Monthly Archives: October 2009

Top 10 Forgotten Classic Horror Writers

Horror_01Since it’s Halloween weekend, what better way to head off into the sunset, equipped with stakes, ouija board, silver bullets, garlic, etc., than a list of top ten favorite classic horror writers?

But not just any list.  Most of us know those: Stoker and Shelley and Poe and Lovecraft, etc. etc.  No, how about a top ten list of forgotten, or nearly forgotten, classic horror writers from the 19th and early 20th century.  In each case on the list below, I’ve recommended a single title as a starting point, but there are plenty more by each of these authors if you seek them out.

Arthur Machen  The Terror and Other Stories

Guy du Maupassant The Horla and Other Stories

E. T. A. Hoffman The Best Tales of Hoffmann

M. R. James Casting the Runes and Other Ghost Stories

Manly Wade Wellman After Dark

Robert W. Chambers  The King in Yellow

Lord Dunsany Tales of Three Hemispheres

William Hope Hodgson The House on the Borderland

F. Marion Crawford The Complete Wandering Ghosts

A. W. Merritt The Moon Pool

And two more, for good measure:

Algernon Blackwood The Best Supernatural Tales

Smith, Clark Ashton The End of the Story

Certainly, there is plenty of room for quibbling.   If a more famous name such as Maupassant appears, why not the horror fiction of Charles Dickens or Arthur Conan Doyle (frankly, there aren’t many stories more horrifying than A Christmas Carol, if truth be told)?  Lord Dunsany is known predominately for fantasy and E. T. A. Hoffmann for the German märchen or folktale.  Yet both extended a great influence individually on two of the greatest horror writers of all times: the former, Dunsany, on H. P. Lovecraft, and the later, Hoffmann, on Edgar Allan Poe.   And both knew how to tell a very chilling horror tale, indeed.

So, if you are sick of the same old, same old King or Koontz, if you’ve had it with book shelves seemingly packed with ubiquitous vampires and interminable zombies, if you’ve never heard of a werepanther and really don’t care to, why not take a look at some of the authors that helped create the modern horror story.  You won’t be sorry.

Or maybe you will …


P.S.  Though we have gotten the attention of our mayor and local and state representatives with the possible closing of 5 branches, this isn’t the time to let up.  Please continue to email, call, and talk to our representatives to let them know that the library needs long-term sustainable funding to keep our branches open and our all-important presence in communities across town.  Your effort is making a difference and we thank you for all you’ve done and continue to do.

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Don’t try this at home. Or do, and write a book about it.

As I was flying into New York City a couple of weeks ago, I thought about all the interesting experiments going on there at any given time.  Truly, the thought first occurred to me after seeing Julie and Julia –  all these quirky New Yorkers doing something for a year and then blogging or writing about it.  Although I didn’t spot any actual experimenters on the streets while I was there (that I know of at least), somehow I am still holding that strange impression of them.

It is fortunate for us that these people are willing to do the wacky things they do for two reasons: 1) we don’t have to do them; and 2) they make terrific reads.  My favorite author in this vein has to be A. J. Jacobs.  In The Year of Living Biblically, he grows his hair and beard, wears only white, and refuses to shake hands, all in the name of following every law in the Bible.  If you liked that one, try his most recent book, The Guinea Pig Diaries:  My Life as an Experiment

A couple of other options in this genre include:

Last on my list does not take place in New York, but should at least get me to stop judging New Yorkers.  The Urban Hermit: A Memoir recounts a year of living on $8 a week and 800 calories a day.  The author, Sam McDonald, now lives in Pittsburgh and teaches at the University of Pittsburgh. 



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Poetry as Insurgent Art

Famed and beloved beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s quotable book Poetry as Insurgent Art is part desiderata, part manifesto on the importance of poetry

In four prose poems and a brief essay, its quips vary from rebellious (“Strive to change the world in such a way that there’s no further need to be a dissident”) to koan-like statements to patently-Ferlinghetti comparisons to classic art and canonic literature (“Poetry can be heard at manholes, echoing up Dante’s fire escape”).  Also, there are lots of birds. 

For anyone who needs to be convinced of the vitality of art’s resistance or to be encouraged to pursue the struggle for vitality in life and expression, this little book of poetic affirmations will be a joy to read.


photo by by flickr user elgin.jessica


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Pittsburgh’s Day of Giving

Not a day goes by that I don’t fantasize about creating an endowment for the library.  Dressed to the nines, with winning PowerBall ticket in hand, I will call a press conference in the Reference Department.  There, in a speech designed to make the angels weep,  I will finish the job Andrew Carnegie began by declaring my intention to fund the Carnegie Library in perpetuity.  Banners will wave.  People will cheer.  Brian O’Neill will write a wryly laudatory column about the whole affair, and we’ll all live happily ever after.

It’s a lovely daydream.  Of course, for any of that to happen, I would have to start actually buying tickets.  And I totally would, except that, while the deus ex machina approach satisfies my flair for the dramatic, the odds are against my being able to pull that particular rabbit out of my hat.

Luckily, none of us has to save the library all alone.  Everything goes better when we all work together, and some wonderful folks at The Pittsburgh Foundation have created an opportunity for smaller-scale philanthropists like you and me, so we can do just that. 

Tomorrow, October 28, 2009, is the day you can do your part for library funding.  Click here for details, or click on the stunning black-and-gold “” icon in the right-hand sidebar of our blog, to learn more about this special opportunity to help the library.

Think a smaller donation can’t make a difference?  Courtesy of the fine people in the CLP Development Office, here are some examples of the kind of  impact your donation can have:

$25 buys two children’s picture books, such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar or Goodnight Moon. It’s also enough purchasing power for one graphic novel.

$50 allows the library to purchase one non-fiction audio book.

$75 buys three titles for the Bestsellers collection, which includes popular works by authors such as Dan Brown, Patricia Cornwell, and James Patterson.

If you’re in a position to give a little bit more, your dollars can go even further.  Observe:

$100 supplies a puppeteer or storyteller during summer reading.

$150 covers guest speaking fees for a program on job seeking or tax law.

$250 pays for a one-year subscription to The Wall Street Journal, one of our many periodicals.

Now, let’s say you and your friends threw a house party, or had a bake sale, and you’ve pooled a larger amount of resources for the library.  How far will your contribution go?

$500 provides professional staff and literacy materials for a community outreach visit to a local school or child care center.

$1,000 allows the library to hold four multi-session workshops for parents, so they can assist  their children’s early literacy development.

$2,000 pays for approximately one month of access to one of the library’s research databases.

Even if you’re not quite ready to fund the burning need for full-text journal articles just yet, it’s okay:  every little bit helps.  Please consider taking advantage of this special opportunity to help the library on Pittsburgh’s day of giving.  And after you donate, you can give yourself a pat on the back for being part of the team effort to save Pittsburgh’s libraries.

Everyday philanthropy, woo hoo!  Tune in next time when I’ll tell you all about why I have a Donor Plus Card (no, it’s not a job requirement!).

Leigh Anne
aspiring fairy goth-mother


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Rejected by the PMI, or form letters for the ages.

Recently, Kathie (illustrious manager of our Music Department) introduced me to our collection of bulletins, announcements, and programs from the Pittsburgh Musical Institute.
They were just down the street from us! And check out that phone number!

Check out the phone number!

Among the 38 volumes of assorted stuff representing the years 1915 to 1955 is this gem of a rejection letter, from the 1948-49 school year.


At least they're sorry.

If you’d like to learn more about the history of music in Pittsburgh (or you just like reading letters that are half a century old) be sure to ask one of our librarians about the Pittsburgh Music collection.

– Amy

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get up, stand up

This week I attended the ne plus ultra of librarianship on the local level: the Pennsylvania Library Association Conference in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I got to:

a) Meet, hug and fawn over my favorite author Jennifer Weiner (I asked her to inscribe my book, “To Bonnie, my best friend”)
b) Win an iPod, even though I told the vendors repeatedly that I don’t know how to use the one I have (don’t judge me)
c) Be surrounded by the greatest collection of sensible shoes the world has seen since the 1876 American Library Association Conference in Philadelphia
d) Fuss over the Encore vendors and declare my undying affection for Encore
e) Take photos of important colleagues posing à la America’s Next Top Model on the front steps of the Capitol building

At the conference, I attended sessions on effective organizational communication within libraries, marketing library programs, awesome/useful web tools, creating effective partnerships with other organizations, and so on. One experience especially made an impression, and that was visiting the capitol building. We met with Representative Steve Samuelson, who is a great advocate for libraries in our state. He gave us advice for meeting with elected officials that I would like to pass on to you:

• Get lawmakers on your side. Invite them to the library and share with them the important services your library provides to the community.
• Tell your lawmaker what they are doing right–and wrong.
• Probe them—find out where they stand on the issue of libraries—don’t let them off the hook. This can sometimes be surmised with a handshake: “So we have your support for libraries?” Then send a thank you note thanking them for their support.
• It’s not inappropriate to convey our disappointment about how they have voted. They need to know how their constituents feel and how their actions affect libraries and communities.
• The Pennsylvania Senate voted THREE TIMES to pass a budget that cut library funding by 51%. Because of your letters, in the last three weeks before the budget passed, the cut decreased from 51% to 34% to 21%! Because of your letters, the senators compromised. They listened to YOU.
• Pennsylvania makes $79 million annually in taxes from the sale of books and magazines. If that money were earmarked for public library funding, our beloved libraries wouldn’t be on the chopping block year in and year out when the officials convene annually to pass the state’s budget.

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is slated to close several communities’ cherished libraries and lay off many treasured librarians and library staff that change lives every day. Don’t let this happen. Put pressure on our mayor, the mayoral and gubernatorial candidates, as well as our city and state’s elected officials. They decide how your tax dollars are spent.

Don’t let them off the hook. Our libraries are in their hands.



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Harrowing Halloween Horror

We’ve recently added some great new books to our horror collection, just in time for Halloween!  Check them out:

frostbiteFrostbite: A Werewolf Tale by David Wellington — Since vampires are currently everyone’s favorite creature of the night (thanks a lot, Stephenie Meyer), we don’t see many books about werewolves these days. Fortunately, Frostbite fills in the gaps pretty well with its fairly traditional take on lycanthropy.

vampireVampire Archives: The Most Complete Volume of Vampire Tales Ever Published edited by Otto Penzler — This monster (no pun intended) weighs in at 1,034 pages, and includes vampire tales from masters like Arthur Conan Doyle, Ray Bradbury, H.P. Lovecraft, and Clive Barker.

bitemarksBite Marks: A Vampire Testament by Terence Taylor — Believe it or not, Taylor has come up with a fairly unique take on the modern vampire tale. This one involves a young girl who is forced to vampirize her newborn baby; the vampire baby then terrorizes New York City. 

redtreeRed Tree by Caitlin Kiernan — This book quickly caught my attention because its description is quite Lovecraftian: a woman moves to a creepy house in Rhode Island and discovers a weird manuscript written by a parapsychologist obsessed with a huge oak tree.



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…the letter that is written remains.

Letters and notes continue to fascinate me even though the ubiquitous e-mail has largely supplanted them.  While electronic communication can’t be surpassed for its efficiency and practicality, letters to me endear and endure.   Our holdings suggest that others share my fondness for a media that can be stashed away and then later retrieved for a slow summoning of a special time or event.   CLP’s collection of letters and letter writing, dating from 1892, include not only explanations of how to write but also documents that are moving in their attempts to amuse, teach, or simply chronicle everyday life.    Naturally, those I find most enlightening reflect one or two of my historical or literary interests.


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Get Together and Read

You might not know it, but October is National Reading Group Month. Strangely enough, people all over the country like to get together and discuss the books they have read.  Haven’t you ever finished a great book and wished that you could talk to someone about it? With the Internet available 24/7, it’s now easier to go to a web site like or someone’s blog and leave a comment or a review.  But somehow that’s just not the same as having a face to face conversation, with give and take and a real sharing of ideas and opinions.

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh conducts several book discussion groups on a variety of topics. One or more of them would appeal to you, I’m sure.  We have a poetry discussion group – 3 Poems By…, a science book club – Black Holes, Beakers and Books, contemporary fiction – Books in the Afternoon  (which actually meets twice – once in the afternoon and once in the evening), Dish! A Foodie Book Club, Mystery Book Group  (self explanatory), spiritual book club – Pathfinders, as well as two collaborative book clubs – Bound Together with the Carnegie Museum of Art which explores the connections between literature and art, and our newest book group – the Pittsburgh Symphony Book Club, a partnership between CLP, WQED-FM, and the Pittsburgh Symphony.

But maybe you’d like to start your own book discussion group in your own neighborhood with people you already know.  The library can help you here too. We have many resources for organizing book groups, including recommendations on what you might read.

The New York Public Library Guide to Reading Groups by Rollene Saal – A nice introduction with brief sections on recruiting members, how to lead a good discussion, and making the best use of the resources available at your public library!

The Book Club Companion by Diana Loevy – In addition to touching on the same start-up topics as the book above, this guide expands its offerings to theme parties, suggested field trips, and recipes to serve at your meetings.  Because, as well all know, people are much more likely to show up if there’s food.

Reading with Oprah by Kathleen Rooney – Love her or hate her, you have to admit Oprah’s gotten people to read in staggering numbers – people who might not have been reading before. This book traces the history of the book club, its ending and then rebirth, as well as discussions of selected books.

The Kids’ Book Club Book by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp – It’s not only adults who like to read and talk about books. In addition to organization information, this fabulous guide gives book recommendations divided by grade ranges. These suggestions include craft and activity ideas and recipes to help plan a fun evening for kids of all ages.

A Year of Reading by Elisabeth Ellington and Jane Freimiller – This book has a chapter and a theme for each month of the year: scary stories for October, women and family for May, and heartwarming classics for December.

1001 Books for Every Mood by Hallie Ephron – No matter what you are looking for, this book can help.  There are categories for everything from “For a Good Laugh”, “For a Good Cry”, and “To Remember Dear Ol’ Dad” all the way to “Blame Your Genes”, “For a Kick in the Pants”, “For Revenge”, and “To Run Away from Home”. You will find something to fit your current frame of mind.

Book Lust and More Book Lust both by Nancy Pearl – The ultimate librarian, Nancy Pearl, recommends books for you. (Seriously, she is THE iconic librarian. So much so that she is the model for an action figure.)  No matter what topic you desire, “Ecofiction”, “Lost Weekends”, “Space Operas”, or “Elvis on My Mind”, she has a book suggestion that fills the need.

But in the end, it doesn’t matter what, where, with whom, or how you do it, just read!


P.S.  Remember to keep up the fight for your libraries, their hours, and staff.  Check out CLP’s advocacy web page  for ways you can help. 

“Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.” –Anne Herbert


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Vacation Reading

Greetings, from sunny Santa Barbara!  I’ll be back in Pittsburgh in just a few days, but for the past week and a half I’ve been from the Grand Canyon to Flagstaff to Long Beach, and of course I’ve managed to read a few books along the way.  Here are a few things I brought along to read while on vacation:

  • Love and Rockets: New Stories #2, by Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez: I can’t get enough of the Hernandez Brothers’ graphic series, and I was excited to have some free time to read this volume of new comics.  As always, the only disappointment was finishing this and having to wait for more stories to be published.  The characters pop off the pages, and events from the mundane to the supernatural make for some fantastic reading.
  • Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger: I’ve been saving this novel for the plane ride home.  I recieved The Time Traveler’s Wife as a gift after getting my degree in Library Science (after all, the main character is a librarian!), and I’ve been waiting for a new novel from the author ever since.  This time Niffenegger writes a gothic story that takes place in London, where twin sisters discover a ghost and a mystery when they arrive at the estate of their late aunt to claim their inheritance.
  • From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg: After reading Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading, by Lizzie Skurnick, I’ve slowly been making my way through many of the books she mentions.  This was one that I haven’t given much thought to in years, but I was pleased to discover that I liked it just as much now as I did as a child!  A sister and brother run away from home, live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (where they take baths in a fountain and sleep in antique beds!), and uncover a mystery regarding a statue that may or may not be the work of Michelangelo.  This is a great, quick read that stands up to the test of time. 

The one blight on my vacation was learning about the CLP branch closures that will be happening at home.  Please advocate for the library!  For more information on how to help, check out our Sustaining Our Future web page. 

See you in a few days,


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