This is Guterson’s first story collection in nearly twenty years. Ignore the bland title for these stories set in his native Northwest and in foreign countries including Germany, South Africa, and Nepal are muscular, well-written, and anchored with a deep sense of place. An air of melancholy and of possible tragedy hangs over a few of them, especially two of my favorites, “Pilanesberg” and “Krassavitseh.”
In “Pilanesberg” a brother visits his sister in Africa to go wildlife viewing, but you soon discover that the sister has cancer and her favorite thing to do is “sleep.” They share a wonderful experience viewing big mammals: elephants, tigers, etc. but the trip is marred by the fact that they animals are fenced in, and the couple find themselves at dusk locked in as well. Next follows a humorous and ludicrous conversation with the gatekeeper who says he cannot let them out.Read more about Problems with People
This last Sunday brought us the passing of actor, producer and director Richard Attenborough. He is perhaps most recently remembered today as John Hammond, the eccentric founder of Jurassic Park. However, he has been involved in the movies since 1942. Besides being on screen as an actor he has produced thirteen films, including Gandhi and Cry Freedom. He directed twelve films including Gandhi, A Chorus Line and A Bridge Too Far. The library has a nice collection of his films. We hope you enjoy them.
If the last thing you learned about genes was Gregor Mendel’s pea pod experiments, you might want to try this easy to read science book to get up to speed about many fascinating changes in hereditary theory.
For instance, humans have only 20,000 to 25,000 genes, downgraded from a previous estimate of 100,000. In comparison, a tiny water flea--barely visible to our naked eye--has about 31,000.
You’ve heard the word genome in the news and on PBS. Your genome is your full set of genes. Every cell in your body gets a copy of the full set although each cell cannot read all of them. By the way, the word “cell” came from Robert Hooke, the first person who saw them in the 1600s. When he first discovered them under a microscope, they reminded him of monks’ cells.
Other interesting facts about your genome. The chromosomes scientists have discovered have something to do with either inherited diseases or traits. For instance, chromosome 1 is associated with deafness, schizophrenia and maple syrup disease. (You read that right!) If you have red hair, thank chromosome 2. Blue or green eyes? Chromosome 19 is for you. And yes, previously scientists thought that there were only two possibilities for eye color: brown or blue. Those green eyes, they just tagged as a variant of blue. Read more about From the color of Your Eyes to Your Type of Earwax
With immigration a hot button issue both politically and in the news, it was interesting to read Cristina Henriquez’s second novel The Book of Unknown Americans. It tells the stories of various immigrants (from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and other Latin American countries) who have all landed in Delaware.
The book opens with a family’s arrival at night from the border. A paid driver has brought Arturo, Alma, and their daughter Maribel to this immigrant enclave outside of Dover. They are legal immigrants given papers to work on a mushroom farm. Or at least Arturo will work there. They have come primarily to get special schooling for 15 year old Maribel who fell off a ladder at her father’s construction site in Mexico and has brain damage.
The story of this family is the heartwood of the novel. But woven in are life stories of other immigrants including a boxer, who came to the states to win matches but became instead a landlord, and an actress who worked hard to make it in New York City, but came to Delaware and formed her own theatre.
This beautiful books gives you a feel of how hard it is to start life over in a new place, not understanding the language or culture. It also explores issues of guilt and secrecy, and how they affect even the strongest of marriages. Read more about The Book of Unknown Americans
“Wanted: Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. SAFTEY NOT GUARANTEED.”
The above classified advertisement along with a contact PO Box address that appeared in a local paper near Seattle Washington sets the stage for Safety Not Guaranteed. The ad intrigues a reporter for a Seattle based magazine. Is the man who placed it crazy, disturbed or legit? For reasons of his own he sells his editor on the idea of checking it out as a human interest story. He takes along two interns: one of whom, Darius, ends up applying for the position in order to get the story behind the ad. Read more about Safety Not Guaranteed
Anyone with the ability to get a stranger to pose for a camera while touching two or three other strangers in New York City must have both courage and amazing diplomatic skills. Enter photographer Richard Renaldi. Since 2007 Renaldi has been hauling his big, 8 by 10 inch view camera not just around New York, but around other cities and towns across America. This cool involving book presents some of the amazing portraits he’s created.
The juxtapositions are captivating: ages, races, classes, sexes, outfits, jewelry, tattoos, and indoor and outdoor settings all present a panoply of portraits of 21st century Americans. In “Jesse and Michael,” a bearded middle-aged man in an orange sweatshirt and woolen cap clutches the hands of a very old woman wearing a wig, with her cane draped over her purse. Atlantic Ocean waves break behind them.
“Pedro and Neal” touch in some kind of shop or factory. Pedro sits, his body exuding confidence and authority, a radio attached to his shirt. Neal in a blue cap has claimed a perch on Pedro’s desk and Neal places one hand on Pedro’s shoulder, another around his wrist.
“Michael and Sarah” look like they could be engaged. Sarah leans into Michael’s shoulder on the NYC subway during winter—both wear coats and hats; their opposite hands are clasped on Sarah’s left wrist. Read more about Touching Strangers