Category Archives: Literature

Duke Libraries' LGBT fiction collection

Can the library get a larger section of LGBT fiction?  You have very little… [3574C]

[written in answer space:  Erotic Fiction?]

Sorry to be the one to break it to you, Secret Scribbler, but LGBT fiction and Erotic fiction are not synonymous.

One of the Libraries’ missions is to build collections that support the University’s curriculum and research.  That said, with a finite collections budget and predatory vendors setting serials prices that far outpace inflation, it’s difficult to purchase everything for everybody in our community.  Fortunately, you can get pretty much anything you want through Interlibrary Loan.  With our expedited loan agreement with UNC-CH, NC State, and NC Central, you can get materials from their collections within 48 hours.  Our combined collections are more than 15 million volumes!  And you’re always welcome to suggest a purchase for the Perkins Library Collection.

Impressing an English major

What should I read to impress an English major (male)? [3572B]

Good gracious!  Why would you want to do that?  Because if you impress him, you might marry him after graduation.  He’d hang around the fringes of academia until he became a librarian, inevitably committing the two of you to a life of penury.  But if you really can’t help yourself, being seen in the von der Heyden Pavilion with an open copy Finnegans Wake should do the trick. Believe me, he won’t understand it anymore than you do.

Great books

Why is the Great Gatsby such a good book?  How about Catch 22?  I’m not even an English major and I think they’re great. [3557C]

One doesn’t need to major in English to appreciate great works of literature. One mark of great writing is its impact on future writers. Another is the work’s ability to transcend cultures and time. Shakespeare, for instance, is still read today for these reasons (and all the great car chase scenes!).

The Great Gatsby is about unrestrained materialism and immorality (sound familiar?) and is cited by many authors as a major influence. Catch-22 is outstanding because it illustrates the absurdity of war, a point that apparently needs to be made over and over again. Furthermore, it features an outstanding anti-hero. If you like Catch-22, I highly recommend an earlier example of an anti-hero in a novel about the absurdity or war, Jaroslav Hasek’s The Good Soldier Svejk [891.86 H346AE].

What will happen to the boy who lived?

AP, I turn to you in a time of need, I cannot sleep, I cannot stop thinking about the prophecy! I beg of you, what will happen to Harry Potter???

ANSWER PERSON RESPONDS: Although AP of course knew the answer even before publication, I couldn’t have told you. There will always be people who haven’t read it, so please don’t try to get AP to be a spoiler! Now that your question has properly aged, you may already know that answer. I hope it wasn’t worth losing sleep over.


In what year will Quidditch enter the Olympics?  Will Harry Potter still be limber enough to compete?  If I were to begin my own training now for this eventuality, what techniques would you recommend? [3346A]

In the same year that fantasy football is accepted.  Harry Potter will probably be a little over the hill to participate.  The techniques you need to be familiar with involve handling a broom, so sweep up your room right now!

Compass pointing to nothing save starry passion

where did the following line come from? if it doesn’t exist and i made it up, where is one kinda like it?

“compass pointing to nothing save starry passion”

ANSWER PERSON RESPONDS: In a letter to Charles Sampas, dated December 27, 1949, Jack Kerouac stated that Lowell, Massachusetts (his hometown), “like Winesburg Ohio or Asheville North Carolina or Fresno California or Hawthorne’s Salem, is always the place where the darkness of the trees by the river, on a starry night, gives a hint of that inscrutable *future* Americans are always longing and longing for. And when they find that future, not till then they begin looking *back* with sorrows, and an understanding of how man haunts the earth, pacing, prowling, circling in the shades, and the intelligence of the compass pointing to nothing in sight save starry passion … strange, is strange, how we be-dot infinity with our thoughts and poor rooftops, and hometown, then go away forever.” (Charters, Ann, ed. Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters, 1940-1956. New York: Viking, 1995. p. 221.)

Kerouac is commenting to Sampas, a columnist for the Lowell newspaper, about the upcoming publication of his first novel, *The Town and the City*, which is based on his experiences in Lowell.

The ellipsis is in the quote, so I suppose it was in Kerouac’s letter.


Can you please describe the feeding + mating patterns of a heffalump? [3340A]

Heffalumps exist in the world of Winnie the Pooh, so there simply isn’t any mating.  They seem to eat honey. Just an aside: in Paul Theroux’s book Riding the Iron Rooster, he refers to Mao’s final senile period as his heffalump phase, either because Mao liked honey or more likely because the word conjures up images of a slow-moving, slow-thinking, pudgy, stooped-over elderly guy.