Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I'll Have What She's Having by Rebecca Harrington

Earlier this month I was looking at a list of books to read in 2015 and I saw I'll Have What She's Having.  It looked fun to me, so I asked Lisa to buy it.

The author, Rebecca Harrington, gamely tries 14 different celebrity-endorsed diets.  Her observations about what she's eating are witty and sarcastic, and any time her current celebrity endorses entertaining, she subjects her friends to parties almost doomed to failure.  Just my kind of book!

She starts out following Gwyneth Paltrow's diet which requires her to spend more on groceries than she has in her entire life.  It is heavy on kale and fish.  She is doing ok on the diet when she decides to throw a dinner party.  She decides to make Gwyneth's meatballs, and is unnerved early on when the meatballs turn out to be green.  One of her guests pulls out his emergency bag of chips and another leaves to "actually eat dinner." 

Following Gwyneth Paltrow, Rebecca tries diets by Elizabeth Taylor, Greta Garbo, Madonna, Pippa Middleton, BeyoncĂ©, Jackie Kennedy, and several others.  She also tries a couple of diets endorsed by men, one by NBA star Carmelo Anthony.  On Anthony's diet she decides, "NBA superstars are less hard-core than the average American teen girl the week before prom!"

If you are looking for a quick, fun read try I'll Have What She's Having. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tom's Two Cents: Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh, by John Lahr

Terry Mathews recently posted a great review of the above book on Facebook's "Between the Covers," to which I can add very little except some background material and a few juicy tidbits about Williams' co-literary executor, Maria Britneva St Just.

Lahr's biography was preceded a number of years back (1995) by Lyle Leverich's "Tom: the Unknown Tennessee Williams," an exhaustive study of Williams' early life and career, up to the production of his first major Broadway success, "The Glass Menagerie." Named Williams' "official" biographer, Leverich was nonetheless upstaged by Maria Britneva St Just, who withheld permission for him to quote from Williams' unpublished works, which by that time had been placed in several literary archival collections, including the Humanities Research Center at UT Austin.  (A personal note: I happened to be working at the HRC in Austin in 1963 when a collection of Williams' early manuscripts was acquired from his mother, Edwina Dakin Williams, and I personally catalogued a major portion of that collection). Leverich waited twenty years to try to complete his biography, but died before it was possible.  John Lahr's book covers the early period, but places most of its emphasis on the years after "The Glass Menagerie."
Maria Britneva St Just and her long association with Williams are treated fully in Lahr, who had already published a long article on her in The New Yorker.  To say the least, she was quite a woman--an aspiring young actress in London, presenting herself when Williams first met her as a Russian ex-patriate, whose father had medically attended the Czar's family (not true), she insinuated herself into the early period of his London stage productions and flitted in and out of his life for the rest of his tormented days.  Later she married an English lord, had a child by him, and gained a title--thus as a kooky Lady St Just, she maintained a certain status and reputation among the international set--all this would have amounted to little or nothing, were it not for the control she exerted over Williams' estate after his death, which included production rights to all his plays.  To be fair, however, she also provided a high level of care from the Williams Estate for his mentally ill sister, Rose, who lived into her 80's.

By 1960 Williams and his highly personal, lyrical style had given way to a new European avant-garde type of theatre called "Theatre of the Absurd," and the heyday of Broadway, starring Eugene O'Neill, Williams, and Arthur Miller, was practically over.

Next time: Arthur Miller and his marital nemesis, Marilyn Monroe: Arthur Miller: His Life and Work, by Martin Gottfried

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Did you know? : Book Donations

Did you know that the library accepts donations?  We don't just take books, either.  We take movies, games, and puzzles as well.  A few days after Christmas, a gentleman walked in and donated an e-reader! 

We are very grateful for the donations, and if we can, we will put them on our shelves for people to check out.  If we already own the book or movie, we put it in our book sale.  We have books for sale all year long.  All we charge is a reasonable donation!  The proceeds help us buy more books!

A few tips for donating to the library:
  1. Make sure items are in good shape - i.e. no torn covers or pages; binding still tight; all the pieces are with the item.
  2. Do not donate books that have been wet, even if they are now dry.
  3. Make sure items are clean without excessive dust or bug infestations.
  4. Unfortunately, we do not accept encyclopedia sets or large collections of magazines.
  5. Please do not leave items after hours. 
The next time you don't know what to do with the books you are no longer using - think of us!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Poet's Perch: It Couldn't Be Done by Edgar A. Guest

I'm starting a new feature on the blog, "Poet's Perch".  I plan to put up one poem a month.  If you have a favorite poem, let me know.  I might feature it!
It Couldn't Be Done
Somebody said that it couldn't be done,
But he with a chuckle replied
That "maybe it couldn't," but he would be one
Who wouldn't say so till he'd tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face.  If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn't be done, and he did it.
Somebody scoffed: "Oh, you'll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it";
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat,
And the first thing we knew he'd begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn't be done, and he did it.
There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
There are thousands to prophesy failure;
There are thousands to point out to you, one by one,
The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start to sing as you tackle the thing
That "cannot be done" and you'll do it.
Edgar A. Guest

Friday, January 9, 2015

Tom's Two Cents : Stephen Sondheim's "Into the Woods"

No, it's not a book, it's a film, based on the Sondheim musical of 1987, which I've read has been trying to get produced for some twenty or so years.  Now Disney and Rob Marshall, the director of the fabulously successful "Chicago," have finally done it, with a cast headed by none other than Meryl Streep, though she plays the central supporting role.  This is late Sondheim, certainly not a mainstream musical, but a considerable achievement nonetheless. 

I wouldn't consider myself a Sondheim fan, and I've come to him late in life, with "Sweeny Todd," of all things, which surely has to contain the most unsuitable story ever used in a musical!  "Into the Woods" falls into the genre of fantasy, but fantasy with a twist: fairy tale characters stepping into humanized roles that make them different and sometimes strange.

Streep plays a witch with her characteristic brilliance, Johnny Depp is a sly, hip Wolf, as eager to seduce Red Riding Hood as he is to swallow her, and Christine Baranski a hysterically over-the-top Wicked Stepmother, willing to cut off one daughter's toe and slice another's heel to make them fit into Cinderella's glass slipper--this, I'm told, from Grimm's original, but surely not from any version I've ever read!

The thing about Sondheim is that he is not so much a musician as a lyricist.  His mentor was one of the greats--Oscar Hammerstein II--and he wrote the lyrics to one of the last century's greatest musicals, Leonard Bernstein's "West Side Story."  His music is catchy and smart, but for the most part it's not melodic or even particularly tuneful.  You don't come out humming Sondheim, instead you're trying to remember his clever and at times extremely sophisticated use of words, especially his use of rhyme.  The opening ensemble number, the title song, is a perfect example.  Characters and words are coming at you so fast and furiously that you're hardly aware of the music, which seems almost like background.

Viewers should be forewarned that right slap in the middle of what seems to a typical fairy-tale ending, this musical literally goes to hell in a hand basket.  A seeming earthquake (which turns out to be a revengeful giantess coming down Jack's beanstalk) wreaks havoc and introduces a whole new set of complications that must be unraveled.  It's rather an exhausting two+ hours that could have (and did in the original musical) had an intermission.

All this being said, "Into the Woods" is a brilliant piece of musical theatre, exceedingly well translated into film.  It runs in Mt Pleasant for one more week.  See it if you dare!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Did you know? : Tech Zoo

Did you know that you can bring your technology questions to the library?  If you've gotten a new phone, tablet, laptop, or other device for Christmas and need some help learning to use it, we can help!

All this week, we are promoting a Tech Zoo and so far have worked on several different types of Kindles, phones, and other tablets.  No question is too small - we have been asked everything!  We will try and fix your problems or show you anything you need to know about using your device.  If we don't know the answer we will try to find out for you.  All the library staff use different technology, so if one of us doesn't know the answer, hopefully somebody else will. 

Now, I'll tell you a secret....  We don't do this just this one week.  We are ALWAYS available for help with your technology.  We will be glad to try and answer your questions all year long.  Just stop in!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Julie's Journal : Book Challenges

Last year, for the first time, I kept a log of all the books I read.  I created a spreadsheet in excel and since I'm an accountant at heart, I kept up with all sorts of statistics about the books I was reading.  I read a total of 140 books or 46,969 pages.  Slightly less than half the books I read were e-books.  Only 13 were non-fiction and only 8 were classics.  Of the 140 books, I liked 110 enough to recommend them.  33 were books I had read before.

As I was reading over bookish blogs towards the end of the year, I noticed them putting up book challenges.  A book challenge is exactly what it sounds like.  There are many different types, but they all challenge you to read more books or different types of books.  This year, I decided to participate in three challenges. 

1st is the A-Z challenge.  I have to read at least one book that starts with each letter of the alphabet.  Exceptions are given for "Q", "X", and "Z".  They just have to be in the title of the book.

The 2nd is one I made up for myself.  I need to clear out some space, so I challenged myself to read at least 12 books off my "To be read" (TBR) shelf.

3rd is a "Back to the Classics" challenge.  I didn't do as well reading classics as I wanted last year, so maybe this challenge will help me.  Chance has been helping me find books to fulfill this challenge.  I have to read at least one book in each of the following categories:
  • A 19th century classic
  • A 20th century classic
  • A classic by a woman author
  • A classic in translation
  • A very long classic novel (500+ pages)
  • A classic novella (-250 pages)
  • A classic with a name in the title
  • A humorous or satirical classic
  • A forgotten classic
  • A nonfiction classic
  • A classic children's book
  • A classic play
So what do you think of my challenges?  Have you ever heard of book challenges?  Would you be interested in participating in a reading challenge at the library?  My hope is that by participating in these challenges, I will broaden my reading horizons.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Coffee Mugs

The Friends of the Library are now selling these great coffee/hot chocolate/apple cider mugs!

They cost $10 each and the proceeds benefits the Friends of the Library.  The Friends provide funding for Summer Reading, Marvelous Monday!, and all of our programs.  Come in and get yours today and support a great organization!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Holiday Schedule

Holiday Schedule
December 22:  Open
December 23:  Open
December 24:  Closed
December 25:  Closed
December 26:  Closed
December 27:  Closed
December 29: Open
December 30:  Open
December 31:  Open
January 1:  Closed
January 2:  Open
January 3:  Open

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas-y Things

There's only 7 days left until Christmas!  To get into the Christmas mood, I conducted another survey here at the library, this one on everybody's Christmas traditions.  All the library staff participated, along with Kristin, our seasonal employee, and Tom Wilkinson of our Tom's Two Cents column.
I asked when everyone decorated for Christmas.  Kristin was the only one who said that her family decorated before Thanksgiving.  The rest of us all waited at least until the day after Thanksgiving.  The group was split on whether a real or fake tree is best.  Tom, Kristin, and Debbie all love real trees, while Lisa, Chance and I have to have fake trees due to allergies.   
Favorite Christmas Carol?
Lisa:  I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day by Casting Crowns
Julie: What Child is This?
Chance:  O' Holy Night
Debbie:  White Christmas
Kristin:  Silent Night
Tom:  Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming
Favorite Christmas Movie?
Lisa:  Little Drummer Boy
Julie:  A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Chance:  Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Story
Debbie:  A Charlie Brown Christmas
Kristin:  Elf
Tom:  A Charlie Brown Christmas
Favorite Childhood Holiday Memory?
Lisa:  "When my Daddy got my mother a brand new cab tractor for Christmas"
Julie:  "My sister would sleep in my room on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning we would go climb in bed with mom and dad early in the morning.  We had to wait until Daddy got up and built a fire in the fireplace and then we could go peak around the corner to see if Santa had eaten the milk and cookies we had left out."
Chance:  "I have a lot of special memories revolving around Santa Claus. Every Christmas Eve he would actually call me to make double-sure I was a good boy before making his delivery. Think that's cool? One year my parent's accidently left our video camera on during the night and we caught Santa putting out gifts on film! Also, I heard Santa stomping around up on the roof."
Debbie:  "Waking up on Christmas morning to see what Santa had left for us.
Kristin:  "Playing with Barbie ornaments under the Christmas tree."
Tom:  "Finding a big Teddy under the tree (6 yrs old)"
What does Christmas mean to you?
Lisa:  "Not the presents under the tree, but being in the presence of my Savior.  The day we celebrate the greatest gift of all - Jesus Christ."
Julie:  "Celebrating Jesus - unfathomable love."
Chance:  "It's a time of giving and sharing."
Debbie:  "family, friends, and the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ!"

Kristin:  "A time to visit family."
Tom:  "Hope."

The Franklin County Library wishes you a very
Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Marvelous Monday! : Will it Float?

Have you seen the bit on The Late Show with David Letterman called Will it Float?  Well, we did our own version here at the library!  I gathered as much stuff as I could think of, and the kids took turns guessing whether the items would sink or float and tossing them in the water.

I had a wax candle, assorted balls (including a bowling ball!), an apple, oranges (both peeled and unpeeled), a lemon, a lime, wood and metal items, packing foam, tin foil, a pumice stone, assorted plastic items, two kinds of soap, and regular and diet soda. 
The kids were pretty good at guessing what would float and what would sink.  The peeled orange sank, while the orange with peel floated; the regular sodas sank, while the diet soda floated.  Although I had read that a bowling ball would float, ours sank like a rock!  You can't believe everything you read on the internet!
The object of Will it Float? of course, is to learn about density.  I'm not sure how much of that got across to the kids, but we sure had a lot of fun!
This was the last Marvelous Monday for the year.  We will start up again on January 5th, when the kids go back to school. 


Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Cooking

I spent the weekend, as I'm sure many of you did, gearing up for Christmas.  As part of my preparations, I am putting together plates of goodies for the men in my husband's family.  I went ahead and put together a few things this weekend that freeze well.  When I get ready to put the plates together, all I'll have to do is thaw the things I've already made!

Molasses Sugar Cookies
¾ cup shortening, melted and cooled
1 cup sugar
¼ cup molasses
1 egg
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups sifted flour
½ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
Add sugar, egg, and molasses to melted shortening.  Beat well.  Sift flour, soda, spices, and salt.  Add to shortening mixture.  Mix well.  Chill.  Form into 1” balls and roll in sugar.  Bake at 375˚ for 8-10 minutes.
Cappuccino Mini Muffins
2 cups flour
¾ cup sugar
2 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1 cup milk
2 scant Tbsp. instant coffee granules
½ cup butter, melted
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line muffin cups with liners or spray with no-stick spray.  Add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt to a large mixing bowl and combine.  In a separate bowl, add the instant coffee to the milk and combine until the coffee has dissolved.  Add the butter, egg, and vanilla and combine.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry, stirring just until combined.  Fold in the chocolate chips. 
Fill muffin cups 2/3 full.  Bake for 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool for five minutes in muffin tins, then move to a wire cooling rack.
*Both of these recipes came from a tried and true source : my mom!  I plan to add some peanut brittle and peppermint bark to the plates the day before Christmas. 
What are your favorite recipes for Christmas? 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Robert Frost

A few weeks ago, when I polled library staff about their reading habits, I asked about a favorite poet.  Several of us mentioned Robert Frost.  We are all familiar with the poem The Road Not Taken, but Frost has many other good poems.  I've picked just a few of his shorter poems to share here.

Good Hours
I had for my winter evening walk -
No one at all with whom to talk,
But I had the cottages in a row
Up to their shining eyes in snow.
And I thought I had the folk within:
I had the sounds of a violin;
I had a glimpse through curtain laces
Of youthful forms and youthful faces.
I had such company outward bound.
I went till there were no cottages found.
I turned and repented, but coming back
I saw no window but that was black.
Over the snow my creaking feet
Disturbed the slumbering village street
Like profanation, by your leave,
At ten o'clock of a winter eve.
A Time to Talk
When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don't stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven't hoed,
And shout from where I am, What is it?
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.
Fire and Ice
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great,
And would suffice
The library has five of Mr. Frost's books available for checkout.  I am considering putting up a poem every month or so as an addition to this blog.  What do you think?

Source:  "Robert Frost : Selected Poems", 2011, Fall River Press

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tom's Two Cents: Three Bios Sum Up the American Theatre in the 20th Century

The new biography of Tennessee Williams by John Lahr ("Tennessee Williams: Mad Pleasures of the Flesh") turned me back to Martin Gottfried's bio of Arthur Miller, published in 2003, and the massive (964pp) bio of Eugene O'Neill by Arthur and Barbara Gelb, published over fifty years ago, in 1962.  Together they sum up the story of the American Theatre in the 20th century, as well as it can be, into its last quarter.  Williams was its lyrical heart, Miller its probing intellect, and O'Neill its long suffering soul.  From 1920 to 1970 they turned the American Theatre from vaudeville, musical, and revue into drama of the highest order.

The Gelb biography of O'Neill is a massive achievement, definitive in every respect.  If it has been superseded, I suspect that can be only in the interpretation of O'Neill's plays, which he began writing in the teens and first achieved major recognition for in 1920, with the production in New York of his first full length play, "Beyond the Horizon," a play that so astounded O'Neill's actor-father, James, that he asked his son, "Are you trying to send your audience home to commit suicide?"  For over fifty years, James O'Neill had entertained and enthralled American audiences with his vehicle play, "The Count of Monte Cristo," based on the swashbuckling French novel by Alexander Dumas.  It was an era that exulted in entertainment, especially on Broadway, where extravaganzas like the Ziegfield Follies flourished.  Only Shakespearean tragedy, plays like "Hamlet" or "Julius Caesar," with high profile actors like John Barrymore, could hope for successful runs.  So, when O'Neill burst upon the scene with a true American tragedy (he was literally five years before Dreiser's "An American Tragedy"), the Theatre in America was turned upside down.

Nourished in the teens by a group of semi-professional actors in Provincetown, Mass. known as the Provincetown Players, O'Neill cut his professional teeth on the one-act play and emerged on Broadway as a fully adult playwright, giving audiences what they had seldom, if ever, had before.  Surprisingly, they lapped it up.  The same decade (the 20's) that produced the Follies, Noel Coward's brittle comedies, and the re-birth of the American musical  in Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein's "Showboat" also unveiled serious and thought-provoking plays of O'Neill such as "The Emperor Jones," "Desire Under the Elms," "Strange Interlude," "The Great God Brown," and "Mourning Becomes Electra."  The American Theatre had never seen anything quite like it before or since.  Not only O'Neill, but a host of new dramatists like Sydney Howard, Elmer Rice, and Thornton Wilder emerged out of this same burgeoning period.  In many respects, the 20's and the 30's, despite the Crash and the Depression, were the Golden Age of American Drama.

By the end of this period O'Neill had won three Pulitzers and the Nobel Prize for Literature, being only the second American to do so.  Regrettably by 1940 a reversal of Fate had relegated O'Neill to near the bottom of a distinguished heap.  In deteriorating health, beset with personal and financial problems, and over- extending himself with ambitious, half-written cycles of as many as eleven plays, he was all but finished as a writer.  It remained for two young "upstarts" named Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller to revive the American Theatre in the 40's and 50's.

(Next time: Williams and Miller, O'Neill's successors)