Posted in Language, Literary Arts Series, Literature, Words, Writing

Give A Lick: Literary Postage Stamps – Humorists Ogden Nash and James Thurber

What is the connection between Ogden Nash and James Thurber? Besides both being humorists, they published at The New Yorker during the same time period. In 1930, Nash’s first poem “Invocation” was published January 11.  Did you know Nash contributed 329 poems to The New Yorker between 1930 and 1971?

Meanwhile, the magazine ran a drawing by James Thurber for the first time in the February 22, 1930 issue. E. B. White had rescued Thurber’s doodles from being discarded, and encouraged the writer to publish his art work.

Ogden Nash 37¢
(1902-1971)

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Issue Date: August 19, 2002
City: Baltimore, MD
Quantity: 70,000,000

American humorist and poet Ogden Nash wrote light-hearted, whimsical, and sometimes nonsensical verse. He often used an extremely large poetic license to create comical rhymes and puns. Ogden Nash is the 18th honoree of the Literary Arts Series.

An interesting couple of notes about the Ogden Nash stamp. It is the first time the word ‘Sex’ has appeared on a stamp; and probably also is the first time a limerick has appeared on a U.S. stamp.

U.S. Postal Service chief stamp developer Terry McCaffrey told CBSNews.com he expects to get complaints about “sex,” which is included in the six Nash poems in the background of the design: “The Turtle,” “The Cow,” “Crossing The Border,” “The Kitten,” “The Camel,” and “Limerick One.”

Nash poked fun at human foibles without cynicism. He wrote on many subjects, but all of his poems expressed his wry wit and demonstrated his playfulness with language. “I’m very fond of the English language. I tease it, and you tease only the things you love,” Nash reportedly said. He invented words and used puns, creative misspellings, irregular line lengths and unexpected rhymes to make his verse humorous and memorable. Because of his unique style, many consider Ogden Nash to have been one of the most accomplished American writers of light verse in the 20th century.

In a letter to the editor of The New York Times in 1969, Nash complained about stamps that would not stick to envelopes. He lamented, “The Post Office should supply a roll of Scotch tape with every 100 stamps, but mine won’t even sell me one. I’d like to go back to where I came from: 1902.”

Nash considered himself a ‘worsifier’. One of the most universally known verses is: “Candy is dandy/but liquor is quicker.” Others include: “If called by a panther, / Don’t anther,” and “In the vanities / No one wears panities.”

Did you know? Nash’s great-great-grandfather was governor of North Carolina during the Revolution, and that ancestor’s brother was General Francis Nash, for whom Nashville, Tennessee, was named.

James Thurber 29¢
(1894-1961)

James Thurber

Issue Date: September 10, 1994
City: Columbus, OH
Quantity: 150,750,000

One of the most popular humorists of his time, James Thurber celebrated the comic frustrations and eccentricities of ordinary people.  In Thurber-Land, the men are often sad, bewildered, and inept; the women are fierce and determined; and their dogs are indifferent to men a women alike, and are immersed in a fantasy world of their own.  Thurber is the author of The Secret Life of Walter Mittywhich portrays an oversensitive man who escapes from his nagging wife through his daydreams and the creator of numerous New Yorker magazine cover cartoons.  Writing nearly 40 books, he won a Tony Award for the Broadway play, A Thurber Carnival, in which he often starred as himself.

One of his books, My World and Welcome To It, was turned into an NBC television series in 1969-1970 starring William Windom. My World and Welcome To It, won best Comedy Series and Windom won Best Actor in a Comedy Series at the 1970 Emmys.

Thurber spent much time in and about the Algonquin Hotel in New York City.  Though never a formal member of the Algonquin Round Table, he was a favorite among many of its members including, Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley.

Thurber is the 11th honoree of the Literary Arts series. Read his “The Art of Fiction” interview the Paris Review by George Plimpton and Max Steele.

Did You Know?  As a child, Thurber’s brother shot him in the eye with an arrow during a game of William Tell. James Thurber lost his left eye, and the incident left his vision permanently impaired.


For the rest of the Give A Lick: Literary Arts series of blog posts, check out Dorothy Parker and John Steinbeck, as well as Flannery O’Connor and Ralph Ellison.


For Further Reading & Source Material: 

A New Yorker Timeline

Eighty-five from the archive: Ogden Nash

PR Wire “Literary Arts series Continues with Issuance of Ogden Nash stamp”
*Note: The cool thing about this link is that it shows you the full verses of poems used on the Ogden Nash stamp.

Poetry Foundation / Ogden Nash

Thurber House

Ten Facts about Caldecott Winner , James Thurber

Thurber Prize for American Humor 
*Note: The Thurber Prize for American Humor is the nation’s highest recognition of the art of humor writing. 

Posted in Language, Word Wednesday, Writing

Word Wednesday: Words Spied

acroname n. A name that is the acronym of a longer name. [Deseret News]

ambidisastrous adj. Equally ruinous or calamitous in two ways or along two fronts. (ambi- [“on both sides”] + disastrous).  [Twitter @DesolateCranium]

bro-liferation n. The increased prevalence of young, aggrieved white men. [The New York Times]

diskiness n. A measure of how much the shape of an elliptical galaxy resembles a disk as opposed to a box. [Astronomy @ CalTech]

shadow impact n. The effect that a shadow cast by a tall building has on the surrounding area. [Inside Toronto]

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Posted in Books, Did You Know ?, Science

That “Old Book Smell”

If you ever wandered up into the attic to look at your grandparent’s old books, or through a used bookstore perusing the shelves, you know that smell.  When you open one of the tomes and flip through the pages, did you ever wonder what causes that “Old Book Smell“? It is sort of a hint of vanilla, maybe a little grassy smell, with some mustiness?

070936-glossy-black-icon-alphanumeric-quote-close1Lignin, the stuff that prevents all trees from adopting the weeping habit, is a polymer made up of units that are closely related to vanillin. When made into paper and stored for years, it breaks down and smells good. Which is how divine providence has arranged for second hand bookstores to smell like good quality vanilla absolute, subliminally stoking a hunger for knowledge in all of us.
Perfumes: The A-Z  Guide by Luca Turin

 

aroma-chemistry-the-smell-of-new-old-books-v2
The Aroma of Books infographic courtesy of Compound Chem

 

In the 1920s and 1930s, Stefan Zweig (1881-1942), an Austrian writer, journalist and playwright was one of the most popular writers in the world, at the height of his career. In The Impossible Exile: Stefan Zweig at the End of the World, author George Prochnik explains:

070936-glossy-black-icon-alphanumeric-quote-close1[H]e often seemed more concerned with the smell, look, and feel of his work than with the actual words. Printer’s ink struck him as the most fragrant odor on earth — “sweeter than attar of roses from Shiraz.”

Stefan Zweig
Stefan Zweig. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

 

Prolific author Ray Bradbury (1920-2012), of Fahrenheit 451The Martian Chronicles, and many other works both inside and outside the realm of science fiction whose career spanned over 70 years, believed:

070936-glossy-black-icon-alphanumeric-quote-close1There are two perfumes to a book. If a book is new, it smells great. If a book is old, it smells even better. It smells like ancient Egypt. A book has got to smell. You have to hold it in your hands and pray to it. You put it in your pocket and you walk with it. And it stays with you forever.

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Ray Bradbury circa 1980. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archive / Getty Images)


New York Times
 tech blogger Nick Bilton wrote about wandering into a West Village bookstore on a visit to New York:

070936-glossy-black-icon-alphanumeric-quote-close1I immediately felt a sense of nostalgia that I haven’t felt in a long time. The scent of physical books—the paper, the ink, the glue—can conjure up memories of a summer day spent reading on a beach, a fall afternoon in a coffee shop, or an overstuffed chair by a fireplace as rain patters on a windowsill.

Be sure to check out The New York Times [LENS] which has a beautiful slideshow of old, discarded books.

NYT
By Kerry Mansfield. From “Discarded Books, Recovered Nostalgia” – New York Times

 

For Further Reading: 

The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers’  Is It More Than Old Book Smell?

Smithsonian Magazine “That ‘Old Book Smell’ is a Mix of Grass and Vanilla”

Matija Strlič’s Study in 2009: Material Degradomics: On the Smell of Old Books

Stefan Zweig: Grand Budapest Hotel’s Inspiration

The Smell of Books

The Science of “The Smell of Books”

Note:Old book bindings at the Merton College library, photo by Tom Murphy VII distributed under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.

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Posted in Editor Notes, Fact-Checking, Science

Just the facts … about Fact-checking

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As an editor, I enjoy expanding my knowledge and keeping my skills fresh. One never knows of the next opportunity that will arise in an email,  a phone call, or a conversation.  To that end, I started doing Science Fact-checking in 2014 connecting through a social media post that I was interested in, and my name got passed on to the Managing Editor.

Being detail-oriented and meticulous to be sure that every fact is correct and sourced, is an essential part of being a fact-checker in the field of science. It is also an important trait for all fact-checking—accuracy and patience while you wait for the subject matter expert to get back to you in email; while you search through journals and articles to find the one statistic that either supports or refutes the claim made by the author.

Fact-check everything — but be ready and willing to admit ignorance.

—Dig until you find the answer, even if it doesn’t match the statistics given
—Be curious about the primary source material when verifying a claim
—Some claims you won’t be able to fact-check, and that is okay… explain that the answer is muddled or different from what the author writes. it is okay to refute the claim being made by current research that has just come out.

What to Fact-Check? 

—All of it!
—Proper names, titles, and locations.
—An annotated source list, including names, phone numbers, institution names, and email addresses of each human source.

This is important so your fact-checker can check the article and the exact ideas and point of view that match what the author wrote. If you don’t leave a trail for the fact-checker to follow, and they have to do their own research, or track down different sources than the ones you cited, you may come away with a skewed vision of what you were trying to say.

In 2012, Harvard professor Niall Ferguson wrote his cover story for Newsweek, “Hit The Road, Barack”, criticizing President Barack Obama’s economic and financial relations accomplishments. Newsweek printed it without checking the facts.  Paul Krugman of The New York Times, explains how he keeps his editor informed about his sources:

[a]nyone who writes for it document all of his or her factual assertions – and an editor should check that documentation to see that it actually matches what the writer says.

That’s how it works at the Times, or at least how it works for me. I supply a list of sources with each column submission…Each time I send in a column draft, the copy editor runs quickly through the citations, making sure that they match what I assert. Sometimes the editor feels that I go further than the source material actually justifies; in that case we either negotiate a rewording, or drop the assertion altogether.

Is the source knowledgeable?

You need to be sure that your sources have the expertise and credentials in the subject matter. For example, using the American Cancer SocietyNational Cancer Institute, or the Centers for Disease Control to fact-check the latest claims and keep updated on research and development.

I subscribe to a variety of science journals and magazines, both online and in print;  as well as websites that have the latest cutting edge research.  It is never a bad thing to be up on the latest news and studies.

Fact-checking helps to improve the trustworthiness of the publication, by its accuracy and well-supported information for the reader.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, in response to the Ferguson misrepresentation, in his 2012 The Atlantic article, defended fact-checkers:

[f]act-checkers serve as a valuable check to prevent writers from lapsing into the kind of arrogant laziness which breeds plagiarism and the manufacture of facts. The fact-checker (and the copy-editor too actually) is a dam against you embarrassing yourself, or worse, being so arrogant that don’t even realize you’ve embarrassed yourself. Put differently, a culture of fact-checking, of honesty, is as important as the actual fact-checking.

Even though my name isn’t on the articles that I fact-check,  to get the physical copy of the magazine in my mailbox, and skim the table of contents; seeing the articles in there gives me great pride to say I had a hand in that.  To see a list of my science fact-checked articles, come on over to my Bookshelf, and look for the Genome Magazine listings.

Checklist Image courtesy of Shutterstock