Before I ever became a parent, I often wondered at the way parents I knew complained about their own kids, and their lives as parents. I usually took these comments at face value, and frankly, they were pretty good birth control. I also remember pledging not to complain if I ever had children myself. However, now that I have kids, I complain about it all the time. In fact, I might have broken my pledge just a few minutes after my first was born. And I can guarantee this: All my complaints are true, and there’s a lot more where those came from. Read More..
That’s what it felt like to me, at least, when I tried listening to a free downloadable audiobook version of A Tale of Two Cities obtained from LibriVox, a crowdsourcing website recently recommended to me by a friend. For those who are not already familiar with it, LibriVox strives to make all books in the public domain available, free of charge, in audiobook format—a sort of read-aloud analog to Project Gutenberg. To accomplish this, thousands of volunteers around the globe record themselves reading and upload their work onto the site for anyone to use. A truly amazing resource. Read More..
Growing up, I had what I thought the dubious honor of a dad who never flipped past anything World War II-related on television without stopping to watch it. Tales of D-Day were of special interest–how well I remember the June marathons of anniversary years 1984, 1994 and 2004, when he seemed unable to resist any old movie depiction, eyewitness interview, or even the most obscure wreath-laying captured on tape by C-Span. My whines of “can’t we turn it back to A.L.F.?” were rebuffed with all the force of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall, often with that classic parental refrain, guaranteed to kill whatever interest in the subject one may actually have: “Stick around . . . you might learn something.” Read More..
When I heard the recent news that King Richard III’s bones had been discovered beneath a parking lot in Leicester, England, my first thought was of an unusual museum I stumbled into several years back while walking the medieval wall surrounding the old city of York. As a devoted fan of hole-in-the-wall museums, I could not have enjoyed the Richard III Museum more, due to the fact that, crammed as it is into one of four gatehouses in the York City Wall, the museum may be as close as one gets to being located in an actual hole in a wall. Browsing the exhibits, which detail the life of the last Plantagenet King of England and examine how his reputation has fared through the ages, I noticed several references to a novel called The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey, and when I returned home was happy to find that my local library had a copy. Read More..
I finally got around to reading this year’s Printz Award winner, and I believe it’s an instant classic, much deserving of the many accolades it has received. Among the best novels I’ve read in the past year, regardless of target age or genre, Where Things Come Back, by John Corey Whaley, tells the tale of a teen in small town Arkansas, the unexpected impact on his life of a disillusioned missionary he never actually meets, and the rediscovery of a woodpecker long thought to be extinct. Whaley’s narrator, Cullen Witter, balances humor and cynicism in the spirit of Holden Caulfield, and the book’s illumination of the bizarre, and sometimes horrific interconnectedness of modern life calls to mind the absurd fascinations of Kurt Vonnegut. Read More..
If you’re like me, the word “documentary” may unlock memories of trying to sit still for hours on a hard classroom floor, praying for a 16 mm projector to malfunction so that you and the rest of your fourth grade class won’t have to watch reel #3 of “The Netherlands: A People Versus the Sea.” However, the pioneers of the modern feature length documentary–from its fly-on-the-wall roots in the works of D.A. Pennebaker (Don’t Look Back, The War Room) to the weirdness of Errol Morris’ interview montages (Vernon, Florida; Gates of Heaven), to the guerilla tactics of Michael Moore (Roger and Me, Bowling for Columbine)–prove that the time for checking our baggage about the form is long past due. So in honor of National Documentary Month (aka “Doc-tober”), here are two recent documentaries guaranteed to shatter your preconceived notions of their respective subjects. Read More..
If you happen to have become engrossed in this year’s Read Across Lawrence selection for children, Marie Rutkoski’s The Cabinet of Wonders, or if you have been enjoying the wonders lately revealed in our own lobby and the Watkins Museum , then we’ve got a book for you. In Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder, a finalist for the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for general non fiction, author Lawrence Weschsler achieves the wondrous himself by managing to impart an infectious fascination with the marvelous and teach a crash course in the history of museums, all in a mere 168 pages about an obscure museum and its curious curator. Read More..
If you’re looking for baby names, Alastair Reid’s 1958 picture book Ounce, Dice, Trice is probably not for you. Unless you’re prepared to name your child something along the lines of Blodge, Sump, or Chumley, which Reid suggests would make great whale names. The exercise of coming up with names that just feel right for such things as whales, cats, and nitwits forms the heart of this classic, which was reissued by the publishing arm of the New York Review of Books in 2009. Reid, along with illustrator Ben Shahn, whose line drawings look a bit like the kind of thing a prehistoric version of Edward Gorey would have scrawled onto a cave wall, created a work like none other in this, their one collaboration. Read More..
I can only be grateful that my sixth grade self never put pen to paper about his love for the television show Miami Vice. But I’m also grateful that so many people have taken the fateful step of recording their gawkiest thoughts and feelings for posterity, and that David Nadelberg has been collecting them now for nearly a decade under the “Mortified” banner. In response to the popularity of his stage shows and web site, where contributors reveal their most comically embarrassing teen scribblings, Nadelberg has published two Mortified collections in book form, and last winter the Sundance Channel began airing his Mortified Sessions, a weekly interview show during which celebrities such as Ed Helms, Eric Stonestreet, and Paul Feig reveal their own awkward expressions of teen angst. Read More..
Lately for some reason I seem to be sniffing out spy stories that reflect the humdrum, human aspects of life as an international man of mystery. I wondered for a while why I, a librarian who rarely ventures more than 25 miles from home, might be attracted to these stories, but soon remembered how similar the public perception of librarians and spies actually is. “Mysterious”, “dangerous”, and “sexy” are all adjectives commonly used to describe us by a general public who knows little about either profession, but which trusts us to use our cleverness, physical prowess, and behind-the-scenes machinations to combat sinister forces in protection their very way of life. Most are unaware that those of us who work in the so-called “glamour professions”—spies, moviestars, professional athletes, librarians—often deal with the same down-to-earth struggles as the rest of the world. In the field of espionage, perhaps no two works illustrate this more powerfully than Graham Greene’s 1978 novel The Human Factor, and a 2011 documentary, The Man Nobody Knew, about the life of former CIA Director William Colby. Read More..