“National Poetry Month in April is a special occasion to celebrate the importance of poets and poetry in our culture. In this time of uncertainty and great concern, we can rely on poems to offer wisdom, uplifting ideas, and language that prompts reflection that can help us slow down and center mentally, emotionally, spiritually.” – Poets.org, The Academy of American Poets
Poetry has always brought a sense of calm to me regardless of the state of the world, so I hope our patrons find comfort in this poem by Joyce Kilmer. Visit poets.org to learn more about the National Poetry Month celebration and to read more wonderful verse from our nation’s poets.
We want everyone to stay connected with the Library at this time!
If you have a library card with overdue fine-restrictions, if you have a library card that has expired or is about to, or if you are eligible for a library card but don’t have one yet, we want to make sure LFPL’s digital resources are available for you during the COVID-19 related closure.
That’s why we have decided to temporarily make the following changes: 1) New Library cards will be granted virtually – follow directions atwww.lfpl.org/get-card.htm 2) Restrictions due to overdue fines and replacement fees have been lifted 3) Expired and soon-to-be expired library cards are extended until June 1st 4) All holds have been extended to 21 days so that your current holds will be here when we reopen 5) Late fees are suspended at this time so don’t worry about returning materials to the Library until we reopen
I’m not going to lie, the title was the first thing that drew me to this book. Even though I am a library assistant, my bachelor’s degree is in Criminal Justice and Criminology so I’ve always wondered how a library would work in a prison. I knew they existed because of the classes I took in college but I didn’t learn how they would work.
One thing which I discovered while reading this book is how similar working in a prison library is to working in a public library. You still have the same patron looking for the newest James Patterson or other bestselling authors. You still have patrons asking random (sometimes off-the-wall) questions, seeking legal advice, and wanting the daily paper.
But I also learned what makes them different. A patron looking for the latest bestseller may be stymied due to prison rules and regulations about content. Further, budgetary considerations mean that patrons have to wait until a book is available in paperback. Also, prison libraries are subject to quite a bit of censorship, which for the most part is something that doesn’t exist in public libraries.
Reading Behind Bars isn’t a fast-paced memoir, but it was an informative read about one librarian’s first job and the lessons she learned along the way. This is an important memoir for librarians and library employees. Any reader, as well as those employed in the criminal justice field, may learn something from this memoir.
I recently finished a collection of stories by the Swedish author Helene Tursten called An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good. The book contains five short stories about a the life of a very elderly matron, Maud, and how she deals with people who step into her sphere. These stories got my attention with their dark humor, mystery, and insight into how other cultures look at life (and murder) in a more raw and crude manner.
The first story, An Elderly Lady Has Accommodation Problems, introduces Maud in her apartment when a young art graduate. Jasmin is seeking to take over Maud’s apartment because of its roomier size and prettier view of the skyline. When Maud gets sense of the young lady becoming too friendly, things begin to change. After multiple visits to see Maud and her dwelling, Jasmin invites Maud to come look at her apartment decorated with phalluses in multiple shapes and sizes. Read on.
In An Elderly Lady on Her Travels, Maud visits Sardinia to unwind and take care of family. While there, she reminisces about various excursions to Cairo and the South Pole. In this one story you come to understand how Maud continues to be the one family member who takes care of others before herself. She even does so through many challenges, such as taking care of her mentally ill sister.
Other tales include a tale of Christmastime in Sweden with a twist of mystery when she hears loud voices next door and learns of an “accident” to her neighbor. Maud senses there is a bigger story behind the accident than what was told and is determined to get to the real truth.
You wake up in a house…Blackheath House to be specific, but knowledge of its name will come later. And you find yourself in a body you don’t recognize as your own.
There are three rules of Blackheath
Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered
at 11:00 p.m.
There are eight days, and eight
witnesses for you to inhabit.
We will only let you escape once you
tell us the name of the killer.
I adore a good mystery, it’s my favorite genre and this one takes the cake. It’s a different take on the traditional murder mystery; twisty, cunning and quite ingenious in my opinion. It is so complexly layered there may be times in the book, particularly through the beginning, you feel yourself bewildered and lost.
But hang on! Store each little scrap of information in the back of your mind and it all comes brilliantly together.
Recently and quite by chance, I came across mention of a book entitled Dining with the Famous and Infamous published in 2016 and authored by Fiona Ross. Now, whenever the opportunity arises to mix different things I enjoy into one experience, I typically leap with little thought. Since I consider myself a person with rather broad proclivities toward the gastronomic along with an inclination for the printed word, with this book involving both, I placed a reserve on it immediately. When it arrived, I was not disappointed.
The book contains five chapters that divide the diners into categories, with each person begin given a mere four or five pages each: artists, movie stars, musicians, writers, and “the nuts.” This is an outstanding format in that it allows the reader to jump from person to person based on his or her personal preferences. I admit that I began with the writers, with Evelyn Waugh first up to bat and being introduced with the following:
Cecil Beaton’s diaries famously record the death of Evelyn Waugh in 1966: “Evelyn Waugh is in his coffin. Died of snobbery.”
Well, a good laugh is an excellent way to begin any reading, really. And it continued on to C.S. Lewis:
He had unusual views about boiled eggs, though: when Roger Lancelyn Green offered Lewis a hard-boiled egg on the train from Oxford to Cambridge, he refused. “No, no, I musn’t!” insisted Lewis. “It’s supposed to be an aphrodisiac. Of course, it’s all right for you as a married man – but I have to be careful.”
While unshakably partial towards the writer, I must be honest that the anecdotes relating to movie stars and musicians were quite a bit spicier (and I refer not to the food), and I am fond of spice. From Liz Tylor’s love affairs with food (and men) to the whirlwind/tornado/tsunami that was the The Rolling Stones of the 1960s, the stories paint a picture of decadence that is apparently the status quo in the world of the halls of rock and the silver screen.
Ms. Ross would be remiss if recipes were omitted. Highlights include:
As a budding musician, I’ve been lucky to grow up in Louisville. Being influenced by the movement and history of this scene has created a solid foundation to explore my interests. It serves as a trusty anchor that reminds me to stay engaged with music culture. Thankfully, your local library likes to support this scene in a handful of ways, one of which is by carrying a whole bunch of CD’s produced by local artists!
As always, you can check these things out FOR FREE! I don’t have an exact count, but our local music catalog is around 600 items and is constantly growing. I haven’t heard all of them, but I’ve heard quite a few and I’m always impressed with it. Below are 5 albums from our catalog that I highly recommend – in no particular order.
This was released right before I noticed our local scene and they were a fan favorite of the community I found for their memorable performances. This chaotic, noodly, and ecstatically positive punk record has left a lasting impression on my musicianship and taste. These members have made music elsewhere in bands like Xerxes, August Moon, Whips/Chains, and Cereal Glyphs to name only a few. Also, listen to a Rhode Island band called Tiny Hawks for a reference on this style of Punk.
This band started in 1998, and though they have a couple of LP’s, this EP stands as my favorite release. The atmosphere they present in this is so pleasant and shimmery that it captures a comforting nostalgic quality. Stylistically, this is an “Indie Rock” band but their identity is unique with complex songwriting and an intriguing sonic palette. I find this somewhere between Sonic Youth’s Experimental or No Wave take on Indie Rock and the poppy dreaminess from someone like The Cocteau Twins.
This is the last release in a career that started in 1996. It was recorded live at Skull Alley and the energy that comes through is killer. This band helped define the “Louisville Sound” and Post-Rock in the 90’s with its dark aesthetic, mathy time signatures, avant-garde construction, and spoken word vocal performances. If you like Noise Rock and Post-Hardcore in bands like Shellac or SWANS, this refined and uniquely Louisville approach will come off as tasteful, elegant, and sublime.
If Shipping News helped define Louisville and Post-Rock, this album is the progenitor. This blurb won’t do justice like the books or documentaries about it, but this broke the rules of Rock music and its influence is seen around the world. If The Beatles wrote the blueprint for the “Rock Band”, Slint deconstructed that and put an existential memoir next to it. I can’t point to similar music other than Post-Rock bands to come after it, but if you are moved by something like Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, you’ll admire this reformation.
Though I might call this a “Punk” record for its explosive attitude, it bears little resemblance to many Emo/Hardcore conventions from someone like Mountain Asleep. This album is weird, angular, and discordant, all while being very catchy and dancey. I love the short songs, most being under 2 minutes and none reaching the 3-minute mark. Imagine the oddly sexy, dancey vibes of The Blood Brothers, the abrasion from Mindless Self Indulgence, and the stripped-down instrumentation from Pre.
“It is hard to have patience with people who say, ‘There is no death’ or ‘Death doesn’t matter.’ There is death. And whatever is matters. And whatever happens has consequences, and it and they are irrevocable and irreversible. You might as well say that birth doesn’t matter.”
― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
In 1961, C. S. Lewis published A Grief Observed, a book about the death of his wife and his journey through his grief. Nearly sixty years later, people are still connecting with Lewis’ words. I read A Grief Observedlast January, a few years after losing a dear friend. Lewis affirmed my thoughts and feelings again and again and I wished that I had read it years before when I was in the midst of my grief. Death affects all of us. The loss of a loved one is at some point brought before us and yet still we often fumble in our interactions about grief and with the griever. I think Lewis says it best when he says:
“I see people, as they approach me, trying to make up their minds whether they’ll ‘say something about it’ or not. I hate if they do, and if they don’t.”
― C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
You can’t help but feel Lewis’ deep love and subsequent anguish at the loss of his wife. His words ring true as he describes the anguish, the emptiness, the anger and finally the desideratum surrounding a life partner taken too quick. Lewis puts words to an experience all face but few can articulate in quite a poignant manner. He writes:
“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing. At other times it feels like being mildly drunk or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.”
– C. S. Lewis,A Grief Observed
How often have those who have been in a period of loss felt that restlessness with a listlessness that makes it hard to be? You can’t really sit still because you need to move before you drown further in the sadness that has grabbed hold of all of you. If you are there and you need help facing life after death, I highly recommend A Grief Observed. I recommend it for anyone who wants to witness fierce love and loss and becoming who you will be without, all that you were before.
“Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.
But no, that is not quite accurate. There is one place where her absence comes locally home to me, and it is a place I can’t avoid. I mean my own body. It had such a different importance while it was the body of H.’s lover. Now it’s like an empty house.”
Rather than a collection of books, here’s a pair of books that enrich each other if read together!
Content Warning: contains depictions of animal abuse. (Yes, especially for Black Beauty. Wait, you don’t remember that? Read the unabridged version, they probably cut all the really harrowing bits to make it more palatable for kids.)
Let’s talk about the changing place of animals in society!
Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eatby Hal Herzog is built on the premise that animals that live in close association with humanity are framed by human cultures in terms of three broad categories: pets, vermin, and livestock. Different cultures might construct the categories along different lines, or even apply them to individuals rather than entire species, but the book nevertheless seeks to apply this theoretical framework to all of them in order to better understand the place of animals in the human world. Interesting topic, and the first of two books to bookend this discussion.
Complications and Guinea Pigs
While Herzog’s book is certainly valuable, there’s a lot of nuance in current and historical cultures that complicate things, and for that, let’s talk about the very strange ride guinea pigs have had. Today, in the continental USA, we see them as pets, a popular choice for the classroom, or children. Alternatively, they’re the proverbial lab animals, which isn’t quite the same as a pet or livestock, but isn’t vermin, despite the fact that the other major lab animal, rats, are definitely thought of as pests before pets outside an experimental setting. Guinea pigs as a species already occupy a complex place in our society, and it used to be even weirder.
Historically, and currently, in the cultures of the Andes which created the domestic guinea pig, the animal is a highly regarded food source, called cuy in Peru (cuyes, plural). Okay, so I might have to have to ease you into this if you didn’t know already. You know how there’s the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and Cattlemen’s Beef Association, dedicated to promoting the use of beef in American kitchens? It’s what’s for dinner. They’ve got beef recipes, and information, and function as a means for beef producers to communicate about the state of the industry, as well as make beef look as good as possible to the public. There’s a similar industry and promotional board in Peru, for guinea pigs, and they have a website, too: Cuy Peru. More than worth a click if you can read Spanish, and even if you can’t. Just brace yourself for whole roasted guinea pig, like we do chicken here. (Scroll almost to the bottom for recipes.) So, pet in one culture and livestock in another, simple, right? No. The guinea pig had a long breakout career in Europe as a status symbol, more akin to a fancy watch, designer purse, or car than a pet or even a purse dog.
At the time the Spanish brought guinea pigs back, European cultures had a very different relationship with animals than we do today, mostly because the framework of morality in general was very different. In this context, it didn’t matter whether animals could think and feel, because morality was about sin, and the God-given order. This is how there were pig trials in the middle ages – a killer pig was acting out of this order, and it was up to human ecclesiastical court systems to put it to rights. (If you’re wondering why a pig would kill someone, the answer is that they’re seriously omnivorous, and are absolutely capable of killing and eating people, especially if the person is unconscious or can’t get up under their own power at the time. That’s why it’s such a big deal in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy falls in the pig pen. At the time, I guess people would have known this. Modern audiences probably don’t have enough experience with farm animals to recognize the danger. Anyway, just go to your search engine of choice and look for “killed and eaten by pigs” for a nicely horrifying roundup of the recent cases.) Animals, in this framework, were there to be used by humanity as we saw fit. This led to a huge amount of horrible animal abuse, society-wide and often formalized. I’m not talking about bullfighting alone, either, more like bull-baiting, bear-baiting, rat-baiting, anything-baiting, organized fights between basically any animal that will fight, goose pulling, cock throwing, and fox tossing, just to list a few.
I chose the fox tossing example above, because this is the time period that saw the rise of the guinea pig in European culture. Arriving from South America with the silver galleons, guinea pigs acquired an association with this trade, and the power and wealth that came from it. Guinea pigs featured in portraits to underline elite status, and guinea pigs also played a starring role in still life paintings, whose purpose was often a visual treatise on the dominance of the expanding European trade empires. Here’s some weird European guinea pig art.
Britain and Horses
Eventually, though, there was a major shift in the calculus of European morality, a key part of which was an equally major re-evaluation of the way in which animals were treated. Beginning in the late 1600’s, and concluding in the mid 1800’s, new measures of morals emerged, focusing on the idea of avoiding doing harm and being compassionate. It was believed that compassion shown to animals mirrored a person’s capacity for compassion to their fellow human beings, and so kindness became a new standard of behavior. The series of prints by Hogarth, The Stages of Cruelty, presents a moral along these new lines, just as the idea began to get popular traction, and here’s a link to the Tate Museum’s online exhibit on the print series so you can examine it in further detail. In a nutshell, the inevitable end result of animal cruelty is that it becomes cruelty to humans, which ends in the murderer’s corpse getting dissected by surgeons in public, as was the practice at the time.
Protip: if you have to propagandize about morals, they’re new and need to be taught.
Although modern ideas of the right way to treat animals come from the Enlightenment and Victorian Sentimentalism, a much more similar place than the earlier medieval framework, there are some key differences. Emerging nationalism also played a vital role, and in the case of Britain, the way in which people should treat horses in particular became a defining cultural touchpoint that persists to this day. In case you were curious, here’s a retrospective on the Great Horsemeat Contamination Scandal of 2013. The book that in large part forged this identity was Black Beauty.
Black Beauty follows the life of the eponymous horse through a series of thoughtless and cruel masters, highlighting the way in which horses were used and abused, and advocating for better treatment by tugging at the readers’ heartstrings rather than laying out a rational argument, in contrast to Hogarth.
Ultimately, filtering down to us from Hogarth’s time, and Anna Sewell‘s, our own cultural sorting scheme for animals settles into the categories outlined by Hal Herzog in Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat. It has only been two and a half centuries, yet we take this understanding for granted.
Available in book, downloadable ebook and audiobook formats.