Reader's Exchange

November 2013 - Posts

Now you see it...

What do you get when you mix a trendy (once upon a time) yellow and chrome dinette, sleek-fronted white cabinets, your grandmother's canister set, and gaudy, what-were-they-thinking wallpaper?  It was simultaneously a kitchen and a Sparkling Sixties time capsule.

But the restaurant-grade stove had produced dinners for visiting heads of state, celebrities, and the family of the President of the United States. 

The dozen or so folks in our tour group at LBJ's Texas White House ambled about thoughtfully, intent on the sights and insights offered by our guide.  Someone pointed out the pie on the stovetop.

Yes, our guide confirmed, it was pecan.   Background:  President and Mrs. Kennedy were slated to visit the LBJ ranch following the visit to Dallas and event in Austin on November 22, 1963.  Mrs. Davis, the Johnsons' cook, told that Jackie Kennedy had never tasted pecan pie, baked one for the occasion.  As she removed it from the oven, the news bulletin flashed from Dallas.  Staff and Secret Service men huddled together following the tragic proceedings via the small TV atop the fridge.    The kitchen's clock registers 1:00 P.M.

The room fell silent we gazed at two unremarkable items--one on the wall and one in a pie tin--elevated from objects to icons because now they tell a story. 

Along with the host of recent JFK publications, I've been especially attentive to new sources of iconic imagery this week.   These all demonstrate wonderful visual shorthand:

Life in Color cover artEarth: The Definitive Visual Guide (2nd edition) DK Publishing, known for excellent graphics, collaborated with the Smithsonian Institution for this gorgeous volume. Science, geography, and history are so compellingly depicted that even those not usually drawn to these subjects should find this hefty tome a page-turner.

The Civil War in 50 Objects by Harold Holzer. For the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, Holzer (Kirkus Reviews terms him "a modern dean of Civil War studies") selected fifty artifacts incisively reflecting the forces leading up to the war, the battles, and the aftermath. Quotations, anecdotes, and narrative accompany each photo; great for history and Civil War buffs.

ARKiveJudged "an awe-inspiring record of life on Earth" by Scout Report, this site features vibrant visuals and data on over 15,000 species, with content for educators and children.

Moments That Made the Movies by David Thomson. This one just came in; I'm not so patiently waiting for it to be processed. The title says it all; Publishers Weekly calls it "eminently browseable".  

Kodachrome Memory: American Pictures 1972-1990 by Nathan Benn. It's still on order, but we're in for a treat. Wall Street Journal judges the images produced by the former National Geographic photographer "both timeless and particular".

Life in Color: National Geographic Photographs. This stunning collection reminds us that color produces its own emotional climate. In the foreword, Jonathan Adler cautions readers to "prepare for sensory overload."  You'll see why.

Wouldn't these selections make marvelous holiday gifts?

During December, you'll see these and other present-worthy publications featured on the second floor book tower. 

Cape ability

If two people in your workplace showed up outfitted in superhero costumes (it's not Halloween) how surprised would you be?

My sighting at the library did occur within a few days of trick-or-treat time.  But the main point is that when I observed two Youth Services librarians thus attired, what first caught my notice were Janette's nifty earrings and Andrea's cute new glasses frame.   The capes, logos, belts, etc. registered only on a secondary level.

Well, children's librarians are known for amazing exploits of programming and entertainment; their outfits were in character.  Super people make difficult undertakings look easy.

It's fair to say that others we encounter on a daily basis could justifiably include flashy costumes in their wardrobes.  Instead of Casual Fridays, we could have Cape Fridays...

Library colleague Tricia noted how unusual it is for a poetry book (Billy Collins' Aimless Love) to make the New York Times Bestseller list.  This recognition--for producing selections so polished and accessible that thousands of Americans can overcome the perception that they aren't poetry readers--spotlights how heroic the literary gift for thought-distilling really is.   Reading Billy Collins, you'll not only smile or sigh at the aptness of his phrasing--you'll want to try writing poetry yourself (this will only enhance appreciation for his effortless style).  This Library Journal article notes other contemporary poets whose work you might also enjoy.

During Halloween festivities, we glimpsed some young customers flaunting super-heroic garb, but we all judged their parents to be the most cape-worthy.  Juggling books, strollers, craft projects, schedules, and everything else on that day's agenda with aplomb, these multitasking moms and dads managed to appear calm and good-humored amid the chaos.   That's no simple feat.NaNoWriMo Logo 2013

And those of us who work at the Reference Desk upstairs would definitely award volunteer Jacquie Wilson a cape embellished with a jewel-encrusted "GA" (the gems would have to be fake, the library craft closet is our only procurement resource).  Jacquie is known as Genealogy Advisor--a role as day-saving as anything Marvel Comics ever dreamed up.  Imagine: someone willing to listen raptly to your clan's history, then prescribe where and how you can fill in the missing twigs on your family tree.   Like those Ancestry commercials that give the impression of instantaneous family tree discovery, Jacquie's searches tend to prove themselves fruitful more quickly than happens for lesser mortals.  

Family history researchers will rightfully contend that genealogy is not for sissies.   As Samuel Johnson observed, "What is easy is seldom excellent."

Another stalwart crew of aspirants--authors in the throes of National Novel Writing Month--would second Robert Kiyosaki's contention:  "You have to be smart.  The easy days are over."  I'm sitting out this NaNoWriMo year but as a two-year veteran can attest to one of the great rewards of NaNo participation:  after producing a 50,000 word novel in one sleep-deprived month, in December you'll certainly believe that easy days are here again.