Book Review: The Blue Castle

The Blue Castle, by L.M. Montgomery

anneYou may know L.M. Montgomery as the author of the widely popular Anne of Green Gables – the delightful tale of a red-headed orphan who cannot go two days without getting into a scrape. But did you know that Montgomery also wrote a book that was actually banned from libraries? The beloved Canadian author enjoyed the status, wealth, and position that the popularity of Anne gave her, but she did not like being labeled as a children’s writer. So in 1926 she wrote a novel with more mature themes. The Blue Castle tells the story of Valancy Stirling, a 29 year old woman who is quite distressed that she is still unmarried. Worse, no one in her tight-knit, busy-body, bound-by-tradition extended family will let her forget that she is unable to “get a man.” After learning that she only has a year to live, she boldly decides to flaunt all conventions, and go out with a bang. One thing she does is move in with an old friend (who is also dying) to give her the care that her alcoholic father cannot provide. The trouble here is that the old friend had had a child out of wedlock. According to Montgomery’s biographer, Mary Henley Rubio, this was the specific content that many parents, teachers, and librarians found offensive1. After all, in 1926, one simply did not talk about such things let alone put them in a book where the main character of a highly regarded “children’s author” is sympathetic! However, Valancy’s new confidence and charity pay off in the end since, even though Montgomery pushed the boundaries, she could not go far enough to have a non-happy ending. If you can accept this, you will find a compelling story of courage and rebellion as Valancy stands up to the “what will people think?” mentality. For example, Valancy switches from the Anglican church of her clan to the Free Methodist church for its simpler service; in response, her mother needs to spend a day in bed to recover! Meanwhile Valancy’s friend’s father exclaims that he has no use for Free Methodists since he is a Presbyterian2. In addition to social commentary, The Blue Castle contains Montgomery’s trademark beautiful descriptions of nature, strong story-telling techniques, and spot-on humor. Her true fans would expect nothing less no matter what the themes.

- Liz Gruchala-Gilbert

1. Rubio, MH. Lucy Maud Montgomery : the gift of wings. Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2008.
2. Montgomery, LM. The blue castle. New York: Bantum, 1989.

 

Book Review: The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

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Winner of 2014 Pulitzer Prize, The Goldfinch tells the life story of Theo Decker. A New York resident with a beautiful mother and an absent father, Theo is just 13 when his mother dies in a terrorist attack on the Metropolitan Museum of Art during an exhibition of Dutch masterpieces, including Carel Fabritius’ The Goldfinch. In the confusion surrounding the attack, an elderly man implores Theo to take a family-heirloom ring and gives him an urgent message to deliver to his partner. Believing the old man was also pointing at The Goldfinch, Theo takes the painting as well. These three events: losing his mother, gaining the ring, and his theft of the painting, will influence the trajectory of his life.
Theo, narrating in the first-person over a period of about 15 years, takes the reader on his journey in the aftermath of that day. Many of his experiences seem to be directed by fate or left to chance. From being taken in by a school friend’s wealthy family, to falling in love with a mysterious red-headed girl who also survived the attack, to chance meetings with people who will become life-long friends and lovers, to welcoming his deadbeat dad back into his life only to have his heart broken again, a cycle of addiction and recovery, moving to Las Vegas, and his slow descent into international antique and art forgery and theft.

Without spoiling too much, every aspect of Theo’s life comes full circle in startlingly different ways. Theo finally reflects on his life, wondering how much of his experiences were unavoidable due to fate or due to his choices and character.

Donna Tartt is a master storyteller and took over a decade to write The Goldfinch. The book is long, with a few critics saying the book would have better been split into a trilogy but it is an epic, exciting, stay-up-all-night-reading book full of richly developed characters that also manages to reflect on sadness and survival, chance and fate, and the role of art in life. Tartt is a master at conveying emotion and describing experiences and telling a story where everything, no matter how small, is connected. Recommended for art lovers, anybody who has ever wondered about how much choice or chance shapes our lives, observers of human nature, and all lovers of literary fiction.

I also highly recommend Tartt’s previous two novels: The Secret History, an inverted mystery, and The Little Friend which is technically a mystery but also an incredible study of good vs evil. Both books are available through Summit.

- Christina Nofziger

Book Review: Traffic

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Recently, Travis Phelps of the Washington State Department of Transportation suggested that traffic would move more efficiently at merge points if people waited and merged late instead of lining up as soon as they saw the “merge ahead” signs.

I used to be resistant to the late merge, thinking like most critics that it is rude. However, after reading Tom Vanderbilt’s book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do and What it Says About Us when it came out in 2008, I made some observations and tried it myself. I was converted to late merging!

Also in Vanderbilt’s well-researched book, among many interesting driving facts, we learn about the traffic choreography that occurs during the Oscars and how we can improve our lives through better parking habits. One important conclusion the author draws is that we would all be better drivers if there was some way for us to receive regular praise on what we do well instead of only receiving negative feedback through road rage and traffic tickets.

– Liz Gruchala-Gilbert

Special Collections: Luther Bibles

img_2023Special Collections Exhibit 2014:

Bibles and Bible commentary:

Endter Luther Bible no. 1 (Monroe)

SPU possess three of the Luther Bibles published by Wolfgang Endter and descendants between 1629 to 1788.  The Luther Bibles published by the Endter clan came in three basic forms:  the octavo-sized Saubert (from 1726 the Mörl) Bible (1629-1822), and the small and large folio-sized Weimar (1641-1768) and Dilherr (1656-1788) Bibles.  All three of the copies owned by SPU lack a firm date of publication, and the first two, an opening title page.  For this reason I refer to them by the donor-names Monroe, Marston, and Frost.  Monroe, the one featured here, is clearly the earliest.  Though it bears internal (and copperplate-based) title pages dated 1643 (not to mention a faint penciled inscription to that effect on a blank—and detached—opening page), this information may not be trustworthy, if only because all three of the copies owned by SPU may be Dilherr (1656-1788) rather than Weimar (1641-1768) Bibles.  They appear to be Dilherr Bibles because each meets the three Dilherr criteria specified by Oertel:

1) They are all folio-sized, and they all contain both 2) Johann Dilherr’s “Vorrede an den gottseligen Leser” (only partially still there in Monroe); and 3) Salomon Glassius’ notes (or Nutzen, embedded in the text in Monroe, but marginalized in Marston and Frost).  For these reasons (and because the first of the many editions of the Dilherr Bible appeared in 1656), I am inclined to wonder whether those three internal title pages (located at the onset of the Historical books, the New Testament, and the Epistles), though clearly authentic, would match the title page proper, did we have it.  (Indeed an excessively suspicious person might suspect that there are signs that the former may have been tipped in.  Yet it should also be noted that (and here I contradict myself), the second edition of the Weimar bore 1644 “auf dem gedruckten Haupttitel” (“on its printed main title [page]”), but 1643 “Auf dem in Kupfer gestochenen Titel” (“on the title [page] engraved on copper”) (Panzer, Geschichte (1778), 197).)  A further clue may be the fact that, except for the copperplate-based title pages, 4) Monroe is dominated (as an early Dilherr would be) by woodcuts.  (Were there two-column woodcuts in the early Weimar editions?)

But there are also reasons to think that, if a Dilherr, it may not post-date 1679:  the fact that, possessing only a Register of Sunday Gospel and Epistle readings, 5) it lacks the traditional four Registers transferred over from the Weimar Bible from 1720, the fact that 6) it sports no engraving of Luther and his family, and the fact that 7) it appears to lack a feature characteristic of Weimar Bibles and also many Dilherr Bibles from 1679, namely the copperplate engravings of the eleven Saxon Herzöge.

So though it is entirely possible that Monroe could date from 1643, or even be a second (i.e. 1644) edition of the Weimar rather than a Dilherr, I would place it for the time being tentatively somewhere between 1656 and 1674 (which is the date of the last Dilherr edition before the one dated 1679) inclusive.

Nonetheless, because a lot has been published on these Bibles, a great deal of additional progress could, given time, be made.  (So for my latest thoughts on this, see the exhibit notes themselves.)

This Endter Dilherr (?) Luther Bible was a gift of SPU Instructor of Nursing Heidi Monroe, who says that it would have come over from Germany with her paternal great grandfather Hermann Robert Baum, who was a druggist and the proprietor of the former Baum’s Pharmacy in San Francisco.

Possible fuller title:  [Biblia, das ist, die gantze heilige Schrifft dess alten und neuen Testaments.  Wie solche von Hernn Doctor Martin Luther Seel. im Jahr Christi 1522 in unsere Teutsche Mutter-Sprach zu übersetzen angefangen anno 1554 zu End gebracht. . . .]

- Steve Perisho

Sources:

Library Staff Christmas Picks

imagesCA5EXDCRThe first advent candle has been lit, twinkle lights are starting to grace houses and trees, and temperatures are continuing to plummet. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. After our successful Halloween book round-up, we knew we had to follow up with the Library staff’s favorite Christmas volumes as well. Pick up something to read for your travels home, or where ever you may be going this holiday season.  These books and films will also be on display on the main floor of the Library for your festive reading (and viewing) pleasure.

Liz Gruchala-Gilbert:

It’s a Wonderful Life, directed by Frank Capra

Amahl and the Night Visitors, by Gian Carlo Menotti

Kaitlyn Straton:

The Legend of the Poinsettia, by Tomie DePaola

Maryann Shaw:

Nine Days to Christmas, by Marie Hall Ets

Christina Nofziger:

The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg  fcl

The Father Christmas Letters, by JRR Tolkien

Carrie Fry:

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson

The Oxford Book of Carols, edited by Percy Dearmer

The Legend of the Christmas Rose, by Ellin Greene

Michael Paulus:

For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio, by W.H. Auden

Johanna Staman:

The Tomten, by Astrid Lindgren

Stephanie Rubesh:

O Holy Night: Masterworks of Christmas Poetry, by Johann Moser

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

Other favorite books and movies including Love Actually, Elf, and Jingle All The Way, are available through Summit and ILL.

Merry Christmas!

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