Bessie Sullivan, County Librarian: Hello, I’m Bessie Sullivan from the Haliburton County Public Library and this is Library Moments. Once a week some of us from the library will come and talk about books, upcoming events, or the services we offer at the library.
September’s online book club topic is “Running away with the circus” and is based on one of the themes associated with our One Book, One Community choice, Fifth Business by Robertson Davies. By identifying read-a-like themes as we have done here today we are creating a “reading map”. You can pick up our Fifth Business reading map at any branch of the library or view it online. Other themes we have included are Small Town Gothic, Fateful Events, New Identities, Sinners and Saints, and the School of Robertson Davies.
Today on Library Moments Sherrill Sherwood, Erin Kernohan-Berning and I will each talk about a book in which, much like Paul Dempster from Fifth Business, the characters are drawn in by the dark and dazzling spectacle of the circus.
Sherrill Sherwood, Collections Development:The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb is based on extensive research into the eccentric true life of Vinnie Bump. Vinnie was only two feet, eight inches tall, but more than a century later, her legend is known to us. As a child, she was encouraged to live a life hidden away from the public. Instead, she reached out to promoter P. T. Barnum, married the tiny superstar General Tom Thumb in the wedding of the century, and became the world’s most unexpected celebrity. Vinnie’s wedding captivated the nation, preempted coverage of the Civil War, and even ushered her into the White House. But her fame also endangered the person she prized most: her similarly sized sister, Minnie, a gentle soul unable to escape the glare of Vinnie’s spotlight. Melanie Benjamin has masterfully created a fictionalized biography as entertaining and fascinating as it is enlightening.
Erin Kernohan-Berning, Branch Services Librarian: In Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer’s All the Broken Things, it’s 1983 in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood and Bo is a 14 year old Vietnamese refugee, having arrived as one of the many Vietnamese Boat People that came to Canada at the height of the Indochinese refugee crisis in the 1970’s and 80’s. When Bo is seen during a street fight by Gerry, a carnival worker and bear training, he recruits Bo to be a bear wrestler, giving Bo his own bear cub to train. But Gerry’s boss Max has other ideas when he discovers that Bo’s four year old sister was born disfigured from the effects of Agent Orange and wants her to appear as a side-show oddity. When Bo wakes up one day to find his mother and sister gone, presumably at the hands of Max, he and Bear must journey across Toronto to find them.
Bessie: Geek Love by Catherine Dunn is the story of the Binewskis, a carny family whose mother and father with the help of amphetamine, arsenic, and radioisotopes set out to breed their own exhibit of human oddities. There’s Arturo the Aquaboy, who has flippers for limbs, Iphy and Elly who are Siamese twins, the albino hunchback Oly, and the outwardly normal Chick, whose mysterious gifts make him the family’s most precious–and dangerous–asset.
The Binewskis take their act across the backwaters of the U.S., inspiring fanatical devotion and murderous revulsion. Geek Love sheds light on our notions of the freakish and the normal and what is beautiful and what is ugly.
Published anywhere from 1989 -2014 the three books highlighted today exemplify society’s ongoing fascination in what is different from ourselves. It is my my hope that this fascination is evolving from seeking the bizarre to an understanding that we all have something offer.
Anyone can participate in Haliburton County Public Library’s Online Book Club by choosing to read one or more of four books selected each month. You don’t even have to read from a particular month’s selection you can simply go online and make comments about books and reading in general. Watch for more themed read-a-likes in our online book club next month.
To join the online book club, look for the Social Media links on our homepage at www.haliburtonlibrary.ca. Click on the “g” for Goodreads and it’ll take you right to the Online Book Club page. That’s it for this week’s Library Moments, thanks for listening here on 100.9 Canoe FM.
*Originally aired on 100.9 CANOE FM, September 20th – 26th, 2015.