- Flatland : A Romance of Many Dimensions – Edwin Abbott
- Abbott’s Flatland is one of the few novels about math and philosophy that can appeal to the non-philosophy or math student. This short fantasy takes us to a completely flat world of two physical dimensions where all the inhabitants are geometric shapes, and who think the planar world of length and width in which they live is all there is. But one inhabitant discovers the existence of a third physical dimension, enabling him to eventually grasp the concept of a fourth dimension. Watching Arthur Square, our Flatland narrator, we begin to get an idea of the limitations of our own assumptions about reality, and we start to learn how to think about the confusing problem of higher dimensions.
- -Andrew Naquin, Student Library Assistant
Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category
Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory follows an unnamed Mexican “whiskey priest” during the socialist ban of religion in Mexico in the 1930′s. The priest journeys throughout the countryside bringing Communion to those still practicing Catholicism underground, but he also struggles with moral failings in his past. Greene beautifully portrays the priest’s tension between his call to holiness and his own failure, and this tension will resonate with any reader.
-Andrew Naquin, Library Student Assistant
Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle follows the story of John, an ordinary man who ends up on the bizarre Caribbean island of San Lorenzon. On this island, John finds a dictator bent on controlling the population of the island through genocide and religion. Published in 1963, Vonnegut’s compelling prose and masterful storytelling make Cat’s Cradle a literary classic that stands the test of time.
-Andrew Naquin, Student Library Assistant
At first glance, George Orwell’s Animal Farm seems like a children’s book. The talking animals and ease of the prose may trick the reader into believing Orwell’s work is a simple book, but this allegorical novel is deeper than it may appear. Orwell’s classic addresses the dangers of blind trust in a political leader and the corruption that occurs when given unfettered power. Animal Farm is a must read for anyone interested in politics, philosophy, or sociology.
I have the great capacity to be a TV junkie. We got rid of cable at my house in large part because no matter how embarrassingly degrading a show was, I could get sucked into the menial drama in no time. My most embarrassing moment in TV viewing might have been the short-lived reality show “Dating in the Dark,” in which contestants—you guessed it!—dated each other in the dark and then had to decide whether their feelings were real once they saw the person through a two-way mirror. I’m not a big believer in “guilty pleasures” but this was a real low point.
So now that we don’t have cable, my TV show viewing is limited to shows on Netflix or on DVD. Since it’s so easy for me to get sucked into a new show, I love having the option to watch the entire run of a series without having to wait for the next episode. And the show that has so far sucked me in the most, that I managed to watch over the course of about a week (30 episodes in 9 days!), is the early 90s cult classic “Twin Peaks.”
I’ve desperately tried to love David Lynch but to me his movies almost always fall flat somewhere along the way. While “Twin Peaks” isn’t perfect (wait until the second season subplot involving James and the manipulative housewife Evelyn), I think this is the best Lynch gets. “Twin Peaks” starts off as a murder mystery when the titular Washington town’s homecoming queen turns up dead. But in true Lynchian fashion things are not always what they seem, and what started off as a simple stranger-comes-to-town crime solver devolves into a supernatural head trip. The ensemble cast includes some of the decade’s up-and-comers (Lynch favorite Kyle MacLachlan, Lara Flynn Boyle, Heather Graham) and surprising appearances by seasoned actors (Piper Laurie, the mom from Carrie; Peggy Lipton, former star of the “Mod Squad” and ex-wife of Quincy Jones; Richard Beymer and Russ Tamblyn, both stars of the film version of West Side Story). MacLachlan’s Dale Cooper is one of the greatest characters in TV history. The images the viewer takes away from the show are lasting and haunting. Someday I want my bathroom to look like the “Red Room.”
“Twin Peaks” made such an impression on me that I was truly sad when it was over. Over for me, anyway, since it’s actually been off the air since 1991. I watched the show for the first time last summer. I rewatched it in its entirety this winter. This time I think it took about 14 days to watch the whole thing, but that’s because the DVD has some pretty great extras. And the cult of “Twin Peaks” lives on, which I realize now that I understand references to the show. The Log Ladies are a New Orleans band saluting their namesake’s memorable character; “Twin Peaks” festivals occur around the world; and the show’s stars still pop up all over the place (Leland Palmer on “Mad Men?” Awesome!).
The Monroe Library has the full series on DVD with all the excellent extras. There’s also a prequel film called Fire Walk With Me. I’m not a fan, but it’s worth seeing if only to round out your “Twin Peaks” experience. If you’re like me, you’re going to finish watching the series and then jump in your car to come back to the library 10 minutes before closing time to check out the movie. The spooky town of Twin Peaks just has that effect on some of us.
-Elizabeth Kelly, Instruction and Special Collections Librarian
Recommending a book that in a single year has won the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and is being made into an HBO mini-series may not be particularly original. But when the book is this good, it’s easy to jump on the accolades bandwagon.
Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad resembles a collection of linked short stories more so than a novel, though that is how some critics have characterized it. The common thread among the stories is music producer Bennie Salazar—while each chapter concerns a different central character, they all have some sort of connection to Salazar. The titular “goon” is time. The stories take place anywhere from 1973 to 2020, and each of the characters suffers drastically from the ageing process. Rarely is growing old as socially and economically damning as in the entertainment business, where many of the characters begin their careers. Despite the vastly varying backgrounds of the central characters, Egan succeeds in creating entirely new voices for each of them. If you’re having a difficult time keeping track of the characters or the chronology of the book, no worries—the blog Ready When You Are, C.B. has a number of charts, pictures and graphs to help you get things straightened out.
A Visit From the Goon Squad is at once sweet, sad, funny, and poignant. This is a book that will keep you thinking about it long after you’ve put it down.
Elizabeth Kelly, Instruction and Special Collections Librarian
There is no shortage of coming-of-age stories (especially coming-of-age stories set in boarding schools), but rarely is there one as realistic and relatable as Prep: a novel by Curtis Sittenfeld. As the story begins, the lovably awkward Lee Fiora is a freshman at Ault, a prestigious boarding school near Boston. Lee is a witty and intelligent teen, but as a scholarship student from the Midwest, she sometimes feels as though she does not fit in with her wealthy, privileged classmates. She spends a lot of time observing her classmates instead of interacting with them and soon gives herself the role of “the outsider.”
Occasionally, Lee can be a frustrating character, because she would probably be accepted if she gave people more of a chance. She eventually makes friends and finds her place at the school, but it’s a little bit of a struggle. Along the way, she works through her feelings of isolation and she handles difficult social situations; sometimes with hilarious results. She also deals with issues of sexuality and the loss of a first love (and Prep deals with these issues in a very frank and honest way, there are a couple sexually explicit scenes and there is explicit dialogue throughout the novel).
Overall, Prep is a fun, nostalgic read. There is some “teenage angst” and heartbreak, but also a lot of laughs. Many people will find something that they can relate to; I think there’s a little bit of Lee Fiora in all of us.
Kayla Whitehead, Technical Services Assistant/Serials Specialist
A story about teenage abduction at a New England prep school doesn’t exactly sound like a hilarious read, but Heidi Julavits’s The Uses of Enchantment mixes dark comedy with mystery and suspense. While a sixteen year old student at Semmering Academy, Mary Veal disappeared for almost two months and returned claiming amnesia. Exactly fourteen years later Mary comes home for her mother’s funeral and begins to investigate her own disappearance.
OK, so it may not sound funny, but it is. Mary’s drunken aunt projects her own feelings onto her poodle Weegee, who wears a sweater that reads “ÇA VA?” Older sister Regina attacks Mary for throwing out a half-empty box of their mom’s tampons, claiming that maybe their mother wanted them to have the feminine hygiene products as something to remember her by. Semmering Academy has a mural, nicknamed The Grin-And-Bear-It, of “soon-to-be-scalped-or-burned-women” who appear to be enjoying themselves.
Underneath the satirically tragic story in The Uses of Enchantment runs a leitmotif concerning women stripped of the power to tell their own stories. This isn’t always an easy read – the book jumps back and forth between three time periods and multiple narrators – but Mary’s story ultimately pays off with its humor and constant twists. I bet you won’t guess the ending. Recommended for all lovers of contemporary fiction,
especially those with a macabre sense of humor.
-Elizabeth Kelly, Interim Public Services Librarian
Set in the greater Hollywood area in late 1969 and early 1970 Inherent Vice tells the story of hippie, private eye Larry “Doc” Sportello. Doc is contacted by his former girlfriend, Shasta Fay Hepworth, to investigate a conspiracy involving her current lover Mickey Wolfmann, a wealthy real estate developer. Soon after, Doc is hired by Tariq Khalil to find Mickey’s bodyguard Glen Charlock. At the beginning of Doc’s investigation Shasta and Mickey disappear, while Doc is framed for the murder of Glen. These events propel him through a whirlwind of marijuana inspired conspiracy theories, a myriad of side cases, more than one acid trip, and direct conflict with the nefarious and mysterious organization, The Golden Fang.
Inherent Vice is a straight detective story with all the characteristics of a Pynchon novel. Lost continent conspiracies, a plethora of original songs, and a cast of unique and hilarious characters make for an enjoyable read. I highly recommend Inherent Vice to anyone that enjoys Pynchon, detective fiction, or zany fiction.
Brian Sullivan, Online Learning Librarian
Nothing says “controversial read” like a dystopian novel making social commentary on the United States of America — both of its government and people. The Handmaid’s Tale does just that. Written by Margaret Atwood, this novel takes place in “the near future.” Set in the former United States, this story tells of a new society where many things have changed, primarily the role of women in society. In the fascist Republic of Gilead, society emphasizes procreation due to a recent epidemic of infertility, some say due to a toxic waste spill. As a result, a new caste in society has developed, that of the handmaid.
The story follows protagonist Offred who has experienced the downfall of “freedom” in this new society and been forced into the role of a handmaid. Handmaids, who are chosen for their fertility, are assigned to high-profile couples who are unable to reproduce. The handmaid lives in the home of her assigned couple and is forced to procreate with the husband, providing a child for the couple. Offred’s struggle to change from her previous life to her role as handmaid is unveiled as the novel progresses. Will she be able to escape her place in society as kept woman, and if she does, what happens next?
This is a smart, complicated, and emotional page turner that I would recommend anyone read! The Handmaid’s tale falls at number 88 in the most frequently banned/challenged book list from 2000-2009.
Read a banned book today! Find the Top 100 list here.
Liz Cashman, Outreach and Development Coordinator