I needed a quick read for our trip since my husband would be using the tablet, so I went to the best place in the Library–the SCKLS Rotating collection, new titles (mostly fiction) that come to our Library every three months from the state library system. Great way for us to get current titles without spending money.
Anyway, I needed a book, and grabbed Empress Orchid by Anchee Min. Did not even read the bookflaps. When I did get time to sit on our balcony and read, I was pleasantly surprised to find it was a historical novel based on the life of the fourth wife of Chinese emporer Hsien Feng of the Chi’ing Dynasty in 1852. The story starts with Tzu Hsi or Orchid’s family having to bury her father and becoming destitute. She has to work and through her employer who had worked in the Forbidden City, learns what is needed to succeed in the competition to become one of the seven wives of the Emporer. After being picked as wife #4, she, her family, and all of China believe she will be happy forever. Happy only if you believe that watching your back for real and political knives makes you feel good. Happy if you believe that loneliness is how we were meant to live. Orchid survivies this world through love for her family that she cannot see, and knowing she has provided for their success back home. In the palace, she survives through pure cunning and knowledge, much of what she had obtained from her father when she was young.
This book came to life for me quickly, as we had traveled two years ago to China. What may have been opulence and elegance in the Forbidden City in the book seemed cold and gray to me in reality. We could only look through the window openings (no protective glass) into the throne rooms, but the tapestries, artwork, and carpeting were not there. The trees and pathways offered the most beauty, but sadly, pollution made the entire area appear gray.
The research for this book was meticulous and with Anchee Min’s storytelling ability, the book is not gray at all, but a wonderful tapestry of Empress Orchid’s very unusual life.
She didn’t know what SDS was, but I did. “Students for a Democratic Society, Betty! That means he’s a hippie and a war protester!” That was 1968, and good thing, she wasn’t into that political world, or she would’ve been really scared, but he was from Partridge, KS, so how much war could you protest in Partridge, KS? I was the little sister and loved reading Time and Teen magazines, and I knew all about hippies. I thought he was the neatest and most devine guy I had ever seen. (I wasn’t hip enough to say grooviest). I was ready to go and protest any war with him!
Find out the adventures, and mainly misadventures, that started the SDS, (like sit-ins) and the serious and deadly progression of the group (into The Weathermen) in Carl Oglesby’s book, Ravens in the Storm: A Personal History of the 1960′s Antiwar Movement. Carl Oglesby began his corporate career as a technical writer for Bendix, a defense contractor and was a founder of the SDS. He became their first president and gave up a legitimate middle class life to follow his ideals of what true democracy was. His writing provides the technical, the spirit, the every-day history and the feel of the 1960′s; the era I really only knew from Time and Teen. Now, I’ve lived it thanks to Carl Oglesby and I can even hear “American Woman,” the SDS boyfriend’s favorite song playing in my head! (Sorry, the system won’t let me download the audio.)
With the release of The Great Gatsby coming in May 2013, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, the Big Read Wichita was a fun way to get in the mood! I had forgotten what a good story it is, until I watched GG on YouTube of a student video project, so I did reread it in short order. But the fun came when the Library made a display depicting the Robert Redford/Mia Farrow version in a stylized way, accented by information from all Gatsby movies, and a “star walk” of a quote that described Jay Gatsby. Some of the events surrounding the Big Read made the singular art of reading into a true community gathering. At the Art Museum kickoff, a jazz band played, as excerpts were read, and a Packard car show carried on outside. An afternoon of listening to a Reader’s Theatre of three Fitzgerald one acts was followed by cookies and “green light” punch. Zelda Fitzgerald, the real-life Daisy, came to life in a presentation by
Debra Conner that was superb in her knowledge and manner. Other Big Read events, past and still to come, offer so much Fitzgerald, we’ll be dreaming we’re in the 1920′s, dancing, partying, and very rich! If you’re reading the book, be sure to also read the story of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda. Their meteoric high life rise and crash puts all that wealth and partying in perspective. But it’s still great to dream!
Thomas Mallon writes compactly about a huge maze of truth that happened thirty-eight years ago this coming August; the resignation of a US president. I was a teenager completely fascinated by Watergate, watching the daily Senate hearings, which usurped my favorite soaps. This was far before cable news and reporter opinions, rants, and rages. It was played out in solemn broadcasts that everyday brought a bombshell of something worse the president’s men had done, said, or failed to do or say. The heros/stars were the senators who worked to find out the truth. Mallon takes the view that President Nixon was more innocent than guilty, and I don’t agree as the daily question was, “How much did the president know?” The White House tapes answered the question, more in their gaps, than in the words. The book stresses the independent work of those men surrounding the president as causing the problems. Despite this glossover of guilt versus innocence, the book brings all the details together and takes the reader through to the end of the maze seamlessly. So to familiarize yourself about this country-shaking event as the 40th anniversary is here (May, 1972 is the anniversary of the Watergate break-in), read the book. It gives the many Watergate names human personalities (albeit fictionalized) and more importantly, human flaws–such as greed and an obsessive need to keep the power.
It’s not that I’ve quit blogging or reading, it’s that I haven’t found time to blog about what I’m reading…and make it sound sensical! Some of the books I’ve read lately have come from the WATC Library’s Rotating Collection. No, that doesn’t mean the books turn slowly on the shelf! It means our State Library System is generous to supply academic libraries with current books–fiction and non-fiction and audio-books that they “rotate” out every quarter. It’s always like Christmas presents when they show up because the titles are surprises to us.
One of the best ones I read was Bone Rattler by Eliot Pattison: set in the Revolutionary War period, the story is about a murder on a convict ship bound for the New World with evil signs left at the scene that include two piles of tiny bones, a feather, a claw, eye, and a heart. The depth of the plot comes from the past of a Scottish clan and the power oath bestowed on the young Duncan by his friend before the friend dives into the ocean to his death. It continues when Duncan is indentured to an aristocratic family with terrible secrets that are linked to the ship, and rushes frenetically into the violent wilderness that awaits any who trespass there. It’s a tale that focuses on much more than the initial murder so the reader feels they are dropped down in this wilderness where adventure is too light of a word to describe the action. It’s literally a scary-to-the-depths kind of story! Come check it out today!
Started and ended the sizzling summer of ’11 with books of chase. In June, I read Manhunt: The 12-day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson which is exactly what the title says. It is exhaustive in two ways: the author used every possible source to put the information into a seamless narrative and the constant movement of players, both good guys and bad, makes the book feel like there are no resting spots. Even when John Wilkes Booth and his accomplice are resting, there is the fear of being caught creeping up behind them. It feels that way for the reader, too. Booth denies all this with his optimistism that he will make it across the river to his friends of the South and the world will honor him for his grand accomplishment. The real honor goes to those who never stopped the chase to find him. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling was the finishing chase book for the summer. It needed a re-read because I was ready to watch movie part 1 on dvd and then go to the big-screen for part 2. The first time I read it, I didn’t follow it and I don’t even remember finishing it. The book was still a mess the second reading; chasing through woods which reminded me of Manhunt, disappearing and appearing; the central search for bad little horcruxes overshadowed by a strange symbol and all the chasing around that implied. I did watch Part 1 after that and this is the only book in the series that I needed the movie to make sense of it all. In British speak, “J.K. Rowling mucked about.” (That means “messed around and got into trouble,” not the bad word.)
It’s almost time for The Big Read Wichita, so I’m rereading The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. Books will be available free at the Kickoff Oct. 1 at the Wichita Art Museum. Add your two cents to the reviews when posted here.
Interior Design student Ellen Palmer and lead faculty Bridget Mack paid a visit to NCAT with decorative items left over from Grove to spruce up the learner services area. Their efforts really made the place look ‘at home’! Thanks Ellen and Bridget!
Many of the College’s employees came together during the in-service on Wednesday May 18 to have lunch and catch up on end-of-semester acticity. Dr. Kinkel, president, teamed up with Leon, the manager at the Touch n’ Go Cafe, to serve hot dogs to the employees. Thanks to Dr. Kinkel, Leon, and HR for providing lunch!