Tuesday, January 18, 2011

J.D.Salinger: In Memorium

J.D. Salinger (January 1, 1919 - January 27, 2010), who was thought at one time to be the most important American writer to emerge since World War II but who then turned his back on success and adulation, he died at his home in Cornish, N.H., where he had lived in seclusion for more than 50 years.

Mr. Salinger’s literary reputation rests on a slender but enormously influential body of published work: the novel “The Catcher in the Rye,” the collection “Nine Stories” and two compilations, each with two long stories about the fictional Glass family: “Franny and Zooey” and “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction.”

“Catcher” was published in 1951, and its very first sentence, distantly echoing Mark Twain, struck a brash new note in American literature: “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

The novel’s allure persists to this day, even if some of Holden’s preoccupations now seem a bit dated, and it continues to sell more than 250,000 copies a year in paperback. Mark David Chapman, who killed John Lennon in 1980, even said the explanation for his act could be found in the pages of “The Catcher in the Rye.” In 1974 Philip Roth wrote, “The response of college students to the work of J. D. Salinger indicates that he, more than anyone else, has not turned his back on the times but, instead, has managed to put his finger on whatever struggle of significance is going on today between self and culture.”

Many critics were more admiring of “Nine Stories,” which came out in 1953 and helped shape writers like Mr. Roth, John Updike and Harold Brodkey. The stories were remarkable for their sharp social observation, their pitch-perfect dialogue (Mr. Salinger, who used italics almost as a form of musical notation, was a master not of literary speech but of speech as people actually spoke it) and the way they demolished whatever was left of the traditional architecture of the short story — the old structure of beginning, middle, end — for an architecture of emotion, in which a story could turn on a tiny alteration of mood or irony. Mr. Updike said he admired “that open-ended Zen quality they have, the way they don’t snap shut.”

Mr. Salinger also perfected the great trick of literary irony — of validating what you mean by saying less than, or even the opposite of, what you intend. Orville Prescott wrote in The New York Times in 1963, “Rarely if ever in literary history has a handful of stories aroused so much discussion, controversy, praise, denunciation, mystification and interpretation.”

As a young man Mr. Salinger yearned ardently for just this kind of attention. He bragged in college about his literary talent and ambitions, and wrote swaggering letters to Whit Burnett, the editor of Story magazine. But success, once it arrived, paled quickly for him. He told the editors of Saturday Review that he was “good and sick” of seeing his photograph on the dust jacket of “The Catcher in the Rye” and demanded that it be removed from subsequent editions. He ordered his agent to burn any fan mail. In 1953 Mr. Salinger, who had been living on East 57th Street in Manhattan, fled the literary world altogether and moved to a 90-acre compound on a wooded hillside in Cornish. He seemed to be fulfilling Holden’s desire to build himself “a little cabin somewhere with the dough I made and live there for the rest of my life,” away from “any goddam stupid conversation with anybody.”

McGrath, Charles. J.D. Salinger’s Obituary. New York Times January 28, 2010.

His body of work can be found on display in the library along with some candid pictures of him from the Getty Musuem.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Eagle Watching this Weekend

As a follow-up to the information posted about the bird watching, this weekend is your chance to do some bird watching. Kaw Lake is one of several winter migration spots for eagles in Oklahoma. Kaw Lake is located on the Kaw Nation Reservation, located east of Ponca City.

This Saturday (January 15th) is the Ultimate Eagle Watch at Kaw Lake. Free refreshments and guided tours will be offered. The Kaw Nation Community Center will be offering a free luncheon including corn soup, fry bread and grape dumplings. For more information, call (580)761-1615 or (918)688-9518.

The Ultimate Eagle Watch is sponsored by Kaw Lake Association, Kaw Nation, Kaw City Chamber of Commerce, and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Literary Achievement of Isaac Asimov

The display at the front of the library celebrates the literary achievement
of Isaac Asimov (Jan. 2, 1920-Apr. 6, 1992).

“First recognized for his fiction, Asimov became more broadly known for his books of science popularization—and for being the most prolific author of his day, with 470 published books at the time of his death.”

Gunn, J. (2007). Isaac Asimov. Magill’s Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition, Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Oklahoma Bird Watching

Bird watching is fun for the whole family! It is estimated that approximately 50 million people around the country have fallen in love with bird watching. It is the most popular spectator sport in America, and with nearly 500 species of birds, Oklahoma is prime bird watching territory!

During the months of January and February in Oklahoma if you are looking for an exciting outdoor winter activity that won't break your budget and is suitable for the entire family, consider eagle watching.

Approximately 1,000 bald eagles winter in Oklahoma each year, drawn to the open lakes and rivers that don't freeze over, you can take the opportunity to watch them during their winter visit. Several state parks host eagle watching events throughout the winter.

You don't need to make a big investment in equipment to begin this exciting activity; the only things needed are a pair of binoculars, camera, warm clothes and sturdy shoes. Then pick a location for eagle watching. There are numerous locations across the state, among the possibilities are Mountain Fork River in southeastern Oklahoma, Lake Thunderbird in central Oklahoma, the Great Salt Plains Lake in the northwest and Quartz Mountain in the southwest. Search "eagle watching" on the Oklahoma Travel Web site: www.travelok.com for links to the state parks where you can see eagles, then contact the state park you want to visit to find out the dates and times of guided or self-guided eagle watching events. Most of these take place in January and February.

After you have packed your warm clothes and other gear, be sure to stop by the SWOSU Al Harris Library and check out our great selection of birding books which include the Smithsonian Field Guide to Birds of North America, The Eagle Watchers, Woodpeckers of North America and many more!