DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!

June 2011

Jun 29 2011

Well-Preserved

by Dea Anne M

At the beginning of every summer, my parents handed me and my younger brother over to our grandparents. Mom and Dad stayed at home and enjoyed the luxury of private time as a couple while we kids spent three blissful months with our extended family in south Georgia.  I think everyone involved thought they had the best of the bargain.

Both of my grandparents were avid gardeners and part of the allure of staying with them was their huge vegetable garden as well as  the grape arbors, the strawberry beds and the thickets of wild blackberries that grew in the woods nearby. My brother and I were picky eaters, and most vegetables were a hard sell, but we loved the abundance of it all and would make up wild adventures when my grandmother sent us out with our buckets to pick berries.

Grandaddy and Mother gardened seriously, and by that I mean that they intended what they grew to feed them not only through the growing season but into the year.  Every August saw a frenzy of activity as Mother canned vegetables, made pickles and jams, and froze what seemed like bag after bag of corn, beans, and fruit. I remained a mere observer of this food preservation marathon but  I found it quite fascinating. As an older child, I took on some, shall we say,  less than becoming attitudes which the family put up with fairly graciously. My comment “You know, you can buy all of this at the grocery store”  provoked nothing more than gentle smiles from my grandmother and aunts. They, of course, knew that a home preserved jar of strawberry jam beats the grocery variety every time and that the bags of field peas blanched and frozen at the peak of flavor would be very welcome in the middle of February.

Well, since becoming a gardener myself, I have changed my thinking. My small garden is in no way comparable to my grandparents’ so my interest in canning and preserving is more on the small batch scale. Of course, you don’t have to be a gardener to preserve food. On any day of the week, there is a farmers market going on somewhere in our area and a good one will have the freshest and best tasting of local produce. Of course, you’ll want to use most of it as soon as possible,  but why not preserve some of your purchase to enjoy later in the year? Preserving on a small scale is doable, and pleasurable, and you don’t need the whole month of August, a large kitchen, or multiple helpers to accomplish it. [read the rest of this post…]

{ 1 comment }

Jun 27 2011

Civil War Live-Blogged (sorta)

by Jimmy L

Attention Civil War buffs!  Did you know the Civil War was live-blogged?  Well, it wasn’t.  But if it were, it might read something like Disunion, a blog where every day they blog what happened in real time, 150 years ago.  It starts with the run-up to the 1860 election and will continue to the end of the war.

To learn more about the Civil War, check out some of these books at the Library.

{ 0 comments }

Jun 24 2011

ShareReads: Talk Show

by Ken M

ShareReads appears on the DCPLive blog on Fridays. Each week, a different person will share a little about what they’re currently reading, and why they like or don’t like it. The heart of ShareReads will be responses from blog readers, and the window of opportunity here is wide. Feel free to respond and discuss the book or author being mentioned, ask or answer a question, or even take the conversation in a different direction: mention what you are currently reading, and how you feel about it. The point of ShareReads is to have an ongoing discussion about books and reading. Remember: posting a response also counts as an activity for the Summer Reading for Adults program.

A few years ago, I was driving home after visiting a friend, and happened to turn on the radio. I tuned in during a segment in which Dick Cavett was talking with an interviewer about the DVD release of some collections of episodes of the Dick Cavett Show. I didn’t watch his programs when they were on the air (I was too young), but I knew of his work. I was curious to see some of these episodes, and was delighted to find these collections available in the library catalog. Watching these, I became a new fan.

Not too long after that, I found that Mr. Cavett had a blog on the New York Times website. I don’t think it was promoted in the radio interview, and I can’t remember how I stumbled onto it. I followed the blog for several weeks, and then life got busier, as life tends to do, and I fell out of the habit of reading it. Recently, I was very happy to see the publication of Talk Show: Confrontations, Pointed Commentary and Off-Screen Secrets. This is a compilation of many of those blog entries, with some additional editing and comments from Mr. Cavett. Now I could catch up on what I missed, without the aid of an electronic device, enjoying it in comfy book form.

The book revisits some of his shows, and includes reflections on Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal, Groucho Marx, Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Richard Burton, Bobby Fischer, Janis Joplin, and lots more. Some of the material about these famous folks is not from the shows at all; it comes from the author’s recollections of other conversations and encounters.

It’s not all about showbiz, rock stars and celebrities, however. There are articles on current events (well, current at the time they were written anyway), and topics which affect us all, like coincidence or depression. Laughter mixed with insight and intelligence can be found on most every page. In fact, I laughed at Mr. Cavett’s famous wit right to the very end of the book. Whether one chooses to dip into it an article at a time or read straight through, I hope there’s another reader out there who enjoys Talk Show as I did.

{ 0 comments }

Jun 22 2011

Georgia In The Summertime

by Joseph M

This past weekend I had the pleasure of camping out in northwest Georgia, and it was a splendid trip. The weather was a nice mix of shady clouds, refreshing rain, and bright sunshine to dry us off. One of my favorite things to do in the wilderness is nature-watching, and on this weekend I enjoyed watching fireflies, dragonflies, birds, fish, frogs, a praying mantis, and a variety of other strange bugs which I was mostly unable to identify. I even had a frog hop close enough for me to scoop him up and hold him in my palm for a moment before putting him down again (and washing my hands!).

Summer is a time that many of us set aside to take vacations, and if you are planning on taking a trip to a place where you can experience the grandeur of Georgia’s natural resources, you might be interested in perusing one of these travel books; The Georgia Conservancy’s guide to the North Georgia Mountains could be helpful if you are planning a trip similar to mine, while A Guide to the Georgia coast might be a good fit if you will be visiting the seaside. You can also check out our Georgia State Park Passes for free entry into a wide variety of state parks and historical sites.

And in case you’re interesting in identifying some of those mystery bug species you may run across here in Georgia, whether it be in your garden or buzzing around on your tent flap, check out Hey, Bug Doctor!: The Scoop on Insects in Georgia’s Homes and Gardens.

Have fun!

{ 1 comment }

Jun 20 2011

Dick Wimmer’s Determination

by Greg H

Reading the obituaries.  I remember that my grandmother used to check the obits in our local paper before she would read anything else. I attributed the habit to senior citizens as a whole and, perhaps, to the attitude that if you checked the obituaries and didn’t find your name listed there, well, your day was going okay.  I have, however, begun checking the obituaries with more frequency myself.  True,  I am getting older now too and high school and college classmates have begun to turn up there a little more frequently.   What I have come to actually enjoy, though, is finding the stories of unique people whose tales should be shared.

One such story, as reported in the Los Angeles Times,  belongs to the late Dick Wimmer, a creative-writing teacher and author whose first novel, Irish Wine, was rejected 162 times by publishers and agents over a 25 year period before making it into print. There are many reports of literary classics that had to run a gauntlet of rejections before their qualities were recognized.  Gone With the Wind was turned down a reported 38 times before it was published;  but, I was unable to find any other author who’s tenacity rivals Mr. Wimmer’s.

Mr. Wimmer taught writing at a score or more of colleges in his lifetime and enjoyed some success as the editor of a couple of sports books.  As the rejection letters piled up for Irish Wine, he became determined that his novel, if ever published, would see print solely on its own literary merit and  not as some curiosity.  His faith in his work was eventually rewarded and  he even wrote two more novels that became part of the Irish Wine Trilogy.  So, did getting that first book published hasten the publication of the others?  Sort of.  The second of those, Boyne’s Lassie, was turned down only 83 times before being published.

The next time you’re wondering what you should read next, think about Dick Wimmer and his admirable spirit and determination. Then come to the library and check out Irish Wine. We still own one copy.

{ 1 comment }

Jun 17 2011

ShareReads: Between Fact and Fiction

by Jimmy L

ShareReads appears on the DCPLive blog on Fridays. Each week, a different person will share a little about what they’re currently reading, and why they like or don’t like it. The heart of ShareReads will be responses from blog readers, and the window of opportunity here is wide. Feel free to respond and discuss the book or author being mentioned, ask or answer a question, or even take the conversation in a different direction: mention what you are currently reading, and how you feel about it. The point of ShareReads is to have an ongoing discussion about books and reading. Remember: posting a response also counts as an activity for the Summer Reading for Adults program.

We here at the library love to categorize things, but some books work hard (and admirably) to resist them.  More specifically, I’ve been drawn recently to books that live between the spaces of fact and fiction, between the forms and norms of novel, essay, and poetry. I find these books captivating, precisely because their amoebic form eschews all readerly expectations. Like organic matter, they build their own structures as they go along and play by their own rules.

The first of these books is Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald.  Sebald has written four major “novels”, and the reason I put the word in quotes is because they feel more like long essays (with photographs).  In this book, the narrator walks along the coast of England.

That’s it.  Were you expecting more? But as he walks, he takes you on a tour inside his mind.  What he sees on his walk and the people he meets along the way inspires him to tell you stories both personal and historical—from a meditation on Thomas Browne’s writings to the history of the silk trade.  This meditative wandering is also surprisingly focused through the psyche of the narrator, who somehow ties these ideas together not with a neat bow (for there are no easy conclusions here) but with a fog of melancholy that barely hangs over what goes unsaid.

David Markson’s Vanishing Point takes a different route.  This “novel” is a fiction made out of facts… it reads like a mosaic composed of many bite-sized aphorisms, facts and figures, tid-bits about famous people, and well chosen quotes organized one after the other.  But order matters! And what arises from this collage-like approach is not what you would traditionally call a “novel” (noun), but perhaps you might call it “novel” (adjective).

Last but not least, a book by Geoff Dyer called Out of Sheer Rage.  This book is like a cross between a literary biography (about D.H. Lawrence), a memoir (with many creative liberties), and a travel book, all rolled into one.  The common element that ties it all together is Dyer’s voice which is  incredibly funny and self deprecatory.  Geoff Dyer’s other books, But Beautiful about jazz and The Ongoing Moment about photography, are also equally exciting genre-bending works.

Have you read any hard to categorize books lately?

 

{ 4 comments }

Jun 15 2011

Stonecrest has arrived!

by Dea Anne M

DCPL’s newest branch is finally open! It is, of course, the Stonecrest branch located at 3123 Klondike Road in Lithonia. The library is beautiful and well worth coming by just to see, but be sure to check out the collection as well. Tons of great titles are now available and waiting for you!

While you’re in the area, don’t miss any of the other attractions that this part of the county has to offer. The Stonecrest Mall is right down the road from the library and offers tons of delicious shopping opportunities and dining options as well as entertainment. Also nearby is Arabia Mountain Heritage Area which includes a great multi-use trail and a beautiful nature preserve. Just a short drive away in Conyers is the Monastery of the Holy Spirit a contemplative order of Trappists monks. The monastery creates bonsai and bonsai products for sale as well as stained glass. Retreats and group visits are available, and while you probably won’t talk to any of the monks (the order takes vows of silence), you can soak in the beauty and peace that abounds here.

Not an attraction per se, but definatly worth knowing about, is the Atlanta Wild Animal Rescue Effort located at 4158 Klondike Road. These folks are dedicated to wild animal rescue and rehabilitation so if you find an injured or lost animal you will know who to contact.

So get yourself to Lithonia soon and check it all out!

{ 0 comments }

After years spent writing for Wired and other publications, Steve Silberman decided to try his hand at authoring a book. The genesis of his work was an influential article he had published a decade ago about autism in high-tech communities such as Silicon Valley, and the new book revisits the subject, concerning itself with autism, the variety of human cognitive styles, and the rise of the neurodiversity movement. Despite having spent the past two decades in journalism, Silberman found the prospect of authoring a 100,000 word book daunting, and so went in search of advice. He sent out an email to the authors in his social network, asking them, “What do you wish you’d known about the process of writing a book that you didn’t know before you did it?”

A diverse group of authors replied with advice, from science writers to bloggers, a zen master, a poet, and even a musician (David Crosby of the Byrds and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young) among others. You can view all the advice here. My favorite advice comes courtesy of Cory Doctorow, journalist, blogger, and author of a number of award winning science fiction novels:

Write every day. Anything you do every day gets easier. If you’re insanely busy, make the amount that you write every day small (100 words? 250 words?) but do it every day.
Write even when the mood isn’t right. You can’t tell if what you’re writing is good or bad while you’re writing it.
Write when the book sucks and it isn’t going anywhere. Just keep writing. It doesn’t suck. Your conscious is having a panic attack because it doesn’t believe your subconscious knows what it’s doing.
Stop in the middle of a sentence, leaving a rough edge for you to start from the next day — that way, you can write three or five words without being “creative” and before you know it, you’re writing.
Write even when the world is chaotic. You don’t need a cigarette, silence, music, a comfortable chair, or inner peace to write. You just need ten minutes and a writing implement.

What strategy, style, or method of writing works best for you? Which author(s) advice do you find most helpful? Feel free to share your own tips for writing as well.

{ 1 comment }

Jun 10 2011

ShareReads: Travel humor

by ShareReads

ShareReads appears on the DCPLive blog on Fridays. Each week, a different person will share a little about what they’re currently reading, and why they like or don’t like it. The heart of ShareReads will be responses from blog readers, and the window of opportunity here is wide. Feel free to respond and discuss the book or author being mentioned, ask or answer a question, or even take the conversation in a different direction: mention what you are currently reading, and how you feel about it. The point of ShareReads is to have an ongoing discussion about books and reading. Remember: posting a response also counts as an activity for the Summer Reading for Adults program.

My favorite type of vacation is traveling to a place I’ve never visited before. Since I don’t often have the time and money to head for other parts of the world, I visit foreign lands by reading the experiences of travel writers. I especially enjoy reading books by authors who don’t take themselves too seriously and who show a sense of humor.

J. Maarten Troost is a writer with a real talent for coming up with catchy titles. His first book was called The Sex Lives of Cannibals, the second was Getting Stoned with Savages. I just finished reading his most recent work, Lost on Planet China: The Strange and True Story of One Man’s Attempt to Understand the World’s Most Mystifying Nation, or How He Became Comfortable Eating Live Squid. Troost lived on islands in the Pacific for a number of years, and his experiences there are told in the first two books. He now lives in California, but is open to the idea of moving overseas again. He convinced his wife they should consider moving to China, so he went to explore the country to decide if that might be a good idea.

Lost on Planet China chronicles Troost’s months spent roaming over much of China. He tells of visiting large cities with gleaming skyscrapers but horrible air pollution. He compares Hong Kong with other large Chinese cities. He travels to Tibet and western China, where the people are not ethnic Chinese. He shares a sleeping compartment on a train with a man who sleeps with music blaring from his cell phone. And, he visits many of the major tourist attractions, like the Great Wall and the Terracotta Warriors. While he is often critical of the government and the pollution, he always finds China to be interesting, if not mystifying. Lost on Planet China is longer and somewhat less funny than his previous books, but I enjoyed reading it.

If you enjoy Troost’s style of writing, you might like Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country, I’m a Stranger Here Myself, and his other travel books. Tim Cahill, who wrote Pecked to Death by Ducks and Pass the Butterworms, is another travel writer who is a lot of fun to read.

Where have you traveled in your reading?

{ 4 comments }

Jun 8 2011

Face Book (literally)

by Jimmy L

Book covers are one of the things I miss the most now that more people have adopted eBook readers.  I love seeing at a glance what people are reading in public places.  And, covers are often just so well designed, like a breezy doorway, visually welcoming you into the world of the book itself.

We’ve written about book covers here on DCPLive before, but a few days ago I found a new twist on them in a blog called Corpus Libris. It’s a simple idea, but it’s so fun and funny.  Take a picture where your world blends in with the book cover design. I’m itching to try it myself.

{ 4 comments }