Monthly Archives: January 2012
This month’s Love2Read theme is the funniest one in the National Year of Reading – Laugh.
I love to have a good laugh and I imagine I’ll get to the end of the year with this month having been my favourite – unless I find some real tear-jerker in November when it will be time to Cry which I also love to do.
I’m sure you’ve all heard the saying that laughter is the best medicine. Did you know that laughter stimulates five different parts of the brain, so reading something humorous can actually help keep your brain from aging? (another good reason to read something fun!).
We can be laughing because we find something is funny or is giving us joy or we can laugh out of embarrassment or even because we are nervous – I was always getting into trouble when getting into trouble when I was a girl because I’d get (nervous) giggles. (Did I say ‘always’? I meant of course, on the odd occasion when I got in trouble . . .)
My very favourite EVER piece of writing is by Bill Bryson. I always enjoy Bryson’s lively, humourous take on life and fell in love with him years ago when reading Notes from a Small Island, his affectionate look at Britain and the British. He always makes me smile but Chapter 7 I think it is of Down Under (aka In a Sunburned Country for our North American friends) where he writes about cricket had me breathless with laughter and in tears as I attempted to read it aloud to my husband.
Do you find humour where you shouldn’t sometimes? A year or so ago, my book group read Skeleton Coast by Clive Cussler, a rip-roaring thriller with plenty of derring-do but some of the uses of technology really stretched the boundaries of reality for me. I remember one scene where the hero takes off his false leg and uses the flare which just happens to be inside it to weld his false leg to some kind of round plate and paraglided across the desert to catch up with a caravan – again, impossible to read it aloud.
While you are reading the things that make you laugh, you might like to tweet about what you are reading using #NYR12 so that other people can have a conversation with you about your reading, and join you in laughing.
There will be a live twitter discussion on February 28th starting at 8pm Australian Eastern Standard Time. Use the tag #NYR12 as you discuss the reading that makes you laugh, so others can join in the conversation too.
Just to remind you, this is what the rest of the year has in store :
March : Think
April : Feel
May : Escape
June : Dream
July : Discover
August : Question
September : Grow
October : Explore
November : Cry
December : love2read
MONTHLY LOVE2READ THEMES:
May—Escape October— Explore
General Terms & Conditions
1. The entrant must be a current patron of the Blue Mountains Library, and over 16 years of age.
2. Entry is free of charge.
3. Entries must be the original work of the entrant.
4. Patrons may enter the competition multiple times per month.
5. Only entries received by the due date will be accepted.
Email your entry (including your name, borrower number and phone number) to: email@example.com OR submit your printed entry to any Blue Mountains library branch (including your name, borrower number and contact phone number) .
The kids at Springwood library were in for a treat last friday. They were enthralled for the entirety of the show ‘Wake Up and Read with Frank Ozo’ – a one-man comedy incorporating music, drama, mime, puppetry, magic and circus skills all linked with short charming tales about growing up in Australia. Each tale is another piece in the puzzle of how Frank came to do what he does today and tells the important role books played in his life. The photos are by our own Local Studies librarian, John Merriman – thanks, John!
The Emperor of Lies by Steve Sem-Sandberg, translated by Sarah Death
Can be found on the Adult Fiction shelves under S.
Plot Summary : This book tells the stories of a number of Jewish residents of the Lodz Ghetto in Poland during WWII from its establishment in February 1940 to liberation in August 1944 by the Russian army.
The Lodz Ghetto became the second largest Jewish ghetto in Poland with around, at it’s peak, 500,000 people crammed within the wire fence that surrounded the Old City.
The leader in the ghetto, The Eldest of the Jews, was a businessman in his 60s, Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski (“the tributary king of the ghetto, the self-proclaimed steward of the fates of nearly a hundred thousand long-settled and newly arrived Jews” – p374). A controversial figure, Rumkowski was narcissistic, despotic and self-serving but he also recognised that the survival of the ghetto’s inhabitants depended on them being indispensible to the Nazi regime. Factories were set up that provided various goods (weapons, clothing and utensils for instance) required by the Wehrmacht. His aim seems to have been achieved; production was efficient and proceeds were high and in 1942 alone the Gettowaltung (the German civilian administrators of the ghetto) mad a net profit of almost 10 million Reichsmarks from the labour of the Jews.(p.433)
Comments : This is an immense book , both in subject matter and in physical size (those 650+ pages would usually have me run a mile but the cover picture had me in hook, line and sinker). It definitely qualifies as an ‘Amazing Read’ for me on several levels (National Year of Reading theme for January)
I find the whole Holocaust a time of wonder and have done since watching The World at War documentary series with my Grampa in the mid 1970s when I was not yet in my teens (what were my parents thinking?). It has never ceased to fascinate me that the Holocaust should have happened at all, that a whole people were deemed worth less than vermin, the experiences that people had to endure, that people survived those horrors at all and that they went on to live full and productive lives. What amazing reserves of courage and resolve Holocaust survivors must have had!
The events described in the novel come from the ‘Ghetto Chronicle’ which is a document of around 3,000 pages which was the collective work of a handful of employees in the ghetto’s archive section (it’s amazing that all this horror was documented so thoroughly with the Nazi administration’s blessing). Sem-Sandberg gives us the stories of numerous men, women and children of the ghetto, including Rumkowski.
Rumkowski’s character is especially interesting and complex. In his own mind in charge and having one over on the Germans and it’s easy to see him as rather ridiculous as well as corrupt, but it’s soon revealed that they are quite aware of the ‘trick’ he’s playing. Biewbow, head of the German civilian administration tells him,”You thought you could buy yourself power and influence, that you could go on extending your perverse and filthy nest within the walls of a Greater Power and then carry on embezzling and misappropriating just as people like you have done so many times before throughout history, as it is in your nature to do” (p372). Ooh the distain, the prejudice of the Master Race.
But perhaps he wasn’t all bad. He has an especial interest in rescuing the children of the ghetto from deportation by ensuring as many as possible become indispensible by having jobs. This is a tactic used for the adults too. When the ghetto was first created the Jewish administration had around 100 employees working for it. By June 1943 there were more than 13,000 ghetto residents making a living “from one of the many offices and departments, divisions, labour offices, control bodies and inspection units presided over by Rumkowski” (p380) - the archive section alone comprised 44 employees, 1 director, 23 secretaries, 12 draughtsmen and printmakers, 4 photographers and 4 odd job men (p645). Recognition should be made that Rumkowski did save many many lives and there was a system of food rationing to ensure all were fed. But then again, Rumkowski later makes a speech urging parents of the remaining young children to give them up for deportation (and the ghetto dwellers knew by then that this was deportation to certain death) in order to save the adults. Machiavelli would have much to learn from this man.
Lesser characters include Rumkowski’s family – his wife, and a boy they adopt to assuage Rumkowski’s guilt at not being able to save all the children. There’s Adam Rzepin who tries to keep his intellectually disabled sister out of harm; Vera who has to wall her mad, sick mother up behind a wall for the same reason; Rosa Smolenska who looks after the orphans; Dawid Gertler the Jewish police chief. Some characters are followed at intervals during the course of the novel, others appear and disappear. They cross over each other like film extras playing in a busy street scene.
The vast number of pages allows the reader to get an impression of the long drawn out length of time of suffering and there is plenty of time to describe the day to day tribulations of eking out an existence with minimal rations, sanitation and housing space. It frequently seems to be winter – deep, dark, bitter winters like we cannot concieve of here in Australia and there’s a black market in coal, wood and other potential fuels. People had to live by their wits and be very enterprising, even the children, to survive. The time until the Soviets liberate the ghetto seems to pass very slowly yet at the same time this is an absolute page-turner of a book and once I got into it I read over 200 pages in one sitting and finished it in another couple of big gulps. I recommend it very highly.
Reviewed by : Alba
Listen to the Listeners in the Mist podcast which features a discussion of The Emperor of Lies
Has your summer reading been amazing?
There will be a live Twitter discussion on January 31st, starting at 8pm Australian Eastern Standard Time (and lasting until about 10pm Western Standard Time).
Join in using the tag #NYR12 as you discuss your Amazing Read.
#NYR12 Twitter nights will be held at 8pm AEST on the last Tuesday of each month throughout 2012 - put it in your diary now.
Set in Paris in 1785, Pure is the story of naive young engineer, Jean-Baptiste Baratte, who is given the unenviable and controversial job of emptying the noxious, overflowing Parisian cemetery, Les Innocents, and of demolishing its church.
Geordie Greig, chair of the final judges, said: “Pure is a rich and evocative historical novel which engrosses with its vivid portrait of pre-revolutionary France. The qualities of Pure stood out for its memorable gothic tale of morality and mortality.”
Pure was up against the other Costa Book Award category winners for the Book of the Year gong beating the bookies favourite, Now All Roads Lead to France : the last years of Edward Thomas by Matthew Hollis (Costa Biography Award winner), The Bees by Carol Ann Duffy (Costa Poetry Award winner), Tiny Sunbirds Far Away by Christie Watson (Costa First Novel Award winner) and Blood Red Road by Moira Young (Costa Children’s Book Award winner).