Tag Archives: Books

An unquiet cataloger

photo(5)“What is the greatest joy of Arabic cataloging?” asks Jessamy, “I will tell you: serious works with rhyming titles.”

The creator of Ghilafaat, a curious sounding Instragram feed and Tumblr site, Jessamy Klapper gives followers a glimpse of newly published Arabic and Persian book covers with a candid piece of commentary. Jessamy has access to a conveyor belt of interesting new acquisitions, from poetry to short stories to textbooks, as a cataloger at Columbia University.

Ghilafaat is a made-up plural of ghilaaf, the Arabic word used to refer to a book cover. Jessamy’s posts are a compelling look into the world of Arab and Persian literature. Ghilafaat is the only place I see these covers and imagery.

“Ghilafaat are the fleeting impressions and ideas you get from glancing at the cover of a book,” said Jessamy. “The things that make you want to turn back and look again…or hurry away!” Some covers stand on their own as works of art. The designs incorporate colorful typography, photography, playful illustrations, and collage. Others are more subdued. For a simple cover with a black and white portrait, Jessamy writes, “Here’s Ahmad Reza Ahmadi looking pensive again, this time on the cover of Naser Saffarian’s study of the poet’s work: A Poet Unlike His Poems.”

Jessamy shares these books because she loves the material. “Sometimes I am already familiar with the book or author before it arrives – I tend to highlight those books as well, just because I’m excited to see them! It’s like spotting a familiar face in a crowd of strangers.”

Here are three of Jessamy’s favorite posts from Ghilafaat:

1. I loved the Nowherelanders, for exactly the same reason I wrote in the original posts. I’d love to do translations of the Nowherelanders’ individual bios.

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Meet the fascinating faces of Nowhereland! This is catalogued as a collection of short stories, but it’s almost like an art catalog. Each story is presented as the bio of a particular character, photographed and presented in detail. I love these ugly-cute-strange doll-sculpture-people. My Persian professor was so enamored of them, he got his own copy. Author/artist: Alireza Mir’asadullah. #persian #art #fiction #books #bookcovers #dollmaking #sculpture #mixedmedia

2. This book is one of my favorites because it has gorgeous illustrations, and it’s a bilingual edition. The book I photographed here is actually the second copy I’ve cataloged – the first one passed through before I created Ghilafaat & I thought I had missed my chance!

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Gorgeous watercolor illustrations on (and inside!) this bilingual volume on the Emir Abdelkader. #art #arabic #french #history #books #bookcovers #coverart

3. This book isn’t really one of my favorite covers, but I wanted to share something that illustrates another side of this project – sometimes the books make me laugh. This one is a sort of tabloid-style ‘expose’ on the life of a star from Egyptian cinema’s Golden Age – Su’ad Husni. It has all the markings of something you would see on your way out the grocery aisle; insensitive, sensational questions in bold type, references to heretofore unseen documents, a glamorous photo of the starlet made ominous by a black background…On top of everything else, the author Samir Farraj has added a sort of pen name: ‘Ibn al-Shati” This title translates to Son of the Beach, and I’m really not mature enough to let something like that slide. ghila_3

WAIT, wait, wait—am I cataloging acquisitions at a respected research institution, or am I in line at the grocery store (of golden age Egyptian cinema, that is)? “Suad Hosny: did she kill herself, or was she murdered?” This macabre piece promises to include heretofore unseen documents and also declares that this “book is considered a historic document.” By whom, we don’t know. Side note: Author Samir Farraj seems to have a nickname of sorts “Ibn al-Shati’” which literally translates to ‘Son of the Beach.’ Hmm. #arabic #egypt #suadhosny #egyptiancinema #scandals #books #bookcovers

Top Image: Jessamy at the library, taken by Natalie.

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Summer Reading Remix

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In anticipation of abundant outdoor leisure time, we tend to be overly ambitious in our summer reading goals. Realistically, most of us will be lucky to finish one book, let alone two or three. How do you go about choosing the perfect beach companion? To help, I’ve made the ultimate summer reading list, culled from magazines and websites.

Personally, I hope to finish “Can’t and Won’t,” the latest short story collection by Lydia Davis, before Independence Day. Davis manages to be profound and succinct; some of her short stories are just a few sentences. You can devour them between sips of iced green tea. What I’ll pick up next is anyone’s guess, but I’m taking inspiration from these awesome lists. Here’s to a summer of blissful reading!

The L.A. Times’ summer books preview is descriptive and comprehensive, I may just pick up the new Ja Rule autobiography.

Books to Read Before They’re Movies, because the book is usually better.

For the young or young at heart: NPR’s A Diverse #SummerReading List For Kids.

If all you really want is for your book to match your summer uniform, these iconic covers make the perfect accessory. Or, reference Vogue’s list of the trendiest soon-to-be bestsellers.

The Best New Books For Your Career. These career-oriented books are the perfect way to plan your next big move while relaxing on the beach.

You can get cracking on what might be the best books of the year, following The Millions: Most Anticipated Books of 2014.

Finally, summer reading for the cool girls. Hint: Includes the new 33 1/3rd, Liz Phair edition.

Artwork by Natalie. Thanks Jessamy and Linda for your additions.

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The Gift of Lit

Gift of Lit Library Manifesto

Library Manifesto’s book suggestions for the diverse people in your life.

1. Pen pal with a film fetish: “A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True 1907-1940” by Victoria Wilson

Maybe not as well know as some golden-age stars like Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, or Ginger Rogers, Barbara Stanwyck appeared in some of the greatest movies of the time and always showcased her beauty and brains. New Yorkers can see her films on the big screen this December at Film Forum.

2. Lanky nephew with a future in special collections: “The Mighty Lalouche” by Matthew Olshan (Author) and Sophie Blackall (Illustrator)

This French postman-turned-boxer children’s story wins with charming illustrations. Archival research gives the story some historical backbone.

3. Uncle who doesn’t know the difference between Marvel and D.C.: “Super Graphic A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe” By Tim Leong

Comic con veteran and clueless novices will get a laugh from the way Leong has organized the worlds of superheros and villains into info-graphics.

4. Boyfriend’s equal parts bookish and artistic dad: “Journey to the Abyss” by Harry Kessler (Author) and Laird Easton (Editor)

German aristocrat and diplomat Count Harry Kessler (1868-1937) was friendly with some of the larger than life philosophers and artists of his time: Bonnard, Stravinsky, Rodin, Renoir, Gide, Monet, Mahler, Matissee, Verlaine, George Bernard Shaw, Munch, Nietzsche, HG Wells and many others. His correspondence is a snapshot inside an important period.

5. Photography loving boyfriend in journalism school: “Watabe Yukichi, A Criminal Investigation” by Yukichi Watabe (Photographer) and Titus Boeder (Author)

This book from 2011 looks like a scrapbook from the 1950s. Watabe’s photojournalism documents a murder investigation in Japan. Minimal textual information is given, recreating the mystery in black-and-white noir scenes.

6. Best friend who sees beauty in the small stuff: “Sylvia Plath: Drawings” by Sylvia Plath (Author) and Frieda Hughes (Author)

There are certain icons in history that the public grapples to understand better. Lives cut off too short that leave questions about the personalities and passions of great artists. Sylvia Plath is one. This book of drawings unveils another layer of her psyche.

7. Co-worker with all the underground tracks: “The Riot Grrrl Collection” by Lisa Darms (Editor), Kathleen Hanna (Preface), Johanna Fateman (Introduction)

The “Riot Grrrl Collection,” is an archive of assorted DIY culture, zines and ephemera from the feminist punk rock movement surrounding Kathleen Hanna, Bikini Kill and Bratmobile. As a bonus: throw in movie tickets to “The Punk Singer” about Hanna’s impact on the music industry and the world.

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Meet The Cubies

The Cubies' ABC Front Cover

The groundbreaking 1913 Armory Show will forever have a place in art history as America’s grand introduction to Post-Impressionist art. Addressing those avant-garde artists is The Cubies’ ABC, written and illustrated by married couple Edward Harvey Lyall and Mary Mills Lyall and published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons/The Knickerbocker Press. Though the book was intended as a criticism of modern art, I find its clever rhyming passages and imaginative illustrations to be playful and fun.

Scanning the book’s pages, you’ll see three Cubies experimenting with still lives and sculptures, yawning at traditionalists, literally eating words, and letting loose with a reckless abandon befitting the children’s book setting. Most notable for me is the lively vocabulary abounding in Mary Mills Lyall’s verses. With words like anatomical, limpid, ad libitum, and quixotic, you’ll want your dictionary handy.

The book was digitized by Internet Archive and is also available on Open Library. If you haven’t spent much time on Open Library, you should! Find more unexpected gems and keep me in the loop about digitized books that stop you in your internet tracks. Read more about the book and its reprinting here.

The Cubies' ABC

The Cubies' ABC

 

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