Book Review Tuesday

Book review for The Cat’s Table, by Michael Ondaatje

cat'stable

In need of a little light summer reading, I picked up the Michael Ondaatje’s latest novel The Cat’s Table from the Popular Fiction Collection on the basis of several glowing recommendations. Ondaatje weaves together a beautiful narrative that boarders on the poetic in its language and imagery.

The tone is autobiographical, and though it is fictional, the story does borrow from elements of the author’s life. It follows 11-year-old protagonist, Michael, as he makes his way from his native Sri Lanka across the Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal, and through the Mediterranean Sea to make a new life with his family in England. During the three weeks he is aboard the Oronsay, Michael is seated at the Cat’s Table during meal times, a table full of outcasts at the fringes of society. It is the table furthest away from the prestigious captain’s table. It is also here that he befriends Cassius and Rhamadin, fellow Sri Lankan school boys, who he goes on to form life long memories with.

The mystery of a prisoner unfolds as the book goes on – a prisoner with a mysterious past, only seen after everyone, except for the curious boys, has gone to bed. He emerges with shackles around his hands and feet, with guards at his side, and is allowed a nightly walk on the deck. As the narrative jumps between Michael’s young self on the ship and his adult self, established and settled in Canada, we learn how this slowly unfolding mystery ties people together, and has a lasting impact on the lives of the people we learn to know.

Ondaatje’s writing is much like the ship he writes about – it moves slowly, sometimes feeling like it has stopped moving altogether, caught up in dream like imagery and winding thought processes; but then one comes to the end, and realizes one has crossed oceans. The story is intricately and masterfully crafted; creating a tangible world out of the liminal space that transition creates, between one land and another, between chapters of life, between childhood and adulthood. Despite the storms, the crashing waves, and the navigation through misty canals, in some ways, it is the story of any state of change.

Looking for Library Course Reserves?

The library caters to many different patron needs, from research assistance, to reference sources, to inspiration for projects, to quiet study and reading spaces. One such need is for students to be able to access books that a professor has set aside for their course, often for library-use only. Our Course Reserves section is a way for more patrons to be able to access an item in high demand that is usually required reading or viewing material for their class.

So, how can you access a Reserve?

First, your professor must have placed the item on Course Reserve. He or she will let you know once the item is processed and available at the library. If you feel that there is a reason a book should be on Reserve for your class, discuss the possibility with your professor.

To find the call number for an item on Library Course Reserves, click on the Course Reserve link on the right side of the library’s homepage (click on images to expand them).

Select either “Instructor” or “Course” from the dropdown menu and type in the last name of the professor or the course number of the class with no spaces (i.e. UCOR1000).

Write down the call number for the item you would like to check out and bring it to the Circulation Desk. We can then pull the item for you and check it out for the limited check out period your professor has requested!

A few tips:

  • Do check the status of the item on the catalog (should say CHECK SHELF) to make sure that the item is not already checked out to another patron.
  • Do bring the call number with you to the Circulation Desk—the books are in order by their call numbers, so without this information we are unable to pull the item for you.
  • Do bring the book back in a timely manner and respect any library-use-only rules.

These last two weeks should fly by fast, and now you are equipped with knowledge on how to check out Library Course Reserves! Drop by this week to grab your resources and, while you are at it, take advantage of our later hours (we close at midnight from Sunday through Thursday) and make use of our designated Quiet Zone space in the Library Seminar Room.

-Melody Steiner, Access Services Technician/Reserves Specialist

Presidents Day booklist

The SPU Library hopes you enjoyed yesterday’s break from classes in honor of Presidents Day. While the rest of the campus was closed, the Library remained open from 3 – 11 p.m. to assist with your studying and research needs. Take a look at the booklist we compiled yesterday of items on our shelves that relate to United States presidents across the centuries:

Interested in learning more about the enigmatic William Henry Harrison, the only president to die after one short month in office? Try this book with library call number E392 .C65 2012.

 

In the wake of a series of movies featuring Abraham Lincoln, you might want to read more about his legacy before and after the Civil War. The call number for this book, written by Pulitzer Prize-winner James McPherson, is E457 .M46 2009.

 

Swartzenagger is not the first actor-turned-politician. Ever wonder how Ronald Reagan went from Hollywood actor to the presidency? This book, call number E877 .D54 2007, reviews the transition and explores the policies of our fortieth president.

 

Though this era had its controversies, Nixon is also known for ending U.S. involvement in Vietnam in 1973, launching the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970, and initiating a missile treaty with the Soviet Union. Read this biography with call number E855 .S63 1999.

 

The HBO miniseries highlights the tension between John Adams and his contemporaries as the country forged a path to independence, but it also allows us a glimpse into the affectionate relationship between the former president and the love of his life. This book, call number E322 .A4 2007, provides a deeper look into the world of John and Abigail Adams through their letters.

Born wealthy, Franklin D. Roosevelt may never have depended on a paycheck, but his charisma and determination in the wake of illness and subsequent lower body paralysis made him a man of the people during the Great Depression. Take a close look at his presidency in this biography, call number E807 .S58 2007.

Need a video? Try the SPU Library!

In addition to our print and online collections, our library has a robust video collection. We own many media items such as documentaries, biographies, and tutorials, but we also have a wide variety of movies as well. Our popular titles range from Bill Murray classics (Groundhog Day) and modern-dysfunctional family scenarios (Little Miss Sunshine), to animation (The Secret of Kells), groundbreaking science fiction (Blade Runner), and a plentiful array of Jane Austen (Persuasion). To browse a full list of all our videos, sorted by date, check out the classic catalog. Visit the SPU WorldCat catalog to browse our selection by subject, or, if you have a topic prepared and you are curious to know what media resources we have on our shelves, you can narrow the search by checking your options on the “Video” filter.

Some tips:

  • Check the “Libraries that own this item” line in the listing to ensure that it is indeed an item we carry. If we do not own the item, you may still be able to access it. See our recent blog post on requesting Summit items.
  • While most videos check out for a week at a time, some titles may be on reserve with limited checkout hours for a professor’s class. If this is the case with an item you are looking for, you can watch the video in one of our media rooms, viewing stations (headphones can be checked out at the Tech Desk), or in a study room on your laptop.

Book Review Tuesday

Curious about how the Internet has changed how we view facts, knowledge, and expert opinion?

Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts aren’t the Facts, Experts and Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room by David Weinberger is an interesting and accessible optimist’s view of how the Internet has changed our understanding of information.  David Weinberger highlights new knowledge gathering concepts such as “crowd sourcing” research, appealing to “citizen-experts,” and the benefits and risks in allowing everyone an equal voice in the conversation.  Weinberger acknowledges that this last attribute can be both populist and unsettling when trying to determine an expert opinion on a topic.

Weinberger takes the time to place these new knowledge concepts within historical context.  I appreciated Weinberger’s explanation of the concept of long form thought.  In the past, when communicating with colleagues was more difficult and print media limited the ability to correct mistakes or offer clarification on a topic, experts tended to write long form arguments.  This is where one would try to think of all the arguments that could be made against one’s theory and offer a clarification or rebuttal to this imagined argument.  Weinberger offers Darwin’s On the Origin of Species as an example of this, saying, “Darwin spends a full six out of fifteen chapters addressing objections he imagines his readers may have” (p. 94).  I also enjoyed the section where Weinberger admits, and explicates his reasoning for, writing a long form argument – this book – about web form knowledge.  While I am not sure I agree with the cover flap’s claim that “this groundbreaking book shakes the foundations of our concept of knowledge,” the context that Weinberger put around how information “works” in the digital age is well worth reading.

The library call number for this item is HM851.W4297 2011.

-Carrie Fry, Electronic Services/Systems Librarian, Librarian for Health Sciences