In a neighborhood festooned with 8-foot inflatable jack-o-lanterns, tree-borne fabric ghosts, and polystyrene tombstones, our house looks like the abode of the Halloween Grinch. Our yard is unadorned, bereft of its customary display, a life-sized bendable skeleton who would normally lounge on our front yard bench, to the delight of youngsters in our cul-de-sac.
This year, Skel has taken up residence in the library’s glass case on first floor. He’s advertising our new Playaway collection and prompting double-takes among entering library patrons. If you stroll by the display, I guarantee he’ll have a big grin for you.
Because we have customers of all ages, we styled Skel in a non-frightening manner. To complement the black hood and scythe befitting his Grim Reaper persona, Skel is sporting Hawaiian print shorts and flip-flops. When we set up the display earlier this week, we surrounded him with all sorts of domestic items. A Reaper who does laundry and has demonstrably signed on for too many chores is an approachable Reaper.
As much as I enjoy working on marketing schemes like that one, promoting library resources is only the second-favorite facet of my job. The undisputed best one is getting the opportunity to read new fiction before it’s published. And this past weekend I finished a wonderful example: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain.
McLain’s fictional narrative, told from the viewpoint of Hadley Richardson (wife #1 of Ernest Hemingway) suggests insights into Hemingway favorites: The Sun Also Rises, A Moveable Feast , A Farewell to Arms (and I suspect “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” as well) along with at least one I haven’t read–Hemingway’s first book: Three Stories and Ten Poems. Now I want to go back and read or re-read everything. Hadley’s casual referencing of Gertrude Stein, John Dos Passos, Ezra Pound, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, etc. as factors in the couple’s daily lives, along with vignettes of the Paris cafe scene in the 1920s, adds dimension to what is essentially the history of a marriage–a brief one.
During coffee hour at church this past weekend, I attempted to convey my enthusiasm for Paris Wife to a friend whom I know would also appreciate McLain’s style. As frequently happens when my own enjoyment of a book is too fresh, I found myself burbling on about it. Then, this weird description emerged, “It’s definitely a woman’s book, but, on the other hand, it’s not a chick book. Does that make any sense?”
The friend nodded and said, “Absolutely. I know just what you mean.”
How scary it that?