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Paper Perfection

In this DIY age of recycling, upcycling, and repurposing, it seems that nothing is off the table. Old bike tires? Let’s make ‘em into jewelry! Got a lot of wine corks?  How about making a cool bulletin board? As for cast-off and faded books, the spines have been carved into landscapes, the pages have been cut up and the words rearranged, and who can argue with the eternal utility of a perfectly-sized book wedged under the lame leg of a couch?

In the field of paper art, Swedish artist Cecilia Levy is doing some amazing things with those vintage books (and comics) gathering dust. Through a meticulous process of cutting, shredding, tearing and pasting, Levy creates fantastical versions of ordinary things: dainty cups and saucers, fancy flowers, delicate orbs, and ghostly eggs. Perusing her work is like taking a stroll with Alice through Wonderland. She even has a series of shoes, though given the fragility of the material they can’t be worn, nor can tea be poured into any of her pretty cups. Levy’s creations are simply to be admired.

She started out in the bookbinding business, but it wasn’t a very big leap to go from putting books together to taking them apart. Her background in graphic design informed her first experiments in 3-dimensional shapes, and after completing a few whimsical bowls Levy realized that she had found her material. She fell in love with the imperfections in each sheet, gained through age and use, as well as the delicate nature of paper which allows the personality of each page to come through. The text also plays a large part in Levy’s work, emphasizing the significance of memory and her love of typography.

She describes her craft as a slow and meditative one: “I feel humbled by the traces of previous owners: dedications, scribbles in the margins, all signs of the passage of time. The book is recreated in a way, but takes on a new form. The two-dimensional becomes three-dimensional.” So, book-lovers, while the idea of scissors coming anywhere near a book gives you the chills, you can rest assured that every page is well-cared for, and in a sense, given new life.

Take a virtual tour of Levy’s magical paper world here to see books in a whole new light.

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We are OPEN on Presidents Day (Feb 20)

Just a friendly reminder that we will be open for business as usual on Presidents Day, Monday, February 20th. Some libraries will be closed, but we do not anticipate a significant disruption to our library access. So send us your citations by email (orders@documentsdelivered.com), phone call (855-809-1227), online order form, or horse and buggy, because we’ll be here!

The 27th Letter

Most folks are familiar with this symbol and how it’s used. Think Ben & Jerry’s, Will & Grace, Proctor & Gamble, H&M—these things are everywhere! But do you know the history behind this cute little curlicue? And just wait until you hear how it got its name…

The graceful “&” is known as the ampersand, and it’s a fascinating example of how language can evolve over time. Technically, the ampersand is both a “logogram” and a “ligature.” A logogram is a symbol that represents a word, and a ligature is when two or more letters are joined to make a single character. The ampersand originally appeared in graffiti on a wall in Pompeii around the first century as a fancy combination of the cursive letters “e” and “t.” It stood for the Latin word “et,” which means “and.” The young “&” had meaning, but no name.

By the early nineteenth century the symbol had been included in the dictionary and the alphabet, appearing right after Z. It was simply referred to as “and.” Imagine singing an alphabet that ended in “X Y, Z and, and.” It was confusing. The tradition at the time, in English-speaking schools, was to attach any letter that could also be used alone as a word (think “A” and “I”) with “per se” which means “by itself.” Eventually kids added the “per se” to the “and” at the end of the alphabet (“and, per se, and”) and with enough singing and slurring of words…you guessed it! The ampersand was born.

The ampersand offers its own unique set of qualities to the English language. Firstly, the aesthetics of the character itself, with its graceful lines and swirls capped with those tiny feet, harkens back to the beauty of pen and ink. In contrast to the broader cast of characters–the plus and minus signs, the period, the pound sign—all of which can be quite clinical and swift in their execution, the ampersand takes time and demands a little creativity. Do you stab a line straight down the middle or simply add a vertical dash to the top and the bottom? And how about the swirl at the end—does it twirl into a modest curl or do you go full spiral? The ampersand carries with it a human touch, something that looks more endangered every day given the takeover of the keyboard.

The ampersand also offers a much friendlier version of the word “and.” It is casual in nature (think “rhythm & blues” and “B&B) and it represents close partnership. The Writers Guild of America, for example, saves the ampersand to indicate two writers working on a project together, equally, rather than two writers who may have worked on a project at different times or in disproportionate amounts. And did you know that an ampersand, followed by a “c” can be used in place of “et cetera?”

One of the ampersand’s greatest traits is that it can independently impart its own distinct meaning, while most characters need another to make any sense. The ampersand is a rebel and can go it alone, if it must. And if you fancy yourself a fan, you are not alone. Clothing, jewelry, stationary, and designs shops across the country have borrowed its name, and one search on the internet will find you a long list of imaginative blogs dedicated to the symbol. You can easily buy a t-shirt or a pillow boasting its portrait, or you can go big and get an ampersand tattoo—keep your eyes peeled, they are popping up all over town. How about “Me & Ampersand, 4-ever.” Too much??

50 Shades of Romance Novels

February is here. Valentine’s Day is approaching. Love is in the air! The second installment of the Fifty Shades movies hits theaters today, just in time for all you romantics out there. Sales of the Fifty Shades of Grey novel trilogy reached 125 million in total, and despite last year’s overwhelmingly negative film reception, everybody knows someone who saw the movie, even if they won’t admit they watched it themselves. It’s just like those corny romance novels that practically spill off the library shelves. Who reads these? Again, chances are good that someone you know and love also knows and loves the romance novels, a literary genre often disregarded and mocked despite actually being one of the most popular.

A quick glance at the Wikipedia entry imbued this write with some impressive statistics. In 2013, romance novels outsold science-fiction, mystery and literary novels, according to the Romance Writers of America (RWA). Romance readers are loyal, with about 15% reporting that they buy new books at least once a week. E-book sales have risen steadily over the years as well, and they are the preferred venue for some due to the social stigma and shame associated with romance novels.

Romance novels must meet two criteria, according to the RWA. 1) The conflict and climax of the novel must relate directly to the core theme of developing the romantic relationship of two people and 2) a novel must have an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. As long as the plot meets these two criteria, the rest is fair game. For example—and here’s where it gets interesting—imagine a time-travel romance novel, or a paranormal love story! Christian, erotic, and historical are also popular sub-genres, but contemporary novels, which take place after WWII, are the most prominent and are typically what people imagine when they hear “romance novel.”

Because approximately 85% of romance readers are women, the stories are typically told from a female perspective. Romance novels have a reputation as being “smut” or “pornography.” This is, unfortunately, a generalization. Plot lines do involve romantic situations, but some stories depict no more than chaste kissing and the thrill of a budding love. An emerging subgenre that appeals to the younger/modern generation dives into same-sex relationships. Romance novels can be single-title standalone stories, or they can be one of a series.

It’s really quite a diverse genre. Next time Grandma pulls out her Harlequin romance novel, think again before chuckling. Indeed, romance novels appeal to a surprisingly wide slice of the society pie, and they come in a variety of flavors to please! Love romance novels? Let us know!

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Female Word Warriors

In the days of yesteryear, women had to use masculine pen names in order to get published. They fought the status quo that a woman’s place is not with a quill in hand. Thankfully, they won.

Emily, Charlotte and Anne Brontë. The Brontë sisters are a household name these days, but their success did not come so easily. Charlotte had received feedback about her poetry, that “literature cannot be the business of a woman’s life” (from poet laureate Robert Southey). This challenged her to publish using a male name, Currer Bell. The sisters quickly caught on and did the same, choosing Ellis and Acton as their pseudonyms. The results: the classics Jane Eyre (Charlotte) and Wuthering Heights (Emily), among others.

Louisa May Alcott. Another household name, this Little Women author adopted the alter ego notion in order to make money. Early in her career, Alcott wrote under the pen name A.M. Barnard to fund the writing she would eventually publish under her real name—the writing she was truly passionate about. Barnard’s work was “much darker, sensationalist.”

Mary Ann Evans. Also known as George Eliot, this chameleon took her beau’s advice to publish her “politically astute” writings under a male nom de plume to avoid prevailing 19th century female stereotyping. Good thing, too; her Middlemarch is a widely regarded and respected work.

Joanne (J.K.) Rowling. Well, Rowling’s experience is actually flip-flopped. After the wildly successful Harry Potter series, Rowling started a new author identity, Robert Galbraith. The self-made billionaire rather enjoys writing as her alter-ego. She even donned a suit and tie for interviews as Galbraith. Before her cover was blown, writing under the pseudonym allowed her to receive “totally unvarnished feedback” for her nascent career writing in a different genre.

Nora Roberts. Similar to the Rowling’s situation, Roberts wanted to try her hand at writing detective fiction after enjoying bountiful success in the romance novel genre. But how could she have her name on such different types of book covers? Thus, J.D. Robb was born. Though ambiguous, it does read as more masculine than feminine. When her true identity was revealed, her fans were not perturbed and the books still sell well.

Guinness Record Stats: Authors

The Guinness Book of World Records has been chronicling friendly competitions around the globe since 1955, seeing who can ride a slip and slide the farthest, or who can shoot an arrow the furthest using his feet, or who can burp the loudest. Some of the records are downright astonishing and amusing, and you can peruse them here; but we have compiled some of the entries specific to authors that you might find interesting.

First billion-dollar author
J.K. Rowling (UK) is one of only five self-made female billionaires, and the first billion-dollar author. The seven Harry Potter books have sold a total of 400 million copies around the world and are published in 55 languages, including Latin and Ancient Greek. According to Forbes, Rowling has grossed over $1 billion for her novels and from related earnings.

Oldest author to have first book published
Bertha Wood had her first book, Fresh Air and Fun: The Story of a Blackpool Holiday Camp, published on her 100th birthday on June 20, 2005. The book is based on her memoirs, which she began writing at the age of 90.

First self-published author to sell one million e-books
James Patterson, in 2010, started selling his self-published book on Amazon and in June of 2011 he hit the 1 million mark. He has published 21 novels and one non-fiction book, appropriately titled How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months.

Most comics published by one author
The record for most comics published by one author is 770 titles (500 volumes & a total of about 128,000 pages) and belongs to Shotaro Ishinomori (Japan), a.k.a. “The King of Manga.”

Most co-writers credited for a film
This is a record for authors of a non-literary piece, but it’s still interesting. The film is called 50 Kisses. The premise was that anyone could submit an original 2 page script, provided that it took place on Valentine’s Day and contained a kiss. The best 50 scripts, with the addition of 1 script written by their own writing team, were adapted and edited together to make the feature film 50 kisses.

Longest running daily cartoon by a single author
The longest running daily cartoon strip by a single author is “Bristow,” by Frank Dickens (UK), which has been in continuous publication since first published in the Aberdeen Press and Journal on September 18, 1961. (As of October 27, 2010)

Longest-running weekly interview feature in a newspaper (same author)
The longest-running continuous weekly interview feature on a national newspaper is by journalist Stefano Lorenzetto, whose 748 interviews have been published by Italian broadsheet Il Giornale from June 23, 1999 to April 4, 2015.

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