Duck Duck Book

57 – a recommendation
11.3.2008, 7:34 pm
Filed under: literature, misc.

Since you’re reading this, I’m fairly sure you’re interested in books and information — and more particularly, that you appreciate recommendations about what to read next or thoughts about why a book, an article, or a film is interesting, how it connects to the rest of the world of literature, what it promises, and whether these promises are delivered on. You must, or why would you be reading Duck Duck Book? And so. I am pleased to recommend that you visit another couple of places where you can get suggestions about what to read and why: Multnomah County Library’s two new blogs, News Notes and An Embarrassment of Riches.

(Before I get one step further I must disclaim: as you know I work at Multnomah County Library as a reference librarian. So I’m biased in favor of these two blogs. And further, I am one of the authors of News Notes, which makes me even more biased in its favor. Now that I have confessed, I will go on to describe the joys of reading about reading in these particular spots, and you may judge the size of the grain of salt you need to take with my enthusiasm.)

News Notes recommends books and other diversions inspired by current news stories — sometimes providing an avenue for background research or suggesting reading that can help you put the news in context — and sometimes offering more of a stream-of-consciousness beginning with a bit of news, and moving on to whatever comes next in the mind of a librarian.

An Embarrassment of Riches is something of a free-for-all — it opens a little window into the minds of dozens of library staff people who share intelligent observations about a broad range of literature. As its authors say, An Embarrassment of Riches alerts readers to “the best of what the library has to offer.”

Take a look at both; my guess is that you’ll find some surprises.


57 – edward r. murrow
11.3.2008, 7:30 pm
Filed under: generalities, history & geography

Edward R. Murrow and the birth of broadcast journalism / Bob Edwards.
New York : John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2004.
[MCL call number: B-Mu968e 2004; 4 copies, no holds;
also in audio format at CD- B-Mu968e; five copies, no holds]

In 1937, when Edward Murrow first arrived in London to assume his new post as the European Director for CBS, he tried to join the American Foreign Correspondents Association. They refused his application — after all, they were journalists, and everyone in 1937 knew that radio had nothing to do with journalism. Of course if they had a crystal ball, they would likely have rushed to recruit Ed Murrow, who was soon to be radio’s first news star, the man who brought the European war home to American living rooms, live and out loud. (In fact, in 1944, the Foreign Correspondents Association went beyond recruiting and made Murrow their president.)

Bob Edwards’s biography of Murrow focuses largely on Murrow’s professional life, his effect on journalism, and his work as an innovator in both radio and television broadcasting. Murrow is the person, Edwards argues, who created radio news. In those few years between 1937 and 1944, Murrow had led radio news away from a limited venue for 15-minute headline broadcasts to a complex medium of live interviews with powerful people, first-person reporting on current events, and synchronized news and commentary roundups from correspondents in several cities simultaneously.

It is interesting to consider this in light of more recent developments in journalism. In the 1960s and 70s, the “underground press” movement spawned hundreds of independent, low-budget newspapers that published stories and commentary — stories that would never have seen print in the mainstream daily newspapers or on network television. In the 1990s, new software allowed anyone with a computer and an internet connection to publish weblogs on any topic and entirely without editorial or publishing oversight. Each of these two new phenomena carved out space that wasn’t present before, and regardless of the direct impact blogs or the underground press have had on corporate journalism, that space still exists. And, both bloggers and journalists of the underground press have inspired real scorn among their fellows in the mainstream media world — they’re not real journalists, they don’t follow professional standards, they shouldn’t be allowed press credentials, and similar complaints.

The book satisfies on other levels too, though Edwards’s description of Murrow’s personal life, family history, and other private details are terse. These features are provided in service to the story of Murrow the professional man. For example, Edwards explains that when Murrow was fresh out of college, he worked as president of the National Student Federation of America (NSFA), and then assistant to the director of the Institute of International Education (IIE). Stories of this part of Murrow’s career help to explain his overall commitment to his values, and his unwillingness to compromise except under specific, strategic conditions.

For example, while at the NSFA, Murrow recruited historically black colleges to membership in the organization, and held a racially integrated convention in Atlanta. When he worked for the IIE, Murrow started an exchange program that brought American college students Soviet Moscow for summer courses, and coordinated a relocation project that matched German scholars displaced by Nazi politics with American universities willing to hire them as professors and researchers. These are interesting stories, but their job in Edwards’s book is not merely to educate and entertain. They show that Murrow was a man who strove to create opportunities to make his work as an educator also do service to his political and ethical ideals. These are the qualities, Edwards argues, that made Murrow a great journalist, and that gave him the tools to shape an emerging medium.

Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism has a modest index and a short bibliography. The book itself is quite short, and very readable. It might make a nice companion on a trip, or a good choice to read on a quiet afternoon alone. I read it on my commute to work, on the bus, where it sped my journey, diverted me from the flow of conversation around me, and, on one occasion, even made me almost miss my stop.

57 – one thousand years
11.3.2008, 7:17 pm
Filed under: art & entertainment

One thousand years of manga / Brigitte Koyama-Richard ; [translated from the French by David Radzinowicz].
Paris : Flammarion ; [New York] : distributed in North America by Rizzoli International Publications, c2007.
[MCL call number: 741.5952 K88o 2007; one copy, no holds; one copy reference only at Central Library]

If you pick up a brand-new Japanese comic book and read it, my guess is that you are more likely to enjoy the story, the writing, or the art than you are to consider its historical antecedents.

If I am wrong, or if my pointing this out inspires you to explore the history of manga, Brigitte Koyama-Richard is at your service. Koyama-Richard traces manga’s roots back to the magnificent story scrolls painted 800 to 1,000 years ago exclusively for the enjoyment of elite audiences, through the establishment of printmaking as a popular art, the “golden age of caricature” and the opening of Japan to the west in the 1800s, the rise of the comic strip in the early 1900s, the work of the highly influential writer/artist Tezuka Osamu, and finally, contemporary Japanese comics.

Throughout this tour of artistic formats, political and technological developments, and cultural change, Koyama-Richard provides comparisons between the Japanese artworks that are her main focus, and well-known examples of European art that are contemporary to them. These comparisons are helpful for western readers who are ignorant of the existence and significance of major Japanese works, allowing a gentle introduction that encourages a developing understanding of the significance and context of seminal Japanese cultural icons — from treasures of history like the thousand year old scroll Choju jinbutsu giga (Frolicking Animals and People), to modern masterpieces like Tetsuwan Atomu (Astro Boy).

A large percentage of the text in One Thousand Years of Manga is in its carefully written picture captions, which provide bits of history, biography, and thoughtful criticism of the images that appear on nearly every page. But the essays explaining each chapter in manga’s long history are clear and interesting as well, and the pictures — reproductions of scrolls, paintings, prints, comic strips, books, sketches, and many other incredible artworks — are incredible.

At the back of the book are a series of interviews with manga artists, a short essay about western influences on Japanese comics, a glossary of Japanese terms used in the book, a very brief overview of historical Japanese political eras, a biographical glossary of artists, a manga chronology, some selected manga statistics from Japan, and a bilingual bibliography. Even with all this magnificent endmatter, there is no index; but the book is well organized enough that it is hardly to be missed.