Monthly Archives: April 2014

Farewell Gabo

Gabriel García Márquez from National Archieef Nederland, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this month novelist, journalist, and social activist Gabriel Garcia Marquez passed away in Mexico City at the age of 87. It is a testament to his artistic achievement that his works are both highly regarded by critics and are very widely read — Salman Rushdie notes in his New York Times obituary that Ian McEwan’s comparison of Garcia Marquez to Charles Dickens in that regard is accurate — and so it comes as no surprise that people around the world are marking his death by taking a look back at his work and what it has meant to the many millions of readers who have been moved by it.

Here are a few pieces that I have enjoyed reading:

The Paris Review has dug into their archives to make available two great pieces, a 1981 Art of Fiction interview:

I think that writing is very difficult, but so is any job carefully executed. What is a privilege, however, is to do a job to your own satisfaction. I think that I’m excessively demanding of myself and others because I cannot tolerate errors; I think that it is a privilege to do anything to a perfect degree. It is true though that writers are often megalomaniacs and they consider themselves to be the center of the universe and society’s conscience. But what I most admire is something well done. I’m always very happy when I’m traveling to know that the pilots are better pilots than I am a writer.

…and an incredible oral history of Marquez’s life and work compiled by Silvana Paternostro:

WILLIAM STYRON: Gabo could not exist in the Anglo-Saxon world. We have no real tradition. It’s not that writers to some degree aren’t respected in this country. They are, but not to the degree they are not only respected but venerated elsewhere. Carlos Fuentes and Octavio Paz had that effect in Mexico. Mario Vargas Llosa was close to becoming president of Peru. Gabo is this sort of phenomenon par excellence. The idea of a writer having such a profound political and cultural influence in the United States like Gabo has in Latin America is inconceivable.

The New Yorker enlisted Edwidge Dandicat to write a piece for their blog:

I am often surprised when people talk about the total implausibility of the events in García Márquez’s fiction. Having been born and lived in a deeply spiritual and extraordinarily resourceful part of the Caribbean, a lot of what might seem magical to others often seems quite plausible to me.

Of course a woman can live inside her cat, as the character Eva does, in García Márquez’s 1948 short story “Eva Is Inside Her Cat.” Doesn’t everyone have an aunt who’s done that? And remember that neighbor who died but kept growing in his coffin, as in the 1947 story “The Third Resignation”? What seems implausible to me is a lifetime of absolute normalcy, a world in which there are no invasions, occupations, or wars, no poverty or dictators, no earthquakes or cholera.

The Guardian showed his life in photographs.

The Columbia University Press highlighted his journalistic accomplishments by reprinting excerpts from a piece written by Miles Corwin for a book of essays about classic works of journalism called Second Read: Writers Look Back at Classic Works of Reportage:

The public always likes an exposé, but what made [Garcia Marquez’s] stories so popular was not simply the explosive revelations of military incompetence. García Márquez had managed to transform Velasco’s account into a narrative so dramatic and compelling that readers lined up in front of the newspaper’s offices, waiting to buy copies.

NPR gives readers a little ray of hope by covering the publication of an excerpt from an unfinished new story by Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia.

-Dan, who discovered Clandestine in Chile on a display on Main’s First Floor and is looking forward to reading some of Marquez’s journalistic work.


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Perspective, As Seen from a Corner of the Library

CLP - Desk

It’s a Sunday afternoon and I’m writing this from an undisclosed nook of CLP-Main.  It’s a spectacularly gorgeous (and busy) weekend in Oakland; across the street, a few thousand (give or take) capped-and-gowned bright-eyed job hopefuls are graduating from the University of Pittsburgh.  A kids event is taking over Schenley Plaza.

In the midst of this, the Library is quite the happenin’ place, too.  We have an abundance of people here.

World Kaleidoscope is presenting Alba Flamenca, and they’re warming up for their 2 p.m. performance in the Quiet Reading Room. Families are arriving for Sensory Storytime. People, including myself, are using their Library cards to access the Library’s free Wi-Fi. A librarian is helping a student find information for a research paper that’s due “sometime this week.”

And this is all just on the First Floor.

I’m tucked away in a corner of the Library on a Sunday because, for the second weekend in a row, my daughter is participating in one of our creative writing programs for teens. This is a new experience for her:  learning to write in a different genre (and, God willing, perhaps about something other than the lads of One Direction), having her work critiqued by her peers and learning how to dole out constructive criticism, and meeting new people from different schools and backgrounds.  The workshop is giving her the chance to learn new skills and broaden her horizons – all the things that, in my development job with the Library, I tell people we do every day.

Powered up with my laptop and fueled by my Crazy Mocha coffee, this doesn’t feel like hanging out at my workplace on a weekend. Far from it. In a way, being at the Library incognito as a patron instead of a staff member gives me a different point of view of the Library.  My work hours typically fall during the week, which is why I don’t normally have a chance to see the Library the way I’m doing this afternoon.

In many ways not much is different. It’s still the same Library, of course, but it’s also a reminder to me of the possibilities that CLP offers to all of us in so many ways, regardless of the day.  Whether it’s reading a new genre, listening to a new type of music, or attending a program, it’s always possible to expand one’s horizons … or to remember to look at the same thing you see everyday from a new perspective.

CLP - Stacks

~Melissa F.

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Protecting Your Intellectual Property

One of the things I love about being CLP’s Patent and Trademark Librarian is that it makes me think about different types of creativity. My creative pursuits have always tended towards making art, writing, and crafting, but in my role at CLP, I meet a lot of people who are developing inventions and innovations, as well as building businesses and coming up with trademarks to set their business apart from others. Any time you’ve put time and effort into creating something, whether it’s a song or painting, a new way to cure hiccups, or a name for your new business, knowing how to protect your intellectual property is something you’re probably interested in.

Figuring out what type of intellectual property law applies to you and how to go about filing for protection can be confusing. You might already know that you should search for patents before trying to get one yourself, but not know where to start.  You might want to see if another company is already using the name you want for your business but find that a Google search just isn’t cutting it. CLP has lots of books on intellectual property, including patents, trademarks, and copyright. We’re also a Patent and Trademark Resource Center (PTRC), which means that we can help you get started with your patent or trademark search.

If the resources above aren’t quite enough to get you started, CLP is hosting a free day-long workshop on Wednesday, May 14 with speakers from the PTRC Program of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Resource Center. They plan to cover a number of topics, including the different types of intellectual property protection; how to conduct a basic patent and trademark search; invention promotion forms, and provide an overview of some of the tools that are available for more advanced searchers (PubWEST and PubEAST). If you’d like to attend this free workshop, you can register here.


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Welcome Back! (CLICK HERE)

This past Monday the displaced West End staff was called back to our library to begin the process of re-opening. Originally I was going to mention this fact mainly as a way to introduce the topics of  spring cleaning and renovations, and to highlight all of the amazing things you can do now that the weather is starting to cooperate. However having spent the last week with my old co-workers, kneeling on dusty floors, opening boxes of books with screwdrivers and realizing we can only find boxes 6,7,10,15,20, and 23 of non-fiction I decided I wanted to make this post about something else.


It isn’t often you find yourself working with people that you would actually be friends with outside of the office but at CLP – West End that is exactly what we have. Walking into our awesome new building on Monday didn’t feel like walking into work. It felt like coming home. Remember the first day of school? When you ignored all the work that laid ahead and focused on the familiar  smell of the lunch room and the sounds of laughter that filled the halls…. you weren’t worried about your classes or your teachers. In that moment all you cared about was reconnecting with old buddies, sharing your summer stories and feeling like you belonged. That was our Monday. As this week has come to a close we have opened PLENTY of boxes, we have cleaned and shelved with the best of them; but we have also gossiped about our lives, made jokes and had a great time. And the dork in me can’t help but think this is what Harry had to have felt every year when he got on the train to Hogwarts.

A work in progress.

A work in progress.

We are still working hard and we will be for the next few weeks. You would be amazed at how difficult it is to get the entire collection back on the shelves. Every day we get a little bit closer and we know we will soon get to see all our patrons and friends from the neighborhood.  Our official celebration is scheduled for Saturday, May 17 from 10 am to 2 p.m. We will have activities for all ages, our awesome librarians will be around to talk about the upcoming programing and, of course, there will be cake. So stop by and check us out; we’re all family here.




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My Yiddishe (Great-Grand) Mama

My grandparents and their friends were first generation Americans. Their parents came over from Eastern Europe and Russia in the late 19th century. They grew up hearing and understanding Yiddish, but they all spoke English first. When I was very young, I wouldn’t pay attention to their conversation until they started speaking Yiddish. Then I knew they were either talking about me or about something they didn’t want me to hear, so naturally I was interested.

Yiddish is still spoken today, mainly by Orthodox Jews around the world who feel that the Hebrew language should be reserved for religious prayer and study. There are notable exceptions of course.

Here is a little sampling of Yiddish meshugas (craziness) from the library:

We have the printed editions, but it is such a pleasure to listen to the audio versions of books by Michael Wex, self-narrated and delivered in a wonderfully droll style. Oy, what a maven of a linguist! I get a rise out of listening to the cadences and pronunciation of the language, rather than just reading the transliterated words on paper.

NuJust Say Nu introduces Yiddish words and phrases in context. Wex provides multiple examples in English to illustrate subtle shades of meaning, in an amusing and very Yiddish way.

KvetchBorn to Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All Its Moods. Yiddish is a highly idiomatic language, and you need cultural context to understand what is really being said. Wex gives the most comprehensive and insightful look into the culture of Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jews that I have ever encountered. Before I listened to this CD, my main cultural reference of this culture came from Fiddler on the Roof. I am somewhat surprised by how superstitious Jews in the old country were. Do I need to mention that this book is also highly amusing?

comicYiddishkeit: Jewish Vernacular & the New Land, edited by Harvey Pekar & Paul Buhle with Hershl Hartman; introduction by Neal Gabler. This is a graphic non-fiction book about Yiddish cultural history in US, penned and inked by various authors and illustrators. Some are quick and humorous reads, others you really have to slog through, but overall this volume gives you a way to get an immersive feel for what the people and the environment were like.

outwittingBibliophiles will love Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books  by Aaron Lansky. Lansky was on a rescue mission to save books from trash heaps “with little more than his own chutzpah,” especially as older Jewish collectors of Yiddish books passed on. One of the major problems he needed to solve was where to store the volumes. Here is a modern day, real life  Guy Montag (from Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451). To see his legacy visit The National Yiddish Book Center.

Short storiesClassic Yiddish Stories of S.Y. Abramovitsh, Sholem Aleichem, and I.L. Peretz, edited by Ken Frieden; translated by Ken Frieden, Ted Gorelick, and Michael Wex. There’s lots of Yiddish literature to choose from, but a good place to start are these short stories by three of the best known Yiddish writers, expertly translated to retain nuances of meaning. These tales are about many different facets of Jewish life in eastern Europe, full of satire, social commentary, dybbuks (demons), life in the shtetl, and most importantly, a sense of humor.

Mammeloshn : A Collection of Classic Yiddish Folksong – Compiled and edited by Velvel Pasternak. This is one of a handful of Yiddish songbooks in our collection. It contains a song I learned from my great-grandmother “Bubie” called “Oifn Pripitchik.”

Klezmer on CD – Listen while you read!



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Walk the Walk

Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.
Thomas Jefferson

I’ve been walking for pleasure as well as exercise for so long that it has become ingrained in my psyche. Walking is just something I must do, a restlessness that has yet to abate. If I’m inside too long, I get what I call “inside head,” a fuzzy feeling, not a headache, but as if my head is stuffed with cotton. Only spending time outdoors cures this very uncomfortable feeling.

Why walk?

  • You only need a good pair of comfortable walking shoes, no other special equipment required.
  • You can do it anywhere, in your neighborhood, in the city, at a park, in a mall, on vacation.
Walking along Grandview Avenue in Mount Washington.

Walking along Grandview Avenue in Mount Washington.

  • You can walk alone or with a group.
  • It’s how to get to know a place really well; you see things when you walk that you miss when you’re in a car or on a bus.
Clear Creek State Park trails.

Clear Creek State Park trails.

  • You can incorporate it into your workday so you don’t have to take extra time to workout; I try to make time for at least two 15-minute walks. The city block around the Main Library in Oakland and the museums and Schenley Plaza is perfect for this goal. If it’s too cold, I walk up, down, and all around the eleven stacks in the library. On weekends, I try to walk for an hour or more.
Walking in Chatham Village, where I live, is like living in a park.

Walking in Chatham Village is like living in a park.

  • It’s a great way to connect with your partner or a friend; during the summer, evening walks after dinner are how my husband and I discuss our day–as well as help our digestion.

-Maria who, oddly enough, rarely uses a pedometer




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Of Food & Science.


I tend to improvise a lot when I cook. After mastering a few beloved recipes from favorite cookbooks, and learning that just about anything tastes good with a solid base of fried onions and garlic, I’ve found that I rarely need to measure ingredients while cooking. Sometimes though, it’s fun to take a closer look at what I’m preparing and think about what might be happening on a molecular level.

eggs Luckily, the library has many fine books on not only cooking, but the science of cooking. A recent interview on NPR’s Splendid Table turned me onto the new book Egg: A Culinary Exploration of the World’s Most Versatile Ingredient. If you’ve ever wondered not only how to make the perfect scrambled or poached egg, but also why cooking it a certain way yields varying results, then this is the book for you. Consider for a moment all of the wonderful joys the egg brings us—pasta, custards, cakes, quiches, cookies. If you are interested in learning more about all the wonderful foods that are dependent on the humble egg, then this is the book for you.

keys  Of course, if you are interested in the science behind cooking, you have to check out one of Harold McGee’s books. Both Keys to Good Cooking and On Food and Cooking: the Science and Lore of the Kitchen should give you plenty “molecular gastronomy” to ponder while working in the kitchen.



cheese And for those cheese enthusiasts out there (of which I’m one) there is a new book just for you, titled simply The Science of Cheese. If you are not content to simply eat cheese, this book will teach you everything from the history of cheese to how new cheeses are created.



gulpIf you would like to move beyond the science happening in your kitchen to the science happening in your belly, then by all means check out Mary Roach’s latest book Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal about that most taboo of topics: digestion. Like her other great reads, Ms. Roach is able to take a somewhat unsavory subject and spin it into a series of fascinating, informative, and often very funny reads.


So how about you? What books on cooking (or science) are you savoring right now?



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The Communion of Reading: William Stafford

The poet William Stafford and my father were born in the same year, 1914, one hundred years ago. I’m having trouble reconciling that, for some reason.

My father fought in World War II; Stafford was a conscientious objector. Stafford was a poet and a teacher. My father loaded trucks for a living.

As far as I can intuit, there is one thing that they shared: there was a depth of feeling, tinged with sorrow, that framed their lives. One found an outlet; the other did not.

In this one hundredth anniversary year of his birth, a wonderful new collection of William Stafford’s work has been assembled, Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems, compiled by his son, Kim Stafford.

stafford ask me

Perhaps the two most complex relationships in (human) life are between mothers and daughters and fathers and sons. Kim Stafford’s collection of his father’s work testifies to a depth of understanding and emotion in life, including the father/son relationship, that is rare, indeed, even amongst the finest of poets.

My father was an avid reader though, like most of us, not often of poetry. Still, one of the greatest gifts he ever gave me was a penchant for the works of Thomas Hardy. For an aging, exhausted shipping clerk to catalyze this kind of connection, classic author to father to son, was no mean feat. It was a way to express emotion, something far more difficult than even the grueling, mind numbing job which helped shorten his life.

Oddly enough, looking at what I’ve written so far, it is readily apparent that, during this National Poetry Month, this wonderful retrospective selection of William Stafford’s work has, in memory, given me back my father in a moving, important way.

That is what the communion of reading can do.

Here is a poem by William Stafford from Ask Me that speaks directly to the feelings I’ve been grappling with, in a manner I feel no prose account might do:


My father could hear a little animal step,
or a moth in the dark against the screen,
and every far sound called the listening out
into places where the rest of us have never been.

More spoke to him in the soft wild night
than came to our porch for us on the wind;
we would watch him look up and his face go keen
till the walls of the world flared, widened.

My father heard so much that we still stand
inviting the quiet by turning the face,
waiting for a time when something in the night
will touch us too from that far place.

– William Stafford

~ Don

PS:  Thanks,  David Mahler, for the gift of William Stafford.


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Celebrate Good Times!

This week is National Library Week! 

Here are some reasons to celebrate. 8 Reasons to Hang Out at a Library. 9 Reasons Why Librarians are Awesome.

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is celebrating library books that change lives. Visit our website and tell your story. Here is mine!

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The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley

MistsofAvalonI knew the tales of Camelot and King Arthur when I was a kid. They didn’t appeal to me then and they didn’t appeal to me as a young adult. I was a feminist before I knew it and all of the tales were dominated by men, which did not interest me. All the chicks in the traditional tales are either dimwits (Gwenhwyfar) or evil, ball-busting witches (Morgan le Fay). None of them have any personality or power; they are boring one-dimensional stereotypes. The Mists of Avalon tells the tales of Camelot from a woman’s point of view. And what women they were! Morgaine (Morgan le Fay) isn’t an evil sorceress, she’s misunderstood and wants to be loved! But her aunt Morgause sure is a jerk. Gwenhwyfar has a three-way! Igraine was a secret bad-ass who fell in love with a not-so-secret bad-ass and produced Arthur! Lancelet isn’t so gallant. King Arthur is wonderful, but sometimes spoiled and petulant. If you’re a reader like me, you’ll also appreciate the boatload of prequels and sequels.

James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl

JamesWhen I first considered what books changed me, this is the first book I went to. I don’t necessarily relate to James: I’m not an orphan, no mean aunts abused me and unfortunately, no one has ever given me a sack of magical, glowing-green, crocodile tongues. What James and the Giant Peach did do was make me realize the potential for storytelling and fiction and OMG books are amazing. This is the first “chapter” book I was exposed to, thanks to my third grade teacher (shout out to Mrs. Cypher nee Garrett.) This is also the book I chose to read from for the library’s 24 Hour Read Aloud.

The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas

CountOh, Edmund Dantes, how could Mercedes give up on you? Thanks to a very good friend (looking at you, DWR) I was more or less forced to read this book. There was some cajoling involved (“C’mon, you’ll love it. Honest!”) All I knew about Dumas was The Three Musketeers movie- which, no.  Again, being contrary means saying sorry because I loved- devoured- this book. It introduced me to a new genre (ADVENTURE!). I moved on from The Count of Monte Cristo to the rest of Dumas and then to books about pirates and prison breaks. The biography about Alexandre Dumas’ father (the son of an African slave and French nobleman) called The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss shows that many of Dumas’ characters were inspired by his own pops.

The Bachman Books, Stephen King

BachmanYou know the movie The Running Man? It came from this book of short stories. And it’s the worst story of the four! The other three stories, Rage, The Long Walk, and Road Work would all be amazing movies. I was probably too young to read this, but whatever. This book inspired me in two ways. First of all, as a budding writer, it introduced me to the idea of short stories. I mean, I was 11 and wanted to write a novel. There’s not much to go on at that age. But a short story? Oh yes, that could be done! Second, it was the first time I was ever emotionally invested in a character. I loved Peter McVries (The Long Walk) and his scar and his sub-conscious death wish (which honestly was just a preview of coming attractions for me).

Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand

AtlasAny time I mention enjoying Rand books, I immediately get flamed for being an egoist, an elitist, or a Republican. I’m none of those things. Not too many elitists work for the public library (I’m just saying). Like any book, you should take what you want/need from it. I didn’t swallow her philosophy whole, but you know what? She had some smart things to say about the nature of happiness and joy, and valuing yourself. I’m not going to push an old lady into the street and I donate to charity, but there is something to be said for being aware of your worth. Self-confidence is sexy, yo. It’s also simply a good story, especially if you like heavy industry, politics, and trains. And for readers that object to Objectivism (see what I did there?) as a philosophy, read this awesomeness.

War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy

WarDuring my final semester as an undergrad, I took 19th Century Russian Masterpieces (I was there a long time, it was slim pickins’ at that point). The reading list was intense. Crime and Punishment (Dostoevsky), Chekhov plays, Dead Souls (Gogol), Pushkin, and of course, the granddaddy of Russian novels, War and Peace. I was dreading it. I was intimidated by it. The name alone hurt my stomach. But since I wanted to graduate from college before I was 50, I sucked it up and opened it. Oh. My. Word. Four days later, I finished it, crying. It’s the Russian Gone with the Wind and don’t let anyone tell you different. Go Team Andrei!

I could write about a ton more books that have made a difference in my life. Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything taught me how to make a perfect hamburger and boil an egg. I have a line from a Ralph Waldo Emerson poem tattooed on me, so I’ll include him, too.

What books made a difference in your life?

happy reading!


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April 18, 2014 · 5:00 am

Captain America Primer

Captain America: Winter Soldier hit theaters with the force of a thunderclap two weeks ago, and since it continues to rake in box office “bank”, I thought it might be a good time to provide a quick primer on some of the best Cap comic stories to check out from our fantastic graphic novel collection.

Wint-Sol_covee  Captain America: Winter Soldier Ultimate Collection by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting.  Life and death in comic books is cheap, with miraculous resurrections every bit as common as capes and tights themselves.  But Captain America’s sidekick, Bucky, was different.  While there were a few false flags, Bucky had remained “dead” for more than sixty years of comic and real time, but Epting and Brubaker bring him back in this amazing tale that seamlessly blends the espionage and super genres into one rollicking and gut-wrenching tale of loss and redemption.  This is the one the new hit movie was based on, and it remains a modern classic.


Cap-War-Remem_cover  Captain America: War & Rememberance by Roger Stern and John Byrne.  This too-brief nine issue run of Captain America in the 1980’s redefined the character for modern audiences and did it so slickly that the stories seemed like standard superhero fare.  Stern and Byrne took Cap back to England to face a deadly foe from WWII, had him briefly consider a run for PotUS, and redefined his origin to root him firmly in the mean streets of New York, the quintessential American city.  The run also features some of the  most dynamic super-slugfests ever rendered on the comic page!


Cap-Omnibus_cover   Captain America Omnibus by Jack “King” Kirby.   While I would be more comfortable recommending Mr. Kirby’s earlier, 1960’s run on Cap (with the inimitable Stan Lee), this later one from the 1970’s remains readily available in our collection.  Calling this collection of stories weird or strange really smacks of understatement.  I am fairly certain Mr. Kirby never did any drugs in the 1970’s (his vice was expensive cigars), but after reading these amazingly kooky stories, you might think otherwise.  Kirby’s penciling powers are on the wane by this point, but his storytelling energy remains strong.


Three titles from three different eras of Cap’s storied history should get you up to speed on one of comic books’ most colorful heroes. While Cap plays best as a stranger in a strange land, man-out-of-his-time character, he always manages to embody the timeless aspects of American culture that transcend creed, politics, or other divisive forces.  The ideas of personal liberty, responsibility, and simple compassion for the downtrodden make him Marvel’s ultimate time traveler–he remains relevant in whatever era he shows up in!

And if I might quote the great Stan Lee, “Excelsior!”



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