These titles have something in common. They are all books I should have read. (Every one of them is likely to be in our collective memory, whether or not we’ve read it.)
In The Waste Land, T.S. Eliot wrote, “April is the cruellest month.” In this sixteen-page poem, Eliot hits home this year when he writes,
Here is no water but only rock
Rock and no water and the sandy road…
If there were water we would stop and drink
Amongst the rock one cannot stop or think
Sweat is dry and feet are in the sand
If there were only water amongst the rock…
There is not even silence in the mountains
But dry sterile thunder without rain…
If there were the sound of water only
Not the cicada
And dry grass singing
But sound of water over a rock
Where the hermit-thrush sings in the pine trees
Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop
But there is no water
Although The Waste Land contains a few foreign phrases and some uncomfortable images and incomprehensible passages, words of meaning and truth pierce the stanzas and give us pause.
Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, by James Agee and Walker Evans, is not an easy read. But I urge you to pick it up and at least look at Walker Evans’s classic candid photos of Alabama sharecroppers who featured in his and Agee’s summer of 1936. If you decide to continue reading the book, skip the preface, and jump right into page seventeen. The book is shelved under “A” in U.S. History.
Ulysses. Famed for its “stream of consciousness” style and for its impenetrability, as well as for being banned as “obscene,” James Joyce’s masterpiece is still celebrated annually at pubs on June 16, Bloomsday, when Molly’s monologue is read aloud. So if, as I, you have never read Ulysses, pick Molly Bloom’s monologue, the last fifty pages of the book, and raise a glass to her.
And then there is Marcel Proust. If you have dipped a madeleine cake in your tea, you have tasted Proust. The madeleine and his mother’s love are referred to frequently in literature. But how often have we gone to the source? Which is an eight-volume novel, Remembrance of Things Past (or In Search of Lost Time), beginning with Swann’s Way. We find the madeleine and his need for love: “My sole consolation, when I went upstairs for the night, was that Mama would come kiss me once I was in bed. But this goodnight lasted so short a time…that the moment when I heard her coming up…was for me a painful moment” (p. 13). Now it is for you to seek out, on page 45 of the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition of Swann’s Way, the story of the tea and the madeleine. No need to read the remaining seven volumes. Bonne chance!
My greatest embarrassment is never to have read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or Life Among the Lowly. Fragments of the story pop up so often that Tom, Eliza, little Eva, and Simon Legree are as familiar as any other fictional characters.
Now I’m going to stick my neck out and tilt with windmills. Never did I expect to read The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes. But after reading the first paragraph, I am intrigued. It is humorous! It is full of small details. And of the character himself, “So great was his curiosity…that he even sold many acres of tillable land in order to be able to buy and read the books that he loved, and he would carry home with him as many of them as he could obtain.” What’s not to love about this guy?
Calypso, Circe, Cyclops, Charybdis and Scylla, the Sirens. All met by our hero, the resourceful Odysseus, as he wanders homeward to Ithaca and faithful Penelope at the end of the Trojan War. Richard Lattimore’s sterling translation of The Odyssey of Homer is available on the third floor of our Library under Poetry Collections.
If you haven’t guessed, these classics and many more are on the shelves in our library, just waiting for you or me to pick them up and check them out.
Everyone in Willow Creek is there for a reason. They lead very ordinary small village existences. Social life revolves around two institutions, the Willow Creek Inn and the Willow Creek School (grades 1-12).
Sam Pickett, the high school’s English teacher/boys basketball coach, is a good teacher and knows basketball. Unfortunately, he has very little basketball talent to coach, and due to low high school enrollments, his teams rarely have six or seven players. They have not won a game in five years and are 0-93 during Pickett’s coaching tenure. Nevertheless, his players persist, despite broken dreams and personal sorrows.
Pickett is about to resign as basketball coach when two new students appear. One is Peter Strong, a basketball guard from Saint Paul’s Central High School whose divorced parents have sent him to live with his eccentric grandmother. The other student is the gawky Olaf Gustafson, a 6’11” foreign exchange student who is staying with a nearby ranching family for the year. Olaf has never held a basketball.
What unfolds is an uplifting tale of human decency, romance, and determination that plumbs hidden places in the human heart. All this unfolds with a cast of characters who learn to dream again, characters made so real that they will be with you long after you turn the last page. That’s Stanley Gordon West writing style. It’s a great summer’s read. You can find this book in the Coffman Library.
By Carol Van Why, Library Committee Co-Chair
Originally published in the July 2021 issue of the 1666 Coffman Newsletter
After five years serving as Library Committee Co-Chair, Katie Weiblen will step down from that position, effective August 31. While remaining on the Committee, this move will allow her to spend more time with family and friends. I am pleased that Katie will continue to be the Library’s liaison to new residents.
I am thankful that Faye Herold, who has been a member of the Library Committee since 2019, has agreed to share Chair duties with me. Until recently, Faye has been responsible for evaluating donations for the Library’s book collection.
The book sale cart is back in place near the Library’s upper level entrance. New Library Committee member Audrey Estebo is in charge, with Scott Magnuson assisting. Book stock changes frequently, and you’re bound to find something
you’ve missed reading. Prices are reasonable, and proceeds all go toward Library book purchases. I am excited to be working with new Library Committee member Eileen Smith on a catalog feasibility study. Eileen has begun to inventory the
collection and import catalog records into a database. As work progresses, you’ll notice signs on the shelves that show the specific area Eileen is working with and areas where work has been completed. In the early stages of the study, residents will be unable to search the inventory directly. In the meantime, if you’re wondering if a particular item is in the collection, contact me via email at email@example.com.
Speaking of interesting projects, during the summer Committee members focus on identifying and improving selected areas of the collection. You can be part of this process. Are you aware of highly regarded books not in our library? Let us know about them. Be aware that space and budget constraints prevent us from buying all the books we’d like to. Send your recommendations to me no later than July 19.
Nearby on the 1666 AUTHORS shelf find a book by architect Joe Michels featuring his own work. Maybe you’ll discover which Coffman residents lived in these special places. Like the homes they illustrate, the books themselves are treasures. Sign them out; enjoy them; return them for others to enjoy.
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