J.D. Salinger, author of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, has died aged 91

J.D. Salinger, the author of The Catcher in the Rye, has died aged 91.

The novel has been a rite of passage for many readers, and one of the most influential works of the 20th century. In it, Salinger created the archetypal disaffected teen Holden Caulfield. ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ has been referenced by so many movies and books, studied by young and old, utilised by politicians and entertainers, so much so that it has entered society in a far broader sense than just the literary.

It has also been associated with murder. Mark Chapman, murderer of John Lennon, was obsessed by the character of Caulfield  (see more cultural references at Wikipedia).

Salinger himself was an archetype, that of the reclusive hermit artist.  You can only wonder what he’d think about “RIP JD Salinger” and “Catcher in the Rye” are appearing as trending topics on Twitter.

 The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it.

New Historical Electronic Newspapers – a family history bonanza

The library has recently gained access  to the below four newspapers for library users:

The Irish Times (1859-2008) and The Weekly Irish Times (1876-1958) From the aftermath of the Great Famine, the launch of the Titanic, and the Easter Rising of 1916, World Wars to the  Dublin début of River dance, this resource captures it all in the context of the time.

The Guardian (1821-1900) and The Observer (1791-2003) Covers the past political and social events of the past 200 years. From Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo to the Russian Revolution to Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, these newspapers will enchant not just genealogists but anyone with an interest in news and history.

All of these newspapers are part of ProQuest’s Historical Newspaper Database. This is a digital archive that allows access to every issue of each title scanned from paper-cover-to-cover, with full-page and article images in easily downloadable PDF format. Therefore these newspapers contain not just news stories but:

  • Births, Deaths, Marriages and Engagement Notices
  • Editorials and Letters to the Editor
  • Photographs, Advertising, Cartoons
  • Society pages, Advice and Reviews.

The newspapers in this collection reside on a single platform so users can cross-search all ProQuest Historical Newspapers titles with one another. Users can sort their results by oldest, most recent, or most relevant. In addition, stories that originally spanned multiple pages of a newspaper are “threaded” together, appearing as one continuous image and improving readability. These newspapers sit nicely with  the other historical newspapers we provide access to through the British Library’s collection of newspapers 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection and the 19th Century British Library Newspapers. A real find for those who have developed an interest in  family history through the use of  our genealogy database Ancestry Library Edition or those who take an active interest in the events that have made our world what it is today.

A good newspaper is a nation talking to itself – Arthur Miller

Peeping into Pepys – when reading someone’s diary is ok

Reading someone’s diary is the ultimate invasion of privacy, but publish it,  and hey presto it becomes literature, history.

Did Samuel Pepys ever guess that people hundreds of years later would be reading about his (occasionally naughty) life?
Or Anne Frank that her diary would be one of the items of record documenting the horror that was the Holocaust?

Diaries are the most personal, and hence the most revealing form of writing there is. I’ve long admired The Assassin’s cloak which cleverly takes on a day to day form and features diary entries from a diverse set of characters including the aforementioned Pepys, Kafka and Goebbels. The editors have assembled The Secret Annexe which takes the same format and applies it to war diarists.

Do people still keep diaries, or do they use Facebook, Twitter and blogs to expose their doings/feelings? Whose diary would you like to accidentally come across?


Busker by the CathedralGo the Christchurch City Council – no they didn’t pay me to say that – but really – how lucky are we to have the World Buskers Festival in Christchurch. 14 years and still going strong. The energy generated has  Christchurch buzzing. Being a visual person I love live entertainment and the Buskers festival certainly offers plenty to choose from. The weather may be unpredictable but the quality of the busking is not.

Christchurch has come alive and yes the people are indeed dancing in the streets. The show I went to at the Art Gallery on Sunday had the crowd dancing and cheering with delight. I’m not really into Rap but if you get a chance check out Dub FX – very entertaining – Anyone who can prepare a meal in Rap and manage to hold my attention is OK in my world.

It feels so great to be a part of such a wonderful event. The two week programme offers something for everyone – Comedy, Music, Street Art, Living Statues, Mime – each bringing their own brand of energy.

Don’t miss the opportunity to expose yourself to something new and maybe a little bit different. It seems no matter who you talk to – everyone has seen something different. So if you have experienced feelings of delight and excitement please share with us – the more support we can give the buskers the better.

Image of the week

Building the King Edward Barracks. 1905.

Building the King Edward Barracks

King Edward Barracks, corner of Cashel and Montreal Streets, Christchurch.

This photograph shows the army barracks under construction in 1905. Sidney Luttrell (1872-1932), who is pictured in the right foreground with his brother Alfred on the left, designed 21 latticed, curved steel girders to span the 36.5m width as economically as possible and to support the curved, corrugated iron roof. The girders, constructed by Scott Brothers, each weighed six tonnes. Twenty-five working days after it was begun the building was complete and opened on 26 July 1905.

It was used for drilling soldiers and later for civic functions and social occasions until the army withdrew in 1993 and the site was purchased by Ngai Tahu. The building was transported to Hornby where it was re-erected as a distribution warehouse in 2000

Contact us if you have any further information on any of the images. Do you have any photographs of this building? We love donations. Want to see more? You can browse our collection here.

The wicked game, or a good walk spoiled

The Wicked GameA day spent golfing is some people’s idea of heaven. But anyone who’s tried to play the game will know the special corner of hell that is the mental anguish of trying to play consistently well. Trying to keep co-ordinated, avoid hazards and have a good short game takes dedication and a lot of practice.

Golfers are spoilt for choice in Christchurch. The library has a page of excellent golfing resources to help you improve your swing. There’s pages on the recently-completed NZ PGA Championship, New Zealand’s oldest golf tournament, and the NZ Women’s Open, both of which are played in Christchurch. The women’s open will be played at the new Pegasus Golf Course, just north of the city, in February.

As you can tell, I’m desperately trying to avoid mentioning Tiger. So, without discussing adultery, horrendous golf puns or bad jokes; with absolutely no mention of Tiger Woods and the 2009 flatulence-supression ‘scandal’, or anything like that,  please tell me:

Do you have a favourite golf course in Canterbury? And what’s your best (or worst) golfing experience?

Raggamuffin 2010

Roger Steffens & Peter Simon's reggae scrapbook

What do Lauryn Hill, Sean Kingston and I all have in common? Apart from the obvious, we are all human? Well, we were all lucky enough to be enjoying the sunshine in Rotorua last weekend! On the Saturday just gone, the so-called Māori capital of Aotearoa played host to some of the most respected Rasta reggae artists of this century!

On a slightly cloudy and overcast morning, approximately 30,000 Rastafarians turned out to celebrate the many Rasta-ways! Smooth reggae beats were complemented by the scorching NZ sun as the red, yellow and green of flags flew high in the air!

Sean Kingston was a crowd favourite, but I enjoyed the quick-tongue of the sista, Lauryn Hill, as she performed a collaboration of lyrics from Miseducation. My ultimate fave though was the pimp-styles of Mr Lurva-Lurva himself, Shaggy! His lyrics sent some of the female folk into frenzies, which was definitely entertaining to watch!

World History

This week saw the launch of a fabulous programme from the BBC and British Museum, A History of the World in 100 Objects. Every day a new object is ‘released’ in the form of an item on the website and a podcast of just under 15 minutes. There’s also a blog and the introductory post by Neil MacGregor sums up the programme nicely:

Most of us learn history from books, but I think that it is physical objects – actual things – that most powerfully connect us to the past – things made by somebody with hands just like ours, for a purpose we can still hope to understand…
The objects I’ll be talking about in each programme tell us what people were doing, what they were thinking, how they lived and why they did what they did…
Along the way we look at the connections and contacts between societies that show how the story of the world is the story of the whole world.

As well as items from the British Museum’s collections there are items from other museums across the UK and the public are also encouraged to add their own objects to the website as well as commenting on objects. You can search objects by location, theme, culture, size, material and even colour. Today’s object was a carving of two swimming reindeer that is about 13,000 years-old.

Apart from the history angle (and I’ll confess to being a bit of a history geek) this presents a fascinating example of the kind of far-reaching, multi-dimensional, multi-partner project that we’re beginning to see particularly coming out of the UK. There’s just so many aspects to it:

Buy one, get 10 free …

In these trying times of economic uncertainty, many of us are looking for ways to maximise efficiency and return on investment, while minimising risk and limiting the possibility of failure.

How many of us have vivid memories of running into the library to grab that perfect summer read, only to discover once home again that the perfect book is not:  that all that time and energy and effort were for naught.  Not only that, but another trip to the library is now necessary, and with an increased fear of failure to grapple with.

Fear not, intrepid investors!  The library has the perfect solution – Short Stories.  That’s right, audience, you heard me.  For decades regarded as the poor cousin of ‘real books’, these polished little beauties offer all the excitement and intrigue of a novel, but with so many added advantages.  Let me explain.

Firstly, they’re short.  This means that instead of plowing your way through one hefty novel, taking days, weeks or even months, you can polish off a short story in your tea-break, a couple over dinner, and a few more before bedtime.  You can start, middle and finish a dozen or more tales in the time it would normally take you to get to chapter 6 of a ‘normal’ book.  Imagine the surprise and amazement of your friends and family when Continue reading

Thank you for the music

In 1976 it could be hard to find music to listen to if you didn’t like the hair and flares bands and felt a bit old for the super-glued spikes and straights; if the concept album was just too overblown but the three minute thrash didn’t appeal either.  

Brought up on Hank Williams and Patsy Cline, I covertly listened to Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, then someone who shared my guilty secret said “you should try the McGarrigle Sisters, they’re like Maria Muldaur only better.”

And so began thirty years of listening pleasure which came to an end this week with the death of Kate McGarrigle. Kate and Anna McGarrigle weren’t really like Maria Muldaur, in fact it was hard to pin them down as being like anyone else.  Folk singers, singer-songwriters, it didn’t matter what they were labelled, they just got on with making music of an elegant simplicity, music that features some of the sweetest harmonies ever. It’s sad to think there’ll be no new music, but the music Kate McGarrigle did make in her life is an enduring legacy any musician would be proud of.