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A samurai and a goddess came in the mail yesterday.

August 16, 2014 by Reader's Connection

snowy_owlI might have thought that I’d heard enough about samurais or goddesses for one lifetime, but two poems from yesterday’s email have turned me around.

The Poetry Foundation’s Poem of the Day  (click there to sign up for those) was Robert Pinsky’s “Samurai Song”.

My Poem-a-Day (click to sign up) from the Academy of American Poets was Diane Wakoski’s “Snowy Owl Goddess”.

Sometimes I don’t open the emails for a week, and my inbox needs a sweeping. Other days, I open them and sink in.


Reading & Cooking at Home, Discussing and Tasting at Nora.

August 14, 2014 by Reader's Connection

On Monday, September 15th, at Nora Library, readers from the Jordan YMCA will join library readers at 6:00 p.m. to discuss cooking basics.

Chef Brad Nehrt, Culinary Arts Instructor at the J. Everett Light Career Center, will be the special guest.

Pick one (or more) of the four cookbooks listed below, try a couple of the recipes, and bring a sample of your favorite one.

Please call 275-4470 to register for this event.

How to Cook Everything: The Basics

How to Cook Everything: The Basics: All You Need to Make Great Food by Mark Bittman

How to Cook Everything: The Basics is also available as a downloadable e-book.


The Science of Good Cooking: Master 50 Simple Concepts to Enjoy a Lifetime of Success in the Kitchen

The Science of Good Cooking: Master 50 Simple Concepts to Enjoy a Lifetime of Success in the Kitchen by the editors at America’s Test Kitchen and Guy Crosby.



How to Cook Without a Book


How to Cook Without a Book by Pam Anderson



The No Recipe Cookbook: A Beginner's Guide to the Art of Cooking


The No Recipe Cookbook: A Beginner’s Guide to the Art of Cooking by Susan Crowther



Interview with David Leander Williams, who will be at Eagle on September 2nd

August 11, 2014 by Reader's Connection

Wes Montgomery played his guitar on David Leander Williams’s front porch. That is so neat. When Williams was a kid, he lived a block or so from Indiana Avenue, and his father was a friend of Montgomery’s.


I learn this from an interview that you can watch by clicking on Williams’s picture.

Indianapolis Jazz: The Masters, Legends and Legacy of Indiana AvenueHe has written a new book called Indianapolis Jazz: The Masters, Legends and Legacy of Indiana Avenue, and will appear at the Eagle Library on Tuesday, September 2nd at 6:00 p.m. to discuss the rise and fall of the jazz age on Indiana Avenue.

Indianapolis Jazz is also available as a downloadable e-book.

And “Midnight Hour Blues” is available on Freegal. I downloaded it a few years ago, when Freegal first appeared on our website.

Leroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell.
Click to hear “Midnight Hour Blues”

Why do I mention that, you wonder? Pianist & singer-songwriter Leroy Carr spent some of his youth in Indianapolis, as did guitarist Francis “Scrapper” Blackwell. It was here that they met and, as David Leander Williams puts it, they “came, saw and conquered Indiana Avenue.”

They are one of my favorite musical duos–I love the way Blackwell’s picking works it way around Carr’s chords. They are usually considered bluesmen rather than jazz artists, but their tale is told in Mr. Williams’s book; and quite a few Carr & Blackwell numbers can be found on Freegal.


Swimming Studies

August 7, 2014 by Reader's Connection

Swimming Studies

I was moved at the Natatorium, last summer, watching an evening of National Championship swimming. A woman in an outer lane, the lane closest to me, was so far behind the others. I don’t often attend this sort of meet, and I felt bad for her.

The woman with the fastest time after preliminary heats occupies lane four. Second-fastest is in lane five, third in lane three. The rest, in descending order, are in lanes six, two, seven, one, and finally, eight. This placement accounts for the inverted-V formation that typically occurs during a race. A swimmer who leads from lane one, two, seven or eight is often called “outside smoke.”

So my swimmer at the Natatorium was part of a pattern, like a migrating goose. Do I feel better for her, or worse?

The explanation is from Leanne Shapton’s book Swimming Studies. Shapton herself was a competitive swimmer, a wonderful swimmer, but never quite good enough to make the Olympic team. The book is a memoir about her swimming years, a poignant study of a life that won’t go the way that a young person wants it to. You need to put aside any ideas you have of what a normal sports book should be.

Having failed to be an Olympian, Shapton has succeeded quite nicely as an artist, journalist, author and publisher, and the book is full of pictures: there are impressionistic watercolor paintings of swimmers, small paintings of odors, photographs of bathing suits–she owns a preposterous number of them–and other visuals. A chopped-up version of some of the suits is available on GoogleBooks –I like her comment on suit # 13–but you really need to look at the book.

Yes, I said small paintings of odors. “Fourteen Odors,” to be exact. Number 10 is Coach: Fresh laundry, windbreaker nylon, Mennon Speed Stick, Magic Marker and bologna. If you open this Mister Motley book review, you’ll see a shadowed photo of all fourteen. Coach is second from the top on the right. I don’t understand how that green can be the right color for that combination of odors, but this isn’t a great photo, and again, you need to look at the book yourself.

I’m about halfway through it. I love to swim laps, but have never been much good at it. Shapton takes me to a different universe of swimming, where teenagers are immersed in the sport for huge chunks of every week, where “most breaststrokers have knee problems, are advised to ice regularly and take eight aspirin a day.” This tale of a swimmer who didn’t quite make the cut is a look at her childhood, her family, at Canada (and travels elsewhere) and at how you might turn into another sort of person when you can’t be the one you expected to be.


The Infatuations

August 4, 2014 by Reader's Connection

The InfatuationsAn inmate at the Marion County Jail once told me that he didn’t want any books by Agatha Christie. I don’t think we did much Christie business at the jail, but he must have spotted a paperback on my cart, and he complained that the Queen of Crime Fiction could go on forever just describing somebody’s nose. Around his own nose he made an impatient, hovering gesture.

If you’re like my inmate, and you want your tales of murder to rattle quickly toward their violent ends, don’t read The Infatuations by Javier Marías. His narrator, María Dolz, doesn’t dwell on noses, but she is fixated on one individual’s lips, and she makes observations at length about love and death and memory and the faultiness of human perception. I love her, she makes me laugh, but she’s not in a hurry.

Miguel Desvern is murdered horribly on the street in Madrid. María didn’t really know the man, but she liked eating breakfast in the same café where Miguel and his wife ate, and that thread of connection draws María into situations where she learns more about the murder than she wants to know. I’m not a detective, she tells us. What do I care about justice?

And she’s forever doubting the truth of what she has just learned.

Most Spanish writers are idiots–that’s according to María, who works in a Madrid publishing house and unloads on the subject whenever she can–but Javier Marías has written a mortality-obsessed tale that I love.

The Infatuations is also available as a downloadable e-book and a downloadable audiobook.