Archive for October, 2009
From Maryland At A Glance, part of the Maryland Manual Online:
Stanley Plumly, Poet Laureate of Maryland, 2009-.
On October 1, 2009, Stanley Plumly was named Poet Laureate of Maryland by the Governor. A Maryland Distinguished University Professor since 1998, Mr. Plumly founded the Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing at the University of Maryland, College Park.
He has written nine books of poetry, including Old Heart (2008); Now That My Father Lies Down Beside Me: New and Selected Poems, 1970-2000 (2000); The Marriage in the Trees (1997); Boy on the Step (1989); Summer Celestial (1983); Out-of-the-Body Travel (1977); Giraffe (1974); How the Plains Indians Got Horses (1973); and In the Outer Dark (1970). His work also includes Argument and Song: Sources and Silences in Poetry (2003), a collection of essays, and Posthumous Keats: A Personal Biography (2008).
Born in Barnesville, Ohio, May 23, 1939, Stanley Plumly received his B.A. in 1962 from Wilmington College, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Ohio University. “
We tend to think of small-town living as idyllic and serene, certainly better than big-city living, with all its pollution and poverty. Think again. Since the late 20th century, rural, small-town America has been changing, in part due to the loss of family farms to agribusiness, and changing not for the better. Poverty is rampant, with families moving from farms to town life and with local manufacturing declining. Into this void has stepped a trade consistently profitable – the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine.
Author Nick Reding grew up in the Midwest, and for him, the decline in quality of life has been heartbreaking and alarming. He has seen good-paying jobs in small towns systematically evaporate, as corporate giants have gobbled up companies and either closed them or lowered wages for employees by two-thirds. He has seen how the local folks have coped with the changes, as more people have become users of this cheap and highly-addictive drug. From using to manufacturing and distributing has been one small step out of poverty but deeper into despair.
Reding follows the decline of one town, Oelwein in Iowa, once a reasonably prosperous place, where farms and a meat-packing plant supported nearly everyone. But agribusiness put an end to all that, and the result has been a disaster. Reding follows meth users in their trajectory from prosperity to poverty, looking at causes and effects. He also allows readers to see the complicated network of makers and distributors of meth, from Mexico to the house next door.
Meth is easy to make, with ingredients in plentiful supply and easy to access. A small-town resident is especially able to get the necessary ingredients and make the drug, not in a big, fancy lab, but in a garage, a basement, or a backyard tool shed. While drug enforcement agencies have proposed changes to laws to create more effective barriers to drug manufacturing, pharmaceutical companies and chain pharmacies have done their best to block those reforms and regulations. Reding traces the on-going battle with Wal-Mart and Warner-Lambert. He reveals which members of Congress have been the most obstructive in reform, and readers will be surprised perhaps, when those members are often the very ones in favor of tougher sentences for drug-users.
More than anything, Reding reveals the devastation meth has had on the average small-town resident, whether a user or a person who witnesses the closing of nearly every shop in town as misery and poverty spread. He also shows what it takes to rebuild a town, and sometimes that depends on just one person, a tenacious visionary.
All in all, Oelwein survives, thanks to the persistence of a handful of people, both residents of the town and drug agents who continue to fight for reform of drug laws and pharmaceutical manufacturing. Ultimately, Oelwein may once again revive and prosper to become that which we envision when we think of the glories of small-town life.
D. L. S.
Bright star : love letters and poems of John Keats to Fanny Brawne. (Find this book in our catalog)
Hilary Mantel won the 2009 Man Booker Prize with Wolf Hall, set in the 1520s in the court of Henry VIII. (Find this book in our catalog)
The judges described Wolf Hall as “a thoroughly modern novel set in the 16th century” with “a vast narrative sweep that gleams on every page with luminous and mesmerising detail.” They also said the novel, “probes the mysteries of power by examining and describing the meticulous dealings in Henry VIII’s court, revealing in thrilling prose how politics and history is made by men and women. In the words of Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell, whose story this is, ‘the fate of peoples is made like this, two men in small rooms. Forget the coronations, the conclaves of cardinals, the pomp and processions. This is how the world changes’.”
Bright Star, a romantic movie about the Romantic poet, John Keats, has been called by the New York Times, “a learned and ravishing new film.” It is currently showing at the Charles Theater. Read a movie review…
Tomorrow, Friday, October 23 the new movie, Amelia opens. Yesterday I directed readers to the two books the film is based upon. I also gave the link to the official film website http://www.foxsearchlight.com/amelia/
For anyone interested in learning more about Amelia Earhart and also about women in aviation, here are more websites:
The Official Website of Amelia Earhart http://www.ameliaearhart.com/
Find out about, among many other fascinating things, the search for the missing plane.
The Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum http://www.ameliaearhartmuseum.org/
The Official Website of Women in Aviation International http://www.wai.org/
The Book of Night Women by Marlon James (Find this book in our catalog)
If you are taking part in One Maryland, One Book this year and have finished Song Yet Sung by James McBride, you might like to try for comparison The Book of Night Women by Marlon James.
This is what it says about Night Women in our catalog: “From a young writer who radiates charisma and talent comes a sweeping, stylish historical novel of Jamaican slavery that can be compared only to Toni Morrison’s “Beloved.” The book starts out with the birth of a girl child called Lilith onto the blood-splashed dirt floor of a slave hut in a plantation in Jamaica early in the 18th century. Her mother dies immediately and Lilith is fostered out to a hateful slave woman who for some mysterious reason is given many privileges the other slaves are not. The child too is privileged, and as a child is required to do no work. With puberty comes an awareness that there must be some underlying reason for her special status but no real understanding – Lilith is difficult, rebellious, and clueless. We see the plantation through her eyes and we only dimly start to understand the brutality of everyone’s life – brutality that differs only in degree between the ruthless struggle for survival within the strict hierarchy of the house slaves or the virtual death sentence of working in the fields. Then Lilith kills to prevent being raped by one of the Johnny Jumpers, black hands appointed as overseers of the other field slaves. These Johnny Jumpers regularly roam in predatory bands through the cabins at night, smashing, raping, and killing. With a murder on her hands the girl is hidden away in the basement of the house by Homer, the slave housekeeper – a mysterious power in the hierarchy of the plantation. Homer is the leader of a powerful group of women, whose power is based on superstition and some connection to the debauched long-time white overseer of the plantation. The women try to school Lilith, but she remains headstrong and tries to lift herself up by beginning a relationship with the young plantation owner. The plot twists as the consequences of Lilith’s actions unfold – and the women meet at night to plot a slave rebellion.
The book is written in a lilting Jamaican patois that for me brought the images and characters to life, and also somtimes made it hard for me to continue reading. The images of plantation life are all the usual ones and yet the author avoids all the usual platitudes – there are no comforting faithful and loving house slaves nor benevolent masters. This book is full of disturbing images of violence and degradation. It is an exploration of the cruel and dehumanizing practices of slavery. The degradation that it brought to both black and white. Though it is beautifully written, as one reviewer said, this book will keep you up at night.
Elmore Leonard, who has written 43 novels in his 60-year careeer, will
be honored with the PEN USA lifetime achievement award on December 2.
This is what the PEN USA webpage said about Elmore Leonard: “As a tribute to his writing accomplishments, legendary author Elmore Leonard will be presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award. In a career spanning 60 years, Leonard has published 43 novels and numerous short stories, creating a distinct literary style that has delighted readers and influenced a new generation of writers. Books like Swag, LaBrava, Freaky Deaky, and Tishomingo Blues are not only classics of the crime genre, but some of the best writing of the last half century. Leonard’s most recent novel, Road Dogs, has received some of the best reviews of his career. He is currently finishing his next book, entitled Djibouti, to be published in 2010 by HarperCollins/William Morrow.”