Tuesday, September 29, 2015

History of America in 101 Objects Author Speaks at Norwich University

Posted By on Tue, Sep 29, 2015 at 3:03 PM

Abraham Lincoln's top hat, one of the Smithsonian's 101 historically important American objects - SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • Abraham Lincoln's top hat, one of the Smithsonian's 101 historically important American objects
In his book The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects, cultural anthropologist Richard Kurin takes what could be a gimmicky concept and turns it into a compelling work of public history. This week at Norwich University in Northfield, he'll give a talk that touches on many of those iconic, historic objects.

Kurin, whose free lecture is at 1 p.m. on Friday, October 2, holds the most excellent title of Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution, and therefore had unprecedented access to the items about which he wrote his book. It’s difficult to say if selecting 101 items from a collection of more than 138 million was an enviable task or a back-breaking one. Probably a little of both.

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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Poet Kerrin McCadden Wins First Vermont Book Award

Posted By on Sun, Sep 27, 2015 at 3:12 PM

VCFA president Thomas Greene presents the Vermont Book Award to Kerrin McCadden - COURTESY OF VCFA
  • Courtesy of VCFA
  • VCFA president Thomas Greene presents the Vermont Book Award to Kerrin McCadden
Vermont College of Fine Arts announced this morning that the winner of its first-ever Vermont Book Award is Kerrin McCadden of Plainfield for her Landscape With Plywood Silhouettes: Poems. McCadden received the $5,000 award last night at a gala on VCFA's Montpelier campus.

Among the subjects of McCadden's inventive poems are toy gorillas, crumbling beach houses and selfies. In Seven Days, reviewer Julia Shipley wrote about Plywood Silhouettes — which also received the 2013 New Issues Poetry Prize — "In a world where digital avatars and silky-voiced Siris compete for our hearts, McCadden explores with gentle humor and candor humans' complex relationships with one another." (Read the full review and a poem here. And find links to our reviews of the other nominated books here.)

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Lit News: River Arts Prepares for 'Celebration of Vermont Book Publishers'

Posted By on Fri, May 15, 2015 at 4:36 PM

click image River Arts of Vermont building in Morrisville - COURTESY OF RIVER ARTS
  • Courtesy of River Arts
  • River Arts of Vermont building in Morrisville
Right now New York publishers are counting down to BookExpo America, the mega book-trade fair that takes place late every May in that city. Meanwhile, up in Morrisville, Vt., the folks at community arts center River Arts are planning a book fair on a rather smaller scale. It's a brand-new event called the Craft of Small Publishing in Vermont, subtitled "a celebration of Vermont book publishers."

Have you self-published a book? Then there could be a place for you at the event, scheduled for Sunday, June 28, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., "to kick off the summer reading season." River Arts is still seeking authors who'd like to reserve limited space to promote their books for a $20 participation fee.

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Friday, April 24, 2015

The First 50 Pages: The Literature Preferred by Wild Boar

Posted By on Fri, Apr 24, 2015 at 4:20 PM

Vermonters are writing like nobody's business. Every week, we at Seven Days receive at least one advance review copy or emailed request to review a local book — usually a self-published or micro-published one. Often we get more.

We can't review all those books in the paper. Not even all the good ones. Not even close.

But sometimes, if a book has potential, I dive in and read the first 50 pages. From those first 50 pages, you can learn a lot.

This new twice-monthly blog feature is a way to report on what I find. Because it's interesting to see what your neighbors are writing. And because sometimes a book that I don't choose to review may still be one you'd like to read.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Vermont College of Fine Arts Establishes Vermont Book Award

Posted By on Tue, Feb 3, 2015 at 4:20 PM

  • © Stokato |
Vermont writers have a new incentive to hunker down and create their masterpiece. The Vermont College of Fine Arts has just announced the creation of the Vermont Book Award, a $5,000 prize intended to honor excellent writing that makes the most of its Vermont ties.

The prize is open to writing of several kinds — poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction and children’s literature — and to works that take place in Vermont, is published by a Vermont press, or is written by a Vermont author. (Sorry, self-published authors: Your works are not eligible.) Any book published between January and December 2014 is eligible for the inaugural 2015 prize.

Nominations for the Vermont Book Award may be made either by local publishers or by a committee formed by members of the group Independent Booksellers of Vermont.

Though the judges for the award committee have not yet been named, VCFA asserts that the prize, awarded to a single book, will be given this summer. VCFA president Thomas Christopher Greene, the author of several novels, is confident that the school “will have no trouble identifying really good people from the very big Vermont literary community.”

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Phoenix Books to Open New Store in Rutland

Posted By on Mon, Jan 19, 2015 at 3:35 PM

Renée Reiner and Michael DeSanto, co-owners of Phoenix Books - FILE | MATTHEW THORSEN
  • File | Matthew Thorsen
  • Renée Reiner and Michael DeSanto, co-owners of Phoenix Books
The revitalization of downtown Rutland has just taken a literary turn. The owners of Phoenix Books, the independent bookseller with locations in Essex and downtown Burlington, have just announced that they'll open a third store in the Marble City.

The Downtown Rutland Association, in partnership with Green Mountain Power and other entities devoted to revitalizing the city's downtown, actively recruited Phoenix Books to set up shop in Rutland. "It was quite flattering," says Michael DeSanto, who co-owns Phoenix with his wife, Renée Reiner. "We've opened two bookstores in recent years, and nobody ever asked me to do it."

Though Phoenix has not yet chosen a new storefront location, DeSanto says the store will be located in the hub of Rutland's downtown, at or near the intersection of Center Street and Merchants Row. He hopes it will open by June 1.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Montpelier's Bear Pond Books Receives James Patterson Grant

Posted By on Wed, Dec 17, 2014 at 11:49 AM

click image Bear Pond staff celebrate the grant. From left to right: Amanda Menard, Chris MacDonald, store owner Claire Benedict; in front, children's room manager Jane Knight. - COURTESY OF BEAR POND BOOKS
  • Courtesy of Bear Pond Books
  • Bear Pond staff celebrate the grant. From left to right: Amanda Menard, Chris MacDonald, store owner Claire Benedict; in front, children's room manager Jane Knight.
Within the last year, three independent Vermont bookstores have benefited from the largesse of author James Patterson, who in 2013 pledged $1 million in gifts to indie booksellers. This week, Montpelier's Bear Pond Books became the fourth Vermont bookstore to receive a Patterson grant, joining Phoenix Books of Burlington and Essex, Norwich Bookstore in Norwich and Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center.

Patterson, an advocate of literacy programs, gave the money to Bear Pond because of the store's commitment to young readers. A condition of the grant was that the recipient stores have dedicated children's rooms; Bear Pond meets that stipulation by possessing an upstairs space that's dedicated to children's and young adult books. According to a press release from the store, Bear Pond Books will use the money to redesign that room, thus making it more of "a destination" for young readers.

The bestselling author has dubbed the grant program "Saving bookstores, saving lives," an indication of the importance he places on literacy and reading. So far, in three rounds of grants, nearly 200 independent bookstores have received portions of Patterson's $1 million gift. According to the author's website, he will "continue to support independent bookstores in innovative ways" in 2015, and will launch a new initiative to support school libraries.

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Friday, October 10, 2014

A New Book on Old Maps Regards Lake Champlain, and Lions

Posted By on Fri, Oct 10, 2014 at 4:46 PM

Lake Champlain and a cartouche from a 1767 map - COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES
  • Courtesy of the National Archives
  • Lake Champlain and a cartouche from a 1767 map
Graphic designers, cartographers and coffee-table owners might find themselves fascinated with the new book Maps: Their Untold Stories, to be published on October 14 by Bloomsbury. Those with an interest in Vermont history might also find a little cartographic treasure in it.

Authors Rose Mitchell and Andrew Janes are map archivists at the National Archives in London, a fact that accounts for the book's overall Anglocentric focus. And while it does contain many a map of Britain and her former colonies, this handsome, profusely illustrated volume also offers such fascinating features as a map of 19th-century Edo (now Tokyo), a map of the Allied forces' invasion of Normandy and, from 1836, the first-known pen-and-ink map by an Aboriginal Australian.

One chapter, "New Worlds: Exploration and the Colonies," showcases maps that testify to the massive wingspan of the British Empire. Amongst the maps of Gambian slave forts and the Indian subcontinent is a 1767 map of French and British claims to the forested parcels of land that surrounded Lake Champlain. Created by Yorkshireman Simon Metcalfe, the surveyor general of New York province, the map shows how the two countries' claims conflicted.

Even more interesting is the watchful lion that joins a wolf, a crane and a turkey in the cartouche in the map's upper left corner. Cool your jets, Catamount Truthers: Just as in the present day, no lions romped through the Champlain Valley in the mid-18th century. Rather, as the authors write, the mapmaker included this fearsome beast in order to "convey ... to those in London both the inherent possibilities and the dangers present in the colonies."

Fanciful details such as that incongruous lion are exactly what make this and the other maps in the book so fascinating. The maps' very inaccuracies speak most eloquently to their origins and attest to their historical significance.

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Self-Published Book of the Week: Encounter With Japan: An Adventure in Love

Posted By on Sun, Sep 14, 2014 at 10:11 AM


So in case you didn't already know, it is now relatively cheap and simple to publish your own book. Here at Seven Days, we receive the fruits of that tech shift: self-published books from fellow Vermonters. Lots and lots and lots. Indeed, each year we receive more.

Do we review them in our pages? Rarely; it takes a very special book to sway us. But we'd like to recognize more writers' efforts, and we think local readers might be curious about what their neighbors are self-publishing. This blog feature may also showcase books from small or academic publishers that we can't cover in the paper.

Before submitting your own book, please see the lengthy disclaimer below!

The Book: Encounter With Japan: An Adventure in Love by Adelaide E. Katz, PhD, and Susan Katz Saitoh. Paperback, 164 pages with full-color illustrations. $20.

What's It About?

How many people have sat at a dying loved one's bedside and wished they could tell the world that person's story? Susan Katz Saitoh does that with this book. Actually, she leaves most of the actual telling to her late mother, Adelaide Katz, a fine writer who left behind journals, poems and more.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

'Al Mutanabbi Street Starts Here' Exhibit Comes to Goddard

Posted By on Sun, Jul 20, 2014 at 8:14 AM

"Burned Book 3/8 English" by Elaine Spatz-Rabinowitz & Mary McCarthy - DAVID HALE / GODDARD COLLEGE
  • David Hale / Goddard College
  • "Burned Book 3/8 English" by Elaine Spatz-Rabinowitz & Mary McCarthy

Almost 1,100 years after the birth of the poet for whom it is named, Baghdad's historic Al Mutanabbi Street was reduced to rubble by a car bomb that killed more than 30 people. Other casualties of that 2007 bombing included several businesses and their wares, a loss that surely would have immensely grieved the poet, whose full name is Abu at-Tayyib Ahmad ibn al-Husayn al-Mutanabbi al-Kindi.

For centuries, Al Mutanabbi Street has been the center of Baghdad's intellectual community, renowned for its many bookshops, itinerant book vendors and convivial cafés and tea shops. The car bombing seven years ago not only claimed lives but shredded the very stuff that made Baghdad one of the world's most cosmopolitan cultural capitals.

Starting on July 22, Plainfield's Goddard College will host a traveling art exhibit that uses books and printmaking to commemorate the loss of one of the world's great literary communities. The exhibit, "Al Mutanabbi Street Starts Here," has been traveling the world since 2012, and will remain at Goddard's Eliot D. Pratt Library Art Gallery until October 10. Its creator, San Francisco poet and bookseller Beau Beausoleil [PDF link], will discuss his work at an opening-night event.

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