lost and found: books, opinions, snark from PW

1. It’s Friday, which means not the end of my workweek, but something even more wonderful: Battlestar Galactica. Which let me say, is outstanding this season.

2. Beth loves my new header.

3. I found a bunch of missing books: Norton’s Critical Edition of The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the D’Urbervilles (I do love Hardy most sincerely), some biographies I had been worried about. My stash of ten copies of Homestead in Chinese (which really, what am I ever going to do with them? I had twelve and gave two away to people who actually speak Chinese, and now here the rest sit.)

4. I’m reading a book that apparently the whole world has read already, but I somehow overlooked: and it’s good. Really good. Year of Wonders (OWC), by Geraldine Brooks. The only thing I don’t like is the review from Publishers Weekly which is very positive, but also manages to dismiss the rest of the historical novelists in the universe with a flick of the superior fingers:

Discriminating readers who view the term historical novel with disdain will find that this debut by praised journalist Brooks (Foreign Correspondence) is to conventional work in the genre as a diamond is to a rhinestone. With an intensely observant eye, a rigorous regard for period detail, and assured, elegant prose, Brooks…

I am indignant not for my own sake (or not much for my own sake) but for A.S. Byatt, Dorothy Dunnett, Barry Unsworth, and all the other novelists who bring such talent and passion to the daunting task of writing stories set in the past. So: a raspberry to PW.

5. This week I have written eight thousand words. Really. Iin five days. Don’t talk to me about this, okay, but that would jinx it and if I can keep up this pace, wow. That would be great. The good people of Greenbriar South Carolina are talking my ear off, Julia and Dodge are talking to each other and letting me in their heads, and words sprudel up like cheap champagne.

6. Stephen King’s new book. Cell: A Novel (OWC) should be in my hands just about the time I finish Year of Wonders. Eclectic is one of my numerous middle names.

great resource (quick test)

Open WorldCat is a revolutionary approach to using the internet to look up books. From their website (which you should definitely go have a look at):

The Open WorldCat program makes records of library-owned materials in OCLC’s WorldCat database available to Web users on popular Internet search, bibliographic and bookselling sites. “Deep” links to content in library collections—books, serials, digital images and many other formats—appear alongside links to traditional Web content.

The result: OCLC member libraries are more visible on the Web, and their collections are more accessible from the sites where many people start their search for information.

So here’s a little experiment that will demonstrate (I hope) how Open WorldCat works. You’ve got the cover image here of To Kill a Mockingbird. If you want to buy a copy from Amazon, you click on the cover. If you don’t care to buy a copy from Amazon and instead would like to see if it’s in your local library, you can go to Open WorldCat. Note: I use the Amazon link because that allows me to use their image — which they host, so it doesn’t use up my bandwidth. And you know what kind of trouble that can get you into.

So if you see OWC next to the title of a book, clicking on it will take you to the Open WorldCat details page, and from there (as the mathematician would say) Bob’s your uncle. For example, have a look at To Kill a Mockingbird OWC.

I’ll try to include the OWC link now whenever I mention a book.

And because I want to test this some more, a couple titles:
Homestead OWC

Into the Wilderness OWC

and the little book that was one of my daughter’s favorites when she was about four: Pierre OWC

edited to add: radiant Robyn Bender asks a logical question: how do you look something up on OWC on your own? This OWC page provides that service.

libraries, ode to; Jetta Carleton

As a little girl I would walk two city miles to the public library on Lincoln Avenue on Chicago’s north side, no matter what the weather. I think I checked out every book in the children’s section before I was ten. If the building hadn’t been converted to condos (I should hate this idea, but then I can imagine what a great place that must be to live) I could show you still where certain books sit the the shelves because I checked them out so often: A Wrinkle in Time or Up a Road Slowly or Our Year Began in April.

I have a great respect for libraries and librarians of all kinds. Here in my small town the public library gets almost no public funding, but they provide wonderful services anyway. In Ann Arbor, Michigan, where we lived for ten years, there was a fantastic public library with every possible service, as well as the university’s top-ranked research library. I was spoiled, then. Now I have to make due with interlibrary loan, the internet, and buying lots of books I would ordinarily check out for a few weeks and take back.

There’s a ranking of public libraries (of course, we love to rank things). Like any ranking it is flawed, but it does establish one thing: In the big city category, the Denver Public Library ranks first. Now, I have nothing against Denver, really, but this seems to me a case of gluttony. Denver already has The Tattered Cover Bookstore, my favorite bookstore in the whole world. And it’s got a good university library too. Really. I ask you.

So if you have a good public library, count your blessings. If your public library isn’t quite so wonderful, maybe you could help them out a little, eh? Especially when it comes to public funding.
One other thing, because I ran into this book on my shelf today and whenever I do I want to sit down and read it all over again.

The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton.

Publisher: Bantam Books; Reprint edition (December 1984)
ASIN: 0553244221
sadly out of print

I first read this book in German when I was living in Austria. I loved it so much I tracked down the original English, and ever since I’ve been re-reading it on a regular basis. Whenever I see a copy in a used bookstore I buy it to give away. This is the story of a farm family in Missouri, set in the early part of the last century. Each section is told from the perspective of a different family member. This is a beautifully written, carefully constructed story that I have never tired of over the years. I gave it to my daughter to read this summer. She was doubtful (the cover of this particular edition was particularly awful, I admit) but she read it on my recommendation and we had long talks about it. The really sad thing, she says, is that Jetta Carleton never wrote another novel.

Jetta Carleton’s obituary, from the Albuquerque Journal on December 31, 1999.

JETTA LYON , 86, of Santa Fe died Tuesday following a stroke. She was a writer. Her major work, written under her maiden name, Jetta Carleton, was ‘The Moonflower Vine,’ a novel from her childhood in rural Missouri. The book was published by Simon and Schuster in 1962 and became an immediate best-seller in both hardback and paperback. It was a selection of the Literary Guild and the Readers Digest Condensed Book Club. She was a graduate of Cottey College and the University of Missouri. She taught school briefly, wrote for radio in Kansas city and for television and advertising in New York. She and her husband lived in Hoboken, N.J., and Washington, D.C., before building a home in Santa Fe in 1970. They founded The Lightning Tree press in 1973, publishing nearly 100 titles. The Rocky Mountain Book Publishers Association honored them in 1991 with its first Rittenhouse Award for lifetime contributions to regional publishing. She was preceded in death by her husband of 50 years, Jene Lyon. She is survived by a sister and grand-nephew in Wichita, Kan. Friends scatter her ashes at her home in the Santa Fe foothills at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Santa Fe Funeral Options.