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Book News: New York Public Library Scraps Controversial Renovation

The main branch of the New York Public Library in New York City.
Seth Wenig
The main branch of the New York Public Library in New York City.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • The New York Public Library has abandoned a controversial plan to renovate its 42nd Street flagship building. The Central Library Plan, as it was called, would have turned the research institution into a circulating library, moving the books in the historic stacks under the library's reading room to storage in New Jersey. The plan — which came with a $300 million price tag — was met with ferocious opposition from writers and scholars including Salman Rushdie, Tom Stoppard, Jonathan Lethem and Annie Proulx, who signed a petition arguing that if the plan goes through, "NYPL will lose its standing as a premier research institution (second only to the Library of Congress in the United States) — a destination for international as well as American scholars — and become a busy social center where focused research is no longer the primary goal. Books will be harder to get when they're needed either because of delays in locating them in the storage facility or because they have been checked out to borrowers."
  • Environmentalist and author Farley Mowat, who described the wilds of subarctic Canada, has died at age 92. In a preface to his most famous book, Never Cry Wolf, he argued, "We have doomed the wolf not for what it is but for what we deliberately and mistakenly perceive it to be: the mythologized epitome of a savage, ruthless killer — which is, in reality, not more than the reflected image of ourselves." Often accused of playing fast and loose with reality, Mowat himself is quoted in a 1996 article saying, "I never let the facts get in the way of the truth." Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement that Mowat will be "remembered as a passionate Canadian. His legacy will live on in the treasure of Canadian literature he leaves behind, which will remain a joy to both new and old fans around the world."
  • W. W. Norton has acquired a book by former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. According to a press release, "Dr. Bernanke's book — the ultimate insider's memoir of the global financial crisis of 2007-2009, the Great Recession that followed, and the Federal Reserve's creative policy responses throughout the period--will offer compelling narrative, rich detail, and significant new material as it provides analysis of the causes and consequences of the crisis." The book — not yet titled — will come out in 2015. The Associated Press, citing two anonymous publishing officials, reports that the deal is "worth at least $1 million."
  • Tom Sleigh has a new poem, "The Animals in the Zoo Don't Seem Worried," up at Poetrymagazine:
  • "...Somebody or something I read once said that when Jesus had his vision of what his father, God, would do to him, that Jesus could only see pieces of a cross, pieces of a body appearing through flashes of sun, as if the body in his vision was hands looking for feet, a head for a torso, everything come unmagnetized from the soul ..."

    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Annalisa Quinn is a contributing writer, reporter, and literary critic for NPR. She created NPR's Book News column and covers literature and culture for NPR.