Thursday, April 28, 2016

Chance's Corner: The Bell Jar

I've been struggling to find a good book to keep my attention, so in times of great need, I always turn to the classics. One classic that's been in my to-read pile for quite a while is Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. I knew going into it that it wasn't going to be a fun read. The blurb on the back, by Robert Scholes of The New York Times, clearly states that it's "the kind of book [J.D.] Salinger's Franny might have written about herself ten years later, if she had spent those ten years in Hell." Oh, joy....

The Bell Jar starts off on a dour note, the electrocution of the Rosenbergs. Something the main character, Esther Greenwood, becomes somewhat obsessed about, to her own dismay. She's also dismayed to be in New York, wearing fancy clothes, socializing with girls her own age, and attending swanky events hosted by the fashion magazine she's working for during the summer. She tries to fit in, and plays the part as best she can, but overall she's so blasé about the whole ordeal. She knows she shouldn't feel that way, but honestly she just can't help it.

As the story goes along, the indifference, and keenness to the macabre, turns into madness. Suffering from depression, she crawls under her mattress to blot out the light, continuously ponders on how to kill herself, and actually attempts to kill herself via several methods. After a few failed shock treatments, Esther is finally confined to a mental hospital. Throughout this whole experience, you're in her head, hearing her maddening thoughts, and feeling that maybe you're going a little mad, too.

The ending is a little uncertain, not the happiest of endings, but it is hinted at earlier on in the book that Esther grows older and lives a normal life with a child. However, knowing that The Bell Jar is a semi-autobiographical look at Sylvia Plath's own early life, it's clear that it all ends in tragedy. Plath killed herself in 1963, one month after The Bell Jar was published.

Despite the subject matter, and lingering sadness, The Bell Jar is beautifully written. The images that Plath conjures, about New York, especially, are enticing. One of my favorite lines is:
"My secret hope of spending the afternoon alone in Central Park died in the glass eggbeater of Ladies' Day's revolving doors. I found myself spewed out through the warm rain and into the dim, throbbing cave of a cab... "
Would I ever suggest this book to someone? I'm not sure. It offers great insight into how a depressed person would feel, but it's very, very heavy. If you're willing to give it a try, you can check it out here, at the Franklin County Library.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Julie's Journal : Fantasy

I've said before that I read just about anything.  I like good fiction of all sorts, biographies and narrative nonfiction, young adult books, classics and children's classics, and some science fiction.  Lately, I've been on a bit of a fantasy kick.

I've been asked several times what the difference between science fiction and fantasy is. We shelve the two together, but they are not necessarily similar.  Science fiction usually incorporates some sort of advanced technology or scientific capability.  The story might have robots, or clones, or space travel.  On the other hand, fantasy normally incorporates magic and supernatural powers.  Star Wars is more science fiction, while Harry Potter is fantasy.

I have read three fantasy books lately.  The first was awful.  The second was a re-read because I was desperate for something good to read.  The third was new-to-me and very enjoyable.

I read The Magicians because I heard that there was a show based on it airing on the SciFi channel.  I always like to read the books before I watch the show or movie, and after reading this book, I will not be watching the show.  I don't understand why people love this book.  (And they do.  Just read the reviews on Amazon.)  The main character, Quentin Coldwater, discovers, as he is finishing high school, that magic is real and becomes a student at a secret magical university in upstate New York. After finishing at the University, Quentin and his friends discover that books they had loved in childhood are based on a real place in another world and they travel there to visit.  The first part of the book draws heavily from Harry Potter, and the second part from Narnia.  The author seems to have taken both of those stories and tried to make them darker and more adult.  He only succeeds in proving that his world building is not as compelling as either J.K. Rowling's or C.S. Lewis's.  My biggest problem with the book is that Quentin and his friends are entirely unlikable.  They are always depressed, spend lots of time either getting drunk or recovering from hangovers, and when a decision needs to be made, they can be counted on to make the wrong one.  Obviously, I do not recommend The Magicians, but if you wish to read it, it and its sequels are available at FCL.

Eragon is a re-read for me.  Written when the author was just a teen, Eragon is the beginning of an epic adventure.  Our title character, Eragon, discovers a strange blue stone in the mountains near his village.  The stone quickly reveals itself to be an egg when a dragon hatches from it.  Eragon's uncle is killed by creatures know as Ra'zac and Eragon, his dragon Saphira, and an old storyteller named Brom set off on an adventure to try and find the Ra'zac and avenge Eragon's family.   There are four books in this series and we get to travel along with Eragon as he and Saphira learn what it means to be dragon and rider.  They battle forces of evil, learn magic, and help unite humans, elves, and dwarves in the battle against evil.  Do not bother with the movie as it does not do justice to this story.  The entire series is available at FCL.

I finished The Name of the Wind this weekend.  Kote is an innkeeper, with his friend Bast, in a tiny village off the beaten path.  Trouble abounds in the countryside and a spider-like creature called a skrael is menacing the area.  We discover quickly that Kote is an alias for Kvothe, a legendary hero and magician.  Chronicler has discovered Kvothe's whereabouts and has come to try and convince the legend to tell his story in his own words.   Kvothe was born to a family of troupers and spent his early life traveling from town to town as an entertainer.  At one town they picked up a man called Abenathy (Ben) who began to teach Kvothe on a variety of subjects including Sympathy in preparation for sending him to the University.  Eventually Kvothe's family is killed and after much hardship, he comes to the University to learn more about Sympathy, magic, and the Chandrian who killed his family.  His curiosity gets him into trouble a few times, but he is a prodigy and advances through the ranks very quickly.  He learns to use his musical skills to make enough money to pay his tuition and survive, but remains very poor.  Occasionally the story breaks and returns us to the little country inn, but for the most part we hear about Kvothe's time at the University.  I am excited about reading the next book in this series.  The library does not have physical copies of this book, but I found it on our e-reading service, Overdrive. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Did you know? : Cookbooks

The library has a TON of cookbooks available for checkout.  I brought a few down and made a display, but this is only a fraction of what we have.

Come check out a cookbook and get creative in the kitchen today!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Poet's Perch : Boa Constrictor

I wanted a poem on the lighter side today so I chose Boa Constrictor.  I loved this poem as a child for the imagery it produced in my mind.  Enjoy!

Boa Constrictor

Oh, I'm being eaten
By a boa constrictor,
A boa constrictor,
A boa constrictor,
I'm being eaten by a boa constrictor,
And I don't like it--one bit.
Well, what do you know?
It's nibblin' my toe.
Oh, gee,
It's up to my knee.
Oh my,
It's up to my thigh.
Oh, fiddle,
It's up to my middle.
Oh, heck,
It's up to my neck.
Oh, dread,
It's upmmmmmmmmmmffffffffff . . .

Shel Silverstein

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Movie Matinee : The Intern

If you aren't busy Friday afternoon, why not come by the library and watch The Intern with us.  We will be showing it at 1:30 in the meeting room upstairs.  Light refreshments will be served.  There is no cost to attend this event.

Robert DeNiro plays Ben, a retired widower who jumps back into the workforce as an intern at the successful new online fashion site owned by Jules (Anne Hathaway).  I haven't seen the movie, so I can't give a review, but online reviewers bill it as sweet and funny.

The Intern is rated PG-13. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Chance's Corner: Children's Graphic Novels

We have a lot to offer at the Franklin County Library, but most people don't know about one of the hidden gems we offer -- graphic novels for children.

Graphic novels are comic-strip style, illustrated adventures that are usually stand-alone, instead of being released serially, and have a more complex plot. Our selections of graphic novels cover both the fiction and non-fiction genres that cover a range of subjects from superheros to mythical heroes, from the history of Indiana Jones to the history of the American Dust Bowl, and from Boxcar Children mysteries to Scooby-Doo mysteries.

The fascinating thing about graphic novels is the artwork put into them, which is oftentimes just as enthralling as the story itself. In the right hands, a graphic novel can be a work of art and can convey more than any words could ever do. With the examples below, which we all have here at the library, you can see that no drawing style is alike.

If your child, or your child at heart, would like to read a graphic novel, they can all be found in our juvenile section. Check them out today!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Tom's Two Cents: "The Ambassadors" by Henry James

Last week when our little book club finished Henry James's next to-next to last novel (and the one he thought his best) we all pretty much asked ourselves, "Why?"  Why did he think so?  Why did at least some of (but not all) the literary critics think so?  Why does James rank so high in most literary circles?  "The Ambassadors" is not, in my opinion, worth all the fuss.  In fact, none of the last three of his novels are even accessible to the general reading public.  One has to work too hard to hack through his jungle of words and freakish syntax (a subject is hardly ever in sight of a predicate in a typically obtuse and lengthy James sentence) to make any sense at all of what he is saying, and even when one does, it rarely seems worth the trouble.  So then why am I bothering to write this review?  Because I think James is well worth reading, but not the later James.

First, a few words about the author himself.  A fussy, privileged New Englander, he spent most of his life abroad in Europe, especially France and England, where he eventually acquired a country home in Rye, Sussex, and entertained many men and women of letters.  He wrote and published a great many novels, short stories and wrote hundreds of letters, but his forays into the theatre were not successful, and no wonder--he had little or no ear for the dramatic or theatrical, and action, or plot, the fundamental element of a successful turn-of-the-20th century play, was of little or no interest to him.  What did absorb him was the more subtle play of personality against personality, hardly ever in any open conflict, but quietly sparring with each other beneath the surface of events--hence his reputation for being one of the first "psychological" novelists of the 20th century.  What he says is rarely as provocative as what he means, and what he means is often uncertain and ambiguous.

The short story "The Turn of the Screw" is probably his best short work, and certainly a good example of the ghost story genre.  Reading James's short stories has merit in itself because it is the best way to escape his long windedness.  Yet one of his finest works is a novel, "Portrait of a Lady," which revolves around his favorite theme: the American abroad.  Of course the American in this case is a privileged young lady, Isabel Archer, who becomes hopeless entangled in a European social milieu.  Another Jamesian limitation here: like most good writers, he wrote about what he knew, but what he knew was pretty much limited to the upper stratum of high, cultivated society, especially in Europe.  Edith Wharton, his latter-day friend and American author/compatriot, wrote more about the same world in America, and to my mind her work comes off better, because it is more incisively critical of that society.

Should I say read old Henry at your own risk?  That depends on who you are and what you want in a good book!  Mercifully, we are all different, so James will continue to be read and taught, but in my estimation not widely appreciated.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Julie's Journal : Susanna Kearsley

A few months ago, I discovered a new author.  Well, new to me anyway.  Susanna Kearsley began publishing in the mid 90s.  Her books are marketed as romance, but I have found that they are so much more.

I first found The Rose Garden on Overdrive, our e-book app.  It begins with our heroine Eva, returning, after the death of her sister, to the place she feels most at home.  She travels to an Trelowarth House on the Cornish coast in the extreme southwest of England where she spent her childhood summers.  Early in her visit, she begins to experience strange visions.  Although at first she chalks them up to grief and fatigue, the visions continue to become more and more real to her and she gradually comes to realize that they are, in fact, actually happening.  She is slipping through time to an era almost 300 years before her own. 

The early 1700's are a dangerous time.  England is dealing with the Jacobite uprising and Eva meets Daniel Butler, a man working as a free-trader, or smuggler.  He lives in Trelowarth House and uses a cave in the coastline as his headquarters.  I won't give too much away, except to say that eventually Eva must decide whether to remain in her own time or live permanently in the 1700s with Daniel.

The Rose Garden is difficult to review because of how complex it is.  The characters from the Jacobite era are based on real historical figures.  The writing is smooth and transitions seamlessly between time-periods.  The earlier time flows smoothly in part because of the descriptions of clothing and food and food preparation.  And in spite of a premise that seems unbelievable, I fell into the story without hesitation.  There were no moments that caused me to "come out" of the story and question how something was possible. 

In short, I devoured this book and immediately looked for more by Ms. Kearsley.  Eventually the library purchased all of her books.  I immediately recommended them to Christian who became hooked, and together we've been recommending them to all our patrons!  You can find most of them on the Overdrive app as well.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Poet's Perch : World Poetry Day

March 21st is World Poetry Day as declared by UNESCO in 1999.

From :

"Poetry reaffirms our common humanity by revealing to us that individuals, everywhere in the world, share the same questions and feelings."

Over the last year or so, I (Julie) have published on this blog, famous poems.  I am finding them, for the most part, in a book called The Family Album of Favorite Poems.  I didn't study much poetry in school, and honestly never had much of an interest in it.  However, I have found that many familiar quotations and phrases have their origins in poetry and as I have grown older I have come to appreciate the beauty in many poems. 

Today, I am sharing a poem taken from Hamlet by Shakespeare.  Reading through it, I find several phrases familiar to me that I had forgotten came from Shakespeare.  I chose this poem in particular because Mrs. Laughton (Minnie Birdsong) made us memorize it in our Senior English class. 

To Be Or Not To Be

To be, or not to be:  that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?  To die: to sleep,
No more; and, by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd.  To die, to sleep;
To sleep:  perchance to dream:  ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.  There's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of dispriz'd love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveler returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.

William Shakespeare

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Egg Hunt!

It's time for our annual Egg Hunt in the library!

Every year we hide hundreds of Easter Eggs in the library.  Anytime between now and Easter you can come into the library and participate.  You can find 5 eggs per visit.  You get to keep the treasures inside, but we ask for the eggs back, so we can refill them.  We invite kids of ALL ages to participate!  Happy hunting!

Monday, March 14, 2016

It's Pi Day!

Today is Pi day. Pi = 3.14 and today is 3/14.  I'm sure many of you thought you'd seen the last of pi when you finished high school geometry!  Social media is good about reminding us of things long forgotten, though, and math trivia is no exception.

So, what is pi exactly?  Well, according to, Pi (π) is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Make sense to you?  No? also gives us the following history of pi.

"By measuring circular objects, it has always turned out that a circle is a little more than 3 times its width around. In the Old Testament of the Bible (1 Kings 7:23), a circular pool is referred to as being 30 cubits around, and 10 cubits across. The mathematician Archimedes used polygons with many sides to approximate circles and determined that Pi was approximately 22/7. The symbol (Greek letter “π”) was first used in 1706 by William Jones. A ‘p’ was chosen for ‘perimeter’ of circles, and the use of π became popular after it was adopted by the Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler in 1737. In recent years, Pi has been calculated to over one trillion digits past its decimal. Only 39 digits past the decimal are needed to accurately calculate the spherical volume of our entire universe, but because of Pi’s infinite & patternless nature, it’s a fun challenge to memorize, and to computationally calculate more and more digits."

If all that makes no sense to you, never fear.  Most people, including those of us FCL look at pi day as simply a great excuse to eat some pie!

Happy Pi Day!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Chance's Corner: John Wayne + Baby Face + Hays Code

Several boxes of movies were donated to the Franklin County Library recently, filled with classics, musicals, and westerns. Mixed in the lot was a ton of John Wayne films that helped us beef up our John Wayne collection and replace some of the VHS copies we still had on the shelf.

John Wayne was a very prolific actor, credited in 178 movies, dating all the way back to 1926. Granted, some of his early credits are: Extra, Flood Extra, Tall Boy and Richard Thorpe as a corpse. It wasn't until the 1930s that John Wayne actually started to get roles that had a specific name attached to the character.

One such film is Baby Face, starring Barbara Stanwyck as a woman who knows what's she got, and how to get everything else. Va-va-va-voom! I stumbled upon Baby Face while researching which John Wayne films we still didn't have in our collection, and it sounded like a real humdinger, but John Wayne was only in the movie for a short period of time, so I dismissed it.... until it came on Turner Classic Movies last week.

Baby Face, released in 1933, instantly struck me as something different. From the get go, Stanwyck was chewing men up and spitting them out. She'd smile at a man, flutter her lashes and take him to a dark corner... in an overly-suggestive manner. John Wayne was one of those men, for a mere two or three minutes. Sure, none of that "sexy stuff" is really new for movies today, but for 1933, it was scandalous.

It was so scandalous, in fact, that Will H. Hays, president of the Motion Pictures Producers and Distributors of America, was called upon to form the Motion Picture Production Code (Hays Code), which was strictly enforced in 1934 - 1954. The objective of the Hays Code was to prevent pictures that would "lower the moral standards of those who see it" from ever seeing the light of day.

Baby Face certainly wasn't the only film that caused the enforcement of the code. Films such as The Blue Angel, Gold Diggers of 1933 and The Sign of the Cross caused quite a stir, and several real life scandals in Hollywood involving well-known stars, including accusations against actor/comedian Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, sent shock waves across the nation.

The times have changed, and the Hays Code has been dead for several years now. However, movie makers are still being held accountable for their content by the Motion Picture Association of America with the use of a rating system (G, PG, etc.). This system is give or take. It allows for more freedom and less censorship, but it still controls audience perceptions of a film and how much a director is willing to cut to make an R movie PG-13 to make more money off younger audiences.

Whew! If it wasn't for John Wayne, I never would have never unearthed Baby Face, and I never would have dove deep into the history of the Hays Code. So again, John Wayne saves the day!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Spring Break Activities!

Happy Spring Break!  We hope you're having a great week in spite of the dismal forecast.  We have a couple of fun activities planned if you need to get out of the house this week.

First up is Wacky Wednesday!

Ms. Christian has lots of cool crafts planned and we will get out our collection of board games tomorrow afternoon at 2:00!

Then we will have a coloring party for both teens and adults on Thursday.

We have coloring books and supplies or you are welcome to bring your own.  Join us at 2:00 for teens and 5:30 for adults! 

Have a safe and happy Spring Break!  We hope to see you soon!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Tom's Two Cents: "Georgia" by Dawn Tripp

In recent years a number of novels have been written about the wives of famous men--Hadley Hemingway and Zelda Fitzgerald for two--but seldom do we have a book about a couple of equally famous people (unless they are both "celebrities") such as Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz.  Even today, of course, O'Keeffe is still far better known and revered as a modern artist than Alfred Stieglitz, but that was certainly not the case when they first met, around 1917.

In the world of artistic photography Stieglitz was second to none in America, anyway, just after the turn of the 20th century, with his famous gallery of modern art, "291", in New York City.  Dawn Tripp's new novel, "Georgia," is, as the title indicates, O'Keeffe's story first and foremost, but Alfred Stieglitz could hardly be called a secondary character.  In many respects, he fulfills the role of antagonist in this novel to O'Keefe's role as protagonist.  Indeed, the story is told throughout from her viewpoint in first person narrative; thus we see Stieglitz primarily through her eyes; nonetheless, he is forever looming larger than life.

Their relationship, lasting from about 1916 to his death in 1946, is certainly one of the most complex in the history of modern art. I use the word "history" advisedly here because never, or hardly ever, does Tripp take this story outside the realm of the personal.  It is far more a timeless story than a story of the times, despite the centrality of abstract art to the time in which it took place.  It is about two extraordinarily strong-willed people, both of them artistic geniuses, who cannot in any real sense of the word play "second fiddle" to each other.  In a very real sense their love story (and it is a great one) is a fight to the finish.  We will leave it to you, the reader, to determine which (if either) of the two emerges victorious.

Although the novel is framed by retrospection (chapters after and before the relationship begins and ends) it is clearly, and wisely, not the story of O'Keeffe's entire life or career.  Tripp very carefully avoids even a mention of Juan Hamilton, the other great male influence in O'Keeffe's life, until near the end of the book, and he never actually makes an appearance.  There is probably another novel here, and it could become a sequel to this one, if it is as commercially successful as I suspect it will be.  In fact, I smell a movie on the horizon, largely because of the immense personal conflict and explicit sexuality that this book generates. (Let's hope that Brad and Angelina don't get ahold of it, though she certainly could be made to exude the O'Keeffe persona!)

I did not care for the style of this book (lean and fragmentary), though it's probably written in a voice eminently suited to its protagonist, or its deliberately limited point of view, though the choice of first person seems logical enough.  I also object to the endless use of present tense (it starts appropriately enough in past tense and, in my opinion, should have stayed there), but I know I'm the one who's out of sync with today's trends.  With these reservations, I do recommend the book.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Chance's Corner: Super Tuesday

Super Tuesday is coming! Not to be confused with our after-school program, Marvelous Monday, Super Tuesday is one of the most important days of 2016! It's the day you need to go vote!

It's been a neck-and-neck race between candidates on both sides of the political spectrum, but March 1st (Super Tuesday) could very well be the deciding factor on who will be officially running for President of the United States. Why is it called Super Tuesday in the first place? While Iowa, South Carolina, New Hampshire and Nevada have their caucuses spaced out from each other, on March 1st, Texas as well as several other states will hold their primaries on the same day.

When you vote on Super Tuesday, you'll also be voting on the state and local level, including ballot propositions, state representatives, and even a new county commissioner if you live in Precinct 1 & 3 of Franklin County.

The big question is, where do you need to go vote?

Precinct #101 - Franklin County Multi-Purpose Center
                          208 Taylor Street
                          Mt. Vernon, TX 75457

Precinct #102 - Hagansport Community Center
                         10284 Texas Hwy 37 North
                         Talco, TX 75487

Precinct #201 - Franklin County Annex East
                          502 East Main
                          Mt. Vernon, TX 75457

Precinct #202 - Denton Baptist Church
                          1113 Holbrook
                          Mt. Vernon, TX 75457

Precinct #301 - Prosperity Bank Community Room
                          539 I-30 Frontage Rd
                          Mt. Vernon, TX 75457

Precinct #302 - Franklin County Building
                          1013 N. Main Street
                          Winnsboro, TX 75494

Precinct #401 - Lake Cypress Springs Baptist Church
                          6611 FM 115
                          Scroggins, TX 75480

Precinct #402 - South Franklin Community Center
                          3150 FM 1448
                          Scroggins, TX 75480

I don't care who you're voting for, just vote, vote, vote! Just remember that if you don't vote, then you can't complain!