March 4, 2015 by Reader's Connection
I would like to use Women’s History Month as an excuse to reprint poems by women. This one, by Laura Kasischke, is featured in the March issue of Poetry, and is used with the author’s permission.
Two Men & a Truck
Once, I was as large
as any living creature could be.
I could lift the world and carry it
from my breast to its bath.
When I looked down from the sky
you could see the love in my eye:
“Oh, tiny world, if anything
ever happened to you, I would die.”
And I said, “No!” to the hand. Snatched
the pebble from the mouth, fished it out
and told the world it would choke!
Warned the world over & over! “Do
you hear me? Do you want to choke?!”
But how was the world to know
what the truth might be? Perhaps
they grant you special powers, these
choking stones. Maybe
they change the child into a god, all-swallowing.
For, clearly, there were other gods.
The world could see
that I, too, was at the mercy of something.
Sure, I could point to the sky
and say its name, but I couldn’t make it change.
Some days it was blue, true, but others
were ruined by its gray:
“I’m sorry, little world —
no picnic, no parade, no swimming pool today … ”
And the skinned knee in spite of me.
And why else would there be
such terror in the way she screamed, and the horn honking,
and the squealing wheels, and, afterward, her cold
sweat against my cheek?
Ah, she wants us to live forever.
It’s her weakness … Now I see!
But, once, I was larger
than any other being —
larger, perhaps, than any being
had any right to be.
Because, of course, eventually, the world
grew larger, and larger, until it could lift
me up and put me down anywhere
it pleased. Until, finally, I would need
its help to move the bird bath, the book-
shelf, the filing cabinet. “And
could you put my desk by the window, sweetie?”
A truck, two men, one of them my son, and
everything I ever owned, and they
didn’t even want to stop for lunch.
Even the freezer. Even the piano.
(“You can have it if you can move it.”)
But, once, I swear, I was … And now
this trunk in the attic to prove it:
These shoes in the palm of my hand?
You used to wear them on your feet.
This blanket the size of a hand towel?
I used to wrap it around you sleeping
in my arms like this. See? This
is how small the world used to be when
everything else in the world was me.
March 3, 2015 by Reader's Connection
Julie Crawford left her comfortable life in Fort Wayne and headed for Hollywood, with aspirations to become a screenwriter. Instead, she found herself as an assistant to actress Carole Lombard, who at the time was having a scandalous affair with Clark Gable, who at the time was filming the now classic Gone With the Wind. The starry-eyed Julie saw the juxtaposition of the fictional love story between Scarlet and Rhett and the real-life one between Carole and Clark as an example that love can conquer above all, a feeling made stronger with Julie herself having a romance of her own with a right-hand man of the film’s producer. But, with racial tensions high and the country on the brink of entering World War II, is love enough?
I will admit, it’s been years since I have read the book or seen the film. Even when I had, they certainly did not rank in my favorite books and movies of all time. Yet, I love movie trivia- and when I heard that the fictional A Touch of Stardust was going to cover the factual antics going on behind the scenes of Gone With The Wind, I could not resist picking it up and found the book to be a pleasant read for the most part, focusing mainly on Old Hollywood and the intrigues surrounding that world. I appreciated, though, that Alcott did not shy away from the more serious issues happening at the time and gave her characters space to acknowledge and react to these issues, most notably the unchecked racism against African Americans and the onset of World War II. Every main character was affected in some way by one or both of these events, and the varying reactions illustrated the divisiveness of the American people during this time.
Alcott also provided the reader with deep character perception for both real and fictional characters. Out of the real characters in the book, though, Carole Lombard was definitely the most fleshed-out. Alcott vividly captured Carole’s irreverent and mischievous spirit and made the developing friendship between Julie and Carole fun to read. Also from Fort Wayne, Carole was a supportive mentor to Julie, and in turn Julie was protective of Carole from the public.
I was fascinated to read about the affair between Carole and Clark Gable. They were creating quite a scandal at the time as Gable was married, but they were too smitten with each other to care. As celebrities, they were larger than life but Alcott humanized them, giving the reader a glimpse into their personal everyday lives that did not revolve around a camera. By all accounts, their love affair was deep, only ending with Carole’s untimely and tragic demise just a few years later.
Julie’s relationship with Andy, however, tended to fall flat. While the pragmatic and cynical Andy was a good foil, disillusioning starry-eyed Julie from her naive misconceptions, his behavior towards her could be a little patronizing and reticent. Julie herself was a doormat at times with Andy, almost so desperate to keep the relationship that she does not stand up for herself when she should. That imbalance does work itself out once Julie starts finding success as in the screenwriting business, but other things crop up that will prove a hindrance. The road to happiness will never run smooth, I suppose.
Overall, I would highly recommend Alcott’s novel. While not perfect, her depiction of Old Hollywood is interesting, and her incorporation of actual facts about the film and its cast makes the novel even more meaningful. If nothing else, the nostalgia factor alone will make you want to revisit the film and the book, followed up by other films from that time. It certainly did for me.
February 28, 2015 by Reader's Connection
Jennifer Michael Hecht had two friends who committed suicide within a couple years of each other. Hecht was so upset that she wrote an open-letter essay for the Best American Poetry website, for which she sometimes blogs. First she wrote of how she was feeling “rattled” by the most recent suicide.
Then I addressed the reader with a bold imperative: “So I want to say this, and forgive me the strangeness of it. Don’t kill yourself. Life has always been almost too hard to bear, for a lot of the people, a lot of the time. It’s awful. But it isn’t too hard to bear, it’s only almost too hard to bear.” In the West, I wrote, the dominant religions had told people suicide was against the rules, they must not do it; if they did they would be punished in the afterlife. “People killed themselves anyway, of course, but the strict injunction must have helped keep a billion moments of anguish from turning into calamity. These days we encourage people to stay alive and not kill themselves, but we say it for the person’s own sake. It’s illegal, sure, but no one actually insists that suicide is wrong.” I announced: “I’m issuing a rule. You are not allowed to kill yourself. When a person kills himself, he does wrenching damage to the community. One of the best predictors of suicide is knowing a suicide. That means suicide is also delayed homicide. You have to stay.”
Hecht’s blog post “drew a large response on the Internet,” and it was later reprinted in The Boston Globe. She was moved by the response, but it got her to thinking about whether everything she had said was true. The result of her subsequent research is Stay : A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It.
And it turns out that yes, knowing a suicide can incline one to suicide. Hecht finds studies on “suicide clusters.”
In the canvassing of the literature and of survivors, the answer is that suicide strikes most people with crushing force. Close friends report grievous suffering over many years. Casual friends report an increase in suicidal thoughts, also for years. It must be recognized that staying alive though suicidal is an act of radiant generosity, a way in which we can save each other.
Stay is not aimed at people who are terminally ill and in great pain. Hecht leaves that discussion for others. “This book is chiefly about despair suicide, rather than what might be called end-of-life management.” But she hopes that it may be of help to those who are ill and suffering from depression.
She writes of ancient responses to suicide, religious responses, and modern responses, both philosophical and sociological. Some pretty downbeat, non-God-fearing authors–Arthur Schopenhauer, Albert Camus–have come out against suicide.
Waddy took his own life when he was twenty-one or twenty-two. My family had moved to Indiana seven years earlier, and Waddy and I hadn’t kept in touch. I wasn’t traumatized by his suicide, but I was mystified, and over the years I’ve thought back on him, thought about how the earth has revolved and circled the sun, how the corn has grown again every year, and how Waddy has missed all the living–all the grief and joy–that has gone on.
Which is probably why I was so moved by one the principle reasons that Hecht gives for her rule against suicide: our future selves.
The whole of humanity suffers when someone opts out. The suicide is also a real victim because he or she had a future self that may not have wanted this . . . To put the matter another way, we are complex beings who feel very differently at different times, such that the “you” in any given moment should not have the authority to end life for the many yous of many other moments.
Of course I thought of Waddy when I read that, just as I had thought of him when Frederick Buechner tweeted the following back in January. Buechner’s not saying the same thing that Hecht is saying, but it’s related:
GOD SPEAKS TO us through our lives, we often too easily say. Something speaks anyway, spells out some sort of godly or godforsaken meaning to us through the alphabet of our years, but often it takes many years and many further spellings out before we start to glimpse, or think we do, a little of what that meaning is. Even then we glimpse it only dimly, like the first trace of dawn on the rim of night, and even then it is a meaning that we cannot fix and be sure of once and for all because it is always incarnate meaning and thus as alive and changing as we are ourselves alive and changing.
I wish Waddy had stayed.
February 26, 2015 by Reader's Connection
The Groundhog didn’t accomplish much in February, so let’s see if the March Hare can get us any closer to spring. Here are ten new books to keep us warm while we wait, reviewed by librarians around the country.
The Love Song of Miss
Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce
Miss Queenie Hennessy, who we met in Joyce’s first book, is in a hospice ruminating over her abundant life experiences. I loved the poignant passages and wise words peppered throughout. Readers of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry will enjoy this book. There’s no fast-paced plot or exciting twists–it’s just a simple, sweet story of a life well-lived. — Andrienne Cruz, Azusa City Library, Azusa, CA
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
In cinematic terms, this dramatic page-turner is Das Boot meets Titanic. Larson has a wonderful way of creating a very readable, accessible story of a time, place, and event. We get three sides of the global story–the U-boat commander, British Admiralty and President Wilson–but what really elevates this book are the affecting stories of individual crew and passengers. — Robert Schnell, Queens Library, Jamaica, NY
Prudence by Gail Carriger
I was hoping we’d be seeing Prudence in her own series. Baby P–Rue to you–is all grown up and absolutely delightful. First-time readers will think it’s a wonderful book on its own merits. However, it becomes spectacular when we get to revisit some of the beloved characters from the Parasol Protectorate. Gail Carriger is always a delight! — Lisa Sprague, Enfield Public Library, Enfield, CT
The Witch of Painted Sorrows by M. J. Rose
Rose weaves a passionate tale of sensuality, heartbreak and despair, exposing readers to a side of Paris that is as haunting as its main characters. The melding of time and generations transform Sandrine and La Lune into a single force to be reckoned with. The unexpected ending will leave readers wanting more. — Marianne Colton, Lockport Public Library, Lockport, NY
Cat Out of Hell by Lynne Truss
Cats don’t live nine lives. They survive eight deaths. There’s something special about Roger, the cat, and it’s not that he can talk. Truss spins readers through a hauntingly, portentous tale. When my cat’s tail thrums, I’ll forever wonder what devilment will follow. — Ann Williams, Tippecanoe County Public Library, Lafayette, IN
Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver
Reminiscent of E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars, this book begs for a re-read after you finish it. Nick, the main character, is recovering from a devastating trauma. Her family life is turned upside down, and a longtime childhood friendship is strained due to her sister’s exploits. I recommend this book to anyone who loves to read multi-layered stories. — Sybil Thompson, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Cleveland, OH
Delicious Foods: A Novel by James Hannaham
How can you not be immediately intrigued by a novel that opens with a teenage boy driving from Louisiana to Minnesota after both his hands have just been cut off at the wrist? When you read this novel, you’re dropped right into a world–darkly funny and audaciously bold. — Meghan Hall, Timberland Regional Library, Lacey, WA
The Fifth Gospel: A Novel by Ian Caldwell
A murder on Vatican property begins this tale of religion, politics, and family. Two brothers, both priests, struggle to make sense of their friend’s murder. When one is accused, the other must go to extreme lengths to prove his brother’s innocence. Caldwell’s second novel is a book to savor. This is a heart-wrenching book you will want to read more than once. — Elizabeth Kanouse, Denville Public Library, Denville, NJ
The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford
Dana is a ‘pocket wife’ because her lawyer husband barely gives her the time of day. One afternoon, she drunkenly argues with her neighbor Celia, takes a nap, then wakes to find Celia dead. Could she have murdered Celia? Dana, suffering from manic episodes, tries to solve her friend’s murder before she loses all self-control. Highly recommended for fans of Gone Girl. — Katelyn Boyer, Fergus Falls Public Library, Fergus Falls, MN
Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy
This beautifully written novel juxtaposes the glory of the Appalachians against the despair of everyday life. Jacob McNeely recognizes his family’s brutality, but Maggie, the love of his life, gives him hope. Achingly told, the visceral prose will stay with readers long past the conclusion. Fans of the Southern fiction of Ron Rash and Wiley Cash will fall in love with this new voice. — Jennifer Winberry, Hunterdon County Library, Flemington, NJ
February 23, 2015 by Reader's Connection
Two opening announcements: (1) The Shared Reading Group at Spades Park has finished one book and started another, so it’s a great time to join that group. (2) Our discussions in March and April will include The Big Read discussions, and some of those are scheduled at non-library locations. See below.
|The What Would Jane Austen Read? Book Club will meet at the College Avenue Library on Monday, March 2nd at 1:30 p.m. Click on Jane for a brief description of the club.|
The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse that Inspired a Nation, by Elizabeth Letts, will be discussed at the Franklin Road Library on Monday, March 2nd at 6:30 p.m.
My Ántonia is considered one of the most significant American novels of the twentieth century. Set during the great migration west to settle the plains of the North American continent, the narrative follows Antonia Shimerda, a pioneer who comes to Nebraska as a child and grows with the country, inspiring a childhood friend, Jim Burden, to write her life story. The novel is important both for its literary aesthetic and as a portrayal of important aspects of American social ideals and history, particularly the centrality of migration to American culture. — Publisher’s note
The library owns My Ántonia in various editions and formats. Click here to look at them in our catalog.
The Cooking Chats discussion at Glendale Library will be held on Monday, March 2nd at 6:30 p.m. The subject will be “Soups and Stews.”
Invisible Man is a milestone in American literature, a book that has continued to engage readers since its appearance in 1952. A first novel by an unknown writer, it remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks, won the National Book Award for fiction, and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century. The nameless narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of “the Brotherhood”, and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be. The book is a passionate and witty tour de force of style, strongly influenced by T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, Joyce, and Dostoevsky. — Publisher’s note
You can join in a discussion of How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live like Everyone Else at the Warren Library on Thursday, March 5th at 10:30 a.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
The Shared Reading Group at Spades Park Library has finished reading and discussing Jean Toomer’s Cane. Their “next adventure,” as one of the members puts it, will be William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!.
On the Fridays in March–the 6th, 13th, 20th and 27th, from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m., this fabulous novel will be read and discussed by the group.
Sutpen’s Hundred! Wash Jones! My first encounter with the word “architect” used as a verb! (Who said Faulkner didn’t have a sense of humor?) I am so excited for the group.
A poem will be read each week. There will always be refreshments. The start of a new book is always the perfect time to join up.
(The Shared Reading Group is not to be confused with the Spades Park Book Discussion. See below.)
There’s serious drama swirling around the First Jamacia Ministries in Queens, NY. Gospel sensation and choir director Aaron Mackie finds himself left alone at the altar when his bride-to-be Tia bolts away due to a dark event in her past. But all Aaron knows is that Tia sent a text demanding he stay out of her life. Both Aaron and Tia separately go off the deep end: Aaron soaking himself in alcohol and Tia plotting revenge on three shady men. Many voices offer different viewpoints in Weber’s (The Family Business, Big Girls Do Cry) well-constructed tale including Bishop T.K. Wilson, gold digger Desiree, and Aaron’s homeboy manager, Ross. Each supporting character has their own drama to sort out but stealing scenes is Jackson Young, a suave dude promising to make Aaron a superstar while he coaches the church’s First Lady how to French kiss like an actress. Humph! This playa might be the devil popping up to mess with people’s heads. Church drama, bloody revenge, and plenty of sneaking around has these folks about to forget they’re in the Lord’s house. — Library Journal
The first thing to be said about a Vreeland novel is that the reader learns a lot from it, but the joy and delight of a Vreeland novel is that the knowledge gleaned from her beautifully articulate pages is not forced on you, not delivered as if from a podium. Welcome here to the world of Clara Driscoll, whom Vreeland has brought to light from the archives of Tiffany Glass Company to establish what is most probably her rightful place in the history of American decorative arts. This deep-reaching novel is based on the likelihood that Clara conceived the famous Tiffany leaded-glass lamp shade, which has come down from the early years of the twentieth century as the epitome of the creativity in glass for which the Tiffany outfit was known. Clara worked in the women’s studio for founder Louis Tiffany himself and struggled against the anti-female bias of the company–like that of any other company of the time, for that matter–to position herself as a first-rate artisan in her boss’ eyes. Plus, Vreeland takes Clara out of the workplace to give her a personal life quite suitable for not only the time but also her strong personality. — Booklist
And now for The Big Read. You’ll be hearing more about this, but Indianapolis residents are encouraged to read The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Ethiopian-American author Dinaw Mengestu, and to discuss the themes of the book, led by expert discussion guides from the Indiana Writers Center. Book discussion kits are available from Indy Library branches for book groups who would like to use them.
In his run-down store in a gentrifying neighborhood of Washington, D.C., Ethiopian immigrant Stepha Stephanos regularly meets with fellow African immigrants Ken the Kenyan and Joe from the Congo. Their favorite game is matching African nations to coups and dictators, as they consider how their new immigrant expectations measure up to the reality of life in America after 17 years. From his store and nearby apartment, Stephanos makes keen observations of American race and class tensions, seeing similarities–physical and social–to his hometown of Addis Ababa, where his father was killed in the throes of revolution. When Judith, a white woman, and Naomi, her mixed-race daughter, move into the neighborhood, Stephanos finds tentative prospects for friendship beyond his African compatriots. Mengestu, himself an Ethiopian immigrant, engages the reader in a deftly drawn portrait of dreams in the face of harsh realities from the perspective of immigrants. — Booklist
Here are the Big Read discussions for March:
Fountain Square Library Thursday, March 12th 1:30 p.m.
Glendale Library Monday, March 16th 6:00 p.m.
Lawrence Library Tuesday, March 17th 10:00 a.m.
Pike Library Wednesday, March 18th 6:00 p.m.
Nora Library Saturday, March 21st 2:00 p.m.
Books and Brews (9402 Uptown Drive, Suite 1400) Monday, March 23rd 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
The Arts Council of Indianapolis (924 N. Pennsylvania St.) Wednesday, March 25th 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Bookmamas (9 S. Johnson Avenue) Saturday, March 28th 1:30 – 3:30 p.m.
Sun King Brewery (135 N. College Avenue) Monday, March 30th 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
On Monday, March 16th at 6:00 p.m., the Cookbook Discussion program at Nora Library will focus on “The Best Cookbook Lists for 2014.”
Find a cookbook on a “Best of 2014″ list. Read the cookbook and sample a few recipes. Pick up a review form at the Nora Library, fill it out, and bring it with you to the meeting. (Optional: make a recipe from the cookbook and bring samples to the meeting.) Join us for an enjoyable discussion of the cookbooks and some delicious taste testing.
Chef Brad Nehrt, Culinary Arts Instructor at the J. Everett Light Career Center, will be the special guest.
Please register for the program by calling 275-4472 or by coming into the Nora Library and signing up at the Information Desk.
A long journey from home and the struggle to find it again form the heart of the intertwined stories that make up this moving novel. Foster teen Molly is performing community-service work for elderly widow Vivian, and as they go through Vivian’s cluttered attic, they discover that their lives have much in common. When Vivian was a girl, she was taken to a new life on an orphan train. These trains carried children to adoptive families for 75 years, from the mid-nineteenth century to the start of the Great Depression. Novelist Kline (Bird in Hand, 2009) brings Vivian’s hardscrabble existence in Depression-era Minnesota to stunning life. Molly’s present-day story in Maine seems to pale in comparison, but as we listen to the two characters talk, we find grace and power in both of these seemingly disparate lives. Although the girls are vulnerable, left to the whims of strangers, they show courage and resourcefulness. Kline illuminates a largely hidden chapter of American history, while portraying the coming-of-age of two resilient young women. — Booklist
Portal, the Indianapolis Science Fiction and Fantasy Discussion Group, will meet at the Glendale Library on Sunday, March 22nd at 1:00 p.m. The theme for this program will be “A Tale Retold.”
Dead Heat, by Dick Francis and his son Felix, will be discussed at the Spades Park Library on Wednesday, March 25th at 6:00 p.m. (This Spades Park Book Discussion is not to be confused with the Spades Park Shared Reading Group.)
After a night he’s spent huddled over his toilet sick as a dog, it’s no consolation to restaurateur Max Moreton to learn that he hasn’t been alone. Virtually everyone at the party at the Hay Net, his racing-themed restaurant, has become ill. Soon enough, longtime patrons begin to cancel their reservations; the Cambridge County Council seals his kitchen; and violist Caroline Aston, whose quartet had played at the party, announces her plans to sue him. By that time, however, Max already has bigger problems. A bomb planted in the stands at the 2,000 Guineas, a high-profile race run the day after the debacle at the Hay Net, has killed 19 and sent dozens more to the hospital. Are the two incidents connected, and if so, how? It doesn’t take Max long to satisfy himself that his meal was sabotaged by the unboiled kidney beans someone introduced into a sauce that didn’t call for them. But why would anyone seek to poison 250 diners the night before detonating a bomb? . . . The mystery is engaging, and durable Max is a worthy addition to Francis’s gallery of racetrack detectives. — Kirkus Reviews
Stedman’s haunting tale opens in 1918 with the return of Tom Sherbourne to his home in Australia after serving four years in the Great War. He applies for a job as a lighthouse keeper and is assigned to the light on Janus Rock, a remote island off the southwest coast where he hopes to erase his horrific memories of war. Several years later, Tom brings to the island his bride, Isabel, a free-spirited young woman who is determined to adapt to Tom’s solitary life with their only contact with the mainland a quarterly visit from the supply boat. Four years later, after Isabel has suffered two miscarriages and a very recent stillbirth, an event occurs that forever changes them. A dinghy washes up on the beach carrying a dead man and a newborn baby girl, giving Isabel hope that she may become, at last, a mother. The choice they make as a couple comes to haunt them, their unexpected happiness replaced by guilt and mistrust. Stedman draws the reader into her emotionally complex story right from the beginning, with lush descriptions of this savage and beautiful landscape, and vivid characters with whom we can readily empathize. Hers is a stunning and memorable debut. — Booklist