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This round: something to watch,  a novel set in an exotic land, and backpacking tips.   (I’m nothing if not eclectic).

The House on Dream Street by Dana Sachs

Subtitled Memoir of an American Woman in Vietnam. When I find an author I like I want more. Here's the precursor to her novel, and it made for a rich journey. She was deeply drawn to the country and culture and lived there in the early '90's when she was in her late 20's. When she arrived, she had only one friend, a Vietnamese woman she'd met in the states, very little of the language, and a mix of intense curiosity and fear that made the first few months very challenging. She'd hoped to connect with family life but it took her a while to decode the rhythms and conventions of domesticity. For instance,” please” and “thank you” are considered excessive. And it took great courage and desperation to get on a bike and negotiate the chaotically dangerous streets of Hanoi. Then she tried to sort out if she'd be received as an "enemy" even if the war was long over. And then came Pham, the shy, handsome, unschooled bike mechanic across the street. With bated breath I tracked their sweet but tricky relationship as it unfolded. The book gave me great pleasure because I could experience the full gamut of discovery, trepidation, bafflement, discomfort and yes, joy, without stirring from my chair.

Dancing Dreams (DVD)

One of the joys of working in a library is to see material when it first comes in. Imagine my surprise and delight when this exquisite DVD showed up. I've been following the work of Pina Bausch for years and here she was (though now dead, unfortunately) in my eager hands. She chose 40 teenagers to learn and perform her piece, "Contact Zone" in 2008. The themes, as in all Bausch works, are universal: a full gamut of intense emotions between the sexes. Working with adolescents, many just on the verge of sexual connection, was especially daring and poignant. We see only parts of the work in rehearsal and performance and hear the participants talk about their experiences with it. The costumes are bright cocktail dresses for the girls, suit and ties for the boys. The music is a great cabaret mix. The dedication, the passion, and the intensity all make for a very satisfying documentary. (Though of course I would have loved to see the whole piece.)

Ultralight Backpackin' Tips by Mike Clelland

My backpackin' days are regretfully behind me but I'm still intrigued with tips and technologies. (This from someone who actually schlepped a thermos of coffee and a hard-cover book on her maiden voyage and almost plotzed as a result.) So when this title came up on Wowbrary I had to take a look. Among the 153 "amazing and inexpensive tips" (and yes they are) are using cheap water bottles instead of fancy Nalgene, making a stove with a cat food can, alcohol, and foil for the windscreen, and using neoprene booties for wet but warm feet. Dealing with body functions is covered as well. Don't bring toilet paper; nature provides with pine cones, smooth rocks and leaves. No need for a handkerchief either; one of his cute illustrations shows how to clear your nose (36 degree lean, one finger over nostril, calibrate wind directions). Nerdy, both screwy in its extreme applications and sensible in its emphasis on safety in the wilderness. And fun.

Hope you enjoy this installment.  I'll be back in a couple of weeks with more.


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Posted by: Neshama

Neshama works at the Fairfax Library.

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