What to do with January…

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Really, once your ring in the New Year it’s kind of all down hill from there. Winter really gets rolling, the temperature continues to fall, snow, ice – it’s a frigid, brittle, monochromatic world out there. Bleak is the word. Bleak.

But we can’t just leave it at that. We’ve got to come up with something… Preferably something library related… Oh yeah!

January is NATIONAL BOOK MONTH!

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Much better.

There. We’ve fixed January.

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Happy New Year from the Moline Public Library!

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Fingers crossed that 2018 will be a good one!

Let’s all resolve to read more, watch more and learn more this year. Stopping by the library would be a good place to start… starting tomorrow, when we are actually open.

Merry Christmas!

The Moline Public Library is closed today (we’re off celebrating the holidays in the style of the mid-19th century, as all good librarians do) but we’ll be back tomorrow for our normal operating hours.

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2016 Moline Library Christmas Party*

Here’s hoping that your holidays have been happy and that your New Year looks promising indeed!

*Okay, it’s actually a would cut by Winslow Homer from 1858 called The Christmas Tree.

In Honor of the First Day of Winter…

Frozen Silence: 10 Quotes About Extreme Cold

Photo by Dave Lauretti, via Wikimedia Commons

We’ve romanticized the winter freeze in many a Christmas carol, but to those who’ll spend the entire season huddled by the nearest fireplace, space heater, or radiator, the plunge in temperature is no trifling matter — and for those without shelter, the weather could even prove deadly.

 

George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones, 1996
“Nothing burns like the cold. But only for a while. Then it gets inside you and starts to fill you up, and after a while you don’t have the strength to fight it.”

Cormac McCarthy, The Road, 2006
“Where all was burnt to ash before them no fires were to be had and the nights were long and dark and cold beyond anything they’d yet encountered. Cold to crack the stones. To take your life.”

Stephen King, The Dark Tower, 2004
“For over a long period of time there’s little in life so disheartening as constant cold — not deep enough to kill, mayhap, but always there, stealing your energy and your will and your body-fat, an ounce at a time.”

Edith Wharton, The Triumph Of The Night, 1914
“The blast that swept him came off New Hampshire snow-fields and ice-hung forests. It seemed to have traversed interminable leagues of frozen silence, filling them with the same cold roar and sharpening its edge against the same bitter black-and-white landscape.

Guy de Maupassant, Bel-Ami, 1885
“It was one of those bitter mornings when the whole of nature is shiny, brittle, and hard, like crystal. The trees, decked out in frost, seem to have sweated ice; the earth resounds beneath one’s feet; the tiniest sounds carry a long way in the dry air; the blue sky is bright as a mirror, and the sun moves through space in icy brilliance, casting on the frozen world rays which bestow no warmth upon anything.”

Robert A. Heinlein, Have Space Suit — Will Travel, 1958
“What sort of ‘water’ was that? Methane? What was the ‘snow’? Solid ammonia? I didn’t have tables to tell me what was solid, what was liquid, and what was gas at whatever hellish cold Pluto enjoyed in the ‘summer’. All I knew was that it got so cold in its winter that it didn’t have any gas or liquid — just vaccum, like the Moon.”

Donna Tartt, The Secret History, 1992
“It never occurred to me that half of the population of Vermont wasn’t experiencing pretty much what I put myself through every night- bone-crackling cold that made my joints ache, cold so relentless I felt it in my dreams: ice floes, lost expeditions, the lights of search planes swinging over whitecaps as I floundered alone Arctic Seas.”

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness, 1969
“On a world where a common table implement is a little device with which you crack the ice that has formed on your drink between drafts, hot beer is a thing you come to appreciate.”

Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows, 1908
“No animal, according to the rules of animal-etiquette, is ever expected to do anything strenuous, or heroic, or even moderately active during the off-season of winter.”

Haruki Murakami, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, 2006
“Ice contains no future, just the past, sealed away. As if they’re alive, everything in the world is sealed up inside, clear and distinct. Ice can preserve all kinds of things that way — cleanly, clearly. That’s the essence of ice, the role it plays.”

e.e. cummings, ViVa, 1931
“The snow doesn’t give a soft white damn Whom it touches.”

What Would Charles Dickens Think About Christmas Today?

Christmas Carol

Christopher Plummer and Dan Stevens in The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017)/Photo by Kerry Brown © Garlands Films DAC

Having written a number of books that do their best to re-create the personae of some of history’s larger-than-life figures – George Washington, Andrew Carnegie, and William Mulholland among them – I am often asked to speculate on how these giants might behave if thrust into a contemporary setting. It is always pure fancy, wondering if Carnegie might have sound business advice for Donald Trump, for instance, but then again the very reason for examining history in the first place is that we just might learn something from a considered look in the rear-view mirror.

I was asked recently to theorize about what Charles Dickens might think of what Christmas has become today, given the reach of his slender but ubiquitous novel of 1843, A Christmas Carol. That oft-mimicked book has been referred to as the one most widely read, after the Holy Bible, and is inarguably the novel most often adapted into film and stage play. It is hard to imagine Christmas without a reference to Scrooge or Tiny Tim, and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future are surely the most widely known literary spirits outside of Shakespeare.

Quite frankly, I suspect Dickens would be appalled at the neo-bacchanalian overtones that now color the two-month-long “Christmas season.” He lived long enough to witness the profound effect of his “little book” upon what was a second-tier holiday at the time of its printing, but even at the time of his passing in 1870, there was nothing like the frenzy of advertising and emphasis on gift-giving, dress-up, and party-going that begins in the United States on November 1, give or take. While Dickens was a great holiday booster and eager celebrant in his own right, his intent in writing A Christmas Carol had almost nothing to do with the practice of gift giving; the novel is, at its heart, all about the possibility of spiritual redemption. Dickens’s “experiment,” if you will, was to examine the circumstances under which the most hardhearted individual might be forced into a plausible shifting of shape.

There are very few references to gift-giving in A Christmas Carol. Of course a revivified Scrooge sends a prize turkey to the Cratchit family and promises clerk Bob a raise, and there is a moment during one of the spirit visits where a father arrives on Christmas Eve with presents for the household’s children, but the unrelenting business of the novel is the search for the key to Scrooge’s heart and a change in his behavior toward others.

With all this in mind, one might wonder if Dickens would change anything about his classic in order that it speak more forcefully to the modern world. I suspect that Dickens would probably want to try, for even in his own day he was convinced that he could outdo Carol – and, in fact, wrote four follow-up Christmas tales, none of which are widely known today. While his themes remain basically intact, he was never able to replicate a character as captivating as Scrooge, nor a plot as focused, inventive, and convincing.

Few writers labor under the misconception that their works have the power to “change the world,” and I doubt that Dickens would find himself at fault for the fact that Ignorance and Want (touchingly portrayed by waifs in A Christmas Carol) have not yet been stamped out in our twenty-first century. But I do think that he would be highly gratified to discover that his book has not only survived but, for all intents and purposes, become the secular counterpart to the story upon which the very concept of Christmas is based.

That the book endures so powerfully one-hundred-seventy-five years after its writing is proof of Dickens’s success. Even in a coldly rational modern world that has witnessed atrocities unimaginable in Dickens’s day, families gather annually to read or to watch A Christmas Carol and are inevitably persuaded that it is possible for the human heart to prevail, for charity to contradict greed, that love connects us all, and that such connection can triumph even over death. Whole philosophies and systems of religion endeavor to achieve as much.

Editor’s Note:

Les Standiford is the author of the critically acclaimed Last Train to Paradise, Meet You in Hell, Washington BurningThe Man Who Invented Christmas, and more. Recipient of the Frank O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, he is Founding Director of the Creative Writing Program at Florida International University in Miami. Here, he shares his thoughts on how Charles Dickens would view today’s Christmas.

8 Fictional Families We’d Love to Spend the Holidays With

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) © Warner Bros. Studios

There’s nothing quite like a holiday dinner to bring a family together. I was fortunate to grow up in a huge, boisterous clan (I have enough aunts, uncles, and first cousins to populate a small town), so holiday dinners were always a comically chaotic affair filled with way too much food and plenty of laughs.

In thinking about the brouhaha that so often accompanied the holiday meals of my childhood and adolescence, I realized how much I miss the experience. As a result, I couldn’t resist thinking about the fictional families that would be particularly intriguing to spend the holidays with. From the classic and the heartwarming, to the sure-to-be-delightfully-raucous, these are a few of the fictional families we’d love to visit for the holidays.

The cover of the book A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens

The Cratchits

Why not start with the quintessential Christmas family? The family at the heart of Dickens’ classic Christmas tale was lovable enough to help melt the heart of Ebenezer Scrooge – the most curmudgeonly of curmudgeons. And who can resist a roaring fire, roasting chestnuts, and that massive Christmas goose?

The cover of the book Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

J.K. Rowling

The Weasleys

This one is obvious, right? For one, there would be magic – that should be reason enough in and of itself. For another, we’re talking about one of the most delightfully quirky and loving families in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. There’s also the after-dinner quidditch game to look forward to, and I’m sure you could even toss a garden gnome or two.

The cover of the book To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee

The Finchs

Sitting in the dining room with Scout, Jem, and Atticus Finch would be a very interesting way to spend a holiday meal. You’d have the precocious charm of Scout and the timeless wisdom of Atticus. Really, what could be better than that?

The cover of the book A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones

George R. R. Martin

The Starks

Winters in Westeros may be notoriously unpleasant, but we can imagine holiday meals with the full Stark clan to be an interesting affair. Given that the Starks are one of the great houses of Westeros, they most likely put out a truly epic spread. Beyond that, there would probably be plenty of Stark children hijinks, and we can imagine Ned would have a good story or two to tell.

The cover of the book Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice

Jane Austen

The Bennets

While this meal would surely a particularly impressive to-do, sitting down to dine with the Bennets would be an experience in itself. The dinner conversation alone would make this a worthy holiday experience.

The cover of the book Little Women

Little Women

Louisa May Alcott

The Marchs

It really can’t get much more classically idyllic than a holiday with the March family. Imagine a roaring fire in a quaint New England cottage, a freshly cut tree, and perhaps even a holiday themed play written by Jo for the family to perform. Sounds pretty great, right?

The cover of the book Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Fannie Flagg

The Threadgoodes

First of all, the food for this one would be great – although it might be prudent to pass on the barbecue – but, fried green tomatoes are one of the best things ever. When you factor in the quirky charm of Idgie Threadgoode, this is not likely a holiday meal you’d soon forget.

The cover of the book Talking as Fast as I Can

Talking as Fast as I Can

Lauren Graham

The Gilmores

We generally try to stick strictly to literary world when contemplating these sorts of lists, but in this case I’m going to argue that books were most certainly a big part of “The Gilmore Girls”, so let’s roll with it. There would be epic and wonderfully witty dinner conversation, and a lovely stroll around Star’s Hollow. As long as Luke is doing the cooking, everything with the actual meal should be fine.

5 Fantasy Tales of the Holidays That Even a Grinch Will Enjoy

Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and if you’re looking for a holiday-themed read, then you’re in the right place. Got any to add? We invite you to make your suggestions in the comments. Books about Hanukkah and other December observances welcome!

The cover of the book A Lot Like Christmas

A Lot Like Christmas

CONNIE WILLIS

Connie Willis has written about Christmas before. Her wonderful time travel novel The Doomsday Book takes place around Christmas — in both the 13th and 21st centuries. As a matter of fact, one could make the argument that The Doomsday Book probably deserves its own entry on this list.  That said, if reading about the bubonic plague doesn’t sound like your cup of Christmas wassail, perhaps you’d be better off with A Lot Like Christmas: a collection of stories that explore many aspects of the holiday. Everything from the three Magi to Dickens’ Christmas ghosts get the Willis treatment. Perfect for a last-minute stocking stuffer!

The cover of the book Wolfsbane and Mistletoe

Wolfsbane and Mistletoe

CHARLAINE HARRIS

Maybe you don’t associate werewolves with Christmas, but Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner’s collection Wolfsbane and Mistletoe makes a strong argument for doing so. The 15 short stories here feature werewolves of all sorts — scary, happy, funny — dealing with the holidays the best that they can. Vampire aficionados take note: This includes an original Sookie Stackhouse story!

The cover of the book Counting Up, Counting Down

Counting Up, Counting Down

HARRY TURTLEDOVE

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights is the subject of alternative history author Harry Turtledove’s short story “In This Season”. Collected in his anthology Counting Up, Counting Down, “In This Season” is the story of a Jewish community in World War II that builds a golem to protect them from the Nazis. None of rest of the stories in Counting Up, Counting down tackles the holidays, but as Harry Turtledove fans know, there’s just about nothing he can’t make interesting.

The cover of the book Santa vs. Satan

Santa vs. Satan

JAKE KALISH (ILLUSTRATIONS BY CHRISTOPHER FROST)

We’ve got too many gifts on our wish lists to suggest that Santa Claus isn’t real, but if you’re interested in how this totally-not-imaginary beloved figure might fare in a brawl with the devil, Santa vs. Satan is the book for you. Author Jake Kalish brings his questions about these and other match-ups to experts from the fields of martial arts, pop culture, and more to definitively answer the question most of us have asked as kids: “Who would win in a fight between…”

The cover of the book Krampus: The Yule Lord

Krampus: The Yule Lord

BROM

Most of you probably already know about Krampus, the Christmas devil. This holiday horror is well-known throughout parts of Europe, but those of us with a dark sense of humor have made him our own. Master fantasy artist Brom wrote and illustrated this chilling tale of a musician who gets pulled into a fight between Santa and Krampus,  or as they’re also known, Saint Nicholas and the horned god Pan. Brom’s creative aesthetic has always been quite dark, and this is a Christmas story that only he could have created. Start a new tradition and read it to your kids on Christmas Eve! (Note: Do not read this book to your kids on Christmas Eve.)