Thursday, May 31, 2012

Broken for You

Saturday Samplers book group (see Saturday Samplers blog here) will discuss Broken for You at its next meeting in the library on Saturday, June 2nd, at 3:30 p.m.  Published in 2004, Broken for You is the debut novel of Seattle-based writer Stephanie Kallos. The book received numerous positive reviews, and Kallos was named Best First Novelist in 2005 by Library Journal.  Her second book, Sing Them Home, also garnered praise for its development of characters in a physical and spiritual landscape of loss and healing.  While her stories deal with death and loss, sadness and broken lives, the author’s use of humor and whimsy lightens the load, reminding us that what is damaged (in life or in the physicality of things) might come to be mended in unexpected ways.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Local History Volunteers Honored

Bernardsville Library's History Committee, comprised of a very diligent groups of volunteers, was recently honored at the Somerset County Cultural & Heritage Commission's awards ceremony. The History Committee received a History Award in Education, and the nomination noted that "Nowhere in Somerset County can one find a richer treasure trove of our history than Bernardsville Public Library where the volunteer History Committee has built an extraordinary collection of books, pamphlets,manuscripts, photographs, movies, clippings, maps, postcards, memorabilia and oral history which they continue to expand and enrich."
The History Committee, known to us as Local History, maintains a multi-media collection of historical paraphernalia, including photographs, postcards, family histories, newspaper articles, old medicine bottles, crockery and other treasures found in people's attics and files.  Inquiries are regularly received from people far and wide searching for information about ancestors, obituaries, Bernardsville history, or even famous local estates.  Oftentimes items are donated to Local History by people who come across things by happenstance and want to insure that they are preserved.  Local History volunteers meet in the library twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday, from 1-4 p.m. and are available to answer your questions or provide assistance during those hours.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Let's Go Be Revolutionaries!

Deb Olin Unferth's memoir, Revolution: the Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War, is the subject of the next Memoirs and Coffee book discussion this Tuesday, May 22, at 10:30 a.m. in the library.  Ms. Unferth "went to join the war" after falling in love with a college co-ed described as idealistic, to say the least.  The author changed faiths for him, and together they ventured off to Nicaragua to attempt to join the Sandanista Army in 1987.  But the Sandanistas had little use for them, the couple was continually robbed as they moved around the country, and malnutrition began to set in.  Love did not last.  Neither did the author's fervor for "revolution jobs."  Copies of the book are available in the library, and new members are invited to attend this book discussion.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Trillion Dollar Shoreline, Comes With Spare Tires

Why does Manhattan turn inward onto its glittering skyscrapers and avenues of commerce when a gold coastline, a potentially magnificent waterfront, beckons from all sides?  Would its residents rush to these shorelines, partaking of promenades, water sports, and river transportation systems if accessibility were vastly improved?  New York essayist/author Phillip Lopate muses on these and many other thoughtfilled topics in his excellent 2004 publication, Waterfront: A Walk Around Manhattan.  Waterfront will be discussed this Saturday, May 5th, by the Saturday Samplers book group meeting at Bernardsville Library.

In Waterfront: A Walk Around Manhattan, Phillip Lopate employs a personal and quite New York point of view while examining his very own turf and surf.  The result is a vastly enjoyable, enlightening, and  inspiring reading experience. You may even want to get up out of your chair and take a walk, perhaps not quite reaching all the forlorn, topographically dangerous spots the author trekked to in his attempt to walk around Manhattan. For as Lopate circumambulates his revered city, struggling many times to gain access to the shoreline, it becomes obvious that one of the city's greatest features - its waterfront - is also one of its least realized treasures.

Lopate begins his walkabout at the southern tip of Manhattan, working his way up the Hudson River waterfront from Battery Park.  Advancing northward, his strolls along open walkways with clear vistas of the water eventually become treacherous hikes along footpaths in the Fort Washington Park vicinity near the George Washington Bridge. There he describes "one of the loveliest, most harmonious, and yet least-known spots on the Manhattan waterfront," but to get to it on foot necessitated "my usual bullheaded method of proceeding down the vine-scrabbled hill until the Henry Hudson Highway cut me off, then made a mad dash for it.  Actually, the highway bifurcates with the park, so that you have to risk your life twice to get to the water's edge."  After doing so, he was told that there is actually a footbridge nearby, but as New York irony would have it, there are only two footbridges, separated by three miles, crossing high-speed roads. Clearly the car supplants the foot; still, Lopate soldiered on through brambles, chainlink fences, and across high-voltage train tracks to reach northernmost Inwood Park by way of the riverfront.

The author's sojourns along the East River - not a river, but an estuary - provide him many opportunities for fascinating digressions about housing projects, maritime history, and immigrant life.  Thoroughly versed in the history and literature of New York City, Lopate cites Hart Crane, Joseph Mitchell, and Herman Melville among other writers who felt the pull of the waterfront.  Of course, murderers and despairing souls also felt that pull, and over the centuries the waterfront has given up many bodies.  Medical advancements in the last century or so are visually apparent, too, as Lopate passes Roosevelt Island, home to the old Smallpox Hospital and the ruins of a lunatic asylum.  Directly opposite Roosevelt Island, one of the city's foremost hospitals,  New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, now stretches itself out along the waterfront of the Upper East Side.  Typhoid Mary, the Fulton Fish Market, Robert Moses, the city's bridges and islands, so many interesting items are touched on here.

But let us not overlook the city's utter lack of regard in places for its riverfront landscape, strewn as it is with automobile tires, clots of debris, and remnants of old industry.  Falling economies, busted budgets, and political squabbles all have taken their toll.  Lack of a cohesive and sustaining vision for the waterfront plays a part, too.  Manhattan continues to transform itself, but we are left to wonder whether the city and its inhabitants will collectively recognize the potential bounty surrounding them at their watery borders.
~Review by Evelyn Fischel~