Thursday, November 20, 2014

Book 'em, Danno

Yesterday was the National Book Awards (NBA) ceremony. When, on a day like today, the midday temperature in sunny Minnesota is in the mid-teens, it's nice to sit inside and think about books and reading. Knowing Minnesota's reputation as a publishing and reading hub, I did a quick scan of the NBA winners and contenders to see how well represented we were (are). I didn't notice notable Minnesotans among the authors or publishers in the Fiction, Nonfiction, or Young People's Literature Categories. In Poetry, however, our very own Graywolf Press published two of the five finalists: Second Childhood by Fanny Howe (who lives in New England); and Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine.

stream near Port Wing WI
Is it time yet to "think Spring?"
Photo by J. Harrington

I mention New England because that's where I'm from and, just yesterday, I ordered a recently published anthology of contemporary Vermont fiction because I want to see how the included authors write about Vermont as "place." I bought that book knowing that these days I haven't come close to getting caught up on or making a meaningful reduction in the stacks of unread books around the house. Compounding this struggle is the fact that, by the end of this weekend, I'm supposed to have finished my letter to Santa, which often includes a request for books I want to read before the eight or nine "holds" on them at my local library have finished. Although I have a theory that the penury-burdened gods of New England won't let me pass on as long as my stack of unread books is tall enough, I'm not convinced they'll protect me from being crushed to death if the stack becomes tall enough to topple on me. Maybe it's time for a trip to a fly-fishing emporium to see what temptations can be found there that could be mentioned in an epistle to a certain red-suited, white-haired, jolly old elf. If nothing else, they might have some books on fish and fishing that will help get me through the Winter and psyched for Spring.

Of Modern Books

By Carolyn Wells 

  (A Pantoum) 

Of making many books there is no end,
   Though myriads have to deep oblivion gone;
Each day new manuscripts are being penned,
   And still the ceaseless tide of ink flows on.

Though myriads have to deep oblivion gone,
   New volumes daily issue from the press;
And still the ceaseless tide of ink flows on—
   The prospect is disheartening, I confess.

New volumes daily issue from the press;
   My pile of unread books I view aghast.
The prospect is disheartening, I confess;
   Why will these modern authors write so fast?

My pile of unread books I view aghast—
   Of course I must keep fairly up to date—
Why will these modern authors write so fast?
   They seem to get ahead of me of late.

Of course I must keep fairly up to date;
   The books of special merit I must read;
They seem to get ahead of me of late,
   Although I skim them very fast indeed.

The books of special merit I must read;
   And then the magazines come round again;
Although I skim them very fast indeed,
   I can’t get through with more than eight or ten.

And then the magazines come round again!
   How can we stem this tide of printer’s ink?
I can’t get through with more than eight or ten—
   It is appalling when I stop to think.

How can we stem this tide of printer’s ink?
   Of making many books there is no end.
It is appalling when I stop to think
   Each day new manuscripts are being penned!


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