Author Archives: American Library

About American Library

Memorial to the 2nd Air Division, 8th Air Force, United States Army Air Forces. A public library and war memorial in Norwich, England, UK. Commemorating those members of the 2nd Air Division lost in action flying from these parts during World War Two. A public hub for the exchange of ideas, offering learning and engagement opportunities, books, archives and research services. Funded by the Memorial Trust of the 2nd Air Division USAAF, registered UK Charity No. 269047. Managed by the Norfolk County Council Library and Information Service.

The Nobel and poetry

If your first reaction upon hearing that American poet Louise Glück had been awarded the nobel prize for literature was, “Who?” you are not alone. Even though Glück’s work has been intensely lauded over the years (she was the American Poet Laureate in 2003-04, won the National Book Award in 2014 and was given a National Medal of Arts and Humanities in 2015) she will still have been a relative unknown for many people before being awarded the most prestigious prize in literature.

Part of this may be down to the genre Glück works in. Poetry is not necessarily the most popular of the literary genres. When I mention poems I love in conversation, I frequently hear comments like, “I just don’t read poetry,” or “I don’t understand it” or “It’s not my thing.” The situation has gotten to the point where an essay in The Atlantic a few years ago categorized all non-poets as people, “who generally don’t read poetry.” But now that a poet has won the 2020 Nobel prize, the spotlight has turned to her, and to poetry, and it’s a great opportunity to shine a light on Glück’s work, and, by extension, on poetry in general. 

One of the problems with trying to recommend the quintessential Glück collection is that her work is incredibly varied. The 77-year-old has 12 full collections of poetry and two chapbooks to her name. Each of them vary fairly significantly in tone, style and theme. 

If you like raw, cutting poetry, Glück’s collection “The Triumph of Achilles”, which was written in the wake of a divorce, and won the National Book Critics Circle Award would be a good fit. For those who tend to enjoy books that are both popular and critically acclaimed, “The Wild Iris”, which has poems depicting a gardener’s conversation with garden flowers and which won the Pulitzer Prize, is a good choice. For those who like their poems to be more epic, Glück’s book-length poem “October”, published in the wake of September 11, is a good read.

While Glück may not be the easiest introduction to poetry, she is known for her precision and austerity — frequently being compared to poets like Emily Dickinson or Elizabeth Bishop. Writing recently in The Guardian, Fiona Sampson said she loves Glück because she, “has the extraordinary writer’s gift of making clear what is, outside the world of her poem, complex.” This, I think, is the ultimate beauty of poetry, and why everyone should give it a fair chance. It has the ability to help us see things from a different perspective, to understand things in new ways.

Whichever book you choose to check out (and you can find a couple in the Norwich library catalogue), do keep in mind that Glück recently gave out her own suggestion to those who want to become more familiar with her. In an interview with the Chief Scientific Officer of Nobel Media Glück said that, “I would suggest they not read my first book unless they want to feel contempt.”

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Reading America III

They say reading takes you places, and our ‘Reading America’ project is designed to do just that. Each week, we have been putting out a video online recommending a book set in a particular American state. In this way, we hope you can get a feel for the different cultures and geographies that make up the United States of America. Here are the the books we recommended in September.

State: Kansas
Read the E-book here

Truman Capote’s account of the murder of the Clutter family in Holcolm, Kansas, was an instant success, and arguably launched the “True Crime” genre. The murder had no apparent motive, and few clues. To find out more about the crime and how it was solved, check the book out.

State: Louisiana
Read the E-book here

Published 11 years after author John Kennedy Toole’s suicide, this picaresque novel was first a cult classic, before moving to become a mainstream success. It was awarded a Pulitzer Prize and, with its exploration of the French Quarter of New Orleans, provides a colorful look at one of the most vibrant areas of the United States.

State: North Dakota
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A haunting book about justice, gender rights, racial inequality and indigenous rights, Louise Erdrich’s account of a rape on a fictionalized Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota won the 2012 National Book Award for fiction, the Minnesota Book Awards for the novel and short story and was a finalist for the Andrew Carnegie Medal. Though it was written in the 1980s, the book remains topical, and has been an enduring success.

State: Arkansas
Read the E-book here

The first of renowned poet Maya Angelou’s autobiographical series, this book is a poetic and at times tragic look at the deeply segregated and violently prejudiced southern state of Arkansas during the 1930s. The book chronicles Angelou’s life from her earliest memories until the birth of her son when Angelou was only seventeen years old. It is a lyrical look at the life of a brilliant poet.

State: Alabama
Read the E-book here

The memoir that spawned the movie, Bryan Stevenson’s autobiography is a rich account of his work representing those who can’t afford their own lawyer. The book delves deeply into Stevenson’s work, and in doing so, provides good understanding of the pervasive inequalities that plague the American justice system.

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Reading America II

They say reading takes you places, and our ‘Reading America’ project is designed to do just that. Each week, we have been putting out a video online recommending a book set in a particular American state. In this way, we hope you can get a feel for the different cultures and geographies that make up the United States of America. Here are the second five books we recommend.

State: Illinois
Read the E-book here

Upton Sinclair originally wrote The Jungle — a novel about the harsh conditions workers faced in the meat industry in the early 1900s — to try to motivate Americans to become socialist. The novel followed the plight of a family of Lithuanian immigrants to Chicago. As the book progresses, the family is forced to take jobs with dire working conditions, and eventually their poverty leads to everyone’s death except Jurgis, the protagonist. Although Sinclair, a journalist who frequently reported on exploitation and corruption, meant to provoke public outcry for safer working conditions, readers were most concerned with the health violations depicted in the novel. These did prompt reforms of the industry though, leading to Sinclair famously being quoted as saying that he was aiming to affect the public’s heart, but instead got its stomach.

State: South Dakota
Read the E-book here

For nearly a century, the ‘Little House on the Prarie’ book series has been a childhood staple in America. The fictionalized memoirs are written by Laura Ingalls Wilder about her experiences as a young pioneer settler in the midwest. “The Long Winter” is the sixth book in the series, and chronicles a stormy winter in South Dakota from 1880 to 1881, when Laura is about fourteen years old. Over the winter months, blizzard after blizzard hits the town, to the point where there isn’t enough coal to heat the buildings, trains stop running and food becomes scarce. Although Wilder frequently fictionalized her experiences for the books, this one is mostly accurate. The winter of 80/81 was known historically as “The Snow Winter” because of its frequent blizzards and extreme cold. For anyone interested in an engaging look at settler life in America, this is a great children’s read.

State: Vermont
Read the E-book here

This novel, written by Shirley Jackson, was a finalist for the National Book Award, and is considered to be one of the best literary ghost stories of the 20th century. The plot follows four characters who go to the supposedly haunted Hill House, to see if they can get proof of the existence of the supernatural. While living in the house, the characters experience many strange events, and one of them seems to even become possessed by the house, although it’s not clear if this is just her own psychosis. This is one of the hallmarks of Jackson’s writing style book, which uses suspense and terror (the feelings that come before a fright) rather than sheer horror (which is the result of a fright) to spark a response in the reader.

State: Iowa
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The basis for the popular movie ‘Field of Dreams’ “Shoeless Joe” by W.P. Kinsella is based around the Chicago Black Sox scandal of 1919. That year, eight Chicago White Sox players were accused of deliberately losing the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for money from a gambling syndicate. In the book, the protagonist, Ray, hears a voice telling him to build a baseball field in the middle of his Iowa corn field in order to give Shoeless Joe Jackson, one of the players accused of corruption, a chance at redemption. The field then becomes a conduit to other baseball legends. Kinsella conceived the idea for Shoeless Joe at the famous Iowa Writer’s Workshop as his classmates loved his stories about baseball legends of old. The book features superb writing, and is a fantastic and fantastical portrayal of the sport of baseball.

State: Massachusetts
Read the E-book here

Written by Nathanial Hawthorne in 1850, the plot revolves around a mansion built in the 17th century, and the Pyncheon family who inhabit it. The house is under a supposed curse, which was cast when Colonel Pyncheon seized the land on which the house was built from Matthew Maule by accusing him of witchcraft. Colonel Pyncheon was later found dead in his armchair during the housewarming party. The current Pyncheons also suffer from a series of misfortunes, including murder accusations. As the book progresses, the family look to find atonement, and to escape from the curse that hangs over their house. The book has had a strong influence on many science fiction writers, and has seen many film and television adaptations.

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2nd Air Division Quiz – Test your knowledge

Today, June 27th, is Armed Forces Day. This day is a chance to show support for the men and women who make up the Armed Forces community: from currently serving troops to Service families, veterans and cadets. We thought we’d mark the day but quizzing you on your knowledge of the 2nd Air Division in a quiz created by our Library Assistant Tom. Have a go and leave your answers in the comments here or on Facebook. Then make sure to come back next week for all the answers!

1. Which four engined heavy bomber was flown by bomb groups of the Second Air Division?
– B-17 Flying Fortress
– B-24 Liberator
– B-29 Superfortress

2nd Air Division Archive at Norfolk Record Office. Catalogue Ref 371/916

2. Which Hollywood actor of pre-war fame served with the Second Air Division as a pilot flying combat missions?

– Clarke Gable
– Ronald Reagan
– James Stewart

3. What was the name of the Second Air Division bomber aircraft that flew the most number of missions, with no loss to crew and was therefore considered to be extremely lucky?

– Witchcraft
– Nine-o-Nine
– Ye Olde Pub

4. What was the date of the Ploesti raid, or Operation Tidal Wave, a bombing mission targeting oil production in Romania that was one of the bloodiest operations the Second Air Division took part in and later referred to as “Black Sunday”?

– 18th April, 1943
– 20th February, 1944
– 1st August, 1943

5. What was the abbreviation of the organisation of women’s branch of the United States Army as of July 1943?


2nd Air Division Archive at Norfolk Record Office. Catalogue Ref 371/805

6. Should an airman of the Second Air Division be forced to parachute from a crashing aircraft and survive the journey to earth, what semi-formal club would he be eligible to be a member of?

– The Lucky Bastard Club
– Caterpillar Club
– Goldfish Club

7. In Norwich city during wartime a popular venue for dances and other recreation was the Samson and Hercules, an establishment just outside the cathedral grounds. What was one of the nicknames American servicemen used to refer to it by?

– Bishop’s Palace
– The Adam and Eve
– The Muscle Palace

8. One of the types of fighter aircraft that protected bombers of the Second Air Division was the P-51 Mustang. Which device of British origin greatly contributed to the Mustang’s performance, making it one of the best fighter aircraft of the war?

– Gee
– Merlin 66
– Window

2nd Air Division Archive at Norfolk Record Office. Catalogue Ref 371/916


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