Tragedies scatter about our lives, usually. If a decade or more separates one loss — a job, a parent, a home, a pet — from another, is what’s lost a tragedy?
For others, losses accumulate, completely warping their understanding of the world. In her articulate tragicomic memoir, “The Rules Do Not Apply,” Ariel Levy recounts the dissolution of her marriage, her miscarriage and her move from what she thought her permanent home — all lost over three months. Reading this challenges one’s sense or definition of tragedy. Continue reading “Staff Book Review: The Rules Do Not Apply”
Posted on Wednesday, October 4, 2017 by patron reviewer
Editor’s note: This review was submitted by a library patron during the 2017 Adult Summer Reading program. We will continue to periodically share some of these reviews throughout the year.
Paula Hawkins’ second novel is a good read, but not quite as compelling as her first, “The Girl on the Train.” “Into the Water” is a story of mysterious deaths that occurred in the river of a small town and focuses on several characters in that small town. Each of these characters is a narrator, and the novel shifts among them, which makes the book a bit confusing to read because there are so many characters. The mystery is compelling, though, particularly the story of Jules Abbott, who is trying to understand how and why her sister, Nel Abbott, died in the very river that she had long been fascinated with: the river was the subject of a book that she was writing. Jules cares for Nel’s daughter and works to solve the mystery of her sister’s death. She also becomes focused on her late sister’s book project and the ways in which she interpreted some of the mysterious deaths that occurred at this local “suicide spot.” Jules also revisits her past and the roots of her strained relationship with her sister. The story and mystery are compelling, despite the large number of characters and a couple of plot twists that test the notion of “suspension of disbelief” required for fiction.
Three words that describe this book: mystery, thriller, sisters
This biography is a meticulously researched portrait of the complicated Civil War general and 18th President, challenging the views of his critics while sharing insights into his prowess as a military leader, the honor with which he conducted his administration and the rise and fall of his fortunes.
This book is a synthesis of the historic Barack Obama era featuring essays originally published in “The Atlantic,” including “Fear of a Black President” and “The Case for Reparations,” as well as new essays revisiting each year of the Obama administration. Continue reading “Nonfiction Roundup: October 2017”
Dystopias are everywhere (at least in the world of books). A spike in sales of classic dystopian literature and an increase in contemporary dystopian stories mirror how we turn to these stories at times of uncertainty. These visions of society reflect the fears and concerns of the times they were written (as well as the fears and concerns of their authors).
Literally, a dystopian society is the opposite of the ideal society, or, a utopia. So, we are discussing less than ideal societies here. Much less. Consider “Know Your Dystopias” your tour of places you would not want to visit in the real world.
In recognition of Banned Books Week we will start with Ray Bradbury’s book-burning dystopia in “Fahrenheit 451.” Named for the temperature at which paper burns, the novel is set in an upside-down world where the job of firemen is starting fires to destroy books. All books are illegal and the populace is entertained (not informed) by wall-sized television screens, preferably on each wall of the parlor, if one can afford it. A threat of war looms, but despite reminders in the form of jets periodically screaming overhead the population seems sanguine about it. Continue reading “Know Your Dystopias: Fahrenheit 451”
National Voter Registration Day is Tuesday, September 26. In Missouri, according to the events listed on this unofficial holiday’s website, there are events in Kansas City, Cape Girardeau and near Lexington.
The general idea is to provide a national push for voter registration. Voting in the United States is a civic duty and a constitutional right. The legitimacy of our democratic process depends on voters.
In Boone County, for the general election last November, there were 108,578 registered voters, and only 85,012 ballots were cast. 21.7% of registered voters did not vote, which was, admittedly, better than the Missouri’s voter turnout.
The autumnal equinox marks the debut of the autumn (or fall, if you prefer) season. This astronomical event occurs quietly and without much fanfare in the sky (unlike the total solar eclipse back in August!). But at this moment, the “solar terminator” (the ring circling the earth, where day meets night), is perpendicular to the planet as it crosses the equator, thus illuminating the northern and southern hemispheres in equal amounts. In other words, on the equinox, the day and night periods are of roughly equal duration (12 hours). After the equinox, daylight hours in the northern hemisphere continue to decrease until the winter solstice — the shortest day and longest night of the year, after which the days begin to lengthen once again.
This year the equinox is on Friday, September 22 at 3:02 PM, Central Time. But even in the ebbing summer heat of early September, portends of autumn’s pending entrance are evident. We see the sun set noticeably earlier and find spent garden plants to uproot and pitch in the compost heap. Black walnuts fall with a thud, littering the ground and perfuming the air with their acrid, peppery aroma. And if you feed hummingbirds, you see them fattening up (like little Vienna sausages!) with frequent trips to the nectar dispenser, in preparation for their arduous, their non-stop flight across the Gulf of Mexico, to winter quarters. Continue reading “Autumn’s Equinox”
“Homesick For Another World” is a brilliant collection of short stories by Ottessa Moshfegh and a common affliction. It is certainly an affliction suffered by the characters that populate her stories. Some might describe her characters as losers and find themselves unable to understand how anyone but a loser or an aficionado or losers would enjoy these stories about drug users, sexual deviants, bulimics, body modifiers, bad actors, crooked Catholic school teachers, and one young girl who longs to murder the specific person whose death she believes will open up a portal to “a better place,” the place she’s always known she belongs. Well rest assured, having achieved the status of runner-up in dozens of eating contests, this gentleman is no loser, and this gentleman found these stories, despite the relative scantness of their plot, fascinating and absorbing. Continue reading “The Gentleman Recommends: Ottessa Moshfegh”
On September 18, 1937, the world was introduced to Zora Neale Hurston’s novel, “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” The world didn’t pay adequate attention, and the title went out of print for years. A 1978 reprinting brought the book recognition as an American classic. Alice Walker and Zadie Smith both cite Hurston as an influence.
Hurston grew up in Eatonville, Florida, a town established and run by African Americans. It serves as setting for much of her novel. She went to New York for an anthropology degree from Barnard College and stayed for the Harlem Renaissance, with trips back to the south for story collection and research.
For those who might not know, bonsai is an art form that originated in China in which small trees are manipulated into desirable shapes using wires, pruning and a variety of tools. It translates into the Chinese words bon (or poon) meaning “pot” and sai (or sue) meaning “tree.” The amount of variation possible in the results of this process is amazing, taking into account all of the various tree species, geographical styles, pottery and compositions. It is a very personal expression of art and horticulture. Some people enjoy it chiefly for the meditative aspects of the work. Continue reading “Bonsai Bonanza”