Wednesday, April 27, 2011

An Invisible Rope

Although it has been a few years since he passed away and many years since he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, I have yet to see a full-scale biography in English of the Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz. In the meantime Cynthia Haven has recently edited a collection of portraits and reminiscences by a wide range of individuals who had a close association with Milosz just published by the Swallow Press, an imprint of Ohio University Press, titled An Invisible Rope.

Organized largely chronologically, An Invisible Rope provides glimpses of the man and his work from his student days in Wilno, through his early lonely days of exile, to his final return to Poland to live in Krakow for the last few years of his life. I would hesitate to recommend this to anyone who does not at least have some exposure to both Milosz's prose such as The Captive Mind or Native Realm, as well any of his numerous books of poetry, as the biographical detail in this book is necessarily incomplete. Nonetheless, it is wonderful to have these remembrances of this complicated man by those who knew him best including the translators he worked with most often.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Poems that Could Be in Your Pocket

For our National Poetry Month display, Jennifer asked all of the staff what their favorite poems are. Then she printed them out and folded them into pocket sized packets for anyone to take. What she got was a collection of poems that would make a diverse and interesting anthology. Below is a list of poems that could very well be in your pocket.

excerpt from When We with Sappho by Kenneth Rexroth (Dale)

The Pobble Who Has No Toes by Edward Lear (Susannah)

canvas and mirror by Evie Shockley (Jennifer)

I’m Nobody! Who are you? (260) by Emily Dickinson (Megan)

The Dry Spell by Kevin Young (Jennifer)

Tide Pickers by Rosanna Warren (Jennifer)

Crossing the Bar by Lord Alfred Tennyson (Megan)

I Found a Silver Dollar by Dennis Lee (Megan)

New Year’s Day by Mark Haddon (Anne)

Forgetfulness by Billy Collins (Carol)

Counter-world by Todd Romanowski (Jennifer)

Today by Billy Collins (Carol)

Love After Love by Derek Walcott (Anne)

XI by Wendell Berry (Anne)

The Suitor by Jane Kenyon (Robin)

ancestors by Harvey Ellis (Anne)

May by Mary Oliver (Jory)

The Song of Wandering Aengus by W.B. Yeats (Todd)

Half-Light by Cesar Vallejo (Josh)

Jabberwocky by Lewis Caroll (Gary)

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe (Gary)

America by Walt Whitman (Josh)

in Just by e.e. cummings (Josh)

The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry (Robert)

Here, Bullet by Brian Turner (Josh)

A Blessing by James Wright (Robert)

Jennifer also added some poems from Common Threads, a program of MassPoetry.

Samurai Song by Robert Pinsky
Occupation by Suji Kwock Kim
The Lost Pilot by James Tate
Vita Nova by Louise Gl├╝ck
Love Song: I and Thou by Alan Dugan
New England Ode by Kevin Young
In the Waiting Room by Elizabeth Bishop

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Awful Momentum

For many of us history buffs, a favorite general account of the lead-in to World War I is Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August. With histories, succeeding generations build on their predecessors, bringing fresh views and sometimes even fresh materials, and we now have have Miranda Carter's George, Nicholas & Wilhelm as a new narrative satisfying as Guns.

A catastrophe of heredity, placement, Fate: Of the three cousins on the thrones of the great European empires, two were way over their heads and the third was fatally bombastic and close to insane. Focusing on the three principles enriches the larger story even as the reader familiar with the awful historical momentum mutters, "No nooo!" Here is the archaic imperial life, the disastrous misapprehensions and total incomprehension of consequences, the whole elegant bloody mess in all its glory. A superb work.

At the other end of the density spectrum, for a serviceable thumbnail history of the whole conflict, World War One by Norman Stone is good for an overview.

Gary Cowan
(Josh also wrote about George, Nicholas & Wilhelm on his own blog. You can check it out here.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

ABFEE v. Coakley

Last year Porter Square Books was proud to join a suit with the Harvard Bookstore, the Photographic Resource Center, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFEE), the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the ACLU and others to block the enforcement of a law that would have imposed severe restrictions on internet content by making providers of constitutionally protected materials criminally liable if such material was deemed harmful to minors. It was our view that the law was overly broad and likely violated the First Amendment and Judge Rya Zobel agreed by issuing a preliminary injunction late last year.

We received word today that Gov. Patrick signed into law an amendment to that original legislation that addresses these First Amendment issues while still allowing the state to protect children from predators using the internet.

We'd likely to thank ABFEE, the Media Coalition, our fellow plaintiffs, and all the attorneys who worked so hard on our behalf and Gov. Patrick and the legislators who adopted the needed changes to the law.

Flash Mob Freeze

Thanks to for sharing this video of a flash mob freeze in the Holyoke Mall where "about 75 people stopped everything they were doing to read a book" in support of National Library Week.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Digital Advantages

I don’t see ebooks replacing physical books any time soon, but there are some types of books and some particular books that I think really utilize the particular advantages of digital books.

Books in a Series. There is nothing worse than getting to the end of a book in an absolutely addicting series, like George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice, and not having the next one handy. It’s one thing if you finish Storm of Swords, on a Saturday afternoon and you have a chance to get to a book store to pick up A Feast for Crows, but another thing entirely if it’s 11 pm and you’re already home. The ebook can be purchased any time of the day, any day of the year. Furthermore, if you’re going on a trip you can load up your device with several books in the series and not have to worry about running out of a series on the plane ride home.

Big, Hard Books. Having a book on a digital device can also provide convenient access to the Internet, which if you’re tackling Moby-Dick, Ulysses, or some other big, hard book, can be really handy. Looking up terms, finding criticism, and accessing cliff notes online can greatly deepen (or just help you complete) a first reading. Also, the ability to annotate with links to useful websites or your own thoughts about the work can make re-reading even more rewarding.

Classics You Somehow Missed in School. Because many old classics are in the public domain, you can almost always find them in inexpensive digital formats, so you catch up on Heart of Darkness, Silas Marner, or The House of Mirth. You can also explore less famous works by classic authors like The Old Curiosity Shop by Dickens, A Tramp Abroad by Mark Twain, Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, Hadji Murad by Tolstoy...

Books and ebooks are different technologies and have different ideal uses. You can’t look at an ebook on your shelf, pick it up and flip through it randomly just to see what catches your eye, and you can’t wrap it as a present. You also can’t link a passage in a book to an online video, cut and paste a quote directly into a paper, essay or review, or infinitely annotate. Given that they have these different uses, I believe books and e-books should co-exist for years to come.

Blog Archive