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Who will be minding the store?

Posted by Paul Dostie on March 31st, 2016

On Tuesday next week, seven of us from Curtis will be flying out to Denver, courtesy of the Friends of Curtis Library, for our Public Library Association’s biennial national conference. We’re all leaving from Portland but somehow one of us will be connecting in Chicago, two in New York, another in Atlanta and three of us will spend five hours of quality time in Newark. Go Priceline!

The conference is an opportunity to network among thousands of public librarians. We go to seminars, share information, get ideas for programs, hear authors speak, parry with vendors (rule # 1 is don’t make eye contact), take home some swag. A number of us who lead book discussion groups will be going to workshops for better book groups. We’ll take notes!  We’ll be listening to speakers such as poets Nikki Giovanni and Sherman Alexie,  food writer Ruth Reichl, journalist Anderson Cooper (who, this week, told Donald Trump that “I didn’t start it” was “the argument of a 5-year-old.”) and Reclaiming Conversation‘s Sherry Turkle.  I count myself among the legion of geeks (aka, sentient human beings) who greatly admire these people. We’ll be honing skills, reclaiming perspective, and dipping into the great well of shared passions. In short, we go to be reminded why we took what are, arguably, the best jobs in Maine.

The library is a place for stories. We create and recount or shelve and stack and catalog them every day. We’ll bring back our stories from PLA-Denver (along with some swag) to merge with your own and those on the library shelves. You’ll read some in coming blogs. All of us contribute to the treasure trove of stories that is Curtis Library.

Feisty females: Ruth Galloway and Kate Shugak

Posted by Pamela Bobker on March 22nd, 2016

Lately I have been reading mysteries featuring strong female characters– in particular: Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway series and Dana Stabenow’s Kate Shugak series.  Ruth Galloway is a British forensic archaeologist who gets drawn into criminal cases because of her expertise.  She lives in a small house in the wild a cold daysaltmarshes of Norfolk England’s north coast.  The area seems inhospitable to many people, but Ruth thinks it is beautiful and loves living there.  Kate Shugak is an Aleut native, formerly the star of the Anchorage District Attorney’s office, who now lives in the Alaska wilderness and is called upon to investigate crimes.  Her constant companion is Mutt, her dog-wolf hybrid.  Both women are smart, spirited and fiercely independent.

In each series, the physical setting is richly and vividly portrayed – I often feel chilled just reading about Ruth traipsing along the moors on a windy evening or Kate driving her snow machine into the nearest town for victuals. In addition to an interesting setting, both series are peopled with fascinating characters.  Ruth’s good friend Cathbad is a druid who often lends a hand in her investigations.  crossing placesKate has Aleutian aunties and other colorful family members.  And even though Ruth and Kate are independent women, there is always some sort of romance (I don’t want to say too much!)

There are 20 Kate Shugak mysteries, starting with A Cold Day for Murder. If you are interested in the Ruth Galloway series, start with Crossing Places. The eighth in this series, Woman in Blue, is due out May 10, 2016.

The Pejepscot Terrace Mondays are Murder book discussion group will discuss the Kate Shugak series on Monday, March 28 at 10am. The Just Desserts mystery discussion group, which meets in the library’s seminar room, will discuss the Ruth Galloway series on Tuesday, April 12 at 6:30pm. New members are always welcome!


The joy of a good, long novel

Posted by carol lord on March 18th, 2016

Have you ever experienced the sadness of finishing a book in which you have been immersed for a long, long time? I mean a book of over 600 pages, one that has prevented you from doing what you should. Some of the consequences of your marathon reading are: a dusty house, missed trash pickup, unwashed dishes, maybe an unwashed you. A sure bet is that you have woken up tired, having read way too long into the early hours of the morning.

Shantaram : a novelI am lucky enough to be reading just such a novel right now: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. This novel, which is the story of a man who escaped from prison in Australia and fled to India, is 933 pages short. Yes, I mean short, not long, because I can tell that I will be grieving when I get to the last page.

The novel is full of evocative descriptions of Bombay (now Mumbai) life. The protagonist, dubbed Lin by his Indian guide, is interested in all of Bombay. His descriptions of tourist areas, ex-pat hangouts, mansions of rich crime lords and slums of the poor make me feel like I am there. Lin himself lives in the slums, or hutments, where he opens up a free clinic. The details of slum life and the living conditions of its inhabitants are both hopeful and dreadful. Lin eventually leaves the slum to work for an important crime figure, a don, who is obsessed with the definition of good and evil.

As you see, this book has a lot to offer: an exotic location, a cast of characters about whom the reader cares, drama, suspense and even a bit of a love story. In short, I don’t want it to end!

Thinking back on long novels I have enjoyed in the past, I realize many are by Indian authors. A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry comes to mind. This is a relatively short book at 603 pages. It, too, is set in Bombay (Mumbai) and has a cast of characters whose fates are intertwined. Set in the 1970s, it includes an account of some of the effects of a forced sterilization program started when India was in a state of emergency.

A lighter (but heavier!) Indian read is A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. I truly was sad when I finished this novel on page 1349. (Happily, I have heard rumors of a sequel to this sweeping drama set in newly-independent India of the late 1940s.) As the title suggests, the plot revolves around the search for a groom for Lata Mehra, and encompasses the story of four families. Though set in a fictional town, Calcutta (Kolkata), Delhi and Kanpur also play a role in the story. Nawabs, zamindars and ghazals are a few of the subjects I was introduced to in this novel.

In conclusion I’ll say that while long, sweeping novels may take a while to read, the transportive experience of a long immersion in another world can be enjoyable, refreshing, educational and more. Don’t worry, your dirty dishes, dust and trash can wait….

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