Saturday, March 2, 2013

Let Them Eat Cake!






I have always appreciated (and admired) Anna Quindlen's writing.  She spoke in Westport years ago and one of my friends was lucky to be able to go.  She reported back to me on how "normal" Anna Quindlen was; that she is just living her life like the rest of us, but with the gift of perspective and an ability to comment on that life.

If you asked people of my generation to name the one thing that had most changed their life, I imagine most people would respond "technology". This book reminded me of what I forget so often: how much the women's movement affected each and every one of us. Whether you are a daughter, a son, a husband, father, wife, or mother, your daily expectations are different from what they would have been absent the women's movement. Without email, we would still have mail. Without the very laptop I am typing on we would still have paper and pen. But without the women's movement, the world would be a very different place. When my children were little, their doctor was a woman, their dentist was a woman, their teachers were women -- I used to wonder if they knew men could do those things as well. So I understood when Maria asked her mother if men were allowed to be Secretary of State. I owe a debt to all the women who came before me. Perhaps the greatest indication of this is that my daughter does not even know that she does too.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

SOCKS, SOCKS AND MORE SOCKS



For years, I have wanted to move beyond knitting rectangles.  Yes, you know who you are out there.  We knitters of scarves and blankets who fear the word gauge.  Well, I am lucky to work with the nicest people in the world.  They encourage me to try new things every day.

My officemate (Westport's real knitting librarian, but she doesn't blog) has been knitting socks for years.  She even took 2 different sets of classes at our local knitting store.  But the class schedule didn't work for me, so she said she would teach me.  She gave me this pattern for a basic sock, and started a pair herself.  As we got to each new step, she would demonstrate it for me, and we knitted our socks side by side.  For the second sock, I did it on my own, but made sure she was nearby when I was doing the heel gusset.

The yarn does all the work here.  The pink/red ones are Regia and the blue/gray are Berroco.  I am on my third pair now (Stroll) and I have bought enough sock yarn from WEBS and KnitPicks to last for many years.  I even found a pattern in a new library book for a Sock Yarn blanket to use up all the leftover bits.  It will be a long time before I have enough for that.  Hmmm, perhaps a scarf instead?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

HEARTBROKEN

As I watch the news, day after day, the inevitable happens.  On Friday, it was news all day -- no commercials.  By Saturday, the commercials were back.  And today, Wednesday, as we continue to claim we will never forget, the top story was no longer Sandy Hook Elementary School, but the winter storm out west.

I have been struggling with this - how will we remember these people?  Yes, they will never be forgotten by their families, friends, classmates; but what about the rest of us?  One of the ways time heals all wounds is by letting us forget.  In The Fault in our Stars by John Green, one of the characters, Augustus Waters, talks about how there are 7 billion living people and 98 billion dead people.  So if we could each remember 14 people, theoretically the living could remember all of the dead.  He continues that the problem is that we are "disorganized mourners.  So a lot of people end up remembering Shakespeare, but no one ends up remembering the person he wrote Sonnet Fifty-five about."

I know I will have trouble remembering 26 names 10 years from now.  But one name?  Surely I can remember that.  I can remember one person every day.  But how to go from disorganized to organized mourners?  Then it came to me.  There were 26 victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School and there are 26 letters in the alphabet.  If we go in alphabetical order (I am a librarian, after all) by our last names, no one will be forgotten.

So here is your assignment -- remember one name, and pass this list on so that everyone will be remembered.  Of course, you can remember more than just one name.  If you are so inclined I would suggest remembering those people "assigned" to last names that begin with Q, X, Y or Z.  [This list is taken from the Sunday New York Times.}

  • A - Charlotte Bacon, 6
  • B - Daniel Barden, 6
  • C - Rachel Davino, 29
  • D - Olivia Engel, 6
  • E - Josephine Gay, 7
  • F - Ana Marquez-Greene, 6
  • G - Dawn Hochsprung, 47
  • H - Dylan Hockley, 6
  • I - Madeleine Hsu, 6
  • J - Catherine Hubbard, 6
  • K - Chase Kowalski, 7
  • L - Jesse Lewis, 6
  • M - James Mattioli, 6
  • N - Grace McDonnell, 7
  • O - Anne Marie Murphy, 52
  • P - Emilie Parker, 6
  • Q - Jack Pinto, 6
  • R - Noah Pozner, 6
  • S - Caroline Previdi, 6
  • T - Jessica Rekos, 6
  • U - Avielle Richman, 6
  • V - Lauren Rousseau, 30
  • W - Mary Sherlach, 56
  • X - Victoria Soto, 27
  • Y - Benjamin Wheeler, 6
  • Z - Allison Wyatt, 6

Sunday, August 12, 2012

WINNIE - THE - POOH


I have listened to a lot of children's audio books, and this is, without a doubt, one of the best I have ever heard.  First, it's Winnie-the-Pooh.  The original Winnie-the-Pooh, complete with Bear bumping down the stairs and Piglet having "haycorns" for breakfast.  Second, just look at the cast.  I fell in love with Stephen Fry when he read the Harry Potter books (I used to order them from from Amazon UK.  Sorry Jim Dale, but Stephen Fry is beyond compare.)  And Judi Dench?  Superb.  Jane Horrocks does Piglet with what sounds to me as a touch of a Scottish accent but someone better acquainted with the British Isles might differ.

This is a book that adults will enjoy at least as much as the kids, perhaps more.  There have been many laugh-out-loud moments, but so far my favorite is when Pooh is telling Piglet about their upcoming trip to the North Pole.  Pooh doesn't really understand what an "expotition" is; he only remembers that the word had an x in it.  Of course, timid litle Piglet doesn't hear the word correctly.  He responds "It's isn't their necks I mind.  It's their teeth."  And if you want to improve your childen's vocabulary, they will learn (as Pooh does) that provisions for a trip include food.  All in all, this is a wonderful way to introduce your children to the real (not Disney) Pooh.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

MARCH MADNESS

Yes, I am a sports fan, but the March Madness I am talking about is the 4th annual Battle of the Books conducted by School Library Journal.  I can't believe this has been going on for 4 years every March and I just found out about it.  Here's how it works: each year staff at the School Library Journal select 16 books published the previous year.  Those books go head to head in brackets and are judged by other authors.  Here is a link to this year's brackets: 2012 BOB Brackets  The final round brings back one book "from the dead" to go against the final two.

As decisions are made, the judges blog their decision and the reasons for it. I have been able to keep up with the blog this year and am fascinated with their process.  My only regret is that there aren't enough hours in the day to read all these wonderful books.

When I saw the brackets my immediate thought was that whichever of "Okay for Now" or "Wonderstruck" was eliminated would be brought back for the finals, but, having read some of the decisions, now I am not so sure.  What do you think?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Whole Loaf

In telling the story of Hazel and Jack's friendship, Anne Ursu manages to make you feel the pain of rejection, the loneliness of being the new kid, the wonder of snow, the magic of being understood, and the willingness of a true friend to sacrifice. The prose is lyrical, with images brought to mind as clearly as with a brushstroke.  But you don't just see it, you feel it.  The references (I am sure I missed some) to folklore and Madeleine L'Engle are not overplayed, but help to pull the reader into the fabric of the story.  No offense meant to Emily Rodda, but this book is everything The Key to Rondo could have been.
As an adult reading this book, I think the saddest lines of the entire book are spoken by the white witch "If  you take him away, he will change.  And someday he will be a man, and you will not even know him, and he will only think of you with a passing smile."  But Hazel knows that when you are fighting to save a friend, it's not about you, it's about them.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Post-Depressive Past

My recent reading has been determined by those around me in the most figurative of senses - the public library hold list.  I have a number (okay, way too many) books out of the library and, as other patrons put holds on the books, needed to return them.  Consequently, I read these three books in chronological order, and by the third book was so depressed I found it difficult to continue reading.  All 3 books are worth reading, but this should serve as a warning not to read them consecutively as I did.

As someone born toward the end of the baby-boomers, and who grew up on the East Coast, I remember much, but not all, of the way Bill Bryson describes growing up.  (My daughter has a warped view of how old I am, seeming to believe that all cars had manual transmissions when I learned how to drive - so not true.)  It was a different time.  Better?  Perhaps.  But definitely different.  Rascism was okay, as were chemicals in your food and pretty much everywhere and smoking, again, pretty much everywhere.  But people didn't live behind locked doors and kids played outside without adult supervision without fear of kidnapping.  It was a simpler time when we didn't need (or maybe just want) as many material things as we seem to now.  There's a reason why closets in older houses are small.  People didn't have as many clothes.  Do you ever watch The Honeymooners?  Ralph and Alice were thought of as ordinary people, funny, but ordinary.  Kids watching that show today think Ralph and Alice live at, or below, the poverty level.  They had a two-room apartment and, while Alice didn't have a fur coat and they didn't go on vacations, they never thought of themselves as poor.
This is a funny book, not quite as funny as A Walk in the Woods, but funny.  And yes, Bill Bryson, many other people remember George and Gracie.  But, just as in A Walk in the Woods, Bryson notes all the things that have gone wrong with our "progress".  In A Walk in the Woods, the concern seemed environmental.  In Thunderbolt Kid, it is the demise of small family-held farms and real downtowns with individual stores.  Things we cannot get back and don't really comprehend the impact of their loss until reading this book.

I don't usually read Stephen King. He is too scary for me. But this was a good book and I'm glad I invested the time to read it.  We all know from the reviews that this is about a high school English teacher who goes through a time portal to stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  Spoiler alert - the time portal puts him into the late 1950s so he spends years in the past waiting for Nov. 22, 1963.  So once again I was reading about how much better the past was.  I didn't see Bill Bryson in the bibliography but perhaps Steven King was using his own memories.  Food tasted better, the air was cleaner (hard to believe with all those factories) and life was simpler.  You could even get used to being without the internet!  I don't particularly like the ending, but then, this is Stephen King so I should not have expected a happy ending, should I? Although the ending is happy in its own way. Since I was too young at the time of JFK's death to really remember the impact on the country, I was surprised to read that it tore the country apart. (Here again my daughter seems to think that I should have a clear memory of this time and that might be why these books affected me this way.  Not true, dear, I was little.)  Sadly, I was not surprised at the ineptitude of the government in its dealings with Lee Harvey Oswald.  It is clear that King did a great deal of research for this book and the timing of its release to coincide with the 50th anniversary of JFK's presidency could not have been better.
Would the world be a different place if Jack Kennedy had lived? For sure. Would it be a better place? We'll never know. But Stephen King certainly gave me a lot to think about.

Next up were Jackie Kennedy's conversations with Arthur Schlesinger recorded in the spring following her husband's death.  That is how she refers to it:  Not when Jack was murdered, not when Jack was assassinated, but when Jack died.  I had just finished reading 900 pages of Stephen King, hoping against hope that Jack Kennedy could be saved (yes, I know in the real world he wasn't).  Perhaps because of that, I felt like JFK had just died.  It felt wrong to even rate the book on Goodreads because it is just so personal.  There were parts of the book, for example when she talks about JFK's relationships with his children and with his brother Bobby, and JFK's back problems and his plans for his life after the presidency, when I just wanted to weep.  And the pictures, oh, the pictures.
On a purely analytical note, this book shows just how much the role of women in their marriages and the role of the president's spouse have evolved in 50 years.  If you are looking for an insight into JFK's presidency, there are better books.  But nothing could make you understand better the impact of his death on his family.  Jackie Kennedy went from being First Lady to being a single mother of two small children needing to find a new home for them in minutes.  I also got a better appreciation of their marriage.  Marilyn Monroe and all the dalliances notwithstanding, for a few short years we all had Camelot.