Showing posts from May, 2013

and the pursuit of happiness

I knew Maira Kalman's work from her having illustrated the classic writing handbook Elements of Style by Strunk and E.B. White of Charlotte's Web fame.  Her book And the Pursuit of Happiness  is a graphic tribute to America, from coast to coast, from the halls of the federal government, through the lives and complexities of historical figures like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and neighborhoods in New York including a Brooklyn sewage plant that looks like a sculpture.  Her strategy of zooming in on the smallest details amidst big stories makes the book feel both epic and, somehow, very intimate. Across from an image of the original patent on the safety pin (1849) is my favorite quote of the book: "Everything is invented.  Language.  Childhood. Careers.  Relationships.  Religion.  Philosophy.  The future.  They are not there for the plucking.  They don't exist in some natural state.  They must be invented by people and that, of course, is a great thing.&qu

Public libraries and information history

Public libraries are a cornerstone of my professional and academic passions.  The kinds of questions I've asked have always been:  how did this come to be?  Not in myself, but in the world... how did libraries, particularly public libraries, come to be the the places they are? I answered some of these questions for myself in my dissertation and subsequent publications for Library Quarterly, Book History, Libraries and the Cultural Record (a journal that has changed names so many times it makes your head spin... it's now Information & Culture), and in a handful of book chapters. But there's always more to learn, and I recently came across a great syllabus by my colleague Greg Downey at UW Madison who teaches in Journalism as well as LIS Here's a sampling of the readings from the week on Public Library Purposes: F. B. Perkins, “How to make town libraries successful,” in United States Departmen

Comedic Comedian Memoirs

Laughter may or may not be the best medicine, but it's what I craved over this past winter, especially during the holidays.  I had many January plane rides as well this year, and comedy is of the essence when trapped on a plane.  All of these have strong YA crossover appeal, and, I have to say, if you gave something like Moranthology  to your 17-year-old niece, you'd probably be about the coolest aunt in existence.   Here's a sampling of what I read: Girl Walks Into a Bar by Rachel Dratch Part comedy and part memoir, this is about Rachel Dratch after the TV appearances dried up.  She bemoans the Hollywood looks machine, but she also goes about inventing a remarkably interesting and appealing life for herself. Moranthology by Caitlin Moran If you loved How to Be a Woman , then you want More Moran.  This is a collection of her essays, and her characteristically smart and cranky British humor is going full force here. A Bad Idea I'm About to Do by Chris Gethard De