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Author Archive for Anne Mangano

The Queen of Versailles

by Anne Mangano on February 5th, 2013
The Queen of Versailles Cover Image

At first the documentary The Queen of Versailles seems like an episode of the Real Housewives or Keeping Up with the Kardashians (or any reality show on cable television for that matter).  It follows the timeshare mogul David Siegel and his wife Jackie as they plan the building of their new Orlando home, Versailles.  At 90,000 square feet, their new house will be the largest and most expensive home in the United States. The name of their new estate exemplifies their lifestyle. They have gilded furniture.  They have tigers as pets. They have 17 bathrooms and complain how that isn’t enough.

However, the documentary began filming before 2008.  Siegel’s timeshare business, Westgate Resorts, immediately felt the impact of bad loans and loss of consumer confidence.  The documentary quickly switches its focus to the Siegels tightening their belts by Christmas shopping at Walmart, using an airline instead of a private jet, and trying to unload the half-finished 90,000 square feet mansion.

Poetic justice? If so, I’m not sure whose justice it is. Is it the Siegel’s for their outlandish, decadent lifestyle now faced with flying business class? Or, is it mine?  Because in some odd way, the director Lauren Greenfield was able to make me feel [sort of] sorry for the Siegels. David Siegel is an isolated and lonely man who confesses he cannot derive any happiness from his wealth. Not from his house.  Not from his wife. Not from his material possessions. And Jackie just wants to make her family happy. However, I’m able to immediately push any thoughts of pity aside when I remember they are building the largest house in America and naming it Versailles!  Seriously Siegels, you may wish to rethink the name.


Astray by Emma Donoghue

by Anne Mangano on December 6th, 2012
Astray by Emma Donoghue Cover Image

The characters in Emma Donoghue’s short story collection come from all walks of life: a German mercenary in revolutionary New Jersey trying his best to fit into his British regiment, a middle class British woman struggling to support her family, and a mother trying to find her daughter after a New York charity places her on an orphan train.

What brings these characters together is their search for a direction–whether a quest for a home, a family, a purpose, a fortune, a truth–hence the title, Astray.  However, aside from the lack of settlement, the characters are often faced with a moral dilemma and finding themselves on the wrong side of right. That German mercenary? His regiment is terrorizing women up and down the state of New Jersey. That mother who lost her daughter? She had given that daughter to an orphanage, which sent her to a family in Iowa (of course!) that doesn’t want to give her up.

Donoghue’s fictional wanderers are inspired by historical events, people, and places.  She wrote most of the stories after stumbling on interesting newspaper articles, biographies, or collections of letters. She cites these resources at the end in a brief description of the historical background of each story.  I found these explanations fascinating. What I loved about Astray, was Donoghue allowed me to do my own wandering, from page to page, visiting colonial New England, Victorian London, and the Yukon territory during the gold rushes.  Writing fiction, Donoghue states in the afterward, allows her to “live more than one life, walk more than one path.”  She adds “reading, of course, can do the same.”


The Great American Cookbook by Clementine Paddleford

by Anne Mangano on November 5th, 2012
The Great American Cookbook by Clementine Paddleford Cover Image

Clemetine Paddleford defined American regional cuisine. In the 1950′s, she traveled every inch of this country to describe what Americans were eating, often piloting her own propeller plane. Her writing regularly appeared in The New York Herald Tribune, This Week Magazine, and Gourmet; she was the most prominent food writer of her time. Last year, Paddleford’s How America Eats (1960) was republished as The Great American Cookbook with updated recipes to reflect 21st-century ingredients and cooking equipment. The book is a compilation of recipes and anecdotes from her travels and provides an interesting snapshot of mid-century regional cooking.

When I first leafed through the cookbook, the recipe for Grandmother Gilette’s Election Cake caught my attention. It is quintessentially a fruitcake, which may turn some people away. But I love the idea of election cake. According to Paddleford, in 18th and 19th century Connecticut, men would drive to town to vote and were welcomed home by a large dinner that ended with this cake. (There are differing histories of election cake, but we’ll just accept Paddleford’s for this post). Although the Connecticut men of ol’ probably lost a perfectly good day of work to harness the horse or walk for miles into town on terrible roads to vote (and only some of them had the privilege), today’s elections offer different trials. After all the endless news coverage, polling phone calls, and campaign commercials (and it’s been going on forever since we are the first caucus in the primary), Election Day is tomorrow and I’m celebrating with this cake.

Check out The Great American Cookbook and discover historic recipes from Virginia, Hawaii, and of course, Iowa.

All the Living by C. E. Morgan

by Anne Mangano on August 13th, 2012
All the Living by C. E. Morgan Cover Image

I like a good farm novel. The remote landscape, the impossible work, the fickle mercy of the elements, and the quiet, isolated existence are characteristics of place that lend themselves to great narratives. Characters grow, fail, escape or accept often because of these natural confines. It was on the farm that Cather and Steinbeck wrote their best work. And I should mention all those Southern writers, like Warren and Faulkner.

C. E. Morgan’s first novel, All the Living, takes advantage of this natural isolation. Aloma moves to rural Kentucky to live with her boyfriend Orren, who inherited the family tobacco farm. Orren only took over the farm after losing his mother and elder brother in a tragic automobile accident.  He is suffering from this loss and coping at an emotional distance. He is also the only one working the farm, relegating Aloma to the farm house, which is in need of repair. Aloma, a pianist, is unable to find solace in the family’s piano, which earns its place in the derelict house. She looks for another instrument at the church, befriending Bell, the preacher, and setting into motion a crisis for Aloma. Stay with the distant Orren? Accept the subtle advances of Bell? Can her talent at the piano fit into a future here?

A gifted prose writer, Morgan’s greatest strength is her sense of place. I enjoyed watching the author build a landscape on a page, making Kentucky as an important a character as Orren or Bell.  I look forward to more from C. E. Morgan.

Ocean Exploring

by Anne Mangano on July 19th, 2012
Ocean Exploring Cover Image

I don’t have to tell you it’s hot…and dry. Honestly, all I can think about is the water temperature off of the National Seashore in Cape Cod (in the sixties). But being landlocked in Iowa doesn’t mean you can’t turn your thoughts to the ocean in less torturous ways by checking out these new books.

Beyond the blue horizon: how the earliest mariners unlocked the secrets of the oceans by Brian Fagan

From the ancient Polynesians to the Vikings, Fagan goes beyond Columbus and Magellan to find the earliest explorers of the oceans and how their jump from the shore changed civilization.

Soundings: the story of the remarkable woman who mapped the ocean floor by Hali Felt.

Soundings explores how Marie Tharp drafted the first comprehensive map of the ocean floor by interpreting sonar pings that measured ocean depths in the 1950′s.  Her work provided huge insight into continental drift and plate tectonics.

In pursuit of giants: one man’s global search for the last of the great fish by Matt Rigney

On the darker side of the ocean, Rigney travels around the globe to explain why the giant fishes (bluefin tuna, marlin, and swordfish) are disappearing and what is being done to save them.

You can find these and other new nonfiction books at the top of the stairs on the second floor. To see what else is new in nonfiction, check out this week’s list.

And remember, oceans may contain water, but as the Mariner says, “Water, water every where, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.”

Read up on the Olympics

by Anne Mangano on June 25th, 2012
Read up on the Olympics Cover Image

Next month, athletes from around the globe will gather in London to compete in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.  Now’s the time to start reading up on the Olympics with a few new library books.

How to watch the Olympics: the essential guide to the rules, statistics, heroes, and zeroes of every sport by David Goldblatt and Johnny Action

Excited about the Olympics but looking for a good introduction? Goldblatt and Action have compiled a great guide to every sport in the games.  A four to five page summary is given to sports from badminton to equestrianism, including a short history, how scoring/judging works, and the athletes to watch.

Showdown at Shepherd’s Bush: the 1908 Olympic marathon and the three runners who launched a sporting craze by David Davis

Davis’s book provides an account of three runners (Johnny Hayes, Dorando Pietri, and Tom Longboat) and their participation in the marathon at the first Olympic games held in London (1908). Pietri, the lead runner collapsed and was assisted over the finish line, creating controversy and dismay the world over by his disqualification.

  Mathletics: a scientist explains 100 amazing things about the world of sports by John D. Barrow

Barrow does not exclusively discuss the Olympics in Mathletics, but he explains how math and physics play into different aspects of sports, including many Olympic events.  He provides brief explanations on the frictional forces at work in a high-diver’s foot or how soccer players can best float a free kick.

Find these and other new nonfiction books upstairs on the second floor.  For a complete list of what’s new in nonfiction at ICPL, check out this week’s list.

In the magazines…

by Anne Mangano on May 30th, 2012

Over the past few months, women’s issues have taken center stage in political debates on state house floors and in the media. What hasn’t really been addressed by politicians and pundits is the changing role of women in the family (although these changes may underlie some of the debates).  Women are playing a larger role in business, education, and household incomes. So, how did this “seismic economic, social and emotional change” occur? Here are a few articles straight from our stacks for some perspective:

1. Mundy, Liza. “Women, Money and Power. Time 179, no. 12 (March 26, 2012): 28. MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed April 18, 2012).

Liza Mundy explores how the increasing financial contributions of women have changed domestic roles, marriage rates, and relationships.  Food for thought: “Assuming present trends continue, by the next generation, more families will be supported by women than by men (30)”.

2. Gulli, Cathy. “The Richer Sex.” Maclean’s125, no. 9 (March 12, 2012): 48.  MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed April 18, 2012).

The changing role of women isn’t isolated to the US. In this Maclean’s article, Cathy Gulli focuses on how women’s earning power has changed their relationships with their partners.

3. Bolick, Kate. “ALL THE SINGLE LADIES.” Atlantic Monthly 308, no. 4 (November 2011): 116. MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed April 18, 2012).

If women are becoming more successful than men, Kate Bolick asks, “Why should women marry at all?”

4. Roiphe, Katie. “She works crazy hours. She takes care of the kids. She earns more money. She manages her team. At the end of the day, she wants to be… spanked ?.” Newsweek159, no. 17/18 (April 23, 2012): 24. MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed May 1, 2012).

Katie Roiphe explores why Fifty Shades of Grey provides the ultimate escapist read for working women. But should it?

Find these articles and more among our magazines.  You can also find them in EBSCOHost, our magazine database.


The Idea Factory

by Anne Mangano on April 25th, 2012
The Idea Factory Cover Image

The transistor. The communications satellite. The coaxial cable. The fiber optics cable.  The integrated circuit. The solar cell. The cell phone. The charge-coupled device. Stereo recording. High frequency radar. C programming language. C++.  UNIX.  Information theory. And of course, the Picturephone. These technological innovations and ideas (and much, much more) came out of one place: Bell Labs.

In The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation, Jon Gertner explores the people who made AT&T the most inventive company in the 20th Century. From Claude Shannon to Bill Shockley, Bell Labs was able to recruit the brightest young minds in physics, math, engineering, and chemistry to make the telephone system universal, but also better and cheaper. Gertner provides an accessible, well-paced history of Bell Labs.  However, he is also concerned with how innovation happens. What made Bell Labs so special? How was the research wing of ONE company able to transform our world so drastically?

After finishing The Idea Factory, I’m left with: “What would the world look like today without Bell Labs?”  I wonder if we would still answer the phone with “ahoy-hoy” and watch what we say because Mrs. McGregor from down the street is listening in.  More than that, would you be able to watch Game of Thrones or text your friend or read this review on your computer (let alone your phone or tablet)? Something to think about when you pick up The Idea Factory.

Shadow of the Titanic by Andrew Wilson

by Anne Mangano on April 3rd, 2012
Shadow of the Titanic by Andrew Wilson Cover Image

I admit it: I like celebrating anniversaries. Whether it’s for Dickens’ 200th birthday or the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, I mark the dates with a book or a documentary.  However, due to a certain film by a certain director, I wasn’t interested in the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic (April 15th). As far as I was concerned, the Titanic was at the bottom of the ocean.  End of story. After stumbling upon Andrew Wilson’s Shadow of the Titanic, I’ve changed my mind.

Rather than providing an account of the sinking of the Titanic or a history of its building and demise, Wilson focuses on the people who survived the disaster and how the event was a turning point in their lives.  Some, like Renee Harris, Madeleine Astor, and Marian Thayer, lost their husbands; J. Bruce Ismay and Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon lost their reputations. Silent film actress Dorothy Gibson survived the sinking, but had to relive the whole experience when she starred in Saved from the Titanic, a film made days after the disaster by Jules Brulatour, who also happened to be Gibson’s lover.  (That relationship didn’t last long.)  What is fascinating is how some used the experience to change their lives and work for something, while others found the Titanic a black mark that they couldn’t escape. Of course, all the stories are noticeably those of first-class women.

There are times when I wish Wilson held back.  He would often surmise what individuals were thinking or what their priorities were with little evidence, making harsh judgments on certain survivors.  However, it is an interesting and surprising approach to the Titanic‘s history.

You can mark the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic by picking up Shadow of the Titanic (or the thirty other books we own).  The library is also showing A Night to Remember (1958) on Thursday, April 12th at 7 pm in Meeting Room A.

If a Tree Falls

by Anne Mangano on March 20th, 2012
If a Tree Falls Cover Image

In 2005, Daniel McGowen, to the shock of his family and friends, was arrested by the FBI for his involvement in a domestic terrorist organization called the Earth Liberation Front (or ELF).  One of his coworkers was so flabbergasted by his arrest, that her husband, Marshall Curry (a director known for the acclaimed documentaries Street Fight and Racing Dreams), made If a Tree Falls.  The documentary follows the rise and activities of ELF in the United States and why someone like McGowen, a shy, quiet working-class kid from Brooklyn, was drawn to the group.

Although the development of ELF alone makes the film worth watching, If a Tree Falls also raises questions on the meaning of “terrorist” in a post-9-11 era. McGowen and other ELF members have committed acts of terrorism under the legal definition.  However, the term is understood differently in the public sphere. Should McGowen be labeled a terrorist? It is certainly something you will think about days after watching the film.  If a Tree Falls was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary.