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Mystery Monday

Imagine you are the author of three international blockbuster novels.  Acclaimed throughout the world, you have achieved critical and financial success beyond your wildest imagination. Now imagine that you never see the rewards of your labor because you die, suddenly, before your books are published.  How cruel is that?  Well, it did happen just that way to Swedish author Stieg Larsson, who was felled by a fatal heart attack just months before the publishing date of his first book. He never lived to see any of his books, (The Millenium Trilogy featuring The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who Played with Fire and the forthcoming The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest) in print. Next week, the final volume of the trilogy will be published in the U.S. and will undoubtedly join its predecessors on the best-seller list.

CROSS-CRAFTING WITH A VENGEANCE: THE NEW WEIRD

Genre labels.  Librarians love them because they can quietly signal new finds to readers of genre fiction.  They're a kind of library shorthand, much as Dewey Decimal labels are-- a subtle signpost for the knowledgable browser.  Still, genre labels have their limits.  It can be hard to discover a new author when your favorite titles are thinly scattered throughout a much larger general fiction collection, labels or no.  We created the Speculative Fiction area at New City Library with the intention of fixing this problem.  By bringing the three related genres of science fiction, fantasy, and horror together into their own space, we hoped to support the kind of happy serendipity that only happens in a small browsing collection.  As it turns out, there's been an unexpected side benefit. 

A Jewel in the New York Harbor

Governors Island: The Jewel  of New York Harbor is one of the many books available in the Rockland Room that focuses on New York City history.  This beautiful book blends a sense of nostalgia with twenty-first-century amenities. The author has included rarely-viewed photos, blueprints, architectural plans and interviews with former residents. Located in the New York Harbor, Governors Island was a British fort in the 1700's and then played a long-standing role as a station for the U.S. Army and the Coast Guard. The island also offers a vivid reflection of historic events in New York City and the world at large. Stop in at the Rockland Room and have a look in the new book section for this fascinating book.

It should be mentioned that there is a new library non-fiction book discussion group, Facts, that has been focusing on books about the Hudson Valley and Manhattan. The May selection was Manhattan: My Downtown by Pete Hamill and the June selection is The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell  by Mark Kurlansky. The group meets the second Wednesday of the month at 1PM. All interested persons are invited.

What's Cooking?: Healing Foods

As I was preparing the Chicken Wine Soup for my daughter-in-law after she gave birth, I realize we often overlook the restorative and healing powers of food.  This Chicken Wine Soup is traditional in the Chinese culture and prepared for new mothers in their recovery from childbirth. This soup contains an abundance of ginger and glutinous rice wine in the soup to help rejuvenate and warm the body. The dried lily buds and wood ears are believed to have anticoagulant properties. The dried Chinese mushrooms revitalize the body and improve its immune system.  Of course, everyone is familiar with the healing quality of chicken soup. There are some who await a new birth with anticipation just to be able to partake of this soup along with a small bowl of pickled pigs’ knuckles with hard-boiled eggs cooked in sweetened black vinegar and ginger.  You may think this latter dish is unappetizing but it is often requested unabashedly.  Although I think the taste is unique and delicious, the true focus is on the restorative value of its ingredients.

CORINTHIANS, RAKES, AND INCOMPARABLES, OH MY!

This month, I'm continuing the historical romance theme and tackling... Regencies! 

Why is the Regency such a popular setting?  Lots of reasons-- just take a look at what was going on in those days: the Napoleonic Wars, the peak of the Industrial Revolution, the women's rights movement, the birth of Gothic literature, and the Romantic poets, just to name a few.  It was the day of Beau Brummel, the Elgin Marbles, Byron, Keats, Shelley (both of them), Ann Radcliffe, and of course, Miss Jane Austen.  And at the heart of it all, the Ton: the glittering, fascinating, hothouse environment of Britain's upper crust.  Wealth, privilege, education, and refined manners, all held together by a rigid code of conduct for the space of a London Season.  I like to think of the Regency period as romance's answer to the sonnet: the rules might seem oppressive and needlessly complicated, designed to strangle creativity, but think what marvellously subtle and nuanced work can result!  Is it any wonder that the Regency is the most popular type of historical romance in our library?

What's in a Name?

Some things really happen by coincidence but I’m beginning to wonder if something else is afoot.    The last six books I read all have an important character named Henry.   The titles include Breathless (Dean Koontz), Edgar Sawtelle (Wroblewski) and Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (Ford).  Then I started Olive Kitteridge (Strout) and in the very first section there are two Henrys!  It’s a great name, the name of kings, synonymous with power and strength.  Its popularity is on the rise here and in Europe, but 7 books in a row?   So far no Henrys in my current book, Safe from the Neighbors.

Mystery Monday

"I can't believe this library!  You have no copies  of James Patterson, John Grisham, and Nelson DeMille!  What kind of library is this?"  These words came from an extremely upset woman who came to the reference desk understandably dismayed that we did not carry her favorite authors.  Where had she looked?  In the mystery section, of course.  Isn't that where these authors would be?  Well, actually, no.  We do, indeed, collect books by these authors, but they are found in regular fiction, not mystery, because they are considered thrillers or suspense.  What is the difference between a mystery and a thriller/suspense title?  Basically, a mystery is a puzzle, a game of whodunit.  A crime has occurred, which we usually don't see happen, and the protoganist (police detective, amateur sleuth, etc.) must uncover the truth and bring the perpetrator to justice.  On the other hand, a suspense/thriller novel works with an imminent fear of danger.  A roller coaster of heart pounding thrills ensues and we hang on for the death defying ride. 

SWORDS AND SORCERY: HEROIC FANTASY

In 1932, a sword-wielding barbarian, "black-haired, sullen-eyed," strode out of the pages of Weird Tales magazine and straight into the hearts of young men everywhere.  His name was Conan, and he and his savage homeland of Cimmeria were the creation of American writer Robert E. Howard.  Howard only wrote four years' worth of Conan stories-- he committed suicide in 1936-- but his creation outlived him in the pens of such authors as L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter, and in the face of a certain governor of California.  Thanks to Conan and other characters like him, Howard is generally credited with the invention of the heroic fantasy subgenre.  (To that, I have three words: Gilgamesh, Odysseus, and Beowulf.  But I'd happily grant him "popularization of the genre.")  Nearly 30 years later, Fritz Lieber (of "Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser" fame) coined the phrase it's best known by today-- "sword and sorcery."

Playing and Planning with Words

The New City Library is beginning the process of writing a five- year plan of service.   One important element is to look at the Library’s Mission and Vision Statements.   The Library’s current mission statement is five paragraphs long and contrary to current business practice of having something concise and easily known. In working with the staff of the New City Library, the new mission statement being proposed is:   ”The mission of the New City Library is to inspire ideas, enrich lives and create community”.   I would like to hear from you on this matter and would be interested in your opinion.

THE FLOWER OF CHIVALRY: MEDIEVAL ROMANCES

Codex Manesse, Bergner von HorheimIf a lover of romantic historical fiction were to search our catalog for "medieval romance," she might get a bit confused.  You see, she'd find medieval romance... but she'd also find medieval romance!  (See what I mean by "confused"?)  The same term-- "medieval romance"-- gets used to describe two very different bodies of literature.  

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