Originally created 07/18/04

Books briefs

Four volumes commemorate Singer centennial

NEW YORK -- To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Isaac Bashevis Singer, the Library of America has published three volumes of the Polish-born writer's short stories and a volume of pictorial biography.

Singer, born July 14, 1904, emigrated to America in 1935 and is the only Yiddish writer to be awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature (1978).

Together, the three volumes of "Singer: Collected Stories" contain about 200 pieces - all of his stories published in English, some of which are collected for the first time. The stories range from "Gimpel the Fool," Singer's first English publication (1953), to "The Death of Methuselah," which appeared in 1988, three years before his death.

Each volume of short stories contains about 800 pages and is published at $35 in hardcover with a ribbon marker.

"Singer: An Album" offers a short biography illustrated with many photos, some in color. The 128-page paperback is published at $12.95.

All four volumes are edited by Ilan Stavans and are also available together in a boxed set.

Kids' almanac offers facts and fun

NEW YORK -- Where is the annual International Cherry Pit Spitting Championship held? (A better question might be "why?")

The answer - at least to "where?" - is found among the thousands of facts contained in The World Almanac for Kids 2005.

The colorful and generously illustrated volume is divided into dozens of fact-packed sections, including "Facts About Nations," "The English Language," "Money" and "World History." Sprinkled throughout are "Homework Help" sections offering tips about math, grammar, science, test-taking and writing research papers.

Children (adults, too) can learn about hurricanes, what the symbols on a $1 bill represent, the origins of state names, what a riverboat captain's job is like, and what happens to garbage.

Browsers can visit "Odd Museums," including the Cockroach Hall of Fame in Plano, Tex., and the National Yo-Yo Museum in Chico, Calif. Trivia about "Amusement Parks" informs readers that the world's tallest roller coaster, 420 feet, is in Ohio and that the oldest Ferris wheel dates from 1895 and is still spinning in Mississippi.

The 336-page paperback is published at $11.95 by World Almanac Books.

(By the way, the Cherry Pit Spitting Championship is held in Eau Claire, Mich., in July. The current record-holder spat his pit almost 96 feet.)

'Boring Postcards' makes home look sweeter

NEW YORK -- "Boring Postcards USA" turns "wish you were here" into "glad I'm not there."

The appropriately dull paper-bag-brown covers of this book are home to about 160 color postcards, which appear to be from the 1950s and 1960s.

They feature toll plazas, shopping malls, motel rooms, parking lots, gas stations, trailer courts, machine parts, a stone wall, a box of doughnuts, and a mechanic draining oil from a car on a lift - all from the personal collection of editor Martin Parr.

There are no palm trees, Eiffel Tower or Niagara Falls here, but there is a view of a tanker truck with "Anhydrous Ammonia" boldly painted on its side parked outside a chemical plant in Tampa, Fla.; and a small, nondescript building in Elmo, Ill., that offers "Fine Food" but has no takers - not a diner in sight nor a car in the parking lot.

A "guest" appears content as she sits on one of the twin beds in a "bright and cheery bedroom" in a motel in Ormond Beach, Fla. And who wouldn't be tempted to book the next flight to Hazel Park, Mich., to see the A-1 Tune-up Center in person?

"Boring Postcards USA," the paperback edition of the 2000 hardcover, is published by Phaidon at $9.95.


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