Wednesday, December 30, 2009

To howl for

Although vampires seem to be all the rage in the paranormal fiction world, I like a good werewolf story. The werewolf is like your nice next door neighbor, with low cut jeans and possibly a military haircut, who gets a little hairy on the night of the full moon.

Not one but two scary, spine tingling, slavering werewolf stories are out there right now. One is Frostbite by David Wellington, a modern-day werewolf novel that doesn’t take for granted the dual nature of the werewolf. The other book is Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow, a tense, scary story written in free verse.

If you want your pulse to race, you’ll find both books here at Newport Public Library. Bon appetite!


Monday, December 28, 2009

Mightier than the sword

A military force from a technologically advanced culture moves to a land inhabited by naked, spear-throwing people. One of the soldiers studies the language, and is accepted as a friend by some of the inhabitants. This same soldier is ordered to take part in an attack on the village, and struggles with the conflict between his love of the people and his duty.

Am I talking about the new James Cameron movie, Avatar?   No.   Set in Australia in 1788, The Lieutenant, by Kate Grenville, follows the fictional life of Daniel Rooke, a young astronomer in the Royal Marines.

A shy introvert, Rooke found refuge in the world of mathematics and astronomy. When he sets up an observatory overlooking Sydney Cove, several children visit him and he starts to notice a pattern in their words. Unbeknownst to his shipmates, he begins to methodically record the vocabulary and grammar of the language. Over time he forms a close friendship with Tagaran, a girl who is ten or twelve years old.

She never tired of giving him words, or of learning the English in exchange. Like Warungin, she was a vivid mimic and seemed to love the moment of seeing him understand.

Rooke’s grasp of the language and culture lead him to question an order to capture and execute six adult males from the village. Without giving too much away, I will say he is a gentle hero in this novel, and I was pleased to learn that his character was based on William Dawes, an astronomer who sailed to New South Wales and later became an abolitionist.

In The Lieutenant, Kate Grenville delivers a beautifully wrought tale that demonstrates the power of communication and understanding.

Newport Library Reaches Out

For Newport residents who are physically unable to visit the library, we offer a personalized outreach program. Screened volunteers regularly visit Newport patrons, deliver materials and take requests for the next visit.

Outreach coordinator Lynn Dennis also schedules regular visits to several sites within Newport such as Oceanview Senior Living and Pacific Homes Beach Club.

For more information about our Outreach program, or if you would like to volunteer for this service, give us a call at 265-2153 or read more about our Outreach Services here.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Beneath the Bleeding by Val McDermid

Beneath the Bleeding, the fifth Tony Hill & Carol Jordan book, starts out with Dr. Tony Hill getting whacked in the leg with a fire-axe while heroically attempting to subdue a maddened patient. Between shots of morphine and hallucinatory visits from his mother, an abusive and narcissistic woman, he lies in the hospital puzzling over the mysterious death by poisoning of a popular footballer. Then the plot thickens.

When an apparent terrorist attack kills over 30 people at a sporting event, Hill’s colleague and friend DCI Jordan has the case—for an hour, before the anti-terrorism unit reaches the scene. But she can’t, or won’t let it go. With Hill’s help, she and her squad stubbornly follow up on leads that don’t fit into popular theories about the attack.

Hill is a damaged soul, years of childhood abuse having forced a protective armor between his professional mask and his true self. DCI Jordan has a drinking problem, a muddled past, and armor nearly as thick as Hill’s. Strangely, they make a great team, understanding each other the way no one else can and complementing each other’s strengths. As British mysteries go, this is a darker, modern series; not gory, but intense, well-written and character driven. It inspired a British television series, Wire in the Blood, which is also available through the library system.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

One more favorite thing

From our Library Director, Ted Smith:

My favorite Christmas tale is Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. But I'm not being completely honest. Long before I ever read Dickens, I looked forward each Christmas to watching Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol on TV. Yep, I cut my teeth on Dickens through a 1962 cartoon starring Mr. Magoo. How’s that for sophistication and savoir faire.

Who can forget the voice of the irascible Jim Backus as the bumbling, nearsighted Ebenezer Scrooge? Many of you may be more familiar with him from his role as multimillionaire Thurston Howell, III on Gilligan’s Island, another highly sophisticated program that I routinely devoured.

What was it that entranced me about Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol? Why, the story, of course. The first time I saw this wonderful Christmas program I was taken in by the contrasts.
Magoo/Scrooge had everything he could ever need, but he was unhappy, mean, dispirited and without friends. Bob Cratchit, his son Tiny Tim and the whole Cratchit family were the exact opposite of Magoo. They had nothing. Magoo made poor Bob work in a cold, drafty space, AND he had to work Christmas Eve and even Christmas Day. In the midst of their poverty and mistreatment the Cratchit family was filled with peace, love and charity. They were happy to share what little they had. They didn’t return evil for evil, but practiced forgiveness; and even though Tim suffered from an unnamed disease that could/would be fatal – remember we’re dealing with time and dreams and spirits and all that good stuff here, so Tim could die and then not be dead – the family was able to find joy in the midst of their predicaments.

I was always touched – I confess, I often cried, even well into my teens, while watching this movie.

I can still sing some of the lyrics with Tiny Tim that speak of his desire to have “Razzleberry Dressing” for Christmas dinner. My kids think I’m insane because not one Christmas goes by that I don’t ask for Razzleberry Dressing. Even now, as I write this silly blog, I am warmed at the remembrance of times past with my brother and sister, snuggled up by an old black and white TV, watching Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol.

If you’ve never seen it, you’ll probably need to purchase a copy, because once you see it, you’ll want to watch it every year. (And as of this writing, the Newport Library does not have a copy.) Yeah, the animation techniques are old, and it’s not in 3D or HD or any of that other high tech, digital stuff. It’s just all about the story, man.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Home grown books

I don’t know if long wet winters are conducive to successful writing, but Oregon has more than its share of up-and-coming and well-established authors. I recently joined the Oregon Authors Committee of the Oregon Library Association, and found out just how prolific Oregon’s writing community really is!

For many years the committee published an annual book called “Oregon Authors Bibliography,” which listed titles published in a given year by authors living in Oregon. The bibliographies are no longer printed, but the information is now added to a website,

Every few months committee members receive a packet of news clippings from newspapers around the state, announcing a recent book, a speaking engagement, or a literary award for an Oregon writer. We take those clippings as a starting point and add the writers to the web bibliography. I’ve been awed by the quantity and quality of writing that our state nurtures! Authors may also create an account and add their own information.

The Newport Library currently has a display of books by Oregon authors. Many of them are local writers whose names are familiar in Lincoln County and beyond; Michele Longo Eder, Andrew Vachss, Richard Kennedy, and M.K. Wren are just a few.

The next time you’re looking for something to read, take a look at the Oregon Authors website. Reading a good book will help you enjoy these wet winter months.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Satisfying Science Fiction news

Joe Haldeman has been named a Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers' Association. The designation is awarded for lifetime achievement, and is the sf world's highest honor.

This news thrills me, because Haldeman is one of my favorite authors. He is the author whose books I recommend to people who don't like science fiction. His book The Forever War is one of the most powerful novels about war and its consequences I've ever read.

(Unfortunately, The Forever War is not, at this exact moment, available from the library; but we're fixing that. I promise.)

If you think you don't like science fiction, try Haldeman. And if you're curious, see a list of the other 26 SFWA Grand Masters here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

More Of Our Favorite Things

Feeling a bit Scroogish this Christmas? I've got a recommendation for you.

You may be one of the millions who never watched Veronica Mars. The television show had a Nancy Drewish premise - a teenage girl private investigator - and was canceled after not quite three seasons in 2004. But this was like Nancy Drew as written by Raymond Chandler. Set in a luridly pretty southern California high school, it was a cynical little show, and our heroine, an angry and bitter rape-survivor played by Kristen Bell, was sometimes more interested in wreaking vengeance than in discovering the truth.

The centerpiece of the first season of Veronica Mars is "An Echolls Family Christmas."

Logan Echolls is Veronica's nemesis, a rich, handsome boy whom she calls, in the pilot episode, a "psychotic jackass." In "An Echolls Family Christmas," we get a glimpse into Logan's home life. His parents, a washed-up movie star and his trophy wife (the perfectly-cast Harry Hamlin and Lisa Rinna) are throwing a Christmas party. Beneath the tacky decorations we soon find theft, adultery, blackmail, attempted murder, and a lot of people frantically pretending to be something they're not. The episode closes with fake snow being showered through the warm California night onto hired carolers.

If It's A Wonderful Life seems just a little too sweet this year, give Veronica Mars a try.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Few Of Our Favorite Things -- a continuing series

Today's holiday favorite is brought to us by Karel, who writes:

Wishin' and Hopin' by Wally Lamb is not your traditional Christmas inspirational novel. If the edge of hysteria is your over-riding feeling for the holidays, then this book may be perfect for you. Set in the 1960’s it is a nostalgic look backward when many of us late baby boomers were kids. The Mickey Mouse Club, JFK, Lyndon Johnson, and early TV with the universal adoration of Annette Funicello make their appearances in a pin-ball machine like hilarity. The reader pings, dings, and ricochets from one hysterical scene to the next to a final culmination in the great tableaux vivant staged at St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parochial School. If you are in need of some belly laughs for the holidays then try Wishin’ and Hopin’ by Wally Lamb.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Clinical Obsession With Word Games is . . .


[Factitious word derived from a conflation of PARANOMASIA(word-play) and MANIA]
also known as
Dialogues of the Dead
by Reginald Hill
Dialogues of the Dead is Reginald Hill’s 19th book in the Dalziel and Pascoe mystery series; I would recommend the whole series for readers of British mystery, but Dialogues is the most enjoyable of all. The plot is measured out almost musically, leading the reader in merry circles with red herrings and word games. (Paranomania was the British edition title, and is also the name of a board game instrumental in the workings of the mystery.)

Detective Superintendent Dalziel is a bit of a cliché; the hard-drinking, cigar-smoking, super-sized paragon of gruffness hiding, of course, a fine intellect and a loyal heart, not to mention an ability to dance like an angel. Pascoe, his Detective Inspector, is, in contrast, a finely-built over-educated toff with a reserved manner, (also hiding, of course, a fine intellect and a loyal heart.) While these two display their usual crime-solving prowess, plus or minus some paranoia, suspicion, and a few wild goose chases, Detective Constable Bowler (Hat Bowler, to you) steals the show.

A short story contest brings the nutters out of the woodwork, and when a pair of university librarians notice that two of the story submissions refer to deaths strikingly similar to ‘accidents’ that later appear in the newpaper, they mention it to Bowler, who has been hanging about the library cherchez-ing la femme—la femme librarian Rye Pomona, that is. Thus begins a dance with a serial murderer that includes bird-watching, archeology, and all 20 volumes of the Oxford English Dictionary. Loads of fun, and as a matter of fact, if you grab this one, plan on getting number 20, Death’s Jest Book, as well—there’s a bit of a cliff-hanger at the end.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Few Of Our Favorite Things -- a continuing series

Today's holiday recommendation comes from Jan, who writes:

My favorite Christmas book is a not-so-well-known children’s story by Shirley Rousseau Murphy. The Song of the Christmas Mouse, written in 1990, is the heartwarming tale of a boy’s quest to befriend an orphaned field mouse, and how in return the mouse adds to the magic of Christmas.

Re-reading the story each Christmas helps me to remember that even unappreciated family is important, that the spirit of the holidays comes from the heart, and that sometimes magic comes from unexpected sources.

The illustrations are not fancy, but that only seems to add to this book's charm. It’s a short book, only about 85 pages, perfect for a family holiday read aloud.

Do you have a favorite Christmas read aloud? Share your comments below.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Want to keep track of your reading?

Ever taken out a book and find that you've read it before (and once was enough)? Have trouble figuring out which of the dozens of Lilian Jackson Braun's "Cat Who ___" series you haven't read yet? Library Thing, at, or Goodreads, at, are two websites that will help you keep track of your reading, online.

Both have essentially the same features, although Goodreads is completely free, and Library Thing costs $10/year if you want to store more than 200 books. Enter in the title of your book, and as much other information as you want. There are options to sort your books into categories, like "Want to Read", "Currently Reading", or "Audiobooks." You can type a quick review, if you like, or rate it with stars. It can be as simple or as complex as you like. Personally, I keep it simple; all I enter is title and a 'quick edit' star rating. I have an "Audiobooks" category, a general "Already Read" category, and a "Want to Read" category. It takes less time and is much more organized than the scattered little notes I used to write myself, and is a lot more versatile than just using a spreadsheet-- although Goodreads will export to a spreadsheet, should you want to print out in a convenient format.

Both sites also suggests books based on what you've read, and give you access to the reviews and recommendations of your fellow social networkers; but you don't have to participate or pay attention to that if you prefer not to. You can browse the shelves of people who seem to have similar tastes for new reading ideas, or join discussion groups. You can even 'friend' people, and keep up with their new additions.

Below, I've included a widget (something either Goodreads or Library Thing will cook up for you, if you would like to post what you've read on your own blog, wiki, or website!) It shows a selection of books I've read within the past couple years. Some have my ratings, some do not; I only started doing that recently. These sites may be the answer for those of you who wish the library would keep records of all the books you've checked out in the past-- we can't do it because of privacy issues, but Goodreads and Library Thing make it fun and easy for you to do it yourself.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Zombie Prom, the art of henna tattooing, creating manga. These are just some of the recent themes you’ve missed if you haven’t yet made it to Newport Library’s Teen Third Thursday. Third Thursday, from 7pm - 9 pm, T.T.T. gives teens a chance to try something new and experience life out of the dull little box that Newport might seem sometimes.

Click HERE to check out some of the upcoming themes we have scheduled. Registration is required; we want to make sure we have enough FREE PIZZA for everyone. Check out Teen Third Thursday at Newport Library.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Few Of Our Favorite Things -- a continuing series

My favorite holiday story is "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a fast-paced and delightful tale of a Christmas goose, a lost hat, and a priceless gem. This is the story in which Sherlock Holmes, examining a battered bowler, deduces,

"That the man was highly intellectual is of course obvious upon the face of it, and also that he was fairly well-to-do within the last three years, although he has now fallen upon evil days. He had foresight, but has less now than formerly, pointing to a moral regression, which, when taken with the decline of his fortunes, seems to indicate some evil influence, probably drink, at work upon him. This may account for the obvious fact that his wife has ceased to love him."
In other words, it is a perfect Holmes story, and has been a favorite in my family since I was a child. "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" is to be found in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Whose wonderful life is it?

"Aww, Mom, not again!" my family wailed, whenever I announced it was time for our annual viewing of "It's a Wonderful Life." No one else appreciated the layers of meaning I found so intriguing in this popular Christmas film classic.

The movie, released in 1946, is based on Philip Van Doren Stern's short story "The Greatest Gift." Unable to get it published, he printed 200 copies to send out as Christmas cards in 1943. RKO Productions bought the rights for $10,000, and, in turn, sold them to Frank Capra's company, Liberty Films. It was Jimmy Stewart's first movie after he returned to civilian life after World War II, and at the time it was released, it received mixed reviews and was only moderately successful.

A New York Times review disparaged the sentimentality of the film: "Mr. Capra's nice people are charming, his small town is a quite beguiling place and his pattern for solving problems is most optimistic and facile." James Agee, a writer for The Nation, admired its portrayal of two kinds of capitalists: "Capra's villainous capitalist—excellently played, in harsh black and white, by Lionel Barrymore—is a hundred per cent Charles Dickens. His New Capitalist—equally well played by Frank Albertson, in fashionable grays—makes his fortune, appropriately, in plastics, is a blithe, tough, harmless fellow." Interestingly, the FBI labeled the movie as "subversive," and charged that its use of a nasty, Scrooge-like businessman "was a common trick used by communists."

The film continues to inspire varying interpretations. Wendell Jamieson, in a 2008 New York Times article called it "a terrifying, asphyxiating story about growing up and relinquishing your dreams," while a recent screening at a Catholic university discussed "how Frank Capra’s tale of the creation and salvation of Bedford Falls echoes God's deliverance of the Hebrews to a promised land flowing with milk, honey and justice."

Which brings me back to why I love "It’s a Wonderful Life." Do you ever wonder, "What if I had not gone to that party and met so-and-so?" "What if I hadn’t stepped on the brakes in time?" "What if…?" I enjoy the alternative history, or science fiction aspect of the story. If George Bailey had not been born, what would life in Bedford Falls be like? The beginning of the movie, narrated by angels, introduces us to George, and shows us critical moments of his life where he made a significant difference. We later witness what would have happened if he had not been born.

I have many favorite scenes from the movie. I love the romantic dialogue when George promises to lasso the moon for Mary. I always laugh when he frantically searches for Mary in Pottersville, only to learn—gasp—she never married and became the town librarian! And I get goose-bumps every time George reaches into his coat pocket and finds Zuzu’s petals.

This year I won't inflict "It’s a Wonderful Life" on my family, but it will be the featured film for December's Literary Flick. Come watch it with me, and tell me what you think!

Jeff's Top Ten List Why Newport Library Is The Best:

Click on the links to find out more information on any of Newport Library's outstanding services.

10. Inter-Library Loan: We don't have what you want? The library can order books from around the country. To access our online ILL form, click HERE.

9. Adult Programs: Award-winning authors, journalists and scientists speak about their work, their causes, their discoveries. Check out the schedule HERE.

8. Outreach: Do you know someone who is homebound and unable to travel to the library? Contact our Outreach Coordinator, Lynn Dennis (265-2153), to arrange a volunteer to make regular deliveries of library materials.

7. Free Computer Classes: Every week, library staff teach classes on beginning internet use, popular software programs, useful databases and more. Check the current class offerings HERE.

6. Our Excellent Staff: 'nuff said.

5. Children's Story Time: Several weekly children’s programs are offered to introduce your kids to the magic of reading. For story time schedules, click HERE.

4. Monthly Movies Based On Books: with FREE popcorn! Check the schedule and show times HERE.

3. Free Wifi: Access the internet from you own laptop or mobile device from anywhere in the library.

2. The Best Independent And Foreign FIlm Collection On The Oregon Coast. To browse our humongous collection, click HERE.

1. Our Fireplace: What other library has THIS?

Newport Library is your community center for information, education and entertainment. To find out more, log on to our HOMEPAGE, your portal to all we have to offer.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A cookbook recommendation

Cookbook author Sheila Lukins died this year. I am a very basic cook, but whenever I want to make something a little fancier, I reach for a Lukins cookbook. She has never let me down. Her dishes are consistently delicious, yet her recipes are simple enough that they don't intimidate me (and she never asks me to buy any special equipment).

In her honor, here is Sheila Lukins' Dreamy Garden-Fresh Spaghettini, a bright-tasting and sprightly dish with caramelized tomatoes and lemon that is quite unlike your usual pasta with red sauce.

Serves 8

16 ripe plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
About 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon sugar
Freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons capers, drained
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from 3 to 4 lemons)
1 1/2 pounds spaghettini
8 ounces snow peas

1. Preheat oven to 250. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

2. Place the tomatoes, cut side up, on the baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with the sugar and pepper. Bake until the tomatoes are roasted-looking and less watery, 1 1/2 hours. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and place the tomatoes and their juices in a large bowl.

3. Add the parsley, capers, lemon zest and lemon juice, and toss gently.

4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat and add the spaghettini. Cook until just tender, about 6 minutes. Drain and add to the tomato mixture. Toss well.

5. Meanwhile, bring a small saucepan of water to a bowl over high heat. Add the snow peas and cook until crisp-tender, 1 minute. Drain and add to the pasta and tomatoes, toss well, and serve immediately.

That comes from Celebrate!, a cookbook that the library system does not own (and I'm not donating mine - I can't get through the holidays without it). But if you want to sample other recipes from this creative chef, try Lukins' USA Cookbook or her All Around the World Cookbook.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Few of Our Favorite Things – first in a continuing series

From now until the end of December, we'll be posting small reviews of the Newport Library staff's favorite holiday books, movies, and music.

First is Auggie Wren's Christmas Story by Paul Auster. Invited to write a Christmas piece by the New York Times, respected author Auster was stumped. Then his friend Auggie Wren told him a tale of a lost wallet. The result is this unsentimental and surprising little book.

Auggie Wren's Christmas Story is recommended by Martha, Newport Library's interlibrary loan clerk. If you like it, Martha recommends that you also check out the DVD Smoke, which Auster co-wrote, and which contains a film version of this same story. "It really is one of Harvey Keitel's better turns," says Martha, "and even William Hurt comes off pretty well." (Martha does not mince words.)

We hope you'll check back to hear what other members of the library staff like to read, watch, and listen to during the holiday season. And if you have a favorite, please put it in the comments!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

generosity: an enhancement by Richard Powers

A writer/editor gets a part time job teaching creative writing at an art college, and meets a young woman who radiates such joy-- all the time-- that he begins to wonder if she's mentally ill. A scientist whose thirst for knowledge has led him to many ground-breaking discoveries, as well as fame and fortune, seeks the genomic key to mood and attitude. A journalist, whose television career deeply disappoints her highly intellectual parents, amazes the American public with a hip layperson's guide to science in TV form. And a counselor who loves helping people above all else falls in love.

I won't tell you how these threads fit together-- I will tell you it's not in the usual way. There is some metafiction involved (not necessarily a good thing, in my opinion.) According to the Free Online Dictionary (, metafiction is "fiction that deals, often playfully and self-referentially, with the writing of fiction or its conventions." In generosity: an enhancement, it's a tool that awakens you to the idea that the book is a philosophical or moral challenge, a thought experiment rather than 'just a story'.

This book is outside of my usual genres: I guess I'd call it contemporary literature, if I had to put it in a box. It's a peculiar book, but it kept me interested all the way through, with some perplexity and plenty of amusement. I'm still thinking about what it would mean to live in a world where it would be possible to predetermine the happiness of your children--if you had enough money. Would it then seem irresponsible to have children if you couldn't afford to change their chromosomes? Would it cheapen the highs if the lows never got very low? Would people seem callous, always happy no matter what the circumstances? Lots of food for thought-- check it out. Click the image above to go to generosity in our catalog.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Edge Of Existence

As a kid, I used to love those Saturday morning adventure specials on TV. The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, The American Sportsman, Wild Kingdom, PBS specials like those on the Yanomamo of Brazil or the Bushmen of the Kalahari. Coupled with the then still exotic articles found in National Geographic, they introduced me to the great big world out there beyond the somewhat narrow confines of suburban Bethesda, Maryland where I grew up. I believed that the world still contained plenty of adventures just waiting for me to graduate from the 7th grade.

Lest you think that we’ve now become entirely tamed by cell phones, GPS and the internet, a new documentary series, the Edge Of Existence, proves that there are still a few places in the world where traditional cultures eke out a living from a dangerous land, or in one case, the sea.

Our intrepid host, Donal MacIntyre, is an Irish investigative journalist who spends time with some of the world’s last remaining traditional societies. Whether it’s hunting salt-water crocodiles in Borneo, cutting salt blocks from the Bolivian altiplano, or bouncing uncomfortably along with a camel trek across the Arabian desert to trade dates, MacIntyre joins in the work with plucky good-natured curiosity and a real respect for how hard people struggle just to put food on the table.

Some cultures, like the Omani Bedouin, take what they want from us, cell phones and Toyota pick-ups, and leave the rest, while others are forced to adapt with no power to choose. Out-of-work headhunters in Borneo are now reduced to distilling moonshine they call Steam, with a technology brought home by a returning college student. The Bajau Laut, Sea Gypsies of the East Indies, are citizens of no country who spend their entire lives at sea on the run from hostile mainland police.

The Edge of Existence is an entertaining excursion into the exotic: a reminder of how far we’ve come from a subsistence lifestyle. But it also reminds us that our comfortably modern lives aren’t the only ones that matter.

Click HERE to reserve Edge of Existence.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pants on fire

The interesting thing about Micah is that she's a liar. She lies to everyone, including the reader.

Liar by Justine Larbalestier opens the day Micah finds out that Zach is dead. Micah went running with Zach most evenings after school, and a lot of people, including Zach's official girlfriend, Sarah, think that they were more than friends. Micah tells them that they were just running partners, but she tells us that she and Zach were secretly a couple. She tells us that they had sex. She tells us that they didn't have sex. She tells us that she was in love with Zach, but that he didn't love her. Which version should we believe?

Micah also tells us that she didn't murder Zach. The story she tells us about the last night of Zach's life is so incredible, it couldn't possibly be true. Or maybe it has to be true, because no one would tell a lie that blatant. Or maybe it's the complicated delusion of someone who lies so much she doesn't know the truth anymore, herself.

Does Micah ever give the real story? Check out Liar and see what you think.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

An Oregon Author

I recently discovered that Patricia A. McKillip, one of my all-time favorite authors, was born in Salem and lives not too far from here, on the Oregon coast. (She seems to be quite private and has very little Internet presence, so I won't out her by telling you exactly where.)

I've been reading McKillip's novels since I was a teenager. She writes myth-soaked Tolkienesque fantasy, often featuring ancient mages, dangerously beautiful faerie-folk, and bewildered protagonists struggling against dark magic. Her publisher gives her books pretty, flowery covers, that might make you think they're all girlish unicorns and rainbows. But McKillip is an excellent writer with an original, elegant prose style, and her novels have great power. She's won a basketful of awards, including -- twice -- the prestigious World Fantasy Award.

My favorites are The Book of Atrix Wolfe; Alphabet of Thorn; and the Riddle-Master trilogy, with which I fell passionately in love when I was fourteen. All are highly recommended. (She has written a few contemporary novels as well, but I don't like these as much: the characters still talk like legendary kings and maidens, which makes it hard to picture them driving cars or vacuuming.)

Since learning that McKillip lives on the coast, I've started re-reading her books, trying to find Oregon there. She lived in New York's Catskill Mountains for a long time, and the truth is that most of the landscapes in her books resemble the ancient mountains and deep deciduous forests of the Northeast. However, her most recent book, The Bell at Sealey Head, is set on a wild and rocky coast.

...the cliff behind the inn, where the waves were breaking so hard they sent spume high in the air that turned again and fell as a gentle rain onto the rocks. Gulls hung in the wind, white as froth, so neatly balanced they were motionless in all that roil before they dropped a wing, caught a current, and cried out as they flew over the sea. Another bell was sounding: the channel marker tumbling about in the tide, jangling to guide one last fishing boat toward the harbor on the north side of the headland.

Yes, that sounds familiar. (And doesn't Sealey Head sound like the name of an Oregon town?)

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Conversation Project: A New Chautauqua

A few months ago we applied for two Conversation Projects through Oregon Humanities, formerly known as the Oregon Council for the Humanities. We were awarded both, and on November 5 at 7:00 p.m., we will host the first of 31 statewide Conversation Projects.

"Life in a Mega City: Images of Urban Bangladesh" features photojournalist Geoffrey Hiller, who spent a year in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Hiller went there on a Fulbright Fellowship to teach Interactive Media. He spent part of each day photographing people—in the streets, in markets and shops, on construction sites, in schools and madrasas—capturing the ever-changing urban landscape of this mega city.

He will address several topics of conversation: Are there connections between our consumer choices and a global work force? What are the reasons for and challenges associated with the growth of mega cities such as Dhaka, Bangladesh, which is home to 15 million inhabitants?

The second Conversation Project, "Night of a Thousand Stars: A Portrait of Life in Iraq" will take place December 5.

While in Iraq in early 2003, photojournalist Joel Preston Smith visited Iraqis in their homes and workplaces. He went to concerts with them, and ate meals with them, taking photographs along the way. After the war started, he photographed them in the hospital and grieving the loss of loved ones. He also spent time with American troops on patrol.

While at times it seems we live in isolation on the Oregon Coast, programs like these bring the greater world to us, and remind us of our shared humanity with other cultures. We hope you’ll join the conversations!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Super Freaky!

Statistically minded? Intrigued by patterns, numbers, and facts? Like to sprinkle peculiar trivia into your conversation? SuperFreakonomics and its predecessor Freakonomics will probably appeal to you.

I don't mean to trivialize it-- many of the topics taken on by economics professor Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, a former writer and editor for The New York Times Magazine are not trivial at all. Prostitution, emergency medicine, the effects of terrorism and global warming are only a few of the dozens of concepts scrutinized through an economic lens in SuperFreakonomics. Many of the conclusions drawn will surprise you, and the outlay of facts may sway your opinion about things you thought you already understood-- or just make you laugh. Events are translated from the anecdotal to the statistical, revealing surprising connections, causes and effects. Every study, statistic, and quote is backed up with sources in the "Notes" section of the book, for those who want some proof these guys aren't just blowing smoke.

The books are a lot of fun, filled with the breadth of information and perspective I always wish could be found in the newspaper. As a matter of fact, it now can be; the authors now have a weekly blog in the New York Times at

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A little night reading

Halloween is almost here, so I made a bibliography of the library's horror fiction. A bibliography is just a list, a printed guide to help people find things; the new horror bibliography is, obviously, a guide to the library's scary books.

The list includes chilling old favorites, like Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and Henry James's The Turn of the Screw, but I also wanted to make sure the list included the latest offerings in the genre.

There are books that revisit the Frankenstein story, including Dean Koontz' grisly modern three-volume retelling (start with the first book), and Peter Ackroyd's The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein. Then there are the werewolf stories, like High Bloods by John Farris and Frostbite by David Wellington.

Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger, Thomas Tessier's Fog Heart, and Joe Hill's Heart Shaped Box are all ghost stories. Zombie by Joyce Carol Oats is a serial killer tale, as is Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. Then there are the books about the way society falls apart in an epidemic or after a disaster, like The Quake by Richard Laymon, or The Strain by Guillermo del Toro.

And then there are things that are a little harder to put into categories, Like Dust, by Charles Pellegrino, in which a shrieking scientist is devoured alive by a swarm of voracious mites. (Actually, I could probably put that into a category. I just wanted to write that sentence about the mites.)

If you're in the mood for some delightfully creepy fall reading, come on in to the library to get the whole list. Don't forget that we have horror movies on DVD, too.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Jihad For Love

The word "Jihad" in Arabic means "struggle," and in the DVD A Jihad For Love the struggle of gay, lesbian and transgendered Muslims might seem a daunting one indeed. This 2007 documentary, however, is less a film about sexual orientation than about Islam itself. It tells the story of how Islam is struggling to come to terms with a growing number of LGBT believers who insist on remaining true to their religion as well as living their lives as honestly and openly as they dare.

A Jihad For Love portrays the lives of gay, lesbian and transgender Muslims in nine countries, including South Africa, Iran, India, Turkey and Egypt. While a few of the film’s subjects live the closeted existences one might expect in these countries, a surprising number not only live openly, but also actively challenge their religious leaders in public debate on the question of Islam and homosexuality. Many of these leaders, unfortunately, seem all too antagonistic, no matter how finely their challengers parse relevant passages in the Koran.

And ultimately, that is the strength of A Jihad For Love. In the final analysis, it might not be what ancient religious texts have to say about same-sex love, but what today’s believers who make up the umma (or Muslim community) have to say, that really makes the difference and might bring about change and gradual acceptance. A Jihad For Love is a timely look at some brave souls searching for a way both to live within their culture, and to live with themselves: an admirable lesson for us all.

Click HERE to reserve "A Jihad For Love."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Unflinching, Grisly, Savage, Slaughter

Unflinching, grisly, savage, slaughter, gritty, combat, sieges, soldier's-eye-view, characters you care about, bloodbath, crossbows, swords, battle strategy and military adventure, historic details and realistic battle scenes.

I don't know about you, but when I see descriptive tags like these I want to get a copy of the book in my hands right away. For me a good blood and guts war novel makes for great reading on a cold, rainy Saturday afternoon.

I've been reading war fiction for many years and still find myself fascinated with this genre. I like the "you are there" feel of historical novels. I become a companion with the characters of the novel. And because I come to care so much about them, I have a huge investment in the story as it proceeds. Who will live, who will die, who will triumph, who will fall? Then there are the battle strategies, the descriptions of arms and armor used by the combatants and a full description of the battleground and its surrounding geography.

A good war novel inflames my desire to learn more about what really happened at the time and place represented in the novel. I will frequently check out companion nonfiction titles on the subject of my reading just to round out my learning. And, I have to have maps when I'm reading historical fiction. Maps are a must. If the book doesn't have a map, I find one.

With all that in mind, here are two novels to get you started if you've never read historical fiction -- war fiction -- before. Both authors have an impressive body of war novels and I wholeheartedly recommend any of them.

1. Steven Pressfield -- The Gates of Fire. This is an epic novel of the Battle of Thermopylae, one of the world's greatest battles for freedom. Here, in 480 B.C., on a narrow mountain pass 300 Spartans and their allies faced the massive forces of the Persian army. From the beginning, you know every one of the Spartans will die, but learning about Spartan culture, politics and the demands placed upon young men coming of age in Sparta is enlightening. When Spartan battle strategy is explained -- the phallanx, an interlocking line of shields, the use of the short sword and the spear and the absolute conviction that dying in battle is honorable -- it makes for compelling reading. King Leonidas and his countrymen come alive, as do the horrors of close quarter combat with an overwhelming enemy.

2. Bernard Cornwell -- Agincourt. "One of the most dramatic victories in British history, the battle of Agincourt--immortalized by Shakespeare in Henry V--pitted undermanned and overwhelmed English forces against a French army determined to keep their crown out of Henry's hands. Here Bernard Cornwell resurrects the legend of the battle and the "band of brothers" who fought it on October 25, 1415. An epic of redemption, Agincourt follows a commoner, a king, and a nation's entire army on an improbable mission to test the will of God and reclaim what is rightfully theirs. From the disasters at the siege of Harfleur to the horrors of the field of Agincourt, this exhilarating story of survival and slaughter is at once a brilliant work of history and a triumph of imagination." -- Amazon Review

Now, who wouldn't want to read that!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

4 Tips on Getting the Most out of Library2Go

Library2Go is a terrific service-- free audiobooks! If you're a dedicated Book on CD listener, and always wishing we had more in stock, it may be time to add digital audiobooks to your repertoire. Even if it seems a little bit intimidating, the rewards are great. In the past 2 weeks, Library2Go has added 23 new fiction books, including Nevada Barr's 13 1/2, Debbie Macomber's 92 Pacific Boulevard, and Linwood Barclay's Fear the Worst. For me, it's been extremely worthwhile to use Library2Go, although I did initially find it frustrating because many popular books have a holds list, so there's not usually instant gratification.

How did I overcome that? I learned to work with the Library2Go System. Here are my tips:

1. Store as many books as possible on your player. Many reasonably priced players these days have 1 or 2 gigabytes of storage, and you are allowed to have 6 books checked out at a time. The books will expire from your hard drive in 7 or 14 days, depending on the checkout period you select. Personally, I can't listen to that many books in that amount of time-- they used to expire before I could get to them. Then I realized: the books will not expire from my MP3 player once they are transferred. If you have enough memory on your player, check the book out as soon as it's available, download it, and listen at your leisure.

2. Keep adding to your holds list. You may have 6 books on hold at a time, meaning you are waiting in line for each of those books. Your account will always tell you what number you are in the queue. You will see ridiculously high numbers sometimes, which is why you need to keep your list full, so that you are always approaching the front of the line for at least a couple of items.

3. Use your wish list. Whenever you receive a notice that something is available to check out, check it out and download it. It will disappear from your holds list. Immediately go to your wish list and move one of the items to the hold list. The wish list does not have a limit of items; fill it whenever you browse, and use it to keep your holds list full to the brim.

4. Browse every couple of weeks. (At least if you're a fiction fan. Once a month or so is probably adequate to check for new nonfiction, they seem to expanding that side of the collection more slowly.) Use the advanced search option, select Fiction, (or Mystery, or Thriller, or Fantasy, or whatever you'd like to limit your results to,) and then choose "within the last 14 days" in the "Date added to site" field. I do this because I feel fairly sure I've exhausted the backlog of books I'm actually interested in; you may choose to browse more generally. Anything you're interested in goes into your "Wish List".

*Note: Instant gratification is possible. If you absolutely need something to listen to on the car trip you're taking later today, choose a genre and then mark off the "Only show titles with copies available" box at the bottom of the page. Chances are, the bestselling Dan Brown book you wanted won't be there; but you might find an intriguing new book or an old favorite which doesn't have a holds list, either because no one knows how wonderful it is, or because Library2Go is allowed to loan many multiple copies at once on that book's particular licensing agreement.

We have "How to" sheets available at the library to help you with the technical side of starting out with Library2Go, and you can always call us or stop by the reference desk with questions as well. Library2Go is terrific entertainment at an unbeatable price-- well worth the effort.

Are You a "FAN" of Newport Public Library

If you're reading this, I assume you are not only a fan of Newport Public Library, but you are a fan of our blog, Salmagundi. But that doesn't make you a "FAN" of the Library. To become a true "FAN" of the Library you need to join us on facebook.

We started our facebook page a few months ago and have accumulated over 225 fans since that time. Being a fan means that all of our blog entries and all of our program announcements are sent automatically to your facebook page. That means that everytime you open your facebook page you will be able to see what's going on at the Library. This should save you time and clicks on the internet and it's a lot of fun getting automatic notification when new things are happening at the Library.

If you don't already have a facebook account, you can register for a free account here.

So why not join us?

As an added treat today, I've embedded a YouTube video that pretty much explains why I love reading. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Best Book of 2009?

I know it's a little early, but in the final three months of 2009, I seriously doubt that I will find a better book than Simon Schama’s American Future: A History. Originally a companion to his BBC video series which aired just after the 2008 elections, American Future looks forward by looking back. Schama explores enduring themes of American culture: war, religion, the frontier, and the immigrant experience, with the curious intensity of an English academic and a stylish, if sometimes flamboyant, prose.

A slightly eccentric story, American Future never mentions the usual suspects in American history: the Founding Fathers or the Civil War, for example. Instead, Schama shows how relatively obscure names, places and events illuminate our uniquely American experience. And how that experience is constantly rejuvenated by an almost naive belief in our ability to start anew.

From four generations of a West Point family, to a timeless faith as practiced at an old-time church in the Appalachian Mountains, from one woman’s futile attempt to be heard at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, to a 19th century, one-armed explorer’s prescient warnings about the West and water, American Future explores the contours of American history from a perspective not often seen. Schama’s America might be discovered on roads less taken, but his America is recognizable, and perhaps made even more comprehensible because of his stirring journey.

I’d be curious to know what your favorite book for 2009 was: fiction, non-fiction, graphic. Leave a comment in the box below.

Click HERE to reserve American Future.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

"Reading" with my ears

I don't save audio books for road trips, I use them everyday, just around town.

I also like to listen to books I've already read. I find I discover things I didn't catch the first time through. Interesting turns of phrases, or passages previously skimmed come to life with a good reader.

Audio books are also a great way to try something new. New author, new genre, new subject that just doesn’t seem very lively on the printed page, all can be much more exciting when given a "real" voice.

Readers differ, and in the end some are better than others, or maybe just better to my ears. When you have favorite readers, it's like having an old friend sit with you and spend some time with a good book.

The Newport Public Library has a wonderful collection of audio books on CD waiting on the shelf, and a download service available called Library2Go, which provides direct access to downloadable audio books and videos. These audio books and videos are downloaded to a PC, and can be played directly from the PC, or on a variety of mobile audio devices (often called MP3 players).

Oh, and by the way, some listeners use audio books while they exercise or do housework – I wouldn’t know anything about that. - Jan

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I love Angela Lansbury

My dad watched Murder, She Wrote on television throughout my teen years. I didn't like the show very much, and had no particular interest in its star, the certainly well-preserved but not-terribly-cool Angela Lansbury. Well, I was wrong about a lot of things when I was a teenager, and this is one of them: Angela Lansbury is very cool.

Want an exhibit of Ms. Lansbury's extraordinary talent? Start by checking out The Court Jester, a ridiculously entertaining 1956 Danny Kaye comedy. Though she was a lovely blonde in 1956, Lansbury is not the leading lady of this film. Ever a character actress, she has a smaller role as the scheming and spoiled Princess Gwendoline.

Then, for a complete change of pace, turn to the riveting 1962 political thriller The Manchurian Candidate. Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, and Janet Leigh are ostensibly the stars of this twisty and surreal satire, but Angela Lansbury owns the film as Harvey's terrifying, megalomaniac mother. Lansbury is corrosive and brilliant; this may be my favorite film performance ever.

The British actress turns 84 this month. Why not celebrate by checking out one of her films?

(Incidentally -- if you have a favorite actor, you can find his films in the Newport Public Library's catalog by searching by Author.)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Cannery Row's Renaissance Man

Ed Ricketts lived in a weathered wooden biology lab, stored with frogs, snakes, and sea creatures when he met John Steinbeck in 1930. They became close friends, sharing an interest in marine science, philosophy, and the colorful residents of Cannery Row.

Ricketts was the inspiration for many characters in Steinbeck’s writing: Doc in Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday, Dr. Phillips in the short story The Snake, Doc Burton in In Dubious Battle, Ed in Burning Bright, and Casey in The Grapes of Wrath.

A respected author himself, Ricketts wrote Between Pacific Tides, a pioneering study of intertidal ecology. It has been revised several times and is still in print. In 1940, the two friends went on a six-week expedition to the Gulf of California, and discovered 35 new marine species. Based on their travels, they wrote the Sea of Cortez: A Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research, which Steinbeck later rewrote as Log from the Sea of Cortez.

Ed Ricketts holds a special place in my heart. My late husband, Peter, was a marine biologist, and greatly admired Ricketts’ groundbreaking work. For several summers he sailed around Puget Sound with friends, talking science and philosophy. They called their journeys “Ed Ricketts Cruises.”

In honor of that spirit of inquiry and adventure, October’s Literary Flick will be the film, “Cannery Row.” It will be shown on Tuesday, October 13 at 6:30 p.m.

If you’d like to know more about Ed Ricketts, check out these titles:

Beyond the outer shores : the untold odyssey of Ed Ricketts, the pioneering ecologist who inspired John Steinbeck and Joseph Campbell by Eric Enno Tamm

Breaking through : essays, journals, and travelogues of Edward F. Ricketts by Ed Ricketts

With Steinbeck in the Sea of Cortez : a memoir of the Steinbeck/Ricketts expedition by Sparky Enea

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The case of the elegant detective

Dorothy L. Sayers was a true intellectual. She earned an MA from Oxford in 1920, a year when college degrees for women were very unusual. A linguist and a scholar of medieval literature, she translated Dante and The Song of Roland into English. She wrote poetry, plays, essays, and several thoughtful works of Christian scholarship.

She was also – this is my humble opinion – the greatest mystery novelist of all time.

Most of her crime novels star Lord Peter Wimsey, the younger son of a ducal family. His flawless Saville Row suits and Bertie Wooster-like chitchat conceal a brilliant crime-fighting mind. From 1923 to 1939, Lord Peter tracked murderers and deciphered clues through eleven novels and twenty-one short stories.

Although the mysteries solved by Lord Peter are fiendishly clever, it's the witty repartee that keeps me reading these books again and again. Take this sample of flirtation between Wimsey and a pretty woman:

"I'll have to get a decent frock, if there is such a thing in Wilvercombe."

"Well, get a wine-coloured one, then. I've always wanted to see you in wine-colour. It suits people with hon
ey-colored skin. (What an ugly word 'skin' is.) 'Blossoms of the honey-sweet and honey-colored menuphar' - I always have a quotation for everything - it saves original thinking."

"Port or sherry?"


"The frock -- port or sherry?"

"Claret," said Wimsey. "Chateau Margaux 1893 or thereabouts. I'm not particular about a year or two."

That's from Have His Carcasse, one of the funniest of Sayers' books. (And in case you're wondering, the "honey-colored menuphar" line comes from Oscar Wilde.) I reread them every few years, and recommend them all.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Upon Re-reading

I’m not one who regularly watches a movie more than once. Nor do I usually re-read a book. But I’m beginning to think I’ve been missing out on something.

After a gap of perhaps 5 years, I started re-reading the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian. And what an interesting experience it’s proving to be. During that first reading, I gulped down all 20 books in quick succession. Plot momentum and character development were prime motivators during that first marathon read. I just wanted to know what happened next.

Now, years later, and with the general outline of events already in my brain, I’m discovering subtleties of tone and voice that I’d never before appreciated. Like the second tasting of a fine wine, nuances of flavor and texture now appear.

For example, one scene I would have bet my life having occurred in the book was a particularly gruesome emergency brain surgery that took place aboard ship. I can see this scene as clear as crystal in my mind’s eye. Upon re-reading, I found that the actual scene never took place, only a re-telling of it after the fact. I’m not sure if I should chalk that up to my own vivid imagination or O’Brian’s equally vivid prose.

Another example is one character’s double-life as a spy, which, (now knowing he is one), becomes all the more rich and complex. Heretofore, I’d never colored the character’s action or dialogue with that knowledge. Now, this character’s every vague retort or absence from a scene or situation signifies his secret life, as well as his wish to protect friends and family from his liasons dangereuses.

So much for re-reading beloved favorites. Now, I’m thinking about books I started but never finished. Proust? Rand? Mysteries? Maybe I should give them a second chance as well. Where will it end? As they say: so many books, so little time.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Banning the Bible?

Many a writer has had his works banned from schools and libraries. Only a few were considered so dangerous, so heretical to orthodox cultural norms, that they had to pay with their lives.

One who did pay the ultimate price was William Tyndale. Born in Tudor England, Tyndale graduated with a Masters in theology at Oxford and was ordained into the priesthood shortly thereafter. Fluent in eight languages, Tyndale bounced around from job to job as private tutor, chaplain to the rich, and eventually found his passion in translating classical and religious works into English.

Under the influence of some of the Reformation’s greatest thinkers (he may have studied with Erasmus), Tyndale came to challenge the belief that the study of Scripture was the sole privilege of clerics. Finding no sympathetic ear to his ideas in England, he traveled to Germany, where he continued his work. Even on the Protestant mainland, however, Tyndale was considered too democratic, too populist a reformer to be ignored. England’s king, Henry VIII, asked the Emperor Charles to extradite him, and Tyndale was arrested and imprisoned in Belgium. He was burned at the stake, after being mercifully garotted beforehand. His books were burned in the streets.

His crime? Translating the Latin bible into English without permission of the authorities.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Banned Books Week meets Marian the Librarian

I love that song from The Music Man, "Pick-A-Little, Talk-A-Little," where the good ladies of River City accuse Marian the Librarian of advocating dirty books:

"He left River City the Library building
But he left all the books to her

Marian meets with their disapproval, because she kept the books on the shelf.

I have to admit I’ve never read Rabelais or Balzac, but having read Canterbury Tales in high school and beyond, I find it hard to believe Chaucer’s writings were once considered scandalous. Yet even today, people get all in a twitter about books they want to protect the rest of us from reading.

In recognition of Banned Books Week, our library is displaying a few of the hundreds of books that were challenged or banned during the past year. These include Wicked: the Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, Grendel by John Gardner, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, and A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn.

We are also hosting a Banned Books Panel to read from and discuss challenged and banned books this coming Wednesday, September 30 at 7:00 p.m. Readers for the panel discussion will be Doug Hoffman, media specialist for Lincoln County Schools; Lori Tobias, writer for the Oregonian; Bernice Barnett, former Lincoln County District Attorney; Matt Love, writer and English teacher at Newport High School; Wyma Rogers, former Newport Library director, and Andrew Rodman, poet and editor of In Good Tilth. Each person has selected a book that has been challenged or banned, and will read an excerpt from the book.

In the spirit of Marian the Librarian, we invite you to come into our library and check out a 'banned book.' Don’t let the censors take away your freedom to read!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Warm fuzzy serial killer?

Serial-killer characters make for popular plots because the stakes get raised again and again, keeping the reader in suspense as the body count goes up. The flip-side of this popularity is that the genre has gotten pretty formulaic; every little twist has already been exploited, and the authors have nothing left to fill in but new and exotic methods of death.

Then along comes Dexter. Darkly Dreaming Dexter, Dearly Devoted Dexter, Dexter in the Dark, and now, Dexter by Design. He's not a serial killer with a heart, exactly; he's a serial killer with a witty and cutting (no pun intended) internal dialogue, whose adoptive father found him a niche in which to flourish. Dexter survives in a kind of symbiosis with humanity (humanity=people with souls), where he camouflages himself as a normal if somewhat geeky blood-spatter technician, until he identifies prey. Child molesters, killers, torturers; others who were born without the spark that makes us human, or lost it somehow along the way. And then Dexter, you know, knocks them off. (I skim over those paragraphs, so I'm not entirely sure how he does it-- I know there's a knife, and a saw, and garbage bags, and that's enough for me.)

If you were a Star Trek: Next Generation fan, you may recognize the feeling you get for Dexter: it's almost the same feeling you get for the android Lieutenant Commander Data-- keep trying, buddy, you're almost a real boy (except for that nasty hunger of yours)! Dexter is charming despite himself; he's devoted to the memory of his adoptive father and he conscientiously watches out for his sister; he even finds a sweetie, and shows concern for her children. He's almost, almost, almost . . . but his Dark Passenger, the thing he has instead of a soul, is always there, curled up inside and waiting eagerly for a chance to strike.

These books are original, darkly funny, and well-written. Click on the titles above to see them in our catalog.