Fun Reads for Friday: Rural Libraries (and Cake Pan Collections), NBCC Award Winners,Yrsa Sigurðardóttir in New York

A grab bag of events, award announcements, and more today:

Photo by Tina King at The Good Midwest Life

“Morality and Cake Pans: The Rural Library”
by Marcel LaFlamme, via The Daily Yonder

A very interesting review of a recently-published book by library historian Wayne A. Wiegand called Main Street Public Library: Community Places and Reading Spaces in the Rural Heartland, 1876-1956. (The review title, I should note, alludes to a “lending collection of cake and muffin pans at the public library in Atkinson, NE,” which is pictured with the review (and above) but not mentioned, so far as I can tell, in the book itself.)

Main Street Library sounds fascinating, as does some of the methodology that Wiegand employed in his research. From the review:

Wayne Wiegand’s new book delves into the histories of four small-town libraries in the American Midwest. Although 80% of public library systems today serve populations of less than 25,000, Wiegand argues that “we know little about the overall history of the small-town public library.” Each of the four libraries that Wiegand considers was established by transplants from the East, first on a subscription basis for the merchant and professional classes and then, with tax support, for the town at large. Three of them received funds from Andrew Carnegie to erect a library building. And each, despite the rhetoric that emerged later about libraries as “arsenals of democracy,” was first imagined as a source of moral uplift in a culturally barren region aspiring to respectability.

In addition to more conventional sources like meeting minutes and newspaper clippings, Wiegand makes imaginative use of the accession books in which his four libraries recorded the new titles they bought. (An army of work-study students entered the records into a database, which Wiegand has generously made available for other researchers to mine themselves.) Examining how the four collections changed over time leads Wiegand to some interesting comparisons and speculations: were summer tourists in Lexington, Michigan, the reason that the Charles H. Moore Library was the only one of the four to subscribe to Cosmopolitan? Why did the Bryant Library in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, collect Hardy Boys and Tom Swift novels, only to spurn the Bobbsey Twins?”

The review also included the supremely heartening factoid that “the United States presently has more public libraries in operation than it does McDonald’s restaurants,” which: who knew? (Yay!)

The NBCC Award Winners for Publishing Year 2011
via Critical Mass

At an award ceremony last night, the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) announced this year’s award winners in fiction, nonfiction, biography, poetry, autobiography, and criticism. I hadn’t read many of the nominees this year, but was rooting for either David Bellos’ Is That a Fish in Your Ear  or Dubravka Ugresic’s Karaoke Culture in the criticism category. Neither won, but I have to admit that the Geoff Dyer book that took the prize is actually on my bookshelf at home, and seems an admirable winner. Both Dyer’s book and the fiction winner looked particularly interesting to me, so here’s a little info on both (descriptions from the publishers’ websites):

  • Fiction: Edith Pearlman, Binocular Vision

    “…these 21 vintage selected stories and 13 scintillating new ones take us around the world, from Jerusalem to Central America, from tsarist Russia to London during the Blitz, from central Europe to Manhattan, and from the Maine coast to Godolphin, Massachusetts, a fictional suburb of Boston. These charged locales, and the lives of the endlessly varied characters within them, are evoked with a tenderness and incisiveness found in only our most observant seers.”

  • Criticism: Geoff Dyer: Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews

 “Otherwise Known as the Human Condition collects twenty-five years of essays, reviews, and misadventures. Here he is pursuing the shadow of Camus in Algeria and remembering life on the dole in Brixton in the 1980s; reflecting on Richard Avedon and Ruth Orkin, on the sculptor Zadkine and the saxophonist David Murray (in the same essay), on his heroes Rebecca West and Ryszard Kapuscinski, on haute couture and sex in hotels. Whatever he writes about, his responses never fail to surprise. For Dyer there is no division between the reflective work of the critic and the novelist’s commitment to lived experience: they are mutually illuminating ways to sharpen our perceptions. His is the rare body of work that manages to both frame our world and enlarge it.”

Upcoming Event at Scandinavia House: Yrsa Sigurðardóttir in Conversation with Elizabeth Hand

A good opportunity for New York-based Nordic crime aficionados, particularly because author conversations are, I find, often more ‘productive’ than a straight Q&A. Yrsa (Last Rituals; My Soul to Take) is in New York on March 27.

“Icelandic crime author Yrsa Sigurðardóttir joins American writer Elizabeth Hand in a conversation about their work, the current Scandinavian crime fiction renaissance, what drew them to the genre, and ideas for future Iceland-related crime stories.”

And lastly:

Chad Post over at Three Percent recently posted about a new transdisciplinary journal called Translation. The biannual journal is “published by St. Jerome Publishing in Manchester and Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura in Rome.” From the journal’s site:

With this publication, the editors present the new international peer-reviewed journal translation, which from January 2012 will be published twice a year. The journal—a collaborative initiative of the Nida School of Translation Studies—takes as its main mission the collection and representation of the ways in which translation as a fundamental element of culture transforms our contemporary world. Our ambition is to create a new forum for the discussion of translation, offering an open space for debate and reflection on what we call post-translation studies, moving beyond disciplinary boundaries towards wider transdisciplinary discourses on the translational nature of societies which are increasingly hybrid, diasporic, border-crossing, intercultural, multilingual, and global.

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