Thursday, December 27, 2007

Back to Everyday Life

I’m reading a relatively new Leslie Glass. I have fond memories of her books about April Woo and Mike Sanchez, police procedurals with heavy doses of humor, mostly about April’s Chinese parents and their extreme behavior. Her mother, Skinny Dragon, calls her Worm Daughter, just the tip of the iceberg of verbal abuse.

This one, A Clean Kill (2005), was only available in paperback; I’m not sure it was ever in hardcover. It is a decent police procedural (a quote on the back of the book calls Glass “Lady McBain”), but the humor has all but disappeared. Go back to her first ones. They should still be at the library.

In book club news, the next meeting is scheduled for Friday, January 11th, and we’ll be discussing The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson. It’s a quick read (only three CDs’ worth of an audiobook)--join us!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Thanks Again!

We had a good crowd on Friday night, with perfect weather, and we raised almost $2500 for the library. A few pictures are below; more are at the library website.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

This Friday, November 30th

It’s that time of year again, no matter how hard you try to ignore it. And we haven’t even hit December yet.

The Bakerville Library’s big winter fundraiser is this Friday evening. The fun starts at 7 pm. Bring your mittens and your flashlights to the bonfire, carol sing, and tree lighting across the street from the library, in Neal Yates’s yard. Refreshments will be available.

Also starting at 7, Mrs. Claus will be receiving visitors in the old firehouse next to the library. We’ll have singing and crafts for kids there, also.

The Friends were hard at work again Monday night, setting up the auction. Come in and look around, and start bidding! You can bid any time during library open hours this week. The auction will end on Friday night at 9 pm.

This year’s special raffle prize, donated by the Friends, is a DVD player.

If you haven’t dropped off your auction donation, please do it as soon as possible. (It’s late, but never too late.)

If you’ve never been to the Bakerville Library, this is your chance to hang out in this charming, historic building in a relaxed, fun atmosphere!

Here’s a preview of some of what you’ll find. There are also pictures of the Friends, but they protested.

We learned that this is called a candlescape. Who knew?

Deb Reardon holds a doll called Crystal.

This is a REALLY BIG wreath in real life.

What else? I’ve just heard that a Flea ukulele (made right here in New Hartford) has been dropped off. And would you like to go for a sail on West Hill Lake next summer? Come and bid on that!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Further Quick Update

The “friend” concept (see yesterday’s post, below) gets a little stretched, here. This is Nora Ephron, after all. She writes (and does other things for) movies. She’s friends with Rosie O’Donnell and knew Craig Claiborne. She lived in a much tonier section of the Upper West Side of Manhattan than I did.

Until I realized how much out of my league she was, though, I listened with a “time to tell my friend to quit whining” attitude. She writes about things that are common to most women over, say, 40—common enough that my reaction is, What else is new?—and with not enough exaggeration to be really funny. I confess I fast-forwarded through much of the Purse essay. I listened to most of the New York apartment in the 1980s essay thinking that I could have written it, until I came to the end. It was like watching all of “When Harry Met Sally” just for Meg Ryan’s fake orgasm in the deli—that one scene makes the whole movie worthwhile.

So I’ll keep listening.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Quick Update

I’m listening to I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron. I was pre-primed to enjoy this one.

She wrote “When Harry Met Sally,” for one thing. And another movie I saw a long time ago and enjoyed.*

For another, she correctly titled it I Feel Bad..., not I Feel Badly..., which would have disqualified it immediately for my listening.

For yet another, Ms. Ephron herself narrates it, and has a great New York voice. She sounds like about a hundred people I used to know and like in New York.

And the first disk is all scratched and full of skips (don’t worry, I’ll do something about that before I return it), so a lot of people must have listened already.

And I am liking it, so far.

But here’s the weird thing: she doesn’t read it very well. Ms. Ephron reads as though she doesn’t know what’s coming next, and emphasizes words unexpectedly and ineffectively. Maybe she’s just not a great reader out loud, or maybe she’s self-conscious about reading her own prose, or maybe she’s self-conscious about her neck confessions.

I’m going to finish it and enjoy it, anyway. I’m going to pretend I know her and like her (I suspect I would), and listen to a friend’s effort at narration just because she’s my friend. (Yes, I do have a life.)

I’ll let you know how it goes.

*Just looked it up: “Heartburn.” Also “Sleepless in Seattle,” and “You’ve Got Mail.” And other famous ones, but these are the ones I’ve seen. I’m limited.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Another Really Good Audiobook

I was at the library yesterday and noticed that they have a copy of Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. I don't remember who the narrator was, but it looks like the same version I listened to several years ago, and you should run right into the library and borrow it. The text, as I'm sure you all know by now, is compelling (Arthur Golden must have been a woman in a previous life), and the narrator complements it perfectly.

In the meantime, I have resorted to The Lord of the Rings again.

Monday, October 1, 2007

I Win

I'm happy to report that at the next book club meeting (Friday, October 19) we'll be discussing Copies in Seconds. As you know, I'm always eager to recommend this book, and the book club members finally took the bait.

We've heard from one member who has already finished the book that she enjoyed it. I'm re-reading it now, and luckily it lives up to my memory.

In other news, some of you may know that I was the only book club member who didn't enjoy Water for Elephants (see post below). I did force myself to finish it, however, even after the discussion, and it didn't get any better for me. The author definitely did a lot of research into circus life in the '30s, but for me that alone didn't translate into an entertaining book.

On the other hand, I did enjoy the selection before that, Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, probably because there wasn't a single expected sentence in that book.

Anyway, I just finished a lovely palate cleanser after the elephant debacle: Howards End by E.M. Forster. I was probably the only one left on the planet who hadn't read that book yet, so I was lucky to find an audio version (Recorded Books) at the library with a very good narrator. An older-sounding man with a great British accent (John Franklyn-Robbins), he struck the right balance between straight narration, imitation of character voices, and a very subtle emphasis on the funny parts. Run to the library now and pick this up before it goes back to Middletown.

Monday, July 30, 2007

World’s Cutest Event

This Saturday, August 4th, come to the Bakerville Library’s annual summer fundraiser, the Bakerville Marketplace and Used Book Sale.

The Marketplace runs from 9 am to 2 pm. Community members of all ages are welcome to participate. Attractions include plants & herbs, crafts, face painting, booths of all kinds. A teacup auction benefits the library. Auction prizes include gift certificates for area restaurants and businesses, gifts and craft items, and several grand prizes, including an iPod shuffle.

The Used Book Sale will be held from 9 am to 3 pm (EARLY BIRD 8:30 am; admission $7, for early bird only). We usually have around 5,000 books, conveniently categorized for your browsing pleasure.

Summer Newsletter Available

Here’s a pdf of the newsletter that just came in your mail last week (if you live in New Hartford), and that’s available now at the Bakerville Library.

Next Book Club Meeting

Friday, September 14. We will be discussing Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen.


Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski's ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its ownway of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell.

Jacob was there because his luck had run out --- orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive "ship of fools." It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn't have an act --- in fact, she couldn't even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.

Surprising, poignant, and funny, Water for Elephants is that rare novel with a story so engrossing, one is reluctant to put it down; with characters so engaging, they continue to live long after the last page has been turned; with a world built of wonder, a world so real, one starts to breathe its air.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Our First Guest Post!

Plum Series
by Janet Evanovich

Milissa Woodward (Friend of the Bakerville Library par excellence) writes:

I started reading about Stephanie Plum, the bounty hunter from New Jersey, on a recommendation from a fellow Friend of the Bakerville Library. She told me the author always made her laugh. The series is now 13 books and the latest one was just released in mid-June. Since I don’t get too caught up on starting things from the beginning, I started with book number eight—Hard Eight. From the first few pages, I was hooked. I have since read twelve books and had a period of mourning until Lean Mean Thirteen was released.

The main character is a laid-off lingerie buyer from Jersey who badly needed a job. She blackmailed her cousin, the owner of a bail bond business, into letting her catch one bad guy. It turns out that she has quite a knack for apprehending a variety of criminals in the most unorthodox ways.

She is surrounded by unique family members, including a grandmother who carries a gun and attends viewings at the local funeral home for entertainment. She is pulled in two different directions by men—a cop whom she has known since grade school and a mysterious bounty hunter co-worker. Another colleague is a former prostitute-turned-file clerk who joins her on occasion; her secret weapon is to sit on people if they get out of hand. Her mother serves dinner at precisely 6:00 pm every day and stands at the door at 6:01 listening for sirens thinking the worst if she is late. The list of support characters goes on—none of them disappointing.

The books will keep you laughing from start to finish. Although the story line progresses from book to book you will not be lost if you don’t start with One for the Money. In fact, the books get better as the numbers increase. Enjoy.

[Note: Like most of the books reviewed on this blog (unless otherwise noted), this book is for adult readers.]

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Children's Books I Like to Read

Knowledge doesn't always make you happy.

I read Swiss Family Robinson several times when I was a kid. The version was from the '50s, I think, illustrated by Lynd Ward (not the version pictured). The most striking thing about his pictures is that all the people's faces are skewed; I read much later that toward the end of his career he developed a condition that affected his eyesight, which in turn affected his drawings.

Anyway, it was one of my favorite books--a very satisfying adventure of a family, shipwrecked on a tropical island, not only surviving, but, over 10 years, building quite a civilized compound and finally deciding to stay there, instead of being "rescued."

I was offended that Disney's movie version had cavalierly removed an entire son, and introduced a ship full of pirates.

Then my kids grew old enough to listen to the book, and, without access to the copy that I had loved, I took another one out of the library. As we went along, I started noticing some differences in this version. On closer inspection, I realized that it was a translation, and assumed that it was just a different translator's interpretation. Then I did a little more research, and discovered that there have been many versions of this book through the years, and that different editors and translators have added and removed entire chunks of the narrative. Disney's offense was nothing. Most likely, the book I read originally had little to do with Johann Wyss's first manuscript.

Here's what Wikipedia has on the subject:

The Swiss Family Robinson (Der Schweizerische Robinson) is a novel, first published in 1812, about a Swiss family who is shipwrecked in the East Indies en route to Port Jackson, Australia.

Written by Swiss pastor Johann David Wyss, and edited by his son Johann Rudolf Wyss, this novel was intended to teach his four sons about family values, good husbandry, the uses of the natural world and self-reliance. Publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel modernized and changed the story expanding and continuing it with additional chapters not authored by Wyss, republishing it under the title of The New Swiss Family Robinson.[1]...

Although movie and TV adaptations have often given them the surname Robinson, which is not a Swiss name, the "Robinson" of the title refers to Robinson Crusoe.

This was almost as shocking as learning that Laura Ingalls Wilder might not have written the Little House series. After I get over the shock, though, I'll go back and read it again, just for spite.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Very Good, Sir

As it turns out, I have a limited tolerance for P.G. Wodehouse.

I picked up an audio copy of The Inimitable Jeeves only to feed my addiction to listening in the car. The version available at the library is the Audio Adventures one, narrated by Jonathan Cecil (not the cover shown).

I've seen the BBC Jeeves, featuring Stephen Fry as the butler, which I enjoyed tremendously, but never read any of the original before.

In this version, the narrator actually improves on the original. If I were reading this in hard copy, I would have thrown it across the room by the second chapter, up to here with the ridiculous, obvious situations. (I know, it's just comedy. I should get a grip.) But Jonathan Cecil has such a plummy British accent (indeed, at least twelve plummy British accents) that it doesn't at all matter what he's saying--I'll listen.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

A Blast from the Way Past

I had a great time reading this book. Look at that cover—isn’t it appealing?

A blast from just the past would have been for me to re-read the ’60s editions (and even the older ones of my mother’s) of the Nancy Drews I used to love. But Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women who Created Her starts way back with Edward Stratemeyer, who started the publishing company that created not only the Nancy Drew series, but also the Bobbsey Twins and the Hardy Boys, among other series.

Melanie Rehak weaves several stories together: Stratemeyer’s life, the lives of his daughters, the life of Mildred Wirt Benson, who wrote many of the Nancy Drew books as Carolyn Keene (as well as books in other series), the evolution of the publishing industry, and the story of Nancy Drew, who was modernized (kicking and screaming), politically corrected, and dumbed down through the years.

It made me want to go back and read The Secret of the Old Clock again. When I do, I’ll let you know whether it was entertaining or depressing.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Next Book Club Meeting

Book Club will meet next on Friday, July 20th, at 7 pm. We will be reading Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, to mark his recent passing.

Here are the publisher notes on the book:

Kurt Vonnegut's absurdist classic Slaughterhouse-Five introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes 'unstuck in time' after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut's) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.

Slaughterhouse-Five is not only Vonnegut's most powerful book, it is also as important as any written since 1945. Like Catch-22, it fashions the author's experiences in the Second World War into an eloquent and deeply funny plea against butchery in the service of authority. Slaughterhouse-Five boasts the same imagination, humanity, and gleeful appreciation of the absurd found in Vonnegut's other works, but the book's basis in rock-hard, tragic fact gives it unique poignancy — and humor.

Monday, May 21, 2007

I Listen for Your Protection, Ladies and Gentlemen

Well, another Alexander McCall Smith bites the dust.

Hope springs eternal, because the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series continues to appeal--I just listened to the first one and read the latest one.

So of course I couldn't resist trying the second one in his Professor Dr. Von Igelfeld series, The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs. This one, it turns out, leans more toward slapstick, which McCall Smith doesn't do as well as he does subtle tongue-in-cheek, or maybe I just wasn't in the mood. I confess I didn't finish it, didn't even get past the second disk, as a dachshund's third leg was mistakenly amputated. Quite possibly they were all reattached later, as things tend to work out in McCall Smith's worlds, but I didn't have the stomach to listen to the process.

Instead I switched to a book I read in high school: All the King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren. The narrator of this version (Michael Emerson, Recorded Books) is passable (though I think I'd prefer someone who sounds older and more Southern) and the prose is as rich as I'd remembered it. You can have it after I'm done with it, but only after.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Next Book Club Meeting

On Friday, June 1st, we will be discussing In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O'Brien. Here's Publishers Weekly's synopsis of the book:

A politician's career is ruined overnight by revelations of his wartime participation in a village massacre in Vietnam while his personal life is undone by the sudden disappearance of his wife.

Call the library at 482-8806 for more information.

Monday, April 30, 2007


Did you catch it? Sunday's concert was a hoot.

Upwards of 120 people attended, listened and laughed as these talented young men from UConn sang and entertained.

After expenses, almost $1200 went to benefit the library.

The Friends of the Bakerville Library would like to thank Sharon Mitchell and the Bakerville Methodist Church for all their help, both with this event and with many other past ones. Thanks also to everyone who helped with the refreshments and the flowers, and to everyone who came to the concert, sold tickets, and made donations.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

This Sunday--TODAY!

There's still time to get your tickets for Another Completely Different Afternoon with A Completely Different Note. In fact, you can get them at the door this Sunday, April 29th, at 3 pm at the Bakerville Methodist Church.

Tickets are $10 (12 and under free). All proceeds benefit the Bakerville Library.

Refreshments will be served after the concert.

If at all possible, don't miss this very entertaining a cappella group from UConn, including Bakerville's own Patrick Reardon, one of last year's Northwest Idol winners. They're captivating.

(Scroll down for more details and links.)

Friday, April 20, 2007

Children's Books I Like to Read

It's been a week since my last post, and I've made no progress on The Devil in the White City. So just to have a blog entry, and because it's one of my favorite subjects, here are some of the children's books I like best, and am willing to re-read either to myself or to anyone else. (When my kids were little, sometimes it was hard to find a balance between those books they wanted me to read over and over, and those books I wanted to read to them over and over.) (And sorry, I'm having trouble placing these pictures where I want them.)

The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson. This is one of those rare perfect books--perfect chunk of text on each page, perfect placement of juicy drawings, perfect balance of humor and pathos, of familiarity and strangeness. And a bonus--after you're done reading, look for all the vultures in the drawings.

The Three Bears, illustrated by Fyodor Rojankovsky. This is specifically the Little Golden Books version, with illustrations that I used to love when I was little, and still do. I never noticed back then that on each page, the bears and Goldilocks were wearing different clothes, and that the chairs and the bowls and the beds also changed from page to page, as if Rojankovsky hadn't taken his drugs that day. I just got lost in the intense colors and the over-the-top patterns.

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series by Betty MacDonald, illustrated by Maurice Sendak and Hilary Knight. I didn't discover these until I read them to my kids, and I think I like them better for that reason. I just crack myself up as I read the names of the kids that Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle cures, or the snidely diplomatic things she says to the worst offenders. These are funnier than her adult book The Egg and I, though that's worth a read, too.

I'll probably think of more later, but maybe you have some of your own? Feel free to comment below.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Just in case you're interested,

I am enjoying the hard copy version of The Devil in the White City. I haven't yet gone past the part that I listened to, but the text without any tone of voice is much more authoritative and interesting.

I did speak with someone else who is listening to the (abridged! but I'm not telling) version by the same narrator, and she doesn't mind it, which is why people really should be commenting, so this stuff isn't all just my opinions.

In the meantime, I am passing time in the car with The Two Towers, by Tolkien. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is what I depend on when there's nothing else. (I used to depend on Jim Dale and Harry Potter, but I overdosed on that voice and can't listen to it at the moment.) Rob Inglis, who narrates Tolkien, is another great one. He is occasionally boring, but once I get into it, I forget about him and just listen to all the voices.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Spring Newsletter Available

You can find a pdf of the Bakerville Library's Spring 2007 newsletter here.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The Devil in the White City

This is an interim post. I'm on the first CD of the audio version of The Devil in the White City. The information is interesting, and details are plentiful. But the narrator (Scott Brick) seems to imply that everything is really important--especially numbers. Any time he says, for instance, "seven million," he pauses first and then says the number as if he were Ryan Seacrest announcing the bottom three. It gets wearing. I will probably switch to reading this one.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Next Book Club Meeting

The next book club meeting will be Friday, April 27th, when we will discuss The Devil in the White City, about a serial killer at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair (nonfiction).

Friday, March 30, 2007

We Interrupt This Blog...

To remind you:

Coming Sunday,
April 29th, 2007
at 3 pm

A concert featuring CDN
(A Completely Different Note)
at the Bakerville Methodist Church.

Remember what a good time you had last May, when they sang at the firehouse? Here's more information about this premier all-male a cappella group from UConn, which includes Bakerville's own Patrick Reardon, last year's Northwest Idol winner!

On Sunday, April 29th at 3 pm, we'll give these fellows more room and better acoustics at the Bakerville Methodist Church (just east of us on Rte. 202), and let them raise money for the library. Tickets will be $10 (under 12 free) and refreshments will be served after the concert. Mark your calendars now!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Hanging Out With Julia

As you can tell, nonfiction mostly isn't my thing, but I am a sucker for a good biography.

A few years ago, my brother got me hooked on Julia Child with a copy of her French omelette show and a good omelette pan. Now my favorite way to distract myself while folding laundry is to do it while watching Julia roast a chicken or make mayonnaise or whip up some egg whites for a Queen of Sheba cake.

So when he gave me her biography last year (Appetite for Life by Noel Riley Fitch), I was excited. And the amazing thing is that, even though the writing is really not that good, the book is compelling anyway, because her life was so interesting, and because the author had full access to all her letters and papers. I'm sure you all know this already, there's been so much more in the media about her since she died, but she was a member of the OSS, which is how she met her husband.

I get the impression, watching her on tape, that she would have been fun to hang out with. (So I sit there and fold laundry and pretend I'm hanging out with her.) Reading the book, it seems that she restrained herself on TV, and actually had quite a raunchy sense of humor, which would have been even more fun.

And that Queen of Sheba cake is delicious.

Friday, March 23, 2007

A Sure Thing

What could be more sure than this: an Alexander McCall Smith novel, read by Davina Porter? I hyperventilated as I picked The Sunday Philosophy Club, blurbed as a mystery, off the library shelf.

Davina Porter, as you know, is my all-time favorite narrator, complete with various British accents and a generally good grasp of what's going on in a story and who should sound like what.

Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, a funny set of mysteries that takes place in Botswana. It's the first series in a long time that makes me long for the next one to come out. And the audio versions are narrated by my other all-time favorite, Lisette Lecat, another master of accents and innuendo.

Imagine my confusion as this unfunny book ambled along, paying little attention to the mystery. It features Isabel Dalhousie, a philosopher and amateur sleuth in Edinburgh, and the community she moves among. Isabel is given to long philosophical considerations which require patience on the part of the reader (and, apparently, on the part of the other characters in the book), and which sometimes, though not always, end up having a bearing on the plot.

I stuck with it, however, on the basis of my previous experience with the author and the narrator, and decided at the end that it was a good story—the mystery revived itself, and some humor flashed through, including mentions of crushed-strawberry trousers that have made appearances in other books. I liked it enough that I'm listening to the next one: Friends, Lovers, Chocolate. It helps that I know what to expect, and I do enjoy the development of the same cast of characters.

Perhaps some of the charm of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series is that it takes place in a country completely different from mine, so much more can be considered funny, or at least surprising; possibly someone from Botswana would consider it tedious and completely expected. [No; I've just finished The Kalahari Typing School for Men, and it is genuinely funny.] I'm looking forward to the next one, in any case; The Good Husband of Zebra Drive is due out in mid-April.

Monday, March 12, 2007

I'm just gullible.

Warning: Spoiler details ahead. Don't read if you care about being surprised.

I've read a few of Lawrence Block's books about Bernie Rhodenbarr, the burglar who also runs a book shop, and they're pretty entertaining. Block's writing doesn't captivate me the way, say, Leslie Glass's does, and his books don't read as literature the way someone like Elizabeth George's do, but his situations merit a second look, and he has a sense of humor. So when I saw the book on CD about his hit man, Keller, I looked forward to a good time.

The author narrates it, and I like his deadpan style. I was both intrigued and repelled by the idea of hit man as protagonist. Block has Keller do his antisocial (to say the least) job within a code of honor, and much of the time he's thinking not about how to kill people, but about his stamp collection or about baseball or about retirement. He has an interesting relationship with his agent, Dot, who seems like a regular person except for the fact that she arranges people's murders.

About three quarters of the way through the book, against his better judgment, Keller gets to know one of his targets and befriends him. Keller develops serious doubts about whether to kill him, and develops a complicated scheme to help the target fake his own death. Then, after the suicide note has been written and all the other preparations made, Keller kills him after all, and it turns out to have been a big con. Keller is uncomfortable with this, and says that he could never be a con man on a regular basis, because it involves betrayal.

But I realized by the end of the book, when Keller has not changed at all, but continues to be an amoral killing machine, that in fact the whole book has been a big con.

I know what you're doing, Lawrence Block, and I don't like it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Goodbye, Bill Stafford

We pause to mark the passing of a good friend of the library. William Stafford, shown above talking to second graders about his early school days in the Bakerville two-room school house (now the library), died on Sunday, February 25, 2007. His family and friends and all of Bakerville will miss him. His obituary, from the Register Citizen, follows.

William Stafford
Oct. 19, 1926 - Feb. 25, 2007

NEW HARTFORD - William Stafford, 80, of New Hartford, passed away Sunday afternoon, Feb. 25, 2007.

Bill was born on Oct. 29, 1926, to the late William and Katherine (Marsh) Stafford.

He attended the Bakerville two-room schoolhouse, now the Bakerville Library, and graduated from Torrington High School. After serving in the United States Army in Germany in World War II, he worked for Agway as a service technician for many years. Bill was an active member of the First United Methodist Church, and was also a speaker at the Bakerville Library. Bill was predeceased by his daughter, Heidi, and survived by his wife, Barbara Beyer Stafford, of 58 years, and three children, daughter and son-in-law, Kathy and John Steeves; and two sons and daughters-in-law, Gary and Maria Stafford and Mark and Debora Stafford. He also has four grandchildren and four (almost five) great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at the First United Methodist Church, 21 Fern Drive, Torrington, on Saturday, March 3, at 2 p.m.

Donations may be made to the First United Methodist Church Book of Remembrance or the Bakerville Library, 6 Maple Hollow Road, New Hartford, CT 06057.

(Below: Bill Stafford (l) and Bud Sedgwick, also a former student at the old Bakerville School.)

Monday, March 5, 2007

My Man Godfrey again

Well, I finished it. (See the "My Man Godfrey" post below.) For a while it was a little deeper (a very little) and more complex than the movie. Then the end is pretty silly, just as silly as, say, the end of "North by Northwest" where Cary Grant pulls Eva Marie Saint into the upper berth on the train. But it's interesting to read in the context of the movie, and entertaining along the way. So if anyone wants to borrow it...

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A Dog's Life

Here's another book I recommend every chance I get: The 101 Dalmatians. I didn't read it as a kid. I didn't realize until sometime in the '90s that it even existed. I was watching the Disney movie with my kids for the 25th time, scouring the credits for familiar names, and I saw the sentence: "Based on the novel by Dodie Smith." Who knew it hadn't sprung full-blown from the Disney machine?

Written in 1956, it is, of course, better than any of the movie versions. The dogs are smarter and have more personality, and Cruella deVil has a husband and a cat and a house. And Mr. Dearly ("Roger" in the movie) wasn't a songwriter, but an accountant, which is much more sensible.

It is a novel for children, but I've enjoyed it every time I've read it. It's one of those books that I wish would go on forever.

I looked for other books by Dodie Smith, and all I was able to come up with was I Capture the Castle, which I promptly bought and then couldn't finish. They made a movie of it recently, which wasn't much better...

Now, looking for a picture to go with this post, I've found other books by her, so I guess I'll have to try them, including a sequel to Dalmatians called The Starlight Barking.

P.S. We've broken 40 visits to the blog! And we have our first comment, on the Madame Bovary post!

Monday, February 26, 2007

My Man Godfrey

What I'm reading now I didn't get from the Bakerville Library, but if anyone wants to borrow it, just e-mail me (the link is over in the column on the right). I was browsing, a west-coast bookstore that has become an alternative to Amazon, and I noticed a service that they offer--type in the book (new or used) that you're looking for, and they'll notify you when it becomes available. I had been looking, off and on for a couple of years, for a copy of My Man Godfrey, by Eric Hatch (who used to live in Litchfield), which is what the old Carole Lombard/William Powell movie was based on.* It has been out of print for a while, and I had given up hoping to find it, so I just signed up for the Powells service and forgot all about it.

Obviously one thing led to another, and last week this used copy (for $3 plus shipping) arrived in the mail. I'm quite enjoying it. The basic plot is pretty similar to the movie's. The Carole Lombard character is much less elegant, and funnier, and I like Hatch's prose. I haven't finished it yet, so I don't know whether the book is any deeper than the movie (which is not); I'll let you know.

*Actually it was based on Eric Hatch's novel 1101 Park Avenue, so maybe this version of the book was released with this title after the movie came out? Here's a decent synopsis of the movie.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Open Thread

So what have you been reading? Have you liked it? I'm thinking this could be an online equivalent of running into your friends at the library. I sure would like to hear from you, even if you comment anonymously.

Click COMMENTS just below this post.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Next Book Club Meeting

We'll meet on Friday, March 30th, and discuss A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George.

And Now, For Something Completely Different

I recommend this book every chance I get: Copies in Seconds, by David Owen. It's about Chester Carlson, who was instrumental in inventing the Xerox copier.

At a glance, not my typical kind of book. I got it for my father, who eats nonfiction for breakfast. But he talked about it so much that I had to read it.

David Owen does a masterful job of weaving Chester Carlson's life story with history's attempts to make copies of documents, and with the technical details of the process that led up to the first Xerox copier. And as I read it all, I felt as if I understood it. I couldn't possibly explain any of it now, but while I was reading, I wasn't lost in jargon, and the author didn't presume any technical knowledge on the part of the reader.

This book is available at the library now.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Wacko Women in 19th Century Literature

When I learned that book club was discussing Madame Bovary this time, my heart sank. I had already read it--when? high school? college? back when dinosaurs roamed the earth?--and who needed to revisit that old chestnut?

But then two things happened. I picked up the book from the library and discovered that I remembered absolutely nothing from the first chapter. It was all news to me. Then the CD version became available, the one with my all-time favorite narrator, Davina Porter, and I just soaked up the story whenever I got in the car.

I still think Emma Bovary was a twit (which was the only thing I remembered from the first time I read it), but this time everything else hit me--all the different pressures on her, the subtlety with which Flaubert painted her personality and her struggles, and the entertaining cast of supporting characters.

By the end, I was horrified at the devastation that her misdeeds had wrought (though not without help from some other players in the cast), and kept having to remind myself that it was only a book, and that I didn't have to be depressed about the desperation of her life.