Friday, September 28, 2012

Library Architecture + Design by Manuela Roth

I didn't know what to expect when I put in an online request for this book from my library. I'm taking a seminar on the history of library architecture this fall and in true nerd fashion decided to look at a few books on the subject prior to the first class. All of the pictures below are from the book to give you an idea of the wide variety of architecture included. I've also provided links to most of the libraries I mention or to architectural sites about the library if you'd like to check them out in more detail.

This is a hefty coffee table book that features exterior and interior color photographs and floor plans of 69 libraries from around the world. All of the featured libraries were completed or renovated within the last decade. A few libraries were represented by conceptual drawings because they were under construction at the time the book was published. A few of these include the public library nicknamed Book Mountain in Spijkenisse, The Netherlands and the Kazakhstan National Library in Astana.

Kazakhstan National Library

Some of the libraries are completely new structures and others are renovations and/or additions to existing buildings. I think these are the most interesting. While there is a need to harmonize new technology within traditionally book dominated library interiors and therefore a trend to do so, there seems to be no trend at all to harmonize new additions with older structures. Indeed, disharmony seems to be in fashion.

A mild example of this dissonance is The Bloor/Gladstone Branch Library in Toronto, Canada. The picture shows the old brick library and its new glass addition standing proudly side-by-side like two siblings that have absolutely nothing in common, but are happy to be members of the same family. They're different in material, but similar enough in that they are big, boxy, somewhat imposing buildings. 

Other new library additions look radically different from their older siblings and in some cases look like the first born of a completely new species of building. Libraries fitting this pattern include the Grosuplje Library in Slovenia, the Nembro Library in Italy, and the Luckenwalde Library in Germany. 

Luckenwalde Library
The Luckenwalde library is a decommissioned railroad station that's been renovated into a library. Manuela Roth had this to say about the shiny, gold addition that houses the children & youth spaces:

"The listed historic building received a cabinet like annex spatially tilted on two axes, locating the former train station in a new urban context. The striking facade design with the surface of shimmering gold scales underscores this urban developmental" tone (293).
The main library in Graz, Austria is one of my favorites because I'm a fan of older architecture. It's housed within a former residential and office building called the Zanklhof which was built in 1908. Click here to go to the library's website and see some interior pictures. I like how they've maintained the traditional exterior facade and perhaps some of highlights of the original interior, but have completely redesigned the interior to fit the needs of the library and the comfort of the patrons.


Some libraries, such as the Bucerius Law School Library in Hamburg, Germany, are photographed from above so you can see them within their surrounding landscape. The Bucerius is the building below that looks a bit like a box of crayons to me. Can you make it out?

Bucerius Law School Library
There's even a private library featured. The Scholar's Library in Olive Bridge, NY is the library of Professor Carol Gluck. It's a Platonic cube. The first floor contains stacks and the second floor is workspace. 

The Scholar's Library
The Scholar's Library floor plan.
The prize for the most unusual looking library goes to the Espana Library in Medellin, Colombia which looks like three huge rocks on a hill. Please click here to seem some great pictures of this unique structure as well as written descriptions and floor plans. 

Overall, this is a fascinating and at times awe-inspiring book to look through if you're interested in library architectural trends. Manuela Roth must have had a challenging but exciting time gathering this information and putting it all together.

Library Architecture + Design
Manuela Roth
Braun, November 2010
Source: the library

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Readers' Advisory Guide to HORROR (2nd ed) by Becky Siegel Spratford

I came across this book on the new books display at the LaGrange (IL) Library. As a kid I loved to read, but it was seeing DRACULA in the Scholastic catalog when I was in middle school that really fired up my desire to seek out specific types of books on my own. I'll never forget seeing that book listed and thinking, "Oh, wow! They made a book out of Dracula!" Bram Stoker rolled over in his grave, but my parents were more than happy to support my interest in reading and bought it for me. Dracula eventually lead me to Stephen King who kept me reading throughout high school. King is the reason my high school algebra teacher, Mr. Parker, called my parents and told them to tell me to stop reading novels while he lectured.

Anyway, horror is what got me into reading and it still has a pull on me although I don't read it as much as I used to. For one, it's been hard to sift out the real horror from all the paranormal novels that have exploded on the scene over the last ten years and I was excited to see Spratford tackle this issue. I've tried to read some of these paranormal books and while they might be entertaining they didn't have the bite that I was looking for. I always say I like my vampires to be mean and nasty, rather than caring and romantic.

Chapter One offers a history of horror and Chapter Two is about the appeal of horror. She opens this chapter with a quote from Douglas Winter:

Horror is not a genre like mystery or science fiction or the western. It is not a kind of fiction meant to be confined to the ghetto of a special shelf in libraries and book stores. Horror is an emotion.
Spratford builds on the idea of horror as an emotion and offers this definition of horror:
Horror is a story in which the author manipulates the reader's emotions by introducing situations in which unexplainable phenomena and unearthly creatures threaten the protagonists and provoke terror in the reader (14).
I dig this definition. It helps me clarifies why I don't like slasher films and why novels that go into detail about how serial killers murder their victims have no appeal for me. Serial killers are all too earthly.

Then Spratford gets into what is not horror fiction. In the case of paranormal fiction she takes a distinction made by Neil Hollands that in horror novels the paranormal (other worldly) characters are less sympathetic, they're the bad guys who threaten the heroes. In paranormal fiction, on the other hand, the other worldly characters are "not only sympathetic, they are quite often the heroes of the story themselves" (16).

All this seems so obvious now, but I made the mistake of thinking paranormal was horror. To be honest, I thought horror was simply going soft. Perhaps having worked at Borders confused me: looking back it seemed we shelved all the paranormal stuff in horror (unless it was heavily romantic) and some of the good horror that came out was shelved in the literature section (like Fangland by John Marks). Maybe it just takes time for the smoke to clear and the dust to settle after an explosion as big as the interest in paranormal fiction has been.

The Readers' Advisory Guide to HORROR is full of great recommendations.
Each chapter has a list of recommended titles with a brief paragraph description of the book. Just looking at the table of contents will give you an idea of the span of horror that's covered:

1. A Brief History of Horror: How the Past Haunts the Present

2. The Appeal of Horror: Feel the Fear, Find the Readers
3. Horror 101: A Crash Course in Today's Tales of Terror (Joe Hill leads the pack)
4. The Classics: Time-Tested Tales of Terror
5. Ghosts and Haunted Houses: Home, Scream Home
6. Vampires: Books with Bite (Fangland is included, which immediately made me trust Spratford, but then she also included Dracula: The Un-Dead by Dacre Stoker which gave me pause)
7. Zombies: Follow the Walking Dead
8. Shape-Shifters: Nature Morphs into Something Terrifying
9. Monsters and Ancient Evil: Cthulhu Comes Calling
10. Witches and the Occult: Double, Double, Toil and Trouble
11. Satan and Demonic Possession: The Devil Inside
12. Comic Horror: Laughing in the Face of Fear
13. Moving Beyond the Haunted House: Whole Collection Options for Horror Readers (in this chapter psychological suspense, dark fantasy, supernatural thrillers, nonfiction, graphic novels, and audiobooks, film and TV series titles are recommended. Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger made it into this chapter!)
14. Sowing the Seeds of Fear: Horror Resources and Marketing (an assortment of books & websites to check out. If you're looking for recommendations for kids/teens check out

Keep in mind that this book is part of a series written for librarians who are Readers Advisers so some of the content won't be of interest to non-librarians, but I think most general readers looking to dip into horror will find solid recommendations laid out in a well-organized manner. Long-time horror fans will delight in and bicker over some of Spratford's picks, but they, too, will perhaps find some recommendations that they haven't yet read. Book sellers would benefit from checking out this book and then perhaps ordering in a few of the titles they don't currently carry as the Halloween reading season is right around the corner.

Check out Spratford's blog, RA for All: Horror. In October she'll be running a special 31 Days of Horror. And don't forget about Neil Gaiman's All Hallow's Read.

Happy reading. BWAHAHA!

The Reader's Advisory Guide to Horrror, Second Edition
Becky Siegel Spratford
American Library Association, 2012
Source: library

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Classics Club

Have you heard about what all the cool kids in The Classics Club are doing? They're making the classics an integral part of their lives by choosing to read and blog about 50+ classics over a five year time period. I'm not claiming to be cool, but I do want to read more classics, so I'm in!

The process of creating your own reading list is a wonderful challenge in itself. I greatly enjoyed forming my own reading lists in graduate school and for the courses I used to teach. Creating a focused and limited reading lists helps you to refine your thinking about a topic, genre, or time period, as well as what's important to you and why.

In the process of putting together my list of classics I focused on books I have not yet read, although there are a few that I started in the past and didn't finished. These are the books that whenever I come across them I think, "I really want to read that already." I tried to keep the list to 100 books published before 1970, but there are some at the end published after 1970 that I just couldn't resist.  

Here's my list of 100 classics that I plan to read by October 2017:

  1. On The Good Life, Cicero, BCE
  2. The Divine Comedy, Dante, 1318
  3. The Decameron, Boccaccio, 1351
  4. Don Quixote, Cervantes, 1605
  5. Les Liaisons Dangereuses, De Laclos, 1782
  6. The Monk, Lewis, 1796
  7. Sense and Sensibility, Austen, 1811
  8. Pride and Prejudice, Austen, 1813
  9. Ivanhoe, Scott, 1819
  10. The Red and the Black, Stendhal,1830
  11. The Count of Monte Cristo, Dumas, 1844
  12. Wuthering Heights, Bronte, 1847
  13. The House of the Seven Gables, Hawthorne, 1851
  14. Bartleby, the Scrivener, Melville, 1853
  15. The Woman in White, Collins, 1859
  16. Les Miserables, Hugo, 1862
  17. War and Peace, Tolstoy, 1864
  18. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Carroll, 1865
  19. Crime and Punishment, Dostoyevsky, 1866
  20. Anna Karenina, Tolstoy, 1869
  21. Carmilla, Le Fanu, 1872
  22. Personal Memoirs, Grant, 1885
  23. The Bostonians, James, 1886
  24. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Twain, 1889
  25. The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wilde, 1890
  26. Hunger, Hamsun, 1890
  27. The Canterville Ghost, Wilde, 1891
  28. The Country of the Pointed Firs, Jewett, 1896
  29. The Invisible Man, Wells, 1897
  30. Lord Jim, Conrad, 1899
  31. Kim, Kipling, 1901
  32. The Land of Little Rain, Austin, 1903
  33. The Way of All Flesh, Butler, 1903
  34. A Room with a View, Forster, 1908
  35. The Phantom of the Opera, Leroux, 1910
  36. Maurice, Forster, 1914
  37. The Good Soldier, Ford, 1915
  38. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce, 1916
  39. The Education of Henry Adams, Adams, 1918
  40. Winesburg, Ohio, Anderson, 1919
  41. This Side of Paradise, Fitzgerald, 1920
  42. Three Soldiers, Dos Passos, 1921
  43. So Big, Ferber, 1924
  44. The Magic Mountain, Mann, 1924
  45. Mrs. Dallowy, Woolf, 1925
  46. The Castle, Kafka, 1926
  47. Steppenwolf, Hesse, 1927
  48. To the Lighthouse, Woolf, 1927
  49. Berlin Alexanderplatz, Doblin, 1929
  50. Goodbye to All That, Graves, 1929
  51. As I Lay Dying, Faulkner, 1930
  52. The Maltese Falcon, Hammet, 1930
  53. Little Man, What Now? Fallada, 1932
  54. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Stein, 1933
  55. A Testament of Youth, Brittain, 1933
  56. Tender is the Night, Fitzgerald, 1933
  57. Mary Poppins, Travers, 1934
  58. Rebecca, du Maurier, 1938
  59. The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck, 1939
  60. And Then There Were None, Christie, 1939
  61. Goodbye to Berlin, Isherwood, Christopher, 1939
  62. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, McCullers, 1940
  63. Mythology, Hamilton, 1942
  64. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Smith, 1943
  65. Brideshead Revisted, Waugh, 1944
  66. The Drinker, Fallada, 1944
  67. Animal Farm, Orwell, 1945
  68. Hiroshima, Hersey, 1946
  69. The Diary of a Young Girl, Frank, 1947
  70. The Caine Mutiny, Wouk, 1951
  71. From Here to Eternity, Jones, 1951
  72. The Price of Salt, Highsmith, 1952
  73. Wise Blood, O'Connor, 1952
  74. Lord of the Flies, Golding, 1954
  75. Catch-22, Heller, 1955
  76. Night, Wiesel, 1955
  77. Giovanni's Room, Baldwin, 1956
  78. You're Stepping on my Cloak and Dagger, Hall, 1957
  79. Doctor Zhivago, Pasternak, 1957 
  80. The Ugly American, Lederer, 1958
  81. A Raisin in the Son, Hansberry, 1959
  82. The Tin Drum, Grass, 1959
  83. Revolutionary Road, Yates, 1961
  84. We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Jackson, 1962
  85. Ship of Fools, Porter, 1962
  86. A Moveable Feast, Hemingway, 1964
  87. The Stone Angel, Laurence, 1964
  88. Stoner, Williams, 1965
  89. The Chosen, Potok, 1967
  90. Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut, 1968
  91. The Godfather, Puzo, 1969
  92. The Winds of War, Wouk, 1970
  93. Deliverance, Dickey, 1970
  94. The Killer Angels, Shaara, 1974
  95. The Thorn Birds, McCullough, 1977
  96. Midnight's Children, Rushdie, 1980
  97. Curious Wine, Forrest, 1983
  98. The Handmaid's Tale, Atwood, 1985
  99. Regeneration, Barker, 1991
  100. Suite Francaise, Nemirovsky, 2006 (written in 1930s/40s)
I feel the need to say that the only book I'm not thrilled about reading is the Faulkner. I have never read anything by him, although I've tried. But since I re-read The Great Gatsby this year and have come to have a new appreciation for Fitzgerald, I thought I'd give Faulkner another chance. 
Do you read classics? What are some of your favorites or some that you really want to read already?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Death Comes for the Archbishop: Thoughts & Comments

My Thoughts
I must admit that I was a bit worried about re-reading Death Comes for the Archbishop. The first time I read it I had recently graduated from a Jesuit university where I had immersed myself in spiritual classics like St. Augustine's Confessions and Thomas Merton's Seven Story Mountain. Although I'm not Catholic, I was certainly in a Catholic frame of mind back then. 

But, really, when I stopped to think about it there was nothing to worry about. What I remembered from that first reading had not much to do with Catholicism or the actual work of missionaries, but a deep feeling of the desert. What must it have been like to come from a place with modern conveniences and ancient streets and try to make a life there in that time period? What was it like to travel for days and weeks on horseback across a landscape that wasn't criss-crossed with roads and train tracks?

Since that first reading I've spent a fair amount of time driving around the southwest and have visited some of the old mission churches in New Mexico. It is vast and remains a landscape with dire consequences for those who loose their way and are not properly provisioned. Cather performed an amazing balancing act of presenting the landscape as harsh and unforgiving on one hand, yet full of life, beauty, and harmony on the other. It makes me restless for a road trip.

I know much can be said about the destruction of Native American cultures by European cultures, and Cather was obviously not blind to that nor does she ignore it, but I think she was trying to write a historical novel that was true to the various sensibilities within the cultures at the time that they converged in New Mexico in the mid to late 1800s. It really was an international cast of characters who met there: Native Americans and Mexicans, of course, as well as Yankee traders, military men, French, Canadian, Irish, Scottish, and even traditions from north Africa (Moorish silver), and the East. There's war, religious intolerance, and interpersonal abuse, but also hospitality, love, and tolerance. At times I had a sense that life on earth is all about the world sharing their traditions and customs, that we're all beautifully melded together, but then at other times the cost of greed, religious intolerance, racism, and sexism are undeniable. And that's life, how it really is, right? It's not always "either/or" but more often "both/and."

Death Comes for the Archbishop is historical fiction at its finest: an attempt to present, without condemnation or celebration, the feelings of a certain people from a certain time period, with all their prejudices as well as their hopes and dreams. Cather balances it all with events that either subtly or not so subtly show the consequences of human interaction, whether between two people or two cultures or people acting upon the landscape. What's amazing is how much she packs in. The novel is under 300 pages, but I'm left with the sense of it being more than double that.

Things I've Been Pondering
In the introductory post for Death Comes for the Archbishop, I wrote about how Cather stated that she'd wanted to write something in the style of legend, where each incident in a story is given the same weight. This is in contrast to a dramatic treatment where certain incidents are written up for all they're worth. Think dramatic moments, dramatic climax.

I've been wondering if Cather accomplishes her goal. It seems like she does if you give yourself to the story as you read. That is, not have any expectations or judgements as you read and give yourself up to the mood of the book. I think the mood and the tone are flawless even when she writes of horrific incidents.
However, the stories of Magdalena and Sada made me question whether Cather was successful in her stated goal. These seemed like dramatic moments to me. Or is it just my own moral outrage as a woman over how these two women were treated and then how the priests take credit for rescuing Magdalena when she escaped on her own or how they don't do anything to rescue Sada from her enslavement? I imagine different incidents may have impacted other readers more based on their background and experience.

And then I think of the title: Death Comes for the Archbishop. Talk about a dramatic title! I think it is one of the most dramatic of all her titles. The expectation of death lurks on every page.

So, what do you think? Does Cather achieve her goal as a writer? What would she think of reader-response criticism?

Share Your Thoughts!
What do you think of Death Comes for the Archbishop? Whether this was your first reading or your fifth, I look forward to hearing your thoughts about the book, even if it's just a sentence.
Please leave your comments below, however long or short (or leave a link to your blog post, Goodreads review, etc.). This is an open forum, so please feel free to reply to one another.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Absolutist by John Boyne

I love everything about this novel--the characters, the story, the time period, the writing style. It's an epic World War I story that flows back and forth in time from 1919 to 1916, with a concluding chapter set in 1979. It's a tragic love story unlike any other that I've read, yet it rings so absolutely true. And when I say 'love story' I do not mean 'romance' so don't let that put you off.

Have you heard of absolutists before? I hadn't. I know about conscientious objectors in WWI and other wars, men who refuse to fight but will serve in other capacities. An absolutist was a man who would do nothing to further or support the war effort.

The Absolutist is the story Tristan Sadler, a young man of only 17 when he enlists in the Army in 1916. He'd already been on his own for a year by then and in boot camp, at Aldershot Military Barracks, he's befriended by a slightly older and much more confident young man named Will. 

Although they come from very different backgrounds Tristan and Will share an instant connection. In this scene from boot camp the platoon is standing in formation and Wolf, a conscientious objector, is being ridiculed by the platoon's sergeant in a manner designed to break Wolf and rally the other privates' fighting spirit:
I watch to see how he will react to the abuse and it is then that I lay eyes on Will Brancroft for the first time. He's standing four men down from me and staring at Wolf with an expression of interest upon his face. He doesn't look as if he entirely approves of what the man is doing but he isn't joining in the chorus of disapproval. It's as if he wants to get the mark of a fellow who calls himself a conscientious objector, as if he has heard of such mythical creatures and has always wondered what one might look like in the flesh. I find myself staring directly at him--at Bancroft, I mean, not Wolf--unable to shift my gaze, and he must sense my interest for he turns and catches my eye, looking at me for a moment, then cocking his head a little to the side and smiling. It's strange: I feel as if I already know him, as if we know each other. Confused, I bite my life and look away, waiting for as long as I can force myself to before turning to look at him again, but he's standing straight in line now, focused ahead, and it's almost as if the moment of connection never happened (60-61). 
By the time the men are in the trenches, however, attitudes quickly change:
There's no aggression towards the objectors any more, at least not towards those who have agreed to serve but not to fight. There would probably be a lot less sympathy towards those on the farms or in prison except, of course, we never see any of them. The fact is that everyone who is over here is at risk. It was different back at Aldershot. There we could play politics and stir ourselves up into fits of outraged patriotism. We could make Wolf's life a bloody hell and never feel the worse for it (169).
The Absolutist is not only about the boys fighting the war, it's also about families and friends back home and what they deal with (or refuse to deal with), both during and after the war, and even decades later. Boyne exposes cowards and heroes both in the trenches and at the home front. I am greatly taken in by issues of cowardice and courage, and The Absolutist seems to be showing how they are only truly understood when considered on a continuum. And with a huge dose of context.

In addition to cowardice and courage, there are many other issues masterfully explored or at least touched upon in this story: the nature of family love, family obligations, peer and family pressures, friendship, how people react to change, homophobia, internalized homophobia, women's changing roles, and generational conflict to name a few.

It's left me thinking about how easy it is to point out and condemn others for what's currently a hot-button social or situational transgression, and then completely let one's self off the hook by hiding behind other social conventions that appear, from the outside, anyway, like they're the "right" thing to do, but in actuality are cloaks for one's own cowardice. It's tough being human, but even more so when you're living a lie. 

I can't wait to talk with people who've read this book! It's found a permanent home on my shelves and it's one that I'll read again. Fans of Downton Abbey would probably enjoy this novel.

The Absolutist
John Boyne
Other Press, New York, 2011 (originally published in Great Britain by Doubleday)
Source: bought it at Prairie Lights in Iowa City
Read: because I'd heard good buzz about it and also for War Through the Generations WWI reading challenge.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Lake Forest Book Store

Yesterday afternoon my friend Cayt and I drove up to Lake Forest, IL on an F. Scott Fitzgerald mission. Fitzgerald spent some time in Lake Forest visiting his first love, Ginevra King, who is believed to be the model or inspiration for Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby and other stories. (See Where Daisy Buchanan Lived by Jason Diamond.)

Before driving around to find Fitzgerald related sites, we visited the Lake Forest Book Store. Cayt's been to off-site events within the community that were hosted by the store, but had never visited the store itself. Nor had I. The store opened in 1949 and operated out of a smaller location for 55 years. They've been in their present Market Square location (a former B. Dalton store) since about 2004. Market Square was completed in 1917. Fitzgerald's romance with King lasted from 1915-1917. It's nice to think that he may have walked around the square.

Historic Market Square is known as the “first artfully designed shopping center in the country.” Pictured above is just one corner of the square, the corner with the book store, of course. Read about Market Square here.
680 N. Western Ave, Lake Forest, IL 60045
Who can resist walking past such temptation?
A view from inside the book store looking out at the train station.
A view from the other window.
As you walk into the store a case of mystery novels faces the front door. Just to the right is this aisle that leads past the history section to the cash wrap. At the very end of this aisle is stationary and periodicals.
When you walk into the store and turn toward the left, the wall on this side of the store is literary fiction. The aisle leads into the children's section in the back corner of the store.
A view of the fiction wall from the back of the store.
When you walk into the store and make a hard right, there's this table of Ragdale's "A Novel Affair" authors. There are also two comfy chairs in front of the bay window that faces the train station. Calendars are in this area.
Behind the cash wrap is this colorful painting of Sylvia Beach's Shakespeare & Company. Below the painting is a row of photos that book store regulars have sent of themselves posing in front of the historic Paris book store.
Directly infront of the cash wrap is a table full of new and/or popular paperback fiction. I finally purchased my own copy of Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, a book that I've given to others, but have yet to read myself.
The periodicals section is below a wonderful mural.
The missing title, the 4th best-selling book at Lake Forest Book Store, is Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. A customer purchased their last copy just before I snapped this photo. Happy to see Louise Penny's new release, The Beautiful Mystery, is in their top seven.
The atmosphere of the Lake Forest Book Store was vibrant, to put it mildly, full of excited talk about books and authors. The book sellers (there were three) were very friendly and helpful. They seem to have worked together for a while because there was a lot of finishing one another's sentences and such going on. The registers (they have two) were humming the entire time we were there, which was wonderful to see. Everyone left with a book in hand or a bag full of books. Regulars can even open a tab! This is so obviously a store that knows its regulars and is very involved in the community through book fairs, events, and donations. Check out their website for upcoming events.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Library: Galena Public Library, IL

Galena Public Library
601 South Bench Street
Galena, IL 61036

  • Founded by Benjamin Franklin Felt in 1894
  • First Galena library located in the Post Office
  • Carnegie Grant of $12,500 awarded on January 23, 1907
  • Cornerstone laid on April 27,1907
  • Dedicated on July 4, 1908
  • Style: Greek Revival
  • Architect: Claude & Starch, Madison, WI

To read a detailed history of the Galena Library click here.

 Recent statistics:
  • Serves 4,556 residents
  • Holds 21,325 volumes
  • Circulates 32,758 items annually

The library sits on top of the hill over-looking main street.
Galena Public Library.
Nice detail, how the light pole matches the door and window frames.
I wonder if the original windows were red? This little bit of color greatly enhances the personality of the building.
Notice the benches in front of the lower windows? They provide some perspective on the size of this library.
The corner stone.
Bench in memory of Pat Richardson, November 2005
Bench detail.
Walking into the library. To the right are stairs that lead down to the historical collections.
The first thing my eyes were drawn to are these beautiful bookshelves, or stacks. They're from the 1890s when the library was housed in the Post Office. They are by far the most unique shelves I've come across thus far.
Not only are they beautiful, they also provide good air circulation for the books. And rumor had it that these open stacks discouraged young couples from finding a too secluded corner when they had romance on their minds. Talk about library design!
Shelf detail.
A warm, quiet corner.
Cozy reading area to the left side of the library (as you walk through the front door).
Dedicated to Shirley Conley from the Friends of the Galena Library.
James W. Scott. His obituary appeared in The New York Times on April 15, 1895
Cather on the shelf.
Globe in the study area.
A view of the entrance and circulation desk.
I was so focused on taking pictures that I forgot to look through the view finder. Doh!
Emma Robb (1862-1947) and Anna Felt (1859-1953).
Brief bios of Emma and Anna. I'd like to learn more about these old friends. According to this history of the library Anna was the driving force that shaped the Galena Library.
View of the back of the library.
I enjoy library only parking only signs.

I'll end with a picture taken from inside the library looking out over the Galena River (also known as Fever River). Historic main street is down and to the left. If you're anywhere in the vicinity, Galena is a wonderful town to visit in any season. Downtown Galena is one of the best preserved examples of a prosperous, early 19th century main street in Illinois. Ulysses S. Grant called Galena home for a while and his house is open to the public. Check out Galena's tourism website for details. And if you're in the mood to stay in an 18th century cabin, I recommend Allen's Log Cabin Guest House (we've stayed in the Grant Cabin several times because it's next to a barn and cow pasture. I love watching cows and hearing them moo).

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Death Comes for the Archbishop: Book #9 Intro

Read all 12 of Willa Cather's novels in chronological order of publication, one each month, throughout 2012. For details about the challenge click here.

Our ninth novel of the challenge is Death Comes for the Archbishop. Read it sometime over the next three weeks and we'll start our conversation about it on Monday, September 17th.

About Death Comes for the Archbishop:
  • Cather started writing it in 1925.
  • It was inspired by Cather's love and appreciation for the landscape and people of the Southwest, particularly her earlier travels before there were "automobile roads" and hotels.
  • The big idea for the novel, or framework on which to hang her story, came after reading The Life of the Right Reverend Joseph P. Machebeuf by William J. Howlett, 1908. Click here for the full text of this book.
  • It was serialized in The Forum from January to June 1927.
  • Cather considered this her best novel.
From the Vintage Classics Paperback:

"From the riches of her imagination and sympathy Miss Cather has distilled a very rare piece of literature. It stands out, from the very resistance it opposes to classification." --The New York Times

There is something epic-and almost mythic-about this sparsely beautiful novel by Willa Cather, although the story it tells is that of a single human life, lived simply in the silence of the desert. In 1851 Father Jean Marie Latour comes as the Apostolic Vicar to New Mexico. What he finds is a vast territory of red hills and tortuous arroyos, American by law but Mexican and Indian in custom and belief. In the almost forty years that follow, Latour spreads his faith in the only way he knows-gently, although he must contend with an unforgiving landscape, derelict and sometimes openly rebellious priests, and his own loneliness. Out of these events Cather gives us an indelible vision of life unfolding in a place where time itself seems suspended. 

  • Often available at new bookstores and most used stores tend to have a copy or two. Almost always available at your local library.
  • Support the Willa Cather Foundation and order it online here. Plan ahead and buy a copy of Shadows on the Rock, October's book, while you're at it.
In a letter Cather wrote to the Commonweal answering their request for an account of how she came to write Death Comes for the Archbishop, Cather wrote that she had for a long time wanted to write something in the "style of legend, which is absolutely the reverse of dramatic treatment." In drama certain incidents of a story become the focal point and are written up for all they're worth. In the style Cather was after, all incidents in the story are given equal consideration.

Do you think the style of this novel is radically different from other Cather novels you've read so far, or do you see more stylistic similarities to her prior novels? What about themes?

Is the title of the novel in keeping with Cather's stated intention or is it incongruous?

If you'd like to read Cather's Commonweal letter, it's published in Willa Cather on Writing: Critical Studies on Writing as an Art and it's also reproduced in the notes section of Cather: Later Novels (Library of America).

I'll share my thoughts on reading Death Comes for the Archbishop in a new post on Monday, September 17th. At that time let's start our conversation--simply post your thoughts about the novel in the comments section of that post so we can have everyone's thoughts in once place.

Happy Reading!
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