The fascination with Marilyn Monroe

What’s with the ongoing fascination with Marilyn Monroe? How do you explain the enduring fame of an actress who died one hot August night 56 years ago? This new book provides some answers to those questions.

I really didn’t know much about Marilyn Monroe when I picked up this book and have never seen any of her movies. But what highs and lows in one short life! Such tragedy and heartbreak on the one hand and dizzying success and acclaim on the other.  

The reader gets a good overview of the life of Norma Jeane Baker (her birth name), from her unbearably sad childhood, to her first tentative steps as a model and actress, and then success and fame beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

Favourite fact in this book about MM: When she was already a famous movie star, she left Hollywood to go to New York to study acting. She was determined to improve her craft and to earn respect for her acting ability. Gotta respect her for that. 

I found it heartbreaking to read of MM’s decline. What a lost, troubled soul. She was desperately unsure of herself and her acting ability, drinking too much, downing sleeping pills every night, showing up late for work–or not at all. On top of all that, she feared growing old when so much of her fame and most of her self worth was based on her looks and sex appeal. Even if you didn’t already know the ending, at a certain point her self-destruction just seems inevitable.

There was one thing I didn’t like about this book. It focuses a lot on her last days and particularly her very last one. I found that rather ghoulish, not terribly interesting and also don’t believe her last days defined her as a person.

MM died August 5, 1962 at the age of 36 from a combination of sleeping pills and alcohol, whether suicide or accident is not known for sure.

WPL also has a TON of other books on Marilyn Monroe, as well as some of her movies.

-Penny D.

We Know What You Read This Summer

WPL staff are frequently asked by customers what they are reading that is good, or have read, or are looking forward to reading. And hey, we love to share! Likewise, customers can regularly be found browsing the carts of recently returned books to see what others in our awesome community have been reading lately.

To make this search for your next great read easier, we’ve compiled lists of the most borrowed fiction and non-fiction titles at WPL from the summer of 2018. Enjoy browsing!

Fiction

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

Dear Mrs. Bird : a novel by A. J. Pearce

Broken Promise by Linwood Barclay

Full Disclosure : a novel by Beverley McLachlin

The Word is Murder : a novel by Anthony Horowitz

Dreadful Water by Thomas King

There There by Tommy Orange

Nonfiction

Educated : a memoir by Tara Westover

Girl, Wash Your Face : stop believing the lies about who you are so you can become who you were meant to be by Rachel Hollis

12 Rules for Life by Jordan B. Peterson

Forgiveness: a gift from my grandparents by Mark Sakamoto

The Plant Paradox : the hidden dangers in “healthy” foods that cause disease and weight gain by Steven R. Gundry, MD with Olivia Bell Buehl

Kitchen Confidential : adventures in the culinary underbelly by Anthony Bourdain

Calypso by David Sedaris

Adrift : a true story of love, loss, and survival at sea by Tami Oldham Ashcraft with Susea McGearhart

From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein

Factfulness : ten reasons we’re wrong about the world–and why things are better than you think by Hans Rosling with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Ronnlund

Book vs. Movie

Can a movie be better than the book? The Case of Ready Player One

With adaptations now common in the film world, readers have been proven time and time again that a movie adaptation can never be as good as the book. It’s a notion that had good reason. Books have more time to develop storylines, characters, and a world. Books invite readers on a personal journey with the characters and whatever they imagine is the true story. I’ve been a proponent of agreeing that books are ‘better’ than movies over the years, but I’ve started to question if this notion should be absolute. Can a movie be better than the book? In some cases, I think that yes, yes it can.

After my friend’s encouragement, I read the book Ready Player One by Ernst Cline. Now, I must preface that I’m not the target audience for this book. I didn’t grow up in the 80s, I’m not well versed in fan culture, and I’m not a teenage boy. As Cline described, this book is, “… a love letter to geek culture.” That letter certainly is not addressed to me. Regardless, I read the story for the adventure.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is set in the year 2044 where reality is a really ugly place. Eighteen-year-old Wade Watts finds an escape in the virtual utopia called the OASIS. When OASIS creator James Halliday dies, the late OASIS creator dedicates his entire will and inheritance to whoever can pass three very difficult tasks that will lead to uncovering an Easter egg. A global mad hunt ensues to find this egg, a lottery ticket, that is concealed in the virtual world.

I finished the book and didn’t quite understand the hype for it. One of the main reasons I didn’t care for the book was the writing style. For the first 100 pages, Wade tells the reader how everything works in the world. There is no room for the reader to uncover the clues along with Wade, as he breaks down every detail and feeds it to you. Where’s the adventure in that? Beyond the 80s references, the story was a fairy tale treasure hunt where plot conveniences, flat characters, and wish fulfillment didn’t add up to a great story that was promised.

Despite my problems with the book, I went to see the movie. I had faith that Steven Spielberg’s direction would make for a fun movie, and I was interested to see how he handled the more problematic aspects of the book. I went with the friend who initially recommended the book, and we both came to the same conclusion when we left the theatre together. The movie was better than the book.

How could that be? The book was rich with allusions and world building details. It was a love letter to geek culture. How is it that both the person who liked the book and didn’t like the book come to the same conclusion?

I have a theory why. This book dealt with virtual reality, an inherently visual concept. What better platform is there to showcase a virtual reality story than a movie where there are not only words on a page (the script), but music, sound, and grand visuals that dazzle us. It brought the story to life in a way that didn’t translate in the book for me. It was easier to show us the world as Wade walked through each scene and all the details in the book existed around him. Beyond that, Spielberg has a deep understanding of what stands as the epitome of geek culture: The Eater Egg. Everything thematically and narratively revolves around this. It gave a focus and coherence to the narrative that wasn’t present in the book. Not only could someone who understood all of the 80s references like my friend enjoy it, but someone who didn’t like me. Additionally, the secondary characters are given more agency in the movie, which led this tale to be the action-packed adventure that I had wanted the book to be.

It now makes me wonder about the nature of adaptations. Can they not only bring a beloved book to life, but a story that is more suited for the screen? While everyone can have a preferred platform in which stories are told, I can no longer say whether a book is better than a movie. Instead, the question I ask myself is: does this story work better as a book or movie?  With Ready Player One, I believe it’s a story that is perfect for the screen.

Are there any stories that you’ve encountered that work better as a movie than they did as the book? Decide for yourself if Ready Player One is a better suited for a book or movie by checking them out from WPL collection.

— Eleni Z.

That’s Epic!

When a friend heard I was planning to go to Hawaii, she gushed, “Oh, you have to read James Michener’s book! It will give you such perspective on the history and culture!”

I had already known that James Michener’s Hawaii was long (I had shelved his books early in my library career) but when I discovered how long (937 pages!!), I dug in my heels. I’m an avid reader and often have several books on the go at once, but almost a thousand pages? And in such small print? No way.

I resisted. I even avoided my friend for a while, or at least avoided sharing my reluctance. Finally, I checked out the book and began the first section, which dealt with the geological forces that created the Hawaiian Islands millions of years ago. Written in 1959 with that overly descriptive John Steinbeck style, blah, blah, blah. I guess it’s okay if you like that sort of thing. I do not.

But following that we get into the story of the Polynesian people who set forth to find a new land. The reasons, the dangers, the omens and superstitions. My friend was right; it gets fascinating!

The Polynesians settle, they follow their ancient traditions, they impact the land. Eventually they are followed by missionaries from America who have heard about the heathen people and are moved to leave friends and families and all that they know to bring Christianity to the pagan shores. Though their intentions may be good, some of their attitudes and methods are questionable. Some positive changes are wrought, but there’s also hostility and suspicion.

The Chinese are brought in as labourers for the sugar plantations. The Japanese then come to work the pineapple fields. The Second World War arises and Pearl Harbour is struck. With each new section, Michener introduces the reader to new characters, contexts, historical realities and outcomes. It really is a wonderful initiation for anyone who would visit these isles.

It took me a while to get through (about two months of intermittent reading, actually), but apart from the first section, it was time well spent. In a way, I almost don’t need to go now – I feel like I know Hawaii and it’s not like the trip is cheap.

Ah, who am I kidding? Michener only informed me up to the 1950s. I need to find out what happened next and experience the spirit of aloha for myself!

Other work I read set in Hawaii

The Aloha Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini
Jack London in Paradise by Paul Malmont
Roughing It by Mark Twain (confession: I only read the Hawaiian sections)

Movies and Television Shows I Watched

The Descendants
From Here to Eternity (years ago)
Hawaii Five-0 (if you want to be looking over your shoulder all the time)
Soul Surfer

And if you like epic novels, I highly recommend The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill (a former One Book, One Community selection) with settings in Africa, the United States and Canada.

— Susan B.

Conquering Writer’s Block

A Guide to Canada’s Literary Festivals in Southwestern Ontario

Writing is hard. Whether you’re writing a short story, poem, or even a personal letter, it’s easy to find yourself uninspired, stuck, or at a loss for words. What’s a writer to do?

One of the more common pieces of advice would be to go out in the world and find inspiration. It can come from the most unlikely of places, but that requires lots of waiting and patience. Any form of waiting won’t help you put more words on the page, so I want to suggest an alternative.

Nothing incites the buzzing of creativity and inspiration quite like being surrounded by fellow writers talking about the craft. Fortunately, Canada’s literary scene is buzzing with a variety of festivals all over the country but especially in our own backyard. These festivals are a great place to hone your craft, meet new people, and hear prominent voices share their advice and writing experiences.

Here is just a sample of the literary festivals coming up this fall in Southwestern Ontario:

1. Eden Mills Writers Festival
Located in Eden Mills, this festival highlights author readings from a mix of Canada’s finest writers and emerging talents.
When: Sept 7-9 2018

2. The Word on the Street
Located in Toronto, this festival is a celebration of reading and writing from Canadian authors while featuring a marketplace of Canadian books and magazines.
When: Sept 23, 2018

3. Kingston Writer’s Fest
This festival features readings, conversations, and performances that aims to foster literacy and creative writing skills for people of all ages.
When: Sept 26-30 2018

4. Stratford Writers Festival
Set in Stratford, this festival brings hundreds of readers and writers together to participate in panels discussions, educational workshops, and literary lunches.
When: Oct 12-22 2018

5. BookFest Windsor
Taking place in Windsor, writers and readers come together with a book fair that includes panels, discussions, readings, and meet-and-greets with authors.
When: Oct 17-21 2018

6. Toronto International Festival of Authors
This festival features Canadian and International authors with interviews, panel discussions, readings, and other interactive presentations.
When: Oct 18-28 2018

7. Appetite for Words Festival
This festival, a partnership between the Stratford Writers Festival and the Stratford Chefs School, features authors who have written about food in their novels.
When: Oct 25-28 2018

8. TNQ’s Wild Writer’s Festival
Located in our very own backyard, the Wild Writer’s Festival is run by The New Quarterly Magazine and brings writers and readers together through panel discussions, workshops, and a relaxed literary brunch.
When: Nov 2-4 2018

Instead of waiting for a mood change, take the initiative to surround yourself with fellow creatives. If you want to learn more about these festivals, follow the links on this list. I’ll leave you with a quote from Louis L’Amour that hopefully inspires any project you may be working on.

“Start writing no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”

Happy writing!

— Eleni Z.