Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Hemingway: Must-See Documentary for Bookworms

Watch a trailer for Hemingway above
Find the entire series (plus extras!) here.
By Laurie Allee
For those of you reading this via email, click here to see the accompanying video
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The three-part PBS series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick is truly bingeworthy...

I'll be honest: I never really understood why Ernest Hemingway was so famous.  I had read The Old Man and the Sea in high school and probably wouldn't have finished it if I hadn't been assigned a term paper worth a quarter of my grade.  At 16, I wasn't terribly interested in an aging fisherman or (spoiler alert!) the giant marlin he finally managed to catch.

In college, I read A Moveable Feast, and while it made me really want to find a time machine to go back to expatriate Paris, I still didn't regard Hemingway as much more than an outdated, macho guy who was into drinking, fishing, hunting, and bullfights.  In the 1980s when Scribners unearthed the author's incomplete copy of Garden of Eden, the resulting novel felt stilted, sad, editorially manipulated and definitely unfinished.  

So I had not given Hemingway much thought in the last few decades.  One of my goals during the pandemic, however, was to utilize some of my newfound time at home to tackle a few of the great works of fiction I'd never gotten around to reading.  One of those books was The Sun Also Rises.  I had barely read Hemingway, and I certainly hadn't read the books considered to be his best.  So, I downloaded a kindle copy from the library, prepared to roll my eyes at the much-imitated staccato sentences, and expecting to suffer through pages of booze, bravado and bullfights in the name of my own literacy.  What I didn't expect, however, was to love the book.  

And I really, really love the book.   

Although the story is set in the 1920s, it feels immediately familiar.  The dialogue is fresh.  The people of the early 20th Century's Lost Generation seem eerily recognizable.   I've known beautiful, spoiled, flamboyant-yet-insecure women like Brett.  I've hung out drinking with tough, restless guys like Jake -- salty on the outside, casually cruel, enmeshed in debauchery, silently suffering with dark secrets and fiercely protecting soft romantic sides they would never, ever admit they had.  Maybe it's because I read the novel during the bleakest surge of Covid-19 -- also during a concurrent time of painful social crisis, despair, conflict, unrest and governmental breakdown -- but it really spoke to me.   The book's themes of aimlessness, loss, empty escapism and moral crisis gave structure and voice to my own chaotic mood.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

A Bookworm's Dream: Open Library

Open Library is even better than ever...
By Laurie Allee
For those of you reading this via email, click here to see the accompanying video
This post contains affiliate links.  Click here for more info!

So the mission of Open Library isn't ambitious or anything...

It's simply "to make all the published works of humankind available to everyone in the world. This dedication to open and accessible knowledge warms my utopian heart in ways I can't begin to express.  I want everyone to have access to books.  Lots of books.  Weird books and silly books and banned books and books never mentioned in a Buzzfeed list or a YouTube video.  When I see bookshelves, I feel like I'm in front of an oracle, and it's just waiting to point me to a revelation or a warning or a great, big cosmic secret.

Books have done more for me than just entertain and inform; they have helped make me who I am.  And they aren't finished with me yet.  

The basic kindle is great for e-books
I think of bookstores and libraries as holy places, offering insight and revelation to any seeker who shows up to look around.   So, too, are the apps and websites that deliver books to me.  Even though I've written for the internet since 1994, I'm still awed by its scope and potential.  Prime book delivery in a day!?  Digital libraries on Overdrive!?  It's dizzying.  I still look at my kindle like it's a holographic librarian.  It supplies my near insatiable jones with as many library e-books as I can check out, literally plucking them out of thin air and making them appear before me on my e-ink screen.  This librarian is always on call, no matter what time of day, as long as I remember to charge the kindle battery.  Every book delivered provides something useful or inspiring or thought-provoking or even life changing.  (It's a little bit like this librarian, come to think of it.)  

Preordering from Amazon means shiny hardbacks from my favorite authors delivered on the day of publication.  Sometimes signed!   Audible delivers famous actors reading classic works for under $15, and Hoopla gives them to me for free.  I have a teetering stack of books by my bed.  I'm always halfway through at least a dozen reads and I usually have an audiobook playing as I do chores or take a bath or make dinner or drive so that no matter what mindless task I'm doing or errand I'm running, I'm reading.

So what, you might ask, could I possibly get out of Open Library?