A map that plots fiction genres? How cool! You can see a bigger, zoom-inable version here.
Feb 24 2015
Join us at the Central Library on Wednesday, March 4th at 7:00 p.m. as we welcome Nan Levinson, author of War Is Not a Game: the New Antiwar Soldiers and the Movement They Built.
On July 23, 2004, five marines, two soldiers, and one airman became the most unlikely of antiwar activists. Young and gung-ho when they first signed up to defend their country, they were sent to fight a war that left them confused, enraged, and haunted. Once they returned home, they became determined to put their disillusionment to use. So that sultry summer evening, they mounted the stage of Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall and announced the launch of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
War Is Not a Game tells the story of this new soldiers’ antiwar movement, showing why it was born, how it quickly grew, where it has struggled, and what it has already accomplished. Nan Levinson reveals the individuals behind the movement, painting an unforgettable portrait of these predominantly working-class veterans who became leaders of a national organization.
Written with sensitivity and humor, War Is Not a Game gives readers an uncensored, grunt’s-eye view of the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, while conveying the equally dramatic struggles that soldiers face upon returning home. Demanding to be seen neither simply as tragic victims nor as battlefront heroes, the Iraq Veterans Against the War have worked to shape the national conversation. This book celebrates their bravery, showing that sometimes the most vital battles take place on the home front.
Nan Levinson is a Somerville resident, writer, teacher, and journalist, who covers civil and human rights, culture, and technology. For this book, she spent seven years not quite embedded with military-related antiwar groups around the country. Her last book, Outspoken: Free Speech Stories, grew from her reporting as the U.S. correspondent for the international magazine, Index on Censorship, and she was twice named to the Heroes List of the Boston Coalition for Freedom of Expression. She teaches journalism and fiction writing at Tufts University.
For today, February 22.
Happy Birthday, Edna St. Vincent Millay: the poet was born in Rockland, Maine in 1892. She grew up in a home that valued books and learning: her mother Cora read Shakespeare and Milton to the Millay children. The family was very poor, but a wealthy patron of the arts who heard the teenage Millay recite some of her poetry offered to pay for her to attend Vassar. After Millay’s graduation in 1917, she moved to Greenwich Village and moved in a circle that included the critic Edmund Wilson and Floyd Dell, editor of the left-wing magazine The Masses. In 1923 she became the third woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Poet Laureate Richard Wilbur said Millay wrote “some of the best sonnets of the century.” Related SPL reading: The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry, and Nancy Mitford’s Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay.
Happy Birthday, Edward Gorey. The writer and artist was born in Chicago in 1925. Upon moving to New York after college he worked in the art department at Doubleday, where he illustrated books such as Dracula and Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, and where he worked after hours on his own drawings. His independent career was launched in the gallery of New York City’s Gotham Bookshop, which displayed his drawings, but he really hit the cultural map when he created the animated introduction to the PBS series Mystery! His work has an aesthetic usually described as “Edwardian” and “macabre.” He wrote over 100 books, many of them wordless. He sometimes wrote under pseudonyms that were anagrams of his real name, such as Ogdred Weary. His designs for the 1977 Broadway production of Dracula won a Tony Award. He also wrote and directed theatrical productions starring papier-mâché puppets he made himself. His 1958 book The Object Lesson has earned critical respect as a work of surrealism. Perhaps his most famous work is The Gashlycrumb Tinies, an alphabet book illustrated with drawings of children’s deaths. Another noteworthy book is The Curious Sofa, which Gorey subtitled, “A Pornographic Work” although it is utterly lacking in nudity or explicitness, where one can find the oft-quoted line, “Still later Gerald did a terrible thing to Elsie with a saucepan.” Gorey himself classified his work as “literary nonsense,” but his own approach to art is perhaps best summed up in his remark to a Boston Globe reporter: “Ideally, if anything were any good, it would be indescribable.” Related reading from SPL: Gorey’s 1999 book, The Headless Bust: A Melancholy Meditation on the False Millenium and Amphigorey Also, a collection of selected drawings and verse.
Feb 19 2015
Snow. Snow. And yet more snow. And we’re all tired of it. And record-breaking low temperatures tonight. It’s all too easy to let the weather get you down. But if it’s too cold to go out, go in: into a book. Reading is a great way to forget whatever is troubling you, whatever you’re tired of, whatever you wish would go away. So I and a couple of my colleagues at another library put together a list of titles we hope you’ll enjoy.
One of the great fictional detectives of our day is Walter Mosley’s Leonid McGill, an African-American private eye who lives and works in Manhattan. His family alone would keep his hands full: his wife Katrina is continually unfaithful and he can barely keep track of all the illegal side businesses run by his precocious teenage son Twill. But as a p.i. he also does very dangerous work for wealthy, powerful people–making a lot of enemies in the process. I love all the McGill novels I’ve read, but I suggest you read them in order. The first three are The Long Fall, Known to Evil and When the Thrill is Gone. They are unputdownable.
Arlington reference librarian Jenny (who blogs about books and IT here) recommends Simon Rich’s hilariously absurd novel What in God’s Name. God (yes, that God) decides He’s going to destroy the Earth and devote Himself to His long-cherished dream of opening an Asian fusion restaurant. However two low-ranking angels who are reluctant to see Earth go the way of the mastodon strike a deal with the Diety: He’ll call off Armageddon if they can get the two most socially awkward humans in existence to fall in love each other. The New York Times Book Review called What in God’s Name a “satirical sandbox that plays with the Bible’s assertions.”
If you’re in the mood for nonfiction, Jenny is a fan of This American Life contributor Sarah Vowell’s tongue-in-cheek pop history of early New England, The Wordy Shipmates. I’ve read it as well and I agree it’s a fun book. The story of one of the most important episodes in American history is even more fascinating viewed through the quirky, nerdy lens of Vowell’s mind. She even manages to make theological disputes interesting. And if the idea of reading a book about the Puritans still puts you off, I’ll let Vowell herself sell you on her subject:
“I’m always disappointed when I see the word ‘Puritan’ tossed around as shorthand for a bunch of generic, boring, stupid, judgmental killjoys. Because to me, they are very specific, fascinating, sometimes brilliant, judgmental killjoys who rarely agreed on anything except that Catholics are going to Hell. ”
Another Arlington librarian, Linda (head of reference, actually, and blogger about books and knitting at a website named after rodents) suggested Tana French’s The Likeness. Like Mosley’s, French’s mysteries have a recurring principal character: Dublin police detective Cassie Maddox. In Likeness, Cassie is pulled out of the domestic violence division to assist with a murder investigation. The reason: the victim, Lexie Madison, looked exactly like her. To find out who killed Lexie, Cassie is talked into impersonating her and taking up Lexie’s place in the home she shared with four eccentric and charismatic housemates. And even though one of the four may be a murderer, Cassie finds herself strangely drawn to them.
And finally, both Linda and Jenny recommend Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife. This New York Times bestseller is the story of a couple, Clare and Henry, who first meet when she is 6 and he is 36. Henry suffers from “chrono-displacement disorder:” he travels through time at random. Their relationship doesn’t actually begin until they meet in the time Henry belongs in, when Clare is 20 and Henry is 28. The strains and slippage of any long-term relationship are exacerbated by Henry’s frequent disappearances and reappearances. And he often reappears a different age than he was when he left. It’s quite an unusual love story, to say the least. Everyone I’ve known who has read this book has raved about it.
All is back to normal.
Stay tuned for an update.
Because of the news regarding the severity of tomorrow afternoon’s snowstorm, the Somerville Public Library will be closed on Sunday, Feb. 15.
We will also be closed on Monday, Feb. 16 in observance of President’s Day.
We will be open Saturday, Feb. 14, so stock up on books and videos then.
Feb 13 2015
Concerned about overbroad government surveillance programs hoovering up your private
Our online privacy is indeed under threat, but the good news is that there are technology tools to help us fight back. Join us at the Central Library, February 21 at 11:00 a.m. Alison Macrina, a librarian and privacy rights activist, will present an online privacy toolkit that offers solutions to help subvert digital spying. These tools address things like search tracking, encryption, password protection, secure deletion of temporary files, secure browsing, online anonymity, and more.
This class lasts until 2 pm and is appropriate for all levels of technical ability. Bring your laptop to get the most out of it! You may bring a mobile device, like a smartphone or tablet, but please be aware that the focus of this class will primarily be on desktop software.
Unfortunately, all Somerville Libraries are closed today. We’re all tired of the snow, and it’s unfortunate we can’t be open to provide you with the books, videos and music to help keep you a little more sane on days when you don’t want to go outside. It’s also unfortunate that we can’t give you a place you can go to take the edge off cabin fever that won’t make you spend any money.
Hopefully we’ll be open again tomorrow.
But here’s some winter advice from the Globe that can make the next few days a little easier.