Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Call From Jersey by P.F. Kluge

The morning book group will discuss A Call From Jersey this Friday. P.F. Kluge, the writer-in-residence at Kenyon College, set A Call From Jersey in his hometown of Berkeley Heights. In 1984, a German immigrant named Hans Greifinger is looking back at the nearly 60 years he has spent in America, New Jersey mostly. His son, a hack travel writer who goes by the name George Griffin, is back in town to attend his high school reunion. The most compelling parts of the book are the old stories that Hans tells about his early days in America, especially the ones about the boxer Max Schmeling. Schmeling trained at Madame Bey's on River Road for historic fights with Jack Sharkey and Joe Louis.

In 2010 P.F. Kluge (pronounced Klu-gee) had a reading for A Call From Jersey here at the library. Perhaps this was in penitence for the fact that, in A Call From Jersey, every Sunday, Hans rips his son's travel column out of the Berkeley Heights Public Library's newspaper? Anyhow, our blog had a couple of blog posts about the book at the time. And there are interviews with the author on Overlook Press's blog and in the Star-Ledger.

If you're interested in P.F. Kluge's other books, National Public Radio named Gone Tomorrow one of the best books of 2008. Kluge's latest book, The Master Blaster, is coming out next month. George Griffin from A Call From Jersey actually first appeared in P.F. Kluge's 1987 novel MacArthur's Ghost. Kluge is most famous for Eddie and the Cruisers, ("the book that spawned the movie").

A Call From Jersey did not come with discussion questions, so here are a few of my own devising:

1. On page 66 and 67 Hans says
"I'm the pioneer. I shot at deer to keep them out of your mother's tulip bulbs, remember? I said hello to the Italians, the ones just off the boat, carrying flats of tomatoes on their heads while they walked down Plainfield Avenue. I remember when we used to get snowed in. I remember when there were ice storms, you could hear the frozen branches snapping, it sounded like an army was out there in the woods. Nobody knows this place like I do. So the question is - you don't have to answer it now. George, just think about it - how come I feel like a stranger?"
He goes on to say that "the town I lived was a better place than what they've got now". What changes have you seen in Berkeley Heights (or the town you live in), good and bad?

2. On page 119 Hans tells his son about an old German saying, no house, no homeland. On page 171 he says, "My first home in America is a ruin. My last home is for sale." And he knows that it will probably be torn down if it is sold. What does his house have to do with his feelings about his country?

3. Do you think that George is a failure? Why or why not? What are some of his major disappointments? Successes? Is his father disappointed in him? Why or why not?

4. The chapters alternate between Hans and George as narrators. Whose story was more interesting to you?

5. How would the book have been different if George's mother had been a narrator? How did your picture of Maria change as the book went on?

6. Is George's life that different from his classmates'? Compare him to Joan, Kenny and Gooker.

7. George asks Kenny how America is "turning out" on p 167. Kenny says
You're the writer. But from where I stand it looks ... I'll put this in language you can understand ... it looks kaput. Loss of momentum, fall out of orbit, settling of foundations.
What are some examples of other characters in the book who share this opinion?

8. Otto tells Heinz, "You can be an American or a German. You can't be both. If you don't like it, the ship sails both ways." (p 173) Does Hans think of himself an American or a German?

9. Discuss Hans' relationship with his brother Heinz.

Fifty Wonders of Korea & Korea Today

This Saturday the Korean Spirit and Culture Promotion Project showed the short documentary “Fifty Wonders of Korea” at the library, followed by a live re-enactment of the traditional Korean wedding ceremony.

Another short documentary, “Korea Today: Hidden Treasures of Korean Art and Modern Korea,” was shown before a free traditional Korean meal was served at the end of the program.

If you weren't able to attend, the library owns the KSCPP publications Taste of Korea - a cookbook - and Fifty Wonders of Korea which are available for checkout. The Korean Spirit and Culture Promotion Project is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public concerning Korea’s unique history and culture.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Watch of Nightingales and a Descent of Woodpeckers: Strange Collective Nouns

While tidying up the Reference Collection, I came across a small, yellowing book, the Dictionary of collective nouns and group terms by Ivan G. Sparkes, (Gale 1975) It was so dusty I doubt it has been used recently and yet it's hard to relegate it to the warehouse of outdated reference books*. I suspect reference librarians before me have spared this little book that ignominious fate because a casual glance through its pages reveal the following collective nouns that really are inspired:
the fairly well-known group term - an exaltation of larks (p 6)
the common collective nouns - flock, pile, heap, herd or shoal (p 6)
the alliterative - a giggle of girls (p 51)
the punny - a rash of dermatologists (p 85)
the puzzling - a malpertness of pedlars (p 160)
the appropriate - a sheaf or catalogue of librarians (p 149)

If you love words, history of language and word games, take a look at our database Visual Thesaurus which can be found on our "Databases & Articles" webpage.

* A Princeton File of Reference Librarians likes to think that useless old reference books go to the Great Reference Warehouse in the Far Distant Land of Dewey DecimalVille.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

You Are a Writer by Robert J. Daniher

You Are a Writer
by Robert J. Daniher

In my personal writing journey I’ve had the opportunity to meet many authors who have shared their wisdom and advice with me. Sometimes, it can be overwhelming and confusing because every writer has a different approach to their craft. Yet, one piece of advice that has stayed with me from the beginning is from mystery author Alafair Burke, who I had the pleasure of sitting next to at a writer’s dinner in NY some time ago.
As aspiring writers, we can often feel intimidated by the difficulty that this vocation can present. Many of us think that being a writer means we must have a published novel or a bestseller or tons of money from all our publications. If we don’t have those things we’ll say we are trying to be a writer, or that we want to be a writer. Alafair Burke put this into perspective for me. She said the important thing to remember is, “If you wrote today or in the last week, you are a writer. You might not be published yet…but it’s about the dedication to the craft.” She went on to say that we should all respect where we are in that journey no matter what stage we are at.
Being a writer is not about some exclusive club that only other people are allowed to join. It’s about putting your butt in the chair and writing every day. So, if you’ve written today, congratulate yourself - because you’re already on the journey and you are a writer.
Check out one of Alafair’s books here at the library. They’re great!

Thanks, as always, to our guest blogger, New Jersey author Bob Daniher. His words of encouragement to writers everywhere are always welcome. - Anne
Bob's other posts can be found here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bones in the Belfry

Suzette Hill's mystery series is a hilarious caper set in 1950s Sussex, England. The hapless, harried vicar Francis Oughterard wishes for nothing more than a peaceful life. Unfortunately, he accidentally murdered one of his parishioners - a demanding woman dead set on marrying him - after she shattered his last nerve by popping up during a walk in the woods.
The vicar would not have been able to elude the police on his own, but he has a wily cat and a faithful dog who work together to keep him out of the hangman's noose. In Bones in the Belfry, the second book in the series, Francis is further driven to drink (and piano playing) when a shady art dealer who helped him with his alibi asks him to store a few ill-gotten paintings for him.

E. F. Benson (Mapp and Lucia), P.G. Wodehouse (Jeeves) and Jerome K. Jerome are similar authors recommended by reviewers.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lincoln Exhibit at the Library

Lawrence Fuhro has lent the library his collection of Lincoln memorabilia for the month of February, in honor of Lincoln's birthday. You may recall his last exhibit at the library, (Way) Back to School, in September 2010.

This is a paperweight version of Gustave Borglum's life-size statue in Newark's Court House Plaza. Borglum was the sculptor of Mount Rushmore.

Souvenir posters from 1909, the centennial of Lincoln's birth.

A life mask, one of a hundred copies made in 1860 by the sculptor Leonard Volk. Upon seeing the mask, Lincoln exclaimed, "There is the animal himself."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day - Nonfiction Edition

Remember the Sweet Things by Ellen Greene
Greene kept a list of all the things her husband did for her on Valentine's Day over the years. Publisher's Weekly calls this memoir "a gentle and genuine reminder that the smallest things in life are the most precious."
306.87 GREENE

Valentines by Ted Kooser
Poems that former Poet Laureate Ted Kooser has sent on postcards to women (2600 in 2006 alone!) every Valentine's Day since 1986.
811.54 KOO

Flower Confidential by Amy Stewart
A third of all cut flowers are sold on Valentine's Day, according to this book on the global flower industry. The epilogue is a behind-the-scenes look at a Manhattan florist's on February 14, the busiest day of the year.
338.1 STE

Making Your Own Cards by Lynda Watts
Chapter 3, "With Love", has beautiful designs for two different valentines.
745.594 WAT

Paula Deen Celebrates! by Paula Deen
Paula Deen's recipes for this "romantical" holiday include crab-stuffed shrimp and molten lava cakes.
641.568 DEE

Monday, February 13, 2012

Database Trial: America's News

The Berkeley Heights Public Library subscribes to The Star Ledger and The Independent Press online through NewsBank.  To read these newspapers online, click on the 'Databases & Article's link on the library website.
From today through March 13, 2012, NewsBank is offering a trial of 'America's News' to Berkeley Heights patrons. Click on the button at the top of this post to try any of hundreds of American newspapers and tell us how you like this product.

What is 'America’s News'?
"Search current and archived coverage of issues, events, people, government, sports and more with the largest collection of full-text U.S. newspapers, including Star Ledger, Independent Press, and USA Today. Includes staff-written articles, obituaries, editorials, announcements, real estate and other sections."

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Learn Languages on Your Smart Phone

  The Berkeley Heights Public Library offers free online language tutorials from Mango Languages. Patrons with smart phones (iPhones or Android) who use the Boopsie app to access the library catalog, their account and library databases, can also use Mango on their phone. According to our usage statistics, Spanish is popular, but so is French, Italian and Hebrew. The library also offers language learning through CD audiobooks. To find our app, click on the link on our homepage. To use Mango Languages on your computer, click on "Databases & Articles" on our homepage, then scroll down to Mango. Mango offers dozens of languages as you can see in the picture of their course offerings. Mango also offers English for non-native speakers.
Related websites: the Mango Blog
Mango on YouTube

Monday, February 6, 2012

Book Group to Discuss True Crime Title: The Reservoir

The Tuesday night book group will discuss John Milliken Thompson's The Reservoir, tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. Thompson read about the1885  murder of Lillian Madison in a history of Richmond, Virginia and began to research and write a non-fiction account based on the trial transcripts and the book by the accused murderer, Tommie Cluverius. Eventually, the author decided that the story would be better told as historical fiction. The response so far from the book group is very positive and I found the book riveting, although extremely tragic and disturbing. This murder mystery takes you into the mind of the accused, the agony of the families involved and the suspense of the trial. The Reservoir will appeal to history buffs, true-crime fans, readers of legal thrillers, and anyone interested in Southern history.
Related links:
 John Milliken Thompson's website has an interview with the author, documents, maps and photographs of historical Richmond, Va. 
A reading group discussion guide from the publisher has suggested topics and questions.
A video booktrailer from the publisher captures the Southern Gothic feel of the book.
Southern Literary Review article about the book.
"Hey, we drink out of there!" from the Library of Virginia blog
The Murder of Lillian Madison from a VCU blog has photographs of present-day Richmond where some of the scenes in the book took place.

Shaquille O'Neal's Shoe

You never know what you may encounter at the Berkeley Heights library any given day. Perhaps a sports mascot. Perhaps a live rabbit. Today, it was Shaquille O'Neal's shoe, brought in by a student whose mother won it at an NBA All-Star game. We forgot to ask what size it was, but it was probably a 22.

Although the shoe has moved on, the children's department has some new murals by Bea Tobolewski that you can peruse any time.