Dear Reader

Random musings on reading and books from a librarian in training.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Olive Kitteridge -- Elizabeth Strout

Ordinarily I don't care much for short stories. However, after hearing my sister rave about Olive Kitteridge, I picked it up when I was at her house. I was instantly drawn in. The structure of the book is short stories -- but one character, Olive Kitteridge, runs through them all. She may be the subject, a secondary character or just a passing thought.
Olive can be abrasive, difficult and outspoken, she can also be funny and caring. The stories take place in a small town in Maine.

Overall, I really enjoyed this. The format suited the type of reading I was looking for -- something I could put down and pick up without feeling like I lost the plot thread. My only pet peeve is why is modern fiction so bleak? Adultery, divorce, suicide, estrangement, eating disorders, etc. Sometimes when I read, I need something happy and upbeat to counter the negative news I'm inundated with on a daily basis.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A look back at Praise Song for the Day

When Elizabeth Alexander participated in the inauguration, she joined a small group of poets that includes Robert Frost and Maya Angelou and Miller Williams. The poem – “Praise Song for the Day” received quite a bit of critical feedback.

I have to say that I enjoyed the poem the second and third listen. Initially, I felt her delivery was a little flat. However, there are several parts of the poem that I felt were very striking.

"We encounter each other in words, words

spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,

words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark

the will of some one and then others, who said

I need to see what's on the other side."

The Chicago Tribune weighs in: “And that's OK. A poem, like any other piece of art, doesn't have to be perfect or universally loved to have value. The mere fact that Obama mingled poetry with the day's political rhetoric sends a message: Language matters. Language from the heart matters.”

I’ve included the poem below and links to coverage on the poem.

Praise Song for the Day

by Elizabeth Alexander

A Poem for Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration

Each day we go about our business,

walking past each other, catching each other's

eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is

noise and bramble, thorn and din, each

one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning

a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,

repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,

with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,

with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky.

A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words

spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,

words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark

the will of some one and then others, who said

I need to see what's on the other side.

I know there's something better down the road.

We need to find a place where we are safe.

We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.

Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,

who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built

brick by brick the glittering edifices

they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.

Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,

the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,

others by first do no harm or take no more

than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,

love that casts a widening pool of light,

love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air,

any thing can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.


Big stage amplifies poet's critics -,0,5305166.column

Obama inauguration poem: Elizabeth Alexander -

Praise Song for the Day -

Elizabeth Alexander: Barack’s bard on problem poetry -

Book vs. Movie: Tale of Despereaux

I recently took my niece and nephews to see a Tale of Despereaux. Now I try to always read the book before I see the movie. I really enjoyed the book - I thought it was sweet and fairly complex for a children's book.

For the uninitiated, Tale of Despereaux takes place in a kingdom that has banned soup and rats after an unfortunate rat in the soup incident. The rats have been banished to the dungeon where there's no light. Despereaux finds himself banished to the basement and likely death after he breaks a cardinal rule and talks to a human.

Some favorite passages:
Say it, reader. Sa the word "quest" out loud. It is an extraordinary word, isn't it? So small and yet so full of wonder, so full of hope."

"Is it ridiculous for a very small, sickly, big-eared mouse to fall in love with beautiful princess named pea?
The answer is ... yes. Of course, it's ridiculous.
Love is ridiculous.
But love is also wonderful. And powerful."

Wonderful book. The movie. Eh. Let's just say I fielded several questions from nephews mostly along the lines of 'Is this movie over already?'

The animation was great. However, I felt like they changed the story way too much - they drastically shortened Mig's backstory and altered what they left in. I felt like some of the changes were odd. For instance, they made the female cook a male cook, how Despereaux met the princess, how he met the jailer and... Really I could go on, there were so many changes.

I didn't really understand why the filmmakers felt they had to change so much, but it really prevented my enjoyment of the movie.

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