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Neely Simpson
Lifelong bookworm. Lover of ghost stories and folklore who writes spooky fiction in her spare time. Is sometimes found rambling around old graveyards.

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Poetry: All in the Family for Stephen Vincent Benét

By Neely Simpson. Mar 11, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Poetry, Pulitzer Prize

Poetry seems to have been woven into the DNA of Stephen Vincent Benét. Born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on July 22, 1898, Benét was the youngest child of Colonel James Walker Benét and Frances Neill Rose Benét. Both of the elder Benéts were avid readers with a keen appreciation for poetry. Frances Benét herself wrote poetry, and Stephen said of his father, "[he] was interested in everything from Byzantine Emperors to the development of heavy ordnance and was the finest critic of poetry I have ever known."


Poetry and Jazz: The Night Sylvia Plath Met Ted Hughes

By Neely Simpson. Feb 26, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Poetry

It was a winter night filled with poetry and jazz - a fateful night in which Sylvia Plath met Ted Hughes. They were both attending a University of Cambridge party held at the Women's Union in Falcon Yard. The party was a celebration of the release of the first issue of the student written and published literary journal, St. Botolph's Review.

In her journal, Plath described the party as "very bohemian, with boys in turtleneck sweaters and girls being blue-eye-lidded or elegant in black." Jazz played loudly in the background while party goers shouted poetry to one another over the din of noise. Even though she'd come to the party with a date, Plath's eyes immediately fell on Ted Hughes, and their attraction was instant.


Birdsong: The Legacy of Zitkala-Ša

By Neely Simpson. Feb 20, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American History, Literature

Zitkala-Ša means "Red Bird" in the native language of the Dakota Sioux. An accomplished musician, writer, and political activist, Zitkala-Ša lived her life passionately and, in a way, with as much song as her name implies.


Henry Adams, the Five of Hearts, and the Shrouded Woman

By Neely Simpson. Feb 13, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American History, History

Posterity has remembered Henry Adams mostly as an American historian. His most famous published works are History of the United States of America, a nine volume set, and his autobiography, The Education of Henry Adams, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1919. However, he is also credited with having written two works of fiction, Esther, which he published under the pen name Frances Snow Compton, and Democracy, An American Novel, which was the first novel of its kind to become an international bestseller. In addition to being a historian, Adams was also a part of a highly political family, a member of an elite circle known as The Five of Hearts, and one half of a marriage that ended in tragedy.


Through the Looking Glass of Lewis Carroll: Master Photographer

By Neely Simpson. Jan 25, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Children's Books

It was Alice's Adventures in Wonderland that made Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known by his pen name, Lewis Carroll, a household name. However, during his own time Charles Dodgson was known for several other vocations besides that of authoring children's books. In addition to being an author, Dodgson was a professor of mathematics at Oxford University, an ordained deacon in the Anglican church, and a very accomplished photographer.


Ian Fleming, Real-Life Secret Agent and World War II Commando

By Neely Simpson. Jan 21, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: James Bond, History

Before he was Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels, he was Commander Fleming, an intelligence officer in the Royal Navy and right-hand man to Admiral John Godfrey, Director of British Naval Intelligence. As such, Fleming was responsible for the creation of what came to be known as Assault Unit 30 (AU 30), a top-secret British commando unit specifically formed to gather intelligence. Fleming proposed the concept of AU 30 to Admiral Godfrey in a March 10, 1942 memo titled, "Proposal for Naval Intelligence Commando Unit."


The Power of Language: Emile Zola and the Dreyfus Affair

By Neely Simpson. Jan 13, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, History

"No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world," Robin Williams's character, Mr. Keating asserts in the film "Dead Poets Society." Mr. Keating could have used French writer Emile Zola and the letter he wrote to a Paris newspaper in January 1898 to illustrate his point. Simply titled "J'Accuse" ("I accuse!"), Zola's letter shone a light on the injustice and antisemitism of 19th century France. So powerful was the document that it ultimately led to the exoneration of an innocent man and the passing of a French law separating church and state.


Jerome Kern: Colossus of Musical Theater and Rare Books

By Neely Simpson. Dec 27, 2014. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting

American composer, Jerome Kern, was a colossus of twentieth century musical theater with a career spanning over forty years. His success in theater and film provided him the means to amass an equally remarkable rare books collection. Born in New York City on January 27, 1885, Kern was the composer of such iconic songs as, "The Way You Look Tonight" and "Long Ago (and Far Away)."

An avid reader, Kern's love of books left its greatest mark on his career through the musical for which he is best known, Show Boat. An admirer of Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, Edna Ferber, Kern is credited with the idea of turning her 1926 bestselling novel of the same name into a musical. Another professional nod to his love of literature came in 1942 in the form of the last orchestral suite he composed, "The Mark Twain Suite: Portrait for Orchestra." 


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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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