Phyllis Bernt

Phyllis Bernt

The start of a new year is a great time to look forward to what the coming year has to offer. Here is a quick reminder about upcoming library events to look forward to in January. All events are free and open to everyone.

The World of Haystack Rock Library Lecture Series will present “10th Anniversary of Oregon’s Marine Reserves: What We Have Learned” at 7 p.m., Wednesday, January 11. This is both an in-person and virtual event. Participants can participate in the program at the library (131 N. Hemlock in downtown Cannon Beach), or enjoy the talk virtually by accessing the Friends of Haystack Rock website at https://friendsofhaystackrock.org.

 The Cannon Beach Reads book club, which meets on the third Wednesday of each month, will meet at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, January 18, to discuss “The Wayward Bus,” by John Steinbeck, one of the foremost American writers of the twentieth century.

Book club members are debating whether to meet at the library, with a Zoom link provided for those who would rather participate from home, or to meet totally over Zoom. A final decision will be made closer to the meeting. Contact Joe Bernt at berntj@ohio.edu for more details or to get the Zoom link. New participants are always welcome.

The library’s NW Author Speakers Series will feature Portland writer and editor Liz Prato for a talk beginning at 2 p.m, on Saturday, January 21. Prato will discuss her newest essay collection, “Kids in America: A Gen X Reckoning.” This will be a hybrid event; participants can join Prato at the library or enjoy her talk remotely through the library’s website (www.cannonbeachlibrary.org).

Submissions for the library’s Writers Read Celebration are due Friday, January 20. This year’s topic is “Hemingway at the Beach: What Would He Say?”  Writers are asked to experiment with Hemingway’s distinctive writing style while considering how or what Hemingway would say while at the beach. Entries can be serious, whimsical, tongue-in-cheek or humorous. All written formats will be considered (essay, short story, poetry, script, etc.).

Authors are limited to three entries, with a 600-word limit per entry, emailed to info@cannonbeachlibrary.org, or mailed to P.O. Box 486, Cannon Beach, OR 97110. Email submissions (Word or PDF) are preferred. A cover letter with the author’s name, email address and telephone number should accompany each entry. The entry itself should not include the author’s name or contact information, so that judging remains anonymous.

The deadline for submissions is 5 p.m on Friday, January 20; the Writers Read Celebration will take place at 7 p.m. in the library on Friday, March 10.

A new year can also be a good time to enjoy books that look back at compelling issues, momentous events or inspiring people. “Dinners With Ruth: A Memoir on the Power of Friendship” by Nina Totenberg, is such a book.

Since 1975, Nina Totenberg has been a legal affairs correspondent for National Public Radio (NPR), where her reports are a regular feature of “All Things Considered,” “Morning Edition” and “Inside Edition.” She focuses on the activities and politics of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Totenberg is the recipient of numerous awards, including seven American Bar Association awards for excellence in legal reporting. She is known for breaking major stories involving the Supreme Court, perhaps the most famous being Anita Hill’s allegations against Clarence Thomas.

Despite its  title, “Dinners with Ruth” is about much more than meals with the late Supreme Court Associate Justice. According to Totenberg, the book is a tribute to friendship, and she defines friendship by telling stories about her relationships with numerous journalists, judges and Washington insiders, including the other three women who helped launch NPR. Totenberg argues that friendship was especially important to the so-called “Founding Mothers of NPR ‘’ (Totenberg, Cokie Roberts, Linda Wertheimer and Susan Stamberg), who relied on one another in a male-dominated business.  

Totenberg developed friendships in another male-dominated environment: the Supreme Court. In “Dinners with Ruth,” Totenberg describes her cordial relationships with Justices Lewis Powell, William Brennan and Antonin Scalia, and argues, a bit defensively, that those friendships had no impact on her ability to be an objective journalist.

But Totenberg is most defensive about her 48-year connection with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, arguing that their relationship did not constitute a conflict of interest because they had been friends long before either one of them was famous. An NPR editorial, not mentioned in the book, disagreed.

There may be some question about Totenberg’s journalistic objectivity, but there is no question about her deep and genuine affection for Ginsburg.  Totenberg paints a compelling portrait of an intelligent, witty, strong and thoughtful woman, from Ginsburg’s childhood in Brooklyn, to her years as a young mother and law student balancing the needs of a toddler and an ailing husband, to her work as a law professor arguing gender equity cases, to her years on the bench.

Most poignant is Totenberg’s description of Ginsburg’s last years as a widow mourning her husband of 56 years; a Supreme Court Justice stoically working despite debilitating cancer treatments; and an increasingly frail, but elegantly dressed woman who stubbornly continued to enjoy shopping, opera and dinners with her friends.

In discussing her many friendships, Totenberg, no doubt inadvertently, describes a cozy, affluent, closed world in which journalists, policymakers, judges, lobbyists and congressmen socialize and befriend each other. Which may explain why Washington is often described as an echo chamber or as the “Beltway Bubble.”

In addition to “Dinners With Ruth,” library patrons can start the new year by enjoying four more new nonfiction titles. They are “How Far the Light Reaches: A Life in Ten Sea Creatures” by Sabrina Imbler, “Because our Fathers Lied: A Memoir of Truth and Family, from Vietnam to Today” by Craig McNamara, “Beaverland: How One Weird Rodent Made America” by Leila Philip and “The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams” by Stacy Schaffer.

Nine new fiction titles recently added to the collection are “To Fill a Yellow House” by Sussie Anie, “When Women Were Dragons” by Kelly Barnhill, “Checkout 19” by Claire-Louise Bennett, “Tom Clancy Red Winter” by Marc Cameron, “The Vibrant Years” by Sonali Dev, “The Cloisters” by Katy Hays, “So Long, Chester Wheeler” by Catherine Ryan Hyde, “Stella Maris” by Cormac McCarthy and “The Messy Lives of Book People” by Phaedra Patrick.

Seven mystery titles added include “Racing the Light” by Robert Crais, “What She Found” by Robert Dugoni, “Viviana Valentine Gets Her Man” by Emily J. Edwards, “Wrong Place, Wrong Time” by Gillian McAllister, “Secret Identity” by Alex Segura, “A Dangerous Business” by Jane Smiley and “Secrets Typed in Blood” by Stephen Spotswood.

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