Information, Answers & Reviews

The Art of Memoir


Mary Karr is known for her series of memoirs about her difficult childhood. In this new book about how to write a memoir, she quotes from some of the best works in the genre including McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, Nabokov’s Speak, Memory, and Wild: from Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by a former student of hers, Cheryl Strayed.

What exactly is a memoir? The name is very descriptive. It’s a work based on memory. But it’s not the same as an autobiography for it concentrates on a specific period of life and is centered by a theme. For instance, Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit chronicles a teenager’s adoption into a strict fundamentalist family, her adopted mom’s mistreatment of her, and her eventual rebellion from this way of life. It’s a memoir about a young woman discovering her true self.

Karr has plenty of what she considers the prime ingredient for a memoir—voice. She defines voice as “not just a manner of talking, It’s an operative mindset and way of perceiving…” You could describe Karr’s voice as sassy, informal, sometimes even, badass. Read more »

Wes Craven: 1939–2015

Wes CravenThe month of October is one of the most popular months for watching films of the horror genre.   It also seems a suitable time to post a tribute to the August 30th passing of director Wes Craven who did much to influence the direction of the modern horror film.   His 1984 Nightmare on Elm Street introduced Freddy Krueger, one of the longest lasting and memorable horror characters since Boris Karloff’s monster in the 1931 movie Frankenstein.  In 1996 he introduced us to “Ghostface” in Scream, a second horror creation destined to become almost legend.  Yet it would be wrong of us to limit Wes Craven’s talent to only the horror genre.   He was also known for films such as Music of the Heart starring Meryl Streep as a music teacher struggling to teach violin to inner city children and as one of twenty directors of Paris, je t’aime a collection of stories about the city of love.  

This month is a perfect time to explore the legacy of films that we have been left by this notable director.  The link below will create a list of DVDs owed by the Library for your enjoyment.

The Films of Wes Craven

Some Luck


Before this century, farming was a way of life for many Americans. In the 1920s, 20% of our workforce labored on farms. Now it is less than 2%.  This novel, the first of a trilogy, covers the lives of an extended agricultural family, the Langdons, from the 1920s to the 1950s.

In 1920 Walter Langdon, a young 25-year-old walks the land of his new farm. His father thought he didn’t need to start on his own yet, but Walter disagreed. He had a wife after all--the beautiful and practical, Rosanna--and now a six-month-old son, the treasured Frank. As the first grandchild in the family, he receives tons of love and praise.

The novel covers a cycle of births, deaths, marriages, and children coming of age for two generations. The pace is slow, the characterization, deep, and you feel that you are really experiencing life as it was lived on an Iowa farm. Read more »

The Wild, Wild, West – Television Series


When I was young, maybe too young as I was only eight at the time, my father introduced me to a series of books by an author named Ian Fleming about an English secret agent known as James Bond.  Prior to this my heroes were all from world of television.  I was enthralled with the “Adventures of Superman,” “Roy Rogers” and “The Lone Ranger.” As you may have noticed two of my favorite heroes were from westerns.  James Bond suddenly took precedence over them all.  I loved the intrigue and the action in the books.  But I still loved my westerns.  Then, in 1964 a television western, The Wild, Wild West, set in the mid 1800’s appeared about two agents of the newly established U.S. Secret Service; James West and Artmus Gordon.  Each episode had the intrigue and mystery of a secret agent like James Bond as well as the special gadgets and gizmos a spy would use and best of all, it was a western.  I was hooked. Read more »

Prestigious Man Booker Prize Announces Short List


It's that time of year again when the Man Booker Prize whittles its choices down to a manageable six. The Man Booker Award, begun in 1969, is one of the most prestigious literary awards.

It was formerly limited to writers from the UK and Commonwealth, the Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe. In a move many British writers recented, last year it was opened to Americans for the first time. Many Brits felt that the Yankees would take over it.

This year two U.S. authors have been short-listed: Anne Tyler and Hanya Yanagihara.

Anne Tyler known for her quirky characters, humor, and emphasis on family and travel has written twenty novels and won many awards. On the other hand, this is Hanya Yanagilhara's second novel. Hanya is of Hawaiian ancestry. Her novel tells the story of four college friends through middle age.

The winner will be announced on Oct. 13th. If you're looking for a good read, any of these titles should prove rewarding.

Here is the complete list with writer's country of origin also included:

Marlon James (Jamaica)         A Brief History of Seven Killings

Tom McCarthy (UK)              Satin Island

Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria)     The Fishermen

Sunjeev Sahota (UK)           The Year of the Runaways

Ann Tyler (US)                    A Spool of Blue Thread

Hanya Yanagihara (US)        A Little Life



They Might Be Giants


George C. Scott often manages to bring a believability to even the most unbelievable role. In the dark comedy They Might Be Giants, Scott plays Justin, a man believing himself to be the illustrious fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, who’s turned over to a psychologist, played by Joanne Woodward, for evaluation and treatment. She’s a young woman whose last name just happens to be Watson—a situation that doesn’t exactly help Justin’s delusions—and she’s soon drawn into his search for Moriarty, following “Holmes” hither and yon through Manhattan and into dangerous situations. Read more »

Deep Lane


I started this morning reading poetry, and couldn’t have found a better book of contemporary American poems than Mark Doty’s Deep Lane. He writes about memory, love, and human connections. Masterfully, he encases most of these themes in strikingly beautiful nature poems.

How gifted Doty is describing things as ordinary as a deer in a backyard, when he writes ”a buck in velvet at the garden rim, / bronze lightly shagged, split thumbs / of antlers budding.”

He also celebrates humanity in everyday New York City: the three barbers he visited for ten years who suddenly disappeared, the one-armed man at the gym, his old friend, Dugan, who appears suddenly on 15th Street, “—why shouldn’t the dead / sport a little style?” Read more »

Lt. Robin Crusoe U.S.N.


There are times when I just want to laugh.  I don’t really care if the movie is a great movie.  I don’t really care if the acting is great and I don’t care if the plot makes sense. I just want to laugh and enjoy wasting my time for a little while.  Lt. Robin Crusoe U.S.N. staring Dick Van Dyke serves this purpose perfectly for me.   The movie is housed in the Juvenile collection even though to really understand all of the jokes it is helpful to at least be familiar with Daniel Defoe’s story of Robinson Crusoe. 

As one might guess from the title the film tells the story of a castaway on a deserted island. Lt. Crusoe is forced to abandon his navy jet when the engine fails.  Read more »

The Tusk That Did the Damage


This timely novel set in South India tells the story of contemporary ivory poaching from three perspectives a documentary filmmaker, a poacher, and from an elephant named Gravedigger.

A calf who watched his mother and other members of the elephant clan die brutally, Gravedigger grows up in captivity until he breaks his chains and slips into the forest. There he seldom shows mercy for humans.

Tania James succeeds in showing each of these beings as having complex needs. Even the poachers, two brother, named Jayan and Manu, aren’t presented as evil even though Jayan is jailed for killing 56 elephants, including a mother who waited and grieved for two days after her son died.

But this book is not all doom and gloom. The author describes the setting beautifully and captures the pressures and love shared by Jayan’s family.  His wife, Leela, an ex-prostitute is one of the strongest and most interesting characters.  After one elephant death, she asks her husband, “Why did you kill a god?” Read more »

Reason in a Dark Time: Why the Struggle Against Climate Change Failed--And What It Means for our Future


After reading just the first chapter of this book, I was stunned at how long the heat storage properties of carbon dioxide have been on the world’s radar. What would you guess? Twenty? Forty? Fifty years? How about 150 plus.

Back in 1863, John Tyndall, an Irish scientist measured the absorption of infrared radiation by carbon dioxide and showed that slight changes in the atmosphere’s composition can affect our planet's temperature.

Guy Callendar discovered in the 1930s that carbon dioxide levels were rising and causing an increase in temperatures. He said that there had already been a 10% increase in carbon dioxide levels. Other scientists mocked him. But even then he predicted a 2-4 C temperature raise in the 21st century.

In this wide-ranging book, Dale Jamieson, a philosopher, presents a richly detailed account of many issues connected to climate change. He covers various ramifications from the moral and ethical to the economic, political and scientific. Read more »

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