May 2, 2010
I believe Edward Gorey was right, that Cats + Books = Life is Good. Most of the time. But lately there have been a couple of incidents that make me think he either had perfectly trained cats or he kept his books behind glass.
Perhaps he had problems. I don’t know. I do know we have problems. When, for example, earlier this week I walked in after work (note: after I stopped to pick up a case of your favorite canned meats) to see the uppermost shelf of the living room bookcase in disarray. Actually, that’s the second thing I noticed. The first thing was my treasured Modern Japanese Art of Flower Arrangements sprawled open on the floor, the front free end paper several feet in front of the rest of it. Now I know this book’s fall from the top shelf was not of its own making. Let me repeat that: the top shelf which is at least seven feet higher than your heads. One of you obviously took an enthusiastic flying leap. Oh, I’ll give you credit for realizing the sofa arm would give you the extra oomph you needed to make it up there, but you apparently didn’t give a thought to what might happen when the shelves, which are only ten inches in depth, couldn’t find room for you because the books cover darn near every inch of them. Unfortunately, neither did I. When I put this gorgeous old volume up there in a spot I believed was out of your reach. How was I to know you were willing to risk limb and more important, dignity, in your attempt to prove me wrong?
So in defense I have created a list of Ten Rules that shall henceforth govern your interactions with your roommates, the Books. Pay attention:
- Books are sacred. This means you may not chew the corners, test your claws on the textured covers, or attempt to pull them out of the bookcase.
- Bookmarks are used to mark the spot where I plan to resume my reading. They are not mice tails you should pull out. And if they are the sewn-in variety they will not come out no matter how hard you pull.
- Any open spaces on the bookshelves are merely temporary. I assure you that every inch is spoken for, and that there is no room for your sunbathing.
- Yes, I know leather has a nice smell especially nineteenth-century leather book covers. That doesn’t mean you have the right to drool on it or chew it.
- Those bookshelves are over your head for a reason. Leave the books I put up there alone!
- Aphrodite, you are a female. A spayed female. So you don’t need to keep “pretend spraying” all the books on the lowest shelf. I realize nothing comes out, but it worries me nonetheless. Stop it!
- I am terribly sorry, but I cannot make all the books on any one shelf the same height. Even if I could they would not make a comfortable napping spot. Use the beds, the sofas, the chairs, the tables, the counters, but stop trying to squeeze yourself between the tops of the books and the bottom of the shelf above them. Your claws are wrecking havoc with the expensive art books.
- Is there any chance you could avoid the books that are temporarily on the floor when you are emptying an upset stomach or coughing up hairballs? The moisture really doesn’t do them any good.
- Your toy mice do not belong on top of books in the bookcases. I tend to freak when in that split second before I recognize it is your toy I pull out a book and see the very realistic mouse on top of it. Besides, if they are all in the bookcase how do you plan to play with them?
- Touch my 1821 six-volume edition of Lord Byron (first shelf, far left side, above my desk) and you’re dead. End of discussion.
Upcoming Book Festivals:
Only one literary festival takes place this week, and it is in Ohio. Visiting writers Lydia Davis, Robin Hemley, Mary Ruefle, George Saunders, and Tim Seibles, who represent fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and translation will appear at Ohio University in Athens for the three days (May 5-7) of lectures and readings known as the Spring Literary Festival. Events take place on Wednesday evening, and continue during the day and evenings on Thursday and Friday.
The Pub House:
Pushkin Press focuses on “publishing translations of classic and contemporary European literature that changes the way you look at the world.” Their books reflect passion, they say, whether that be “the passion of the enthusiast who recommended and who passed on his particular joy in the author to us and who inspired us to publish sometimes esoteric and little-known masterpieces and the passion for life and love questioning that all our authors confront.”
It’s that mission that produced the first young adult novel published at this house, a trilogy named The Moonstone Legacy. In Book One, a fourteen-year-old girl, determined to discover the truth about her mother’s supposed accidental death, sets out on a quest to India where she uncovers both a terrible past and a stolen inheritance that lead her into mortal danger. The Inheritance tells the story of a poet who having been raised to believe that he would one day inherit his uncle’s weath instead finds that a few weeks after the man’s death a close friend of his uncle’s claims to be the sole executor and blocks him; Daniel Loew’s resultant attempts to regain what he has been promised encompasses a harrowing chase through Venezuela, Hamburg, Panama City and Miami dotted with a background of political upheavals.
Win This Book!
This week’s giveaway book is Eddie Signwriter, the story of Kwasi Edward Michael Dankoh, aka Eddie Signwriter, who was born in Ghana and raised by his father in Botswana. Perceived as an outsider, Signwriter endures lonely solitude until he meets Celeste. But Celeste’s aunt’s death, for which he is blamed, sends him on the run to Paris where he joins an community of African immigrants and strives to redefine himself and his life.
To enter, all you need to do is send us an e-mail with “Win This Book” in the subject line and the title of the book in the body of the e-mail. We will collect names and draw one on Friday, May 7. You may win no more than one book a month, and we apologize to our international readers but postal costs prohibit our mailing books outside the United States.
Imaging Books & Reading:
Making Books is the title of this old Encyclopedia Britannica film that purports to show how in 1947 a manuscript was turned into a book. It’s notably simplistic, leaving out many steps but the focus on the old-fashioned printing process is wonderful.
Old Book Art is a lovely website that provides free access to more than 3,200 illustrations—pictures, drawings, maps, and other images from antiquarian, public-domain books and other old documents. These are no longer protected by copyright so you can use them freely under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License, meaning you can use the material for any purpose as long as you acknowledge the source and release all derivative work under a similar license.
What you will find here is spectacular. Categories of artwork include Atlases & Maps, Children, History, Literature & Poetry, Nature & Natural History, Places & Travel, and Uncategorized. There are also Web Archives to other Internet connections. A recent post with images focused on Mary A. Livermore (1820-1905) who joined with the war effort with the U.S. Sanitary Commission. She had been previously involved in the temperance movement, but when the Civil War began she used her leadership role to raise funds and medical supplies for the soldiers, lobbied for the relief effort, inspected hospitals, coordinated the delivery of supplies to battle fronts, and when warranted acted as nurse, helping to transport discharged, wounded soldiers home. She also organized the Great Northwestern Sanitary Commission Fair, convincing President Lincoln to donate the Emancipation Proclamation document to it. After it ended, she returned to speaking for temperance and for women’s suffrage, as well as publishing, in 1887, an account of her and other Northern women’s war experiences in My Story of the War that include these images.
This Week . . .
The British Library opened its exhibition, Magnificent Maps: Power, Propaganda and Art, on April 30, and while it is unquestionable that to see it in person would be best they do accommodate those of us unable to cross the pond at this time. Do go and see this. It is . . . magnificent. The one hundred maps, which have been printed on paper, wood, vellum, silver, silk and marble, cover time from 200 AD to the present. Probably the most spectacular, one of eighty that have never been exhibited in public before, is the 1660 Klencke Atlas by Johan Maurits, the largest map in the world. What will particularly wonderful to real life visitors is that the settings in which the maps would have been originally seen—from the palace to the schoolroom—have been recreated. As Peter Barber, Head of Map Collections, said: “Maps are pictorial encyclopedias that are about far more than just geography. The artistry of maps is seductive and like the teaspoon of sugar that helps the medicine go down, tries to persuade us to swallow a particular political message.”
Until next week, read well, read often and read on!