Urban library or homeless shelter?

This morning on NPR, Steve Shafer reported on the decision by the administration at the San Francisco library to have a full-time social worker SF-Public-Library-Mainon staff to work with the library’s homeless patrons. As program host Steve Inskeep said in his introduction, “whether they like it or not, libraries in some cities serve as homeless shelters. People come off the streets to find quiet and warmth. If libraries want to do something about this, they have some choices: They can put homeless visitors back out on the street. San Francisco libraries want to get them back on their feet.”

Listen to the full story, and note the printed version’s listener comments for some thought-provoking responses.

Barbara L.

J.K. Rowling (a.k.a. Robert Galbraith) will release another detective novel

The SilkwormJ.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame announced that she has penned another Cormoran Strike mystery titled The Silkworm. It is to hit the bookstands next June and will still show the author as Robert Galbraith. The first Strike novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, was met with mixed, but generally good reviews, but when it was leaked who the real author was, sales skyrocketed. In the new book Strike’s able assistant, perky Robin Ellacott, is still around, and works with her boss to solve the brutal and bizarre murder of writer Owen Quine. Read the article in The Independent for more on Rowling’s latest.

Barbara L.

Hermione and Ron: was it a mis-match?

Hermione RonAs much as I loved the wonderful Harry Potter series, I always felt Hermione could have done better as far as boyfriends go.  I mean, she was so smart and so passionate about her causes (case in point, S.P.E.W and the House Elves), and don’t forget how fierce she could be in defending her friends. Never afraid to show off her brilliance, she’d raise her hand even in Snape’s class risking his scorn and ridicule. Ron, on the other hand, always seemed a few beats behind Harry and Hermione as they plotted and planned. He was a loyal friend and a true fighter for the cause of good, but sometimes was completely befuddled by the fast-thinking pair. Now some might say opposites attract and that Hermione and Ron would have been content in their life together. But I always thought the attraction was contrived. In the “19 years later” chapter of the final book, I really wondered if she was happy with her choice of mate. Did she glance longingly at Harry?

Apparently I’m not the only one who feels this way. In an interview J.K. Rowling gave to Hermione portrayer Emma Watson, the author herself admitted that she made a mistake in pairing the two. And Watson agreed.  A CNN Entertainment article quoted Rowling, “I wrote the Hermione/Ron relationship as a form of wish fulfillment. That’s how it was conceived, really,” Rowling says in the interview. “For reasons that have very little to do with literature and far more to do with me clinging to the plot as I first imagined it, Hermione ended up with Ron.” Avid fans, both pro and con to this revelation, shared opinions on mugglenet.com, one of the biggest HP fans sites going. So should there ever be an eighth Harry Potter book, the title might be “Harry Potter and the Messy Divorce.”

Barbara L.

Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies

founding mothers 2founding mothersNPR’s Cokie Roberts was interviewed on today’s airing of Morning Edition about the release of the illustrated, children’s version of her 2004 book Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation. The children’s version is subtitled Remembering the Ladies, and is aimed at an audience age 7-12. In the interview Roberts said she felt that most of us know so little about the women who were so involved and proactive during the Revolutionary era because from an early age, we only learn about the “Founding Fathers.” She felt that school-age kids needed a good resource for getting the full picture of the importance of these women, some who fought right alongside our troops or followed the army to provide cooking and laundry services, as well as the wives who ran the households, businesses and farms, like Deborah Read Franklin who kept the presses rolling and  handled the accounts while husband Benjamin was off in England. Listen to the full interview here.

Barbara L.

30th Annual Cowboy Poetry fest

This week marks the 30th annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, NV. In both spoken word and song, the culture and traditioncowboyss of the American West are celebrated by cowboys, ranchers, farmers, city folk, country folk, and anyone who treasures the heritage of this uniquely American phenomenon. The week long fest includes poetry readings, musical performers, films (Westerns, of course), crafts and more. For a taste of the genre, EPL’s collection includes Buckaroo: Visions and Voices of the American Cowboy. 

Barbara L.

Goodnight, Irene…goodnight, Pete. Iconic folk singer dies at age 94.

Pete Seeger, folksinger, song writer, activist, died in his home in upstate New Yopete seeger 3rk yesterday after a long and rich career as one of the most talented and beloved entertainers in America. A fine, steady voice, a clear vision of the amazing nation America could be, and an uncanny ability to stand alone on a stage and get an audience of over a thousand people to sing along with gusto was what made him an icon of the mid-2oth century folk scene. This fine remembrance, heard on NPR Morning edition this morning, tells the story of a life and career that inspired many and delighted thousands. Check the EPL catalog for our collection of material on Pete Seeger, and don’t miss the wonderful Reeltime documentary, The Power of Song.

Barbara L.

Malice Domestic

ServantsHooray! Downton Abbey is back! As Americans relish the continuing story of the upstairs and downstairs lives of this grand estate in season 4, a current display of books and films at EPL features stories from the servants’ points of view. In the wonderful universe of coincidence, NPR this weekend re-ran Dave Davies’ Fresh Air interview with Lucy Lethbridge, author of Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth Century to Modern times.

We Americans are fascinated by the parallel lives of those upstairs and those below, but we lack a deep cultural sense of the history and impact on lifestyles and attitudes. Lethbridge uses diaries, letters, and memoirs as well as household records to help us grasp the import of a life in service and the complex relationship between servants and masters. Listen to the interview and visit the EPL website for earlier Downton Abbey seasons.

Barbara L.

Miss Havisham speaks

havishamRight now we have a display of titles at EPL that I’ve dubbed “Retold and Revisited: Classic Tales from Another Point of View.”  The re-telling device has always been a popular way to look at a well known story and give it a fresh treatment as in Longbourn, the Pride and Prejudice story told by a serving maid, or as in The Innocents, which takes Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence and sets it in contemporary London’s upscale Jewish enclave. I’m currently reading a new release that explores the back story of one of literature’s most enigmatic characters–Miss Havisham, the decrepit, jilted bride from Dickens’s Great Expectations. Ronald Frame’s Havisham is told from Catherine’s own mouth (yes, Frame gives her a first name), and its rich, fleshed-out plot of how we get from a wealthy, young woman in love to that scene when Pip enters Miss Havisham’s ghastly dining room settles many readers’ questions and theories.

For more insight, listen to this interview from last Saturday’s Weekend Edition program with author Ronald Frame and host Linda Wertheimer.

Barbara L.

Did Beethoven ever do a crossword puzzle?

There are so many things to celebrate in December: Hanukkah (usually), Christmas, Kwanzaa, the Solstice, Beethoven’s birthday (yesterday, Dec. 16th), and this year, the 100th anniversary of the crosswcrosswordord puzzle. Edward Wynne, an Englishman by birth, was asked to create a word puzzle game for the New York World newspaper comics page. He did so and called it “word-cross.” When it went to press the name got flip-flopped to “cross-word” somehow and that’s what it stayed. The first one appeared in the paper on December 21, 1913, but according to Will Shortz, crossword puzzle editor for the NY Times, it wasn’t until publishers Simon and Schuster got into the game that they truly became popular. “One of them had an aunt who was a big fan of the crosswords in the World, and she suggested they do a book of crosswords,” said Shortz. “They went to the puzzle editors at the World, and the trio of editors there put together the world’s first crossword book.”

Read more about the history of crosswords here. For even more, check out EPL’s book From Square One by Dean Olsher. And for diehard fans, here’s a link to the NY Times Crossword Puzzle Blog.

Barbara L.

How do you pronounce “knuffle?”

Knuffle Bunny TooIf you’re the parent or grandparent of a 2 to 5-year old, you must be living under a cone of kiddie lit isolation if you haven’t heard of the oh-so popular books by Mo Willems. Featuring the all-about-me Pigeon, the ever polite Duckling, best friends Elephant and Piggie, and more, the stories are presented in simple language, the illustrations charming, and the messages provide gentle guides on how to behave and be a good friend to others. The hilarious situations (e.g., should a pigeon drive the bus?) appeal to both kids and adults. One book, however,  may have caused debate and disagreement in some households. It’s Knuffle Bunny. How does one pronounce “knuffle?” ‘The problem is hereby settled with this bit of research done by my fellow librarian, Kate. Here’s the skinny:

My granddaughter and I disagreed on the pronunciation the word in Mo Willem’s book. Here is the “definitive” answer.

Knuffle Bunny Too addresses a point of confusion raised by its predecessor: How do you pronounce k-n-u-f-f-l-e, a Dutch word that means “to snuggle or hug”? The fictionalized Trixie, a girl in the know, pronounces it the Dutch way, “ka-nuffle.” Sonja, her rival, says “nuffle.” Magnanimously, Willems said, “If you buy the book you can pronounce it any way you like.” He’s hardly in a position to split hairs, having learned — too late — that he goofed by transposing the “e” and the “l” in “knuffel” all through the original book.” After it was published, my mother said, ‘Why did you misspell it?’ ” His only excuse: “It didn’t come up on my spell check.”

I’m now going to agree with Leila and use “ka-nuffle.”

Um…me, too!

Barbara L.