by Anne Mangano on June 1st, 2016
If you’re like me, you’re waiting patiently for PBS to air another season of The Great British Baking Show (or The Great British Bake Off as it is known across the pond). And if you’re like me, you’re baking your way through the wait. The show has inspired me to venture out of my baking comfort zone, exploring the shelves of the Iowa City Public Library for new and interesting recipes to try. The library even has a number of cookbooks by your favorite Bake Off personalities. So, on your mark, get set, bake!
Perhaps the best place to start is a baking book by one of the show’s judges. Paul Hollywood’s How to Bake acts as a primer on technique. The recipes here are pretty detailed, offering the how and why to each Read the rest of this entry »
by Anne Mangano on May 25th, 2016
What was Iowa City like 170 years ago? To get an idea, we can turn to John B. Newhall, author of A Glimpse of Iowa in 1846*. In this work, he states that one couldn’t help but think of Saint-Omer in France and he “speaks as an eye-witness.” I do not believe Newhall in this. He was a noted salesman in his day and his product was Iowa. He wrote a number of books and he lectured both on the east coast and in England proclaiming the wonders of the new state (or territory depending on the publication date of the book).
Despite what Iowa diarist T.S. Parvin calls “too flowery” of language, Newhall is extremely useful in providing a directory for the city in 1846. He lists sellers of dry goods, doctors, mills, schools, churches, and newspapers. For our purposes, Iowa City had two coffee houses, one owned by Charles Frink and the other by R. C. Keathy. Lawyers included G. Folsom, M. Reno, and W. Penn Clark. There was one insurance company.
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by Anne Mangano on May 21st, 2016
This month marks the 75th anniversary of the release of Citizen Kane. Well, if you want to get very specific about it, it’s the anniversary of the film’s premiere at the Palace Theatre in New York. It was widely released that September. Citizen Kane tops several “best of” lists, including the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest American Movies of All Time and the BBC’s 100 Greatest American Films. It was also among the first 25 films selected for the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.
But there was a chance that we would have never seen this film. The film angered a number of powerful and influential people, including media mogul and inspiration for the film, William Randolph Hearst, and film columnist Louella Parsons. Hearst put pressure on RKO, the production studio, refusing to allow advertising for any RKO films in Hearst papers and threatening to sue. When that didn’t work, he put pressure on other studio heads with negative press in exchange for those studios to put pressure on RKO. They even offered to purchase the film with the understanding that they would destroy the negative and all prints. Certain theaters wouldn’t show the movie. Hearst and Parsons printed any and all stories about Orson Welles. And no one caved. Hip hip hooray! To read more on this story, check out Harlan Lebo’s Citizen Kane: A Filmmaker’s Journey or watch the American Experience documentary, the Battle Over Citizen Kane.
Yes, there is a lot of hype around this film and it turns some people off. Is it really as great as everyone says? Well, I love it. There are scenes in Citizen Kane that are works of art. It is almost unbelievable that they were conceived and executed so perfectly. If I was a director at the time, the film would have either made me want to quit or force me to be a better filmmaker. And, Orson Welles knows how to tell a story. So a good story, well-filmed and well-acted–you really can’t ask for anything more from a movie.
So Happy Birthday Citizen Kane! I am so glad we can celebrate, especially knowing that for $805,000 ($13 million today), the other studios would have been happy to take the film off RKO’s hands for it to suffer the same fate as Rosebud.
by Anne Mangano on May 9th, 2016
Over the weekend, we were reunited with a book from long ago, Aline Kilmer’s Vigils (1921). We weren’t looking for it; the book was legitimately withdrawn from the collection. But, perhaps the book was seeking a return to us. Of course, I was interested in the history of this particular book and perhaps you are too. So, to the accession records!
In storage, we hold accession records for books we purchased dating back to January 14, 1897. In the ledger, each book was given a number, assigned in the order in which it was added to Read the rest of this entry »
by Anne Mangano on May 2nd, 2016
Portrait of Chauncey Swan from Weber’s Historical Stories About Iowa City
Chauncey Swan is not, as I thought when I moved here, a species of water fowl. (I know, I know, but I’m not an ornithologist.) He is also not two people; there is no Mr. Chauncey. He is one man, a founding father of Iowa City. He was one of three appointed by the territorial governor (Robert Lucas) to determine the location of the capital of the new Iowa territory. It should be noted that Chauncey Swan deserves the most credit of the three men as he was acting commissioner for the survey, reported back to the legislature, and Robert Ralston was three days late and didn’t really help at all. It should also be noted that they chose the site of Iowa City on May 1st, 1839. It wasn’t really official until May 4th because they were waiting for Ralston. So, a Happy Chauncey Swan Day to you! Read the rest of this entry »
by Anne Mangano on April 7th, 2016
It is finally spring and time to throw open the sashes and take in the fresh air. But it is also time for spring cleaning, to dust the baseboards, turn the mattresses, and wash those windows. Why not change things up a bit? Perhaps it is time to rethink the rooms entirely.
If you haven’t thought about home design, start with Emily Henderson’s Styled: Secrets for Arranging Rooms, from Tabletops to Bookshelves. Henderson helps you determine your style and then provides tips on how to show off those design inclinations in your home. Styled doesn’t call for a complete overhaul. Small changes in rearranging furniture or adding a few elements like a rug or a lamp can go a long way to transform a room.
After months of the winter doldrums, you probably can’t get enough of the outdoors. Lauren Liess’ Habitat: The Field Guide to Decorating uses nature as inspiration in home design. Her rooms are sophisticated, but also simple, comfortable, and achievable. Habitat works through explaining the basics of interior design, offering advice on lighting, color combinations, and accessories.
Need to surround yourself with a little more glamor? The Elements of Style by Erin Gates is your best bet. This book shows off Gates’ personality from beautiful, dramatic dining rooms to elegant, yet serene bedrooms. If you are interested in adding bold prints and lush rugs to your abode, this book is for you.
Perhaps you would prefer to go traditional? For this, check out Ben Pentreath’s English Decoration, inspired by British manor houses and country cottages. Some of Pentreath’s work isn’t practical for us Iowans; there is an entire chapter on “Rooms of Display.” Nonetheless, there are some beautiful color combinations and intriguing room arrangements.
We are a UNESCO City of Literature and your style may be influenced by your favorite books. Novel Interiors by Lisa Borgnes Giramonti showcases rooms inspired by sixty different novels, including those by Jane Austen, Evelyn Waugh, L. M. Montgomery, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Borgnes Giramonti finds passages describing chairs, plates, and linens and builds the rooms from there. For booklovers and design aficionados alike.
by Anne Mangano on March 17th, 2016
The spring publishing season is just starting up and that means there are so many books to be excited about. Here is a rundown on some of the most anticipated releases of the next few months:
Later this month:
The Year of the Runaways / Sunjeev Sahota
Short-listed for the 2015 Man Booker Prize, we’ve waited a long time for this novel to cross the pond. The book follows the paths of three Indian men, who are recent immigrants to England, as they try to navigate living in a new country and coming to terms with what they left behind. Publishers’ Weekly writes, “Sahota’s characters are wonderfully drawn, and imbued with depth and feeling.”
The Nest / Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
This book, about four siblings grappling with the possibility of losing their inheritance, is on everyone’s Read the rest of this entry »
by Anne Mangano on March 1st, 2016
It was announced last week that the United Action for Youth building at 422 Iowa Ave is moving to a new home: 623 College Street. What will it take to move the beautiful Queen Anne a few blocks? To get an idea, take a look at some of our urban renewal photographs on the Digital History Project, which include several houses parading down the street to new locations.
To find these photographs, search for “house relocation.” For more photographs on urban renewal, click on “Browse Collections” and choose the collection “Urban Renewal, 1970’s-1980’s.”
by Anne Mangano on February 23rd, 2016
There are so many books about Detroit. There are the books about its hardships (Charlie LeDuff’s Detroit: an American autopsy). There are those about the people trying to change it for the better (Mark Binelli’s Detroit City is the Place to Be). And of course, there is the “ruin porn,” an unfortunate term, but the photographs are interesting nonetheless (Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre’s The Ruins of Detroit). But David Maraniss’ most recent book, Once in a Great City: a Detroit Story, goes back—way back—to when Detroit was an influential economic and cultural powerhouse—the year 1963.
So what was going on in 1963? The Big Three car companies are selling more cars than ever and Ford is just about to release the Mustang. Martin Luther King Jr. participates in the Walk to Freedom drawing over 100,000 marchers demanding equal wages, employment opportunities, and access to housing. He caps the event with the first version of the “I Have a Dream” speech a few months before the March on Washington. Motown is sweeping the charts with Marvin Gaye’s “Can I Get a Witness” and Martha and the Vandellas’ “Heatwave.” And Detroit is a major contender to host the 1968 Summer Games.
But there are small wounds beginning to fester. 1960 is the first census year that Detroit sees a decrease in population. Urban renewal is tearing down neighborhoods (mostly African American communities) in exchange for highways. 1964 sees strikes at Ford, GM, and American Motors by the United Auto Workers. And the Walk to Freedom is protesting severe discrimination in Detroit. Maraniss weaves all of these things together in his narrative, providing a great sense of the city in the early 1960’s. He also picks a pivotal moment for the city. Like many northern cities in the era, this is a decade when politicians, business leaders, and residents make decisions that lead their city to sink or swim.
by Anne Mangano on February 16th, 2016
I am a devout listener to the podcast You Must Remember This, which is quite terrific if you love classic movies and tales from old Hollywood. I highly recommend it. Last month, the podcast went on break and I was left filling a void as big as an “O” in the Hollywood sign. I filled it with fiction.
In Adriana Trigiani’s All the Stars in the Heavens, Sister Alda Ducci, forced to leave her convent, is hired to be the personal secretary of Loretta Young. The twenty-year old film star is in the middle of making Man’s Castle, but also in the middle of a relationship with Spencer Tracy. Both Young and Tracy are Catholic; Tracy is married. It doesn’t work out. Disappointment and heartbreak abound. But that only sets us up for the real drama: Loretta Young is chosen to star in The Call of the Wild with Clark Gable. The novel mainly focuses on what happens between Young and Gable as they film on location, as well as the fallout of their relationship. Trigiani individualizes each character and relationships are not portrayed as tawdry or depraved as the rumor mill at the time would make them out to be. I appreciated that Alda was a fully developed, interesting character, rather than just service as the framing for the Young/Gable vehicle. It is also a well-written, solid read and it left me wanting more.
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