The Grand Island Memorial Library celebrated twenty years at its location on Bedell Road with a week-long series of programs that included a Big Read book discussion of The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, a horticultural presentation by the Cinderella Isle Garden Club, and an open house with guest performer Nan Hoffman.
Before the library was located on Bedell Road, it was housed in a single room in Town Hall.
Although the current library is not among the larger libraries in the Buffalo & Erie County library system, it is a good facility, with a large room housing the stacks and a separate meeting room. In the meeting room, there is a rotating art display. Library staff have established a collaboration with the schools on Grand Island. Art teachers from the all of the schools on Grand Island send their students’ work to be displayed in the meeting room. These exhibits are changed regularly to give more young artists the chance to have their work displayed in a public venue.
I went to two of the events that were held at the library: the book discussion and the open house. The book discussion was led by Liz Engl. She is the moderator of a book club that meets monthly. She gave some background information about the book and about F. Scott Fitzgerald. The author, like the narrator of The Great Gatsby, came from Minnesota and moved to New York. He fell in love with a charming young woman, Zelda Sayre, who would not marry him until he had some financial success. He did have success and he did marry her. Liz noted that there were elements of several characters of the book that seemed to resemble the author. It could be said that Fitzgerald projected parts of himself and his life into a variety of characters.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life, unfortunately, was full of tragedy. His wife developed a severe mental illness and he became an alcoholic. He died of a heart attack at the age of 44. When he died, he left behind an incomplete manuscript. The book in progress was titled The Last Tycoon.
Discussion during the hour-long session centered on the shallowness of the characters and of the fruitless attempts of the title character, Jay Gatsby, to reclaim lost love. Before he had gone to war, he had been in love with a young lady named Daisy. She told him that she would not marry him until he had made some money and could support him in the style to which she’d like to become accustomed. She sort-of promised to wait for him to come home from the war. When Gatsby returned, he found her married. He never stopped pining for her and he threw all sorts of parties. He vainly hoped that he could win her back but it was not meant to be.
The book read like a stage play, with lots of dialogue and very visual descriptions of the scenery.
It was an interesting story and well written but I can’t honestly say that it was one of my favorite pieces of writing. I wouldn’t say it was as bad as a friend described it, however. He described the book as a yawner that you have to read in high school.
OK. Onto the open house. That was well attended. State Assemblymember Sam Hoyt offered the library a proclamation. Board of Trustees president Agnes Becker spoke, as did Friends of the Library president Mary Cooke, who described the annual book sales and book cart as “Grand Island’s greatest recycling program.” Also, people won door prizes, which included gift cards to Barnes & Noble and floral arrangements from the Cinderella Isle Garden Club. Island resident Nan Hoffman, who described herself as a “story singer,” rather than a “story teller,” sang a bunch of folk songs and she encouraged the audience to sing along with her. She also had a bunch of dancing wooden marionettes. With some deft hand movements, she got the marionettes to dance on a wooden board. Thus the marionettes had become a rhythm instrument.
All in all, the open house was great fun and, of course, cake and cider were served.
Photographs: some of the floral arrangements, the cake, and the reading of the proclamation (from left: Barbara Birt (member of the library’s board of trustees), Agnes Becker, Sam Hoyt, and Library Director Lynn Konovitz.