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Waverley by Sir Walter Scott

by Heidi Lauritzen on September 18th, 2014
Waverley by Sir Walter Scott Cover Image

Until recently, the first thing that came to mind when Sir Walter Scott was mentioned is that he is one of the authors in my Game of Authors card deck.  When I heard about the exciting upcoming programs on Scott and his Waverley novels, though, I knew I had to read at least one of the novels, and I’m very glad I did.

Waverley; or, ‘Tis Sixty Years Since was published anonymously in 1814 to great acclaim; for the next thirteen years Scott continued publishing novels which were known as “by the author of Waverley” and he only officially claimed authorship of them in 1827.  Some of Scott’s better-known titles today are Rob Roy, Ivanhoe, and the long poem The Lady of the Lake.

Waverley often is called the first historical novel, and is about a young Englishman–Edward Waverley–who is posted to Scotland, and whose loyalties become torn between his English origins and the Scottish Highland clans in the Jacobite rising of 1745.  Scott is a terrific story-teller, bringing to life characters from all levels of 18th century society and painting beautiful pictures in my mind of the Highland lochs, stones and mountains.   I was prepared for the long, descriptive sentences but surprised—happily—by Scott’s dry sense of humor; I found myself smiling often as I read.  Reading Waverley now, as modern-day Scotland is voting on whether to separate from the United Kingdom, reinforces just how old and complex this quest for independence is.

Scott was a contemporary of Jane Austen and she had this to say about Scott and Waverley:  “Walter Scott has no business to write novels, especially good ones. – It is not fair. – He has Fame & Profit enough as a Poet, and should not be taking the bread out of other people’s mouths. – I do not like him, & do not mean to like Waverley if I can help it – but fear I must…”  I should have taken Austen’s word for it a long time ago.  And I will definitely read more of the Waverley novels.

Don’t miss learning more about Sir Walter Scott and the Waverley novels at ICPL’s program at noon on Friday, September 19th, and on October 5 at the Iowa City Book Festival.

Carcosa and The Yellow King

by Todd Brown on August 30th, 2014

King In Yellow

Fans of True Detective have heard of Carcosa and The Yellow King but might not know where they are originally from. I did not until Candice pointed it out to me.

Carcosa was first mentioned in the short story “An Inhabitant of Carcosa” by Ambrose Bierce in 1891. A few years later Robert W. Chambers used Carcosa, and a few other locations that Bierce mentions. It was in a collection of connected short gothic horror stories, “The King in Yellow”, published in 1895. Four of the stories are connected by references to a work of fiction also titled “The King in Yellow”. In the stories anyone who reads the this meta-book is purported to go completely insane.

The stories have a very gothic, Lovecraftian feel to them. They are tales of supernatural powers which are just out of sight and the madness that it brings. This little known book has influenced a lot of authors (as well as RPG game developers). Many authors have either mentioned Carcosa or expanded upon the Carcosa mythos. It has been used by H.P. Lovecraft and many writers of the Cthulhu  Mythos. Other writers like Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore and George R. R. Martin have locations named Carcosa in their works.

Here is a short excerpt from the book within the book, hopefully it will not drive you mad. You may recognize it from the journal of Dora Lange, one of the characters from True Detective.

“Along the shore the cloud waves break,
The twin suns sink behind the lake,
The shadows lengthen
In Carcosa.

Strange is the night where black stars rise,
And strange moons circle through the skies,
But stranger still is
Lost Carcosa.

Songs that the Hyades shall sing,
Where flap the tatters of the King,
Must die unheard in
Dim Carcosa.

Song of my soul, my voice is dead,
Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed
Shall dry and die in
Lost Carcosa.”

—”Cassilda’s Song” in The King in Yellow Act 1, Scene 2

 

Video Staff Picks: with Terri

by Bond Drager on August 29th, 2014

Terri’s back to talk about some great biographies from musicians and sports heroes.

Plant by Number: Use ICPL to plan your fall and spring gardens

by Melody Dworak on August 29th, 2014

Last week on Talk of Iowa’s Horticulture Day, Charity Nebbe interviewed Ryan Adams, turf grass specialist, on the best time to reseed a lawn. Lawn and garden care is something I need to learn a lot about, being a newbie homeowner. Our garden spaces are in much need of attention and care as well, but where to start? Lucky for me, I have been immersed in our nonfiction catalog and have been getting to know where to find the books that will help me make my lawn and garden beautiful again.

To inform my lawn and garden needs this fall and next spring, I will be using a “Plant by Number” system, inspired by the numbers in ICPL’s nonfiction collection. The Dewey Decimal numbers will guide me to the best information in the library’s collection for each part of my lawn and garden planning. Keep reading for the best numbers for perennials, trees, and specialty gardening topics.

Iowa Garden

Photo by Bobby Jett. Gardening by Beth Beasley, Maeve Clark, and friends. Photoshopping of the identification signs by Melody.

 

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Books on the brain

by Candice Smith on August 29th, 2014
Books on the brain Cover Image

Literally.

I was just perusing the most recent NYT Sunday Book Review, and I noticed that The Shortlist (brief reviews of current books on a specific topic) contains titles about ‘the mind.’ That is kind of exciting to me, because I am responsible for ordering books in the subject areas that would most likely contain books about the brain and thought processes. So, I went to order the books that had good reviews, and lo and behold, we already have them all! I must have been thinking ahead. Not only do we have them, but as I am writing this, four of the five books reviewed are on the shelf. Hot new books, ready for you, right now!

So, without further ado, I exhort you, thoughtful reader, to put on your thinking cap and come to the Library to check these books out–your mind will expand, you will build new neural pathways, and your brain will thank you!

Kidding Ourselves: The Hidden Power of Self-Deception by Joseph T. Hamilton

History Lessons: A Memoir of Madness, Memory, and the Brain by Clifton Crais

Struck By Genius: How a Brain Injury Made Me a Mathematical Marvel by Jason Padgett and Maureen Seaberg

Me, Myself, and Why: Searching for the Science of Self by Jennifer Ouellette

The Depths: The Evolutionary Origins of the Depression Epidemic by Jonathan Rottenberg

*edited to add that, by the time I published this, another book was checked out…so hurry!

Off the Leash: A Year at the Dog Park by Matthew Gilbert

by Maeve Clark on August 29th, 2014
Off the Leash: A Year at the Dog Park by Matthew Gilbert Cover Image

I loved “Off the Leash: A Year at the Dog Park” by Matthew Gilbert.  As a former dog park person and now a neighborhood dog walker, I found myself relating to so much of what Gilbert describes in his book. Everyone knows all of the dogs’ names and we refer to owners as Jack’s mom or Nellie’s mom.  Eventually you get to know the other dog park peoples’ names and then their stories.  Gilbert’s book is his story of his first year with Toby and how Toby helps him come out of his relatively introverted shell. Toby makes him  make friendships with folks he would meet no where else but at the dog park.  Gilbert, a television critic for The Boston Globe, wasn’t even a dog person until he and his husband, Tom,  decided to get an absolutely gorgeous yellow Labrador puppy.  Gilbert worked at home and soon learned that a puppy needed exercise, a lot of exercise, so much exercise that walking on the sidewalks just wasn’t enough for a very energetic puppy.

Gilbert, (actually Toby), finds Armory Park and then the dogs and their human companions at the park.  At first he just lets Toby play and doesn’t interact with the others. But as anyone who goes to a dog park knows that if you come come to a park with a puppy others will be drawn to you like a magnet and want to talk.  And talk leads to learning everyone’s names and eventually their stories.  Gilbert aptly describes the dog park denizens, including an older gentleman, Saul,  who doesn’t have a dog anymore but loves dogs and tries so hard to connect with the dogs and their owners. One of the most poignant parts of “Off the Leash” is when Saul no longer comes to the park. Saul was in the early states of Alzheimer’s and had a minor car accident and had to move in with his brother. The dog park people track down Saul’s brother and find out that he needs more care than his brother can give and that he is moved to a retirement home.  There are other stories that tug at the heart. Stories of when a dog dies.  The dog park family rallies around the companion and brings food and tells stories and witnesses with the bereaved about the loss.

At other times “Off the Leash” is laugh out loud funny; dog people have stories to tell and if you are at a park, you have time to hear their stories.  You also learn who follows the rules, and who doesn’t, who joins in and who doesn’t, and how the dog park people use their dogs to express feelings they would never normally share with Nellie benchanyone else. Gilbert calls this sharing dog ventriloquism.

If  you have a dog or had a dog or want a dog, you will enjoy “Off the Leash”.  Your dog might too, Nellie did, I read numerous passages to her.  She did not pass judgment, she is a dog, I did, I am am a dog park person.

August 26 National Dog Day

by Beth Fisher on August 28th, 2014

August 26th is National Dog Day, and to celebrate we have two new displays on the 2nd floor.  There is a photo display of ICPL Staff Dogs and book display of with all kinds of dog books:

dog history  dog ownershipBooks about the history of domesticated dogs and owning ( or being owned by) dogs.

 

 

 

dog new dog adoption   Books about bringing a new dog into your family.

 

 

 

 

 

breeds2  breedsBooks about specific breeds of dogs.

 

 

 

 

dog parks dogs picture books  And books about fun things to do with your dog – from Dog Parks to books about photographing your dog.

China Dolls by Lisa See

by Kara Logsden on August 20th, 2014
China Dolls by Lisa See Cover Image

Lisa See’s new novel, China Dolls, brings to life an element of the 1930′s and 1940′s entertainment world I was not aware of, the Chop-Suey Circuit.  Three unlikely Asian friends, Ruby, Helen & Grace, gravitate to the newly introduced Chinese revues in San Francisco for different reasons.  Although they are from diverse backgrounds, they form a strong bond and the book follows their lives through happiness and heartache.  Woven with a backdrop of the attack on Pearl Harbor, World War II and happier times in the 1940′s, the story brings alive not only the glitz and glamor of the stage, but the personal coming-of-age stories of three women whose lives are, for better or worse, intertwined.

Lisa See is a remarkable novelist and I thoroughly enjoyed her other books including Shanghai Girls and Dreams of Joy.  I listened to the book and Jodi Long’s narration is excellent. ~~Enjoy~~

One Community One Book 2014: The Distance Between Us

by Beth Fisher on August 19th, 2014
One Community One Book 2014:  The Distance Between Us Cover Image

The One Community One Book* selection for 2014 is  The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande.

Born in a small town in Guerrero, Mexico, Reyna Grande Rodriquez was two years old when her father left for the U.S. to find work.   Her mother followed him north two years later, leaving Reyna (4)  her older brother Carlos (7), and her older sister Mago (11) in the care of their paternal grandmother, Abuela Evila (her true name).  Already caring for one grandchild who’s mother had left for America,  Abuela Evila took in Reyna and her siblings out of a sense of duty, but the mistreatment she heaped on them was kept secret from her son.   All the money he sent back for their care was used to buy treats for herself and her other granddaughter, while Reyna, Carlos and Mago suffered severe neglect.  Mago tries to care for her brother and sister the best she can.

Four years later, Reyna’s mother Juana returns with a baby daughter, claiming her husband has abused her and left her for another woman.  She brings Reyna, Carlos, and Mago  to live with her at their maternal grandmother’s, but Juana was not the same caring mother who left years before.  Soon Juana moved out, leaving the children with Abuelita Chinta, a kind and caring woman who, though living in extreme poverty, loved her grandchildren dearly.

In 1985, when Reyna was nine years old, her father returned to Mexico with a new wife.  He borrowed money to pay a Coyote to help him bring his children back across the border.  On their third try they were successful, and Reyna, Carlos and Mago begin life as undocumented immigrants in Los Angeles.

Filled with hope, Reyna soon realizes that life as an immigrant will be very hard.  Her father isn’t the man she dreamed about for all those years in Mexico.  His dreams for his children were what got them across the border, but his own failure to assimilate into an English speaking world and his alcoholic rage slowly undermine all his hard work and good intentions.  Reyna finds solace from a violent home life at school and, with the help of one special teacher, through the Latina voices she beings to read.  She turns to writing as a way to make sense of her own life.  Her father is eventually able to get himself and his children green cards, and then citizenship.  They graduate from High School, and Reyna goes on becomes the first member of her family to graduate from college with degrees in creative writing, film and video from UC Santa Cruz.  She earned an MFA in creative writing at Antioch University.   The Distance Between Us  is her third book.

 

*The One Community One Book project, coordinated by the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights.  The goal of the project is to encourage people in our community to read and discuss the selected book in order to develop a greater community awareness of human rights issues locally, nationally and internationally.  For more information go to the One Community One Book Website here.

ICPL will be hosting a Book Discussion  Saturday September 20th at 10:30am in Meeting Room E.  All are welcome.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

by Anne Mangano on August 16th, 2014
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent Cover Image

Agnes Magnusdottir and Fridrik Sigurdsson were the last people executed in Iceland. It was January 12, 1830. They were both convicted of murdering Natan Ketilsson, a noted herbalist, healer, and farmer, stabbing him to death and setting his house on fire. Agnes worked as a servant to Natan, while Fredrik was the son of a neighboring farmer. The story of this murder, and its resulting execution, continues to capture the imagination of Icelanders. Natan’s workshop and the site of the execution are landmarks. It is the subject of many books and films, all offering different interpretations of both the events and persons involved. The narratives span from Natan being an overbearing master to Agnes as a woman scorned. But, the first I ever heard of these individuals is through Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites.

In Burial Rites, Kent offers her interpretation of Agnes’ final months. Agnes awaits her execution housed with the family of District Officer Jon Jonsson, which understandably causes friction in the household. Jonsson, his wife, and daughters are unhappy about living with a murderess. Agnes, coming to terms with her fate, must navigate all the pitfalls of living in a strange household with people who don’t want you there. In addition, Agnes is visited regularly by Assistant Reverend Toti, who is charged with providing religious counsel and spiritual consolation. And she isn’t exactly receptive. But then Agnes begins to tell the story of her life to Toti, the Jonsson family listening due to the close quarters of the badstofa, and things begin to change.

What I appreciate about the novel is that the murder isn’t the center of the narrative. Rather, Kent writes well about the building of a relationship and the development of trust and understanding between people who already have their minds made up about each other. This growth is stunted by the impending execution, which hangs over the situation like a sword of Damocles. Indeed, an axe is being fashioned. I also enjoyed how Kent used government documents and letters from officials on how to deal with the prisoners and the execution into the narrative. It’s a bleak novel—but it really can’t be anything else.

 




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