We’re coming down to the wire in the final days of voting for the Maine Reader’s Choice Award, 2014! Book lovers across the state are invited to vote by September 15, 2014 for a favorite novel that has been nominated for the Maine Reader’s Choice Award.
The four finalists for this year’s award are:
TransAtlantic, by Colum McCann
Benediction, by Kent Haruf
The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker
We asked staff members for their thoughts on the four (very) different novels…
Science and Technology Team Leader Samantha S tackled a review of Colum McCann’s wonderful TransAtlantic:
“TransAtlantic is a beautiful ode to Ireland – its landscape, people, language, problems, and history. The novel begins with a story about the first flight across the Atlantic. The rest of the pages involve lives that are interrelated, whether through family or acquaintance, and in each chapter McCann follows a different person that is somehow connected to every other person in the story…A pair of flyboys try to cross the Atlantic just after WWI in a dangerous technical feat; runaway and activist Frederick Douglas takes refuge in Ireland as he waits for supporters to purchase his freedom; an Irish immigrant to the US marries a man in the business of harvesting ice; and, yes, they all do fit together so perfectly that they require no literary mortar to hold their place in the larger whole. It is not until the end of the book that every relationship is made clear.
Nowhere is McCann’s talent more on display then in the most pedestrian and contemporary story, which follows former Senator George Mitchell as he makes his way to Ireland for negotiations. Perhaps you don’t imagine that sitting at JFK in the VIP lounge as an aging Senator ponders hearth and home, the joys of tea, and avoiding looking too long at a hostess’s derriere could be worth reading? Maybe in the hands of a lesser author you’d be correct, but McCann’s lyrical words make even the most mundane moments come alive with truth.
McCann is an author to savor, an Irish poet in the greatest tradition of that term, and the sooner you begin the journey that is reading his work, the sooner you will open your eyes to an author who just keeps getting better and better.”
From Ireland to Holt, Colorado…Finalist Kent Haruf’s
Benediction is the third book in his haunting, nuanced “Plainsong” trilogy. Haruf’s deft, stark prose sails off the page: “That was on a night in August. Dad Lewis died early that morning and the young girl Alice from next door got lost in the evening and then found her way home in the dark by the streetlights of town and so returned to the people who loved her. And in the fall the days turned cold and the leaves dropped off the trees and in the winter the wind blew from the mountains and out on the high plains of Holt County there were overnight storms and three-day blizzards.”
Setting down Haruf’s frank meditation on the final reflections of a dying man…we arrive, almost inevitably, at best-selling author Donna Tartt’s latest and heftiest of tomes: The Goldfinch. Here’s the review from Tech Services manager Jessica T at the Main Library:
“The Goldfinch, Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, eleven years in the making, is an atmospheric page turner that has stirred up a fair amount of literary controversy. Both praised and panned as Dickensian, it is an ornately scripted tale of the aftermath of a terrorist attack at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Tartt’s flawed, charismatic characters are unreliable narrators who propel the suspenseful narrative as they dance in and out of danger in pursuit and possession of the titular painting. Sure, it’s probably a little too long at 700+ pages, but it includes passages like this one to savor:
‘Unsteadily, I got up and went to the window. Bells, bells. The streets were white and deserted. Frost glittered on tiled rooftops; outside, on the Herengracht, snow danced and flew. A flock of black birds was cawing and swooping over the canal, the sky was hectic with them, great sideways sweeps and undulations as a single, intelligent body, eddying to and fro, and their movement seemed to pass into me on almost a cellular level, white sky and whirling snow and the fierce gusting wind of poets.’ “
If you didn’t spend last winter curled up with The Goldfinch, isn’t it a relief to know that hundreds and hundreds of pages patiently await you this coming snowy season?
Our final (and succinct
review-in-a snapshot!) comes from our four-legged friend, Sadie (side-kick of Kathleen, Head of Access Services). A creaturely review is appropriate for a stunning debut novel—Helene Wecker’s bright, enchanting “The Golem and the Jinni,”—whose Jinni hero and Golem heroine are also inhuman, but grappling with their own fantastical, unique natures, and what it means for them to exist in this world. Sadie weighs in most favorably:
“Clay…Fire…two elemental spirits born into the maelstrom of 1899 New York…Two paws up!!”
Have your own thoughts on these four books? Follow this link to vote by September 15 for your own favorite pick for the Maine Reader’s Choice Award 2014.
And if you’re curious about the long list for the awards—or you’re looking for a new book to read—check out all the titles that were considered by the awards committee here.
–Elizabeth, City of Readers Team
by Elizabeth Hartsig
The Portland Public Library is celebrating Pride Month with exciting and informative exhibits, films, and events. Here’s a run-down of what’s going on with Pride at PPL in June, as well as some resources you can access all year round:
Wednesday, June 18, Portland Public Library is partnering with Portland Pride to bring “Pride Maine LGBT History: Life and Activism in the 1970s,” a panel discussion and exhibit. Hear from the early LGBT activists whose efforts to organize polarized Maine and made national news.
Saturday, June 21, look for PPL’s Bookmobile in the Pride Parade! Volunteers from the PPL staff and community will be marching with the Bookmobile and passing out bookmarks with lists of great LGBT-related reads. We’ll have a special display of PPL’s Pride-related materials on the Bookmobile ready to be checked out when the parade stops at Deering Oaks.
If you duck away from the crowds on June 21, the Main Library will be having a Pride Film Festival, showing classic titles all day in the Rines Auditorium.
Pride-related films will also be showing on Thursday nights at the Main Library each week in June.
In addition to our calendar of special events and programming, Pride Month is a great time to explore the library’s historic and up-to-the-minute collections.
In the Portland Room, you can check out “Our Paper: A Voice for Lesbians and Gay Males in Maine,” a publication preserved on microfilm (1983-1990). Or if you just want to hop on our website and are curious about, say, Pride Week in Portland in 1996, take a look at Casco Bay Weekly. (In addition to the bold typography of CBW’s June 13 cover, there’s a thoughtful article called “Pride 1996” on p. 8 with great black-and-white photographs). You can see digital scans of each Casco Bay Weekly issue published from 1988 to 2004 at PPL’s Digital Commons.
Another archive we’re tapping into during Pride Week is the Portland Press Herald Still-Film Negative Collection. A display of photographs from past Pride Weeks (including some shots from Portland’s very first Pride Parade in 1987) will grace the hallways of the Main Library around the Lewis Gallery.
Our staff have created handy catalog lists of Pride-related resources from throughout the library for Children, Teens, and Adults (which you can check out any month of the year!).
● Youth Services offers Rainbow Celebration for kids.
● Teen has a list of excellent Non-Fiction Resources for teens as well as Fiction.
● If you’re interested in memoir, legal advice, politics, art, family, etc, head for the Reference Staff’s Pride at PPL: Great Non-Fiction list.
● For film buffs, we’ve got LGBT issues in non-fiction and a suggested list of films for a Pride Film Festival.
● Our Reader’s Advisory team offers a list that celebrates Pride at PPL: Fiction, including Stonewall Award winners as well as other complex and compelling works that tackle love, gender, sex, identity, and more. Take home a copy of Kim Fu’s just-released 2014 novel, “For Today I am a Boy;” 2013 Stonewall Winner Ellis Avery’s “The Last Nude;” or pick up a classic like Leslie Feinberg’s “Stone Butch Blues.”
Remember, these lists are just a selection of materials at the library! Sleuth our catalog or check in with the librarians and staff at the Main Branch, Burbank, Peaks, Riverton, and on the Bookmobile for more resources and information.
That’s a wrap! As always, we look forward to seeing you at PPL.
April is National Poetry Month—a time to celebrate poets and poetry, the beauty of language, and the richness poetry brings to the Portland Public Library and to our community. Special programming around poetry this month includes poetry you can carry in your pocket, poetry you can see on the bus (more info soon!), and poetry that you can share with others at PPL.
“Your Favorite Poem” April 23
“Your Favorite Poem” is an event for library patrons to gather and celebrate their favorite poems and poets. On Wednesday, April 23rd, bring your favorite poem by a published author to recite or read aloud in the Rines Auditorium. Come at 6:30 p.m. to sign up for a time slot, talk poetry, and enjoy refreshments. The reading of poems will take place between 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Guidelines: One poem per reader, with a time guideline – fans of “Howl” and “Hiawatha,” please bring a short poem to share so that everyone gets a chance!
“Poem in Your Pocket” April 24
On Poem in Your Pocket Day, people throughout the United States select a poem, carry it with them, and share it with others throughout the day. On April 24 Portland Public Library is helping to promote the Poem in Your Pocket initiative by printing and handing out poems at our public desks at the Main Library. You can also share your poem selection on Twitter by using the hashtag #pplpocketpoem and #pocketpoem. Get your pocket poem at PPL on April 24—while supplies last.
And don’t forget to check out the collections of poetry at PPL!
For some ideas on getting started, take a look at a few of our staff lists for poetry. The Portland Room brings us a list of “Lesser Known Maine Poets,” City of Readers suggests “Phenomenal Women: Poets at PPL,” and Teen offers “If There Is Something to Desire: Poetry.” New books of poetry we’re looking forward to in 2014: Carolyn Forche and Duncan Wu’s anthology “Poetry of Witness;” Veteran Kevin Powers’ “Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting;” and a new collection of work from James Baldwin, “Jimmy’s Blues and Other Poems.”
We hope you join us in celebrating poetry this month—and hope to hear you sharing “Your Favorite Poem” at the Main Library on April 23!
By Elizabeth Hartsig