Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Paris The Luminous Years

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Paris was the center of all that was new and exciting in the arts. Genius walked arm and arm down Boulevard Montparnasse with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, Josephine Baker and Aaron Copland among many others. Something magical attracted these men and women to create radical new ways of looking at the world while living in the CIty of Lights. And seduced by that magic, they created some of the greatest artistic masterpieces the world has ever seen.

The PBS documentary, Paris The Luminous Years vividly captures the explosion of artistic innovation between 1905 and 1930 in that great city. Old Paris comes alive through interviews with the artists themselves, contemporary film footage and the sultry sounds of the all-night jazz clubs in this two hour film. Watching Paris The Luminous Years made me yearn to travel back in time to hang out and gossip at the Cafe Deux Maggots, glass of wine in hand, along with Hemingway, who, after his estrangement with Gertrude Stein, remarked of her writing: “A rose is a rose is an onion.” Or to clamber up the stairs to Pablo Picasso’s cold water flat on Montmartre where he and fellow painter Georges Braque stayed up until dawn discussing art as they burned rejected canvases to keep warm.

Paris The Luminous Years is a heady and intoxicating look at a time when everything in the art world seemed possible and life was lived to its fullest. Don your black beret, sit down, pour yourself a glass of vin rouge and revel in the world that was Paris at the turn of the last century. You can reserve it here.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Storyteller comes to Literacy Park

Storyteller Ken Iverson is coming to Literacy Park at 1:00 pm on Wednesday, July 31. He is part of Newport Public Library's wildly popular summer reading program, Dig Into Reading.

Ken has been telling stories most of his life. An early fascination with Jonathan Winters led him to write and perform stories for friends when he was 17 and he hasn’t stopped yet! He loves the connection that sharing stories creates and how the telling of a story can bring people together. Ken believes the old adage "Laughter is the Best Medicine" is close to true. It’s not the only medicine, it's the most fun to take.

Sometimes using a drum, he tells traditional and contemporary folktales and myths from around the world for audiences of all ages. A third prize winner at the Seattle Folklife Festival's Liar's Contest, Ken's energetic telling of Jack tales, Arthurian tales and world folktales has been enthusiastically received.

Summer Reading at Newport Public Library happens every year thanks to the generous support of Newport businesses and private supporters. If it weren't for Umpqua Bank, La Quinta Inn and Suites, The Sylvia Beach Hotel, Jeannette Hofer, Janis & Ross Neigebauer and the Lincoln County Library District, summers at the library would be much quieter...too quiet for this children's librarian!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Dreams and detections in the Crescent City

I am of two minds about Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, first of a mystery series by Sara Gran.

On the one hand, it’s a fast-paced, well-written noir thriller, set in New Orleans in the chaotic year after Hurricane Katrina. Claire DeWitt, the world’s greatest PI (she tells us), is searching for a lawyer named Vic Willing, who had vanished without a trace during the storm. Her search takes us into New Orleans’ violent and unpredictable underworld, where drug abuse, poverty, and corruption are endemic, and where thousands of abandoned children grow up and die in gangs.

The dark and gritty setting is perfectly suited to our detective, the deeply troubled Claire, who doesn’t give a damn about much of anything. Only the mysteries in her life seem to keep her going.

On the other hand, Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead is kind of weird. In hunting for the solution to the mystery, Claire relies not only on clues and evidence, but also intuition, dreams, coincidences, drug-induced hallucinations, the I Ching, and the wisdom of Jacques Silette, Claire’s guru. Silette’s writings are excerpted throughout the novel, and are either existentially enlightening, or tediously opaque and circular. (I’ll let you decide which.)

Author Gran seems to be trying to marry a detective story with a deeper exploration of psychology and philosophy. Does it work?

I’m not sure it does, really -- but I certainly enjoyed reading this fresh and interesting story. I like my mysteries to be intellectual puzzles with perfectly logical conclusions, which this isn’t. However, I couldn’t put it down, eager to follow Claire as she hunts for clues and wrestles with her own painful and unresolved memories.

Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead is the first of a new series. Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway is next on the list.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

An Afghan Family Story

The Boston Marathon bombing was horrific, as were the shootings at Sandy Hook, Aurora, and Columbine.  Imagine: the Afghan author of Fort of Nine Towers lived through decades of such horrors. Some of the scenes in Qais Akbar Omar’s memoir are so revolting, especially the scenes of systematic torture, that it seems miraculous that the author survived.

Not only did he survive, he retained his love and respect for life and for his country.

Omar was a young boy in Afghanistan during the Soviet Union’s occupation. Life was good for his middle class family. His father and grandfather sold carpets, his mother worked in a bank, there was a large extended family that spent time together, and Omar enjoyed going to school and flying kites with his favorite cousin, Wakeel.

But when the Soviet Union pulled out, Afghanistan dissolved into civil war.  Factional fighting slowly destroyed Omar’s neighborhood and his family’s way of life, and Omar and his family became internal exiles in their own country. Omar and his family finally returned to Kabul and camped out in an old fort just as the Mujahedin were replaced by the Taliban. Cruelty continued, but even after Omar was arbitrarily tortured and imprisoned he retained his hope that things would change for the better. After he was released from prison he secretly set up a carpet weaving business to provide work for neighborhood girls.

This memoir is beautifully written by a young man who has suffered much but still loves his country. I highly recommend Fort of Nine Towers: An Afghan Family Story.

Posted by Kay.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Magic in Literacy Park

A storytelling, balloon-sculpting, magic-making speech and communications teacher performing in Literacy Park?  Yes! Jay Frasier makes his Newport Public Library debut this Wednesday, July 24 at 1:00 p.m. as young readers continue to Dig In To Reading.  He's been making magic, telling tales and turning balloons into interesting shapes for a decade while keeping his day job as an instructor at Lane Community College.

A recipient of the "Dom Deluise Comedy Magic Scholarship," Genii magazine considers Jay one of the top children's performers in the country. Using sleight-of-hand, physical comedy, and audience participation to create a magical and entertaining performance, Jay makes certain that children and adults experience the impossible made possible, reinforcing their senses of wonder and engaging their imaginations. 

Join us for this free summer reading event made possible by Ready-to-Read grants from the Oregon State Legislature, support from community members Jeannette Hofer, Janice and Ross Neigebauer and Umpqua Bank and lodging from La Quinta Inn and Suites. Check here to find out what else is going on at your Library this summer.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The 9th Girl by Tami Hoag

On a frigid New Year’s Eve in Minneapolis, the driver of a rented limo is so distracted by the half-drunk and half-dressed bachelorette party taking place behind him, he’s not paying attention to the road—until a grotesque bloodied figure, with a half-melted face, tumbles from the trunk of the car ahead of him. He screeches the brakes, but too late—the limo plows into the disfigured body soon to be known in sensationalist headlines as Zombie Doe. In the ensuing chaos, the vehicle she fell from disappears.

Is Zombie Doe the ninth victim and first slip-up of a serial killer known as Doc Holiday, who’s been hunting across the Midwest but so far left no trace? Or do the differences in the murders mean that a second mad killer is on the loose, maybe one with a more personal grudge? Detectives Sam Kovac and Nikki Liska must identify her, and fast.

I expected The 9th Girl to be cheesy, slick, and shallow because of the packaging and the “Zombie Doe” angle, but it’s a readable, solidly plotted thriller, with a common theme well-threaded through the plot and subplots, and distinctive and largely believable characters. There was a focus on relationships between mothers and teenaged children from various angles that I enjoyed, and enough twists and tension to keep the pages turning quickly throughout. 

This book can stand alone, but it is the fourth book Tami Hoag’s Kovac & Liska series.
  1.  Ashes to Ashes
  2.  Dust to Dust
  3.  Prior Bad Acts 
  4.  The 9th Girl

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

How About Some Literary Fiction?

I picked up Three Junes by Julia Glass without much enthusiasm. It looks very much like something Cosmo would recommend as a light and beach-y read (which is really not my bag), or what’s commonly referred to in the parlance of our times as “Chick Lit.” (I have always had a problem with that term. “Women’s Literature” is hardly better; ask yourself, is there really such a thing as “Men’s Literature”? Anyway, I digress.) Three Junes did, however, win the 2002 National Book Award for fiction, so I decided not to be so snotty about cover art and give it a try. It was totally worth it--this is some enjoyable literary fiction, let me tell you.

The story centers on the MacLeods, a family that hales from rural Scotland, and relates the events of three momentous Junes through the perspectives of three different characters: Paul, father and newspaper owner; Fenno, gay son and New York bookstore owner; and Fern, an aspiring young artist and former love interest of Paul. I enjoyed how Glass delves into the inner lives of her characters and the way she conveys the complexities inherent in their relationships with one another. Pick up Three Junes to experience a gorgeous rendering of a family complete with its strengths as well as flaws.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Wildlife at Newport Library

As a young mom one of the best places to take my children was Wildlife Safari in Winston, Oregon. Many wonderful memories come from those visits. Because my mother was a docent at the park, we always got to go in the "Keep Out - Staff Only" areas.  My sons still talk about giving a bottle to a baby cheetah.

This Wednesday's Summer Reading program will be a special treat because Wildlife Safari is coming to Newport!  Right here in the library's Literacy Park at 1:00, there will be snakes and lizards and turtles and other wonderful creatures.  No, no lions or cheetahs or elephants but fascinating creatures nonetheless.  Fortunately for us, the animals come with very informative people who work at the park and love to share all the amazing things they know about the animals they bring to Newport.

Like all Newport Public Library programs, the Wildlife Safari show is free and people of all ages are welcome.  Please remember your sunblock and water, Literacy Park is out of the wind and can get pretty toasty.

Friday, July 12, 2013

NOS4A2 @ Christmasland

Titled with the vanity plate NOS4A2 (Nosferatu), Joe Hill’s latest might seem to be just another vampire book, but never fear. Hill’s blend of strong characterization, a classic but nuanced good-versus-evil plotline, and paranormal events impinging on the mundane world is reminiscent of Stephen King. His unique interpretation of the vampire tale transcends cliché.

We meet our hero, Vic, when she's only eight and known as The Brat. She gets the coolest bike ever for her birthday, back in the days when a kid could ride around a small town all day without supervision. Her dad warns her never to ride across the Shorter Way Bridge, a decrepit covered structure overdue for collapse. But when Vic’s parents have a fight, she dares herself to do it, wanting to shock them out of their selfish behavior. Her dangerous ride leads to her first discovery of a special and costly talent for finding lost things, no matter how far away.

Years pass. Vic grows up, hurting both from what’s she’s experienced because of her talent, and from her father’s abandonment. At 16, she runs into Mr. Manx for the first time—a man with a gift somewhat like hers, but much much worse. He has the ability to take children to Christmasland, where it’s Christmas morning every day, snowflakes are made of sugar, and there’s no such thing as sadness, conscience, or fear. Where little boys and girls get to go, if they’ll only go with the Gasmask Man and give up their souls. Vic's first encounter brings her close to death, and leaves her terrified, half-believing she's crazy.  Christmasland just won't leave her alone, and Vic must eventually face Manx again, when the well-being of her own son is at stake.

Vic is an extremely distinctive and sympathetic character, damaged and floundering but strong at the core. The love of her life, Lou, a fat motorcyclist/comic book geek/mechanic, is so real and likeable I wish he could come over for dinner. And, of course, there's the tragic but heroic stuttering librarian, Maggie Leah, who I'd be proud to work with, so long as she got the monkey off her back. I finished the book in two days and am still wishing it lasted longer. If, like me, you enjoy horror fiction that relies less on gore and more on mind-bending twists of reality, and poignant, knife-sharp details, give Joe Hill's NOS4A2 a try

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Controlled Hallucinations and other poetry

The Newport Public Library will host two renowned Portland poets for a reading and book launch on Saturday, July 13 at 4:00 p.m.  Both writers, editors, and literary community leaders, John Sibley Williams will be launching his debut collection, Controlled Hallucinations, alongside the award-winning poet A. Molotkov. 

John Sibley Williams
Filled with impassioned logic and musicality, Controlled Hallucinations strives to reconnect language to the things they describe, to control the uncontrollable by redefining the method of approach. In these compact poems, so edged in dark corners and the strenuous songs of beauty and identity, Williams establishes a unique world of contradictions and connections that works to bridge the foreign with the familiar. 

Williams is the winner of the HEART Poetry Award, and finalist for the Pushcart, Rumi, and The Pinch Poetry Prizes. He serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review and co-director of the Walt Whitman 150 project.  For more information, you can visit his

A. Molotkov
Born in Russia, A. Molotkov moved to the US in 1990 and switched to writing in English in 1993. His work won a variety of awards, and has been accepted by The Kenyon Review and over 70 other publications. He co-edits The Inflectionist Review and serves on the Board of Directors of Oregon Poetry Association. Visit him at

Monday, July 8, 2013

Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

Hi. My name is Pat Peoples and I just got out of the bad place. I’m living with my parents, and my mother has fixed up the basement into a totally awesome gym, because I’m getting in shape for Nikki. Nikki is my wife. She was mad at me because of my temper, but I’m learning to be kind, not right, and pretty soon apart-time will be over.

My dad doesn’t talk to me, but sometimes we watch the Eagles on TV together and do the Eagles chant. My brother, Jake, gave me a genuine Hank Baskett shirt and a season ticket to the games. He’s the best brother!

I’ve started reading English literature, because Nikki teaches English, and I want to impress her with my new knowledge of books. So far I’ve read The Great Gatsby and A Farewell to Arms, but I don’t really like them because they have sad endings. I want the movie of my life to have a happy ending, and I know it will.

One thing I cannot stand is Kenny G. Sometimes he is standing over me when I wake up, and I hum and count to ten, over and over, until he goes away.

While I was in the bad place, my friend Ronnie got married and had a kid. I’m not sure how that happened—I was only gone a few months—but I don’t want to think about it. He tried to set me up with his sister-in-law, Tiffany, even though I’m married and apart-time will be over soon. Now Tiffany follows me whenever I run, which is kind of weird. She runs fast for a girl, but I have man strength, and can outrun her.

My mother taught me to believe in silver linings, and I know that soon Nikki and I will get back together. Why does everyone change the subject when I mention Nikki?

The Silver Linings Playbook is available in print and as a sound recording.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Summer Reading gets Zany!

Zaniac Alex Zerbe comes to Newport Library's Literacy Park Wednesday, July 11 at 1:00 pm for a show of wild juggling tricks, zany humor, danceable music and lots of audience participation.

Zerbe hales from Seattle and is a two-time Guinness World Record holder who was voted Seattle’s Funniest Prop Comic. He has appeared on prime-time television in three countries including the hit NBC TV shows, “America’s got Talent!” and “Last Comic Standing”. He is a Hacky Sack World Champion and half of the award-winning comedy act, Brothers from Different Mothers. When Jamie Lee Curtis saw his one-man show she said, “Boy are you talented, FANTASTIC!”

Zerbe is a gifted physical comedian and human cartoon. In addition to his juggling skills, he performs beat-boxing, music looping, silly dances and funny raps. He is an original when it comes to family-friendly entertainment.

Zerbe's Newport show is sponsored by Ready To Read grants provided by the Oregon Legislature and support from Umpqua Bank, Ross and Janis Neigebauer and Jeanette Hofer. While in Newport he will be staying at La Quinta Inn and Suites. For more information about Alex Zerbe’s performances, take a look at his website,

Friday, July 5, 2013

Empowerment, Moran Style

A patron approached me at the reference desk recently [for the record, I swear I am not making this up for the sake of a blog post], asking, “ Where are your books on women and power? I want to feel empowered.” And my inner Gloria Steinem commenced a wild dance of celebration while I oh so calmly and professionally led her over to the appropriate non-fiction section (in case you are wondering, we have relevant titles shelved in the 150’s and early 300’s). As I filled her arms, I scanned book spines in vain for Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman, eventually coming to terms with the fact that it was checked out and informing the patron that I would put it on hold for her pronto. Because if you want to read a book about becoming an empowered woman (and are not squeamish about the liberal use of profanity and colorful euphemisms), look no further than Moran’s honest, funny, and (to put it lightly) strongly worded memoir-cum-manifesto.

 Early on in her book, Moran references a study that claims only 29% of American women count themselves feminists and demands, “What do you think feminism is, ladies? What part of ‘liberation for women’ is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? ‘Vogue,’ by Madonna? Jeans?” This sort of straight-up denunciation of what she deems societally ingrained short-sightedness is interspersed with fairly lurid tales about growing up poor and in time becoming a successful music journalist, newspaper columnist, and married mother of two girls in London. So camp out on the couch with a cup of coffee and try not to snort it out your nose as you read all about one woman’s quest to become empowered, and in so doing, empower the rest of us.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Man Who Fell In Love With The Moon by Tom Spanbauer

I love books with a strong or unique voice, a character whose language echoes inside your head so forcefully it feels like you can hear them talking to you. A few that come to mind are classics such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or Moby DIck, and more contemporary novels such as Kazuo Ichiguro’s The Remains of the Day. Even non-fiction books can have a strong voice: T.E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom for example.

One of my favorite voices in contemporary fiction belongs to Shed, the half-Shoshone protagonist in Tom Spanbauer’s 1991 novel, The Man Who Fell In Love With The Moon. Out-There-In-The-Shed, or just Shed, speaks in a clipped, sometimes ungrammatical voice that I can recall to this day. Speaking in that special voice, Shed narrates his remarkable life in and around the dusty little town of Excellent, Utah during the last half of the nineteenth century.

After Shed’s mother is killed, the boy is taken in by the no-nonsense local brothel keeper, Ida Richelieu. Wanting to know more about his past, and especially the identity and whereabouts of his father, Shed embarks on an adventure that changes his life and his understanding of the world. FIlled with unforgettable characters, such as Damn Dave and his damn dog, and the four African-American Wisdom brothers, Homer, Blind Jude, Ulysses and Virgil, The Man Who Fell In Love With The Moon is an exuberant twist on the American western. Using a technique the author calls, “dangerous writing,” Spanbauer mixes Native American spirituality with the bawdy rambunctiousness of more picaresque American voices like Twain’s.

If you’d like to hear Shed’s voice for yourself, you can reserve The Man Who Fell In Love With The Moon here.