“All were in sorrow, or had been, or soon would be. It was the nature of things”

bardoThe Brown Baggers met on April 18 at the Central Library to discuss George Saunders’ novel, Lincoln in the Bardo.

The experimental novel takes place in 1862 shortly after the start of the Civil War. President Lincoln’s son, Willie, has died and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery where Lincoln visits several times to hold his son’s body. Narrated by snippets of (sometimes) real, historical sources and fictional characters both living and dead, Lincoln in the Bardo explores the president’s grief over the loss of his son and raises larger questions about death, the after-life, and the human condition.

The Brown Baggers were divided between those who loved the book and those who did not. Those who really enjoyed the novel thought it was “extraordinary” and were drawn to the unusual structure of the novel. On the other hand, those who did not like the book found the format to be off-putting. They felt the number of characters (over 150!) was overwhelming and distracting. Some suggested the ghosts in the cemetery may represent the seven deadly sins, but felt the minor ghosts’ stories detracted from the story.

Despite these differences in opinion, all agreed Saunders depicted Lincoln’s grief in a very raw and honest way. They were moved by the relationship between Lincoln and Willie and the portrayal of Lincoln as he is overcome with sorrow and guilt for his son’s death and the thousands of soldiers killed during the Civil War. Many also commented that the book, especially the concept of the “bardo,” raised difficult questions about mortality, whether suffering is part of the human condition, and what lies beyond death.

Books Mentioned:
Neil Gaiman
Ulysses by James Joyce

More Information:
About the author
Review from The New York Times Book Review
Interview with the author in Writer’s Digest

The Brown Baggers will meet again on Thursday, May 16 at noon to discuss Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach.

Information at your fingertips

Wanting to know more about your ancestors? There’s a database for that!

The Jefferson-Madison Regional Library (JMRL) offers a variety of online databases that provide access to eBooks, newspaper and magazine articles, and a wide range of other reference sources.

man in red long sleeved shirt

Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

All of these databases are available in the library and most can be accessed from the comforts of your home 24/7. These services are provided by the library, all you need is a library card!

Below is a list of online database topics currently available:

Arts and Science & Technology
Provides full-text periodicals covering an extensive range of subject areas including business, health, education, fitness, sports and leisure, personal finance, and more.

Provides exclusive photographs, diagnostics designed by instructors, step-by-step repair procedures, and more in one easy-to-use website.

A database of reading recommendations for all ages and reading levels. Browse by genre to find new and popular biographies and memoirs.

Business Info
A variety of databases offered for career transitions, legal forms, investment tools, and stock and bond guides.

Encyclopedias and General Info
A variety of databases offering full-text periodicals, adapted reading material for teens and adults, newspaper and magazine articles, and online courses.

Two databases offering the Directory of Virginia Foundations and Foundation Directory Online.

Health & Medicine
A database covering diseases, disorders, treatments, procedures, specialties, anatomy, and biology, as well as recent developments in medicine.Genealogy
Databases include Ancestry Library Edition, Ancestry for Virginians, and HeritageQuest.

Kids & Teens
A variety of databases geared towards history, culture, lifestyle, health, science, sports, arts, and government education for primary, middle, and high school aged children.

Online language-learning systems. Includes lessons, games and more.

Literature & Books
Databases providing eBook collections and book recommendations.

Magazines & Newspapers
Access full-text periodicals from a number of databases, including archived editions.

Social Sciences
Databases providing information about history, culture, government and much more.

Poem in Your Pocket Day Events

Poem in Your Pocket Day was created as part of the celebration of National Poetry Month in April and JMRL has been participating for over 10 years. Poem in Your Pocket Day will be celebrated on Thursday, April 25 and all branches of JMRL will be giving out poem scrolls. Besides passing out poems at the libraries, JMRL staffers will also be handing out poems at various locations throughout the community, including on the Downtown Mall and on the lawn.

JMRL will also be holding Poetry on the Steps at 7pm at the Central Library on Thursday, April 25. This is an open mic event available for anyone to come by and read an original poem, read their favorite poem, or just sit back and listen. Refreshments will be served and the winners of the library’s Adult Poetry Contest will be announced. Both events are sponsored by the Friends of the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library, with WriterHouse serving as a co-sponsor of the Adult Poetry Contest. This year’s finalist judge is Virginia’s Poet Laureate Henry Hart.