A Very Long Engagement

Today marks the anniversary of the official beginning of World War I on July 28, 1914. Now often overshadowed by the popularity of fiction and non-fiction of World War II, the First World War saw the introduction of many aspects of modern warfare including the first use of armored tanks and airplanes as fighters as well as the horrors of trench warfare and mustard gas. And although it was known as the “war to end all wars”, in many ways it contributed to the causes of the Second World War.

Poignant, horrific yet ultimately hopeful, the French language film A Very Long Engagement starring Audrey Tautou is set against the backdrop of the end of the war and it’s aftermath. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Mathilde refuses to believe that her fiance has died in the war. She launches an investigation, a search that introduces a multitude of interlocking stories and incidents. The movie shifts from the couple’s courtship before the war to the horrors of the trenches to Mathilde’s determined search after the war and back again. Throughout, Mathilde’s charm, intelligence and most of all faith remain unshakable and will make you believe too.

A Few of My Favorite Things About RAGBRAI

One of the things I love the most about RAGBRAI is that it shows the best of Iowa and Iowans. The people in the overnight towns are so friendly and helpful – they welcome the riders with open arms. People from all over the United States and even the world, get to see how genuine and generous Iowans really are. Townspeople open up their homes (for free!) to complete strangers, to people like me who are too lazy to camp.

The pass-through towns also go all out to welcome riders. Besides producing mountains of food to feed this onslaught of bikers (which must seem like a plague of helmeted locusts), many communities really get into the spirit. They have theme celebrations with free (or dirt cheap) entertainment, and many even sell T-shirts to commemorate the event. For instance, Tipton is literally “Rolling out the Red Carpet,” nearby Eldridge is sporting the theme “Happy Days in Eldridge,” and the final stop in LeClaire hopes their “Spokes and Ropes” theme will encourage visitors to come back for the Tug Fest in August.

The townspeople are also very tolerant. Try to imagine in a small town suddenly supporting a population 4 to 5 times its usual size. Don’t get me wrong – RAGBRAI is a great fundraiser and many towns lobby for several years to host it, but I have to believe that we bikers must leave a bit of a mess!

And finally, as anyone who’s ever ridden on RAGBRAI can attest, Iowa is NOT flat and boring! In fact, it is lush and green, with gently rolling hills which provide colorful, scenic vistas. It is, in short, beautiful!

For an affectionate look at our great state, check out the videorecording Iowa: an American Portrait, narrated by Tom Brokaw with historic and current images of Iowa.

TV on DVD

Want to take a walk down memory lane and follow the adventures of Sheriff Andy Taylor again? Miss a pivotol episode of Lost? Need a good laugh, something witty from Frasier or laugh-out loud silly from Home Improvement? The Davenport Library is the place to go for Television on DVD. We have all kinds of programs for all kinds of tastes – comedy, drama, action, science fiction. We have classic shows as well as the latest releases and best of all – there’s no cost to rent them!

All DVDs check out for one week and can be renewed once (so long as no one else is waiting for that particular season of Charmed!)

Babette’s Feast

This charming, deceptively simple movie, winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1987, is full of humor, sadness and hope. Babette, a refugee from the French revolution, is taken in by two Danish sisters who have given up all personal happiness for piety and live in strict austerity. For many years Babette works for the sisters, quietly contributing to their lives and the to the community. One day she discovers that she has won the lottery and, in gratitude to the people who have sheltered and accepted her, creates a memorable feast for the people who have become her family. This beautifully filmed and acted movie is a bittersweet examination of choices made and second chances.

The Davenport Library has lots of DVDs of all kinds – action, drama, foreign and comedy. Be sure to stop in and browse our collection!

The Greatest Game Ever Played by Mark Frost

With Tiger Woods winning the 2008 U.S. Open and the John Deere Classic nearing, I was reminded of my favorite book and movie about golf, The Greatest Game Ever Played by Mark Frost. It is the story of the 1913 U.S. Open held at the Country Club in Brookline Massachusetts. Frost has interwoven the biographies of Harry Vardon and Francis Ouimet, slowly building to the dramatic finish. Born on the Channel Island of Jersey in 1870, Vardon had won five British Open titles by 1913. On this side of the Atlantic, 20-year-old Ouimet was the Massachusetts state amateur champion and had been a caddie at the Country Club; his invitation to the Open was unexpected. The long, wonderful second portion of the story dramatizes the exciting week in September when Vardon, Ouimet, and others battled for the coveted title. Frost paints a lively supporting cast. Ouimet’s mother, brother, and sister were supportive, but his father had no truck with the silly game. Englishman Bernard Darwin, the scientist’s grandson, found his niche as a first-generation golf journalist. Ted Ray, a big bear of a man, punched out a fellow English golfer before joining friend Varner and Ouimet in a three-man playoff. Ten-year-old caddie Eddie Lowery almost stole the show with his pugnacious confidence and sage advice for Francis. It is a wonderful book about the beginning of the sport of golf in the United States.

The book was published in 2002; in 2005 the movie of the same name was released. Starring Stephen Dillane and Shia Labeouf as Harry Verdon and Francis Ouimet were wonderful. The best minor character was Eddie Lowery played by Josh Flitter. The movie puts pictures to Mark Frost’s words. It is a beautiful film.

Be sure to catch exciting professional golf action at our own golf tournament, the John Deere Classic, July 7-13. Because you never know when the next sports hero will emerge.

New DVDs for July

July 8th

Stop-Loss – Starring Ryan Phillippe, Abbie Cornish and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Decorated Iraq war hero Sgt. Brandon King makes a celebrated return to his small Texas hometown following his tour of duty. He tries to resume the life he left behind. Then, against Brandon’s will, the Army orders him back to duty in Iraq, which upends his world. The conflict tests everything he believes in: the bond of family, the loyalty of friendship, the limits of love and the value of honor. Includes commentary, featurettes, making-of documentary, deleted scenes, and more. IMDB

July 15th

Penelope – Starring Christina Ricci, Reese Witherspoon and James Mcavoy and Peter Dinklage. In a modern day romantic tale, Penelope is about a young girl’s inspiring journey, a mysterious family secret and the power of love. This is the story of Penelope, who is the victim of a curse placed on a wealthy family by a witch. Many generations ago, a witch placed a curse on the Wilhern family that would result in the next girl being born into the clan having the face of a pig. The otherwise-normal girl Penelope is forced to endure life with a pig’s snout instead of a conventional nose, which has sent many a potential suitor running off into the streets, shouting in terror. Eventually, she runs away from her sheltered existence and overprotective parents, to explore the world on her own. As she meets new friends and a potential lover who doesn’t run away, she begins to discover happiness – while all the while her parents believe the only way she can be happy is through an arranged marriage, which will hopefully break her curse. IMDB.

Other releases for July:

College Road Trip

Step up 2, The Streets

The Armchair Traveler Goes to Russia

Russia, that great giant that straddles both the West and the East, has a long and often bloody history, a unique culture and a diverse people. Many great classics have been written by Russians but what to read after War and Peace? (You have read War and Peace, right?!) Try these for more insight (and a decidedly quicker read) into the Russian soul.

The Dog Who Bit a Policeman by Stuart Kaminsky

Twelfth in the series, this follows one-legged Moscow cop Porfiry Rostnikov in a post-Soviet Russia that is rife with corruption. Among other things, Porfiry deals with an illegal dogfighting ring, the Moscow Mafia, murders, and various personal problems. This is engrossing storytelling at its best.

Russka by Edward Rutherford

Presenting a sweeping historical overview of Russia in the style of James Michener, Rutherford delivers an epic story focusing on how historical events affect the common person through the generations.

The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander

A fictional retelling of the final days of Czar Nicholas II and his family as witnessed by a young kitchen boy who has kept what he saw secret. Now an old man and about to die, he’s ready to tell the truth. Filled with historically accurate details, this is a beautifully written novel with a surprise ending.

The Industry of Souls by Martin Booth

Mistaken for a spy, British citizen Alexander Bayliss spends 25 years in a Soviet gulag and the next 20 in a Russian village. When his family discovers he is still alive, he must decide whether to stay or return to England. This amazing novel reveals the human side of gulag life, how the collapse of the Soviet Union affected her people and the strength of the common man.

Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith

Introducing Inspector Arkady Renko, this modern classic is the must read novel of Soviet Russia. Cynical, honest, brilliant, Renko investigates a triple murder where the victims fingers and faces are missing. Intelligent writing, complex mysteries, dark humor and real tension combine to make this one of the best mysteries ever written. Future installments, which follow Renko thru post-Soviet Union turmoil, are also highly recommended.

Friday Night Lights on DVD

Friday Night Lights season twoGreat acting, brilliant writing, innovative cinematography and multiple compelling story lines combine to create one of the best – maybe the best – show on television. And let me be very clear about this – it’s not about football. Yes, yes, I know, the show revolves around the ups and downs of the football team from Dillion, Texas and high school football reigns supreme in this small town. But in reality it’s about people, the choices they make and the consequences these choices have on them and the people around them.

Now is your chance to get caught up – the Davenport Library has both season one and season two available for checkout. Don’t miss out!

New DVD’s for June at the Library

Bucket List – Corprate billionaire Edward Cole and working class mechanic Carter Chambers have nothing in common except for their terminal illnesses. While sharing a hospital room together, they decide to leave it and do all the things they have ever wanted to do before they die according to their bucket list. In the process, both of them heal each other, become unlikely friends, and ultimately find the joy in life. IMDB

The Other Boleyn Girl – A sumptuous and sensual tale of intrigue, romance and betrayal set against the backdrop of a defining moment in European history: two beautiful sisters, Anne and Mary Boleyn, driven by their family’s blind ambition, compete for the love of the handsome and passionate King Henry VIII. IMDB

New DVDs for May at the Library

May 2nd

P.S. I LOVE YOU

Holly Kennedy ( Hilary Swank) is beautiful, smart and married to the love of her life – a passionate, funny, and impetuous Irishman named Gerry Kennedy ( Gerard Butler) . So when Gerry’s life is taken by an illness, it takes the life out of Holly. Before he died, Gerry wrote Holly a series of letters that will guide her, not only through her grief, but in rediscovering herself. The first message arrives on Holly’s 30th birthday in the form of a cake and a tape recording from Gerry, who proceeds to tell her to get out and “celebrate herself”. In the weeks and months that follow, more letters from Gerry are delivered in surprising ways, each sending her on a new adventure and each signing off in the same way; P.S. I Love You. With Gerry’s words as her guide, Holly embarks on a journey of rediscovery in a story about marriage, friendship and how a love so strong can turn the finality of death into a new beginning for life. … IMDb

May 13th

THE GREAT DEBATERS

“The Great Debaters” is a fictionalized account of a true story. In the early 1930s, in the Jim Crow South, a small, all black school in Marshall, Texas, called Wiley College produced a debate team of such skill and renown, they were invited to compete against the white college champions, an unprecedented event in its day. Mel Tolson (Denzel Washington) is the professor at Wiley College Texas who wants to encourage his students to have big dreams.

” The Great Debaters” is a story of self actualization, self-reliances and the triumph of the underdog. This is one of the year’s best films.” – Roger Ebert

May 20th

NATIONAL TREASURE 2 – BOOK OF SECRETS

National Treasure 2 is the follow up to the box-office hit National Treasure. Treasure hunter Ben Gates (Nicolas Gage) and his fellow treasure hunters (Justin Bartha and Diane Kruger) along with his parents ( Jon Voight and Helen Mirren) set forth to prove his great-great grandfather’s innocence. Ben’s ancestor has been implicated as a key conspirator in Abraham Lincoln’s death. Ben follows an international chain of clues that takes him on a chase from Paris to London and ultimately back to America and leads to the President of United States and the world’s most treasured secrets.

I found this movie fun. One and a half hours of action and suspense.