Last night, the Chicago Blackhawks won hockey's Stanley Cup -- for the first time since 1961. Their victory ended the NHL's longest championship drought, so now the Toronto Maple Leafs have had the most extended wait since they last hoisted the Cup (1967).
In the New York/New England area, we are used to success with our professional baseball and football teams (hockey and basketball, not so great lately). Other parts of the country aren't so lucky. Sacramento Kings fans haven't witnessed an NBA title since 1951, when the team was actually the Rochester Royals. The Arizona Cardinals came close in the NFL recently, but they have been waiting since 1947 for a championship (won last when they were located in Chicago, coincidentally). And saddest of all are the Blackhawks' baseball brethren in Chicago, the Cubs, where generation after generation has waited patiently -- since 1908 -- for the title of World Champion.
Long-suffering but loyal fans can find solace in Joe Queenan's True Believers: The Tragic Inner Life of Sports Fans. Why do we invest so much passion and emotional energy into rooting for sports teams that disappoint us more often than not? Chicago Blackhawks fans now know the answer: for nights like last night. Congratulations to the new champions!
Chris Who? Even if the name Chris Haney doesn't ring a bell, chances are that you have his most famous invention in your home: the game of Trivial Pursuit. Earlier this week, Haney succumbed to a long illness at age 59, having turned a friendly challenge with co-creator Scott Abbott into an industry with over $1 billion in sales. In the early 80s and beyond, Haney and Abbott had all of us scrambling to get those blue, brown, green, pink, yellow, and orange wedges so we could have a crack at that center hub space for victory!
The story of Trivial Pursuit, along with other Parker Brothers board games, is found in The Game Makers, a recent book that chronicles the braintrust behind Monopoly, Clue, Sorry!, Boggle, Risk, Pit, and beloved toys like Nerf balls and Ping-Pong. We learn the origins of many familiar games and see how a small family venture became the gold standard for wholesome, fun, competitive pastimes. The book also features long-forgotten board games such as The Mansion of Happiness, Keyword (a Scrabble play-alike), and a special edition of Monopoly made for Allied POWs during World War II, which included a compass hidden inside one of the token pieces, a working metal file, maps, and actual German, French, and Italian currency hidden among the Monopoly play bills!
We may have lost one of its creators, but Trivial Pursuit will continue to challenge and entertain for generations to come. Thanks to Chris Haney and Scott Abbott, we all win!
Apollo 13..."Miracle on the Hudson"...Ernest Shackleton...some of the most amazing and inspiring stories of human endurance and triumph are in our new collection, Great Escapes: The Stories Behind 50 Remarkable Journeys. Within these pages, we read unforgettable accounts of survivors who battled nature, escaped from brutal prison camps, eluded terrorists, murderers, and wild animals, and lived to tell their tales.
Many of these stories are so ingrained in our culture that the original details have been lost to time. We all know about the 1962 escape attempt from Alcatraz, but did those three prisoners actually make it to freedom? What brought hiker Aron Ralston, trapped by a rock, to such a horrifying life-or-death decison? How did anyone survive Jonestown? Many of these tales have been made into successful films, such as Papillon, Midnight Express, Apollo 13, and The Great Escape, and author Scott Christianson compares cinematic versions to actual eyewitness accounts. He also reminds us of what it takes to succeed in the face of overwhelming odds: a cool, intelligent plan, patience, and no small amount of luck. Great Escapes -- a great get-away read!
Some call him the best all-around baseball player of all time, and most would agree that he is the greatest player alive today. Born on this date in 1931, Willie Mays grew up in Westfield, Alabama and played in the Negro Leagues as a teenager. Scouts for the Boston Braves and Brooklyn Dodgers passed on their chances to recruit him and he signed with the New York Giants in 1950. In 1951, he made it to the major leagues and had a Hall of Fame career with the New York/San Francisco Giants and New York Mets over the next 23 years. Nobody could hit, run, and field like the legendary Willie Mays.
An excellent new biography of Mays was released earlier this year and looks to be the definitive record of his life. Author James S. Hirsch interviewed Mays extensively for the book, and includes many new stories and revelations from the man whose name is synonymous with all-out effort and baseball talent. Mays' career began in a golden era of baseball in New York, when there were three teams for fans to choose among and the rivalries were deep and bitter (see below for our favorite books on the topic). But even the most die-hard Yankees and Dodgers fans knew that Willie Mays was a Giant among men. Today, he's Major League Baseball's greatest ambassador, lives close to the Giants' ballpark in San Francisco, and is known for giving out autographed baseballs to trick-or-treaters. Thanks to this new biography, Willie Mays is back in the spotlight -- happy birthday and many more to #24!
The Spring Book Discussion Series, Dysfunction Junction: The Lives of Others, continues!
Tuesday, April 20 at 7 PM
Our third selection is The Tender Bar: A Memoir by J.R. Moehringer. Library staff members will lead the discussion (the Library has copies of the books available for patrons to borrow, but prior reading of the books is not necessary to attend the discussions.)
The Tender Bar: A Memoir tells of author Moehringer's life spent searching to fill the enormous void left by his father's abandonment of him as a young child. At age 8, he surprisingly discovers refuge and companionship at the corner tavern, where the daily characters that drink, share stories, and leave their worries behind form a "fatherhood-by-committee" for the boy. As Moehringer moves on with different aspects of his life - his schooling, his jobs, his relationships - he struggles to tear himself away from something that provided so much solace to him during difficult times.
"A fierce and funny coming of age story about ambition and yearning and necessary betrayals...A superb literary brew." – NPR
Exactly 25 years ago today, readers of Sports Illustrated were introduced to Sidd Finch, a mystic and mysterious pitching prospect who, it was said, could throw baseballs at speeds up to 168 MPH. Writer George Plimpton explained how Finch had learned "the art of the pitch" in the snowy mountains of Tibet, appeared and disappeared in the Mets' spring training camp, played French horn, and pitched wearing only one shoe, a hiker's boot.
The full story can be found here or in our excellent collection, The Best of Plimpton (which includes many of his "participatory journalism" essays and profiles of various personalities he encountered over the years).
Plimpton detailed the Mets' efforts to court Finch as he decided whether to commit to baseball, allowing for his various eccentricities on the basis of his almost supernatural pitching abilities. Half-shadowed pictures of Finch with various Mets players and staff accompanied the article, which prompted thousands of letters of response from readers wanting to know more...Would Finch sign? Who was this guy? And how in the world were batters going to face 150+ MPH pitches coming at them? The answers, it turned out, were all hidden in the subtitle to Plimpton's article (note that the first letter of each word spells out a message): He's a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent life-style, Sidd's deciding about yoga -- and his future in baseball. In other words, Happy April Fool's Day -- ah, fib!
How do you make the impossible possible? For writer Roger Rosenblatt, it’s facing a new reality after the sudden and unexpected death of his daughter, who left behind a grieving husband and three young children. Rosenblatt and his wife move into the family’s home and start the process of moving forward while absorbing an impossible loss…they answer heartbreaking questions from the children, attend school events and carpool to play dates, create silly songs and new routines, and yes, learn to make toast to each child’s specifications.
This memoir has the potential to be overly sentimental and maudlin, but Rosenblatt keeps his tone upbeat and maintains a forward motion that rings true. There are moments of grief, moments of bright laughter, setbacks and moments of great courage, and even humor. Making Toast is an intimate, frank account of how one family faces the impossible and finds a new path, together.
We all know that it is important to keep both your body and your mind sharp at any age. Exercising the brain can actually improve memory function, increase awareness, and provide a better overall sense of wellness. But did you know about some of the interesting ways you can sharpen your mind at Darien Library?
Here are a few ideas to try:
Flickr photo (above) courtesy of RavenCore17.
Tuesday, December 1st at 7 PM
Over the past few months, you have joined Darien Library's staff as we have visited England, Nigeria, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, China, and France - and even found a bit of time to have some truly inspiring conversations about books! Though there were a lot of differing opinions about the characters, the authors' intents, the plots, and even the book covers, all who participated in this year's Fall Book Discussion Series, Adventures for the Armchair Traveler, were able to settle on one single idea - that there is nothing quite like experiencing other cultures...other ideas...other lives...through a beautifully written word.
And whether or not you have read our selections for this series (Little Bee, A Golden Age, The Painter From Shanghai, and the one that seems to have generated the most love/hate relationships of them all - The Elegance of the Hedgehog), you won't want to miss out on the conclusion to our adventures in travel; it will surely be a treat for us all!
Our final destination is home - Darien Library, in fact! We welcome back one of our favorite speakers, Dr. Mark Schenker of Yale University, who will visit us on December 1st at 7:00 p.m. to give a fascinating lecture, "Imagined Travels to Real Places: How Fiction Connects Us to Places We've Never Been." We will learn about how fiction, more than simply visiting a country as a tourist, allows us to experience another place or culture so that we really understand...we "get it" and not just "get there." It will surely be a treat for us all!
Mark J. Schenker has been at Yale College since 1990. He is currently an associate dean of the College and dean of academic affairs. Born and raised in New York City, he received his Ph.D. in English Literature from Columbia University and has taught at Columbia, New York University, and Trinity College (Hartford). He was the recipient of the 2001 Wilbur Cross Award for Outstanding Humanities Scholar, presented by the Connecticut Humanities Council.
Over the past few months, we have been having a wonderful time reading, sharing, and discussing poetry in our new program, One Page Poetry Circle, led by discussion leader Madge McKeithen, faculty member of The Writing Program at The New School. And whether you can recite Mary Oliver and Robert Frost in your sleep, or you feel that poetry oftentimes has you intrigued but a bit bewildered, I have no doubt that you will find our poetry circle a wonderful way to explore this unique literary form. Reading poetry aloud can be an enlightening experience and sometimes makes all the difference in one's interpretation of the writer's words. You will find a very welcoming and encouraging setting, and it will leave you with inspiration to browse our amazing poetry collection and check out some new authors.
For each session, we will always have a theme to guide you in your selections. Simply bring along a single page of poetry (by an established poet) that means something to you - perhaps a poem that you remember from childhood, one that you find interesting or unusual, or one that you might not quite understand. Everyone has an opportunity to read and share their choices with the group, and then we'll have some lively discussions about them. It's a great way to discover new writings, hear others' thoughts, and share your own.
Mark your calendar for our next session:
Wednesday, December 16 at 7 PM
Poetry & Light
Also, check out the following online resources for further inspiration when choosing your poem:
The Academy of American Poets (www.poets.org)
You can browse for poems by specific subject, read about your favorite american writers, and find essays on topics such as poetry & music, form & technique, and how to read a poem. Click here for some Poetry & Light suggestions.
The Poetry Foundation (poetryfoundation.org)
Use the Poetry Tool to find poems according to poet, category, occasion, title, first line, or keyword. Your search results will contain a mix of poems, news, articles, audio, and video. To narrow your result to poems only, click the “Poems” tab at the top of your search listings.
Flickr photo courtesy of applejan.