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Posts Tagged ‘books

“It had been startling and disappointing to me to find out that story books had been written by people, that books were not natural wonders, coming up of themselves like grass”*…

 

In the first decade of the 20th century, Edward Stratemeyer formed the Stratemeyer Syndicate.  As the head of the group, he commissioned writers to create quickly-written, formulaic juvenile novels; authors received short outlines, and returned book manuscripts within a month. As Meghan O’Rourke writes in The New Yorker,“ Stratemeyer checked the manuscript for discrepancies, made sure that each book had exactly fifty jokes, and cut or expanded as needed,”  The syndicate’s popular protagonists included the Hardy Boys,Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, and the Bobbsey Twins, along with many that are now unfamiliar, like the Outdoor Girls, the Motion Picture Chums, and the Kneetime Animal Stories.

The first of the two-page outline for The House on the Cliff, the second Hardy Boys novel

 

In this two-page outline for the 1927 Hardy Boys mystery The House on the Cliff, Stratemeyer directed writer Leslie McFarlane in the construction of the plot of the second book in the franchise’s original series. The book was officially published as the work of Franklin W. Dixon, a fictional author whose name appears on all of the Hardy Boys books.

Stratemeyer, who grew up reading the Horatio Alger and Oliver Optic book series, was himself a writer of boys’ fiction. As Meghan O’Rourke wrote in the New Yorker in 2004, Stratemeyer was publishing his own series fiction—the Rover Boys, the Motor Boys—when he figured out a way to bridge two oppositional strains of children’s literature: “the nineteenth century’s moralistic tradition and the dime novel’s frontier adventures.” Stratemeyer’s books would be sold in hardback, thereby appearing “respectable” to parents, while containing adventure stories that were just as appealing to kids as cheap stories of the dime novel type…

James Keeline, who researchs the history of the Syndicate and granted me permission to run these scans of the Hardy Boys document, has put several other Stratemeyer outlines up on his site.

Rebecca Onion, in The Vault

* Eudora Welty

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As we turn the page, we might send a combo birthday and St Patrick’s Day greeting to Catherine “Kate” Greenaway; she was born on this date in 1846.  Creator of books for children such as Mother Goose (1881), Little Ann (1883), & The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1889), she was one o fte most the most accomplished illustrators of her time– and the inspiration for The Kate Greenaway Medal, awarded annually by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in the U.K. to an illustrator of children’s books.

Greenaway’s illustration of the Pied Piper leading the children out of Hamelin; for Robert Browning’s version of the tale.

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Written by LW

March 17, 2015 at 1:01 am

“When I die, I’m leaving my body to science fiction”*…

 

When it comes to cover design, the science fiction genre is often accused, along with romance novels, of having the most godawful cover design going. With their typical brilliance in style, Penguin embraces all the good, the bad and the comically ugly in traditional sci-fi design with their science fiction series. From the campy cartoon-style creatures and ridiculous, buxom alien babes of space opera, to the darkly stylized futuristic cities in dystopian futures Penguin covered it all with story selection and cover illustration…

Confidently judge books by their covers at “Penguin’s Science Fiction.”

[TotH to @MartyKrasney]

 

* Stephen Wright

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As we travel through space and time, we might recall that it was on this date in 1963 that Arthur K. “Spud” Melin patented the Hula Hoop.  In fact, both Melin’s company, Wham-O, and others had been selling millions of Martex (plastic) hoops since the late 50s.  Melin’s innovation was an improved version- which, by virtue of the intellectual property protection, was available only from Wham-O.

No sensation has ever swept the country like the Hula Hoop.  It remains the standard against which all national crazes are measured.

– Richard A. Johnson, American Fads

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Spud Melin (left) and his Wham-O co-founder Richard Knerr

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Written by LW

March 5, 2015 at 1:01 am

“I’m so hungry I could eat a sandwich from a gas station”*…

 

Seoul Food D.C. restaurant, located inside an Exxon gas station

 

Gas stations have long been synonymous with cold pizza, dried-out doughnuts and mediocre hot dogs rotating on unappetizing roller grills. But in cities like Miami, Kansas City, and even Saxapahaw, N.C., among others, patrons can fuel up on gourmet grub and top off their tanks in one stop…

Gas stations for a long time have been a low-margin business. Owners typically make their real profits not on fuel sales but on the snacks and other items customers purchase when they come inside the station. These latest gas station eats are just taking that business model up a notch or two…

Fill ‘er up at “The Joys of Good Gas Station Food.”

* “Clark Griwold” (Chevy Chase), National Lampoon’s Vacation

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As we pull in to take out, we might send tasty birthday greetings to the culinary genius behind green eggs and ham, Theodor Seuss Geisel, AKA “Dr. Seuss”; he was born on this date in 1904.  After a fascinating series of early-career explorations, Geisel settled on a style that created what turned out to be the perfect “gateway drug” to book addiction for generations of young readers.

The more that you read,

The more things you will know.

The more that you learn,

The more places you’ll go.

I Can Read With My Eyes Shut! (1978)

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Written by LW

March 2, 2015 at 1:01 am

“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all”*…

 

Facebook has analyzed its well-known meme, “List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes, and don’t think too hard. They do not have to be the ‘right’ books or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way.”

It gathered an anonymized sample of over 130,000 status updates matching “10 books” or “ten books” appearing in the last two weeks of August 2014 (although the meme has been active over at least a year). 63.7% of the posters were in the US, followed by 9.3%in India, and 6.3% in the UK. Women outnumbered men 3.1:1. The average age was 37.

Here are the top 20 books, along with a percentage of all lists (having at least one of the top 500 books) that contained them.

  1. 21.08 Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling
  2. 14.48 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  3. 13.86 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
  4. 7.48  The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
  5. 7.28  Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  6. 7.21  The Holy Bible
  7. 5.97  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
  8. 5.82  The Hunger Games Trilogy – Suzanne Collins
  9. 5.70  The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
  10. 5.63  The Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis
  11. 5.61  The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  12. 5.37  1984 – George Orwell
  13. 5.26  Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
  14. 5.23  Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  15. 5.11  The Stand – Stephen King
  16. 4.95  Gone with the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
  17. 4.38  A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle
  18. 4.27  The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  19. 4.05  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
  20. 4.01  The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho

Read more here.  And see how the same list varied in non-English-speaking areas here (spoiler alert: Harry Potter still rules…).

* Oscar Wilde

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As we turn the page, we might send leather-bound birthday wishes to poet, iconic bad boy (and, as readers will recall,  father of the redoubtable Ada Lovelace) George Gordon, Lord Byron; he was was born on this date in 1788.  Byron once famously suggested that “If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.”  Still, history suggests, even then…

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Written by LW

January 22, 2015 at 1:01 am

“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them”*…

 

Since we last visited Tom Gauld, he’s turned his attention increasing to the blessed realm of every year’s perfect Holiday present: the world of books.  From New Yorker covers to cartoons for The Guardian‘s Review section, he celebrates the world of letters (and the arts) with insightful whimsy…

Turn the pages at “You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack” and at Gauld’s site.

* Joesph Brodsky

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As we prepare to bury our noses, we might recall that it was on this date in 1679 that ruffians in the employ of the Earl of Rochester set upon and pummeled England’s poet Laureate, John Dryden, on the mistaken impression that he had written “An Essay on Satire.”  The essay– which was circulating in manuscript form in London, and contained damning accounts of the King and many notables, including Rochester– was in fact written by John Sheffield (1st Duke of Buckingham and Normanby, a poet and Tory politician of the late Stuart period, who served as Lord Privy Seal and Lord President of the Council).

The wrongly-accused Dryden

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Sheffield

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Written by LW

December 18, 2014 at 1:01 am

“When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes”*…

 

From the proprietors of a second-hand bookshop in Brisbane, Australia, a collection of things they’ve found in the books they’ve bought…

More at Stuff in Old Books.

* Desiderius Erasmus

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As we riffle through the pages, we might recall that it was on this date in 1933, that Federal Judge John M. Woolsey, ruling on an action precipitated by Random House publisher Bennett Cerf as a test case, that the James Joyce’s novel Ulysses is not obscene.  Woolsey reserved judgement on the objects found interleaved therein.

1922 first edition cover

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Written by LW

December 6, 2014 at 1:01 am

“The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself”*…

 

Did you ever wonder where you came from? That is the stuff that’s inside your body like your bones, organs, muscles…etc.  All of these things are made of various molecules and atoms. But where did these little ingredients come from? And how were they made?…

Find the answer at “How much of the human body is made up of stardust?

* Carl Sagan

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As we hum along with Hoagy Carmichael, we might recall that it was on this date in 1958 that the first American edition of Vladimir Nabakov’s Lolita was released.  Finished in 1953, Nabakov was turned down by publishers ranging from Simon & Schuster to New Directions, all concerned about its subject matter.  Nabakov turned to Maurice Girodias and his Olympia Press, and published in France in 1955.  Though it received almost no critical attention on release, Graham Greene called in “one of the three best novels of 1955″ in a year-end wrap-up published in the Sunday Times– provoking a response in the Sunday Express that the novel was one “one of the filthiest” ever.  Surprisingly to many, the novel’s American launch elicited no official response.  But it registered hugely with the reading public: it went into a third printing within days and became the first novel since Gone with the Wind to sell 100,000 copies in its first three weeks.  Lolita is included on Time‘s “List of the 100 Best Novels in the English language from 1923 to 2005,” and it is fourth on the Modern Library’s 1998 “List of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th century.”

Cover and half-title page of a presentation copy of the first American edition, inscribed by Nabokov to his wife, Vera ( “Verina verae Nab Aug. 1958 Ithaca”) and embellished with a delicately-rendered butterfly.

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Written by LW

August 18, 2014 at 1:01 am

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