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Archive for February, 2012

In her youth, A. S. Byatt was one of the children evacuated from an industrial city to the country to escape the Nazi bombs of WWII.  Her clueless mother gave her a copy of Asgard and the Gods to read as country comfort and to distract her from worrying about her father who was a war pilot in Africa, such a perfect gift.

Norse gods fight, make a lot of noise, smack each other around, and generally live a miserable life until they are killed off by a parent, close relative, or old classmate.  So did the thin, sickly, bony child from the industrial city read and cry, scream in the night, and fear the dark where many gods loaf?  No, not at all, for the little girl had a healthy share of Viking genes thanks to her none too careful ancestral grannies.  She found those bloody gods to be congenial companions.  She bathed in their blood.

As you know, her story came to an end.  The Nazis were defeated, her father came home, the family moved back to the industrial city, and she grew up to write and write until the children in her neighborhood called her Dame of the British Empire.

To get back at those pesky local children she put her experience and her favorite Norse gods into a small book Ragnarok: The End Of The Gods in the hope of putting some fear into the hearts of all her neighbors.  Charles Marlin

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National Transit Annex at 206 Seneca Street, Suite 10, Oil City PA 16301

View of our inside entrance

The offices for Bridge Builders Community Foundations have moved across the street from our old location to the National Transit Annex at 206 Seneca Street, Suite 10, Oil City PA 16301.  For those who need handicap accessibility we have that if you will give us a call at (814) 677-8687 so we can meet you at the entrance.

The photographs show the front of the National Transit Annex where we are located, a view of our inside entrance, the office conference space, and a larger conference space available in the building to which we have access.

 The office conference space

 The larger conference space available in the building

 Jeanne Best, Operations Director, is in the front office

 Trenton Moulin, Executive Director, is in the back office.

We are delighted with the move and as you might guess, the decorating and arrangement of furniture is a work in progress.  You are welcome to visit.  Charles Marlin

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If you pay any attention to birds and try to keep a field guide handy, then you have probably lived through several field guides although you remember your first with more happy memories than any since then.  The American and world fraternity of birders have an interesting history, told by Thomas R. Dunlap in In the Field, Among the Feathered: A History Of Birders & Their Guides.

The three giants pictured with this review were and are great in their time, John James Audubon, Roger Tory Peterson, and David Allen Sibley; but they do not carry the whole story.  Dunlap introduces you to names you may have known and forgotten or missed entirely.  The initial fumbling steps of writers trying to create something new for birders were the progenitors for Roger Tory Peterson who went on to build an empire of field guides.  There were many challenges to Peterson, a few more successful than most.  It was inevitable that a new writer would achieve preeminence.  The new empire belongs to David Allen Sibley, but he should not sleep late.

Birders love their field guides and will never be satisfied to say, no I don’t need another.  Most birders will find part of their birding history captured in this delightful book about birding you will not need to keep in the trunk of your car.  This one can stay at home.  Charles Marlin

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Walk my pants to town if Daniel Woodrell does not have a true draw on a good share of the Ozarks.  For proof, rent Winter’s Bone, based on his eighth novel.  The story, directing, acting, scenery, and cinematography are all strong and come together beautifully.

His latest money-maker, The Outlaw Album, is a collection of very short and dark stories set in the Ozarks.  These are short stories, not novele, so you may not enjoy the stop and go quality of the collection.

For The Outlaw Album I would have preferred two or so developed to greater length, and the others left unpublished; but he didn’t ask my opinion, so you’re free to draw your own conclusion.  Charles Marlin

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Today we celebrate the bicentennial of Charles Dickens as well we should.  He gave us memorable characters, great reading pleasure, and he raised the liberal conscience of the English-speaking world.  The people he wrote about, and named as no one has since, were easy to understand in contrast to the author himself.

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst follows Dickens’ early years as he struggled to find his place in society and to find his way as a novelist in Becoming Dickens: The Invention Of A Novelist.  Douglas-Fairhurst finds massive autobiographical material in everything Dickens wrote.  Whether this is fair or not is hard to know, but it does weave an interesting story of a man who used everything he saw in his writing and who rewrote his memories to fit the immediate work at hand.

Dickens survived an unhappy childhood, uncertain teen years, frustrated theatrical ambitions, and eventually a bad marriage.  All of this feed his writing; but if he lived in our time, he would have been counseled, enrolled in multiple therapies, and medicated to an uninteresting blandness.  It may be clichéd to write he was driven by demons within and that without them he would have had little to write about, it seems to be true.

Becoming Dickens is for the Dickens fan and those who teach Dickens.  If you have read enough to say you have a favorite, you will enjoy this probing book.  Charles Marlin

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Wars show our species at its lowest state, none more so than World War I.  It was so stupid and unnecessary, had it not happened, one could not have used it as a theatrical spoof for no one would have given it any credulity.  Still, it happened.

Peter Englund has written an account The Beauty and The Sorrow: An Intimate History of the First World War that follows twenty individuals of differing talents and loyalties through their experiences on and near the front lines of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.  He tries to give a sense of the big picture by concentrating on the petty and killing details of their lives.

While you will be moved by their stories, the twenty people become broken assorted cookies in a box.  The reader is continuously piecing them together and wondering where and what their locations mean.  Many incidents are so minor and fragmented they seem cruel filler.

A better introduction to the suffering individuals of the war is an earlier 2007 publication by Neil Hanson, Unknown Soldiers: The Story of the Missing of the First World War that follows three soldiers, a German, an Englishman, and an American, through their fighting experience until they are killed and their bodies lost.  We know their experiences from their diaries and letters so the book has a raw energy not easily forgotten.

Reading one or both books causes a reader to wonder why any faith or trust is placed in the military professionals, the elected officials, or the governmental bureaucrates.  None served mankind well in this war that should not have been.  Charles Marlin

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