He was a big man, says the size of his shoes on a pile of broken dishes by the house; a tall man too, says the length of the bed in an upstairs room; and a good, God-fearing man, says the Bible with a broken back on the floor below the window, dusty with sun; but not a man for farming, say the fields cluttered with boulders and the leaky barn.
A woman lived with him, says the bedroom wall papered with lilacs and the kitchen shelves covered with oilcloth, and they had a child, says the sandbox made from a tractor tire. Money was scarce, say the jars of plum preserves and canned tomatoes sealed in the cellar hole. And the winters cold, say the rags in the window frames. It was lonely here, says the narrow country road.
Something went wrong, says the empty house in the weed-choked yard. Stones in the fields say he was not a farmer; the still-sealed jars in the cellar say she left in a nervous haste. And the child? Its toys are strewn in the yard like branches after a storm—a rubber cow, a rusty tractor with a broken plow, a doll in overalls. Something went wrong, they say.
From Sure Signs: New and Selected Poems, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1980
As part of #NationalPoetryMonth, we’re highlighting some of our favorite poems by Nebraska authors. If you have a favorite, feel free to send it to us!
Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya to #BookFaceFriday!
Since it snowed yesterday in much of Nebraska, this title couldn’t be
more right. But unlike the fickle ways of Nebraska weather, NLC Book
Club Kits never let you down. The Commission’s Book Club Kit service is
still running like clockwork, and sending out titles like “This Is Not the Tropics: Stories”
by Nebraska author, Ladette Randolph (University of Wisconsin Press,
2005.) While many library services have changed, we realize your book
club groups may be functioning a little differently right now. But with
book pick-ups and online group discussions, book clubs are still going
strong. Of course with your health in mind, we strongly encourage you to
keep any in-person book club meetings to ten people or fewer.
“Ladette Randolph’s stories sink
their teeth into the deep Nebraska Midwest the way that Flannery
O’Connor tore into the heart of Georgia. There’s a wonderfully sly,
deadpan sweetness at work here, so that it may take a moment to realize
how odd and twisty the stories are. Randolph seems like such a nice,
earnestly polite young woman—and then suddenly your wallet is missing
and she’s driving away in your car! These are beautifully crafty,
beguiling stories: witty, wise, and wicked.”—Dan Chaon, author of You Remind Me of Me and Among the Missing
This week’s #BookFace model is one of our NLC Commissioners, Lois Todd-Meyer!
You know all those classics you always have to lie about having read? Well now’s your chance to really read them! Nebraska OverDrive Libraries just added a huge selection of classic novels, 1,010 classics including this week’s #BookFaceFriday! “Alexander’s Bridge” (Duke Classics, 2012) by Willa Cather just one of many Cather titles available to all Nebraska OverDrive Libraries in eBook and Audiobook format. 173 libraries across the state share this collection of 16,670 Audiobooks and 28,473 eBooks, with new titles added weekly. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use.
“Construction engineer and world-renowned bridge builder Bartley Alexander has everything in mid-life: wealth, good looks, and fame. Yet he finds himself restless and discontented with life—until he meets a former love from his student days and resumes his relationship with her. Living a double life, Alexander is torn between Winifred, his American wife—a cold woman with clearly defined standards—and Hilda Burgoyne, his alluring mistress in London who helps him recapture his youth and sense of freedom. Alexander’s affair, which eventually gnaws away at his sense of propriety and honor, proves disastrous. Willa Cather’s first novel—a fascinating study of a man’s growing awareness of the breach in his integrity—is essential reading for fans of this great American novelist.” ” … exceptionally well-conceived and well written.”—Outlook ” … told with a good deal of charm and skill.”—New York Times Book Review ” … a story of brilliant and unusual power.”—McClure’s
We visited Omaha in October 2018 and stayed with Dave, my law partner from 1987 to 2016, and his wife Chris at their Waterloo lake house. We’re all retired. Their study with a sofa bed doubles as a guest room. We felt at home; the duvet and book ends came from our house. The shelves held several books Karen and I gave them for birthdays, the holiday season and other opportune occasions. I purchase several copies of irresistible books for friends. I still have two copies of The Pun Also Rises (2011) by John Pollack who did a reading at the Bookworm, and Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps (2002) by Poet Laureate Ted Kooser.
I inscribed A Mirror of the World, Three Thousand Years of Books and Manuscripts (2001), acquired at the Schiller-Nationalmuseum, German Literature Archives in Marbach am Neckar, Germany:
July 19, 2002 Dear Chris & Dave When books matter And cooking meet We don’t cook the books We eat Love Oliver
The cover of A Mirror of the World is a 1913 galley with Marcel Proust’s corrections of “A la recherché du temps perdu,” (In Search of Lost Time and Remembrance of Things Past). The editor wrote, “Proust was among those writers who continually changed and improved their text, much to the distress of their printers.”
Silent Hills Speak, A
History of Council Bluffs, Iowa (2002), by William E. Ramsey and Betty Dineen
Shrier, a 7 pound 7-ounce coffee table book, would be heavily out of place in
California. I shifted the burden…
To Chris and Dave This will weigh down your carpet bag I am sure it has many uses. Look to the East And lets all feast. Love and best wishes
Karen and Oliver December 14, 2002
Aprons, A Celebration (2001) by Joyce Cheney, A miniature from a UNO exhibition of Aprons.
To Chris 3/30/03. Here’s to our aprons.
Karen & Oliver
A Year at the Sorbonne, A
Proustian Life (2002) by Oliver B. Pollak.
To Chris and DaveInscriptions, epigrams, epitaphs, epithets, and epitomes. You grow in our estimation daily.
Love, Karen & Oliver 4/7/06
Jim Harrison, The English Major (2008)
To Dave The curious road ahead Navigating between Valentines and rattlesnakes Seasons greetings as 2008 turns into 2009
Dave gave a copy to his daughter-in-law Bethany, an Omaha English
The New World Guide to Beer
(1988) by Michael Jackson, another coffee table book.
Dear Chris Dare we say Happy Beerthday All our love
Karen & Oliver Sept 1, 2016
Moving to California meant downsizing, shedding books. Our
retirement home would not house all our books. Storage was out of the question.
I sold to Jackson Street Booksellers, students and Lincoln’s Lee Booksellers. We
invited Chris and Dave to browse our shelves. Chris picked The Grapes of Wrath. I wrote, September 10, 2016
Dear Chris, I am so glad you picked this book voluntarily. The book and movie merge in my mind’s memory. It is moving. Class warfare. Climate change. People helping each other. Noble sentiment and deeds. I must have read it in the 1960s. It goes to a new loving home.
Oliver & Karen
My Budapest Diary, In Search
of the Motherbook (1997) by Susan Rubin Suleiman and Dinner with
Churchill (2011) by Cita Stelzer also graced Dave and Chris’s
Dave favored me with numerous books, especially at Hanukkah. In December 1995 he supported my interest in George Orwell with the Brothel Boy and Other Parables of the Law (1992) by Morris Norval. It took me until 2015 to read this thoughtful book. I went from my Orwell shelf with gratitude back to Dave in 2016. The gift of Various Positions (1996) a biography of Leonard Cohen, by Ira Bruce Nadel, dramatically expanded my musical tastes. It sits on a shelf in Richmond. Karen and I enjoyed Cohen concerts in Toronto and much closer, in Oakland.
Dave and Chris love camping, first with a trailer and now an RV. They visit national parks including Presidential Libraries. Books need bookmarks, papyrus, leather, or post-its notes. Dave and Chris bought this bookmark at the William J. Clinton Library and Museum in Little Rock.
Dave recalls we occasionally purchased books together, such as On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt (Princeton University Press, 2005, 68 pages, $9.95), which has been translated into at least sixteen languages.
Giving books at joyous junctures reveals regard for one another, friendship and shared interests; food and drink permeate the titles and inscriptions. These association copies may be on the used book market sooner than mid-century.
All the Gallant Men is the Nebraska Center for the Book’s
2020 One Book One Nebraska selection. Donald Stratton’s memoir stems
from his remarkable experience as a naval seaman serving on the USS
Arizona. Stratton was among the survivors from the December 7, 1941,
Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The book is the only memoir written by a
USS Arizona survivor.
Stratton’s book is not one that I would have selected to read on my
own. I read it because of its nomination for the One Book One Nebraska
program. It didn’t take many pages before appreciating Donald Stratton’s
story. It is remarkable and inspiring. The book is much more than an
account of the Pearl Harbor attack. Donald Stratton’s life is chronicled
from his early years growing up in Red Cloud, Nebraska, joining the
Navy following high school, military experience as a seaman. Later,
Stratton traveled the world as a skilled commercial diver in the oil
Stratton was severely burned during the Pearl Harbor attack but
managed, along with a few others, to climb hand-over-hand on a rope to
an adjacent ship, an astonishing feat considering the 70 feet length and
the burned hands of the seamen and the fires burning below. The rope
was thrown by Joe George, a sailor from the other ship. The rope throw
was a heroic act that was never fully rewarded because George disobeyed
an order to cut the lines that tied the two ships. Without the rope,
these sailors would have perished. Stratton had a long and painful
recovery. Even so, he endured and with determination reenlisted in the
Navy. Offered a non-combat post, he instead chose to return to a
battleship and rejoin the war in the Pacific.
Donald Stratton’s story is dedicated to preserving the memory of the
men aboard the USS Arizona – those that died and those that survived. In
Stratton’s words: “I have tried my best to express what I could about
what I experienced that day. It isn’t enough, though, because it is only
one side of the story. The other side lies an ocean away. When you read
a statistic, like 2,403 dead, it says so little. A statistical death is
only the skeletal remains of a life. Without flesh and blood; its
beating heart or its winking eye; its quick wit or its contagious
I hope that many Nebraskans will read All the Gallant Men and that the book will lead to more stories about the experiences and sacrifices of those who serve and have served.
Ken Gire deserves recognition for his collaboration with Don Stratton
to bring Stratton’s story to print. How that came about is an
interesting story in itself (see writer’s postscript).
Described by family members as a humble and generous man, Donald Stratton passed away on February 15, 2020.
Donald Stratton and Ken Gire. All the Gallant Men: An American Sailor’s Firsthand Account of Pearl Harbor. HarperCollins. 2016.
Celebrate Nebraska’s rich literary
tradition with the Nebraska Book Awards. The Nebraska Book Awards program,
sponsored by the Nebraska Center for the Book (NCB), recognizes and honors
books that are written by Nebraska authors, published by Nebraska publishers,
set in Nebraska, or concerning Nebraska. The Awards competition opens every
year on March 1st and entries are due by June 30th. Books published in 2019, as
indicated by the copyright date, are eligible for nomination. They must be published,
have an International Standard Book Number (ISBN), and be bound. Books may be
entered in one or more of the following categories: Nonfiction, Fiction,
Children/Young Adult, Cover/Design/Illustration, and Poetry. Winners of the 2020
Nebraska Book Awards will be honored at the annual Celebration of Nebraska
Books on October 17, 2020. The authors, designers and illustrators, and
publishers are invited to give a short reading and speak about their winning
books. Please visit the NCB website at http://centerforthebook.nebraska.gov/awards/nebookawards.htm
for more information and to submit your nomination. Submissions can be made on
the NCB website or by mail.
The Celebration of Nebraska Books,
free and open to the public, will also honor recipients of the 2020 Jane Geske
and Mildred Bennett awards. The Mildred Bennett Award recognizes individuals
who have made a significant contribution to fostering the literary tradition in
Nebraska, reminding us of the literary and intellectual heritage that enriches
our lives and molds our world. The Jane Geske Award is presented to a Nebraska
organization for exceptional contribution to literacy, books, reading,
libraries, or literature in Nebraska. It commemorates Geske’s passion for
books, and was established in recognition of her contributions to the
well-being of the libraries of Nebraska. Nominations for these awards are
accepted year round at http://centerforthebook.nebraska.gov/nominationforms.html.
The Celebration of Nebraska Books is
sponsored by Nebraska Center for the Book and the Nebraska Library Commission,
with support from Humanities Nebraska, and History Nebraska’s Nebraska History
Museum. The Nebraska Center for the Book is housed at the Nebraska Library
Commission and brings together the state’s readers, writers, booksellers,
librarians, publishers, printers, educators, and scholars to build the
community of the book, supporting programs to celebrate and stimulate public
interest in books, reading, and the written word. The Nebraska Center for the
Book is supported by the national Center for the Book in the Library of
Congress and the Nebraska Library Commission.
As the state library agency, the
Nebraska Library Commission is an advocate for the library and information
needs of all Nebraskans. The mission of the Library Commission is statewide
promotion, development, and coordination of library and information services,
“bringing together people and information.”
Celebrate the 2020 One Book One Nebraska selection, All the Gallant Men, with us on NCompass Live, Wednesday, February 19, 10:00am-11:00am CT. The recording of this FREE NCompass Live webinar is now available via the NCompass Live website.
In this sixteenth year of One Book One Nebraska, Nebraska libraries and other literary and cultural organizations continue to plan activities and events to encourage all Nebraskans to read and discuss the same book. Join us to hear more about this state reading promotion activity, sponsored by the Nebraska Center for the Book, Humanities Nebraska, and the Nebraska Library Commission.
We are very pleased to announce that our 2020 selection is, All the Gallant Men: An American Sailor’s Firsthand Account of Pearl Harbor (William Morrow, 2016) by Donald Stratton, with Ken Gire.
Join Nebraska Library Commission Director Rod Wagner, Nebraska Library Commission Communication Coordinator Tessa Terry, and Nebraska Center for the Book Board Member Becky Faber to:
Learn about how to create a successful local reading promotion using Nebraska’s year-long, statewide celebration featuring All the Gallant Men, by Donald Stratton.
Brainstorm strategies to read and discuss All the Gallant Men.
Find tools to help engage your community in local activities to encourage them to come together through literature to explore this work in community-wide reading programs.
Learn about the 2020 Celebration of Nebraska Books, which will celebrate this book, along with the winners of the 2020 Nebraska Book Awards.
Upcoming NCompass Live shows:
Feb. 26 – Pretty Sweet Tech – Which Coding Language Should I Learn?
March 4 – The Healing Library: Responding to Trauma in Your Community Through Nontraditional Lending
March 11- Holiday Break at the Library!
For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.
NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.
We’re throwing back to one of our first-ever #BookFace photos with “The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As told to Alex Haley” by Malcolm X (Grove Press, 1963.) We originally featured this title as a Nebraska 150 Books List selection, and it’s available in our book club kit collection. Check out this Nebraska Author of color for your book club!
“Malcolm X’s autobiography seemed to offer something different. His repeated acts of self-creation spoke to me; the blunt poetry of his words, his unadorned insistence on respect, promised a new and uncompromising order, martial in its discipline, forged through sheer force of will.”—Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father
“The most important book I’ll ever read, it changed the way I thought, it changed the way I acted. It has given me courage I didn’t know I had inside me. I’m one of hundreds of thousands whose lives were changed for the better.”—Spike Lee
The Willa Cather Foundation’s Campaign for the Future is a $6.5 million campaign to restore historic Cather-related historic properties, expand educational programming, develop visitor ammenities, and build endowment for the nonprofit organization devoted to the great American author.
The public phase of the campaign is being announced just one year after History Nebraska, a state agency, transferred ownership of six historic properties and about 8,000 artifacts to the Willa Cather Foundation. The state had owned the properties since 1978, but History Nebraska and the Foundation had operated the site together since 1994. It is the largest single collection of nationally-designated buildings devoted to an American author.
The Willa Cather Foundation is now raising the funds needed to restore the sites and enhance the visitor experience for tourists from forty-eight states and five countries who visit the National Willa Cather Center and Red Cloud annually.
Former First Lady of the United States, Mrs. Laura Bush is the honorary national chair for the campaign’s public fundraising effort. Mrs. Bush, who spoke at the Foundation’s dedication of the National Willa Cather Center in 2017, stated, “Through Willa Cather’s writing, we have a better understanding of one of the most remarkable and compelling periods in American history.” She continued, “The sites and collections that make up the National Willa Cather Center in Red Cloud are cultural treasures. Your generosity ensures that our children and grandchildren will be able to travel back in time to hear the ‘nimble air’ and learn from Willa Cather’s example for many generations to come.”
In addition to Mrs. Bush, writer and historian David McCullough noted, “The marvelous thing about going to Red Cloud, Nebraska, is you can walk right into Willa Cather’s world. There’s the house she lived in, the bank, the opera house, the railroad depot, and the landscape. It’s one of my favorite places in all of America.”
Campaign for the Future has raised $4.7 million or 72% of its $6.5 million goal already, with just under $2 million left to be raised. The Foundation aspires to complete the campaign by its 65th annual Spring Conference in Red Cloud this June. The 3-day event will revisit the short stories of Youth and the Bright Medusa during its centenary year. Alexander Ross, Cather champion and writer for The New Yorker, will give the keynote address.
“Nebraskans have been very generous because they know we are fortunate to be home for such an iconic author,” said Ashley Olson, Executive Director. “We have had strong support from longtime friends and foundations and now hope to include individuals from across the country who appreciate Cather’s literature and value our work.”
Campaign funds will be used to restore eight historic properties, conserve newly acquired collection materials, expand educational programming, add exhibits, upgrade site interpretation, and invest in a downtown boutique hotel that will allow visitors to spend more time in Red Cloud. Olson said the highest site restoration priorities are Cather’s Childhood Home and the Pavelka Farmstead, which is central to Cather’s most celebrated novel, My Ántonia.
Adding to the success of the campaign is a Save America’s Treasures grant of $415,000 from the National Park Service for restoration of the Willa Cather Childhood Home—the jewel in the crown of the Foundation’s historic sites and a National Historic Landmark. The grant requires a 1:1 match in nonfederal funds.
Gifts of all sizes are welcome. To donate, send your contribution, clearly labeled Campaign for the Future to the Willa Cather Foundation, 413 N. Webster, Red Cloud, NE 68970.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Rod
Governor Ricketts Proclaims 2020 One Book One Nebraska: All the Gallant Men
On Jan. 13, 2020 Governor Pete Ricketts signed a proclamation honoring 2020
One Book One Nebraska: All the Gallant Men: An American Sailor’s Firsthand
Account of Pearl Harbor (William Morrow,
2016) by Donald Stratton with Ken Gire. Rebecca Faber, Nebraska Center
for the Book (NCB) Board member presented the governor with a copy of the book.
All the Gallant Men is the first memoir by a USS
Arizona survivor. Born in Inavale,
Nebraska and raised in Red Cloud, Donald Stratton joined the Navy in 1940 at
the age of eighteen. On December 7, 1941 he was a Seaman First Class on the USS
Arizona. Stratton’s account of the
Pearl Harbor attack is seventy-five years in the making, as he finally shares
his personal tale at the age of ninety-four. His story is one of survival and
determination as he recovered from the severe injuries he sustained in the
attack, and ultimately re-enlisted to fight again.
The One Book One Nebraska reading program, sponsored by the Nebraska Center
for the Book, Nebraska Library Commission, and Humanities Nebraska is entering
its sixteenth year. It encourages Nebraskans across the state to read and
discuss one book, chosen from books written by Nebraska authors or that have a
Nebraska theme or setting. Libraries across Nebraska will join other literary
and cultural organizations in planning book discussions, activities, and events
to encourage Nebraskans to read and discuss this book. Support materials to
assist with local reading/discussion activities are available at http://onebook.nebraska.gov.
Updates and activity listings will be posted there and on http://www.facebook.com/onebookonenebraska.
The Nebraska Center for the Book is housed at the Nebraska Library Commission and brings together the state’s readers, writers, booksellers, librarians, publishers, printers, educators, and scholars to build the community of the book, supporting programs to celebrate and stimulate public interest in books, reading, and the written word. The Nebraska Center for the Book is supported by the Nebraska Library Commission. As Nebraska’s state library agency, the Nebraska Library Commission is an advocate for the library and information needs of all Nebraskans. The mission of the Library Commission is statewide promotion, development, and coordination of library and information services-“bringing together people and information.”