Category Archives: Films

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)

 

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Monroeville: the literary capital of Alabama and home to Nelle Harper Lee

By Lorinda VallsLorinda 4

It was a beautiful sunny Saturday driving thru Alabama, passing the cotton fields with their fluffy white flowers; much different from the snow I had left behind on Long Island, Maine. Our destination was Monroeville, Alabama, “The literary capital of Alabama” – proud to call itself that because of well-known , respected and all around good citizen Nelle Harper Lee, known for writing To Kill a Mockingbird and most recently Go Set a Watchman . She enjoyed her town, close friends family, community events, writing and golfing; what she didn’t like was all the Media, reporters, and questions that come from writing a best selling and controversial, to some, book. Her book was loosely based about Monroeville growing up with her brother and close friend Truman Capote and her visits to the Monroe County Court House to sit in the balcony at the courthouse and watch her father practice law. The themes of the book cover racial equality , rape, and childhood innocence.

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Nelle Harper Lee died at the age of 89 on the Friday that we were in Alabama. We were saddened by the news. It was only on our drive that we heard on the radio that she was to be buried Saturday in a private funeral ceremony. We wondered if the museum would be opened but we continued on our journey. While parking the car at the Monroe County Courthouse and Museum I noticed black bows on the Courthouse doors, flowers on the steps, and a few people dressed in black and, wouldn’t you know it, a reporter. Whatever was said between those in black and the reporter, it was quick and off she went. Probably “No Comment. ” I think Harper Lee would approve. We were able to get into the museum and and courthouse and see 2 permanent exhibits: Harper Lee : In her Own Words, and Truman Capote : A Childhood in Monroeville. Harper Lee and Truman Capote lived next door to each other as children and shared a love for reading and writing stories about people in their town. Our tour continued with a visit to the Courtroom. It is the model for the courtroom scene from To Kill a Mockingbird – completely set up with Judge’s bench, attorney’s tables, chairs, jury box and the view from balcony which gives you a bird’s eye view of the court house. I felt that for a minute I was with Harper Lee watching court in session. Moments later I was on the floor of the courtroom walking around, and as I approached the witness stand and judges bench there were flowers, a picture of Harper Lee, and a frame with a quote from To Kill a Mockingbird where Atticus says to Jem “It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin. But you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what You rarely win- but sometimes you do.” MS. LEE WON!! “She died clean as the mountain air. ” At 1:30 that afternoon on a Saturday at the Methodist church in Monroeville, AL, Nelle Harper Lee was buried with family and a few friends present and a world full of people bidding her farewell.

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Bicycling in foreign films

What do many foreign films have in common? Main characters bicycling along scenic country roads!  In the Italian movie, “The Postman” (Il Postino), the postman delivers, on his bicycle, letters to Pablo Neruda. In “The Lunchbox,” the “dabbawala” delivers home cooked lunches to the city workers in Mumbai, India. In “Greenfingers,” the main character delivers flowers on his bicycle in a small English village.Bicycle in Catalina Island 3

Many foreign films take place in countries where the bicycle is used primarily as transportation, including Corsica, where in “Queen to Play,” Helene, a chambermaid, rides her bicycle to work along winding roads with the ocean as a backdrop. In “As it is in Heaven,” one of my favorite movies, Lena teaches Daniel to ride a bicycle, along Swedish country roads.

It’s no wonder that when I bicycle around the island after watching one of these wonderful movies, I feel like I’m still in a movie, a wonderful transition from movie world to home life.bicycle on Long Island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Long Island Community Library has a nice selection of foreign films in the collection, including some of the ones mentioned above.

Strong women, great memoirs

This past year I read four books written by strong women who have overcome some adversity, and then written about it, beautifully and eloquently.

The first was “Blood, bones, and butter: the inadvertent education of a reluctant chef” by Gabrielle Hamilton. Feisty and scrappy, Gabrielle survived an unconventional childhood to eventually open her own acclaimed restaurant in New York City: Prune. Her writing is amazing and provocative – and she really made me laugh.

Then there is “Wild: from lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed. Cheryl also had an unusual upbringing, in the rural northwest, led a life of sex and drugs in her early 20s, and to clean up her act embarked on the hike of a lifetime: a thousand mile journey from the California desert to the Oregon border. Her book is a page turner indeed.

Another beautiful blonde, Piper Kerman (who looks a lot like Gabrielle Hamilton), had a middle class upbringing, attended Ivy League Smith College, but then was seduced (literally) into the drug trade – 10 years after walking away from it she served a 13 month stint in a minimum security prison in Danbury, Connecticut. She writes about her experience in her book, “Orange is the new black : my year in a women’s prison,” in a winsome and articulate way, which makes you really have empathy not only for her, but for the amazing women incarcerated with her. Piper is using her experience there to help incarcerated women today, offering various sources of information at the back of her book. This book has been made into a series on Netflix.

Finally, there is the classic, “The Glass Castle: a memoir” by Jeannette Walls, which is the ultimate in a tale about overcoming poverty and being raised by mentally ill parents. One is amazed that Jeannette turned out as well as she did, and that she was able to write about it in such a humorous and memorable way. This book will soon be a movie, which will hopefully inspire everyone to read the book.Phoenix wall

All four of these books, which can be found at the Long Island Community Library, have similarities in the author, as well as being warm, humorous, entertaining, and above all, well-written.

A Garden of Books

Tammy and I are enjoying the cool basement of the library these days, sorting books for the upcoming book sale on Saturday, which we are calling “A Garden of Books.” It’s a flower theme – the kids will be making the signs for the categories at story time on Friday morning, thanks to Patty T. We’re looking forward to seeing the community join us in a book swap of sorts, as I imagine that many who dropped off books to donate will be buying some (I know I will!).Heather's garden

The biggest category seems to be mysteries/thrillers/suspense, for all you mystery lovers, followed by romance, and general fiction. There is also a great selection of classics and westerns. There are also many children’s books, including chapter books and picture books. In the non-fiction category we have biography, history and politics, crafts, home décor and gardening, pets/animals, maritime/fishing/boating, and reference. There is also a delightful section of Maine books. And of course lots of videos/DVDs and audiobooks, for your viewing and listening pleasure!

So, those of you on the island on Saturday, please come join us! There may be some special treats (besides books) to make it worth your while, in addition to supporting your island library. Look forward to seeing you there!

 

Peaks Island Branch of the Portland Public Library

First in a new series of blogs about our neighboring Casco Bay island libraries, we start with the Peaks Island Branch of the Portland Public Library. On the first Saturday in January I found myself on Peaks Island, and trotted over to visit my friend Priscilla at the island library. Despite the busy traffic in and out of the library, Priscilla, the branch director, and her assistant Rose Ann, took the time to talk libraries with me, mostly about outreach ventures, i.e., how to get folks into the library, especially in the winter and on evenings. Priscilla and Rose Ann were full of ideas, such as their upcoming Library Pajama Party (an evening of bedtime stories for kids 5-8), a book group where various member take turns hosting, and a Saturday evening film series. In the past they offered a monthly craft night, where various community members would offer to teach a craft.

Alas, it was too soon time to catch the ferry back to Portland, but not before I checked out a book! Having a Portland Public Library card allows me to borrow a book on Peaks Island and return it at the main branch. That was an unexpected bonus. So, with a copy of “Chopin’s Garden” by Peaks Island author Eleanor Lincoln Morse under my arm, I headed back to the ferry, with reading material for the ride back to Portland and the warmth in my heart of visiting another lovely island library in winter.

For more information on the Peaks Island Branch Library see: http://www.portlandlibrary.com/locations/peaks.htm

Winter reading on Long Island

Winter is here! Well, at least according to Casco Bay Lines. My heart always drops to see the cold blue color of the winter schedule, which runs from October through April. Yes, winter is 6 months long in Casco Bay! Well, us book lovers make the best of it and anticipate spending the dark evenings sitting by the fire, reading all those long tomes we put off during the other more inclement and lighter months, perhaps that Moby Dick or Gone with the Wind that we’ve been waiting for a “rainy day” to read (i.e., snow, sleet, hail, or whatever the gods bring us). And thanks to the longer check-out period that the Long Island Community Library is hoping to set into motion soon (from 2 weeks to 3 weeks), we will now have more time to read the wonderful selection of library books offered by our own island library. So, now that “winter” is here, it’s time to head to the library, and stock up on your favorite authors, as well as the wonderful array of films that are waiting to be viewed (including the recently viewed movies shown at our foreign film night). Enjoy!

Foreign film night: “Monsieur Lazhar”

FOREIGN FILM NIGHT

“Monsieur Lazhar”  (Canadian/French, 2011)

2012 Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film.   An Algerian immigrant becomes a substitute school teacher and changes the lives of the children he teaches after a tragedy.  (English Subtitles)

Wednesday, September 26, Library Learning Center, 7:30 p.m.

FREE (Wednesday night series of movies from around the world)

Foreign film night: “A Separation”

FOREIGN FILM NIGHT

“A Separation”

(From Iran, 2011)

2011 Academy Award and Golden Globe Winner for Best Foreign Language Film.

Set in contemporary Iran, a family struggles with the decision to improve the life of their daughter by leaving the country, or staying to care for a grandfather with Alzheimer’s.            (English Subtitles)

Wednesday, September 19, Library Learning Center, 7:30 p.m.

FREE   (Wednesday night series of movies from around the world)