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The 15-Minute Pulitzer

http://redclayreport.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/ellen-glasgow.jpg?w=117&h=293

Image via Red Clay Report

With Bette Davis, no less.  I’d be curious to see if the movie version of, In This Our Life, (Ellen Glasgow’s 1942 Pulitzer win) manages to capture the tactile desperation contained in the final pages of the novel.  That desperation (rage, disillusionment, etc.) is interesting because at the end of the day, these are characters who come home to a servant preparing their meals for them.  I think the servants are part of the reason the angst in the opening passages of the book rings hollow, but then, as one reads on, the depth of suffering does begin to make an impression (that is, to impress).  At least at one point, the novel becomes a rather invigorating page turner, although, I confess, something like schadenfreude had a lot to do with that.

Glasgow is reputed to have once commented that “her best work was done when love was over.”  That made me giggle.  For me, it was a rather “sagacious” (the word I believe Glasgow would have used) comment, existing somewhere in the shadowland between Jaded and Mercenary.  It also summed up a notion Glasgow’s novel had raised in me.  The notion that she had, at least once in her life and all giggling aside, suffered greatly from love.

A highly-educated member of an eminent Virginia family, Glasgow never married, though she was engaged twice.  I’m not convinced that those broken engagements mean she was pushed around and put off by men, though.  In fact, I’m kind of leaning towards thinking of her as a semi-deliberate and intermittently brilliant heart-breaker.  I don’t know.  You gaze along her profile and into her prose and tell me what you think.

Small Cover ImageRecently I’ve been watching The History Channel’s hit show Vikings.  Currently in its second season, the show is inspired by the legendary tales of the ninth century Viking chieftain Ragnar Lothbrok.  Watch a recap of season 1 below:

I typically enjoy historical dramas, but I’m always left wondering just how historically accurate the show is and wanting to learn more about the time and people portrayed.  ACPL has some great resources to do just that.

The Vikings: Culture and ConquestSmall Cover Image by Martin Arnold explores the Vikings’ military prowess as well as their values, art, religion, and family life.  Encyclopaedia of the Viking Age by John Haywood is an excellent quick resource for researching the people, places, and practices of the Vikings.  For an exploration of Viking culture through literature, check out Arthur Cotterell’s Mythology of the Norse Gods: Myths and Legends of the Nordic World.  If documentaries are more your style, NOVA’s The Vikings looks beyond the Vikings’ reputation as ruthless warriors to discover their affinity for shipbuilding, art, and trade .  For a different take on a fictional depiction of Ragnar Lothbrok, try the 1958 film The Vikings, starring Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis.

If you’ve not seen The History Channel’s Vikings and would like to, ACPL now has season 1 on DVD.

For those of you who remember those first frozen meals that we called, “TV dinners,” weren’t they fun?  The food was mediocre to bad — a chicken drumstick, mushy peas, fake mashed potatoes. But, it was the novelty that made it cool to eat out of an aluminum tray on a folding stand in front of the console TV watching Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color or Bonanza on a Sunday evening.

amanky via flickr.com

amanky via flickr.com

Frozen meals have come a long way since then.  There are low-calorie gourmet offerings of lemon-pepper chicken with a side of rice pilaf, vegetarian meals, Thai, Mexican, and Italian choices.  There is still an attractive convenience factor to frozen meals as a time-saver and the plastic trays can be recycled.  But a recent newspaper article was headlined, “Nestle’s frozen foods market drops sharply.”  We learn that two-fifths of U.S. adults say frozen dinners have little nutritional value, and the Lean Cuisine sales have dropped by more than a quarter in the past five years.  Lean Cuisine’s competitors, Healthy Choice and Weight Watchers have also seen sales declines in the double digit percentages in the past year.

This is a sharp contrast to 1981, when Nestle introduced the low-calorie Lean Cuisine meals and sales tripled in the first year.  Nestle was forced to ration supplies to retailers!  What changed?  The article attributes declining sales to the recession, which caused customers to prepare more meals from scratch, for less cost.  A mother of two from Charlottesville, Virginia, is quoted as saying, “It’s not hard to make stuff from scratch.  I know what I’m putting in the food.  It’s less processed and it tastes better.”

As well as the recession, the movement to eat more locally grown foods, even home grown foods, is catching on.  Farmers markets are proliferating, and grocery store chains are featuring more organic and local foods.  People are more aware of the pitfalls of overly processed food full of artificial flavor and color.  Silicon dioxide?  Propyl gallate?

Not everyone has the space or time to cultivate their own food in their own yard.  We wish we could.  One delightful perk of living in Amish country is the chance to buy their produce and pies and breads at farmers markets.  And if you venture out among their farms and gardens during the summer months, as I do on my bicycle, you can vicariously have a garden.  Amish gardens are usually large and colorful, growing corn, squash, cucumbers, radishes, and beans, as well as several rows of vibrant zinnias, petunias, begonias, and bachelor’s buttons.  That is why a new book, An Amish Garden: A Year in the Life of an Amish Garden, by Laura Ann Lapp, caught my eye.  With beautiful photographs and chatty prose, Lapp relates the chores and delights of tending a large garden and harvesting the results.  She even makes her own pizza sauce from scratch with tomatoes she has grown, tomatoes that she preserves for the winter.  Lapp says her family likes her pizza sauce so much they will never eat bottled, store-bought sauce again.  I believe her!  That is the ultimate in farm-to-table, locally grown eating, and more power to it.

bunny-name-tag1

Spring is really here, right?  Right?

~Wojo WiggleNose

 

Saturday Smile

I figured it out!  I know why we are S L O W today.  It is not because this is a holiday weekend. It is not because the weather is so beautiful. It is because according to Chase Calendar of Events today is National Hanging Out Day

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and people have chosen to hang out  . . . their clothes! All other days that we are open, the library is a great place to hang out! Happy National Library Week!

I will admit for the past several years I have been on the young adult trilogy and saga bandwagon. It began with a “vegetarian” vampire family living peacefully in Washington, which turned into a poor, young woman fighting an evil government on live television, which then became a teen boy and girl in a small, Southern town fighting a curse upon the females in her family, that ultimately became about a young woman daring to leave her family, push herself against all odds, and fight a system that was corrupt. I cannot tell you which of these series was my favorite as they all appealed in one way or another, however I did devour the dystopian society books.

DivergentI read Divergent in a weekend. It was so riveting, and I wanted to read the book before the movie came out. This past weekend I went to see the film Divergent all by myself. It was great. The popcorn was great, the giant Coke was great, the miniature Snickers were great, being by myself was great, and the movie was great. So very often these movies fall short of everyone’s expectations. They tweak the storyline to fit the time allotted, the characters do not fit the vision we created, and/or they leave too much out.

I did not feel like that at all. This movie totally lived up to the hype I created about it. The main characters were tough, good-looking, and, dare I say it, had a ton of sex appeal. Tris and Four seemed genuinely attracted to one another, and it was not awkward or strained. They really had nothing keeping them apart. He did not flinch away from her because she smelled overly delicious when she entered the room, and they were not faking or denying their attraction for the cameras. That in itself was a refreshing change of pace.

The other aspect of the film I greatly appreciated was the balance of action and non-action scenes. Some of the fight scenes were pretty gritty and I found those hard to watch, but they did not last long and the scene following was generally less intense. I also appreciated the fact that Tris knew she belonged in Dauntless, the faction she choose for herself, despite unclear direction and male figures in the faction trying to dissuade her. She was strong and courageous and those traits really appealed to me. I love the fact that she did not need her family’s approval, or anyone else’s. She was who she was and she was not trying to please anyone else. I can honestly say this movie did not disappoint me like Twilight and Beautiful Creatures did. In my opinion they got this one right and I am very excited for the second movie, which is to be released in late 2015.

This past weekend saw the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the first film from Marvel Studios in 2014, the second movie detailing the Captain America story (or third if you count Marvel’s The Avengers) and the ninth film in Marvel Studio’s three-stage initiative to get a large chunk of their characters and universe to the silver screen.  Marvel fans have even more cause for celebration this year as other Marvel franchises that have been purchased by other film studios are also seeing new films, and there is definitely pressure there to produce films of the same caliber as the wildly popular Marvel Studio’s output.

Columbia Pictures is bringing us The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in May, the second film of the rebooted Spider-man series to star Andrew Garfield, and the trailers promise not one, but three proper adversaries for Spidey to juggle with his web-slinging abilities.   The trailer shows that like last summer’s Man of Steel, the fight sequences look more like a video game than live action, but I’d be hard-pressed to say they are anything less than spectacular.  This might be a good candidate for the 3D screening.  I’m particularly excited to see Jamie Foxx as the sinister Electro.

May will also see the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, which many fans are hoping to be a return to form for the franchise.  While this is the seventh X-Men film from 20th Century Fox, it comes after two Wolverine side stories that seemed separate from the universe at large and X-Men: First Class, a prequel that, while entertaining, used its 1962 setting as an excuse to cast a host of younger actors into the iconic roles and didn’t do much to advance the stories of the characters.  Days of Future Past sees the return of director Bryan Singer, director of the first two (and best-regarded) X-Men films, and the story appears to be super ambitious, involving two different times periods in which the iconic characters interact with past versions of themselves.

What I’m most excited for is Marvel Studios’ second offering of this year, Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel’s first foray into highlighting what we can safely call their B-list of heroes.  I know there might be one or two fans out there I’ve just upset by that, but given the massive popularity of recent Marvel flicks, I think it’s safe to say that there were millions of film-goers who had never heard Continue Reading »

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