Monday, January 26, 2015

And now a Limerick

The library shelf split and crumbled;
All over the floor the books tumbled.
Now to fix it, we'll look
For the carpentry books
That are somewhere around in the jumble.

For books about building bookshelves, see 684.16.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


Though it's on the shelf
A book can travel worldwide
It lives in our words

For origami
Try seven-three-six-point-nine
Don't bend the pages

If there's a spider
See five-nine-five-point-four-four
Big book to squash it

Friday, January 23, 2015

Watch an Award-Winning Film from Chile

The Chilean film To Kill a Man will be shown at the Main Library on Tuesday, January 27, at 7:00 pm. It was the winner of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival World Cinema Grand Jury award.

This 2014 release focuses on Jorge, a hard-working family man who can barely make ends meet. When Jorge is mugged by neighborhood delinquent Kalule, his son decides to confront Kalule, only to get shot himself in the process. Kalule is sentenced to a mere two years in prison. Upon release, he is intent on revenge and begins terrorizing Jorge's wife, son, and daughter. Jorge decides to take justice into his own hands and live with the emotional and psychological consequences.

The unrated film, which runs about 80 minutes in Spanish with English subtitles, is free and open to the public. It will be shown in the Catherine Drake Room, which is handicapped accessible from Church Street. Patrons are welcome to bring light  refreshments.

To Kill a Man is part of the Library's Film Movement series and will be available for checkout after the public screening.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

We Have 2014 Movies on DVD - Plus the Books They're Based On

Some movies seem to leave the theater so quickly. You make plans on Wednesday to see a film over the weekend, only to find it's gone. Fortunately, they seem to go to DVD just as fast.

The Library has many recent movies available on DVD, and if you'd rather read the book, we have those too. Here is a sampling:

The 2014 comedy-drama The Hundred-Foot Journey stars Helen Mirren. It's based on the novel by Richard C. Morais. The story's narrator Hassan Haji is a middle-aged chef whose family has settled in a French village after a life of violence and loss. They open an Indian restaurant called Mumbai Maison directly across the street from Madame Mallory's Michelin-starred establishment. The ensuing clash of cultures and cuisines begins to resolve when Hassan makes the "hundred foot journey" from the family restaurant to Madame Mallory's and enters the world of French cuisine. Book reviewers rave about the descriptions of the food.

Also available on DVD is This Is Where I Leave You, based on the novel by Jonathan Trooper. Book reviewers use words like "insightful' and "laugh out loud" funny" to describe this story of four adult siblings who return to their childhood home after their father dies and spend a week with their "oversharing" mother, exes, etc. The movie stars Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, and Jane Fonda.

Nick Hornby's 2005 novel A Long Way Down  is a dark comedy told from the points of view of four strangers who meet on a London rooftop, each intent on committing suicide. The movie stars Pierce Brosnan, Aaron Paul, and Toni Collette.

The Monuments Men focuses on the eleven months between D-Day and V-E Day as a platoon of men risks their lives to save the world's great art from the Nazis. The movie starring George Clooney and Matt Damon is based on Robert M. Edsel's 2009 book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History.

You'll also find several recent movies based on Young Adult books including The Giver, The Fault In Our Stars, Divergent, Maze Runner, and If I Stay.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

I have just been rereading, as is my custom every year on this holiday, the essay "Letter From a Birmingham Jail" by Martin Luther King, Jr. It is a wonderful essay, and a virtual textbook on constructing an argument and defending it with a combination of concrete examples and logical conclusions.

In this essay, Mr. King writes on the natural of laws, and how people can follow or not follow them: "Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest."

Much later in the essay, he adds: "It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handling the demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather 'nonviolently' in public. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia, but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: 'The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.'"

What I get out of these two passages is how easy, to the point of being a subconscious decision, it can be to do or say something that is technically "correct" but use it in a way that hurts a person rather than helps that person. In our meeting last Friday the 16th with Nancy Miller, we were shown again and again that library staff members must be able to communicate and empathize with each other, and with all who interact with us. We must use our knowledge to help the community, and never to limit it.

The quotation from T. S. Eliot is from Murder in the Cathedral, a play that was first performed in 1935.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

No Longer "NEW" (updated 1/6/15)

No Longer  "NEW"  (updated 1/6/15)

Have you ever wondered what happened to that book you couldn't get your hands on when it first came out?  Have you thought about adding your name to the request list only to find that you are the 20th person on the list?  and finally...  Have you ever decided to wait until a popular release was not in such high demand only to forget it ever existed?

Well the time has come....

We are providing you with a list of some of our most popular books that are,

no longer considered   "NEW"


no longer limited to a  14 day   borrowing period**

Enjoy browsing our list of  No Longer "NEW"  books and catch up on what you've missed.  Check back for monthly updates.

These books are now located in the regular fiction and non-fiction collection at the main branch.
**While the Palmer and South Side branches may also have these titles, they may still be restricted to a 14 day borrowing period.  Call reference at 610-258-2917 for further information.


Book Cover
Book Cover I Work at a Public Library: a collection of crazy stories...  
     by Gina Sheridan, 027.02 S552i
A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby's great betrayal  
     by Ben Macintyre,  327.12 M152s
Gotham Unbound: the ecological history of greater New York  
     by Theodore Steinberg,  508.74 S819g
Horse Vet: chronicles of a mobile veterinarian   
     by Courtney S. Diehl,  636.089 D559h
Just Paint It!   
     by Sam Piyasena,  751.4 P694j
Diary of a Mad Diva  
     by Joan Rivers,  792.7 R622d
                          Fodor's Essential Europe  
                             ed. Douglas Stallings, Steven Montero,  914.04F653f
Book CoverWhere are They Buried?: how did they die  
     by Tod Benoit,  920 B473w
Elephant Company: the inspiring story of an unlikely hero...   
     by Vicki Croke,  940.54 C943e
The Romanov Sisters: the lost lives of the daughters of ...  
     by Helen Rappaport,  947.08 R221r


Book CoverFiction

The Dead will Tell   by Linda Castillo 
Power Play  by Catherine Coulter
Book CoverTop Secret Twenty-One  by Janet Evanovich,                                                
The Matchmaker  by Elin Hilderbrand
Sight Unseen  by Iris Johansen
The City  by Dean Koontz
Invisible  by James Patterson and David Ellis
The Lost Island: a Gideon Crew novel  by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Cop Town  by Karin Slaughter
Book CoverA Perfect Life  by Danielle Steel
Nantucket Sisters  by Nancy Thayer
Murder in Murray Hill: a Gaslight Mystery  by Victoria Thompson      
Act of War: a thriller  by Brad Thor
The Beekeeper's Ball  by Susan Wiggs
Cut and Thrust  by Stuart Woods

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Book Review - Blackberry Wine

I recently finished reading the book Blackberry Wine, written by Joanne Harris. It is the first novel of hers I have read, though I have seen the movie Chocolat which is based on her novel of the same name.

The story is fun, comfortable, faintly fantastical. The main character is Jay Mackintosh, a washed-up English author who wrote a novel called Jackapple Joe many years ago and has not written a decent thing since. Living with his girlfriend Kerry, he one day sees an advertisement for a house in Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, a French village that Joanne Harris invented (so don't look for it on a map, you won't find it). Looking at this house brings back memories of Jay's childhood, which he partly spent at the farm of an old man named Joe Cox. Joe had once shown Jay a picture of this exact same French house and had told Jay that he planned to move to this house and begin a new garden there, since Joe's house was in danger of being bulldozed by heartless land developers.

Much of the story dwells on the summers Jay spent in Kirby Monckton, a Yorkshire town. These flashbacks are split between the lessons Joe gave Jay in gardening, and a series of skirmishes Jay has with the neighborhood kids who are mean nasty bullies and nothing else. The latter part did nothing for the novel except to demonstrate, painfully, how Jay came to learn that life is not fair. As for Joe's lessons in gardening, the scenes are touching but they did not influence Jay in any significant way except to make Jay fascinated with Joe as a person (his novel Jackapple Joe is loosely based on Joe Cox himself; as readers we never find out exactly how much Jay changed or hid). I was reminded of a remark Roger Ebert once made about the movie Dead Poets Society: that a great poetry teacher should inspire his students to love poetry, not to love the teacher.

But the novel's greatest flaw was that it took far too long to get anywhere. In the present, Jay moves to this house in Lansquenet and finds out that his neighbor is a reclusive, mysterious social outcast named Marise, and she has a daughter named Rosa. I knew right away that (a) Marise was an exception to the gossipy, shallow social atmosphere elsewhere in the village of Lansquenet, and (b) that Jay was going to fall in love with her. Yet it is only in the last quarter of the novel that we begin to find out who she really is, and that - gasp - she has a deep dark secret! This is suddenly revealed, and though her secret is as terrible and as clearly imagined as Rochester's in Jane Eyre, it has no serious consequence in the novel, because the novel ends precisely fourteen pages after she finishes telling Jay this secret. A plot twist is only as good as its effect upon the other elements of the novel. In Blackberry Wine, the revelation explains the oddities of Marise's behavior, but it does nothing to help Jay understand his own role in her life, and it brings up additional complications in the plot that are not resolved.

The five-act system in storytelling is in decline. Shakespeare perfected this system: introduction, complication, climax, resolution, outcome. First the main characters and their problems are introduced; they interact in a way that produces one or more larger problems; those problems reach a height and create a crisis that cannot be ignored or easily alleviated; then one or more characters resolves to face this crisis in a certain way; and we see the final consequences of that resolution, we see if the effort was successful or unsuccessful. Most stories today focus too much on introductions, take too long to demonstrate the complications, and then the climax occurs so late in the story that there is little or no time for a resolution. I know that every story does not have to follow this pattern, but I think this pattern is the best way for an author to realize his or her story fully.

So I guess my advice to Joanne Harris is that the climactic conversation between Jay and Marise should have happened halfway through the novel, not at the very end. Shakespeare usually made sure things really came to a boil in the third act. Romeo killing Tybalt, Hamlet giving his soliloquy and killing Polonius, Brutus and Cassius killing Caesar, Lear yelling at the storm, Macbeth killing his best friend and subsequently seeing his ghost walk through the dinner hall - all of these events happened in the third acts of their respective plays. In The Phantom of the Opera, it is halfway through the novel that Christine meets the phantom, Erik, and finds out how truly haunted and psychotic he is; this revelation influences the way she sees the phantom for the remainder of the novel, and it makes the phantom much more terrifying to us because we realize that, even when stripped of his cloak and his parlor tricks, he is truly a monster through and through (though, I thought, a sympathetic one).

Blackberry Wine is not a bad novel, but considering the simplicity of the story I thought it could have been structured according to Shakespeare's conventions and thereby made into something more than just the sum of its parts. In the end, it is a story about believing in yourself. Joe tells Jay, "You've got to create the right conditions for magic to work." Well, I wish the novel had made more of an effort to show that moral, rather than just tell it. Most of the novel is Jay bumbling around without a clue, listening to his strange hallucinations of a long-gone Joe, making advances toward Marise that are mostly ignored, working on a new book that we as readers never get to peruse, and reminiscing about a gypsy girl whom he met as a kid and who never gave him a chance to express his feelings for her. Jay is a very passive character, and I don't like passive characters. If you are going to give a character his own novel, he'd better be strong enough to do something that really strikes the reader.