When I started working here in 1996 B.G. (Before Google), questions about poetry were frequently asked in what was then called the General Reference and Nonfiction Department. More often than not, patrons were older people who had memorized poems in their youth and wanted to verify the texts that they recalled. This pedagogic practice has gone out of fashion, but anyone of a certain age will smile at the recollection of rhymes and meters mastered long ago. I can still recite poems by Jean de La Fontaine that I learned by heart in eighth grade in 1968.
Yes, Thanksgivukkah. For the first time since 1888, the all-American harvest celebration and the first night of the Jewish Festival of Lights coincide, on Thursday, November 28. There's even a Facebook page about it, from which we've borrowed the Woodstock-ish image.
Jonathan Mizrahi, a graduate student in quantum physics (and no relation to the designer Isaac Mizrahi, as far as I know), has calculated that this convergence of the Gregorian (secular) and Jewish (religious) calendars won't happen again until the year 79811. The redoubtable Steve Morse (mentioned in a previous post about calendars) arrived at a date slightly different from Mizrahi's, but everyone agrees that this is an extremely rare event, not to be repeated in our lifetimes.
The inimitable Marcella Hazan died this week at the age of 89. As the New York Times noted in the headline for her obituary, she "changed the way Americans cook Italian food." Her passing got me thinking about enduring cookbooks by strong-minded writers who have guided me in the kitchen and whose prose is a pleasure to read away from the stove.
Hazan authored a number of cookbooks, notably The Classic Italian Cookbook. Although she never felt comfortable enough in English to compose in that language (she wrote in Italian and her husband translated the text), she had a forceful voice that commanded the reader's attention. She was exacting, opinionated, and sometimes peremptory--a stern teacher whose rigor her students cherish.
When the sun sets on Wednesday, September 4, Jews around the world will celebrate the new year 5774. Rosh Hashanah begins earlier than usual this year. Actually, it hasn't fallen this early on the secular calendar since 1899. To understand the Jewish calendar, there's no better place to go than Steve Morse's remarkable One-Step web sites.
Many genealogists are familiar with Morse's portals for searching large databases like the Ellis Island Foundation. If you're looking for passenger lists, naturalization papers, census returns, or vital records, Steve Morse's powerful tools help in countless ways. Making sense of calendars can be a challenge for historians and genealogists. The Jewish calendar has fascinated Steve all his life, as he explains here. You'll find out exactly how it got to be 5774 already.
Do you need an image that's already got copyright clearance? Consider the venerable Pictorial Archive series from Dover Publications, a rich source of public domain illustrations, graphics, typefaces, and design of all kinds. Here are the covers of just a few representative Pictorial Archive titles.
Hayward Cirker (1927-2000), the founder of one of the quirkiest publishing houses around, was a connoisseur of graphic design who had deep pockets and a singular vision. (I know. I worked for him in the early 1980s on the production of the Pictorial Archive series. I've included a bit of the firm's history below.) Cirker used to buy rare illustrated books at auction and turn them over to an artist who would select the best imagery and arrange it for faithful reproduction in an inexpensive paperback Pictorial Archive edition.
As a reference librarian, I'm often asked to recommend the quintessential book on a topic I don't know much about, a book that gives the general reader the broad outlines of a field in a compact, accessible format. Somewhere between a Wikipedia article and a shelf full of specialized tomes is the elusive "just right" kind of book.
Oxford University Press identified this need and launched a wonderful series called Very Short Introductions (VSI). Andrea Keegan, the series editor, told The Bookseller: "The books are not primers or surveys, but sophisticated 'takes' on a topic, and we allow the authors to express a point of view, while giving readers a really good way into a subject they may never have encountered before." Noted authorities in each field are commissioned to write an overview of no more than 200 pages.