Monday, February 17, 2014

UW-Madison and the Peace Corps

Did you know that UW-Madison has a long, proud history with the Peace Corps? Last week, our campus was again named the nation's "top producer of Peace Corps volunteers." You can read more about our history with the Peace Corps here.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

This news comes at a particularly interesting time, as Go Big Read's 2014-15 theme is "service." Last week, the selection committee met to establish a shortlist of books to consider; for the next few weeks, we'll be reading and discussing these books. It's an exciting time, and while we can't give any hints yet, we can't wait until we make an official announcement!

There are a lot of reasons to be proud of being a Badger, and our history of service is definitely one of them. You can find out more about the Peace Corps on the organization website, and check out the annual rankings of universities. If you're interested in volunteering for the Peace Corps, stop by the UW-Madison Peace Corps office in 156 Red Gym, or visit their website.

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ghosts of the Tsunami

Photo credit: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dylan McCord, 3/18/2011. Creative Commons.

Much has been said of the impact of the March, 2011 earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, as well as the consequent disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. The event wrought massive destruction and caused upwards of 15,000 casualties. Many affected cities and towns still have not recovered, almost three years later. Ruth, in A Tale for the Time Being, worries that her invisible correspondent-through-the-ages, 16 year old Nao, has met her fate in the tsunami; Ruth's fears were echoed, and are still echoed, by people across the world whose friends and family were in Japan at the time of the disaster. According to the National Police Agency of Japan, 2,640 people across the country are still missing and unaccounted for.

Photo credit: Petty Officer First Class Matthew Bradley, US Navy, 3/15/2011. Creative Commons.





Less has been said, however, about the harm done to Japan's social and spiritual life. As Richard Lloyd Parry points out in his recent essay "Ghosts of the Tsunami," Japanese culture traditionally focuses on the spirits of dead ancestors, who often play a relatively active role in the spiritual life of a family or an individual. With so many dead in one fell swoop, what happens to those who are left alive? And what happens to the spirits?

"I met a priest in the north of Japan who exorcised the spirits of people who had drowned in the tsunami," begins Lloyd Parry's essay, and from there he embarks on a journey through Japan's spiritual landscape, which was no less shaken by the tsunami than the buildings and houses and streets. Between dead ancestors with no one to care for them and survivors forced to leave their ancestors behind as they fled their homes exists an ocean of grief. "Ghosts of the Tsunami" attempts to navigate this ocean.

You can read Richard Lloyd Parry's "Ghosts of the Tsunami" here on the London Review of Books website.

As a reminder, we are still accepting nominations for the 2014-25 Go Big Read selection.  Our theme this year is "service," and you can read more here about what we're looking for. If you have a book in mind that might fit the theme, let us know. The nomination deadline is February 1st, so hurry!

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Monday, January 13, 2014

Go Big Read seeks titles focused on service for 2014-15 program

Have you read any great books lately? Think something you've read would make a great Go Big Read selection? Let us know! For the 2014-2015 academic year, we are seeking books with a focus on service:
Here at home and around the world, people are called to serve their countries, their communities and other missions. Some volunteer, some are drafted, and others find themselves pressed into service by their circumstances.

But what does it mean to serve? Who is compelled to serve and why? And in what ways does it affect those who serve and the people around them?
If you've recently read something that engages with the theme of service, we want to hear about it. The deadline to submit books for consideration is February 1, 2014, and we are accepting both fiction and non-fiction nominations. You can use this form to nominate titles, and read more about our selection criteria here, and also see if your favorite title is on our running suggestion list.

We can't wait to hear from you!

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Using the book in the spring?

Instructors! Are you planning to use A Tale for the Time Being in your spring courses? Do you want your students to be able to access the book for free? If so, fill out our request form and we'll add you to our list of participating courses for the spring.

For students in spring courses, we send out vouchers that can be redeemed at six campus libraries (Chemistry Library, College Library, Ebling Library, Memorial Library, Steenbock Library and Wendt Commons) for free copies of the book. If you need us to send you hard copies of the book for your teaching assistants, or if you need your own desk copy, you can indicate so in the request form.

If you're still not sure whether you'll use A Tale for the Time Being this spring, don't worry! Just send us an email (gobigread at library.wisc.edu) to request a free review copy.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Goodreads Interview with Ruth Ozeki

In case you haven't gotten enough Ruth Ozeki yet, check out this awesome interview with our Go Big Read author! Goodreads readers submitted questions about A Tale for the Time Being, and Ruth Ozeki sat down with the interviewers to chat about the book, her writing process, her concepts of reality and fiction, self, creativity and everything in between. Below, a few quotations worth thinking about:

My feeling is that as a person, as a storyteller, I want to be very careful with the kinds of things I put into the world. I want to make sure that I am writing from a place of integrity, whatever that might mean. For me, it means that I am writing in the most honest way I know. And that doesn't mean telling the truth.

My books grow out of my preoccupations. So I am a being in time, and things are happening in the world around me, and I read about them or experience them and react to them. I become interested, I start to investigate, I ponder them. In a way, the writing of a novel is less about telling a specific story and more about allowing a process of inquiry to shape what happens on the page. These events will happen in the world, they'll enter my mind, I'll start to think about them, and the juxtapositions will somehow start to generate story. At that point my job is just to follow that.

My books grow out of my preoccupations. So I am a being in time, and things are happening in the world around me, and I read about them or experience them and react to them. I become interested, I start to investigate, I ponder them. In a way, the writing of a novel is less about telling a specific story and more about allowing a process of inquiry to shape what happens on the page. These events will happen in the world, they'll enter my mind, I'll start to think about them, and the juxtapositions will somehow start to generate story. At that point my job is just to follow that.

Has your appetite been whetted? Head over to Goodreads for the full interview.

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Monday, December 2, 2013

Guest Post: Reflections on the Nov. 14 talk by Professor Gene Phillips

It was enlightening to see the concept of Zen Buddhism depicted in images at the talk by Professor Gene Phillips (Professor in the Department of Art History; Director of the Center for East Asian Studies). One of the things that Professor Phillips discussed was how Zen monks in medieval Japan were commissioned to paint inspirational ink images based on koans (questions that a Zen Buddhist master gives to his disciples in order to help them understand the concepts of "mu" [nothingness, emptiness] and the universe's fundamental non-duality, which leads them to enlightenment: the goal, the ultimate state of mind, in Buddhism).

To learn more, see Professor Phillips's book, The Practices of Painting in Japan, 1475-1500.

Photo by Hiromi Naka, Japan Outreach Specialist, the Center for East Asian Studies

Ayako Yoshiumra, the Center for East Asian Studies

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Guest Post: How to Read a Book




A Tale for the Time Being invites us to read in a slightly different way than many of us are used to.  Not only does the book alternate between two narrators, but when we read Nao’s diary, we’re reading it as annotated by Ruth, whose chapters are told from in the third-person voice.  It took me a while to realize that the footnotes in Nao’s diary are written as though they were written by the character Ruth, not the author Ruth.

If you’re interested in other approaches to reading, you may want to listen to the November 24, 2013, edition of the public radio show To the Best of Our Knowledge.  The Nov 24 show is all about “How to Read a Book.” Hearing Billy Collins’ read his poem “Reader,” immediately made me think of Tale.  There’s also an interview with an author who wrote a novel which features another novel written in the margins of the book, among other thought-provoking segments.

Beth Harper
Reference Librarian, Memorial Library

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