Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Some New Titles in the Heritage Room--June 2009

New books this month include:

Harry Duncan, (translator) I come to that point on the wheel: Dante Alighieri, Io son venuto al punto de la rota. Bradypress, 1994. This chapbook was printed to present to Harry Duncan to celebrate his receiving the Jane Geske Award from The Nebraska Center for the Book in 1994. Duncan, (1917-1997) was one of the leading figures in the revival of printing by hand. In 1982 Newsweek Magazine called him "the father of the post-World War II private-press movement." He began printing by hand in 1939, and over the years he would print Robert Lowell's first volume of poetry and many other works of contemporary literature. Duncan came to Nebraska in 1972 to operate a press at the University of Omaha, for which he created the Abbatoir Editions imprint. Our collection also includes his Doors of Perception: Essays in Book Typography, W. Thomas Taylor, 1987, a meditation on Duncan's years of experience in book design, as well as a number of Abbatoir Editions of works by Nebraska authors.

Loren Ghiglione, CBS's Don Hollenbeck: An Honest Reporter in the Age of McCarthyism. Columbia University Press, 2008. Lincoln native Don Hollenbeck, a journalist who got his start writing for the Lincoln Journal and later, Hearst's Omaha Bee-News, is an important, and tragic, figure in the history of American journalism. This first in-depth biography of Hollenbeck has garnered praise from critics and from many now well-known journalists who knew Hollenbeck personally.

William Kloefkorn, Breathing in the Fullness of Time, University of Nebraska Press, 2009. Nebraska's State Poet has been giving us a multivolume memoir of which this is the fourth installment. Reviewers have noted that the poet's powers of observation and command of language make this a uniquely interesting account of life on the edge of the Great Plains from the 1930s to the present. How did Nebraska's official State Poet also become the Nebraskaland Hog Calling Champion? Read this volume and find out.

Ladette Randolph, A Sandhills Ballad, University of New Mexico Press, 2009. Nebraska author Randolph, who has received the Pushcart Prize, three Nebraska Book Awards, and many other accolades, has published many short stories and essays. She is now director of Ploughshares and Distinguished-Publisher-in-Residence at Emerson College in Boston. This is her first novel.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Artwork, book illustration and doodles by Nebraska writers: A new display in the Heritage Room

A new display in the small case in the front of the Heritage Room looks at a selection of writers’ artwork, with the idea that such efforts are an interesting, but often overlooked aspect of their creative lives. Included are illustrations by Ted Kooser, Paul Johnsgard, Mari Sandoz, Rudolph Umland, Dorothy Thomas, Timothy Schaffert, and James Solheim.

Mari Sandoz (1896-1966), among the most celebrated of Nebraska authors, wrote about the character of the people of the Great Plains, the conflicts between ranchers and farmers, white men and Indians, all shaped, in turn, by the harshness and beauty of the Plains environment. She was before her time in understanding how global financial interests drove the exploitation of the American frontier, and in her appreciation for the resulting destruction of the ecology of the Plains, and of the lives of her protagonists.

In the idiom of her own time, Sandoz was a “regionalist” writer, if we understand by regionalism, not localism or local color, but a disciplined cosmopolitanism attentive to the specifics of the history, language, and environment of a particular region.When Sandoz signed a book, she often made tiny sketch, you could almost just call it a doodle, next to her signature. Perhaps it is a spot along the Niobrara near the Sandoz homestead, but this is speculation. That sketch seems more “complete” in some cases than in others, but when all the elements are present, they are always about the same.

On display: Mari Sandoz, The Beaver Men: Spearheads of Empire, 1964. Signature and dedication on the Half-Title page.

Ask to see:Other signed copies, Sandoz page proofs.

Paul Johnsgard: Paul Johnsgard is, at one and the same time, a world renowned scholar of waterfowl behavior and the world’s most published ornithologist (ever!). His monographs and reference works on North American birds and bird groups, and on birds around the world provide the most comprehensive and accurate view of bird life, behavior and ecology available to us. Over 250,000 copies of his works on birds are scattered around the world, in four languages. He is a powerful advocate for regional and world wide bird and habitat conservation. Johnsgard has also written several classic works of regional natural history, all devoted to Nebraska—on the ecology and natural history of the Platte river, on the Sandhills, on the Niobrara river, on Nebraska as a whole, and on the world of the Prairie Dog.

Altogether, Johnsgard has written over 50 books, and many of them, especially those on bird behavior and on natural history, are illustrated with his wonderful black and white pen and ink drawings. He prefers to do his own drawings, noting that it has been easier to publish because he does not have to hire an artist. Besides, artists may be prone to mistakes. “I can actually look at forms of bird and see flaws,” he told a 1989 interviewer. Johnsgard prefers, for the most part, to draft full, life-size illustrations. The artwork you see reproduced in his books is then shrunk to fit the page.

On display: Paul Johnsgard, This Fragile Land: A Natural History of the Nebraska Sandhills, 1995. Signed copy with dedication to Norm and Jane Geske, with an additional drawing across from the title page.

Around the room: Drawings and two bird carvings by Paul Johnsgard.

Ask to see:
Johnsgard manuscript collection, drawings for Dragons and Unicorns: A Natural History, 1982 (with Karin Johnsgard). Johnsgard talks about his writing and his artwork in three installments of our Ames Reading Series (including a collaborative reading with poet Twyla Hansen).

Also illustrated here are drawings by James Solheim and Rudolph Umland: