Friday, December 18, 2009

"Tell Shakespeare to attend some leisure hour/For now I've business with this drop of dew"

It is cold, wet, and miserable.  I can count the number of patrons in the Library today on one hand.  I'm pretty sure my little Fiero isn't able to ford the shallowest of puddles, so I'm stuck at the Library.  Mommas, don't let your babies buy sports cars.

It's been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, and I was firmly resolved to move to Australia.

And then: then I found out who the Library Society has got as guest speaker for next month's Annual Meeting.  Bernard Cornwell.  The Sharpe's guy.  OBE.  The living heir to C.S. Forester.  Over 12,000,000 books sold.  Possibly the greatest living writer of historical fiction.  Bernard Cornwell.

More details to come, but, for now, for your loyal blogger: this news more than makes up for slow days and bad weather and small cars.  Have a good weekend, and don't forget, we've only got three more business days until the holiday break.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

From the Collections: Red Dawn Edition

As some of you may know, the Junior Collection is moving from the Ripley-Ravenel building back into the Main Library Building.  This will give us much more exhibition and event space in the new building.  As for the wee ones, they're moving into the former staff lounge.  It's getting a full renovation over the holiday break: the Boss was just at Mescons to look at the carpet they're providing, gratis, for the room (thanks!).  With the amount of kindness, both corporate and individual, we've been receiving lately, I'm sure we'll owe a lot of folks thank yous by the end of this project!

Moving the junior collection has given us a chance to get reacquainted with a wonderful collection that most of us staffers don't work with very frequently.  Thanks to the rarity of weeding and deaccession, we've got hundreds of books that are now more interesting as portraits of their times than for their ostensible subjects.  One such book, from your loyal blogger's own childhood: 1986's A Family in the U.S.S.R.!

The Partridgeovich Family Band.

Depressing as a Lemony Snicket novel- I suppose a little worse, being (mostly) nonfiction- it  follows the Fomin family around Tetris-era Leningrad.  We get to see Nikita's art studio (he's not allowed to sell his paintings, but he's "happy and secure" on the state-minimum 200 rouble monthly salary); family fun-time ("Nikita and Irina have no special interests apart from their work"); dinner (ham and green beans = once-a-year extravagance).

Chess, babushkas, rye bread, and vodka all make predictable appearances.  There's even a picture hip-young girlchik buried balalaika-deep in a pair of poorly-cut Eastern-bloc blue jeans: lumpenproletariat indeed!

Like hundreds of our other children's books, this one has a happy ending, even if it just took a few years after the books' publication to be written.  Now that the Junior reading is even closer to the rest of the collection, we hope you'll check some out soon!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Extend the freedom of assembly to a loved one today: buy them a CLS gift membership!

December 15th: Bill of Rights Day!  The day set aside  your loyal blogger's favourite faction of Founders, the anti-federalists', greatest achievement.  That's saying something considering what some of these guys achieved: Patrick Henry (helped establish Hampden-Sydney), George Mason (a handful of my favourite blogs come from GMU), Samuel Adams (some day I will drink you, Sam Adams Utopia), and Thomas Jefferson (author of the Declaration of Independence, the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and father of the University of Virginia).

The sentiments of these men towards any sort of strong government power can be illustrated through the famous words of Patrick Henry in defence of the Virginia Stamp Act of 1765: "Caesar had his Brutus; Charles the First his Cromwell; and George the Third may profit by their example. If this be treason, make the most of it!".  Though modern historians agree Henry likely didn't say the bit about treason- in fact, he might have made a preemptive apology to the House for the statement- it's still a pretty radical sentiment, especially as early as 1765.

And after the history lesson, the shill: if you're looking for a radically great Christmas present, the Library Society now offers gift membership in stocking-stuffer size!  You can grab a gift certificate for membership at the front desk.  There are no forms to fill out, and no names or addresses required, so you can just pay and go (and give).

Monday, December 14, 2009

I have a little dreidel, I made it out of clay, and when it's dry and ready, with dreidel I shall play...

If you weren't at the Library Society this past Saturday evening, you missed our first ever holiday concert.  Yuriy Bekker, Norbert Lewandowski,  Jill King, and Lauren Paul from the CSO played a wonderful selection of holiday favourites in the warm, candlelit Main Reading Room of the Society.  We even tried to sing a few old carols together as an audience.  Happily Yuriy and Co. were every bit as good as we were... well, at least we made a "joyful noise", as the psalmist exhorted.  Though I still can't believe your loyal blogger was the only person singing along with The Dreidel Song...

If you're still trying to think of a Christmas present, especially for an aspiring writer in your life, the Library Society has a great one: a new CLS Writing Salon, starting in January.  A ten-week course led by bestselling novelist Bret Lott, participants will grow through critiques of original work they generate.  Matters such as dialog, pace, plot, setting, and, most importantly, the development of one’s own artistic vision will be discussed, as well as discussions of revision, strategies for securing an agent, and matters involving the publication of one’s work. Course cost: $1125 for members of the Charleston Library Society; $1200 for nonmembers: membership is included in the cost of the course, as is Lott's Before We Get Started: A Practical Memoir of the Writer’s Life.

Bret is a phenomenal writer: his works have been featured in The Yale Review, The New York Times, and The Georgia Review; his novel Jewel was an Oprah book club pick; and he has edited The Southern Review.  In addition, Bret teaches at the College of Knowledge Charleston (Go Cougars!), is a wonderful speaker (he's given a pair of excellent lectures at the CLS), and a great friend to this institution.  We hope you or someone you know can be a part of this wonderful new Salon.

For enrollment, or more information, please contact Anne Cleveland here at the CLS, 843.723.9912 or

Yuriy & Co., rocking the house.

Friday, December 11, 2009

and away he flew, "like the down of a thistle"...

Six. The CSO concert at the Library Society will be at six tomorrow, not at four as was reported in this morning's P&C.  Six.  Tickets will go on sale, at the door, one hour prior to showtime; $15 general admission, $5 students and children.   We hope you'll join us for some festive holiday favourites from a terrific string quartet.  The quartet includes concertmaster Yuriy Bekker; principal cellist, Norbert Lewandowski; violist, Jill King; and violinist, Lauren Paul.  Fantastic musicians (they're in here practicing while I'm typing this), in a great setting, playing beloved music for a special time of year: we couldn't be happier to host this concert.

We're also happy because it's our last event of the season.   In the space of one month, the Library will have had the Fall Book Sale, the Reyburn/Griffith Lowcountry Artist Award, the Annual Christmas Parade Party, and the Patoberfest The Pat Conroy Electric Koolaid Traveling Roadshow The Pat Conroy South of Broad reception and it's associated events, and the Holiday Strings Concert.  Everyone here at the Society is overjoyed at the success of these events: but, lately, we're even more overjoyed every night when we go home and get some sleep.  The CLS will be closed from December 23-January 3rd to give the staff some time to recover... a full events schedule starts back January 7th...

See y'all tomorrow.  At six.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's Pat Conroy Day Eve!

Little known fact: the front facade of our Main Building served as the Town Hall for the city of Laurelton on the ABC soap opera General Hospital.  It was 1986, and Terri and Kevin had returned home to get married, but Terri had a terrible secret to hide from Kevin and her friends back in Port Charles, and... well, suffice it to say, it was very complicated.  Long story short, we got some air time, got to see some daytime-tv celebrities (including a young Demi Moore!), and gained an interesting anecdote that's perfect for the blog.

Also interesting: while desperately trying to find some pictures or videos of the GH at the CLS, I did find the results of a late 1990's fan poll declaring the "Laurelton" storyline the worst in the show's history.  I guess having a snazzy town hall couldn't carry a weak script.

But as nice as it was being in General Hospital, we've got more Library-steps excitement to share with you.  Yesterday, Niall Ferguson (head of history at Harvard, and one of your loyal blogger's favourite public intellectuals) was in, filming his latest documentary.  Look for it sometime mid-2011.  Tomorrow, Mayor Riley will be here at 4:30 to declare it "Pat Conroy Day" in the City of Charleston, live from Laurelton Town Hall
the Library Society steps. We hope you can join us for this fun event... the last time someone proclaimed anything official from our steps, it was Kevin, proclaiming his undying love for Terri, but then Frisco and Lucy came to bust things up, and then, well... if you care, it's all on YouTube...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Natales grate numeras?

Today marks the 1,944th birthday of an author near to the Library Society's heart, the Roman poet Horace.  Horace's writing praised hard work; a life lived simply, and in the moment, and virtuousness for its own sake.  He penned epigrams that have outlived him by two millennia (as he said he would, Exegi monumentum aere perennius: I have made a monument more lasting than bronze): Carpe diem, aurea mediocritis, nil disperandum, dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, all Horace.

Horace's impact on our time goes well beyond a few fine Latin phrases: translations of Horace were made across the late medieval/early Renaissance world, and these Renaissance authors would spawn the Enlightenment, and through it our modern age.  15th and 16th century translators in Florence, Castille, Paris, Heidelburg, and London all poured over Horace, and their intellectual descendants followed suit.  The poets and scholars of the Renaissance made Horace one of their own, and his influence can be clearly seen in Opitz, Voltaire, Rousseau, Spenser, Johnson, Dryden, and Shakespeare.  Closer to our own times,  Nietzsche, Pound, R.L. Stephenson, and G.M. Hopkins are all remarkable for the obvious influence of Horace on their works.

This is why the Library Society's copy of the Works of Horace is such a treasure.  A handwritten Latin copy from the 1400's, our Horace manuscript has come back from a summer of loving restoration work just this Fall.  Penned in Ferrara, Italy, circa 1450, and at one point in the library of the queen's attorney in Milan, the manuscript was given to the Library Society by Plowden Weston in 1864.  The first medieval manuscript in South Carolina, Weston's antebellum acquisition of the document would have been a sign of cosmopolitan taste amongst his contemporaries.  Even today, when it sits in a collection full of treasures, the many fine qualities of the Horace award it a place of honor in the collection.

Don't forget: seize the day this coming Saturday at 6pm by joining us for a holiday concert with a string quartet from the CSO.  Tickets available at the door, $15.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Three days...

Thanks to everyone who came out to the Parade party this past weekend.  The weather was perfect, the cocoa was warm, the basset hounds were low to the ground: it was everything you could want for the Charleston Christmas parade.  As a native Johns Islander, I was especially proud to see the St. Johns JROTC double-timing it, while strictly maintaining dress, cover, interval, and distance.  I'm certain their vigilance will keep al-Qa'ida far away from Angel Oak, or JB's, or the tomato packing sheds...

This Saturday, December 12th, we host our first ever holiday concert! A string quartet from the CSO will play a host of Christmas favourites. The music starts at six in the evening, in the Main Reading Room. Tickets will be available at the door, fifteen dollars. For more information, call 843.723.9912, or email us at

Don't forget, the Library will be closed from December 23rd through the end of the year.  Normal library hours will resume on January 4th.

Also, on a literary note, happy 136th birthday to Willa Cather.  Cather was a favourite of Mencken and Sinclair Lewis (not to mention your loyal blogger), a Pulitzer Prize winner, and the first person to ever receive an honorary degree from Princeton.  Her "Prairie Trilogy" is recognized as three of the greatest novels in the American canon, teaching generations of Americans that: the 1800's were full of terrible ways to die (O, Pioneers!); your friends hold you back from reaching your full potential (The Song of the Lark), and older women will yank out your heart, and stomp that sucker flat (My Antonia).  She also wrote the excellent Death Comes for the Archbishop, but it's much less cheery than any of the Prairie Trilogy...

Friday, December 4, 2009

Seventy six trombones in the big parade! With 110 basset hounds close at hand...

Tonight, Friday the 4th, the Coastal Community Foundation and Donna Rayburn and Mike Griffith will have a reception for the 2009 recipient of the Lowcountry Artist AwardBernadette Cali.  The reception will run from 5:30pm to 8:00pm in the Ripley-Ravenel building.  Free food, drop-in format, everyone's welcome... it's going to be a fun evening with some good art.  The artist will have prints and notecards available for sale, too (your loyal blogger already purchased one).

Next: our Annual Christmas Parade Party is this Sunday afternoon.  As many of you know, it's always good to have a warm building to retreat into during the Parade.  We're filling the Library with holiday snacks and carols; we hope y'all come and fill the steps with your persons.  The parade runs from 2pm to 4pm, and please come early- don't forget the fuzz will be shutting the street down for the parade.