Sneaking a literary peek on the Metro

What’s this guy in front of me got? Hmm, the new John Grisham. Nothing wrong with that. I have no idea what this dude next to me is reading, but it looks like a math text book. In…Korean? I’ve got  Sue Grafton across the aisle, and a battered Harvard Classic standing at the pole. And then we have the Kindles.

Darn you Kindle owners! You make it so much harder to spy on what you’re reading. Guy in a blue pinstripe suit with a furrowed brow, you may look like you should be reading a dry, wonky tome, but you could actually be reading The Pink Locker Society. (All together now: “Not that there’s anything WRONG with that!”) Kindle owners, it’s so much trickier to be amused, intrigued or completely confused by your reading  choices. I’ll just have to learn to be more subtle in my neck craning manouver so I can see your screen.

(My current, non-Kindle Metro reading?  Religious Literacy by Stephen Prothero.)

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The New York Public Library blows my mind

“If the Devil himself wrote a book, we’d want it in the library.”   

    Edwin Hatfield Anderson, Director of the New York Public Library, 1913-1934

Last week my mom and I took a fabulous whirlwind trip to New York. A highlight was a lengthy visit to the New York Public Library. Sadly, this fabulous exhibit, which I saw in March with my awesome Queens-dwelling friend Beth, is no longer on display. But there were so many other great things to see that it almost didn’t matter. We took the official tour (with a slightly prickly but amusing guide) where we learned many fun library facts:

DID YOU KNOW that the library contains more than seven million books?

DID YOU KNOW that until 1971 (when they began imaging the records) there were nine thousand card catalog drawers, containing more than ten million cards?

DID YOU KNOW that the main library reading room is the size of a football field and seats 636 people?

Yes, I am a big nerd to find all of this so fascinating, but there you have it.

Because it’s the 100th anniversary of the library’s dedication, there’s a special exhibit highlighting the library’s holdings called Celebrating 100 Years. And what do they have there? Let’s see: Jack Kerouac’s pipe and lighter; Virginia Wolfe’s walking stick (found by Leonard Wolfe floating in the River Ouse after she drowned herself); handwritten music by Bob Dylan, John Coltrane and Beethoven; e.e. cummings’ typewriter; Malcolm X’s briefcase, journal, and Koran; T.S. Eliot’s typewritten draft of “The Waste Land” (with handwritten suggestions by Ezra Pound), and on, and on, and on.

And of course we had to make a stop in the children’s room to visit my favorite exhibit: The REAL Winnie-the-Pooh and friends, that belonged to the real Christopher Robin.

So many literary relics, so little time.

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C. S. Lewis loved a cuppa

“You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.”

-C. S. Lewis

“Flow gently, sweet river”

I went to two wonderful weddings this summer, each for a pair of great friends from college. One of the most beautiful moments in the first ceremony was when my amazing musician friend, Gina Sobel, serenaded the smiling, teary-eyed bride and beaming groom with Nickel Creek’s arrangement of “Sweet Afton.”

What I didn’t know until after the ceremony (thank you, Google!) is that the lyrics to this sweet song were lifted directly out of a poem by Robert Burns. I got out my beat up copy of The Works of Burns (obtained at the massive biannual Friends of the Chevy Chase Library used book sale) and located this lovely, summery poem. So, here’s a little something by the Bard of Scotland for your Monday morning:

Flow gently, sweet Afton! amang thy green braes,
Flow gently, I’ll sing thee a song in thy praise;
My Mary’s asleep by thy murmuring stream,
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.

Thou stockdove whose echo resounds thro’ the glen,
Ye wild whistling blackbirds in yon thorny den,
Thou green-crested lapwing thy screaming forbear,
I charge you, disturb not my slumbering Fair.

How lofty, sweet Afton, thy neighbouring hills,
Far mark’d with the courses of clear, winding rills;
There daily I wander as noon rises high,
My flocks and my Mary’s sweet cot in my eye.

How pleasant thy banks and green valleys below,
Where, wild in the woodlands, the primroses blow;
There oft, as mild Ev’ning weeps over the lea,
The sweet-scented birk shades my Mary and me.

Thy crystal stream, Afton, how lovely it glides,
And winds by the cot where my Mary resides;
How wanton thy waters her snowy feet lave,
As, gathering sweet flowerets, she stems thy clear wave.

Flow gently, sweet Afton, amang thy green braes,
Flow gently, sweet river, the theme of my lays;
My Mary’s asleep by thy murmuring stream,
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.

For more Rabbie Burns, check out Burns Country.

Brilliant Blogs: Better Book Titles

Have you stumbled across Better Book Titles yet? Comedian and writer Dan Wilbur  cracks me up with his literary synopses “for people who do not have thousands of hours to read book reviews.” Here are a few of my personal favorites:

a.k.a. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret

a.k.a. The Devil in the White City

a.k.a The Professor and The Madman

Love it. I thought I’d make a couple of my own:

a.k.a. Savage Inequalities

a.k.a. Classics for Pleasure

I kid because I love.

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