May 8, 2015 by Reader's Connection
When I saw audiobooks listed on Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge, my response was swift:
Hello? Doesn’t everyone understand that listening to a book while driving is just as dangerous as texting while driving? I don’t have hard data to back that up, just personal near-accident experience. I’ll listen to my audiobooks while washing dishes.
I nevertheless checked out a CD audiobook version of Mary Roach’s Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal. I thought that perhaps a light-hearted (if heavily-intestined) nonfiction title would not keep me hanging on every word the way a fiction title or poem would, and that I could drive safely while listening.
But no. Narrator Emily Woo Zeller had only gone as far as the tasting & smelling part of digestion, and already my road-focus had begun to suffer. I was afraid that when she spoke of fecal implants (as advertised on the CD case), I might hit a tree.
And I don’t really want listen to books while washing dishes.
So I recommend this audiobook for those of you who can handle it. Roach is a funny writer, drawn to subject matter that is usually thought of as repulsive; and Zeller reads well. But if you’re like me, and this challenge is unattainable for you, you might try a new one that I’ve created:
Read an entire magazine, cover to cover.
A friend of mine pledged, decades ago, to read every issue of The New Yorker cover to cover when it arrived in the mail. She was always relieved, though, when an issue included a story by Donald or Frederick Barthelme, because she didn’t like those authors and knew she’d skip the story.
a a aaaa aaaaa aaa a aaaaaa aaaaaaa aaa None of that nonsense if you accept this challenge. Aside from commercials, you must read everything. If the magazine is loaded with recipes, you must read them all. Think about this when making your selection.
|I have selected the May 2015 issue of Poetry. I made the choice when I finished reading Frank Bidart’s poem “The Fourth Hour of the Night,” a poetic bio of Genghis Khan which, appropriately, takes up roughly a third of the issue. I subscribe to Poetry, so you may think this isn’t a challenge at all. You may assume that I read every issue, cover to cover. Not so. I was down in the dumps, in fact, thinking about letting my subscription drop, when the May issue arrived; and I enjoyed everything in it, which almost never happens.|
I can’t name a favorite poem from this issue, but the one I’ve re-read the most is Karen Solie’s “Bitumen.” It involves oil-drilling disasters and great paintings. I was wandering around on vacation when I read it, beyond the reach of wi-fi, so I couldn’t google any of the references.
. . . When the storm comes,
we will see into it, there will be no near and no far. In sixty-five-foot seas
for the Ocean Ranger, green turned to black then white as molecules
changed places in the Jeanne d’Arc Basin, the way wood passes into
flame, and communication errors into catastrophic failure
for the Piper Alpha offshore from Aberdeen.
One of my readings was at the end of Big Harmonie Pond, in Harmonie State Park, where one son was fishing and another was just being near water, a favorite activity. The fishing son caught two bluegills and between the two of us we caught four ticks.
Should we not encourage a healthy dread of the wild places?
Solie’s poem was like a rough boat ride. I came to love it. Reading it at a remove from e-definitions and explanations was a good way to go.
|Back home after vacation, though, I googled some names. Even better, I visited Poetry’s website, where there was a podcast involving the two poems I’ve mentioned and Thomas Lux’s “The Horse Poisoner.” Click on the green Podcast block to hear the poems (or excerpts) read by the poets, and discussed by Poetry’s editor Don Share and others.|
And click below on the painting The Raft of the Medusa, which is one of the paintings mentioned in Solie’s poem, to read an essay by Solie which deals with issues that thrash about in the poem. I’m glad that I read the poem a few times in the park–glad to have had that boat-ride experience–but I’m grateful for the podcast and the essay.
Did I read the commentary section of the magazine? Of course I did. What do you take me for? Donald Revell’s autobiographical “Scholium” was a late-night read in a cabin in the woods, and there’s a chance that it’s not really as splendorous and revelatory as I think it is. No, that’s nonsense. The essay is splendorous and revelatory.
I don’t agree with everything in Cathy Park Hong’s “Against Witness,” but it’s fascinating, especially on the subject of poetry whose sole function is to witness.
But is it enough that a poem “remembers” when we are now entrenched in an era of total recall? Andreas Huyssen wrote, “Everything is stored in the cloud. There is endless memory. From the point of the view of the archive, forgetting is the ultimate transgression.” According to Huyssen, we suffer from a hypertrophy of memory. Like Beyoncé, who records every minute of her life, we have amassed archives so thorough that real time is cannibalizing present time. So why valorize poetry for being a living archive when memory has become our most booming industry? In an era when eyewitness testimonies, photos, and videos are tweeted seconds after a catastrophe, poetry’s power to bear witness now feels outdated and inherently passive.
I was reluctant, at first, to read Mike Chasar’s review of a book about kitsch poetry, for fear of learning that some favorite poems of mine are commonly thought of as kitsch. Such news can be disturbing. There was no cause for worry, though. The historical kitsch-connections being traced here simply reveal that I’m ignorant about lots of stuff; and I already knew that.
If you accept my magazine-reading challenge, I wish you all the best. I was lucky with my pick, and will close with Robert Herrick’s poem “The Coming of Good Luck.” Only four lines long, it appears at the beginning of Donald Revell’s essay.
So Good-luck came, and on my roof did light,
Like noiseless snow; or as the dew of night:
Not all at once, but gently, as the trees
Are, by the sunbeams, tickled by degrees.
Théodore Géricault’s painting The Raft of the Medusa hangs in the Louvre. Images of it are in the public domain, and the one above is connected in some way to Wikipedia.
The artwork for the May cover of Poetry is Jenny Kendler’s “Species Traitor I.”
The artwork for the April 20th cover of The New Yorker is Bruce McCall’s “Life in the Cuba of Tomorrow.”
Category Announcement, Magazines, Poem | Tags: Bitumen, Book Riot, Don Share, Frank Bidart, Gulp: Adverntures Along the Alimentary Canal, Karen Solie, Mary Roach, Poetry Magazine, Read Harder Challenge 2015, The Fourth Hour of the Night, The Horse Poisoner, Thomas Lux
May 6, 2015 by Reader's Connection
Dinaw Mengestu–author of The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, which was featured in our Big Read program in March and April–visited Central Library on April 25th.
Click on his picture to hear a bit of the address that he gave, and to hear him interviewed.
The other two titles that Mengestu mentions in his interview are available at IndyPL.
(Also available as a downloadable e-book.)
(Also available as a downloadable e-book.)
May 3, 2015 by Reader's Connection
From Selector Emily Chandler:
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Considered as one of the deadliest wars in history for soldiers and civilians alike, it claimed the lives of at least 65 million people worldwide and exposed the world to acts of unspeakable inhumanity, cruelty, and sorrow as well as those of extraordinary courage, endurance, and kindness.
Indeed, its global impact reached far beyond the battlefront and can be felt still today as authors continue to pay homage toward this brutal and tragic period and keep the memory immortalized through literature. Here are some recently released fiction novels set in that time period.
Alcott, Kate A Touch of Stardust
Doerr, Anthony All The Light We Cannot See
Flanagan, Richard The Narrow Road to the Deep North
Gruen, Sara At the Water’s Edge
Hannah, Kristin The Nightingale
Kerr, Philip The Lady From Zagreb
Meissner, Susan Secrets of a Charmed Life
Richman, Alyson The Garden of Letters
See, Lisa China Dolls
Treuer, David Prudence
Vreeland, Susan Lisette’s List
April 29, 2015 by Reader's Connection
How did human beings figure out what the universe is made of, and how it’s evolving? Heart of Darkness : Unraveling the Mysteries of the Invisible Universe, by Jeremiah P. Ostriker and Simon Mitton, is aimed in part at people who don’t do well with science. I’m still faking it with regard to their equations, but the authors give a nice history of cosmology.
They have helped me understand that there’s unseeable stuff out there–dark matter, dark energy–without which our universe would be collapsing. If I don’t have that right, don’t blame them.
What started out three-quarters of a century ago as an apparently mad conjecture by an eccentric astronomer (and was ignored for almost four decades) has now been tested and confirmed by numerous different methods and innumerable observational tests; and they all conspire to give essentially the same answer. There really is some strange substance, which we call dark matter, which acts gravitationally just like ordinary matter, but does not seem to interact either with light, or with itself, or with normal matter in any other way except through gravity. It has been present since (at least) the cosmic background radiation was formed, and it is roughly six times more abundant than ordinary matter. But what is it really? The answer to this important question is easy! We do not know.
Click on the image to reach the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which was the source of the image and its descripton.
Remember pet rocks? I never got into those, but I look forward to a time when I can keep a glob of dark matter in the fridge.
There aren’t any science book categories on the Read Harder Challenge. Heart of Darkness still qualifies, though, as “a book that someone else has recommended to” me. Poet Alicia Ostriker isn’t a friend of mine, but I saw her at Butler a couple years ago, and she was a delight. When I got this poem in the mail, I thought I should read her husband’s book.
Category Book Review, Poem | Tags: Alicia Suskin Ostriker, Dark Matter and Dark Energy, Heart of Darkness: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Invisible Universe, Jeremiah P. Ostriker, Simon Mitton, Sloan Digital Sky Survey
April 26, 2015 by Reader's Connection
May, in addition to being Race Month in our city, is National Salad Month–a fact that is being observed at the Nora Library–and National Date Your Mate Month, which I shall try to observe in a personal way. Happy Cinco de Mayo. Have a good May. Read a good book.
Willam Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! will continue to be read aloud and discussed by the Shared Reading Group at Spades Park Library, on Fridays–May 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th–from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m.
Which will be the most fascinating aspect of the hour: Faulkner’s strange novel, read aloud by your fellows in the group; the group discussion; the poem that is read aloud, or the refreshments that you eat? Only attendees will be able to answer that question.
The What Would Jane Austen Read? Book Club will meet at the College Avenue Library on Monday, May 4th 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
“Pastries, Pies & Sweets” will be the theme for Glendale Library‘s Cooking Chats in May. On Monday, May 4th, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Chef Paul Vida, Program Coordinator of Baking and Pastry Arts for the Ivy Tech program, will be the special guest.
Please call 275-4410 to register for this program. You can come and talk about any cookbook or recipe, but Librarian Jan Swan thought that these three looked like fun:
Pie it Forward by Gesine Bullock-Prado
Deliciously Healthy Sweets by Yael Avital
Pies Savory and Sweet by Caroline Bretherton
Who wouldn’t want to go on a trip around the world? When best-selling novelist Sparks receives a travel brochure from his alma mater, Notre Dame, he thinks, “If not now, then when?” and asks his brother to join him. They both have family obligations, but this sounds like the trip of a lifetime, and as the reader soon finds out, they both need to relax. As they journey to faraway places, the brothers reminisce about their unusual childhood. Instead of the idealistic life readers may imagine, their early years were marked by poverty, although redeemed by their mother’s great love. Their father was a graduate student working several jobs to support the family, and the boys, best friends as well as brothers, led an independent life filled with adventure, derring-do, and responsibilities beyond their years. This is a rare opportunity for readers to get to know a favorite author as Nicholas reveals the inspirations for his fiction. A must-read for Sparks fans as well as a treat for those who want to find out what makes a family strong. — Booklist
Lina Sparrow, the daughter of two moderately successful artists, is a New York attorney. In 2004, she is assigned the career-making job of discovering a living person with American-slave ancestry for a class-action suit seeking reparations for abuse and bondage. Josephine Bell, a 17-year-old house slave in antebellum Virginia in 1852, tends her mistress Lu Anne Bell, a mediocre artist, and dreams of freedom. Conklin switches between the two women’s viewpoints as she slowly reveals the identity of the painter responsible for poignant works representing the people, free and enslaved, of Bell Creek Plantation. VERDICT Simultaneously telling the stories of two women separated in time by 150 years, the author slowly builds a suspenseful and dramatic revelation of their deep connection across the decades. Conklin’s debut is a seamless juxtaposition of past and present, of the lives of two women, and of the redemptive nature of art and the search for truth and justice. Guaranteed to keep readers up long past their bedtimes. — Library Journal
Brooks, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for her Civil War novel, March, here imagines the life of Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk, the first Native American to graduate from Harvard. The story is told by Bethia Mayfield, the daughter of a preacher who traveled from England to Martha’s Vineyard to try and “bring Christ to the Indians.” In 1660, when Bethia is 12, the family takes Caleb, a Wampanoag Indian, into their home to prepare him for boarding school. Bethia is a bright scholar herself, and though education for women is discouraged, she absorbs the lessons taught to Caleb and her brother Makepeace like a sponge. She struggles through the deaths of her mother, a younger sister, another brother, and her father. When Caleb and Makepeace are sent to Cambridge, Bethia accompanies them as an indentured servant to a professor. She marries a Harvard scholar, journeys with him to Padua, and finally returns to her beloved island. In flashbacks, Brooks relates the woes of the Indian Wars, the smallpox epidemic, and Caleb’s untimely death shortly after his graduation with honors. Brooks has an uncanny ability to reconstruct each moment of the history she so thoroughly researched in stunningly lyrical prose, and her characters are to be cherished. — Booklist
Mary Neal’s To Heaven and Back: A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again: A True Story will be discussed at the Warren Library on Thursday, May 7th at 10:30 a.m.
In 1999 in the Los Rios region of southern Chile, orthopedic surgeon, devoted wife, and loving mother Dr. Mary Neal drowned in a kayak accident. While cascading down a waterfall, her kayak became pinned at the bottom and she was immediately and completely submerged. Despite the rescue efforts of her companions, Mary was underwater for too long, and as a result, died. To Heaven and Back is Mary’s remarkable story of her life’s spiritual journey and what happened as she moved from life to death to eternal life, and back again. Detailing her feelings and surroundings in heaven, her communication with angels, and her deep sense of sadness when she realized it wasn’t her time, Mary shares the captivating experience of her modern-day miracle.
Mary’s life has been forever changed by her newfound understanding of her purpose on earth, her awareness of God, her closer relationship with Jesus, and her personal spiritual journey suddenly enhanced by a first-hand experience in heaven.To Heaven and Back will reacquaint you with the hope, wonder, and promise of heaven, while enriching you own faith and walk with God. — Publisher’s note
The Sacrifice is set in 1987 in a poor African American neighborhood in a racially divided New Jersey city, where Ednetta, as distraught and wailing as a character in a Greek tragedy, is haunting the streets, asking everyone she comes across if they’ve seen her 14-year-old daughter, Sybilla (which means prophetess or oracle). We quickly learn that Ednetta dropped out of high school when she had her first child at 16 and that she has been living with a notoriously volatile and unfaithful man, Anis, who did time for murdering his wife. Sybilla is soon found by Ada, a courageous substitute teacher who ventures into the foul basement of a long-abandoned riverside factory when she hears a faint cry. The girl, whom Ada remembers as “sassy and impudent,” is on the floor, tied up and smeared with feces. She has been beaten, and her face is swollen. Racial slurs have been scrawled on her torso. Many readers will recognize this as a variation on the still controversial 1987 Tawana Brawley case, in which a New York State teen found in a similar condition claimed to have been raped and abused by white men, including a police officer and prosecutor. Accordingly, Sybilla insists that “white cops” abducted and raped her. And just as Brawley drew the very public support of Reverend Al Sharpton, Sybilla is championed by the meticulously tailored and coiffed firebrand, Reverend Marcus Mudrick, who woos the traumatized mother and daughter with roses and limousines as he turns Sybilla’s alleged attack into a cause célèbre and money magnet. Using Brawley’s complexly distressing story as an armature, Oates builds her own gripping tale of how the horrific legacy of slavery has poisoned family relationships and fueled police brutality against African Americans. — Booklist
Full-immersion journalist Kidder tries valiantly to keep up with a front-line, muddy-and-bloody general in the war against infectious disease in Haiti and elsewhere. The author occasionally confesses to weariness in this gripping account–and why not? Paul Farmer, who has an M.D. and a Ph.D. from Harvard, appears to be almost preternaturally intelligent, productive, energetic, and devoted to his causes. So trotting alongside him up Haitian hills, through international airports and Siberian prisons and Cuban clinics, may be beyond the capacity of a mere mortal. Kidder begins with a swift account of his first meeting with Farmer in Haiti while working on a story about American soldiers, then describes his initial visit to the doctor’s clinic, where the journalist felt he’d “encountered a miracle.” Employing guile, grit, grins, and gifts from generous donors . . . Farmer has created an oasis in Haiti where TB and AIDS meet their Waterloos . . . Skilled and graceful exploration of the soul of an astonishing human being. — Kirkus Reviews
Koppel explores the cohesiveness of a group of wives who formed an unofficial support group and their individual development during the early years of the Cold War. With the announcement on April 9, 1959, of the “nation’s first astronauts,” the women’s lives changed, as they became instant celebrities along with their husbands. From Project Mercury to the Apollo program and the moon landings, the author traces how the lives of the wives of the original astronauts were transformed by these developments. Ubiquitous reporters, anxious to cover their most intimate moments, and their new status as American icons, intruded into every aspect of their daily lives. Being impeccably groomed became yet another challenge to their existence as de facto single mothers; their husbands were away training for their missions into space. Although they were familiar with the typical stresses facing the wives of career military officers–their husbands’ long absences (sometimes on dangerous missions), poor pay, dismal living quarters, frequent moves and more–this public exposure was a first. They had their own part to play in a less obvious aspect of winning the Cold War: the public-relations offensive. — Kirkus Reviews
In coordination with the production of Tom Horan’s play “Typhoid Mary” at the Phoenix Theatre, there will be a discussion Mary Beth Keane’s novel Fever following the 2:00 p.m. performance of the play on Sunday, May 17.
Discounted tickets ($20) to the play are available by calling 317-635-7539 or by entering the promo code “Fever” at phoenixtheatre.org.
In this compelling historical novel, the infamous Typhoid Mary is given great depth and humanity by the gifted Keane. Irish immigrant Mary Mallon is eager to better her station in life and unafraid of hard work. When she is finally made a head cook, she is hired by some of the best families in Manhattan but unwittingly leaves a trail of disease in her wake. A “medical engineer” ultimately identifies her as a healthy carrier of typhoid fever and quarantines her on North Brother Island, where she is separated from her lifelong companion, Alfred Briehof, and forced to live in isolation. She is released three years later under the condition that she never cook again. But her inability to understand her condition, her passion for cooking, and the income she had become used to all conspire to lure her back into the kitchen. Keane not only makes of the headstrong Mary a sympathetic figure, she also brings the New York City of the early twentieth century to teeming life . . . — Booklist
Fever is also on order as an audiobook on CD.
On Monday, May 18th, at 6:00 p.m. the Nora Library‘s Cookbook Discussion Program will focus on cookbooks about salads. Find and read a cookbook that fits this theme, pick up a review form at Nora and bring it to the meeting. Feel free to make a recipe from the cookbook and bring samples to share.
Chef Brad Nehrt, Culinary Arts Director at the J. Everett Light Career Center will be the special guest.
Registration is required for this program. Please call 317-275-4470.
(BLOGGER INVASION ALERT: Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi’s Jerusalem, pictured here, doesn’t really qualify as a salad cookbook, but I, your blogger, have shoehorned it in here because the baby spinach and date & almond salad in that book is incredible, and my wife says it’s easy to make. She says that many of the recipes in Jerusalem have multiple weird ingredients, but the only weird one in this salad is powdered sumac, which you can find at Saraga International Grocery, and no doubt elsewhere.)
Three generations of Whitshanks have lived in the family home in Baltimore since the 1920s, in which they have loved, squabbled, protected secrets, had children, and, in some cases, led inauthentic lives. Using her signature gifts for brilliant dialog and for intricately framing the complex messiness of parental and spousal relationships, Tyler beautifully untangles the threads that bind and sometimes choke all of them, especially Red and Abby, the last Whitshank homestead occupants. In 2012, Red and Abby are in their late 70s, and their fractious children rally to the modern dilemma of the sandwich generation–caring for aging resistant parents in their home safely, while raising their own children. VERDICT It’s been half a century since Tyler debuted with If Morning Ever Comes, and her writing has lost none of the freshness and timelessness that has earned her countless awards and accolades. Now 73, she continues to dazzle with this multigenerational saga, which glides back and forth in time with humor and heart and a pragmatic wisdom that comforts and instructs. — Library Journal
Paul Baumer enlisted with his classmates in the German army of World War I. Youthful, enthusiastic, they become soldiers. But despite what they have learned, they break into pieces under the first bombardment in the trenches. And as horrible war plods on year after year, Paul holds fast to a single vow: to fight against the principles of hate that meaninglessly pit young men of the same generation but different uniforms against each other–if only he can come out of the war alive. — Publisher’s note
All people are interesting if we only know their story. When readers first meet Marie Commeford, she is seven years old, waiting on the steps for her father to return to their Brooklyn home. From a chance encounter with a hapless neighbor girl that same day to her parents’ deaths, through World War II, Marie’s first sexual encounter, marriage and children, to her brother’s sudden departure from the priesthood, this novel moves from one emotionally rich touch point to the next in a nonlinear narrative that echoes memory itself. Winner of the National Book Award for Charming Billy, novelist McDermott continues to captivate readers by delving into ordinary, daily life with skill and compassion, showing us that we can’t always see at the time what will be meaningful in our lives. — Library Journal
Ellen Cooney’s The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances will be discussed at the Spades Park Library on Wednesday, May 27th at 6:00 p.m.
If abandon is one of the saddest words in the English language, then rescue must surely be among the happiest. At the Sanctuary, a secluded mountaintop refuge, abused dogs find shelter and retraining at the hands of a ragtag group of outcasts who, one suspects, at one point in their lives experienced something dire to which the dogs can relate. The newest recruit to the volunteer staff is Evie, a twentysomething former grad student and cocaine addict who applies to the Sanctuary straight out of rehab. With no family or friends to fall back on, Evie finds her new tribe in the Rottweilers and retrievers who are still learning to trust people, as is she. Under the steely care of an uncommunicative housekeeper and the stern tutelage of a group of former nuns, Evie begins to blossom into a caring, confident, and courageous young woman. As knowledgeable as she is about the world of dog rescue and rehabilitation, Cooney (Lambrusco, 2008) is equally empathic in her treatment of a scarred and scared young woman. — Booklist
Portal, the Indianapolis Science Fiction and Fantasy Discussion Group, had its third birthday in April. The group will meet at the Glendale Library on Sunday, May 31st at 1:00 p.m. (That’s the 5th Sunday instead of the 4th because the library will be closed for the Memorial Day weekend.) The open topic for this program will be “I Ain’t Got No Body.”