Wednesday, November 28, 2012

International Fiction Book Club Meeting (November 21, 2012) - "13 rue Thérèse" by Elena Mauli Shapiro

         On November 21, the International Fiction Book Club met for the 31st time to discuss the novel 13 rue Thérèse by Elena Mauli Shapiro.  Ms. Shapiro lived in Paris until she was 13 years of age and then moved to the States with her family.  Though written in English, this novel is entirely French, both in setting and character of style.  I say character of style because it is through a peculiar style that characters gradually emerge.  Or do they only seem to emerge?

         French novelists of the 20th century often explored the boundaries of what a novel could be.  The Oulipo (Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle, or Workshop of Potential Literature) was formed in 1960 by the acclaimed novelist, Raymond Queneau, and nine other writers, mathematicians, professors and so-called pataphysicians (after Alfred Jarry).  Their raison d’être was to analyze traditional literary forms and constraints in an effort to create new language structures based on a relationship between mathematics and literature.  Sound bizarre?  Well, some of their preoccupations are best left to a select group of intellectuals.  However, the games these thinkers play have led to a number of literary masterpieces by Queneau himself, Georges Perec and Italo Calvino among others.  The first comment made by one book club member was that this book reminded him of Perec’s novel, Life: A Users Manual.  Having also read that book, I knew what he meant.  Though, strictly speaking, the mathematics of this novel might not be defined in Oulipian concepts, the spirit of constraint and making a novel out of a box of memorabilia is surely in the Oulipian spirit.

         As a young girl Mauli Shapiro lived in an apartment house in Paris.  An old woman with no interested relatives died alone in the same building.  The landlord allowed tenants to take her belongings and the author’s mother took a box of mementos that included love letters, photographs, church gloves, a rosary and other evocative objects dating from the 1st World War through the mid-50s.  This box of memories gave Mauli Shapiro incentive to create a story to go along with the objects and also a way to re-discover her lost childhood.  As we discussed, what first appeared as a gimmick, the inclusion of scans of the objects at various times in the book, becomes a fascinating addition to the conceit within a conceit that the author so deftly weaves.  When confronting the first couple of scans of a letter, handwritten in French, and a photo of a man you are immediately involved but a tad suspicious.  As we later find out we have reason to be suspicious though that does not become fully evident till the end.

        A secretary at a university, Josianne, plays a little game of seduction with newly hired professors that she finds attractive.  Upon their arrival, she is the one who assigns their office.  As bait, she places the box of mementos in a filing cabinet where the professor is sure to find it.  She has had several conquests before the American, Trevor Stratton, takes center stage in her trap.  When he shows her a picture of men in uniform posing for a WW 1 photo she points out how effeminate the British soldiers look.  When he questions her about how she knows they are British, she explains that the dark uniforms are British and the grey uniforms are French.  How did Josianne know this?  Was it explained to her by a previous suitor who fell into her trap?   Trevor never lets the reader know for sure how much he has figured out as he writes letters addressed to “Dear Sir” explaining his project of trying to determine the fate of the original owner of the box, Louise Brunet.

         Over the course of the book we gradually enter into the life of Louise Brunet.  At various times, the author plays tricks with narration as Trevor enters into Louise’s life and also has an affair with Josianne.  But, is this story real?  Is Trevor the seduced or the seducer?  These questions and many more will be answered only if you read the book.  All present declared the book an easy read and I pronounced it a small masterpiece in the Oulipian tradition.  From her website, the author explains “people often get caught up in plot, in the broad scope of what happens, but its how it happens on the micro level that actually makes the story.  Fiction is really all in the delivery too.”

        We will next meet on December 19th to discuss Malinche by Laura Esquivel.  Feel free to check out a copy at the front desk and join us.

Posted by Jim Krapf, Library Clerk

Monday, November 26, 2012

'Tis the Season for Christmas Music

'Tis the season for Christmas music, and the Collinsville Memorial Library Center has got you covered. Our large collection of holiday music has everything from classic Bing Crosby recordings to a quickie cash-in album by forgotten boy band All-4-One, with a whole lot in-between and several new Christmas releases added every year. In fact, with so much holiday music to choose from we asked a few of our staff members to share some of  their favorite Christmas songs and records. Shockingly, no one selected Rosie O'Donnell's A Rosie Christmas.

Leslee recommends the album These Are Special Times by Celine Dion. "I love her version of 'O Holy Night', that is a great great song!"

Courtney really likes the progressive edge that Trans-Siberian Orchestra adds to seasonal music. "I've seen them in concert like three times, and they're always spectacular."

Jed's pick is Under the Mistletoe by Justin Bieber. "People might think I'm just trying to be funny, but I'm not! I sincerely love this record."

Terry gets into the holiday spirit with Bob Dylan's Christmas in the Heart. "The WTF factor for this album is through the roof. But it's more than just bizarre, it's also bizarrely endearing."

Grahm digs Mistletoe Jam by The Christmas Jug Band. "Ain't no party like a jug band Christmas party y'all."

Theo can't get enough of the song 'All I Want for Christmas is You' by Mariah Carey. "I just love Christmas music in general, it's my favorite part of the season really."

And the final word (as always) goes to Barb, who recommends "anything sung by Dean Martin. I love Dean Martin."

Posted by Grahm Underwood, Library Clerk

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Food For Fines

From November 23 until December 16 you can pay your fines with non perishable food items.  For every non-perishable food item you bring in we will waive $1.00 in overdue fines and then donate that food item to the Collinsville Food Pantry.  This only works for overdue fines not billing fees but it's a win, win for all - your fines are paid and you're helping those in your community.  For more information please call the Collinsville Library at 618-344-1112 or the Fairmont City Library at 618-482-3966.

Open Mic Night a Success!

Poetry is alive and well in Collinsville IL, as our recent open mic night at the Blum House proved. Five area poets shared original works while two more read poems from favorite authors. The styles of these poems varied greatly, but the quality of work remained shockingly high throughout the evening.  Background music was provided by local artist Wiggpaw, who used cassette players (!) checked out from the Collinsville Memorial Library Center to create rich, textured soundscapes. At the snack table the brownies were the stars of the night, easily moving more units than the homemade cream cheese raisin pound cake and cherry vanilla cupcakes combined. A good time was had by all.    

Posted by Grahm Underwood, Library Clerk

Monday, November 19, 2012

Meet the Staff Monday - Megan

It's the day you've been waiting for! Meet the Staff Monday! Today, meet Megan. She has worked at the library since August of 1999, when she started as a page at 16. After graduating from high school, Megan moved up to the clerk position. She works a lot on the children's floor, which is her favorite place in the library to work (of course). When Megan is not at work, she am usually reading, listening to music, going to concerts, and spending time with her kids (Zac and Taylor) and boyfriend (Travis). Normally this time of year, she would be watching hockey just like her little brother (Matt, see last week's post). Megan, too, is not sure what her whole family is going to do without the game this winter. Megan's favorite bands include Hanson, The All American Rejects, and Hellogoodbye. Some of her favorite books are "The Kite Runner", "Still" Alice", "To Kill a Mockingbird", "Water for Elephants", and anything by Chelsea Handler. Be sure to come and say hi to Megan next time you stop by!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Trading Faces

Here's something fun for your Thursday night! In each of these pictures, we've swapped the faces of two of our staff members! Can you tell which ones they are?!

Posted by Jed Robbins, Library Assistant

Books & Movies Club R.I.P.

November 14th marked the final meeting of our "Books & Movies Club. The fledgling club's inability to maintain a steady attendance was the primary cause for disbandment. Although, in a somewhat predictable twist, the last meeting turned out to be the group's largest ever. "We went out with a bang", said club organizer Grahm Underwood. "I guess we should have selected Fast Food Nation sooner, maybe things would have turned different" he joked.

The Collinsville Memorial Library Center still host several great book clubs for all age levels covering a wide variety of genres. Interested readers are encouraged to ask our staff for details. These clubs are free, easy and fun.

Posted by Grahm Underwood, Library Clerk

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Meet the Staff Tuesday - Matt

We were closed yesterday, so without further ado, here is your Meet the Staff Tuesday! Meet Matt(hew). He has worked at the library since August 2004. Matt started off as a page and worked his way to a part time clerk, and now he is a full time clerk. He works half of his week in the Collinsville building and the other half at the Fairmont City branch, where most know him as "Shaggy". (I cannot imagine where that name came from.) Matt is typically the go to guy for quick computer issues. At our staff picnic in September we had our first ever Survivor: Library edition and Matt won every round. He is a true library champion! Outside of work Matt has a beautiful baby girl, Sophia who will be two on New Years. He and Chelsea just got engaged on September 29th and their wedding date is still to be decided. If you know Matt you know that he is an absolute hockey nut, so with no season this year he is having withdrawals. He is also anticipating the return of a minor league team next year to St. Charles. Why couldn't they start this year?!

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

PRC Spotlight - November

This month's PRC Spotlight is our Giant Hands-On Flower Model! Learn about the different parts of a flower with this model. This three-week checkout makes a great supplement for your classroom!

Posted by Jed Robbins, Library Assistant

Monday, November 05, 2012

Meet the Staff Monday - Leslee

It's Meet the Staff Monday! Today we are introducing Leslee Hamilton. She is our Interlibrary Loan and Genealogy Technician. Leslee has been working here for 17 years and absolutely loves her job. She started loving libraries through helping her grandmother at the Twin Echo school library when she was younger. In 1990, she began a school project about genealogy which she continues working on until this day. When she is not working she often spends her time reading, doing genealogy, or doing counted cross-stitch. Leslee will read anything except for poetry or Shakespeare. She enjoys reading series books the best with the Harry Potter series being one of her favorites. Leslee lives in Collinsville with her mom (Suzanne), sister (Kendra), nephew and niece (Zach and Zoe), and shih tzu (Jasper). Leslee really doesn't enjoy having her photo taken, but she does actually like this one, from twelfth grade! Be sure to ask Leslee if you have any questions about local history or genealogy; she'd be happy to help you.