A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Last year I saw Won’t You Be My Neighbor? and I honestly think it’s a shame that it didn’t win the Oscar for best picture, let alone receive any form of nomination. With that in mind, I had high hopes for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. I’d say this is a good film, but it has a different tone and focus from what I expected. The film itself is about the real events of Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) and how he came to know Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) in a difficult time in Lloyd’s life. There is almost a magical or mythical presence to Mr. Rogers which does come through amidst Lloyd’s troubles.

The film starts like an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Mr. Rogers sits down and shows us a picture board where he reveals a picture of Lloyd Vogel. He talks about how Lloyd got injured because he couldn’t forgive someone in his life. Mr. Rogers talks about how forgiveness can be very hard as it’s hard to know what to do with the anger we feel. We then transition through a toy set (like on the tv show) to Lloyd’s life.

We see Lloyd talking to his wife Andrea Vogel (Susan Kelechi Watson) about going to Lloyd’s sister’s third wedding. Lloyd learns his father Jerry (Chris Cooper) will be there and isn’t happy about it. At the wedding Jerry tried to confront Lloyd about their past and Lloyd ends up hitting him. Lloyd shoves and is then hit back by someone breaking up the fight. Lloyd goes into work the next day and lies about his injury to everyone saying it was from “softball.” Lloyd gets assigned to a piece about Mr. Rogers despite his objections. Lloyd gets to the set at his assigned time, only to learn the show is behind schedule again as Fred Rogers is spending time with a sick child. Lloyd eventually gets a chance to talk to Fred Rogers where Rogers asks Lloyd some questions as well, like what really happened to his nose.

The movie overall is a journey from Lloyd’s own cynicism to the bright disposition Fred Rogers seems to spread around himself. Lloyd does see though that Rogers is a genuine human who tries to do his best. The story is told in a rather creative fashion so that it feels that the entire film is taking part within a special episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. I think Tom Hanks does a fantastic job portraying Mr. Rogers. I will say though that last year’s Won’t You Be My Neighbor would at very least be a good companion piece to watch alongside this one as I think it helped better explore the life of Fred Rogers and explains the puppets a bit better. Overall this is an enjoyable film, with some darker topics than I was expecting. Rated PG.

Ryan

Jojo Rabbit

Sam Rockwell, Taika Waititi, Scarlett Johansson, Stephen Merchant, Alfie Allen, Rebel Wilson, Thomasin McKenzie, and Roman Griffin Davis in Jojo Rabbit (2019)

The topic matter is intended to be unsettling or uncomfortable with this film. It’s a dark comedy where they explore some unsettling historical events, so I’d say it’s not for everyone. I’ve enjoyed Taika Waititi’s films in the past including Hunt for the Wilderpeople and the better known Thor:Ragnarock. I was a bit apprehensive that it would be too comedic, disrespectful, or too sobering which would make it hard to watch. I think it struck the right balance and told us a story about a little boy living in a highly stressful environment, even if he doesn’t see it that way. 

The film starts off with a rather unsettling rendition of the Beatles’ I Want to Hold Your Hand used to introduce the fanaticism that Adolf Hitler elicited by comparing him in a way to the Beatles. We then meet Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) as he’s talking to his imaginary friend Adolf (Taika Waititi) to psyche himself up for Hitler Youth summer camp. He and other 10-year-old boys and girls including his best friend Yorki (Archie Yates) are going to learn the basics of becoming a Nazi. The boys do various training exercises like learning to shoot, throw grenades, fight, use their knives, and in general just prepare to go to war. As some older boys notice Jojo isn’t hurting anyone in a team battle, they decide to pick on him. 

The older boys try to force Jojo to kill a rabbit and when he refuses, they taunt him with the name “Jojo Rabbit” because he’s afraid like a rabbit. His imaginary friend Adolf and Yorki give him a bit of a pep talk and Jojo enthusiastically runs back during grenade training. Jojo takes a grenade from Captain Klenzendorf (Sam Rockwell). He throws the grenade and it bounces off a tree back at him. Jojo ends up being injured and he wakes up in a hospital to his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) looking at him. Jojo starts working for Captain Klenzendorf as his scars are deemed “too frightening” for the other children. As Jojo arrives home early one day he calls out for his mother and finds Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) hiding in a secret room. 

This movie really balances its topics and themes well. It’s clear that Jojo is just a boy, but what he’s raised to believe is something terrible. This movie doesn’t make any efforts to excuse his beliefs either, just try to explain them. We see the struggle of the other adults and children in this world who must deal with being in the middle of a war that they seem to be losing. This movie ranges from some silly jokes to some dark moments. I think many would enjoy this film or get something from the messages within. It’s certainly for people who enjoy a bit of history and dark humor. Rated PG-13. 

Ryan 

New Fiction Coming in February 2020

 

Check out some of the exciting new fiction coming to our shelves this winter. Whether you are looking for a literary fiction read, a historical page-turner, or biographical fiction, we have something for you!

 

 

02/04: The Lost Book of Adana Moreau by Michael Zapata – Decades after a 1929 Dominican immigrant writer passes away believing her final manuscript was destroyed, a Chicago lawyer discovers the book and endeavors to learn the woman’s remarkable story against a backdrop of Hurricane Katrina.

02/11: Above the Bay of Angels by Rhys Bowen – When a twist of fate lands her in Queen Victoria’s kitchen, a talented young chef is selected to accompany a royal retinue only to be wrongly implicated in a murder. By the New York Times bestselling author of The Tuscan Child and The Victory Garden.

 

 

02/18: Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin – When a brief but fateful encounter brings her together with one of the men originally suspected of killing her sister, Claire, hoping to gain his trust and learn the truth, forms an unlikely attachment with this man whose life is forever marked by the same tragedy.

02/18: The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica – Unnerved by her husband’s inheritance of a decrepit coastal property and the presence of a disturbed relative, community newcomer Sadie uncovers harrowing facts about her family’s possible role in a neighbor’s murder. By the New York Times bestselling author of The Good Girl.

 

 

 

02/25: Apeirogon by Colum McCann – Two fathers, a Palestinian and an Israeli, navigate the physical and emotional checkpoints of their conflicted world before devastating losses compel them to work together to use their grief as a weapon for peace. By the best-selling author of Transatlantic.

02/25: The Lost Diary of M by Paul Wolfe – A re-imagining of the life of Georgetown socialite Mary Pinchot Meyer traces her marriage to a CIA chief, presidential affair and LSD experiments before her baffling murder a year after JFK’s assassination.

~Semanur

New Nonfiction Coming in February 2020

 

Here are some nonfiction books to take a look at! Whether you’re looking for a new memoir, a WWII history title or an interesting new science book, we have something        for you!

 

02/04: Brother & Sister: A Memoir by Diane Keaton – The Academy Award-winning film star and best-selling author of Then Again presents a memoir of her complicated relationship with a beloved younger brother, who transitioned from a close sibling into a troubled and reclusive alcoholic.

02/04: Open Book by Jessica Simpson – An unstinting memoir by the pop artist and fashion icon traces the story of her life before and after fame, the role of faith in her achievements and her difficult decision to step out of the limelight. Guided by the journals she’s kept since age fifteen, and brimming with her unique humor and down-to-earth humanity, Open Book is as inspiring as it is entertaining.

 

 

02/11: Hold On, but Don’t Hold Still: Hope and Humor from My Seriously Flawed Life by Kristina Kuzmic – A popular speaker on family and parenting tells her story of ditching her fairytale dreams and falling in love with her unpredictable, chaotic, imperfect life. Delivering inspiration and “parenting comedy at its finest,” here is one woman’s story of ditching her fairytale dreams and falling in love with her unpredictable, chaotic, imperfect life.

02/11: Decoding Boys: New Science Behind the Subtle Art of Raising Sons by Cara Natterson – Citing the less-recognized behavioral tendencies of male adolescence that complicate communications between parents and children, a guide to raising teen boys shares strategic guidelines on effective parenting, managing screen time and understanding the sources of negative behavior. By the bestselling author of The Care and Keeping of You series and Guy Stuff: The Body Book for Boys.

 

 

02/11: In the Land of Men by Adrienne Miller – The author of The Coast of Akron traces her coming of age in the male-dominated 1990’s literary world, discussing her relationship with David Foster Wallace and her achievements as the first female literary editor of Esquire.

02/18: Dark Towers: Deutsche Bank, Donald Trump, and an Epic Trail of Destruction by David Enrich – The New York Times finance editor and award-winning author of The Spider Network presents a journalistic exposé of the scandalous activities of Deutsche Bank and its shadowy ties to Donald Trump’s business empire. Darkly fascinating and yet all too real, it’s a tale that will keep you up at night.

 

 

02/25: The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz  by Erik Larson – The #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Devil in the White City and Dead Wake draws on personal diaries, archival documents and declassified intelligence in a portrait of Winston Churchill that explores his day-to-day experiences during the Blitz and his role in uniting England.

02/25: Food Fix: How to Save Our Health, Our Economy, Our Communities, and Our Planet–one Bite at a Time   by Mark Hyman – The best-selling author of The Blood Sugar Solution explains how today’s agricultural policies have been compromised by corrupt influences, sharing insights into how everyday food choices shape chronic disease, climate change, poverty and other global crises.

 

~Semanur

Little Women

I’ve heard of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, but I’ve not seen any of the other film adaptations or read the book.  Stories of drama and romance aren’t something I actively seek, but I do try to push myself to experience something different on occasion. While initially a bit slow and honestly confusing from telling the story out of linear order, I see why this story has held the test of time. The main four characters are relatable, yet unique. The film is presented as a series of smaller stories of four women as they grow up and try to find both their purpose and happiness in life.

The story is set at an unspecified time and place during the American Civil War somewhere likely in the Northeastern United States. We’re introduced to Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) as she’s trying to sell a short story without admitting she wrote it. The publisher removes a page of the story about seeking a deeper meaning against her objections but agrees to pay her for the more scandalous parts of it. Jo heads home where she explains through narration that she’s been earning money to help support her family in her father’s absence. We are introduced to Amy March (Florence Pugh) who is away in Paris, France with Aunt March (Meryl Streep).

In Paris, Amy bumps into family friend Theodore “Laurie” Laurence (Timothée Chalamet) and they catch up before Amy asks if Laurie would like to pick her up for a dance. The movie then transitions to seven years ago to the March house where Jo, Meg March (Emma Watson), Amy, and Beth March (Eliza Scanlen) are getting ready to go to a party. At the party Jo runs into Laurie for the first time and admits to him that she was told not to dance as she burned her dress a bit. Laurie asks her outside to dance so the burned dress can avoid being seen. After the dance, it’s revealed Meg hurt her ankle dancing and needs to be taken home and Laurie offers his carriage to take them home. They go home to meet the very friendly Marmee March (Laura Dern) and we can see that this is a very happy household as the four girls relax after the dance.

I would say the biggest flaw of the movie is knowing when and where certain events are happening. It’s unclear at times if a character just isn’t home at the time or if they currently don’t live there like Amy’s trip to Paris. I do think telling the story out of order has some benefits as well since we know the results of certain events before seeing what leads up to them, which I feel gives us more opportunities to understand characters in certain context. The biggest strength of the movie really is the characters from their everyday to existential troubles. I think the title is apt in understanding the topic of the movie as while they are young, the main four women still must deal with what it means to be an adult in that time period. I left the theater with a satisfied feeling from this engrossing story. I feel curious about the other books from this series as I did enjoy it. I’m glad my first movie of 2020 was a good one. Rated PG.

Ryan

What we're reading so far….

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

The Dutch House is a story of siblings, Danny and Maeve Conroy, their obsessive connection with the iconic family house they lived in as young children and how their lives unfolded over the years.  The story is told through the eyes of Danny, younger of the two siblings.  We, as readers, watch Danny realize his life is peculiar, his childhood home is extraordinary, and the rooms and people of his childhood are more complex than he thought.  At times, the story resembles a fairy tale, with stepchildren and evil step mother, however, author, Ann Patchett, with such great compassion and wit, brings the story so alive that one can’t help but get hooked.  Get yourself on the holds list for this right now.  It was my favorite book of 2019.  In the meantime, treat yourself with any other book by Ann Patchett. Mary

Borne by Jeff VanderMeer

Borne by Jeff VanderMeer

VanderMeer quickly became one of my favorite authors after I read his amazing Southern Reach Trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, Acceptance) so I began reading Borne with high expectations. I’m happy to report that Borne does not disappoint and delivers more of the weird, literary, dark, dystopian science fiction that I had hoped for. In a destroyed city that is never named, readers meet the smart and resourceful scavenger Rachel. She tries her best to survive in the city with her partner Wick, gathering relics from abandoned buildings, rebuilding biotech, and trying to evade the gigantic, monstrous bear, named Mord. Mord enjoys flying above the city, eating whatever and whomever he pleases, and generally destroying all in his path. Mord is the creation of the evil and ominous Company, who appear to be responsible for not only Mord’s terrible presence but also the general collapse of the city and all of the terrifying and strange creatures who live there. Rachel finds a curious blob-like creature entangled in Mord’s fur one day while scavenging, and quickly discovers the blob is intelligent, talks, and is also growing at a rapid rate. She names the now tentacled discovery Borne, and things only get weirder from there. Nicole

That Darkness by Lisa Black

That Darkness by Lisa Black

That Darkness is the first in the Gardiner and Renner series. Maggie Gardiner is a forensic investigator for the Cleveland Police Department. Jack Renner is a homicide detective working a series of murders with the same cause of death but no other obvious connection. The more Maggie pores over the evidence, the more she suspects a vigilante killer who possibly has ties to the police department. When the evidence finally points to Jack, Maggie is confronted with a moral dilemma. Will she reveal Jack’s secret? Lisa Black is a former trace evidence specialist for the Cuyahoga County coroner and current CSI in Florida, and the crime scene details of the book are meticulously written and described. Jack’s vigilante serial killer story is introduced but not completely explained. Readers will have to continue the series for more details! I did, in fact, binge the series in it’s current entirety and it definitely gets better as they go along. Maggie and Jack tackle cases involving the murders of journalists, corrupt politicians, and teens living in a county facility. As they cover different cases they have to navigate the huge secret that defines their relationship. I look forward to more stories of fictional Cleveland crimes from Lisa Black.  Megan

Loom by Sarah Gridley

Loom by Sarah Gridley

I’m reading a book of poetry, Loom, by Sarah Gridley, which came out in 2013.  I had Sarah as a poetry teacher when I was briefly a student at Case, and she was wonderful for many reasons, so I could be biased.  But sometimes I think Sarah’s poetry is a kind of well-kept secret, not only in CLE but elsewhere as well, and that she deserves a wider audience.  Like other poets I love, including John Ashbery and Anne Carson, Sarah’s poetry gets pegged as “difficult,” but in a pejorative way – it’s too weird, people say, too interior, too lacking in narrative maybe, customary guideposts, something like that. But that’s exactly why I love Sarah’s poetry.  It is a kind of startling confrontation, because it forces you to trust your intuition, your heart, your own senses and your own mind, and encounter the poem without any preconceptions about what a poem should do, think, imagine or be.  Sarah’s poems are profoundly intelligent, open, spacious, deeply feeling-full, generous, fun, imaginative, and creative.  And the music of her poetry is her own – funny, wondering, modestly immodest, intimate. Check out Loom from RRPL, if you’re interested, and stay alert – her latest book of poems, Insofar, which won the Green Rose Prize from New Issues Press, chosen by Forest Gander, who won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry last year, is coming out later this year in April.  Andrew

Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula K. Le Guin

Recently I decided to take advantage of our large collection of digital audiobooks through ClevNet Overdrive to listen to audio versions of fantasy novels I haven’t yet read. I began with the iconic Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin. I am 4 books in and have enjoyed listening to each one immensely. Already being a fan of audio books, I have found this digital format very convenient as I am able to switch from device to device and pickup where I left off. Audio books have allowed me the chance to catch-up on books that I have been meaning to read. Would high recommend this series and this format. Greg

The Furies by Katie Lowe

The Furies by Katie Lowe

Violet begins the fall term as the new girl at Elm Hollow Academy, the site of witch hangings in the 17th century and the mysterious death of a student years later. Her home life has been unhappy since her father and sister died in a car crash, and her mother never mentally recovered from the tragedy. She expects to be a loner, like she has been since the accident, but is immediately taken under the wing of a wild and charming girl and her group of friends. They are part of an advanced study group with a teacher who studies ancient history and mythology as well as the rites and spells of the witches from long ago. Taught as history not practice, the girls nevertheless are drawn towards the idea of powerful women and powerful magic. They become increasingly wild and reckless as they learn the secrets of the women who came before them and begin to feel the power these women held. When one of the girls is violated, they swear revenge, and Violet is no longer sure of what is real, what is make believe, and what is magic. Sara

The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams

The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams

Journalist Lulu Randolph heads to Nassau in 1941 to investigate the governor, actually the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, for a popular New York magazine. Soon Lulu falls in love with Benedict Thorpe, a British scientist who is captured by the Nazis. Told in alternating chapters, It’s also the story of Benedict’s parents, Elfriede and Wilfred decades earlier. This is an exceptional historical novel full of romance, spies, intrigue, racial tension and murder. Emma

Collection Spotlight: the 300s

This is the first post in a series that wishes to highlight important aspects of a public library’s collection that might go unnoticed. (You can read the introductory post here.)  But before we start…. 

A public library doesn’t just have books, let’s be honest.  It has music, often in the form of CDs or digital tracks we can stream or even download through a streaming service like Hoopla.  It has movies, blueray and DVDs, often categorized by genres like drama, action, documentary, and comedy (but see our movie collection here at River, which also has a wonderful and unique foreign film section; and also definitely check out Kanopy, a free film streaming service offered by many public libraries (including River), which has an astonishingly high quality selection of films, especially in the documentary genre).  Public libraries have magazines and newspapers, concerning a variety of interesting topics – everything from culture to technology to books to the arts to politics to psychology to business to cars to philosophy and beyond – and these are resources that are unfortunately often very expensive to subscribe to, but can be read at your local public library for free.  And they have audiobooks and e-books and e-audio books and playaways, etc.

Now there is of course a very understandable emphasis nowadays in the public library world on digital collections – ebooks, e-audio books, e-magazines, film and music streaming, etc.  And that’s fine and good – I know I sometimes feel I need a book very quickly, and the Internet (via libraries, Amazon, but most especially, for me at least, the wonderful, fabulous Internet Archive) gives it to me, lickety-split. But sometimes we forget that public libraries are also gathering places, in the physical world, where you can slow down, disconnect from the admittedly rather frightening, time-devouring monster-tentacles of social media, turn the pages of an actual book, and sit next to a neighbor who is also reading something. I mean, where you can actually see your neighbor, give him or her or they a nod – and maybe strike up a conversation about something you share in common, or (better yet?) something you don’t, but which he or she or they might find interesting, anyways. Everyone has heard about how so many social institutions in our country are being eroded – social clubs, unions, families, government, places of worship – and how this erosion frays the threads that bind us together as a community, culture and country.  And that is troubling, no doubt about it, and we need to talk about this. But public libraries are places where we can practice each day to keep these threads tight and taut, and in doing so “talk about it.” Because, yes, of course it’s great and convenient to download a book on a Kindle.  But it’s also great, as Sherry Turkle has pointed out over and over, just to see and talk to actual human beings.

*

In today’s post, as I mentioned earlier, I’m not going to focus on music, movies, newspapers or magazines, but on books, which are still (and I think should be) the bread and butter, the heart, of a library’s collection. And I’m going to focus on one of my favorite sections in the library, the 300s, which I’m guessing many people might not be totally aware of. What does “the 300s” refer to?

The 300s is a Dewey Decimal Number that stands for a very large category called the “social sciences.”  In that sense, the 300s are exactly what they sound like – they are the numbers on the spines of books that start with 300 and end with 399. (When you look for a book in an online library catalog, the “call number,” which is the Dewey Decimal Number for most public libraries, will be what you use to find the book on the shelf.)  Every single book in the 300s will be about the social sciences.  Okay, so what are the social sciences?

Well, look at the phrase – “social sciences.” The social sciences are a bunch of different ways or lenses (“science” means “knowledge” in Latin) for thinking about and looking at society (“social”).  Are they sciences, like hard physical sciences – physics, chemistry, astronomy?  Well, not really. Are they like the humanities – literature, poetry, fiction, visual art, film, music, where people “make stuff up” and are super imaginative, we could say?  Well, no, they’re not like that either. So what the heck are they?

The social sciences are more squishy that the hard sciences and harder than the humanities, let’s say.  Or we could say, more philosophically (and probably contentiously), if the humanities are primarily concerned with beauty, the self, and subjectivity, and science is concerned with truth, nature and objectivity, the social sciences are considered with ethics, culture and inter-subjectivity.  (The threads that bind us together.)  But all this is too abstract.  Here are the main topics within the 300s:

Sociology

Anthropology

Statistics

Political Science

Economics

Law

Military Science

True Crime/Criminology

Education

Commerce

Customs and Etiquette

Folklore

*

Okay, now that we’ve got that covered, let’s look at actual particular physical (and of course digital, since we are writing and reading this online) examples.  But first, look at this:

What do you see?

This is a view of some shelves here at River. But that sticker on the shelf on the left – that shows us what call numbers can be found all down that row, starting with the 280s (religions) all the way through the 300s, ending at the 330s (economics).  So what books can be found in the 300s?

Well, let’s look at one example (talk about pressure!).  Here’s our example:

The first picture is the cover – and book covers I think are always fun to look at and wonder about, though bestseller covers (Patterson, Danielle Steele, etc.) can, let’s be honest, be kind of homogeneous and uninspiring – along with the title, author’s name, and the name of the author who wrote the foreword.

The second picture is the call number – 305.800973.  And the 305’s are….”social groups.”  Okay, so what’s this book about? Well, here’s an excerpt from a review from the NY Times.  (Book reviews published by good sources of information, like the NY Times, for the most part, are great ways, probably the best ways, to help us make decisions about what to read and therefore what to spend our valuable time on and with; this particular review was written by a journalist from the Times named Lauretta Charlton, who is also an editor and music columnist):

In the essays, written between 1994 and 2018, Pinckney reports from the streets of Ferguson, Mo., in the aftermath of the death of Michael Brown. He traces the ways in which the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s fiery sermons nearly derailed Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008. He charts, block by block, the gentrification of Harlem, and visits a recovering New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, where he tells the story of the ham.

In “How I Got Over,” he reflects on black expatriates — from Richard Wright to James Baldwin, Pinckney’s lodestar — who left for Europe to escape Jim Crow, only to witness racism by another name: Islamophobia.

But what stands out in this collection are the moments when Pinckney turns his eye toward the contradictions of the black bourgeoisie, of which he is a longtime member. Pinckney grew up in a middle-class family, in the 1960s, when being black and middle class often meant being accused of “trying to act white,” he writes. His mother and father were civil rights foot soldiers who in their spare time would do things like sue their hometown police department to force it to desegregate. His father “hawked N.A.A.C.P. memberships in airport men’s rooms.” His mother’s cousin was lynched in 1931, while a student at Atlanta University.

 

This blog post is not exactly about the content of books, so much as just making one hopefully more aware that important content such as this is not only available, but free with a library card.  But I should say that Pinckney is a novelist, playwright and essayist, and that I personally enjoy Pinckney’s writing, and sometimes read his essays in a magazine called The New York Review of Books.  But also, and more importantly, the book has gotten good reviews, and would therefore not be a bad place to start if one wishes to explore the social sciences, race relations, racial discrimination, and African American culture.

Well, that’s our collection spotlight post for today. But just think about how many examples there are out there – many of which have received good book reviews from people who are experts in their respective fields – from all the various branches of the social sciences – politics, economics, law, education, true crime, criminology, military science, anthropology, folklore, etiquette, commerce, customs, statistics, sociology.  I mean, basically, the sky is the limit. And public libraries are avenues, which cost no money at all, for rocketing right up there into the illuminating blue.