Reader's Exchange

December 2009 - Posts

Welcome to Organizers Anonymous

Not everyone arranges their spices in alphabetical order, I'm told.  I do, but not owing to OCD or having too much time on my hands.  Quite the contrary.  When you're in the throes of cooking, knowing exactly where to reach for that ingredient saves both moments and frustration. 

Organizing is cheaper than therapy, too.  Unable to establish world peace or forecast the economy, I can at least gain mastery of small household domains.  Holiday decoration storage?  Suffice it to say that descriptive labeling and color coding are involved.  More than organizational tools, these devices are coping strategies to counter end-of-year anxiety.

Reading choices accomplish the same goal.  As 2010 approaches with employment insecurity and the inevitable Questions about Life, I'm armed with empowering selections that also happen to be compelling narratives.  The first two, Edward Rutherfurd's just-published New York: The Novel and Jung Chang's Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, encompass multiple generations, demonstrating the wisdom of the big picture and affording an immense panoramic view.

The third book features a different but equally comforting chronological scope:  Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

Bread clock

Friends, Romans, moviegoers...

Christian McKay as Orson Welles

It's not the ultimate movie--no car chases or dialogue about playing a song again or wearing badges (stinking or otherwise).  However, when I saw Me and Orson Welles this week, I thought it came close.  The film offers a stellar ensemble cast, evocative period (1937) sets and costumes, and a charming premise.  It's based on Robert Kaplow's novel of the same name (available from the library).  The story follows a week in the life of a teenager who chances upon Orson Welles' modern-dress staging of Julius Caesar just before its New York debut at the now-famous Mercury Theatre.

The screenplay parallels Welles, poised on the brink of acclaim, with Richard, simultaneously initiated into two new worlds--adulthood and the theatre milieu.   The coming-of-age theme extends to the stage production, enduring its own overwrought adolescence right up until the opening curtain.  By that point, I'd been privy to enough behind the scenes insights and intrigue to believe that I, like the actors, was absolutely dependent upon the play-going audience's response. 

I expect to enjoy post-movie possibilities, too:  for example, watching Christian McKay, who played Welles, accept his Oscar.  Real critics have also responded extravagantly to McKay's portrayal.  You can sample their comments on the film's Internet Movie Database page.

If you'd like to know more about the enigmatic Orson Welles, consider these offerings from the library shelves:  In My Father's Shadow: A Daughter Remembers Orson Wells by Chris Welles Feder, or actor Simon Callow's well-regarded biographical volumes:  Orson Welles: The Road to Xanadu and Orson Welles: Hello Americans.  You'll also find some of Welles' many films (acting and/or directing), including Citizen Kane, The Long Hot Summer, A Man for All Seasons, The Stranger, A Touch of Evil, and The Third Man in the library's DVD area.

The best cinema about the theatre world demonstrates that what happens on stage is nothing, entertainment-wise, compared to the goings-on backstage.   These are some favorites that you may want to try (or watch yet again):  My Favorite Year, Topsy-Turvy, Shakespeare in Love.

Somewhere under the radar

I shouldn't be telling you this.  Now there'll be more of you with whom to share.  But it's only fair to alert you that Booklist recently published its list of Top 10 First Novels: 2009

When rankings like this appear in the journals, I scurry to check our catalog, hoping that we purchased all of the titles.  We did.  Then, enlightened self-interest kicks in, and I briefly entertain the impulse to go online and place requests for all of them.  But I don't.  That would be wrong.  Instead, I'm tipping off those of you who haven't yet heard about these debut novels or who may have bypassed them on the New Fiction shelf because you didn't recognize the authors.

You'll find thematic variety in this select group--exotic locales, social issues, history, and more.  Add to that a guarantee of  excellence: the choices were determined by Brad Hooper, editor and top reviewer, who demonstrates both unerring taste and an engaging approach to fiction critique.  If book reviewers had groupies; I'd join his following.

I am already basking in the glow of unselfish information sharing.  When I get my hands on Grace Hammer (one request is OK) I will also unashamedly savor my role in supporting literary talent in the pre-prize-winning and pre-bestseller stages.  It's an experience that Booklist recommends.

Book lock

Visa, Discover, or library card?

Mall escalator

You may have stowed your shopping bags in the car before entering the library, but we know where you've been.  The signs are evident: posture wilted from hauling around your purchases, eyes glazed by an overabundance of merchandise.  And your countenance clearly registers second-guessing on some of those gift choices. 

The library could be the perfect venue in which to regain your equilibrium.  After the rush and dazzle of Retail Land, we represent relative calm.  If you re-think your selections afterward, the consequences don't involve credit adjustments.  We furnish options that are either just-right-sized or even limited, but for the best of reasons (the obvious one being that our stuff is free!).  You'll find thoughtfully focused displays throughout the library; these less-is-more offerings seem especially timely:

The "New Fiction" area upstairs:  If someone else snagged your preferred bestseller, use your RRPL card to place a hold on it (think of this as no-cost layaway).  Then, scan the shelf for something a little different to entertain you while you wait--perhaps a new author or a type of book you don't usually gravitate towards.  A peek at the shelf just now included

these finds: The Time it Snowed in Puerto Rico by Sarah McCoy, The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen, and Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood, among many others.

Abridged audiobooks:  A condensed format enables you to try a title you wouldn't otherwise have time for.  By listening to an abridgment of, say, Kathy Griffin's Official Book Club Selection, or Tony Dungy's Uncommon: Finding Your Own Path to Significance during your commute, you could garner some new insights for holiday party conversation.

Christmas Family Night:  Definitely one to a customer, this free annual holiday treat is yours to enjoy on Friday, December 11.  The library will present puppet shows, a craft "make it and take it" workshop, and more.  No cash, no credit card, no confusion!


'Twas the month before Christmas..

Thomas Nast Santa...and my brain's in a fog,

Just pondering topics

For the library blog.

Actually, a few tense moments spent wrestling a bulky wreath onto my banister last night reminded me how many opportunities we have to regard December as an ordeal.  Regardless of one's religious orientation, festivals and commemorations in the next few weeks occupy our attention.  Holiday tasks can provoke either delight or misery, and most of us have acquired traditions guaranteed to sustain us in the proper spirit.  Here are a few for starters; I hope you'll send in comments to pass along yours:

  • Parodies of "The Night Before Christmas" (original title, "A Visit from Saint Nicholas").  Has any other literary entity been re-worked or imitated as much?  As an English major, I love the adaptation that begins "'Twas the nocturnal segment of the diurnal period preceding the annual Yuletide celebration...", but you're certain to glimpse your own pick.  For "The Biker's Christmas", "A Mom's Christmas", "A NASCAR Christmas", "A Genealogists's Christmas", and many, many others, see's With Apologies to Clement C. Moore.
  •  Choosing a seasonal book to share with friends and loved ones.  Last year, we purchased copies of Lemony Snicket's The Lump of Coal for our book group.  It's like "Bullwinkle" cartoons--written for children but most appreciated by adults.  
  • Watching our family's designated version of A Christmas Carol.  At our house, only the George C. Scott edition will do.  What is your favorite?