Contributed by John Menier
In modern English, the word “amateur” is often used in a condescending or pejorative sense, which is unfortunate. It is a borrowed French word that derives from the Latin “amator,” meaning “lover.” Hence, the term amateur was originally applied to someone who does something purely for the love of it rather than for compensation and was not a comment on competency.
It is in the spirit of “for the love of it” that Scott Paulson, Exhibits & Events Coordinator for UC San Diego Library, solicited fantasy and science fiction pieces of no more than 250 words for a live reading. The inaugural event in an intended micro-fiction project, “Short Tales from the Mothership” was inspired by magazine editor George Hay. In the 1970s Hay challenged such well-known authors as Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov to submit stories for publication that could fit on a postcard. Following Hay’s example, Scott Paulson encouraged writers from the campus and San Diego communities to publicly showcase their short-short fiction. The stories presented that evening proved to be both diverse and diverting, encompassing a range of styles from comic and satirical to dystopian and experimental. All of the stories are evocative, and several of the works assumed the characteristics of poetry in their economy of language, their heightened descriptive imagery, and their attention to tone.
The result is a celebration of both micro-fiction as a distinct art form and the power of the spoken word – and yes, the joy of doing something for the love of it.
Watch Short Tales from the Mothership
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Contributed by John Menier
Listed by Time magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2012, Ann Patchett is a true woman of letters: novelist, essayist, anthologist, and co-owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville. Patchett is also a frequent and accomplished public speaker, noted for her anecdotes about the literary life, her insights into the creative process, and her wry wit.
One of Patchett’s favorite topics is the ever-changing relationship between readers and books. As an example she cites her own evolution reading (and re-reading) the works of John Updike, Leo Tolstoy, Pearl Buck, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and others, noting that “the books don’t change, but we do.” Put another way, the reader’s evaluation of a particular book is shaped as much by the reader’s life experience and circumstances as by the work’s innate qualities. As such our appreciation (or lack thereof) for a particular title may change over time, but the consistent commonality among the books we treasure is that they never fail to evoke a strong response. Patchett believes the writer’s primary task is to elicit that response by inviting the reader to become an active participant in their story.
Patchett’s approach to the reading public is refreshingly un-elitist. She stresses the importance of what she calls “gateway drugs,” books of dubious literary worth that may encourage readers to explore other authors and genres. She applauds the success of “trashy” pop novels such as “Fifty Shades of Gray” and “Twilight,” no matter their pedigree, for their role in re-vitalizing book sales and energizing the publishing community. What matters most to Patchett as both author and bookstore owner is that the reading habit is fostered and encouraged, and in that endeavor, there’s no place for snobbery.
Click here to watch An Evening with Ann Patchett
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As the number of refugees escaping violence around the world continues to rise, Americans are once again confronted with the moral question of who is welcomed into the country and who is turned away. Author and journalist Eric Lichtblau recounts a similar situation after World War II. Jewish survivors of the Nazi concentration camps were refused entry into the US while high-level German officers and scientists quietly slipped in and were allowed to reinvent themselves as new Americans. Lichtblau explores this double standard in The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler’s Men, presented by the Holocaust Living History Workshop at UC San Diego. A warning: Lichtblau’s reading of the vicious, anti-Semitic remarks from General George Patton’s post-war journal is not for the faint-hearted.
It’s all in the details. It’s the stories, the artifacts, and the documents that reveal the horror faced by victims of the Holocaust. As author and historian Suzanne Brown-Fleming explains here, researchers into this painful part of human history now have access to the world’s largest Holocaust archive through the International Tracing Service, based in Bad Arolsen, Germany. Families can fill in the missing pieces of the ordeals that their lost relatives faced in World War II. With the ITS database now available at sites in Europe, Israel and at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, Brown-Fleming and her colleagues are making sure that the world will, indeed, “never forget.”
Learn more when you watch Archiving Atrocity: The International Tracing Service and Holocaust Research with Suzanne Brown-Fleming, Holocaust Living History Workshop on the Library Channel.
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UCSD-TV presents two programs featuring two of the most acclaimed journalists of our time.
First, The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and host Michael Bernstein sit with Alex Butterfield, the source of Woodward’s latest book, The Last of the President’s Men, as Butterfield recalls his painful, yet brave decision to answer truthfully about the existence of a taping system in Richard Nixon’s Oval Office during the Senate Watergate hearings in 1973.
Then, in From the Front Lines: Challenges of Getting to the Truth, war correspondent Robin Wright shares the stories and images of courageous people who have fought for human rights during her long career covering conflicts in 140 countries.
Woodward and Wright. Two veteran reporters still at the top of their game.
Watch them both on UCSD-TV.