When we lived in Alaska, every summer we rode the Alaska state ferries past some islands--rocky, bird-filled--that had only one sign of civilization, the bright revolving lighthouse. Each time I wondered about this way of life that had almost faded. This wonderful novel fleshes out what life was like for a family in the 1920s off the east coast of Australia.
If you ever wondered about this vocation, Stedman captures the isolation and the magic of being far from the crowd, the joy certain light house workers found in a solitary working environment where the people you served--the sailors and merchant shipmen--relied totally upon you even though you would never meet.
The Light between Oceansbegins with young Tom Sherbourne riding a boat to Partageuse on the east coast of Australia after having recently been discharged from the military. He’d won some medals in WWI and was now assigned to be a temporary lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock. While in town getting his papers processed, he meets Isabel, a girl of nineteen, who invites him to feed bread to the ducks at the dock. When he thanks her later, she says, it’s just a silly thing, but he replies that he enjoyed it very much. Tom is scarred by the violence of the war and by his family life before when his mother abandoned him and his father and brother. In fact, Tom refuses to speak to his dad over what happened. Read more »
If you’ve ever seen any of Edward Curtis’s photos of Native Americans, you cannot forget them. Not only did Curtis capture members of various tribes with respect but their individuality and humanity stares at you from the page. He also recorded many spiritual ceremonies and active shots that give us some insight into what daily life was like for these people.
This excellent biography tells the story of the famous photographer’s life, how he came from utter poverty in Wisconsin, then provided for his entire family as a young teen-ager, to a hardscrabble existence fishing and crabbing near Seattle. But in his late teens, he buys something for himself—a rare occurrence. He purchases a lens for his dad’s old camera.
Soon he manages to round up $150—a large sum for a young man supporting an entire family in those days--and buys into a photography business in downtown Seattle. In a mere two years, he becomes the most famous photographer in the Northwest, in high demand to immortalize society and business leaders. But though the work makes him rich and feted by society, it’s the Native American culture that draws him. He realizes that the country has finished expanding, that the westward migration has ended, and that the native tribes will have less and less space to call their own. Curtis understood that their way of life-- the clothing, the hunting, and especially the spiritual ceremonies--will mostly cease to exist. Read more »
If you’re getting antsy for your copy of The Hit to arrive, don’t fret, we have some other titles that will entertain you with spies, assassins, and fast-moving fiction. In The Hit--second in the Will Robie series after The Innocent--the U.S. government has hired Robie to track down a fellow assassin who has gone rogue, but in the process of searching for her, he finds some information about immanent threats that would prove very deadly should they occur.
Here are a few suspenseful, plot-driven novels that might keep you biting your nails and imagining dark scenarios while you wait for Baldacci’s latest page-turner:
The Lost Symbolby Dan Brown. If you like reading about cryptographers, mysterious secrets, and obscure organizations, try this one. The hero goes to D.C. to give a speech where he discovers that a good friend has been abducted. Follow him as he solves complex puzzles as he searches for his friend.
Lethalby Sandra Brown. There are easier people to run from them the FBI. But when suspected murderer Lee Coburn visits Honor Gillette to find an object left behind by her late husband, Honor and Lee fight a web of corruption to find answers. This fast moving plot involves the trafficking of guns, drugs, and girls. And yes, a romance develops between Lee and Honor. Who can resist steely blue eyes? Read more »
We're in the closing days of National Poetry Month, and this Sunday if you'd like to compose a poem of your own, we're offering a program about writing ekphrastic poetry in partnership with The Writers Guild at Bloomington. It's at 2 p.m. this Sunday in Room 2B. Call 349-3228 to register. The word ekphrasis comes from the Greek and simply means description. The original Greek root phrazein meant to point out or explain. An added meaning was to name an inanimate thing.
Many of the Romantic poets celebrated art including John Keats in his "Ode to a Grecian Urn." The list of modern poets who have worked in the form include W.H. Auden, William Carlos Williams, Anne Sexton, Muriel Rukeyser, Greg Pape, and former poet laureate, Kay Ryan, among many others.
You can write about any art form in ekphrastic poety: sculpture, paintings, ceramics, prints, and photographs. Some poets describe the work in vivid detail; others just use the art piece for a jumping off point. This is especially true when an abstract painting is the subject of the poem as in the example I've included below. Read more »
It’s Earth Day. Senator Gaylord Nelson was the driving force behind the first one which occurred in 1970 as a day of education about environmental issues. As I scanned the new releases in the environmental section, this book caught my eye. It was a sobering read but one that was very thought-provoking. World-renowned legal scholar, Andrew Guzman, wrote Overheated. In it, he examines the political and sociological changes from climate change that the author reports have already started to occur. Not just flooding and mega-storms, but also droughts, food scarcity, refugees forced from their land, lack of water for agriculture, etc. In his preface, the author states that “climate change will affect nearly everyone on this planet.”
The chapter topics reveal his major concerns: one on flooding shows how some island nations will disappear, and that at least one very populated one—Bangladesh--will suffer massive flooding that will lead to migrations of millions of refugees. The chapter entitled “A Thirsty World” depicts how the melting of glaciers will affect the water supply of many people on earth, not only in India, Pakistan, Argentina, and Chile, but also in our American West. He predicts that this will impact both our food supply and the prices of commodities.
In “Climate Wars—A Shower of Sparks” he hypothesizes how the conflict in Darfur in the 1990s may have been the first war sparked by climate change. Guzman also says that more wars will be caused by a scarcity of resources. He is very concerned about the Middle East, already one of the most arid areas in the world. Read more »
This novel focuses on the life of Zelda: dancer, writer, and famous flapper who married Scott Fitzgerald. The Fitzgeralds were considered the “it” couple of the twenties. Zelda and Scott spent time in Paris in the same social circle as Hemingway and his wife where the hard-drinking and romances took a toll on both marriages. If you've read about Zelda in Scott's or her own writing, this fascinating, multi-talented person will intrigue you.
If you love Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem “Annabel Lee,” this novel about Poe’s doomed wife and first cousin, Virginia, will interest you. The Poes married when Virginia was thirteen and E.A. was twenty-seven; her mother signed a document that she was of age. Like Hemingway, Poe was a big drinker, and Virginia had to put up with drunkenness and poverty. Another story of a literary marriage where the wife was both muse and care-giver.
This is often considered the most famous novel of the “Lost Generation,” that crowd of artists, musicians, and writers who left the U.S. during the 20s to live an expat lifestyle in Paris and other cities. Jake Barnes, a jaded WWI vet, travelled from the bars of Paris to Spain for the spring bullfights. Hemingway describes the expatriate lifestyle amid the violence, camaraderie, and life and death risk for bulls and men. Read more »
"Select a poem, carry it with you, and share it with others throughout the day. You can also share your selection on Twitter by using the hashtag #pocketpoem." One unique way is to switch to old technology--remember the telephone?--and call a friend and read a poem to him or her. What a great way to share this form of oral literature.
Please feel free to scan our large collection of contemporary poetry and classics. American poetry can be found between 811-812 in our stacks, British, between 821-822. If you want to explore poetry from other languages, try 831--German, 841--French, etc. Haiku can be found in the 895s. (They squeezed poetry from many cultures inthe 890s including Russsian, Japanese, Chinese and Inuit.) Also, you can find a large and diverse selection at Poets.org.
I'll get a head-start on the day by sharing one my favorite spring poems with you from Complete Poems: 1904-1962 by e.e. cummings. His love for nature and humanity shines through all his poems. Read more »
In college, I often dreamed of tsunamis. The waves were enormously high and transported me far inland but were amazingly gentle behemoths that if I did not fight against, eventually landed me upon the shore without any damage. The tsunami that struck Sir Lanka the day after Christmas 2004 was nothing like these, but was instead brutal, fierce, and deadly.
Imagine losing your husband, two sons, and both parents on the same day. This unbelievable tragedy happened to this British economist. The memoir starts quietly with her description of a typical morning at a beach resort in Southern Sri Lanka that her family had been visiting since her childhood. Sonali knew all the hotel staff and park rangers; the place meant home to her and her family. Ironically, the family was packing to go home later that day.
As her children are dressing, she speaks to a close friend who has accompanied them on their holiday outing. Suddenly, both women notice an unusual wave in the far distance. Sonali calls to her husband in the bathroom, but Read more »
I picked up Richard Russo’s latest book with some hesitation. I knew Elsewhere was a memoir about his relationship with his mother, but I remembered that in his last novel, That Old Cape Magic, he had created a decidedly crazy “mother” character. But as is so often the case with memoirs, the first sentence hooked me.
Because he was an only child and his parents separated when he was very young, Russo and his mom shared an extremely close relationship. In the 50s she had a job for General Electric, dated engineers, and dressed elegantly. Her independence was extremely important to her, but it took Richard years to understand that she depended on her parents’ bail-outs to survive. It didn’t help that Russo’s dad contributed almost nothing to the household or that women were paid poor wages.
This book is also an exploration of a place—the town of Gloversville where Russo grew up and which he’s fictionalized in his novels. It was a town built on making gloves; in fact, his grandparents did this. It was hard, polluting work and when the government cracked down on water pollution, the whole operation moved overseas. But in small-town Gloversville surrounded by relatives, Russo felt secure and loved. Read more »
This young adult novel by the popular John Green fell into my arms at the YMCA. An exercise buddy suggested that I read it; she was turned on to it by her teenage son. The novel opens at a cancer support group in a church. Because it’s set in Indianapolis some of the landmarks will be familiar. A 16 year-old girl suffering from stage IV thyroid cancer is returning at the insistence of her Mom. “Go out and meet somebody,” her mom suggested and without any hope that she will, Hazel does.
Asked to speak about what she’s thinking, Hazel describes how everyone on earth is going to die. It is the only end we can expect and that we have. Her speech is more philosophical and much more eloquent but totally lacking in hope. Afterwards, handsome Augustus who’s on the mend from osteosarcoma—80% chance of survival--tells her he likes what she said. Not only that but she looks like Natalie Portman. Augustus and Hazel have a mutal friend, Isaac, who is about to lose an eye from another form of cancer.
Hazel can’t leave the house without her oxygen tank. Her prognosis is poor; it’s not a matter of if but when. Her parents are extremely kind and protective. She overhead her mom say once that when Hazel dies, she will no longer be a mom.
If The Fault in Our Stars sounds depressing, amazingly it isn’t. Green has created a sardonic, wise beyond her years, poetry-loving heroine with an edgy sense of humor. She finds a soul-mate in Augustus who has already lost one girlfriend to death. Hazel holds back. She doesn’t want to die and be another "exploding torpedo" in his life. Read more »