December 9, 2014

The Horror of an Unfamiliar Genre

By Bethany Taylor, Library Assistant

I do not like horror anything as a form of entertainment. I could be grumpily realistic/arrogantly lofty here and say that as there are more than enough terrifying things—climate change, Ebola, economic collapse, falling in love, being judged by busy strangers for college admissions, etc.—in reality for me to bother going out of my way to scare up some fictional ghosty goblins or gory ax-murderers or mutant bloody aliens or violent alternate demonic personalities seeping into one’s being.

The truth is that I have far too active an imagination to cope with the aftermath of a horror movie. I watched Poltergeist in middle school and spent the next year or so convinced that every door I opened might have a creepy devil man behind it, or that the noises in my parents’ house were poltergeists, not our acrobatic cats cavorting around an old farmhouse. Similar bouts of hyper-tension, jumpiness, sweaty-palmed stabs of fear and imagined terrors followed with various viewings of X-Files episodes, The Exorcist, and so on until I was confident enough to say “nothankyouIhavetobeanywherebuthere!” to horror as a genre.

Fast forward about fifteen years and I am spending a lot of time in libraries. The public library where I worked before BB&N had, I think, every Stephen King book ever written, and they still whipped on and off the shelf nearly as fast as Fifty Shades of Grey and The Hunger Games. Because this was an old library in a small town in New Hampshire, it was naturally rumored to be haunted. As such, I managed my time so I was never shelving Stephen King books when alone, after dark, in the haunted library.

Fate does not need such temptation.

However, now that I spend more time in a more modern and better lit atmosphere, and also find myself spouting off banal educator one-liners about “trying new things” and “exploring what is out there” and “every genre has merit,” it was starting to seem a mite hollow that here was an entire type of book that I was not reading, without trying it, like a little kid avoiding brussel sprouts (which are delicious.)

So I decided to stop being a narrow minded ‘fraidy-cat, hike up my big girl panties, and read me some horror. On a friend’s recommendation, I selected Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot. And I waited until a somewhat dark and stormy night to start reading, because what is the glee in doing something half-way?

Friends, it was so much better than I thought! Because apparently I am a big book snob, I assumed anything as popular and wide-reaching as Stephen King would just be engaging, but poorly written with just a lot of blood and cheap fear sloshing around. I thought it would be like a romance novel, but with absurd scary and violent scenes replacing highly over-written and ludicrous sex scenes.

Not so. Certainly, the story is dated, and it read a little bit like a parody of a horror movie, but the writing itself is wonderful. The town of ‘Salem’s Lot is extremely well drawn. A regular day is run through by checking in with various characters at different times of day. It’s like Act One of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town (my favorite play), but with the daily life being supplied by a full orchestra of major and minor characters, giving more layers and textures and personality to the town. While some of the characters are predictable and one dimensional, there are others who have rich inner lives and come into play with deep inner strength that is—if not entirely believable in the context of staving off evil in the kitchen of a small town in coastal Maine—enormously compelling and a little heartbreaking.

The creep-factor crept in slowly, and then all at once. There are so many characters, and you never get more than a short segment of their story at a time that, as the stories build in themselves and on each other, a net is being woven tighter and tighter until the reader is caught. It is brilliant story-telling, enough so the absurdity of the main premise itself is swallowable. The rooted yet wavering Christian faith of the priest, the quaintly sweet and creepy homogeny of the town, and the dichotomy between good and evil, all of these perspectives on the stories we believe and take faith in and build our lives around was fascinating from a philosophical side. And the strange epidemic that grips the town, how a town caves in on itself with a sort of infection…well, here we are back at Ebola and pandemics and real things to be scared by.

I read the whole book, cover to cover, in two nights. And I don’t know that I’ll read more—it’ll always depend on how creaky a house I live in, how close creepy haunted seeming mansions are, or about three hundred other factors, but I’m pretty happy to say that I’m not fully avoiding the genre. Here’s to expanding horizons and confounding personal prejudices! Hooray for libraries and books that make such experiences easy and possible!

(Horror movies, though... Heck no. That is something new that I have no need to test my anti-snobbery about. I need to sleep sometimes.)

December 2, 2014

Check Out Our New Books!

December is a great time to curl up with a book - the days are short, the weather is cold, your favorite comfy spot on the couch is calling to you, and the relaxing days of winter break will soon be here.

Want to read Lena Dunham's new memoir?  You're in luck!  Are the events of Ferguson on your mind?  Check out the novel, How It Went Down. In the mood for something visual and creepy? Through the Woods might do the trick.  Hockey fan? Try Boy on Ice.

Scroll your mouse over the book covers below to check out links to book descriptions and more for some of the library's newest titles.  There are many more new books not shown here, so drop by the library, too!  

December 1, 2014

NaNoWriMo: That's a Wrap

National Novel Writing Month is officially over!  We congratulate BB&N's inspiring and dedicated NaNo-ers on a truly fantastic effort.  Sharing her final thoughts on the NaNoWriMo experience is veteran NaNo-er, Amy, with a guest blog entry:

The month of November is already over? But I don't like December and all the other non-insane months of the year...

Life happens. I didn't write for two weeks in the middle of the month because schoolwork steamrollered over me. But a combination of competitiveness, pride, desperation, and chocolate made me drag myself over the finish line.

Remember that saying, "slow and steady wins the race"? I don't know about you guys, but fast and haphazard seems to have scraped me a NaNo win this year. The last few days of the month, I planted myself at my desk and typed up a storm in a sugar-fueled daze. I probably can't even tell you what I wrote about. I don't recommend this approach, mainly because it involved refusing to go to Thanksgiving parties, do my chores, or move anything other than my fingers.

Still, I think it was worth it. When I clicked the "Validate my word count" button and the NaNoWriMo website declared me a "Winner!", I felt a heady rush of satisfaction. I looked back on what I wrote earlier in the month (not the stuff I just wrote, I'm saving that for later laughs), and I thought, "oh man, that scene was so random but so fun to write" and "I don't know what I was thinking but that metaphor was hilarious" and "wow my characters are sassy" and sometimes just "???".

I don't really know where this blog post is going. However, whether you wrote 500 words or 50,000 or anything in between, I hope you had a great time. I hope you found crazy ideas inside yourself that you didn't know you had. I hope you put lots of badly worded kind-of-not-really sentences down, because hey, that means the well-worded brilliance is that much closer, right? (Right?)

So it's December now, a month where I have to pretend to be semi-functional and not chained to a keyboard. I don't know if I can do it, but wish me luck.

November 21, 2014

(Hand) Turkeys Run Amock in the Library!

If you didn't make it to the library's Hand Turkey craft event, well, you missed out. It was awesome. The good news is that there's still time to drop by the library to check out our gallery of hand turkey masterpieces, now showing until Thanksgiving break.  These turkeys couldn't be more exquisite if Van Gogh, Picasso, Cezanne, Kahlo, Rembrandt and Matisse had created them themselves.

Thanks to all our artists for participating!

A couple of Hand Turkey artists, hard at work.

A small selection of the artwork.  Prices available upon request.

November 14, 2014

NaNoWriMo: One Writer's Thoughts

By Bethany Taylor, Library Assistant

Writing is hard.

It sounds whiny to say this. Because it’s not hard the same way that hiking a long way is hard, or studying for a math exam is hard, or trying to figure out what you’re going to do with your life is hard. Creativity is hard work, and the time and labor put in in service to being creative is as thorny as it is valuable. The more the world becomes automated and quantified, the more I think we need to embrace our individual voices of creativity.

And that is difficult and necessary work. (Or I think so—if you’re one of those people who blissfully churns out thousands and thousands of words a minute, I do not understand you, but I will read your book. Voraciously.)

I think writing is hard because you have to trust something intangible. Creativity is not something you can control, not something—thankfully—that can be dissected, quantified, and mass produced. It is yours, and yours alone. There is no equation, no right answer, except what you find to be right and true.

I love that. It makes creative writing an escape from living within anyone else’s rules and expectations.

And that alone, living up to and within your own best wishes and personal expectations, can be rather daunting.

When I sit down to write—and I usually write nonfiction, having gone to both college and grad school as an environmental essayist—it’s because there is an idea burning me up inside and out and as I write, the connections between that idea, the wider world, and my personal emotional landscape start to come clear. I’ve started off with an idea to write an essay about climate change (almost always) and end up writing about sunrises, drunks, falling in love, ospreys, astronomy, Kurt Vonnegut, V for Vendetta, killing woodchucks, and the Berlin Wall, variously.

And, with nonfiction, I’ve learned to trust the jumps that my brain takes while writing. It’s like I—the Decision Making Writer, allegedly in charge of this operation—disappears and my brain and fingers commune directly. And part of me just watches from the sidelines, and trusts where the wild leaps will land.

It’s very odd.

What I’m finding both strange and wonderful, but also newly challenging, about writing for NaNoWriMo is that it’s a new place of imagination that gets activated. All of the sudden, I’ve got characters saying things, doing things, thinking things that are like my thoughts, but again, the part of me that organizes and plans what is happening has to just sit tight and watch the story unfold.

I’m not used to trusting strangers, particularly the ones who live in my head and flicker into something like life when I sit down and open up my novel-file.

That is what is hard, trusting yourself and your talents. This is what is scary as we each sit down in front of a blank page. In most aspects of life, we’re unaccustomed to trusting ourselves. In writing, there is no one else to trust, or worth trusting. Because if it isn’t 
right to you, it doesn’t matter who else likes it.

And this is what is so sweetly satisfying, also. Because as much as one hems and haws and deletes and re-writes and procrastinates and worries and doubts oneself, if you give up trying to control things and just give into the weird wildness of creativity, something will happen on that page.

It will. 

November 10, 2014

Curl Up with a Good Book at the Library!

Today, we had the pleasure of welcoming Ms. Bonsey's class to the library, where students ensconced themselves with comfy chairs, a pillow or two, and - most importantly - a good book! We couldn't resist snapping a photo of these happily absorbed readers:

Luckily, you don't have to come with a class to read at the library; you're always welcome to come find a cozy spot to read!

Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.
–Vera Nazarian

November 6, 2014

It's National Novel Writing Month! (Guest Blog Post)

It's National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), in which people across the country take up the challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November. This year, BB&N has its own team of NaNo-ers, pouring blood, sweat, tears and ink (well, hopefully just ink) onto the page to meet the challenge. We're proud to support their effort! Below is a guest post from veteran NaNo-er, Ayame, offering motivation and insight.  Go NaNo-ers!

We're halfway through the first week of NaNoWriMo 2014 – how's it going for you?

If you find yourself behind on your word count goal, no worries! You have almost an entire month to catch up.

If you're still on target, keep up the great work!

If you find yourself (somehow) beyond your word count goal, good for you! Don't relax yet – there's a lot of days left in November. *eyes competition* *returns to writing*

The first week has always been the easiest, for me – still all fired up about this whole writing thing, still at least a little in love with my story. It's a good time to get ahead in terms of words, 'cause rest assured, it gets harder.

The second week, for instance, is always cited as the hardest to get through. By the time you reach the third week, there's a certain amount of "well, I've gotten this far, MIGHT AS WELL KEEP GOING HUH." By the time you get past that, it's basically just last minute panic and lots and lots of writing.

Anyway, I don't know how motivational that was. Just keep writing! I believe in everyone's ability to get through the month successfully!

November 3, 2014

Halloween, Brontes,and Dinosaurs

Playing off Ms. Duncan's recent post of literary themed Halloween costumes, here is the story of mine, which I think is way cooler than a pug being Gandalf.

Recently, I was re-organizing my personal bookshelves and my copy of Wuthering Heights happened to be next to a really lovely pop-up book of dinosaurs that I own, because sometimes I have the reading interests of a preschooler. Familiarity breeds contempt, sometimes, but also awesome bad puns and incredibly personally specific costumes. (I love dinosaurs.)

Et, voila! One downloadable apatosaurus/brontosaurs mask and the loan of my extremely talented mother's costume from her historic re-enactment adventures (I come from a long line of people with endearing nerd-like tendencies) later, and I am pleased to introduce you to Miss Emily Bronte-saurus!
(Ms. Taylor as Emily/Charlotte/Anna Bronte-saurus)

Technically, if I wanted to be really scary, I would follow Calvin's example and go as a barrel of toxic waste.

But, aside from the complete destruction of the world by irresponsible human activity, I think that the stark, Gothic, emotionally abusive and direly insane world that the Bronte sisters created ranks pretty high in the actually terrifying ranking system. 

Beside all that dark, windy-moored, haunted-attic, personal repression the behemoths of the Jurassic period look positively friendly. 

For more good times, check out this fun quiz to see if you might be stuck in an unfun Bronte novel. And then go listen to Kate Bush's song "Wuthering Heights." She sounds like a desperate ghost, which sets a nice Halloween/dark November tone, I think.

October 30, 2014

Banned Books Art!

I know, I know.  Banned Books Week was over a month ago.  But we just came across this Banned Books Week-inspired art yesterday and we had to share it!  Some of our favorite characters, condemned and charged.  Oh the injustice.  Take a look!

October 28, 2014

Tales from the...Library

Ghouls, goblins & ghosts!  It's almost Halloween.  What better way to get in the Halloween spirit than curling up with a frightful tale?  With the help of the SLACkers (Student Library Advisory Committee), we've scoured the bookshelves for some of our spookiest titles and put them on display for your choosing.

If you're still searching for a costume, make your friends laugh and dazzle them with your astounding literary knowledge with one of these costumes!  (Gregor Samsa is my personal favorite.)  

Happy Halloween!

October 16, 2014

Judge a Book by Its Cover?

Not surprisingly, I'm often in the company of books, and I frequently find myself thinking about their covers.  For better or worse, a book's cover typically influences my first impression of a book, inviting me to pick it up and find out more or to move on.

I liked this NPR interview with Peter Mendelsund, a book jacket designer and author whose latest work, Cover, showcases the hundreds of book covers that he's designed.  Mendelsund makes the point that a book cover serves two purposes: to sell the book and to portray what it's about.  His interview inspired me to think of my own favorite book covers and those covers which I've found most memorable.  The covers for Wonder by R.J. Palacio, David Sedaris' When You Are Engulged in Flames, and J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye immediately came to mind.  ShortList also takes a crack at naming the 50 Coolest Book Covers.  Drop by the library and tell us about your favorite book covers!

- Ms. Duncan

October 15, 2014

Banned Books Follow-Up!

Sure, Banned Book Weeks was a few weeks back, but there's never a bad time to talk about censorship.  So, do you ever wonder "what kind of town bans books?"  This article from the New Yorker reflects on the debates swirling in one Texas town about the discomfort that some school library titles have raised in that community, and the larger question: "what is art?"  Check it out!

Interestingly, we at the Almy Library also heard about a school in Massachusetts that recently banned a book from its shelves.  Due to a parent's objections, the school banned The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier.  We're proud be to part of a community that reads freely at BB&N!

September 24, 2014

We Read Banned Books!

It's been an eventful week at the Almy Library, as Banned Books Week has been underway!  Aren't you glad to live in a community that reads banned books rather than hides them away?  We are, and we've loved hearing all of your reactions to and thoughts about banned books in the last week.

Yesterday, we listened to students and faculty read passages from their favorite banned books and can't wait to make the event even bigger next year! Here are a couple pictures from the event:

A student reading a passage from a banned book
Mr. Danhof reading a passage from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Plus, we can't get enough of your "Caught Reading Banned Books" mugshots.  Who knew that holding a book could be such an amazing mugshot prop?  We have way too many mugshots of both students and faculty to post them all here, so we hope that you come by to see them in person! Here are just a few:

Ms. Taylor, Library Assistant Extraordinaire, posing for a mugshot

September 11, 2014

Back to School!

We at Almy Library hope everyone had a fantastic summer!  At the library, we're starting the school year with with a new librarian, new books, and a new policy or two!

So, you saw the skit and you've heard the news about the quiet X-blocks at the library.  What's the deal?

We heard you when you said that it gets really loud in the library during X-block, and we empathized when you said that you loved quiet X-blocks during exam times last year.  So, this year, quiet X-blocks are here to stay! We want the library to be a place that you can always rely on to focus, learn, explore, and get your work done.

Quiet X-blocks at the library do NOT mean silent time.  (That's why we have the Quiet Room!) The general policy is: if we can hear you at the desk or if people nearby can hear you, you're speaking too loudly.  The library is a popular place during X-block, but if we all keep our voices down (library staff included!), we hope that we can keep the overall volume to a hush so that your work doesn't get disrupted.

All good?  We hope so!  Please come by and share your thoughts about the new policy (and anything else!) as the year progresses.

We'll leave you with this:

March 12, 2014

Book Swap 2014

We had so much fun at the book swap, and were so swamped with swappers and baked goods enthusiasts, that we appear to have forgotten to have taken any pictures to prove it happened...but it did, and can we tell you something?  The 2014 Book Swap and Bake Sale?  HUGE success.

Students, faculty, and parents joined forces to donate roughly 450 items and lots of baked goods! But the news gets better, because yesterday the upper school community swapped or purchased roughly 100 of those items!  

And yes, the news gets even more betterer*: we are so, so, so proud to announce that this year, we will be donating almost 350 items and, believe it or not, $170 dollars from book and baked item sales to More Than Words!

eHigh five, everyone.  

Enjoy the books and excellent feeling you have for supporting a great charity on your spring break!

*Apologies to the English Department.  

February 10, 2014

Author Visit: Brian Staveley

Our current favorite author just so happens to be a BBN alum: Mr. Brian Staveley!  Mr. Staveley used to teach English and History in the upper school, before running away to sunny VT with his wife and adorable son to begin a career as an author.  Luckily, as many freshman know, he can still be found in the woods at Biv come September, where you can count on him to rescue you in Orienteering from a giant mud pit/lake/the woods/insert your own nature obstacle here.

We,  along with the English department, were very excited to welcome him back in late January as part of his book launch tour for his very first book, The Emperor's Blades.  Thanks so much to Mr. Staveley for honoring us with a visit, and to Porter Square Books for bringing all the copies for him to sign!  Here are a few of our favorite pictures from his visit:

February 7, 2014

Displays: Who do you appreciate at BBN?

This February we're celebrating the people we respect and admire in our own community.  
Stop by the library and tell us all who they are on the display board.

Share the warm fuzzies in cold, cold February!

You can also check out our display on the Olympics, while you are pondering all the great people at the BBN upper school:

January 27, 2014

Coffee House the Third!

We're a few weeks behind on our reporting skills, but the first week back from winter break featured everyone's favorite event: the BBN Not So Quiet Coffee House!  We had some very talented performers from both the faculty and student body, and some bold individuals who stepped up to the plate last minute (we salute you).   In short, it was fantastic.  We can't wait for next year!
Here are a few of our favorite pictures: