Happy Earth Day!

This Earth Day we’re taking inspiration from literature’s greatest nature-lovers, the transcendentalists:

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Today we celebrate Earth Day, an annual event dedicated to environmental protection. Surprisingly, some of the earliest conservationists in history can be found in American literature. The transcendentalists, whose movement developed during the 1820’s and 30’s, displayed a deep appreciation for the natural world and wrote avidly about their own experiences in nature. So frequently we approach climate change as a monolithic issue, impossible to tackle and incomprehensible in terms of personal philosophy. But perhaps Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman had it right; their steadfast appreciation and attempts at understanding the value of the natural world led them to be ever mindful of their surroundings. If we were to put these ideals into conversation with today’s problems, we may find some distinct similarities, as well as some helpful insight into the philosophical value of nature for mankind.

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The Love Lives of Authors

Love is dangerous—best to leave it to the experts.

Spend your Valentine’s Day living vicariously through these writers and their passionate love lives. Because let’s face it, you’d rather be draped in chocolate wrappers than a volatile amour, right? Just me?

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Lord Byron

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The 6th Baron Byron was a Romantic with a capital ‘R,’ but that doesn’t mean he was particularly gentlemanly. His first partner in scandal, Lady Caroline Lamb, described him aptly when she professed he was “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.” Indeed, she was just one of many public conquests that rocked British society, several of which produced children. Only one of these was legitimate, the Honorable Augusta Ada Byron, also known as the co-creator of the first computer, Ada Lovelace. Others, save for a daughter he had with Mary Shelley’s sister, were never proven or recognized by Byron. In essence, he was a cad with a weakness for women, or so we can assume from his poem “Don Juan.” I mean, not even his own half-sister was off-limits to him.

But still some come to his defense. Poet Katha Pollitt excused Byron’s bad boy behavior with an interesting take on his contribution to feminism: “Byron’s great insight, in an era where women were expected to be placid and insipid (not that they were!), was to see that women were much like men: They wanted sex and went after it eagerly, if secretly.”

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After the Dash: Ten Literary Epitaphs

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It’s Halloween!  In honor of the creepiest of holidays, why not contemplate your own mortality? GOOD TIMES!

Here are ten well-written or interesting conceived final goodbyes from folks (or folks who knew them) who have shuffled off this mortal coil.

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1.  William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
[Gravestone in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon]
GOOD FREND FOR IESVS SAKE FORBEARE
TO DIGG THE DVST ENCLOASED HEARE
BLESTE BE Y MAN Y SPARES THES STONES
AND CVRST BE HE THAT MOVES MY BONES

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2.  Edmund Spenser (1510-1596)
Here lyes
(expecting the second Comminge of our Saviour Christ Jesus)
the body of Edmond Spenser, the Prince of Poets in his time;
whose divine spirit needs no other witness
than the works he left behind him.

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Erudite Frights for All Hallow’s Night: Ten Spine-Tingling Lines from Literature

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Here at eNotes, we would NEVER let Halloween pass without a few good scares from the masters of horror!  Let’s all take a break from the tedious terror of government shutdowns and 404 Errors of the new healthcare law and enjoy some scares that are a lot more fun.

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1.  “The shortest horror story:   The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door.”
― Frederic Brown

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2.  “At bottom, you see, we are not Homo sapiens as all. Our core is madness. The prime directive is murder. What Darwin was too polite to say, my friends, is that we came to rule the earth not because we were the smartest, or even the meanest, but because we have always been the craziest, most murderous motherfuckers in the jungle. And that is what the Pulse exposed five days ago.” –   from Cell by Stephen King 

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Ten Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About the Fourth of July

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There are lots of things we expect on the Fourth:  fireworks, friends, family. There are things we love (sparklers, Roman candles, cold beer) and things we despise (sauerkraut, ambrosia, Lee Greenwood… all right, haters… this was from a friend. Direct all your spittle-filled anger elsewhere).

Here are a few unexpected things about the Fourth you can share tomorrow, if only to divert mom’s attention away from Uncle Collin while he takes the youngest  kids ’round back to set off three packs of taped-together Blackcat firecrackers…

10.  No Rush to Get “God Bless America” to the People

Famed American composer Irving Berlin gave his adopted nation one of its greatest and most iconic songs but it didn’t see the light of day because its author didn’t deem it worthy of being sung. Berlin was drafted into the military in the early 1900s and helped to draft a musical comedy for his fellow troops in which he composed the song for its final number — a tune inspired by a phrase his Russian mother would often utter after escaping to America from underneath the iron fist of the bloody Russian empire. However, the composer didn’t think it would fit in the show and kept it in his file for 20 years until singer Kate Smith wanted a patriotic song to sing on the radio as war broke out across Europe. The song became one of the most requested patriotic ditties almost overnight and a staple in American songbooks.  (Source)

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9.  Ehhhh… We’ll Get To It. We’re… Busy.

July 4th was not declared a federal holiday until 1941.  Most federal holidays are observed on a Monday but despite the temptation of a Guaranteed Long Weekend,  that pesky date made lawmakers leave it be.  (Source)

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For Memorial Day: Ten Authors Who Have Served

Writers, perhaps unsurprisingly, are among the harshest critics of the word “patriotism” and especially of decisions to go to war. Many express sentiments similar to James Baldwin (Go Tell It on the Mountain) who said, “I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” Despite their often vocal criticism, many authors have served in our armed forces. Here are ten of those who risked their lives and reflected on the experiences of war. 

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1.  E.E. Cummings – Volunteer Ambulance Driver, France, World War I

“America makes prodigious mistakes, America has colossal faults, but one thing cannot be denied: America is always on the move. She may be going to Hell, of course, but at least she isn’t standing still.”

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2.  Ernest Hemingway, Volunteer Ambulance Driver, Italy, World War I

“Once we have a war, there is only one thing to do. It must be won. For defeat brings worse things than can ever happen in war.

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3.  Isaac Asimov,  Philadelphia Navy Yard Naval Air Experimentation Station, United States Army, World War II

“No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.”

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Blind Date With a Book

While a blind date with another human being on Valentine’s Day is on par ideas-wise with tattooing your significant other’s name on your chest, a blind date with a book is not. This is what librarian and tumblr user alethiosaur, inspired by Worthington Libraries, sought to prove with her local library event, in which she paired browsing library-goers with titles unknown to them except for the few characteristics she listed on their sealed-up covers. Fortunately, she was able to avoid those overused dating site catchphrases, “I’m tired of all the games,” and “If you like moonlit walks on the beach”.

Here’s a few examples of what she came up with instead:

Recognize the titles above? How about these ones:

Happily, most of the books got hot dates with more than thirty readers.

We started with ~40 books. Two hours later, all but four had found homes with library patrons (sorry, FlushMixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. FrankweilerPersepolis, and The ThingsThey Carried, they don’t know what they’re missing).

See if you recognize any more of the books looking for love below. Which one would you choose, or what book would you set up a fellow reader with for a blind date? What would you tell him or her about it?

Have a love-filled Valentine’s Day! We hope it involves a book somehow, or at least a little recitation of our top ten love poems.


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