Lake & Island Notes                       January 2015

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Featured Title

Descent: A Novel   

by Tim Johnston

In this taut page-turner, an 18-year old Wisconsin girl in the Colorado Rockies on a family vacation is abducted while out on a run with her younger brother. If Descent were just a thriller, it would be quite a satisfactory read. It provides all of the requisite adrenaline rushes, chills, thrills and emotional turmoil expected in such a book. However, it is so much more than that. Johnston’s writing is lyrical, even poetic at times, and his insight into his characters and their personal predicaments, as well as into the abductor’s madness, is as compelling as the drama of the story he unfolds. A breath-taking ride that you will be pondering long after you put it down.

Featured Title

The Fourteenth Goldfish   

by Jennifer L. Holm

Warm, wise, and wonderfully accessible, The Fourteenth Goldfish is, on the surface, the entertaining story of an 11-year-old whose grandfather has found a way to reverse aging and is now forced to attend middle school alongside her. But dig a little deeper and you'll find this novel is a rich invitation for readers to explore and ponder big questions about the world and our place in it. Kids should come away with increased appreciation for science, discovery, experimentation, the history of medicine, and much much more.

Featured Title

The Boston Girl   

by Anita Diamant

For those who loved Diamant’s immensely powerful feminist novel, The Red Tent, The Boston Girl is likely to be a significant departure and disappointment. It is almost the diametric opposite. Presented as a transcript of a tape-recorded monologue of an 85-year-old woman speaking to her granddaughter, Diamant’s story manages to touch on many of the very significant challenges facing a young woman in early 20th century America, and more specifically a Jewish immigrant. For this, it was interesting and at least one of us here at the bookshop did appreciate reading it. However, there is no denying that the telling of the story remains throughout superficial, devoid of complexity, almost rote, leaving the reader wanting so much more. The Boston Girl is more like a concept piece for a book Diamant’s intending to write than a finished novel of an accomplished writer.
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NOUS SOMMES CHARLIE! It is perhaps gratifying to say that we are Charlie Hebdo, but it may be a bit presumptuous at the same time. We are not so courageous and we have not taken much risk. We did fill our display window with banned titles a couple of months ago. We are still alive. We are Charlie Hebdo in the sense that we share absolutely the commitment to free expression that led to the deaths of Charb, Wolinski, Cabu and the rest. We honor and grieve for them. We condemn those who assassinated them and we condemn any who offer the assassins even the slightest modicum of support or justification.
We are not Charlie Hebdo insofar as we share little appreciation for its aesthetic and taste. Its caricatures of religious figures  (Muslim, Jewish and Christian alike) strike us as repetitive, stale, sexually adolescent and, often, borderline racist. It seems a wonder that it sells 60,000 copies a week! (Thanks to its assassins it is now printing and selling-out a million copies a day!) It is important to note that Charlie Hebdo does not exist in a vacuum. It traces its genealogy to the likes of Honore Daumier and Charles Philipon whose drawings in early 19th century Paris drew royal and ecclesiastical wrath. It is a legitimate part of a vibrant and historically critical French tradition. Here in the US our taste in that regard runs more to The Onion and Jon Stewart.
Some say Charlie Hebdo’s provocations are akin to shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater. The idea being that speech that may create a dangerous situation might not warrant protection. In fact that phrase came from Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. in his opinion in Schenck v. The United States (1919) which actually dealt with (and astonishingly punished) speech which opposed the WWI military draft. The allusion to fire and theater panic was merely an aside. Appropriately, that decision was finally overturned in 1969 and the standard for banned speech was narrowed to a vanishingly small range.
We probably stand with the classic line attributed to Voltaire (who himself has stood accused of antisemitism):  “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”  That’s the way we feel about Charlie Hebdo. In that spirit, and in solidarity with the fallen, we reprint herein the cover of this week’s Charlie Hebdo. We wish the New York Times had done likewise. We wish everyone had. We would all be CharlieNOUS SOMMES CHARLIE!

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What we're reading...

Missing Person
by Patrick Modiano

Guy Roland has lived for ten years as a private investigator’s apprentice in Paris. The problem is that he has done so without an identity. An acute case of amnesia has left him with no memory whatsoever of who he is and none whatsoever of his origins and past. Upon the retirement of his mentor, Guy undertakes the ultimate investigation – the search for himself. At its surface, the book is a tight detective thriller - reminiscent of Chandler and Hammett – with loose ends beginning to be tied together as the story emerges. At another level it deals with the years of the Paris Occupation and the loss – intentional or otherwise – of memory and the self. We like the title of the French edition: Rue des Boutiques Obscures. Modiano was the winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize for Literature.
Wilderness Warrior
by Douglas Brinkley

I so declare it! And so it was that over 230 million acres of America’s forests, wild lands and waters, and the wildlife that called them home, were protected from development and desecration by the mere scratch of a quill. Since boyhood, Theodore Roosevelt (only people who didn’t know him well called him Teddy) had been enthralled with the natural world, becoming a prodigious collector and taxidermist and starting a wildlife museum before he was even a teenager. A sickly child, he was advised to live quietly and protect his heart. To the contrary (and a contrarian he was), he plunged headfirst into his life with boisterous spirit and intense vitality, gathering a host of fervent and loyal admirers and equally impassioned enemies along the way. Through his own personal experience, he was captivated by the healing and strengthening power of the wilderness and believed deeply that it was the very essence of democracy to ensure that every American could experience this connection with the magnificent natural legacy contained within America and her territories. He was literally disgusted with the greed, corruption and petty short-sighted profiteering of his fellow man and committed his life to fighting the forces of destruction and protecting America’s treasure for future generations. In The Wilderness Warrior, Douglas Brinkley tells this captivating story of an extraordinary and complex man, his compatriots and how together they accomplished the impossible. A terrific book!
by Charles Wright

Late last year Charles Wright was named our new Poet Laureate by Librarian of Congress James Billington. Wright received this assignment in his 79th year. He recalled some of his younger predecessors – Rita Dove, Billy Collins, Robert Pinsky – whom he found “young and vibrant” and active. He finds himself “old and vibrant” and committed, as Poet Laureate, to just “sit here and vibrate and not do a thing." As he says in Ancient of Days:

This is an old man's poetry,
written by someone who's spent his life
Looking for one truth.
This is the entirety of Whatever Happened to Al Lee:
What happened is what happens to all of us: we walked
On the earth, we threw a couple of handfuls of dirt
Into the air, and when it came down it covered us.
This is an old man’s poetry. And, it’s the real thing.

Final Thoughts...

Even Kia is gathering her teammates for the 20th Annual Apostle Islands Sled Dog Races! Join us on Saturday, February 8th and check out a variety of books on mushing for readers of all ages!

Save 20% Off One Book!

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Offer expires February 15th, 2015
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