Remembering the WAC with ‘Mollie’s War’

Even though Cyndee Schaffer always knew her mother served during World War II, it was still a little hard to believe.  “She was always a very quiet person,” says Schaffer, “and that she found the courage to join the military just amazed me.”  In fact, Schaffer’s mother – Mollie Weinstein Schaffer – served as an enlistee in the newly-formed Women’s Army Corps from 1943 to 1945 during which time she sent home hundreds of letters describing bombings in England, landing in Normandy just weeks after the Allied invasion, and serving in Germany after VE Day.  Her fascinating letters have been collected in the recent book Mollie’s War, and this Sunday, July 17th at 3 pm you can join Cyndee Schaffer when she visits EPL’s 1st Floor Community Meeting Room to read excerpts from the book and share Mollie’s WWII memorabilia.  In anticipation of her visit, we recently spoke with Cyndee via email about her work editing and researching Mollie’s War, her favorite of her mother’s WAC experiences, the lost art of letter writing, and what she hopes readers take away from the book.

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Lewis Carroll – No Celebrity Seeker

Charles DodgsonA handwritten letter written in 1891 by Alice in Wonderland author Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) will be auctioned in England March 19 – and is expected to be sold for 4,000 pounds or more. In it he writes that he hated being famous and sometimes wished he “had never written any books at all.” In the letter written to his friend Mrs. Symonds he notes that there are plenty of people “who like being looked at as a notoriety. ..But we are not all made on the same pattern: & our likes & dislikes are very different.” You can read the entire article here. And check the EPL catalog for works by and about Lewis Carroll.

Laura

An Interview with David Royko

For over 30 years, famed newspaper columnist Mike Royko visited fans five days a week on page 2 of the Chicago Daily News, the Chicago Sun-Times, and the Chicago Tribune.  Syndicated in over 600 newspapers nationwide, the Pulitzer Prize-winner wrote with eloquence and street-smart wit on wide-ranging topics  including civil rights, Chicago’s political machine, the Cubs, and sensitive, “quiche-eating” men.  But despite his more than 7500 columns, it wasn’t often that Royko offered readers even a passing look into his personal life.  However, fans can finally glimpse his rarely-shared private side in the new book Royko in Love: Mike’s Letters to Carol.  Edited by their son David Royko, the book collects the 114 letters a 21-year-old “Mick” wrote to his childhood sweetheart Carol Duckman from Washington’s Blaine Air Force Base in 1954.  Seductive, sarcastic, and riddled with self-doubt, the letters capture the burgeoning brilliance of the future legend as he courts his soon-to-be wife from 2000 miles away.  On Sunday, November 13th, you can hear David Royko read from Royko in Love when he visits EPL’s 1st Floor Community Meeting Room at 3 p.m.  In anticipation of his visit, we recently spoke with him via telephone about the disappearing art of letter writing, discovering his family’s “holy grail,” his Dad’s many chat room personas, and why Royko in Love makes for “dandy chick lit.”

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Recommendation of Letters

I always feel a little strange reading collections of correspondences by famous authors, artists, or other persons of interest. It feels a bit like snooping, like peering in on private words and lives that were not meant for me. I often find myself wondering what the author of the letters would have thought of having words intended for one specific person being read by the world at large. Certainly if we thought that one day anyone in the world might have full access to our privately written letters we might be more careful, less revealing in what we put down on paper. And this is precisely what makes reading someone’s correspondences so fascinating–they are a largely uncensored window into the life, inner thoughts, and mind of another human being. They are a peek behind the masks that all those in the public eye (and all the rest of us to an extent as well) must wear in daily life. Reading someone’s letters can give remarkable new insight into a person’s character and can reveal a previously hidden sense of humor, mischievous streak, a crankiness, loneliness, or sentimentality. These brief missives put down in rare unwatched, private moments when a famous person was allowed to be just a person can reveal whole new depths to those we thought we knew so well. Whether or not it is ethical to read correspondences of this kind or if it is more akin to rummaging through someone’s trash is a far thornier question than can be answered in a humble blog post such as this. Continue reading “Recommendation of Letters”

In the Pink Again

Once again the Recent Arrivals section on the 2nd floor East is teeming with books so interesting you’ll wish there were more hours in the day in which to stick your face in a book. Stop on in and step on up and be sure to look for the pink Recent Arrivals stickers to let you know what’s new to our shelves. Below is just a small sampling of the strange, unusual, and just plain cool new books waiting to be found.

Wicked Plants: the Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart

Sure to appeal to gardeners, amateur botanists, and fans of the macabre, this tiny book is an A to Z compendium of all the botanical horrors that nature has to offer. The sheer number of plants that could poison, kill, befoul, or otherwise make your life generally unpleasant will have you eyeing your houseplants warily and scared to step out of your home. Leafy green danger lurks around every corner, and this book tells you exactly where and gives you the historical skinny on all the dastardly plants that would do you in gladly if only you’d give them the chance. This book is interesting, creepy, and humorous, and is sure to make you the seem the informed (if not slightly weird) naturalist on your next outdoor excursion with friends.

Will I See My Dog in Heaven? by Jack Wintz

Franciscan friar Jack Wintz attempts to answer the perennial Sunday school question in this new book. Although setting out to answer an unanswerable question, Wintz determinedly sifts through the various relevant books and stories of the Bible and examines the Christian tradition in an effort to extrapolate a reasonable response to the universal query. At a time when the political and social rhetoric regarding religion, the environment, and the place of animals in our lives and on our plates is reaching a fever pitch, this book takes a calm and considered look at this world and the afterlife which takes into account all the creatures that inhabit the Earth.

Breaking the Sound Barrier by Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman, host of the daily independent news program Democracy Now! is a rare breed in today’s era of corporate controlled media–a journalist who values truth, intelligence, and justice over spin, sensationalism, and ratings. As she says in the introduction to this, her latest book, her goal is “to expand the debate, to cut through the static and bring forth voices that are shut out. It is the responsibility of journalists to go where the silence is, to seek out news and people who are ignored, to accurately and clearly report on the issues–issues that the corporate, for-profit media often distort, if they cover them at all.” And that is just what she delivers in this collection of her essays. She hits upon many of today’s most pressing issues that are so seldom openly and honestly spoken about anywhere in the mainstream press, from war, torture, and climate change to health care, the economy, and the media itself. If you’re tired of the squawking, squabbling, hateful, unintelligent, and uninformed drone of voices you’re used to hearing on TV and radio, pick up this book and immerse yourself in Amy Goodman’s journalistic palette cleansing.

Yours Ever: People and Their Letters by Thomas Mallon

Letter writing has suffered a serious blow of late, with the convenience, ease, and ubiquity of e-mail, IMs, and text messaging taking the place of ink and paper, stamp and postmark. But novelist Thomas Mallon here explores the vast and varied history of the letter through the ages. The author casts a wide net over his subject touching upon the epistles of famed literary greats such as Twain and Fitzgerald, while also taking time out to riffle through the mail of those less known for their way the written word like Groucho Marx, Frank Lloyd Wright and Sacco and Vanzetti. The book is broken down into sections for all the common types of letters we send including letters of love, friendship, advice, complaint, and confession, and even letters sent home from prison and during wartime. This fascinating examination of letters and the people who write them is a tribute to what may soon be a lost art.

Vincent van Gogh in his own words

vangoghletter“There is scarcely one letter by Van Gogh which I, who am certainly no expert, do not find fascinating.”            – W. H. Auden

Fifteen years in the making, the Van Gogh Museum and the Huygens Institute in The Hague have just released a comprehensive, annotated edition of Vincent van Gogh’s letters, which serve as a remarkable self-portrait of an extraordinary man.

This compilation contains over 900 letters and 4,000 illustrations, including sketches that accompanied his correspondence, as well as works of art (by Van Gogh and others) which are referenced in the letters.

Want to see for yourself before you get your hands on the six-volume set? Just click here.