Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What We're Reading: Literary Fiction

In this novel set in post-World War I England, Frances Wray lives with her mother in their once-grand house. Though only in her late twenties, Frances is resigned to a life of spinsterhood, taking care of her mother and the house, having lost her two brothers to the War and her father to illness. Even though Frances does the housework herself, the Wrays still cannot make ends meet, and are forced to take in boarders, or "paying guests," a young couple of the clerk class called Leonard and Lillian Barber. Though shy with each other at first, Frances soon finds herself forming a friendship with Lillian, and is embroiled in the unhappy marriage of the Barbers, resulting in the upheaval of both the Barbers' and the Wrays' lives.

The Paying Guests is a masterfully written novel by the author of Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith. It is a well researched piece of historical fiction with layers of social commentary on the post-war era, social class, and women's rights. However, what I found most remarkable about the book was its depth and intensity. There is a strong romantic element with gripping, emotional scenes. There is also a suspenseful crime and courtroom component to the plot that makes the book a page-turner. Fans of the Dickensian novel will find this book quite compelling.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

This week at the library

Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m.

Linwood Barclay is the international bestselling author of 13 novels, including Trust Your Eyes, A Tap on the Window, No Time for Goodbye, and that novel's follow-up, No Safe House. His newest book, Broken Promise, just released yesterday, and tonight he is here to talk with us about it! Books will be available for purchase and signing.

Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

This is the summer meeting of ALL our book club members, to get acquainted and to pick what we will read for our September meetings. This meeting is for enrolled book club members only, grades 6-12. For more information, read about teen book clubs on our website.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Northwest Branch CLOSED this week

The Northwest Branch of Burbank Public Library is CLOSED for the week of July 27-31 while library staff converts its entire on-shelf collection to a new RFID tagging system. The Central Library and the Buena Vista Branch will be open normal hours to serve you. Any books you have checked out from Northwest Branch may be returned at either of the other branches; in addition, overdue dates have been adjusted to reflect the inconvenience of the branch's closure.

For more information about this project, scroll down further in the blog to see the complete explanation.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

What We're Reading: A New "Collected Poems"

Map: Collected and Last Poems,
by Wislawa Szymborska
Ttranslated by Clare Cavanagh
and Stanislaw Baranczak

The Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska died in 2012, and this collection represents her life’s work in poetry. She was always a popular poet in her native Poland, but she became better known to English-speaking audiences after being awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1996. Around that time, several collections of her work appeared in English.

The literary fate of poets has always seemed rather poignant. So often their entire life’s work actually fits into a single volume. Consider this in comparison to the multi-volume oeuvre of so many novelists, such as Stephen King or Joyce Carol Oates, whose novels fill multiple shelves. The poet W. S. Merwin said that he always had trouble with his work being "collected" in this way, even though it seems that the collections allow a poet to reach a larger audience. Poetry is usually published in small individual volumes, 20 or 30 poems at a time.  Often an individual volume is something more organic than just a collection of the poet's most recent work: It may represent discrete themes or stylistic experiments the poet was working on at a particular time in life. The poems written for it may even have been written with a chosen scheme or cycle in mind, and certainly their final arrangement in the volume is a considered rather than an arbitrary one.

Recently, collected works (as is the case with this one) seem to be published with their poems in the chronological order of their composition (as far as that can be determined) and with divisions that indicate the original individual volumes in which they appeared. However, simply their collection into a single larger volume tends to diminish the attention we pay to them individually or as a discrete collection. Because we are presented with so many, we make harsher judgments about which ones we find good in comparison to those that we like better. We inevitably make comparisons that work to the poet’s disadvantage. Poems that we might have ranked higher from within a smaller pool drift to the bottom in a bigger one. And chronology is not without its own problems. In a collected volume of poems I always tend to start reading from the last poem in the volume back to the front of the book. I’m not sure why. I suppose I want to see the art of the poet displayed in its most current or last embodiment. But also if a poet has matured and become better or has become known for some particular style or subject or character, it seems that will be most represented in their middle to late work.

Such has proven to be the case with this collection of poems. The early poems seem more opaque, and a reader might get lost. Every line and thought is dressed metaphorically, as if that is the requirement of poetry--that nothing can be said plainly or directly. I like the middle and later work of Szymborska better, where a single metaphorical conceit informs and structures the poem as a whole. And I think the later work contains more of what is unique and accomplished about her as a poet---the strange twists in perspective and the witty conceits that land us in a place of surprise and astonishment at the quotidian. Her translator, Stansilaw Baranczak writes,
The typical lyrical situation on which a Szymborska poem is founded is the confrontation between the directly stated or implied opinion on an issue and the question that raises doubt about its validity. The opinion not only reflects some widely shared belief or is representative of some widespread mind-set, but also, as a rule, has a certain doctrinaire ring to it: the philosophy behind it is usually speculative, anti-empirical, prone to hasty generalizations, collectivist, dogmatic and intolerant.
Yes, a sometimes sly---and always witty---empirical dissection is a Szymborska trademark. At times the result is coldly satisfying.  Sometimes it is quite moving. Here are three of my favorites. Perhaps they will encourage you to pick up Map: Collected and Last Poems by Wislawa Szymborska.

Frozen Motion

This isn’t Miss Duncan, the noted danseuse?
Not the drifting cloud, the wafting zephyr, the bacchante,
moonlit waters, wave swaying, breezes sighing?

Standing this way, in the photographer’s atelier,
heftily, fleshily wrested from music and motion,
she’s cast to the mercies of a pose,
forced to bear false witness.

Thick arms raised above her head,
a knotted knee protrudes from her short tunic,
left leg forward, naked foot and toes,
with 5 (count them) toenails.

One short step from eternal art into artificial eternity—
I reluctantly admit that it’s better than nothing
and more fitting than otherwise.

Behind the screen, a pink corset, a handbag,
in it a ticket for a steamship
leaving tomorrow, that is, sixty years ago;
never again, but still at nine A.M. sharp.

Portrait of a Woman

She must be a variety.
Change so that nothing will change.
It’s easy, impossible, tough going, worth a shot.
Her eyes are, as required, deep blue, gray,
dark, merry, full of pointless tears.
She sleeps with him as if she’s first in line or the only one
      on earth.
She’ll bear him four children, no children, one.
Naïve, but gives the best advice.
Weak, but takes on anything.
A screw loose and tough as nails.
Curls up with Jaspers or Ladies’ Home Journal.
Can’t figure out this bolt and builds a bridge.
Young, young as ever, still looking young.
Holds in her hands a baby sparrow with a broken wing,
her own money for some trip far away,
a meat cleaver, a compress, a glass of vodka.
Where’s she running, isn’t she exhausted.
Not a bit, a little, to death, it doesn’t matter.
She must love him, or she’s just plain stubborn.
For better, for worse, for heaven’s sake.  


In danger, the holothurian cuts itself in two.
It abandons one self to a hungry world
and with the other self it flees.

It violently divides into doom and salvation,
retribution and reward, what has been and what will be.

An abyss appears in the middle of its body
between what instantly become two foreign shores.

Life on one shore, death on the other.
Here hope and there despair.

If there are scales, the pans don’t move.
If there is justice, this is it.

To die just as required, without excess.
To grow back just what’s needed from what’s left

We, too, can divide ourselves, it’s true.
But only into flesh and a broken whisper.
Into flesh and poetry.

The throat on one side, laughter on the other,
quiet, quickly dying out.

Here the heavy heart, there non omnis moriar---
just three little words, like a flight’s three feathers.

The abyss doesn’t divide us.
The abyss surrounds us.

                                                ---In memorian Halina Poswiatowska

Friday, July 24, 2015

August Book Club selections

August has our book clubs keeping busy reading for their summer vacation:

For its meeting at noon on August 18th, The Brown Bag Book Club is reading A Paris Apartmentby Michelle Gable. 
Shuttered for 70 years, the ninth arrondissement apartment is a treasure trove for furniture appraiser April Vogt. Plus, an extended trip to Paris allows her to avoid her troubled marriage. As April uses the diaries of Marthe de Florian to establish provenance of the pieces, she becomes obsessed with Marthe's Belle Epoque exploits, her rivalry with Jeanne Hugo (Victor's granddaughter), and her path from Folies Bergere bartender to renowned (if forgotten) courtesan. All the while, April struggles to forgive her husband's infidelity, a situation not helped by the presence of Luc Thebault, the estate's solicitor, who seems determined to make sure April doesn't work too hard. Gable's debut is strongest when Paris is the focus, whether it's suffering a rude waiter at a corner bistro in the present day or dripping in jewels and furs and being bored by Proust in a cafe at the turn of the century. Some of April's actions late in the book will render her unforgivable to many readers, so if sick parents and infidelity are red flags, pass on this one. Otherwise, vive la Paris apartment! -- Maguire, Susan Copyright 2014 Booklist

The Scene of the Crime Book Club likewise meets on August 18th  at 7:00 PM, in the Children’s Room at Buena Vista, and the book under discussion is The Oxford Murders, by Guillermo Martinez. 

On a balmy summer's day in Oxford, an old lady who once helped decipher the Enigma Code is killed. After receiving a cryptic anonymous note containing only the address and the symbol of a circle, Arthur Seldom, a leading mathematician, arrives to find the body. Then follow more murders - an elderly man on a life-support machine is found dead with needle marks in this throat; the percussionist of an orchestra at a concert at Blenheim Palace dies before the audience's very eyes - seemingly unconnected except for notes appearing in the math department, for the attention of Seldom. Why is he being targeted as the recipient of these coded messages? All he can conjecture is that it might relate to his latest book, an unexpected bestseller about serial killers and the parallels between investigations into their crimes and certain mathematical theorems. It is left to Seldom and a postgraduate mathematics student to work out the key to the series of symbols before the killer strikes again.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

This week at the library...

It's the FINAL WEEK of Summer Reading Clubs!


Buena Vista Branch, 10:00 a.m.

Central Library, 12:00 noon
The club will discuss First Grave on the Right,
by Daryanda Jones.


Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m.
The club will discuss Oxford Murders,
by Guillermo Martinez.

Every Hero Has A Story presents...
Central Library, 7:00 p.m.


A one-man show by actor Duffy Hudson, showcasing Audie Murphy's World War II experiences and his crusade to help veterans
with PTSD.

Northwest Branch, 6:30 p.m.


Northwest Branch, 10:00 a.m.

Central Library, 3:00 and 7:00 p.m. sessions

Buena Vista Branch, 7:00 p.m.


The final Book Café of the summer! Come for book-talking and coffeehouse treats!

ALSO, enjoy meeting and chatting with awesome YA authors GRETCHEN McNEIL and JOHN COREY WHALEY!

For teens in grades 7-12 only. Remember to bring your bookmark!



Northwest Branch, 10:00 a.m.

Buena Vista Branch, 3:00 and 7:00 p.m. sessions

Central Library, 7:00 p.m.

Buena Vista Branch, 6:30 p.m.

For teens in grades 7-12 only!

The final meetup of the summer, where it all comes together:
  • Show your made things from Makerspace;
  • Exhibit your sketchbook (or share a page);
  • Read your writing to a receptive audience;
  • Play your guitar (or keyboard, or saxophone);
  • Bring your singing friends for KARAOKE! 
  • Or be the AUDIENCE!
Last big prize drawing of the summer!
Sign up! Let us know you are participating. Email

Central Library, 10:00 a.m.

MUSIC and MOVEMENT for PRESCHOOLERS and their families

Buena Vista Branch, 2:00 p.m.

Family Movies presents...
86 minutes / rated PG

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Library closures in July and August

Burbank Public Library is making some improvements to its materials management system, by implementing RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology. The new ID system will offer such advantages as improved collection inventory and better security for all library materials. It will also allow for self check-out, and (for the first time ever) the ability to pay fines and fees with a credit card!

The implementation of the new system is a major undertaking, so it will be divided into three phases:
Phase 1: Materials tagging
Phase 2: Self Check-out installation
Phase 3: Installation of automated materials handling system

During Phase 1, library branches will be CLOSED, one at a time, in order to prepare materials for the transition to the new system. During each library branch closure, the other two branches will remain open for your convenience. The schedule is as follows:

          CLOSED: Monday, July 27 through Friday, July 31

          CLOSED: Monday, August 3 through Sunday, August 9

          CLOSED: Monday, August 10 through Saturday, August 15

During these closures, the staff at the closed branch will attempt to tag every item on library shelves with the new RFID technology. After the closed periods, materials that were checked out at the time of the closures will be tagged as they are returned to the library in an ongoing effort to include the entire collection of all Burbank Libraries.

Please make note of these closures and plan to use a different library branch for your reading, research, and computer needs during the week in question. Also, please be aware that the collection at the closed library branch will not be available to the public during the period of the closure.

We thank you for your patience and cooperation during this transition, and assure you that the multiple long-term benefits to you, the patrons, will justify a small inconvenience now!