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The Intentional Insult

Oscar Wilde is famed for the quip, “A gentleman is one who is never unintentionally rude.” Or something to that effect. The gist of the sentiment is twofold: 1) A gentleman takes care not to give offense, and 2) if a gentleman does give insult, he does so intentionally. The witty description of a gentleman goes hand-in-hand with the best literary insults in which authors and playwrights skewer others with deliberate intent.

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A Garden of Horrors

Plant Pop Culture
Plants are ubiquitous entities: they surround us when we’re outdoors and we bring them indoors as bits of living decor. Except for the usual warnings to avoid the poisonous ones--“leaves of three, let them be”--plants occupy a neutral or even beneficial place in our lexicon.

The great era of exploration combined with the rise of intellectual inquiry from the 16th through 19th centuries brought adventurous Europeans into contact with many strange and unusual plant species in far-away locales. As the literary form of the novel developed, these mysterious plants took hold of human imagination and gave rise to a small, but enduring cadre of horrific plants.
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An Historical Treatment of Leftovers

Pease porridge hot,
Pease porridge cold,
Pease porridge in the pot,
Nine days old.

This nursery rhyme alludes to the fate of food when a meal’s abundance exceeded the capacity of the people it fed. The ubiquitous use of leftover food in everyday cooking and eating didn’t merit a special term. Fragments or remains of the previous night’s supper found their way into the next morning’s breakfast and/or lunch and into soups and stews. 
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Ribbet!

Famous Amphibians
Anthropomorphism runs rampant in literature, from Beatrix Potter’s naughty rabbits and squirrels to the fabulous creatures of Greek mythology. Animals in literature tend toward the magnificent, the monstrous, and the darling. However, the focus on bunnies, foxes, and dragons leaves out a significant order of amphibians: frogs and toads.

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Speechless

Vanishing Languages
Over the years, many languages such as Eyak (Alaska) have disappeared. Many of the world’s native languages are endangered, at risk of falling out of use because they have few surviving speakers. If a language loses all of its native speakers, it becomes extinct

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’Tis the Season

Christmas Carols and the Caroling Tradition
The holidays are a festive time of year—a time for giving, spending time with family and friends, and spreading holiday cheer. It’s also the season for enjoying Christmas music and carols.

In Old Christmas, Washington Irving writes “I do not know a grander effect of music on the moral feelings than to hear the full choir and the pealing organ performing a Christmas anthem in a cathedral.”
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We Remember

Pearl Harbor Day
Thursday, December 7, marks National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, which is also referred to as Pearl Harbor Day. Observed annually in the United States, the day remembers and honors the 2,403 United States personnel—including 68 civilians—who were killed in the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii on December 7, 1941.

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Yone Noguchi

First Japanese American Poet
The influence of great people often gets misattributed or forgotten in the hubbub of the great persons themselves. This creates the tiresome illusion that some genius dropped whole from the sky and that “normal” folks could never work toward such success, no matter how much time spent.

But no one lives and works in a vacuum.
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Don’t Open the Closet

The Tale of Bluebeard
Men and women who retell myths do so because we are ever in jeopardy of losing our old stories. Not in fear of losing the catalogue of them, but rather in fear of losing the tradition of sharing them with loved ones, of telling them by the campfire, in the cars on long drives, or to one’s children as they fall asleep. So, this monthly myth telling attempts to sift through our ever expanding catalogue for those classic or forgotten myths that have shaped us.

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The Art of Appreciation

Henry Miller
The great American writer Henry Miller wrote, "The man who spreads the good word augments not only the life of the book in question but the act of creation itself." (The Books In My Life, 28)

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Comic Revelations

The Behind the Book Series on Comic Book Heroes and Creators
From our childhoods to the big screen, comic book heroes have grown up with us. They have assumed a cultural weight today that cements them into the Western lexicon. With such popularity comes the cultural impact, and with the cultural impact come the cultural critiques, questions, and theories. Does Doctor Strange respect the Eastern philosophies from which he was derived? How does Captain America's latest revelation as an undercover Hydra agent comment on the current political state of America? What do the  variations of Spider-Man represent of the cultures that birthed them?

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Monoliths in Wood

Woodcut Illustrators
While comic and graphic novel artists of today have changed the format and consumption of book illustration, the classic black-and-white engraving era of book illustrations still remain in our minds and libraries. Although it's always difficult to pick a definitive “best of” list due to their subjectivity, there will always be illustrators and printmakers whose style and pervasive influence keep them cemented in innovation for all time.

This article focuses on printmakers who worked with forms of woodblock printing. Woodblock printing originated as a textile printing method in China as early as 220 AD, and in time came to include wood engraving and woodcut. All woodblock styles use the relief method of printing, wherein the lines of the print are made visible by cutting out the negative space of the print, effectively creating a stamp. Ink is then applied to the wood which is pressed onto paper, creating a print.

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‘Underdog’ Is Another Word for ‘Phoenix’

From fairy tales to folk tales to ancient myths, everybody loves an underdog, that scrappy little guy or girl who rises from low expectations to greatness, young heroes and heroines born from the ashes of disadvantage, as it were. Books that feature underdog protagonists don’t necessarily raise those characters to great heights of heroism, wealth, or even respectability, but they do showcase the good and noble attributes society purports to value.

The love of underdogs begins in childhood. Following are some of the favorite underdogs in children’s literature.


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A Place for Everything

Prior to the late 1800s, the categorization of books in public and private libraries varied. A haphazard multitude of classifications, some systematic and others not even pretending to a semblance of order, made finding specific books difficult if not impossible. Librarians who intimately knew the contents of their libraries wielded immense power within their small fiefdoms, having the knowledge and power to help a patron find information… or not.

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Peek Into the Future

The winter solstice in late December commonly gives rise to thoughts of lengthening days thereafter and one’s future. Indeed, a popular New Year’s Day tradition is the setting of resolutions to improve one’s future, the most ubiquitous being related to losing weight. Humanity, however, doesn’t confine its longing to know what’s coming and to determining some way to manipulate the future in its favor to the new year. Around the planet, the desire remains the same; the method for telling the future varies.

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Famous First Lines

The best books hook readers from the very first line, which inspires the reader to read further. Great opening lines go beyond the fairy tale beginning of “Once upon a time” to evoke emotion and grab attention. The opening line sets the stage and establishes the tone of the narrative. In some books, like Pride and Prejudice (1813) by Jane Austen, the first line establishes the tenor for an entire genre: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

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Temptation, Sin & Knowledge

The Apple in Literature
Since ancient times, apples have symbolized the best and worst of human traits. They lure and tempt, they imbue knowledge and shame, they confer love and fertility. Although an apple a day may keep the doctor away, the fruit has been a point of contention for ages.

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Imagist Poets

You gotta love reactionary poetry. A movement or style develops on one side of the spectrum, and then another group of poets come along and create an aesthetic that aims to free itself of the other. The opposing side isn’t inspired just to complain; instead they are forced to action through creation.

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When Tigers Smoked

Korean Tales
Myth and folklore transfuse our histories into our life blood, and are one of the main defining traits of humans. From our old stories stem adages and epithets that, over the years, become ingrained into our cultural dialogue (and finally, worn down into clichés). With just one line, we can recall or reference an entire body of stories.

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Leprosy

Hansen's Disease
“Like the other patients, they caught me at school. It was on the Big Island. I was twelve then. I cried like the dickens for my mother and for my family. But the Board of Health didn’t waste no time in those days. They sent me to Honolulu, to Kalihi Receiving Station, real fast. Then they sent me to Kalaupapa. That’s where they sent most of us. Most came to die.” These were the words of a man who contracted leprosy, and was sent to the remote peninsula of Molokai, Hawaii, to live out his days in exile.

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