The novelization of life

I enjoy reading biographies because every life tells a good story. But, lately, I’ve been exploring the novelizations of real people. The Paris Wife: A Novel by Paula McLain, imagines the courtship and five-year marriage of Ernest Hemingway and the first of his four wives, Hadley Richardson. Told from Hadley’s point of view, the novel creates a vivid picture of the tenderness and toughness of two souls looking for love and companionship.

They marry after a courtship conducted mainly by correspondence, and move to Paris in 1921. He struggles with his writing and she is, at first, content to support, encourage, and cheer him on. Paris goes from dreary with rain and a cold, cramped apartment to exhilarating with friendships of talented and influential people — Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, Ezra Pound, James Joyce. Ernest remembered these years, late in life, in his sketches in A Moveable Feast. He wrote, “Paris was always worth it and you received return for whatever you brought to it. But this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy.”

Ernest and Hadley take in the bullfights in Spain, spend weeks in winter skiing in the mountain of Austria, sunbathe on the beach of the French Riviera. The Hemingways travel with friends, have dinner and drinks with friends at small bistros, commenting and arguing about relationships, art, writing, and life. A lot of drinks are consumed. All of this was raw material for Hemingway’s breakthrough novel, The Sun Also Rises. As he spent solitary time writing, Hadley found friendship and company with socialite Pauline Pfieffer. Glamorous, well-read, pretty Pauline and Ernest caught each other’s eye. Devastated, Hadley, unglamorous but loyal and true, fought to save her marriage, but it was doomed.

McLain’s skill and imagination transported me to past times and scenes and took me inside Hadley’s head, and my imagination embellished from there. The novelization of real people is a way to experience history and empathize with a person from the past. The novelist starts with the facts of a person’s life and adds flesh and nerves to the bone, thoughts and feelings to the mind and heart. I like that it’s a way to not only learn about someone, but to learn lessons from his or her life, triumphs as well as mistakes.

Another recent novelization that I enjoyed was The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin, about Anne and Charles Lindbergh. The novel takes a realistic look at a “fairytale” marriage, and conveys the exhilaration of the early days of aviation. Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Fowler is another entry in this field of books. We know plenty about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s point of view, but what about Zelda’s? Under the Wide and Starry Sky: A Novel by Nancy Horan, tells of Treasure Island author Robert Louis Stevenson’s long-time love affair with Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne.

What would a novelization of your life be like? Who would you want to write it? Would you want to read it?

Since 1950, the nonprofit organization the National Book Foundation has been awarding its American literary prize, the National Book Award. Each year, the foundation selects a new set of 20 published writers to serve as judges to choose books in four categories: Fiction, Non-fiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature. Books are submitted by publishers and must be written by an American citizen and published by an American publisher between December 1 of the previous year and November 30 of the current year. The judges read the nominees in each category and create a longlist announced mid-September followed by the list of finalists in mid-October. The winners of the National Book Award will be selected mid-November with finalists receiving a prize of $1,000, a medal, and a citation from the panel at a private Medal Ceremony and the four winners receiving $10,000 and a bronze sculpture. Below are the finalists from the Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Poetry categories with a link to the books in our catalog. The Young People’s Literature finalists are listed on our children’s blog here. For the longlist visit the National Book Foundation’s website.




Have you read any of these finalists? Will you?


Suggested (m)use: Dr. Dog

Dr. Dog via Flickr

Dr. Dog’s most recent album, B-Room, is still bouncing around a bit in my head.  I haven’t yet decided how I feel about that.  It’s just that, as with previous albums, the musical leaps this band makes often leave me waffling between two questions, “Are they trying too hard?” and “What if I listen to it one more time?”

Suggested Use: Put this in the rotation for your next low-lit porch party.  It’s mellow rock rhythms and occasional upbeat melodies seem as if they would facilitate the consumption of adult beverages, slouching conversation, and impromptu dance-downs, if that’s the sort of thing you’re into.



Author Fair November 9, 2013 035

Attendees at the 2013 Author Fair.

Photo: Megan Bell

ACPL’s Annual Author Fair will take place at the Main Library on Nov. 8 from noon until 3:00 pm. Whether you’re an avid reader or an aspiring writer, this is a great opportunity to meet and chat with published authors and buy their books. Writers representing a variety of genres including books for children, teens, nonfiction and historical fiction will be here to talk about their works.

Click here to see the authors who are attending.

Access Fort Wayne will be filming the panel discussions.

The staff of the Bookmark bookstore in Fort Wayne will assist the authors at the event by selling titles, thus enabling authors to interact with the audience and sign books. Ten percent of the proceeds will be donated to Friends of the Allen County Public Library, an organization which helps support the library’s services to the community.

World Food Day is tomorrow

Americans seem to be obsessed with food. Each branch of the Allen County Public Library has hundreds of cookbooks, books on what to eat, what not to eat, how and when to eat it as well as books on how to grow food. We watch people on television prepare food that we can neither smell nor taste. We discuss our last meal, our next meal, our cravings and our dislikes. We even have books about how we digest food. Is there anything about food that we don’t like to talk about?

Yes. We don’t like to admit that we have plenty while others have none.  There are many charitable organizations that try to give people around the world food security: the state of having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious foodMany people in developing countries, but also in the United States, do not have food security.  There is at least one day each year that we should talk about this.  World Food Day is October 16th, in honor of the date of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.  It is celebrated widely around the world by many organizations concerned with food security.  This year’s theme is Family Farming: Feeding the World, Caring for the Earth. The United Nations has named 2014 the International year of the family farm.

Did you know that more than 90% of the farms in the world are family farms?  I find that fact surprising.  It seems that it is harder and harder to keep family farms viable in the Midwest.  Many of the farmers I know work a second job in order to be able to afford to farm.  The farm pictured above is an Amish farm, so it is likely the children of the owner will also be farmers, but many children of farmers are leaving the farm.  It seems as if the corporate farms have taken over the farming industry.  But family farms still outnumber corporate farm.  It is to the family farm that we look to feed the world.  Not only do they produce more per acre with their farms, but growing indigenous products and maintaining biodiversity helps the environment as well as the food supply.  More plants per acre process more CO2 and produce more oxygen.

We can support family farms in the United States by shopping at farmer’s markets and stores that purchase produce from family farms.  World-wide we can support agencies that provide seeds and animals for families to begin their own farms.  Please consider making a donation on World Food Day to an organization of your choice.  The local food pantries always need donations and volunteers, and would appreciate your help.  If you donate to a worldwide organization, please research the charity for its effectiveness and history before you donate.  Enjoy your bounty on World Food Day, but take the time to reflect on food security for everyone and do something to make it happen.


Smoke Gets in Your Eyes coverI ran across a strange article in my Facebook feed a couple of weeks ago: That Time My Job Involved Tossing Dead Babies Into a Crematory.  Not your everyday job, for sure.  I had never considered that there is a person who must feed the bodies into the fire when they are cremated.  And I had certainly never considered that tiny babies’ bodies must be specially handled.  When babies die, it just feels so wrong. This woman’s experience was so odd, and so far from “normal,” yet she obviously took care and revered the sacredness of her duty. I found myself wanting to know more.

And I am in luck because this week, the author’s book came to our library: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory.  It is a popular title across the system already; all copies are currently checked out. But you can get on the still short holds lists. This topic is obviously not for everyone, but if you dig the above article, then this may be for you.

Katharine Fronk’s Booklist review of this title concludes: “Her sincere, hilarious, and perhaps life-altering memoir is a must-read for anyone who plans on dying.” I have always been interested in both the processes of birth and death, and can’t wait to get my hands on this book!

All about the books

No doubt you’ve heard the thumpy pop hit, “All About the Bass” by now. In an attempt to get more of the community registered for library cards, librarians at Nashville Public Library created a spoof — “All About the Books, No Trouble” — highlighting their many services. Even the library director (in the back row on maracas) and the communications director (on vocals) get in on the fun. I wonder if ACPL’s brand new director would be up for something like this?


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