Monday, May 30, 2005

Two nonfiction titles

How ironic. Yesterday I finished Who's Afraid of a Large Black Man? by Charles Barkley. Barkley talked to a number of people about the topic of racism in the United States. He interviewed Tiger Woods, former President Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson, among others. When the topic of NASCAR came up with Morgan Freeman, Barkley said he didn't like attending NASCAR races because of all the Confederate flags. Of course, he attended races in Alabama and Atlanta.

Today I'm reading Sunday Money by Jeff MacGregor. It's about the 2001/02 NASCAR season in which MacGregor and his wife bought a motorhome and followed the NASCAR circuit. On page 119, he says, "And only willful ignorance or fear or blindness could deny the obvious: that whether by design or apathy or simple circumstance of history, in an age of hugely successful, high-visibility African American athletes, it's the last professional sport in this country that's overwhelmingly white and male."

Yesterday, Danica Patrick became the first woman to lead a lap at the Indianapolis 500. She came in fourth. Today, in 2005, Magic Johnson is working with NASCAR to try to bring blacks into the sport. NASCAR is working to increase its popularity with Latino Americans. There may still be Confederate flags at racetracks in the south, but the racing world is slowing reaching out to try to reflect the rest of the country, not just the south.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Honeymoon with My Brother

Lately one of the hot news stories has been about a "runaway bride," a young woman who disappeared just before her wedding, and later turned up unharmed. She had just run away.

Franz Wisner could relate to that story. He told his own story in "Honeymoon with My Brother." He dated his fiancee for ten years, but she could never make herself go through with the wedding. He and his friends decided to throw the reception anyway, and he invited his brother, Kurt, to go on the paid for honeymoon. Both of them enjoyed that trip so much that they decided to dump their jobs and travel the world for at least the next year.

It was probably a learning experience much more for Franz than for Kurt. Franz, who had a high-powered, influential job, learned how important his brother was to him. He learned to look for the small pleasures in life, and not to plan his entire life. He learned that some of the people in the world who had the least, were the happiest. And he learned quite about from his step-grandmother, a woman in her nineties in a retirement home. Throughout the book, Franz sends her letters. LaRue had pinned a world map to the wall in the retirement home, and pinned their travels on the wall. Then she shared those travels with everyone else at Eskaton. Franz' comment? "Our parents' generation asks when we're going back to work. Eskaton asks where we're going next."

Honeymoon with My Brother is a story of change and growth, travel and friendship. It's a fascinating journey.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Plot devices

There is a discussion going on on Dorothy_L, the mystery listserv, about what people dislike as plot devices.

I will not read Femjep novels (Women in jeopardy). I don't like the books, and I don't like the TV shows and movies in which women are prey, constantly in danger.

But, I loved mystery writer Eileen Dreyer's comments about what she dislikes. I liked her phrase "Too stupid to live." Here's her comment,

"My biggest wall-banger, though, is that TSTL(too stupid to live)
heroine, who, against all advice, just knows she has
to put herself in danger without back-up, or, worse, has been
traumatized several times already for not learning that
lesson, and keeps doing it. My feeling is that the bad guy should just
shoot her. She is, TSTL."

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Nancy Pearl in Fiction

I was surprised to read a reference to Nancy Pearl in Debbie Macomber's latest novel, A Good Yarn. One of the characters, Elise, is a retired school librarian. On page 26, she mentions the Seattle Public Library.

"...Elise rode it down Pill Hill toward Blossom Street, getting off three stops before the Seattle Public Library, which had recently undergone a huge renovation. Through her work at the school library, Elise had met some of Washington's most influential librarians. They included Nancy Pearl, who'd organized the "If All Seattle Reads the Same Book" program. Cities, large and small, across the United States had followed Seattle's lead. Elise was delighted that this idea had become so popular. It demonstrated that the library remained an important part of the community."

Since this is the second book I've read in a month that referred to Nancy Pearl, I would guess she is one of "Washington's most influential librarians."

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Gary Paulsen's Birthday

Taken from The Writer's Almanac, May 17, 2005.

It's the birthday of young adult novelist Gary Paulsen, born in Minneapolis, Minnesota (1939). His father was a member of General Patton's staff during World War Two, and his mother worked in a munitions factory, so he was raised mostly by relatives. When he did have a chance to live with his parents, they were constantly on the move because of the demands of military life. He changed schools often, made few friends, and his grades began to slip. It was a trip to a public library, and the help of a friendly librarian, that turned him around. He went on to become a best-selling young adult novelist, and the winner of Newbery Honor Medals for Dogsong (1985), Hatchet (1987), and The Winter Room (1989). He says: "I tell kids to read like a wolf. Read when they tell you not to read; read what they tell you not to read. That gets me in trouble sometimes. A lot of people are upset by the Goosebumps series and all that stuff, but anything that gets kids to read is fine."

Sunday, May 15, 2005

13 Seconds: A Look Back at the Kent State Shootings

In May of 1970, Philip Caputo was a reporter for the Chicago Tribune sent to cover the riots at Kent State. Thirty years later, he returned, and 13 Seconds: A Look Back at the Kent State Shootings is the result. Caputo examines the events surrounding May 4, and the investigations that followed over the next 9 years.

I was a student at Kent State from 1975-1978. I lived in Prentice Hall my first two years, the dorm right beside the parking lot where the shootings occurred. When I started at Kent, there were still bullet holes in the dorm. Memorials had not yet been built, although the candlelight vigils were already held annually. Our profs talked about the shootings, including an English prof who had us read a collection of articles on the subject to demonstrate that, as my father said, "Paper will sit still for anything to be written on it." Some of the articles included headlines about the guardsmen killed there, which never happened. My freshman year I heard Dean Kahler and Alan Canfora speak, two of the students shot on May 4.

It was May 4, 1977 when the shootings were actually brought home to me. I worked in the University Library in the AV Dept. I lived in Prentice, which had one of the few cafeterias on that part of campus. As I walked from work to lunch on May 4, I suddenly realized that I could have easily been one of those innocent students involved in 1970, walking from work to the cafeteria, not knowing about the disturbances going on on that part of the campus. I'd been on the lower campus all day. How would have I known about guardsmen aiming guns at students by my dorm? I took classes in the Speech Building my Freshman year. All of my roommate's classes were in that building. Sandra Scheurer, the most innocent of all the students killed on May 4th, was on her way to class in the Speech building. Anyone who said innocent students would not have been in that location, has never actually been on Kent's campus at lunchtime or classtime.

A year later, the possible innocence of many students was once again brought home. People were camped on the hill below Prentice, protesting the building of a gym annex. One weekend, with students gone from campus, demonstraters gathered and were tear gassed and dispersed on campus. Newspaper headlines read "Kent State Students..." Why were the protesters who were arrested 28 year olds from Michigan or 30 year olds from Illinois? Why were there busses from Purdue and Michigan on campus that weekend? Could it be because the juniors and seniors of 1978 were only 13 and 14 years old at the time of the May 4 shootings? Could it be that the 1978 demonstrators were imports who were actually not students? Were the newspapers once again wrong?

Philip Caputo said nothing in 13 Seconds to change my opinion. I don't think there was a government conspiracy. I do think there was a lack of responsible action by Governor James Rhodes, the National Guard, and the University officials. I have always doubted the stories about rocks and cement being thrown, because there were no rocks on the campus five years later. I think there were disruptive groups on campus; curious students protesting and observing; and, in the long run, four students killed and nine others injured who were our nation's children.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

The Spice Box

In the past, Lou Jane Temple has written contemporary mysteries about Heather Lee, a restaurant owner in Kansas City, Missouri. She moves back in time to 1860s New York for her latest book, The Spice Box. Bridget Heaney arrived in New York from Ireland as a child, and grew up on the streets and in an orphanage, along with her sister, Maggie. Fortunately for Bridget, she had a love of cooking that brought her to a mansion owned by the Gold family. Bridget's first day in her new job as a cook is disrupted when she finds the murdered body of the son of the household.

In an unusual twist, Bridget teams up with Mr. Gold, her boss and owner of Gold's Department Store, to find his son's killer. As her common sense proves to be a benefit to their search, he learns to trust her, and insists on helping her find her missing sister.

Although this partnership seems unusual, The Spice Box offers a fascinating look at three worlds; the Irish immigrant experience in mid-century New York, and the contrasting worlds of the serving class and upper class. Temple brings Bridget and her world to life while presenting an intriguing mystery.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Stephen King

According to the Bangor Daily News, May 9, 2005, Stephen King addressed the commencement class of the University of Maine.

King laced his advice with humor. He even threatened to track down members of the Class of 2005 if they quit using their brains once they've settled into adult lives and careers.

"I can find out where you live," he said. "I have my resources. And if I show up at your house 10 years from now, and find nothing in your living room but Reader's Digests, nothing in your bedroom but the latest Dan Brown novel, and nothing in your bathroom but 'Jokes for the John,' I will chase you down to the end of your driveway and back shouting, 'Where are the damn books? ... Why are you living the mental equivalent of a Kraft Macaroni and Cheese life?'"

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

I am a fan of this book. Now. It took me awhile.
I used to be a fan JUST based on the movie. I knew the movie was genius - so must the book be. Of course I see the flaw in my logic. Rarely if ever is the movie as good as the book (there are a few exceptions: The World According to Garp, The Shining, The Dead Zone) and even more rare is the movie that is BETTER than the book (Carrie). I just put my trust in Roald Dahl and lauded the book to any kid willing to show an interest.

I finally picked it up and really read it through myself. There were several things that were different than the movie. Some things I can take as artistic license - the description of the oompah loompahs (how would they have found actors that tiny?), the exact sequence of events (audiences will only sit thru so many hours), even how many people got to go into the factory (what's one more whining enabling parent here or there?). But where was Charlie's father in the movie? Poor Mrs. Bucket had to take care of a small child and those 4 old coots all by herself on the big screen - plus they made her sing a truly bad song(that's saying something since the song "Candyman" is in there - sans Sammy Davis, Jr.) Charlie and Grandpa Joe don't even get into trouble with the fizzy lifting drinks in the book version!...Well, that turned out ok since I always find the excessive burping they have to do to return to land more than a little distasteful.

All in all, I accept the book as it is - a kids book - and the movie as it is - entertainment for a wider audience. Both swell in their own rights.

I worry about the upcoming Johnny Depp version. Oh, yes, he has the stunning smile and soulful eyes...but my Willy Wonka must have the excessively curly hair and blue eyes of the 1971 Gene Wilder version.
Mr. Wilder as Mr. Wonka
I just can't envision a pretty boy Wonka. Nor do I particularly want to.

ok, I may give it a chance...but he better do the cane roll somersault as well as Gene or I'm outta there!

Friday, May 06, 2005

The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life

How can any reader not love a book that starts out with the quote from Gustave Flaubert, "Read in order to Live"? Steve Leveen, CEO of Levenger, has written a thought-provoking book for readers, The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life. There are ideas for finding more time in your life to read, such as listening to audio books. He suggests methods to make your reading more meaningful, such as making a List of Candidates, books you want to read. (The bibliography alone is a great starting place!) As a librarian, I appreciate a book that says, "Like our national parks, our public libraries constitute a treasure that many Americans take advantage of hardly at all."

Leveen goes on to say, "A library is a fueling station for your mind." And, he's one more author who praises Nancy Pearl and her book, Book Lust, for its vast array of book suggestions.

I actually purchased The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life, and I think it's a book I will return to again and again for ideas and encouragement.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

A Voice for the Dead

Behind the corpse in the reservoir, behind the ghost on the links,
Behind the lady who dances and the man who madly drinks,
Under the look of fatigue, the attack of migraine and the sigh
There is always another story, there is more than meets the eye.
W.H. Auden, "At Last the Secret is Out"

James E. Starrs, author of A Voice for the Dead, with coauthor Katherine Ramsland, quotes Auden's poem very appropriately. Starrs is a lawyer and forensic investigator. A Voice for the Dead is his story of the search for the truth in a number of historic cases. Did Alfred G. Packer actually kill and eat his fellow prospectors in Colorado in 1874? Who really shot Huey Long in the Louisiana State Capitol on Sept. 8, 1935? What really happened to Frank Olson, the CIA agent who fell thirteen stories to his death? Who is buried in Jesse James' grave? Was Mary Sullivan the last victim of Albert DeSalvo, the self-proclaimed Boston Strangler?

At times this book is difficult to read with its medical and forensic vocabulary, but Starrs' search for truth is always fascinating if you're interested in history or cold cases. When the book is finished, the biggest regret is that Starr has not been able to search for the truth behind Lizzie Borden or Meriwether Lewis.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Dear Abby


DEAR ABBY: I have been thinking about writing this letter for a long time. I'm the director of a small public library. I love my job and serving our patrons. But you would not believe some of the outrageous behavior that occurs in libraries -- so I have written:

Please keep your children with you at all times. A librarian is there to help you select materials -- not baby-sit or clean up after your children. An unattended child can create hours of cleanup work in only a few minutes. Teach your children not to run or shout in the library.

If your child throws a tantrum, screams or continually whines, please take the child home. He or she probably needs a nap, a snack, or simply your undivided attention. While you can probably tune him out, other patrons cannot.

Do not use your cell phone in the library. No one wants to listen to you scream at your spouse or discuss personal finances. You never know who's listening, but you can be sure somebody is.

Do not bring food or drink to the library. A spilled drink can ruin books in an instant. Even if the book dries out, it will develop mold, which spreads to other books.

Return materials on time. Most libraries have limited budgets and limited staff to serve a large population. Don't waste our resources by failing to return materials when due. Don't claim you have returned a book when it's actually in your bedroom, child's room, gym locker, office or the back seat of your car. Librarians get no pleasure from collecting fines for overdue materials. Calling to remind you that things are overdue wastes limited staff time. It also wastes time and money to replace lost books, order the replacement (if there's money in the budget), and process it to be put back in circulation.

We are happy to help with your reference questions. But please remember we're not magicians. If you have a deadline, plan ahead. While we can perform miracles, they take a little time to accomplish, and there are other patrons to be served.

If you want to view pornography, buy a home computer. While we support free speech, our facility needs to be child-friendly. No one -- not children, other patrons or staff -- wants to see your "private life."

Talk to us in complete sentences. We are not mind readers. When you silently thrust a library card at us, we don't know what you want unless you tell us.

Please remember this is a library, not an office service. We are happy to help you find resources, but don't ask us to do your homework, write your paper, edit your letter or do your taxes.
And by the way, a simple "Thank you" makes our day.

I know this letter is too long to print, Abby, but thank you for letting me get this off my chest. I feel better. -- MARIAN THE LIBRARIAN IN KANSAS

DEAR MARIAN: You're welcome. I'm printing your letter in full because it has merit, and also because I suspect most of the offenders do not know any better.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Agatha Award winners

Here are the winners of the Agatha awards. I did better here. I read Dating Dead Men and Chasing Vermeer. And, I know Elaine Viets!

Malice Domestic Award for LIfetime Achievement
H. R. F. Keating

Poirot Award
Angela Lansbury

Best Novel
Birds of a Feather, by Jacqueline Winspear (Soho Press)

Best First Novel
Dating Dead Men, by Harley Jane Kozak (Doubleday)

Best Nonfiction
Private Eye-Lashes: Radio's Lady Detectives, by Jack French (Bear Manor Media)

Best Short Story
"Wedding Knife" by Elaine Viets (from Chesapeake Crimes; Coordinating Editor: Donna Andrews; Quiet Storm Publishing)

Best Children's/Young Adult Novel
Chasing Vermeer, by Blue Balliett (Scholastic Press)

Sunday, May 01, 2005

More Book Lust opinion

Adrienne asked how I liked More Book Lust by Nancy Pearl. Loved it! I've heard Nancy Pearl speak twice in the last six months and she's unbelievable. So are her books. There are plenty of books in More Book Lust that I don't want to read, but a number of books and categories that sound fascinating. I'm so impressed with someone who can read that many books, and has the information about them at their fingertips. The only other person I ever met that was that good was Mary Kay Biagini, my Book Selection prof in undergrad. Years later I heard her speak at the Ohio Library Conference, and she still impressed me with her knowledge of popular literature. So, Adrienne, if you're looking for another book that will provide you with years of reading suggestions, More Book Lust is it.