Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Talking about dying

Death is often an unmentionable topic, but sooner or later, it touches all of us. A beloved pet dies, then a distant great-aunt. Then a parent, a sibling, or a spouse. How do we prepare for these losses? Or for the prospect of our own death? One approach is to talk with others.

The Newport Public Library will host Talking about Dying on Sunday, November 1 at 2:00 p.m., facilitated by Bob Daley from Benton Hospice Service in Corvallis.

Talking about Dying is a community discussion that provides an opportunity to reflect on the stories and influences that shape what we think about death and dying, and to hear different perspectives and ideas from fellow community members.

Participants will explore essential questions: What do we think about when we think of dying? As people we’ve known have moved closer to death, what seemed to work well for them and the people close to them? What seemed difficult? When we think about our own dying, what do we want most?

Daley has worked as the Transitions and Caregiver Support Program Coordinator at Benton Hospice Service in Corvallis, Oregon for over five years.  In this role, he discusses issues surrounding death and dying with family caregivers on a daily basis and connects families with appropriate information and resources.  He also has ten years of group facilitation experience in various settings, and has a Master’s degree in Teaching from Oregon State University.

Talking about Dying is a statewide initiative by Oregon Humanities, created in partnership with Cambia Health Foundation, to bring conversations about death and dying to communities throughout the state.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Scary Stories Are My Bag

 “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?” W.B. Yeats

 Ahh .. Halloween approaches and here at the library are the scariest stories ever! Nightmares born not of over consumption of candy corn, but from examination of human potential gone awry.

With horror, everyone has their limit. I found mine with Mo Hayder’s The Devil of Nanking, a story based on the confused imaginings of a mistreated child. This is historic fiction unbound and a shocking view of humanity under duress.

Time for a non-fiction reality check? Check out The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout. In laboratory settings when asked to view pictures of people experiencing emotions, a typical sociopath’s brain emits signal patterns more commonly found in subjects solving arithmetic problems, and they don’t like to lose.

Speaking of sociopaths, has it been awhile since you’ve read Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris or Rules of Prey by John Sandford? Where, indeed, is Dexter?

I prefer metaphysics with my misgivings and offer up Neil Gaiman’s American Gods in keeping with our small town ethic. Joe Hill’s NOS4A2 will definitely rev you up while Preston and Child’s Cabinet of Curiosities might rivet your attention. Never overlook Stephen King or my favorite of his, The Stand. Finally a sweet little treat, Dean Koontz’s Brother Odd, to add to your bag of goodies.

Sometimes a good scare is just the ticket.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Librarians' October Favorites

The votes are in! LibraryReads, a list created by librarians and booksellers of the month's best titles, is a great resource for choosing your next read. October's list is full of goodies! Click on the cover photo to place a hold.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Future tense

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead snagged my attention as soon as I saw it.  On the cover, city blocks are laid out like a giant monopoly board, with one or two objects on each square; a key, a shoe, lamp post, a two dollar bill. Intrigued, I read the inside front dust jacket, and was hooked!

The story is narrated by Miranda, a sixth grader who lives in New York City with her mother.  Miranda is best friends with Sal, the boy who lives in the apartment below. When Sal is punched for no reason on his way home from school, he stops speaking to her.

Miranda gets to know Marcus, the boy who punched Sal, and they find they share a common passion; the book "A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeleine L'Engle.  They enjoy debating the paradox of time travel, and wonder if it would be possible for a future self to meet a past self.

Mysterious notes start showing up, imploring Miranda to help the writer save someone.  At first she thinks the notes are a joke, but events they mention start to come true.

While this book was written for middle-school children, it has an honesty and appeal that go beyond age categories. Miranda is a young girl branching out with new friendships and having her first crush.  She has a close relationship with her mother, yet they sometimes argue. And then there is a homeless man who sleeps under the mailbox by her apartment. Who is he, and why does he behave so bizarrely?  Like the pieces on an intricate board game, the players move through their paces to an inevitable, but unexpected conclusion.

When You Reach Me won the 2010 John Newbery Medal, an award for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. You can reserve your copy here.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Faithful Place by Tana French

I am completely hooked on the books of Tana French. Every one I read, I’m now up to three, gets better and better, even though I’m reading them in no particular order.

It just so happens that Faithful Place is the third installment in her Dublin Murder Squad series. Although the books contain some of the same characters, each book features a different investigator as protagonist; we see events unfolding through her or his eyes. And it is in constructing these main characters, with their distinct and complex voices narrating their stories, where Tana French’s talents truly shine.

Undercover detective Frank Mackey grew up on the gritty hardscrabble streets of Dublin’s inner-city neighborhood, Faithful Place. As a teen he’d planned to run away to England with Rosie, the love of his life. They agree to a midnight rendezvous at the top of the street. But she never shows. Despondent, and thinking that Rosie’s father has somehow thwarted their plans, Frank leaves Faithful Place, never to return.

That is, until 20-plus years later. Rosie’s suitcase and their ferry tickets turn up in an abandoned house. Returning to Faithful Place. Frank must now reunite with the dysfunctional cess pit that is his family. He must maneuver neighborhood feuds and interrogate old friends and enemies who are now mostly bitter, alcoholic, middle-aged wrecks. Nobody takes kindly to people who leave the neighborhood, and among the Faithful Place crew, Frank, himself, becomes a suspect.

I’ve never read mysteries for their “whodunit” qualities. With the books of Tana French, I can simply sit back and enjoy some great writing, get inside the heads of complex and interesting characters, and imagine such a place. Faithful Place.

You can reserve Tana French’s Faithful Place here.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Now you see him, now you don't!

Get a head-start on Halloween by coming to this month's Literary Flick, The Invisible Man.  The movie will be shown on Tuesday, October 13, at 6:30 p.m.

Filmed in 1933, the movie is based on H. G. Wells' novel of the same name, published in 1897. Claude Rains stars as Dr. Jack Griffin, a chemist who discovered the secret of invisibility while conducting a series of tests involving an obscure drug called monocane.

With his face swathed in bandages and his eyes obscured by dark goggles, he takes a room at The Lion's Head Inn in an English village. He is evicted because of his behavior, and flees from the police. The drug has driven him mad, and he devises a plot to dominate the world through a reign of terror.


The film was named by the New York Times as one of the Ten Best Films of 1933, and is best known for its clever and groundbreaking visual effects.  The original New York Times movie review can be read here.

Literary Flicks are free and open to the public.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Ex Machina

Caleb, a naive young programmer who works for the world’s most advanced search engine, is invited by Nathan, the company’s enigmatic and reclusive founder, to assist him on a top secret new project. The programmer’s job: to interview a robot named Ava and find the flaws in her programming. How human is she? Does she pass the Turing test? As Caleb spends ever more time with Ava, he develops feelings for the AI that lead him to ask uncomfortable questions about the research work and his involvement in it.

Thus begins Ex Machina, one of the most thought-provoking, and frankly, terrifying, films I’ve seen this year. Just like the characters in the film, I felt as if the rug had been pulled out from under me. Just like Caleb, Nathan and Ava, I was never sure who was really in charge. Like Caleb, I feared that all was not as it appeared. I wondered along with Ava what would happen if she failed the test. What happened to the earlier versions of Ava? Is Nathan a prophetic genius or a dangerous psychopath?

And what does it mean to be human anyway?

I pondered questions like these for weeks after seeing Ex Machina. You might too.

You can reserve Ex Machina here.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Fancy A Trip To Mallorca?

Some of my friends traveled to far away lands this past summer: Russia, Greece, Italy. I was not so lucky. However, thanks to Peter Nichol’s wonderful new novel, The Rocks, I spent a delightful few weeks transported to the sun-drenched Mediterranean isle of Mallorca. But this is not just a light-hearted beach read. Underneath the sunny exterior, The Rocks tells a double love story and reveals a tragic secret as the plot unravels backwards in time.

Lulu is a free-spirited expat Englishwoman who runs a hotel, The Rocks, overlooking the sea. Her ex-husband Gerald, owns a small olive and citrus orchard a few miles down the road. Once, deliriously in love, they separated inexplicably the day after their honeymoon and haven’t spoken in 50 years. Luc, Lulu’s son from a second marriage, and Aegina, Gerald’s daughter with his beloved Mallorcan wife, try to overcome their parents’ enmity, but their own love is thwarted by a family history they don’t understand.

By telling the tale in reverse, moving backwards through time as characters become ever younger, The Rocks is propelled by a kind of fatalistic energy that is both engaging and discomforting. We already know what has happened (I won’t give that away), because it’s related in the first few pages. Now we want to know why. It’s a conceit, but one that works well.

A great story coupled with a beautiful location, told in an unusual way. That about sums up Peter Nichol’s The Rocks. It was a book I looked forward to reading every evening; like going on vacation and meeting some very interesting characters along the way. I hope you like it as much as I did.

You can reserve Peter Nichols, The Rocks, here.