“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.
“Their Eyes Were Watching God” was groundbreaking for its time — written by an African American woman and portraying African Americans interacting primarily with each other. Janie Crawford is one of the most fully realized characters you could wish for in under 200 pages. Continue reading “Their Eyes Were Watching God: Eighty Year Anniversary”
Author William Claassen will be speaking about his new book “Risks” on September 14 at the Columbia Public Library. One of Columbia’s many nationally recognized authors, Claassen has authored four books and one play in the last two decades, along with numerous articles. “Risks” is Claassen’s first true memoir, recounting a life spent traveling, learning and performing humanitarian works across the globe. Among many common themes that stand out in these books is the initial influence of Thomas Merton’s classic autobiography “The Seven Story Mountain” on Claassen’s life and how it led him to take a different path. Continue reading “Author William Claassen”
“Call me Ishmael.” The first sentence in Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” is considered one of the greatest opening lines for a novel. Other classics often cited for their great opening lines include “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger and Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” So, what makes an opening line great? Stephen King reflected on this in a 2013 interview with Joe Fassler: “An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.” Here are a few contemporary novels whose first lines manage to do just that.
“The letter that would change everything arrived on a Tuesday.” So begins the novel “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce. Immediately, I found myself wondering what was in the letter, who wrote the letter and to whom it was written. I had to keep reading to find the answers to these questions. In this novel, the author examines the concepts of hope and redemption with a charming tale of a retired husband and father who takes a unique, impulsive and circuitous journey to fulfill a self-imposed quest to aid a dying woman. The story it captures is both poignant and humorous.
Jeanne Ray begins her novel, “Calling Invisible Women,” with “I first noticed I was missing on a Thursday.” This provocative sentence leads into a story about a wife and mother in her fifties who feels invisible to her family and the world around her. Her only worth seems to be in the services she provides — cooking dinner, doing the laundry and keeping the house clean. Imagine her surprise when she wakes up one Thursday to find herself physically invisible, but no one seems to notice. Ray uses a satirical voice to explore middle age, family dynamics and a woman’s role in modern society. Continue reading “Literary Links: Great First Lines”
As we head into fall why not check out one of these books by brand-new authors? There’s something here for every reader.
After Annie Thompson turns in her own mother — a serial killer who preys on children — to the police, she creates a new identity for herself as Milly. But despite her name change, Milly struggles to leave her old life behind. As her mother’s trial draws nearer Milly tries to be the good person she wants to be, but is tormented by the voice of her mother in her head, urging her to give in to her dark side.
“A Secret History of Witches” by Louisa Morgan
The gift of magic has been passed down from mother to daughter for centuries, but when Grand-mère Ursule dies magic seems to die with her. Still, her family continues to recite the spells and rituals that once contained power in an effort to preserve their craft and in the hope that one day the magic will return. Following five generations of Ursule’s family — from Brittany in 1821 to London in the middle of World War II — “A Secret History of Witches“ chronicles the family’s struggles to recover magic and change the course of history.
Here is a quick look at the most noteworthy nonfiction titles being released in September. Visit our catalog for a more extensive list.
“What Happened” by Hillary Rodham Clinton
This book is a reflection on the former first lady’s unsuccessful bid to become president, examining the trials and tribulations she faced during the campaign, the lessons that can be learned from the election and how she has bounced back following her loss.
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.
I’ll admit to beginning “Everything You Want Me to Be” with inaccurate expectations. For some reason I thought it was going to be a “The Girl on the Train” style thriller, but it’s not — and it’s much better for it. There is a murder in this book that happens within the first couple chapters, and then we spend the rest of the book unraveling who committed it (and working on two timelines: both pre and post murder), but that’s not really what the story is ABOUT. In actual fact, this is the tale of three individuals and the town they all live in and the actions and decisions that can lead to terrible consequences. One of the best features of this book is that there are not any “bad guys.” There are people who make bad decisions, but we all do that all the time. There are people who take love very seriously and those that trample on love (sometimes the same people), but that is true to life. This is not necessarily a book that is going to stick with me for a long time, but it is certainly a book I appreciate having read.
Three words that describe this book: Doomed, Thoughtful, Human
You might want to pick this book up if: If you enjoy tracing each thread as they get increasingly tangled and ultimately lead to tragedy.
I’m excited about September’s LibraryReads list! We have the follow-up of the popular author Celeste Ng (of “Everything I Never Told You” fame), an apocalyptic novel that starts with a tick infestation and, ever the librarian’s favorite, a book of love letters to books. Oh, and a Little House reimagining! Take a look, and get ready to place holds on these librarian favorites for September:
“Little Fires Everywhere”
by Celeste Ng
“’Little Fires Everywhere’ delves into family relationships and what parenthood, either biological or by adoption, means. We follow the members of two families living in the idyllic, perfectly-planned suburb of Shaker Heights, Ohio: Mia and Pearl, a mother and daughter living a less traditional lifestyle, moving from town to town every few months, and the Richardsons, the perfect nuclear family in the perfect suburb … until Izzy Richardson burns her family home down. Ng’s superpower is her ability to pull you into her books from the very first sentence!”
~Emma DeLooze-Klein, Kirkwood Public Library, Kirkwood, MO Continue reading “September 2017 LibraryReads: Books Librarians Love”
Have you ever read just the right book at just the right time and everything was enhanced by the experience? My family recently took a trip to Vienna and Munich and we had a wonderful time, but it was made even better (for me, anyway) by two perfectly timed books.
The first book was “The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer” by Anne Marie O’Connor. This book is a convoluted story moving from the crazy art world of the early 1900s to the crazy art auction world of today. It is also a story that spans from the Holocaust and Austria’s complicity all the way to today’s collective guilt on one hand or the lack of it on the other. Continue reading “Perfect Timing”
Several new authors are making their debuts this August. These books are sure to be a hit, so place your holds now!
“See What I Have Done” by Sarah Schmidt
On August 4, 1892 Lizzie Borden’s father and stepmother were found brutally murdered. Lizzie was tried for the crime and acquitted, but although her guilt was widely assumed, there remains the possibility that she was innocent.
Focusing on the immediate time before and after the crime, “See What I Have Done” takes us into the heads of Lizzie, her sister Emma, their maid Bridget and a mysterious stranger named Benjamin. The dysfunctional relationships that existed within the Borden family spawned violence and hatred, and any of them may have had motive for murder. Schmidt takes the facts of the Borden case and re-imagines the infamous murder, casting doubt on the long held assumption that Lizzie Borden “took an ax and gave her father forty whacks.”