Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Paper Chase - the movie

There's nothing like a good library caper! In this classic film, first-year Harvard Law student James Hart (Timothy Bottoms) sneaks into Langdell Library, not once, but twice! The first time it appears he merely wants to get a book when the library is closed, but this sets the stage for the second more daring breach. After he is told by an appropriately dowdy librarian (Irma Hurley) sporting a brown jumper and white collared blouse, that the "red set" (the first drafts of all the law-school professor's writings) is off limits to him Hart and his accomplice, Ford, sneak in to the gated area to read the notes written by their hard-nosed contracts professor Kingsfield (John Houseman) from when he was a student at Harvard. Although I certainly can't condone the behavior of Hart and Ford, I must admit that the librarian wasn't very helpful, and the students do seem to give proper respect and awe to the archives.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Peanuts Movie

Charlie Brown wants to impress the Little Red-Haired Girl, and what better way than to read the greatest work of literature ever for his book report: Tolstoy's War and Peace. Our hero goes to the library, and due to a misunderstanding, is looking for something called "Leo's Toy Store" by Warren Peace. Marcie comes to the rescue, telling him the proper title and author, and then pointing out the tome located on the top shelf. Marcie suggests that he pick something else, since he only has the weekend to read the book and write the report, but Charlie Brown is undeterred. Charlie Brown really could have saved himself a lot of trouble by asking a librarian (completely absent in this film - not even by way of the the familiar "wa wa" voice). A librarian could have helped Good Ol' Charlie Brown with book selection, as well as provided the proper title and author information of the book he was looking for, and helped him use the catalog to find its location in the library. Such a lost opportunity. On the plus side, though, this one does pass the Bechdel Test thanks to Marcie and Peppermint Patty who discuss their own book review.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Where the Heart Is - by Billie Letts

This is the third Billie Letts book I've blogged about here. Each one was found by serendipity - the first (Made in the U.S.A.) while browsing the leisure reading shelf of the library where I work, and the other (Shoot the Moon) at Somethin's Brewing Book Cafe. This one I found at The Little Free Library which recently appeared on Washington St. in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, near where my beach house is located. I was thrilled to be able to ride my bike there and pick out a book.

Of the three Letts' books this one is the most library-centric, and includes at least three different kinds of libraries (public, academic, and prison). The libraries tend to be positive forces for the characters in the books; the librarians, however leave a bit to be desired.

When seven-months-pregnant Novalee Nation is abandoned by her boyfriend at the Wal-Mart in Sequoya, Oklahoma she meets an eclectic group of people who help her out in some unexpected ways. She camps out at the store each night, and hides from the employees as they open it each morning. During the day she explores Sequoya and finds the public library "a two-story brick building with a black wrought-iron fence, the lawn planted with joseph's coat, calendula and foxglove." The first library Novalee had ever been in that "didn't have wheels under it". Inside she discovered
a room with dark wood carved into intricate designs, tall windows of thick, frosted glass and red velvet drapes held back with silver cord, chandeliers whose crystal drops caught fragments  of light transfused into rich blues and deep greens, paintings in gold frames of nude women with heavy bellies and thick thighs. And books. Racks of books, stacks of books, walls of books.
The librarian, however, was absent, as she was informed by the only other person in the building. Forney Hull turned out to be the alcoholic librarian's brother who took care of both his sister and her patrons. Forney and his sister live in the library, which before becoming the library was their childhood home. Novalee is enchanted with the idea of  being able to live at the library "to have all those books to read..." She also gets to celebrate her birthday at the library. This is the first library birthday celebration I have come across, and I had actually been wondering if I would ever find one!

Meanwhile, Novalee's good-for-nothing ex, Willy Jack (a.k.a. Billy Shadow), winds up in prison for theft. There he meets Claire Hudson, prison librarian:
She was a big woman who had to shop for queen tall pantyhose and size eleven shoes, double E. She wore dark clothes - stiff gray gabardines, navy twills and black serges...boxy suits with high necks, long sleeves and tight collars. Claire avoided garments with lace, bows and fancy buttons and she owned no jewelry, not even a watch. She held strong disdain for anything showy, allowing herself only one extravagance: Band-Aids....She wore them constantly and in abundance...She covered her warts, moles and ingrown hairs...pimples, cuts and fever blisters...burns, abrasions, hangnails and bites...eczema, psoriasis, scratches and rashes. 
Clair Hudson changes Willy Jack's life when she helps him to get a guitar to keep in his cell and he writes a song. Ultimately, though, she betrays him. It is unclear whether it is out of simple meanness, or perhaps because of some mental illness.

One other library gets a shout out - the one at Bowdoin College in Maine. No other information about the library is provided except that is is "great".

This book had a lot of surprises, and ultimately a happy ending, without being too sappy. Libraries play an important role as places of turning points for the characters.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Lonely Book - by Kate Bernheimer

This sweet tale tells the story of Alice, who loved a library book. The story is a simple one - a library book is that is initially read by many children, becomes worn and abandoned. One child, however, never forgot how much she loved the book and continues her search for it after it disappears from the shelves. It is a charming story with a helpful librarian.

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Sexy Librarian's Big Book of Erotica - edited by Rose Caraway

I didn't originally intend to make this post one for Banned Books Week, but in re-reading Bix Warden's foreword I noted his quote from Jo Goodwin "a truly great library contains something to offend everyone" and I was reminded that Banned Books Week is about celebrating the freedom to read. So although I did not find any specific information indicating that this book was banned anywhere it seems especially appropriate for blogging during Banned Books Week. It is a celebration of our right to read what we like.

Bix also notes that "librarians...are often smart and sexy; they read wildly and across many genres, from horror to science fiction to literary fiction and nonfiction. If it's well written and thoughtful, a librarian is likely to enjoy it." As a librarian I appreciate this description. Smart and sexy is appropriate because it is sexy to be smart. I also do enjoy a variety of genres. On this blog readers will find fiction and non-fiction, romances, thrillers, funny books, serious reads, children's books, young adult books, and stories from all over the world.

Although librarians are often the stuff of fantasies only one of the twenty-two stories ("Notes on a Scandal", by Melly Maher) actually featured a librarian (well actually a librarian in training). Lauren's librarian-training program appears to include lessons an sporting an appropriate "librarian look" with "her dark-blonde hair...twisted up behind her head with what looked like chopsticks anchoring it. The dark-brown plastic rims of her glasses...[emphasizing] the chocolate brown of her eyes." As her favorite patron, Brandon, discovers she is also quite a good writer.

While not including a librarian, the first story of the anthology,  "Book Swap" by Rachel Kramer Bussel, does explore a love of reading and sharing books.

I recommend sharing this book with someone you love.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Pagemaster - the movie

This fantasy story features Macaulay Culkin as Richard Tyler, a perpetually scared 10-year old who must conquer three book quests (horror, adventure, and fantasy) in order to get out of the library. With co-stars including Whoppi Goldberg, Christopher Lloyd, and Ed Begley, Jr. this could have been a great movie, but it wasn't. Each of the quests ended without a real resolution. I watched this with my husband who assumed that perhaps since I was a librarian I maybe knew what was going on. He apparently was just as baffled as I was though with the scene jumping. We also both noticed that not only did this one not pass the Bechtel test, in fact all the featured stories were male-centric (Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde; Moby Dick; Jack and the Beanstalk). They did, however, throw those of us of the female persuasion a bone with one allusion to The Wizard of Oz and one quick peek inside Alice in Wonderland. 

While I can see the appeal this might have to young viewers, and those who are interested in movies without much of a plot, I wasn't impressed.

Voices - by Ursula K. Le Guin

I had been told that I would probably like Ursula K. Le Guin's books, so when I saw this one on the list of books Celebrating a Love of Reading: 20 Mighty Girl Books about Books, Libraries, and Literacy it seemed the time was right to read one. This is the story of Memer, who lives in Ansul, a city occupied by the Alds where books and reading are forbidden, and girls and women must stay indoors. Before she died, Memer's mother showed her a secret room in the house of Galvamand where books were kept, and Memer learned the special writing in the air she needed to do in order to open the door to the room. Although she could not read Memer found solace in the room and believed she was the only one in the house who knew about it. That is until the day when she is startled to find Sulter Galva, the Waylord of the house, in the room when she arrives. The Waylord teaches her to read and admonishes her to tell no one of the room. Punishment for reading or owning books in Ansul is death by drowning. Memer loves to read the stories and poetry found within the pages of the books, but as a young adult learns that the books in the dark shadowy side of the room, the side to which she never ventured, held the secrets of the oracles. The Waylord explains to Memer that he believed he was protecting her by not introducing those books to her, but goes on "In my cowardice...  I told myself it was unnecessary to speak of it to you. The time of oracles was past. It was an old story that was no longer true..."

This scene demonstrates a more subtle form of censorship than the outright book banning practiced by the Alds, and certainly the more common form. In fact, it is something we have probably all experienced, and participated in, from the books that our parents chose to read to us, to what we found in our school libraries, to what we then chose to read to our own children, and placed in their libraries. Protection is usually the underlying reason for these decisions, but as the Waylord realizes, each person must ultimately make their own meaning from books and be provided the opportunity to do so. Memer not only learns to read, she becomes a critical thinker as well.