“Some die shouting in gas or fire;
Some die silent, by shell and shot.
Some die desperate, caught on the wire;
Some die suddenly. This will not.”
- Rudyard Kipling
June 28, 2014 marked the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I (also known as the First World War). While dozens of military histories have been written about the Somme, Passchendaele and Verdun, great literature and social histories have also emerged about the war. These books try to answer some of the following questions. What remnants of civilized society did soldiers bring with them to these terrible and unearthly battlefields? What were their thoughts? What happened to the cohort of men who lived through combat (known after the war as the “Lost Generation”)? Where and how did European culture survive during and after the war? Look no further than your library for answers to some of these questions.
“Paris at the End of the World: The City of Light During the Great War” by John Baxter is a good starting point. Paris remained a cultural oasis and respite from the trenches for the thousands of soldiers who passed through the city during the war. “Few people could have felt more lost, more in need of a friendly word, a loving hand,” writes Baxter. Although the city was quickly pulled under by the currents of war, with many residents fleeing as the Germans advanced in September 1914, “Once the front stabilized, cafes, cabarets, shops, and brothels reopened to brisk business as soldiers were rotated home on leave and Paris swelled with the bureaucracy of war.” Indeed, even in the face of the privations and terror of those years, Pablo Picasso and Eric Satie staged avant-garde performances in several Paris theatres to large and enthusiastic audiences.
I was drawn to “Under the Eagle” simply to fulfill an idle curiosity I had about the Navajo culture and the Code Talker program. But this book gave me way more than I bargained for.
“Under the Eagle” is a personal story of a quiet, dignified man. It is also a study of Navajo spiritual and cultural traditions and a US history lesson as well, with gripping first-person accounts of the battles for the Pacific Islands of Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima and others.
As a reader I was immediately drawn in by the unusual format. The introduction (something I don’t usually read but found invaluable in this case) explains that this book is a written oral history. What you read is Samuel Holiday’s story in his own words with no flowery narration to ease transitions or add extra details. Co-author Robert S. McPherson transcribed and edited many hours of recorded interviews with Mr. Holiday, so that what you read is what he said.
Consecutively devouring ten books by the same author is not without its hazards. That such an undertaking insisted on itself proves it worthy, and surely being squarely in the grip of a master yarn-spinner is nothing to raise a fuss over. But might the immersion in such a distinct style cause a gentleman to subconsciously drift toward a foolish imitation unworthy of the inspiration? Might the constant brutality perpetrated by hill-folk not warp one’s perceptions until they find themselves cowering from anyone with a downhome drawl or countrified attire? Perhaps one would find themselves either desperately craving or spectacularly repulsed by squirrel meat.
Anyhow, at the risk of extending an unkindness to three, I’d venture that seven of Daniel Woodrell’s books are masterpieces. The three I’d omit from this designation make up “The Bayou Trilogy,” his first, third and fourth books. Focusing on the ex-boxer and current detective Rene Shade, these books are fun, fast reads and about as good of a character study as you’ll find filed in the crime section of a place that obsessively segregates their genres. They just don’t pack the wallop of his other works.
I’d judge his second book to pack a mighty punch. “Woe to Live On” is narrated by a Civil War rebel. Despite his allegiance and tendency to murder boys because “pups become hounds,” Woodrell, as great writers do, earns the reader’s empathy.
Congratulations to Xander, a Columbia patron, for winning our sixth Adult Summer Reading prize drawing of the summer. He is the recipient of a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card.
You can still register for Adult Summer Reading at any of our branch locations or Bookmobile stops or register online. Also, don’t forget that submitting book reviews increases your chances of winning the prize drawings. We have two drawings left this summer, so keep your fingers crossed.
As you may already be aware, we have a lot of books here at the library. The number of books the library has on different niche subjects always amazes me. We have books on topics that I didn’t even know existed! For example, I recently discovered that we have a few books dedicated to naming one’s pets. Inspired by these books, as well as a recent post on the literary blog BookRiot, I decided to come up with some literary names for pets (with the help of some coworkers and friends). Here is the resulting list of book-inspired animal names. Feel free to steal them.
Literary names for dogs (Bonus game: if you don’t already know, guess which books these names came from. Click on the links to see the answers.)
- Rooster - Mattie, the protagonist of this book would also work, or even Portis, the author’s last name.
- Primrose - if I ever get a tiny terrier, I volunteer as tribute to use this name!
- Snowy - another good name for a (white) terrier.
- Oliver - a pet name with a literary Twist!
- Daisy - a classic pet name that could also be a reference to a classic book.
- Atticus, or, of course, Scout.
- Charley - for the French poodle.
- Hank - perfect for a cowdog!
Literary names for cats
If you think you’ve already got plenty of things to worry about, think again. The “worries” presented in this book will give you a whole new flock of ideas that never crossed your mind before. A compilation of mini-essays by scientists, professors, journalists and other great minds, this book poses the question, “what should we be worried about?” and shares answers – sometimes enlightening, sometimes nearly ridiculous.
The topics in this book cover everything - artificial intelligence, space exploration, technological innovation, human interactions, global warming, and the list goes on. Yet even those subjects which may seem dry and worn out are presented with a fresh perspective, and for every potential item of worry that one contributor may find especially concerning, it is often countered with an opposing opinion.
This broad array of opinions and ideas makes for a fascinating read, but overall, I think this book could have been about half the length. You can only cover the topic of worry and of why we should or shouldn’t be worried about this or that so many times before it starts to feel old and worn out. I enjoyed it, but I was ready to put it down quite a few pages before it was over.
Three words that describe this book: science, ideas, problems
You might want to pick this book up if: You like picking the brains of other great thinkers and stretching your mind with hypothetical situations, and if you don’t mind a bit of redundancy in thematic material.