Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Summer Reading : Day 3

You may notice that the library is a little more sparkly this week than usual.  That's because yesterday's Summer Reading craft involved painting fireworks with glitter paint! 


We had 119 kids here yesterday over two groups.  Our community room upstairs was bursting at the seams.
Afterwards, kids lined up for a chance to play on the two kids iPads downstairs.

There's still time to get involved.  Summer reading continues for three more weeks and we still have several other programs on the docket.  Come see us!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Tom's Two Cents : American Pastoral by Philip Roth

The Pulitzer Prize winner for 1997, American Pastoral belongs in that distinguished category with "Great Gatsby" and "Death of A Salesman" of works that both extol and condemn American materialistic values. As a character, the Swede, Seymour Levov, stands right up there with Willy Loman and Jay Gatsby as a man more sinned against than sinning.  That said, this book is light years away from the others in terms of style and presentation.  It is harsh, at times didactic--at least through its characters-- and quite possibly the most disturbingly pessimistic work I've ever read by an American novelist.  It also raises a highly perplexing question: what in these days is a novel really for?

 In the 19th century the English/American novel was perceived as a source of upper and middle class entertainment, but in the later 20th not so much.  Admittedly, the nature of entertainment fiction has changed dramatically since my generation grew up.  Dickens straddled the fence beautifully between being an entertainer and a moralist at the same time, but nowadays with no holds barred in fiction authors seem less likely to walk the Dickensian line. I won't go so far as to say emphatically that shock value has replaced entertainment value in fiction, but I will say that shock (and I'm not talking about horror fiction, which has always been with us) is very high on the entertainment list today.  Thus the insensitivity to shock gets higher and higher.  What's left today to shock us?  Not much, if anything. 

What does all this have to do with American Pastoral? In my opinion, a lot.  It is a shocking novel about a shocking subject: a violent crime (a bombing) committed in the 60s by a fifteen year old girl from a prominent New Jersey family, and no, we aren't talking about the Sopranos here.  We are talking about a respectable, hardworking, law abiding upper middle class Jewish family, who seemingly had it all.  Phillip Roth's central question in this work seems not so much to be where did this family go wrong as when and how did America go wrong in its dream of equality for all and making the world safe for democracy?  Perhaps it's inevitable in such a work that no conclusions are reached, though many possible answers are presented.

All of which brings me back to my earlier question of what's a novel for? The serious (and sometimes comic) literary novel has always been about enlightenment within the human condition, enlightenment and catharsis--what the Greeks meant by that was a purging of the emotions that involved  both understanding and empathy.  American Pastoral is big on crisis, but not on enlightenment or catharsis--it's a story that could well be on the national news this week or any week-- basically it takes the perspective that life makes no sense, and that's it--the Classical Greeks would not accept that or even understand it--they managed to render at least some order out of chaos-- of course they had their pagan gods to blame for all the bad stuff, and we don't!

 There's an old tenet in literature that every good novel, despite its subject, should have some "redeeming social value."  If American Pastoral has any, please do tell me what it is.  It is very successful in pointing out the social ills of our time, but not in offering any solutions.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Chance's Corner: Texas Traveler - Ross Perot Museum

It's been awhile since I've been out and about in the great state of Texas (library duty calls!), but I managed to sneak out for the weekend and visit the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas. Maybe you've seen it sitting amongst the iconic Dallas skyline. It's pretty much a work of modern art designed by world-renowned architect Thom Mayne.


Impressive, huh? That's just the outside! Inside the Perot Museum is a world of wonder. Stairs play music as you take each step, water molecules hanging overhead move as they detect your presence, and an entire wall lights up as you touch it. Those aren't even the main exhibits! Sorry for all the exclamation, but the Perot Museum is just a really exciting place.
The Perot Museum has 11 permanent exhibit halls. They are:
  • The Moody Family Children's Museum
    • This exhibit is reserved only for families with kids who are 5 years old or younger, and features a playground modeled after the Dallas skyline.
  • Lamar Hunt Family Sports Hall
    • You can test your reflexes, watch yourself move in slow motion or even race against a T-Rex in this exhibit dedicated to your body and motion.

  • Discovering Life Hall
    • Take a whiff of a Magnolia bloom, Texas mountain laurel, a skunk or coyote urine in this exhibit featuring the different type of animals that can be found in Texas.
Even the benches teach you something.

  • Being Human Hall
    • Check your pulse rate, look at your veins or find your hot and cold spots via a thermal scanner in this exhibit dedicated to your body.
  • Texas Instruments Engineering and Innovation Hall
    • Play with robots, use your brain waves to move ping pong balls, create music and much more in this exhibit featuring the ideas of tomorrow.
Wooden blocks mold to the shape of my body via a motion capture camera.

  • The Rees-Jones Foundation Dynamic Earth Hall
    • Here, you can experience the sensation of being caught in an earthquake or even stick your hand in the middle of a small tornado.
  • Tom Hunt Energy Hall
    • What other resources can we use to generate energy and gas? Solar? Wind? Hydro? Learn about it here!
  • Lyda Hill Gems and Minerals Hall
    • Gems and minerals sparkle and gleam in this exhibit, but the centerpiece is a HUGE purple geode.
  • Expanding Universe Hall
    • Travel through space!
  • T. Boone Pickens Life Then and Now Hall
    • Dinosaurs roam this hall. Watch out!
  • Rose Hall of Birds
    • Check out the different species of birds in Texas and create your very own species.
The reason I enjoyed the Perot Museum so much is because it's very interactive... very hand's on. You have so much fun that you almost forget that you're learning something. I hope you get to check it out for yourself one day!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Poet's Perch : The Arrow and the Song by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Arrow and the Song
I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.
I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?
Long, long, afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Summer Time Fun!

This last week has been busy, busy, busy at the library!
First, we kicked off summer activities with Bubble Day.  Over 120 people attended.
Then, last Thursday, Blackland Prairie Raptors brought owls, hawks, falcons, and kestrels.  Everyone enjoyed seeing the birds up close.
Yesterday, in collaboration with MV Music, the kids were treated to a Summer Children's Concert, entitled "The Town Musicians."
Today is the first official day of Summer Reading.  Mrs. August and Kristin are reading to the kids and helping them make Superhero Masks. 

Be sure to check our website for a full listing of all our summer acitivies!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Adult Reading Challenge

In addition to our normal crazy summer schedule, this year we will be adding an Adult Reading Challenge! 

Participants will complete 12 challenges in order to be entered in a drawing for a prize.  The challenges will be things like "read a biography" and "Check out a DVD and  have a movie night."  All challenges must be completed with library books or materials and be marked complete by library staff. 

The Adult Reading Challenge will run concurrently to our children's reading program.  It will begin on June 16th, and all forms must be turned in by July 20th.  Prizes will be awarded at our Summer Reading closing party on July 21st!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Tom's Two Cents: The Razor's Edge by Somerset Maugham

The British author Somerset Maugham essentially made a name for himself in a series of novels and short stories written before the mid-20th century.  In literary circles he became known for "Of Human Bondage," but it is for his shorter novels, "Cakes and Ale," "The Moon and Sixpence," and especially "The Razor's Edge," that he is best remembered today.  The latter, published in 1943, seems every bit as relevant now as it did then.

A British writer's take on a group of Americans, first living in Chicago, then mostly in France, in Paris and on the Riviera, it is, like "The Great Gatsby," also about the American pursuit of materialism and social status, but unlike "Gatsby," it explores a subject of much greater depth, the search for a life of the spirit, outside the context of the conventional Catholic or Protestant Church.  No, it isn't about cults, either.  It's rather about one man's search for knowledge and meaning within the context of the cosmos and himself.

That man is Larry Darrell, a former youthful WWI pilot, whose life is forever changed by his war experiences and who comes back to America unable and/or unwilling to settle down, make money in the American tradition, and thus lead a "successful" life.  His refusal to do so upsets the applecart between himself and his fiancĂ©e, Isabel, whose young life up to then has been sheltered by money, security, and social position.  Isabel wants to marry Larry, but she also wants him on her terms, not his.

Their story is told largely from the point of view of an outside narrator, the author Maugham himself, and his friend Elliott Templeton, a snobbish but very amusing American ex-patriate, who is Isabel's uncle.  Elliott is the perfect foil for Larry, who couldn't possibly care what kind of china he's dining on, or even if it's china.  Elliott, on the other hand, wouldn't be caught dead outside a guru's hovel in India.  Larry's search for spirituality in that ancient country may strike us now as a cliche, but this story was written long before John Lennon ever went in search of a guru!  And it is not so much the destination as the search itself that remains still strikingly relevant today.

"The Razor's Edge" is a well-written, thought provoking, and entertaining book, one that I recommend highly, but be forewarned: it contains nothing shocking except its ideas!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Romantic Reads!

School is out which means Summer has officially started at Franklin County Library!  If you are a teacher, student, or other fortunate soul who gets to laze away a long summer, you might want a romantic read to while away a few hours. 

For a good romantic suspense read try:

Romance with a little magic?  Try:

Inspirational romance with a little suspense?  Try:

Romance from a local author?  Try:

Pick one or read them all!  Let us know which is your favorite!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tom's Two Cents: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This year's Pulitzer Prize was awarded to a novel that takes place in France and Germany during World War II.  The principal characters are a young, blind French girl and a young German male orphan, whose expertise with radio transmitters plunges him into the midst of the War when he, too, is still a child.  The respective stories of these two are told in short, parallel snippets of clean, beautiful prose, until they finally converge in the Brittany village of Saint Malo during the Normandy invasion.  Interwoven with their stories is the mystery of "The Sea of Flames," a large, brilliant cut diamond with a historical curse on it, at first located in the Museum of Natural History in Paris, then disappearing into the miasma that follows the German invasion of France.

I must confess that I had trouble with this novel until I finally concluded that it is structured like a film script, albeit a very literary one. Doerr is an accomplished writer, but he defers to popular, modern taste with his "writing bytes" that satisfy what Scott Cantrell calls in opera the "attention deficit set", those readers who wish to focus on a given character and/or situation for a very short period of time.  Listening to the book may be more rewarding than reading it, at least for old fashioned grammarians like me, who still like to see complete, complex sentences and abhor one-word fragments.  The chronology of the book is also a bit confusing, moving back and forth from early to middle to late periods of the War, and not in any particular order.

All that being said, the book has much to admire in the integrity and courage of many who survived (and didn't) the unspeakable horrors of the War.   It may be time now to move past the political turmoil of Vietnam to tell more of its human stories.  It is sad but true that the "worst of times" brings out both the best and worst of humankind.  I recommend this work with reservations--it's not story driven and there is much descriptive detail, but with a great sense of authenticity--Doerr knows his material inside out.

As to its recognition by the Pulitzer, all I can say is we've come a long way since Edith Wharton won the Pulitzer in 1920 for "Age of Innocence", even a longer way from Larry McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove" in 1985.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Poet's Perch : Solitude by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone,
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air,
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.
Rejoice, and men will seek you;
Grieve, and they turn and go.
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many;
Be sad, and you lose them all,-
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
But alone you must drink life's gall.
Feast, and your halls are crowded;
Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
For a long and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Busy days at the library!

Here on the blog, things have been pretty quiet lately, but they sure haven't in the library!

We have just finished up a series of computer classes.  We taught seven classes on Tuesday nights beginning March 24th.  I always enjoy the computer classes.  Every group that comes through is different and this one was no exception.  This group was lively and a lot of fun!  Look for a new series in the fall.

We are also finishing up Marvelous Monday! for the time being.  Yesterday's experiment was the Mentos and Diet Coke explosion.  I didn't get any pictures, because I was too busy trying to dodge the spewing coke.  We have one more week left, and then we will begin again in September. 

Last week, I was pleased to visit the 5th grade and give an overview of everything the library offers and tell them about our summer programs.  They had a lot of very good questions about our library and some suggestions for new books that we will be looking into.  These are just a few of the kids I talked to.

Today's project will be putting these new books in the system.  Look for them on the shelves in the next couple of days!

Next week on Tuesday at 2:00 we will be showing the movie Still Alice.  Based on the book by Lisa Genova, Still Alice is about a woman who is dealing with the devastating diagnosis of Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease.  The movie never came to the theaters anywhere around here, and many of us wanted to see it, so we chose it as the first movie we are showing in what we hope will become an ongoing event.  To see the movie, please contact us at the library to reserve your ticket.  Space is limited, so tickets are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

And finally, we are welcoming Christian this year as our summer help.  You may recognize her from her work at the Cultural Art Center, which she is continuing. 

We are looking forward to a busy summer and hope you'll join us for some of our activities!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Check us out!

Places to read & relax
Meeting Room
Study areas
Graphic Novels
Internet Access
Special Exhibits
Children's Area
Teen area
Summer Reading
Book Sales
Guest Speakers
Community information
Helpful Librarians!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Did you know? : Biographies

Did you know that we have a shelf devoted entirely to biographies?

Both sides are full of biographies of both recent public figures and historical ones.  There are truly some fascinating reads in the mix.
Come on in and browse the selection!