Reader's Exchange

October 2013 - Posts

Second looks encouraged

"You were right!"  I told my husband Monday evening.  "You're not the only person in the world who thinks Buckaroo Bonzai is a great movie.  I met the other guy today."

That would be Ernest Cline, author of the acclaimed Ready Player One, October's discussion choice for the Round Rock New Neighbors (Barnes and Noble) book group.  Cline's ebullient commentary about his genre-bending novel, screenwriting, the cult film Fanboys (which he authored), publisher bidding wars, 80's pop culture, and the writing life in general kept attendees vastly entertained.  Cline's appearance would have earned raves even had he not brought his DeLorean for attendees to explore and photograph themselves with--but he DID. 

My enjoyment of this phenomenal author visit wavered just momentarily.  Claudia, who nominated Ready Player One in the first place, mentioned that Wil Wheaton read the audiobook--which, I realized to my horror, I’d overlooked when selecting titles for the library (we have the print version, of course).  Thanks to second chances and product inventory, both CD and Playaway versions are now on our October order lists.  (Mr. Cline will also appear at the library’s International Games Day festivities.)

Halloween Spider CookiesAlso worthy of a re-think: Just A Pinch, an online recipe trove forwarded by City Communications Director Will Hampton.  It seemed a nice enough recipe finder at first; then I tried several searches to appreciate its useful social networking functions as well (over 3.6 million site visits per month, more than 250,000 entries).  The chicken recipe that Will found there and home-tested is one that my own family would love.  I even found the exact brownie recipe -- Speedy Brownies -- that I swear by.  It produces perfect texture every time and invites all manner of experimentation with toppings (try Andes Mint chips).  The startling but endearing Halloween Spider Cookies were also "pinched" from Just A Pinch. 

Which reminds me (you'll see why) of this overlooked and under-appreciated endeavor: Friends of the Round Rock Public Library.  If you read that FOL is  “an independent non-profit 501 (c) (3) corporation that supports the city-funded library”, you’ll be administratively enlightened without any sense of the fun and energy embodied by this crew. 

You’ve likely enjoyed some FOL-funded features at the library: teen room shelving, the eye-catching Children’s Desk, traveling exhibits, special adult programs, summer reading program prizes, etc.  Customers brag about the fabulous bargains they discover on second floor at the Book Nook—organized, re-stocked, and administered by FOL.  Recycling at its best, Book Nook enables volumes to find new homes while generating profits to spend enhancing library users’ experiences.

We staffers love encountering Friends as they sort, stock, sell, strategize, and generally do amazing work.  Precisely the kind of folks you’d want to hang out with, they are seeking talents you may possess—including but not limited to technical expertise for the website and assistance with Mystery night. Their special membership meeting, featuring Paige Morgan of Paige’s Bakehouse in Round Rock (she’ll demonstrate how to make and decorate holiday cake pops!) is coming up on November 12 at 7 p.m.

Come take a look (or two).
Haunting, but not like Halloween

No disrespect implied, but I've left witches and pumpkins behind, forging ahead to Thanksgiving mode this week.  It's all due to Daniel Woodrell.

The Maid's Version, his brief but masterfully done novel, was on my Don't Return Home Without It list at Book Expo last spring.  Alas, I came up empty-handed on that score--lots of Woodrell fans (the film Winter's Bone, with Jennifer Lawrence, was based on a Woodrell tale) at BEA.

But, thanks to a just-arrived review copy of the audio, I spent Saturday afternoon under the spell of Woodrell's memorable, tragic story: 42 citizens of a small town--including its most promising young folk--perish in a dreadful dance hall fire and explosion in 1929.  Woodrell based his fictional rendition on an actual incident that occurred in 1928, resulting in approximately 30 deaths.

Four hours' worth of small-town intrigue (nice rural accents by the narrator, too) elapsed in a blur.  I'm still thinking about that story with appreciation, melancholy scenarios and gory details included--and I find TV crime shows too disheartening to watch.

It's not just English-major respect for fine literary craftsmanship.  It's the season.  Along with the more obvious bounty of brisk air, family gatherings, and turning leaves, autumn carries an elegiac, somber sense of cyclical balance that humans probably require in regular doses, like vitamins.  

Tragic episodes, like autumn, remind us what is important and what we're made of.

A survey of Book Movement ("The Insider's Guide to What Book Clubs are Reading Right Now") lists five great examples in its current Top 100--historical fiction and nonfiction--attesting to popularity of devastating themes:  Allan Brennert's Molokai (leper colony); Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City (serial killings during Chicago World's Fair); debut author Hannah Kent's Burial Rites (accused murderer in Iceland); Jung Chang's Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China (political regimes); Geraldine Brook's Year of Wonders (plague in 1666).

I can vouch for all five.  But this selection was new to me: The Lives They Left Behind:  Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic.  The title says it all.  It's on order for the library.

Vintage crossing signTragic stories aren't merely sad; literary definitions of "tragedy" include an element of human failing--moral weakness; character flaw; being overwhelmed by circumstance and demonstrating uncharacteristically poor judgment.  Tragedies aren't so much rooted in evil as in humanity.  

Consider these riveting real-life accounts from Round Rock Public Library's nonfiction shelves:  Curse of the Narrows by Laura M. MacDonald (1917 Halifax explosion/tsunami/blizzard); City on Fire by Bill Minutaglio (1947 Texas City explosion);  Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 by Stephen Puleo; Gone at 3:17... by David M. Brown (New London, Texas, school explosion); Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson (Galveston hurricane); The Immortal Ten: The Definitive Account of the 1927 Tragedy... by Todd Copeland (train-bus collision in Round Rock). 

All demonstrate that catastrophe elicits bravery, selflessness, and concrete measures to prevent similar incidents in the future.   Amazing events, unforgettable lessons.