden. Oct 20, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Libraries & Special Collections

Are you interested in learning more about the life and works of Leslie Marmon Silko? Yale University Library owns her papers, which are available to researchers at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Given the Beinecke’s extensive collection, many of the archives contained here are housed off-site. As such, researchers need to request them at least a few business days in advance of a visit. This is true of the Silko Papers, but it’s worth the wait. We visited the papers and were thrilled to see not only numerous pieces of correspondence, as well as drafts with Silko’s handwritten edits and comments, but also folders of Silko’s artwork.

Why should you be interested in looking into the life and work of Leslie Marmon Silko? We’ll tell you a little bit more about her before we get into a discussion about the Papers.


Beyond Bond: The Spy Fiction of John le Carré

By Adrienne Rivera. Oct 19, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, Movie Tie-Ins, Mystery, Suspense & Crime

During the 1960s and '70s, David Cornwell worked as a member of British intelligence while secretly publishing spy novels under the pen name John le Carré. By his third novel, le Carré had become an international success. He quit his job in order to focus on writing full time. He is a force in the world of spy fiction and many of his novels are considered to be some of the best of the genre. His recurring character George Smiley features in many of his Cold War era novels and is considered to be one of literature's greatest spies. Le Carré has continued writing into his eighties, with his most recent novel A Legacy of Spies published in mid August of this year. Readers new to le Carré should look to the following examples of his impressive body of work.


Collecting Melville's Masterpiece: Moby Dick

Herman Melville's first novel Typee, was a critical and popular success. Indeed, it launched him headfirst into a massive literary career. However, his subsequent books did not receive as many positive reviews, and in his lifetime, he slipped into relative obscurity as something of a one hit wonder despite continuing to publish both novels and short stories. He died in 1891. It wasn't until what would have been his hundredth birthday that the “Melville Revival” began. His books were reprinted, scholars began studying and writing about him, and his unfinished works were released. Since this revival, Melville has taken his place as one of the American literature greats. His novel Moby Dick, while considered a disaster at the time of publishing, is an area of study all its own and is considered one of the best American novels ever written. Melville collectors may be interested in learning about the following editions of the seminal work and potentially adding one to their shelves.


Little-Known Facts About Arthur Miller

By Matt Reimann. Oct 17, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Pulitzer Prize

The standard details about Arthur Miller’s life are well known. He was married to Marilyn Monroe. He testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (and was convicted of contempt of Congress). He wrote Death of a Salesman, considered by some t0 be the great American drama. But there is much more to the life and work of this most American of American dramatists.


A Guide to Reading Tim O'Brien

By Brian Hoey. Oct 14, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature

World War II proved to be a reliable source of material for American novelists. Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 (1961), Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead (1948) and many other esteemed entries into the 20th century canon have delved by turns into the gritty reality and the existential absurdity of that pivotal moment in American (and World) History. With Vietnam the case is slightly different. While there are acclaimed American novels on the subject (like Karl Marlantes’ Matterhorn (2009) and, more recently, David Means’ Hystopia (2016)), it never produced a tremendously high number of literary blockbusters. Luckily, we have Tim O’Brien.


Arna Bontemps: African-American Novelist, Children's Author, Librarian, and More

By Matt Reimann. Oct 13, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Children's Books

Arna Bontemps may not be as well known as his fellow Harlem Renaissance luminaries like Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, or Jean Toomer, but that does not diminish his contributions. His novel, God Sends Sunday, about a jockey who wins and prodigally spends his money, repulsed W.E.B. DuBois, who called it “sordid,” but it remains a quintessential novel of the movement. Bontemps’s further work spans not only poetry and novels, but children’s books, history, anthologies, biography, and, until his retirement, success as an archivist and librarian at Fisk University. His life was a mission engaged all at once in the efforts of resurrection, preservation, and creation.


Collecting Miniatures of The Master and Margarita

By Audrey Golden. Oct 12, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting, Literature, Book History

We love the idea of miniature books, especially when they’re clandestine printings of banned books or re-printings of censored novels. After all, what better way to hide a book than placing it deep inside a pocket or a bag such that it can’t be discovered? One of our favorite novels of the twentieth century, The Master and Margarita [Мастер и Mаргарита], couldn’t be published in the lifetime of its author, Mikhail Bulgakov. Bulgakov wrote the novel in the decade before his death in 1940, but he could share it only with close friends due to its thinly veiled criticism of Stalinism. The novel wasn’t published as a book until 1967, and the first English-language translation included many omissions. It has since undergone new English-language translations, and the book often is considered among the greatest works of modern and contemporary fiction.

But let’s get back to the question of the miniatures. Toward the end of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century, interest in Bulgakov resurged enormously in Russia. In response, in part, to his exclusion from the Russian literary canon during the era of the Soviet Union, a number of Russian presses have begun re-printing the novel in its original language. As if alluding to the once-clandestine nature of the book, many of these presses have created miniatures, often in multi-volume sets, of the novel. We’ll give you some information that will help you to track down some miniatures for your collection.


A William Morris FAQ

By Nick Ostdick. Oct 11, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Fine Press

If there’s one problem with our literary landscape, it’s perhaps there are too many great writers and thinkers for the average reader to keep track. Whether you’re looking into a specific literary tradition, region, or movement, it’s easy to gloss over a handful of important writers or those literary artists who have in subtle ways influenced future generations of scribes. Because history is instructive and it’s impossible to understand where you’re going without realizing where you’ve been, this oversight can be a serious misstep for the literary enthusiast.

Perhaps one of the greatest oversights—especially considering the width and depth of the career and creative interests—is English writer, poet, designer, and socialist activist William Morris.


Ivan Bunin: The Masterful Nobel Laureate Who Should Be Famous Beyond Russia

By Matt Reimann. Oct 10, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Nobel Prize Winners

When Russian filmmakers delivered to the state censors a screenplay for a biopic about the writer Ivan Bunin, they were immediately shut down. Their objection was not to Bunin’s controversial work, but rather the film’s treatment of him: their saintly Nobel laureate portrayed as an egotistical, philandering, drunken, emotionally reckless artist. This portrait was not too exaggerated, but the film ministry was clear. They could not allow a movie to deface the image of one of Russia’s most prized artists.


Notable Nobel Prize Firsts

By Adrienne Rivera. Oct 7, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Literature, Nobel Prize Winners

In 1895, Alfred NobelSwedish chemist, philanthropist, and inventor of dynamitedied. In his will, Nobel dedicated the bulk of his massive estate toward awarding five yearly prizes. This, then, is how the Nobel Prizes in Chemistry, Physical Science, Medicine, Peace, and Literature were born.

The Nobel Prize in Literature is awarded annually to a writer whose body of work represents a standard of excellence and that moves literature as a whole into an “ideal” direction. Though every year the committee's interpretation of the word “ideal” has held different meanings, in most recent times it has seemed to mean work that focuses on humanitarianism. The Nobel Prize in Literature is the most prestigious literary award in the world, with the committee considering writers from any nation producing work in any language. The winner is chosen each year in October. Last year's winner, singer and songwriter Bob Dylan, was the first musician ever awarded literature's most famous prize. The announcement caused an uproar in the literary community and prompted discussion on the true meaning of the world “literature” and on the place of songs within the overall cannon. With the one year anniversary of that controversial choice and this year's winner, Kazuo Ishiguro, recently announced, it's a perfect time to look back on other notable Nobel Prize in Literature firsts.


Buying Rare and Antiquarian Books in Dublin

By Audrey Golden. Oct 6, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Literature, Literary travel

Ireland has a long literary history, which grows especially dense in the twentieth century. From W.B. Yeats to James Joyce to Seamus Heaney, there are many collectible Irish poets and writers. In addition, there are numerous novelists who have been published in Ireland and whose work relates to Ireland’s history of colonialism that is shared, in many ways, by numerous countries around the globe. If you’re traveling to Dublin, you should certainly look into the city’s expansive literary past, but you should also be sure to visit the fantastic used and rare bookstores in the city. In terms of rare and antiquarian books, the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) lists two sellers in the city (four in the country total). In addition, there are a number of rare and used shops, as well as a thriving weekend book market.


Congratulations to the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature Winner, Kazuo Ishiguro!

By Leah Dobrinska. Oct 5, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Nobel Prize Winners

It's that glorious time of year again! After almost a week of Nobel Prize announcements, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature was announced today at 1:00p.m. local time in Sweden. The 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Kazuo Ishiguro "who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world".


Listen to Seven Classic Authors Read Their Own Work

By Matt Reimann. Oct 4, 2017. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors

Shakespeare gave voice to his poetry as a performer in his own plays. Charles Dickens showed such theatrical commitment that he briefly fainted after reading from Oliver Twist. Unfortunately, these stirring author readings (and doubtless many more like them) have been lost to time. Luckily, though, since the late nineteenth century we have had the means to record our most cherished authors read their own work.


Best Books from Japan

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

Topics: Literature, Nobel Prize Winners, Literary travel

Are you interested in reading more Japanese literature, or are you traveling to Kyoto or Tokyo soon? We have some book recommendations for you.


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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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