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2016 Sneak Peeks

Reserve April and May Best Sellers and Sneak Peeks

Want to get a preview of some of the new releases coming out next month?

2017 April FictionDownload or view the April Fiction and April Non-Fiction lists to see if anything interests you. Click on the links for the complete list with titles (in blue) linked to the Minuteman Library catalog.  Log into your account and place a reserve. You may also pick up a complete list in the library and ask librarians to request them for you.

Rose for Emily

The Stories of S-Town

Rose for EmilySeason One of the astonishingly-popular Serial podcast had a profound effect on an entire world of listeners. When the 12-episode podcast ended on December 18, 2014, there had been 40 million downloads but I was not one of them. I discovered it sometime later, in the spring of 2015, and I binge-listened to every single minute, totally addicted.

Last fall, when I wrote “Life after the Serial Podcast” which was published in the library’s September 16, 2016 newspaper column, it was long after any spoiler-alerts needed to be issued. Most interested people were familiar with the story. They has listened to it, had read about it, or had endured their friends discussing it, ad nauseam. The library had a listening program for all twelve-episodes in the fall of 2016. Rabia Chaudry’s book about the story of two Baltimore star-crossed lovers, Adnan’s Story, was already on the book store and library shelves.

The first season of Serial popularized all podcasts. Podcast listenership grew by 23% between 2015 and 2016 and popularity of the medium continues to explode. I have about three-dozen podcasts in my feed at any one time and I listen to podcasts daily. Among my favorites are Alec Baldwin’s Here’s the Thing, the New Yorker Radio Hour and Ted Radio Hour. I was briefly addicted this past winter to a five-episode shocker, Missing Richard Simmons. I never miss a segment of WBUR’s collaboration with the New York Times’ called Modern Love. I even have a podcast I listen to when I can’t sleep. Sleep With Me is purposely dull and meandering and practically guaranteed to bore you into dreamland.

Serial, seasons one and two, were produced by Sarah Koenig, a spin-off of the public radio broadcast This American Life. When we podcast junkies heard that Sarah Koenig (Serial) and Ira Glass (This American Life) were producing yet another possibly-mesmerizing series, we waited eagerly for it to be released this past week. When S-Town hit the Internet on March 28, all seven episodes were available at once.

I’d hit another podcast-binge jackpot.

There are no spoilers in this column other than to encourage you to bravely listen to S-Town. This story of clockmaker, gardener, chemist, and savant, John B. McLemore will mesmerize you. S-Town, like Serial, is a spectacularly well-produced podcast but it is not for the faint of heart. There is shocking language, more than enough sadness, multiple twists and turns, and dozens of opportunities to travel down online rabbit holes in search of answers.

Within just the first few listening hours, podcast junkies were searching Google maps and posting answers to many of the questions the podcast was leaving to our own devices. Pun intended. I was one of those drawn to Google maps and the strange, wooded terrain of Woodstock, Alabama. There’s a hedge maze, a 300-foot long rose garden, and an old Southern homestead. And a workshop full of lots of clocks.

What intrigued me more, however, were three literary references made near the middle of the first episode of S-Town. It is host and narrator Brian Reed’s first visit to Woodstock, Alabama to the home of John B. McLemore. McLemore assigned Brian Reed three short stories to read that first night: William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”, Shirley Jackson’s “The Renegade”, and Guy de Maupassant’s “The Necklace” (also known as “The Diamond Necklace.”)

Many of us read Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” in high school or college. It is a creepy story, like many of Jackson’s writings. She is the author of one the best ghost stories ever written, The Haunting of Hill House (1959), which was made into an even creepier movie in 1963 (and another in 1999.)

“The Renegade” is included in a Shirley Jackson collection just published in 2016 in The Lottery and Other Stories. That book can also be found on audio in our streaming service, Hoopla! I easily downloaded it and enjoyed listening to the dramatic reading. The “renegade”, I found out, is the family dog who has been chasing and killing chickens in the neighborhood. The Renegade is eerily similar to Jackson’s short story, “The Lottery”. Her protagonist in “The Renegade” is Mrs. Walpole who finds that her family and neighbors have little sympathy for a chicken-killing dog.

Guy de Maupassant’s story “The Necklace” reminded me of The Gift of the Magi by O’Henry. The sacrifices made in the name of love – or envy – are very similar; however, there is no sweetness and no sympathy for selfish characters in The Necklace. The story can be found in Selected Tales of Guy de Maupassant which is available in print version in our library. You can also download the story on Hoopla! in the e-book The Necklace and Other Short Stories. “The Necklace” is a tale of a middle-class wife who yearns for a better one and the price she pays for her desire. When given the chance to attend a spectacular social event, she demands a proper, yet prohibitively expensive dress, and covets the diamonds that will accompany it.

Selected Short Stories of William Faulkner is available as an e-book through the Minuteman Library Network. A Rose of Emily is on many college reading lists and if you spend some time, you can find it online. Hoopla! has a study guide, Short Stories for Students, entirely devoted to “A Rose for Emily”, the story of a lonely Southern spinster in an even lonelier home.
Each episode of S-Town ends with a song sung by the English rock band, the Zombies, “A Rose for Emily.”

“The summer is here at last, the sky is overcast, and no one brings a rose for Emily.”
The stories John B. McLemore gives as reading assignments add one more dimension to haunting story of a man whose life was enriched by the smell and beauty of a 300-foot long hedge of roses he has planted on his beloved land in the town he hates, Woodstock, Alabama.

Charlotte Canelli is the library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts.  Read Charlotte’s column in the April 6th issue of the Norwood Transcript & Bulletin.


Who Loves Opera

TommysoundtrackalbumGerry and I were listening to Sirius’s The 70s channel on a long turnpike ride home from our New Jersey children. There’s nothing better than a Sunday afternoon riding shotgun, my knitting in my lap, while I occasionally look up to notice the landscapes of New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island slide by. Knowing most of the words to the songs on the radio is a bonus.  Gerry and I often switch to the 60s so that we know ALL the words to the songs. We were simply Groovin’ on a Sunday Afternoon.

As we were singing along to The Pinball Wizard, the Who’s rock opera Tommy came to mind that afternoon.  Images from the 1975 musical and Roger Daltrey’s luscious golden curls apparently entered my consciousness from that area of my hard-driven brain that stores my young adulthood memories.

I put down my knitting, picked up my smartphone and checked the library catalog using the new Minuteman Library app. Sure enough, many libraries had CDs of the original rock opera and/or the musical soundtrack and others had the DVD of the musical. (If you haven’t downloaded the app for your smartphone, it’s time.)

A few days later that week, the Tommy DVD arrived for me on the holds shelf at the library. I had to chuckle because my past weekend’s momentary love affair with Roger Daltrey was now only a distant memory. I tucked the DVD in my purse promising myself that I would watch it on the weekend, which I did. Gerry was puttering about in the cellar and I sat in front on the television armed with my latest knitting project.

I admit I shook my head several times watching the movie I remembered … and the scenes I had someone forgotten all about. I laughingly narrated the film’s greatest – and not so greatest – moments for Gerry who had somehow missed the 1975 classic the first – and second – time around.
Oh, the 70s. What fun.

Watching old 70s and 80s movies, I’ve often wondered what we Baby Boomers were thinking. What is up with those Cold War relics? The jazzy, bizarre music, the spy chases, the Go-Go boots, and the psychedelic montages. And films like Tommy.

George Ball (American diplomat, banker and politician) is quoted as saying “nostalgia is a seductive liar.” I agree that the funny thing about nostalgia is that it does peculiar things to memories. And I guess I remembered those flawless and unspoiled moments of Tommy and I simply ignored the rest.

Tommy was The Who’s fourth album after a mixed reception to the previous one.  The band’s guitarist Pete Townshend wrote most of the music for the rock opera.  The double album Tommy was released in 1969 and some claimed that Tommy was the Who’s breakthrough. The band went on the road performing Tommy live in 1969 and 1970. The Seattle Opera produced it on stage in 1971, the film version was released in 1975, and the stage musical hit Broadway in 1992. Other versions of the opera are on CD, including an orchestral version. (If you are searching the library catalog, you’ll want to know what version you are requesting.) The Tommy album has sold over 20 million copies and was inducted in the Grammy’s Hall of Fame.

Townshend wrote the themed songs to tell a story; he named the rock opera “Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Boy.” In an interview with Rolling Stone in 1969, Townshend said that Tommy is “about a kid that’s born deaf, dumb and blind and what happens to him throughout his life … he’s seeing things basically as vibrations which translate as music.” In the film and stage versions, however, it is a traumatic moment in Tommy’s young life that turn him catatonic – no longer feeling, seeing, hearing, or speaking.

Re-watching the film last weekend, I relived its exhilarating, silly, awesome, and blushing moments the nearly two hours. It stars Ann-Margret and Rex Reed as Tommy’s mother and step-father but it’s the cameos that are so joyful and entertaining. A young 38-year old Jack Nicholson is The Specialist – the doctor who determines that Tommy still senses, but that he is blocked inside. Singing to Ann-Margret, Tommy’s mother, is much more interesting to The Specialist than finding a cure for the boy, however, and Nicholson is magnificent in the scene.

28-year old Elton John plays The Local Lad and his piano riff at the beginning of the Pinball Wizard scene is pure Elton, along with his bizarre outfit and oversized, glittery glasses. 36-year old Tina Turner sings her heart out deliciously as the Acid Queen (but never manages to waken Tommy’s senses.) The Who’s own drummer, Keith Moon, plays a creepy but comical Uncle Ernie.

It’s certainly 34-year old Ann-Margret who is the movie’s real star. She was nominated for an Academy Award in 1976 but she lost to Louise Fletcher (who won as Nurse Rached in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.) Ann-Margret’s voice and beauty are unmistakable; however, the most odd and peculiar (perhaps cringe worthy) scene in the film involves the actress dancing in a purely white and glistening room and eventually rolling around completely covered in spewing chocolate. Oh, the free and surrealistic 70s. They were so much, um, fun.

Tommy is played by a young Barry Winch through the first six songs (Captain Walker/It’s a Boy, Bernie’s Holiday Camp, What About the Boy? and Christmas). Teenaged Tommy is played by Roger Daltrey, spending much of the film looking beautiful, gazing blindly about, and underreacting. Daltrey first shows up as a young teen in Eric Clapton’s on-screen performance as the Preacher. Clapton attempts to cure Tommy in Eyesight to the Blind and Daltry finally awakens in Smash the Mirror.  He emerges naked chested in the finale in skin-tight wet jeans. His sunlit hair surrounds his handsome face as he belts out Listening to You, a finale that speaks to his own power of overcoming arrogance and adversity.

In all its 70s rocked-out glory, Tommy is still a delightful romp and well-worth the two hours of a winter afternoon. You can read more about the band and Tommy in Chris Welch’s The Who: The Story of the Band that Defined a Generation (2015). Or you can simply request the DVD, the soundtracks or original recording of the rock opera Tommy from the library. Minuteman Libraries have the versions you’ll need.

Charlotte Canelli is the library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts.  Read Charlotte’s column in the March 23rd issue of the Norwood Transcript & Bulletin.

2016 Sneak Peeks

Reserve March and April Best Sellers and Sneak Peeks

Want to get a preview of some of the new releases coming out next month?
March 2017 Fiction PrepubDownload or view the March Fiction and March Non-Fiction lists to see if anything interests you. Click on the links for the complete list with titles (in blue) linked to the Minuteman Library catalog.  Log into your account and place a reserve. You may also pick up a complete list in the library and ask librarians to request them for you.


Whether the Weather is Fine

HeliografoAs a child, when I still drank grape-flavored juice-boxes and stared into the sky, my friend Emily sat with me at a splintered picnic table under Camp Y–’s pavilion and taught me that my freckles had creative potential; that I could use pens or permanent markers or lip-stick and do what she did: connect one dot to the other, make a diamond, or a sailboat, or a horse (she had a lot of freckles).  But my freckles have always been too linear; I could come up with a line, or at best a slanting Orien’s Belt.  Otherwise, I let myself become dejected by the inferior quantity of my skin abnormalities.  For this, I need someone to blame, and so I blamed the sun.

In defiance of my mother and father, I abandoned all SPF and counted the hours of direct sunlight I could catch on my arms.  Sometimes, in school, I would sit in the window and roll my sleeves back, hoping for a freckle or two.  This, as you may imagine, did not work.  After many years of bright pink sunburn at Camp Y–, no more freckles had appeared on my arms, and I stopped trying to keep up with Emily and her horse-shaped freckle constellations.

I’d learned a lot from trying to fry my skin, more perhaps than a kid should have known; that the sun’s rays were once measured with a Campbell-Stokes sunshine recorder (think of a magnifying glass for frying ants, but adult-sized), and fascination with the power of weather lead to me to explore other weather phenomena: tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, etc.  Twister (dir. By Jan de Bont) became my favorite film.  Then it was Volcano (dir. by Mick Jackson), then The Perfect Storm (dir. by Wolfgang Peterson)–you get the drift.

Now, I probably wouldn’t race after supercell tornadoes in a beat-up truck like the people in Lee Sandlin’s “Storm Kings,” but instead, I might look at the images of lightning strikes in Bruce Buckley, Edward J. Hopkins, Richard Whitaker’s “Weather” or lava-flows in Robert Dinwiddie, Simon Lamb, Ross Reynolds’ “Violent Earth.”

I’m also more inclined to protecting valuable resource–my skin with sunscreen, and the planet by being mindful of the ways in which I can reduce my waste and carbon footprint.  It has been a while, but I might take another look at “An Inconvenient Truth” (dir. by David Guggenhiem), “Global Climate Change” from EBSCO, or “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer, to learn about how our everyday lives can impact the environment and world around us.

Samuel Simas is the technology assistant at the Morrill Memorial library; he is a graduate student at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Library and Information Studies. Read Sam’s column in the March 16th issue of the Norwood Transcript & Bulletin.

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