Category Archives: For Booklovers

Posts of interest to booklovers

Evelyn Eman Delmar

The Library as Citizen

Once upon a time, libraries were categorized collections of shelved books that one could borrow. Period. My how times have changed!

Over recent decades, libraries have added audio and video materials for loan to patrons. They’ve also added programs and services for all ages. Libraries have become full citizens of the communities they serve.

My local library, in fact, hosted its first naturalization ceremony on May 9, welcoming 72 new citizens from 29 countries to the United States. Staff from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Chicago Field Office administered the special service. The Northbrook Public Library ceremony was part of a 2013 partnership between the USCIS and the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences, whereby the two national organizations provide support to libraries and museums by disseminating public information and hosting events linked to immigration and citizenship.

“We want to reinforce the library as a welcoming place where community is formed,” said Northbrook Public Library Assistant Director Brodie Austin. “Libraries play a critical role in helping immigrants get the information that allows them to be active, engaged citizens.”

Two days before the naturalization ceremony, I attended the library’s inaugural “Engaged Citizen Unconference”. Registered participants completed surveys that library staff used to guide the Unconference’s breakout sessions, in which attendees’ discussions were facilitated by moderators. A thought-provoking keynote address preceded the breakout sessions. The concept is still finding its way but the first meeting brought people together in genuine civil dialogue to explore important issues that face all of us today.

Instead of musty halls of dead things, today’s libraries are vivid, living entities that deserve our support. If you haven’t been to your local library recently, go check it out. You might be surprised. And I bet you’ll be inspired.

Evelyn Eman Delmar

An American First

There is a void in the American museum world. We collect in central points the artifacts of civilization and honor politicians and soldiers, athletes and artists, inventors and entrepreneurs, but we neglect our writers. In a country established as an idea explicated in written documents and embellished by generations of poets, novelists, and critics, the case for commemorating the written word is self-evident. After all, what is written describes a people and what is celebrated defines their values. — Jim Leach, former Chairman, National Endowment for the Humanities

It’s surprising when you realize that in this innovative nation of creative talent, we have never had a museum dedicated to American writers and their work. Until now.

On May 16, 2017, Chicago will celebrate the debut of the American Writers Museum, whose mission is “to engage the public in celebrating American writers and exploring their influence on our history, our identity, our culture, and our daily lives.”

According to its website The American Writers Museum will:
• Educate the public about American writers – past and present
• Engage visitors to the Museum in exploring the many exciting worlds created by the spoken and written word
• Enrich and deepen appreciation for good writing in all its forms
• Inspire visitors to discover, or rediscover, a love of reading and writing

Through innovative and dynamic state-of-the-art exhibitions, as well as compelling programming, the American Writers Museum will educate, enrich, provoke, and inspire the public.

This is one more great reason to visit Chicago!

Evelyn Eman Delmar

From the Archives: Of Coffee Tables and Books

Note to Readers – Every now and then, I will re-post a blog entry that has withstood the test of time. Whether you missed it the first time ‘round or read it years ago, I feel it’s worth sharing again. I chose Of Coffee Tables and Books from November 20, 2014 because coffee table books make wonderful gifts for special Mothers and Fathers – and the history of coffee table books makes for interesting conversation!

My husband used to chide me when I referred to the low, square-shaped table in our living room as a coffee table. “The (low rectangular) table in our family room is a coffee table,” he would say. “A square table is a cocktail table.” Well, the joke is on him. Purists say that a cocktail table can be square or round; a coffee table is round or oval. Whatever you call the low table you place in front of your sofa, if you keep a large, attractive, illustrated book on it to look at casually or inspire conversation with guests, it is a coffee table book.

The concept of books meant for display dates back to at least the 16th century. An essay by Michel de Montaigne refers to “a book to lay in the parlor window….” This was a putdown of a book that had little literary merit but might impress those who did not take the time to read it.

Some credit David R. Brower with introducing the “modern coffee table book” to the U.S. market in 1960. His first effort in a series published for the Sierra Club was This is the American Earth, a stunning collection of Ansel Adams photos with text by Nancy Newhall. Brower may have been inspired by British tomes using the term “coffee table books”; they appeared there as far back as the 1800s.

Coffee table books have become so popular that some consider them a genre or sub-genre. Most of them feature high quality photography but some highlight art or interesting subjects. They make great gifts for people you care about … including yourself. You’re sure to find a favorite among these:

400 Photographs – Ansel Adams
The Family of Man – Edward Steichen
Life 70 Years of Extraordinary Photography – Editors of Life
The Art Book – Phaedon Press
DIGNITY: In Honor of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – Dana Gluckstein
At Home with Books – Estelle Ellis, Caroline Seebohm, Christopher Simon Sykes
Gnomes – Wil Huygen
1,000 Places to See Before You – Patricia Schultz
Star Wars: The Blueprints – J. W. Rinzler
Echoes of Earth – L. Sue Baugh
Atlas Obscura – Joshua Foes, Dylan Thuras, Ella Morton
In Full Flower – Gemma & Andrew Ingalls

Go dust and polish your coffee table (no matter what size or shape it is) and show off your favorite coffee table books.

Evelyn Eman Delmar

From the Archives: When Good Words Go Bad

Note to Readers – Every now and then, I will re-post a blog entry that has withstood the test of time. Whether you missed it the first time ‘round or read it years ago, I feel it’s worth sharing again. I chose When Good Words Go Bad from July 20, 2014 because people are loudly debating the difference between what people are saying and what they really mean. The English language has always been fluid. We know what that is doing to political and public discourse today. Rules are different for authors. Here’s what they need to keep in mind with their writing.

William Shakespeare is considered by most literary historians and critics to be the best writer ever in the English language. The fact that his work has endured for four centuries supports the point. Yet Shakespeare is shunned by many readers once they graduate from school. Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales? Beowulf (author unknown)? Fuggedaboutit! Some of the greatest literature of the English language seems written in a foreign language, with the same effect on readers that garlic breath has on lovers.

Readers don’t like to be stopped midsentence by a word so archaic that a trip to the dictionary becomes necessary. Even trickier is when a word is recognized but misinterpreted and one is left to question the author’s objective. You’ll find an example in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, where the troubled prince tells Ophelia, “Get thee to a nunnery!” Most readers interpret “nunnery” as a convent. In Elizabethan parlance, however, “nunnery” could also mean brothel. Shakespeare seems to leave it to the reader to decide Hamlet’s intention.

In today’s vernacular, we find words taking on opposite meanings from their original definitions. One example is “sick”, used to mean “awesome” (“bad” was the stand-in for “awesome” in the ‘80s, but “bad” is now back to being … bad). “The bomb” can be a disaster or a triumph. “Catfish” is something you would rather eat than have one eat you. Hurling “you bitch” is quite different from yelling “you’re my bitch”, although you probably don’t want to be at the receiving end of either phrase, unless you really are a female canine.

You can find more words that have taken on the opposite meaning of their original definition at Mental Floss.

Just as old words change over time, new words are invented every year that may send you to your cyber-dictionary if you haven’t kept up with cultural trends. Have you considered buying a “turducken” with a “bitcoin” lately? Using Twitter to Tweet no longer makes you a twit; now you are a “tweep”. Somehow, “fracking” sounds like an appropriate word for what we are doing to our planet to extract its petroleum resources.

English is an ever-evolving language. That’s its beauty and its challenge, both for authors and for readers. Like interior decorating or clothing fashion, what trends today in language may be outdated or obsolete by next year. Using trendy words to set a period piece is smart. Using trendy words in a timeless piece could end up smarting.

There’s no such thing as bad words; only bad writers (oh, what did she mean by that?).

For an entertaining take on our abuse of the English language, visit Weird Al Yankovich’s YouTube video.

Evelyn Eman Delmar

From the Archives: Amusing Muses & Pet Projects

Note to Readers – Every now and then, I will re-post a blog entry that has withstood the test of time. Whether you missed it the first time ‘round or read it years ago, I feel it’s worth sharing again. I chose to combine Amusing Muses from April 14, 2013 and Pet Projects from March 22, 2015 because social media is increasingly sharing the close relationships people have with their pets. These days, it seems we humans are getting along better with our pets than with people. This combined post is dedicated to that special bond.

Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.— Anatole France

My daughter, Kenna, suggested I write about writers’ pets. The menagerie in our home has included Katje (my calico cat), Oliver (dwarf hotot rabbit), Tidus (betta fish), Arrow (English Pointer), Dusty (mini-lop), Mucki and Rosette (guinea pigs), Sunset and Triangle (goldfish). All have been amusing, but only one has been a muse for me, resulting in my prose poem, Katje Must Be Fed. My niece, Leisa, also has a variety of pets but it was her first pug that inspired her to write the children’s picture book, Pugsley’s Imagination.

Today, only Katje remains. Each pet’s loss was heartbreaking. The hardest were the euthanizations. I wish I could use the euphemism “put to sleep” but there is no awakening and the loss is permanent. Mercifully, holes in the heart eventually fill with memories. This post is dedicated to all our beloved animal companions, the lovely creatures that are the golden threads in the tapestry of our lives.

One is lucky to love an animal. One is lucky also to have limitless access to animals through great literature. We grow up on fairy tales populated by animals and continue to find them in some of the most enduring literature throughout our lives. Among the best and brightest stories involving animals are:

Fiction for All Ages
Black Beauty – Anna Sewell
Where the Red Fern Grows – Wilson Rawls
The Call of the Wild – Jack London
The Black Stallion – Walter Farley

Fiction for Adults
Watership Down – Richard Adams
Animal Farm – George Orwell
The Art of Racing in the Rain – Garth Stein

Non-Fiction
Marley and Me – John Grogan
All Creatures Great & Small – James Herriot
Seabiscuit: An American Legend – Laura Hillenbrand
Born Free: A Lioness of Two Worlds – Joy Adamson
Never Cry Wolf – Farley Mowat
The Eighty Dollar Champion – Elizabeth Letts
Last Chance Mustang – Mitchell Bornstein

Written For Young Children, Loved By Adults
Charlotte’s Webb – E.B. White
The Velveteen Rabbit – Margery Williams
The Tale of Peter Rabbit – Beatrix Potter
The Secret of NIMH – Seymour Reit
The Story of Ferdinand – Munro Leaf
Stellaluna – Janell Cannon
Make Way for Ducklings – Robert McCloskey

It’s not surprising that authors are inspired to write about animals. Most of them have had pets. Dogs have been favored by the likes of Steinbeck, Cheever, Doctorow, Vonnegut, Sendak, Wharton, Dorothy Parker, Stephen King, Virginia Wolf and Robert Penn Warren (who saluted Tolkien by naming his dog Frodo). Cats were companions to such literary luminaries as Twain, Dumas, Beckett, Huxley, Kerouac, Collette, Eliot, Plath, Sartre (his cat was Nothing) and Raymond Chandler (whose Persian purred while perched on his manuscripts as Chandler edited). Polar opposites Hemmingway and Capote owned both cats and dogs (the progeny of Hemingway’s famous six-toed cats still roam the Hemingway House & Museum in Key West, FL).

As far as I can tell, authors choose cats more often than dogs to share their lives. This may not be a matter of personalities (authors’ or species’) as much as it is a result of lifestyle. An author living in the countryside might like to take thoughtful walks with a canine companion while a city-dwelling author might view dog walking as stealing writing time. Cats tend to be more independent — or less needy — than dogs, depending on how you feel about felines vs. canines.

Then again, look at which authors have chosen dogs and which have chosen cats. Do you see any trends? And what can we imagine about writers with more “exotic” tastes in pets? Those would include some obvious ones such as Beatrix Potter (rabbit) and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (raccoon). But how do you explain Flannery O’Connor (peacocks) or Lord Byron (peacocks, crocodile, crow, heron, fox and bear — oh my!)?

To see photos of some famous writers with their pets, visit Photos of Famous Writers with their Pets.

I think I could always live with animals. The more you’re around people, the more you love animals. — Walt Whitman

Evelyn Eman Delmar

The Write Path

An Associated Press headline earlier this month caught my eye. It said, “Demand booming on college campuses for creative writing.” Reporter Michael Melia noted that while courses in the humanities have steadily lost students to science and technology, creative writing courses have seen a major jump at colleges across our country.

According to the Association of Writers & Writing Programs, an industry group based at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, only three schools offered bachelor’s degrees in creative writing in 1975; today, you can earn this degree at any one of 733 colleges. Between 2008 and 2013, the number of creative writing bachelor’s programs has grown steadily, but spiked from 161 to 592.

Why? Melia’s article offered a few possible explanations. They include a growing need among students for self-expression, both psychological and also cultural. David Galef, director of the creative writing program at Montclair State University in New Jersey, said “They’re interested in doing something they feel is creative.” Yale’s creative writing director, Richard Deming, credited social media which contributing to the interest, saying, “This act of expressing one’s voice in a public way — some people feel that they want to add craft, they want to hone those skills and take it to a place of more intensity.”

Of course, some students enrolled in creative writing courses want to become professional writers – in advertising, public relations or some other career that requires excellent writing skills. Other students view writing as a means for introspection and personal enrichment.

What concerns some professors is that the increase in creative writing programs is diluting what is offered while creating stiffer competition for those who want serious literature-based writing classes in order to further a career in the literary world. Melia stated, “In some English departments, the boom has created tension between creative writing and those who emphasize instruction of literature.”

English Professor Leslie Brisman, who has taught at Yale for nearly five decades, said “All over the country students are more interested in writing about themselves than they are in reading other people. We are in favor of creativity. We are not in favor of ignorance.” Unlike most colleges, Yale’s writing program requires that all courses include reading in contemporary work of the chosen genre. Despite this unusual requirement, the number of course offerings in creative writing has roughly doubled over the last five years at Yale to meet student demand.

Writing and reading are two sides of the same coin. Interest in one is usually echoed by appreciation of the other. Anything that leads people to expand awareness and understanding through literature is a very good thing. Regardless of what motivates students to enroll in creative writing classes and programs, it is encouraging to see an enthusiastic interest in learning to communicate more effectively… because, as becomes more evident daily, words do matter.

Evelyn Eman Delmar

When Fool’s Gold is Real

What do Shakespeare and Disney have in common? Okay, all you pranksters, April Fool’s Day has passed. But it’s true that nearly every work by Shakespeare and Disney features a fool as an important character. Why?

In history, court jesters were recruited because of their witty foolishness. In literature, the fool became an archetypal character. The fool may be the wisest person in the room. It got me thinking how important fools are to great literature.

Although the fool injects levity into a situation, he or she (in Disney tales, the fool can even be an “it”, like a fish or a carpet) is often the truth teller. Presenting a ridiculous wardrobe and irreverent garbling – sometimes intentional, sometimes not — the fool can often say what others dare not. The fool may appear to be ridiculous or an idiot but represents liberation from the shackles of cultural rules and expectations.

French Renaissance writer François Rabelais’s description of Panurge, a recurring main character in several of his novels, encompasses many of a jester’s characteristics: “Irreverent, libertine, self-indulgent, witty, clever, roguish, he is the fool as court jester, the fool as companion, the fool as goad to the wise and challenge to the virtuous, the fool as critic of the world.”

Shakespeare populated even his heavy dramas, with fools. As Isaac Asimov comments in his Guide to Shakespeare, “That, of course, is the great secret of the successful fool – that he is no fool at all.” Some of Shakespeare’s fools include: Feste (Twelfth Night, or What You Will); Touchstone (As You Like It); The Gravediggers (Hamlet); Nick Bottom (who becomes an actual ass in A Midsummer Night’s Dream); The Fool (King Lear); Trinculo (The Tempest); and Falstaff (The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV).

The fool, in one form or another, has existed throughout the history of global literature. The Bible had its Wise Fool. Literature from Ancient Rome and China had their court jesters. Russia’s Leo Tolstoy wrote a short story titled Ivan the Fool.

In contemporary literature, the fool often has a mental or emotional condition that sets him or her apart from the norm but those differences make them endearing as well as honest. Familiar examples include: John Steinbeck’s Lenny (Of Mice and Men); Jerzy Kosinski’s Chance, the gardener (Being There); Winston Groom’s title character in Forrest Gump; and J.K. Rowling’s Luna Lovegood (the Harry Potter series).

In early literature, the fool always played a supporting role. In contemporary literature, the fool is often elevated to a main character. Either way, the fool is a ubiquitous presence in both classic and contemporary storytelling. The fool possesses some characteristic that evokes laughter, even as he (or she) enlightens. As Oscar Wilde said, “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.”

Ah, if only the fools we meet in real life would be more like the fools we meet in literature!

Evelyn Eman Delmar

From the Archives: A Feast of Fests

Note to Readers – Every now and then, I will re-post a blog entry that has withstood the test of time. Whether you missed it the first time ‘round or read it years ago, I feel it’s worth sharing again. I chose A Feast of Fests from April 20, 2014 – and updated it — because we’re entering a new season of literary celebrations that every booklover should know about.

When the mind is hungry, few things satisfy as well as a good book. Fortunately, there are feasts around the country throughout the year to fulfill every taste. From small block parties to massive convention exhibits, in every size and genre, there is a book event waiting for you. With the long winter finally departing, the number of book fests, fairs, exhibits, conventions and all variety of literary celebrations is growing. This is good for writers, readers and the publishing industry.

In the age of Amazon and other online booksellers, you might feel inclined to lounge in your … whatever you lounge in … and simply connect through the internet to someplace in cyberspace for a book you’ve preselected in your mind. It’s fast. It’s convenient. It’s also impersonal, colorless, bland. When is the last time, ordering online, you discovered a book or spoke with its author, experienced the “bookness” of books with all your senses (yes, a book can even inspire a taste on the tongue), felt exhilarated as if you were a guest at a banquet? Book fests can offer all these rewards and more.

Book fests may simply be large book sales, but most combine presentations, workshops, readings, book signings, exhibits and social gatherings, along with sales.

The Book Reporter, The African American Literature Book Club (AALBC) and Everfest offer expansive lists (with links) of literary events in 2017 and 2018.

I’ve chosen the following 10 upcoming festivals around the U.S. to get you started:
Unbound Book Festival — (April 21)
Pen Word Voices — (May 1-7)
Printers Row Literary Fest — (June 10-11)
Lewisburg Literary Fest — (August 4-5)
National Book Fest — (September 2)
Beast Crawl — (September 2)
Iowa City Book Festival — (October 10-15)
Rocky Mountain Literary Festival — (October 21)
Boston Book Festival — (October 28)
Wordstock: Portland’s Book Festival — (November 11)

If you’re looking for a way to spice up your literary life in 2017 and 2018, feast on a book fest!

Recommended

Here’s a great concept every booklover can participate in: READ AMERICA READ. Read America Read was founded to get America reading again. Free books are left in bus stations, trains, cafes and other locations for anyone to take home. It’s a mini book fest, one book at a time, that has been going strong every month since October, 2015. It happens the last Saturday of every month. The next one will be Saturday, April 29th. Many writers, editors, publishers, and the general public who loves books have been doing this… you can, too!

Evelyn Eman Delmar

Drawn to Children’s Literature

What do authors Ludwig Bemelmans (Madeleine), Robert McCloskey (Make Way for Ducklings), Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are) and Chris Van Allsburg (Polar Express) have in common? They are all recipients of the Caldecott Award for their illustrations in the aforementioned adored children’s books. The annual Caldecott Award is well known. But do you know the man who inspired the award and whose birthday is March 22nd?

Randolph Caldecott (1846-1886) grew up with a passion for drawing. A keen observer of his surroundings, the self-taught Caldecott was often seen sketching animals, people, buildings and landscapes. At the age of 15, his sketch of a disastrous fire at the Queen Railway in Chester appeared in the Illustrated London News together with his account of the blaze.

Despite his son’s obvious gift, Caldecott’s businessman father dissuaded his young son from pursuing his passion, urging him to go into banking. During his seven years as a bank clerk, Caldecott took nighttime art classes at the Manchester School of Art. After his bank job took him to London, Caldecott enrolled in the Slade School.

As his drawings began to be accepted by various publications and he felt he could support himself through his art, Caldecott grew confident enough to quit his banking job at the age of 26. He became a prolific illustrator of novels and accounts of foreign travel. He was tapped to illustrate books of Washington Irving’s and other authors. His sense of humor was evident in cartoons, sketches of politicians and other famous people, and drawings of the fashionable hunting society that appeared in such notable magazines as Punch and London Society. His sculptures and paintings were exhibited in the Royal Academy and galleries. Among well-known admirers of his work were Gaugin and Van Gogh.

In 1877, Caldecott was asked to illustrate two children’s books for Christmas. They were so successful, the partnership continued with two books issued every Christmas until Caldecott’s death. Increasingly, Caldecott illustrations began to populate more children’s books, written by himself or others. By 1884, sales of Caldecott’s Nursery Rhymes had reached 876,000 copies (of twelve books) and he was internationally famous. He became one of the three most influential children’s illustrators in the nineteenth century, along with Kate Greenaway and Walter Crane.

A childhood illness took its toll on Randolph Caldecott. After a difficult voyage to the United States in February 1886, he became sick and died in Florida at the age of 40. He and his wife are buried in St. Augustine.

Fifty-one years after his death, the American Library Association honored Randolph Caldecott for his contributions by naming a prestigious award for “the most distinguished picture book for children” published in the United States, beginning with 1937 publications, and giving that award to the book’s illustrator, for the first time in 1938. All Caldecott Medal winners are listed at the ALA website.

Evelyn Eman Delmar

From the Archives: The (P)luck of the Irish

Note to Readers – Every now and then, I will re-post a blog entry that has withstood the test of time. Whether you missed it the first time ‘round or read it years ago, I feel it’s worth sharing again. I chose The (P)luck of the Irish from March 15, 2015 because we’re coming up on St. Patrick’s Day and because some of our most colorful literature are gifts from our Irish brethren (on St. Paddy’s, we are all Irish!).

Whether or not you wear green, eat bangers and mash, lift a pint of Guinness and sport a shamrock pin that says “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” on St. Patrick’s Day, it’s a great day to consider the contributions of Irish literature to the English lexicon.

The Irish language infuses one of the oldest vernacular literatures in western Europe (after Greek and Latin). In fact, its writing includes Latin, as well as Irish and English. The Latin dates back to the 7th century, written by monks. English was introduced in the 13th century with the Norman Conquest of Ireland.

Until the 1800s, the Irish language dominated Irish literature. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, English rapidly became the main language in society and in literature. A Gaelic revival took place at the end of the century but it’s the authors writing in English who have had the widest, most enduring success.

Perhaps the most famous Irish author, certainly the one who had greatest impact on English language literature of the 20th century, was James Joyce. I posted a piece about him, The Joy in Joyce, on this blog site last June. A long list of other notable Irish authors includes Jonathan Swift, W.B. Yeats, Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, Bram Stoker, George Bernard Shaw, Edna O’Brien, Seamus Heaney, Brian Friel, Colm Toibin and John Banville. Yeats, Shaw, Beckett and Heaney were recipients of the Nobel Prize. For such a small country, Ireland has attained a high visibility in the literary world.

Many Irish-born authors did not remain in Ireland but they brought the rich cultural heritage and the spirit of the island into their writing. The geography, the history, the very air and water infused the themes and the cadence of the novels, memoirs, poetry and plays produced by Irish writers.

Some authors and books to start your Irish journey might include:
Oscar Wilde: The Picture of Dorian Gray (novel); The Importance of Being Ernest (play).
Bram Stoker: Dracula (Gothic horror novel).
W.B. Yeats: The Collected Poems (poetry).
G.B. Shaw: Pygmalian (play); Candida (play).
James Joyce: Dubliners (short stories); Ulysses (novel).
Maeve Binchy: Circle of Friends (novel); Evening Class (novel.
Seamus Heaney: District and Circle (poetry); Opened Ground (poetry).
Edna O’Brien: Saints and Sinners (short stories); The Country Girls (Trilogy).

There’s an Irish saying, “If you’re enough lucky to be Irish… You’re lucky enough!” I’ll add to that, “Even if you are not Irish… luck will find you when you read Irish literature!”

Evelyn Eman Delmar

Court-ing Readers

Ever been involved in a court case? If you have, you know the power and perils inherent in our judicial system. I was summoned for jury duty (again) and was reminded of the drama of trials, the impact of verdicts. It’s a natural platform on which to build great novels.

Actual courtroom procedures, at least in the U.S., tend to move slowly and methodically. The challenge of novelists is to retain the reality of trials while crafting a gripping story. The most successful authors take just the right degree of artistic license in their presentations. Four of our most prolific and reliable contemporary authors of courtroom novel are Scott Turow, Jodi Picoult, John Grisham and Michael Connolly; they’ve produced too many books in this realm to list but you’ll find them in your local bookstore or library.

Not surprisingly, many of the best novels that include trials (usually following a death) as either a focal point or a catalyst have been adapted into successful films. But even if you’ve already seen a novel-turned-movie, it’s worth going back to the writing that spawned the film; it’s some of the most compelling writing in literature.

How many of these great novels with (U.S.-based) trials have you read:
An American Tragedy – Theodore Dreiser, 1925
Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston, 1937
Native Son – Richard Wright, 1940
The Caine Mutiny – Herman Wouk, 1951
Anatomy of a Murder – Robert Traver, 1958
To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee, 1960
The Seven Minutes – Irving Wallace, 1969
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood, 1985
The Bonfire of the Vanities – Tom Wolfe, 1987
Compelling Evidence – Steve Martini, 1992
Snow Falling on Cedars – David Guterson, 1995
Defending Jacob – William Landay, 2012

Evelyn Eman Delmar

The Many Lives of Dr. Seuss

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go. – Dr. Seuss

March 2nd is the 113th birthday of Theodore Seuss Geisel, known worldwide as Dr. Seuss, author of countless beloved children’s books. It’s widely known that Dr. Seuss was not a doctor of anything (although an honorary doctorate was conferred on him by his alma mater, Dartmouth, in 1956). He added the “Dr.” to his penname in 1927 because his father had always wanted him to practice medicine. It’s also common knowledge that the celebrated author of more than 60 children’s books never had children. His standard response was “You make ’em. I’ll amuse ’em.”

What you might not know about the man behind Horton Hears a Who, The Cat in the Hat, The Lorax and other children’s classics that have sold more than 600 million copies, translated into more than 20 languages, is how multifaceted he was. For starters, there were the more than a dozen books Geisel wrote as Theo LeSieg (LeSieg is Geisel spelled backwards) and one as Rosetta Stone.

So, how did Theodore Geisel become Dr. Seuss? He adopted his “Dr. Seuss” pen name during his university studies at Dartmouth College, where he was editor-in-chief of their humor magazine, the Jack-O-Lantern. A drinking infraction while at Dartmouth during the prohibition years nearly derailed his position on the magazine until Geisel surreptitiously wrote under his middle name, Seuss.

Seuss’s professional life began as an illustrator for such publications as Vanity Fair and Life, and for advertising campaigns. His first nationally published cartoon appeared in the July 16, 1927 issue of The Saturday Evening Post — for which he was paid $25. His first ad campaign for Flit, a bug spray, ran sporadically from 1928 to 1941, with its catchphrase, “Quick, Henry, the Flit!” becoming so popular it inspired a song and was used as a punch line for comedians such as Jack Benny and Fred Allen.

At the start of World War II, Geisel became the editorial cartoonist at the New York City newspaper, PM, drawing over 400 political cartoons in two years. Later published in Dr. Seuss Goes to War, Geisel’s political cartoons denounced Hitler and Mussolini, criticized Charles Lindbergh and other “isolationists” who opposed US entry into the war, and strongly supported President Roosevelt’s war efforts while attacking the Republican Party. His cartoons also attacked racism.

In 1942, Geisel’s artistic talents turned to drawing posters for the U.S. Treasury Department and the War Production Board. As a Captain in the U.S. military, he commanded the Animation Department in a Motion Picture Unit of the Army Air Forces, writing training and propaganda films. One of his films became the basis for a commercially released film that won an Academy Award for Documentary Feature in 1947. Another film based on an original Seuss story won the 1950 Oscar for Animated Short Film.

After the war, Geisel focused on children’s books. They inspired numerous adaptations, including 11 television specials, four feature films, a Broadway musical and four television series.

Dr. Seuss books may seem very simply written but they evolved to serve a specific purpose. Following a 1954 Life magazine report on illiteracy among school children, which concluded that children were not learning to read because their books were boring, the director of the education division at Houghton Mifflin compiled a list of 348 words that he felt were important for first-graders to recognize. He asked Geisel to reduce the list to 250 words and to write a book using only those words. Geisel’s challenge was to “bring back a book children can’t put down”. Nine months later, Geisel’s The Cat in the Hat used 236 of the words given to him. It kept Geisel’s drawing style, verse rhythms, and imagination from earlier works but could be read by beginning readers. The success of The Cat in the Hat inspired similar beginner reader books that remain bestsellers to this day.

Geisel’s birthday, March 2, has been adopted as the annual date for National Read Across America Day, an initiative on reading created by the National Education Association. In 2004, U.S. children’s librarians established the annual Theodore Seuss Geisel Award to recognize “the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States during the preceding year”. It should “demonstrate creativity and imagination to engage children in reading” during years pre-K to grade two.

One more thing you may not have known about Seuss: how to properly pronounce his name. It rhymes with “voice”, not “juice”. One of his collaborators on the Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern set that bit of information to verse:

You’re wrong as the deuce
And you shouldn’t rejoice
If you’re calling him Seuss.
He pronounces it Soice.

Geisel switched to the anglicized pronunciation because it “evoked a figure advantageous for an author of children’s books to be associated with – Mother Goose”.

Evelyn Eman Delmar

Happily Ever After, or … ?

I’m on my way to West Virginia for my son’s wedding to a wonderful young woman. This will be my entry into mother-of-the-groom and mother-in-law territory. My happiness for my son is tinged with melancholy at the realization that I am officially relinquishing the top spot in my son’s heart. While a wedding is the culmination of a courtship it is also the beginning of a marriage. A wedding affects not only the betrothed but ripples out to others (sometimes with a hidden undertow), in the moment and over time. That makes weddings the perfect catalyst in literature.

Joyful or sad, funny or frightening, even if they are cancelled, weddings offer potent plot devices in literature. How many of these novels with nuptials have you read?

Pride and Prejudice (1813) – Jane Austen
Our Mutual Friend (1864) – Charles Dickens
Far From the Madding Crowd (1874) – Thomas Hardy
The Age of Innocence (1920) – Edith Wharton
The Member of the Wedding (1946) – Carson McCullers
The Princess Bride (1973) – William Goldman
I’ve Got Your Number (2012) – Sophie Kinsella
Seating Arrangements (2012) – Maggie Shipstead

Evelyn Eman Delmar

How We Read. And Why It Matters.

I don’t think audiobooks would work for me. Other than music, I don’t think I’m a great listener for an extended period of time, unless words are set to music. I’m a visual person. A voracious reader. Because I spend so much time working on my computer, e-books hold little appeal to me. I’m just an old-fashioned girl who loves the look, feel and (sometimes) smell of print on paper, the choice of book cover design and even the typeface. How do you read?

Start with statistics:
• 72% of American adults have read a book in the past year – in whole or in part, in any format. That’s a 20% decline from 1978.
• Young adults (ages 18 to 29) were the most likely (80%) to have read a book within the past year while adults ages 50-64 were the least likely (68%).
• Women averaged 14 books a year compared to nine books for men.
• In the decade since Kindle, Nook and iPad introduced e-book formats, readership took off like a rocket, reaching 22.5% of book sales in 2012 before settling to a steady near-20% in 2015.
• Audiobooks, which have been around since the 1930s, took off with the ability to download through websites and subscription services. By 2015, audiobooks represented an impressive 38.9% of adult books sales.
• One-third of audiobook listeners fell into the 25-to-34 age bracket, with mysteries/thrillers/suspense being the most popular genre, followed closely by history/biography/memoirs and popular fiction.
• The narrator of an audiobook has a significant impact on sales; some narrators have developed followings that drive sales.
• Print books still dominate, with 77% of all sales.

Why do reading habits matter? If you’re a booklover, learning what others like could coax you to try new formats to increase or improve your reading experiences. For authors – especially self-publishing ones — it’s crucial to understand what formats your target audience gravitates toward to maximize your investment.

Evelyn Eman Delmar

Coin(ed Words) of the Realm

Earlier this month, fed up with the increasing hypocritical nonsense streaming out of the political world, I coined a word to describe the purveyors of such commentary: hypocridiots. If you’ve seen my social media posts, you’ve likely seen this term.

Have you ever coined a new word? Hypocridiot is a melding of two existing words. Other ways new words are born are by changing use (from a noun to a verb, from a name to an adjective, etc.), by borrowing from existing words (often found in technical terms) or by approximating in sound the way we imagine something to be (similar to onomatopoeia). My mother often used the term “fershnoricated” (my spelling, since I can’t find this word anywhere) to describe something ridiculously mixed up; it sounds Yiddish but doesn’t appear in the glossary so I assume she or someone else created it. I’ve kept it alive because it works so well.

My recent blog post, “Walking Around the Writer’s Block”, included some of the never-before-seen words in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (a 67-year old book back on the bestseller list) that have particular relevance today. They include:
Newspeak — Ambiguous euphemistic language used chiefly in political propaganda.
Doublethink — The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them, especially as a result of political indoctrination.
Thought Police — (Thinkpol in Newspeak) are those who suppress all dissenting opinion.
Prolefeed – “The rubbishy entertainment and spurious news handed out by the Party to the masses.” This word is part of the language Newspeak
Big Brother — Used to refer to any ruler or government that invades the privacy of its citizens.

You’d be surprised how many of today’s commonly used words first appeared in literature, out of the imagination of authors. The undisputed king of coinage is William Shakespeare, with more than 2200 new words introduced. They include:
addiction (Othello)
assassination (Macbeth)
dishearten (Henry the V)
eyeball (The Tempest)
manager (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
obscene (Love’s Labor Lost)
uncomfortable (Romeo & Juliet)

Other authors who have added common words to our lexicon include:
Homer – mentor (The Odyssey)
Sir Walter Scott – freelance (Ivanhoe)
Mark Twain – lunkhead (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)
Dr. Seuss – nerd (If I Ran the Zoo)

If you’ve never coined a word, isn’t it about time that you do?

Evelyn Eman Delmar

The Friendship Test

Friendship is a plant of slow growth and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation. – George Washington

In the age of social media, the ferocity of opposing political views throughout the campaign season and election of 2016 tested friendships. Sadly, many relationships fell apart over posts and tweets. It seems fitting to quote America’s first President on the subject of friendship to remind us it is a test.

So many great stories have been written about the trials and triumphs of friendship. They can remind us why it’s worth the effort to work through the differences and how to recognize real friendship from the illusory desire of connection. Here’s to some of the most telling friendships through centuries of great literature; how many of these books have you read?

Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes (1605)
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen (1813)
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain (1876)
The Folded Leaf – William Maxwell (1945)
The Golden Notebook – Doris Lessing (1962)
Crossing to Safety – Wallace Stegner (1987)
A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry (1995)
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini (2003)
The Help – Kathryn Stockett (2009)
In Twenty Years – Allison Winn Scotch (2016)

If you lost a friend due to the passions of your politics, you may (in time) reconsider if there is something worth salvaging. Like all good literature, we begin with words.

Good books, good friends, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life. – Mark Twain

Evelyn Eman Delmar

From the Archives — Presidents – Real & Imagined

Note to Readers – Every now and then, I will re-post a blog entry that has withstood the test of time. Whether you missed it the first time ‘round or read it years ago, I feel it’s worth sharing again. I chose Presidents – Real & Imagined from October 18, 2015 because we’re about to experience an historical shake-up in the White House and it can be comforting to remember how our country and its leaders rose above the fears and challenges of previous eras. Then imagine how our time will be recorded in literature when we are part of the historical tapestry.

The Presidential election is still a year away but one can’t escape the entertainment known as campaign season. Have you tried imagining any of the candidates as President yet? Why not measure your expectations against some former Presidents? Here are a dozen books – both non-fiction and fiction – in which real former Presidents play a featured role:

Non-Fiction
Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power – John Meacham
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln – Doris Kearns Goodwin
Grant and Twain: The Story of a Friendship that Changed America – Mark Perry
The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt – Edmund Morris
Eleanor and Franklin – Joseph P. Lash
Truman – David McCullough
A Thousand Days – Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.

Fiction
Lincoln – Gore Vidal
The Alienist – Caleb Carr
The Plot Against America – Philip Roth
Primary Colors – Anonymous (Joe Klein)
The President’s Shadow – Brad Meltzer
Curious to know which books were the favorites of each of our Presidents? Check out The Favorite Books of All 44 Presidents of the United States.

Evelyn Eman Delmar

From the Archives — Why Writers Write

Note to Readers – Every now and then, I will re-post a blog entry that has withstood the test of time. Whether you missed it the first time ‘round or read it years ago, I feel it’s worth sharing again. I chose Why Writers Write from September 22, 2013 because I have once again felt compelled to return to my own attempt to complete a book. This post helps explain the compulsion.

I recently chatted with two writer friends about why we write. This is a question I’ve pondered frequently since becoming aware of The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida, recently published in English by Random House. What makes this best-selling book especially intriguing is that the author (only 13 years old at the time of first publication in Japan in 2007) is autistic and his autism built steeps walls over which it seemed impossible to express his thoughts or feelings.

The translator of the book into English is bestselling novelist (Cloud Atlas) David Mitchell, whose son also has autism. Mitchell has noted that the physical and mental challenges Naoki faced in writing a book is a powerful testament to the human need for connection. In a Slate Book Review, Mitchell compared the writing challenge Naoki has to “the act of carrying water in cupped palms across a bustling Times Square or Piccadilly Circus would be to you or me.”

In a Publisher Weekly article, Mitchell said, “Naoki does have autism, and pretty severe autism at that. And yet, he both experiences and analyzes emotions, even if he can’t express these in direct speech, and has to type about them. If we ‘neurotypicals’ don’t think this is possible, I believe it shows the paucity of our imaginations and understanding.”

Naoki Higashida still writes. He keeps a nearly daily blog and has become a respected autism advocate. He continues to face – and overcome – formidable obstacles to writing.

Which brings me back to the question: why do writers write? It is probably for the same reason dancers dance, singers sing, visual artists paint, draw or sculpt, and musicians play instruments. It begins with the need to express our humanness. We say we are compelled to do it; we give birth to a brainchild (or brainchildren), much as one must give birth to physical children once they have formed within us. And though we would likely do it even if no one paid attention, we are most gratified when people do notice, especially if they respond positively.

From the art of prehistoric cave dwellers to Twitter fans today, we need to leave an imprint that claims our moment in time. That says, I was here and I had value.

Ask a writer why he or she writes and you’ll invite any number of answers. I think it comes down to survival. We write in order to connect something within ourselves to something bigger than ourselves. We write to feel a sense of belonging to something beyond ourselves. To belong means to not be alone. To not be alone improves our chance to survive. Finally, to write means to “survive” beyond our mortality; to continue speaking. To hope there will be at least one person listening.

Evelyn Eman Delmar

Re-Freshing

The old year is out, the new one is in. The contrived demarcation of time offers a chance to re-construct and re-construct whatever we want to change in our lives, including ourselves. We usually call these changes “resolutions”. What are yours for 2017?

The attempt to change is a test of fortitude and fate. Even for things we think we want, change upsets routines, at least for awhile. Fortunately, literature can inspire the stick-to-itivness required to overcome obstacles. Stories of people who triumphed over adversity remind us of human spirit and capability. If you’re in need of inspiration and a great read, check out these dozen books (fiction, non-fiction, memoir, graphic novel) about people who started over:

The Awakening – Kate Chopin (1899)
Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston (1937)
The Alchemist – Paul Coelho (1988)
A Bend in the River – V.S. Naipaul (1989)
Breath, Eyes, Memory – Edwidge Danticat (1994)
The Year of Magical Thinking – Joan Didion (2005)
The Arrival – Shaun Tan(2006)
What is the What – Dave Eggers (2006)
Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
A Good American – Alex George (2012)
Starting Over – Elizabeth Spencer (2014)
The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead (2016)

Quotable

If you’re trying to make changes in your life and need some words of encouragement, here are some notable quotables:

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. – Seneca the Younger

Wherever you are is the entry point. – Kabir

There is only one day left, always starting over: it is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk. — Jean-Paul Sartre

The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective. – G.K. Chesterton

Rock bottom became the foundation upon which I rebuilt my life. – J.K. Rowling

Evelyn Eman Delmar

Books As a Fashion Statement?

I love books with well-designed covers. I wrote about them in my April 27, 2013 Blog, The Great Cover-Up. But what’s most important about a book is what’s written on the pages. Once again, I was aghast to come upon a home design article that suggested a cozy look could be easily achieved by purchasing books en masse at garage and estate sales, or other places where “old hard-cover books can be snatched up in dollar bins” in order to “lend your space the collected feel of a library.”

No mention of creating your fashionable home with books carefully chosen and joyfully read. Making your home feel like a library by stacking any old books you have no interest in reading is akin to inviting a group of strangers to live in your home based solely on what they’re wearing, then having no communication with them: a fast track to disappointment.

If your “space” lacks enough handsome hardcover books to feel like a cozy library, here are three suggestions to bring books into your home that will feed your imagination as well as your fashion sense:

1. Put books you’d like to read on your holiday wish list for people to give you.
2. Visit your local independent book store and let them help you select books that fit your interests (these stores are great for that friendly service).
3. If you’re on a tight budget, see if your library sells used books. The selections are usually plentiful and varied, the prices are bargains and the money helps support the library.


With winter starting to settle in and more time being spent indoors, books are just waiting to transport us to other places.

Evelyn Eman Delmar

To Be or Not to Be — “Post-Truth” in Literature

Oxford Dictionaries announced “post-truth” as its 2016 international Word of the Year. Every year, the Oxford Dictionaries team reviews candidates for word of the year, choosing one that captures the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year. “Post-truth,” an adjective, is defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

Surprise, surprise! A lot of promises from a Presidential candidate who was known to punctuate his comments with “believe me!” have been quickly dismissed by the President-elect. Kind of like the unreliable narrator in literature.

An unreliable narrator is one whose credibility has been seriously compromised. The term first appears in 1961, in Wayne C. Booth’s The Rhetoric of Fiction. It’s sometimes immediately evident that a narrator is unreliable with an obviously false or delusional claim. Sometimes the narrator appears as a character whose actions offer clues of unreliability. And sometimes, with great drama, a twist ending to a story reveals the narrator’s unreliability, forcing the reader to reconsider the narrator’s point of view and experience of the story. Finally, there are stories that leave readers wondering about the narrator’s reliability and how the story should be interpreted.

You might recognize unreliable narrators if they are prone to exaggeration or bragging, if they exhibit such mental illness as paranoia or delusions, if they play with truth and expectations, if their view is limited or if they openly misrepresent themselves. Narrators who contradict themselves by memory lapses or lying to other character, or who contradict the reader’s knowledge or logic, are unreliable.

Some notable unreliable narrators you may have encountered include:
• Humbert Humbert (Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov)
• Alex (A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess)
• Unnamed narrator (Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk)
• Patrick Bateman (American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis)
• Holden Caulfield (The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger)
• Huckleberry Finn (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain)
• Screwtape (The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis)

And then there are the politicians… but that’s another story!

Footnotes

Happy Birthday Mark Twain, born on November 30, 1835. Born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, the legendary wit wrote Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, as well as many short-stories. Twain shares a birthday with Jonathan Swift, the adventure classic author of Gulliver’s Travels, born a mere 168 years ahead of Twain.

Evelyn Eman Delmar

From the Archives–Thank-full-ness

Note to Readers – Every now and then, I will re-post a blog entry that has withstood the test of time. Whether you missed it the first time ‘round or read it years ago, I feel it’s worth sharing again. I chose Thank-full-ness from November 24, 2013 because we’ve just come out of a long, divisive political campaign season and Thanksgiving will be our first opportunity to remember all the things to be thankful for in this great nation as we start to come together again.

There is one day that is ours. Thanksgiving Day is the one day that is purely American. – O Henry
After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relatives. – Oscar Wilde

As we approach the quintessential American family holiday – Thanksgiving – I started to search for samples of Thanksgiving representations in literature. You’d think that the holiday would be ripe for comedy, drama, poetry, a touch of weirdness perhaps, and certainly a cornucopia of memories. But you’d be challenged to find a bounty of books whose titles or authors you’d recognize.

While there are passing references to Thanksgiving in various novels by such authors as Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain and Philip Roth, you have to go back to 1882 and the novella An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving by Louisa May Alcott to find a classic story placed in the holiday. It’s a cute story that may remind you of the movie Home Alone, when children are left to fill their parents’ role in the household with comic results. While getting a taste of life in those long-ago times, we can relate to the spirit of the family-oriented holiday.

How authors view Thanksgiving reflects the time in which the author lives and the story is told. Such is the case with Rick Moody’s 1994 novel, The Ice Storm. Set in the 1970s, the dark story reveals the underlying dysfunction of two seemingly attractive upper-class suburban families, breaking apart under the weight of contemporary cultural pressures.

Most of us have Thanksgiving recollections that fall somewhere between Alcott’s version and Moody’s. Those of us “of a certain age” also recall the first verse of a melodic poem called Over the River and Through the Woods, learned in elementary school. Did you know that when you go past the first verse, it turns out to be about Thanksgiving? The original title of the poem (later adapted into a song and a play) by Lydia Maria Child was A Boy’s Thanksgiving Day. Now you have a piece of trivia to pass around with the turkey and stuffing at your Thanksgiving table!

Footnotes

In addition to Thanksgiving, November also marks the end of another BOOKS ‘n’ BOTTLES™ season. I wish to express my gratitude to all the booklovers who came to our events and signed up for future program notices. I am so impressed with the lineup of literary talent we featured this season (international and national bestsellers, award winners and debut authors): Susanna Calkins, Rory Flynn, Tim Johnston, Mitch Bornstein, Jessica Chiarella, Nic Joseph, Patricia Skalka and Anne Heffron. Special thanks to those who worked with me to make Season 2 of BOOKS ‘n’ BOTTLES™ possible: The Book Bin, TASTE Food & Wine, Sunset Foods and our Bonus Buy sponsors. Thank you, one and all!

Evelyn Eman Delmar

From the Archives–Books Will Defeat Terrorism

Note to Readers – Every now and then, I will re-post a blog entry that has withstood the test of time. Whether you missed it the first time ‘round or read it years ago, I feel it’s worth sharing again. I chose Books Will Defeat Terrorism from September 9, 2013 because the world feels especially vulnerable right now, even in the U.S.A. to which other countries turned for reassurance during turbulent times across the globe. As we try to regain our footing, it is helpful to remember the critical role of books in our lives.

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.” ― Maya Angelou

Malala Yousafzai was only 12 when she wrote a blog under a pseudonym promoting education for girls. She became a women’s rights activist in a region known for Taliban attempts to ban girls from attending school. By 13, her real name and face were well-known from interviews and a documentary film about her life. On October 9, 2012, the 15-year-old Pakistani student was critically shot in the head and neck by an Islamic extremist as she sat on a school bus, targeted for speaking out against laws that would restrict girls’ access to education.

Miraculously, Malala survived but she continues to face threats of death against her and her father by the Taliban. Giving a face to courage, she refuses to cower to the threats, choosing to defend books and the right of all people to freely read.

This year, Malala Yousafzai was featured on Time magazine’s front cover as one of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World”. She won Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize and was nominated for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize. On her 16th birthday in July, she appeared before the UN, calling for worldwide access to education. Speaking at a ceremony in The Hague where she was awarded the 2013 International Children’s Peace Prize, Malala vowed to continue her campaign for education.

It seems fitting that in England, where Malala has been residing since her medical treatment and recovery, she presided over the opening of Europe’s largest library on September 3rd. During the ceremony at the Library of Birmingham, Malala announced,” I have challenged myself that I will read thousands of books and I will empower myself with knowledge. Pens and books are the weapons that defeat terrorism.” She added, “There is no better way to explain the importance of books than say that even God chose the medium of a book to send his message to his people.”

Perhaps drawing from her own life, Malala observed, “Let us not forget that even one book, one pen, one child and one teacher can change the world.”

Malala, and others like her, are prepared to sacrifice their lives for the right to pick up a book and read. It reminds us of the true value of books are in our lives. Books are life transformed and they have the power to transform life. Even a young child knows this.

“I know what I want, I have a goal, an opinion, I have a religion and love. Let me be myself and then I am satisfied. I know that I’m a woman, a woman with inward strength and plenty of courage.” ― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

Footnotes

Booklovers understand how books can change the world for the better. Did you know they can also help us live longer? Researchers at Yale University studied the reading habits of 3,635 people over 50 for a 12-year period and found that bookworms who read books for more than 3½ hours each week (30 minutes a day) were 17 percent less like to die than their non-reading peers. It appears that delving into novels promotes cognitive processes, such as empathy and emotional intelligence, which can boos longevity. It’s believed books have an advantage over magazines and newspapers because, according to researcher Avni Bavishi, “books engage the reader’s mind more, providing more cognitive benefit, and therefore increasing the life span.”

Evelyn Eman Delmar

Fairy Tales Can Come True

In observance of election week, I will NOT write about great political literature. After all, nothing can compete with the surreal experience or creative story telling that have defined this election season. After November 8th, we’ll need a break from all that. So let’s talk about fairy tales for adults.

Of course, fairy tales don’t automatically contain fairies; the term is ascribed to a collection of French stories by Madame d’Aulnoy in 1697. A more accurate term might be the commonly used “folktales”. Researchers at universities in Durham and Lisbon date this form of stories back thousands of years, some to the Bronze Age more than 6,000 years ago.

Everyone has favorite fairy tales, first told to us by adults, then read by ourselves. They appeared in collections of short stories or fully fleshed out tales. All of them carried life lessons which we absorbed through their ability to entertain and excite our imaginations. Perhaps the best known of the earliest recorded morality tales are Aesop’s fables, written in ancient Greece of the 6th century BC.

The fairy tale form we grew up with has its origins in European tradition, evolved from centuries-old stories that have adapted to multiple cultures worldwide. The largest and best-known collection was gathered by German brothers Jacob and Ludwig Grimm in the early 1800s. They started with 86 folktales, published in 1812 and increased the collection to two volumes comprising 585 tales and legends by 1818. The tales referred to today as Grimm’s Fairy Tales number 209.

The influence of fairy tales infiltrated such adult classics as Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Today’s best fairy tales for adults may not have fairies but they creatively mix folks and fantasy to great effect. They prove you will never grow too old to enjoy fairy tales. How many of these have you read:

The Princess Bride – William Goldman
Practical Magic – Alice Hoffman
Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman
The Book of Lost Things – John Connolly
The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
The Snow Child – Eowyn Ivey
The First 15 Lives of Harry August – Claire North
Uprooted – Naomi Novik