Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ask a Master Gardener!

Are you a Master Gardener? Do you know how to become a Master Gardener? You will have an opportunity to meet some of us and find out more about the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener program if you come to the Des Plaines Public Library during the Taste of Des Plaines this year. On Saturday, June 5 and Sunday, June 6th, Master Gardeners and Master Gardener Interns will be available at a table in front of the library to answer questions on gardening, help you to identify plants, insects, and plant diseases, and answer many other plant and "green" related topics. There will even be a worm bin! Volunteers will be available to show you how you can start your own worm composting project. Stop by and plant a few seeds in a small pot made from recycled newspaper. The mission of the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener Program is "Helping Others Learn to Grow." Volunteers don't have to be experts. They just need to have a "desire to learn and teach others." It's fun, rewarding, and a great way to make new friends.

June 5th is also the day we kick-off our Summer Reading Programs at the library and the theme this year is ... GREEN! There are loads of opportunities to learn about reusing, recycling, and reducing our carbon footprint. Come to the library and join in the summer fun!

Posted by Linda K.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Drop That Fish!!

This past Friday I was invited to go on a small fishing trip with my brother-in-law and a friend. On Friday evening I gathered my camping and fishing supplies and threw some clothes into a backpack (and watched the Blackhawks overtime victory in a Western Conference Finals game) before finally getting to bed at midnight. By 2.00am I was up and at 'em to shower and head down to my brother-in-law's for a 4.00am departure to Lake Carlton. After driving along fog-cloaked Highway 88, a quick stop for a gas station coffee and breakfast (in my case, a pack of chocolate Donettes) and a quick set-up of our campsite, the sun was just burning through the mist as our boat hit the water of Lake Carlton at 7.00am.

While my two companions cast their lures into the water in search of the mysterious musky, I prepped my line with a simple spinner bait meant to attract small-mouth bass and pan-fish. There comes a silence when the boat is on the water, everyone is ready and has a line out. Each person is alone with their thoughts,all available concentration is consumed by the simple process of casting, reeling, and casting again. It is this silence that is my reward for frantically packing, sleeping just 2 hours, and traveling to this location. The irreplaceable feeling of peace tinged with faint expectation combined with the natural wonder of what is going underneath the waters around me has quickly become addictive.

By the end of the day, we had caught exactly zero fish. We noticed no one around us seemed to have any better luck. (Something nipped a night crawler off my hook when we were fishing for catfish that evening, but I am half convinced it was a state park employee in scuba gear trying to trick us into thinking there was actually fish in that lake.) But despite the outcome, I would do it all again tomorrow. To help feed my growing hunger for all things fishing, I am putting the following titles on my To Read list:

Moby Dick - I know it's not a fish, but I had to read it in high school and I read the Cliffs Notes instead. I plan to amend that deficiency when I have a few week to put together to undertake this whale of a book.

The Old Man and the Sea - I will attempt to tackle Hemingway again, and maybe this novel will help me solve him.

The River Why - While not it doesn't play a central role, David James Duncan uses fishing to illustrate depth and growth within his main character.

Would anyone have other recommendations?

I would be remiss in not mentioning a movie the viewing of which has become a holiday tradition in my wife's family over the years: Grumpy Old Men. Depicting Jack Lemmon and Walter Mathau in the twilight of their illustrious careers, it's a great story about two friends who've hated each other for years, but finally figure out the value of friendship. A line said during that movie in a round of fisticuffs while ice-fishing by Jack Lemmon's on-screen octogenarian father will always be a favorite of mine: "Drop .... that .... fish!"

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Night at the Library

This is my dream job. Surrounded by the books, movies, and music that I love, I am privileged to aid and associate with people who also love books, movies, and music. Each Friday night, I man the Readers' Services desk here on the 3rd floor of the Des Plaines Public Library. This is the night when families and individuals, young and old, go on the hunt for weekend entertainment.

Most folks head to the 3rd floor looking for DVDs, and with over 10,000 titles in our adult collection alone, we've got more than a little something for everyone. It's always nice to see a patron leave with a stack of DVDs hand-picked for that evening's movie night. I can practically smell the popcorn. Here at the library, we have Friday Night Films of our own each month. Tonight's showing was 500 Days of Summer.

It's not all about the DVDs, though. Friday night patrons choose weekend getaway music from an extensive variety of CDs. They come looking for a book to ease into on a Sunday afternoon. And some are seeking a quiet place to work or study.

No two Fridays are just alike, of course. Some nights the place is buzzing with an intensity of purpose. We're so busy, it feels like standing room only among the feature films, and bustling patrons clamor up and down the stairs on their own private missions. Every table is occupied, young people are socializing in the teen lounge, and our group study rooms are filled with students cramming for exams. Then on other nights, like tonight, there is a quiet, restful air about the place. People leisurely browse the CD and DVD collections. They take the time to read inside the dust covers before choosing a book, and often settle into a comfortable chair to read for a while.

So if you're wondering what to do with your weekend, visit us here on the 3rd floor some Friday night. Among all of the books, movies, and music, and other folks, like you, who enjoy them too, you're sure to find some inspiration.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Edith Wharton vs. Henry James

I'm always tempted to call Edith Wharton the female Henry James since they both wrote about and were part of upper class society in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There are other similarities as well. Both were Americans who spent many years abroad and shared an appreciation for European culture. They were also friends, and James, Wharton's senior by almost 20 years, was an early mentor of Wharton's who encouraged her to write novels of manners, which were part of his oeuvre as well. Their greatest similarity and strength, however, in my opinion, was their ability to capture on the the page the tiniest shadings and nuance of feeling--emotions that elude description by all but the best writers.

Although they are both psychologically acute chroniclers of the human heart and although I love some of James's books, particularly Washington Square, I think Wharton is the better and more consistent writer of the two. And more accessible, too.

Which makes me think I should instead refer to Henry James as the male Edith Wharton, his greater name recognition aside.

Although Wharton won the Pulitzer Prize for The Age of Innocence, her first great success was the novel The House of Mirth. Its heroine is Lily Bart, a woman born into wealth but no longer wealthy who is also beautiful, charming, witty and perceptive. But at 29 she is still unmarried, a precarious position for a woman in 1890s New York, particularly a woman with extravagant tastes and little money. Thwarted by pitiless opportunists and missed opportunities, as well as her own scruples, Lily is a complex heroine whose growth and descent coupled with Wharton’s exquisite style made this 1905 novel a controversial bestseller and an influential classic.

We'll be discussing The House of Mirth at the next Tuesday morning book group on June 1st at 10 am. Stop by the 3rd floor Readers' Services desk to register for the discussion and pick up a copy of this masterful novel. Or check out one of her other compelling titles which include The Age of Innocence, Ethan Frome, and Old New York, the latter of which includes the novella The Old Maid, the basis for the classic Bette Davis movie of the same name.

If you've read both Henry James and Edith Wharton, do you prefer one over the other? Do you love both? Or like the John Cusack character in Grosse Pointe Blank, do you still bemoan the English teacher who made you read Wharton's Ethan Frome in high school?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Books to Movies

I love to look ahead to which movies will hit the theaters in the upcoming months, and then to see which ones are based on books. If I'm really organized, I have the book read before the movie shines on the big screen.

Through this August the upcoming summer movies look like ...summer movies.

A great line up for kids, and kids of all ages, but for the lover of dramatic film it's going to be a cold summer.

Here's the line up.

5/14 — Robin Hood
5/28 — Sex and the City, 2
6/04 — Marmaduke
6/30 — Eclipse
7/23 — Ramona and Beezus
7/30 — Beastly
8/13 — Eat, Pray, Love
8/13 — Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
8/20 — The Switch
9/24 — Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

All but two of these are based on children's or young adult works (not that there is anything wrong with that!) But I'm only going after the movie, The Switch.

The Switch stars Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman. Jeffrey Eugenides, Pulitzer Prize winner for Middlesex, wrote the short story. Originally titled The Baster and published in The New Yorker in 1996.

It's actually hard to find but I'm working on it. Seems like The New Yorker holds tight to its content, and a digital copy in a library database is yet to be found. The story was published in a 2000 anthology titled Wonderful Town: New York Stories from The New Yorker.

Given that it was published in The New Yorker by this prize winning author,I'm guessing the short story is going to be a little weightier than the movie.

Can't wait to see.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My kind of thriller

I was reading the Chicago Tribune this weekend and there was a review for Michael Harvey's new book The Third Rail. I have not read the book yet, but something in the review intrigued me (and I reserved the book). It said, "Harvey... does for the Windy City what Michael Connelly did for Los Angeles". It got me thinking who is the quintessential Chicago crime writer.

Do you look for books based on where they take place? I love to read books set in Chicago when they are accurate. But when I find a little mistake here or there it drives me nuts. If something happens at an intersection of two streets that in the real world don't intersect, I will put the book down and I probably won't read anything else by that author.

Here are a few authors who have written thrillers set in Chicago:

Sara Paretsky
Hugh Holton
J. A. Konrath
Max Allan Collins
Marcus Sakey

Who am I forgetting?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

De-clutter - Don't you love that word?

It's that time of year again when thoughts turn to ... cleaning? Yes, once upon a time we did heavy duty house cleaning in the spring. Now I'm not so sure. Do people do that anymore? I sure don't. Not that my house doesn't need it, but there are so many other things I'd rather be doing. Anyway, today the trend seems to be more about getting rid of clutter and excess "stuff" rather than actually scrubbing everything clean. And who doesn't have clutter? Everything from toys, collectibles, office supplies, and yes, even books and DVD's can be counted as clutter if you have too many and don't have the room to store them. If you need help busting your clutter we have a great collection of books here at the library to help you de-clutter your home and your life. Here's just a few titles to help you get started:

Clutter Busting by Brooks Palmer (648.5 PAL)
The Clutter-Busting Handbook by Rita Emmett (648.7 EMM)
When Organizing Isn't Enough by Julie Morgenstern (648 MOR)
Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy Frost (616.85227 FRO)

So what's cluttering your life these days?

Linda K.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I could use a laugh.

Ever had one of those days? ...or weeks?

Adult life can be serious business, full of responsibilities and deadlines, checklists and consequences. But woven among the worries and the burdens we carry are shining moments of glee -- chuckles and giggles, snorts and guffaws to lighten the load and remind us why we work so hard.

Like my mother before me, I find comic relief in my children. America's Funniest Home Videos has twenty seasons of recorded evidence to support the position that, most times, there is nothing so hilarious as family.

Sometimes, though, baby escape artists and fashion model five-year-olds fail to tickle my funny bone. When I've got a lot on my plate and life seems to get a bit more complicated at every turn, I can lose my sense of humor.

Where do I turn when I could use a laugh?

When I take a look around, here at the library, side-splitting opportunities abound.

Choose the format you prefer. For example, my husband laughed all the way to work, and home again, listening to the audiobook of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on CD, but it can also be found in the DVD section and among the books. Absurdistan is another humorous selection available in multiple formats.

Among the audiobooks, I came across offerings like English Majors with NPR legend Garrison Keillor, and Old Time Radio Comedy Favorites -- including greats like Jack Benny and Eddie Cantor. I took home Abbot & Costello on a digital playaway so I could chuckle while I sat in a hospital waiting room.

Into funny fiction? Try Wild Ride by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer or The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove by Christopher Moore.

Memoirs like Sarah Silverman's The Bedwetter and Howie Mandel's Here's the Deal Don't Touch Me can show insight into the lives of comedians.

Check out the Comedy section in the CDs on the third floor. You can find recordings of performances like Chris Rock's Cheese and Crackers and Tailgate Party by Larry the Cable Guy.

If the funny pages make you grin, head upstairs to the fourth floor to reminisce over Calvin and Hobbes or The Far Side. We've got Doonesbury, too.

Right here on this very website, One-Click DVD Searches under the heading Read/Watch/Listen will take you right to our latest selection of Comedy DVDs, like Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Men Who Stare at Goats, and The Great Buck Howard, just to name a few.

Milton Berle said that "laughter is an instant vacation," so take a moment to think about it -- what makes you laugh?

Now go ahead and treat yourself, check out a free laugh from the library!