LIVE FROM THE NYPL
The New York Public Library at 100:
From the Stacks to the Streets
I grew up surrounded by books at home and at the college library where my mom worked. My little brother and I would play hide and seek in between towering rows of books, trying not to laugh too hard or shriek when one of us found the other. Eventually, we’d get bored and tug at my mom’s arm asking crucial reference questions. (“When’s dinner?” “Can we go home, now?”)
I’ve never forgotten the smell of that library: well-thumbed books, newspapers and magazines, the blur of spines as I ran down the aisles, the whooshing sound of the microfilm. As a child, it would never have occurred to me that I would one day equate that sweeping visual and olfactory sensation with a deep and trusted source of joy.
Which is why I was eager to attend the New York Pubic Library’s Centennial on May 19th, 2011, an event celebrated with a fittingly literary gift to the public—a free collection of photos and essays to be passed on in the spirit of library books.
Through the courtesy of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), a Centennial sponsor, 25,000 copies of Know the Past, Find the Future were distributed for free for New Yorkers and visitors to pick them up, read, and pass on to others. Hint to readers: After May 19th, books can be found on city park benches, select bookstores and in all NewYork Public Library (NYPL) branches. An online version of the book will be available, as well. To sweeten the deal, eight copies of the book will contain “tickets” that entitle the winners to 25 Penguin Classics, valued at about $400.
Know the Past, Find the Future arose through a partnership between one of the world’s preeminent libraries and the leading publisher of classics in the English-speaking world, Penguin Classics. President and publisher of Penguin Books, Kathryn Court explains that the two institutions “share much in their respective aims and values: the spread of literacy … the fostering of a love of books, the importance of open access to the arts, and the broadening of our horizons.”
In the spirit of open access, through crafted essays and beautiful photos, the creators of Know the Past, Find the Future literally took the book to the streets (the book was left on park benches and subway stations) inviting the public directly into the quiet rooms and world-renowned collections of the New York Public library (William Blake, Virginia Woolf, J.D. Salinger, William Wordsworth, Charlotte Bronte, James Joyce, and Nancy Drew.)
“Know the Past, Find the Future celebrates our resplendent collections – free and open to all with curious minds – and embodies the thrill of discovery happening everyday, in every room at the library,” said New York Public Library President Paul LeClerc.
In every room of the library, luminaries reflect on special collections-maps, cuneiform tablets (3rd–2nd millennium B.C.E.), papers, compositions, letters and even, the “real-Winnie-the-pooh.” In his photo, Colbert got teary-eyed as he read original letters from J.D. Salinger. “I suspect this photo would have annoyed J.D. Salinger,” he writes. “Here I am, the stereotypical liberal arts fanboy, going weak over something he typed.”
And the reflections continue page after page. Fran Lebowitz describes her total absorption in Nancy Drew novels as a girl “…the idea of a girl detective, an autonomous figure…and most importantly, a roadster…she could do whatever she wanted, this was incredibly attractive to me.”
On the other hand, Annie Proulx bemoans the loss of tree and plant species while looking through holograph notes of Henry David Thoreau’s’ The Dispersion of Seeds. Yoko Ono thumbs through a book of rare compositions called Notations, edited and published by John Cage, withselections of important musical scores from a variety of mid-twentieth century composers including her own. “Being able to hold the writings and manuscripts belonging to them was such a rare experience. It gave me such a joy.”
Choreographer Bill T. Jones listens to Jesse Fuller’s, “San Francisco Bay Blues.” Actor James Fenton examines T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” typescript; The Harlem Globetrotters check out globes from the Library’s Map Division; writer Colum McCann looks at a first edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses; musician Lou Reed discusses a manuscripts page of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Rationale of Verse”; Laurie Anderson and Vartan Gregorian each examine the Declaration of Independence on separate pages of the book.
In Grand Central Station’s Vanderbilt Hall, a gathering crowd watched the Harlem Globe Trotters spin magic basketballs and a New Orleans jazz band swooned out a festive air until the introductory remarks and final readings of the book began.
“As one of the fundamental public institutions that makes New York one of the world’s great cities, we are proud to be able to support another,” said MTA Chairman Jay H. Walder. “While the MTA provides physical transportation, the library has allowed generations of New Yorkers to move mind and spirit…[it] is not only abundantly equipped with over 60 million items but represents the most democratic institution in the nation, if not world.Anyone from any country can get off a plane and walk in the library’s doors without any identification at all.”
Kathryn Court, President and Publisher of Penguin Classics fell in love with the library on her first visit to New York in the early seventies “It left a very strong impression on me, partly because the building was so beautiful, but more importantly because it was a truly democratic institution, open to anyone who wanted to read, to study, to write.” In Court’s essay, she notes that the New York Public Library houses the Berg Collection, home to a First Folio edition of Shakespeare’s plays published in 1623. “It’s hard to describe my feelings on opening that volume containing thirty-six of the most brilliant plays ever written…”
National Book Award winner Colum McCann read from his essay, “Ineluctable Modality of the Visible” about the copy of Ulysses with which he was photographed. “I didn’t even get to touch the pages, I leaned over them, breathed them in. The ineluctable modality of the visible.” McCann continues that after the book was put away, he noticed that a tiny blue flake fell from the pages and “…I did what any heartsick lovesick booksick wordsick worldsick Joycesick fool would do. I ate it.”
Actress and Singer, Martha Plimpton took us on a pop culture tour through Beadle’s Dime Novels, “Some people might tend to look down on pop culture, or else appreciate it with a sort of phony irony. But we all secretly love it in a sort of queasy, visceral way that some of us like to vivisect in public. Pop shows us our lives as we are living them.”
Writer and Performer, Wesley Stace read from his essay about J.R. Ackerlay’s My Dog Tulip. “My Dog Tulip is considered one of the great dog books. It is much more,” writes Stace. “It must certainly be the best book that is both entirely about dogs and not about dogs at all, but about love and desire, and the terrible cost of their denial.”
In his introduction to the book, Paul LeClerc asked “How does one even begin to capture the contribution to culture and to civil society that a century’s worth of readers here have made because of our collections and staff expertise.?”
Conceived by Caro Llewellyn, director the 100th anniversary New York Public Library celebrations, (previous director of PEN World Voices festival) the book captures the thrill of sitting in a room with the literary progeny of so many enduring thinkers. Long after their death, their ideas remain alive.
From the cuneiform tablets of vanished civilizations to original plays of Shakespeare. From the Declaration of Independence to the early drafts of novelists and poets–the records of so many human triumphs found protector and publicist alike inside the New York Public Library’s walls–an impressive segment of which is interpreted anew in the firsthand experiences of one hundred notable modern figures.
Photographer, Beowulf Sheehan brought gifted portraiture and respect for each moment to the photos. “I was blessed to have the opportunity to see so many wonderful and talented New Yorkers touched by the things within the walls of The New York Public Library,” Sheehan muses. “The things that touched them are the same things that can touch you. You, too, can connect to your own history, learn about your community and family, discover those who share and inform your professional passion, and be inspired. All you need is a library card.”
For more information: Know the Past, Find the Future is part of the Library’s Centennial festivities, which officially begins May 20, 2011. It will include an exhibition, programming for kids and adults, mapping and genealogy workshops, building and Stack tours, performances by Elevator Repair Service, a live rehearsal by New York Classical Theatre and many other exciting free events to celebrate the building’s 100th birthday. For more information, please visit www.nypl.org/findthefuture/100.
Note: Penguin Classics has generously underwritten the publication of Know the Past, Find the Future. Additional support for the Library’s Centennial Festival has been made possible through an endowment established by family and friends of the late Richard B. Salomon, and by Bank of America, The Skeel Fund, MetLife Foundation, The Blackstone Charitable Foundation, Asprey, Wells Fargo, Celeste Bartos, The Wall Street Journal, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Titan, WABC-TV/Channel 7, Penguin Classics, Engine Yard, and Gotham Magazine.
In 2006, Kimberly Nagy founded Wild River Review with Joy E. Stocke; and in 2009, they founded Wild River Consulting & Publishing, LLC. With more than twenty years in the field of publishing, Nagy specializes in market outreach and digital media strategies as well as crafting timeless articles and interviews. She edits many of the writers who appear in the pages of Wild River Review, as well as clients from around the world.
Kimberly Nagy is a poet, professional writer, and dedicated reader who has interviewed a number of leading thinkers, including Academy-Award winning filmmaker, Pamela Tanner Boll, MacArthur Genius Award-winning Edwidge Danticat, historian James McPherson, playwright Emily Mann, biologist and novelist, Sunetra Gupta and philosopher Alain de Botton.
Nagy is an author, editor and professional storyteller. She received her BA in history at Rider University where she was influenced by professors who stressed works of literature alongside dates and historical facts–as well as the importance of including the perspectives of women and minorities in the historical record. During a period in which she fell in love with writing and research, Nagy wrote an award-winning paper about the suppression of free speech during World War I, and which featured early 20th century feminist and civil rights leader, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.
Nagy continued her graduate studies at University of Connecticut, Storrs, where she studied with Dr. Karen Kupperman, an expert in early contact between Native Americans and the first European settlers. Nagy wrote her Masters thesis, focusing on the work of the first woman to be accepted into the Connecticut Historical Society as well as literary descriptions of Native Americans in Connecticut during the 19th century. Nagy has extensive background and interest in anthropological, oral history and cultural research.
After graduate school, Nagy applied her academic expertise to a career in publishing, in which she worked for two of the world’s foremost publishers—Princeton University Press and W.W. Norton—as well as at Thomson, Institutional Investor Magazine, Routledge UK, and Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic.
Kimberly Nagy in this Edition
AIRMAIL – LETTERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
AIRMAIL – VOICE FROM SYRIA
ARTS – ART
ARTS – FILM REVIEWS
ARTS – MUSIC
ARTS – PHOTOGRAPHY
The Triple Goddess Trials: Fire in the Head: Brigit’s Mysterious Spark
The Triple Goddess Trials: Introduction
The Triple Goddess Trials – Meeting Virginia Woolf at the Strand
The Triple Goddess Trials: Me and Medusa
The Triple Goddess Trials: Aphrodite and the Lightbulb Factory
The Triple Goddess Trials: Goddess of Milk and Honey
The Triple Goddess Trials: Kali’s Ancient Love Song
ASHLEY – Renee Ashley: A Voice Answering a Voice
BELLI – Giocanda Belli – The Page is My Home
BOLL – Pamela Tanner Boll: Dangerous Women: An Interview with Academy Award Winner Pamela Tanner Boll
DANTICAT – Create Dangerously- A Conversation with Edwidge Danticat
CHARBONNEAU – A Cruise Along the Inside Track: With Le Mobile’s Sound Recording Legend Guy Charbonneau
de BOTTON – The Art of Connection: A Conversation with Alain de Botton
GUPTA – Suneptra Gupta – The Elements of Style: The Novelist and Biologist Discusses Metaphor and Science
HANDAL – Nathalie Handal – Love and Strange Horses
KHWAJA – Waqas Khwaja: What a Difference a Word Makes
MAURO: New World Monkeys: An Interview with Nancy Mauro
MORGANSing, Live, & Love Like You Mean It: An Interview with Bertha Morgan
MOSS – Practical Mystic–Robert Moss: On Book Families, Jung and How Dreams Can Save Your Soul
OGLINE – BEN FRANKLIN.COM: Author & Illustrator Tim Ogline explains why Ben Franklin would be a technology evangelist today
OLSEN – Greg Olsen – Reaching for the Stars: Scientist, Entrepreneur and Space Traveler
PALYA – Beata Palya – The Secret World of Songs
SCHIMMEL – Moonlight Science: A Conversation with Molecular Biologist and Entrepreneur, Paul Schimmel
SHORS – Journey into the Male & Female Brain: An Interview with Tracey Shors
von MOLTKE and SIMMS – Dorothy von Moltke and Cliff Simms: Why Independent Bookstores Matter, Part I
WARD – On the Rocks: Global Warming and the Rock and Fossil Record – An Interview with Peter Ward, Part One, and
On the Rocks: Global Warming and the Rock and Fossil Record – An Interview with Peter Ward, Part Two
WILKES – Labor of Love: An Interview With Architect Kevin Wilkes
LITERATURE – MEMOIR
LITERATURE – POETRY
LIVE FROM THE NYPL
Fountain of Curiosity: Paul Holdengraber on Attention, Tension and Stretching the Limits of Conversation at the New York Public Library
The New York Public Library at 100: From the Stacks to the Streets
Paul Holdengraber: The Afterlife of Conversation
That Email Changed My Life: Rolex Arts Initiative. Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet Tracy K. Smith Celebrates Rolex Arts Initiative
First Editions / Second Thoughts — Defending Writers: PEN and Christie’s Raise One Million Dollars to Support Freedom of Expression
ON AFRICA: May 4 to May 10 — Behind the Scenes with Director Jakab Orsos: Co-curated by Award-Winning Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Page is My Home: Giaconda Belli – Nicaraguan Poet, Writer and Public Intellectual
Georgian Writer David Dephy’s Second Skin
The Power of Conversation: David Grossman and Nadine Gordimer – The Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture
NEW FROM WILD RIVER BOOKS – Brief Eulogies at Roadside Shrines
Daring Collaborations: Rolex and LIVE from the NYPL at the New York Public Library
Wild River Books Announces the Stoutsburg Cemetery Project: The Untold Stories of an African American Burial Ground in New Jersey
Wild River Books: Surprise Encounters by Scott McVay
Wild River Review and Minerva’s Bed & Breakfast Presents – “BITTER” Writing in a Weekend: How to Write About the Things We Can’t Change
ALLEN – Quarks, Parks, and Science in Everyday Life: Filmmaker Chris Allen’s Documentary Where Art Meets Science in a Vacant Lot
HOLT – Rush Holt: An Interview with Rush Holt
MANN – Boundless Theater: An Interview with Emily Mann
Keeping Time: A Conversation with Historian James McPherson