Sunday, March 31, 2013

Library: Chillicothe, IL Public Library

Chillicothe Public Library
430 N Bradley
Chillicothe, IL 61523

Opened: 2005
Holds 37,213 volumes
Circulates 85,168 items per year
Serves 13,250 residents

For pictures of the old Carnegie library building, which has been re-purposed as a bookstore, click here.

Windows dominate the facade of the library.
The entrance is in the back of the library. Note the drive up widow.
Close up of the drive up window.
The view when you walk in. Lots of natural lighting.
Johnston McCulley, prolific writer and creator of Zorro, is from Chillicothe.
A display case housing Zorro memorabilia.
Walt Disney's Magazine and the iconic American lunch box featuring Zorro..
More recent Zorro Tchotchkes.
Cather on the shelf. Death Comes For the Archbishop stands alone
A patio awaits spring and summer.
Re-purposed card catalog--great idea--I want a coffee table like this!
Plants and a wall mural liven up the kids section.
Mural detail.
More mural.
Who doesn't love Camelot?
The view from kids looking toward circulation.
The library globe.
Many libraries have a globe, but how many have fish? There are two fish in this bowl, the other was camera shy.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Library: Carnegie Building, Chillicothe, IL

Carnegie Library Building
822 N. Second St
Chillicothe, IL 61523

Carnegie grant date: Apr 19, 1915
Grant amount: $10,000 
Opened: 1917
Served as the town library until 2005 
Currently the home of Waxwing Books

For my birthday earlier this month we took a mini road trip to Chillicothe, IL (about 2.5 hrs south-west of Chicago) to visit the town's old Carnegie library that is now home to a bookstore.

A solid building that is still going strong as a bookstore. Waxwing Books is owned by Richard and Wendy Popp.
Carnegie didn't require towns to put his name on the library and preferred that they didn't, yet many towns wanted to pay homage to the man who provided the funds to get their library going.
Close up of the front entrance light fixture.
The glass partition sits on top of an original oak desk/shelving unit that marked off the librarian's space. The glass partition is not original but was added at some point during the library's lifetime and not by the bookstore. The lighter colored desk in the forefront was also added by the library and was presumably the check out desk. Now it is display space and cash wrap.
Close up of the office space. The owner told me they still have the swinging door that closes off the space.
Staircase leading down stairs where there were perhaps once community meeting rooms and offices for library work. Now off limits to the public.
Original oak bookshelves line the interior.

Some seating for browsers.

The new arrivals section caught my eye.

A present to myself found in the new arrivals section, some H.L. Mencken.
U.S. Presidents section
Window and cornice detail.

A view of the back of the library.

Side view. The interior staircase pictured above is through this side door.
The owners of Waxwing Books moved in very soon after the library moved out and have been going strong for eight years now.
Stay tuned for the next post which will feature the new Chillicothe Public Library.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Max Perkins: Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg

I finished reading this biography over a month ago and have been carrying it around like a holy text. I discovered the book years ago in a local thrift store that has some books in a back corner. Since then it's been sitting on my shelves, so I put it on my list for the 2013 TBR Pile Challenge hosted by Adam at Roof Beam Reader.

It was interesting to learn more about Max Perkins beyond some of the legendary stories that I've heard, but what I didn't expect was for the book to have a profound impact on my own writing process.

The strongest aspect of this biography is how A. Scott Berg shows how Perkins worked with writers to mold their writing into compelling stories. "The struggle is part of the process," he wrote to one writer. "Just get it all down on paper and then we'll see what to do with it." This seems like simple advice until you read the sections on Thomas Wolfe and the millions of words that poured out of the man and how Perkins saw the brilliance in those mounds of paper. On the opposite end of the output scale is the agony of Fitzgerald, who quite often could not squeeze out the words.

Writers need to write, but Perkins also encouraged them to rest and take time to reflect upon their writing. Not doing this is, "one of the troubles with writers today, that they cannot get a chance, or cannot endure to do this." This is critical advice today with the temptations of instant publishing for new writers and the publishing cycle/market demand for established writers.

As the subtitle says, Perkins was an Editor of Genius. Of the wide range of writers that Perkins edited--Ring Lardner, Erskine Caldwell, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Taylor Caldwell, Alan Paton, John P. Marquand, James Jones, to name a few--Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Wolfe get the most ink. Fitzgerald is presented as a tragic figure and Hemingway as a pompous ass. It's Thomas Wolfe who steals the show as an earnest, neurotic writer who is willing to listen and learn from Perkins. Woolfe stumbles and falls and unfortunately by the time he started to get back up he fell down for good. I've never read anything by Thomas Woolfe, so it's not like he's a favorite writer of mine, but I actually cried when he died and I usually don't cry over nonfiction. Berg made Woolfe's struggle seem to vivid, so visceral. Indeed, I found myself wanting to high-five all of the writers in this book at one time or another. Their struggle was Perkins' struggle and Berg makes you feel that as a reader.

The sections that focus on Perkins and Wolfe working together and on Wolfe's writing process was very inspiring to me as a novice fiction writer. What Perkins excelled at was seeing the structure (or a better structure) in the works in progress of his authors. Hemingway wasn't open to suggestions (shocker) and Fitzgerald was more often than not blocked (drinking) or pumping out short stories for magazines (desperate for money), but Wolfe's inability to stop writing gave Perkins much material with which to work and Berg is able to use their work together to highlight Perkins' skills.

Berg was only in his 20s while researching and writing this book, which grew out of his senior thesis at Princeton. His focus was on Perkins' work as an editor and it seems like there's room for another biography of Perkins, one that explores the man more than his work. Was Perkins the playful father as glimpsed in the humorous letters to his daughters? Or was he the prick who treated his secretary disrespectfully and may have hated women (other than Elizabeth Lemmon who was put on a pedestal and kept at a physical distance via epistolary correspondence)? No doubt he was both of these things and much more. It would probably make interesting reading to find out.

This is the first and only book length biography of Perkins and it's an outstanding book. It won the National Book Award. Anyone interested in American literary history will be thrilled to read it and fiction writers or those writing book-length works would benefit from reading it as well. Through some sort of literary osmosis writers will--if they hit this book at the right moment in their lives--be infected by Perkins' endless encouragement, understanding, and the examples of how he helped writers. They'll also, perhaps, recoil at the narcissism, neurosis, and alcoholism scattered throughout, but these are issues for writers to be aware of, too, not that Berg presents these issues with such a slant, but the consequences of what happens when self-destructive behavior goes unchecked is evident.

This biography is the basis for a movie that's currently in the works staring Colin Firth as Max Perkins and Michael Fassbender as Thomas Wolfe. Earlier notices had Sean Penn playing Perkins. More recent news claims the movie will focus on the relationship between Perkins and Woolfe. The movie isn't going into production until early 2014, so you have plenty of time to read this biography and then read some Thomas Woolfe.

5/5 stars

Max Perkins: Editor of Genius
A. Scott Berg
Edition read: 1979 mass market from Washington Square Press
There is a 1997 trade edition available from Riverhead/Penguin
Stay tuned for a new edition with Colin Firth on the cover
Recommend to American literary enthusiasts and writers

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Snow White Must Die by Nele Neuhaus

I keep an eye out for mystery/thrillers translated from German and this book had been on my radar for several months before it was released in January. Then, as luck would have it, I won a copy from Criminal Element.

It was also the featured book for February on The German Book Office's Facebook page.

Snow White Must Die is book #4 (of 6) in the Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein mystery series, which is a huge seller in Germany and other countries. This is the first of the series to be translated for the US market and I really hope it won't be the last.
From the Publisher:  On a rainy November day police detectives Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein are summoned to a mysterious traffic accident: A woman has fallen from a pedestrian bridge onto a car driving underneath. According to a witness, the woman may have been pushed. The investigation leads Pia and Oliver to a small village, and the home of the victim, Rita Cramer.
; On a September evening eleven years earlier, two seventeen-year-old girls vanished from the village without a trace. In a trial based only on circumstantial evidence, twenty-year-old Tobias Sartorius, Rita Cramer’s son, was sentenced to ten years in prison. Bodenstein and Kirchhoff discover that Tobias, after serving his sentence, has now returned to his home town. Did the attack on his mother have something to do with his return?
In the village, Pia and Oliver encounter a wall of silence. When another young girl disappears, the events of the past seem to be repeating themselves in a disastrous manner. The investigation turns into a race against time, because for the villagers it is soon clear who the perpetrator is—and this time they are determined to take matters into their own hands.
An atmospheric, character-driven and suspenseful mystery set in a small town that could be anywhere, dealing with issues of gossip, power, and keeping up appearances.
German cover
I really enjoyed this mystery--the characters, the plot, the German names & locations--and couldn't wait to pick it up again between work/chores/etc. It was gritty enough to be edgy and had some creepy moments, but ultimately it is a story about people, not plot or place.

The translation flowed well although it was stilted a few times, perhaps more in the beginning than that I noticed later, but nothing that was off-putting.

4/5 stars: good characters, good plot, good pacing.

Snow White Must Die
by Nele Neuhaus
Translated by Steven T. Murray
Minotaur Books, January 15, 2013
Originally published in Germany as Schneewittchen muss sterben by List Taschenbuch, January 2010
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