Category: Update

Library Is a Space Ship, Time Machine and Much More

“A library, to modify the famous metaphor of Socrates, should be the delivery room for the birth of ideas – a place where history comes to life.”

Norman Cousins

Though it’s an apt characterization, a library has been labelled in many more ways. For some, it’s a getaway, a place they tip-toe into to gain a momentary respite from their daily grinds. For some, it’s a vast ocean of knowledge they dip their minds in to get enlightened. For writers, it can be both. And so much more.

This issue features a few essays that depict what libraries mean to a few writers and what, according to them, they should mean to everyone else.

Featured Writing

Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming

In this lecture explaining the importance of using our imaginations, and providing for others to use theirs, Neil Gaiman emphasizes on why it’s an obligation for all us, citizens, to support libraries and to inculcate the love for books among children, right from early ages. Highlighting first the significance of reading books, specifically fiction, he goes on to make one understand why it’s absurd to “perceive libraries as a shelf of books”.

Libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information. I worry that here in the 21st century people misunderstand what libraries are and the purpose of them. If you perceive a library as a shelf of books, it may seem antiquated or outdated in a world in which most, but not all, books in print exist digitally. But that is to miss the point fundamentally.

A library is many things

One would agree whole-heartedly with the title when it’s a mix of prominent personalities – an astronaut, a sci-fi writer, a painter, a cartoonist and a children’s author – convincing you about it. “Early-1971, in an effort to attract as many youngsters to the premises as possible, Marguerite Hart — children’s librarian at the newly-opened public library in Troy, Michigan — wrote to a number of notable people with a request: to reply with a congratulatory letter, addressed to the children of Troy, in which the benefits of visiting such a library were explained.” From amongst the responses from the likes of Neil Armstrong, Isaac Asimov, and Dr Seuss, here’s a snippet from the letter from E. B. White.

A library is many things. It’s a place to go, to get in out of the rain. It’s a place to go if you want to sit and think. But particularly it is a place where books live, and where you can get in touch with other people, and other thoughts, through books. If you want to find out about something, the information is in the reference books—the dictionaries, the encyclopedias, the atlases. If you like to be told a story, the library is the place to go. Books hold most of the secrets of the world, most of the thoughts that men and women have had. And when you are reading a book, you and the author are alone together—just the two of you.

My Manhattan; Not Just a Library, an Oasis of Civilization

Susan Jacoby’s love letter to New York Public Library, particularly its newly restored main reading room and its Center for Scholars and Writers. As she recounts the time that she spent in the library as the world changed outside, you can’t help but wonder if there’s any other apt description for this place than “an oasis of civilization” as she refers.

In a compartmentalized and bureaucratized American academic culture, the library is one of the last bastions of respect for those who try to carry on an older but increasingly archaic tradition of independent scholarship embodied by men like Kazin. My current research is concerned with the marginalization of secularism and free thought – the lovely, anachronistic term that appeared at the end of the 17th century – in American history. The range of the library’s holdings on this quirky and controversial subject has given me a new appreciation of the courage and vision of past generations of New York librarians, who collected material without regard for the received religious and political opinion of their time.

Featured Video

Featured Writer

Lena Valencia

A writer, editor and a teacher, Lena has published many short stories as part of publications and anthologies; one among them is the brilliant short story Mystery Lights published at CRAFT magazine. Though it’s not a mystery, Lena has you glued throughout as you learn more about the central character Windy and the other supporting characters. As the main plot about the show around Marfa lights is slowly unravelled, it glides into a crazed climax that brings a smile on your face. You can’t help but wonder if the Marfa town and the notorious lights that form the backdrop to this story are indeed magical.

Featured Tool

Pocket

Though libraries act as a repository of all the words ever written and published as books, many are also published independently online. Nonetheless, they can be equally significant, powerful and meaningful for an individual. As a free read-it-later service, Pocket allows you to catch up on these articles without being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of the written works available. With an optional premium subscription, it can also be your permanent library of articles and stories that you read online.

One Final Inspiration

Postscript

This post was delivered first as part of my weekly newsletter Slanting Nib & A Keyboard. Do read the archives and subscribe here.

The sixth issue of Slanting Nib & A Keyboard newsletter is out today. It features a few essays that depict what libraries mean to a few writers and what, according to them, they should mean to everyone else. A mix of prominent personalities out to corroborate, with their powerful words, the significance of library, and how a library is many things — now that’s something I wouldn’t want to miss.

So, do give it a read online. If what you read interests you, do subscribe. If you are already subscribed and have been enjoying the issues, please forward them to your friends.

I subscribed to Pocket Premium today. Recently, I have been reading a lot of articles on the web. And most of the times, it is on Pocket. I save the recommended articles from newsletters, blogs or Twitter to be read later and catch up on them towards the end of the day. Or when I have some free time at my hand.

What’s in the Premium option that made me upgrade from the free tier, you ask? Well, first of all, I wanted to support a service that’s part of Mozilla family. I’ve been a long time Instapaper user, but since Mozilla acquired Pocket, I have been using the later as my primary read later service.

I have also been using Pocket extensively to find the right articles to be included as part of my newsletter. I read a lot, heavily curate and include just a few of them. So my Pocket list and archive are always full of some great writings from many brilliant sources. I do not want to lose any of these wonderful essays.

I wanted to make Pocket a sort of my online reading library — it’s even better if it’s permanent as Pocket promises with an upgrade to Premium. The upgrade also offers full-text search which comes handy when finding that one article that talked about some peculiar topic. The biggest draw was the unlimited highlighting. The 3 highlights that the free option offered was limiting when each long read that I saved was full of thoughts worthy of absorption and introspection.

I have paid for a year; the pricing that it offers in-app is worth my current extent of the use of the service. I will re-evaluate after a year again. For now, Pocket stays the service of my choice.

This, That and A Lot on Punctuation

“I found a great many pieces of punctuation and typography lying around dormant when I came along – and I must say I had a good time using them.” – Tom Wolfe

A lot has been said and suggested by authors, amateur and experienced, on how we should and should not use punctuation. Setting aside the perpetual debates around specific punctuation marks, the importance of punctuation in making writing intelligible for a reader is never in doubt.

This issue features essays that provide a brief history of how punctuation evolved, its significance, some valuable tips and witty guidelines on using the marks.


Featured Writing

The Definition and Basic Rules of Punctuation

Richard Nordquist at ThoughtCo. takes us deep into the meaning and importance of punctuation. More than being an essay about brief on punctuation, it details the history of punctuation, its relevance before and after the introduction of printing, and the recent trends in the use of punctuation. Dr. Nordquist has it all covered.

The beginnings of punctuation lie in classical rhetoric—the art of oratory. Back in ancient Greece and Rome, when a speech was prepared in writing, marks were used to indicate where—and for how long — a speaker should pause. Until the 18th century, punctuation was primarily related to spoken delivery (elocution), and the marks were interpreted as pauses that could be counted out.

The Comma From Which My Heart Hangs

Benjamin Samuel at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency describes the great power comma possesses in our writing. Backing his argument with some pertinent examples, he delivers his point with an abundance of wit and tinge of humor that is a signature of every article at McSweeney’s.

If nothing else, one ought to know how to treat a comma. Abandonment or abuse of the comma muddles discourse, and this lack of respect is akin to neglect, to a lack of appreciation, to an unreasonable rejection of the very foundation of all worthy human interactions. (…) It simply cannot be said too often that punctuation, not just the noble comma, is crucial to communication and comprehension. Truly, a poorly constructed sentence can set worlds crumbling, can alter perceptions irreparably.

Tips on Grammar, Punctuation and Style

“If the rules you learned about commas and semi-colons don’t mean much to you, forget them and try this.” That is how Kim Cooper begins this helpful guide on punctuation published for Writing Center at Harvard University. This is a handy list of suggestions on how one can check the selection of punctuation like commas and semi-colons, dashes and hyphens as part of her writing.

If you don’t want your reader to pause, there shouldn’t be a comma, there, because as, this demonstrates it’s very difficult to figure, out, what you’re saying when your punctuation, makes the sentence unreadable. Your sentences shouldn’t leave your reader hyperventilating from the constant shallow breaths that over-punctuation requires. Nor should they be gasping for breath at the end of a long, unpunctuated sentence. (Consider yourself responsible for your readers’ cardiovascular health.)


Featured Video


Featured Writer

Caleb Tankersley

Caleb published a dark short story “Swarm Creatures” as part of Carve magazine’s Summer 2020 edition. He has woven the story wonderfully with some intricate, mysterious elements. With his vivid imagination and a fascinating way to word it, he very beautifully mirrors the darkness and the messy calmness of the swarm with mind within the central character.

The swamp is impressive, a gargling pool stretching as far as we can see from our backyard, tall ghostly trees sticking out of it and obscuring the horizon. We’ve been renting the same house two years but never explore too far back, some sense of reverence holding us.


Featured Tool

The Punctuation Guide

This is a pretty comprehensive guide to punctuation, though primarily focused on the current style of American punctuation, meticulously created by Jordan Penn. It also has clear examples of how American style differs from the British style. In Jordan’s words, he “consulted dozens of authorities, both online and in print. Where the authorities disagree, I either have explained the various positions or have presented the style I believe to be most useful”. This should be a pretty handy reference guide for anyone writing at any level.


One Final Inspiration


Postscript

This post was delivered first as part of my weekly newsletter Slanting Nib & A Keyboard. Do read the archives and subscribe here.

Another issue of Slanting Nib & A Keyboard newsletter is out today. It features essays that provide a brief history of how punctuation evolved, its significance, some valuable tips and witty guidelines on using the marks.

This week’s issue also introduces a slight twist in the featured author’s section. With every issue going ahead, I will feature specific writing from the writer being featured instead of a broad collection of works from him. It can be a short story, a poem or an essay.

Again, do give it a read online. If what you read interests you, do subscribe. If it doesn’t interest you, do let me know what doesn’t work for you. I would love to hear it all.

I have published 5 issues of the newsletter and I have set the tone for the newsletter now. Setting the tone was the next mini-milestone for me. The newsletter has already been featured by Inbox Reads and Thanks for Subscribing and I couldn’t have asked for more. Now, I wish to continue the journey and focus on how I can interest more people to subscribe. Your feedback will, for sure, help.

The next issue of Slanting Nib & A Keyboard is out now and should be in your inbox if you have already subscribed. It features a few brilliant essays from some well-known voices on the importance and effectiveness of writing styles.

If you haven’t yet subscribed, do give it a read online. I appreciate each and every bit of feedback I receive — it helps me stay motivated to keep doing this every week. I have been extremely delighted with the feedback I have received until now on past issues.

On a personal front, I am reading a lot more to curate each issue of the newsletter and there’s nothing more positive that can come out of this whole exercise.

The third issue of Slanting Nib & A Keyboard newsletter is out today. It features thoughts from a few brilliant minds on what makes writing natural. Be it in a notebook to be relished privately. Or be it published to be critiqued openly. Again, am pretty satisfied with how even this issue has come out. The featured writings are inspiring for me.

These past few weeks have been a great learning experience. When I had started planning for this newsletter around a month back, I gave myself a small target – publish 3 issues. Don’t think about subscribers. Don’t think about the future or the tone or the structure. Just make sure 3 issues are consistently delivered over 3 weeks and what is included in every issue excites me. I feel I have managed that.

With the first checkpoint reached, I don’t intend to stop yet. I want to continue towards the next goal – set the tone.

The second issue of Slanting Nib & A Keyboard is out and should be in your inboxes if you’d subscribed. I hope it caught your interest and hopefully brought a smile to your face and some thoughts in your mind.

If you haven’t subscribed, you can read it online. And if you do like it, please subscribe. I have also published a page that spells out why I started the newsletter and what you can expect from each issue.

I am pretty excited with this side project — if nothing else, it has made me discover some gem of essays from minds way smarter than mine. I hope the zeal stays on.

The second issue of my weekly newsletter Slanting Nib & A Keyboard is ready and scheduled to be delivered in a few hours. I am completely humbled by the feedback and the response that the first issue received. I hope the second issue manages to keep the interest intact for the subscribers.

I am pretty excited with how this latest one has turned out too. Do check out the first issue and subscibe if you missed to do so earlier.

I have been working with David Merfield on a little side project. The idea started simple – what if there was a simple posting interface for Blot? In extension, something that one can use to write and publish a post to Dropbox. Blot is simple as-is for writing and posting (it’s all files). But there are times when I do want to quickly post from my web browser. And for such times, I still need a simple writing interface.

That thought was enough to interest both me and David. We got to work. The project got neglected in between. And then was picked up again. And I think, it is in a state now where it can really be useful to a few. I can attest to that because I, myself, have been using it for few days now.

Here’s Wall — a web-accessible text-editor over Dropbox, works nicely with Blot.

I believe this would be useful for many. It is clean. It is light, pure-client side application. It supports local drafts. It can export markdown. It can publish to Blot. Perfect for all those text posts.

I have my own fork of the project where I want to use the editor and support publishing to multiple places. To start with, I have extended it to post it anywhere in Dropbox.

I have hosted it here as Scribe. I plan to extend it next to be used as a micropub client. Still in works, though.

Of course, this is not perfect yet. For one, it does not work well on smaller screens. But it is a good enough. Do give it try.