It has been a hectic summer, indeed, during which I have strived mightily to share with you all the arts-related events which are readily available in our community.
One area I have neglected, on behalf of subjects which must be published before a certain date, has been books. They're among the greatest treats available, and they're ready and waiting for us, whenever we need information, entertainment, or inspiration.
I want to share with you just a few of the suggestions which I have for you, from things which I have been sent for review, highlighting a book by a Jamestown native, relating to one of our most active and significant local organizations.
This week, let's look at the books:
Readers who love local history, and who are eager to know what's going on, all around us, and how we're influencing the rest of the nation, will want to get a copy of ''Founding Women: Inspiration and Impact on Chautauqua and the Nation,'' by Jamestown native Janet Myers Northrup. The book is an illustrated history of the Chautauqua Women's Club.
Those of us who make the drive to Chautauqua during the Institution's nine-week season, often find ourselves eager to hear expert lectures or brilliant performances, yet little concern ourselves with how those things came to be readily available, so far from large population areas.
One of the most active and most faithful engines of Chautauqua's success has been the Chautauqua Women's Club.
When the words ''women's club'' are spoken, people often think of fashion shows and bridge tournaments. You'll find those things at the Chautauqua organization, but you'll also find concerts, lectures, classes, the funding of scholarships, and a host of political events, especially those which advance the quality of life for women. This is just to name a few of their activities.
This year, the organization is celebrating its 120th anniversary. This book delineates the activities of the club, and puts them into a historical perspective. It's clearly and cleanly written, and is illustrated with a great many photos and other illustrations. The writing is extensively referenced, and is effectively indexed so that a researcher can go directly to the information being sought.
Chautauqua was founded in 1874 by Methodist bishop John Heyl Vincent and by Akron, Ohio industrialist Lewis Miller. The founding fathers stepped off a Chautauqua Lake steamboat at a wooded area which was then called Fair Point, and decided it would be a wonderful location for an organization to train Sunday school teachers.
The information in the previous paragraph gets hauled out and repeated, several times per year. Mrs. Myers, however, points out that the paragraph fails to mention that when Vincent and Miller stepped ashore, they had wives, who soon found themselves living in tents, without hot water or any source of heat beyond an open fire, with no grocery stores, drug stores, or readily-available source of necessities, and who were soon cooking and maintaining their families in the woods, while wearing long dresses, several layers of undergarments, bonnets, bustles, and corsets.
At that time, the U.S. Civil War had only been over for nine years. It would be 45 years before women were allowed to vote in this country. Yet only five years after the first general meeting, the women of Chautauqua held their first meeting, in the ancestor of the present Hall of Philosophy.
At first, the women's meetings focused on subjects which were considered appropriate for women, such as supporting missionaries, hygiene, philosophies for raising children, and cooking. Within a decade, they were working to get Women's Suffrage passed into law, and to ban the sale and consumption of intoxicating liquors.
They were inviting lecturers to speak to the club, in an age when women were not allowed to speak from the stage of the famed Amphitheater, and they were establishing scholarships for people to study, both at Chautauqua and in universities, conservatories, and other institutions of learning around the country. It wasn't long before Susan B. Anthony was on the platform, and other women, down to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O' Conner, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and many of the foremost women who currently are taking their places in our government and our society.
True, they often funded their activities by holding teas, strawberry festivals, fashion shows, and similar activities which we tend to associate with women, but it has worked.
Today, the Women's Club's members are still powerhouses at fundraising. In 2008, the newest year for which figures are available, the club provided more than $100,000 in scholarships to encourage learning and support accomplishment. The women maintain their beautiful club house at the intersection of South Lake and Janes, although for several years, they have had to hold their membership luncheon at the Hotel Athenaeum, because there isn't room in that club house for all their members.
I hope I've given you an idea of the kind of information available in Mrs. Myers' book. The author was born and raised in Jamestown, and often attended events at Chautauqua, in the summers. During college, she helped meet her expenses with summer jobs at the St. Elmo Hotel and at the Boys and Girls Club.
For more than 30 years, she taught English in the suburbs of Rochester, where her husband also taught and both of her sons now teach.
''Founding Women: Inspiration and Impact on Chautauqua and the Nation'' is published by Mountain Air Books, and has 118 pages of text in a large format. It can be purchased through the Chautauqua Book Store and through other area agencies which deal in literature about local history. The recommended selling price is $19.95.
Find the book with ISBN number 13: 978-0-615-29829-0. According to the on line catalog of the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library System, there is only one copy, as of this date, which is owned by any of the system's libraries, and it is located at Smith Memorial Library at Chautauqua.
I LOVE YOU, BETH COOPER
It is pretty much accepted - and has been accepted for thousands of years - that if we want someone to do something, we should make them happier if they do what we want, and less happy if they fail to do what we want.
That's why it has always astonished me that in our country's public school systems, the students who study the hardest and come the closest to achieving what we say we want our students to achieve, are virtually universally made miserable, while those who work the hardest to come between their classmates and what is expected by the curriculum, are rewarded and lionized.
For the past couple of years, our popular culture has been inundated with a genre of books and especially films, which could be called ''Geeks' Revenge.'' In these books and films, good students who have gone on to good educations and often well-paying jobs, are now authors and screenwriters, who create a better reality for themselves, than the one in which they were actually raised.
One of the best from that genre is the novel ''I Love You, Beth Cooper,'' by Larry Doyle. So, too, is the film which came out last July, which was written by Doyle and directed by Chris Columbus. Doyle is best known as one of the writers for ''The Simpsons'' television show, which gives you some idea of his style.
In these literary alternate realities, the persecuted hard workers and their endearing doofus of a best friend, find a way to outwit the bozos and to convince the hot girls to give them a chance. Probably nobody believes them, but they're often funny, and they give us a moment of satisfaction, anyway.
The hero of ''Beth Cooper'' is a graduating senior named Denis Cooverman. Denis is the class's valedictorian and the captain of his school's debate team. The scene opens at commencement, just as he is about to give his valedictory address to a room full of his classmates who desperately wish he would shut up, so they could get out of the hot auditorium and grab the first of many cold beers, and their parents, who want exactly the same things.
He has decided that his speech is his last possible opportunity to say some of the things he has been bursting to say throughout the six years since he left elementary school, so he is going to say them. He quickly describes a number of his classmates who have eating disorders, and the class bully, whom he announces is so mean and disagreeable because he never felt loved as a child. He hints at who in the class is probably gay.
He also announces that he has been in love for the whole six years with the girl who has been voted ''Most Popular'' and ''Best Looking'' in the class. His name is Cooverman and hers is Cooper, and since schools tend to love putting students into alphabetical order, he has been sitting behind her, staring at the back of her lovely neck, since grade seven.
The rest of the book is pretty much a ribald account of the night after the ceremony, in which Beth brings two of her girlfriends over to Denis's house and takes him and his best friend out for a joyride, crashing parties, scoring alcohol, and playing cat and mouse with her incredible hulk of a boyfriend, who is determined to punish the geek for daring to challenge the system in which the smart suffer and the brutal thrive.
I haven't seen the film, but the book is a very enjoyable read, which moves very fast and while its events are relatively predictable, the way in which they happen is often wonderfully creative. Doyle has both an excellent vocabulary and an outstanding ear for the speaking style of our contemporary young. The book will never be confused with something by William Faulkner, but if you're looking for light reading, you could certainly do a whole lot worse.
''I Love You Beth Cooper'' has 255 pages of text in paperbound edition. It was published in 2007 by the Harper Perennial imprint, with a suggested selling price of $13.95. Find it with ISBN number 978-0-06-123518-1. According to the on line catalog, the library system owns only one copy of the book, as of today, and it is located at the Olean Public Library. You can borrow it from your local library - ask your librarian how to do it.
Due to the curious qualities of geology, the island of Great Britain is very slowly tipping. The island's east coast is sinking, below the waters of the North Sea, while the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, on the island's west coast, is slowly rising up to become land.
One result of this curiosity is that the river Thames, which is not particularly long, like the Nile or the Amazon, has been invaded by the sea, and salt water reaches far up the river's valley. Among the results of that is that ocean-going ships have been able to go far into the English countryside, while being relatively sheltered from the effect of storms.
Another result is that the river's banks are so far apart that cities and towns have grown up anywhere people have figured out ways to build bridges across the Thames.
Author Peter Ackroyd has recently published a biography of that most English of rivers. In it, he tells you everything he can find about the Thames, from statistics about how long it is and at what spot the fresh water of the original river begins to mix with salty water from the sea, and to rise and fall in depth with the actions of the tides.
Although the book isn't difficult to read, it isn't likely to hold the interest of readers, unless they are dedicated England lovers. There is a chapter on poets who have celebrated or assaulted the river. There is one on painters and photographers who have focused on its waters.
There is a chapter on churches which line the river, and one on royal palaces which line its banks, and one on murders which have been performed by its waters. These examples just scratch the surface of all the covered subjects.
The final chapter starts at the river's source and gives a paragraph or so of information on every town or village which has been located by the Thames, until the river finally meets the North Sea, including every neighborhood in the city of London which borders the river.
From the early Celts and Saxons and Romans, seeking ways to get across the tidal waters, to Anne Boleyn being rowed down the river to her incarceration and execution at the Tower of London, to Charles Dickens working as a young child on the river's shore in a shoe polish factory, to pay his father's debts, to contemporary filmmakers trying to get exciting scenes with the city in the background, without anyone getting ill from the river's polluted waters, the author finds many ways to capture your attention.
''Thames: The Biography'' was published in 2007 by Doubleday. The text reaches to page 441, in hard bound edition, although each of the 45 chapters is surrounded by blank pages and there are many maps and illustrations.
The sale price is suggested to be $40. Find it with ISBN number 978-0-385-52623-4. The library system has copies available in person at the following libraries: Chautauqua, Franklinville, Fredonia, and Westfield. When the Prendergast Library re-opens after their asbestos problems, they have a copy, also. You can borrow all five copies through your own library, through inter-library loan. Talk to your librarian.