Friday, June 28, 2013

Library Visit: (Former) Chicago Public Library

To celebrate the American Library Association's Annual Conference being held here in Chicago over the weekend I thought it would be fitting to post some pictures of the old Chicago Public Library building.

The Former Chicago Public Library Building
78 E Washington Street
Chicago, IL 60602

Opened in October 1897 and used as library until 1991 when the Harold Washington Library Center opened. Click here to read about the history of the library in Chicago and the architectural details of this magnificent building.

Growing up, my local library was the Cicero Public Library, which was (especially back then) a tiny percentage of the size of the Chicago Public Library. However, I fondly remember my father, who was a design engineer, taking me with him to "the big library" on the occasional Saturday when he had to consult railroad patents and other engineering designs for his own work. The place remains huge to me as an adult, but as a small child it was colossal. Dad would request the materials he needed and we'd sit at a table, me reading or coloring, he consulting his notes, until the blueprints or books or whatever he had requested arrived via page. It was thrilling to sit there next to my dad in such a big, obviously important library as he did his work and I did mine.

If you're ever in Chicago and love libraries, you'll want to put this building on your agenda. And then make sure you have an extra memory card for your camera when you visit because you will go crazy taking pictures.

The old library is 352 feet long, 134 feet wide, and 90 feet high. There are five floors within.
The south side or Washington Street entrance features Roman inspired architecture.
My little point and shoot does not do justice to the impressiveness of these details.
Lion detail from the arch in the previous picture, taken through a window from one of the upper floors.
This plaque reads, in part: "This building was the first permanent structure of the city's public library system. Designed to be a grand civic building, its exterior appearance and its interior spaces are based on classical Green and Italian Renaissance precedents. The library is extensively decorated with mosaics, marbles, bronze, and two stained-glass Tiffany domes."
You can't help put look up as soon as you walk in. I love the sparkly mosaics, the smooth marble, and then the warmth of the wood ceiling.
Names of great thinkers and writers of the past are highlighted in the mosaic designs.
Everything is grand about this building, including the world's largest Tiffany dome.
Here's what you see as you round the corner coming up the staircase from the first floor: Preston Bradley Hall. Is this not magnificent?
Standing under the dome looking east, toward the lake. See that person at the window?
Looking out the windows pictured above you can see one of Chicago's newer attractions across the street: The Bean in Millennium Park.
CPL: That's the Chicago Public Library's logo.
The dome is 38 feet in diameter.
I could stand here all day and just look. See the black box straight ahead in this picture?
It's one of the elevators that was used to deliver books.
Quotes about books and reading are scattered throughout the library. This one from Isaac Barrow reads, "He that loveth a book will never want a faithful friend, a wholesome counsellor, a cheerful companion, and effectual comforter."
Floor detail.
Door detail. Glass mosaic. The fish scale ventilation grill matches the fish scale glass pattern of the Tiffany dome.
Stunning angles. Heavy, yet graceful.
Original entry door.
The more subdued, Greek inspired north entrance on Randolph Street.
Dedication plaque.
There is so much to see in this former library building. The pictures above barely scratch the surface of the detail and splendor within.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Cather on the Shelf in Paris

My friend Cayt is currently in Paris. As a writer and reader she made the pilgrimage to the legendary bookstore Shakespeare and Company where she took a picture of the Willa Cather on hand for me!

Check it out:

Pictured above: Alexander's Bridge, Sapphira and the Slave Girl, O Pioneers!, My Antonia, and Hermione Lee's biography Willa Cather: A Life Saved Up.

Cather was a francophone and I believe she would be pleased to know that some of her novels are on hand in Paris (even if she did disliked the idea of paperback books).

Thanks, Cayt!

p.s. I acknowledge that I'm not very good at the wordless part of Wordless Wednesday.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Weekly Book Journal 6.24.13

It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Currently Reading:
The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison (review copy). It's set in Chicago so I couldn't resist, and a blurb on the back by Sophie Hannah claims its better than Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, which I didn't really like. I'm on page 37 and pretty well hooked.

Recently Read: 
Stoker's Manuscript by Royce Prouty
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (audio)
The Passage of Power (The Years of Lyndon B. Johnson #4) by Robert Caro (audio)
George Washington: The Crossing by Jack E. Levin

At the Top of the TBR Pile:
The Man From Berlin by Luke McCallin (review copy)
Pickle in the Middle Murder by Jessie Chandler (because the dedication is to the staff of a Borders store)
The Spy by James Fenimore Cooper (for the American Revolution Reading Challenge)
The Count of Monte Christo by Dumas (on my Classics Club list)


Local Book Event
The American Library Association Annual Conference is in Chicago June 27-July 2. I've never been to this event and plan on going to the opening reception on the exhibition floor Friday night. Alas, the rest of my weekend is booked with non-bookish things. Are you going?

Cool Book Find:
This may not be new to anyone else but me, but just in case you have seen it yet I want to pass on the link to Window's Beauty of Books desktop theme: "Those who cherish books will find them in settings fit for a king in this collection of images of illustrious libraries from around the world. A free theme for Windows." The picture above is one of the images. Click here here to check it out.

How was your reading week?
Read anything outstanding?
What are you looking forward to reading next?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

New Cover Reveal: STAINED by Cheryl Rainfield

You're missing some powerful stories if you haven't yet read a novel by Canadian YA author Cheryl Rainfield. I've read her first two novels, Scars and Hunted.

Cheryl writes with great compassion about girls facing emotional and physical abuse who are learning how to find their strength. They are stories of hope that don't shy away from the cruelties that way too many girls face. They are stories of survival.

Today is the release date of the new cover art for STAINED, which is coming out October 1, 2013. I wanted to help get the word out about this novel and help promote Cheryl's writing.

Without further ado, here's the cover art of STAINED:

Seventeen-year-old Sarah Meadows covers the walls of her bedroom with images of beautiful faces she clips from magazines—and longs for “normal.” Born with a port-wine stain covering half her face, all her life she’s been plagued by stares, giggles, bullying, and disgust. Why can’t she be like Diamond, the comic-book hero she created? Diamond would never let the insults in. That’s harder for Sarah.

But when she’s abducted on the way home from school, Sarah is forced to uncover the courage she never knew she had. Can she look beyond her face to find the beauty and strength she has inside, somehow becoming a hero rather than a victim? It’s the only way Sarah will have any chance of escaping the prison—both seen and unseen—that this deranged killer has placed around her.


Cheryl Rainfield is the author of the award-winning SCARS, a novel about a queer teen sexual abuse survivor who uses self-harm to cope; the award-winning HUNTED, a novel about a teen telepath in a world where any paranormal power is illegal; the forthcoming STAINED (Nov 2013), about a teen who is abducted and must rescue herself, and PARALLEL VISIONS, about a teen who sees visions of the future--but only when she has an asthma attack. Cheryl Rainfield is an incest and ritual abuse survivor, a feminist, and an avid reader and writer. She lives in Toronto with her little dog Petal.

Pre-order links:
Book Depository
Indie Bound

Monday, June 17, 2013

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I can't remember a time when I didn't know the title of this book. This Side of Paradise, From Here to Eternity, The Grapes of Wrath are all titles that sounded romantic to my kid-mind as far back as I can remember. I knew some day I'd read these books for their titles alone. My middle-aged brain knows that a title does not always make the book, but sometimes it does.

Anyway, I read This Side of Paradise because its on my list for The Classics Club. It was my Spin book. I was hoping the number would land on a Fitzgerald novel, as I included two on my spin list, and it did!

Off to the library I went. I visited three libraries before I found it on shelf. That Gatsby movie was causing a run on Fitzgerald novels--only his short story collections were left on shelf.  (We in the Chicagoland area are spoiled by the hundreds of quality libraries that dot our flat landscape.)

I began reading the book with high hopes.

It started out okay, but soon devolved into a chore. If you haven't read the book, it's a first person narrative written from the perspective of a young man with an unconventional upbringing who ends up attending Princeton during WWI. It is a bit autobiographical and launched Fitzgerald's career.

And it should have been up my alley as I love this time period, but I didn't care about any of the characters, which is a deal breaker for me. I'm not saying I have to like the characters in a book, but I do have to care about at least one of them, one way or the other (like I hated--hated--Marie Sandoz's Old Jules). Yet I read on.

I read the first half of the novel with English-major-like attention.

Then came Barbara Pym Reading Week, a great excuse to put Fitz back on the shelf for a bit. But that was only a week.

When I came back to the second half of Paradise I simply did not have the patience for it. I read it, but my mind wandered and I let it. I turned pages without anything sticking.

I'd fail a pop quiz, but will tick this one off as read.

I also did not like The Great Gatsby when I first read it about ten years ago. I'd never read any Fitzgerald at that point and went around for years saying Gatsby was the most over-rated American novel of all time. I re-read Gatsby last year and loved it . . . and then went around eating crow, apologizing to people for my earlier ignorance and arrogance.

Will the same thing happen with Paradise? Will I re-read it in a few years and love it? Maybe. The bookish life is crazy and unpredictable, after all.

Have you read? What did you think?

This Side of Paradise
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Scribners 1920
Source: library copy
Rate: one star, did not like it.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Thriller Giveaway: THE ENEMY by Tom Wood

Looking for a new thriller to read this summer? If you like Jason Bourne and Jack Reacher check out The Enemy by British author Tom Wood and enter to win a copy below!

Victor, a former assassin-for-hire, has joined forces with a CIA special unit. His first assignment: Three strangers. Three hits. Fast and clean. Victor’s a natural for this.

It should have been simple. But with each hit Victor is plunged deeper into an unimaginable conspiracy where no one, least of all the people he knows, can be trusted.

With the stakes growing higher by the minute, Victor realizes he’s been forced into playing a game he never expected. Because he’s the next target. And there’s no way out.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
The Enemy
Tom Wood
Signet Mass Market Original, May 2013
Source: publisher provided

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Read Around The World: Wordless Wednesday

"Read" in various world languages at the Elmhurst Public Library (IL).

Know a language not included above? Add it below in the comment section!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Printer's Row 2013 Recap

I spent Saturday at Printer's Row, Chicago's literary festival. The weather couldn't have been better: low 70s, sunny, a very slight breeze. I met my Goodreads buddy Suzanne and we walked through the tents, browsing and chatting before heading in different directions for different events.

In years past I worked Printer's Row as part of the Borders presence. I don't miss working the fest and prefer to browse around and see whatever I want to see. Some of the big-name authors that I've seen in the past include Dan Brow (the year The DaVinci Code came out), Erik Larsen (the year The Devil in the White City came out), Lisa Scottoline (don't remember which book was out), and Matthew Pearl (the year his first novel came out, The Dante Club).

This year, however, I thought it would be interesting to focus on hearing from new writers at the festival. (New to me, anyway!) I attended events like the readings by the Young Chicago Authors and the Neighborhood Writing Alliance. I'd really wanted to see the New Town Writers reading, but didn't make it down there in time. I heard smart, funny, and heartfelt stories.

As for reading material, since I'm in the midst of spring cleaning my entire house and also weeding my books as well, I wasn't looking to shop for books. However, a newish literary journal that I'd not heard of before caught my eye: Midwestern Gothic. It's a quarterly journal showcasing Midwestern writers and issue #9 is the latest. I plan on reading it cover-to-cover and already dipped into it on the train ride home.

If you've never attended Printer's Row I highly recommend it. I think you get the most out of it by studying the schedule and selecting a variety of events to attend while also giving yourself plenty of time to browse the tents of the dozens of booksellers and literary organizations. I'll leave you with some pictures of my day.

The big building with the stuff on top is the main branch of the Chicago Public Library System, The Harold Washington Library Center. Some author events are held inside the library, which is just a block away from Printer's Row.

Poe A Tree from Novel-T.
Who doesn't love an old typewriter?
The Mystery Writers of America tent in front of historic Dearborn Station.
Chubby Wieners, best dogs in Chicago and the breakfast of champions (or at least the breakfast of one bibliophile who was running late).
A non-literary collector's item.
A writer from the Neighborhood Writing Alliance shares his story of the first black man he knew, a man whose shoe shining shop was blown up the day after Dr. King was assassinated.
A writer from Young Chicago Authors delivered her powerful poems against stereotypes of femininity and homophobia.
Midwestern Gothic, issue 9
This is me and my high school friend Sue...we hadn't seen each other in 29 years! We reconnected on Facebook and found we were both going to Printer's Row and exchanged cell phone numbers to connect at some point over the weekend.

Friday, June 7, 2013

My First Pym: An Academic Question

I'd never heard of English novelist Barbara Pym (1913-1980) until I started reading Thomas's blog, My Porch. He's a big fan and co-host of the Barbara Pym Reading Week in honor of the writer's 100th birthday.

Pym's popularity has ebbed and flowed over the years and it looks like her novels are enjoying a bit of a resurgence, for good reason. I've only read one novel so far and its obvious that they can be read and enjoyed on the surface level or for their deeper and more tragic undertones.

I've already started recommending her to all of my friends who appreciate irony and sarcasm.

Pym on the shelf
The library where I work had nine Pym novels on the shelf. I wasn't sure where to start so pulled the first one off the shelf--An Academic Question--and fell in love with the photo of Pym on the back cover. I looked at the other books and none of them had this photo or any photo of the author, so I decided it was a sign and checked out An Academic Question based on the author's picture.

Copyright 1986 David Gamble
Doesn't she look happy and like she'd be a lot of fun? This is one of my all time favorite author photos.

An Academic Question was published posthumously. The brief introduction by Hazel Holt in the edition I read explains that Pym started writing this story in 1970 and was trying to make it a bit more "sharp and swinging" to fit in with the literary climate of the day. Pym wrote her first draft in the first person and thought it felt too cozy. She wrote a second draft in the third person, but abandoned the story in 1972 for a new idea. Pym died in 1980 and An Academic Question was first published in 1986 after Holt amalgamated the two drafts.

Caro Grimstone is the protagonist of the story. She's a "graduate wife," a woman who has been to college herself and is now the wife of a lecturer at a provincial university.  Women's lib is underway in the cities, it seems, but for now men are still the main actors and women fulfill supporting roles. Caro is bored with her life and decides to start reading to residents at the local retirement home, one of whom happens to be a retired missionary that may have a manuscript that could advance Caro's husband's career if he could only read it. Hubby is an up-and-coming scholar and his main competition, who was never allowed to see the manuscript, is on the verge of retirement. Getting his hands on the manuscript could make his career. One thing leads to another. During the manuscript business Caro is also wondering if her husband is having an affair and begins a sort of investigation into that.

The novel is a comedy of manners and an academic satire, with a smidgen of mystery/thriller. Underpinning it all are serious issues of self-fulfillment, career satisfaction, and relationships (romantic, friendship, work, familial), to name a few.

I was only planning on reading one of her novels for the Barbara Pym Reading Week, but just started my second, Jane and Prudence, which was first published in 1953. I don't remember the last time I've read two novels by an author back-to-back.

Head over to Thomas's blog and check out his posts on Pym. There's also a very active Barbara Pym Society you might like to check out to learn more about this fascinating writer.

Have you read any Pym? What's your favorite? 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Library Book, Meet Duct Tape

Yes, that's duct tape on a library book.

Yes, this is Wordless Wednesday, but I can't resist a Library PSA:

Use duct tape on your own books if you like, but please don't do home repair on a library book! 
Point out needed repairs to library staff so that repairs are made to that library's standards.

Thank you.

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