So Long as You Write What You Wish to Write, That is All That Matters

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.”

From the essay A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. The essay, published in 1929, is based on two lectures Woolf delivered at women’s colleges at the University of Cambridge a year earlier. The essay takes its title from the following sentence: “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Woolf explores whether women, facing many social and economic challenges in a patriarchal society, are capable and free to produce great literature. During Woolf’s time, women were not encouraged to attend college and obtain a formal education. She cites Austen and Bronte who broke with societal norms: “Only Jane Austen did it and Emily Brontë. It is another feather, perhaps the finest, in their caps. They wrote as women write, not as men write. Of all the thousand women who wrote novels then, they alone entirely ignored the perpetual admonitions of the eternal pedagogue—write this, think that.”

In this passage, Woolf presents the chasm between how women are idealized in fiction written by men and how women are actually treated:

“Women have burnt like beacons in all the works of all the poets from the beginning of time. Indeed if woman had no existence save in the fiction written by men, one would imagine her a person of the utmost importance; very various; heroic and mean; splendid and sordid; beautiful and hideous in the extreme; as great as a man, some would say greater. But this is woman in fiction. In fact, as Professor Trevelyan points out, she was locked up, beaten and flung about the room. A very queer, composite being thus emerges. Imaginatively she is of the highest importance; practically she is completely insignificant. She pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history. She dominates the lives of kings and conquerors in fiction; in fact she was the slave of any boy whose parents forced a ring upon her finger. Some of the most inspired words and profound thoughts in literature fall from her lips; in real life she could hardly read; scarcely spell; and was the property of her husband.”

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

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Where to Find the Meaning of Life
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There’s A Word for That: Agnotology

alex atkins bookshelf words

If you have been following any of the crises that United States faces — the claim that the 2020 Presidential election was stolen; the OxyContin epidemic; the denial of climate change — you have a first row seat in the classroom of agnotology. Agnotology is defined as the study of intentional, culturally-induced ignorance or doubt. The word is formed by the Greek word agnosis (meaning “not knowning” or “unknown”) and the word-forming element –ology (meaning “branch of knowledge or science”). Ignorance or doubt is often achieved by the publication of inaccurate of misleading scientific or medical information by corporations, political parties, government agencies, and advocacy organizations. In a sense, culturally-induced ignorance is a more global or systemic version of gaslighting, the psychological  technique (eg, lying, distracting, denying wrongdoing, shifting blame, discrediting, rewriting history, or minimizing feelings or thoughts), whereby an individual in an abusive relationship uses various tactics to manipulate his or her partner to believe a deliberately false narrative of reality causing them to question their sanity.

The term agnotology first appears in book The Cancer Wars: How Politics Shapes What We Know and Don’t Know About Cancer (1995) by Robert Proctor, a professor of the History of Science at Stanford University. He writes: “Historians and philosophers of science have tended to treat ignorance as an ever-expanding vacuum into which knowledge is sucked — or even, as Johannes Kepler once put it, as the mother who must die for science to be born. Ignorance, though, is more complex than this. It has a distinct and changing political geography that is often an excellent indicator of the politics of knowledge. We need a political agnotology to complement our political epistemologies.” In a later book, Agnotology: The Making and Unmaking of Ignorance (2012), Proctor explains that a academic colleague actually coined the term agnotology: “My hope for devising a new term was to suggest… the historicity and artifactuality of non-knowing and the non-known — and the potential fruitfulness of studying such things. In 1992 I posed this challenge to linguist Iain Boal, and it was he who came up with the term in the spring of that year.”

In The Cancer Wars, Proctor presents two clear examples of how corporations propagate doubt or ignorance: (1) the tobacco industry’s public relations campaign to convince consumers, despite overwhelming medical evidence, that tobacco was not addictive (2) the fossil fuel’s industry public relations campaign to convince Americans and politicians, despite scientific consensus, that climate change is a hoax. Quite often, ignorance is propagated with the illusion that there is a balanced debate. However, since the information presented has been carefully and deliberately manipulated, the competing views do not result in rational conclusions.

A textbook case of agnotology was recently highlighted in the gripping Hulu series Dopesick, based on book of the same title by Beth Macy. In the series, we witness how Purdue Pharma, which made an opioid called OxyContin, used manipulated clinical trials that it sponsored directly to show that it was not addictive, even though the executives of Purdue knew that it was highly addictive. This misleading medical research encouraged doctors to write more than 68.7 million prescriptions a year, creating an opioid epidemic that killed hundreds of thousands of people, destroyed families and communities, and cost the country trillions of dollars (that number includes costs of treatment, social services, and law enforcement.) Ultimately, Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to conspiracies to defraud the US and violate the anti-kickback statute. The Sackler family, owners of Purde Pharma, were ordered to pay $6 billion to resolve widespread litigation that they fueled the opioid epidemic, ushering in the bankruptcy and end of Purdue Pharma. Further, Johnson & Johnson and three of the largest US drug distributors were ordered to pay $26 billion for their alleged role in the opioid crisis.

In the fascinating essay for BBC Future, titled “The man who studies the spread of ignorance” (January 16, 2016) by Georgina Kenyon, Proctor discusses the modern era of ignorance: “We live in a world of radical ignorance, and the marvel is that any kind of truth cuts through the noise. Although for most things this is trivial – like, for example, the boiling point of mercury – but for bigger questions of political and philosophical import, the knowledge people have often comes from faith or tradition, or propaganda, more than anywhere else.” Kenyon also interviews another academic who is studying agnotology: David Dunning, then a professor of psychology at Cornell College. Dunning notes the internet is only exacerbating the modern era of ignorance, “While some smart people will profit from all the information now just a click away, many will be misled into a false sense of expertise. My worry is not that we are losing the ability to make up our own minds, but that it’s becoming too easy to do so. We should consult with others much more than we imagine. Other people may be imperfect as well, but often their opinions go a long way toward correcting our own imperfections, as our own imperfect expertise helps to correct their errors.” (Incidentally, Dunning defined the Dunning-Kruger effect in 1999. It is a cognitive bias where people with low ability or expertise tend to overestimate their knowledge or ability. Expressed another way, a person who in incompetent at something is unable to recognize their own incompetence. Donald Trump is often cited as the poster boy of the Dunning-Kruger effect.)

The concept of agnotology was foreshadowed four decades earlier by Isaac Asimov in his brilliant essay titled “A Cult of Ignorance” (Newsweek magazine, January 21, 1980). Asimov writes: “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” The essay is a must-read if you are interested in the topic of agnotology (see the link below).

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Isaac Asimov: There is a Cult of Ignorance in the United States
Will We Have Free and Fair Elections Again?
What is the Dunning-Kruger Effect?
Plato’s Warning: If You Don’t Vote, You Will Be Governed by Idiots
Is the United States a Democracy or a Republic?

For further reading:
bbc.com/future/article/20160105-the-man-who-studies-the-spread-of-ignorance
Agnotology: The Making and Unmaking of Ignorance by Robert Proctor
statnews.com/2019/12/03/oxycontin-history-told-through-purdue-pharma-documents/
medicalnewstoday.com/articles/gaslighting#gaslighting-examples
pbs.org/newshour/nation/after-years-of-pain-opioid-crisis-victims-confront-sackler-family-in-court
nytimes.com/2021/09/01/health/purdue-sacklers-opioids-settlement.html
justice.gov/opa/pr/opioid-manufacturer-purdue-pharma-pleads-guilty-fraud-and-kickback-conspiracies
reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/sacklers-will-pay-up-6-bln-resolve-purdue-opioid-lawsuits-mediator-2022-03-03/
nida.nih.gov/research-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates

 

The Beauty of Literature is that You Discover that You Belong

alex atkins bookshelf literature“That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.” 

From a letter written in 1938 by F. Scott Fitzgerald to his lover, Sheilah Graham. During the Great Depression, the popularity of his novels dramatically decreased. He needed to secure a steady income to pay for his wife’s (Zelda) psychiatric treatment for schizophrenia at an asylum, his estranged daughter’s (Scottie) college tuition (Vassar), and support his chronic drinking habit. Consequently, Fitzgerald moved to Hollywood in the mid 1930s to be a screenwriter for MGM. In 1936, Fitzgerald met Graham at a cocktail party held at the Garden of Allah, playground for the Hollywood elite (like Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe). For the next four years, Fitzgerald’s reputation continued to decline and his alcoholism got worse. He began work on his fifth novel, The Last Tycoon, where Graham served as his model for the character Kathleen. Graham tolerated Fitzgerald’s drunken binges and verbal abuse and encouraged him to embrace his talent and write. For her troubles, Fitzgerald provided Graham with a college education. Fitzgerald finally achieved sobriety in 1940, claiming that this time with Graham was one of the happiest times of their relationship; he died of a heart attack in December of that year. When he died, he was considered a failed alcoholic and his work was largely forgotten. Graham later wrote about her life and relationship with Fitzgerald in a book titled Beloved Infidel published in 1959. 

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

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Words from 2022 National Spelling Bee

alex atkins bookshelf wordsOn June 2, 2022, Harini Logan, a 14-year-old eighth-grader from San Antonio, Texas, won the 94th Scripps National Spelling Bee by correctly spelling the word “moorhen”(defined by Merriam-Webster as “the female of the red grouse.” Because there was a tie, the spelling organizers introduced a timed spell-off: whoever could spell the most words correctly in 90 seconds would win. Logan spelled 21 words correctly (moorhen was the last word before the timer went off) versus her opponent, Vikram Raju (12), who spelled 15 words. This was Logan’s fourth time competing in the spelling bee. For her spelling brilliance, Logan won a $50,000 in cash prize, the Scripps Cup trophy, and — of course — bragging rights to being the best speller in America — not to mention the ability to ignore annoying spellcheckers on her smartphone apps. Each year, the spelling bee begins with more than 11 million students (the cut-off is 8th grade) in local and regional spelling bees; however, only 229 contestants, ranging in age from 9 to 15 years old, reached the national level this year. Incidentally, the second place winner receives $30,000; the third-place winner receives $15,000.

A review of the words used in the 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee shows that the judges don’t mess around when it comes to finding truly difficult and obscure words, venturing into the world of art, antiquity, medicine, zoology, and botany taken from the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary. In fact, most of them fall into the category of “I didn’t even know that there was a word for that!” A review of the winning words form the inaugural Spelling Bee in 1925 to now shows a steady evolution from simple words, like “albumen” or “fracas,” to amazingly difficult words like “feuilleton” and “scherenschnitte.” So why have the words become so difficult? Since ESPN started broadcasting the Spelling Bee in 1994, the competition has attracted more competitors, and more significantly, ones who possess truly remarkable spelling skills. As you can see from the list below, most of these words are ridiculously arcane. In order to spell a word correctly, contestants can ask clues about the word, such as what part of speech it is, language of origin, and alternate pronunciation.

Here is a list of some of the more difficult words of the 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee, including their definitions:

bebung: a tremolo effect similar to a violin vibrato and produced on a clavichord by sustaining a varying pressure on the key

bourgade: a village of scattered dwellings, an unfortified town

chatoyance: the state of being chatoyant (having a changeable luster or color with an undulating narrow band of white light)

de riguerur: required by fashion or etiquette

escharotic: producing an eschar (a scab formed especially after a burn)

impayable: priceless, invaluable

ineradicable: unable to be removed or destroyed

Micawber: a person who lives in optimistic expectation of better fortune (coined by Charles Dickens in his novel David Copperfield)

noctivagant: going about in the night; night-wandering

obstropolous: a dialectical variant of obstreperous (being unruly or resistant to control)

Pachytylus: a genus of Acrididae that includes several destructive Old World migratory locusts

palapala: writing (Hawaiian word)

phenocoll: a crystalline base used in the form of a salt (as the hydrochloride) as an antipyretic and analgesic

Powys: a Welsh geographic name

pullulation: to germinate or sprout; to breed; to swarm

Senijextee: a Salishan people of the Columbian River Valley in Washington and British Columbia

sirtaki: a Greek circle dance similar to a hora

suffrutescent: a plant with a base that is somewhat woody and does not die down each year

tektite: a glassy body of probably meteoritic origin and of rounded but indefinite shape

wirrah: an Australian spotted food fish

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Why is it Called a Spelling Bee?
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For further reading: http://www.merriam-webster.com
usatoday.com/story/sports/2022/06/02/harini-logan-wins-2022-scripps-national-spelling-bee/7492540001/

/www.cbsnews.com/news/spelling-bee-harini-logan-wins-2022-scripps-national/
http://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2022/06/02/national-spelling-bee-2022-finals-words/

The Enigma of the Letter E

alex atkins bookshelf wordsEnglish spelling is a curious thing; in the following short poem, The Enigma of E, we follow the letter “e” as it wanders enigmatically from the beginning of words to the end of words to evoke such vastly different meanings. Enjoy the journey…

The beginning of eternity,
The end of time and space,
The beginning of every end,
The end of very place.

I stumbled across this delightful curiosity when I visited an antiquarian bookstore and pulled an old dusty book from a forlorn stack of books, hidden from view by another stack of books. Like an old pair of leather shoes, the book was tattered and worn, with a fragile spine that barely held onto to its musty-smelling yellowed brittle pages. The title immediately captured my interest — From Gleanings for the Curious From the Harvest-field of Literature by Charles Bombaugh. The book was published in 1890 by J. B. Lippincott Company that was founded by Joshua Ballinger Lippincott (1813-1886) to initially publish Bibles and books of prayers. Over time, the Philadelphia-based company expanded its catalog to include biography, fiction, poetry, history, and reference books like dictionaries, almanacs, school textbooks, and textbooks on law, medicine, and nursing. The publisher was extremely successful, becoming one of the largest publishers by the end of the 19th century. Following the turn of the century, Lippincott began publishing textbooks and reference books for elementary and high schools. The company continued to grow throughout the decades and was purchased by Harper & Row Publishers, Inc. in 1978. The headquarters, a stately Italianate-style brick building, can still be seen today at 227 South 6th Street, overlooking Washington Square.

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

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A Deceased Father Speaks to His Son Through a Special Book

alex atkins bookshelf booksHe couldn’t quite reach it at first — it was almost beyond the reach of his young hands. It didn’t help that it was tucked snugly between several other books — as if they were soldiers protecting one of their ranks. But, at last, the book slid forward. The boy sat down at the base of the towering bookcase and opened the book. A slip of paper, neatly folded, suddenly fell to the floor. His father, who had passed away from cancer years ago, had the habit of placing inside his books related essays and reviews clipped from magazines or printed from the internet. He viewed books not just as static documents to be read but also as  portable, dynamic filing systems — like a commonplace book, a place to collect related ideas and inspirations for new intellectual reflections and explorations. Perhaps this was one of those intriguing essays. He carefully unfolded the paper and immediately recognized his father’s neat handwriting; he could clearly hear his father’s voice as he began to read:

My dear boy,
If you are reading this letter it is because you have reached a point in your personal development that this book’s title finally interested you. The book you hold in your hand is one of the great treasures of my life; and just like you, I discovered it rather serendipitously. And that is a part of the intrinsic value of this wonderful book: you must discover it on your own, in your own time. During my lifetime I could not have given it to you because it would have robbed you of this precious, propitious moment — a bibliophilic eureka moment, if you will — one that you will cherish for the rest of your life.

When I was about your age, I recall reading Stephen Crane’s poem, “A Man Said to the Universe.” Despite the poem’s brevity, its meaning is far-reaching and profound: “A man said the universe: / “Sir, I exist!” / “However,” replied the universe, / “The fact has not created in me / A sense of obligation.” I never forgot that poem. Indeed, the world can be indifferent and unfair. Sadly, over my lifetime, I have witnessed a world that has increasingly moved beyond indifference to being intolerant, belligerent, and cruel. Moreover, it troubles me greatly that the nation is so bitterly divided and that the search for Truth has been so maligned — and in many cases, abandoned. There will be times — because you are so perceptive, so sensitive, so reflective — that you will feel that oppressive force on your soul, your thoughts, and being. And then there are times when the tribulations of life wash upon your shores, one after the other, sometimes pushing you to the breaking point. All of this can cause you to doubt your goodness, your purpose, and you can lose sight of what is critical to your life: your values, your dreams, and the unwavering love of your parents that have sustained you since that memorable day you were born. The book you hold in your hands was my salvation during the darkest days of my life when those inevitable sea of troubles caused me to stumble, caused me to stop believing in myself, and diminished my hope for a better world. The reassuring, transformative words in the book’s pages, written by another human being — a complete stranger to me, but a fellow traveler, a kindred soul — brought me back to my self and gently nudged me back onto the journey of my deliberate choices to lead a fulfilling and meaningful life of contribution and purpose.

This particular book and all the books in my library, thoughtfully collected during my lifetime, are yours; however, they are imbued with special meaning. To paraphrase St. Exupery’s wise Little Prince: “All men have books, but they are not the same things for different people… But all these books are silent. You — you alone — will have the books as no else has them — in one of the books I shall be living.” When you read this book,I hope you hear my voice and know that I have never left you. I am right here, living among its pages. May this book provide you with guidance and solace all the days of your life; and know, my dear son, that my love for you is eternal.

Love, Dad

The boy held the note tenderly and sat silently for what seemed an eternity, not wanting the moment to pass, pondering its meaning. With one hand he wiped away his tearstained cheeks, then gently put the note down. He picked up the book and opened it carefully, as if it were a rare museum relic; he began to read. Suddenly, he felt he was no longer alone. The boy could hear his father’s voice as he read each sentence. In that moment, the boy felt the book magically transform in his soft, gentle hands — it was now truly his and it was alive with the spirit of his beloved father.

Excerpt from the forthcoming book Stories from the Bookshelves by Alexander Atkins.

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

For further reading: Famous Misquotations: The Two Most Important Days in Your Life
The Wisdom of a Grandmother
Read related posts: Letters to a Young Poet
The Wisdom of Pi Patel
The Wisdom of Hindsight

There’s A Word for That: Engastrimyth

alex atkins bookshelf wordsOne of the most famous comedians from the 1930s to the late 1950s was a real dummy by the name of Charlie McCarthy. And when I say dummy, I don’t mean he was dumb — he was literally a dummy, like Pinocchio — made of wood. He was a mischievous, wise-cracking boy, dressed in his iconic tuxedo, top hat, and monocle. He was far more famous than his partner, Edgar Bergen who was engastriymyth, or in more common terminology, a ventriloquist — an entertainer who projects his or her voice, without moving the lips, so that it appears that the dummy is speaking. Engastrimyth, pronounced “en GAS tre mith,” is derived from the Greek words en (meaning “in”), gaster (meaning “belly”) and muthos (meaning “speech”). So literally, it means speech coming from the belly. This is the exact same meaning as ventriloquist which comes from the Latin words venter (meaning “belly”) and loqui (meaning “speak”). 

For the Greeks, engastrimyths did not refer to an entertainer with a dummy on his or her lap, but rather the term referred to soothsayers and prophets (like the Oracle of Delphi) who seemed to speak without appearing to speak (eg, projecting the voice of the gods or someone who had died long ago).

Bergen and Charlie made their final appearance in The Muppet Movie, released in 1979. Bergen died soon after filming was completed; Charlie’s final resting place is the Smithsonian Institution, located in Washington, D.C.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

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The Most Important Thing on a Tombstone is the Dash

alex atkins bookshelf wisdomLinda Ellis (72) started writing as a child. She left the corporate world after a long career to become a full-time poet. Although she was not well-known, in 1994, the host of a syndicated radio show read one of her early poems titled “The Dash.” The inspirational poem truly resonated with listeners and became an instant classic, shared around the world. The poem inspired several books, including The Dash: Making a Difference with Your Life (2017),” which has sold over a million copies, and Live Your Dash: Make Every Moment Matter (2014). The message of the poem is that what matters most in life is not how long you have lived (on a tombstone that is represented by the date of birth and date of death), but rather how you spent your life (represented by the dash, or hyphen, between the dates). Expressed another way: the most important thing on your tombstone is the dash, it’s what you did while you were here. In short, the poem asks us: did you make every moment and relationship count? 

The Dash by Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on the tombstone
From the beginning…to the end

He noted that first came the date of birth
And spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years

For that dash represents all the time
That they spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved them
Know what that little line is worth

For it matters not, how much we own,
The cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.

So, think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
That can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
To consider what’s true and real
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect
And more often wear a smile,
Remembering this special dash
Might only last a little while

So, when your eulogy is being read
With your life’s actions to rehash…
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent YOUR dash?

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

For further reading: Famous Misquotations: The Two Most Important Days in Your Life
The Wisdom of a Grandmother
Read related posts: Letters to a Young Poet
The Wisdom of Pi Patel
The Wisdom of Hindsight

For further reading: hellopoetry.com/poem/1184764/the-dash-poem-by-linda-ellis/
lifeism.co/the-dash-poem-by-linda-ellis

After the Suffering, You Get to Keep the Lessons and the Pain Goes Away

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“I do have a love-hate relationship with this place [rainforest of Vancouver Island]. You get up in the morning and you confront the realities of your situation. Some days it’s great, some days it’s horrible. But suffering has value. We avoid it at all costs. We would never want to go back and repeat it, but it has value. It’s a part of life and nobody gets through life without suffering, nobody. [The] question is — what do you allow it to do in you? You can allow that suffering to make you bitter, angry, just a wretched person — you know? [Or] you can allow that suffering to eat away at your soul, turn it on itself, and just chew you apart. Or you can look for the deeper meaning it. My philosophy on suffering is that God is trying to teach me something and I know that in the end, I get to keep those lessons and the pain goes away.”

Post-apocalyptic fiction writer David McIntyre (50) reflecting on his experience surviving in the harsh, formidable remote wilderness of Vancouver Island, Canada — deep in black bear, cougar, and wolf territory — for 66 days without any food, water, shelter and without any contact with the outside world. McIntyre won the second season of Alone (History Channel, 2016) by outlasting nine other isolated survivalists who also tested their survival skills by living entirely off the land. The winner gets $500,000 and bragging rights.

The show Alone is billed as “the ultimate test of human will;” however, that is only part of the overall picture: it is also the ultimate test of courage, strength, sustainability, and adaptability. While half of the participants dropped off before day 30 due to a variety of factors, including fear, debilitating hunger, injury, hypothermia, overwhelming longing for companionship and home, and close encounters with deadly predators; the other half endured the torment of profound isolation — a brutal, unrelenting mixture of mental torment and loneliness. With each passing day, each participant moved closer to their own psychological breaking point. Only McIntyre persevered, escaping mental anguish, battling starvation and intense loneliness, by having a positive mental attitude, a healthy self-identity, and focusing on the present: “[I] stressed the importance of now. What you do with your now is the only time you get to do anything. What can you do right now to make tomorrow easier.”

The experience emphasizes that survival skills (ingenuity and resourcefulness), good health, and physical strength and endurance are not enough to survive alone in the wilderness. The greatest challenge for all participants, especially those that break the 30-day barrier, is the powerful effects of extended isolation, which is manifested in tortuous thinking and loneliness. Participants describe tortuous thinking as being tormented by your personal demons — revisiting over and over again every mistake and regret in your life; “every skeleton in your closet comes out and you can’t get away from them” — to paraphrase an old adage “The devil finds work for idle minds.” The loneliness is experienced as profound longing for companionship, for personal connection. Research has shown that protacted isolation and loneliness can negatively impact a person physical, mental, and cognitive health. Adverse health consequences include impaired cognitive function and decision-making, depression, increased anxiety, disrupted sleep, poor cardiovascular function, lower body strength, impaired immunity — and ultimately, increasing the risk of early death.

After their wilderness experience, all participants gain a new-found appreciation of their loved ones. McIntyre adds, “How many dads would run into a burning building for their children, but they don’t put down the [TV] remote. Use this time to take inventory on and invest in the people and relationships that truly matter to you and back away from the ones that are toxic. Learn the lessons that [being alone in the wilderness] has forced upon us.”

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Famous Misquotations: To Live is to Suffer, to Survive is to Find Meaning in Suffering
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The Meaning of Life by Peter Gay
The Meaning of Life by Joseph Campbell
The Meaning of Life by Mortimer Adler
The Meaning of Life by Norman Vincent Peale

Where to Find the Meaning of Life
Life’s Most Important Questions

For further reading: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/05/ce-corner-isolation
http://www.history.com/shows/alone
http://www.wzzm13.com/article/news/health/coronavirus/david-mcintyre-alone-covid-survival-skills-tips/69-9ded7ccd-caf0-407a-b19c-d1fe1d131949

Unlikely Connections: John Steinbeck, Route 66, and Sirup

alex atkins bookshelf literatureIn October 1929, the collapse of the Stock Market ushered in the Great Depression. Its impact on the country was devastating: America’s GDP declined by 30%, unemployment reached more than 20% (about 15 million workers) leading to increased rates of poverty and homelessness, and almost 50% of banks failed. Even those who kept their jobs, lost about a third of their income. Adding to the crippling economic depression was a severe drought that brought destructive dust storms in the prairies of the country (an event known as “the Dust Bowl”), destroying over 100 million of acres of farmland. Unable to work the land, farmers lost their farmland and their homes. More than 200,000 families from the panhandles of Oklahoma and Texas, and adjacent areas in Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico, piled their families and few belongings into cars and made the desperate exodus to California, hoping to find work and a better life.

A few years after the Great Depression ended, John Steinbeck published his most famous novel, The Grapes of Wrath (1939). The realist novel, that went on to win the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, chronicled the plight of the migrant families fleeing the Dust Bowl seeking employment in California. Most of the migrants traveled on Route 66, which Steinbeck nicknamed the “Mother Road” in the novel. However, Route 66 is not just a setting in The Grapes of Wrath, it also serves as a profound symbol for escape and loss. In chapter 12, he describes the migrants’ journey that was filled with hardship and challenges:

“Highway 66 is the main migrant road. 66 — the long concrete path across the country, waving gently up and down on the map, from the Mississippi to Bakersfield — over the red lands and the gray lands, twisting up into the mountains, crossing the Divide and down into the bright and terrible desert, and across the desert to the mountains again, and into the rich California valleys.

66 is the path of a people in flight, refugees from dust and shrinking land, from the thunder of tractors and shrinking ownership, from the desert’s slow northward invasion, from the twisting winds that howl up out of Texas, from the floods that bring no richness to the land and steal what little richness is there. From all of these the people are in flight, and they come into 66 from the tributary side roads, from the wagon tracks and the rutted country roads. 66 is the mother road, the road of flight.

…And 66 goes on over the terrible desert, where the distance shimmers and the black center mountains hang unbearably in the distance. At last there’s Barstow, and more desert until at last the mountains rise up again, the good mountains, and 66 winds through them. Then suddenly a pass, and below the beautiful valley, below orchards and vineyards and little houses, and in the distance a city. And, oh, my God, it’s over.

The people in flight streamed out on 66, sometimes a single car, sometimes a little caravan. All day they rolled slowly along the road, and at night they stopped near water. In the day ancient leaky radiators sent up columns of steam, loose connecting rods hammered and pounded. And the men driving the trucks and the overloaded cars listened apprehensively. How far between towns? It is a terror between towns. If something breaks — well, if something breaks we camp right here while Jim walks to town and gets a part and walks back and — how much food we got?”

Route 66, Steinbeck’s “Mother Road,” begins in Chicago, Illinois and cuts across seven states to reach Santa Monica, California, covering more than 2,448 miles. Route 66 (originally named Route 60) was the brainchild of two midwest businessmen: Cyrus Avery (known as the “Father of Route 66”) from Tulsa, Oklahoma and John Thomas Woodruff from Springfield, Missouri. Together, they lobbied the Associated Highways Association of America to build a commercial highway from Chicago to Los Angeles to link the small towns (supporting local stores and farms) of the midwest with the major markets on either end. The idea was that thousands of travelers would support all the local stores (and the farms that supplied these stores) that lined the Main Street of each small town; thus the highway was also known as the “Main Street of America.” Route 66 was officially started in 1926 upgrading dirt and gravel roads as well as building new connecting roadways. Once the highway was completed, it had a huge economic impact on all the towns — small and large — that were located along or near its path.

One of those small towns where Route 66 passes nearby is Funk’s Grove, located in central Illinois, which is named after its earliest settlers, Isaac and Absalom Funk, who arrived in the state in 1824. One of the most famous small businesses in town is Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup which has been producing Maple Sirup from the local sugar maple trees since 1891. I know what you’re thinking: sirup is a typo — it should be spelled “syrup.” There are actually two types of syrup with different spellings. If you visit the quaint Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup store you will see a handwritten sign that provides the following explanation:

WHY DO WE SPELL SIRUP WITH AN “I”?
Historically, and according to [Noah] Webster, “sirup” was the preferred spelling when referring to the product made by boiling sap. “Syrup” with a “y”, however, was defined as the end product of adding sugar to fruit juice. Though the “i” spelling is no longer commonly used, the United States Department of Agriculture and Canada also still use it when referring to pure maple sirup. Hazel Funk Holmes, whose trust continues to preserve and protect this timber for maple sirup production, insisted on the “i” spelling during her lifetime. It’s another tradition that will continue at Funk’s Grove.

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Fiction is A Compassion-Generating Machine

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“Fiction is a kind of compassion-generating machine that saves us from sloth. Is life kind or cruel? Yes, literature answers. Are people good or bad? You bet, says literature. But unlike other systems of knowing, literature declines to eradicate one truth in favor of another; rather, it teaches us to abide with the fact that, in their own way, all things are true, and helps us, in the face of this terrifying knowledge, continually push ourselves in the direction of ‘Open the Hell Up.’”

American writer George Saunders, from a talk on the transformative power of the short story, sponsored by Seattle Arts & Lecture (March 24, 2014). Saunders is best known for his short stories and essays. His novel, Lincoln in the Bardo published in 2017, won the Man Booker Prize. Many literary critics consider it to be one of the best novels of that period. In an interview with The Guardian (March 4, 2017), Saunders explains the inspiration for the deeply poignant novel: “Many years ago, during a visit to Washington DC, my wife’s cousin pointed out to us a crypt on a hill and mentioned that, in 1862, while Abraham Lincoln was president, his beloved son, Willie, died, and was temporarily interred in that crypt, and that the grief-stricken Lincoln had, according to the newspapers of the day, entered the crypt ‘on several occasions’ to hold the boy’s body. An image spontaneously leapt into my mind – a melding of the Lincoln Memorial and the Pietá. I carried that image around for the next 20-odd years, too scared to try something that seemed so profound, and then finally, in 2012, noticing that I wasn’t getting any younger, not wanting to be the guy whose own gravestone would read ‘Afraid to Embark on Scary Artistic Project He Desperately Longed to Attempt,’ decided to take a run at it, in exploratory fashion — no commitments.”

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

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What Do You Call Someone Who Loves Words?

alex atkins bookshelf wordsThey are out there, numbering in the millions. You know the type — they love working on crossword puzzles, word scrambles (known as anagrams or logogriphs), word searches; or they love playing Scrabble, Wordle, Words with Friends, and so forth. Others who love words collect dictionaries or books about words. All of these individuals embrace epeolatry, the worship of words. The word was coined by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., the famous American physician, professor, author and poet, in his thought-provoking book, The Professor of the Breakfast Table, published in 1860. Holmes writes: “Time, time only, can gradually wean us from our Epeolatry, or word-worship, by spiritualizing our ideas of the thing signified.” The word epeolatry is derived from the Greek words epos, meaning “word”, and -latry from latreia, meaning “worship.” The word is pronounced “ep-i-OL-ah-tree.” Therefore, a person who loves words is an epeolatrist; however there are many other terms for word lovers: armchair linguist, lexicomane, logolept, logophile, logophiliac, onomatomaniac, verbomaniac, verbivore (a word coined by linguist Richard Lederer in the early 1980s), wordaholic, word fanatic, word maven, and word nut. Paradoxically, most of these terms for word lovers are rare and do not appear in most conventional dictionaries. Go figure.

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
There’s a Word for That: Jouissance
There’s a Word for That: Abibliophobia
There’s a Word for That: Petrichor
There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist
There’s a Word for That: Pareidolia
There’s a Word for That: Macroverbumsciolist
There’s a Word for That: Ultracrepidarian
There’s a Word for That: Cacology

The Monumental Book that the Brothers Grimm Never Completed

alex atkins bookshelf booksMost readers are familiar with the Brothers Grimm (Jacob and Wilhelm) most famous book, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, originally published in 1812. The first edition was originally titled Kinder- und Hausmarchan (Children’s and Household Tales) and contained 86 fairy tales; almost a half century later, the book’s seventh edition contained 210 fairy tales. Although the book was very popular, the book that made the Grimm name really famous was Jacob’s German Grammar, published in 1819. But it was their last writing project for a monumental book that overwhelmed the brothers and thus, was never completed.

By the 1830s, following the success of their previous books, both Jacob and Wilhelm became professors at the University of Gottingen. In 1837, King Ernst August II who ruled the Kingdom of Hanover demanded that all academics swear an oath of loyalty to him. Because they refused, the Grimm Brothers were banished from the university and had to seek employment elsewhere. They accepted an offer from a Frankfurt publisher to create a comprehensive dictionary of the German language to be titled Deutsches Worterbuch (The German Dictionary). The two brothers began the work in 1838 and estimated that the dictionary would fill four volumes and take about ten years. They hired readers to read texts from German literature, from Luther to Goethe, from the 16th to 18th centuries, to identify words to include in the dictionary. The brothers underestimated the complexity of the project. The first volume (A to Biermolke) was not published until 1854, the second volume (Biermolke to E) was published in 1860. Sadly, the brothers never completed the dictionary: Wilhelm died in 1859 having completed “D”words, and Jacob died in 1863 midway through the “F” words (the last word he defined was “frucht” (fruit).

In 1867 the project received funding from the government and a team headed by Rudolf Hildebrand (a former proofread for the book) began work on completing the comprehensive dictionary. He worked diligently for years but only reached the letter K. The project stalled for some time and was resumed by two teams, one from Gottingen and another working from Berlin.  The German Dictionary was finally completed in 1961 containing more than 330,000 headwords in 32 volumes, weighing 84 kg. The dictionary, referred to as the DWB, is the German equivalent of the OED for English. The volumes that the Brothers Grimm wrote, A through F, were completely rewritten and published in 2016 — more than two centuries after the monumental book project was conceived. As of this writing, a first edition is worth about $2,000.

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: How Long Does It Take To Read Every Word in the Dictionary?
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Kim Kardashian’s Business Advice to Women Ignores An Essential Factor — Luck

alex atkins bookshelf cultureIn March 2022, Elizabeth Wagmeister of Variety sat down with the Kardashians for an interview (“Money Alway Matters: The Kardashians Tell All About Their New Reality TV Reign”) to discuss their ubiquitous presence on television and social media and their forthcoming series on Hulu. The Kardashians became a cultural phenomenon when their show, pretentiously titled Keeping Up With the Kardashians, premiered on E! in 2007, which coincidentally, was the same year that her famous (or infamous) sex tape leaked. Over 15 years, the mother and her five daughters adroitly leveraged that fame into individual lucrative business empires worth in excess of $5 billion combined.

In the interview, Wagmeister touches a raw nerve when she brings up a criticism that has nagged Kim (41) for over a decade — being famous for being famous; the journalist writes: “The Kardashians have been the subjects of harsh criticism over the years, but they’ve never been accused of not hustling. Kim bristles at the characterization that’s followed her for years — that she’s just famous for being famous. ‘Who gives a fuck,’ she says. ‘We focus on the positive. We work our asses off. If that’s what you think, then sorry. We just don’t have the energy for that. We don’t have to sing or dance or act; we get to live our lives — and hey, we made it. I don’t know what to tell you.’ But it is Kim’s unsolicited advice — given in a very condescending tone — to women that has generated the most controversy recently. Kim stated: “I have the best advice for women in business: get your fucking ass up and work! It seems like nobody wants to work these days. You have to surround yourself with people that want to work — no toxic work environments and show up and do the work.”

Within minutes her tone-deaf and insulting comments unleashed a tsunami of outrage and harsh criticism across social media. How dare she! Journalist Soledad O’Brien was prompted to tweet: “Also: be born rich. Really helps.” Many other tweets followed: “[To] ignore the pre-career privilege — a famous, uber rich father & vast LA network that included Paris Hilton at her peak of fame — is tone deaf at best, offensive at worst.”    “It’s easy to work hard when you work for pleasure rather than survival, when you’re free to take a vacation… whenever you like, without the worry of losing your home, or going hungry, or using your children because you can’t provide for them.”    “Kim K is one of the hardest working people out there but hard work is not a very good predictor of success in business. For every success story there are 100 other people working 2 jobs and living paycheck to paycheck.”   “I don’t doubt that Kim Kardashian works hard, but let’s not diminish the struggles of many women in the world. Her success and the struggles of others are not solely related to work ethic and more successful individuals need to acknowledge that.”

Some experts believe that not only are Kim Kardashian’s comments are not only outrageous, they are actually harmful, creating a sense of “toxic positivity” — the belief that no matter how difficult a situation is, a person should always maintain a positive mindset; it is toxic because it rejects the full range of human emotions (eg sadness, worry, pain, grieving) and replaces it with a cheerful, falsely positive facade. In an interview with CNBC, Emma Harrison, a senior lecturer in careers at Canterbury Christ Church University (UK) explained, “[Influencers like Kim Kardashian have] demonstrated ignorance of lived experience of the 99% and their messages pose real danger to their followers, especially those who are younger and more easily influenced. This idea that a person’s mindset can change everything or is the only thing holding them back is toxic and unhelpful in the same way that Kim Kardashian, Molly-Mae [Hague] and countless other influencer messages are.”

Not one to miss the opportunity to shove Kim Kardashian off her high horse, Trevor Noah used his platform on the Daily Show to add his perspective to the controversy:

“I know a lot of people are pissed off at Kim. I know. But if I’m perfectly honest, I can see this thing from both sides. I honestly can. Like, I can see it from Kim’s side… She’s like “You guys think I just take a few pictures and I go to a few events, and then suddenly I’m rich and famous, and you think it’s easy — but it’s not easy.” I understand that. Kim does a lot of work… But part of this idea that people have of Kim is Kim’s fault. I mean — think about it — for decades, the thing that she’s sold is “not work.” Yeah, in fact, she works really hard to look like she’s not working hard. Every photo on Instragram, she’s either on a beach or in a pool or in a hot tub — basically, any relaxing body of water, she’s there, you know? So I get why people have the idea that she doesn’t work, because you [just] don’t see it. Maybe Kim should put that stuff on Instragram, you know? Put up photos of late-night meetings, constant calls on product design. I mean, you can still do it in a bikini if you want, but the point is, you know, people should see more of the work. They’d understand…

But here’s the thing that maybe Kim Kardashian doesn’t understand: it can come off as extremely condescending to tell women that the reason they’re not successful is because they’re ‘too lazy to get off their asses and actually work’ because, yes, Kim Kardashian works hard, but you know who else works hard? Most women. But what their asses don’t have is Kim’s luck to be born into a rich family with a famous lawyer parent, and an even more famous Olympian step-parent, and all the access and the connections that that brings you. Think about it — if you’re lucky to have that, then yeah there’s a good chance that your hard work is gonna make you successful. But don’t forget how much luck has got to do with that success. Anyone who says “just work hard and thing will work out,” those people are forgetting a major component, known as luck. A lot of people work hard, and they’re still broke. In fact, a lot of the time, the broker you are, the harder you probably work.”

Noah’s response underscores the notion that you cannot succeed without luck and shatters the myth that hard work alone leads to success. If you read enough biographies of successful people you will find that most every single one benefited from some luck — the family they were born to, where they grew up, the schools they attended, the jobs they had, the mentors they had, and so forth. Most are familiar with the famous remark attributed to General Douglas MacArthur: “The best luck of all is the luck you make for yourself” or its variants like “I don’t believe in luck. I make my own luck.” Although these quotes are masquerading as inspirational words, they actually do harm, perpetuating the myth of the Protestant Ethic — that hard work leads to success. Moreover, these quotes completely miscontrue the fundamental concept of luck: the defintion of luck is chance — the possibility of something happening. You cannot make luck — it is something that happens (or doesn’t happen) in your life; you have no control over it. (The English language even has a word for beneficial luck: serendipity — the occurrence of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.) As Noah alluded to his remarks, a person cannot choose their parents and moreover, their parents’ professions, level of wealth, and their social and business connections. If we could make our own luck, we would all be buying winning lotto tickets, investing in the most valuable stocks, finding dream jobs early in our careers, and attending the most prestigious schools. But life doesn’t work that way — you need luck to succeed. Noah is absolutely correct: luck is often a major component of success and it should be openly recognized; it should not be considered taboo in the discussion of success or careers.

Acting, for example, is one of those professions where luck is absolutely critical for success. Many comedians quip that Los Angeles restaurants have the most over-qualified staffs — everyone is an actor, screenwriter, or producer, etc. But there are two notable actors who recognize the role of luck in their successful careers. The first is Bryan Cranston. In an interview with Brett Martin (“The Last Stand of Walter White, GQ Magazine, July 2013, Cranston explained, “It doesn’t matter if you’re good. If you’re just good you won’t succeed. If you have patience and persistence and talent and that’s it — you will not have a successful career as an actor. The elusive thing you need is luck.” The second is Harrison Ford who was interviewed by Glenn Plaskin (“The Real Harrison Ford,” San Francisco Chronicle, August 13, 1990) and said, “Hard work and a proper frame of mind prepare you for the lucky breaks that come along — or don’t.” Ford’s comment is right on: you have to put in the work to be prepared to recognize and capitalize on the lucky breaks (the opportunities) that come your way.

Let us end this discussion about luck with Clint Eastwood’s famous line from Dirty Harry (1971): “You have to ask yourself one question: do I feel lucky? Well, do you, punk?”

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Is Reading Essential for Success?
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How College Can Help You to Live a Good Life
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For further reading:
https://variety.com/2022/tv/features/kardashians-hulu-kris-kim-khloe-1235198939
buzzfeednews.com/article/ellendurney/kim-kardashian-backlash-over-business-advice
https://www.cnbc.com/2022/03/11/kim-kardashians-advice-to-women-in-business-is-getting-major-backlash.htm
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/toxic-positivity#risks

What is an Antigram?

alex atkins bookshelf wordsYou are probably familiar with an anagram, one of the most popular forms of word play that recombines all the letters of a word or phrase to create a new word or phrase. For example, “inch” is an anagram of “chin.” The anagram, of course, is at the heart of board games like Scrabble, Clabbers, Boggle, and Bananagrams and puzzles like Jumble and Cryptic Crosswords. An antigram is a type of anagram that is the antonym of the original word or phrase. A classic example of an antigram is “Santa = Satan.” Another one is “funeral = real fun” — which always lightens the mood at a gloomy funeral. Below are examples of antigrams:

adultery = true lady

adversaries = are advisers

butchers = cut herbs

customers = store scum

earliest = arrise late

evangelist = evil’s agent

filled = ill-fed

fluster = restful

funeral = real fun

honestly = on the sly

infection = fine tonic

militarism = I limit arms

misfortune = it’s more fun

protectionism = nice to imports

Santa = Satan

silent = listen

united = untied

violence = nice love

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Levidrome: The Word That Launched a Thousand Erroneous Stories
What is a Semordnilap?
What is a Phantonym?
What is the Longest Word in English Language?
Word Oddities: Fun with Vowels

What is an Abecedarian Insult?
Difficult Tongue Twisters
Rare Anatomy Words
What Rhymes with Orange?
Words with Letters in Alphabetical Order

For further reading: The Game of Words by Willard Espy
Oddities and Curiosities of Words and Literature by C. C. Tombaugh edited and annotated by Martin Gardner
A Word of Day by Anu Garg
Wordplay: A Curious Dictionary of Language Oddities by Chris Cole
The Dictionary of Wordplay by Dave Morice
A Treasury of Words & Wordplay by Richard Whiteley

What Would You Name Your Bookstore?

alex atkins bookshelf booksMost booklovers have at some point — if even for a fleeting moment — dreamed about opening their own bookstore. What’s there not to love: surrounded by bookcases full of books, enjoying that wonderful aroma of paper and ink, sharing your passion for reading and learning, and helping customers find that special book.

I will let you in on a little secret — you can actually indulge in the bibliophilic fantasy of running a bookstore without all the hassles and commitment (financial, legal, management, etc.). That’s right: you can actually run a bookstore for a fortnight — all for the cost of a typical hotel stay. Let me introduce you to The Open Book, a bookstore that you can rent on Airbnb (currently, for about $120 per night); however you will have to cross the Atlantic, because it is located in Wigtown in the southern part of Scotland. This charming small town with a population of less than 1,000 is home to almost a dozen bookshops.

The idea for a bookstore-for-rental came to American Jessica Fox when she quit her job at NASA and traveled to Scotland and fell in love with the small town of Wigtown. Wigtown is known as Scotland’s National Book Town and each year in September, hosts the annual Wigtown Book Festival. In an interview with CNN Travel, Fox explained, “I thought I couldn’t be the only crazy American who dreams of working in a bookshop by the sea in Scotland, there has to be more of us.” Lucky for her, as she was pondering this career change around 2010, a local bookshop announced it was closing, providing her with the perfect opportunity to buy it and create an entirely novel (pun intended) experience; she elaborated, “Finn McCreath, who is on the board of the [book] festival, and I decided to take it over and try out my idea of having a bookshop holiday.” Fox’s idea was a hit — The Open Book has been steadily, um… booked on Airbnb; moreover, there is a long waiting list for those who wish to fulfill their dream of running a bookstore. The Airbnb rental description reads, “Nestled into the pristine lowlands, The Open Book is a charming bookshop with apartment above in the heart of Wigtown, Scotland’s National Book Town. Live your dream of having your very own bookshop by the sea in Scotland… for a week or two.” Lovely.

But let’s return to that initial dream of running your own bookstore, assuming you do bit scuttle off to Scotland. What would you call your bookstore? If you scan the list of existing independent bookstores in the United States, you will see that booksellers use different strategies: a pun on books or reading, a literary or historical allusion, location of bookstore, or a their name. So, what would you name your bookstore?

Partial List of Independent Bookstores in United States by State

Alaska
Fireside Books

Arizona
Bookmans
Changing Hands Bookstore

California
Amicus Books
Bart’s Books
Bell’s Books
The Book Shop
Book Soup
Booksmith
Borderlands Books
Bound Together Anarchist Collective Bookstore
City Lights Bookstore
Computer Literacy Bookshops
Green Apple Books
Kepler’s Books
The Last Bookstore
Marcus Books
Mysterious Galaxy
Recycled Books
Verbatim Books
Vroman’s Bookstore

Colorado
Tattered Cover

Connecticut
R.J. Julia Booksellers

District of Columbia
Busboys and Poets
Kramerbooks & Afterwords
MahoganyBooks
Politics and Prose
World Bank Infoshop

Florida
Haslam’s Bookstore

Georgia
For Keeps

Illinois
New World Resource Center
Powell’s Books Chicago
Quimby’s Bookstore
Seminary Co-op
Unabridged Bookstore
Women & Children First

Indiana
Better World Books
Boxcar Books

Iowa
Prairie Lights

Kansas
Eighth Day Books
Rainy Day Books

Kentucky
Joseph-Beth Booksellers

Louisiana
Iron Rail Book Collective

Maine
Weiser Antiquarian Books

Maryland
Daedalus Books
Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse

Massachusetts
The Bookmill
Grolier Poetry Bookshop
Harvard Book Store
Lucy Parsons Center
The Odyssey Bookshop
Schoenhof’s Foreign Books
That’s Entertainment

Michigan
John K. King Books
Schuler Books & Music

Minnesota
Birchbark Books
Common Good Books
Mayday Books
SubText
Mager’s & Quinn

Mississippi
Square Books

Missouri
Left Bank Books

Nevada
Gambler’s Book Shop
The Writer’s Block

New York
Albertine Books
Bluestockings
Community Bookstore
Housing Works Bookstore Cafe
J. Levine Books and Judaica
The Mysterious Bookshop
Pomander Book Shop
Printed Matter, Inc
St. Mark’s Bookshop
The Strand Bookstore
Unnameable Books

North Carolina
Firestorm Cafe & Books
Internationalist Books

Ohio
Book Loft of German Village
Gramercy Books

Oregon
The Duck Store
Paper Moon Books
Powell’s Books

Pennsylvania
Giovanni’s Room Bookstore
Midtown Scholar Bookstore
Moravian Book Shop

South Carolina
Hub City Bookshop

Texas
BookPeople

Washington
Elliott Bay Book Company
Third Place Books
Left Bank Books
Magus Books
Mercer Street Books
Twice Sold Tales

Wisconsin
Renaissance Books
A Room of One’s Own
Woodland Pattern Book Center

What bookstore names are missing from this list?

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

For further reading:
Three Things You Need to Know About Rockets by Jessica Fox
http://www.wigtown-booktown.co.uk/the-open-book/

http://www.cnn.com/travel/article/wigtown-bookshop-vacation/index.html
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_independent_bookstores_in_the_United_States

Reading Makes Immigrants of Us All

alex atkins bookshelf booksTo celebrate National Read Across America Day, an initiative on reading created by the National Education Association, Atkins Bookshelf shares this timeless reflection on reading — and ultimately inclusion and acceptance — by American author and editor Hazel Rochman, who grew up in South Africa during the dark days of apartheid (emphasis added to last lines):

“Apartheid has tried to make us bury our books. The Inquisition and the Nazis burned books. Slaves in the United States were forbidden to read books. From Latin America to Eastern Europe, they’ve trashed books. But the stories are still here.

I believe that the best books can make a difference in building community….

As an immigrant, I’m still unable to take for granted the freedoms of the First Amendment. In Johannesburg I worked as a journalist, and over many years I saw freedom of thought and expression whittled away until it was forbidden to criticize the government or even to ask questions about children detained and tortured without trial. The result of that kind of censorship is that most people can shut out, can not know, what is happening all around them.

Walls were what apartheid was about. Walls and borders…

Borders shut us in, in Johannesburg, in Los Angeles, in Eastern Europe, in our own imaginations. The best books can help break down that apartheid. They surprise us — whether they are set close to home or abroad. They change how we see ourselves; they extend that phrase ‘like me’ to include what we thought was strange and foreign.

Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but, most importantly, it finds homes for us everywhere.”

From the essay “Against Borders” that appeared in The Horn Book Magazine, March/April 1995 issue, by Hazel Rochman. Rochman is an assistant editor at ALA Booklist and author of several books, including Somehow Tenderness Survives: Stories of Southern Africa (1988) and Bearing Witness: Stories of the Holocaust (1995).

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Reading Teaches that the Things that Torment Us are the Things that Connect Us
The Comfort of Reading During Difficult Times
World Literature Has the Power to Help Mankind in These Troubled Times
The Power of Literature
The Poems We Turn To
The Parable of the Farmer and His Fate

Why Is So Little Known About Shakespeare’s Life?

alex atkins bookshelf literatureAlthough he is considered the greatest dramatist in English literature, little is truly known about William Shakespeare (1564-1616). Like some of the most famous characters in his plays, he remains “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma” — to borrow Winston Churchill phrase [Churchill was actually referring to Russia in 1939, after they had signed the Nazi-Soviet Pact, at the beginning of WWI]. The scholars at the Folger Shakespeare Library describe the challenges that biographers and scholars face when writing about Shakespeare: “Since William Shakespeare lived more than 400 years ago, and many records from that time are lost or never existed in the first place, we don’t know everything about his life… We do know that Shakespeare’s life revolved around two locations: Stratford and London. He grew up, had a family, and bought property in Stratford, but he worked in London, the center of English theater. As an actor, a playwright, and a partner in a leading acting company, he became both prosperous and well-known. Even without knowing everything about his life, fans of Shakespeare have imagined and reimagined him according to their own tastes.” In his seminal work, The Facts About Shakespeare (1913), William Neilson adds this context: “In the time of Shakespeare, the fashion of writing lives of men of letters had not yet arisen. The art of biography could hardly be said to be even in its infancy, for the most notable early examples [Wolsey; Sir Thomas More]… are far from what the present age regards as scientific biography. The preservation of official records makes it possible for the modern scholar to reconstruct with considerable fullness the careers of public men; but in the case of Shakespeare, as of others of his profession, we must needs be content with a few scrappy documents, supplemented by oral traditions of varying degrees of authenticity.”

Despite this lack of biographical information, hundreds of biographies have been written about Shakespeare which are based on inferences gleaned from his body of work (“decoding” his plays), contemporary images (illustrations, maps, portraits), and his actual history (limited to about 60-70 actual facts that can be verified by documentary evidence, such as church records, parish records, court cases, wills, memoirs, letters, written accounts and anecdotes). It is from these “scrappy documents” that allows biographers to reimagine the Swan of Avon.

One of those reimagined biographies is by British novelist Anthony Burgess, best known for his violent dystopian novel Clockwork Orange, who published his speculative biography (or biographical novel) of Shakespeare in 1970. In the book’s foreward, Burgess writes: “I know that, as the materials available for a Shakespeare biography are very scanty, it is customary to make up the weight with what Dr Johnson would have termed encomiastic rhapsodies, but we are all tired of being asked to admire Shakespeare’s way with vowels or run-on lines or to thrill at the modernity of his philosophy or the profundity of his knowledge of the human heart… What I claim here is the right of every Shakespeare-lover who has ever lived to paint his own portrait of the man… Given the choice between two discoveries — that of an unknown play by Shakespeare and that of one of Will’s laundry lists — we would all plump for the dirty washing every time. That Shakespeare persists in presenting so shadowy a figure… is one of our reasons for pursuing him.”

Like Burgess, Isaac Asimov, the American writer best known for his popular science-fiction novels, was fascinated by the life and works of Shakespeare. Asimov was an amazingly prolific writer, having published more than 500 books during his career. One of those was Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare, published in 1978 (and republished several times thereafter) that explores Shakespeare’s 38 plays scene-by-scene including their historical, geographical, and mythological contexts; it also provides insights into the two narrative poems. In a later reference work, Asimov addressed the dearth of information about Shakespeare’s life: “It wasn’t until the Restoration [the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy, when King Charles II returned from an exile in continental Europe in 1660], which began nearly half a century after Shakespeare’s death, that anyone began to write about the bard. Biographically, it was too late; Shakespeare’s colleagues and acquaintances were dead, and the conditions under which he had worked were completely different. In addition, the world’s most distinguished playwright left no words about himself.” And that is perhaps the greatest irony in English literature: that the greatest writer who left the world such timeless and influential dramas, using language with such beauty, power, and eloquence, never left a single word about himself.

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: The Founding Father that Vandalized Shakespeare’s Chair
What if Shakespeare Wrote the Hits: Don’t Stop Believin
Were Shakespeare’s Sonnets Written to a Young Man?
When Was Shakespeare Born?
The Legacy of Shakespeare
Shakespeare the Pop Song Writer
The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folio
Who Are the Greatest Characters in Shakespeare?
The Most Common Myths About Shakespeare
Shakespeare and Uranus
Best Editions of Shakespeare’s Sonnets

For further reading:
Shakespeare by Anthony Burgess
The Facts About Shakespeare by William Neilson
Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare by J. O. Halliwell-Phillipps
William Shakespeare: A Study of Facts and Problems (Volume 1-2) by E. K. Chambers
Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare by Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov’s Book of Facts by Isaac Asimov
The Truth About William Shakespeare: Fact, Fiction and Modern Biographies by David Ellis

Nine Lives of William Shakespeare by Graham Hoderness
Shakespeare Survey (Volume 70): Creating Shakespeare edited by Peter Holland

shakespearedocumented.folger.edu
anthonyburgess.org/anthony-burgess-and-shakespeare/

The Symbolism of Twosday — 2.22.22

alex atkins bookshelf triviaToday is a very special day: 2-22-22 that falls on Tuesday, the second day of the week — also referred to as Twosday. Because the date is a palindrome (it can be read the same way forward of backward), it is considered a sign of good luck. This has inspired hundreds of weddings to take place on this day, all around the globe. Several cities, like Las Vegas and Singapore report record-breaking number of weddings on that day, especially when couples can tie the knot at exactly 2:22 pm. In an interview with The Washington Post, Aliza Kelly, a celebrity astrologer believes that Twosday has a metaphysical meaning: “When we have a repeating number such as two two-two two-two, we have this sort of metaphysical thought which says that this evokes a feeling within us because it is connected to these higher esoteric metaphysical frequencies that align us.”

In numerology, because Twosday is a series of repeating numbers it is considered an Angel Number. An Angel Number has spiritual significance. Specifically it conveys the need for balance, harmony, and equilibrium in one’s life. Celebrity spirit guide Megan Firester explains, “Angels speak to us in synchronistic ways, which basically means that we will see something over and over again, so much so that it goes beyond mere coincidence.”

According to Jean Chevalier, author of the authoritative A Dictionary of Symbols, two represents several meanings: “[Two] is the symbol of confrontation, conflict, and recoil and denotes either balance achieved, or hidden threat. It is the figure which epitomizes all ambivalence and split personality. It is the first to separate and it separates most radically — creator and creature, black and white, male and female, matter and spirit, and so on — and it is the source of all other divisions… The number two symbolizes dualism, the basis of all dialectic, endeavor, struggle, movement, and progress.”

In his seminal work, A Dictionary of Symbols, Juan Cirlot writes: “Two  stands for echo, reflection, conflict and counterpoise or contraposition; or the momentary stillness of focus in equilibrium.”

Speaking of two, ever wonder how many two-letter words exist in the English language? If you are a aficionado of Scrabble or crosswords puzzles, you may be familiar with the common ones (like be, go, he, and it) as well as the more esoteric ones (like ba, et, oe, za). According to the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary (6th Edition) there are 107 two-letter words in the English language. Of those, about 80 are fairly common and used often.

The number two is very popular in English idioms. The Free Dictionary lists more than 300 idioms containing the word two. Here are some common idioms:

to be of two minds about something

like two peas in a pod

choose the lesser of two evils

a game that two can play

to kill two birds with one stone

not have two pennies to rub together

two steps ahead of someone

give ones two cents

a thing or two

two strikes against

your number two

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Famous Books with Numbers in Their Titles
The Surprising Original Titles of Famous Novels
Famous Epic Novels by the Numbers

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2022/02/21/2-22-22-meaning/
http://www.wellandgood.com/what-are-angel-numbers/
en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Scrabble/Two_Letter_Words
idioms.thefreedictionary.com/two

A Heroine’s Self-Education in a Hidden Library

alex atkins bookshelf books“Books, books, books!
I had found the secret of a garret-room
Pile high with cases in my father’s name,
Piled high, packed large, —where, creeping in
and out
Among the giant fossils of my past,

Like some small nimble mouse between the
ribs
Of a mastodon, I nibbled here and there
At this or that box, pulling through the gap,
In heats of terror, haste, victorious joy,
The first book first. And how I felt it beat
Under my pillow, in the morning’s dark,

An hour before the sun would let me read!
My books! At last because the time was ripe,
I chanced upon the poets.”

From Aurora Leigh (1857), an epic poem/novel written in blank verse by American poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The novel, broken up into nine chapters, is narrated by the heroine, Aurora Leigh, who describes her childhood, growing up in Florence, London, and Paris. Since her mother died when she was young, Aurora’s father raised her. He was a scholar and shared his passion for Greek and Latin and inspired her love of learning. When she was thirteen, her father died and she moved to London to be raised by her aunt. At the aunt’s home, Aurora discovers her father’s hidden library where she begins her self-education through the works of Shakespeare and all the great writers. She pursues a literary career as a poet and eventually marries Romney Leigh, a philanthropist. Aurora reflects on the significance of poetry as well as the individual’s responsibility to society. English art critic and writer John Ruskin believed that Aurora Leigh was the greatest poem of the 19th century.

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: The Comfort of Reading During Difficult Times
World Literature Has the Power to Help Mankind in These Troubled Times
The Power of Literature
The Poems We Turn To
Reading Teaches Us that the Things that Torment Us Are the Things that Connect Us

The Wisdom of Yiddish Proverbs: 2022

atkins-bookshelf-quotationsYiddish, which originated in Central Europe in the 9th century, represents a mellifluous melting pot of many languages–Aramaic, Hebrew, Czechoslovakian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, and Russion, to name a few. Moreover, the language gave rise to proverbs that passed on wisdom from one generation to the next via a rich oral tradition. And as Hanan Ayalti notes in his introduction to Yiddish Proverbs, “The proverb is the unwritten testimony of a people. It expresses its view, as the case may be, on life and how human beings of all sorts live it, on God, and the world, good fortune and bad, youth and old age; it reflects deep-rooted expectations and disappointments. The Yiddish proverb here thus reveals the soul of the Jewish people of the Eastern European world.” Bookshelf presents some pearls of Yiddish wisdom that are treasured and, of course, timeless:

A nasty tongue is worse than a wicked hand.

A friend is got for nothing, an enemy has to be paid for.

A word to the good is enough, but even a stick won’t help the bad.

A man should live if only to satisfy his curiosity.

A fool takes two steps where a wise man takes none.

Better a bad peace than a good war.

A lock is meant only for honest men.

Better one old friend than two new.

Talk too much and you talk about yourself.

A man is what he is, not what he used to be.

Life is the greatest bargain; we get it for nothing.

Money buys everything except sense.

If you have learning, you’ll never lose your way.

Learning cannot be bequeathed.

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Wisdom of a Grandmother
Wisdom of Tom Shadyac
Wisdom of Morrie Schwartz

For further reading: Yiddish Proverbs by Hanan Ayalti (Shocken Books, 1963)

Fractured English From Around the World

alex atkins bookshelf wordsFractured English is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “a facetious term for inadequate and amusing English as used by non-native speakers.” I suppose you could call them English bloopers. The amusement, of course, is elicited by the incongruity by what the non-native speaker intends their sentence to mean and what it actually means. Generally, the incongruity is caused by incorrect word usage, awkward sentence structure, mixed metaphor, mangled idiom, or malapropism. 

Recently, while browsing the shelves of a used bookstore, I came across a small book titled English Well Speeched Here and Other Fractured Phrases from Around the World (1988) by American journalist Nino Lo Bello. Bello shares some of the actual fractured English signs that he has seen in his travels around the globe. Here are some amusing examples of non-natives struggling with the English language:

Norway (bar): Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.

Tokyo (bar): Special cocktails for ladies with nuts.

Copenhagen (airline ticket office): We take your bags and send them in all directions.

Bangkok (temple): It is forbidden to enter a woman even a foreigner if dressed as a man.

Brussels (clothing store): Come inside and have a fit.

Madrid (hotel): If you wish disinfections enacted in your presence, please cry out for the chambermaid.

Rumania (hotel): The life is being fixes for the next few days. During that time we regret that you will be unbearable.

Sweden (clothing store): Fur coats made for ladies from their own skin.

Lisbon (hotel): If you wish for breakfast, lift the telephone and ask for room service. This will be enough for you to bring your food up.

Geneva (business district): The parade will take place in the morning if it rains in the afternoon.

Budapest (zoo): Please do not feed the animals. If you have any suitable food give it to the guard on duty.

Seville (tailor shop): Order now your summer suit. Because is big rush we will execute customers in strict rotation.

France (hotel): A sports jacket may be worn to dinner but no trousers.

Finland (bathroom, sign by faucet): To stop the drip turn cock to right.

Athens (hotel, sign at concierge’s desk): If you consider our help impolite, you should see the manager.

England (restaurant): Our establishment serves tea in a bag like mother.

Czechoslovakia (carriage rides): Take one of our horse-driven city tours. We guarantee no miscarriages.

London (sign on restaurant window): Wanted: man to wash dishes and two waitresses.

Majorca (sign outside a shop): Here speeching American.

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: What is a Barbarism?
The History of the World According to Student Bloopers
Words with Letters in Alphabetical Order
What is the Longest Word in English Language?
Word Oddities: Fun with Vowels

What is an Abecedarian Insult?
Difficult Tongue Twisters
Rare Anatomy Words
What Rhymes with Orange?

Political Parties Focus on the Professional Class and Ignore Facts Outside Their Class

alex atkins bookshelf culture“It may be that my entire theory is wrong and maybe experts shouldn’t be in charge of government… I study history when I am faced with a problem like that. Turns out that there is a great book on this subject about another example of government by experts. It’s The Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam… It’s a book about the Vietnam War and how we got into that war and how it kept going against [enormous opposition]; when everyone was telling the administration back in Washington this is a stupid war you need to stop it. And the answer is the exact same thing that I said tonight: the professional class refusing to acknowledge evidence from outside their class barriers. The people advising him [President Lyndon Johnson] were these Harvard guys — [the] chairman of the political science department at Harvard advising Lyndon Johnson and running the war with the computer. And people come to him [and said] ‘this war is stupid, this war is a disaster’; he’s like ‘where’s your PhD?’… After I read that I think to myself, damn — maybe government by experts never works.”

Excerpt from the lecture “What to Make of the Age of Trump” by Thomas Frank, author of Rendezvous with Oblivion; People Without Power; What’s the Matter with Kansas? The lecture, presented on April 6, 2017, was sponsored by the Kansas City Public Library. The book that Frank mentions, The Best and the Brightest, earned Halberstam the Pulitzer Prize in 1964. Of course, Halberstam used those terms “best” and “brightest” ironically, because some of the smartest people in the country (including John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, along with dozens of ivy-league educated experts) consistently ignored the facts and advice from individuals outside their professional class and got the country entangled in one of the deadliest, costliest wars in American modern history. Then, thanks to the release of the Pentagon Papers, Americans learned that these experts lied to the public about it for years. Frank argues that this rejection of facts outside one’s social class was taken to an entirely new level by Trump, and is now a hallmark of Republican politics (eg, the stolen election, anti-vax movement, rewriting history of the January attack on the Capitol, fake news, etc.).

Another argument Frank makes in his lecture is that both American political parties are essentially class parties — representing the elite, well-educated, affluent professional parties as opposed to the working class. And it is only this professional class that prospers from the growth in the economy at the expense of the working class. To emphasize this point, Frank shares this sobering statistic: from 1930 to 1980, the lower 90% of the country’s population took home 70% of the growth in the country’s income; from 1997 to 2016, that same group shared NONE of this country’s income growth at all. The upper 10% of the population of the professional class consumed the entire thing. He adds, “To be a young person in America these days is to understand instinctively the downward slope that so many of us are on these days.”

One of the trends that fascinates Frank is how in the 1970s, the Democratic party turned away from the working class people and instead embraced the “winners” of the post-industrial economy. In this case, the winners were “the highly-educated, well-credentialed professional class who populate our innovative knowledge industries.” Note the irony of this evolution: in the 1950s, this demographic was one of the most Republican groups in society; by the 1990s they were the most Democratic. Franks adds, “The Democratic Party is a class party — but not the party of the working class. Although the Democratic Party represents many constituent groups, highly-educated professionals are the ones who come first — they’re the ones who sit in the front row with their hands on the steering wheel; the rest of us ride in back.”

If you want to join the professional class, it comes at an enormous price. Frank discussed how college costs in America are out of control; students are graduating with enormous debt — from $50,000 to $250,000. He states: college students are going out into our modern economy with the equivalent of a mortgage without a house to show for it.

To view the lecture search “What to Make of the Age of Trump by Thomas Frank” on YouTube.

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

For further reading: A Republic, If You Can Keep It
What is the Declaration of Independence Worth?
Is the United States a Democracy or Republic?
There is a Cult of Ignorance in the United States
Are We Living in an Orwellian World?

The Importance of Music in Film

alex atkins bookshelf musicMost moviegoers consider cinema a visual medium; however, it is undoubtedly also an aural experience. Talk to any director and they will tell you that music is just as important as the look of a movie. In film study, the term “film aesthetic” refers to a movie’s visual and aural features that are used to create its non-narrative aspects — specifically, a film’s tone, style, mood, or look.

In a film, music serves several important functions: it can influence a viewer’s interpretation of a scene, evoke a specific emotion, foreshadow certain events, identify a specific character, or link together certain scenes or themes of a film. In some cases, a movie’s soundtrack becomes as iconic as the film — think of the themes of the following movies: Star Wars, The Godfather, Titanic, Chariots of Fire, Saturday Night Fever, The Bodyguard, and The Lion King.

If you search “Importance of Music in Film” you will find a few examples of a film sequence with and without music as well as a specific film sequence that is accompanied by different types of music. The juxtapositions are clear and striking — in this manner, you can appreciate the added layers of meaning that music brings to film and how those layers subtly change your perception. That nuanced meaning is exactly what writers of captions (also referred to as “closed captions”) attempt to convey for viewers who cannot hear the audio track of a film. (Incidentally, a subtitle is not the same thing as a caption. A subtitle is simply a translation of the spoken dialogue into another language, while a caption includes dialogue and non-speech elements, like music and sound effects). The next time you watch a movie on a streaming service like Netflix or Amazon Prime, turn on the captioning feature and see how descriptive captions for music can get. Here is a sampling from several recent films and documentaries that were featured on these streaming platforms:

brooding music

dark music

dramatic music

eerie music

emotional music

epic music

foreboding music

frightening music

gentle music

inquisitive music

intense music

intense musical buildup

majestic music

majestic orchestration

mellow music

music decreases in tempo

music ends

music increases in tempo

ominous music

pensive music

rousing music

sinister music

soft dramatic music

soft music

soft music playing

soft pensive music

soft rousing music

soft tense music

solemn music

somber instrumental

somber music

somber orchestration

suspenseful music

sweeping orchestration

tense music

upbeat music intensifies

uplifting music

uplifting orchestration

whimsical music

What music description captions caught your attention?

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

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What was the Most Checked Out Book at a Library in 2021?

alex atkins bookshelf booksA measure of a community can be measured, to some extent, by the books that patrons of the local library check out the most. It gives you a sense of what they are concerned about, what they are curious about, and age range of reader. Last year, the New York Public Library began keeping track of the most checked out books of the year. For 2021, the librarians looked at the circulation data from all three branches (Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island) to develop their list of the most checked out books (including printed and e-books) for 2021:

1. The Vanishing Half: A Novel by Brit Bennett

2. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

3. Klara and the Sun: A Novel by Kazuo Ishiguro

4. A Promised Land by Barack Obama

5. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

6. The Guest List: A Novel by Lucy Foley

7. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

8. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb

9. The Other Black Girl: A Novel by Zakiya Dalila Harris

10. Malibu Rising: A Novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The editors of Quartz, an online business magazine, conducted a survey to find out the most checked out book among all U.S. public libraries. Although there are 9,057 public libraries in the U.S. (116,867 total if you included special, armed forces, and government libraries), they focused on public libraries in major cities. Based on the data from 14 libraries that responeded, here are the most popular U.S. library books of 2021:

1. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

2. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

3. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

4. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Deep End by Jeff Kinney

5. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

6. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

7. A Promised Land by Barack Obama

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

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William Faulkner on the Writer’s Duty
A Beautiful, Inspiring Letter to Borges, the Patron of the Great Library

For further reading: http://www.nypl.org/spotlight/top-checkouts-2021
qz.com/2102283/the-most-popular-us-library-books-of-2021/