Information, Answers & Reviews

Britt-Marie Was Here

Confession: I’m not much of an audio book junkie. In fact, I seldom listen to one unless it is the only copy of a book available, but Joan Walker’s funny and poignant rendition of this Scandinavian novel entranced me.

I couldn’t wait to get back to the poor, out of the way Swedish town of Borg--football crazy and poor--where most of the inhabitants were racing to sell their homes and leave after the 2008 financial crises.

How did a middle-aged wife who had not worked outside the home or travelled anywhere end up in Borg?

Well, first her husband of four decades began an affair with a much younger woman. So Britt-Marie decided to leave him. When she went to the employment agency, there were no jobs, so she returned the next day and cooked for the young lady who worked there a lovely salmon dinner. Britt was nothing if not persistent.

The Six: the Lives of the Mitford Sisters

Having grown up in a family of six sisters (and two brothers), I understand the influences, cooperation and competition that six sisters often have for each other. The similar interests, wildly divergent ones, pet names shared, and shifting alliances.

The Mitford sisters:  Nancy, Pamela, Diana, Unity, Jessica, and Deborah were born between 1904 and 1920, so their youth encompassed the roaring and irreverent 1920s as well as the anxious, and violent pre-war period before WW II. The last of the Mitford sisters, Deborah, died only two years ago.

They had an idyllic childhood on a country estate, and were left mainly to themselves, a nanny and a tutor. They were almost totally home-schooled. They read deeply books from their parent’s library and were fascinated by the world of ideas. All except Pamela, who loved farming and developed close connections with animals and the land. Just before dying she sighed and said she wished only for one more hunt.

Commonwealth

Fifty per cent of all North American children experience the divorce of their parents. Talented author Ann Patchett explores her own family’s divorce in this novel, altered, of course, as all fiction is.

A chance meeting at a 1960s christening causes two families to divide and then merge in new ways.  The novel jumps around in the lives of the Cousinses and Keatings. Fix Keating is a Los Angeles cop, and Bert Cousins, an attorney who moves to Virginia. When Cousins falls hard for Keating’s wife, Beverly, at the christening, two families are forever tied though they end up living across the continent from each other.

The novel proceeds from the perfectly realized christening—where many of the guests are cops and the families of cops, and many of the partiers get drunk including some of the children, to one lakeside vacation where the blended children of the two families seek their own adventures while their parent and step-parent laze away in bed until mid-afternoon.

Trying to Float: Coming of Age in the Chelsea Hotel

Can’t say when the last time I read a book written by a seventeen-year old, but this memoir by a high school student was touching and well-written despite Nicolaia Rips' youth. Growing up in New York’s famed Chelsea Hotel gives one a head start, at least when it comes to knowing interesting characters.

The Chelsea’s fame reached its ascendency in the 60s and 70s with noteworthy residents:  Leonard Cohen, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Patsy Smith, who wrote her own memoir about it, Just Kids.

First Nicolaia describes how she came into being. Her mom was a globe-trotting artist, and her dad had zero interest in raising a child, but somehow the artist got pregnant, and the couple began a new way of life. Though not immediately.

While pregnant, her Mom traveled through Europe and along the Silk Road in Asia. Her dad, a non-practicing lawyer and writer, stayed in New York and added a psychiatrist’s office to his daily rounds of coffee shops. He also denied that he was the father, accusing a gay friend for parenting the child. However, once Nicolaia was born, he came around and warmly embraced being a dad, but still the family remained footloose, decamping for several years in Italy, and then roaming North Africa and India, before returning to NYC and the Chelsea Hotel.

Five of my Favorites and So Long

 

Keith Carter in Clown MakeupThis Sight and Sound blog post was perhaps the hardest for me to write of all of my posts.  There are two reasons for this.  The first is because I will retire from the library shortly after this post goes up.  I have had almost forty years at the Monroe County Public Library as either a staff member or volunteer and it is time to move on to another adventure.   I still believe this library is one of the best, if not the best library in the state. But of course, I am biased.  I hope that you and the library will forgive my choice of pictures to head up this post. (I didn’t ask for permission) I’ve always believed that libraries are places of wonder and learning; imagination, and research, but above all, they are places full of fun and life and joy that one can experience almost nowhere else.  There is something special about the books, movies, services and special programs that take place in a library that help make any community stronger and better for all. Young and old, rich and poor; people from every walk of life can find something in common at a good library and there are always interesting people to meet at a library. Some of you may remember me from many different places in the library; when I started I worked at the Community Access Channel, then I moved to the Movies and Music Department, then to Adult Services and have recently begun working at our Ellettsville branch.  I even worked for a while as a night janitor. One of my greatest joys, however, is playing the clown (and the music) for the Children’s Story Hour Extravaganzas and especially the October event for which this picture displays my standard outfit and perhaps the real me.  It is the joyous laughter and smiles of a child who is discovering for the first time the world of the library that I will remember the most after I leave.

So this is good-bye, which is hard.  Harder still, at least intellectually, is the second reason this post was so difficult. Because this will be my last post I am forcing myself to make a choice out of all the movies I have watched over the years to just five of my favorites.

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