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...