Blogs: Adults

Here's Matthew, Branch Administrator at the Belmont Library. He's reading Charles Portis' The Dog of the South. He says that the blurb by Roy Blunt Jr. on the cover says it best: "Charles Portis could be Cormac McCarthy if he wanted to, but he'd rather be funny."

Chanur Saga bookjacketWelcome to our new blogger, Edna, who says this about herself: First thing to know is that I'm Louisiana to the core with a dash of Latin cultures: Creole & New Mexican. That means food and music, preference depending on which is closest to hand. We talk too much, love too hard, and take afternoon naps as adults. The old folks teach that life on earth is meant to be enjoyed and not a moment of it wasted. I thank my Dad and Mom for my love of books. Because they passed that love on to me, my time is never wasted or boring.

I grew up 60 miles from Roswell, New Mexico; so my love of SciFi is natural. CJ Cherryh writes a very entertaining SciFi series called The Chanur Saga about a galaxy far, far away that is full of Hani, Mehendo'sat and Kif with sundry other species, and not a human in sight. Family, Trade and inter-species Diplomacy are the bedrocks of society. Then the Outsider stows away aboard the Hani ship 'The Pride of Chanur' and all hell breaks loose.

You don't have to love SciFi to appreciate Cherryh's world building (spoiler alert-methane breathers!); or the ironic way she depicts the Powers that try to rule over folk perceived as weak or inferior. She handles culture shock with humor and insight enough to make you wonder: Suppose it was me who made First Contact. What view of human kind would I give?

The Chanur Saga is fantastic! George Lucas would want to film it if it ever came to his attention.

Our guest blogger is Rod, who says this about himself: "Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated by history and technology. Instead of reading juvenile literature, I read my father’s military history and aviation books. Somehow, those interests morphed into science fiction as a teen. I guess I liked the technology that didn’t exist yet . . . Today, I read a lot of history because I teach it part-time and not as much fiction as I would like."

I was a teenager in the 1980s and had a morbid fascination with nuclear war. Honestly, I was certain that my short life would end with a brief, brilliant flash followed by radioactive oblivion. That was my realistic understanding of what would likely happen, but I also enjoyed reading the many novels and watching the many films that came out during the Cold War depicting what life would be like in the aftermath of World War III. While many were flimsy background for some sort of monster tale, there were also those that made a serious effort to imagine what the world would look like if the Cold War turned hot. If you have similarly “fond” memories, maybe you’ll find something on this list worth checking out.

On the On the Beach bookjacketBeach by Neville Shute This is both a great novel and film. The U.S. and the U.S.S.R. have destroyed each other in a nuclear holocaust. The Northern Hemisphere is a radioactive wasteland and the fallout is slowly moving south. Those living in Australia are faced with the certainty of death. This includes the crew of the USS Scorpion, an American submarine. As the Scorpion prepares to voyage north to investigate an unexpected radio signal, the men and women who have survived contemplate how to spend their final days.

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
Sleepy Fort Repose, Florida is untouched by the bombs but suffers nonetheless. Cut off from the rest of the U.S., the town falls back on the resources it can find gather from the countryside and scrounge from the mechanized world they can no longer support. It is an ultimately hopeful take on the subject.

A Canticle for Liebowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
This one starts many years after a nuclear war brought an end to modern civilization. A group of Catholic monks in the American desert seek to preserve as much of the world’s knowledge as possible. The story follows the same monastic order over the centuries as a new technological civilization reemerges only to be faced, in the end, with the same threat of nuclear annihilation.

Dr. Blood bookjacketDr. Bloodmoney, or How We Got Along After the Bomb by Philip K. Dick
Most people blame Bruno Bluthgeld, a physicist, for destroying the world, so he goes into hiding and seeks psychiatric help for his overwhelming feelings of guilt. This is complicated, however, as he believes he has magical powers. He is just one of the many survivors who have, or may have, telekinetic abilities. It isn’t always clear what is real and what the characters imagine to be real. Regardless, it does not stop them from engaging in the same selfish behavior they practiced before the world exploded. Like so many Phillip K. Dick novels, this one has a strong surrealist slant with elements of the absurd.

Testament
This is a powerful, understated film about a family trying to cope with the aftermath of a nuclear war. Carol Wetherly lives in a typical suburban city. When the war occurs, her husband is away and she doesn’t know if he is alive or dead. She tries to keep her family together as her neighbors slowly succumb to radiation and despair. This is a grim movie that, similar to On the Beach, makes no effort to sugar coat the likely fate of those who did not perish directly in the war. Despite that, it is still very compelling.

The Wild Shore  by Kim Stanley Robinson
A small fishing village has grown up along the California coast in what was Orange County. The older residents remember the world before the war, but their stories are just that, stories,to the succeeding generations. The residents try to be self-sufficient but must scavenge from the ruins at times. While there are those who would like to recreate a technological society, powerful forces work to prevent a resurgent America.

Beyond Armageddon edited by Walter M. Miller, Jr. and Martin H. Greenberg
This is a collection of 21 short stories that imagine a variety of different post-nuclear war futures. There is a mix of well-known and obscure tales collected here. Perhaps best known is Harlan Ellison's "A Boy and His Dog" which was made into a movie starring a very young Don Johnson in 1975. Like most compilations, the quality isn’t uniform but I found all of them to be worth the time.

Postman bookjacketThe Postman by David Brin
This is a great novel and, well, judge the movie for yourself. Gordon Krantz is something of an idealist in a world ten years after a limited nuclear exchange. While making his way to the Pacific Northwest as a modern minstrel, he stumbles upon an abandoned postal vehicle with the unlucky postman inside. To stay warm he takes the deceased occupant’s jacket and, suddenly, those he meets see him as a symbol of hope, a fact he cultivates for his own benefit. This becomes problematic when he finds another group in Corvallis, Oregon with their own secrets. Ultimately, they must all work together to resist an invasion from the south led by a seemingly unstoppable army.

The Last Ship by William Brinkley
USS Nathan James, an American guided missile destroyer on patrol when World War III erupts, finds itself alone at sea after the spasm of nuclear annihilation has eliminated any safe port. After encountering a Soviet nuclear submarine, the two agree to cooperate in their efforts to survive. Maintaining morale and the chain of command become serious problems as the American crew seeks a refuge in the vast Pacific Ocean. Will they succeed? Will the crew destroy themselves? Will the Soviets prove to be reliable allies?

Wild bookjacketThe comedian Steven Wright said, "everywhere is walking distance if you have the time." The line makes me smile, but it makes me wistful too. If only I had the time to go on a long, long walk, one without an agenda or an end point.

Walking embeds the walker in the pace and life of the world, while at the same time providing respite from the cares and worries that are sometimes attached to our home or workplace. Baudelaire used the word "flaneur" to describe the person who explores the world by walking: "For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world." (Charles Baudelaire: The Painter of Modern Life, De Capo Press, 1964)

Short walks can be enjoyable, but if you're hankering to take off for weeks on end, here are some titles to try, and a longer list, to boot. (Sorry! Couldn't resist.)

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is the story of a man in early retirement who has the uneasy sense that he has made nothing of his life. Then one day he receives a letter from an old friend who is dying, and who wants to thank him for his kindness. Harold writes a letter of condolence, but when he goes to mail it, he's struck with the sense that nothing will do but to deliver the letter by hand. And so he sets off on a journey of several hundred miles, with only the clothes on his back. As he walks he reflects on the events that shaped his life.

If you'd rather read a true account, there are a number that are engaging and informative to boot. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed and A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson cover both edges of the country and are equally compelling stories of the kind of change that a long walk will effect. The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot, by Robert Macfarlane details the author's effort to become more intimately acquainted with his country by starting at his home in Cambridge, England and following the old roads and ancient tracks that crisscross his country.

Happy reading, and happy trails.

I love the screwball, slapstick, fast-talking romantic comedies of the first half of the 20th Century. Wild dream sequences? Triangles? Ridiculous misunderstandings? Yes please!

The Miracle of Morgans Creek poster

I’m slowly working my way through a perhaps-too-academic study of the genre, Romantic Comedy in Hollywood from Lubitsch to Sturges by James Harvey. It relates what I always suspected: the best directors of the era felt duty-bound to “get really dirty jokes into [their] script or picture, and to get away with them.”

Lubitsch and Sturges were probably the all-time champions of this sneaky ribaldry. The 1944 New York Times review of the wartime comedy The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek begins by marvelling that Sturges got its “irrepressible impudence” past the Hays office, and, after relating the bold content of the film, concludes that “he made the film so innocently amusing, so full of candor, that no one could take offense.”

What might this bold content be? Betty Hutton plays Trudy Kockenlocker (that's right, Kockenlocker), who goes out for a night on the town to support the troops and gets hit on the head, then gets married. The next day she can't remember the name of the soldier who she got hitched to. And she's pregnant.

So, in less coy terms, this is a frothy 1944 comedy about a small town girl who gets drunk and knocked up. The performances are excellent, with Eddie Bracken and William Demarest rounding out the cast as Hutton’s hapless paramour and harried father, respectively.

We own The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek in our streaming video service Hoopla. So while we don’t have the DVD, you can watch it right this second. New to Hoopla? Check out our Getting started page.

And for more in sophisticated risqué viewing, from the falling of walls of Jericho between Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable to the wholesome sexiness of Doris Day bottling ketchup, take a look at the list Romantic comedies with a double dash of sass.

Parlor Games book jacketWelcome to our new blogger Carol, who says this about herself: I read widely and profusely, propelled by a natural curiosity about everything under the sun and the belief that for me there is no better place to be than living inside a good book.  I have deep love for all things fiction and could not imagine my life without any of the works of Nevil Shute, Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited or Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping, just to name a few.

It’s 1917 and May Dugas is on trial for extortion. Did she take the money? Well, May Dugas has been taking money all her life! From her early years working in a Chicago bordello to her financially rewarding marriage to a Dutch baron, May has earned her living being the arm candy of some very rich men. May is the ultimate social climber, blackmailer and seductress, skills she developed and utilized in the name of supporting her family. But despite all her scheming, May doesn't plan on the dogged determination of Reed Doherty, a Pinkerton detective who has tracked her across the globe, from Chicago to San Francisco, to Tokyo and London and parts in-between and finally to a Wisconsin courtroom where May must finally answer for her supposed crimes.

Based on an extraordinary true story, Portland writer Maryka Biaggio’s Parlor Games is a non-stop global chase, a thrill ride whose last stop isn’t revealed until the very last second. Cold-hearted grifter or resourceful family provider. When the gavel comes down in that courtroom, will May Dugas finally meet her match?

Profile picture, ReadWomen2014When writer and artist Joanna Walsh created a set of women author bookmarks she was surprised by the positive response from friends. In a Buzzfeed article, "#ReadWomen2014 Aims To Bring Gender Equality To The Literary World" Walsh said, "the bookmarks were created because I’d been too lazy to send Christmas cards, and was shamed into it by the beautiful cards I was sent, especially by illustrator friends.” As her project gained fans, she went on to create a twitter hashtag, #ReadWomen2014, to promote a year of reading women authors.

Since Walsh published her original list, many people have added their own spin to #ReadWomen2014. Here at Multnomah County Library, we decided to make a list with a selection of Northwest women authors, and Laural, a librarian here, created a list of women who create comics. Whose on your list?

 

 

Coraline Blu-rayMultnomah County Library now offers Blu-ray Discs for check-out. You can find a complete list by searching bluray as a keyword in My MCL. You can check out a combined total of 15 DVDs and Blu-ray Discs.

Blu-ray Discs are different from DVDs:

  • You will need a Blu-ray player or a computer with a Blu-ray drive to watch a Blu-ray Disc. Some game consoles (e.g. Xbox One, PS3 and PS4) support Blu-ray discs as well. Blu-ray Discs will not play in a DVD player.
  • Blu-rays are a high-definition (HD) format, but you must be using HDTV or a HD monitor to watch in HD. Blu-rays can be viewed on a conventional monitor, but quality will not be high-definition.

Are you looking for a specific title, but you can't find it? Ask the Librarian.

Do you own a small-business? One of the best ways to get tax information and help for your small business is by visiting the IRS Small Business Tax Center where you can learn everything from how to get an Employer Identification Number (EIN) online to how to best navigate an audit.

You can also call the IRS Business & Specialty Toll Free number at 1-800-829-4933, open Monday – Friday, 7:00 am – 7:00 pm.

The IRS began accepting 2013 business tax returns on Monday, January 13, 2014. This start date applies to both electronically-filed and paper-filed returns. The only exception is Form 1041 for Estates and Trusts, which cannot be filed until January 31. More information can be found in the IRS’ press release titled “Starting Jan. 13, 2014, Business Tax Filers Can File 2013 Returns.”

Once again, the library is here to help small businesses, so go ahead and contact us!

Every once in a while I come across a book that makes me feel as though the years I spent before reading it were half lived. Here are three books that were published long before I was born that opened my eyes up a little wider this year.

Dandelion Wine cover

Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine is sweet, brave, and precious. I use all three adjectives in the fullest sense of their meanings, and feel as though if anyone less honest and skilled than Bradbury had written this it would be treacle. In his hands, it's the magic and fear of childhood distilled.

In the 1935 noir novel about the era's dance marathons, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? what should be a pleasure becomes a horrific ordeal. Both a peek into a world that existed briefly and a point on a continuum of exploitation extending from Roman gladiators to Honey Boo Boo.

 

When I picked up Eugénie Grandet I expected exuberance and humor.

Instead I found something beautifully constrained and subtle. Balzac wrote with uncharacteristic somberness to tell the story of a girl whose life is stunted by her greedy father. This was only the second Balzac novel that I have read, and it revealed the scope of La Comédie humaine.

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