July 2, 2015 by Reader's Connection
What have Meryl
an’ Tom an’
It’s also the worst title I’ve ever invented for a blog post, but I was afraid to call it, “Here’s a wonderful 800-page biography of a poet I like. Listen up.”
So what do Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, and James Merrill have in common?
Stonington Borough, Connecticut, that’s what.
Many of the outdoor shots for the film Hope Springs, in which Streep and Jones appear–and which were supposedly set in the Maine town of that name, to which they go for marriage counseling–were actually filmed in Stonington.
Local newspapers were interested in what was filmed where.
And it was in this house on Water Street in Stonington that James Merrill (1926-1995) and his companion David Jackson lived off-and-on from 1955 to the ends of their lives. It was here that they began consulting their “familiar spirit” Ephraim on a Ouija board, a consultation which resulted in some of the 20th century’s weirdest poetry.
Langdon Hammer’s new biography, James Merrill: Life and Art, does a wonderful job of telling the poet’s story. We learn, or learn in more detail, that:
• Merrill was the son of Charles Merrill, the co-founder of Merrill Lynch. The poet’s wealth allowed him to travel, to live here and there—in Athens and Key West, as well as Stonington and NYC—and to take his time working toward the kind of poetry he wanted to write.
• His parents divorced when he was just getting into his teens, and it messed him up for life.
• He didn’t have much use for the “confessional” poetry that was becoming popular as he was beginning his career, or for “beat” poets like Allen Ginsberg; and he felt that T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound had been too “impersonal, oracular.”
• Some of Merrill’s early work was attacked as being too elegant, and lacking an emotional, real-world base. The charge of being an overly elegant rich boy never quite went away, but he learned to fuse his emotions and perceptions with an incredible range of styles–to use what he thought of as a poetic human voice.
Of course you readers already know
Your blogger’s brow is terribly low.
I didn’t pay Merrill much attention
‘Til his poems entered the Ouija dimension.
There wasn’t any particular reason for me to buy a copy of Merrill’s 1976 collection Divine Comedies. I don’t think I knew about the Ouija board carry-on.
But I was enthralled by the book’s longest poem, “The Book of Ephraim,” in which that familiar spirit tells JM and DJ how the world works. We are all representatives of disincarnate patrons. We have been incarnated many times. There are different levels of incarnation.
And so on. Such a description doesn’t let let you know how the different sections of the poem work together, or why Harold Bloom would have called the poem an “occult splendor.” After reading it a few times, I went back and read some earlier Merrill; and I’m thankful to Langdon Hammer for leading me to some poems,early and late, that I hadn’t read.
In addition to reading and enjoying earlier Merrill poems, I also–for better or worse–bought a copy of The Changing Light at Sandover. This book brings “The Book of Ephraim” together with two Ouija-inspired poems that are much longer and were books in themselves: Mirabell: Books of Number and Scripts for the Pageant. Ephraim takes a back seat in these books, while invisible bat-like spirits rattle on about the lost city of Atlantis and a cosmic eugenics program. These longer books have their moments, but I don’t think I’ll ever reread them, the way I reread “The Book of Ephraim.”
Langdon Hammer gives a wonderful account of their composition, though; and I was glad that he highlighted the wallpaper talk at the beginning of Mirabell, which always makes smile when I think of it.
Gay Liberation was the necessary condition for this convincing description of [Merrill and Jackson’s] “gay marriage.” Whatever else it might be, Mirabell is a document from the post-Stonewall era in the struggle for gay rights . . .
The openness of Mirabell has less to do with gay sex, however, than with gay talk. The language of the bats is so weird and arresting, we might overlook another stylistic innovation in the poem: the explosion in verse of the camp idiom Merrill used with gay friends . . . Camp had been a poetic resource for Merrill for years. But he’d never before given such free reign to languour, gossip, and hilarity, and this in the context of his most elevated, manifestly serious work. The long poem begins by turning the solemn conventions of epic beginning inside out: “O very well, then. Let us broach the matter/Of the new wallpaper in Stonington.” Putting interior decoration in the first lines of the poem in a breezy parody of the fey homosexual’s supposedly trivial concerns, Merrill honors another gay male writer by subtle allusion to the opening of E. M. Forster’s Howard’s End (“One may as well begin with Helen’s letters to her sister.”) The epic drama of Mirabell begins in a gay couple’s parlor, where the serious is felt as frivolous and only the frivolous can be taken seriously–the first rule of camp.
The library’s copy of Merrill’s Collected Poems seems to have been reincarnated on another level, but if Langdon Hammer inspires you to read more Merrill, we do own James Merrill: Selected Poems. We also have his Collected Prose.
Hammer sometimes mentions a poem that isn’t included in Selected Poems. When that happens, have a look at an earlier collection, From the First Nine: Poems, 1946-1976.
I was thinking of passing the buck and saying that author Frederick Buechner, Merrill’s friend from school days, was appalled when he read Merrill’s memoir A Different Person (1993). I read only a part of that memoir when it came out, and may not have reached the appalling parts.
But I have to say that while reading Hammer’s biography I was troubled by the ways that Merrill’s wealth allows him to maneuver in his relations with Greek guys of a different economic/educational/aspirational class. Hammer is sometimes troubled, too.
Enough of that. You’ve been warned. If you’re interested in Merrill at all, this is a glorious biography.
I was going to wrap this up with a poem that brought Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones and James Merrill and David Jackson back together in Stonington; but it didn’t work out. You can breathe easy.
The three images that aren’t cover art are all from Wikimedia Commons. Not sure if I’m supposed to add:
Meryl Streep: Andreas Tai.
Tommy Lee Jones: gdcgraphics.
The Water Street house: Creative Commons, which I think also applies to the other two.
June 29, 2015 by Reader's Connection
Once again, this year, the colors on our LibraryReads map have nothing to do with red state/blue state designations. They are simply a Fourth-of-July way of saluting the librarians whose reviews of new books appear this month.
Have a wonderful Independence Day.
Kitchens of the Great Midwest: A Novel by J. Ryan Stradal
This novel is quirky and colorful. The story revolves around chef Eva Thorvald and the people who influence her life and her cooking. With well-drawn characters and mouthwatering descriptions of meals, Kitchens of the Great Midwest will appeal to readers who like vivid storytelling. Foodies will also enjoy this delicious tale. — Anbolyn Potter, Chandler Public Library, Chandler, AZ
Those Girls by Chevy Stevens
Those Girls follows the lives of the Campbell sisters. After running away from their alcoholic father, they find themselves caught in a worse situation when they are kidnapped. As events spiral out of control, they manage to escape and create new lives. This is a tale that will captivate readers and show just how strong the bond between family members can be. — Annice Sevett, Willmar Public Library, Willmar, MN
Kiss Me by Susan Mallery
As always, Ms. Mallery has given us a fantastic read. As soon as I pick up her titles, I can’t put them down until I have finished them. They are feel-good, heartwarming — I need more synonyms. I love seeing all the previous characters, the friendships and families that have formed since Chasing Perfect came out five years ago. Thanks, Ms. Mallery, for another amazing read. — Jenelle Klavenga, Marshalltown Public Library, Marshalltown, IA
Second Chance Summer by Jill Shalvis
I loved this book, a perfect start to the newest series by Jill Shalvis. It contains the same humor, heart and heat that we’ve come to expect from this author. It should be on every romance reader’s summer reading list. — Carole Tossman, Howard County Library System, Columbia, MD
Speaking in Bones by Kathy Reichs
This book lives up to the expectations we have for Kathy Reichs. A compelling and dangerous mystery, lots of medical details, and good characterization make this a title that will be easy to recommend! — Leslie Johnson, Jefferson County Public Library, Lakewood, CO
Circling the Sun: A Novel by Paula McLain
I couldn’t stop reading this fascinating portrayal of Beryl Markham, a complex and strong-willed woman who fought to make her way in the world on her terms. McLain paints a captivating portrait of Africa in the 1920s and the life of expats making their home there. Highly, highly recommended. — Halle Eisenman, Beaufort County Library, Hilton Head, SC
Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Hannah Martin has just moved back to LA after ending a relationship. Her best friend, Gabby, takes her out to a bar on her first night home. Enter Ethan, the One Who Got Away, and suddenly, Hannah has to decide if she’ll leave with Ethan or Gabby. We follow Hannah after choosing both options, alternating chapters to explore the consequences of each. A must for anyone who loves a hankie with their books! — Tracy Babiasz, Chapel Hill Public Library, Chapel Hill, NC
Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans
Crooked Heart is a rewarding, addictive read. Orphaned ten-year-old bookworm Noel, sent away to rural St. Albans, finds himself under the reluctant guardianship of Vee, aka Mrs. Vera Sledge. Amidst a chaotic background of bombings and uncertain futures, Vee and Noel gradually form a powerful bond. I recommend this darkly humorous, honest, and complex story. It is book club heaven. — Janet Schneider, Oceanside Library, Oceanside, NY
Love Lies Beneath by Ellen Hopkins
An intriguing tale of sex, romance and deception. Tara is a brilliant, sexy forty-something. She’s enjoying being single until Cavin, a handsome doctor, enters her exam room. They have a hot and steamy romance but there is much, much more to this story. Ellen Hopkins commands each word on the page from her prose to verse. — Laura Hartwig, Meriden Public Library, Meriden, CT
Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day by Leanne Brown
Wow! This is a great looking book. Great for beginners with its details about ingredients and kitchen tools. Best of all, each recipe is made from ingredients that most everyone has; there were only two ingredients in the whole book that I don’t own. This book is just what my doctor ordered, literally. I am a basic cook and like simple and tasty. This book is OUTSTANDING! — Nancy Chalk, Charlton Public Library, Charlton, MA
June 25, 2015 by Reader's Connection
|Librarian Sherry Utterback continues her journey around the authors whose names are engraved at Central Library. Her fourth stop is with the playwright Moliѐre.|
Born Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, Moliѐre (January 15, 1622- February 17, 1673) was the stage name of one of the greatest comedy playwrights of all time. Born into a bourgeois Parisian family, his father purchased the royal posts of “valet of the King’s chamber and keeper of carpets and upholstery”. Heady stuff! Although these posts and the contracts they brought provided a good living, Jean-Baptiste decided that it was not what he wanted to do, and at the age of 21, he embarked on a career in the theater. At that time, acting was not considered a noble profession, and it is possible that Jean-Baptiste changed his name to Moliere in order to save his family the embarrassment of having an actor in the family.
Moliѐre went on to found his own acting troupe, and he fulfilled the roles of actor, stage manager and playwright of that group, known as the Illustre Theatre. He penned a number of plays, including The Misanthrope, The School for Husbands, Don Juan, Tartuffe, and The Imaginary Invalid.
The Imaginary Invalid is the play that I chose for this piece. It is the last play that Moliѐre wrote, and he died shortly after he collapsed onstage from pulmonary tuberculosis while performing the role of Argan, who is the imaginary invalid of the title.
The plot of the play centers on Argan, a hypochondriac who keeps multiple doctors and pharmacists busy with his many complaints. He has a daughter of marriageable age who he is trying to get married off to a doctor so he can always have one when he needs one. Of course, the daughter wants to marry someone else who is not in the medical field. When the father and son “doctors” come to visit, it is clear that they know nothing about medicine, but this doesn’t matter to Argan. He calls his new wife, Bettine in to tell her he must redo his will so that she will receive a portion (spelled “most”) of his estate. Bettine protests loudly, saying that Argan musn’t think of such things, money means nothing to her, but it just happens that the notary to do the will is right there. Later, Argan’s brother Beralde comes to visit, telling Argan that he is not at all sick, and has much life ahead of him. This is the briefest sketch of the action, so if you want to know how everything turns out, either listen to or read a copy. We have it in book form, as an audiobook on CD, and on the downloadable audiobook 7 Classic Plays. I chose the audio download from Overdrive presented by the Hollywood Theater of the Ear, featuring F. Murray Abraham as Argan.
The production of The Imaginary Invalid was very enjoyable, and I find that I get more out of a play that is performed the way it was meant to be seen and/or heard. For me, reading a script is tedious, and the stage directions combined with the back and forth between characters tend to distract me from the story. I thoroughly enjoyed the audio production of the play. F. Murray Abraham is a solid choice for Argan, but I think that Mary Lou Risotto as Argan’s maid Toinette ran away with the show, and I found that I looked forward to scenes in which she appeared. The humor of the play has held up well over 300 plus years, and the plot is easy to follow.
The Imaginary Invalid is the first work that I have read by Moliѐre, and I now look forward to reading more.
June 22, 2015 by Reader's Connection
We visit Berlin, Burma, the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, Hollywood, and several other locales. We learn to cook some summer food, and we continue our summer reading of books about music. And we learn about being social animals.
Soon after his retirement from a brewery in a quiet English village, Harold Fry receives a surprising letter. It’s from beloved friend and colleague Queenie Hennessy, whom he hasn’t heard from in 20 years, writing from a distant terminal cancer ward to say good-bye. This letter returns Harold to a horrifically painful part of his past, threatens his already troubled marriage, and ultimately leads to a crisis that casts into doubt everything he thinks he knows about himself. He decides to embark on a 600-mile walk to say goodbye to Queenie in person. Joyce, a former actress and acclaimed BBC scriptwriter here publishing her first novel, depicts Harold’s personal crisis and the extraordinary pilgrimage it generates in masterly fashion, exploring psychological complexities with compassion and insight. The result is a novel of deep beauty and wisdom about the human condition; Harold, a deeply sympathetic protagonist, has much to teach us. — Library Journal
The Shared Reading Group at Spades Park Library will continue to read aloud from William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, and discuss it, on Fridays in July–the 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th and 31st–from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m.
Has anyone based a video game on this book? It could be called “Sutpen’s Hundred.” But it wouldn’t be nearly as strange as the book, and the game wouldn’t be accompanied by a poem and refreshments.
The What Would Jane Austen Read? Book Club will meet at the College Avenue Library on Monday, July 6th at 1:30 p.m.
This is a group that reads selections of 18th century literature that Jane Austen might have read. Well-known novels of Burney, Edgeworth, Fielding, Defoe, Sterne and others formed our earliest reading. If you enjoy Jane Austen, you may like some of the writers who influenced her. We now are reading lesser-known works which were popular in her day . . . As these are sometimes obscure works, the library often doesn’t have copies, so our members have to use on-line sources, purchase second hand copies (under $5) or use interlibrary loan to obtain the books. — Group facilitator Elizabeth K. Jarvis
“Farmers Markets, Summer Food” will be the theme of the Glendale Cooking Chats on Monday, July 6th from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Christie Wahlert from Keystone Monon Community Gardens and Growing Places will visit the group during the July 6th meeting. She is a great resource for anyone interested in the community gardens and summer fresh food.
This month’s featured cookbooks:
Grill This Not That by David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding
Summer Food: New Summer Classics by Paul Løwe
Fresh Food Nation: Simple, Seasonal Recipes from America’s Farmers by Martha Holmberg
Daniel James Brown’s The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics will be discussed at the Franklin Road Library on Monday, July 6th at 6:30 p.m.
If Jesse Owens is rightfully the most famous American athlete of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, repudiating Adolf Hitler’s notion of white supremacy by winning gold in four events, the gold-medal-winning effort by the eight-man rowing team from the University of Washington remains a remarkable story. It encompasses the convergence of transcendent British boatmaker George Pocock; the quiet yet deadly effective UW men’s varsity coach, Al Ulbrickson; and an unlikely gaggle of young rowers who would shine as freshmen, then grow up together, a rough-and-tumble bunch, writes Brown, not very worldly, but earnest and used to hard work. Brown takes enough time to profile the principals in this story while using the 1936 games and Hitler’s heavy financial and political investment in them to pull the narrative along. In doing so, he offers a vivid picture of the socioeconomic landscape of 1930s America (brutal), the relentlessly demanding effort required of an Olympic-level rower, the exquisite brainpower and materials that go into making a first-rate boat, and the wiles of a coach who somehow found a way to, first, beat archrival University of California, then conquer a national field of qualifiers, and finally, defeat the best rowing teams in the world. A book that informs as it inspires. — Booklist
You can join in a discussion of How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live like Everyone Else at the Wayne Library on Monday, July 6th at 6:30 p.m.
Gill, son of New Yorker writer Brendan Gill, explains how he was born into privilege, was “downsized” out of his high-powered advertising career, divorced by his wife after the woman with whom he was having an affair became pregnant, and learned that he had a slow-growing brain tumor–all of which ultimately led him to an entry-level job at Starbucks at the age of 64. And that’s just the first chapter. Gill’s inspirational memoir is a look back on his first year at Starbucks, learning the ropes as a barista. In each chapter, he faces a new challenge, from cleaning up to balancing the register to hosting coffee tastings . . . While telling his life story, he also hits all the appropriate business world notes, riffing on diversity, acceptance, and respect, and even manages to instill a desire for a cup of coffee in his reader. — Library Journal
On Tuesday, July 7th at 6:00 p.m., Central Library will host two different book discussions. One will be held in the Goodrich Hauk Meeting Room, and will feature David Brooks’s The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement
The New York Times columnist Brooks has written a fine essay on how people can lead fulfilling lives. He merges his strength in constructing sociological ideal types with current cognitive and sociobiological research. The vehicles for his observations are the lives of the fictional Harold and Erica, from conception, through marriage and careers, to death. His main contention is this: “The central evolutionary truth is that the unconscious matters most. The central humanistic truth is that the conscious mind can influence the unconscious.” Framing the same point within the great conversation of philosophy, “The French Enlightenment, which emphasized reason, loses. The British Enlightenment, which emphasized sentiment, wins.” Emotions and connections with others are the core of being human; conscious reason is better understood as the servant of that core, not the master. Brooks did decide to sidestep a large theme in most considerations of a meaningful life by not giving Harold and Erica children. On the whole, though, the book is an engaging argument about what human nature and human fulfillment are made of. Highly recommended. — Choice
And that same night, same time, out in the East Garden at Central, the Adult Summer Reading Program will have its first discussion of the month. The program has a musical theme this year, and the first July discussion will be of Ann Patchett’s novel Bel Canto.
Who needs to read a very positive, intelligent Kirkus review of this novel when you can read my obsessive blog post? Click here to be hurtled into a world of marital trauma and literary bliss.
Lombard (1908-1942) was the brightest star in screwball comedy’s constellation, and her tragic death at 33 made her a Hollywood legend. Ball State film professor Gehring celebrates Lombard’s many gifts in this valentine. Born in Fort Wayne, Ind., and raised in California, Lombard has a quintessentially American, star-is-born saga: she parlayed talent and timing into a stellar career and marriage to Clark Gable, the king of MGM. In fact, Lombard, who often doubled as an uncredited producer, loved all things cinematic. A keen intelligence and show-biz savvy defined her as much as her boundless energy. The screen siren was fiercely democratic and wildly generous. Her fame grew with the movie industry-from early Mack Sennett shorts to the deft comic genius of My Man Godfrey and Nothing Sacred-and she embraced all the 20th century had to offer: feminism, free love and fun. Possessing classic beauty yet renowned for her eccentricity and ability to swear like a sailor, Lombard was also a survivor. A car crash when she was 17 nearly ruined her budding career, and only plastic surgery and, in her words, “determination and tenacity” kept her on film. Her undeniable charm bewitched many leading men of the 1930s, including George Raft and first husband William Powell. Lombard, who longed to flex her dramatic muscle, was killed in her prime. When she was heading home after a war bonds drive, her plane crashed. Gehring is clearly in love with his subject and details Lombard’s life, times and some delicious backstage gossip with a historian’s eye and a biographer’s appetite for discovery. — Publishers Weekly
Katniss Everdeen lives in a world far different from our own. The Capitol City, ringed by 12 districts, demands two tributes every year to compete in The Hunger Games. A boy and a girl from each district are taken to the capitol to compete in the ultimate reality TV show – survival of the fittest, a literal fight to the death. A show where you not only have to survive, you have to impress your sponsors to get needed supplies. The last one left standing is the winner. Sixteen year old Katniss volunteers for the horrors of The Hunger Games when her 12 year old sister’s name is drawn, and she can’t bear to let Prim compete. She and Peeta, her fellow District 12 tribute, travel to the capitol, and see first hand the luxury those in the capitol live in, compared to the crushing poverty of their own district. Katniss struggles, not only with the situation at hand, but with her own feelings, fears, and the reality that, with all the performing for the cameras, she’s not sure who she really is. The Hunger Games is fascinating, involving, and hard to put down. The book has been optioned for a movie. — Nora Library’s Beth Pintal, writing for IndyPL’s Teen Scene blog, May 2009.
No matter your opinion of Glass’ music, you will like Glass the man. In a straightforward yet often moving voice, he details his early years at the University of Chicago; his move to New York and Juilliard (despite his mother’s warning that, as a musician, he would be living in hotels and traveling for the rest of his life); his studies in Paris and, later, in India; his unbending dedication to being an artist; and, in large part, the men and women from all walks of life who would influence him as he developed “the habit of attention” necessary to compose in genres ranging from high-school band music to symphonies, quartets, concertos, and such operas as Einstein on the Beach and Satyagraha. Glass would support his family working odd jobs part-time for years, finally becoming a full-time composer at age 41. Even so, he has lived the life, immersing himself in theater, art, literature, and music, and he relates here how the arts changed over time, the cultural loss AIDS wrought, and the evolution of his sometimes disparaged minimalist, tonalist compositions (as he posits, “I’m a theater composer”). Aspiring musicians and artists will learn much from Glass, as will general readers, musical or not, who will discover an artistic life exceptionally well lived. — Booklist
Have a look at the review on Michelle’s Book Stop.
Daniel Mason’s novel The Piano Tuner will be discussed on Thursday, July 16th at 6:00 p.m.
White River State Park
801 W. Washington Street
In October 1886, piano tuner Edgar Drake receives an astonishing request from the War Office. He is asked to go to Burma to tune the Erard piano of Surgeon-Major Anthony Carroll, to whom the office is much indebted for keeping the peace in the remote and restless Shan States. Drake accepts the assignment and launches on a journey of self-discovery that takes him from London to Calcutta to Rangoon and, with the help of a mysterious Burmese woman named Khin Myo, to the compound of the formidable Dr. Carroll himself. Yes, he successfully tunes the piano and even plays a concert for visiting dignitaries he chooses Bach’s immortal Well-Tempered Clavier, reasoning that it has universal application but Drake finds that he cannot leave. He is altered by the beauty of the place, slowly opening himself to Khin Myo, and caught up in Carroll’s machinations, which may or may not be seditious. It ends, inevitably, in tragedy, but the reader will regret that it ends at all. This is an utterly involving first novel, rich in historical detail and as lulling as Burma itself. Mason’s language is at once tropically lush and as precise as a Bach prelude. — Library Journal
Ruth’s Journey: The Authorized Novel of Mammy from Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, by Donald McCaig, will be discussed at the Pike Library on Monday, July 20th at 6:30 p.m.
Click here to read a New York Times article about Ruth’s Journey.
Sophie Hannah’s The Monogram Murders: The New Hercule Poirot Mystery will be discussed at the Spades Park Library on Wednesday, July 22nd at 6:00 p.m.
The return of Hercule Poirot after a 40-year absence is certain to please the legions of Agatha Christie fans, young and old, forced to content themselves with rereading the master. Working with the authorization of the Christie estate, Hannah, known for her psychological thrillers, proves more than capable at re-creating the legendary Belgian detective, who once again puts his “little grey cells” to good use, this time in unraveling an exquisitely tangled triple murder. Attempting to take some time away from his regular detective work, Poirot is staying in a London residential hotel. One night, dining solo at a nearby café, he encounters a distraught woman who claims to be “beyond help.” The woman quickly disappears, but Poirot becomes convinced, for reasons we only learn much later, that she is somehow connected to three murders in an upscale hotel, crimes that have the Belgian’s hotel mate, Scotland Yard Inspector Catchpool, completely baffled. Poirot elbows himself into the action, mercilessly ordering Catchpool about while he interviews hotel staff and gets his deductive juices flowing. Hannah sticks to the Christie formula, embellishing now and again, and making the most of the hapless but quite sympathetic Catchpool as the largely clueless narrator. — Booklist
Gulping gargoyles! Hogwarts classes are starting in July! I thought the term always started on September 1st. The Harry Potter Wiki backs me up on this.
This is another program in the IndyPL Summer Reading Program for Teens.
Portal, the Indianapolis Science Fiction and Fantasy Discussion Group, will meet at the Glendale Library on Sunday, July 26th at 1:00 p.m. The theme for this program will be “Under the Waves.”
Kim Gordon’s Girl in a Band will be discussed on Monday, July 27th at 6:00 p.m.
Sun King Brewery
135 N. College Avenue
The title of this very fine memoir is understated. The “girl” in question is the guitarist and vocalist of the alt-rock band Sonic Youth, which Gordon and Thurston Moore founded in 1981. Gordon’s chronicle of her youth in Los Angeles, with stays in Hawaii and Hong Kong, is infused with melancholy, because underlying the narrative is the fact that Gordon and Moore married, then painfully broke up. Girl in a Band is also an account of places that no longer exist, such as gritty 1980s New York. Gordon is vulnerable, likable, and humble, a shy and introspective outsider; despite playing in a band for 30 years, she never really considered herself a musician. She writes about her first mentor, John Knight, a conceptual artist who taught her that anything could be viewed in aesthetic terms, and friends and colleagues, including Andy Warhol, Kurt Cobain, and Courtney Love, with great sensitivity. A remarkably astute and observant memoir and tale of finding one’s place in the world, this is a must for Sonic Youth fans and all outsiders-at-heart. — Booklist
Alabama sweetheart Sookie Poole has been a loving wife, a caring mother, and, most important, a patient daughter. Her formidable yet ailing mother never seemed to approve of her as a child. Now approaching 60, Sookie receives some unexpected news about her past that has her questioning both her family history and her mother’s constant cold shoulder. While searching for answers, Sookie uncovers Fritzi Jurdabralinski, the eldest of four Polish sisters who ran an all-girl gas station during the 1940s in Pulaski, WI. During World War II, Fritzi became a Fly Girl, transporting military aircraft as a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). After learning of Fritzi’s adventures, Sookie is inspired to reexamine her own life. Yet again, Flagg delivers a book full of heartwarming charm that is sure to provoke lighthearted laughter. A complex story told simply and honestly, this is an easy read and another treat for Flagg fans. — Library Journal
June 18, 2015 by Reader's Connection
Those Heechee were such rascals. They haven’t been seen in the universe for–well, they haven’t ever been seen by humans–but thousands of years ago, they implanted a bunch of spaceships on an asteroid way out there somewhere, and human beings are able to fly in those ships, to destinations preset by the Heechee. We humans call the asteroid “Gateway.”
|“Prospectors” sign up for rides on the ships, in the hope of finding Heechee “treasures.” But no one knows ahead of time where the ships are going, and mortality rates among prospectors are high. Frederik Pohl’s novel Gateway is narrated by Robinette Broadhead, an unwealthy earthling who comes into some money, sails to Gateway, and is then (understandably) scared to go on any missions. He finally makes big money on a mission, but afterward lives with a horrible guilt about what happened to his fellow prospectors.|
The chapters alternate between descriptions of life on the Gateway asteroid (with occasional accounts of voyages on Heechee ships) and appointments that millionaire Robin keeps with a computerized psychiatrist. I got bored with the psychiatrist chapters, and Robin can be tiresome, but Pohl’s asteroid mini-civilization is a wonderful claustrophobic creation. Even if Robin gets you down (and that wasn’t a major problem for me) Pohl has cleverly inserted mission logs, snippets from astrophysical lectures, and classified ads (which I’m borrowing here).
And Gateway leads to Beyond the Blue Event Horizon, the second installment in the Heechee Saga. Robin narrates parts of BBEH, but there are several other points of view, at least three of which are non-human; and these shifts in storytelling add to the fun. Not only that: We get to learn more about the “prayer fans,” strange artifacts that were left behind by the Heechee.
Two possible problems:
(1) BBEH was published in 1980. There’s a character whose father had lived “in Stalin’s times,” and another fellow who had been a member of Hitler Youth. So the situations in this novel–earthlings have colonized Mars and Venus and so on–have happened by the 1990’s or so? Wouldn’t the story have been more plausible if Pohl had set in in some distant century? I guess this was true of Gateway, but these characters in BBEH make it stand out.
(2) SPOILER ALERT? The title, Beyond the Blue Event Horizon, led me to believe that we’d spend some time in a a black hole in space, where time and gravity and what-all are warped. I had popped some black hole popcorn. But we hardly go to a black hole at all. END OF ALERT.
|No matter. If, like me, you only try science fiction on occasion, you might give the Heechee saga a try.The next two installments, Heechee Rendezvous and The Annals of the Heechee, have disappeared into a black hole and are no longer in the library’s collection; but you could request them on an interlibrary loan. And the fifth book in the series, The Boy Who Would Live Forever, is still with us.