Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"After Chernobyl" at Ebling Library

"The closer you are to Chernobyl, the less dangerous it seems."



This is the theme of Ebling Library's latest exhibit, "After Chernobyl: Photographs by Michael Forster Rothbart." Though the Chernobyl of popular mythology is a dead, barren wasteland (or, in some tellings, a radioactive breeding ground for monsters), Rothbart's photographs tell a different story. The Chernobyl he shows us, nearly thirty years after the nuclear disaster, is filled with life in unexpected places. From the residents, many of them evacuees, of nearby "safe" towns and villages, to the workers and managers who maintain the inactive power plant as it is decommissioned, to the samosely—elderly evacuees who illegally returned to their homes inside the Exclusion Zone after the accident, and still live there now—the Chernobyl area is not quite as dead or barren as terrible horror movies would have you believe.

It would be interesting to ask Marie Curie if, had she known what her work would ultimately lead to—among other things, disasters such as Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and, most recently, Fukushima (a link between our last Go Big Read book and our current one)—would she still have pursued her line of inquiry? Do the benefits of nuclear energy outweigh the risks? In the aftermath of a nuclear disaster, is it worth it to try to build a new life in a radioactive home?

As the Ebling exhibit asks: after Chernobyl, would you stay?

"After Chernobyl: Photographs by Michael Forster Rothbart" runs until August 31st in Ebling's third-floor gallery space.

For more information on the Chernobyl disaster, you can check out these library resources. Lauren Redniss writes about Chernobyl in the 2012-13 Go Big Read pick, Radioactive. The once-flourishing, now-abandoned city of Pripyat, which was built to house plant employees and their families, has its own fascinating website, set up by an organization seeking to turn Pripyat into a "museum city." In the meantime, as seen in the Chernobyl Diaries trailer, there are guided tours that will take you into Pripyat and to the Chernobyl plant. If you're not feeling quite that adventurous, you can take a look at these photos of Chernobyl and Pripyat at the Telegraph.

But your first stop, of course, should be the third floor of Ebling Library.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"A Crucial Collaboration": Ruth Ozeki on the reader-writer relationship

A Tale for the Time Being author Ruth Ozeki
If you've started reading this year's Go Big Read book, A Tale for the Time Being, you've probably figured out that it's not exactly an ordinary novel. The book's two main characters, Ruth and Nao, speak to each other across distance both geographical and temporal; at the same time, they do their best to break out of the confines imposed on them as characters in a work of fiction. Ruth boasts more than a few similarities to the real-life Ruth Ozeki, and Nao is constantly aware that she is writing her own story, frequently appealing directly to the reader or calling into question her own motives and reliability as writer.

A Tale for the Time Being brings up a lot of questions about the relationship between the reader and the writer. In an essay for Poets & Writers, Ruth Ozeki recently explained her own understanding of this complicated relationship, and how it plays out in the separate-but-connected experiences of reading and writing. It's an interesting essay, but I'm going to pull out my favorite part:
All meaning is created through relationship, which means all meaning is relative. There is no one, single, definitive book. There is no one, single, definitive author. And clearly there is no one, single, definitive reader, either. There is only the exchange, the meaning that you and I, in any given moment, make together, as your eyes scan these words and your mind makes sense of them. And because we are always changing, the words you read today mean something very different from those same words if read a month or a year from now.
If ever a book disproved the existence of "one single, definitive book," "one single, definitive author" and "one single, definitive reader," it's A Tale for the Time Being. The entire book is built around the idea of exchange, the meaning created between two peopleeven, or perhaps especially, two people who will never meet. At its heart, A Tale for the Time Being is a book about the power of books.

If you haven't started reading it yet—what are you waiting for?

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