Archive for October, 2008

Replay by Ken Grimwood

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Friday night this librarian went on the road again to meet with the members of the R&R Book Club.  The group met at Joyce’s house, nestled in over four acres of lush greenery and trees.  This month’s selection, Replay by Ken Grimwood was a fantasy novel with one horrifying element, the principle character bolts through time in an erratic fashion unable to control his destiny.

Ken Grimwood’s Reply was published in 1987 and won the World Fantasy Award in 1988.  The novel tracks Jeff Winston, a 43-year old radio journalist who dies of a heart attack only to awaken as his 18-year old self back in 1963.  He attempts to live his life a second time as he regains consciousness in the bedroom of his childhood home only to find that his time-life continuum has been altered.  Jeff comes to understand that he is a replayer and lives life repeatedly from different perspectives as he moves toward self-realization by living his life over and over.  His interaction with events and individuals remind the reader to live in the moment and affirms the novel’s theme of living every moment of life to its fullest.

Don’t be confused by the shift in conversation, this review mimics Replay’s style shifting back to my entrance to Joyce’s house to join the book discussion.  Joyce is a teacher by trade, organized inside and outside the classroom.  The tasteful seasonal decorations in her home provided a warm welcome to each member of the book club.  Drinks, snacks, and desserts were plentiful and delicious. 

Members of the group gathered in the family room, where the glow of an adorable little pine tree decorated for Halloween caught my attention.  The group discussed characters, plot lines, and the author’s intent.  It was engrossing to review events that affected Jeff Winston’s life experiences.  Book club members reveled in the possibilities of precognition, predicting personal actions.

The group’s positive response to the novel was tempered by the plot’s familiarity.  Members paralleled the work with the films such as Groundhog Day and Back to the Future 1-3, as well as Quantum Leap, a television series from the early 90’s.  Group members were split regarding the author’s conclusion to the work.  Ken Grimwood was working on a sequel to Replay in 2003, when he died of a heart attack.  Sometimes true life is stranger than fiction.

A few hours into the meeting, something smelled like it was burning.   Joyce’s husband and son, a well-schooled boy scout, had built a beautiful bonfire for the group to enjoy.  

I recall sitting by the fire watching sparks swirl up into the starry night and feeling blissfully thankful to be a librarian, drinking coffee, sharing books with new acquaintances and rekindling friendships from long ago under protective branches of tall South Jersey pine trees destined to outlive us all. 

1984 by George Orwell

Friday, October 17th, 2008

In preparation for a book discussion scheduled for November, I recently reread George Orwell’s short but enormously thought-provoking novel, 1984. Orwell wrote the novel in 1948, a post-war year when the world was clouded by uncertainty and the Soviet Union posed a threat that was not yet understood but was feared by intellectuals, who worried that a totalitarian state could rob its citizens of their individuality and of all human rights.

I had not revisited this book in many years, but once again I found myself caught up in its premises and amazed by its author’s foresight and his ability to engage readers’ interest in a future so fraught with frightening possibilities. Like many others, I had read the book long before the title date and so did not observe that New Year’s with the grim expectation of the fulfillment of Orwell’s prophecy. After all, the 80s were the Reagan Years, when the stock markets were flourishing and for savers, interest rates were soaring. The American middle class was too caught up in consuming to give much thought to the ultimate cost of our extravagance. We had credit cards, and few of us gave any heed to the notion that each time we used those cards we were leaving a trail of our personal lives. We had given unseen eyes permission to track our buying habits, our organization memberships, our reading preferences, and even our choices of causes to support. Most frightening of all, we made it possible for unscrupulous thieves to steal our identities. In all too many cases, some were able to live la dolce vita at the expense of honest citizens.

Since 9/11/2001, when our peace was disturbed by terrorists determined to destroy our way of life, we have seen even more of our liberties jeopardized. What we once took for granted is now under attack. Most of us agree that the steps taken to protect us are necessary for our safety, but when we are subjected to those procedures. Endless lines at check-in booths at airports make us cranky, and at times we question the methods of the personnel trained to provide the scrutiny of passengers. Of course, we all agree that we wish that these measures had been in place on the fateful September morning, but that is in the past and we are inclined to be future-oriented.

One of the main themes of 1984 is that in the totalitarian regime that has taken over rule of Oceania, the past is irrelevant and only the present is of consequence. Remembrance of things past is dangerous because only acceptance of what is makes us compliant. If citizens could recall “the good old days” of yesterday, they would rebel at the evil of a today without hope for a brighter tomorrow. Just thinking about the past is criminal, but talking about it is even worse.

I recommend that serious thinkers read (or re-read) 1984 as an intellectual exercise. To use a quote inimical to Big Brother, who may or may not be watching us, “Those who refuse to study the past are doomed to repeat it.”

Scary Staff Picks

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

Eleanor Farrell, Circulation Department
I do not have a favorite horror book.
Film:  The Birds  I think about all the work that went into making it.  I enjoyed this movie and found it so scary with all the birds and suspense.

Kathy, Circulation Department
Book:  Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon scared me.  It is about women of a small town who formed a cult and the blind who saw what they were doing.
Film: Cujo I’m scared of dogs, but this film made me more afraid of them.

Cheryl Rheiner, Reference Librarian
Book:  The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
Ordinary citizens turn on one of their own.  It makes you wonder if it could happen today and how you would react personally.
Film:   Wait Until Dark  The suspense of the cat & mouse game played by the ‘bad guys’ & their blind victim is effective.

Brittany Blue, Library Page
I don’t read horror titles.
Film: I liked the main theme, the characters and the plot of Spiderwick.  I really enjoyed the movie and the setting where it took place.

Karen, Information Department
Book:  The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
The book is so well written, as I remember.  I read it in ’72 or ’73.  I just couldn’t believe what I was reading.  The book is a very compelling story of faith, horror, and belief.
Film:  Silence of the Lambs has wonderful acting.  The story itself is fascinating and draws you in with some very unusual twists and turns.  It makes your skin crawl, but makes you think, too.

Carolyn Wood, Adult Services and Technology Librarian
Book:  It by Stephen King 
The personalization of fear is intriguing.
Film:  Jaws by Peter Benchley is the ultimate monster movie.  I also second Eleanor’s choice, The Birds

Other staff recommendations: 

Books: 
Midnight Voices by John Saul is suspenseful.  It keeps readers on the edge of their seats.  Interview with a Vampire by Ann Rice
The author uses a lot of imaging to set mood and build suspense.

Films:
The Sixth Sense has a twist at the end and is filled with suspense.
The Shining is very suspenseful.