Penguin Librarian's Den

"I ransack public libraries, and find them full of sunk treasure." — Virginia Woolf

classicpenguin:

It’s Drop Caps Day! This isn’t a joke. X, Y, and Z are on sale today, and we’re giving away a full twenty-six book set to celebrate. Because we love Drop Caps and we love our readers. (US/CAN only — sorry international readers, we really do love you too!)
Click the image or click here to enter! Good luck and don’t forget to share your Drop Caps photos with us so we can re-post some of our favorites!

classicpenguin:

It’s Drop Caps Day! This isn’t a joke. X, Y, and Z are on sale today, and we’re giving away a full twenty-six book set to celebrate. Because we love Drop Caps and we love our readers. (US/CAN only — sorry international readers, we really do love you too!)

Click the image or click here to enter! Good luck and don’t forget to share your Drop Caps photos with us so we can re-post some of our favorites!

A WORD FROM THE AUTHOR

Alex Marwood author of The Killer Next Door and Edgar Award-winning The Wicked Girls for Best Paperback Original.

Recession-gripped provincial Britain isn’t the ideal place to spend your teens. As a nation, in hard times, we tend to retrench into an aggressively grey conformity that matches the rain, and it’s not the most nurturing atmosphere for the naturally eccentric. The adults around me, everywhere I went, seemed either angry or mad or, occasionally, both (an impression that, as an adult myself, I realise was entirely accurate; sometimes teenagers have a far clearer picture of the world around them than they’re credited with), and the world seemed a bitter, frightening place. I dreamed of escape, but escape often seemed a million miles from my reality.

And then there was every other Wednesday. There was one great advantage, did I but know it, to my parents’ collapsing marriage, and that was that they frankly weren’t noticing a great deal of what we were up to. No-one ever looked into my bags of books to check them for suitability (checked that I was really staying at my friend Joanna’s house, further down the line). And every other Wednesday, they went off to shout at a counsellor and my sister and I got to stay in town until seven o’clock. I had no money, but I had a library card, and it was in my library that I discovered the world. Still in my school uniform, I would have two hours to pick five books for the coming fortnight, and it was sheer blue bliss.

The librarians at that library were wonderful. Where my teachers pursed their lips and hinted at a Dark Future if one failed to worship at the altar of Austen, these women (yes, they were all women) never tried to improve me, just to encourage my voracious hunger for the written word. I sunk into science fiction, whodunnits, horror, thrillers, bonkbusters – all the things we didn’t have at home, all the things school said would lead to hell – and they gently steered me to more, only better, of the same. I read the whole of Agatha Christie the summer I turned eleven, and was then introduced to the psych thrillers of Highsmith and Rendell. Learned about sex and triumph through adversity from Jacqueline Susann and Eric Jong and Marilyn French. Travelled the universe with Asimov and Bradbury, and, from there, came to John Wyndham and my lifelong romantic adoration of Kurt Vonnegut. Became obsessed with James Herbert and Dean Koonz, until one day a librarian pushed a collected MR James and a copy of The Turn of the Screw into my hands.

I vividly remember sitting on the orange carpet at the foot of the reference stacks reading Whistle and I’ll Come to You and feeling that gorgeous moment when the hairs on the back of your neck prickle up even though you’re in a crowd and thinking: yes. This is what I want to do when I grow up. I want to scare people for a living, and not by working at the tax office. I really don’t know, but I think that if it hadn’t been for the Oxford Central Library I might well never have become a writer.

 

Enter the Librarian, a review by Josh Hanagarne

For me, reading God’ll Cut You Down: The Tangled Tale of a White Supremacist, a Black Hustler, a Murder, and How I Lost a Year in Mississippi by John Safran was like the literary equivalent of watching Borat. I experienced both thinking “How does someone have the nerve to do this stuff?” In the case of Borat, “this stuff” refers to Sasha Baron Cohen’s ability to make people uncomfortable for laughs. In the case of God’ll Cut You Down, “this stuff” refers to a sort of journalistic courage (madness?) that I could never muster.

          Safran, an Australian documentary maker, refers to himself as a “race Trekkie.” Have you ever seen a Trekkie? They’re the Star Trek fans who can quote you the chapter, verse, and sound editor for every episode. And when they do so, they’re probably in costume. Safran’s obsession is more serious and comes with fewer bits of trivia: he fixates on stories about race.

            Early in the book, we see him at a podium, announcing to a group of Aryan-inclined youth that the white supremacist (Richard Barrett) dignitary in attendance actually has African DNA. He is a provocateur, yes, but also a gifted storyteller. He’ll be the first to tell you that he has a lot of enemies who don’t appreciate his methods.

            I won’t spoil the particulars for you, but soon, he impulsively finds himself far from Australia. He lands in Mississippi. Richard Barrett has been murdered. Despite not knowing how to write a true crime book, but being a fan of John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, he decides he might as well try to go solve the mystery and write about it.

He’s greeted by a billboard featuring John Grisham and William Faulkner that says, “Yes, we can read. A few of us can even write.”

            And so begins a fast paced, hilarious, and disturbing tale of murder and racism in the Deep South. I don’t know that I’ve ever laughed harder about a book with so much dark, grisly, serious subject matter. Safran is funny and he knows it. But this is a book about death, and white supremacy, and journalism, and venomous strands of racism that are alive and well in the hearts of far too many people. A black man has murdered a white supremacist in Klan country, and there may be a white woman involved. Perhaps even some homosexuality. It’s a perfect setup for an unbearable tension belied by the mood of the writing style.

            But, back to the nerves of the author. Safran loves to snoop around. He loves to meet characters that sound dangerous and are probably not in the mood to help him. He seems happiest when he’s about to get caught doing something he shouldn’t, in a place where he shouldn’t be. I couldn’t do it, and that was the real gift of this book for me: it took me to a world I had no experience with. The world of the intrepid, perhaps too brash, reporter.

            There’s also a lot of charm in the fact that Safran doesn’t always know what he’s doing. It’s hard not to admire audacity, and it’s hard not to laugh when that audacity causes most of the subsequent problems that could have been avoided. I’d have packed up and given up long before the conclusion of the book. I wouldn’t have been brave enough to try to sneak into someone’s garage for a look.

            I’d recommend this most highly for fans of Jon Ronson, true crime, John Berendt, Mary Roach, and Deborah Blum. There might be a little Hunter S. Thompson in there as well.

             

On behalf of Jan Karon, we’re thrilled to welcome you back to her beloved Mitford in Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good. Check out this video with a special welcome message from Jan!

muspeccoll:

Doctor Whoot
Image from: Nests and Eggs of Birds of the United States by Thomas G. Gentry, 1882.
- Karen Witt

muspeccoll:

Doctor Whoot

Image from: Nests and Eggs of Birds of the United States by Thomas G. Gentry, 1882.

- Karen Witt

Songs, Musical

iworkatapubliclibrary:

A regular patron was having trouble with her computer’s headphones.

Me: “Do me a favor and go to YouTube.com. Just click on the first video you see, it doesn’t matter what it is.”

She navigated to YouTube and hesitated before clicking on an Eminem music video.

Me: “Go ahead and click it—it doesn’t matter what it is, I just want to see if the volume will work.”

As the music video played, I adjusted the volume controls on the computer as well as on the headphones themselves.

Me: “Hrm…it does seem a bit quiet even when it’s turned up all the way, but I think it might be loud enough to hear what’s going on.”

Woman: “Can we try a Whitney Houston song?”

Me: “Um…sure!” 

She searched and selected a Whitney Houston music video.

Me [handing her the headphones]: “Yep, same problem. But see if you think it’s loud enough.”

Woman [holding it up to her ears]: “Oh yeah, that’s not loud enough. Should we try Aretha?”

vikingbooks:

More writing advice from Steven Pinker’s upcoming The Sense of Style

vikingbooks:

More writing advice from Steven Pinker’s upcoming The Sense of Style

superbooked:

I mean yeah, I have tons of unread books on my shelf, but do you think that’ll stop me from buying more?
image

(via luluthelibrarian)

thepenguinpress:

Washington Post op-ed
LET YOUR CHILDREN PLAY FOOTBALL by Mark Edmundson
“My father wasn’t what anyone might call an over-involved parent. He was a Fifties Dad, committed to cigarettes, beer, cards, the ponies and a demanding job that kept the roof tight over our heads and food piled high on our plates. Out driving one evening, he gestured toward a formidable brick building and asked what it was. I told him it was my school. He quickly made up for this parental lapse by asking me what grade I was in.
But on things that really mattered, my father knew what he was doing. When I told him I was going out for the high school football team, he said it might be good for me. Yet he insisted on one thing: He wanted to see my helmet. This was 1968, long before anyone worried about concussions. Still, my father knew that if I planned to bash my head into other guys time after time, I’d better have a solid helmet to protect me.
He also knew — and let me know — that he thought football could do a lot for me.  Don’t other games teach determination, too? Sure they do: You can learn to come back again and again in soccer and tennis and baseball. But in football more than others, the knockdown is physical. There’s nothing abstract about it. You go down, you get a taste of the turf, and then, often aching, often a touch humiliated, you have to get back up.”
Mark Edmundson teaches English at the University of Virginia. His new book, “Why Football Matters: My Education in the Game,” comes out next month.

thepenguinpress:

Washington Post op-ed

LET YOUR CHILDREN PLAY FOOTBALL by Mark Edmundson

“My father wasn’t what anyone might call an over-involved parent. He was a Fifties Dad, committed to cigarettes, beer, cards, the ponies and a demanding job that kept the roof tight over our heads and food piled high on our plates. Out driving one evening, he gestured toward a formidable brick building and asked what it was. I told him it was my school. He quickly made up for this parental lapse by asking me what grade I was in.

But on things that really mattered, my father knew what he was doing. When I told him I was going out for the high school football team, he said it might be good for me. Yet he insisted on one thing: He wanted to see my helmet. This was 1968, long before anyone worried about concussions. Still, my father knew that if I planned to bash my head into other guys time after time, I’d better have a solid helmet to protect me.

He also knew — and let me know — that he thought football could do a lot for me.  Don’t other games teach determination, too? Sure they do: You can learn to come back again and again in soccer and tennis and baseball. But in football more than others, the knockdown is physical. There’s nothing abstract about it. You go down, you get a taste of the turf, and then, often aching, often a touch humiliated, you have to get back up.

Mark Edmundson teaches English at the University of Virginia. His new book, “Why Football Matters: My Education in the Game,” comes out next month.

They starred in the movie…

(Source: jacquesdemys, via bookporn)