Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Hope Street, Jerusalem by Irris Makler

I enjoyed both the writing style and content of this memoir.

Irris Makler is an international freelance correspondent from Sydney, Australia who has been based in London, Moscow, and now Jerusalem. She's chased stories all over the world and was one of the first reporters in Afghanistan after 9/11.
From the publisher:
′I had no idea how demanding this consuming, cruel, dangerous and fascinating place would be. I would fall in love here, I would do some of my best reporting, I would be injured, ending my run of good luck - my life would change dramatically ...′

Moving to a strange city always takes courage, but never more so than in a place where the daily expression of love and hate can turn a simple choice of a romantic table by the window into a life or death decision.

Both a love story and bittersweet tribute to her beloved adopted city of Jerusalem, Irris Makler shines a hopeful light on a part of the world where the news reports often makes it seem impossibly dark. From juggling the danger and unpredictability of her work as a roving foreign correspondent , covering everything from Palestinian suicide attacks to Israeli incursions into the West Bank, to falling in love with a handsome and charming young Israeli, and gaining a mischievious four-legged companion along the way, she allows us an intimate glimpse into a passionate, vibrant and fascinating world.

Adventurous, compassionate and engagingly honest, the award-winning author of OUR WOMAN IN KABUL is a master at capturing the personal stories behind the news we really want to know - and her story is the most interesting of all.

This is a memoir, not international political analysis. Makler is forty, single, and married to her dangerous, all hours job, which she obviously loves. Along comes a guy, and then a dog, and things change. But this is not a sappy love story by any means (I usually yawn at girl meets boy stories). Makler keeps herself at the forefront of the story, although her dog shares much of the lime light. As a dog lover, I approve.

Makler and her dog Mia
Irris Makler is one brave woman. The glimpses into her work-life are fascinating--how grueling and adventurous it seems. And how very, very dangerous. She also adds some of the more mundane details of her job that gives the story an easy authenticity like how TV stations have to book satellite time for live segments and how when big news breaks those time slots fill up quickly. I never thought about that aspect of international reporting. And as a freelancer Makler lugs her own equipment to scenes and often scrambles to find a power source to recharge her batteries or to find a wireless or cell signal. Not to mention dealing with crowds of people in life and death situations with munitions going off. It is obvious to see that hers is the sort of job that causes a huge adrenaline rush. And you must be available whenever something news worthy breaks. In-between the big stories freelancers work on human interest pieces such as the wide-spread use of fortune tellers in the Middle East.

I came away with a great sense of Jerusalem and its surroundings. Its beauty and its horrors, the sites and smells, the people who are charming and sometimes . . . not so much. Makler doesn't hold back from describing the extreme violence in the region--suicide bombings, street riots, outright war--that is caused by religious fanaticism and political power struggles, which are pretty much one and the same in that ancient land where Judaism, Christianity, and Islam were all born. Yet, daily life goes on. People go to the market and walk their dogs. Makler makes both the ancientness and the modernness of the city appealing.

Some things are so very different. One scene that I can't get out of my head is that in a line up (or "ID Parade") the victim of a crime has to walk up and put his or her hand on the shoulder of the perpetrator long enough for the police to snap a picture of the two people. No safe two-way mirror there. Can you imagine this in the case of rape and other violent crimes?

The personal side of the political situation in Gaza and the West Bank is fascinating and heartbreaking as well. Grandchildren of refugees who consider themselves to be refugees even have the town of their grandparents' birth listed as their own place of birth although the family hasn't been back to that town in 70 years. They carry keys to houses that no longer exist. When do people and whole families stop being refugees?

But the story is really about Makler and the transformation she goes through in learning that there's more to life than work. The writing is crisp and clear, and she effortlessly weaves the history-making public events that she reports on with her day-to-day life in Jerusalem. The story never dragged and I always looked forward to getting back to the book when I had reading time.

Oh, and P.S., I forgot to add that the book made me cry while reading in public. Twice. And I rarely cry from reading a book.

Hope Street, Jerusalem
Irris Makler
HarperCollinsPublishers, 2/25/2014
First published in Australia in 2012
Source: review copy TLC Tours
FTC disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from TLC Book Tours and was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Event Recap: The Big Book Getaway

The Mohegan Sun at 9:30am. By lunch the place was swarming & by dinner time it was packed.
Yesterday I attended The Big Book Getaway presented by The Mark Twain House & Museum and held at The Mohegan Sun. The tag line on the front of the program reads, "More than 80 bestselling and award-winning authors converge at a world class venue!"

Boy, was that the truth. The variety of authors was fantastic, but first some words on the venue. I lived in Reno for four years and while I wasn't a regular at the casinos on my walk home from campus I did occasionally stop in with a dollar in quarters and usually left with enough quarters in my pocket to do the laundry. In my years in Reno I NEVER saw a casino as packed as the Mohegan Sun. Granted, the casinos in Reno are spread out on the strip and sprinkled with restaurants inside and out, whereas the Mohegan is an isolated destination that includes three casinos, dozens of restaurants, and swanky shops like Coach and Tiffany, as well as an entertainment arena and golf course, but it is impressive, even for someone like me who prefers to stay home on her cozy couch with a book.

Anyway, on to the books and authors! This is probably the first book conference I've attended where I haven't read a single book by any of the authors I went to see. That's one of the points of such an event, isn't it, to be exposed to new writers? Well, my TBR list certainly grew after yesterday.

Here's a brief recap of my day.

This was the brain center of the Big Book Getaway. The table to the left is registration and the main hall where some of the bigger events were held. On the right is the signing table and bookselling area (R. J. Julia handled book sales). Behind me, from this shot, are smaller conference rooms where the majority of the panels took place. I liked that everything was within quick walking distance--there was no stress over getting to the next panel on time.

That's Jacques Lamarre, Director of Communication and Special Projects at The Mark Twain House & Museum, opening the day's events in the Main Stage. The Big Book Getaway actually kicked off on Friday evening. I attended Saturday only.

Dr. Ruth Westheimer got the party started. At 85 she's still going strong. She sat down occasionally to take a sip of water, but as soon as she started speaking she jumped up. This image above captures her giving Lamarre a copy of her new book.

Next Dr. Ruth passed around a copy of the cover art for her forthcoming book, which I didn't see, but she described it as a young woman looking lovingly at the young man sitting next to her while he stares out at the viewer. Dr. Ruth just saw the art work the day before and said her first thought was that the young man looked like he was worried about being able to get or maintain an erection. Everyone laughed. Lamarre then looked at the image and said that to him it looked like the guy was wondering if the young woman had a brother. More laughter. Dr. Ruth pointed out that the audience's positive response was indicative of how much society had changed over the years. Not many years ago the audience would not have laughed at Lamarre's remark.

I recall listening to Dr. Ruth on the radio and seeing her on TV in my younger years, but don't remember her being so funny and full of compassion. I will definitely check out her books now. Read about her amazing life here.

The first panel I attended was Harvard Doctors Speak. Diane Smith was the moderator and the panelists, from left to right are: 
Skip Sviokla (From Harvard to Hell...and Back)
Joseph Shrand (Outsmarting Anger)
Robert Doyle (Almost Alcoholic)

I've been sober now for 13 years and am always interested in learning more about addiction and substance abuse. I also wanted to hear Dr. Shrand talk about anger as his book on the subject, Outsmarting Anger, sounds intriguing. He's found that respect is a huge factor in dealing with anger. "Think about it," he asks, "when was the last time you got angry with someone who treated you with respect?" Will definitely read his book. Also, the guy was on ZOOM!
Source link

Pete Hamill just sitting down to sign books alongside Norb Vonnegut, David Handler, and Peter S. Prichard. I didn't attend their panel...another one won out. One of the hard decisions that all book lovers must make at such an event. Hermione's Time Turner sure would be handy in such situations.

Like bees in a hive, the joy of book lovers at a book event is palpable. 
The carpet certainly adds a festive feel.

Writers at Work, from left to right:  
Adam Sexton (author of Master Class in Fiction Writing, among many other things)
Chris Castellani (Artistic Director of Grub Street, among many other things)
Julia Pistell (Dir. of Writing at The Mark Twain House & Museum, among many other things
Stuart Parnes, moderator and Executive Director of Connecticut Humanities

This panel wasn't about the nuts and bolts about how writer's write, it was about the work that writers do to be writers. Gone are the days when a writer sat alone in his room and wrote, handed the finished manuscript to his editor, and then sat back down to start the next book. The good old days were perhaps never that simple, but they were much different than today's world. Writer's are now usually responsible for publicizing their own work. Adam Sexton said that when his first book came out the publisher had a full time publicist who got his book out into the world. By the time his second book came out, he was pretty much on his own.

Much of the work that these writers do is teaching & supporting other writers, and creating communities of writers. One of the questions that Parnes asked was what they each thought of the criticism often directed at the supposed glut of MFA programs and writing classes out there. What to do with all these writers and why create more writers?  Castellani jumped in and spoke to this question first. He said we all have creative urges and need an outlet for them and writing happens to be one of the most accessible ways to express one's creativity. He said that unfortunately when people express the desire to be a writer there is often a vibe of "who do you think you are to want to be a writer?" Pistell added that if all we got out of everyone who wanted to be a writer was five really good books, it's worth it. So is using your brain, she added. Learning to be a better communicator is important, she went on, expressing yourself accurately is a huge key for success in the world. Sexton said that training in writing also helps people recognize good writing. Through writing programs and classes people are exposed to more writers than they might gravitate to on their own. Writing programs and classes create more, better, and passionate readers
They kind tore up that question, didn't they?

We had an hour lunch break. I imagine a few bibliophiles sneaked off to play the slots.

A Hero's Tale, from left to right:
Artis Henderson (Un-Remarried Widow)
 Jason (Jay) Redman (The Trident)
Captain Glenn Sulmasy of the USCG Academy (author of The National Security Court System)

The focus of this panel was Henderson's and Redman's military experience with Sulmasy moderating. This was by far the most emotionally provoking panel of the day for me. 

 Henderson's husband was a pilot in the Army and died in a crash shortly after they were married. In her book she tells the story that has rarely been told in the annals of military writing: after a solider dies, what does his (or her) spouse go through? Check out her Modern Love piece, "In Grief, a Mother and a Wife Bound."

Redman, a Navy SEAL, was severely wounded in combat. His book is about his early, arrogant years as a young SEAL and the behavior that almost ended his career to his recovery from sever battle wounds (he's had 37 subsequent surgeries). Most people assumed Redman's facial injuries were from a motorcycle accident. He founded Wounded Wear in an effort to help raise awareness for the sacrifices of wounded and fallen military personnel and their families. 

Captain Sulmasy was the perfect moderator for this event. He asked probing questions with sensitivity and compassion.

All Star Mystery, from left to right:
Julia Spencer-Fleming (Through the Evil Days)
Rosemary Harris (Pushing Up Daisies)
Jennifer McMahon (The Winter People)
Hank Phillipi Ryan (The Wrong Girl) acting as moderator.

This was a fun panel. These four writers are all friends, so it was chatty and upbeat. If I had to choose only own book to read from the long list put out by these writers, it would probably be The Winter People. I'm kind of in the mood to be creeped out and they all agreed this one is creepy. It was funny to hear McMahon say she's creeped out all the time. For some reason I have this idea of writers who write creepy stuff not being easily creeped out.

New England in Fiction, from left to right:
Joseph Monninger (Margaret from Maine)
Jane Green (Tempting Fate)
Nan Rossiter (Under a Summer Sky)
John Valeri moderator and writer (Hartford Books Examiner)
Each time I've moved to a new part of the country I've enjoyed learning about the writers and literary history of the region. As a newbie to Connecticut and New England this panel was a must.

Debbie Macomber gave the closing keynote address. She told the story of her struggle to become a writer. At a time when her young family was struggling to pay the bills, they rented a typewriter for her at $100 a month. After at least five years of ups-and-downs she had a novel accepted for publication. Now she has something like over 170 million books in print. And she's just so darned nice and obviously full of joy and gratitude for the life she is living.

Debbie and her supportive husband Wayne pause to let me take a picture, even though the signing line wrapped around the room. Many moons ago I sat in on a session she gave at Love Is Murder on character development. I still have her handout somewhere. I haven't read any of her books yet but must give one a try. Any recommendations?
A little torment for those of you who got hooked on Krispy Kremes only to have your location close.  <insert evil laugh here>

My goody bag. Attendees could choose from a black Penguin Classics bag or a red Indie Bound bag. I have several black bags so went with the red. Gotta mix it up!
This was the second Big Book Getaway and I hope they do it again next year, especially now that I live in the area. ;)  I would love to see them add a panel on World Literature or literature in translation.

A big thank you to everyone involved for making this such an enjoyable event!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Mark Twain House

At the end of my last post on Harriet Beecher Stowe's house I mentioned that a year after she moved into the house another famous writer built a house practically in her back yard. That writer was Mark Twain.

Like the Stowe's house, photography is not allowed inside Twain's house. We had a new tour guide for Twain's house, a young man named Josh. Walking into Twain's house is a definite 'wow' experience. You step into a grand hall that is a wonderland of gracefully carved wood, patterns, and light-enhancing silver stenciling. A very cool architectural innovation in this room is a fireplace with a split flue between which is a window that lets in light from the drawing room to the right. At first you don't realize that its a window. You think you're looking into a mirror...until you realize you can't see your reflection. Click here for the floor plan of the house and a virtual tour.

A view of the house from the parking lot, which is where the Nook River once flowed (it is now below ground).

The back of Twain's house. The uppermost room on the left is his billiard room, where Twain wrote at a desk in the corner. The room below this one was originally his study, but his daughter's nursery was right across the hall, so he may not have gotten much work done there. After he moved his writing space to the third floor, the study became the school room.
Brick work detail. When you stand on this porch you can how close Harriet Beecher Stowe's house is.
Stowe's house is just behind a few trees. A teenager with a good arm could hit it with a snow ball (note to teenage readers: this is not a challenge). The building to the right is the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center.
A view of the front of the house. The front law sweeps down to the street, but it was too icy for me to make it to the front sidewalk.
The carriage port or porte cochere.
The front door under the carriage port which leads into the great hall.
In the visitor's center. A penny press machine (we collect pressed pennies so I was excited to see this) and a Lego Twain statue are next to a bookstore that carries everything that Twain wrote in various editions, books about Twain, nicknacks, toys, and general fun stuff. 

Speaking of Legos, this is a Lego replica of Twain's house at the Hartford airport.

Back to the Twain Center--this cut out was just around the corner from the pressed penny machine near the rest rooms. I think Twain would approve of the pressed penny machine and the Lego statue, but I'm not sure what he'd make of this! I was alone or I'd have had my picture taken for sure.

A final glimpse of the house from the parking lot. The building to the right is the carriage house.
You can tour the Stowe and Twain house's individually or see them as a joint tour. Both are worth the price whether your a literary fans, nineteenth century enthusiast, or an architectural aficionado.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Harriet Beecher Stowe House

Happy President's Day!

On Friday I finally made it to the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. I say finally because the two other times I had planned to make the drive we had snow storms. There was a snow storm earlier in the week and more snow on Thursday, but by Friday morning the roads were cleared and I made the hour drive up to Hartford on dry roads.

Legend has it that when Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe on December 2, 1862 he said, "So you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war." Stowe was under four feet tall and Lincoln over six feet tall. Stowe may have been small in stature, but at the time she was America's biggest literary superstar. Her novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, which had first been serialized, was published in book form on March 20, 1852. It was THE best-selling novel at the time and would end up being the top seller of the 19th century.

Pictures are not allowed inside the house, but I took a few of the outside. If I had been able to take pictures I would have snapped a few of the bold flower paintings by Stowe. And probably one of the stuffed toy pugs poking out from under a bed--Stowe loved dogs and cats and had an affinity for pugs.

Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin in Brunswick, Maine when her husband was teaching at Bowdoin College. Stowe was born in Litchfield, CT on June 14, 1811. The tour guide, Ann, asked us all where we were from. There were five of us on the tour. A couple from Madison, WI who were in town visiting one of their sisters and their son who now live in Hartford. Ann perked up when I said I'd just moved to Guilford. During the tour Ann told us that Stowe lived for a time, as a child, in Guilford. There's a historic plaque on a building down by the town green that I have to go find. Earlier on Friday I had checked out from the library Joel Eliot Helander's book, A Treasury of Guilford Places (2008). When I got home that night I consulted it to see if Stowe is mentioned. She is. The house where she lived with her grandparents is just about three miles from my new house, down a beautiful winding road that we take to get to town. There's also a house in town that was part of the underground railroad.

I love the logo of the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center:

Flames of inspiration, courage, and truth flow from the nib of a pen. The pen is mightier than the sword.

The house where Stowe lived for the last twenty three years of her life was built in 1871 in the Nook Farm neighborhood. When the Stowe's first moved to Hartford in 1864 they built a mansion they named Oakholm. In 1873, however, they decided to downsize and moved in to the house that was to be their final residence. Stowe lived here with her husband and twin daughters until her death on July 1, 1896. She was waked in the parlor, which is the front lower right corner room in the picture above. The house is 4,400 square feet with 17 rooms--not exactly a sacrificial downsizing, but one that better allowed the family to economize and perhaps to reflect the ideas set forth in the book Stow wrote with her sister, Catharine Stowe, The American Woman's Home.

The back of the house. A year after the Stowe's moved in another writer moved to Nook Farm and built his home in Stowe's back yard. Check back on Wednesday to see who that was.

On March 19-20, 2014 the Stowe Center will hold its annual marathon reading of Uncle Tom's Cabin. You can participate in person or via Skype. Have you read Uncle Tom's Cabin? March would be the perfect time for a first read or a reread.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood

Why I read it: I'm interested in this time period of German history, but read it mainly because the musical film Cabaret is based on Goodbye to Berlin. The play and movie I Am A Camera is also based on this novel.

I love musicals. My first exposure to them was listening to my parent's albums and 8-tracks. The show I listened to the most by far was Camelot. My parents had both the Broadway cast LP featuring Julie Andrews and Richard Burton and the movie version featuring Vanessa Redgrave and Richard Harris.

The only show that came close to touching Camelot in my listening routine was Cabaret. My parents didn't take me to see the movie as I was only seven when it was released, but they did buy the soundtrack which I listened to over and over again. They also had a Liza Minnelli Live on Broadway 8-track that I adored. To this day I can't hear the woman's name without hearing "Its Liza with a Z not Lisa with an S" playing in the background of my mind. When Liza Minnelli's tour came to Chicago I BEGGED my mother to take me, but I was deemed too young and out of luck. (Looking back I think my mom also needed a night out with her bestie.)

I had no idea back then that Cabaret was based on the writing of Christopher Isherwood or I'd have read him much sooner. Isherwood is an English writer who lived in Berlin from 1929-1933, during the rise of Hitler's Nazi party. He later became an American citizen.

Goodbye to Berlin is fiction. It is a painful book to read not just because of its content, but because of its tone. It is one of the most unsentimental books I've read. Much of the writing that I've read set in or from the Wiemar era and the rise of Hitler have a sentimental or romantic quality, a wistfulness that laments what is soon to be lost and/or the horror that will soon be unleashed. There is, usually, at least one hero who struggles against the oppression. This novel is offers no such hopeful respite from the suffocation of the growing intolerance. Even the narrator is shown in all his ugliness. The Germans are presented as dumb pigs in sheep's clothing and the expats are irresponsible, selfish alcoholics who can't see past their own noses. People are "adapting" as if to some "natural law, like an animal which changes its coat for the winter."

This book is on my Classics Club list
The wealthy and the poor all live miserable lives. The rich people living in the Grunewald neighborhood, such as the Landauers, a Jewish family who own a large department store and refuse to sell guns and toy soldiers, live in "terror of burglary and revolution" which has reduced them to a "stage of siege." Their once private and sunny district is now a "millionaire's slum."

On the other side of the socioeconomic spectrum are those living in Hallesches Tor. The five adult members of the Nowak family live here, in a cramped and leaky tenement apartment. They share one toilet with the occupants of three other apartments. I was intrigued by Father Nowak, a World War I veteran who drinks too much and goes on about how people are all equal. He says to the narrator, Christopher, "we're all equal as God made us. You're as good as me; I'm as good as you. A Frenchman's as good as an Englishman; and Englishman's as good as a German." His sons sit at the table with him as he tells a story from the war, but they dismiss him as an old timer. One son is a Nazi, the other is a Communist. The lessons learned from the Great War find no root in the younger generation.

There is humor here, but it is a mean humor. Why read such a novel? For one, to get a sense of the time period, at least from one man's observations. And his observations and insights into human nature are beautiful even if they show some of the less noble traits of humanity. During the course of reading this novel I saw a Tweet that plugged a book for writers about character traits. I actually harrumphed out loud when I saw it. What happened to writers taking the time to observe other humans and trying to understand them? Here's one of my favorite character observations. Otto and Peter are young lovers, and Otto has just physically humiliated Peter:
If Otto wishes to humiliate Peter, Peter in his different way also wishes to humiliate Otto. He wants to force Otto into making a certain kind of submission to his will, and this submission Otto refuses instinctively to make. Otto is naturally and healthily selfish, like an animal. If there are two chairs in a room, he will take the more comfortable one without hesitation, because it never even occurs to him to consider Peter's comfort. Peter's selfishness is much less honest, more civilized, more perverse. Appealed to in the right way, he will make any sacrifice, however unreasonable and unnecessary. But when Ottto takes the better chair as if by right, then Peter immediately sees a challenge which he dare not refuse to accept. I suppose that--given their two natures--there is no possible escape from this situation. Peter is bound to go on fighting to win Otto's submission. When, at last, he ceases to do so, it will merely mean that he has lost interest in Otto altogether.
I highly recommend this novel to those who are interested in the time period and those who appreciate clear, crisp prose and unflinching characterization.

Goodbye to Berlin
Christopher Isherwood
Originally published: 1939
Edition read: New Directions, 2012
Source: own it (purchased at the Unabridged Bookstore 9/27/12)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Library Visit: The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library

The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library
121 Wall Street, New Haven, CT
  • Designed by: Gordon Bunshaft
  • Style: modern
  • Materials: Vermont marble and granite, bronze, and glass
  • Ground breaking: 1961
  • Completed: 1963
  • Cost: unknown, gift from the Beineke Family
  • Updates: significant renovation begins May 2015
  • Holdings: over 500,000 items
  • Serves: Yale community and visiting scholars
  • Exhibitions: free and open to the public
  • Circulation: Non-circulating

I recently visited the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University in New Haven, CT. Over the years I've seen pictures of the building, both in side and out. It was one of the buildings we discussed in the seminar that I took at the Newberry Library in 2012, Buildings for Books: Library Architecture from Ancient Times to the Present.

To say the library is unique in design is an understatement. There is a single, main stack in the center of the builing, six floors of books on minimalist shelves surrounded by nothing but glass and lit to make the books glow like treasure. Around the stack is a mezzanine level with exhibition and event space. Surrounding all of this is a marble shell that allows in only diffused sunlight to protect the books from direct light. From outside in daylight hours the building looks white. After dark the backlit marble casts an amber hue.

Sometimes when pictures take your breath away it can be a disappointment to see their subject in real life, particularly when it comes to buildings. Angles, fancy lenses, and filters can make architecture seem much more stunning than when seen by the naked eye. Rest assured that this is NOT the case with the Beinecke. Walking in and seeing the glow of the main stack full of rare books was awe inspiring and fulfills the intention of being "an inspiration to all who enter."

Below are some pictures that I took, but do yourself a favor and perform a Google image search of the Beinecke--you'll see all sorts of gorgeous interior daytime shots and external nighttime shots.

The center stack holds 180,000 volumes. These six floors of rare books glow like treasures they are. Underground is space for an additional 600,000 books and millions of manuscripts. The Beinecke is among the largest buildings in the world decicated to the holding and preservation of rare books and manuscripts.
Along the perimeter of the main stack are exhibits that are free and open to the public (note the black boxes on pedestals to the left) and some soft seating. The bluish light emanating from the left is from the lobby below. When you walk into the lobby, there are stairwells to the left and the right which lead up to this exhibit area on the mezzanine level. Photography of the lobby is not allowed. At fist I was too awed to think about taking pictures and then when I thought about it I didn't take too many because, really, being present in the moment was the priority.
The book on display in the forefront is a Gutenberg Bible from the 1450s. This was one of the first books printed with moveable type, a technology that radically changed how books are made. There are only 48 Gutenberg Bibles in the world, most of which are not complete. This one is.
From this angle the building looks like a treasure chest, doesn't it? The white squares are actually thin marble slabs that allow in diffused light during the day and cast an amber hue at night. (Again, do a Google image search to see what I'm talking about.)
Contrast: The modern Beinecke sits next to the Medieval style architecture of the Yale Law Library.
More contrast:  Corinthian columns and modern pedestals or piers.
I enjoyed the current exhibits, particularly Stephen Tennant: Work in Progress (through May 24, 2014). The name Tennant sounded vaguely familiar. It's because he wrote the introduction to Willa Cather: On Writing, the book that contains Cather's well-known essay, "The Novel Demeuble." From the exhibit I learned that Willa Cather was Tennant's favorite writer and that he set out to befriend her. They eventually met and did become friends. After Cather's death Tennant became Edith Lewis's (Cather's partner) traveling companion. There is so much revision to be done on Cather's biography.

For a list of current exhibits at the Beinecke, click here. Take some time to poke around the website while you're as it's full of great information and images.

Thanks for stopping by! Click here to see other library visits that I've made.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Beloved Librarian Edith Nettleton Dies at 105

On Jan. 23, 1934, First Selectman S. Leslie Spencer hands the keys to the new library at 67 Park St. to Rev. William C. H. Moe, president of the Guilford Library Association. Looking on, from left to right, are Lena A. Shelley, from the library board of directors, Edith B. Nettleton, librarian, and Martha G. Cornell, library board of directors. Photo courtesy Patty Baldwin, Guilford Free Library (source link)

I visited the Guilford Free Library for the first time in December 2011, during one of our coastal Connecticut reconnaissance missions and well before we knew that this was were we'd choose to move (see visit post). During that first visit I learned about Edith Nettleton. At the time, she was 103. This past July she celebrated her 105th birthday.

Edith Nettleton passed away last week at the age of 105. She'd still been volunteering at the library and living an active lifestyle. She started her tenure as the director of the Guilford Fee Library in 1933. Upon retirement she became an active volunteer and served the library for 80 years. 80 years. Most of us will be lucky to live to 80, especially in such good mental and physical health. Read an article from today's paper by Lisa Reisman here and her official obituary.

The week before she passed away one of my new neighbors, a man who retired at the end of last year, was telling me how he remembered her as a boy doing homework at the library. She was always so nice, he said, and spoke of her with a tone that people reserve for well-loved grandmothers or great aunts.

What a beautiful legacy she's left behind. I'm sorry I never got to meet her.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

First Classics Club Spin of 2014

It's time for another Classics Club Spin!

Next Monday the Classics Club moderators will chose a number from 1-20 and participants will have until April 2nd to read the corresponding number from their list.

Here's my list:
  1. Sense and Sensibility, Austen, 1811
  2. Pride and Prejudice, Austen, 1813
  3. Wuthering Heights, Bronte, 1847
  4. The House of the Seven Gables, Hawthorne, 1851
  5. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Twain, 1889
  6. The Country of the Pointed Firs, Jewett, 1896
  7. So Big, Ferber, 1924
  8. Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf, 1925
  9. To the Lighthouse, Woolf, 1927
  10. Mary Poppins, Travers, 1934
  11. The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck, 1939
  12. And Then There Were None, Christie, 1939
  13. Hiroshima, Hersey, 1946
  14. The Caine Mutiny, Wouk, 1951
  15. From Here to Eternity, Jones, 1951
  16. The Price of Salt, Highsmith, 1952
  17. Lord of the Flies, Golding, 1954
  18. We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Jackson, 1962
  19. Stoner, Williams, 1965
  20. Suite Francaise, Nemirovsky, 2006 (written in 1930s/40s)
Because I'm also taking the TBR Triple Dog Dare and only reading books I own until April 1st, I've chosen books that are already on my shelves (or in my Kobo eReader, as is the case with one of the above).

Have you read any of the above? Any favorites on this list?

Monday, February 3, 2014

That's a Wrap: January

Monte Cristo Fan
The Count of Monte Cristo Fan
January was our first full month in our new house. We did a lot of work around the place and enjoyed the company of electricians, plumbers, chimney sweeps, brick layers, and painters. Normally we do our own painting, but there were two rooms that required lots of patching and sanding of paneling, so we hired professionals. Next up: carpenters!

Here's a recap of my month in books.

Both books were on my Classics Club list, so that's two down for the year. I'm also happy to have started out the year reading books I own as I'm taking the TBR Triple Dog Dare which is all about reading books you own from Jan - April 1st.

Total pages read in January: 1,449

  • Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman (audio)
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins for #WilkieinWinter hosted by The Estella Society
While I technically didn't own Orange is the New Black prior to Jan 1st, it was on my TBR list and I had credits due to expire from that needed to be used, so I don't feel like this is a complete violation of the TBR Triple Dog Dare challenge spirit.

I've certainly been visiting my local library and hope to start visiting other libraries in the area to feature on the blog. Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscript Library at Yale. The architect's intention was to make the building look like a treasure chest and it certainly has that effect. Stay tuned for a post later this week.

One book that I plan on reading is Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup. This book will violate the rules of the TBR Triple Dog Challenge as I didn't own it prior to Jan 1st. Its been on my radar and when I saw that the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center was cosponsoring a screening of the film and panel discussion on February 27th, I decided to make an exception and picked up a copy. If you're interested in the event, click the link above.

What's on your bookish agenda for February?

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