Blogs: Adults

When it seems like the rain is never going to stop, don’t despair! Whether your tastes run more towards Portland puppets or Troutdale trains, Multnomah County has no shortage of fascinating and quirky museums that won’t cost you anything. (Check the links for updated hours and contact information.)

Whimsy. Revisit the toys of your (or your grandparents') childhood at Kidd's Toy Museum. And if your pipsqueaks are pleading to ponder a plethora of puppets, perhaps Ping Pong's Pint Size Puppet Museum is your pleasure.

Safety. Witness the evolution of fire fighting at The Safety Learning Center & Fire Museum. You also might find the Portland Police Museum rather arresting.

History. We love that the Gresham Historical Society museum is housed in an original Carnegie library! Not to be outdone, the Troutdale Historical Society has three museums: The Barn Museum, The Harlow House, and The Rail Depot. And don’t forget, the expansive and amazing Oregon Historical Society is free to all Multnomah County residents; just be sure to bring a proof of residency that includes photo identification.

Miscellany. Check up on medical history with the fascinating exhibits in the Main Library of Oregon Health & Science University. If you're interested in "the art and industry of the cast letterform," then the Museum of Metal Typography is definitely your type. Then float on over to the Lincoln Street Kayak and Canoe Museum to learn more about indigenous small watercraft and suck up some cleaning history at the Vacuum Museum at Stark's Vacuums.

Free Museum Day Portland and Portland on the Cheap both have information about when paid admission museums might cut you a break. And for more on free and not-free-but-still-great museums definitely check out the Hidden Portland website, which was an invaluable resource for this blog post!

P.S. More in the mood for an art gallery ? Check out Rainy Days, Part 1: Free Art.

When it seems like the rain is never (ever) going to stop, don’t despair! Multnomah County has a lot of hidden art to see that will get you out of the house and won’t cost you anything.

The area’s colleges and universities are a treasure trove of free art galleries! Here are links to some all over town:

Government buildings are a great place to see rotating exhibits, usually by local artists. Experience interactive and experimental media installations in the Portland Building Installation Space; visit the art gallery in the Gresham City Council Chamber Foyer; and check out the current exhibition at Central Library’s Collins Gallery.

The Regional Arts & Culture Council has a searchable database of public art around the county. (Tip: Click on Advanced Options to search by Collection and Discipline.)

View work by local photographers at Blue Sky Gallery, originally founded as the Oregon Center for the Photographic Arts.

Learn more about contemporary art in the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s Resource Room. It is both an archive and library, housing over 3,500 artist publications, magazines, and audio and video recordings, as well as a video archive of performances and lectures presented by PICA over the span of the organization's history.

But wait, there's more! Check out Rainy Days, Part 2: Free Museums!

I Never Met a Story I Didn't Like bookjacketI like my music to tell a story and that's exactly what Todd Snider’s songs do. His memoirish book, I Never Met a Story I Didn't Like: Mostly True Tall Tales is full of stories. I can listen to Todd's (he's such a down-to-earth kind of guy that I feel he'd want me to call him by his first name) music all day. And then his live shows are great not only because he plays his fabulous songs but also because he has hilarious stories to tell. In his book, he sets down some of those entertaining stories plus a whole bunch more. It's great to hear the (mostly true) stories behind his songs and how he ended up in the singer/songwriting world. You get to hear about some of the inner workings of the music business and the inner life of a fallible, creative guy.

“I thought about what I wanted, knowing that I’d probably fail to get it. And I decided that I wanted most to fail at being a singer in a band .  .  . That’s what I wanted to fail at in this life. And, oh brother, have I. Over and over again. Spectacularly.”

As a bonus, Todd's a local boy; he grew up in Beaverton and he has several songs that feature Portland prominently. He's got a great voice, and I'm not just talking about how he sings; you get a real sense of who he is as a person in his songs and his stories. Now instead of having to wait for his next show, I can read a chapter of this book, pop in one of his cds, and pretend I'm sitting in a club right next to the stage while Todd Snider performs.

Golden Son: Book II of the Red Rising Trilogy

by Pierce Brown

Book 2 of the sci-fi sensation Red Rising that takes place on Mars. Fast-paced, gripping and well written. For fans of Hunger Games, Enders Game and Game of Thrones. A film is coming out. Place your hold now.

War of the Wives

by Tamar Cohen

Two wives married to the same man--and they just found  out he's dead. With dark humor and wit, it is a story of betrayal and love.

Gateway to Freedom: the Hidden History of the Underground Railroad

byEric Foner

Foner, a Civil War specialist, relates the dramatic story of fugitive slaves and the abolitionists who helped them to freedom in spite of the law.

Whipping Boy: the Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully

by Allen Kurzweil

The author takes the reader around the world in his search for his childhood tormentor. The trail he follows reads like a John Le Carre novel as he discovers his bully is involved in federal crimes  with unbelievable real-life characters that supports the saying that "truth is stranger than fiction". A memoir of obsession, recovery and courage.

 

Lately I’ve been obsessed with Coco Chanel.  This is thanks in part to my own couturier aspirations (Is there life beyond pajamas?) and to a new novel I recently read by C.W. Gortner, a writer of historical fiction who has conceptualized the lives of many historical figures including Catherine de Medici, Elizabeth the First and Isabella of Castille.  In Mademoiselle Chanel,  Gortner sets his sights on Gabrielle Chanel, the self-taught seamstress from a small town in France who became a cultural icon.  

Mademoiselle Chanel book jacketBorn into poverty and abandoned by her father, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel spent her childhood in an orphanage.  Blessed with exceptional sewing skills and unstoppable ambition Gabrielle left the convent at eighteen to become an assistant seamstress by day and a cabaret singer by night.  She discovered a passion for millinery work and when she met the powerful playboy Etienne Balsan, his money and connections provided her with the freedom to pursue her minimalist designs.  Through Balsan, Coco met Arthur “Boy” Capel, another wealthy and well-connected benefactor who turned her designs into a profitable business and became  the love of her life.  Coco ultimately branched out into clothing, jewelry and her signature Number Five scent.  

Coco’s life was not without controversy.  During World War II and the Nazi occupation of Paris, Chanel closed her shops.  She moved into the Ritz Hotel, began a romantic liaison with a German officer and became involved in military intelligence.  After the war she spent nine years in Switzerland, hoping to escape the memory of her wartime activities.  She returned to France in 1953, re-entered the fashion world, and continued to work on her collections until her death in 1971.  

As a designer Coco Chanel left behind a lasting legacy.  She had the courage to challenge the fashion rules of the day and create clothes for women to live in.  Her fluid jersey garments and famed tweed suits combine style with practicality and freedom of movement.  Her little black dress was simple yet fashionable and her signature scent Number Five was designed to embody the liberated woman.  

Chanel the company still maintains a boutique in Paris at 31 rue Cambon,  the same building acquired by Coco in 1918.  Despite her checkered wartime history Coco Chanel’s accomplishments and ambitions are unparalleled.  She went from poor orphan to global icon and along the way changed the way women saw themselves and lived.  She is considered by many to be the most important fashion designer of the twentieth century.  And by the way, Chanel is also known for her pajama designs.  They are elegant, sophisticated, and very chic.  Much like Coco herself.

The Miniaturist book jacketBefore learning that I had a Dutch great-grandfather, I wasn't particularly interested in the Netherlands.  Since then, though, I have taken a trip to Holland, found a new appreciation for Edam cheese, and read a number of books about the place.

Two excellent novels published in 2014 are set in 17th century Amsterdam. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton follows the first months of Nella Oortman's marriage to Johannes Brandt, a wealthy merchant who is rarely around.  He pays scant attention to her when she arrives at his home in Amsterdam after a very brief marriage ceremony months earlier in her own town.  Weeks after her arrival, Nella is still waiting for Johannes to come to the marriage bed.  Roaming around a big house with two servants and her dour sister-in-law and only rarely seeing her husband is not how she thought marriage would be.  In order to make up for his inattention, Johannes purchases a wildly expensive dollhouse, or cabinet, for Nella to furnish that is an exact miniature replica of their home. When the furniture and dolls begin arriving from the miniaturist, Nella becomes intrigued (and slightly concerned).  The miniaturist sends objects that Nella has not requested and seems to know things that only someone living in the merchant's house would know!

The Anatomy Lesson by Nina Siegal is told by several people who were involved in the story of Rembrandt's painting, The Anatomy Lesson of Nicolaes Tulp. The Anatomy Lesson book jacketThis exquisitely told tale throws us right into the day Adriaen Adriaenszoon (aka Aris the Kid and - spoiler alert - the corpse in the painting) is hanged for being a thief. As the events of the day unfold, we see Rembrandt working in his studio, Aris contemplating his life, and Aris's lover making her way to Amsterdam in order to try and save him or at least bring his body home if he cannot be rescued.  French philosopher Rene Descarte and Jan Fetchet, the man charged with preparing the body for the anatomy lesson, also make appearances.  I was so absorbed in the novel that when I looked up from my e-reader, I was surprised to find that I wasn't walking out in the cold, flat Dutch countryside or on a canal in the middle of Amsterdam.  I was, however, happy to be secure in my home knowing that I didn't have to face the hangman or figure out how to paint a hand on a corpse that was missing one!

For more books - both fiction and non-fiction - about the Netherlands, check out this list.

 

Each year at Multnomah County Library, staff members volunteer to participate in a “best books of the year” forum where they inform staff and patrons about their favorite works within a particular genre. For 2014, I was privileged to be one of the reviewers for science fiction. Many years ago I read a great deal of SF, but graduate school and professional obligations kept me from reading as much as I wanted until very recently, so for me, it was a real treat to reacquaint myself with what was new in the genre.

The Joys
The Martian book jacketWhat I discovered was that modern science fiction is more vibrant and of higher quality than I expected. The breadth of works is astonishing and run a gamut of styles and varying degrees of scientific accuracy—yes, as someone who leans toward “hard SF,” that accuracy is important to me. I found this epitomized by Andy Weir’s The Martian, a work where the science matters but doesn’t stop us from enjoying a great story with a strong protagonist. I also enjoyed Daniel Suarez’s Influx, which is something new for me: a science fiction techno-thriller—think Robert Heinlein meets Tom Clancy. I don’t recall anything quite like it fifteen or so years ago when I was reading a lot more SF.

The Frustrations
I also discovered that finding a science fiction book not part of a series is nearly impossible. I can understand the reasons for this. First,Proxima book jacket authors often go to a lot of effort to create a rich and realistic universe for their story. It must be difficult to work so hard for a single tale when so many other stories could be told within that new setting. Also, the reality of the publishing world means that a series will potentially sell more books as readers come back to see what happens next to their favorite characters. For me, however, it’s frustrating to either see a title that looks interesting but discover that it’s #4 in a series or to read a book and reach the end only to find that none of the central mysteries of the story are resolved. An example of this is Stephen Baxter’s Proxima, a novel which drew me in and I really enjoyed until it was over and there was very little resolution. It felt like the author had reached a certain page count, decided “That’s enough,” and simply stopped with a brief, unsatisfying wrap-up. There are plenty of series that provide some closure at the end, such as Ann Leckie’s fantastic novel Ancillary Justice, which is part of why I find Baxter’s book so aggravating. Some might say he has written an effective cliff-hanger, but I find it irritating and a bit manipulative.

So, overall, I’ve been very happy to reacquaint myself with a genre that meant a lot to me for a long time. I’ve already volunteered to read for the 2015 “best books” forum, so my exploration shall continue. I’m sure I will continue to be surprised.

Don’t you love it when you find a new series to read? I found myself just reading Regency Romance and decided to branch out. I am now reading a romance series set in the broader Georgian era (1714-1830) called Maiden Lane by Elizabeth Hoyt. If you like historical fiction that comments on the social conditions of the times, that has a family of characters with secrets, mystery, great writing, and romance then I think you might love the Maiden Lane series.  

The setting is the worst neighborhood in London: St. Giles and the orphanage that Temperance Dews runs with her brother. Lord Caire needs a guide to help him solve a mystery in the neighborhood. Temperance needs money and a sponsor for the orphanage. A deal between the two is struck. Inquiring minds want to know can Lord Caire and Temperance forgo the attraction that is brewing? You’ll have to read it and find out!

I made a list called Good Reads in Historical romance with Wicked Intentions the first in the Maiden Lane series and historical romance titles that cover 1714-1901. Hope you find the list swoon worthy.

I’m a flighty and unfaithful reader. I can’t resist the call of a buzzy debut novel or the allure of reading a book set in a country I’m unfamiliar with.  This means that all too often, it takes me years to get around to reading award winning books that I know I’ll probably like. When it comes to reading,  I nearly always prefer to roll the dice than spend my time on a sure thing.  

There are two exceptions to this pattern and their names are Gail Tsukiyama and J. Maarten Troost. Two very different writers, but I never hesitate to read anything by either one.  

 

Book jacket: The Samurai's Garden by Gail TsukiyamaTsukiyama’s writes quiet books set in turbulent times in Japanese and Chinese history. Her stories are reflective and leisurely unravel the struggles of people living in bleak times of war and oppression. Her books could easily be real downers. Instead they’re absolutely beautiful. Tsukiyama is who I turn to for absorbing historical fiction with characters I gradually grow to really care about.

 

Book jacket: The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost

In contrast, J. Maarten Troost writes books that are anything but quiet. He’s fiercely smart and just as fiercely funny. In describing his adventures overseas, Troost offers a perfect balance of earnest curiosity, historical context, and sardonic wit.  Whether living as a slacker on an atoll in the South Pacific or traipsing through China, I’ll follow him anywhere. I’ll even tag along through his new found sobriety because, while I did have my doubts, it turns out he’s still funny off the kava

 

If you’re looking for quiet reflection and history, try Gail Tsukiyama. Start with The Samurai’s Garden, or jump in anywhere. Feeling more boisterous? Check out The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost. Or maybe you feel like rolling the dice on something unknown?  In that case, just ask me.

 

With a checkout limit of 10 items, many people let their 3M Cloud Library e-books expire and get “returned” automatically. However, if you wish to return your e-books early, either to make room on your list or to move it along if there is are holds, below are the instructions for various devices.

 

iPhone, iPad, Nook Tablet or Android device

     1. Open the 3M Cloud Library app, and tap on My Books.

     2. In the upper right, tap on the words “Return Books.” A button that says “RETURN” in red will appear next to each book.

iOS screen shot

     3. Tap the button to check in the item.

 

PC/Mac

Due to publisher restrictions, you can no longer return books early on the PC app. But you can view your account and return ebooks on your PC from your browser.

     1. Go to http://ebook.3m.com/library/multnomahcountylibrary/ and login with your library card number and password (don’t forget to check the box next to “I accept the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy”).

     2. Next, click on My Books.

PC browser screen shot

 

     3. Click on the red “CHECK IN” button next to the book you wish to return.

As always, if you have any questions, please stop by your local library, or contact us at 503-988-5234 or https://multcolib.org/contact-librarian.  

 

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