Monday, December 31, 2007
Mary Gordon's father died when she was 7. Decades later, as a feminist author and professor, she forces herself to look at the pornographic magazine he published, and read the articles he wrote in support of McCarthy, Mussolini and Franco, as well as anti-Semitic pieces attacking Hollywood and Spanish Civil War volunteers (despite having been Jewish before his conversion). Shadow Man is the story of her reconciling this man with the adoring father who wrote her charming letters, published a children's magazine, left marginalia in his books addressed to her.
How was Mary Gordon's life influenced by the father that she believed in (Harvard graduate, writer and publisher, a European traveler, a devout Catholic) even if he wasn't the man she thought he was? If he had lived, would his influence on her have been different? How or why not?
Were there any extenuating circumstances that might explain why her father lied about so much (and did not tell them about important things from his past)? If you had the opportunity to discover whether a parent had lied to you about something important, would you want to know?
What did you think about the author having her father's body exhumed? Was it symbolic?
Why is it so important to us to think of our ancestors as being successful, especially after they have arrived in America?
Did you find the part about genealogical research interesting? Did it remind you of any experiences you've had tracing your family?
Did you think the section about her mother belonged in this book? Why or why not?
Do you have any early memories that you suspect to be unreliable? Why do memories deceive us?
More discussion questions are available at the Random House web site.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Friday, December 21, 2007
Library Journal reveals that Cuyahoga Library has extended its toy lending program of 15 years to all branches. Patrons can reserve toys from the library website. The website notes that each toy is inspected and disinfected between borrowers. MRSA anyone?
LJ also reports that the SanFranscisco library has a Book a Librarian service. Patrons can make appointments to meet individually with a librarian. SFPL librarians provide research and technology help. Note that BHPL reference librarians can usually give enough time to each patron to fully answer questions, but if you need more, we are willing to arrange a slightly longer than usual time to help you with your email for example.
Jacob Liebenluft wrote in Slate that Yahoo Answers is a Librarian's Worst Nightmare. Yahoo Answers is a website where people can ask any question and instantly get answers from any person at all who has signed on to be a member. It is very easy to become a member. I signed up last week and have answered a few questions and noticed that Yahoo Answerers rarely cite sources. Answers are generally people's opinions, anecdotes and casual personal experiences. Last fall there was a big push in the librarian universe for reference librarians to answer questions on websites like Yahoo Answers so that people would realize that libraries are a good resource also. This effort was Slamming the Boards which is now supposed to be a monthly event.
Libraries lending toys, lending librarians, being happy to get ten minutes in a major movies and proving our relative value on web answer sites - What do these four stories about libraries and librarians have in common? Again it's the common theme in the library profession: are we obsolete yet? and please notice that we are still useful.
Well, no we aren't and yes, we are. Are we the self-designated buggy whips of professions? We are still here. Quiet, but here. Stop by, give us a call, ask a question.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
These strange anniversaries and events come from Chase's Calendar of Events, one of the more entertaining reference books at BHPL. Here are a few more holidays to look forward to:
March 3, 2008: What If Cats and Dogs Had Opposable Thumbs Day
March 7, 2008: Middle Name Pride Day. "Tell three people who don't already know it what your middle name is (even if it's Egbert). Annually the Friday of Celebrate Your Name Week."
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Take one timid, neurotic would-be poet afraid of facing the world; add a burly, not-very-bright womanizing roommate and you have the definitive odd couple. Elling and Bjarne, both recently discharged from a state institution, figure their best chance of making it on the outside is to share a flat. This bittersweetly comic portrait of socially challenged people trying to cope with everyday life became Norway’s top-grossing locally produced movie. It won the Lubeck Nordic Film Days award and was Oscar nominated for Best Foreign Language Picture. The film is rated R.
To sample Elling's reviews from newspapers around the country, visit RottenTomatoes.com. Elling received 48 "fresh tomato" reviews and 9 rotten reviews on the critics tomatometer.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Although originally invented as a way to amplify voices over the telephone, transistors are now an essential part of the silicon chips that power your computer. The more transistors on a chip, the faster the computing speed. CNN recently noted that we are reaching the point where transistors can't be made any smaller, which has spurred research on ways to use the transistors on chips more efficiently.
BHPL has a 7 volume history of Bell Labs up to 1975 entitled A History of Engineering and Science in the Bell System. For a more recent (and less daunting) history, try End of the Line: The Rise and Fall of AT&T by Leslie Cauley. If you are interested in the transistors' inventors, BHPL has the biography of John Bardeen, True Genius: The Life and Science of John Bardeen by Lillian Hoddeson.
Monday, December 17, 2007
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
"Awed by merely the camping section of his local sporting goods store, he nevertheless plunges into the wilderness and emerges with a consistently comical account of a neophyte woodsman learning hard lessons about self-reliance."
Lois on the Loose: One Woman, One Motorcycle, 20,000 Miles Across the Americas by Lois Pryce
"She bought a small dirt bike, a versatile and affordable Yamaha XT225 Serow, and decided she'd bike from Anchorage, Alaska, to the southernmost city of South America, Ushuaia, Argentina—almost 20,000 miles. . . travelers will delight in this funny, vivid account and—almost—wish they'd done it themselves."
Whatever You Do, Don't Run: True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide by Peter Allison
"In this fun, fearless memoir, Allison shares his experiences taking "guests" through the African wilderness, trips that often don't go quite as planned-due especially to the unpredictability of the animals around them."
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
"Sedaris also writes here about the time he spent in France and the difficulty of learning another language. After several extended stays in a little Norman village and in Paris, Sedaris had progressed, he observes, "from speaking like an evil baby to speaking like a hillbilly. `Is thems the thoughts of cows?' I'd ask the butcher, pointing to the calves' brains displayed in the front window."
Confessions of a Prep School Mommy Handler by Wade Rouse
"Wade's irreverent look at his career at Tate is laugh-out-loud funny and full of charm, candor, and a boatload of cattiness."
Amazing Disgrace by James Hamilton-Paterson
"The humorous trials and tribulations of a British ghostwriter. . . Gerald, who would rather be writing a serious biography of a notable music figure, instead ghostwrites for popular sports figures to maintain his expatriate life in the mountains of Italy." (Library Journal)
Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz
"The author has recently added humor to his arsenal of effects, and this thriller also stands out for its brilliant tightrope walk between the amusing and the macabre; one of the dead with whom Odd interacts frequently, for instance, is Elvis, still pining for his long-dead mother, Gladys."
The Impartial Recorder by Ian Sansom
"After 20 years in London, Davey Quinn, the seventh son of a seventh son, returns to his small Irish hometown with a sense of failure. . . Read this book with someone close at hand because you'll want to keep quoting the funny bits."
Mermaids on the Moon by Elizabeth French-Stuckey
"In this wonderfully quirky debut novel, 35-year-old France's mother, Grendy, inexplicably disappears from Mermaid City, Fla., where she has been performing with a small group of former "mermaids," leaving a note to her husband, a minister, claiming she has "to find herself."
Visions of Sugar Plums by Janet Evanovich
"Stephanie Plum, Evanovich's delightfully zany New Jersey bounty hunter, is the star of this too short but hilarious holiday romp."
Friday, December 14, 2007
If you're a reader who would like to become a writer, you may be interested in Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer.
Prose (Blue Angel; A Changed Man) masterfully meditates on how quality reading informs great writing, which will warm the cold, jaded hearts of even the most frustrated, unappreciated and unpublished writers. Chapters treat the nuts and bolts of writing (words, sentences, paragraphs) as well as issues of craft (narration, character, dialogue), all of which Prose discusses using story or novel excerpts.
All of the authors and books mentioned in this post are owned by BHPL if you are interested in checking them out.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Other resources about Free Acres:
Linus Yamane's recollections of growing up in Free Acres.
Judith Gay's piece from Associated Content.
Wikipedia's article on Free Acres
1998 New York Times article, If you are thinking of living in...
2005 New Jersey Monthly article
BHPL has newspaper clipping and photo files and books on New Jersey and Berkeley Heights, NJ which may contain some information on Free Acres.
Norton, the publisher of the book, has a discussion guide on its website, click here.
BookReporter writes; "THE HISTORY OF LOVE, Nicole Krauss's second novel, is a complex story that doesn't lend itself well to being summed up in a nice, neat plot synopsis. For one thing, the book travels back and forth in time, narrated by several characters, sometimes in the form of letters, diaries, and even a novel-within-a-novel (also, not coincidentally, called THE HISTORY OF LOVE). For another thing, the book is a sort of mystery, revealing name changes, betrayals, and secret identities as the plot unfolds."
Saying that the book is difficult to summarize is an understatement. The plot is so confusing that trying to unravel the themes, motives, chronology and meaning can easily become the main focus of discussions of this book. The book is being made into a movie to be released in 2009. Meanwhile, the library discussion leader may have to lead only by the Socratic method as a means to disguise her own confusion about who is who and what is what in this book, not to mention the why.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
Erens writes, "I open my book, and the following thought allows me to begin: No one needs me. Maybe no one even remembers who I am! It's too late in the day for me to make any more mistakes, disappoint anyone, complete any uncompleted tasks. However I may have failed or fallen behind, I'm off the hook until sunrise. And time, which all day has pressed like a tight band against my consciousness, slackens. The clock finds a 13th hour."
Whether it's called "time for oneself," "losing oneself," "being in the zone or the flow or the space or whatever", reading is a peaceful escape from the cell-phone buzz, vibrate or trill, computer hum, insistently blinking answering machine, electronic pager, blackberry nag, or other electronic leashes we are all tethered to all day.
Come to the library to get into the flow...
Tim Benford provides articles for http://www.associatedcontent.com/.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
One highly unscientific estimate: twenty to thirty in a tree much thicker than this one. It depends on the tree's size and species, the book, and how the paper is produced, so there is no single statistic. But here are some estimates:
One cord of air-dried dense hardwood yields 942 100-page, hard-cover books according to TAPPI, a paper industry trade group.
So how many trees are in a cord? According to the Department of Natural Resources in Wisconsin, roughly 15 trees with a diameter of 10 inches. For other diameters, check out this foresters' site.
That comes to about 60 100-page books per 10-inch diameter tree. Most of our library books are at least 300 pages, so that brings the calculations to maybe 20-30 books in a 10-inch thick tree.
The electronic books that can be read by the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader not only use less paper, but also are much cheaper than the same books in printed form (the electronic readers are expensive though). Of course, "reusing" a book by borrowing it from the library is also environmentally friendly!
*The tree in the picture is the one next door at the Little Flower Catholic Church, taken Monday morning before the library opened.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Malcolm Gladwell is a staff writer at The New Yorker, and you can read his New Yorker articles here (the latest is an interesting one about the limitations of criminal profiling).
The Tipping Point is a book about the 3 factors that can bring about epidemic change:
1) The people who are agents of change (connectors, mavens and salesmen)
2) The "sticky", i.e. contagious or memorable thing that is spreading (news of a revolution, a fad, etc.)
3) The environment in which the change takes place (what Gladwell refers to as "the Power of Context").
We'll be basing our discussion on questions from Gladwell's web site.
Gladwell has a blog full of the kinds of fascinating stories you find in his books, ranging from Kenyan long distance runners to the stereotypes we use to make conversation with strangers.
Magazines are fond of pitting Gladwell's theories against those of other bestselling authors. Newsweek pointed out in April that Jerome Groopman's book, How Doctors Think, contradicts the main idea behind Gladwell's book Blink (decisionmaking based on instinct). And in April 2006 Fortune reported on the "cyber-spat" between Gladwell and Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, co-authors of Freakonomics. Freakonomics theorizes that Roe vs. Wade led to the drop in the crime rate in the 90s, while Gladwell's theory of broken windows from The Tipping Point points to law enforcement.
Monday, December 3, 2007
Believe it or not, librarians are often asked for "that red book that is about this big." When title, author, and even the subject of a book have faded from memory, color still remains.
This reminds me of the San Francisco bookstore Adobe. In 2004 the artist Chris Cobb rearranged all of their books by color, and the result was breathtaking.
Don't count on BHPL rearranging its books anytime soon, though. (In case you were wondering, whenever someone asks for the red book at BHPL, they seem to be looking for our directory of board certified medical specialists.)
Thursday, November 29, 2007
During a vacation to Italy's Amalfi Coast, a chance meeting with a stranger in a remote parking lot was the beginning of Saverino's search for the reasons behind his family's exodus from Sicily to America, a search that turns up murder, mystery, intrigue, deceit and adultery. More than the story of Angelo Saverino's journey, Seven Turns of the Key is a lesson in Sicilian and Italian traditions, history, geography and the Sicilian language.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta
Almost Moon by Alice Sebold
Away by Amy Bloom
Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
The Castle in the Forest by Norman Mailer
Exit Ghost by Philip Roth
Falling Man by Don DeLillo
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Heyday by Kurt Andersen
The Maytrees by Annie Dillard
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Run by Ann Patchett
Songs Without Words by Ann Packer
Ten Days in the Hills by Jane Smiley
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson
What is the What by Dave Eggers
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
So which insects have been identified in Berkeley Heights in recent months? A camel cricket - originally thought to be a spider – and a stink bug – thought to be a beetle at first.
Monday, November 26, 2007
First Person Plural, my life as a multiple by Cameron West (1998),
Passing for Normal, a Memoir of Compulsion by Amy S. Wilensky (1999), and
Courageous Confrontations, Lives Transformed by Life-Threatening Illness (2005) by Richard H. Helfant, M.D. The epigraph page in Dr. Helfant's book has these quotes:
"At the bottom of the abyss, comes the voice of salvation." - Joseph Campbell
"Sweet are the uses of adversity." - William Shakespeare.
These stories of how people deal with adversity seem to be popular judging by the rate the books are being checked out from this display.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Newsweek's cover story is entitled, "Books Aren't Dead." (Phew!) Subtitled: (They're Just Going Digital.) and further elucidating in a subheading: "Five centuries after Gutenberg, Amazon's Jeff Bezos is betting that the future of reading is just a click away."
I haven't actually READ the piece yet, but I don't think it will hold many surprises for most librarians. BHPL offers digital content, which is a way of saying, you can download books and movies and music from the BHPL website, using your library card as your authentication into the databases (ie: only BHPL cardholders have access to the digital content, but it is free to them.)
News item number two: according to the latest study by the National Endowment for the Arts released yesterday, Americans are reading less for pleasure and reading with less understanding (test scores are down.) The study, To Read or Not to Read, is a compilation of other reading studies and a follow-up to the NEA's 2004 study Reading at Risk. Putting together many dismal statistics about how little people read at every age level and comparing it to how much television people watch, the bottom line is that Americans are less informed and therefore less capable of participating in civic life or succeed in their personal lives. Other implications of widespread illiteracy are asserted in the report.
The view from the BHPL circulation and reference desks is that people still eagerly wait their turns on the holds waiting lists, request books from other libraries through interlibrary loan, travel from library to library to borrow audiobooks and download audiobooks from the BHPL website, check out piles of childrens books after every storytime, recommend books to purchase, donate piles of books they have read and need space for more in their houses, participate in two library book groups and many community book clubs and so on. So the situation doesn't seem so dire from a librarian's strictly observational point of view. People are reading and using various formats (audio, digital, regular old print) to do so.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
"Free for All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library (Virgin, $21.95) aims to do for libraries what Bel Kaufman's Up the Down Staircase did for urban schools in 1965 or what Bill Buford's Heat did for professional cooks in 2006. "
Borchert says that libraries are dull most of the time, but he writes about the rest of the time, the not-so-dull times that involve patron behavior that ranges from quirky to criminal. These are the incidents that all librarians have experienced and when they tell the stories to non-librarians, people are incredulous that such things go on in the library, the last place most people would expect to find misbehavior. But people don't drop their humanity at the library doors nor are they better behaved just by virtue of the fact that they are library users. Any public place will have similar issues of unruly behavior, it's just the incongruity of say, drug dealers using the library bathroom as the place of business (a story from the book) that makes the story seem more shocking.
On the good side, a library can be like Andy Taylor's police station in Mayberry, RFD, a meeting place for friendly locals to gossip and pass the time of day. On the bad side, well for the bad side, read the book.
BHPL is more like Mayberry and less like Borchert's library, but there are untold stories here too. Did we tell you about the time that... no, nevermind, this is a family blog and Privacy Laws must be observed. Every librarian I know is waiting to read this book. Are his stories better than ours, we wonder?
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
In researching the urban legend (rural legend?) that a car full of teenagers crashed and died in the Watchung Reservation causing the road to appear red as blood by moonlight, Ms. Hoffman interviewed L'Aura Hladik, founder of the New Jersey Ghost Hunters Society; consulted the stories in the books Weird New Jersey, based on the magazine of the same name; interviewed Union County Parks Director Dan Bernier, who lives in the abandoned village of Feltville in the Reservation. And Ms. Hoffman called the BHPL Reference Department and set the librarians on the trail of trying to prove or disprove the legend by looking in our local clippings file (newspaper morgue, sometimes called vertical file.) The librarians ferretted around in the dusty newspaper clips, but could not confirm the story. We were happy that the reporter thought of the library Reference Department as part of her research. A bit like reporters, research librarians love to track down a lead, but while reporters often use human sources (interviews), librarians usually turn to the printed word, much of it local, not indexed and not available by "googling" on the internet. Either way, the point is to get to the truth of a story.
Call or email the BHPL Reference Department with your questions. We will try to find the answer, teach you how to research it, or refer you to a person or other resource that can help you find the answer.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
"The fact that I am the first person to review this book on Amazon is unsurprising. Beerbohm is not exactly a household name in this country (or, perhaps, any country), and this book is so quaint and point-specific that contemporary readers might not have the patience to reach the finish-line. "
Yes, indeed, that finish-line seems so very far away to a reader even after reading one hundred pages, a measly third of the book.
Brandt goes on to point out that Zuleika Dobson is number fifty-nine on the Modern Library's 1998 list of the 100 Best Novels. This list has probably haunted book groups and other literary self-improvers ever since and if they happen to choose to read ZD in their quest for excellence, they might begin to doubt the credibility of the list.
The BHPL Second Tuesday of the Month evening book group will be discussing Zuleika Dobson on November 13 at 7:30 in the Meeting Room. To read the book without actually leaving the comfort of your computer chair, click here to read the full-text online.
What will the Book Group's members, those who have braved the twisted prose that passed for humor in 1911, think of Zuleika Dobson, the self-centered, vain, beautiful magician who visits her uncle, a Warden at Judas College of Oxford University, only to cause every callow youth to fall in unrequited love for her, who can never love anyone who loves her, and thus causing a (spoiler coming up here) mass suicide of every single Oxford student, and is last seen heading to Cambridge University. (Zuleika, that is, heads for Cambridge at the end.) If that sentence gave you, dear readers, vertigo, my advice is to forgo Beerbohm's story of before-the-wars, idyllic upper-class England and head straight for P.G. Wodehouse's stories of Jeeves and Wooster, Lord Emsworth and his pig, the Empress of Blandings and the other denizens of Plum's universe.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Anthony and Gloria were based partly on Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda. Like Gloria and Anthony, Scott and Zelda had marathon talks lasting past midnight; drank and went to parties (sometimes taking a nap or a bath directly after they arrived at one); disregarded the housekeeping, lived beyond their means and moved around rental houses and hotels. Fitzgerald was stationed in Alabama in World War I, but the war ended before his unit was sent abroad. Richard Caramel, the writer, is also based on Fitzgerald’s experiences as a successful novelist and short story writer.
James E. Miller Jr. suggests that Fitzgerald was influenced by H.L. Mencken's idea of a hero: an individual who struggles against "the harsh and meaningless fiats of destiny" and ultimately fails (Sergio Perosa, The Art of F. Scott Fitzgerald, page 47).
We'll be using these classics discussion questions to guide our discussion plus a few more:
1. How does Anthony Patch's quote on the title page, "The victor belongs to the spoils" relate to the novel?
2. Who are the beautiful and damned? Do you think Anthony and Gloria are responsible for their miserable lives, or was it fate? What does the title suggest?
3. Do you see Anthony as a man without purpose, or as a man who won't compromise with a brutal world? What are some of his failures?
4. Why do you think Gloria fell in love with Anthony? Would she have been happier with Bloeckman?
5. Did the book glorify Anthony and Gloria's hedonism, or moralize against it? Why?
6. Did you like this book or The Great Gatsby better? Why?
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
If you haven't read her book, Murder Off the Books, the library owns a copy for your perusal. Snappy dialogue, a wolfhound named Whiskey, and a funeral home that's branching out into transporting more than just corpses - what's not to love?
Reading this blog will keep you up to date on library programs, exhibits, book and non-book acquisitions, the hidden treasure trove of the library's databases, all while entertaining, informing and generally making you a better person. OK, maybe not the latter, but we hope you will enjoy reading the articles (called "posts" in the blogosphere) on this blog.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
This concert is free and open to the public.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Join us for our monthly film this Thursday evening at 7 pm. We will be showing Together, a film in Chinese with English subtitles, about a 13-year-old violin prodigy who moves to Beijing with his father. The film is rated PG. Doors open at 6:45.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
The book is described as "a family epic set in England and Ireland, in which a brother's suicide prompts 39-year-old Veronica Hegarty to probe her family's troubled, tangled history."
Click here for the website of the Man Booker Prize, which is awarded yearly to authors from the U.K. and Commonwealth nations.
Readers who liked the following memoirs: The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls, the Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, and the Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer might like Enright's the Gathering.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
The article continues:"she made her breakthrough with The Golden Notebook in 1962. 'The burgeoning feminist movement saw it as a pioneering work and it belongs to the handful of books that informed the 20th Century view of the male-female relationship,' the Swedish Academy said. But Lessing herself has distanced herself from the feminist movement.The content of her other novels ranges from semi-autobiographical African experiences to social and political struggle, psychological thrillers and science fiction."
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Click on the del.icio.us links on this blog to find other nifty websites.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Danielle D'Amico's paintings will be on display at the library through the end of December.
Danielle Auriemma was raised in Union, NJ. She enjoyed doing anything creative from early on, but it wasn`t until a few years after becoming Danielle D`Amico that she decided to pursue her dream. At the age of 30, she began attending classes at The Art Students League and Parsons School of Design, both of Manhattan. These classes confirmed what she always knew, that the art world was home, and that it still wasn`t too late. After five years, with the help and patience of her family, Danielle earned a BFA degree with concentration In Illustration from The School of Visual Arts in New York City. She continues to keep her drawing skills fresh by sketching weekly at both the Art Students League and The Society of Illustrators of NYC. She has recently been awarded a bronze medal for the prestigious Portfolios.com International Award Show. She is currently working as a freelance Illustrator and Fine Artist out of Gillette, NJ.
Her work can be viewed at www.DanielleStudio.com.
Friday, October 5, 2007
a big, generous book that was both an ode to the golden era of American comic books and a bravura epic that somehow managed to forge the disparate subjects of World War II, fictional superheroes, Harry Houdini and the Golem of Prague into a sad-funny-moving meditation on life and loss and the consolations of art.
(as Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times described it).
For a preview of our discussion questions, click
here and here.
Here is some background information on a few of the wonderfully disparate topics mentioned in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay:
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica's entry on golems, the word first referred to "an embryonic or incomplete substance" in the Bible (Psalms 139:16) and in the Talmud. In the Middle Ages, "many legends arose of wise men who could bring effigies to life by means of a charm or of a combination of letters forming a sacred word or one of the names of God." By the 16th century the golem had become a protector of persecuted Jews, like the golem of the Rabbi Low of Prague (the best known golem folktale).
From Prague and golems the story segues to New York City and its all-American version of the golem, the comic superhero. Sam and Joe's experiences in the comics industry mirror that of the creators of Superman, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Siegel and Shuster sold the rights to Superman along with the first Superman story for $130, when they were only 24 years old (according to the American National Biography). Not until they were 62 years old were they given annual stipends and benefits, plus their name began to appear on all Superman products.
Dark Horse Comics has turned the story of the Escapist into a comic book called "The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist" - published in 3 volumes. The most famous escapist artist in history was Harry Houdini, who got his start in vaudeville, like Sam's father. To see film clips of some of his escapes, check out the PBS site about him.
Salvador Dali did in fact exhibit at the 1939 World's Fair in Queens, NY. To look at photos of his pavilion, click on this link to Amazon and click on See All Product Images under the photo of the book Salvador Dali's Dream of Venus. The story of the party that Joe and Sam attend at Longman Harkoo's must have been inspired by a talk of Dali's in London on July 1, 1936, at the Burlington Gardens. Dali wore a diving suit helmet with a car radiator on top of it. According to "The Shameful Life of Salvador Dali" by Ian Gibson, Dali got hot and asked someone to take off the helmet, which was stuck. "Dali later claimed that he had been on the point of asphyxiation when help arrived." (page 416)
Al Smith really did plan for the Empire State Building to have a dock for airships, but wind currents, the Chrysler Building's spire, and the safety of pedestrians below were but a few of the considerations that killed the idea. According to John Tauranac's book about the building, during World War II, volunteers like Sam patrolled the 86th floor and called Army Interceptor Command when they saw an airplane.
While there was no such thing as the Kelvinator Station in Antarctica, Richard Byrd did lead a U.S. Navy expedition from 1939-1941 in Antarctica. It is more likely that the British base Port Lockroy, established in 1943, inspired Chabon's Kelvinator Station. The Nazis did not have a base in Antarctica (see the March 2007 article in Nature).
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Three of the titles mentioned in the article which are owned by BHPL are:
Favre, Deanna with Angela Hunt. Don't Bet Against Me! Beating the Odds Against Breast Cancer and in Life. Tyndale House. Oct. 2007.
Jarvis, Debra. It's Not About the Hair: And Other Certainties of Life & Cancer. Sasquatch. Oct. 2007.
Cohen, Deborah A. with Robert M. Gelfand, M.D. Just Get Me Through This! The Practical Guide to Breast Cancer. Kensington. Sept. 2007.
Related Internet websites:
The American Cancer Society
Susan G. Komen for the Cure
Related Library Research:
Subject heading: Breast -- Cancer
Dewey number: 616.9944
BHPL databases: EBSCO Healthsource - Consumer Edition; Biomedical Reference Collection
ask at the Reference Desk for information about accessing databases.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
The story follows an Iranian American couple who adopt a Korean infant. They meet another couple at the airport when both families await the arrival of their adopted daughters. The American born couple and the Iranian American couple become friends. The two families celebrate the anniversary of the arrival of their daughters each year. The Arrival Day Celebration is the focus of the book. The themes are: assimilation of immigrants into American culture, friendship between women, intercountry adoption. Here are links to reviews and discussion questions:
New York Times Book Review
Friday, September 28, 2007
Banned Books Week kicks off on Saturday and runs through October 6.
According to the American Library Association, the most challenged book in American libraries last year was And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. It's a picture book about the pair of male penguins who hatched and raised a penguin chick at the Central Park Zoo in 2004.
Last year during Banned Books week, readers voted online at the ALA web site for their favorite banned books. The Harry Potter series won, with 3 times as many votes as the runner-up (To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee). James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl, Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger and the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey were also in the top 5.
The ALA defines challenges as "an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library". It gets its information about challenges from schools and libraries directly, and from newspapers.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
'Every now and then, we ask authors whose work we admire to come to our offices to discuss their work and the craft of writing. Last week, we invited two writers who have just published new books: Alan Greenspan (“The Age of Turbulence”) and O. J. Simpson (“If I Did It”). Here is their conversation.
Greenspan: I’m sure you get tired of people asking you this, but here goes: Where do you get your ideas?
Simpson: (laughing) Boy, do I ever get tired of that question! Sometimes I think I’m going to kill the next person who asks me that. (Makes a gun gesture.) Bang bang!
Greenspan: But as I was reading “If I Did It”—which I loved, by the way—
Simpson: Thank you.
Greenspan: —I couldn’t help but ask myself, How the heck did he come up with this? I mean, some of this stuff is really out there.
Simpson: I thought it would be interesting to put myself inside the head of a sociopathic killer—sort of like what Bret Easton Ellis did in “American Psycho.” '
Bestseller lists can make strange bookfellows. For example, The Dangerous Book for Boys which is currently on the bestseller lists will be followed by The Dangerous Book for Dogs: a parody by Rex and Sparky with some help from humans. Publishers Weekly gave it good review: (Caution: some things dogs write about can be in bad taste.)
'This gentle parody of the bestselling Dangerous Book for Boys-identical in look and tone to its source material-offers an often funny, surprisingly insightful take on dog behavior that's sure to resonate with the Spot set. With the "assistance" of their human companions, canine authors Rex and Sparky relate practical and authoritative information on topics simple (baths, fleas, bones, poop, "things you can chase") and complex: the rules of fetch (it's not officially over until a player earns 17,572 points), tips on crotch sniffing (under the heading "How to Make Your Owner Look Like an Idiot") and a critical guide to frequently ingested items (vomit and poop receive top marks; rocks and keys rank considerably lower). Among more than 50 short entries, the authors seem to have thought of everything, including escape tips for humiliating costumes, stirring true stories ("Great Dog Battles-Part Two: Pepper vs. A Patch of Light") and even a report on Pavlov (written by his two dogs). Though it occasionally pushes the envelope of good taste... this goofy, gleeful guide to the dog life will tickle anyone with a soft spot for canines. '
Saturday, September 22, 2007
O.J. Simpson is back in the news on two fronts, arrested for armed burglary in Las Vegas and also in the headlines because his book If I Did It which was withdrawn from the market several months ago has been repackaged by Ron Goldman's family with the subtitle, Confessions of a Killer. If you buy it, the money goes to the reparation funds awarded to the Goldman family in the civil case against Simpson for the murder of their son, Ron.
Alan Alda has been hitting the talk show circuit to promote his latest memoir, Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself. His popular 2005 memoir Never Have Your Dog Stuffed and other things I have learned had a breezy light conversational style and was a quick, diverting book.
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan tells the story of Frank Lloyd Wright's turbulent and tragic love life.
President Bill Clinton discussed his book Giving with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show and also discussed his favorite presidential candidate.
Jeffrey Toobin discussed his expose of the Supreme Court on the Stephen Colbert Show: The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court, in which we learn that Stephen Breyer was so disturbed by the Court's intervention in the 2000 presidential election that he was brought to tears.
Take a look at Stewart/Colbert Books a list of authors interviewed on the Colbert Report and on the Daily Show.
Book Discussion groups may be the force that is fueling the continuing popularity of Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen; Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert; The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards; The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls and other psychological novels and memoirs of misery or womanly journeys both actual and metaphorical that members of women's bookgroups often request at the Reference Desk. Not that there's anything wrong with literary angst mixed with women's friendships, but as a constant literary diet...the craving for non-fiction may be a side effect.
Sue Grafton's alphabet series starring tough but sensitive but capable but commitment-phobic P.I. Kinsey Milhone continues with T is for Trespassing, always a sure bet for suspense and readability (unlike this run-on sentence.)
Alice Sebold (The Lovely Bones) is coming out with The Almost Moon.
Celebrities continue to take ghostwriter to paper and produce tell alls or almost alls like: Celebrity Detox by Rosie O'Donnell.
Monday, September 17, 2007
"The apparent froth in housing markets may have spilled over into mortgage markets. The dramatic increase in the prevalence of interest-only loans, as well as the introduction of other, more-exotic forms of adjustable-rate mortgages, are developments that bear close scrutiny."—September 26, 2005
Indeed! For "Greenspeak" that seems pretty clear and even clairvoyant. For more Greenspan wisdom, readers will be turning to Chairman Alan's new book, The Age of Turbulance out today.
To read Mr. Greenspan's blog, click here.
Friday, September 14, 2007
General Fiction Nominees are:
American Youth by Phil LaMarche
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
Jamestown by Matthew Sharpe
Brothers by Da Chen
"In Lake Wobegon lives a good Lutheran lady who is quite prepared to die and wishes to be cremated and her ashes placed inside a bowling ball and dropped into the lake, no prayers, no hymns, thank you very much. Meanwhile, the Detmer girl returns from California where she has made a killing in veterinary aromatherapy to marry her boyfriend Brent aboard Wally's pontoon boat, presided over by her minister, Misty Naylor of the Sisterhood of the Sacred Spirit. Brent arrives on Thursday. On Saturday, a delegation of renegade Lutheran pastors from Denmark come to town on their tour of America, their punishment for having denied the divinity of Jesus. And Barbara Peterson, whose mother, Evelyn, left the startling note about cremation and the bowling ball, is in love with a lovely fat man who slips around town in the dim light and reconnoiters with her at the Romeo Motel."
Mr. Keillor visited the Colbert Report on Tuesday, and as is customary on the Comedy Central show, subjected himself to the strange experience of being interviewed by Stephen Colbert. To see the video, click here. The dry, understated fantasy world of the Prairie Home Companion radio show host was in contrast to Colbert's bombastic satirical style and the result was sometimes awkward as these interviews often are.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
"Diane started writing in 1963, encouraged by her high school English teacher at St. Anne’s, an Episcopal girls’ school in Charlottesville, VA. Diane gave up writing to study political science at Wellesley. There she lived across the hall from Hillary Rodham (now Clinton), who drafted her into the Young Republicans! "
According to this week's Newsweek cover story on Mrs. Clinton,
"Hillary Clinton has always put great faith in The System. Hugh Rodham's dutiful daughter stayed up late finishing homework assignments and kept Barry Goldwater's "Conscience of a Conservative" on her bookshelf. While others in her generation were turning on, tuning in and dropping out, she was running for student-body president at Wellesley College and applying to law school at Yale."
As reported in the Newton Reads Blog, the Associated Press asked presidential candidates what they are reading. Click here for the answers.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Thursday, September 6, 2007
The Borgia Bride is the story of Sancha of Aragon, an illegitimate princess from Naples who is married off to the 12-year-old son of the infamous Borgia pope Alexander VI. Once she arrives in Rome, having survived baronial uprisings and the French invasion of Naples, she falls in love with her husband's older brother, Cesare, and initially attracts the jealousy of her sister-in-law Lucrezia.
You can read the first chapter here:
This site has photos of many of the Naples landmarks mentioned in The Borgia Bride.
The Sala dei Santi in the Borgia Apartments of the Vatican has a fresco painted by Pinturicchio, the Disputation of St. Catherine, that is said to depict Sancha (left) and her husband Joffre(right):
If you are interested in a factual account of the Borgias, Sarah Bradford's biography of Lucrezia Borgia is recommended.
There are a couple of historical mistakes in the novel: in one episode the pope eats chocolates from the bosoms of courtesans, but chocolate did not reach Europe until Hernando Cortez returned to Spain with cacao beans from Mexico in 1528. Also, tarot cards were not used to tell the future until the late 18th century (in France). At the time Sancha lived, they were used to play a card game (see The Tarot: History, Mystery and Lore by Cynthia Giles or Tarot: Talisman or Taboo? by Mark Hederman).
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
It seems as though Italy is the most common destination of the writers. Who wouldn't want to travel to sunny climates, eat good food and pay for it by a publishing deal? The titles are intriguing: Falling Palace: a Romance of Naples by Dan Hofstadter, The Stone Boudoir: Travels through Hidden Villages of Sicily by Theresa Maggio, City of the Soul: a Walk in Rome by William Murray, and On Persephone's Island: a Sicilian Journal by Mary Taylor Simeti.
To subscribe to NextReads Newsletters, click here
Click here to see the blog of someone who really did start life over in Italy: Life Italian Style
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Set during the 900 day Siege of Leningrad, (1940 - 1944) Marina, a docent at the Hermitage Museum, lives in the vast museum basement with her family and hundreds of other starving citizens of the city during the Nazi bombings. Increasingly frail and malnourished, she stands watch nightly on the huge roof of the museum buildings spotting enemy aircraft.
The World War II scenes are interwoven with the present-day story of Marina as an old woman living in Seattle, Washington attending a grand-daughter's wedding. Suffering from Alzheimer's disease, Marina's mind floats freely between the clear memories of her past and her confused experience of the present. During the siege, to distract herself from hunger pains, Marina had memorized much of the huge collection of art treasures, creating a "memory mansion" of paintings and sculptures of the great masters of Western European art. The art lives on very clearly in her disease-riddled brain many decades later giving her the pleasure of viewing the art again as she "walks" through the miles of galleries in her mind.
Visit the State Hermitage Museum website to see panoramas from the roof overlooking St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad) perhaps showing views that Marina looked at every night. Click on the various collection links to see the art and to see the splendor of the buildings themselves, including the main staircase that Marina describes in the book. Click here to see the timeline of the museum from the design and construction of the Winter Palace by architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli (1754-1762) to last year's Rembrandt Exhibit featuring works described in the book. The madonnas by Raphael, daVinci and others are also featured on the website.
Pictured: Raphael (1483-1520) Madonna Conestabile, The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
Read this piece in Wikipedia about Method of Loci or Memory Palace as a classical method of memorizing.
Friday, August 31, 2007
"When we decided to create a national newspaper we knew it had to be vastly different," said Al Neuharth, founder of USA TODAY and former chairman and president of Gannett. "USA TODAY was designed to make newspaper readers out of the television generation. The innovation set in place 25 years ago did change the face of the new media and continues to have influence today."
This article in the Dallas Business Journal elaborates:
Neuharth acknowledged that American newspapers are, by and large, in an uphill battle to retain and grow readership. But this "the-sky-is-falling" mentality has come and gone before. If newspapers can adapt to an electronic world and pour resources into Web sites, he said, they will survive this false alarm, too.
"Radio was supposed to be the death of newspapers," Neuharth said. "And TV was absolutely supposed to be the death of newspapers."
USA Today is currently running a series of articles on 25 years of change and innovations. Today's article is about 25 changes in travel and tourism. Take a look at this article about the 25 most significant books in the last quarter century. Topping the list is the first Harry Potter book.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Speaking of library blogs, BHPL has a new blog for the younger set, The Berkeley Heights Kids' Page which is linked to our home page from the tabs just under the picture of the library. Check the Kids' Page often to find out about programs and storytimes offered in the Children's Room.
"Topix is the leading news community on the Web, connecting people to the information and discussions that matter to them in every U.S. town and city.
A Top 25 online news destination (Hitwise, February 2007), the site links news from 50,000 sources to 360,000 lively user-generated forums. Topix also works with the nation's major media companies to grow and engage their online audiences through forums, classifieds, publishing platforms and RSS feeds."
Topix is looking for editors from every community. Currently, the Berkeley Heights news is edited by a Topix "roboblogger" and by the Berkeley Heights Public Library blogger (me), but anyone can apply and add news stories to the site.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
"One in four adults read no books at all in the past year." Furthermore, women read more than men, mid-westerners more than easterners, Democrats more than Republicans. The bottom line is that the U.S.A. is not a nation of voracious readers on the whole.
In response to the poll, former Democratic congresswoman Pat Schroeder, president of the Association of American Publishers, takes the opportunity to comment that conservatives only want simple slogans rather than the in-depth analysis that liberals prefer. The White House volleyed back that quantity should not be confused with quality.
If this is what passes for an exchange of sparkling repartee, then both parties should return to the books to find inspiration for a really interesting exchange of ideas.
"I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book."
"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."
Groucho Marx (1890 - 1977)
Friday, August 17, 2007
The Sandbox is described this way:
"Welcome to The Sandbox, our command-wide milblog, featuring comments, anecdotes, and observations from service members currently deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. This is GWOT-lit's forward position, offering those in-country a chance to share their experiences and reflections with the rest of us."
The Library of Congress subject heading for books by soldiers serving in Afghanistan is:
United States - Armed Forces - Afghanistan
For Iraq, one of the headings is
Iraq War, 2003 -- Personal narratives, American, for which there are 30 hits in the BHPL catalog.
Observations of the war often start out as weblogs; some are published later as books.
The Blog of War: Front-Line Dispatches from Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
"Library directors remember the talk, not long ago, of technology rendering libraries obsolete. But statistics show that the opposite has occurred.
Over the past decade, library circulation has climbed, driven partly by demand for audiovisual materials and enabled by the Internet, which has allowed patrons to easily scan catalogs from home and request interlibrary loans with a few mouse clicks."
So, it turns out that for many libraries the change the internet brought about was not fewer users, but different kinds of library usage. More interlibrary loans, more database and other online services and content being offered 24/7. The new virtual library is open around the clock and provides information through the internet. It also turns out, and the Globe article does not go into this, that patrons need as much assistance from librarians now as back in pre-automated days. Help with computers, the automated catalog, the downloadable books and other online content demand librarians' times and cannot be solved by "googling."
The quotes are from the reviews linked to many titles in the BHPL catalog.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See - China. "Foot binding; nu shu, a secret language used exclusively by the women of Hunan Province for 1000 years; and laotong, the arranged friendship between little girls meant to last a lifetime, provide the framework for See's riveting look at a little-known chapter in 19th-century Chinese history."
The Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Khadra - Afghanistan. "Contrasts the criminally absurd world of the Taliban's theocracy with touching and ultimately heartbreaking relationships of love and sacrifice."
The Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif - Egypt. "Soueif weaves the stories of three formidable women from vastly different times and countries into a single absorbing tale."
The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad - Afghanistan. (nonfiction) "Its real strength is the intimacy and brutal honesty with which it portrays the lives of Afghani living under fundamentalist Islam."
Madras on Rainy Days by Samina Ali - India. "Ali explores the stifling world of Indian Muslim domestic life and the odd partnership forged by husband and wife in an arranged marriage fraught with secrets."
Nadia's Song by Soheir Khashoggi - Egypt. "Khashoggi's third novel blends romance, class conflict, and familial betrayal, all set in the context of half a century of Egyptian history."
Kabul Beauty School : an American Woman Goes Behind the Veil by Deborah Rodriguez. Nonfiction. "Rodriguez (a hairdresser) understands the needs and fears of the Afghan women who befriend her because she, too, has left a brutal husband back in the United States."
The Cry of the Dove by Fadia Faqir. "Salma, a member of a bedouin tribe in Hima, the Levant, at 16 becomes pregnant out of wedlock - considered by her tribe a crime punishable by death. . . Salma is imprisoned eight more years before being secretly released and sent to Southampton, England."
Friday, August 10, 2007
Anita Desai explains how the novel is partly autobiographical in an interview:
The setting is autobiographical, but [being partly set in 1949] it is also about India becoming independent and de-colonized. It is set in my home city of Old Delhi, in a period of my childhood, during a time when I was becoming a woman. It was the coming together of two momentous events in my life, growing up and India transforming from a colony to independence. Even such a quiet, protected, enclosed place as the family’s home could be affected by the great events of history. But Bimla in this novel and also Moyna, in the story “Rooftop Dwellers,” stay alone to represent the growing independence of women in India and having the choice of not getting married."
Clear Light of Day is notable for the atmospheres and textures that it conveys. In her review of the book in the New York Times, Anne Tyler says,
This is a book without apparent movement. It hangs suspended, like the family itself, while memories replay themselves and ancient joys and sorrows lazily float past. . . But above all else, what keeps us reading is the invisible motion - first the journey downward as the sisters sink into the past; and second, the interior journey that Bim undertakes as Tara's visit lengthens.
Here are a few discussion questions to be thinking about as you read the novel:
1. How are Tara and Bim different? Tara says that they are more alike than ? Which one can you identify with the most?
2. How is the book structured chronologically and why?
3. How are poetry and reading important in the lives of the Das family? What are the 3 types of readers the author describes on page 120? Are you a passive or an active reader?
4. What is the atmosphere of the house? Do you think Bim has changed it for the better, as Tara says, or is it still a malevolent place?
5. What part of the parents' neglect was most horrifying to you? How did this neglect continue to affect the children's lives and choices once they became adults?
6. What does the title mean? (It is taken from page 165.)
7. How is the role Bim now plays in the family like her aunt Mira’s? Why is she so angry at her family?
8. What is the significance of the story of the pearl that turned out to be a snail, which is retold more than once in the book? Why is Baba compared to a snail on page 103?
9. Pay attention to the passages that mention the well, especially those on pages 149, 152 and 157. What different things does the well come to stand for in the characters' minds?
10. What parts of the book did you think were funny?
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
I couldn't really imagine that there would be so many people out there who wanted to catalog their books, but there are currently almost 250,000 users who have collectively entered almost 17 million books into the website. LibraryThing offers many features that result from all this classifying and organizing of books. Under "Zeitgeist" it lists the most popular books, the most reviewed books, the biggest collections: one user has almost 15,000 books cataloged.
The website describes itself like this:
"If you want it, LibraryThing is also an amazing social space, often described as "MySpace for books" or "Facebook for books." You can check out other people's libraries, see who has the most similar library to yours, swap reading suggestions and so forth. LibraryThing also makes book recommendations based on the collective intelligence of the other libraries."
One feature not to miss is the book suggestions. Enter a title and lists of similar titles or works you might like pop up.
Monday, August 6, 2007
"Chances are you are buying, subscribing to, or stealing something you can get for free with a library card."
An example of that point, which we hear about frequently at the BHPL Reference Desk, is when patrons tell us that they have bought a Consumer Reports article or other articles from a newspaper or magazine website. Don't do that. Your tax dollars have already paid for that content and much more. Librarians can either find and print out the articles for you or show you how to find it for free. Specifically, the New Jersey State Library offers JerseyClicks to all library card holders in the state. JerseyClicks holds the content of thousands of periodicals and published research sources. Take a look:
JerseyClicks, a gateway to free, published information which is not available or searchable on the internet using Google or other search engines in many cases.
Friday, August 3, 2007
Next Stage Ensemble of the NJ Shakespeare Theatre presents:
Saturday, August 4 at 7:00 pm - Henry IV, part I
Bring lawn chairs, ages 10 and up, presented in the BHPL (not quite the park) parking lot.
Thursday, August 2, 2007
But wait, there's more: In the UK, books are being packaged to look like a cigarette pack.
And finally, the Library Hotel where the floors and rooms are arranged by the Dewey Decimal Classification system. "The Library Hotel in New York City is the first hotel ever to offer its guest over 6,000 volumes organized throughout the hotel by the DDC. Each of the 10 guestrooms floors honors one of the 10 categories of the DDC and each of the 60 rooms is uniquely adorned with a collection of books and art exploring a distinctive topic within the category or floor it belongs to."