Wednesday, May 19, 2021

This Much I Know is True - the television series

In a spectacular execution of every librarian's nightmare Thomas Birdsey (Mark Ruffalo) has a psychotic break in the Three Rivers Public Library as he wields a carving knife and then cuts off his own hand. The aftermath leaves his twin brother Dominick (also played by Ruffalo) to navigate the mental health care system, social workers, doctors, and family, as well as the break down of his own personal life. 

The six-part mini series tells the story of the two brothers and the abuse they suffered, their regrets, and their troubled relationship with each through a series of flashbacks narrated by Dominick.

This series was based on the book by the same name by Wally Lamb. Although I had not read this work, I have read several of his other novels: She's Come Undone; I'll Take You There; and We are Water (which also takes place in the fictitious Three Rivers, Connecticut).

The Writer's Library: The Authors You Love on the Books that Changed their Lives - by Nancy Pearl and Jeff Schwager

My husband and I listened to the audio version of this work, which features interviews of writers about books, reading, and writing. I had never heard of many of the interviewees, and my book and author ignorance was magnified when they began discussing other books and authors I'd never heard of. Which is not to say it wasn't a good listen. It was a bit stilted though since Pearl and Schwager were simply reading questions that had already been asked and answered in real conversations with the authors, and the responses were read by people who were not necessarily the original responders. Nevertheless, we enjoyed listening to enthusiastic discussion about books and reading, and the many responses that indicated a love for libraries and librarians. After each conversation Pearl and Schwager would read a list of some of the books and authors in each interviewee's library. I was struck by how many included Richard Adams' Watership Down - a book I have never read, but at least I've heard of it.

From the website

The authors interviewed in this work are: Russell Banks, TC Boyle, Michael Chabon, Susan Choi, Jennifer Egan, Dave Eggers, Louise Erdrich, Richard Ford, Laurie Frankel, Andrew Sean Greer, Jane Hirshfield, Siri Hustvedt, Charles Johnson, Laila Lalami, Jonathan Lethem, Donna Tartt, Madeline Miller, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Luis Alberto Urrea, Vendela Vida, Ayelet Waldman, Maaza Mengiste, and Amor Towles.

Friday, May 14, 2021

The Midnight Library - by Matt Haig

Full of regrets, recently unemployed, and grieving the death of her cat Volts,  Nora Seed decides to take her own life. In the twilight world between the life and death Nora is surprised to find herself in a library and face-to-face with Mrs Elm, her school librarian from many years before, the person who had told her that her father had died when she was fourteen years old.

The Midnight Library is filled with green books, each one represents a life Nora didn't live in the multiverse. She can pick out any book and find out what her life would have been like if she had made different choices at each of her turning points. There are many possible lives that Nora is given the opportunity to visit. Would she like to be a rock star? a pub owner? a glaciologist? a vintner? What if she had married Dan rather than canceling at the last minute? What if she had just gone on that coffee date with Ash, where would she be now? Is there any world in which Volts is still alive?

Nora also meets other "sliders" - those like her who are moving between lives not lived. Each "slider" has their own guide and space in which to explore their lives. Not all sliders travel via library books - Hugo travels through old VHS tapes in a video store, with his deceased uncle as a guide, for instance. 

In the aptly titled chapter "God and other Librarians" the omniscience of Mrs Elm as Nora's guide is made abundantly clear, as is her role as a librarian. She explains to Nora that "The library has strict rules. Books are precious. You have to treat them carefully." 

The librarian stereotype is on display as well when Mrs Elm admonishes Nora to "Please be quiet...This is a library".

Ultimately Nora wishes to escape the Midnight Library, especially when she realizes that it is about to self destruct, but how does one do that when there are no doors? Mrs Elm to the rescue: "Who needs a door when you have a book?" she asks.

A new spin on an old theme. Anyone who grew up watching The Wizard of Oz won't be surprised by the ending.