Thursday, October 15, 2009

Laura Jacobi's Halloween recommendations

What an interesting month it's been ... and we're still only halfway through!

Midterms are coming up and so is Homecoming. We at the Library are as prepared as we can be for the onslaught, and you should be too -- expect long lines, full computers, and a crowded Library.

In the meantime, to relax a little bit and think about things other than the next paper or test, here's a list of Laura Jacobi's Halloween recommendations. She admits to having a distinct lack of enthusiasm about "splatter," but she still has some great taste. Read on to find out more!

The Day the Earth Stood Still
Laura first saw this movie at age 10, and cops to being unable to turn out the lights in a room without immediately running out for weeks afterwards. The story -- the 1951 version, anyway, not the recent remake starring Keanu Reeves, which is awful on general principle -- consists of an alien and his arrival on Earth for mysterious purposes. His presence frightens the people of Earth, who quickly turn from fear to anger, calling for violence. The only people to befriend him discover that he's actually here because the human race has developed atomic power to go with our own destructive natures, raising concerns among the various races of nearby worlds, who fear that our species will soon spread our unchecked aggression into outer space and into their own neighborhoods. Predictably, Klaatu gets shot and killed, with ambiguous results. It's one of the greatest classic films of all time, combining a morality tale with gee-whiz (for 1951, anyway) science-fiction effects. You'll be discussing it for a long time afterwards.

It's also got close ties to Washington, DC -- this article from the Post explains it all.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
The irredeemably odd tale of a quiet, amiable doctor with secrets who does a little experimentation that brings out his wild side. You all know it -- nice guy drinks a potion, becomes big, nasty, beastly guy. But that's not the whole story! First, Dr. Jekyll wasn't as nice a guy as most apocryphal accounts might claim; he had his own secrets. Second, the story doesn't end on a very happy note at all. I'd explain more, but that might take away from the real tragedy of the ending. In general, this story is both very spooky and extremely thought-provoking; it forces you to ask about the nature of good and evil, and how much of either actually resides in each human being. Is Mr. Hyde evil in himself, or is he just the physical manifestation of something that was already present in Dr. Jekyll? Are they truly two separate people, or only two sides of the same coin? Either way, it's an immensely absorbing read.

We've also got e-book and graphic versions, by the way! The graphic version looks kind of like a kids' book, but the art is amazing and the story very faithful to Robert Louis Stevenson's original tale.

The Exorcist
The book, not the movie, that is. Nobody needs a movie with a book like this, though -- it's scary enough. If you're not familiar with the story, it's about a young woman who is possessed by a demon and the priests who try to help her. Regan MacNeil, a young girl who lives in Georgetown (right here in DC!), suddenly experiences a violent change in personality. After several attempts at psychological intervention fail and the girl becomes more and more diabolical, her mother decides it's time to call in the heavy artillery: the Catholic Church. A couple of priests get called in, they do their best, a whole bunch of really awful stuff happens ... and the girl is saved in the end. It's a fantastic book with tons of local connections -- even to Laura herself; the book is based on actual events that transpired in Mt. Rainier, Maryland, just over the District border, where she actually worked in the local public library many moons ago! You can even search for the actual Washington Post article about it in ProQuest Historical Newspapers -- "Priest frees Mt. Rainier boy reported held in Devil's grip" by Bill Brinkley, August 20, 1949.

Our lack of the movie version might be for the best, though -- Laura characterizes it as "gross." Unless you're into that sort of thing, which means it might be time for a psychological intervention of your own.

War of the Worlds
Another terrific alien classic! You might know it as "that flick with Tom Cruise," but it was originally a story by H.G. Wells, written in 1898 about a bunch of aliens invading Victorian England. That alone makes it a worthwhile read. Think about it: aliens among, you know, monocles and petticoats. The story starts with our narrator in an observatory, looking at Mars through a telescope in just enough time to witness several explosions on the planetary surface. Before he knows it, a large thing has landed in a nearby park. It turns out to be a space-going cylinder that holds an alien, which comes out just long enough to find Earth's atmosphere relatively unpalatable and darts back in. Attempts to communicate with it are met with vaporization by heat ray. More cylinders start landing, and the aliens start building Tripods, giant three-legged machines. A Martian plant, known only as "red weed" (it was probably not smoke-able, sorry), starts growing all over everything and suffocating all Earth life.

Eventually, the horror ends when all the Martians die, overcome by -- and this is where you see the true flowering of H.G. Wells' scientific genius -- bacteria. Pathogenic bacteria, rather; similar to the stuff that gives you a cold. Terrific story.

It also, thanks to Orson Welles and his dramatic skills, spawned a huge controversy around New York City and outlying areas when an adaptation was read over the radio for Halloween in 1938. The story had been rewritten as a series of news bulletins, and led people to think an actual Martian invasion was in progress. You can imagine the results.

The Turn of the Screw
This novella by Henry James is one I can't believe I forgot about. I read it when I was much younger, and it made me a little bit wary of looking out the window for a while afterward. It's the story of a young woman who gets hired as the governess to two creepy children -- cute, but creepy -- at the country home of their wealthy uncle. As the story goes on, you begin to wonder if the governess isn't slowly coming unglued; she starts seeing two people walking around the estate, whom nobody else appears to see, doing things that nobody else appears to know about. She finds out that her predecessor had a lover, and that they both died under very mysterious circumstances after spending a lot of time around the kids. She starts to wonder if the people she sees around the estate are their spirits and if the children might have had something to do with this ...

That wraps up Laura's recommendations! Next up, we'll have Jane Rutherford, who'll be able to add some truly interesting stuff from our collection of books for younger readers (think Hugo Cabret).

Question of the Week
I was trying to find a book in ALADIN Discovery, but could only find a copy that was an "electronic resource." What's that?
That's an e-book. Basically, it's a full book that's been made available online. You don't need to go to the shelves to check it out or carry it around with you; it's available through the catalog anytime, anywhere with a working Internet connection. Some may be restricted in specific ways -- maybe only one person can look at it at one time, or you may only be able to read it for up to two hours at a time, and most of them will only allow you to print out a specific number of pages in a specific amount of time -- but they're tremendously useful. Most of them are searchable, and have a table of contents that you can use to navigate to specific chapters. If you know the exact page numbers, you can skip straight to those pages.

There are a couple of ways to get into an e-book through ALADIN Discovery: first, you'll see a link near the top of the record that says "Click here to access this book." If other libraries in the Consortium have the same e-book, you'll see several links in the same area, all reading either "Click here to access this book" or "Electronic book," all prefaced with two-letter codes. Ours is GA for Gallaudet -- that's the only copy you'll be able to access.

Another way is down at the bottom where you usually see call numbers and availability information. You'll see a line that says "Linked resources: An electronic book accessible through the World Wide Web; click to view." Click on that link and you're in!

Incidentally, you may see another line below that saying "Access restricted to current Gallaudet University members--Login required." This is only true if you're off-campus; if you're on campus, you should be automatically logged in and you'll go straight to the book without logging in. If you're off-campus, you'll have to log in the same way you do for all of our other resources -- last name, Library barcode number or Gallaudet ID number, Institution: Gallaudet.

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