Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Book Review: The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

Hello Readers! Summer is right around the corner and you know what that means: Summer reading! Before you leave campus for the summer, the Library staff will offer you their own reviews of some of Kistler Library's newest books. If they sound good, add them to your own summer reading list!

Today, Elena Sisti, Reference Librarian at Kistler Library, has written her review for The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver, Call Number: PS3561 .I496 L33 2009. Hope you enjoy!


Review:
This is a story about words, spoken and unspoken, written and unwritten. This is a story about Harrison Shepherd, a private man of many talents who ends up in a rather public profession; he’s a best-selling novelist. One of the most compelling themes of this book is that what’s most important about a person is what you don’t know about him. At first these unknowns add to Shepherd’s allure and appeal. Later in the book, his blanks are filled in with perversions and untruths that devastate every part of his already agoraphobic life. 


Lacunae feature prominently in this story, both literally and figuratively. Shepherd would dive into a lacuna between rocks in the sea during for respite during his childhood in Mexico. The life Shepherd presents to the public is filled with lacunae. A journal kept during his young adulthood conveniently goes missing, a convenient excuse to avoid writing his memoirs, despite his beloved Mrs. Brown’s insistence that he do so anyway.

This book is a critique of the media. Newspaper and radio reports feed off of themselves, repeating and sensationalizing, filling in any lacunae with unverified facts until they become “truth.” This is reminiscent of the image in the book’s opening paragraphs. Shepherd and his mother cringe in fear of the sound of the howler monkeys’ dawn vocalizations outside the hacienda where they first lived in Mexico. One howler would set off the next. Even after it was explained to them that the monkeys were establishing their hunting territories, boy and mother remain uneasy. 

“Their food might be us, mother and son agreed. You had better write all this in your notebook… So when nothing is left of us but bones, someone will know where we went.”

Ironically, American newspapers and radio may only howl within a very limited range. The last third of the book takes place during the Red Scare and the time of McCarthy’s ominous Un-American Activities Committee. A narrow line separated “appropriate” expression from accusations of Communism. This line is especially narrow in the art world.

Such a myopic point of view angers Violet Brown. She argues that it is as if the powers that be believe America to be finished and perfect. Any hints that it could be improved or suggestions for progress are considered un-American. Any appreciation of different ideologies, behaviors or cultures is anti-American, therefore Communist, and therefore cause for investigation and legal persecution. This monster of an idea sometimes still rears its ugly head today.

I love that Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and their friend Lev Trotsky are major characters in this novel. The Riveras were Communist supporters, which didn’t affect them too much in Mexico, but did determine how and if their work was viewed in the United States.

Vivacious, vibrant, and often ill, Kahlo presents one of the novel’s most thought-provoking ideas: that the ancient Aztecs seem heroic to us moderns because they didn’t have written language. We don’t have any accounts of their quotidian struggles. All they left were their grand monuments, so we believe the that people themselves to be monumental; an example of the lacuna working in a culture’s favor.

Approximately 2/3 of this book takes place in Mexico. These are the parts that I love best. This setting allows Kingsolver to work her lyrical magic, describing the colors of the women’s clothes, the smells of the food and the flowers, raucous parties, and the light on the Aztec’s pyramids. For a time, Shepherd is employed as a cook and enjoys the task throughout his life. Kingsolver’s writing shines in her descriptions of food and belies her love of the topic.

I also enjoyed Shepherd’s first few years in Asheville, N.C. It seems very Arts and Craftsian and cozy. Despite WWII, America seems a hopeful place where everyone is united in doing their part for the war effort, as opposed to a few years later when there is much divisive finger-pointing as everyone is encouraged to rout out the Communists in their midst.

The passage entitled "On Your Leaving" are some of the most beautiful paragraphs I’ve ever read in a novel, a love letter that anyone should be delighted to receive.

The horticultural, special collections librarian and the Philadelphian in me were thrilled that Shepherd goes to the library with Romulus, the neighbor boy, to identify a wildflower using Bartram’s Flora of the Carolinas, which “had full-color plates of the specimen in question.” Romulus was disappointed to learn the true identity of said specimen.

I do think the book could have been a few dozen pages shorter, but overall, Kingsolver rightly maintains her position as Stephen King’s band- and shelf mate with this deep and rich novel.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Staff Tuesdays: Sarah Bolce, Evening/Weekend Supervisor

Every Tuesday during the Fall semester, we will be introducing, or re-introducing, you to the wonderful (and adorable) Library staff that work to help students make the most of their academic experiences here at Rosemont College. 


This week, we'd like to introduce Sarah Bolce, Evening/Weekend Supervisor.



As Evening/Sunday Supervisor, Ms. Bolce manages the Information Desk during Kistler Library's evening hours from 6pm to 11pm during the week. She also supervises the Library on Saturdays. She is responsible for checking items in and out and keeping the Library clean and quiet. Let's learn a little more about Sarah:

  1. If I run into you in the library, what would you typically be doing?

    I would be at the Circulation Desk ready to help students as needed.

  2. What is your favorite spot on campus, outside of the Library?

    I enjoy the walk from Kaul parking lot to the Library because I get to see the campus in all seasons as I'm heading to and from work. The library's Front Reading Room is my favorite spot in the Library, it's old-fashioned and impressive, while also being warm and welcoming. 
  3. Where do you spend most of your time while working in the Library?

    I spend most of my time in the Library behind the Circulation Desk.
  4. What do you like to do when you're not working?  
    In my free time I like work on my family’s genealogy to figure out who my ancestors were and where they came from, and learn about their lives.
  5. What is your favorite part about working in Kistler Library?

    My favorite part of working in Kistler Library is meeting, and talking with, the students who come into the library.
  6. What is a fun fact about yourself?

              I'm on level 1229 in Candy Crush.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Information Commons Exhibit: 2016 Presidential Lecturer, Chris Lowney

On Monday, October 24th, Rosemont's Institute for Ethical Leadership and Social Responsibility will sponsor a talk by the highly recognized author, Chris Lowney. Lowney will give the Presidential Lecture entitled "Doing the Laundry, Dirty Shoes, and the Monastery Bell Leadership Lessons from Pope Francis." With such an intruguing title, we are eager to hear his presentation.

Educated in the Jesuit tradition and for a time a Jesuit seminarian, he later entered the business world ultimately becoming a manager at J.P. Morgan, where he remained for seventeen successful years. Then after much thought, he decided to leave without a clue as to what he would be doing with the rest of his life. That issue was resolved when he started writing books and lecturing on leadership. His talks combine both his spiritual and worldly experiences in a captivating way.

To learn more about Chris Lowney, and Pope Francis, please stop by to see the Information Commons exhibit case on the first floor of Kistler Library.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Staff Tuesdays: Emily Siegel, Archives Assistant

Every Tuesday during the Fall semester, we will be introducing, or re-introducing, you to the wonderful (and adorable) Library staff that work to help students make the most of their academic experiences here at Rosemont College. 

This week, we'd like to introduce Emily Siegel, Archives Assistant.



As Archives Assistant, Ms. Siegel assists the Archivist with organizing and maintaining all the items in Rosemont College Archives. She works with the Archivist to help develop exhibits, both online and for the Archives display case in Kistler Library. She also works with Archives patrons both on and off-campus to find items or information about specific students and events in Rosemont's past. When she's not working in Rosemont College's Archives, she is working at the SHCJ Archives next to Gracemere. Let's learn a little bit more about Emily: 

If I run into you in the library, what would you typically be doing?

Setting up an exhibit on the main floor near the Front Reading Room


What is your favorite spot on campus, outside of the Library?

The garden outside of the library down the steps near the original entrance you can find me attempting to warm up from the cold Library.


Where do you spend most of your time while working in the Library?

Typically I’m in my office across from the upstairs lavatory




What do you like to do when you're not working?

Surprise surprise, I love to read (historical) fiction


What is your favorite part about working in Kistler Library?

I love to see the diligent work as students race to meet deadlines. It reminds me of my own college experiences at Rosemont.  


What is a fun fact about yourself?


I was planning to enter the US Air Force before I decided to attend college (at Rosemont).

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Staff Tuesdays: Joseph Tresnan, Assistant Director of the Library

Every Tuesday during the Fall semester, we will be introducing, or re-introducing, you to the wonderful (and adorable) Library staff that work to help students make the most of their academic experiences here at Rosemont College. 


This week, we'd like to introduce Joseph Tresnan, Assistant Director of Library Services.


As Assistant Director, Mr. Tresnan assists the Director with the administrative responsibilities for the Library. He also works with the other Reference Librarians to assist students and faculty with their research, both at the Reference Desk in the library and in library instruction sessions for individual classes. When Joe is not working with the Director or at the Reference Desk, he manages all of Kistler Library's print and electronic resource subscriptions, including the subscriptions for our databases and electronic journals. Let's learn a little bit more about Joe: 

If I run into you in the library, what would you typically be doing?


  • I might be found at the information desk helping students with research, managing our periodicals and electronic resources, or looking for new books to add to our collection.

What is your favorite spot on campus, outside of the Library?


  • I like to walk down by the stream, especially when the geese are around.

What do you like to do when you're not working?


  • When I’m not working I enjoy reading, doing crossword puzzles, and watching way too much TV!

What is your favorite part about working in Kistler Library?


  • The best part of working in the Library is helping students with their research. They come up with some fascinating topics, and I love to learn right along with them.

What is a fun fact about yourself?


  • I would love to someday compete on Jeopardy!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Staff Tuesdays: Allison Sharkey, Reference and Archives Librarian

Every Tuesday during the Fall semester, we will be introducing, or re-introducing, you to the wonderful (and adorable) Library staff that work to help students make the most of their academic experiences here at Rosemont College. 


This week, we'd like to introduce Rosemont alumna, and keeper of the history of Rosemont College, Allison Sharkey, Reference and Archives Librarian.



As Reference and Archives Librarian, Ms. Sharkey works with the other Reference Librarians to assist students and faculty with their research, both at the Reference Desk in the library and in library instruction sessions for individual classes. Additionally, she manages all of the archives for Rosemont College. She is responsible for maintaining and organizing all sorts of items from Rosemont's past, such as yearbooks and newspapers, meeting minutes, photos, President's journals, even the old mascot costumes! Let's learn a little bit more about Allison:


 If I run into you in the library, what would you typically be doing? Most likely you’d run into me at the reference desk, as that’s where I’m able to stay put for long stretches of time. I like that my job keeps me busy and all over the library, but I also really enjoy getting some time to slow down at the reference desk and getting to interact with Rosemont students.
What is your favorite spot on campus, outside of the Library? Hands down the garden behind the library. I love sneaking out there on my lunch break to read.

Where do you spend most of your time while working in the Library? I’m all over the place-- I spend about half my time at the reference desk, and the other half is split between my office and the archives, both tucked behind the third floor stacks. I’m also teaching this semester so I can be found downstairs in room 107 too.

What do you like to do when you're not working? I love trying new restaurants and am so lucky to live in the foodie haven that is Philadelphia. I’ve been to 22 of this year’s top 50 restaurants in Philly, but I’ve got a lot of work to do before next year’s list comes out!

What is your favorite part about working in Kistler Library? The staff! We’re a really close knit group and really care about each other both personally and professionally. It really makes coming to work a joy when you care about the people you spend so much time with during the week.

What is a fun fact about yourself? I’m seriously really good at parallel parking- like better at it than normal parking lot parking. It’s a skill I picked up from living in Center City for so long.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Staff Tuesdays: Kathleen Deeming, MA, Head of Access Services

Every Tuesday (except today) during the Fall semester, we will be introducing, or re-introducing, you to the wonderful (and adorable) Library staff that work to help students make the most of their academic experiences here at Rosemont College.

This week, we'd like to introduce the most mysterious, and most adorable, member of the Kistler Library Staff, Kathleen Deeming, MA, Head of Access Services, seen here with her attack rooster, Kirk Kistler (no relation to Gertrude).



As Head of Access Services, Ms. Deeming manages student library accounts and is in charge of making sure that your books and DVD's get checked out and checked back in correctly. She also is responsible for many of the fun events and activities in Kistler Library, including the Board Game collection (yes, you can check out board games!), the Color Me Calm coloring pages and the soon-to-be-opened Makerspace. Let's learn a little bit more about Kathleen:


If I run into you in the library, what would you typically be doing?
Dashing around.

What is your favorite spot on campus, outside of the Library?
The Japanese Maple and Rhododendron between the Library and Cardinal Hall

Where do you spend most of your time while working in the Library?
Circulation Counter at the Information Desk

What do you like to do when you're not working?
Walking, crossword puzzles, coloring, fishing.

What is your favorite part about working in Kistler Library?
Books and Co-eds.

What is a fun fact about yourself?
My favorite vegetable is Brussels Sprouts. Yum.