Duck Duck Book

29 – city bountiful
01.18.2006, 12:03 am
Filed under: technology

City bountiful : a century of community gardening in America / Laura J. Lawson.
Berkeley : University of California Press, c2005.
[MCL call number: 635 L4255c 2005; two copies, one hold]

In my childhood neighborhood, there were two city-run community gardens with little rectangular plots full of vegetables, berries, and flowers. They were messy and neglected in the winter, verdant and lurid in the summer. I liked to walk by them; they seemed useful and interesting in the way that a factory or a fire station is to a small child. But they were also just something that was there, natural, expected, and nothing much to comment upon. I thought of the community garden as a logical component to a city, as natural as the bus system or the bridges over the river or the city parks. But I never considered how the gardens came to be there.

City Bountiful gives the history that I never stopped to wonder about. It is a detailed and comprehensive history of community gardening — discussing vacant-lot cultivation associations organized in response to the depression of 1893, the school garden movement of the early 20th century, victory gardening during the world wars, work program gardens of the 1930s, and the 1970s-era community garden movement and its descendants today.

Lawson’s work is academic in tone, with innumerable citations and a careful approach to documenting the history of organizations, institutions, social trends, and community efforts. The book is not going to become a best-seller on literary merits alone, but it is readable, and the topical/historical arrangement of chapters and excellent index allow readers to find subjects easily and quickly. The dozens of black-and-white photographs illustrating community gardens of the last 100 years are worth a look on their own. All in all, City Bountiful provides readers a way into the odd space that community gardens take up: the juncture between urban space, economics, politics, teaching and learning, community, and the act of gardening.


29 – craft of the cocktail
01.18.2006, 12:02 am
Filed under: technology

The craft of the cocktail : everything you need to know to be a master bartender, with 500 recipes / Dale DeGroff ; photographs by George Erml.
New York : Clarkson Potter/Publishers, c2002.
[MCL call number: 641.874 D321c 2002; five copies, no holds]

Dale DeGroff presents a suave figure, like someone freshly released from the celluloid of a glamorous 1950s Hollywood film. The introduction to this volume of cocktail how-to explains how DeGroff climbed the heights of bartenderdom when he created the menu at the Promenade Bar at the Rainbow Room. Everything in this book (and, presumably, behind DeGroff’s bar) is classy — excellent spirits beautifully matched with fresh herbs and juices, and definitely no pre-made mixes. In fact, it goes so far as to convey a sense that while drinking does induce drunkenness, it is really only a very controlled, charming sort of drunkenness entirely compatible with the wearing of cufflinks, high heels, or custom-made silk suits.

The Craft of the Cocktail begins with a brief introduction to the history of drinking, preaches a bit about DeGroff’s approach to cocktails, and then provides a detailed account of what you need to make a great drink and how to get it, from equipment to liquor to glasses to juices. This is followed by 140 pages of drink recipes, a bibliography of cocktail resources, a measurements conversion chart, a few basic recipes for things like simple syrup and homemade grenadine, a glossary, and an index.

There are a lot of glossy coffee table cocktail books in print now, and it’s hard to know whether they’re mediocre underneath the lovely photographs. The Craft of the Cocktail is just as lovely to look at as the others, and it is worth reading for its completeness, for its recipes, and for the bit of history it presents.

29 – burnside a community
01.18.2006, 12:01 am
Filed under: history & geography

Burnside, a community : a photographic history of Portland’s skid row / [compiled] by Kathleen Ryan ; text by Mark Beach.
Portland, Or. : Coast to Coast Books, c1979.
[MCL call number: 979.549 B967; one copy, no holds; one copy reference only at Central Library]

Like many central city districts, the neighborhood north of West Burnside and close to downtown Portland has seen a lot of change in its history. It has had many names — The North End, Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Skid Row, Old Town — sheltered many communities, and served many roles in the life of the city. Burnside, a Community is a photographic record of the neighborhood during the late 1970s, with attention to the people who lived and worked there, and their view of the district’s history.

The photographs were originally part of a public exhibition, and their arrangement in the book feels a bit haphazard. The first few pages show historic photographs from the 19th and early twentieth centuries, and reproductions of old maps of the neighborhood. Most of the rest of the book is filled with contemporary (c. 1979) photographs of people, businesses, residences, and street scenes.

Restaurateurs and small businesspeople, people living with homelessness, sex workers, missionaries, the cop on the beat, families, the public craft market, and outdoor tableaux of all kinds are depicted. Each photograph has a brief, folksy caption, and some subjects are treated detail — for example, the section illustrating the Japanese and Japanese-American community includes contemporary and historic photographs and a map (page 25) showing the businesses, institutions, and residences of the Burnside-area Japanese community before it was decimated by forced internment of Oregonians of Japanese descent in 1942.

Burnside, a Community has a very 1970s feel to it, which kind of adds to its historical appeal, now that several decades have passed.

28 – essential guide to world comics
01.2.2006, 5:04 pm
Filed under: art & entertainment, comix

The essential guide to world comics / Tim Pilcher, Brad Brooks.
London : Collins & Brown ; New York : Distributed in the U.S. and Canada by Sterling Pub. Co., 2005.
[MCL call number: 741.509 P637e 2005; eight copies, no holds]

The Essential Guide to World Comics provides a wide view on comics from all over the globe. Comic art from the United States, Great Britain, Japan, France, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Cuba, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Australia, New Zealand, and India is given substantial treatment, with shorter sections devoted to comics from the remaining countries of Europe, to African and Middle Eastern comics, and comics of Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. Pilcher and Brooks provide a nice introduction and overview, the book is beautifully illustrated, and reading it provides a good reminder that not everything neato is written in English.

The book’s focus is on mainstream comics produced by larger publishers, though “underground” comics are discussed when they have been widely credited with being particularly influential. An index, a brief bibliography, and a list of comics magazines and websites are at the end of the text.

28 – girl sleuth
01.2.2006, 5:03 pm
Filed under: literature

Girl sleuth : Nancy Drew and the women who created her / Melanie Rehak. 
Orlando : Harcourt, c2005.
[call number: 813.5 R345g 2005; 12 copies, no holds]

Just about 100 years ago, children’s author Edward Stratemeyer began a small empire based on a brilliant business notion.  He developed ideas for children’s book series, wrote plot outlines for each story, and (this is the wickedly brilliant bit) contracted the writing to other authors.  Stratemeyer retained rights to the characters, plot, stories, and pseudonyms under which the books were written, developed relationships with several publishing houses, and collected all the royalties for the series.  The entire business was operated under a cloak of secrecy so that little girls and boys would think the books’ stated authors were real people, and more importantly so that Edward Stratemeyer could control the management of the series and maximize his own profits.  By the 1920s he was a millionaire, and a 1926 survey reported that 98% of children asked about their favorite book named a Stratemeyer title. 

In 1929 Stratemeyer contracted the first three books in a new series with author Mildred A. Wirt, who had previously written books for his Ruth Fielding series.  The new series starred a teen-aged detective named Nancy Drew — a brilliant, level-headed girl, a natural leader with a head for a mystery.  Girl Sleuth is the story of Nancy Drew, her creators and authors (writing under the name “Carolyn Keene”), and the impact she has had on the publishing industry.  A bit of attention is also paid to Nancy Drew’s impact on American girlhood and on the feminist movements of the 1960s and later.

Girl Sleuth takes two of the most prolific “Carolyn Keenes” as its main characters: Mildred A. Wirt and Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, Edward’s daughter, who inherited the Syndicate on his death shortly after the first Nancy Drew books were published in 1930.  Although Wirt and Adams were not the only authors to write Nancy Drew books, they were arguably the most influential.  Wirt was the first author and forged the structure of the stories and shaped Nancy’s character and environment; Adams took over writing the Nancy Drew stories in the mid 1950s and acted as the public face of the pseudonym Carolyn Keene from the 1960s until her death in 1982.

Wirt’s and Adams’s lives and careers are the main thread of Rehak’s narrative, and the book provides a fairly detailed biography of each woman, with a discussion of their working relationship and each of their involvement in the creation and production of the Nancy Drew books, the history of the Stratemeyer Syndicate and the development of Nancy Drew the character and the series over the years.  Although Rehak’s introduction gushes rather appallingly about Nancy and what she has meant to the generations of girls who read about her, the book as a whole is a rational, fascinating account and reads easily.

A thorough section of endnotes, a brief bibliography, and an excellent index follow the text.

28 – walking tour
01.2.2006, 5:02 pm
Filed under: history & geography

A walking tour of historic Jewish Portland with people that lived there / Polina Olsen. 
Portland, Or. : Smart Talk Publications, c2004.
[MCL call number: 979.549 O52w 2004a; 11 copies, no holds; three copies reference only at Central, Hillsdale, and Hollywood Libraries]

Before the city’s misguided first attempt at the miracle of urban renewal, there was a thriving immigrant neighborhood in South Portland.  The few square miles south of downtown were home to many working class folks, and to new immigrants from Russia, Greece, Italy, Ireland, and China and their descendants.  South Portland was also the nucleus of the city’s Jewish community and contained five synagogues, a public library with a small Yiddish-language collection, a shopping district, and several neighborhood social and cultural organizations.  Now this part of town is divided into bits and pieces by the development of Interstate 5, Highway 26, Barbur Blvd., and Naito Parkway — and much of the neighborhood was razed altogether to make room for the South Auditorium Urban Renewal Project in the 60s. 

But Olsen’s guide shows us the infrastructure of old South Portland that remains today.  A Walking Tour of Historic Jewish Portland leads readers through a brief tour of 14 buildings and parks in the area just south of SW Arthur St.  Each stop is illustrated with a modern-day photograph, a brief description, and with memories from three “Tour Guides” — Norman Berlant, Leo Greenstein, and Gussie Reinhardt, all of whom grew up in the neighborhood. 

It’s the personal stories that really set this wee guide apart.  I’ve walked through this part of South Portland many times (even, once, on school field trip with an Oregon Historical Society-led walking tour), but reading Reinhardt’s description of the ball games on her street (p. 10), or Greenstein’s fond memories of the public library (p. 12) made the community here seem alive and vibrant to me, even though the old neighborhood is gone and its destruction is among the saddest and most shameful of our city’s stories.

28 – scene at the library
01.2.2006, 5:01 pm
Filed under: events

Scene at the library [event series].
Multnomah County Library.

Free theater previews at Portland’s Central Library!  Local theater companies will be presenting excerpts of their current productions starting Saturday January 7, with play previews presented every few weeks through April 1.  Dates, times, and details are at the library’s website.