Jodi Picoult’s The Storyteller

The Storyteller is a deeply personal novel whose story revolves around a grieving woman and her gradual realization of the depth of her family’s past. The main character, Sage, is a professional baker and introvert who has encountered increasing difficulty forging relationships, both romantic and friendly. She finally starts to open up to an elderly man who seemingly understands her, and becomes inspired to delve into her own story.

In talking with her grandmother, Sage finds out that her recently realized gift as a baker is a multi-generational trait that has a lot to do with the older woman’s survival from Auschwitz. As she learns of her grandmother’s gift for telling a story, Sage becomes both more in touch with her Jewish identity and more confident to move past all the now frivolous elements of her life.

Cover Art of The Storyteller, by Jodi Picoult

The Storyteller, by Jodi Picoult

My only gripe with the book is that (New Hampshire’s own!) Picoult uses slightly too much foreshadowing– for a few moments in the book, my suspended disbelief was broken, leaving me a bit disappointed with the ending. The author, however, will throw you right into the story artistically using multiple first-person accounts and beautiful language that lets you taste the cinnamon and chocolate in her bread, puts you right in the muck getting off the train, and brings out your own moral dilemmas as you relate to the complexity of the characters.

If you like Alice Hoffman’s writing you may really enjoy this book, and especially if you are a fan of Jodi Picoult’s other work. Both authors have the uncanny ability to effectively take the reader back in time and on an eye-opening adventure.

Best of all, The Storyteller is available for you at the Temple Israel Portsmouth library.

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Summer @ the library

Library Committee with Rabbi and Wife

Library Committee and Special Guests; Left to Right: Al Spaien, Elissa Senter, Rabbi Senter, Allison, Meryl Wein, Sara Lesley Arnold

We had great feedback from some of the attendees of the Book Thief screening and discussion with Rabbi David Senter that took place on July 17th. Some members of the group had either read the book or seen the movie previously, so the discussion included valuable input from many perspectives. The consensus seemed to be that even though the general idea of Death as a narrator is morbid, that element lets the viewer take the role of a similarly helpless onlooker, seeing as objectively as possible the characters build relationships and come of age.

With an audience comprised mostly of Jews, we discussed the generalities commonly associated with holocaust survivors, bridging those experiences to those of the main character of Liesel Meminger, a non-Jewish German girl who experiences her own horrific tragedies.

Viewers agreed that although the film depicts such a tragic time in world history, it provides a reminder of the humanity that can shine through a blanket of darkness.

I must say, it was wonderful to watch the film in a room of engaged viewers, after watching it on my own the first time. Geoffrey Rush and the other actors give amazing performances; the filmmakers really do a tremendous job transmitting the biblio-centric world of the novel into a new medium, allowing the audience to take part in the story and fall in love with the literature.

We have a few thoughts about additional programming this coming year and will keep you informed as events are scheduled. We are currently planning new religious school programs and will have our annual book sale going on in the Schmooze beginning September 7th for the start of school.

 

Digital Public Library is Live!

A wondrous thing happened this past week in the Digital Public Library of America going live. This portal provides the public with free, open access to endless cultural and historical materials that have been digitized at countless institutions.

A valuable support to all modern and traditional libraries, the DPLA brings “different viewpoints, experiences, and collections together in a single platform and portal, providing open and coherent access to our society’s digitized cultural heritage.” (Quoting the DPLA history page)

One may use the search bar (pictured below) to find this Yiddish sheet music in its entirety, historic photos of synagogues around the world, or even this sound recording of broadcaster Claude Sullivan’s 1958 journey to the new State of Israel.

DPLA Search bar and Browse Features

DPLA Screenshot: Search Bar and Browse Features

Although you may browse and access these items for free, please be aware that many of them are copyrighted by their creators or by the institution that houses them. Some you may use without asking permission– please check the “rights” section on the finding aid, as pictured below. This is the page that comes up when you click on the item’s title in the list of search results.

Screenshot Illustrating Reproduction Rights

Screenshot Illustrating Reproduction Rights

I hope you enjoy this precious resource as much as I do! It represents the new age of open information in libraries that can help us learn more about our cultural heritage and that of those with whom we share this earth. See you there!

Hedy Lamarr’s on the Line!

Hedy Lamarr fled Nazi-occupied Austria and invented cell phone technology in the 1940s?? Sort of, yes!

As with many amazing things I discover, I heard this story on PRX Remix and couldn’t stop thinking about it all night.

Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr Publicity Photo


The story in short: Thought to be the most beautiful woman in the world, acclaimed Hollywood actress and brilliant inventor Lamarr was first the wife of Fritz Mandl, an arms manufacturer and socialite in Vienna. Mandl lived a life of greed, wheeling and dealing weapons and entertaining bigwigs like Mussolini and Hitler despite his Jewish heritage.

Lamarr escaped from this life, eventually making it to California, where she began to show clear patriotism, enraged by Nazi violence against innocent children and perhaps spurred by a desire to make up for her ex-husband’s disregard for humanity. Consumed by the idea of new communication methods between U.S. naval ships and their torpedoes, she devised a method of frequency switching that was undetectable by enemy ships.

When she finally partnered with composer George Antheil (who used a similar technology to synch 9 player pianos for live performance), Lamarr was able to put her thoughts into action. Together, they patented frequency-switching, a technology that was WAY ahead of its time.

In fact, it wasn’t until the 1960s that modern military equipment could harness this technology, and the U.S. Military made good use of it. Was this the culmination of Hedy Lamarr’s brainchild? You didn’t forget about the cell phone, did you?

CDMA Diagram

CDMA

The technology described in the patent filed by Lamarr and Antheil in the 1940s forms the basis of CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access), the technology on which modern day cell phones were developed. Sure, some will tell you it was the Russians who first harnessed this phenomenon… but me? I’m proud of the heart and accomplishments of my Jewish American sister.

Remembering Artist Elliot Offner

ARPhotographs: Smith College &emdash; Lyman In winter, Heron

Great Blue Heron at Lymon Conservatory, Smith College

I was delighted this week to learn about the life and work of Elliot Offner, a Jewish American sculptor who taught at Smith College while I attended there. Although I never had the pleasure of knowing him personally, I befriended the great blue heron he created– for the 18-year-old me there was no more peaceful a place on Earth than in that botanical garden.

Since Offner passed in 2010, his family set up a website to showcase his work. There I learned that my feathered friend has a sister who has become a local legend in the courtyard outside the Darien Public Library in Connecticut.

Auschwitz Study 4

Auschwitz Study 4

Also, the Holocaust memorial at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York and the Hirschhorn Museum at the Smithsonian in Washington each house a piece from Offner’s work on Holocaust studies and Auschwitz. The sculpture pictured above is featured on his website.

Time for a road trip I believe…