Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The morning book club will be meeting on Friday at 10:30 a.m to discuss F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and Damned. Fitzgerald is celebrated for his social observations of America in the 1920s (he coined the term Jazz Age) and his lyrical prose.

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

This Sunday - How to Commit Murder

For all you mystery lovers and writers, the novelist Evelyn David will be coming to the library on Sunday at 3 pm to present "How to Commit Murder: A Mystery Author Offers Some Clues". And no, despite the title, she isn't going to outline all the particular ways in which characters can meet their end - the presentation is about writing and publishing a mystery novel. Evelyn David will also be revealing a secret about her own identity (some clues are available on her website). A book signing and chocolates will follow. Yes, chocolate.

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?

BHPL Blog Linked to the Homepage

If you have clicked on the new Book Blog link on the BHPL website for the first time, welcome to the Berkeley Heights Public Library Book Blog. This blog has been on the web since May 2005 reviewing books, linking to interesting literary websites, finding the humorous, educational, entertaining, or just plain off-beat websites that cover the library-publishing-literary-bookish universe. We surf the web so you don't have to, could be the blog motto.
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

Jazz Concert at the Berkeley Heights Public Library

The Minzer Quintet will be playing at Berkeley Heights Public Library on Sunday, October 21st. The jazz performance will start at 2:30 p.m. in the Meeting Room. The Quintet is composed of Bob Miller on sax; Jeff Pecca on guitar; Steve Minzer on piano; Vin Maiolo on bass; and Mitch Germansky on drums.
This concert is free and open to the public.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Together, the Film by Chen Kaige

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 Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

Beyond the Fringe alumnus, playwright (the History Boys) and novelist, Alan Bennett has written a perfect little book about what happens when someone becomes a voracious reader. In this case the queen herself, Elizabeth II, happens upon a mobile library (that would be a bookmobile on this side of the pond) while chasing after her infamous Corgis and so begins her journey into literature. The Uncommon Reader, a novella shows the inside workings of the palace, the protocol, the State Dinners, the daily duties of the Royal Family of which the Queen begins to tire. She becomes so involved in reading one book after another that she waves absent-mindedly from her limousine while reading a book on her lap; she no longer cares if she wears an outfit or accessory twice in row and most distressingly she begins to ask people what they are reading rather than sticking to the approved script of, "Did you come far?" "Did you find parking?" and so on.

Booker Literary Prize Goes to Irish Author

The Associated Press reports, "Irish writer Anne Enright won the Man Booker fiction prize Tuesday for The Gathering, an uncompromising portrait of a troubled family."
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

Doris Lessing Wins Nobel Prize for Literature

"They can't give a Nobel to someone who's dead so I think they were probably thinking they had better give it to me now before I popped off," author Doris Lessing, age 87, said in reaction to winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. Read the full BBC News report for more bon mots from the feisty author.
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

del.icio.us: Librarians' Favorite Bookmarks

The BHPL blog has a new feature at the bottom of the right hand side of the webpage; it's a rolling, constantly growing list of our favorite websites. Using a webtool called del.icio.us, the reference librarians add websites that they find useful in answering patrons' questions. The latest to be bookmarked is zillow.com. Zillow will show the property values of many houses when given an address or zipcode. Aerial views of the houses can also be seen as well as a description of the house and property. Big Brother may not be watching, but Zillow is. Respect for privacy? not so much. Cool website? yes.
Click on the del.icio.us links on this blog to find other nifty websites.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Danielle D'Amico art exhibit

Danielle D'Amico's paintings will be on display at the library through the end of December.

Artist Bio:
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

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

This Tuesday evening at 7:30 pm, the library book group will be discussing Michael Chabon's Pulitzer-Prize winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay,
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

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Library Journal ran this feature: 'Ten Titles for Breast Cancer Awareness Month' in the September 1, 2007 issue. Click here.
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

Digging to America by Anne Tyler

The BHPL First Friday of the Month book group will be discussing Digging to America by Anne Tyler (Knopf 2006) on October 5, 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM.
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:
Powells.com review
About.com questions
New York Times Book Review