Friday, February 27, 2015

Time Travel (Part II)

(Continued from Part I)

Finding Love and Romance

“Finding love and romance” is the third theme of the time travel novels I have read. Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife features Henry, who is a prisoner of time. It sweeps him back and forth in his own lifetime, with no rhyme or reason, and drops him into other decades of his life. He drops in on Clare when she is 6, and thus begins a time-defying lifelong passion.

In the classic novel Time and Again by Jack Finney, Simon is enlisted by a secret government project to hypnotize himself into 1880’s New York. He goes back to investigate a mystery, but falls passionately in love with a woman in the past and must decide which era he belongs in.

Another classic time travel romance is Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, in which English nurse Claire and her husband travel to Scotland in 1945. Claire is transported through a magical stone to 1743, meets a young soldier named Jamie, and embarks on a passionate romance. Of course, Claire must choose between her lover and her husband.

In a similar vein, in Jacqueline Sheehan’s Now & Then, Anna, a lawyer, must travel to Ireland to get her nephew out of jail. On her travels, she buys a mysterious piece of cloth that somehow zaps both Anna and her nephew back in time 164 years, where she becomes romantically involved with an Irish smuggler, and her nephew achieves fame and fortune as a wrestler.

In Beatrix Williams’ Overseas, 25-year-old Kate falls head over heels in love with a millionaire investor on Wall Street, and in a parallel story, manages to find her investor love in World War II France, where he is a soldier whose life she must save if she is to meet him again in the future.

And, in Susanna Kearsley’s The Rose Garden, Eva is swept three centuries back, to 1714, where she meets the original owner of her home, falling deeply in love with him.

Changing History

The last theme I examined in time travel novels is “changing history.” In 11/22/63 by Stephen King, Jake, a high school teacher, discovers he can step through a portal into 1958, and can visit the past for as long as he likes, whenever he likes, arriving back in the present exactly two minutes later each time. He embarks on a mission to stop the Kennedy assassination.

In Blackout and All Clear, by Connie Willis, time travel is a common practice among historians in the year 2060. Three of them travel to England in the 1940’s to do research on World War II. While altering the past is supposed to be impossible, discrepancies begin to pop up, suggesting that someone has altered the past and ultimately, the outcome of World War II.

Similarly, in Orson Scott Card’s Pastwatch, scientists from the future routinely visit the past to study different cultures, and one of them decides to stop Columbus from arriving in the Americas, as this moment has been determined to bring disaster to the world.

In Jack Finney’s sequel to Time and Again, entitled From Time to Time, government agents again send Simon back in time, this time to stop World War I.

And in The Map of Time by Felix Palma, a time traveler in Victorian London, who knows H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, decides to go into the past to kill Jack the Ripper before Jack the Ripper kills his girlfriend.

Is all of this time travel actually scientifically possible? There are some books that examine this, including Time Travel and Warp Drives by Allan Everett. You can also go online to study the scientific aspects of time travel online study the scientific aspects of time travel. The consensus seems to be that time travel to the future is much more plausible than to the past. But do any of these novels address my fundamental problem of wanting to become and remain younger? Not really. I could change some mistakes, find a new romance, change some history, and have a great rip-roaring adventure. But if I try to reverse my age, the message seems to be that life in the present, living it the old fashioned way, is the way it was meant to be lived. So, I will continue to read about time travel, and I will continue to ponder its possibilities. But time will march on, and so will I.

Heather W.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Time Travel (Part I)

Having recently faced a milestone birthday, where I have officially entered a decade that has always seemed "old" to me, I have decided to travel back in time and not be "old" anymore. However, since I can't seem to find a time machine on Craigslist, I will do the next best thing… explore the possibilities of time travel in the world of literature!

There are plenty of options, where characters use machines, time warps, magic talismans, self-hypnosis, or just the power of a wish, to enter the world of the past.

Reverse Aging

Since I’m really seeking a way to reverse the aging process, we’ll begin with the theme of “reverse aging.” In Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Turnabout, Melly and Anny Beth, very old residents of a nursing home, are selected to participate in an experiment. They are given an injection to make them grow younger! The experiment works, but they learn that the process can’t be stopped, and they will eventually reverse in age to infancy and whatever comes before infancy.

In Sean Greer’s The Confessions of Max Tivoli, Max is born in 1871, and while he is mentally a child, physically he is in the body of an old man. He proceeds to age backwards physically as his mind matures. He meets the love of his life when they are both physically teens (while he is actually 73), and tries to win her love throughout the novel. This may remind you of the more popular The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which was actually a short story written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and made into a movie with Brad Pitt.

In Robert Sawyer’s Rollback, an 87-year-old scientist living in the future receives a radio transmission from an alien culture, and knows she must live long enough to be able to decipher it, since she is the only one with the knowledge to do so. She and her husband are given a “rollback,” a procedure to make them 25 years old again. Unfortunately, the procedure works on her husband but not on her. Her husband is now young again and has the chance to live his life again in a youthful body, while his beloved wife remains 87.

Getting a Second Chance

There are several time travel novels that share the theme of “getting a second chance.” In these, characters have the chance to go back in their own lives, remedy mistakes, and make different choices. My personal favorite of these is Replay by Ken Grimwood. Forty-three year old Jeff Winston dies of a heart attack and wakes up in his own body, but 25 years younger, in his college dorm, with the chance to live his life again, knowing everything he has learned. He makes completely different choices in his life, and when he again turns 43, he dies again, and wakes up in his own body again, and again and again.

In a similar vein, in Andrea Lochen’s The Repeat Year, a 26-year-old nurse is given a chance to relive the last year of her life, a year she made a lot of mistakes, like losing her fiancĂ©.

In Allison Scotch’s Time of My Life, Jillian has the perfect life, with a nice boyfriend and a nice job, but wakes up one morning seven years in the past, still with her old boyfriend of whom she has fantasized repeatedly. Which boyfriend should she choose?

In Rainbow Rowell’s Landline, a woman whose husband has become far less important than her job, discovers that an old rotary dial phone can connect her with her husband in the past, when they were young and just falling in love. These rotary phone conversations give her the chance to decide if her career or love is more important to her.

In Jenny Colgan’s The Boy I Loved Before, 32-year-old Flora, after seeing her old high school boyfriend, makes a wish to go back in time and redo her life, and is granted her wish. She is 16 again, but has only gone back one month in time, with all the knowledge of her 32-year-old self, and the opportunity to make other choices.

In Kate Atkinson’s Life after Life, the theme of having second chances repeats itself over and over again. Ursula is born in 1910, and is fated to die and be reborn repeatedly, in the same self, sometimes with remembered knowledge, and sometimes not. Some of her choices result in happiness, but many result in tragedy and death.

In Sean Greer’s The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, the theme of second chances applies to other people’s lives. In 1985, Greta undergoes shock therapy, and during the course of her treatment, is sent repeatedly back in time to 1918 and 1941, to live the lives of other women. She tries to improve their lives, but her actions have consequences for them and for herself.

Heather W.

(Continued in Part II...)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Pardon Me!

Recently a call came in at Ask-a-Librarian's telephone service. The caller asked if we could help her find information on international business etiquette. Her new boss was to arrive from an Asian country, and she wanted to be prepared.
Did you know that the Japanese response “I’ll consider it,” may actually mean “No?” Or that Greeks may give you a handshake, an embrace, and a kiss at first meeting? Or that it is standard Arab practice to keep supplicants—that may be you—waiting?
MCPL has materials on etiquette and customs so you can avoid confusion as well as an embarrassing faux pas. Some good starting places include:

Need more specific information? We have books for a variety of countries and regions:
Looking for information about religious customs you are not familiar with? Try How to Be a Perfect Stranger: The Essential Religious Etiquette Handbook by Stuart M. Matlins and Arthur J. Magida.
Happy business deals and happy traveling!


Megumi L.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


Suffering from an anxiety disorder is clearly something to worry about! Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, vomiting, sweating, trembling and assorted other unpleasant sensations. And finding any effective treatment for the condition is a challenge at best.

I recently read a fascinating article about anxiety and shortly after listened to an audiobook about the disorder.

Both authors give a humorous but terrifying picture of their anxiety. They describe the symptoms in extensive detail, as well as the thought processes that go along with the worry. After publishing "Surviving Anxiety" in The Atlantic, Scott Stossel expanded it into a book. My Age of Anxiety presents an extensive overview of scientific and medical research.Cover image for Monkey mind [sound recording] : a memoir of anxiety / Daniel B. Smith.

The second book, Monkey Mind by Daniel Smith, focuses primarily on the author's case history and is a more entertaining read. Smith's story is somewhat unusual because his mother, who also suffered from anxiety, became a therapist who treated many neurotic patients. But even having a mental health professional in the house didn't seem to make a difference.

Stossel and Smith worked with many therapists, tried numerous medications and attempted assorted alternative remedies. Unfortunately, almost nothing helped. Nevertheless, they both are married, have successful careers, and, most importantly to library fans, they now both have best-selling books.

For a less personal approach to anxiety, an excellent overview of the condition, Generalized Anxiety Disorder* can be found in Health A-Z a database published by Harvard, which is part of MCPL's online Health and Wellness Resource Center.

While researching the topic of anxiety, I came across what could be part of the solution. If we try to find humor in life, as these authors have, then perhaps, indeed, "Laughter is the Best Medicine." And, if you're a worrier, instead of reading one of these accounts of a stress-filled life, or maybe in addition to that, a book of jokes might just be an antidote for anxiety!

Barbara S

*You may be prompted to sign-in with your MCPL card and pin to access this article.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Biopics—Movies Based on Real People

1st Academy Awards 1929
1st Annual Academy Awards Presentation, May 1929
So, you’re working your way through the Academy Award nominees list in order to be prepared for the Oscars on February 22, and, in order to stay ahead of the curve and dazzle your friends, now is the time to read the books on which these movies are based. This year you’ll find lots of interesting movies based on real people, or at the very least, a combination of real people.

Imitation Game chronicles Alan Turing’s struggle, not only with the famous code that broke Germany’s unbreakable Enigma Machine, but also his post-war struggle with the law concerning his homosexuality. To find out more about his work, check out The Man Who KnewToo Much by David Leavitt and Alan Turing the Enigma by Andrew Hodges (the book that inspired the film).

Cover of Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon, follows Cheryl Strayed as she decides to walks the Pacific Crest Trail after her life falls apart following the death of her mother. Witherspoon wore the same backpack (nicknamed Monster) that Strayed used, so she literally felt her pain. Wild: from lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed is the book the movie was based on and graphically describes Strayed’s travels and travails, such as her feet and her toenails (or the lack of them) by the end of the hike. It is definitely a page turner and the reader will look forward to finding out if Strayed's life turns out the way she hopes it will.

Unbroken is based on fighter pilot Louis Zamperini’s life and especially his internment in a Japanese POW camp during WW2 where he is driven to the limits of endurance by a guard obsessed with making Zamperini’s life a living hell. The movie is based on Laura Hillenbrand’s book of the same name. The reader will be put to quite an endurance test himself while following Zamperini’s trials, but, if you finish it, there will be a new word for his life: unbroken.

The Theory of Everything is based on the life of English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author Stephen Hawking who accomplished so much after a debilitating, degenerative disease robs him of his abilities to walk and talk, but not think, communicate, or live. Read Stephen Hawking : an unfettered mind by Kitty Ferguson or Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen by Jane Hawking (the book  that inspired the film), which is available through Interlibrary Loan.

Cover of Then They Came For Me by Maziar BahariRosewater, featuring the directorial debut of Jon Stewart, is based on the fallout after Stewart’s 2009 interview on The Daily Show with Maziar Bahari, an Iranian-Canadian journalist. Bahari was arrested by the Iranian government citing this interview as proof that he was in direct communication with an American spy (Stewart). He was held for 118 days in the notorious Evin Prison and was blindfolded during the severe interrogations. The only way he could describe his interrogator was that he smelled like rosewater. Rosewater is based on Bahari’s memoir Then They Came for Me: a family's story of love, captivity,and survival, which offers a window into those turbulent times of student unrest in Iran.

Foxcatcher, another nominated biopic, stars Steve Carrell, in a departure from his usual comedic roles, and tells of the murder of an Olympic wrestler by the wealthy philanthropist and wrestling trainer, John du Pont. This film was based on Foxcatcher: the true story of my brother's murder, John du Pont's madness, and the quest for Olympic gold by Mark Schultz, with David Thomas.

Selma, nominated for best picture, chronicles the great 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery. MCPL has many books on the Civil Rights era, including: The Civil Rights movement by Elizabeth Sirimarco; Down to the Crossroads: civil rights, Black power, and the Meredith March Against Fear by Aram Goudsouzian; and At Canaan's Edge: America in the King years, 1965-68 by Taylor Branch.

Seems like you have a lot to do before February 22… see all these movies and read all the related books. And don’t forget to ask your friendly librarian or consult our website for more information.

by lisa n