Go Set a Watchman: From Ordering to Shelving
Just how does a Library book find its way onto the shelf? With the recent release of the highly-anticipated Go Set a Watchman, this is a good opportunity to give you a behind the scenes look at how things work at the Kansas City Public Library.
Purchasing decisions start in the Collection Development department, run by Debbie Stoppello. The Library is always adding new titles: It could be a newly-released crime novel or a perennial favorite children’s book. High demand titles and bestsellers are almost always purchased, but the Library also tries to acquire a good selection of award-winning books, significant cultural or literary works, as well as 'in-fill' or replacement copies of books that are already in the collection.
A classic like To Kill a Mockingbird is a perfect example of a book that is consistently in print and in demand. As existing Library copies are lost or damaged beyond use, they are replaced with newer editions. The Library also has to keep up to date on so-called 'serial' releases, such as travel books, software manuals, and other items that need to be updated regularly to keep the information correct and current.
Each location in the Kansas City Public Library system is also different in its reading habits, so you may notice different types of books available at the branches. You might find more children’s books at a branch frequented by more families with young children, or perhaps more books in languages besides English at branches near larger immigrant populations, but patrons can always request items from any location in the Library system for pick up at their preferred branch. (And books not available at the Kansas City Public Library may be borrowed from libraries throughout the country through Inter-Library Loan.)
Ordering new releases pose an interesting challenge. How does the Library know how many copies they’ll need to order for the different branches? It's demand that drives the ordering, according to Stoppello. Even before the book has been delivered, it is listed in the Library’s online catalog allowing users to ‘place a hold’ on the item, putting them in line to check it out once it is available. We've found that for most titles, ordering additional copies at a ratio of one copy per every five holds gives the Library enough copies to fill holds in a timely manner and meet demand over time. So if a book has 20 holds in the system when it comes time to finalize the order, four additional copies will be purchased on top of the quantity the Library had planned to purchase.
For blockbuster books such as Go Set a Watchman, Stoppello has the book added to the Library's catalog as soon as possible, in this case a full six months in advance, giving users plenty of time to place their holds.
Once the order is placed with the distributor, it's a matter of waiting for the release date. Publishers strictly enforce releases on new and popular books at both bookstores and libraries. With Go Set a Watchman, the boxes from the distributor arrived in the morning on the release date, Tuesday, July 14.
At this point, they're ready to be processed and put into circulation. Delivery Service staffers like Hannah inspect the new book shipments and add the items to the Library's computer system, so their locations can be tracked at all times.
From here, books are ready to go to their destination (out to the branches to go on the shelf, or to the hold shelves to fill individual users' hold requests.) They are marked accordingly and put into totes awaiting delivery drivers to take the books to their destination branches.
By mid-afternoon, all the books had arrived at the appropriate locations, ready to be picked up by readers.
With so many holds placed on a popular book, it can be a long time before you might actually see a copy sitting on the shelf. To address this, the Library created the Browsing Collection, also called "New & Notable." These are additional copies of books set aside in displays at our Central, Waldo, Trails West, and Plaza locations.
Browsing collection books can be checked out, but only for two weeks at a time, and they cannot be renewed. Items in the browsing collection also cannot be placed on hold, in order to make sure that as many copies as possible of new titles are available for patrons to check out when they visit the Library.
If you need longer to finish reading a book, these titles are still available through the regular catalog system, with standard check out times (21 days) and the possibility of renewal.
About the Author
Liesl Christman is the digital content specialist for The Kansas City Public Library, managing content for the Library's blogs and social media accounts. She is an unabashed enthusiast of comic books, roller derby, and all things food.
Book Review: Tom Swift and His Aerial Warship by Victor Appleton
Victor Appleton was actually the pseudonym for several uncredited authors of the popular Tom Swift series, which was published by the Edward Stratemeyer syndicate, a group which released several series of books for boys (especially Tom Swift and the Hardy Boys) and for girls (the Nancy Drew series.)
Released between 1910-1941, the 40 adventure novels in this series feature a young inventor named Tom Swift, whose story begins in the book Tom Swift and His Motor Cycle.
Tom lives in a small town in upstate New York with his father, Barton Swift, himself an inventor. Each of the books involve Tom inventing some new device, and having a series of adventures as he tries to perfect his invention, and/or keep it from falling into the wrong hands. In the world of boys’ adventure, inventing is a very perilous profession, it seems.
All of these books feature some recurring characters worth mentioning: Ned Newton, Tom’s best friend, who works for the local bank, an employer awfully generous in the amount of free time they give young Newton, as he spends well over half of his 40 hours hanging out with Tom; Mary Nestor, Tom’s sweetie (their love, always platonic, of course); the eccentric neighbor, Wakefield Damon, known for his peculiar expletives (e.g. “Bless my dynamite cartridge!”)
The two most controversial characters from our perspective are the black servants of the Swifts: Eradicate Andrew Jackson Abraham Lincoln Sampson (aka “Rad”), an elderly black man, fiercely loyal to the Swifts and to his mule, Boomerang; and Koku, an African prince of great height and strength, who does a lot of the heavy lifting required in Tom’s workshop. Both are presented in ways we could only characterize today as racially insensitive.
Tom Swift and His Aerial Warship, number 18 in the series, has Tom working on a modified dirigible to which he plans on attaching a large gun from the gondola. When we first see Tom, he is stuck on the problem of how to reduce the recoil in the gun, which is too great, and which without modification will tear the gondola free from its mooring and send the gun and gondola to their destruction, and the gun crew to its death.
No sooner has Tom articulated his problem to Ned Newton than a suspicious fire breaks out in one of the storage sheds. The circumstances seem suspicious and, upon investigation, it is clear that the fire was deliberately set.
It turns out that some foreign government wants to stop Tom’s work on the dirigible and gun, for fear that its superior maneuverability and firepower might be used against the foreign power, either by the United States directly, or by its allies, if Tom or the government should choose to sell to another power.
When Lt. Marbury, the Navy man sent to coordinate with Tom in the selling of his invention to the Navy, is asked who might be behind the sabotage, he suggests that it would not likely be any of the Allied Powers, suggesting that Germany is behind the sabotage, but as it turns out, both sides of the European conflict have it in for Tom.
Tom Swift and His Aerial Warship is chiefly interesting as a time capsule of US views in the years before our entry into World War I. The book was written and published in 1915 when the United States had not yet entered the War. Woodrow Wilson later would win re-election in 1916 on the slogan “He Kept Us Out of War.” And United States business interests as well as a strong sense of isolationism in the Congress in 1915 would likely keep the US out of the war, but business interests might also convince the US to sell such an invention to one of the warring powers.
For a work written before the United States declared war on Germany and entered WWI, the novel is remarkably prescient in some ways. Tom wants the United States to be ready in case it needs to go to war, a view that was not being broadcast in the public sector – the official line was that the United States could and should stay out of the conflict in Europe, and was not ready to go to war against European powers. But the authors are also careful not to link the United States with either the Allied or Central powers, as one of the potential saboteurs in the novel appears to be German, but another appears to be French. That way, no matter what side the US ended up on, if it entered the war at all, Stratemeyer Syndicate was covered.
The Tom Swift books are available in electronic form from Project Gutenberg. You can read the book on your computer, or download it in ePub or Kindle file formats to a device for more portable reading.
The Tom Swift books in the teens and twenties of the last century were a huge phenomenon. They frequently appeared high on lists of popular books, often right behind the Bible. And authors like Isaac Asimov credited the books with inspiring them to take up writing. Apparently, even the term taser is based on an idea presented in Tom Swift books, the letters of the acronym standing for “Tom A. Swift’s Electric Rifle”.
New Digital Resources Available at the Library
You now have more digital resources available for free through the Kansas City Public Library's collection! Magazines are now offered through OverDrive, and comics and graphic novels from publishers including DC Comics have been added to hoopla!
Wired, Vogue, ESPN, Smithsonian, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, GQ, Vanity Fair, Backpacker.
What do these magazines and periodicals have in common? These and many more are available for free with your Library card!
Digital magazines are now available through OverDrive, which already provides Kansas City Public Library cardholders with free access to over 25,000 eBooks and 10,000 Audiobooks.
To read these magazines and periodicals, you must first install the Nook Reading App, which is free and available for almost all smartphones and tablets as well as computers running Windows 8.
Hoopla recently expanded their already-great collection of music and movies to include eBooks and comics. And now with the acquisition of many series and graphic novels from DC Comics and its indy imprint Vertigo, their collection is even more robust.
From critically-acclaimed adult titles such as Watchmen, Sandman, Fables, and The Dark Knight Returns, to children's favorites such as Tiny Titans, there are many books to choose from.
You can also enjoy thousands of movies, television shows, audiobooks, and full music albums. Users may stream content online from hoopla or download it for remote viewing.
On hoopla eBooks, Comics, and Audiobooks check out for 21 days at a time, while most movie and TV content is available for 72 hours after borrowing. You are limited to 20 titles per month.
On OverDrive, eBooks and Audiobooks are available for 21 days, and you can have a maximum of 20 titles check out at a time. Digital Magazine issues are yours to keep, and do not count towards your 20 item limit.
On both of these services, items are automatically returned at the end of your lending period, so you never need to worry about overdue fines! These new offerings are just part of the Library’s ever-expanding digital collections.
And if you are a KC metro-area resident that does not already have a Kansas City Public Library card, you can get an eCard online to get immediate access to these resources that our cardholders already enjoy!
Book Review: Comedy at the Edge by Richard Zoglin
Comedy at the Edge by Richard Zoglin is a fantastic, comprehensive, and concise history of stand-up comedy during the late 1960 through the 1970s, from the death of Lenny Bruce to the ascendance of stand-up into the mainstream of American popular culture. It's well researched and compellingly presented.
I've always had a soft spot for stand-up comics. I love watching them on TV and seeing them in person. The conversational aspect of this style of performance lends an intimacy that you don't get from any other form of popular entertainment. Stand-up comedy is a type of theatre—it's really the only form of theatre that has attained truly mass appeal in our culture.
Despite my love of stand-up, I had never considered the history of it or thought too deeply about the differences between modern stand-up and the older styles that defined comedy in the middle of the 20th century. Consequently, Comedy at the Edge is revelatory.
Beginning the late 1960s, in the aftermath of Lenny Bruce, stand-up comedy underwent an evolution that broke with past humorous traditions and established new styles of comedy that still dominate stand-up today. Moreover, Zoglin argues that this evolution was not merely a product of the rebellious culture of the '60s and '70s, but one of its most powerful driving forces.
The evidence he presents in Comedy at the Edge is enough to convince me. Comedy has always been an essential tool for people to critique and analyze ourselves and our culture. Comedy can speak truth to power in a unique way that's easy for everyone to hear. In tumultuous times, comedians help us understand what's going on and warn us when we start down the wrong path.
What made the comedy revolution of the '60s and '70s so unique is that it brought stand-up to a level of mass popularity that it had never seen before and that continues to this day. It saw an explosion of creativity and inventiveness that has yet to be equaled. The comedians who came to prominence in this era—George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Richard Lewis, Albert Brooks, Steve Martin, Robin Williams, Andy Kaufman, et al—forged the blueprints that stand-up comics still follow. They elevated stand-up comedy from mere entertainment to a fully expressive and nuanced art form.
I admit that I'm biased—I grew up on the comedians Zoglin profiles in this book. They will always rank as my favorites. I'm an easy sell for anyone who wants to call them geniuses.
The book is structured with each chapter profiling one comedian (or sometimes two) who best exemplifies a specific aspect of the stand-up comedy culture of this time period. It's packed with quotations, interviews, analysis, and commentary from many comedians, club owners, and critics who were there and lived it all first-hand. Zoglin ably captures the vitality and excitement of it.
There are times, though, when the conciseness of the book feels a little too concise. Twelve chapters (plus a short prologue), examining just over a dozen comedians, packed into a meager 225 pages doesn't leave room for much depth. The broad strokes are vivid enough to paint a compelling picture, and all the important thesis statements are made and supported—but I'm also frequently aware of how much is getting left out.
Perhaps, though, that may be one of Comedy at the Edge's greatest accomplishments—it leaves me eager to learn more. There are plenty of biographies that have been written about the comedians in this book, and I want to go read all of them now.
About the Author
John Keogh is the Digital User Specialist for the Digital Branch of the Kansas City Public Library. He grew up in Fargo, ND, (too small) and lived in Chicago for several years (too big) before he moved to Kansas City. He calls KC his "Goldilocks town" because it's just right.
Book Review: The Enormous Room by E.E. Cummings
The famous American poet, E.E. Cummings—a conscientious objector and not much taken with the war fervor in the United States in 1917—nevertheless signed up that year for the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps, a volunteer ambulance brigade working under the auspices of the Red Cross, joined by John Dos Passos and another Harvard friend, William Slater Brown. In letters Cummings and Brown wrote home, the pair made statements critical of the French war operations. And Cummings himself expressed no personal animosity towards the German enemy.
The military censors, consequently, kept an eye on their letters for some time, and on September 21, 1917, Brown was taken into custody on the charge of espionage, with Cummings picked up as Brown’s friend and possible accomplice. The two were taken to a Dépôt de Triage at La Ferté-Macé, in Normandy. There they were held for 3 months. Cummings was finally released on December 19, 1917 and returned to the United States on New Year’s Day, 1918.
The captivity in La Ferté-Macé served as the basis of Cummings’ autobiographical novel, or rather fictionalized autobiography, The Enormous Room.
The title comes from the holding area for the dozens of prisoners: a large, barn-sized room on the top floor of the detention center, where the inmates spent most of their time. In the fall of 1920, Cummings' father suggested that his son reflect on his experience and set it down. William Slater Brown came to the Cummings’ family farm in NH and over the course of two months they set down on paper the bulk of the material which became The Enormous Room.
The work describes the boring, day-to-day existence in La Ferté-Macé and the occasional solitary confinement of one or other of the inmates for violating the rules (the rule against fraternization with the women prisoners, kept in separate quarters, and even against gazing at them, being the one most frequently broken). Cummings, though, is not writing a war or prison diary. His approach is much more impressionistic. In the circumstances where he had not been formally charged, and had been given no definite duration of imprisonment, Cummings felt he was in some sort of limbo, a place where time had no meaning. Cummings paints a series of character sketches of a rather bizarre group of inmates (whom Cummings likes) and officials (whom Cummings disdains as unimaginative rule-bound idiots). This gives the work something of a fantastic quality, almost as if Cummings were describing a sojourn in a madhouse, or in Wonderland.
Cummings also viewed his suffering in spiritual terms, consciously evoking John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, naming his chief opponent in the prison Apollyon, after Christian’s foe in Bunyan’s work, and he refers to some of his fellow prisoners as “the Delectable Mountains,” referring to a location in Bunyan’s work where Christian gains particular insight. It is, perhaps, not surprising that Cummings chose to view his experience using some of the figures and images of Bunyan’s work. Cummings’ father was a Unitarian minister (Cummings wrote a poem about his spiritual father), and Bunyan’s work was especially popular among Protestants, Unitarians included. Just look at the fascination the work held for Meg, the sickly March girl, in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.
Rev. Cummings also saw his son’s (and his own) travails in religious terms. The Enormous Room was published with an introduction consisting of letters the elder Cummings sent to American officials in France and even to President Wilson to learn what had happened to his son and to demand his release. The introduction opens with a quotation from the story of the Prodigal Son from the gospels, all in caps: “FOR THIS MY SON WAS DEAD, AND IS ALIVE AGAIN; HE WAS LOST; AND IS FOUND.”
Though he makes use of biblical and religious allusions, it is clear that Cummings saw his whole experience as something of a farce. He and his friend, Brown, were guilty of nothing more than being free-thinkers in a time of war, a time when governments—the French government especially—had little patience for such thinking, as can be seen in the following selection where he is equally critical of the U.S. government:
“After all, it is highly improbable that this poor socialist suffered more at the hands of the great and good French government than did many a Conscientious Objector at the hands of the great and good American government; or—since all great governments are per se good and vice versa—than did many a man in general who was cursed with a talent for thinking during the warlike moments recently passed; during, that is to say, an epoch when the g. and g. nations demanded of their respective peoples the exact antithesis to thinking; said antitheses being vulgarly called Belief.”
This work may prove frustrating to those who want a more conventional narrative of Cummings’ experience. For that, you’d have to go to a biography of Cummings such as that by Susan Cheever or Christopher Sawyer-Laucanno. For Cummings has to be Cummings, or as he himself says:
“There are certain things in which one is unable to believe for the simple reason that he never ceases to feel them. Things of this sort—things which are always inside of us and in fact are us and which consequently will not be pushed off or away where we can begin thinking about them—are no longer things; they, and the us which they are, equals A Verb: an IS.”
For any who reading the work, I’d also recommend the annotations provided by Prof. Michael Webster at Grand Valley State University in Michigan.
Pilot Program allows Families to "check out" Wi-Fi Hotspots
Twenty-five Kansas City households with school-age children will get free wireless Internet access at home—or wherever else they choose to connect—as part of a pilot program allowing them to "check out" the service from the Kansas City Public Library.
The plan targets residents in underserved areas who now lack home access to the Internet, allowing them to utilize free Wi-Fi hotspots at least six months. The pilot program will serve students attending two Kansas City public schools, East High School and Faxon Elementary School, and their parents, guardians, or caregivers, offering training in addition to the wireless connections.
The program could launch as early as the start of the 2015-16 school year in August. The Library, which is partnering with Kansas City Public Schools and local nonprofits Literacy Kansas City and Connecting for Good, hopes to expand the innovative lending service in succeeding years.
"The mission of the Library is to be a doorway to knowledge for all," says Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner, its deputy director of strategic initiatives. "With this program, we hope to open the door for students and their families to be able to operate in today's digital society.
"This is a continuation of our effort to connect kids to services they need. And it furthers a community-wide initiative to close the digital divide in Kansas City."
The Library's leadership role in digital inclusion efforts was underscored by its selection by broadband service provider Mobile Beacon as a pilot site for Wi-Fi checkouts. Mobile Beacon, based in Johnston, Rhode Island, will donate 25 wireless Internet devices and unlimited data plans for the duration of the program, plus a matching number of Lenovo laptop computers, plus end-to-end support.
The announcement was made at last week's Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition conference in Arlington, Virginia. The Kansas City Public Library will join a handful of libraries nationwide, including the New York and Chicago public systems, in lending mobile wireless service to households in underserved neighborhoods.
"Having a low-cost, high-speed broadband Internet connection is absolutely essential to participating in today's digital economy and society," says SHLB Coalition Executive Director John Windhausen, noting that 30% of American households still lack one. "The Kansas City Public Library is one of the nation's leaders in reaching outside the library walls and working with the community to address this critical need. No one is more deserving of this award."
Says Deb Socia, executive director of Next Century Cities, a coalition of more than 90 cities and counties advocating widespread availability of fast and reliable broadband Internet service, "The Kansas City Public Library's deep commitment to addressing digital inclusion is a shining example of the type of work we champion. They are a leading model of how to engage the community to provide Internet access and show the benefits of broadband, and we applaud the recognition they have received from Mobile Beacon."
The Library's foray into mobile wireless lending comes amid growing attention to digital literacy barriers and a national digital divide. Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler called this week for the expansion of a government phone subsidy program to help low-income Americans pay for Internet access. The FCC is scheduled to vote on the proposal on June 18, 2015.
The Kansas City Public Library was instrumental in the formation of the Kansas City Digital Inclusion Coalition and hosted a first-of-its-kind Digital Inclusion Summit in October 2014 that addressed troublesome gaps in residents' access to computers and the Internet. Kositany-Buckner is a member of the founding council of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance.
The Mobile Beacon-backed Wi-Fi lending program addresses concern in Kansas City about the high concentration of school-aged children, ages 4-18, in homes that do not use the Internet - the school district says 70% of its students do not have online access where they live. Library and school officials are scheduled to meet next week to begin identifying the 25 students and other household members who will participate in the pilot program.
The program is designed to help students access online resources and pursue educational activities at home. Parents and other caregivers will be required to take part in training with the students to enable them to provide support - and to augment their own digital literacy skills.
Officials also will work to determine how to measure the impact of the program and the enhanced Internet access.
National Digital Inclusion Alliance is Launched
Computers and the Internet, including high speed connectivity, are essential in today’s digital society. Without this access, people face major hurdles in conducting business, completing school assignments, searching for a job, securing government services, or even communicating on a day-to-day basis. Those on the wrong side of this digital divide are being left further and further behind.
While there have been numerous efforts at the local level to address this problem, the newly-formed National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) is among the first organizations to address the issue nationally.
Modeled after efforts in Kansas City to bridge the digital divide through the Kansas City Digital Inclusion Coalition, the NDIA plans “to be a unified voice for local technology training, home broadband access, and public broadband access programs” and join in the federal policy discussion to increase broadband availability in the U.S.
The Kansas City Public Library has been a leader in local efforts to bridge the digital divide and will bring this experience to the NDIA through the Library’s Deputy Director of Strategic Initiatives Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner, who serves on the NDIA’s Founding Council.
For more information on the National Digital Inclusion Alliance’s goals and how you can help, please visit their website.
The NDIA Founding Council is:
Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner, Kansas City Public Library
Amina Fazlullah, Benton Foundation
John Windhausen, SHLB Coalition
Kami Griffiths, Community Technology Network
Luke Swarthout, New York City Public Library
Bill Callahan, Connect Your Community
Nicol Turner-Lee, Multicultural Media & Telecom Council
Amy Sample Ward, NTEN
Angela Siefer, NDIA Director
Book Review: Soldiers’ Pay by William Faulkner
The story goes that William Faulkner happened to meet Sherwood Anderson in New Orleans in 1925, after Anderson had already achieved fame as a writer for his collection of stories, Winesburg, Ohio. Seeing that Anderson enjoyed a pretty good life and had a job that did not seem strenuous, Faulkner—averse to strenuous labor—decided to become a writer himself. He got help from Anderson in getting his first book, Soldiers’ Pay, published in 1926. Apparently it was Faulkner’s persistence rather than any perceived literary skill that won the day, as Anderson’s efforts came with the proviso that he not have to read Faulkner’s manuscript.
For those who hear the name Faulkner and think Yoknapatawpha County, I must tell you, that county didn’t yet exist in 1926. It was only with his third novel, Sartoris (AKA Flags in the Dust), that we get introduced to Faulkner’s mythical Mississippi county, with its county seat of Jefferson, which was the setting of almost all of Faulkner’s work. In this first novel, Faulkner focuses on the plight of a wounded soldier, returning from World War I. In America, as well as in Europe, the effect of that war on the bodies and psyches of young men, and on their families and loved ones back home, was a subject many novelists took on.
In this book, former pilot Donald Mahon returns to his hometown in Georgia, accompanied by Joe Gilligan, another demobilized soldier and Mrs. Powers, a war widow. Both Gilligan and Mrs. Powers met Mahon on the train from New York to Atlanta, and they took him under their wing. They continued in the role of caretaker even after Mahon got home. The war had left Mahon blind; he is also a bit withdrawn, possibly with some cognitive damage, and not communicating much verbally with others. What few words he utters, he largely reserves for Gilligan and Mrs. Powers.
The book is filled with a variety of interesting and peculiar characters: Mahon’s fiancée, Cecily Saunders, who has not been particularly faithful to him while he was away; Saunders’ sometimes boyfriend, George Farr; Mahon’s father, the Episcopal priest in the town; a Mrs. Burney, a working class woman, whose son died in the war, with the result that she now gets attention from the more prominent women in town because of her sacrifice, which is all the more ironic, as her son was killed following his own fatal attack on Captain Powers, Mrs. Powers’ husband—something none in the town know; Mr. Januarius Jones, a Latin teacher, who is also quite the sybarite, trying, with various degrees of success to have sex with the women of the town; poor suffering Emmy, a servant in Rev. Mahon’s house, who had been emotionally attached to Donald Mahon before he went off to war.
Here’s what you’ll get if you choose to pick up this book—a novel that displays the author’s great facility with language, and a complicated mix of plots, pretty deftly handled. And you’ll get a story of the Lost Generation of men who suffered terribly in war and never quite found their place again. The title of the novel ostensibly refers to pay Mahon receives at the war’s end, but it also refers to the agonizing payment soldiers get when they return home after the trauma of war.
Here is what you won’t get—the great web of interconnected stories that give the Yoknapatawpha stories such a sense of place and a feel that is mythic. There is nothing about the Georgia town in this story that distinguishes it from any other small town in American fiction of the time. And you won’t get the level of mastery of language that Faulkner will demonstrate when he hits his stride with The Sound and the Fury, his fourth novel. It’s clear that Faulkner knows the English language and loves its sound, but his language in this book is a bit showy and fanciful, even brightly sarcastic, as the following examples will show:
Outside the station in the twilight the city broke sharply its skyline against the winter evening and lights were shimmering birds on motionless golden wings, bell notes in arrested flight; ugly everywhere beneath a rumored retreating magic of color.
Afternoon lay in a coma in the street, like a woman recently loved. Quiet and warm: nothing now that the lover has gone away.
Sounds like cheesy hard-boiled fiction at times.
If you’ve never read Faulkner, and want to know what Faulkner really sounds and feels like, read a novel like The Reivers or Intruder in the Dust or Light in August, which are still quite approachable, but which show a Faulkner in full command of his prodigious literary talent. If you have read some Faulkner, you might give this book a try, to see what Faulkner was like before he became the guardian of Yoknapatawpha County and perhaps the greatest of all American novelists.
2015 Pulitzer Award Winners & Nominees
The Pulitzer Prize winners for 2015 were announced this week. While the journalism awards are probably the most well-known, the Pulitzer board also honors works of Fiction, Nonfiction, Biography, and more each year, many of which we have available for checkout in the Library's collection. Catch up on some Pulitzer Prize-winning reading!
2015 Pulitzer Winners
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Anthony Doerr, author of About Grace and Four Seasons in Rome, tells the story of a blind French girl and an orphaned German boy whose stories intertwine and finally converge in Nazi-occupied France during World War II, in this year's winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert
In the category of General Nonfiction, Elizabeth Kolbert took top honors, for her work on how man-made climate change and and the advancement of our civilization is triggering the next major mass extinction of species on Earth.
Kolbert is one of today's leading journalists, writing on environmental issues for The New Yorker Magazine.
Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People by Elizabeth A. Fenn
The Mandan Indians of the North American Plains were once a dominant culture in the region, residing along the banks of the Missouri River, trading with Europeans, and aiding the Lewis and Clark expedition through the winter of 1804/1805. But Small Pox and warfare took their toll on the culture. Elizabeth Fenn, in her Pulitzer-winning History, pieces back together the history of the Mandan, through intense and in-depth research from a surprisingly wide range of sources.
This Biography from David Kertzer traces the sometimes-secret and complex connections between Pope Pius XI and Benito Mussolini in the 1920s and 30s, which aided the rise the Fascism in Italy and advancement of Hilter, connections that the Pope would come to regret in the final moments of his life. Kertzer has created a strong narrative work, directly from records in the Vatican's archives.
2015 Pulitzer Finalists
Many of this year's Pulitzer finalists for Fiction, Biography, and General Nonfiction and are also available for checkout from our collection. These titles may not have taken the top prize, but they are still thought-provoking books well worth a read! (Book summaries below from pulitzer.org)
Let Me Be Frank With You by Richard Ford
“An unflinching series of narratives, set in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, insightfully portraying a society in decline.”
The Moor's Account by Laila Lalami
“A creative narrative of the ill-fated 16th Century Spanish expedition to Florida, compassionately imagined out of the gaps and silences of history.”
Lovely, Dark, Deep by Joyce Carol Oates
“A rich collection of stories told from many rungs of the social ladder and distinguished by their intelligence, language and technique.”
Empire of Cotton: A Global History by Sven Beckert
“A work of staggering scholarship arguing that slavery was crucial to the dynamism of the industrial revolution.”
Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism by Thomas Brothers
“The masterfully researched second volume of a life of the musical pioneer, effectively showing him in the many milieus where he lived and worked in the 1920s and 1930s.”
No Good Men Among the Living by Anand Gopal
“A remarkable work of nonfiction storytelling that exposes the cascade of blunders that doomed America’s misbegotten intervention in Afghanistan.”
Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos
“The story of a vast country and society in the grip of transformation, calmly surveyed, smartly reported and portrayed with exacting strokes.”
Which author would win in a (literary) fight?
That’s the question you get to help answer during Bareknuckle Books, our Author Cage Match - “Paperweight” Division. Vote for your choice of author in each round April 13-17, and those winners will advance until we have our 2015 Bareknuckle Books Champion!
Who are the authors? And what’s with the “fighting?”
Glad you asked! We chose some of our favorite authors, living or dead. And everyone loves a competition, so we thought it would be fun to see which you think are the best.
Authors will be paired up, and you vote to decide who wins. (Whether they’re competing for the title of best author, or who would actually win in a knock-down, drag-out fight is up to you...)
We have a winner! Thank you everyone who played Bareknuckle Books. After many rounds, our victor is MAYA ANGELOU! Click here for more information on how each fight turned out.
And now, the competitors:
JANE AUSTEN vs. CHARLOTTE BRONTE
ZORA NEALE HURSTON vs. MARK TWAIN
MAYA ANGELOU vs. SYLVIA PLATH
STEPHEN KING vs. JOE HILL
STAN LEE vs. ALAN MOORE
SAPPHO vs. HOMER
May the best writer win!
How do I vote?
Visit kclibrary.org/bareknucklebooks Monday, April 13, through Friday, April 17, and choose your victors. There will be new matches every day, and the winning authors will advance to the next rounds until we have a champion! Half of our authors will battle it out on Monday, the other half on Tuesday. After that, it’s winner-take-all as the previous days’ victors are pitted against each other until only one is left standing.
What’s in it for me?
Bragging rights! Also, it’s fun. (But don’t worry; there will also be a random drawing for some fun Library swag. Full contest information is below.)
Awesome! What can I do?
Vote! Tell your friends! Share #BareknuckleBooks on social media! Start arguments in bars over whether Ernest Hemingway had bigger <insert euphemism here> than Hunter S. Thompson! (Just know that we won’t be there to help bail you out afterward… Libraries are underfunded as is.)
Remember to visit kclibrary.org/bareknucklebooks every day this week to choose your victors, and have fun!
To show our appreciation for participating in Bareknuckle Books, we are also hosting a random drawing for prizes. All you need to do is submit your name & email at kclibrary.org/bareknucklebooks and you will be entered into the raffle. (Heck, you don’t even have to vote in Bareknuckle Books to enter the drawing. That’s how much we like you!) The winners will be chosen at random and announced on April 20, 2015. Winners will be contacted via email, and their names published on the Library’s website.
One Grand Prize:
* One copy of a book written by the Bareknuckle Books “champion”, one Kansas City Public Library canvas tote bag, and two tumbler glasses from the Library’s recent Love on the Rocks reading program.
Two Runner-up prizes:
* One Kansas City Public Library canvas tote bag.
* One signed book by a previous Library presenter. (There have been some awesome authors who have come to speak at the Library over the years. We found some of their signed books that we had squirreled away, so why not give one away?)
Anyone is welcome to enter the drawing, but prizes must be picked up from one of our Kansas City Public Library locations.
With $100,000 Grant, Library to Launch Financial Literacy Program
The Kansas City Public Library has received a $100,000 grant to help launch a new, two-year program aimed at improving financial literacy.
The Library will partner with the Women’s Employment Network and other local agencies to provide a range of services—workshops, web resources, and individual financial coaching—to residents who are looking to enhance their money-managing skills but may lack access to reliable, unbiased education opportunities and resources. The program will be open to anyone but specifically target:
The services—expected to be available by summer—are projected to reach hundreds of residents in areas of need served by the Library’s L.H. Bluford Branch, and Southeast Branch, in addition to North-East.
“Our goal,” says project principal Eric Petersen of the Library’s H&R Block Business and Career Center, “is to provide basic information and services to help people begin to improve their financial outlook.”
The program is made possible by a grant from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s Investor Education Foundation through the Smart investing@your library initiative, a partnership with the American Library Association. The Kansas City Public Library is one of 21 grant recipients nationwide in 2014.
The Library will make financial literacy resources available on its website and in its print collection. Workshops, held at the three branches and at area community centers, social services agencies, and religious facilities, will cover banking, budgeting, credit management, and protection against identity theft. The Women’s Employment Network and other Financial Opportunity Centers will offer individual sessions with a financial coach.
Petersen and Mary Olive Thompson, who is assisting in coordinating the program as the Library’s director of outreach and community engagement, expect more than 450 people to take advantage of the workshops and 150 or more to engage in the one-on-one coaching sessions.
Petersen sees the two-year program as a natural extension of the Block Center’s personal finance offerings. The Center, housed in the downtown Central Library, 14 W. 10th St., also targets career development, entrepreneurship, and nonprofit development.
“With workshops in the three branches, this helps maintain the Block Center’s identity as a system-wide service,” says Petersen, who co-wrote the grant with the Central Library’s youth services manager, Jamie Mayo.
Partnering on the financial literacy program with the Library and the Women’s Employment Network are the Kansas City chapter of Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC); Guadalupe Centers, Inc.; the Somali Center of Kansas City; and Arts Tech.
The Washington, D.C.-based Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is the largest non-governmental regulator of securities firms doing business in the U.S. Now in its eighth year, the Smart investing@your library program has awarded a total of $10 million to public libraries, community college libraries, and library networks across the country.
The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry
April is National Poetry Month, and I like to take time around April reading a lot of poetry. When I thought to devote my blog postings for the library during 2015 to books written during, or about World War I, one of the first things I did was make sure that there were volumes of poetry available.
Of course, there are several books of poetry written during the war, or written afterwards which reflect the experience of the war. Some of the poets associated with World War I are among the greatest of the 20th century: Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, Edmund Blunden, Isaac Rosenberg, to name a few. Owen, Rosenberg and Charles Hamilton Sorley died during the war, and their loss was seen as especially tragic. Sorley's death happened early in the war, just as his poetic career was beginning, while Owen tragically died a week before the armistice, having returned to France to fight, though he might very well have remained in Britain until the war’s official end.
In the trenches, poetry was encouraged as a pastime. Poems were generally short pieces, and it was possible for one to write poetry in short concentrated bursts. And it was very portable, in a way that novels were not.
Poetry, as an art form, tends towards personal reflection, and the poets in this collection had a lot on which to reflect. Many had gone to elite schools where they received a rigorous classical education, which education tended toward idealism and especially the idealism of patriotism and fighting the good fight. But World War I was unlike any war that had preceded it. In addition, there had been general peace in Europe and the Mediterranean for 40 some years, and there was a hope and belief that such stability would be maintained.
In the 40 years since the Franco-Prussian War, the last great war in Europe, there had been tremendous advances in the weaponry of war, and in the manufacture of weapons. Weapons were much more powerful, and produced at a greater rate. Advances in science had also increased the murderous efficiency of warriors. There was now poison gas with which to contend, and artillery shells and bombs that could do tremendous damage. Wars were no longer fought solely between armies on the battlefield, but often included tremendous collateral damage among the civilian population. Though in its infancy, aerial warfare contributed to the spreading of the devastation.
So the war that the idealistic young men entered so eagerly was not the war they experienced. The discrepancy between the rhetoric and the reality is reflected again and again in many of the poems. Rudyard Kipling was a very vocal supporter of the war, but after his son died in the war, he became just as vocal a critic, as his poem “Gethsemane” demonstrates. Siegfried Sassoon was a decorated officer in the war, but came to hate it. He even sent an open letter to his commanders, “Finished with the War: a Soldier’s Declaration,” which publication almost got this decorated officer court-martialed. Instead, his commanders declared that he was suffering from shellshock (what PTSD was called in WWI) and sent him to spend the final year in a psychiatric hospital in England. While there, he had a tremendous influence in other poets and war opponents, such as Wilfred Owen.
There is a lot to be said for immersing oneself in the poetic output of a poet like Sassoon, or like Owen, Blunden, or Rosenberg. But to make a good start of reading verse profoundly affected by the news of its day, a book such as The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry has a lot to recommend it. What it lacks in the breadth of works by a single poet, it makes up in providing a broad overview of the verse of the time. Though most of the poems take a hard cynical look at the jingoism that resulted in so many young men dying or ruined by war, there are some voices here of poets who retained a certain idealistic view of the war (as, for instance, Edward Thomas’ “This is No Case of Petty Right and Wrong”).
Silkin’s selection of poems is primarily that from the British Expeditionary Forces, as one might expect for an English collection. He does include poems from the Germans, Russian, French and Italian in translation; there are a few poems from the US as well, including one by Edna St. Vincent Millay called “Conscientious Objector,” in which the speaker declares “I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death,” expressing opposition to the war from a more personal position. And Silkin’s excellent introduction to the poems, the poets and the time, is the best reason for choosing this particular collection of verse.
In addition to this collection of poems, I would recommend a visit to a site like poets.org or poetryfoundation.org and find poems by Sassoon, Owen, Blunden, Rosenberg, and Sorley. You can also find me on YouTube during April reading poems by World War I poets as my way of celebrating National Poetry Month 2015.
Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free by Cory Doctorow
Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age by Cory Doctorow is, as one would expect, an incisive and lively exploration of the issues surrounding copyright and enforcement in the Internet Age.
Doctorow is established as an outspoken critic of the various methods that media corporations use to try and enforce their interpretation of copyright laws on the Internet: digital locks, DRM efforts, automated “Notice and Takedown” practices, etc. He takes on each of these methods and explains clearly what they’re intended to accomplish, why they fail, and the damage they do to creative workers and Internet users in general.
Some of these methods involve pretty esoteric computer science and Doctorow is the best in the business at translating the argot of technology into terms anyone can understand.
Most importantly, he explains why arguments over copyright in the Internet Age are necessarily about more than just intellectual property rights. In less technological times, copyright laws really only affected commercial producers. But given how the Internet itself works—the core structure of this information-sharing system—attempts to strictly enforce copyright online have a powerful impact on every Internet user in all of our online interactions, even when no copyright infringement occurs, when interactions involve no copyrighted materials at all. On the Internet, you can’t separate the mechanisms that have been built to enforce copyright from unrelated online interactions. That type of differentiation is impossible.
As a consequence, the tools that commercial media conglomerates use to try and protect their intellectual property online undermine the safety and security of the Internet itself. These tools open doors for malicious hackers and viruses. They enable governments and other entities to spy on Internet users regardless of whether or not a user is doing anything that infringes copyright.
This is a facet of our current copyright arguments that too many people don’t understand. Doctorow puts it front-and-center and clearly identifies the potential for disaster.
Copyright can’t be handled in the online world of the Internet Age according to the same rules that governed it in the analog world. Reality has changed and copyright needs to change accordingly, to work in ways that don’t make us all unsafe, that don’t punish innocent people indiscriminately. The Internet is too important to allow media companies to control it, just to try and prevent a handful of people from stealing a movie or two.
So far, attempts to reform copyright law to apply it to the Internet have only benefited the middle men who profit from the distribution of creative works. Copyright no longer serves the interests of either the creators or the audience.
This struggle for reform isn’t without hope, as Doctorow points out. There are other models for handling copyright online that show promise.
Historically, every time new technology came along to supplant the dominant paradigm, those who profited the most from the old ways have resisted and attempted to stifle innovation. This isn’t the first time those in power have tried to use copyright laws to prevent change. These attempts have never succeeded.
Indiscriminate, draconian copyright enforcement—the primary weapon wielded by old guard media companies to resist technological change—probably won’t succeed this time around, either.
The question is: how much damage will they do to the rest of us in the meantime?
About the Author
John Keogh is the Digital User Specialist for the Digital Branch of the Kansas City Public Library. He grew up in Fargo, ND, (too small) and lived in Chicago for several years (too big) before he moved to Kansas City. He calls KC his "Goldilocks town" because it's just right.
Tarzan the Untamed by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Tarzan the Untamed from 1920 is the seventh Tarzan book written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Burroughs is most famous for his novels about Tarzan of the Apes—24 novels written and published between 1912 and 1936 in all. As all you readers likely know, Tarzan is a British lord, Lord Greystoke, whose parents died in Africa when he was a baby and he was raised by apes, hence his jungle title Tarmangani, “the Great White Ape.”
Most people also know of his encounter with Jane Porter in the first book, Tarzan of the Apes, and their eventual marriage. Even if you haven’t read any of the books (Which you should do, as they are well-written adventure novels. Burroughs has a very readable style.), you’ve likely seen Tarzan on the screen played by Johnny Weissmuller or Buster Crabbe or one of the many others. There’s even a 1918 silent film starring by Elmo Lincoln.
But, if you’ve only seen the films, you’ve only seen Tarzan as the “noble savage.” Tarzan’s vocabulary and grammar is pretty limited in those films; in the 1981 film version of the Tarzan story, Tarzan, the Ape Man, the title character, played by hunky Miles O’Keefe, has no lines at all. In the books, he is quite capable in the civilized world – in England, he can be seen in the best restaurants and clubs, even if he prefers the brutal honesty of the animal kingdom to the two-faced world of western civilization.
In this particular novel, Tarzan is away from his Kenyan estate, when the novel starts, having spent some time in England recently, even taking his place in the House of Lords – he is, after all, Lord Greystoke. When a British officer meets him in this novel, he is quite surprised at Lord Greystoke’s loin cloth, as he had last seen him in London at an event where his Lordship was dressed in the white tie and tails appropriate for dinner.
This novel is quite unique in the Tarzan canon as it is the only one that makes reference to the Great War. The novel, though written in 1919 and published in book form in 1920, is set in 1914. When the novel begins, Lady Jane and Tarzan’s household do not yet know that war has broken out between Germany and England, which ignorance a German strike force takes advantage of, when they come from Tanzania to Tarzan’s sprawling estate in Kenya. Lady Jane, unaware that a state of war exists between Britain and Germany, welcomes the German officer and his men into her house. When Tarzan arrives (is rushing home when we first see him, as he knows that war has been declared), he finds the servants dead, including Wasimbu, his warrior friend, who was serving as a bodyguard for Jane. And he finds a woman dead whom he takes to be Jane.
Convinced that the Germans have attacked and killed his wife, his friend, and his servants, and destroyed much of his estate, Tarzan returns to the jungle where he stalks the Germans he feels are responsible. His first victim, a German officer whom he throws to a lion Tarzan has trapped, was not involved in the attack – it was his brother who led the raid. One might expect Tarzan to feel some regret, seeing as he got the wrong man. Instead, Tarzan, in his distracted state, cares nothing about whether the Germans caught and killed had been part of the attack on his home, as he feels all Germans are responsible for the barbaric acts of any German. And though the German attack on Tarzan’s home was brutal, Tarzan’s own brutalities do not evoke any such condemnation from the author.
The book is full of the propaganda one would expect in a British novel written during the war. But the book was not written during the war. It wasn’t even started until after the war. And Edgar Rice Burroughs was an American author, and America’s involvement in the war was relatively short – only the final year and a half of the war. At the war’s conclusion, the negative propaganda ceased. Even in England, the level of animosity had dropped quite a bit by 1920. So, what was Burrough’s point in writing and publishing this work? Besides, from a practical point of view, this novel made no sense. Burrough’s Tarzan books were very popular in Germany. In fact, their popularity in Germany was the highest in Europe. When this book came out, casting the whole German nation as the monstrous Hun, it did not play well in Germany. And the German readers who had thrilled to Tarzan’s adventures in the first six books stopped buying, and Burroughs lost a big market.
I must warn you that the violence in the book, which is never overly explicit, is still fairly shocking in what would have been books for pre-teens and teens, especially in the 1920s. In many ways, Tarzan in the book is more Wolverine than Lord Greystoke – following a strict ethical code, but not one that matches with the everyday morality of civilization. Also Burroughs was very much a man of his time, and so, while Wasimbu, a recurring character killed in this book, is a noble warrior whom Tarzan loves like a brother, most of the African tribesmen are presented in the stereotypes typical of the time. Those Africans who are allied to the Germans come in for the worst treatment.
Tarzan the Untamed is in the public domain in the United States, so eBook and digital Audiobook copies of the novel are available for download from Project Gutenberg, and also available for check out from Library resources such as hoopla and the EBSCOhost eBook Collection.
Shakespeare's First Folio is coming to the Library
The Kansas City Public Library has been selected as the Missouri stop for the Folger Shakespeare Library’s 2016 national tour First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare, marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.
Only 233 copies exist of the First Folio—the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays published in 1623—and we’re beyond excited to have the opportunity to exhibit one at our Central Library in downtown Kansas City.
Eighteen First Folio copies will circulate among the exhibit locations. They're among 233 copies of the book known to exist today, less than a third of the 750 thought to have been printed originally in 1623. A single exhibit location was selected in each state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Kansas State University was named in Kansas.
Published seven years after Shakespeare's death, the First Folio was the first compilation of his plays. Eighteen of the works, including Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night, The Tempest, Antony and Cleopatra, The Comedy of Errors, and As You Like It, had never appeared previously in print and otherwise would have been lost.
When the First Folio arrives in Kansas City, its pages will be opened to the most quoted line in the world: "to be or not to be" from Hamlet. Accompanying the 900-page book will be a multi-panel exhibition exploring the significance of Shakespeare, then and now, with additional digital content and interactive activities.
The Kansas City Public Library will make the four-week exhibit the centerpiece of a months-long celebration of Shakespeare, partnering with local and national scholars and an array of area institutions and organizations in offering speaking presentations, stage productions, film screenings and discussions, workshops, and other activities for children and adults.
The Kansas City Public Library will be displaying the First Folio June 6 - June 28, 2016. Other dates and locations for the 2016 exhibit are available here. More information on the exhibit available in our press release.
This exhibit has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor and by the generous support of Google.org and Vinton and Sigrid Cerf.
Partnering with the Kansas City Public Library in bringing First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare to Kansas City are the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, the University of Missouri-Kansas City's Department of Theatre and Department of English Language and Literature, the Kansas City branch of the English-Speaking Union, the Missouri Humanities Council, and KCUR-FM.