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Advent Poetry Calendar – Day 21- “This Is Just to Say”


This Is Just To Say, by William Carlos Williams

Submitted by Rebecca Whidden. Becky Whidden was an Access Services Specialist at Falvey. She shared this poem with me when she heard about the poetry Advent calendar. I love this little poem. The poem is lacking in punctuation or rhyme, which makes it fairly ambiguous and open to the reader’s interpretation, which makes it a favorite among high school English teachers who in my experience have used it as a springboard for discussing meaning and interpretation in poetry. In some ways it is a Rorschach test with words.

At face value the poem is extremely simple, evoking the banal domestic image of a note left out on a table. However upon reading it, I personally can’t help but feel the sensual nature of the poem. The intimacy of a private note meant only to be shared between two people; the word choices – “plums,” ‘icebox,” “forgive,” “delicious,” “sweet” – something about the way these words feel when when spoken carries a richness that arouses the senses in complex and beautiful ways.


This Is Just To Say
by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold


Advent Poetry Calendar – Day 20 – “Library”


“Library” by Scroobius Pip

Submitted by Sarah Wingo, Falvey’s subject librarian for English literature and theatre.

We couldn’t very well have a library advent calendar and not have a poem about libraries. I ran across this one just the other day and fell in love with it, I hope you enjoy it too.

“Library” by Scroobius Pip was originally commissioned by Chris Hawkins for BBC 6 Music’s celebration of libraries and performed live on his show in November 2014. We haven’t provided the words for this poem because it really is as much performance piece as it is poem, and even though the video is just words on a screen as they’re being spoken, it is worth a watch.

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Advent Poetry Calendar – Day 19 – “A Triptych in Verse in Honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary”


“A Triptych in Verse in Honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary” by Darren Poley

Submitted by Darren Poley

Darren Poley is the Humanities/Theology librarian at Falvey Memorial Library and he is the second staff member to graciously share some of his personal poetry with us for our Advent calendar. Darren wrote this piece in August of 2014 with the dedication “to my friend Father K. Brewster Hastings, Pastor of St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, Abington, Penna.”


A Triptych in Verse in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary
By Darren Poley

Did It Rain In Galilee?

Holy Virgin do you delight in the rain?
Our heavenly Father sets the waters to move.
The waters are good and bring life from the earth.
They are there in the six days of Creation.
They are there when the earth was flooded.
Theotokos, do you delight in the rain?

Through your son, your only child, all things were made.
Jesus wept.
Daughter of the Father – Mother of the Son – chaste spouse of the Holy Spirit:
Did you weep with joy in Nazareth?
Did you weep with sadness in Jerusalem?
Rachel wept for her children.

Mother of God, mother of all;
Do you weep now for your children?
When you beheld the face of the glory of Israel;
That enlightens the benighted gentiles still:
Did you weep with joy in Bethlehem?
Did you weep with sadness in the cave made into a stable?

Queen of heaven and earth do you weep tears of myrrh?
Pure virgin who is the mother of the incarnate Logos:
Did you watch the Son of Man play in the rain as a child?
Were tears of sadness there because your spirit was pierced by a sword?
Were your tears at the foot of the cross mixed with the rain over Jerusalem?
Were they tears of myrrh?

All of Creation was reborn when your son rose from the dead.
Mary of holy Anne, descendent of kings, Mother of the Redeemer:
Turn your eyes of mercy towards us.
Ever-Virgin: show us the fruit of your womb;
It is a paradox to reason and a cause of delight.
It is the peace which passes all understanding.

It is raining today.
Parents weep with joy for they discover the blessings of children.
They weep with sorrow when they see their children eaten up by pride and hate.
The children fight over nothing.
Mix your tears with the rain.
Renew hope in us.
Weeping in Babylon

A fertile plain between two rivers
Of old, the Amorites built between the Tigris and Euphrates
A holy city for Mesopotamia
Sons of Judah did the new emperor take
Exile was their home

Virgin Mother of the Holy Child, descendant of Abraham
You’re the seal of the Covenant
When the son’s sons of Josiah the king were carried away
Like orphans
How could they know deliverance would come?

Daughter of Zion
You carried and suckled the Deliverer of the children of Eve
You, O’ Lily of Jerusalem
You did become the destroyer of idols
Who is it that is weeping in Babylon?

With holy Joseph to protect you
You went into exile in Egypt with the Christ child
From banishment you brought Him back to His people
A fertile Virgin, pure and graceful
The Father in Heaven chose to bless

In your body God became incarnate
The Incarnation brought us home out of bondage
The wars of men make the widow and the fatherless too soon
The sons of Judah lamented on the Fertile Crescent
Banishment was the punishment for their crimes

Destroyer of paganism, lily of Jerusalem
In concert with the will of the one God
You conquered pride and apathy with humility and love
Love for the one who rules the Universe
Love for the unbegotten Son of God whom you bore
From your life did one nature unite with another?
From you did the one true Messiah come
Out of your life the King of kings took the riches of humanity
To set free the children of Zion
From you arose the New Jerusalem

Holy Virgin Mary, your only son establishes the new heaven and the new earth
You are the tabernacle of the Most High, the holy of holies
You made a place for the Name of God to be praised forever
You direct the renewed people of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
To the presence of the Almighty

There is weeping in Babylon
The idols of ancient times are falsely blessed anew
Many drunk on wantonness and blood
The children already delivered wander in a wilderness
Too full and noisy to be recognized as a wasteland

We shall be delivered by the mighty hand of the Lord
His right arm shall be our strength
Mother of Virtue you show us the way to conquer
We are engraved in the hand of God
No one can pluck us from the hollow of it

Blessed Mother, the fruit of your womb
The Son of God, a son of David
He makes for us a new home
With many blessed dwelling places
We shall rest beside quiet waters

“Fallen is Babylon,” He says
“Depart from her my people”
In the midst of the sanctified
There is only one worthy to receive the scroll
And to break open its seals

Mother of God
You are at the right hand of your son
Pray for us
Beckon us to the new inheritance
Of the People of God

It is now that we are exiled by our falleness
It is with you that we shall see God
Where the light never fades
And no tears of sorrow are shed
There will only be joy and peace
Icon of Redemption

Before He laid down the foundations of the Cosmos;
The Lord knew each one of us.
The one, true, and living God foresaw the one full of grace.
God the Father did know a new Eve would come into the world.

A child of good people, Joachim and Anne;
You are the fruit of a marriage both unitive and procreative.
You are the Immaculate Conception.
Because, while altogether human, sanctifying grace did you regain.

You did not die and rise with Christ crucified;
But the merit of your son’s agony and triumph was granted you when you were created.
Immaculate Mary, the Holy Spirit is in every fiber of your being.
You were and are forever without sin.

Where the favor of God reigns;
No disobedience can ever exist.
Free obedience, born from charity, is the blessing of life in Christ.
He did not think even divinity a thing to be grasped.
Like the bush burning, but not consumed;
You are there on holy ground.
There where wanderer, shepherd, and murderer comes face to face with He who is.
To the consubstantial trinity of divine persons, who with one voice say “I AM,” you guide us.

Queen of prophets and of martyrs;
True witnesses reflect you.
You are the beacon from which heavenly light from the Image of the Father shines.
The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world is the everlasting light.

Holy Virgin Mother of God;
You are the ark of the new and everlasting Covenant.
Your son is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.
It is through you that the Alpha and Omega chose to assume humanity unto Himself.

They who are one in being;
He is the source of all that is.
When we follow in your train, we see the blessed Vision of the deity, face-to-face.
Written humbly, you forever point us back to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Our Mother of Good Counsel, mosaic, in Old Falvey lobby

Our Mother of Good Counsel, mosaic, in Old Falvey lobby


Advent Poetry Calendar – Day 18 – “The Lady of Shalott”


“The Lady of Shalott” by  Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Submitted by: Sarah Wingo, subject librarian for English literature and theatre.

“The Lady of Shalott” was written by  Alfred, Lord Tennyson around 1832 and then published in slightly varying forms in 1833 and 1842, and is loosely based on the Arthurian legend.

I chose to share this poem because it is one of those pieces of literary cultural currency that, at least for me, crept into my general awareness at a very early age.

My first encounter with“The Lady of Shalott” was through another piece of literature altogether in Anne of Green Gables, both the book and then again in the 1980’s television mini-series starring Megan Fellows. I also have vivid memories of my father playing Loreena McKennitt’s hauntingly beautiful adaptation, which is on her 1991 album The Visit.

Later in school I would encounter Tennyson, “The Lady of Shalott,” and his other poems in a far more academic contexts, but as is often the case it is my earliest experiences with “The Lady of Shalott” that secured its place in my heart.


 “The Lady of Shalott”
By  Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Part I

On either side the river lie

Long fields of barley and of rye,

That clothe the wold and meet the sky;

And thro’ the field the road runs by

   To many-tower’d Camelot;

The yellow-leaved waterlily

The green-sheathed daffodilly

Tremble in the water chilly

   Round about Shalott.


Willows whiten, aspens shiver.

The sunbeam showers break and quiver

In the stream that runneth ever

By the island in the river

   Flowing down to Camelot.

Four gray walls, and four gray towers

Overlook a space of flowers,

And the silent isle imbowers

   The Lady of Shalott.


Underneath the bearded barley,

The reaper, reaping late and early,

Hears her ever chanting cheerly,

Like an angel, singing clearly,

   O’er the stream of Camelot.

Piling the sheaves in furrows airy,

Beneath the moon, the reaper weary

Listening whispers, ‘ ‘Tis the fairy,

   Lady of Shalott.’


The little isle is all inrail’d

With a rose-fence, and overtrail’d

With roses: by the marge unhail’d

The shallop flitteth silken sail’d,

   Skimming down to Camelot.

A pearl garland winds her head:

She leaneth on a velvet bed,

Full royally apparelled,

   The Lady of Shalott.


Part II

No time hath she to sport and play:

A charmed web she weaves alway.

A curse is on her, if she stay

Her weaving, either night or day,

   To look down to Camelot.

She knows not what the curse may be;

Therefore she weaveth steadily,

Therefore no other care hath she,

   The Lady of Shalott.


She lives with little joy or fear.

Over the water, running near,

The sheepbell tinkles in her ear.

Before her hangs a mirror clear,

   Reflecting tower’d Camelot.

And as the mazy web she whirls,

She sees the surly village churls,

And the red cloaks of market girls

   Pass onward from Shalott.


Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,

An abbot on an ambling pad,

Sometimes a curly shepherd lad,

Or long-hair’d page in crimson clad,

   Goes by to tower’d Camelot:

And sometimes thro’ the mirror blue

The knights come riding two and two:

She hath no loyal knight and true,

   The Lady of Shalott.


But in her web she still delights

To weave the mirror’s magic sights,

For often thro’ the silent nights

A funeral, with plumes and lights

   And music, came from Camelot:

Or when the moon was overhead

Came two young lovers lately wed;

I am half sick of shadows,’ said

   The Lady of Shalott.


Part III

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,

He rode between the barley-sheaves,

The sun came dazzling thro’ the leaves,

And flam’d upon the brazen greaves

   Of bold Sir Lancelot.

A red-cross knight for ever kneel’d

To a lady in his shield,

That sparkled on the yellow field,

   Beside remote Shalott.


The gemmy bridle glitter’d free,

Like to some branch of stars we see

Hung in the golden Galaxy.

The bridle bells rang merrily

   As he rode down from Camelot:

And from his blazon’d baldric slung

A mighty silver bugle hung,

And as he rode his armour rung,

   Beside remote Shalott.


All in the blue unclouded weather

Thick-jewell’d shone the saddle-leather,

The helmet and the helmet-feather

Burn’d like one burning flame together,

   As he rode down from Camelot.

As often thro’ the purple night,

Below the starry clusters bright,

Some bearded meteor, trailing light,

   Moves over green Shalott.


His broad clear brow in sunlight glow’d;

On burnish’d hooves his war-horse trode;

From underneath his helmet flow’d

His coal-black curls as on he rode,

   As he rode down from Camelot.

From the bank and from the river

He flash’d into the crystal mirror,

‘Tirra lirra, tirra lirra:’

   Sang Sir Lancelot.


She left the web, she left the loom

She made three paces thro’ the room

She saw the water-flower bloom,

She saw the helmet and the plume,

   She look’d down to Camelot.

Out flew the web and floated wide;

The mirror crack’d from side to side;

‘The curse is come upon me,’ cried

   The Lady of Shalott.


Part IV

In the stormy east-wind straining,

The pale yellow woods were waning,

The broad stream in his banks complaining,

Heavily the low sky raining

   Over tower’d Camelot;

Outside the isle a shallow boat

Beneath a willow lay afloat,

Below the carven stern she wrote,

      The Lady of Shalott.


A cloudwhite crown of pearl she dight,

All raimented in snowy white

That loosely flew (her zone in sight

Clasp’d with one blinding diamond bright)

   Her wide eyes fix’d on Camelot,

Though the squally east-wind keenly

Blew, with folded arms serenely

By the water stood the queenly

   Lady of Shalott.


With a steady stony glance—

Like some bold seer in a trance,

Beholding all his own mischance,

Mute, with a glassy countenance—

   She look’d down to Camelot.

It was the closing of the day:

She loos’d the chain, and down she lay;

The broad stream bore her far away,

   The Lady of Shalott.


As when to sailors while they roam,

By creeks and outfalls far from home,

Rising and dropping with the foam,

From dying swans wild warblings come,

   Blown shoreward; so to Camelot

Still as the boathead wound along

The willowy hills and fields among,

They heard her chanting her deathsong,

   The Lady of Shalott.


A longdrawn carol, mournful, holy,

She chanted loudly, chanted lowly,

Till her eyes were darken’d wholly,

And her smooth face sharpen’d slowly,

   Turn’d to tower’d Camelot:

For ere she reach’d upon the tide

The first house by the water-side,

Singing in her song she died,

   The Lady of Shalott.


Under tower and balcony,

By garden wall and gallery,

A pale, pale corpse she floated by,

Deadcold, between the houses high,

   Dead into tower’d Camelot.

Knight and burgher, lord and dame,

To the planked wharfage came:

Below the stern they read her name,

      The Lady of Shalott.


They cross’d themselves, their stars they blest,

Knight, minstrel, abbot, squire, and guest.

There lay a parchment on her breast,

That puzzled more than all the rest,

   The wellfed wits at Camelot.

‘The web was woven curiously,

The charm is broken utterly,

Draw near and fear not,—this is I,

   The Lady of Shalott.’



Advent Poetry Calendar – Day 16 – “Mad Girl’s Love Song”


“Mad Girl’s Love Song” by Sylvia Plath

Submitted by Kallie Stahl

Kallie Stahl is a second-year communication graduate student who joined the Falvey Scholarly Outreach team as a Graduate Assistant at the start of the fall 2014 semester. She now works for the Communications and Marketing Dept.  Kallie is a big Sylvia Plath fan and explained that she has always liked the way that this particular poem addresses the struggle between the fantasy and the reality of love.

Plath wrote “Mad Girl’s Love Song” in 1951, while she was a student at Smith College. It was first published in the August 1953 edition of Mademoiselle, where Plath was working as a Guest Editor.


“Mad Girl’s Love Song”
By Sylvia Plath

I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)
The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)
God topples from the sky, hell’s fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan’s men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
I fancied you’d return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)
I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)


Soriano and Rivera Hernández Talk Hispanic Heritage Month

With Hispanic Heritage month quickly approaching, the Falvey Memorial Library had the chance to sit down and talk with Dr. Raúl Diego Rivera Hernández, assistant professor of contemporary Mexican literature and Latin American studies, and Dr. Cristina Soriano, an assistant professor in the history department and director of the Latin American Studies Program.

We discussed the reasons for celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, their reasons for bringing these festivities to Villanova, and the elements of their own personal careers and research.

The celebration of Hispanic Heritage running from mid-September until October may appear arbitrary to the casual observer. Hernández offers clarification, however, “the idea is to start with activities on September 15 because this is the time when at least five Latin American countries start celebrating independence.”

Latin American Studies Banner

(Villanova University Latin American Studies Banner)

Also, according to Hernández, the festivities typically end on or around “October 12 connected with the arrival of the Spaniards in the Americas in 1492.”

The festivities here at Villanova will last well beyond that Oct. 12 arrival; the Latin American Studies Program and the Romance Languages Department have scheduled events up until Nov. 17.

The added time here at Villanova will help Hispanic Heritage Month accomplish its tripartite mission: to celebrate, to inform, and to raise awareness. Dr. Soriano encourages Latina/Latino and Latin American students to participate, stating, “this is a place for them to celebrate Latin American culture.”

The events are not limited to students of Hispanic descent. Dr. Soriano wants the rest of the population here at Villanova to know, “we’re inviting students who are not Latino or Latin American to get to know Hispanic culture better.”

Just chatting with these two extremely knowledgeable professors cultivated an interest in Hispanic Heritage for me. According to Dr. Hernández, this interest is a main goal of the events. One important part of the celebration, according to Hernández, is to “attract more students from Spanish who are thinking about a major to see what we do as professors and as researchers.”

He also wants to “attract people who are Spanish-speaking students but also people who are interested in different countries from Latin America, people who want a perspective on Latin American history or a perspective on Latin American culture.”

While celebration and information are important to Hernández and Soriano, raising awareness about current issues in Mexico and the rest of Latin America remains paramount to their mission. Soriano mentioned, “Something I always teach my students: universities are places where students are always connected with political realities.”

This is true for her in both the United States and Latin America, but she stressed, “Students are always a vibrant part of politics in all countries of Latin America. It’s important for Villanova University students to know that this is how Latin American politics develop.”

Hernández continued, “we’re speaking here of alternative politics. The participation of students is not always connected to political parties or state institutions. Political participation in this country is usually linked to electoral competition and lining for Democrats or Republicans; in Latin America it is completely different.”

Hernández’s own interest is in contemporary public sphere movements in Latin America. He is particularly interested in promoting awareness about the 43 students of Ayotzinapa who disappeared in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico on the night of September 26-27, 2014. Tragic events such as these trigger varying responses and different types of activism in Latin America and Mexico.

Hernández edited a book that explores the connections between online and street activism in the case of #YoSoy132, a student movement that emerged in Mexico in the context of the presidential campaign of 2012, titled “Del Internet a las calles: #YoSoy132, una opción alternativa de hacer política” (From the Internet to the Streets: An Alternate way of Doing Politics), which was published by Editorial A Contracorriente (North Carolina State University) earlier this year.


(Scholarship from Villanova’s own Romance Languages Department)

“I do the same thing, but in the 18th century using pamphlets and manuscripts,” Soriano added.

Soriano graduated with an anthropology degree in Venezuela. “Then I was accepted into Ph.D. programs in the Unites States and attended NYU,” she continued, “my question has always been: ‘if Venezuela was introduced to the printing press so late, how did people get their information?’”

Perhaps you can find the answer to that question in her up-coming book from New Mexico University Press entitled Tides of Revolution: Information and Politics in Colonial Venezuela.

For any other questions you might have about Latin America culture, or if you just want to come and celebrate your Hispanic Heritage, check out the upcoming events, available here.

Website photo 2 Article by William Repetto, a graduate assistant on the Communications and Marketing Team at the Falvey Memorial Library. He is currently pursuing an MA in English at Villanova University.


Hispanic Heritage Month: Your Own Hispanic Heritage

It’s September 1565, and you’ve just stepped off of a Spanish boat that recently skirmished with French sailors, who hoped to reap the benefits of Spanish treasure ships in the area. (Or maybe they were seeking the mythological Cibola, or perhaps the Fountain of Youth. Maybe that’s why you’ve braved the journey yourself.) You spotted this piece of land a few days ago, on August 28, and so your captain, Pedro Ménendez, has decided to name the spot after the Saint whose feast day occurs on that date – St. Augustine.

Chances are, you were not really there on that late summer day that witnessed the establishment of St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest continuously occupied settlement of the continental United States. You may, however, very well be a Villanova student, faculty member, or staff member, and, if not, you’re certainly on a Villanova web page. You might not know, however, that by virtue of your patronizing an Augustinian institution, you have been adopted by a rich Hispanic Tradition that includes the foundation of the first New World mission and perhaps the first Catholic mass celebrated in North America.

Founding of Augustine pt 1Founding of Augustine pt 2

This first mass occurred on September 8, 1565. It took place just south of the settlement that it meant to consecrate. Evidence of this fact comes from the Falvey Memorial Library’s Special Collections itself, from John Gilmary Shea’s History of the Catholic Church within the Limits of the United States (pictured here). The women, men and children who founded St. Augustine were not, in fact, members of the Augustinian order, but their dedication to our patron saint is an important part of understanding what in means to be Villanovan, to be a Wildcat.

To find the true roots of the Order of Augustine in the New World, we must rewind the clock roughly 30 years before that first mass to the year 1533. On March 3 of that year, seven Augustinian friars arrived at Veracruz en route to Ocuituco, Mexico (photo below). St. Thomas of Villanova himself may have dispatched this particular mission, as he was provincial-prior of Castile at the time.

First Augustinian New World Foundation

(First Augustinian foundation in the Americas – Ocuituco, Mexico – founded 1533. From Lowery, Bettero & Walsh, citation below)

From there, it didn’t take long for the Mexican mission to start producing the type of humanistic scholarship for which the Augustinians are renowned. Most famously, the philosopher Alonso de la Vera Cruz took his profession to join the order in June of 1537 (photo below). It reads, “I Brother Alonso de la Vera Cruz, son of Francis Gutiérrez and Leonor Gutiérrez, make my profession and promise obedience to God and Blessed Mary and to you… [and I promise] to live without personal goods and in chastity according to the rule of our Blessed Father Augustine until death. Given on Wednesday, 20 June 1537.”

Alonso de La Vera Cruz profession

The Augustinian friars associated with the establishment of the order in the Philadelphia area did not arrive in North America until the late 18th century. They mostly came from Ireland and not up the coast of the continent itself, but the efforts of the earlier Augustinians and settlers in Florida certainly made the new, northern mission possible. The successes of St. Augustine, now the oldest parish in the United States, and the outstanding scholarship produced by the South American brothers, such as Vera Cruz, inspired the founders of such schools as Monseigneur Bonner and Villanova University and showed that the order could find success in the New World.

In the coming weeks at the Falvey Library and across campus, you have the chance to find inspiration in your own adopted Hispanic Heritage. Check out a full list of scheduled events, available here.


Dig Deeper:

In addition to exciting events and intriguing speakers, the library itself maintains materials in our collection for further exploration of our Augustinian and Hispanic Heritage. Check out these books, which were used for writing this article!

The augustinians, (1244-1994) : Our history in pictures (1995). In Lowery B., Bettero M. and Walsh M. (Eds.), Rome: Pubblicazioni Agostiniane. (Photo: Page 37).

Ennis, A. J., 1922-. (1986). Augustinian religious professions in sixteenth century mexico : A study of the earliest records of Augustinian friars professed in the new world. Villanova, Pa.: Augustinian Historical Institute, Villanova University. (Photo: Page 11).

Shea, J. G., 1824-1892. (1886). A history of the Catholic Church within the limits of the United States: From the first attempted colonization to the present time: With portraits, views, maps and facsimiles. New York: John G. Shea. (Photo Pages 136-138).


Website photo 2 Article by William Repetto, a graduate assistant on the Communications and Marketing Team at the Falvey Memorial Library. He is currently pursuing an MA in English at Villanova University.


‘Cat in the Stacks: Chimney Stacks Edition

CAT Heading

I’m William Repetto, a first-year graduate student at Villanova University. This is the “‘Cat in the Stacks” column. I’m your ‘cat. I’ll be posting about college life, about learning and growing here at Villanova, and, of course, about the Falvey Memorial Library’s role.

“In every job that must be done
There is an element of fun.”
Mary Poppins (1964)

A close friend of mine turned 52-years-old this past weekend, her name: Mary Poppins. The character herself dates back to a series of books written by P.L. Travers during the 1930s, but I’m speaking here, of course, about Julie Andrews’ rendition of the character in the 1964 Disney epic. While writing this blog post most certainly did not involve inviting my other ’cat friends over to the library for a viewing party, which also did not involve copious amounts of ice cream or pajamas, I do understand that some readers may need a refresher.

Mary Poppins takes place in early 20th-century Britain. The titular character herself descends from the clouds when the Banks children, Jane and Michael, wish for a nanny with a cheerful disposition. As the film goes on, the audience comes to understand that the children’s father, George Banks, has unreasonable expectations of punctuality and propriety due to his monotonous job at the Dawes Tomes Mousley Grubbs Fidelity Feduciary Bank. While George Banks mistreats both his children and his staff of maids, his wife, Winifred Banks, is easily distracted and spends time marching for women’s suffrage.

Penguins Gif

(Meanwhile, the children have some adventures of their own – credit:

In the end, the children cause a bank rush at their father’s bank, and he loses his job, but in losing his job, George realizes the value of his support system at home and of the admiration of his children. When he finally realizes his own faults as a father and a person, he begins to understand the meaning of Poppins’ most recognizable phrase: “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”

The very beauty of this closing sequence underscores why the film remains popular today and why it is important to talk about here in this blog. You see, as a college students or as a young professional, one easily forgets about the importance of his/her supporting staff. With classes, and clubs, and internships, and activities on our mind, we sometimes even forget that a whole cast of people happily admire our own accomplishments and wish for nothing more than our continued success.

Those who support us are often those who have found considerable success in their lives as well. Note very well that the main characters of Mary Poppins, Mary Poppins and Bert, work jobs that are typically seen as background roles: a nanny and a chimney sweep – no mistake that they’re portrayed by the most recognizable actors on the cast: Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. Even those actors themselves recognized the importance of their supporting cast. A picture below shows them spending time with the Sherman Brothers, songwriters for Mary Poppins who would go on to write score for The Jungle Book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Aristocats and even The Tigger Movie.

Actors and Writers

(Photo Credit: Disney; Accessed at

College students and most young professionals certainly do not have nannies, maids or songwriters as supporting staffs, but we do have two forms of support that sometimes go unnoticed. First and foremost is family; in my own years as an undergraduate, I know that the bustle of everyday college existence often chimney-swept me far away from the obligations of family. While their résumés may not be as impressive at the Sherman Brothers, families know our needs and personalities the best and are certainly the most excited to help out.

Another supporting cast that many of you wildcats may not know about is the team of experienced librarians who wait here in the Falvey to help you on your way to completing your next term paper, to nailing that next interview, or perhaps to finishing your research for your big thesis/dissertation. We have librarians dedicated to the humanities, to nursing, to business, and even to theology and philosophy. (Okay, so our curriculum vitae may actually be just as impressive as the Sherman Brothers.)

In a world that tells us that it’s every one for him or herself, the truth is that support systems surround us every day. Call home to check in and you won’t hang up without a pep talk. Stop in the Falvey, and leave with all the resources our brilliant librarians can muster. Don’t be a George Banks who walks around certain of his own ability to complete each task using only his own acumen. Reach out for some help, you might just find that it’s, well ­– supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.


Article by William Repetto, a graduate assistant on the Communications and Marketing Team at the Falvey Memorial Library. He is currently pursuing an MA in English at Villanova University.

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‘Cat in the Stacks: A Cup of Cat-feine


I’m William Repetto, a first-year graduate student at Villanova University. This is the “‘Cat in the Stacks” column. I’m your new ‘cat, stepping in for the very talented Michelle Callaghan. I’ll be posting about college life, about learning and growing here at Villanova, and, of course, about the Falvey Library’s role in all of this.

“Then we saw him step in on the mat!
We looked!
And we saw him!
The cat in the hat!”
– Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat

The morning alarm snatches all of us out of the deep recesses of blissful sleep. Our hours of rest interrupted by that dreaded sound. The next few minutes bring with them deep blinks and furrowed brows as the world slowly comes into focus along with the remembrance of various tasks that must be completed today.

Full school years begin this way as well. The rude academic calendar reminds us that, yes, the time has come to get back to work. Syllabus weeks begin with the coming into focus of the college friendships that may have been neglected over the summer in exchange for dreamlike reliving of high school’s camaraderie. Once we actually look at the college syllabus, though, we remember what needs to be done, what needs to be accomplished this year.

For freshmen, accomplishments may come in the form of joining new clubs and discovering new interests. The sophomores and juniors among us may be interested in building their résumés, while those lackadaisical seniors hide career woes and ambitions behind frivolous façades. No matter the character of the person or the loftiness of the goal, all of these goals deserve equal respect, and all of these goals come crashing back into consciousness this time of year.

The ‘Cat in the Stacks and all the other wonderful animals wandering around these bookshelves understand the importance of sharpening one’s focus this time of year. We know that waking up from the ‘cat-nap called summer vacation makes some of us want to curl back up on the perch and drift back off until the weather warms up again.

This year, however, features some big improvements here at the Falvey that require us to put our paws on the floor and get moving, not least of those the opening of a new reading room, featuring the recently restored “Triumph of David.” Some of my fellow library ‘cats brought this painting back to its former sharpness just last year. To do so, they meticulously analyzed each piece of the painting and brought the picture back into focus brushstroke by brushstroke, sometimes even removing old attempts at restoration.

The Triumph of David

The simple fact is that personal initiatives (whether they be one thing or two) can be taken apart and looked at in the same way as the “Triumph of David.” Personal triumph does not often come in the form of broad strokes, guessing at the hidden picture behind the experience. Accomplishments mostly come through attention to detail and a keen aesthetic eye.

Fortunately for us Wildcats, our campus library has all the journals, books and resources we need for finding and thinking through those small details. Soon enough, we’ll have a gorgeous space garnished with a reminder that even the smallest people (David) can summit their largest challenges.

Within this new space, you will find the essence of what a library can be: a place where you can wake up to new information, a building that can help you get a clear picture of the meaning underlying your college experience, a community of scholars dedicated to helping you work off the morning fog of fall semester.

These converging focal points bring me back to the Dr. Seuss poem from which this blog takes its name. Just when Sally and her friend thought they ran out of options for getting through their rainy day, a certain something came wildly into focus. As the line breaks of the poem suggest, our protagonists did not instantly realize the exciting opportunities their guest provided, but after letting him come into focus, the boredom and lethargy and tedium of a rainy day rinsed away and fun could be had. Take your first few hard blinks, Wildcats, and we’ll put the coffee on here at the Falvey.


Article by William Repetto, a graduate assistant on the Communications and Marketing Team at the Falvey Memorial Library. He is currently pursuing an MA in English at Villanova University.

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Some "Light" Summer Reading – Not. A Baker’s Dozen Plus of Longest Novels

What better way to spend summer’s longest day (June 20 this year) than with a really long book? Since it is summer reading, let’s look at fiction (written in English).

How do you find a really long book? You could peruse the shelves at a library or a book store. Or you could let your fingers do the walking—go online and search. That search brings up interesting choices: whose list do you believe—Wikipedia’s, Amazon’s, Mental Floss’s, ListVerse’s or someone else’s? They share some selections, but not others. How are the book lengths determined—by the number of pages, characters or  words? All three are used, but counting the number of words seems to be the most accurate.

Pop Dot Comics (1)

Tomm gives Ke$ha a run for her money

The longest novel written in English is The Blah Story (2007-2008), a twenty-three volume work by Nigel Tomm, which contains 11,338,105 words in 17,868 pages. Merriam Webster defines novel as “an invented prose narrative that is usually long and complex and deals especially with human experience through a usually connected sequence of events.” Elements of fiction include character, plot and theme. Broadly defined, The Blah Story includes these elements, but Tomm’s work isn’t something that most of us would choose to read for pleasure. “Overwhelmingly creative, Nigel Tomm demolishes the barrier of words and meaning, giving vitality and expressive strength to the pattern of his most exclusive novel—The Blah Story. It is a new way of conceiving text that frees the imagination, allowing you to personalize each and every word by your own creativity.” This is the description provided by (emphasis added by this writer—nice sales pitch, Amazon!) for the first volume of the novel and, although there are now twenty-three volumes, The Blah Story is considered a single novel. Creative Tomm may be, but do you really want to read even the first volume’s seven hundred twenty eight pages, in which the bulk of the text consists of the word “blah” interspersed with nouns, adjectives, adverbs and verbs, leaving it up to the reader to substitute words for the “blahs” in order to create logical sentences?

Pop Dot Comics-1

We hope Marcel won’t mind.

Let’s look at somewhat more traditional long novels and, for this blog, consider only works originally written in English. Very long books written in another language and then translated into English, such as Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (approximately three million words), Thomas Mann’s Joseph and His Brothers (no word count given on Amazon’s list) and Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables (560,391words), therefore, aren’t on my list but are mentioned here just in case one of these huge books appeals to you.

Marienbad My Love, “the world’s longest ‘open source’ novel” can be downloaded as the original 2008 edition. A later edition is available in print and for a Kindle. Marienbad My Love by Mark Leach consists of seventeen volumes and 17.8 million words. This book appeared on only one list.


Mission: Impossible to read in one sitting

Not quite as long, L. Ron Hubbard’s Mission Earth (1985-1987) has only ten volumes containing 1.2 million words. Sometimes seen as a series of novels, Hubbard intended Mission Earthto be a single novel, published in ten volumes.”

A Dance to the Music of Time (1951-1975) by Anthony Powell follows Mission Earth with fewer than one million words in twelve volumes. It is “sometimes regarded as a novel sequence” which begs the question: is Dance a single novel, as Hubbard’s Mission Earth claims to be?

Pop Dot Comics copy

Richardson ponders his next chapter

Traditional in format and first published in 1794 , Clarissa; or, the History of a Young Lady by Samuel Richardson, is merely 984,870 words in one thick volume.

Poor Fellow My Country (1980) by the Australian author Xavier Herbert is another lengthy work—852,000 words! Slightly less wordy is Women and Men (1987) by Joseph McElroy at 850,000 or 700,000 words (both are estimates). If you want to sample McElroy’s work in a shorter format, Falvey owns his Lookout Cartridge (531 pages, no word count available).

A close contender to Women and Men in number of words is Madison Cooper’s Sironia, Texas (1952) with 840,000 words. Miss MacIntosh, My Darling (1965) by Marguerite Young has either 750,000 or 576,000 words – that’s quite a variation, but I’m not planning on counting the words myself to verify either total!

Varney: still in print, still dreadful

Varney the Vampire, originally published as a series of “penny dreadfuls” from 1845 to 1847 and then as a book in 1847 has 667,000 words. The author is either James Malcolm Rymer or Thomas Preskett Prest. Varney is still in print although not in Falvey’s collections. (Ed. note: We noticed that Varney is currently being offered free for Kindle devices at this link. Read at your own risk!).

With only some 22,000 fewer words, Atlas Shrugged (1957) by Ayn Rand is almost as long as Varney the Vampire although Atlas Shrugged was first published just over one hundred years later.

Published in 1994, A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth has only 593,674 words—a veritable light weight book! David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest (2006) comes in at either 543,709 (Wikipedia) or 484,001 (Amazon) words—that’s quite a difference in the word count! Remembrance Rock (1948), written by Carl Sandberg follows with 532,000 words. And James Clavell’s Jai-Jin, not on all lists, is even shorter at 487,700 words—who counted these?

Sorry to have bursted your bubble, Leo

Sorry to have burst your bubble, Leo

How do these novels compare in size with such well known ones such as War and Peace (1869) written by Leo Tolstoy in Russian and later translated into English? War and Peace contains about 560,000 words; that puts it near the bottom of this list. And where does Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind (1936) rank? At over 400,000 words, it is at the bottom of this list.

If nothing on this list appeals to you, there is always “The New York Times” list of best sellers. Books are divided into categories such as print (hardcover and paperback), e-book, fiction, non-fiction and more. They are ranked by popularity—if you are looking for a super long book, you are on your own.

imagesArticle by Alice Bampton, digital image specialist and senior writer on the Communication and Service Promotion team. Graphics by Joanne Quinn. 


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Last Modified: June 20, 2016