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NOS4AS by Joe Hill

Brandon Boisvert, West Salem Public Library, September 2019


As a child, how would it feel to experience the joy of Christmas every day? Imagine if Santa shows up smelling like gingerbread in a 1938 Rolls Royce Wraith with the license plate NOS4A2, and drives you to a place coined “Christmasland.” The only problem is that “Santa” is a deranged, vampiric man named Charlie Manx, and he has been kidnapping children for years with the help of his psychotic assistant, Bing Partridge.

In the novel, “NOS4A2,” written by Joe Hill, the kidnapped children are taken to Christmasland, a place only Charlie can access. Bing takes care of the parents with a drug that smells like gingerbread while Manx absconds with the children. The children “rescued” by the unhinged duo become monsters who would just love to literally snack on any adults caught in the quasi land of everlasting Christmas.

Enter our protagonist, Victoria McQueen, who also possesses a gift that helps her to find lost items via riding through a phantom bridge. On one of her many escapades she encounters a stammering librarian from Iowa named Maggie who has a similar ability in which she uses scrabble tiles to find missing things. She cautions Vic of the man in the Wraith who abducts children. As you can imagine, the paths of Manx and Vic eventually converge when Vic foolishly goes looking for him. Manx’s plans fall to a screeching halt when Vic escapes by the skin of her teeth. Everything spirals out of control for Manx who gets arrested and falls into a comatose state for many years.

Flash forward years into the future and the encounter between the two of them are still fresh in each of their minds. Vic continually hears children from Christmasland on the other side of the phone singing songs which contributes to her sanity ebbing away. Eventually Vic becomes an adult with a child of her own named Bruce Wayne. Manx on the other hand wakes up from his coma to the fearful surprise of his nurse. Vic is the one who got away from Charlie which creates an obsession and animosity within him. His crosshairs are set not only on Vic but also on her son. Vic was also the final child that Bing needed to “save” to be able to enter Christmasland. So the lunatic duo of Charlie and Bing reunite to go on the hunt for mother and child. Vic now has to deal with the nightmare of them and her ever growing insecurities that have troubled her for years.

Joe Hill is an acclaimed author who has written numerous horror novels. This should come as no surprise though considering his father is horror legend, Stephen King. Joe Hill embeds references in “NOS4A2” alluding to his other works as well as a plethora of references from his father’s books, pop culture, and other horror novels such as “Psycho.” “NOS4A2” is a narrative full of realistically, flawed characters and relationships such as the manipulative one between Charlie and Bing. The novel has been adapted into a TV series on AMC and has been renewed for a second season.

Novels by Joe Hill, including “NOS4A2,” can be found at La Crosse County Library locations in Bangor, Campbell, Holmen, Onalaska and West Salem. These are also available in various other forms at locations of the La Crosse County Library such as DVD, Large Print, Paperback, Audiobook, or eBook where the staff at each location would be thrilled to help you find them. You can also search for them online at www.lacrossecountylibrary.org or on the Libby app available to all patrons of La Crosse County.

 

THE PUBLIC

Susanne Stranc, Holmen Public Library, September 2019

This month three of our County Library branches are showing the movie The Public starring Emilio Estevez, Alex Baldwin, Christian Slater and many other well-known actors. I strongly encourage anyone who hasn’t seen this movie yet to either come to the Library to see it or borrow the DVD.


The movie entirely takes place in the Cincinnati Public Library during a cold spell in the winter. Estevez plays a librarian that works there. Viewers get an accurate picture of what it is like to work in an urban public library that has to deal with the homeless, the mentally ill, drug and alcohol addicted and climate change.
At the beginning of the movie we see what daily life is like for the staff and patrons of the Library. A character unfamiliar with a library asked Estevez what it is like to read all day. This movie shows us that Librarians do anything but. There is a wonderful montage of the kind of questions asked of the Librarians that made me laugh out loud. I’ve been asked similar ones myself.


A 10 degree night is predicted and all the shelters are full. A group of regulars at the Library, all homeless for various reasons, decides to take over the library that night as a warming shelter. Estevez’s character Stuart Goodman, whose job is already in jeopardy due a patron suing him for ejecting him for smelling bad, is swept up into their protest/occupation. A local politician, Christian Slater’s character, decides this would be a perfect vehicle to make a name for himself. He gets the local police and SWAT involved. The media mistakenly turns a peaceful protest into an armed standoff. Alec Baldwin’s character is a hostage negotiator called in to mediate. He is also looking for his drug addicted son who may be part of the protest. The poor Library Director is caught in the middle.


Estevez had earlier spent time researching in the Los Angeles Public Library for his film Bobby. He came across an article later retitled “What they didn’t teach in Library School” about how libraries had become de facto homeless shelters and how Librarians have become social workers. A recent AP article on the front page of our local paper talked about how some urban libraries now have to hire social workers and stock NARCAN. This gave him the idea for this movie although it took over a decade before he could get it to the screen. In 2018 Estevez showed the movie at a national library convention. He worried about their opinion but the first comment he received was “how did you get our world so right?”


Libraries are considered one of the last bastions of democracy. All are welcome regardless of race, creed, color, or lack of residency.


One of the few criticisms of the movie was the lack of women characters. Libraries are a field dominated by women. There are also many homeless women. In spite of this the movie is an excellent depiction of what goes on at urban libraries. Come watch a movie about a library at the library. Check our website for movies, dates, times, and locations http://www.lacrossecountylibrary.org/images/Fall%202019%20Movie%20Dates.pdf

A SON OF THE MIDDLE BORDER by Hamlin Garland

Leslie Duesenberg, Onalaska Public Library, September 2019

I'd like to recommend to you a book that I prize. Of course it is a title readily available through La Crosse County Library, but I purchased my copy at the author's home in West Salem. A Son of the Middle Border by Pulitzer Prize winner Hamlin Garland is a 100 year old autobiography and the story begins in Greens Coulee, Onalaska.
Hamlin Garland was born in 1860 near West Salem. He remembers Greens Coulee as a place of wooded hills bordering a marsh valley teeming with “sinister” creatures such as bears, wolves, wild cats and rattlesnakes. Onalaska was a boomtown and he recounts that all boys aspired to be river men. I found his descriptions of farm life, threshing, meals and visits from relatives intriguing. Indeed, much can be learned about early pioneer life in our region from Hamlin Garland.


As a boy the author longed to accompany his father to the grain market in La Crosse. In fact, he never saw La Crosse until he was 8 years old as the family crossed through it on their move to Minnesota. In our day and age it’s hard to imagine that a trip to La Crosse was so rare for someone who lived in Onalaska. This is one of many insights gained from this lovely book. The recollections of farm and prairie life are filled with descriptions of endless toil with a keen eye for the physical demands on the prairie wife. The chores of a young child amaze our modern sensibilities. Could a 9 year-old boy really fire a double barrel shotgun as he stands guard over newly sown crops? There is also an amazing story of Garland as a young child being sent to fetch the family doctor on horseback during horrible weather conditions. I have read it aloud on several occasions and listeners have always found it compelling.


Garland’s father never liked the steep ridges of Greens Coulee and the difficulty of farming there. Like many men of that era, he longed to go west towards the Minnesota prairies he had once seen. The family eventually settles on 300 acres of land in Iowa. The chore demands of the growing Garland boy increased. Yet his recollections never cease to include beautiful descriptions of wildlife and the landscape. More moves are in the family’s future and the “middle border” moves farther from the settled lands. As a young man Garland embarks upon travel, schooling and a successful writing career all the while showing that he is never afraid of manual labor. His success enables him to establish a Garland homestead in West Salem. There is a bit of a cliff hanger at the end that hopefully will lead to a desire to read the sequel, A Daughter of the Middle Border, the Pulitzer Prize winner.


Every year Garland Days are celebrated in West Salem in conjunction with Hamlin's birthdate. In fact, it was just celebrated September 14th and 15th but you can visit his homestead any time of year and of course, while you're in West Salem be sure to stop by our beautiful Hazel Brown Leicht Memorial Library location and check out A Son of the Middle Border. La Crosse County Library also has convenient locations in Holmen, Bangor, Onalaska and the town of Campbell where staff are happy to assist you in finding books and other library items for your enjoyment.




 

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