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Posts from the Berg Collection of English and American Literature

Bloomsday in the Berg Collection

James Joyce's Ulysses is a novel unique in the history of English literature, perhaps all literature, in that it has a day dedicated to its celebration all over the world. The day is named for Leopold Bloom, one of the novel's three chief characters.Read More ›

Happy 100th, May Sarton!

May 3rd marks the centenary of the birth of poet and novelist May Sarton. Sarton’s most important novel, Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing, tells the story of septuagenarian Hilary Stevens, a poet whose life is retold episodically during an interview with two writers from a literary magazine.

In notes for the draft of Mrs. Stevens, now in the Henry W. and Alfred A. Berg Collection, Sarton cautions 

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Virginia Woolf's Typewriter

The reference librarians of ASK NYPL recently received a very interesting question about Virginia Woolf.

“Virginia Woolf typed all her major works and other writings on a typewriter. But what brand of typewriter did she use?”

I immediately recalled the one brand of typewriter that dominated the Anglo-American market for typewriters in the years that Woolf was most prolific as a published author (1915-1943): the Underwood — 

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E.E. Cummings: To My Valentine

Copyright by the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust.When Edward Estlin Cummings met Marion Morehouse in 1932, he was in the middle of a painful split from his second wife, Anne Barton. But loss soon gave way to what Cummings later described as "an ecstatic arrival." This was Marion.

Morehouse was tall and thin, of Choctaw Indian ancestry, with brown eyes and a narrow face like a Modigliani. Edward Steichen called her "the greatest fashion model [he] ever shot." Aside from Steichen, 

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Reading Edgar Allan Poe

In his essay “King Weirdo,” anthologized in the collection Now Dig This, the American humorist Terry Southern writes about his first encounter with Edgar Allan Poe’s only novel, The Narrative of A. Gordon Pym.

As a seventh grader in a Dallas junior high school, Southern is sent to the library for a two part assignment, “a bit of horror-show wretchedness called 'Getting to Know Your Public Library'" that also 

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Know the Past, Find the Future: NYPL at 100

Thursday, May 19, 2011 6 to 8 p.m. Vanderbilt Hall, Grand Central Terminal Free and Open to the Public

Grand CentralYou're invited! Join Jay Walder, Chairman, Metropolitan Transportation Authority; Paul LeClerc, President, The New York Public Library; and Kathryn Court, President and Publisher, Penguin Books; for a special book launch for Know the Past, Find the Future: The New York Public Library at 100, NYPL’s free Centennial book.

Enjoy a special guest appearance by the Harlem Globetrotters! 

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Paul Auster Papers in the Berg

The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection has made the papers of Paul Auster, dating from the years 1999-2005, available to the public. This installment of Auster’s papers joins an existing collection already in the Berg, dating from 1963-1995, and a third installment, bridging the gap between the two collections, from 1995-1999. Guides to all the papers are now available to researchers at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (researchers can also email us for a copy at

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Mario Vargas Llosa at The New York Public Library

Not that it happens very often, but when asked who my favorite contemporary writer is I always split it down the middle between Charles Portis and Mario Vargas Llosa.  Vargas Llosa's La Casa Verde - The Green House - is one of my all-time favorite novels along with The War of the End of the World,

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Periodically Speaking with Katy Lederer

Poetry and Thought with Fence Magazine

I'm really excited about the program for Periodically Speaking: Focus on Poetry tonight. The featured journal is Fence magazine and poetry editor Katy Lederer will be joined by poets

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Coleridge annotates Southey

Elif Batuman tells a story in her recently published The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, about visiting Tolstoy's estate Yasnaya Polyana for a conference.   A visiting historian presenting at the conference is researching the marginalia in Tolstoy's personal library. Another scholar asks him about it one morning at breakfast. Oh, there aren't any words, he says. Tolstoy doesn't write in any of his books. But the pages. They fall open in certain ... Read More ›

The Magathon

In 2002, we had our first public program in the DeWitt Wallace Periodical Room, it was a collaboration with CLMP (Council of Literary Magazines & Presses) called “the Magathon”. The Library and CLMP shared the same goal, to support and celebrate literary magazines and what better place to hold the event then a beautiful public space, that collected and housed a vast collection of contemporary literary magazines.

This event and collaboration has 

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Engaging the Text: Literary Marginalia in the Berg Collection

As Edmund Blunden's biographer tells it, the poets Edmund Blunden and Siegfried Sassoon sat down together on the night of November 7, 1929 to annotate a book. That book was Robert Graves’ memoir Goodbye to All That, and their notes were anything but laudatory.

Graves had published Goodbye to All That, an account of his early years and service in the first world war, to critical acclaim earlier that year.  Blunden and 

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Rain Taxi featured at next Periodically Speaking: Focus on Poetry

"The Poet as critic" is the topic for the next Periodically Speaking: Focus on Poetry event and we'll appropriately be featuring the Mineapolis-based journal Rain Taxi. Rain Taxi is an eclectic, thoughtful publication, filled to the brim four times a year with literary criticism, interviews and reviews of poetry, non fiction & graphic novels. Although it covers the spectrum of American publishing at its heart are small 

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Terry Southern and Voltaire: The Lost Art of Blasting Smugness

Enter Candy Christian: Candide's Sexpot Alter-Ego 

"The story I have in mind is in the tradition of Candide, with a contemporary setting, the protagonist an attractive American girl, Candy, an only child of a father of whose love she was never quite sure, a sensitive progressive-school humanist who comes from Wisconsin to New York's lower-east side to be an art student, social worker, etc. and to find (unlike her father) 'beauty in mean places.' — Terry Southern, in a 1956 letter to notorious French publisher of 'erotic' novels Maurice Girodias, about his proposed ... Read More ›

Wilbur, the Translator

In Chapter 18 of Candide, our hero and his valet Cacambo arrive in the utopian kingdom of El Dorado, where the streets glitter with precious stones. The people of El Dorado speak Cacambo's mother tongue, a Peruvian dialect indecipherable to Candide, and Cacambo becomes the sole communicator and interpreter. Candide relies on his valet to communicate with the natives of this strange and beguiling country.

The travelers are invited to dine at the King's palace. The dinner proceeds merrily, led by their affable royal 

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J.D. Salinger (1919-2010)

The death of  J.D. Salinger was announced this afternoon.  Salinger, the creator of the inimitable Holden Caulfield, was 91 years old.

Salinger was one of those very few writers whose enormous artistic achievement is out of all proportion to the small place their writings occupy on the bookshelf.  His one great novel was, of course, The Catcher in the Rye, but several of the “Franny and Zooey” Glass family stories, 

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A Burroughs Christmas Story

For many years, William S. Burroughs sent Otto Belue of Saint Louis, Missouri a Christmas card with a check in it. The cards arrived like clockwork, from London, Paris, New York…wherever Burroughs had landed at the time. Letters in the William S. Burroughs Collection of Papers sent by Belue in late December and early January during the sixties and early seventies to Burroughs offer interesting insight into one of Burroughs’s strongest ties from childhood.

Burroughs grew up in Saint Louis, Missouri, the 

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Newly Cataloged Richard Wilbur

Richard Wilbur published his first poem, "Puppies" in 1929 in the children's magazine John Martin’s Book at the age of 8. In the eighty years since, Wilbur, Poet Laureate from 1987-1988, has won the Pulitzer Prize twice and outlived more famous poet contemporaries like John Berryman, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath. These poets' Confessional style caught fire mid-century and signalled a departure from the measured poetry Wilbur was writing. A Wilbur poem foregoes the stormy revelations of the Confessionalists; more often it 

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Burroughs at the Berg

The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection has posted the finding aid for the William S. Burroughs Papers. A guide to the papers can now be accessed here (pdf). 

The archive is a swirl of 1960s political, popular and literary culture, offering a close look at a cross-section of social revolutions that caught fire in the late fifties and sixties, including the rise of drugs, the gay liberation movement, free speech and the 

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Jack Kerouac, Fantasy Sportsman

Ever wonder what Jack Kerouac was doing at ages fourteen, fifteen and sixteen? Competing, for one. The author played on a neighborhood baseball team and was skilled enough in high school football that he was offered scholarships to play at both Boston University and at Columbia (he later accepted the New York school’s offer, a choice that ensured his path crossed with William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Neal Cassady, among others here).

As a teenager, Kerouac was also at work inventing his own fantasy field of dreams. In his free time, the young writer founded a 

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