(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Great American Novel

A Life Well Lived…

As the late Twentieth Century philosopher Jim Morrison noted, “nobody gets out of here alive”… the more important, then, to make that most of the time one has.

Omer L. Baumgartner

AMES, Iowa – Noted Midwestern raconteur Omer L. Baumgartner passed away at this home in Ames, Iowa on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011. He was 90 years old. Mr. Baumgartner had lived a long and passionate life dedicated to rambunctious performances and dairy products.

Born on a dairy farm in Walnut, Ill., Baumgartner was prodigious with the movement of manure from an early age, and exercising these and other talents, earned recognition for his National 4-H Grand Champion Dairy Heifer, Clementine’s Ramona, in 1930 at the age of 10. After this debut, and as the Depression raged, Baumgartner cut his teeth in the livestock industry while attending hundreds of county and state fairs, showing and selling cattle, frying oysters, skinning rabbits, and drinking whiskey. While still a freshman at the University of Illinois, he successfully quelled the great dairy upraising of 1938, averting a desperate ice cream shortage in Chicago, and was immediately recruited, without finishing college, by the state’s Guernsey Breeders Association as a field agent.

Despite never learning to cook anything other than fried oysters, Baumgartner attained the rank of captain during World War II for running mess halls feeding over 5,000 in Tennessee and Alabama for the Army Air Corps. He was wildly popular with the troops for his mess hours bongo drum performances accompanied by dancing girls. Baumgartner notably worked for L.S. Heath and Company, running the dairy division and inventing Heath Bar ice cream in 1951. He also co-ran Wilkinson’s Office Supplies with his wife Jattie Wilkinson Baumgartner, serving one-third of the state of Illinois and parts of Iowa. Baumgartner disliked vegetables his whole life. Despite consuming more than 2,000 pounds of butter, he never suffered from any kind of heart disease. His last meal was ice cream.

[Galesburg.com, where readers will find the full obit; via Dangerous Minds]

As we commit to carpe each diem, we might recall that it was on this date in 1885 that Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was published in the U.S.   Considered by many to be the Great American Novel, Huckleberry Finn has been controversial from it birth (e.g., here and here)– indeed, the controversy began before its birth:  The UK and Canadian edition came out two months earlier; the U.S. version was delayed because one of the engravers added an obscenity to one of the illustrations: on p. 283, an illustration of Aunt Sally and Silas Phelps was augmented by the addition of a penis.  Thirty thousand copies of the book had been printed before the unwanted addition was discovered.  A new plate was made to correct the illustration and repair the existing copies; still, copies with the so-called “curved fly” plate remain valuable collectors items.

Huck, as drawn by E. W. Kemble for the original edition of the book (source)

The worst of the best…

“Mary and Holly” (Mary Kelly and Holly Hibner) are librarians at “a medium-sized public library in Michigan,” who have worked together for over ten years.  They’ve developed a long suit in culling library collections– those of their own institution and those of libraries to which they consult.

In the course of that selective work, Mary and Holly face choices that are tough… and some that are not so tough.  By way of celebrating that latter group– books that are “odd, outdated or maybe should be reconsidered under a current interpretation of collection policies”– they created Awful Library Books, showcasing such (currently-in-a-public-library-collection) gems as…

Published in 1971:  Usually the lingo and references are so dated, I can’t believe this would work for any school report for kids.  Interestingly, this book also mentions nutmeg and a few cleaning fluids as sources of a nice high.  So I guess this is more a “how to” type of book

“I can be obsolete”
Published in 1985:  there are a lot of public libraries out there that own it. However, this is the first computer book we have posted that doesn’t seem to have an abundance of mullet hairstyles.

Browse the shelves at Awful Library Books.

As we head for the reference desk, we might spare a celebratory thought for an author who has had his own share of troubles with libraries (though, I’m quite confident, never with Mary and Holly): writer and aphorist Samuel Langhorne Clemens– Mark Twain– who was born on this date in 1835.  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is consistently cited as a (if not indeed the) Great American Novel, at the same time that it is equally consistently the target of censors who would ban it from school and public libraries.


Matthew Brady’s photo of Mark Twain

%d bloggers like this: