Miracles of life: Shanghai to Shepperton

Years ago I read J. G. Ballard’s Empire of the Sun and remember liking it. This biography tells the true story of his family’s years during WW II in an internment camp and his feeling of displacement on their return to England, which he never overcomes. He was truly happiest in the camp, where is was free to roam the camp, make friends with adults and children, and not be under his parents close supervision. His parents were always aloof and became more so in England. When his writing begins to sell, he marries and becomes a hands on father to his three children (the miracles), especially after his wife dies. The book was written at the end of his life when he knew he was dying of prostate cancer.

Upon finishing the book I feel he was quite “full of himself” but I liked him anyway.



“Memories of a Bedtime Book Club” -in today’s NY Times

Today’s Critic’s Notebook by Dwight Garner discusses beloved picture books his family read together for years as he nostagically packs them away in boxes. Now that his children are 13 and 15, Mr. Garner is admitting it’s time to put them away and that family read-alouds are a thing of the past.  He fondly pays tribute to “The Day the Babies Crawled Away,’ “The Train They Call the City of New Orleans,” and other family favorites. He describes a ‘popcorn reading party’ which was a way to share books not just at bedtime.  He remarks on how picture books recall family memories and now that the children are older, “Our splendid nightly book club has ended its run.”  A short list of his family favorites are included at the end of the column.

LARC conference

When I get to hear a speaker at a conference who is so knowledgeable that she makes your head spin, I am extremely thankful.  Sue Bartle was such a presenter.  I know that Pam and Mary Beth also heard her speak, and I think were equally impressed.

Her topic “Rising Stars in Common Core: Nonfiction Resources” offered much to think about.  My only problem, of course, is how to focus on ideas that are doable here in a small public library, but  there were several.

Her brief overview of the intent and importance of Common Core help set the framework of her talk.  Her handouts and the many websites that she discussed need time to visit and review.  Two suggestions that are definitely doable in the near future deal with pairing non-fiction with fiction, which is something I have been wanting to do.    Since we will soon be getting the reading lists from the schools for summer reading, this is perfect opportunity to implement that idea very soon.  The other concept  I really like is her signage idea described as shelf talkers.   We always don’t have enough display space.  The idea of small signs hanging from the shelves is great.  One of the librarians in the audience suggested using DVD cases  instead of having to buy anything additionally.

This was a jammed-packed morning  of ideas and Sue Bartle used her experience and intelligence to really inspire her audience.

Travel magazines

I looked through the two travel magazines that we were considering.  Conde Nast’s Traveler was very glitzy.  I didn’t find too much to read.  The article on “Foolproof Villa Vacations” was right out of an episode of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”  A villa in Umbria at $16,000 per week was a bit much.

“Travel + Leisure” was the better of the two.  I thought there were actual articles to read.  I especially liked their feature article called “Deals.”  I know there are a lot of advertisements in both magazines, but sometimes the ads featuring destinations can offer some ideals that a traveler might be looking for.

Two other travel magazines we might investigate are “National Geographic’s Traveler” and “Outside.”

Anna Quindlen

I enjoyed reading Anna Quindlen’s column “By the Book” online in this week’s NYT Book Review and was interested to hear about her likes & dislikes. She is one of my favorite writers, and last year she wrote her memoir Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake. Her top favorite books of all time are Middlemarch, Bleak House and Pride and Prejudice. Anna must enjoy crime fiction, since her favorite women writers are Denise Mina, Tana French and Kate Atkinson, but she also likes Hilary Mantel. However, one of her dislikes is experimental fiction, where the writer seeks to break convention and experiment with innovation, especially in the technique. I had to look this up, since I hadn’t heard of it before. Some examples of writers in this category are James Joyce(Ulysses), Thomas Pynchon (Gravity’s Rainbow) and Gabriel Garcia Marquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude).  I particularly liked her answer regarding what self-help books she reads: Anna has various poetry collections by Yeats, Robert Lowell, W. S. Merwin that she uses in this category. And finally, who is her favorite childhood literary character hero? Jo March, of Little Women. Anna admired her for following her dream and becoming a writer.