Sunday, March 26, 2017

Listed in "Best Reference 2016" of Library Journal, March 1, 2017.

AAPB: American Archive of Public Broadcasting

Primary source documents and annotation tools.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley

Whenever anyone became too close, Samuel Hawley and his daughter and move to a new place. Wherever he goes, he sets up a shrine for his decease wife in the bathroom.

After years of traveling Hawley finally settle in Olympus, Massachusetts, where Lilly had grown up. He has forsworn life on the run and becomes a commercial fisherman.

Readers hear about Hawley's criminal past in a series of flashbacks. Twelve chapters for the twelve bullets Hawley took while still involved in crime. 

As was bound to happen, Hawley's criminal past intersects with his present when his ex-partner Jove comes to visit.

Hawley's teenaged daughter has already suffered a break-up with her star-crossed love. Like a modern-day Romeo and Juliet, Lilly and Marshall are an ironic pairing. His mother is a staunch environmentalist who opposes Marshall's relationship with Loo.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Riches in Henry James's Novels

"I call people rich when they're able to meet the requirements of their imagination." Ralph Touchett, Portrait of a Lady by Henry James.

I've always thought this one of the best quotes in all of literature. 

Ralph Touchett is rich and he's justifying giving his fortune away to a distant cousin. He wants  to see what she will do with it. It's a social experiment.

Ralph is, of course, dying of tuberculosis. Isabel is a young, vibrant American transplanted to Old World.

Isabel's father is mostly absent from the novel, albeit one line that tells readers is a gambler from New York. James implies that Isabel's impoverished condition is a result of his gambling.

Ralph, detached observer as he is, is also a gambler.  He gambles on Isabel. He wants to see what she will do--will she succeed or fail.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell

These stories are about desperate, blue-collar workers. Written in 2008, these stories still seem completely fresh because it's easy to feel desperate in any age.

In "Yard Man," Jerry and his wife live in a salvage yard. She had been his high school sweetheart but they have only recently reconnected and married. 

They can live in the house rent free; in exchange, Jerry watches over the other seventeen buildings. He also works part-time as a school janitor. 

Money is tight and the man knows his wife isn't happy with the living arrangements. The junk bothers her because she looks at life simplistically. She can't see the prism of colors that Jerry can see on the skin of the snake.

The wildlife bothers Jerry's wife. Recently a bat and a swarm of bees entered the house. A red, yellow, and gold snake, that also has a prism of blues and greens, has been sliding around the garden. Something white--possibly an ermine--enters the house and spooks her.

The snake, however, is the central metaphor that carries the story. The snake stands for her--how Jerry is enchanted by her and afraid of her--afraid of losing her the way he had before.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

John Hart on the South

"I write of the South, always the South. For me, that means small towns and forgotten corners, the fields and streams and the abandoned places. There’s such history in the south: lost wars and racism, the long divide between haves and the have-nots. Memory runs deep in the South, as does the connection to family, history, and place. For a writer, that’s rich soil."

John Hart's complete interview for Criminal Element,

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit

This remarkable book of essays, which critics liken to a set of Russian nested dolls, are interconnected musings on many topics--maternal love, child abandonment, memory loss, illness, fairytales, labyrinths, Buddhism, the Arctic, and of all things, apricots.

Solnit has a poetic turn-of-phrase which makes these essays extremely enjoyable. Scallops and sea urchins dragged from the ocean floor are "bright like internal organs laid bare by surgery or butchery."

In some ways, these essays are show how interconnected everyone's lives--their life stories--are. In the end, though, these essays are also a deeply moving memoir of one particular woman's life--Solnit's.

In her personal essays, Solnit divulges her difficult relationship with her mother. Strained as a child and young adult, the mother daughter bond grows stronger as Solnit cares for her mother's medical needs. 

Solnit reveals her own narrow brush with death--breast cancer--and her courageous attempt to start anew.