Tag Archives: Trevor @ WPL

The Queen of Crime

Very few of us are what we seem.” Agatha Christie

Before your James Pattersons and your Patricia Cornwells, your M.C. Beatons and your Gillian Flynns, there was Agatha Christie.

Agatha Christie wrote what we would call today “Cozy Mysteries”. She wrote them before the term even existed. She pretty much invented and popularized the genre. The elements of a “cozy” mystery remain popular today: Not much “on page” violence or sex, the setting: a small quaint village, preferably seaside, or someplace exotic, like a train or Egypt, and the most important element: an amateur sleuth. Maybe we could call her books “proto-cozy”?

Agatha Christie is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the best-selling author of all time, and ranks third in the world for the most widely published books, behind The Bible and Shakespeare.

Agatha Christie, surrounded by some of her 80-plus crime novels.

Her 1926 novel, “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” was voted “best crime novel ever” by the 600 members of the Crime Writers Association in 2013, and her novels “And Then There Were None” and “Murder on the Orient Express” remain favourites to this day.

There has been a sudden surge of interest in Ms. Christie’s writings again. As this recent Globe and Mail article points out, the BBC has greenlit seven new television productions over the next 4 years, Kenneth Branagh is remaking “Murder on the Orient Express” with himself as Poirot, “Twin Peaks” co-creator Mark Frost is developing a new Miss Marple series, and “Downton Abbey” creator Julian Fellowes is working on “Crooked House”. That’s a pretty decent resumé for someone who passed away over 40 years ago.

In addition to being a novelist, Agatha Christie wrote 19 plays, which may be one of the reasons she was chosen for the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre’s “Master Playwright Festival” in 2017. Running from February 8-26, there are a number of interesting productions and showings around the city related to Agatha Christie and her life and work.

You can see the whole line-up at RMTC’s website.

The Millennium Library is hosting three free movies related to Agatha Christie during the Festival.

You can start things off by watching the PBS documentary “The Mystery of Agatha Christie”, hosted by David Suchet on February 14.

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Then you can check out a Miss Marple mystery, “Murder She Said” on Wednesday, February 15th.

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On the following Tuesday, February 21, you can see the late great Sir Peter Ustinov as Hercules Poirot in “Death on the Nile”.

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All movies start at 6:30 pm and are in the Carol Shields Auditorium of the Millennium Library downtown.

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Fair Isle Felonies

My wife and a friend get together for supper and knitting on a regular basis. I’m usually around too, but often get outvoted on what to stick on the TV when the knitting starts. I’m happy to report that we’ve found a series on which we can all agree. It’s called Shetland and is produced by the BBC.

The first 3 seasons are available through Netflix, and WPL has a DVD of Seasons 1 and 2, if you are interested.

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It is a police procedural centered on Detective Jimmy Perez, who works on the remote Shetland islands off the coast of Scotland. (His Spanish sounding surname is explained by the fact that his ancestor was a shipwrecked survivor of the Spanish Armada way back in 1588, although you’d be hard pressed to see the resemblance in actor Douglas Henshall’s blonde hair and fair complexion.)

Each story (in the first couple of seasons anyway) takes two full episodes to tell, so the writers really give the characters time to breathe and develop. There are many moody, atmospheric shots of the Shetland Islands throughout, and knitting enthusiasts will love to check out all the woolly knitwear sported by the locals (if you’re into that kind of thing).

The series is based on the award winning novels written by Ann Cleeves, and you can borrow many of them from WPL. Ann Cleeves never intended her Shetland books to be a series when she wrote her first one, Raven Black. After all, how many murders can you expect on these quiet peaceful islands? Well, the success of her first one meant that sequels were on the way, so she decided to write one for each season of the year and call them her “Shetland Quartet” and be done with it. The fact that her most recent Shetland novel, Cold Earth, is her 7th in the series, just shows that you might want to consider life insurance if you ever decide to take a trip there. So many murders!

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The latest Shetland novel.

 

If you are a knitter and want to attempt your own “Shetland cosplay”, WPL has a great looking book called Northern Knits: designs inspired by the knitting traditions of Scandinavia, Iceland and the Shetland Islands.

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If you are looking for a group of like-minded knitters who meet regularly and offer support to one another, why not consider joining WPL’s Knitting Book Club, which meets on the first Tuesday of every month at the Louis Riel Library? Call 204-986-4573 to register.

Trevor

Top Spooky Picks of 2016

“I could make you scared, if you want me to.” The Tragically Hip

Halloween is just around the corner, so maybe you’re in the mood for something a little creepy or spooky to curl up with this evening?

Here are some of the most popular HORROR novels published in 2016.

READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!

Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay

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You know you’ve made it as a horror novelist when Stephen King says your book “scared the living hell” out of him. Even though this book’s title sounds like it belongs in the Hardy Boys series, it is a dark tale about the disappearance of 13 year old Tommy Sanderson and the ensuing search to find him. Steeped in the history and lore of New England, this book would satisfy those of us who binge-watched Stranger Things on Netflix over the summer and tide us over until season 2 of that series is released.

the-fireman[1]The Fireman by Joe Hill

I already wrote a separate blog post about this great thriller back in June, so I won’t say too much more here. If a post-apocalyptic world resulting from an epidemic of spontaneous combustion is your thing, I highly recommend this read. Also, it’s written by Stephen King’s son, who is rapidly emerging as a force of nature in his own right.

 

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

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This is the English language debut of the best-selling Dutch novelist, Thomas Olde Heuvelt. Here’s the premise: a picturesque town in the Hudson Valley, Black Spring, is ACTUALLY HAUNTED by the Black Rock Witch, a 17th century woman who has her eyes and mouth sewn shut. The witch moves among the townspeople, and has become almost accepted as a part of life there. The power of the hex is that no one is ever allowed to leave the town, and legend has it if the stitches are ever cut open, everyone in the town will die. The town elders have quarantined the town to prevent the spread of the hex, but some teens are starting to question the legend. It’s a great mix of the supernatural intermingled with every day small town life.

End of Watch by Stephen King

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Okay, so technically this one isn’t a HORROR novel, but it’s Stephen King so I felt like I should include it. It’s actually the third book in a trilogy with retired police detective Bill Hodges, so if I were you I’d go back and read the first two, Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers, before tackling this one. And yes, elements of the supernatural weave their way into this third book so I feel okay recommending it.

Happy reading and Happy Halloween, everybody!

Trevor

Artisanal Audiobooks: Adult Storytime

When was the last time someone read you a story? You were probably a kid, right? Maybe it was a teacher in elementary school doing a group read of a classic. Or maybe it was your Mom or Dad (or Grandparent) reading you a familiar favourite at bedtime. Whenever it was, I am guessing it was probably a long time ago.

Studies have shown that reading (and being read to) is beneficial to children and adults alike. Not only do stories provide mental stimulation, improve memory, ignite curiosity, expand vocabulary and help develop analytical skill,  being read to in a group setting also results in a shared experience and creates community. Also, it’s really, really fun.

What would you say if I told you that you could come and hear some library people read you stories AS ADULTS and that it is completely free? Would you come? I hope so, because WPL is holding its third “Tales at Night” Adult Story Time at The Good Will Social Club (625 Portage Ave) on Wednesday, August 24th at 7:30 pm.

Since we are holding our adult story time at a licensed Social Club, you can even grab a beer and a slice of pizza while you are listening to the stories. So, even if you don’t enjoy the stories (but why wouldn’t you?), there will be pizza and beer. I should also mention that, as a bonus, we will be treated to some comedy improv towards the end of our program featuring our very own newly appointed Manager of Library Services, Ed Cuddy. Now who would want to miss that? We will also have a “Pop Up Library” there, where you can sign up for a library card, and find out about all the other programs and collections WPL has to offer.

If you want to get an idea of some of the stuff we’ve read in the past and may read again, please check out the following titles.

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls  by David Sedaris

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We’ve read a David Sedaris short story or essay at each of the “Tales at Night” so far, so why would we stop now? We have a “summer themed” story picked out that we think you will enjoy.

 

 

Poetry and Short Stories of Dorothy Parker

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At our February Tales at Night, we opened and closed the event with a couple of wonderfully funny and clever Dorothy Parker short stories. She is a joy to read (and to hear out loud).

 

 

Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales by Ray Bradbury

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Ray Bradbury is one of our all time favourite short story writers, and we are really excited to read one of his this time around. It’s funny and scary and weird and nostalgic and I’VE SAID TOO MUCH. Hope you can come!

 

 

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Trevor

 

 

Feel the Burn: Joe Hill’s The Fireman

“It was a pleasure to burn.” Ray Bradbury

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Joe Hill’s latest novel, The Fireman, is my recommendation for your backyard read this summer. Any book that has the nerve to open with a Ray Bradbury quote (see above) saddles itself with a high expectations, and Joe Hill really delivers the goods.

The world is tormented by a killer spore, nicknamed “Dragonscale”, that infects the human race. You know you’ve got it when your skin suddenly gets covered with elaborate black and gold flecked lines, like a glowing, burning henna tattoo. The next (and final) stage of the infection is spontaneous combustion. Yes, you read that right. You just burn up, without any warning. It’s a tough diagnosis.

The novel tells Harper Grayson’s story. She’s a nurse who finds herself infected with the Dragonscale right around the same time that she discovers she’s pregnant. (Isn’t that always the way?) In her experience with treating infected patients, she’s seen cases of infected mothers who give birth to healthy children, and she is determined to live long enough to give birth to her child.

It’s a grim premise, but I felt compelled to see how it all turned out. Joe Hill’s prose smolders along and then suddenly erupts in number of literary “set pieces” that caused me to have a couple of late nights where I stayed up well past my bedtime to see what happened next.

Along the way, Harper meets up with the titular “Fireman”, an almost mythical character who, despite being infected with the ‘scale, has somehow survived it and can control and harness the power of the spore to his own benefit. Harper is a huge Mary Poppins fan, and there are many nods to that classic story peppered throughout The Fireman. For example, there’s more than a passing resemblance between “The Fireman” and a certain chimney-sweep named Bert, and one of the most moving scenes in the novel involves a group sing-along to Just a Spoon Full of Sugar. To say anything more would be a SPOILER, so let’s leave it at that.

The novel is clearly influenced by Joe Hill’s love of classic sci-fi writers like Ray Bradbury and John Wyndham, (the summer camp in the novel is called Camp Wyndham, for example), but it also could easily stand beside Stephen King’s The Stand as an example of an epic post-apocalypse story. It’s not surprising, as some of you may know that Joe Hill is actually Stephen King’s son.

It’s difficult to read a Joe Hill novel and not compare him to his famous father. I’ve been guilty of doing that very thing in the past, but I can honestly say that The Fireman stands on its own merits and showcases Joe Hill as a major creative force, period. Regardless of his DNA. From the first page you get the sense you’re in the capable hands of a master storyteller who has finally come into his own.

I love the dedication in the front of the book, which reads in part:

“Inspiration: Ray Bradbury, from whom I stole my title. My father, from whom I stole all the rest”.

If you enjoy The Fireman, you might enjoy some of these other related titles (and their cool vintage covers!) -Trevor

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

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Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

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-Trevor

Young, Scrappy and Hungry: The Hamilton Phenom

“How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten part of the Caribbean by Providence, impoverished, in squalor, grow up to be a hero and a scholar?”

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These are the opening lines of the new Pulitzer Prize winning Broadway musical, Hamilton. The musical tells the life story of Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s “founding fathers”. Hamilton is best remembered as creating America’s Treasury department and being the architect of the new country’s financial system. He also died in a duel against his life-long rival, Aaron Burr. In the musical, Burr acts as the narrator.

Lin Manuel-Miranda, who wrote the words and music, also currently plays the lead role of Hamilton on Broadway. He famously picked up Ron Chernow’s biography on Alexander Hamilton at an airport before going on vacation, and began to see possibilities in turning his story into a musical. It’s a great read all on its own and its fun to pick out little bits and pieces of the real story that get turned into songs.

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Now, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. I mean, a musical about some American founding father doesn’t exactly sound like the most exciting thing you’ll ever see, but after listening to the soundtrack earlier this year, I was immediately hooked. Manuel-Miranda fuses classic Broadway styles with modern hip-hop and rap, and the result is a 2 hour “mix-tape” that hasn’t stopped playing in my car, or through my ear buds, or at home. I feel like I am becoming insufferable around my friends, family and coworkers talking about it all the time. (And now I am using the Reader’s Salon Blog as a platform to get the word out further. I’m the WORST.)

Let me just say: give it a listen and let us know what you think! You can borrow the CD from WPL, or get the album on Hoopla.

For a start, you can see what the opening number looks like in this link, as they performed it for the 2016 Grammy Awards just before winning the Grammy for best musical theatre album. Surely more awards await this musical at the Tony Awards in June?

Lin Manuel-Miranda has recently published a book called “Hamilton: The Revolution”. It focuses on the process of making the musical, and it’s filled with tons of photos of the production, cast profiles, and lots of interesting bits of trivia. A must-read for any Hamilton fan. It’s currently only playing on Broadway, but a run is planned for Chicago this fall, and surely touring productions after that. Road trip, anyone?

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“And yo, I’m just like my country: I’m young, scrappy and hungry, and I’m not throwin’ away my…shot”. Alexander Hamilton

Trevor

 

Spring Training

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It’s not too soon to think about baseball, is it? I mean, the Toronto Blue Jays start their spring training schedule tomorrow (March 2) against the Phillies, and the regular season is only a month away. As a Blue Jays fan, I’ve had a few months now to reflect upon that remarkable run from August to October last year, which included acquiring David Price (albeit briefly), Josh Donaldson winning the MVP, and the triumphant return of Marcus Stroman (fully recovered from a knee injury sustained in spring training). We won’t mention the Pillar/Tulowitzki collision. I’m sure Tulo’s fine, now. Right?

It was the first time the Jays made the post season since their back-to-back World Series wins in 1992/93, and it seemed that everyone was talking about it.

The Jays faced the Kansas City Royals in the American League Championship last fall, and the two public library systems of each city got into a bit of a good-natured “twitter war” using book spine titles to create “poems” that trash-talked the other city. You can read an article on it here.

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It’s a whole new season, KC.

 

Although the Jays fell to the Royals in the ALCS, we will never forget those magical few weeks leading up to the post season which culminated in that wacky game five of the American League Divisional Series against the Texas Rangers. Even casual sports fans will remember that iconic image of José Bautista’s famous bat flip.

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The Bat Flip

 

But here we are at the beginning of a new season, where anything can happen. Let’s take a look at a couple of baseball related items to get in the proper mindset.

Ken Burns’ Baseball

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I know this documentary is over 20 years old now, but it is still my favourite piece of pop culture dealing with baseball. Broken into 9 parts (for 9 innings, get it?), it tells the story of baseball from its earliest incarnations right up to the mid 1990s. There is also a lovely companion book to the series, which also tells America’s story for most of the 20th century. I’ve probably watched this documentary five times already, and I’d watch it again in a second. My favourite inning, by the way, is the fifth inning, “Shadow Ball”, which deals primarily with the pre-integration “Negro Leagues” and gives players like  Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige their due. This volume also talks about the early careers of future superstars Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams. If you only have time for one “inning”, I recommend the fifth. Ken Burns did a sequel a few years ago, called “The Tenth Inning“, which covers the mid 90s and the 2000’s, but so much of it deals with the steroid era, it’s kind of depressing.

 

Full Count by Jeff Blair

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Sometimes it’s good to take a look back before looking to the future. Jeff Blair, host of the Sports talk show, “The Jeff Blair Show” took a stab at the first four decades of Blue Jays baseball. At just over 250 pages, it covers a lot of ground but does not go into a lot of depth on “behind the scenes” stories. Still, it is a very readable way to get up to speed on the history of “Canada’s Team”, (sorry, Expos fans!), and for a fan it’s fun to relive some of the great moments. I was just about to turn three years old when the Jays played their first game in 1977, so I obviously don’t remember it, but my Mom had the game on at home and my Dad was calling from work every 15 minutes or so for updates. That was back in the day when the Jays played at Exhibition Stadium and it snowed during the first game. Welcome to Canada!

Change Up: How To Make the Great Game of Baseball Even Better by Buck Martinez

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This book won’t even be published for another couple of weeks, but I can’t wait to read it. Buck Martinez was a former Major League catcher, who spent some of his career with the Jays. In fact, I used to have a book written by him called “From Worst to First, the 1985 Toronto Blue Jays” or something like that. That was the year the Jays won their first division title, but went on to lose to the Kansas City Royals. What’s up with these Royals? On July 9th, in a game against Seattle, Buck Martinez was blocking home plate and was on the receiving end of a terrible collision and ended up with a broken leg and a dislocated ankle. Still, he was able to complete one of the craziest double plays I’ve ever seen. You can read more about that play here. After he retired from playing, he made his way to the broadcast booth, and even managed the Blue Jays for a brief time in 2001-02 before eventually becoming the Jays’ play-by-play commentator in 2010. I’m sure his latest book will be full of interesting insights from a guy who has been around baseball his whole life.

 

Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Trust, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball by R.A. Dickey

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For a slight change of pace, you may enjoy R.A. Dickey’s memoir. He is currently part of the Jays’ starting rotation, and his journey to becoming Major League Baseball’s only active knuckleball pitcher is quite remarkable. He was originally offered a $810,000 signing bonus from the Texas Rangers as their first round draft pick in 1996, but when it was discovered that he was missing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right arm (a defect from birth), they reduced their offer to $75,000. He struggled in the early part of his career to remain at the major league level after making his debut in 2001. It wasn’t until 2005 that things started to go his way, when he decided to perfect his knuckleball pitch as a way to stand out from the crowd and extend his career. In 2012, he was selected as an All Star for the very first time, and was the first knuckleballer to ever win the Cy Young award that year. The following year, he signed with the Jays. It’s a very well written memoir, full of humour and optimism, despite his many challenges.

Opening Day isn’t all that far away, and once the season starts: ANYTHING can happen.

-Trevor

 

 

 

Have a Laugh!

You know, it’s okay if you just want to laugh out loud, sometimes, when you sit down to read, right? Sure, you may feel compelled to read the latest “important” book by Malcolm Gladwell, or the latest gut-wrenching tale from Joseph Boyden, or maybe your book club is all about this year’s version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” or “Gone Girl,” or “The Girl from the Train”. And speaking of that, what’s up with all these disturbing thrillers with “Girl” in the title? When I write my great Canadian thriller, it’s going to be called “The Girl in the Library.” Look for it!

Anyway, yeah – I enjoy those kinds of books too, but sometimes you want a good laugh, and if you’re in one of those moods, then why not try one of the following?

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

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For those who don’t know who she is, Mindy Kaling got her start as a writer and minor cast member on the American version of The Office. She has gone on to write and star in her own series, the hilarious “Mindy Project” and is active on Twitter and other social media platforms. This is actually her second memoir so, if you want to start at the beginning, I highly recommend Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? which covers her childhood, her time working the Fringe Festival circuit, and getting her big break in television. The second memoir carries on where she left off in the first and talks about the struggles she’s had keeping her show on the air, all the work that goes into making something great, as well as the ups and downs of being a minor celebrity. As she says: she’s well enough known that she can have lunch with Reese Witherspoon, but not well enough known to have people go through her garbage. Ms. Kaling is a wonderful writer and has excellent comedic sensibilities. I strongly recommend both of her books and look forward to what she has planned next.

Food, A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan

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Jim Gaffigan is one of those guys who pops up in supporting roles on TV and in movies, and you’d recognize his face but maybe not remember his name. I first saw him a few years ago doing stand up on Dave Letterman and took an instant shine to him. His latest book, Food, A Love Story is really just an expansion of his recent comedy tour, transcribed to print, about the weird food traditions he’s experienced all over America and around the world. It’s funny, but it would probably be even funnier to see him perform the material in person. His first book is much better. It is called Dad is Fat, and it is about becoming a father. Not just a father, actually, but a father to five children who all live (with Mr. Gaffigan and his long-suffering wife) in a two bedroom apartment in New York City. It’s a great mixture of humorous parenting stories.

I Must Say: The Life of a Humble Comedian by Martin Short

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Andrea Martin’s Lady Parts

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I’ll finish off with these two books together. By the Martins. Anyone of a certain age (let’s say over 30), who had access to TV, and who grew up in Canada will remember the wacky wonderfulness of Second City Television (SCTV). For all you too young to remember, it was a sketch comedy show based around a fictional TV network. The humour was often absurd, but distinctly Canadian, and I must have seen every episode multiple times. In addition to Andrea Martin and Martin Short, the show launched the careers of John Candy, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Rick Moranis, Joe Flaherty, Dave Thomas, and Harold Ramis.

It was fun to read these memoirs within a few weeks of each other, to hear different stories about the same time period, and different perspectives of the same events. While I read and enjoyed Andrea Martin’s memoir very much, I may have enjoyed Martin Short’s even more. This was probably because I borrowed the audiobook from the library and listened to it on a road trip. Martin Short reads it himself, and is able to slip into various characters and voices as he tells the stories, which really enhanced my enjoyment.

The old gang.

The old gang.

  • Trevor

Where Science Meets Poetry: Remembering Oliver Sacks

“I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.” – Dr. Oliver Sacks

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Dr. Oliver Sacks died of cancer on August 30. He was 82.

Dr. Sacks was a neurologist and writer whose most famous book, Awakenings, was turned into a feature film in 1990 by Penny Marshall, starring Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro. It was a fictionalized version of the events described as case studies in Dr. Sacks’ 1973 book of the same name. In 1969 Doctor Sacks made a breakthrough in treating a group of encephalitis patients in New York who had been in catatonic states for many decades. Using L-Dopa, a drug that was designed to treat Parkinson’s disease, he was able to “wake up” many of the patients for a short time over a few weeks in 1969. Although the experiment was ultimately unsuccessful, Dr. Sacks showed a remarkable amount of empathy and respect in writing up these case studies and treating his patients as people first, rather than as merely test subjects. Even though the movie takes liberties with history, Oliver Sacks spent time on the set to ensure that the clinical elements of his experience were portrayed accurately.

Oliver Sacks and Robin Williams on the set of "Awakenings"

Oliver Sacks and Robin Williams on the set of “Awakenings”

In his books and case studies, Dr. Sacks walked a fine line between scientist and philosopher, and often resembled a 19th century “adventurer” who was on the frontiers of brain research, treating the mysteries of the human mind with the same sense of discovery and wonder as the world’s great geographic explorers did.

His work was not without controversy, though. Many researchers felt that his work wasn’t clinical enough, and that he emphasized the subjective approach over the scientific method. Some former patients felt that their stories were exploited for his own benefit. And yet others believed that his approach to understanding and explaining the complex qualities of the human mind could only fully be expressed by taking the human qualities of the patient into account.

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Even though neurology was his speciality, Dr. Sacks’ innate curiosity about the world and his ability to make complex concepts understandable also made him popular with general interest readers. I came to know of him first through the Awakenings movie; after that I tried to read everything he put out, starting with The man who mistook his wife for a hat, a book of case studies including the title story about a man with severe perception issues who cannot seem to process what he sees in front of him, whether it is the flower in the doctor’s lapel, or even the difference between his wife’s head and a coat-tree with a hat on it. Sacks sees that the man’s life is not really impaired by this problem, as he has compensated in other ways, including the ability to sing songs to remind him of what’s around him. Sacks does not even venture a diagnosis, although he suspects it may be a tumour or the deterioration of the visual cortex. He ends up prescribing more music for the man to listen to, to strengthen his own inner music which seems to be the engine that keeps him going. The patient goes on to live a full and happy life. We don’t learn much about the wife’s head, though.

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If you are interested in learning more about Dr. Sacks’ life, I’d start with Uncle Tungsten in which he talks about his childhood growing up in a Jewish household in England, his early fascination with chemistry and how he developed his natural curiosity about the world.

 

80050[1]A Leg to Stand On is part micro-memoir about his recovery from a surgery after a bad fall hiking in a remote area of Norway, and part case-study as he examines his own reactions, both physical and psychological, to this injury.

51fWhqBeboL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_[1] His most recent memoir, published earlier this year, is On the Move, which picks up where Uncle Tungsten left off and describes the bulk of his life, his struggles with his own sexuality as a gay man coming of age in 1950s England, and trying to keep the balance between telling his patients’ stories at the risk of seeming to exploit their conditions for his own benefit and research.

The library has several of his books, and I encourage you to seek them out and find the ones that interest you, whether it is how music affects the brain in Musicophilia, or a bit of travel writing in Oaxaca Journal where he tracks down some elusive ferns (I’m not joking).

Toward the end of his life, Dr. Sacks didn’t shy away from his own aging and mortality. I’ll link to three pieces, all published in the New York Times. He wrote the first one in 2013 to mark his 80th birthday, the second was published this past February, when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and the third piece appeared just a few weeks ago and concludes with this eloquent reflection on his life’s work:

“And now, weak, short of breath, my once-firm muscles melted away by cancer, I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the supernatural or spiritual, but on what is meant by living a good and worthwhile life — achieving a sense of peace within oneself. I find my thoughts drifting to the Sabbath, the day of rest, the seventh day of the week, and perhaps the seventh day of one’s life as well, when one can feel that one’s work is done, and one may, in good conscience, rest.”

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Trevor

Getting On the Same Page: Manitoba’s Largest Book Club

OTSP

Manitoba’s biggest book club is getting ready to choose what we will all be reading next year, and you can help pick the winner! On the Same Page, a project developed and run by The Winnipeg Foundation and Winnipeg Public Library, encourages all Manitobans to read and talk about the same book at the same time. There will be special events, author appearances and book giveaways throughout the winter. The choice has been narrowed down to 4 candidates, and voting closes on September 18, 2015. Between now and then you can vote for the title you’d like to see win by filling out a ballot at any of the branches of your Winnipeg Public Library system, or by simply voting online.

If you are not sure what to read this summer, picking up any of these four candidates would be a great idea. Although each of these candidates deal with serious, even tragic, subject matter, all of them have wonderful things to offer to those who discover them. I’m still undecided as to which one I’ll vote for, so if you need a little help, please read through these brief descriptions of each book. Hopefully we can get more people than ever before on the same page next year…

All+My+Puny+Sorrows[1]

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

“She wanted to die and I wanted her to live and we were enemies who loved each other”. Former Winnipegger Miriam Toews tells the powerful semi-autobiographical story of two sisters, Elfrieda and Yoli, who grew up together in a small Mennonite community outside of Winnipeg. Elf, who is a talented concert pianist, is also suffering from Depression and wants to end her life. Her sister, Yoli, is determined to find a way to help her sister through her illness and back to wellness, despite Yoli’s own crumbling personal life. Another masterpiece from Miriam Toews. It isn’t an easy read, but her ability to create such full and relatable characters is unmatched.

Detachment-cover-June11[1] Detachment: An Adoption Memoir by Maurice Mierau

In 2005, Maurice Mierau and his wife traveled to the Ukraine to adopt two young boys, aged 5 and 3. This book is their story of returning to Winnipeg and adjusting to life as a new family and the parallels the author draws from his own feelings of detachment towards his son and memories of his own emotionally distant father growing up. It is the only non-fiction candidate in this year’s OTSP’s program. Maurice Mierau was WPL’s Writer-in-Residence in 2010.

evolution of alice The Evolution of Alice by David Alexander Robinson

This novel tells the story of Alice, a single mother raising three young daughters on “the rez” after her abusive ex gets sent to the penitentiary. With the help of her best friend, Gideon, she tries to create the best possible life for her family and help them heal from old wounds. When tragedy strikes, Alice is forced to examine her life and her role in the community. Told from multiple points of view, the novel really underpins the interconnectivity of reservation life.

kiss_of_the_fur_queen[1] Kiss of the Fur Queen by Tomson Highway

“Wars start when two parties haven’t taken the time to learn each other’s tongues” Tomson Highway’s magic realism comes through in the character of the Fur Queen, a wise, shape-shifting trickster character who weaves in and out of the lives of two Cree brothers, Champion and Ooneemeetoo Okimasis. These boys are removed from their northern community and forced into the Residential School system, where their names are changed to Jeremiah and Gabriel, and who are abused by the Priests there. As young men, they no longer feel connected to their community, and yet also do not feel a part of the pervasive European culture. They are somewhere in between, and must find their own path away from their own past. They are survivors in every sense of the word.

-Trevor