Tag Archives: libraries

New ‘Don’t Fret’ Mural Celebrates Chicago Writers

Who are the authors that are looking over your shoulder?

Chicago Review of Books

Dozens of Chicago writers can now be found standing together, big shoulder to big shoulder, at a new branch of the Chicago Public Library system in Irving Park. In a painted mural, famous faces from the past such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Ernest Hemingway, and Richard Wright loom with equal prominence to more contemporary writers such as Kevin Coval and Eve Ewing.

Local artist Don’t Fret created the mural, drawing from his own literary inspirations as well as a few names that the library suggested. Don’t Fret has created art inspired by Chicago’s lit scene in the past — you can find his giant mural depiction of Carl Sandburg’s “Chicago” poem in the West Loop. Once you know what to look for, you can also spot his work on walls all over the city, particularly in bars along the Blue Line.

The Independence branch (and the mural) debuted on Jan. 22…

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How to Live With Books.

Living With Books: 118 Designs for Homes and Offices (Reif, 1973)

Styles may change, but the appeal of a display of bound, printed books is timeless.

The author’s treatment of the subject is topical, with chapters entitled “Around the House,” “Decorative Solutions,” “Libraries and Dens,” “Books at Work,” “Books, Hi-Fi and Art,” and “Furniture and Wall Systems.” Schematic drawings of some of the bookshelf designs are included, enabling the handyman reader (or the reader’s handyman) to construct them.

I picked up this paperback coffee table book at a college library purge sale back in the early ’90s, and despite its photography being entirely in black-and-white, have enjoyed perusing it ever since.

Living with Books (Dupuich & Beaufre, 2010)

Fast forward about 40 years, and you get the same title, different authors, and a slight variation on the theme.

This book (original title Bibliothèques, translated into English) uses a sort of biographical approach, with chapters named “Collectors,” Interior Designers,” “Designers,” “Writers,” “Fashion Designers,” “Journalists,” “Artists,” and “Grand Houses.” Unfortunately, no instructional drawings are included.

This full-color coffee table book is about twice as thick as the other one, and it features front and back flaps (that fancy, new-fangled kind of paperback cover which doesn’t serve its book-marking purpose too well, but I suppose the publishers thought they had to add something different, to make the book stand out).

The Bookworm, 1850, by Carl Spitzweg

If you fear that your bibliophilia is becoming bibliomania, the illustrations in these two volumes should put your mind at ease. Just choose to build one or more of the innovative storage concepts you see, and tame your book collection by integrating it as fully into your home, as it is a part of your heart.

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Book Review: Michael Collins: The Man Who Made Ireland (Coogan)

Michael Collins: The Man Who Made Ireland.

Millionaires can spend their surplus wealth bestowing libraries broadcast upon the world. But who will say that the benefits accruing could be compared with those arising from a condition of things in which the people themselves . . . were prosperous enough to buy their own books and to put together their own local libraries in which they could take a personal interest and acquire knowledge in proportion to that interest?
Michael Collins (Oct 16, 1890-Aug. 22, 1922), as attributed in ‘The Path of Freedom,’ Talbot Press, 1922, and quoted by Tim Pat Coogan.

Above is one example of how Coogan enlarges the reader’s perception of Michael Collins: not just as an intelligence operative, guerrilla, or politician, but as a reflective person; nevertheless, the verdict of history inevitably must be that Collins was insufficiently sophisticated to play both ends against the middle with a reasonable expectation of any degree of success, or even of his personal survival of the exercise.

As an essentially self-made man, Collins was sharp, but his intelligence was more factual than interpersonal. His being a poor judge of character – including his own – resulted in a naïveté that led him to pursue political compromises that compromised nothing but the achievement of his vision of an independent Ireland. Collins overloaded himself with responsibilities, so he ended up fulfilling none of them as well as they needed to be. Winston Churchill is on record trying to talk sense into him about attempting to appease his opponents by his having drafting a Constitution that conflicted with the Treaty, as well as advising against Collins’s pact with the devil (Eamon de Valera). His completely misplaced confidence in de Valera ultimately led directly to Collins’s untimely death.

De Valera’s walkout after the Treaty vote was calculated to change the political question into one of physical force: which “strong man” had the most power? The “Big Fella” or the “Long Fella?” When Collins sought to establish common ground with his rival by writing a Republican Constitution and facilitating anti-partition violence in the Six Counties, all he succeeded in doing was to undermine the fledgling Irish Government as well as to weaken his own position, by enabling more dissenting factions to spring up: everybody had a better idea that they and their own followers wanted to see implemented, which multiplied the competition between personalities – and complicated Collins’s juggling act by pitching more plates into the air. Chapter 10, “Wading Through Blood,” is a harrowing account of how Collins’s attempts to have his cake and eat it, too, spun out of control. De Valera survived to become the de facto dictator of Ireland, but in light of what I learned about modern Ireland during my cultural immersion research for writing Irish Firebrands, it’s by his failings that Michael Collins became the founding father of Ireland.

The writer’s voice comes through in a way that makes the recitation of biographical and historical details sound like a personal conversation with a storyteller: history as “his story.” Very readable and highly recommended.

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