Blogs

How to search the new Library Catalog for music:
Top | Authors | Authors with Common NamesTitles | Keywords


Multnomah County Library has the largest collection for music of any public library in Oregon, and is one of the largest on the West Coast. This guide shows you how to find music books, scores, CDs and DVDs in the new Library Catalog, including:

  • scores with piano accompaniment on CD
  • DVDs to learn musical instruments or singing
  • complete works and indexes of major composers
  • 33,000+ music scores for beginners to professional musicians

Choose the catalog version you prefer: Bibliocommons(New Catalog) | Classic Catalog

In the Multnomah County Library network of libraries, Central Library has the largest collection of books, music scores, CDs, DVDs and videos. Request delivery to the Neighborhood Library that is most convenient for you.


Ask a Question:
Looking for something specific? Contact us.

I’m pretty sure that each and every one of us has odd culinary preferences that we only indulge when we’re alone. I often make a never-the-same-twice dish that very loosely resembles fried rice, created from various leftovers and my lazy determination to only dirty one pan; I indulge my sweet tooth with impromptu desserts made of various combos of peanut butter, honey, chocolate chips and raw oats. When I cook for myself I am both less thoughtful and more inventive than when I cook for others.

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone (edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler) is an irresistible window into the many different ways we approach cooking for and eating by ourselves. “A is for Dining Alone ...and so am I, if a choice must be made between most people I know and myself,” M.F.K. Fisher admits, as she writes about learning to make and serve herself delicious meals; other writers talk about the ritual of dining out alone. Steve Almond, on the other hand, hones his cooking skills only “in the abject hope that people would spend time with me if I put good things in their mouths;” Rattawut Lapcharoensap laments that recreating the meals of his native Thailand can “reinforce rather than eradicate feelings of dislocation and homesickness” when there’s no one to share them with him.  Some people talk about the joys of eating the same meal day after day without any diminished pleasure:  Ann Patchett admits happily eating Saltine crackers for dinner many nights in a row; Jeremy Jackson finds comfort in black beans and cornbread; Phoebe Nobles proudly eats asparagus every day for two months. And while Erin Ergenbright admits that dining alone feels wrong to her, Holly Hughes, a mother of three, fantasizes about the delicious meals she would eat if she only had to cook for herself. Writers proudly include their recipes for everything from Yellowfin Tuna with Heirloom Tomatoes to White-on-White Lunch For When No One is Looking.

I have read this collection three times now, and each time I am once again comforted and amused by all of the ways we find sustenance when no one is watching. As Laurie Colwin says in the first essay, “People lie when you ask them what they eat when they are alone. A salad, they tell you. But when you persist, they confess to peanut butter and bacon sandwiches deep fried and eaten with hot sauce, or spaghetti with butter and grape jam.”

So what do you eat when you are alone, really?

*From the essay “Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant” by Laurie Colwin.

The Brigton, a 1962 house design from the Aladdin Co. [via Flickr user Ethan]You may have heard a rumor that your house was "bought by mail order."  What does that mean, you might wonder?  Or you might have noticed that there are twins of your house dotted around your neighborhood.  Were all those twins built by the same company? 

It might be that your house was built from a mail-order plan -- or it could be that your house was bought fom a mail-order company that supplied the plans and a complete set of building materials cut to size and ready to assemble.   Mail-order houses like these are the ancestors of modern manufactured homes, but they were built on-site by carpenters using traditional techniques, just like architect-designed houses of the same historical period. 

The websites below showcase archives of house plans from mail-order home companies. They show exterior views of each house (some in color), floor plans, and prices.  Since most mail-order house companies also sold a multitude of cabinetry, fancy trim, plumbing and lighting fixtures, and furniture, you can sometimes get an idea for popular interior design of the period as well.

I should also remind you, the library has books with old mail-order floor plans in them too!  Check out the great list below for some examples. 

Questions? Ask the Librarian!  We'd be glad to offer you some personalized help with your research project.

More and more services online requires an email address - don't have one or want to get a new one for job applications? There are lots of free email services to choose from - take a look at reviews from Consumer Search and About.com to see which free email service works best for you - maybe you need unlimited storage or maybe you want service that offers additional features like a place to store your documents or chat integration. Try one or try them all - they're free! Here's some help for the top two free email services at the moment:

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis byTimothy Egan

Just finished it this morning and find myself in the sweet afterglow of my favorite book of the year. My thoughts haven't become solid matter yet and I blather on to friends the random, out-of-order pieces that come tumbling out.

I knew almost nothing about Edward Curtis. I knew a tiny bit about the history of photography. And pretty much all I knew about Native Americans came from my limited education on the Iroquois Confederacy, the result of my Western New York roots. I am blown away by something on almost every single page of this book.

It is glorious, velvety-rich history, fascinating in its details. Clearly, Egan had some amazing access to primary sources, including the Mazamas, the Rainier Club in Seattle where Curtis lived for years, the papers of Edmond S. Meany, and on and on. There are photos in the book but you'll want to see more.

The book is held gently in the hands of the first and last chapters. How did Egan do it? Make them paired so perfectly together, about two completely different people, the subject and the photographer, yet one and the same at the end of their lives? Astounding.

If you were to give one book this year as a holiday gift to the nonfiction reader in your life, you should give this one. Then get your game face on for next year, because you will have a reputation to uphold. 

You are your child’s first teacher and your home is where your child begins to learn.

It’s never too early or too late to help your child develop language and other early literacy skills. Here are five daily practices to follow to get children ready to read:

Talking

Children learn language and other early literacy skills by listening to their parents and others talk. As children hear spoken language, they learn new words and what they mean. They learn about the world around them and important general knowledge. This will help children understand the meaning of what they read.

  • Make sure your child has lots of opportunities to talk with you, not just listen to you talk.
  • Respond to what your child says and extend the conversation. “Yes we did see a truck like that last week. It’s called a bulldozer.”
  • Stretch your child’s vocabulary. Repeat what your child says and use new words. “You want a banana? That’s a very healthy choice.”
  • If English isn’t your first language, speak to your child in the language you know best. This allows you to explain things more fluently so your child will learn more

Singing

Songs are a wonderful way to learn about language. Singing also slows down language so children can hear the different sounds that make up words. This helps when children begin to read printed language.

  • Sing the alphabet song to learn about letters.
  • Sing nursery rhymes so children hear the different sounds in words
  • Clap along to the rhythms in songs so children hear the syllables in words.

Reading

Reading together - shared reading - is the single most important way to help children get ready to read. Reading together increases vocabulary and general knowledge. It helps children learn how print looks and how books work. Shared reading also helps children develop an interest in reading. Children who enjoy being read to are more likely to want to learn to read themselves.

  • Read every day.
  • Make shared reading interactive. Before you begin a book, look at the cover and predict what the book is about. Have your child turn the book’s pages. Ask questions as you read and listen to what your child says. When you finish the book, ask your child to retell the story.
  • Use books to help teach new words. Books can teach less common words, words that children may not hear in everyday conversation.

Writing

Reading and writing go together. Both represent spoken language and communicate information. Children can learn pre-reading skills through writing activities.

  • Writing begins with scribbles and other marks. Encourage this by providing many opportunities to draw and write.
  • Children can sign their name to drawings, which helps them understand that print represents words. As they practice eye-hand coordination and develop their hand muscles, children can begin to write the letters in their names.
  • Talk to your children about what they draw and write captions or stories together. This helps make a connection between spoken and printed language.

Playing

Children learn a lot about language through play. Play helps children think symbolically, so they understand that spoken and written words can stand for real objects and experiences. Play also helps children express themselves and put thoughts into words.

  • Give your child plenty of playtime. Some of the best kinds of play are unstructured, when children can use their imaginations and create stories about what they’re doing.
  • Encourage dramatic play. When children make up stories using puppets or stuffed animals, they develop important narrative skills. This helps children understand that stories and books have a beginning, middle and end.
  • Pretend to read a book. Have your child tell you a story based on the pictures in a book. Or ask your child to “read” a book you’ve read together many times and tell you the story. This develops vocabulary and other language skills.

Look for future blogs with fun things to do that incorporate these activities for you and your child.

Simply stuffing face at the 600+ food carts in P-town is enough for me, but not so for many of you. No, some of you actually want to run one of these things!

If you’re ready to become one of the peas in a cart pod, first you’ll need to do some research about permits, licenses, business plans, outfitting a cart and the like.

Here is a handy list of links and books to get you started....

Start-up Support:

How to Open a Food Cart in Portland
Advice and Experience from a Food Cart Owner
Food Cartology Report - Trends and Impacts

Permits and Permissions:

Mobile Food Unit Operation Guide (Oregon DHS)
Mobile Food Unit Licensing and Inspection  (MultCo Health Dept.)
Vending Carts on Private Property (Portland Bureau of Development)
Vending Cart Types and Permits (Portland Bureau of Development) 

Buying the Cart:

Northwest Mobile Kitchens
CateringTruck.com
Used Vending.com
Festivals and Shows Equipment Sellers

Buying Supplies:

Rose's Equipment
Cash & Carry

I must have a thing for books that have books within them, as two of my most favorite novels have such. Let me amend that...the books within happen to be parables...perhaps that is the icing on the cake for me.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler could also fall under my favorite book variety of 'Tough
Girls You'll Love'. Lauren Olamina lives in a not-too-distant future where violence rules, people must guard their walled enclaves, and harvest their own foods, eating things like acorn flour bread. Lauren also has a dream, a purpose for humanity, which she chronicles in her parable, Earthseed: Books of the Living. It is our destiny, she tells us, to seed the stars. As she feeds us this vision, this foundation for a new faith, I found myself wishing for her new religion to become reality. She's rather insightful for her young age. Perhaps this has something to do with her hyper-empathy, through which she feels acutely the pain of others. Read or listen to it...both versions are great.

I loved Lovers and Beloveds by Meilin Miranda so much I went to the library's Suggest a Purchase page and asked the library to get some copies, and the collections mavens did so. (Yay! ...and let me say, this is something any of you can do.)

A young prince comes of age after a sheltered childhood. He must find his own way, irrespective of the pressures of his father the King, his mother the Queen, or even his notions of duty. His new training comes from his immortal Teacher, who activates a magic book called An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom, stories of the queens and kings of his country's past. Through this book, Prince Temmin experiences everything the characters do, and he must consider theirs and his mistakes, as well as feel the very erotic elements contained therein. Meanwhile, he is seriously considering becoming a follower of the gods of love and desire called the Lovers, and his father the King will do almost anything short of heresy to stop him.

This book contains explicit sex scenes, but they are not gratuitous; they are essential to the story, and far from boilerplate. Without the scenes, this novel would be among the best of the fantasy books I've read, but with them, it becomes a rather unique, outstanding book. It makes you think about how sweet and natural sex is in this world MeiLyn Miranda has created, and how difficult it can be to find that unstained attitude in the real world. MeiLyn's wisdom of experience regarding the human psyche shines through every chapter.

Are you tired of pecking at the keys or do you want to improve your data entry skills for a new job? Here are some free resources to help you out.

The rain is back and it's another eight months until summer's return... (perhaps I exaggerate). All joking aside, winter is long, dark and damp so I've got some fun and light-weight fantasy to suggest.

I was pleasantly surprised by Shadow Kin: A Novel of the Half-Light City by M.J. Scott.  If one were to judge a book by its cover, this seems like a forgettable paranormal romance where the feisty, independent female lead will find love with a sensitive and likable hero - or a tameable bad boy. I picked it up anyway and found myself falling for the characters and the setting, where four species share a city and an uneasy peace.  I liked the second book, Blood Kin, even better and am hoping for a third.

Faith Hunter's Skinwalker is the first in a series about a female vampire killer/mercenary with a mysterious past. Jane Yellowrock is a skinwalker of Cherokee descent who can shift into any animal of which she has a claw, tooth or some other small piece. Then she is hired as a vampire hunter, by one of the oldest vampires in New Orleans. While tougher-than-tough female leads are a staple of urban fantasy, I found Jane more believable and fleshed out than most.

I just finished Angel's Ink by Jocelynn Drake. Gage is a tattoo artist and fairly decent guy doing a truly terrible job of hiding out from the evil witches and warlocks of the Ivory Towers that rule his world. He owns his own shop and works with a troll and an elf. The amount of trouble he gets into in one short book is a little over the top, but it was a fun page-turner with a hero so likeable that I was glad that the ending promises a sequel or three.

Visit Sunny Chernobyl: And Other Adventures in the World's Most Polluted Places by Andrew Blackwell

I thought it was a sarcastic title. That the guy who wrote it must have a cracked sense of dark humor. Why would anyone want to visit Chernobyl? See deforestation as it happens in the Amazon? Visit the most polluted river in India? Blackwell asked himself the same questions. Did he have a thing for industrial waste? Was he some kind of environmental rubbernecker?  What exactly was the point in going to some of the world's worst man-made, human caused devastation?

Some chapters really stick with me. The one on Port Arthur, Texas, for example, where the brown breeze has a rancid aftertaste; where the community is among the poorest and most polluted in the nation, yet is surrounded by multi-billion dollar companies. Back in the day, a huge oil gusher erupted from the ground near Port Arthur. The dirt-covered men who were witness looked at each other and asked "what is it?" Can you even imagine that? As Andrew Blackwell (irony of his last name is duly noted) traveled and researched this chapter, an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded and sank, the start of the Deepwater Horizon spill.

In other chapters he travels to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch where he can't keep himself from channeling Hornblower's "Where away?"; the oil sands mining of Northern Alberta, Canada; Chernobyl of course (my favorite chapter)--did you know that, unbelievably, Chernobyl has become possibly the largest nature preserve in eastern Europe?. And there's plenty more environmental disaster where those came from, a little something for everyone.

And there is humor, and lots of it--I promise. It is wry and sweet, his use of language precise, sharp. I want to have a drink or two with Andrew Blackwell and ask about a thousand questions. He wrote the best armchair travel book I've read in a long, long time. There's no crumbling ruin, restored by wealthy retirees, true. Yet I find myself cruising the website chernobylwel.com with its jaunty black gas mask logo, just out of curiosity mostly, but you never know.

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway is the story of an exceedingly careful man with the euphonious name of Joe Spork. His father was the king of criminal London. His grandfather was a genius with clockwork. Joe runs a modest clockwork shop and tries to make amends for his father’s sins.

But when he is asked to repair a particularly ornate and clever device he finds himself drawn into the flotsam of super spies, religious zealots, and vengeful despots that his family left behind. Whole worlds live inside this book, each with its own rich history, and together weaving the background for strong characters and their fantastic capers.

Next Best Thing is a wonderful story about Ruth Saunders and her grandmother Rachel, who move from Boston to Hollywood. Ruth wants to make it as a sitcom writer. Her grandmother wants to have fun and finds work as a an extra for tv right away. Ruth is twenty-three and a bit broken. Grandma Rachel is tough as nails and elegant. She totally supports Ruth in finding herself and her career. Their loving relationship is what moves the story.

Weiner certainly knows how to write a grandmother character (take a look at In Her Shoes). There’s a reason she is a bestselling author, and much of it is due to her fully formed characters and her great story-telling. This is a lively and moving story about two women finding their way in the challenging place that is Hollywood, California. I think you will find yourself rooting for them if you decide to read The Next Best Thing.

Sheet music, as a type of music, refers to single songs, published for singing and playing on the piano, as was the custom for many years in living rooms all across the country. At Central Library, we have a collection of these, donations from Portlanders in years past. Arranged in boxes by year of publication, all are listed in the Library Online Catalog, by song title, and also by the title of the box with the publication year. The songs from 1800-1850 all fit in one container, but as the years progress, there is a box for each year, up to the early 70's with songs by the Carpenters and other singers of that time.

Here are two samples from vastly different eras: "A Life on the Ocean Wave," published in 1840 by the District Court of New York, and "Tuck Me to Sleep in My Old Tucky Home," published by the Irvin Berlin Music Company in New York in 1921.

Sheet Music of "A Life on the Ocean Wave" published in 1940Sheet music of the song "Tuck Me to Sleep in My Old Tucky Home" published in 1921How are these song sheets used at the present time? We get questions about songs popular in a particular decade for school reports, musicians who need particular old songs, and for people looking for popular songs that are in the public domain. The artwork on the cover of historic sheet music is also of interest, for the illustrations and typefaces characteristic of the era of publication.

The Historic Sheet Music is a reference collection at Central Library available through the reference staff at the Humanities South Reference Desk (art and Music) on the 3rd Floor. But if you would prefer to have music that you can check out and take home, we can look up whatever song you are looking for by title in the Online Catalog. For American songs by decade, there are collections of music scores for popular music by decade, singer, and type of music. If you have any questions about the Historic Sheet Music Collection, please give a call to Information Services at Central Library: 503.988.5234.

How do you search for song titles in the Library Catalog? Use "quotes" around the song title; if there are too many titles in the search results, use MODIFY SEARCH to select MUSIC SCORES or CD.

I'll try pretty much any science fiction or fantasy book that falls into my hands... at least for the first 50 pages. That's the window an author has to hook me. Superheroes aren't quite my thing. I'll go to the summer blockbusters, sometimes, if the reviews are good. I didn't read that many comic books growing up so I probably missed the golden window to really learn to love superhero stories. So when I was lent a copy of Prepare to Die! by Paul Tobin, a Portland comic book writer, I wasn't sure it was going to pass my 50 page test. The news is that it passed with such flying colors that I immediately set aside the other books I was reading in favor of this one.

Partially set in a fictional Oregon town, the crux of the story boils down to what happens when a super villain says "Prepare to die!" and the hero asks "How long?"

Steve Clarke, aka Reaver, was a small-town boy when an accident caused him to become super-powered. The book is funny and frequently tragic: consider the post-traumatic-stress resulting from being a very young superhero who is trying to defeat super-villains who slaughter passers-by just for fun. Often crude, the tone fits the character and story perfectly.

I really hope this Portland comic book writer has another novel or three in him because I'm really eager to read him again. I'm glad I wasn't too picky to try it because, out of the last 100 or so novels I've read, I'd put this very character-driven novel in the top 5.

While my reading taste is pretty eclectic, until recently I hadn't read very much historical fiction.  Perhaps it is thanks to those engaging YA historical novels I've listened to in the past few years that I'm dipping into this genre a little more.

It also helps if I find an author I like who bounces around genres.  A couple of years ago my book group read The Sparrow.  At the time, I said it was hard to believe this was Mary Doria Russell's first novel, and that the book was like Ursula LeGuin, only deeper.  I know, hard to believe, deeper than Ursula?  In this SF masterpiece, Jesuits make First Contact, because, well, Catholics go on missions.  And you know how missionaries can get into trouble due to deep cultural misunderstandings?  The sole survivor who returns to Earth must reveal his story that includes a brothel and a dead child, as well as recover from unimaginable trauma.

Since I loved this author's style, I'll happily read her other books. In Doc, Russell daringly covers a subject that has entered our cultural consciousness through many movies: Dr. John Henry Holliday, dentist.  IMDB tells me there are 43 instances of the character Doc Holliday in movies and television since 1937. Along with Doc Holliday, in this book we get close to the Earp brothers, Wyatt, Morgan, and James, during their short time in Dodge City, before the famous OK Corral incident.

Despite all those occasions to encounter Doc as a character, I was surprised to learn there was a lot I did not know. John Holliday was born with a cleft palate, treated with surgery. He was a southern gentleman, and a search for relief from consumption drove him west. The tale is told as if from the view of a compassionate historian. The man was an alcoholic, but it was alcohol rather than laudanum that helped him relieve his consumptive cough without losing his sharp mental faculties he needed as a gambler. Faro was his game, not poker, usually.  We're given the myth that was spread in the papers, like say how Doc shot and killed a man, and the often innocuous story (in which no one was shot) that spawned the myth. The author clearly is fond of Doc, and now I too have a soft spot for the man.

For the purpose of the gorgeous and astounding book, Relics: Travels in Nature's Time Machine by Piotr Maskrecki, the author defines a relic in this way: 

Relic: a creature or habitat that, while acted upon by evolution, remains remarkably similar to its earliest manifestations in the fossil record.

Do we have relics here in the U.S. of A.? Bunches. Among them, the Atlantic horseshoe crab.  It lives on the eastern North American Coast and has been doing a mass spawning every Spring, like clockwork, for 440 million years.

Relics not found in the U.S. : Emerald and black mottled treerunnner: Its cache of eggs is normally stashed in elevated piles of leaves in the geographical area of Africa called the Guiana Shield. If the nest is disturbed by a predator near the end of the eggs' development, all the eggs will hatch at once, within seconds of each other, the infant lizards scattering in all directions.

The Atewa dinospider from West Africa is from an ancient group of arachnids that go back all the way to the Carboniferous period. When was that? Three-hundred million years ago. What's a dinospider look like? Think brown pipe cleaners--those fuzzy things you used in third grade art class.

And New Guinea....my goodness. You're amazing. A giant, newly discovered and as yet unnamed gliding frog (think flying squirrel) and an equally astonishing and also as yet unnamed tiny frog of the species Choerophryne, smaller than a human fingernail.

I'd go further into the spider arena but I know it's gonna freak out some of you. But I can't leave without mentioning the Goliath tarantula that weighs in over 150 grams--about a third of a pound--that the author of this book thought at first was a small mammal when he saw it scurrying across the forest floor. I'm not an arachnophobe but the picture of this bad boy was all it took for me to close the book.

Are you a kid who wants to learn to make your own books?  Are you a grown-up who wants to make books with your kid friend?  Making books isn’t as intimidating as it looks, especially if you’ve got a great how-to book to help you get started!  Here are my favorites:

In Print! by Joe Rhatigan has instructions for 40 different publishing projects for kids -- everything from a make-it-yourself audioboook to instructions for starting a writers’ group or workshop to getting your work published in a magazine.  This book has it all!

Pop-ups and moveable books that fold out or turn into a sculpture when you open them sometimes look complicated, but actually they can be really great projects for a beginner!  Gwen Diehn shows you the basics in Making Books That Fly, Fold, Wrap, Hide, Pop Up, Twist, and Turn.  That’s a long title, but you really know what the book is about now, right?

If you want to go totally D.I.Y. and make a zine -- that’s a book or pamphlet you make and distribute all yourself -- you definitely want to check out Whatcha Mean, What’s a Zine?, by Mark Todd and Esther Pearl Watson.  It covers everything: zine history, tools and methods for making your own zine, why you might want to write a zine, photocopier tricks, promoting your zine, and more.

Are you more of an artistic than a literary bent?  Perhaps comics are your thing?  If so, the book for you is definitely Drawing Words & Writing Pictures: Making Comics: Manga, Graphic Novels, and Beyond, by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden.  It’s an everything guide for comics creators, covering basics like layout and lettering and extra credit topics like how to reproduce your comic so you can distribute lots of copies.

Questions? Let us know if we can help you find the how-to book (or any other book) that's just right for you.

 

A former boyfriend of mine was a great cook, and I was only allowed in the kitchen when it was time to do the dishes. This worked well for me, as I like to eat tasty food without putting in a lot of effort, and I don't mind plunging my hands in warm, sudsy water. I was finally eating some meals that had more than five ingredients! So after we broke up, I went back to my standard  fare of spinach salads and heat and eat entrees. To say I had no interest in spending hours cooking something that would take only minutes to consume would be a vast understatement. I had better things to do with my life.

Giulia Melucci's dating experience, chronicled in I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti was the exact opposite of mine: she loves to cook and prepared some pretty yummy dishes for the parade of boyfriends that began when she was in her early twenties. Yummy things (recipes are included) like "Risotto with Intricately Layered Hearts", "Pear Cake for Friends with Benefits", "Salmon with Lemon-Tarragon Butter", "Morning After Pumpkin Bread" and the one that I'm going to try out on my boyfriend:  "Lachlan's Rigatoni with Eggplant".

Because, you see, I'm now with someone who actually enjoys it when I prepare meals (he helps, too, and also recently fixed the best grilled cheese sandwich I have ever eaten), and I've discovered how much fun it is to cook for someone besides myself. Guilia got that from the beginning and, with the exception of one guy who was lukewarm on the whole food thing, her boyfriends all seemed happy with her culinary skills. Never happy enough, alas, to give her the one thing she craved: a marriage proposal. We meet Ethan who, after three years, was given an ultimatum and declined to offer a lifetime together; Mitch Smith who, not very many years after they broke up ("I didn't want a girlfriend or whatever."); ended up marrying someone else, and Lachlan, a Scotsman who was passionate…about food. As we leave Giulia, she's still unwed but doesn't seem too downhearted. Optimism, like cooking, seems to come easy to her.

"In our era, more than some others, writers must buck up and take care of themselves" says Susan Bell in The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself. If you are writing the Great American Novel or just want to improve your style, study this book. Full of examples, graceful writing and thoughts from published authors, The Artful Edit is entertaining. 

Bell illustrates her points by studying the well-known masterpiece, The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald, and illustrating Fitzgerald's collaboration with the marvelous editor, Max Perkins.  More about Max in a moment.

She says, "Fitzgerald, too, was a master of the squared-off paragraph. He began and ended many with a startling mix of style, philosophy, and itch -- the itch that can only be scratched by moving to the next paragraph..." 

That "itch" has just the right touch, as does 'free-fiddle" in the following observation of the author Luc Sante,  "At the end of a work, he allows himself free-fiddle with words but not structure."  I like Bell's way with words: "If you've written a bird's nest, then, untangle your ideas. Separate them into a few sentences. One small sentence, written well, can tell more than an expansive one that's gangly."

And again: "When you edit, determine what is mystery and what is muddle; the first to be respected and left alone, the second to be respected and cleaned up." 

There are many ways to edit and the book is filled with examples of how different authors approach the process. For example, Michael Ondaatje says, "Having a concept of what the book is exactly about before you begin it is a tremendous limitation, because no idea is going to be as intricate and complicated as what you will discover in that process of writing it." Continuing he says, "I always write the beginning at the end. It's the last thing I write because then I know what the book is about."  

I was so taken with the collaboration between Max Perkins and F. Scott Fitzgerald that I was inspired to read more about the famous editor. I found a lovely book of family letters collected by Max's five daughters and published as The Family Letters of Maxwell Perkins complete with his clever illustrations; also a biography, Max Perkins: Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg.

Berg says of Perkins, "Beginning with Fitzgerald and continuing with each new writer he took on, he slowly altered the traditional notion of the editor's role. He sought out authors who were not just "safe," conventional in style and bland in content, but who spoke in a new voice about the new values of the postwar world. In this way, as an editor he did more than reflect the standards of his age; he consciously influenced and changed them by the new talents he published."

Max not only edited Fitzgerald, but also Ernest Hemingway and Tom Wolfe among others. He even conjured up new plots or offered ideas for his authors to develop.Max's greatest gift was summed up by his longtime friend, Elizabeth Lemmon, in a letter to Max's wife after his death, "I have known people who were considered pillars of strength and loved to be leaned on, but Max poured strength into people and made them stand on their own feet."

After reading the story of Max and Tom Wolfe, I must now read Wolfe's autobiographical novels. Isn't it great when one book leads to another? So many books, so little time.

 

Pages