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Staff Picks and Suggestions

And another thing about “Little House”

So how did Pa manage to avoid the draft during the Civil War? Apparently two of his brothers served in the Union army. I promise that’s all I will blog on this topic here!!

Laura Ingalls Wilder, anyone?

I was talking with Hillary Corbett a couple of weeks ago about the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, which I am rereading with my 10-year old. I mentioned how well they are holding up over time, and Hillary observed that you see different things in them when you read them as adults. Little incongruities raise new questions, some of the events have a different cast once you’ve taken a few history classes. For me, what I notice is what a real character Pa is. Clearly Ingalls wanted to honor him, and I can understand that. For example, he is an incredible carpenter with skills ranging from being able to build a log cabin to being able to carve a delicate wall bracket. Second, he’s a musician with hundreds of songs in his repertoire. Third, he obviously has a sixth sense about how to communicate without words, with animals and with Native Americans. But there’s a little dark side, too, he’s really restless and can’t seem to stay in one place more than a couple of years, even at the expense of his family’s comfort and prosperity he seems very impulsive about moving around. Ma clearly doesn’t like it but she always just goes along, which really bugs me, too. Hillary said she’s curious about Dr. Tan in Little House on the Prairie. He’s the first black man Laura sees, and he is said to be “a doctor with the Indians.” What’s up with that? Were the Osage in the practice of hiring African Americans to provide them with healthcare? Was it a government program? And has anyone researched him as a person? Here’s my burning question: why did Pa go to Osage territory? Who is “a man in Washington” who told him it would be OK to settle there, which it clearly wasn’t. Did he feel guilty when he realized that the government was going to honor its Indian treaty, is that why he was so anxious to leave even before the soldiers came to resettle them? There are a LOT of web sites about the little house books, here are two I found in which the authors appear to know what they’re talking about: (click on “my blog” at the bottom) (an excerpt from Miller’s “Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder” ) About Dr. Tan–turns out he’s really Dr. George Tann and is buried in the Mt. Hope Cemetary in Independence.

Book Clubs

Even though I really love to read, I’ve never been part of a sustained, organized book club. One of my favorite elements of college was the discussion sections for my English classes. I enjoy thinking about aspects of a text, analyzing them, and also getting to hear what others thought. Of my friends who’ve been part of book clubs, the general consensus seems to be, that after the first meeting or so, no one usually ends up reading the book, and the get-togethers become more haphazard and purely social affairs (which can also be fun, but deviate from the original goal.)

I’ve thought about trying to start a book club at the library. Do you think that students would want to participate, or are they too entrenched in their own studies, to want to pick up additional reading? Do you think library staff, or other faculty and staff from the Northeastern community would be interested? And how narrow of a book club topic yields the best inquiry?

TV on the Radio

Our video upload attempts got me thinking about video on the web. With the writer’s strike stalling new television shows, I recently read an article on shows designed with internet viewing in mind. It also seems that users (myself included) have come to expect a smorgasbord of free entertainment (including television) on the web. While most networks have jumped on the bandwagon, usually providing a few episodes of their most popular programs online, they hardly offer an exhaustive season catalogue. This past week, I spent a fruitless hour trying to find episodes that I had missed.

Until I purchase a TiVo or DVR, is this a hopeless exercise? Or is the possibility of a complete television canon, free and readily accessible online, in the near future? Or, have users come to demand far too much in the way of free content, and will they be forced to pay for it, one way or another?


I love to read, and make sure to do it on a regular basis, and one stumbling block I occasionally run into is that I imagine all of my friends and family are as excited about it as I am. When it’s time to give a gift, the bookstore lures me in, and I always think that the perfect gift will be a special book that I enjoyed and want to pass along to someone I love. However, experience has taught me that after a point, a gift-recipient will say “Enough! They look good, but I’m never going to finish all of these.”

I try and pick out something that I found interesting and enjoyable, but different enough so I’m not just thrusting my specific taste onto someone. Some of my most successful selections have been Fasting, Feasting by Anita Desai, The Passion by Jeannette Winterson, and If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino. I’ve learned that shorter works best!

Are there any books that you think make particularly good gifts?