One of the fun outcomes of the Our Community Reads selection (The Brief History of the Dead) is the varied way people have responded to it – particularly in a visual medium. We noticed this off the bat with the striking cover designed for the book. This in turn led us to offer a “Book Cover Re-Design Contest” and the entries were all notably different.
Artist: Jessica D’Amore
Artist: Rupali Kumbhani
Artist: C. L. Shaw
Artist: Irina Weaver
The full-size images can be seen in the lobby of the Library during April; the winner will be announced on April 9th at the evening event with author Kevin Brockmeier.
I also had an interesting conversation with a patron after she finished reading the book. She commented that she kept thinking of an infinity loop being drawn tighter and tighter as the story progressed.
And then last week a coworker handed me a small doodle of footsteps going towards an ice-filled landscape that the book inspired her to create (full disclosure: she had to explain to me that the loop is not the St. Louis arch but a Mobius strip that is partly underground).
I also felt like the descriptions in the book created a lot of visual images that lingered in my imagination, including birds trapped helplessly against an invisible shrinking enclosure and somewhat (to my mind) psychedelic rolling snowballs.
Did you feel the book provoked any strong imagery? Feel free to share in the comments! You should also plan to join us on April 4 as David Stark from the the Art Institute of Chicago presents an exploration of how artists have interpreted death and the afterlife in diverse and stunning ways.
So imagine you’re looking for a job in your chosen field and instead of finding something local you see an opening for a job at the South Pole. What would you do? If you’re 29-year-old Sarah Meyer you say, “I figured if life gives you an opportunity to apply for a job in Antarctica, you take it!”
Sarah grew up in Arlington, Texas, and has her doctorate in physical therapy from University of Texas Medical Branch. For the past four years she worked as a physical therapist at an inpatient rehabilitation facility with specialization in brain injury and strokes. But after a whirlwind process of applying, she recently found herself on a flight to Antarctica, arriving “on the ice” February 13 where she is part of a three-person team at the McMurdo Medical Clinic at McMurdo Station.
Choosing to work as part of the “winter-over” staff in Antarctica is a serious commitment. Sarah and I started trading emails recently and as she put it, “The station was closed (last plane in and out) on March 9 and will open again (next plane to arrive) in either August or October. It’s undecided at this point secondary to government funding.”
Sarah is part of a winter population of 142 people at the station. In addition to her work duties, she is volunteering at the the station library. And, she has graciously accepted our offer to read The Brief History of the Dead along with us and give us her perspective on the book–particularly from her vantage point of living and working in Antarctica!
Sarah is also willing to answer questions, so if you have questions about life at the South Pole, especially as portrayed in the book, put them in the comments below and I will pass them along to Sarah. As she has time between her responsibilities, she will send back answers that I will post on the blog!
In the meantime, if you want to see where Sarah is writing from, check out this link she sent to a live webcam of McMurdo Station. “The red and white building on the Arrival Heights Camera is the Medical Hospital. The sun is getting lower and lower, so the camera will be less helpful once the sun sets and does not return to our horizon for several months.” You can also read another person’s account of arriving at McMurdo Station.
For decades, various filmmakers have produced movies tackling the big questions about death, dying and the afterlife. Film is a particularly good medium to explore what the afterlife might look like. Below are some of the movies we’ve come up with that make for interesting watching, as well as links to some thought-provoking lists.
Please also join us on Tuesday, April 16, as Gary Christenson presents “How the Afterlife Has Been Depicted in Cinema,” at 7:00 p.m. in Huntley Meeting Room.
And chime in with your film suggestions in the comments!
Death Takes a Holiday In this 1934 film, Death takes the form of a prince who visits a family of wealthy socialites in order to experience all of the pleasures and pains that go with a flesh-and-blood existence. Perhaps a bit slow by today’s standards, but still enjoyable.
After Life This Japanese film has a documentary style and an unusual premise: After you die you go to a sort of way station where you must select the one memory from life you want to keep forever and relinquish everything else.
Matter of Life and Death (also sometimes titled “Stairway to Heaven”) David Niven stars as Peter Carter, the fighter pilot who should have died, but his “conductor” failed to escort him to the afterlife in a timely manner. As a result, Carter has time to fall in love and with that change in destiny decides he should get a second chance at life. A long, sometimes surreal film–try the opening sequence and you’ll know whether it’s for you.
As we lead up to our discussion of The Brief History of the Dead in April, we’re sharing articles and news of related interest.
In my last post I alluded to the many important scientific and research programs that are continually happening in Antarctica–but quite a few sporting events take place there, too.
Runners who have tried everything else might want to tackle the Antarctic Ice Marathon in November. Set on Union Glacier, it is located a mere 650 miles from the South Pole and boasts “breathtaking views” (perhaps literally?) as well as “breezy” conditions known as katabatic winds. Katabatic winds can rush down elevated slopes at hurricane speeds! Brrrrr.
Sound too easy? You could participate in the “Four Deserts” race, recognized as the world’s leading endurance footrace series. The Four Deserts races take place in the Atacama Desert in Chile, the Gobi Desert in China, the Sahara in Africa, and in Antarctica. Antarctica is considered to be a desert because the extreme cold freezes water vapor out of the air, and annual snowfall on the polar plateau is equivalent to less than 5 cm of rain. There are no liquid lakes or rivers: it is the driest continent on earth.
Participants in the Four Deserts race in Antarctica.
Sports are a big part of life for the people living and working in Antarctica as well, with residents participating in everything from dodgeball to rugby to “local inventions such as human-sled-tractor-pulls,” according to an ESPN article.
In April, the St. Charles Public Library and Elgin Community College are cosponsoring a variety of events for “Our Community Reads.” Members of the community are encouraged to read the book, The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier and join in the conversation.