One book, many conversations

Today I participated in a nation-wide conversation about George Orwell’s 1984. This week participants from around the country are gathering to discuss this classic book. This is part of “One book, Many Conversations (manyconversations.org), held October 9-15, 2017. The one I attended was at the Maine Charitable Mechanics Association (on Congress Street in Portland, Maine). Other locations in Portland include The Maine Women Writers Collection (University of New England) and Maine College of Art Library. Can’t make it to a live discussion group? You can participate online!

According to the website:

Together we will delve into 1984, a book that raises questions that are at the core of living in a democracy, including the nature of citizenship, the sources of power, and what it takes to be a leader, to be courageous and to love another human being. These themes are broad, common to the human experience, and cross all partisan boundaries. 

Books and war

I’ve been immersed in World War One pamphlets that arrived here at the Maine Historical Society (my day job) about 100 years ago. We finally decided to catalog them, so this is my summer project. Amidst the pamphlets are letters from the American Library Association’s War Service Committee to librarians, asking for men to go into librarianship, as well as asking for book donations.

According to Wikipedia, The Library War Service was established by the American Library Association in 1917 to provide library services to American soldiers training in camps and serving overseas in World War I. Between 1917 and 1920, the ALA raised $5 million from public donations, erected 36 camp libraries, distributed 7 to 10 million books and magazines, and provided library collections to more than 500 locations, including military hospitals.

I find this all so fascinating, about how books and libraries were necessary during war time. So when I found the book “When books went to war: the stories that helped us win World War II” by Molly Guptill Manning at the Maine Charitable Mechanics Association, I checked it out.

Inside this book, I found wonderful tales of how books indeed were used in fighting the war, mostly in providing a book for every soldier, to help improve morale as they fought a war in the most dismal and horrendous of situations. Some of the book movement was a backlash to the book burning going on in Germany, in an effort to control what people were reading. But there is also interesting information about publishing of paperbacks for soldiers, that were lightweight to carry as they traveled into war torn areas. Anyone who believes in the power of bibliotherapy will find this a thrilling read.

On a different but related note, there are, of course, wonderful novels that take place during war-time. Two of note that relate to World War One are “The summer before the war” by Helen Simonson, and “A star for Mrs. Blake” by April Smith. I’m reading “The summer before the war” right now – as the Belgian refugees are taken in by villagers in Rye, I think about the many pamphlets I’ve catalogued about the German invasion of Belgium, when over 200,000 refugees fled to Britain. This novel helps to bring that fact to life. “A star for Mrs. Blake” is about Cora Blake, of Maine, who makes a pilgrimage to France in the 1930s, with other Gold Star Mothers who lost their sons during World War I.

As we commemorate the 100th anniversary of America’s involvement in World War I let’s take the opportunity to recognize the role of books in wartime.

LICL Summer Book Group

Tonight we’re starting another summer book group at our island library, thanks to the generosity of Jean Murley, the daughter of Curt and Penny Murley, island residents. Jean is an Associate Professor of English at Queensborough Community College of the City University of New York. Last year she led a wonderful study of “Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption” by Jennifer Thompson Cannino, Ronald Cotton, and Erin Torneo.
Jean is back again to lead another book group – this time a novel: Mohsin Hamid’s “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia.”

We’re meeting the next three Tuesday evenings. I’m looking forward to it!

 

 

Australia in literature and film

Australian writers are really coming into the forefront of literature, at least in my reading. Two authors of books I wrote about previously for “The Library Suggests” are evidence of that: Liane Moriarty and M. L. Stedman (who also appears in previous blogs). I’m currently reading “The Forgotten Garden” by Kate Morton, another Australian writer, which takes place in both Australia and England. I loved “The Rosie Project” by Graeme Simsion, a whimsical and fun romp.

Other classic non-fiction works I’ve enjoyed throughout the years include “Tracks,” by Robyn Davidson, about her travels across Australia by camel (which also became a terrific movie). Jill Ker Conway’s books about growing up in the Australian outback are wonderful, especially “The Road from Coorain.” Jill later became the first female president of Smith College.

One of the first Australian books I read was the novel, “My Brilliant Career” written in 1901 by Miles Franklin (Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin). The heroine of the story is Sybylla Melvyn, is an imaginative, headstrong girl growing up in rural Australia in the 1890s.

And to deviate into film, we are enjoying the Dr. Blake mysteries on PBS. The series stars Craig McLachlan in the lead role of Doctor Lucien Blake, who returns home to Ballarat, northwest of Melbourne, in the late 1950s to take over his late father’s general medical practice after an absence of 30 years. And one of my all-time favorite movies is “The Man from Snowy River,” a 1982 Australian drama film based on the Banjo Paterson poem of the same name. I remember seeing it in the theater for the first time and being mesmerized by the scenery, music, and story (which includes a sweet love story).

Who are some of your favorite Australian writers? (Colleen McCullough anyone?)

 

Not Australia, but as close as I’ve gotten (Hawaii)

Which is better – the book or the movie?

Which is better – the book or the movie?  For me, it’s usually the book, but there are always exceptions.

This past month I checked out two DVDs from the Long Island Community Library based on some of my favorite books in recent years. One was “Wild” by and about Cheryl Strayed and her hike on the Pacific Crest Trail – this was a great book, but the movie was merely good. It’s difficult to get the interior voice into a story. It seemed to focus more on Cheryl’s backstory than on her transformative journey. The other movie, which I watched last night, was “Light between oceans” based on M. L. Stedman’s book about a family on a remote lighthouse off Australia. This was a lovely movie, which portrayed the drama with fine casting, and of course the beautiful scenery provided a great backdrop. Even though I knew what was going to happen, I dropped a few tears at the end.

 Another favorite book of mine that I read last year didn’t translate well into a movie, in my opinion: JoJo Moyes’ “Me before you.” I loved this book, especially the dialogue and inner voices. While it was a good story on film, it didn’t seem to be as entertaining as the book. But there again, I knew how it would end. The real test is what my husband thinks of a movie, as he hasn’t read the book and doesn’t know the story. It was fun to watch “Gone Girl” with him as I knew what was going to happen, having read the book by Gillian Flynn, and he didn’t read it. Often when I’m reading a book I think “hmmm… this would make a great movie” – and sometimes a movie is made from the book, and it delivers.

And then there are the times when I see the movie first and then read the book, such as “Gone with the Wind” – I read this book many years after I saw the movie. I loved the book, although I did picture Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh as Rhett and Scarlett as I read the book.

I didn’t care for “A man called Ove” by Frederik Backman, but maybe it will make for a better movie experience. The movie, as well as “Girl on the train” by Paula Hawkins, are available at LICL. Since I haven’t read “Girl on the train” yet, I think I will read it first, and then check out the movie. I’ll let you know what I think – about both!

July 7th: Regarding “Girl on the Train: I enjoyed the book, and the movie! I thought the movie did a good job of translating the book into a movie, although they changed the setting from the London suburbs to the New York City suburbs (but Emily Blunt got to keep her British accent)

 

You can buy the mug above at:

https://www.etsy.com/listing/204814503/funny-mug-coffee-cup-tea-cup-bookworm?ref=finds_l

 

In praise of Richard Blanco and inaugural poets

April is National Poetry Month so this year I would like to honor Richard Blanco, in a wave of nostalgia for inaugural poets, which the current administration chose to forgo. Blanco is the fifth poet to read at a United States presidential inauguration, having read for Barack Obama’s second inauguration. He is the first immigrant, the first Latino, the first openly gay person and the youngest person to be the U.S. inaugural poet. And he lives in Maine! I love his memoir: “For all of us, one today” which details the process of becoming the inaugural poet. “One today,” the poem read at the inauguration, is also a beautifully illustrated children’s book. And Blanco’s poetry books are full of treasures.

The Long Island Community Library has several of Richard Blanco’s  books – I would encourage you to check out a few of them this month, and find yourself transported.

 

 

 

San Juan Happy Tummies Library Trip

So, here’s a good cause – we are so blessed on Long Island to have a beautiful library – doesn’t everyone deserve a library in their neighborhood? Julie Williams, the Librarian at Willard School in Sanford, Maine, is heading to Guatemala in June, and one of her goals is to build a library. Julie would love to have some support from folks in Maine for this wonderful project. Barbara and Dave Ramey are Long Islanders who spend the winters in Guatemala, and bring back great stories about their time there. Here is a great way for us to connect with Barbara and Dave, as well as support a good cause.

For more information go to Julie’s GoFundMe site:

https://www.gofundme.com/san-juan-happy-tummies-library-trip

 

Anne Kilham post cards: Maine’s snowy winters – new exhibit at LICL

Curated by Beth MarchakAnne Kilham winter card

 I began collecting Anne Kilham’s postcards in the early 1980s when we lived in Augusta. I loved how she used gorgeous saturated colors to portray classic coastal Maine scenes. As I acquired more postcards, I began to realize how skillful she was at capturing snow scenes in winter sunlight on those short, cold snowy winter days. After we moved to Arlington, VA, in 1983, I recall vacationing in Maine and loading up the car with sea shells, nautical treasures, fabric by the pound, thrift shop finds, and more Anne Kilham. As more and more shops added her calendars, post cards, gift cards, and note cards, I scooped up all her designs. I also started collecting her Advent calendars, because she portrayed Christmas in a festive, yet timeless way.

According to her website, “Anne Kilham has been living in and painting Rockport, Maine since 1970. The love affair is mutual. In 2008 the Town of Rockport honored Anne as its first artist laureate. A bronze plaque hanging in the Town Office lobby recognizes Anne for not only generously donating her time and talent to worthy town causes, but for ‘always showing Rockport in our best light.’

The uniqueness of Anne Kilham’s talent is in how she gives color to the stoic beauty of New England, each season its own palette and each set to its own melody of rhythm and soul. There is a quiet comfort in Anne’s images, whether they’re gardens of colorful flowers, meadows that melt into the ocean, or lighthouses surrounded by lupines, ledge and ocean. If there’s a chair in an Anne Kilham painting, you want to sit in it.

Although Anne’s original designs were handprinted blockprints, she works mostly in watercolors today. She usually begins with photographs, many photographs, that she lays out before making her first sketches. Once the sketch meets Anne’s expectation, she is ready to create an Anne Kilham original. Anne was born in Sante Fe, New Mexico, grew up in eastern Massachusetts and lived in Rhode Island before moving to Rockport. She comes from a family of creative people: artists, architects, engineers and inventors, and credits their willingness to offer criticism with the honing of her talent. Teachers at Colorado College and the Rhode Island School of Design contributed to her understanding of composition and color.

In 2011 the Town of Rockport honored Anne again, this time by dedicating its Town Report to her – a report whose cover has been graced with an Anne Kilham original painting since the early 1980’s. It’s safe to say there are few towns, if any, in New England with a report like Rockport’s!”

Beth Marchak , Long Island, Maine

For more information about Anne Kilham and her artwork, please see her website: http://www.penandincgifts.com/magento/anne-kilham/about-anne-kilham.htm

The exhibit, located in the small glass case in the Long Island Community Library, can be viewed during library hours

Favorite books of 2016: a top 10 list

Can you judge a book by its cover? In my case, yes! Many of these books that “sparked joy” for me in 2016 have wonderful covers and titles that drew me in – and delivered!

 

*Light between oceans : a novel / by M.L. Stedman. This author’s first novel, set on an island and coastal community in Western light-between-oceansAustralia, is so well written, with great characters and an interesting setting. I’m eager to see the movie!

 

*The little Paris bookshop : a novel / by Nina George. This is totally my kind of book – a pilgrimage of sorts for the characters in the book, with delicious descriptions of Paris and the French countryside. And a happy ending!litte-paris-bookshop

 

 

*Pastrix: the cranky, beautiful faith of a sinner and saint / by Nadia Bolz-Weber.  Nadia’s photo on the front, showing her tattoos, would hardly make you believe she was a Lutheran minister – I loved her story, a wonderful mix of sacred and profane.pastrix

 

*Mary Coin: a novel / by Marisa Silver. This novel, based on the famous photograph of a migrant mother taken by Dorothy Lange during the Depression, is elegant and beautifully written. And it will make you run to your computer to find out more about the real people and story (which to me is always the sign of a good book).mary-coin

 

*The ditchdigger’s daughters: a black family’s astonishing success story / by Yvonne Thornton. This is a wonderful story about an amazing family – the six daughters of Donald Thornton, who had dreams for his daughters to be the best they can be, including being a part of a music group, and going to college. Yvonne, the author, became an obstetrician, ditchdiggers-daughtersbeating many odds. This book is entertaining and inspirational.

 
*Coming home / by Rosamunde Pilcher. This classic was published over 20 years ago, but I reread it this past year and truly loved it all over again. Taking place in 1940s Cornwall, it follows the story of Judith, and the Carey-Lewis family who absorb her into their family. The very British details make for a perfect book to read with a cup of tea next to you.coming-home

 
*The Kashmir Shawl / Rosie Thomas. I read this book on our train ride to and from Washington D.C. I was enthralled with the setting of this book, as I’ve always wanted to go to kashmir-shawlKashmir, as well as the story and characters.

 

*Hotel on the corner of Bitter and Sweet : a novel /  by Jamie Ford. Mostly taking place in Seattle, this story of a Chinese boy and a Japanese girl, alternating during World War II and present times, is entertaining while telling a story of a period of time in history that will hopefully never be repeated, of hotel-on-the-corner-of-bitter-and-sweetputting American citizens into internment camps, just because of their ethnic background.

 

*Me before you / by JoJo Moyes. Initially I dismissed this book as “chick-lit” but I have to admit I really loved this book – so much that I would wake up in the middle of the night me-before-youthinking of the characters. While the characters didn’t do what I wanted them to do, I forgave them, and understood why they did what they did. The dialogue and interior lives portrayed in this book are excellent (and full of humor, despite the serious subject).

 

*Without a map: a memoir / by Meredith Hall. I remember when this book, by a Maine author, came out and received good reviews, so when I saw it at the Long Island Community Library book sale, I grabbed it. This is one of the best-written books I’ve read in a long time – I had a hard time putting it down. Meredith becomes pregnant at 16 during a time in that her family land hometown in New Hampshire shunned her – how far we’ve come, and how fortunate we are that Meredith wrote this book.without-a-map

 

 

Happy New Year from the Long Island Community Library – may 2017 bring you many wonderful books!

A small library on an island on the coast of Maine