Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Life At A Snail's Pace

Elisabeth Tova Bailey's 2010 book, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, describes life truly lived at a snail's pace. Victim of a virulent virus which attacked her autonomic nervous system and caused mitochondrial disease, Elisabeth Tova Bailey faced a depressing prognosis of extreme fatigue and the inability to maintain adequate blood pressure in an upright position.  In short, she would have to live life reclining because her body was unable to function in an upright manner. Although she had periods of improvement, serious health reversals repeatedly sent her back to bed.  Dependent on caregivers and friends for her needs, she found that she had all the time in the world, but no capability to use it in the ways she would like.

Enter the snail.

One day a visiting friend brought her a small snail she had found in the woods, simply because it struck her fancy.  This friend deposited the snail in a pot of field violets which she placed on Bailey's bedside table.  The author quickly found herself mesmerized by the seeming poise and adaptability of this wild creature suddenly placed in an alien environment.  As she observed the snail's tentative exploration of its pot, Bailey fancifully noted, "Pondering its circumstances with a regal air, as if from the turret of a castle, it waved its tentacles this way and then that, as though responding to a distant melody."  So began the author's enchantment with the snail and her identification with its slow, but purposeful progress through each day.  She enjoyed its nocturnal activity, glad to have the presence of another living thing close by on sleepless nights.

On one such night she first heard the sound of the tiny snail eating a flower petal. With this, the snail captured both Elisabeth Tova Bailey and me. I couldn't wait to learn more about how the snail and the author might fare. In this short and endearing book, I learned much of fascinating interest about snails, their life cycles and languorous "love lives," their unique and paradoxical physical aspects. Interspersed throughout the story are wonderful excerpts from poets and scientists who have long appreciated this miniscule, but marvelous organism. Bailey aptly quotes the haiku of Kobayashi Issa here, "Climb Mount Fuji/ O Snail/ but slowly, slowly."  What insights the author gleaned from her coexistence with this fellow slow-mover enabled her to examine and accept her own state of being.  The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating tells her story and that of the snail with beautiful prose and fluid style.

~Evelyn Fischel~

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Brains Are On The Move

Don't haven't lost your mind!  The "Mind: Your Brain" book display has picked up roots and moved into the library rotunda at Bernardsville Public Library for an extended stay.  It seems that the brain is one organ that everybody gives a second thought to, and many of the books in this display have captured people's interest.  You'll be able to find most of the selections that were featured in the earlier lobby display and there is now an original Bernardsville Library bookmark with reading suggestions for this topic as well. Be kind to your mind - give it some thought.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

April is Autism Awareness Month

"April is Autism Awareness Month," and Bernardsville Public Library has marked this observance with a special display.  Our Youth Services librarians have assembled a book display offering an informative collection of reading material. This display is located in the Parenting Corner at the entrance to the fiction wing.

There you will find resources for adults and children which may help to identify, understand, and manage the range of behavior involved with autistic and Asperger's disorders.  There are picture books for the very young as well as literature for teens and adults, along with medical and educational resources.  Please stop by for a look.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Have You Had Your "Date" Yet?

"Go on a Blind Date with a Book"  is an on-going display at Bernardsville Public Library celebrating National Library Week.   It is designed to entice you, just like the concept behind a blind date, to take a chance on a book you might have overlooked before.  The display features beautifully wrapped packages tied up with red bows- all mysterious, all with the potential to excite and please you.  These "packages" are new fiction and nonfiction books, but they are truly anonymous "suitors."  You won't know a book's title until you have checked one out, taken it home and pulled on that red ribbon.  If you don't like what you see, simply return the book.  If you are pleased with your "blind date," use the enclosed sheet to write a brief comment or review about it.  Go ahead and flirt; it can't hurt!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Library Book Group to Read The Good Soldiers

The Good Soldiers by Pulitizer Prize-winning reporter David Finkel tells the true and harrowing story of a U.S. battalion's deployment to an Iraqi town during the "surge."  The author was embedded for eight months with the 2-16 soldiers out of Fort Riley and recounts their experiences in the dusty, but dangerous town of Rustamiya, outside the relative safety of Baghdad's Green Zone.

David Finkel is a Washington Post writer and knows how to report what he sees.  What he saw in Iraq was the daily assault upon these good soldiers of boredom, outrage, hope, fear, substance abuse, despair and grave bodily injury. Finkel places quotes by President G.W. Bush at the beginning of each chapter to remind us of  the administration's mindset about the war's progress, letting these statements stand in contrast to what the soldiers actually experienced and endured.

Fiction author Geraldine Brooks comments that The Good Soldiers is "an incandescent and profoundly moving book: powerful, intense, enraging.  This may be the best book on war since the Iliad."  Bernardsville Public Library's book group, Memoirs & Coffee, will discuss The Good Soldiers next Tuesday, April 26th, at 10:30 a.m. in the Community Room.  Copies of the book are now available at the library. New members are welcome to attend.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

David Foster Wallace

The Pale King, an unfinished novel by the late, laureled American author David Foster Wallace, will be released in bookstores next week.  Because the premise of the story deals with the routine (or not) of work in an IRS center, the publisher set the release date to coincide with the normal deadline for tax filing, April 15th.  Well, there are always those creative types who know their way around deadlines, and in this case, both Amazon and Barnes & Noble are selling the book online at this very moment.  Bernardsville Public Library will have a copy of the book available after the release date.

Book News and More posted a piece about David Foster Wallace at the time of his suicide in 2008.  As is often the case, interest in this talented, but tormented writer increased posthumously.  Just today a very extensive and unusual article was posted online at The Awl entitled, "Inside David Foster Wallace's Self-Help Library."  Some of the self-help books Wallace heavily read and reread were highlighted here and interesting references were made to his mother, grammarian Sally Foster Wallace, as well.  These books are among the  collection of the author's papers at the University of Texas at Austin.

As this article states, "David Wallace was a person who dwelt in darkness either by nature or compulsion, or maybe even by mere habit, or maybe just because he'd been given the wrong medication. Depression is a very inward-turned and self-loathing thing: he trapped himself in this sort of interior abattoir.  But like all depressed persons, Wallace loathed himself in error.  He had a real value that others could see, but he could not."