Commentary, Non-Fiction

Death Day – A Tribute to Ray Bradbury

Celebrating the life of Ray Bradbury

Now I must say, without weeping, how much this writer means to me. Ray Bradbury has been the strongest inspiration to me as a writer, or even as a human, persevering through the unimaginative obstacles, and he is the true inspiration for this project of Drunken Library. Bradbury was a novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, screenwriter and poet. He was a self-educated man, an idea enthusiast, and one who charmed you with such fun and imagination that you felt like a child reborn. Reading Bradbury is like a soft blow of ocean mist after the morning rain has cleared. bradbury

Ray Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois and fell in love with reading when he was three years old. He began reading comics and fantasy, then hoped to grow up to be all the characters that he read about. After graduating from Los Angeles High School, he started religiously attending the public library, from which he says that he graduated. The library educated and fulfilled him. He was most successful in science fiction, screenplays, always defending the imagination of the individual.

In my later years I have looked in the mirror each day and found a happy person staring back. Occasionally I wonder why I can be so happy. The answer is that every day of my life I’ve worked only for myself and for the joy that comes from writing and creating. The image in my mirror is not optimistic, but the result of optimal behavior.

Favorite Quotes:

If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you, and you’ll never learn.

Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.

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The things that you do should be things that you love, and the things that you love should be things that you do.

Incomplete List of Suggested Reading:

The Martian Chronicles (1950)

The Illustrated Man (1951)

Fahrenheit 451 (1953)

Dandelion Wine (1957)

Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962)

I Sing the Body Electric (1969)

The Cat’s Pajama’s (2004) – Collection of Short Stories

Interesting Facts:

His formal education ended at high school; he never attended a college, but a library.

When he was a boy, Bradbury was tapped on the shoulder by the sword of a carnival man and told to “Live forever!” which inspired his works for a lifetime.

Bradbury was afraid of the dark until he was almost twenty years old and he never obtained a driver’s license.

Related Articles:

You can live in Ray Bradbury’s house. . . http://www.latimes.com/books/jacketcopy/la-et-jc-ray-bradbury-house-20140520-story.html

A fantastic interview to know him better … http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/6012/the-art-of-fiction-no-203-ray-bradbury

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Commentary, Non-Fiction

Death Day – A Tribute to Herman Melville

Herman-Melville

Celebrating the life of Herman Melville

Born a New Yorker in 1819 on August 1st, Herman Melville lived to the age of 72, until passing away on September 28, 1981. He spent most of his younger years working diligently to alleviate the debt that riddled his family, eventually finding himself aboard a merchant ship as a cabin boy. His life continued to be filled with sailing adventures, voyages to the South Seas and encounters with the present-day French Polynesian islands inhabited with cannibalistic civilizations. His writings were inspired mostly from his journeys, but were driven by a critical philosophy of American culture and society.

Herman Melville

I recommend all adventurous youths who abandon vessels in romantic islands during the rainy season to provide themselves with umbrellas.

Melville wed Elizabeth Shaw in 1847, continuing on to have two sons and two daughters. He had a brief but pivotal friendship with American writer, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and continued to publish short stories and novels throughout his life. In his later years, he worked as a customs guard on the ship harbors, writing as a habit on nights, and weekends, exploring the world of poetry too, up until the final moments of his life.

Favorite quotes:

“It is not down in any map; true places never are.”

“Nature is nobody’s ally.”

“Thou wine art the friend of the friendless, though a foe to all.”

Incomplete list of suggested reading:

  • Typee (1846)
  • Omoo (1847)
  • Redburn (1849)
  • White-Jacket (1850)
  • Moby Dick (1851)
  • Pierre (1852)
  • “Bartleby the Scrivener” (1853)
  • The Encantadas” (1854)
  • “Benito Cereno” (1855)
  • Israel Potter: His Fifty Years of Exile (1855)
  • The Confidence-Man (1857)

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Interesting fact:

Melville’s New York publisher’s house underwent a devastating fire in 1853 that destroyed most of his books.

Share a quote or excerpt of Herman Melville today in the comments or with your online community using the tag #HappyDeathDayMelville 

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Commentary, Non-Fiction

“The Fight to Save NYC’s Storied Public Library . . .” – Maureen Corrigan

http://www.npr.org/player/embed/416780087/417174178

Since it opened in 1911, the building has become a New York City landmark, praised not only for its beauty but also for its functional brilliance. In the words of one contemporary architect, the main branch of The New York Public Library at Fifth Avenue and 42ndStreet is “a perfect machine for reading.” The grand Reading Room sits atop seven levels of iron and steel books stacks whose contents could, at one time, be delivered to anybody who requested a book within a matter of minutes via a small elevator. Those stacks also support the floor of the Reading Room above.

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Commentary

Buy the book? – Monocle Magazine

In Japan, a second library is set to open that is funded by private bookseller Tsutaya. Is this evidence of turning over a new leaf or should we throw the book at the commercialisation of a public service?


It’s been years since I was a heavy library user. Moving to Japan had something to do with that. I use the public libraries in Tokyo but not often; usually it’s just to borrow a book in Japanese on a work-related topic. And I never linger. Libraries here tend to be an uninviting place to read. Same cramped interior. Same utilitarian furniture. Same fluorescent lighting. To get my ink-on-paper fix, I prefer Tsutaya Books in Tokyo’s Daikanyama district. Few libraries can compete with the experience of a bookshop that’s so complete it offers hope for the future of bricks-and-mortar booksellers.

Which brings me to a story in the Japanese media last week about library makeovers. Specifically, Tagajo: a city in Miyagi prefecture, north of Tokyo, that has signed an agreement with Tsutaya’s parent company to build what the two sides are calling a “centre of cultural exchange”. Their plans call for a space that’s a public library, bookshop, café and restaurant all rolled into one seamless package. Tsutaya’s involvement makes it likely that Tagajo’s library will have all the trappings of, well, a Tsutaya bookshop.

This will be the second time a city has tapped Tsutaya to run a library. The first – in Takeo city, in the southern prefecture of Saga – opened in April, to mostly enthusiastic reviews. Anyone who has browsed the cosy aisles at Tsutaya Books in Daikanyama will immediately spot the design similarities. Hanging and standing lamps and bookshelves with recessed lighting complement the daylight that pours in from the skylight and large ground-floor windows – and not a naked fluorescent bulb in sight. Freestanding shelves on the ground floor and floor-to-ceiling shelves in an upstairs loft hold 200,000 books and reference materials. Amid the stacks there are plenty of wooden tables where you can park yourself with a book for hours. Tsutaya also train the staff and provide the black-and-white uniforms that make them easy to pick out in a crowd.

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Commentary, Non-Fiction

Death Day – A Tribute to Allen Ginsberg

Celebrating the life of Allen Ginsberg – Easter Sunday

On April 5, 1997, Allen Ginsberg, esteemed American poet who spanned influence over multiple generations, died from a combination of liver cancer and hepatitis. At the eve of his death, close friends, family and old lovers spent the night with him at his apartment in the East Village in New York City. Once he passed, Buddhist chants filled the air for hours until his they believed his spirit fully left his body.

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Allen Ginsberg, a true activist, mentor and poet.

“Poetry is the one place where people can speak their original human mind. It is the outlet for people to say in public what is known in private.” – Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg was paramount to the Beat movement as a voice against militarism and political oppression. He was part of the counterculture publicly speaking out for the sexually and politically oppressed.

He is most known for exercising his freedom of speech in his poem “Howl” that spoke on homosexual relationships and the times of the American generation.

He studied at Colombia University where he made friends that shared his “new vision” and embarked on the epic journey of the poetic, beatific, buddhist life that still influences generations of artists today.

Favorite Quotes:

“I really believe, or want to believe, really I am nuts, otherwise I’ll never be sane.”

“Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.”

Incomplete list of suggested reading:

  • Howl & Other Poems (1956)
  • Empty Mirror: Early Poems (1961)
  • The Yage Letters (1963)
  • The Fall of America: Poems of These States (1973)*
  • Illuminated Poems (1996)

*National Book Award for Poetry Winner

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“America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.” – Ginsberg

Interesting Fact:

Ginsberg and Anne Waldman helped found the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, which was started by Ginsberg’s biggest spiritual mentor, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

 

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Commentary

Death Day – A Tribute to John Steinbeck

Celebrating the Life of John Steinbeck

On December 20, 1968 John Steinbeck passed away from heart disease in his humble abode located in New York City. Steinbeck was best known for his literature on California, the working class and the land that ruled them. He was a Stanford student without ever completing his degree. He worked, wrote, and inspired American writers for ages to come.

steinbeck

I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit. – Steinbeck

Favorite Quotes: 

“In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplicable.”

“The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.”

Incomplete List of Suggested Reading:

  • Cup of Gold (1929)
  • The Pastures of Heaven (1932)
  • To a God Unknown (1933)
  • Tortilla Flat (1935)
  • In Dubious Battle (1936)
  • Of Mice and Men (1937)
  • The Long Valley (1938)
  • The Grapes of Wrath (1939)*
  • Sea of Cortez (1941)
  • The Moon Is Down (1942)
  • Cannery Row (1945)
  • The Pearl (1947)
  • Burning Bright (1950)
  • East of Eden (1952)
  • The Winter of Our Discontent (1961)
  • Travels with Charley: In Search of America (1962)**
*Pulitzer Prize Winner
**Nobel Prize for Literature

Interesting Fact:

Steinbeck visited Vietnam in 1967 to report on the war where he spent a night on watch for his two sons and the platoon to sleep.

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Commentary

TBT – New York Times, Nov. 17, 1924

Crossword Puzzles

A FAMILIAR FORM OF MADNESS: Latest of the problems presented for solution by psychologists interested in the mental peculiarities of mobs and crowds . . . is created by what is well called the craze over crossword puzzles. Scarcely recovered from the form of temporary madness that made so many people pay enormous prices for mah jong sets, about the same persons are now committing the same sinful waste in the utterly futile finding of words the letters of which will fit into a prearranged pattern, more or less complex. This is not a game at all, and it hardly can be called a sport; it is merely a new utilization of leisure by those for whom it would otherwise be empty and tedious.

(The New York Times inaugurated a puzzle page February 15, 1942 – just 18 years later.)

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