In last month’s Font to Film we talked about authors who bring a personal perspective to their subject matter in order to produce a work which asks important questions or defies expectations. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, first published in 1961, does both. Rich with satire and social commentary on the nature of war and authority, it is widely regarded as a classic that maintains its relevance today. While many would argue that war is nothing to laugh about, Heller and authors like him have successfully used dark humor to spotlight the cognitive and moral dissonance that results from being in a situation that is deadly serious while simultaneously appearing to be completely absurd.
|Catch-22 focuses on Captain John Yossarian, a U.S. Army Air Forces bombardier serving in World War II. From the start it is made apparent that a central element of Yossarian’s character is his instinct for self-preservation; he harbors a firm belief that the people around him—both the German forces and his own commanding officers—are trying to kill him, and thus does everything he can think of to avoid flying combat missions. His attempts are largely thwarted by the existence of a military regulation known as “Catch-22,” which states, among other things, that Yossarian cannot request to be grounded due to insanity because such a request would be the act of a sane man. Heller’s portrayals of Yossarian’s commanding officers offer a grimly cynical take on the chain of command, and he likewise uses war profiteer Milo Minderbinder to showcase the naked greed and ruthlessness of unchained, unregulated capitalism. Throughout the chronologically-scattered narrative more details of Yossarian’s situation are revealed, and through him we witness the sheer horror of war as it is visited upon civilian populations and military personnel alike, including Yossarian’s close friends.|
|The 1970 film version of Catch-22 was directed by Mike Nichols and stars Alan Arkin along with a surprising number of familiar faces, including Art Garfunkel, Jon Voight, Bob Newhart, and Martin Sheen. The film condenses the plot a bit, eliminating some elements and simplifying others but managing to maintain the book’s tone and thematic concerns. Jokes better suited for the page than the screen are replaced with more visual gags, and certain auditory motifs—for instance, the drone of aircraft engines—are used to great effect. The film also reminds us that the strengths of the medium should not be underestimated; the actors all give compelling performances, and several scenes feature gruesome effects which really drive home the war’s terrible cost in a visceral way. While the novel received both positive and negative reviews upon its release, the movie was largely eclipsed by other war films released at the time, including another dark comedy, MASH (1970). Both the book and the movie have enjoyed great success in subsequent years, however; Nichols’ version has a reputation as a cult hit, and Heller’s original is seen as one of the most important war books of our time.|
Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 can be found at E.P. Foster Library in both the adult and young adult fiction collections. Mike Nichols’ film version is also at Foster, and in addition can be accessed via our new database Hoopla Digital. The film is available for streaming or downloading to those with a Ventura County Library card who have created a Hoopla account; see the staff at any of our branches or call for information on setting up an account. And as always, if the version you’re looking for is not on the shelf you can request that a copy be sent to your local branch over the phone or online through our catalog.
Some kids always seem to be in a hurry to grow up, to be more mature than they really are. Sometimes, they have to grow up fast, whether they want to or not. Such is the case with Rose and Windy, two young girls in This One Summer, by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki.
Every year, Rose and Windy come to Awago Beach for the summer with their families. Although a year apart in age, they are best friends, spending their summers swimming, watching scary movies, and enjoying the familiarity and comfort that Awago Beach brings. However, this year, this one summer, things are very different. Rose’s mother is walking around in a deep depression, her parents are often fighting, and there’s a lingering friction between Rose and her mother. There’s also a local boy Rose is infatuated with, but his involvement with another girl leads to unforeseen trouble, and Rose catches snippets of conversations without really understanding what’s going on.
This One Summer is very much a coming-of-age story. Both girls bear witness to very adult situations, but it’s Rose who changes the most, and by the end of the story she is not the same girl she was at the beginning of summer. Both Rose and Windy have to accept certain truths about themselves, but their friendship still remains strong.
This One Summer is worth a read, not only to recall your own “summer of change,” but to remember a time when the summer seemed to go on forever, and anything was possible with your best friend at your side.
On Tuesday, September 16, 2014, local makers will return to E.P. Foster Library for our second installment of make.show.tell.
This series allows makers, builders, and craftspeople from all around the Ventura area to share their skills with you! Join us for demonstrations of techniques and displays of finished works.
It all starts at 7 p.m. in the Topping Room. Stop by to see what your community is making!
The festivities begin at noon. Stop by to meet local literacy providers and learn more about this amazing program!
Sign up Today and enjoy our new digital
streaming service - hoopla!
Borrow up to 8 items each month,
Movies, music, audio-books and
|Your local library is always open.
This event will focus on knowing when to call for assistance and what pet-friendly medical supplies might be useful to have on hand.
This free event starts at 7 p.m. in the Topping Room. Remember to enter our Doggie Biscuit Guessing Game for a chance to win a free first aid kit for your pet!
The Ventura County Library recently acquired a laser engraver and cutter, and we’ve begun testing it to see what it’s capable of!
Our new laser cutter will ultimately be available as part of the Ventura County Library’s makerspace, along with our 3D printer and an assortment of other tools and materials. Stay tuned for more information!
Writing about youth and coming of age can be a tricky proposition. While some of today’s most visible young adult fiction seems to be dominated by certain cosmetic themes (vampires and werewolves come to mind), more deeply-running concepts are also present, such as the struggle to build an identity, cope with significant personal transformation, or resist an oppressive social order. When such themes are presented well, the resulting story can appeal to adults as well as young adults, though it’s important to remember that the two genres are separate for a reason. Evaluating one by the criteria of the other can lead to the undervaluing of a potentially important work.
|This month’s Novelties looks at three titles described as “adult books for young adults,” which already puts us on shaky critical ground. Lev Grossman’s The Magician’s Land, recently a New York Times Best Seller, is the final volume in the popular trilogy that began with The Magicians in 2009. Grossman’s books—unapologetically influenced by C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series—have been notable in that they bring serious grit and young-adult angst to the table, painting what might be a fairly accurate picture of what typical adolescents would do with access to nearly limitless power. By the events of The Magician’s Land protagonist Quentin Coldwater has been through a lot, first discovering, fumbling with, and mastering his magical abilities, then traveling to, ruling, and being banished from a fantastical world whose destiny seems intimately tied to that of Earth. In this final act Quentin struggles to learn more about the nature of the two worlds and how he might use an obscure and powerful spell to usher in a new utopia, all while coping with painful elements of his past which have resurfaced and made matters far more complicated.|
|From here we move to C. Robert Cargill’s debut novel Dreams and Shadows, which follows its main characters Ewan Thatcher and Colby Stevens from their youth into their early adulthoods. Cargill creates a world split in two, with both Ewan and Colby spending time as children in the mystical Limestone Kingdom—Ewan because he was kidnapped and taken there as an infant and Colby due to a chance encounter with a djinn who granted his wish to see the supernatural. The Limestone Kingdom is home to fairies, changelings, and gods pulled from many different cultures and societies, and when the two boys ultimately leave it and return to comparatively mundane existences in Austin, Texas, we begin to see the ways in which the worlds interact with one another. Cargill shows great skill at world-building—even though some readers find his embrace of so many different mythical traditions to be overwhelming—and the relationship that he develops between Ewan and Colby is deep and powerful. While the book has its detractors, it was generally well-received—Cargill has even produced a sequel, Queen of the Dark Things, which was released in May of 2014.|
|We wrap up this month with another debut novel: The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue. Donohue writes about Henry Day, who is stolen from his family at age seven and replaced with a changeling. The narrative then alternates between the point of view of Henry—who is given the new name of Aniday—and that of the imposter child, both of whom must struggle to adapt to their new roles. Aniday learns to live among the ageless beings in the forest (themselves also stolen children) as the memories of his old life gradually fade, while the new Henry attempts to adjust to living among humans in a world that is just as alien to him as the forest is to Aniday. What results is a stirring exploration of memory, identity, and the loss of childhood which Donohue confronts with a reserved and melancholy tone. Fantastical elements are certainly present, but are portioned out with a restraint and subtlety that pushes the book more closely into the category of magical realism than pure fantasy. An emotionally moving work with a haunting atmospheric quality, many readers have reported not being able to put The Stolen Child down until the very end.|
You can borrow The Magician’s Land, Dreams and Shadows, and The Stolen Child at E.P. Foster Library, and several other Ventura County Library branches have copies as well. If you’re looking for something from a different genre or want to find read-alikes for a specific title, you can visit NoveList Plus through our eLibrary’s Reading Suggestions section. Regardless of what you’re after, if the title you want isn’t on the shelf at your local branch you can request a copy in person, over the phone, or online through our catalog.