I was practically sobbing last summer as I scrubbed away eleven years worth of smudges and fingerprints on the walls of a hallway leading down to my basement. Not because I don’t especially enjoy housework, or because it's hard getting a house ready to sell when you've lived in it for a long time with a rather slovenly family, or because the prospect of finding a new house to buy was stressful, although all those things are true. My face was wet with tears because a character I’d come to love in my audio book had met a terribly sad end. When my husband, who was doing some other chore, passed by on his way to the basement and gave me a quizzical look, I flopped back my hair to show him my headphones, and he nodded.
I'm too busy-- just like everyone else in the 21st Century, right?--but I have to have books in my life, not only because they matter to me, but because staying on top of what’s happening in the world of books is part of my job. Audio books have been my secret weapon. I can read on the way to Trader Joe's, while I make fish tacos for dinner, while I get the exercise that is so important to my mood, while I clean up the clutter in my house.
I resisted audio books for awhile. The experience is, admittedly, different from reading a “real” book. And I tend to try to save things that are deeper or more complex for reading on an actual printed page. But some books are actually better in audio. I always feel a little sad for people who are checking out David Sedaris' printed books at the library, because I love them so much in Sedaris’s very unique voice. And listening to Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman is an absolutely lovely experience. Her current English accent is very pleasant to listen to, but sometimes in the course of the story, she uses the accent she had in her working class, Northern English childhood, which is hilarious. Libba Bray’s The Diviners is set in 1920s New York City, and the voice actor does an astonishing job with a wide variety of characters. There's a showgirl who sounds a lot like Mae West, and the main character sounds a little like Gracie Allen. The reader's narration brings an already wonderful book to life and makes it even better. And did you know that there’s an audio book of Graham Greene’s romantic, moody novel, The End of the Affair that is read by Colin Firth? Come on. Colin Firth speaking right into your ears. This could make even cleaning out the cat box a transcendent experience. If you enjoy audio books and want ideas for a new one to listen to, take a look at some lists I made. There's one for young adult fiction, one for adult fiction, and one list of great audio books that are read by the author. And please-- let me know if there are more good books in our collection that you think are better in the audio version.
Summer is here! Maybe you’ve got some plans to pile the kids in the car and set out on a family road trip. Just a half hour down the road, your teenager is ear-budded-up staring glumly out the window, your tween is playing some game on a handheld and driving everyone crazy with the grunts and sighs of competition, and your youngest is starting to get a little restless (“Are we there yet?”). Is someone feeling a little carsick? Could it be time for an audiobook?
The books on the lists below have a little something for everyone, and won’t make Mom or Dad fall asleep from boredom. Nothing too violent, scary, sexy or literary for this road trip, yet the adventures will make the miles roll by.
If you’ve listened to a great book on a family road trip, let us know in the comments.
So you've been trying to use primary sources in your research. Maybe you found some great historical documents or speeches. But now you'd like to include some historical images and articles. Read on! (If you need more background about primary sources, start with our blog post Help! I Need to Find Primary Sources!)
There are many places to find historical newspaper and magazine articles. The Historical Oregonian has local newspaper articles from 1861-1987. You’ll also find all the advertisements, photographs, and other images that appeared in the newspaper’s pages. This allows readers to see what life was really like in a certain time period, from world events to the cost of groceries. The New York Times Historical is another good source for U.S. and international news articles. The National Geographic Virtual Library has articles, maps, images and ads from National Geographic magazine, covering the years 1888-1994. All three of these resources require a Multnomah County library card number and PIN.
If your library card’s gone missing, you can find articles from other newspapers in Oregon by searching Historic Oregon Newspapers or newspapers from around the country at the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America site.
One thing to keep in mind when looking for primary sources: these materials come from different time periods, and they reflect the attitudes and language used at the time. Articles, images and advertisements from the past may use stereotypes or words that are now considered offensive. And sometimes primary sources may use out-of-date words: cars may be called automobiles or glasses may be referred to as spectacles, for example.
Still have questions? Contact a librarian for help!
Have you been told to use primary sources in your research? Read on for some suggestions!
What are primary sources, anyway?
A primary source is one which was created during the time period being studied. Examples could include documents, speeches/interviews, images, articles (written during the time period), and even artifacts. So, if you are studying the Holocaust, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank is considered a primary source. Someone researching the Civil War could use Matthew Brady’s battlefield photographs. And President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” speech is a great primary source for those studying the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Where can I find them?
A great place to begin your search is American Memory, a “digital record of American history and creativity.” It contains documents, audio recordings, images, videos and maps from the Library of Congress. Here you can listen to former slaves tell their stories, watch video clips from the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, or view maps from the American Revolution.
The National Archives also has a large collection of primary source materials for students and educators. They are arranged by time period and are keyword searchable. Would you like to see President Kennedy’s academic record at Harvard? Or view a handwritten copy of the Oregon Treaty that set the boundary between the U.S. and Canada? You’ll find them here.
The Masterfile Premier database contains the text of thousands of primary source documents. To find them, once you are in the database, click on the Advanced Search link. Then enter your search terms in the box at the top, and make sure to choose Primary Source Document in the Publication Type box before you click on Search. You'll need your library card number and password to search Masterfile Premier.
For historic photos, a great place to look is the LIFE Magazine archive (no library card required), which spans the time period from the 1860s and 1970s.
Are you looking for primary sources specifically about Oregon history? The Oregon Digital Library searches the collections of libraries around the state to find both documents and images. The Oregon State Archives also has some web exhibits about Oregon history that incorporate primary resources; topics range from the creation of the Oregon constitution to Oregonians’ experiences in World War II.
A large portion of my youth and high school years were spent in southern Arizona. Half of my father’s side of the family were immigrants from Montenegro who settled near Bisbee and worked the large copper mines. I was fortunate to have family members and eventually teachers who would introduce me to the history and literature of the area, focusing on Native Americans and the quiet, divided majesty of the Sonoran Desert.
At age nine, my grandfather gave me a copy of Anton Mazzanovich’s Trailing Geronimo, and soon after I wanted to absorb any other books or stories about the legendary Chiricahua warrior and the local history too. I even read his autobiography as told to S.M. Barrett. I still wonder if his story lost any details within the transcription. My mother would also take me to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum outside of Tucson on many occasions, where I discovered a unique mix of an open-area zoo, geological caves, and a botanical garden. The center has changed much since that time, adding an art gallery and hosting events, but if you are ever in the area I highly recommend the experience.
In a recent booklist, I highlighted some diverse and important Native American authors. All introduced me to fresh voices and had an important influence on my writing. College helped invariably, but you can educate yourself down at the local library! While those titles were fiction, written by talented and respected representatives of many indigenous nations, here I decided to illuminate some other books that magnify history, nature, and travel.
I do miss the endless red-orange canvas skies and voluminous, crisp air of a freshly-emptied Arizona monsoon, as I do not see them on a regular basis anymore. The literature and memories, on the other hand, I can carry forever: No arid zones in these pages.
I needed a book to take on a trip to my hometown of Bowling Green, Ohio. I was heading out to help my mom pack up and move to a new apartment. I was also hoping to get together with friends I hadn't seen for decades. I rifled through my bookshelf looking for a paperback book that would be entertaining and picked out Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. It begins, "Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet." Totally grabbed me.
Sometimes you find the perfect book at the exact moment you need to read it. And for me, Everything I Never Told You was that book. It's set in a small college town in northwestern Ohio in 1977. Bowling Green, where I grew up, is a small college town in northwestern Ohio and I graduated from high school in 1977. Celeste Ng captures that era perfectly - here is a town where everybody is pretty much the same and they all live their lives just trying to fit in. Reading this book took me back to my childhood - it made me appreciate some parts of growing up in a little college town but also reinforced the decision I made, oh so many years ago, to escape the homogeniety of small town life.
Everything I Never Told You is a completely engrossing, well-written, literary mystery. But it's more than that; it touches on themes such as the immigrant experience in the U.S., discrimination, the early days of women's equality. The main characters are a multi-racial Chinese American family. Each member of the family struggles with whether they want to fit in with societal norms or embrace their individuality. And it all happens within the messiness of family relationships and amidst everyone's flawed perceptions. Everything I Never Told You captures life. I’m glad I found this book.
Photo: Oregon Department of Transportation
I visited again and again. I loved it. I moved.
People move to Portland for an assortment of reasons. Access to nature, food, a slower pace from larger cities, and for some, the opportunity to grow a beard without abandon. Personally, I can't grow a beard, but three out of four isn't bad.
Chuck Palahniuk's Fugitives and Refugees fueled my early Rose City explorations. However, I quickly discovered there was so much more. The stories of Oregon have something for everyone. Want a true crime thriller? Try Sky Jack by Geoffery Gray. It reopens the case of hijacker D.B. Cooper who, in 1971, parachuted from a Northwest Orient Airlines jet with $200,000 cash. For a fictionalized version of the story, there's William Sullivan's The Case of D.B. Cooper's Parachute. How about a trip down to Corvallis to investigate the fascinating life of Edmund Creffield and fanatical following that would rather be forgotten in Holy Rollers? Perhaps settling in with an Oregon classic is more your taste? Below is a sampling of interesting Oregon histories. If you'd like more like these or any other recommendations you can always ask me.
Oh, hello. Remember my stack thing from last month? This is my friend Joanna's stack by her bed. She is one of the kindest and most generous people I know. When my then teenaged daughter went away to college leaving a gigantic mess of a bedroom behind, Joanna helped me excavate for an entire day. We quit when we got to the almost empty bottle of raspberry vodka. Here's what Joanna says about the stack by her bed:
I have an obsessive thing happening now with infographics. Information that is presented in ways that are visually pleasing is, um, pleasing. Entertaining is Fun! is a reprint from 1941. I love advice books about entertaining, particularly from past decades. I was kind of disappointed by Swan Gondola. I loved How About Never --Is Never Good for You? (so irreverent) and Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? (surprisingly sad). It's extremely rare that there's not a single young adult fiction title in my stack. But [confession time] I bought an e-reader a few months ago and have Code Name Verity and More All-of-a-Kind Family downloaded and ready to read. [E-reader not included in stack.]
1928. Our Portland house was built in 1928. As an east coast girl growing up in the suburbs, I couldn't imagine living in a house that was built in 1928. That's just so OLD. Then life brought me to Portland, and to the lovely story book cottage that we now call home. It was already a work in progress when I arrived, and the finishing touches are being added as I type. The house has special meaning to my partner, and it has been his labor of love for ten years now.
The move from the suburbs to the city has been challenging, invigorating, and enlightening in so many ways, but none so much, I think, than making the transition from newer house to older. Our house has great character. I know some of the history of who has lived in the house, and I love to sit in the living room in front of the fireplace on a cold winter's day imagining the daily interactions that used to take place in that very room. We are fortunate enough to have photos of the house in its earlier days, both inside and out, and those only fuel my imagination. Yes, we work hard to keep our home period correct, and it is an ongoing (and sometimes messy and expensive) project, but the feeling that I get when I walk in the door at the end of the day is nothing I ever experienced in my homes in the suburbs. This old house welcomes me with its sturdy and strong arms, and I look forward to keeping them strong for decades to come.
Looking for more great old house resources? Uncover the history of your home at the library's House History page. You might enjoy Craftsman Bungalows: Designs from the Pacific Northwest. You can place a hold on that title here . And after doing all of that legwork, get busy renovating with our Do it yourself reading lists. Happy hunting!
When people in Portland talk about a story that was “in the paper,” they often mean it was in the Oregonian. Until recently, the Oregonian was the city’s daily paper -- and it sort of still is: a daily edition is available online, at newsstands and at the library; while home subscribers get their papers only on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
The Oregonian has never been the Portland area’s only newspaper! Let's take a brief tour of some local newspapers past and present, and I'll show you a bit about how you can use them for your research.
For most of the 20th century, Portland residents had two or three local daily newspapers to choose from. The Oregon Journal was published daily from 1902 to 1982, and the Portland Telegram (also called the Evening Telegram and the News-Telegram) was published daily from 1877-1939. And, the daily Oregonian was available too, of course!
During this heyday of daily news, each paper had a different editorial policy and political niche. People generally say that the Journal supported the Democratic Party, the Oregonian supported the Republican Party, and the Telegram’s editorial stance was independent.
Weekly, semiweekly and neighborhood newspapers
There have always been many non-daily newspapers in the Portland area, too! These days, we have a long list of weeklies and semiweeklies, such as the Portland Observer, the Portland Tribune, the Willamette Week; and of course many neighborhood and suburban papers like the St. Johns Review and the Gresham Outlook. Some of these still-running non-daily newspapers have been in print a long time, and can be useful for historical research as well as for current news.
Other Portland-area weekly or semiweekly newspapers have sadly left us, but are still available at the library! Here are a few gems that you will not see on today’s newsstands, but which are in the library’s collection:
- New Age, an African-American newspaper from the turn of the 20th century
- Northwest Defender, an African-American newspaper from the mid-1960s
- Burnside Cadillac, the 1990s-era predecessor to Street Roots
- Portland Free Press, an underground paper from the 1990s
Finding newspaper articles at the library
Sometimes, the best way to research is to browse. If you want to know what was in the news on a particular date, you can go right to the library’s archive of the newspaper you’re interested in and start reading through the issues one by one. Nothing could be simpler -- except that this method is sometimes a little slow!
What if your research requires you to find newspaper articles by topic? To do this, you’ll need two things:
- an archive of the newspaper, so you can read it (this archive could include the print edition, a microfilm copy, and/or an online version)
- an index or a way to search for articles by keywords or topics, so you can find what you need
Archives of old newspapers
The library maintains an extensive archive of Portland newspapers of all stripes and stretching back more than a hundred years. Most are kept at Central Library -- visit the Periodicals room on the second floor to take a look at this wide-ranging collection.
Gresham Library has an archive of the semiweekly Gresham Outlook, and the librarians at Gresham are experts at finding old articles! Consult them any time you'd like help getting started with your Gresham newspaper research.
If your research requires reading newspapers from other parts of our state, be sure to consult Historic Oregon Newspapers -- an ever-growing archive of early Oregon newspapers that you can search and read online. Most of the papers included in Historic Oregon Newspapers were published 1922 or earlier.
That takes care of your first tool, an archive of the newspaper -- what about the second tool, an index or way to search?
While you’re in the Periodicals room at Central Library, take a look at the library’s local newspaper index. This card file index is like a big giant catalog of news topics -- you can look for any subject, from A to Z, and the newspaper index will point you to Portland-area newspaper articles on that subject.
This particular card gives us information about a couple of articles reporting on Portland freeways. This card is in the “F” section of the index, under Freeways. Portland. The article cited at the top is from the Oregonian (noted as “Oreg”), and was published November 28th, 1974, on page A56, column 1. The headline is “Let people speak on freeway issue.” The little red note on the left, “ed.,” tells us it was an editorial. The red note below tells us that there’s another reference to this article in the “M” part of the index, under the heading Mt Hood Freeway.
The second article cited on this newspaper index card has the headline “McCall asks end of Mt. Hood freeway,” and it was published in the Oregon Journal (noted as “Jour”) on November 28th, 1974, on page A11, column 3. This one also has a note in red underneath it -- but this time it’s just an explanation about the contents of the article.
[An aside: the Mt. Hood Freeway was never built; if you want to learn more, try reading the great article about it in the online Oregon Encyclopedia.]
The newspaper index card file mostly focuses on helping you find articles published 1930 to 1987, and like I said above, it only includes information about local newspaper articles. If you are looking for a news story from before 1930, consult the card file newspaper index first just in case (it does include cards for a few pre-1930 articles!).
If the newspaper index doesn’t help you find that pre-1930 story, try one of the bound index volumes that are on top of the card file case. Each of these bound newspaper index books works differently, and they cover different newspapers and different dates as you can see.
Talk to the librarian on duty in the Periodicals Room to get started with the bound newspaper indexes -- or if you have any questions about finding the articles or newspapers you need.
And, back to the Oregonian
Maybe you’ve consulted the card file local newspaper index, and the article you want was in the Oregonian. Or maybe you’ve tried using the newspaper index and it didn’t have everything you need.
The library has two great resources for finding Oregonian articles, and both allow you to search and read online:
- For recent articles, use the Oregonian (1987-present).
- For older articles, go to the Historical Oregonian (1861-1987). This resource is huge -- 126 years of every single page of the daily paper! To get started, check out my blog post Searching the Historical Oregonian (1861-1987).
Recent and historical issues of the Oregonian are also available to read in the Periodicals Room at Central Library, in old-fashioned paper and microfilm formats.
Have fun with your newspaper research!
Do you have more questions about searching for historical newspaper articles? Are you working on a local history project? If you'd like specific advice or help with your research challenges, do please Ask the Librarian!
Recently, I recommended some bead jewelry making books to a patron. This inspired me to write about them.
Beads called my name back in 1992. They beckoned me over to look at them and dress them up with wire, filigree and clasps or earhooks. They are a comfort to me. Hours of joy is bestowed upon me when I spend time with them. A friend taught me how to manipulate wire, beads and findings together to make necklaces and earrings when I visited her in San Francisco.
Over the years I have heard people talk about their bead obsession: they call it an addiction, a hobby, and a disease. I think of it as a healthy hobby. A hobby that lets the mind relax and stay in the present moment while crafting.
I am mostly a jewelry maker that likes to wire wrap. I essentially connect beads together with wire and connectors. I have also worked with crimp beads and soft flex wire (a type of string) and strung beads together. And the newest thing I have tried with beads is bead embroidery which is stitching or hand sewing beads onto fabric or fabric forms.
So of course, I have a list for you if you want to explore the world of beading and wire-wrapping. Have fun!
Marghanita Laski is an author not much talked about, but who has an enormous talent for writing a gripping novel. Her books vary in their subject, but all keep you turning pages. If you are looking for an emotional thriller, you will find Little Boy Lost will do a fine job of suspense while pulling at your heart. But if psychological thriller is more your bag, try Multnomah County Library’s new acquisition The Victorian Chaise-Longue. And yes America, it is longue and not lounge—see here for explanation. It is similar to that Charlotte Perkins Gilman classic The Yellow Wallpaper. A well-kept wife decides to take a nap on the newly obtained antique only to find herself waking in a very different world. At first she tries to believe she is dreaming, but then the terror grows when she realizes she is awake and not in her own body. Will she wake from this nightmare? How will she cope? How will it end?
Like Laski, there are other grande dames of the psychological thriller genre who have been quietly ignored by history. Rediscover them here.
"I think everything that ever happened to us is resident inside your head and heart and often you just need the right key to get it out -- a snatch of song, and angle of light, a taste, a smell, a tone of laughter..."
This quote by Brian Doyle aptly describes what happens in his latest book The Plover. Though one reviewer accused the book of being 'plotless', really the main character's thoughts, the accumulation of all that he learns and sees as he floats around on his sailboat, seemingly aimlessly, is the plot.
The Plover is the story of Declan, who flees society to sail around the world with only his thoughts and his beloved author, Edmund Burke, for company. Starting with a persistent gull (yes, another sentient bird!) he is obliged to take on passenger after passenger and has to adjust both his physical and mental space to make room for each one. From a father and his injured daughter to a larger-than-life woman and a singing shiphand, each subsequent passenger challenges Declan to emerge from his introspective life.
The storyline is often meandering, evoking the meditative state of being on water, of being on long journey and having time to ponder whatever comes to mind. There were many times when a plot point was introduced, and I thought with a certain dread, 'this isn't going to end well'; but Doyle resists cliche. Even though the people on board are tormented, Doyle treats both them and the reader with compassion.
If you enjoy meditative reads that make you think, stories rich in language and a sense of place and all things sea and sailing, this might be the book for you.
On a muddy World War II battlefield a young soldier happens upon the enemy, shoving a gun in the terrified man’s mouth. In 2010 Los Angeles a newly arrived nursing home resident drops dead at his welcome party. In 1960’s rural France a young boy excitedly shows his classmate the ruins of a burned-out German plane. A pair of young lovers has their picture taken at Coney Island in 1942. A blind woman in the Hamptons in 2005 yearns for someone to love.
What do these people have in common? Nothing at first glance but then again that is the illusion of separateness. In a world that is vast and often alienating it is comforting to think we are somehow all connected – that like the idea of six degrees of separation we don’t have to go too far to find our footing or to appreciate the intricate twists and turns that got us here. More than a series of linked short stories, Simon Van Booy’s delicate novel is a world slowly revealed, where discoveries are made, connections are forged and the reader is part detective, part voyeur and part conspirator.
Beautifully written, with fascinating characters readers will grow increasingly attached to, The Illusion of Separateness depicts a world that will stay in the reader’s mind long after the book is closed.
Kitty cats. We love them. They power the internet (proof). The little dears surely deserve their crystal goblets of Fancy Feast, don’t they? Or is that a more malign glint I see in that crescent-pupiled eye?
The most unhinged, bats-in-the-belfry-surreal cat movie of all time has to be House (Hausu), a must-see for all crazy cat ladies (and men) in training. In this cult film from Japan, high school girl Gorgeous is upset when her father introduces her to his new fiancee - perhaps understandably so, since the fiancee enters in a white dress that conveniently streams in the wind every time the camera settles on her. Outraged at this soft-focus replacement for her dearly departed mother, Gorgeous plans a summer vacation to her aunt’s country house instead of with her father. She takes comfort in the companionship of a white cat named Blanche who has mysteriously appeared in her room at the same time as her aunt agrees to host her. All her friends, who have unlikely names like Fantasy, Prof, Mac, Kung-Fu, Melody, and Sweet, are invited, and they think nothing of it when Blanche appears on the train. But when they arrive at the aunt’s house, she is a little too eager to see them, and they begin to be killed off one by one. The cat starts shooting green lasers from its eyes, pianos eat people, mattresses swallow others, and then things really get weird.
Part of the joy of the film is in its unabashed use of the most cheesy, improbable special effects - it really must be seen to be believed, and even then you still won’t believe it. What’s that, Puff? You need me to bike home from Fred Meyer with a can of tuna and 20 lbs of litter on my back? At your service, my feline overlord, at your service.
Multnomah County Library has an amazing array of titles that might be of interest to our LGBTQ community:
- Looking for something fresh? Check out our New Titles section and specifically new LGBTQ books, movies & TV, and teen titles.
- Perhaps you like things that are more off-the-beaten-path? Check out Librarian Emily-Jane’s LGBTQ Zines Reading List.
- Just want to sit back and watch a movie? I’ve made up a list of some of my favorite LGBTQ films that the library owns.
- Are award-winners your thing? LAMBDA Literary recently announced the winners of their 26th annual Lambda Literary Awards. Here is a list of some of the titles currently available at the library (more titles from this list are being ordered as we speak!)
- History buff? Be sure and browse through Librarian Emily-Jane's LGBTQ History reading list.
- Looking for some tips on parenting, or good reads for LGBTQ familes? Read Andrea's post A Tale of Two Mamas and check out the reading lists on Gay Parenting, Rainbow Family Picture Books and Chapter Books.
- Sci-fi/Fantasy your thing? Take a look at Librarian Natasha's selection of good scifi and fantasy featuring main characters or storylines with LGBTQ themes.
- Planning your big gay wedding? Librarian Emily-Jane has lots of great resources to share.
- Do you prefer mysteries? Librarian Matthew has a great post about his favorite gay detectives, accompanied by this reading list.
Speaking of Librarian Matthew, he is one of our very special My Librarians. He loves making up reading lists and providing readers advisory for LGBTQ literature and non fiction in general. Some examples of his excellent lists are Getting Started with LGBT Fiction and Character Driven Gay Fiction. Not sure what to read next, ask Matthew!
Or you can contact any of us with questions about our collection - or any other question you may have - just visit the Contact page and let us know!
You know how it feels when you are in love with new music or a book, and you feel all exultant that this is yours, yours, yours? That’s how I am loving the new tUnE-yArDs CD, Nikki Nack, like a dragon loves his treasure, like cookie monster loves his cookies. The only reason I’m telling you about it is that I actually bought it, because otherwise I wouldn’t want you to put it on hold and take it away from me.
The tUnE-yArDs is largely the work of one person, Merrill Garbus. She plays most of the instruments and does all the singing, including back-up vocals. You can hear the single here.
The music is amazingly interesting, a wild and free mix of R & B, Haitian rhythms, children’s music (with a dark side), pop, punk, and a lot of sampling and repetitive sounds. It sometimes veers close to Captain Beefheart’s and Ornette Coleman’s disjointedness-- which I actually don’t like-- but it doesn’t quite cross that line. It’s unusual, but catchy, even in its strangeness, and you know what?-- you can dance to it, too. Garbus’s voice is the most powerful instrument she has. It sounds to me like my own voice in my head, sometimes sweet and melodic, sometimes ragged and atonal, and sometimes a roar. She’s playful, brave, and astonishing. There’s even an interlude in the middle, a sweet little story about eating children which comes to a much quicker and more hedonistic rationale for cannibalism than Jonathan Swift’s Modest Proposal.
Have a listen!
Lan Su Chinese Garden is on a city block downtown. Most of us only go there when we have out of town visitors, traipsing through and taking photos. I have a membership and love to go there often. A visit to Lan Su truly complements a reader’s life.* Here’s what you might do in the garden:
1. Sit in a cozy spot and read.
Benches in gazebos or rocks by a pool are so cozy, and everyone else will ignore you. When you get up, rest your eyes on the many shapes and textures, and breathe deeply--fragrant plants are in bloom year round.
2. Get the feel of the inner courtyards, gardens and rocky landscapes featured in books about China.
I just finished Amy Tan’s Valley of Amazement, which sweeps through several settings in old China and sometimes takes place in a scholar’s quarters. The Garden is also known as a scholar’s garden and has many of the objects I read about on display.
3. Enjoy the brush paintings, script and poetry on the walls and even inscribed in the wood.
Maples in the Mist is a great intro to contemplative poetry for kids and adults. There are also occasional live demos of brush painting and poetry readings.
4. Enjoy music, tea, and treats in the teahouse.
Perhaps you’ll be reading The Garden of Evening Mists, a moving story set on a tea plantation, as you sample the many varieties available. Check the calendar for music times.
5. Find wonderful Chinese-themed books for children and adults in the bookstore.
And, as a bonus, if you love to read cookbooks, look for the cooking demos throughout June.
*There are usually a few free days in January.
I recently read The Still Point of the Turning World and was blown away by it. It's a memoir by Emily Rapp whose son was born suffering from Tay-Sachs disease, a horrible, rare genetic disease that causes a progressive deterioration of nerve cells and mental and physical abilities resulting in death before a child turns four. The author has written a powerful, beautiful, devastating book about every parent's worst fear. Actually devastating doesn't even begin to describe how it felt to read this book. In many parts, I had a difficult time deciphering the words through my tears. Even now as I write this, I find myself with tears in my eyes. This book is the story of Emily's son, Ronan, and so much more. It's about philosophy, poetry, literature, and the question of how to live a mortal life.
I was totally immersed in The Still Point of the Turning World and when I finished it in one afternoon, I came up gasping for air and thought about my own son. He's 24-years old and just moved away last December to start his new post-college life in Ann Arbor. I'm happy and sad about it. And I know how lucky I am to be able to still have a son no matter how far away he might be living. . .
[Emily Rapp has also written Poster Child, her story about being born with a congenital defect that required the amputation of her entire leg below the knee; it's at the top of the stack of books by my bed that I'll be reading soon. On a brighter note - Emily gave birth to a baby daughter on March 8th. I hope that she won't need to write a heartbreaking memoir ever again.]