Friday, October 31, 2014

Passenger Pigeon Discussion

The library will hold a discussion of A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction by Joel Greenberg on Monday, November 10 at 7:00 PM. This will be the second in a series of book discussions on the theme “Extinction!”

In the early nineteenth century 25 to 40 percent of North America’s birds were passenger pigeons, traveling in flocks so massive as to block out the sun for hours or even days. But as naturalist Joel Greenberg relates, the pigeons’ propensity to nest, roost, and fly together in vast numbers made them vulnerable to unremitting market and recreational hunting. Although a billion pigeons crossed the skies 80 miles from Toronto in May of 1860, little more than fifty years later passenger pigeons were extinct. The last of the species, Martha, died in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo one hundred years ago, on September 1, 1914.

The passenger pigeon’s demise, as recounted by Greenberg, is “a story of unremitting, wanton, continental-scale destruction,” says the New York Review of Books. It is “equal parts natural history, elegy, and environmental outcry,” says The New Yorker, which notes that, “answering even basic questions about the passenger pigeon requires a sort of forensic ornithology, which gives [this book] an unexpected poignancy at the very points where it is most nature-nerdy.” The Chicago Tribune hailed this account as “a brilliant, important, haunting and poignant book.”

The “Extinction!” series will conclude with a discussion of Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes by Svante Pääbo on December 8.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

James Thurber Discussion

The library will host a discussion of two stories by James Thurber as part of its Book Club for Writers program on Thursday, October 23 at 7:00 PM. Copies of “The Catbird Seat” and “You Could Look It Up” will be available in advance at the library, and the discussion will be free and open to the public.

James Thurber (1894–1961) was one of America’s foremost humorists, best known for his cartoons and short stories, which mostly appeared in The New Yorker. He began his career in journalism with his hometown newspaper, the Columbus (OH) Dispatch, and moved to New York to work for the New York Evening Post. With the help of E. B. White, he joined the staff of The New Yorker as an editor in 1927, but did not begin his career as a cartoonist until 1930, when White found some of his cartoons in the trash and submitted them for publication in the magazine.

Thurber’s best-known works include Is Sex Necessary? (co-written with E. B. White), My Life and Hard Times, The Middle-Aged Man on the Flying Trapeze, My World and Welcome to It, and the short story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” one of the most frequently anthologized stories in American literature. “Mitty” was adapted for a 1947 film starring Danny Kaye – an adaptation that Thurber disliked – and was recently adapted a second time for a film released last year. Thurber’s work has also inspired other films, plays, and television shows; “The Catbird Seat” was the basis for the movie The Battle of the Sexes. The Thurber Prize for American Humor is named in his honor.

Book Club for Writers is a fiction discussion program that meets four times a year. Discussions are open to all, and focus particularly on questions of craft and technique that will interest writers and aspiring writers. Created by the New Hampshire Writers’ Project, Book Club for Writers is sponsored locally by a fiction writing group that meets weekly at the Haverhill Corner Library.

The next Book Club for Writers discussion will be held January 15, 2015 and will feature “A Conversation with My Father” by Grace Paley and “The Harvest” by Amy Hempel.