Oliver Wolcott Library - Programs

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Events are updated regularly. Please check back! 

Wednesday, May 4th
7:00 - 8:00 p.m.

Ride: A Musical Cinematic Trip through the American West
with Marc Berger
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Inspired by Marc Berger’s lifelong love affair with the American West, Ride presents ten cinematic recordings capturing the vastness and romance of the West while exploring its deep roots in the American psyche. From the haunting message and beat of “Twister” to the soul-shaking challenge of taming a wild horse in “Take it on the Chin,” Ride takes you on a dusty tour of the Great American Frontier. This duo performance will feature Marc Berger on vocals, acoustic guitar and harmonica and Mike Ricciardi on drums and percussion.

Marc Berger’s life has been about pursuing twin passions: creating and recording his American roots songs, and exploring remote areas of the desert and mountains of the West. Ride, co-produced with Mike Ricciardi, reflects his romantic connection to the American West and explores the value of its myths to contemporary culture.

Berger has fronted bands and performed regularly in New York City clubs like CBGB, Wetlands, and The Knitting Factory. He has opened shows for Bob Dylan and other national acts. His song, “The Last One,” was a staple of Richie Havens’ concerts for years. To hear samples and learn more, visit his website at www.marcbergermusic.com. Copies of Ride will be available for purchase. Registration is required.  

Wednesday, May 11th
7:00 - 8:00 p.m.

Marvelous, Mysterious Mars
with Denis Williamson
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What do Har Decher, Nergal, Ares and Mars have in common? They are all names for the planet we call Mars. To the Egyptians, it was Har Decher - The Red One. To the Babylonians, it was Nergal - The Star of Death. The Greeks called it Ares - The Fiery One, and we use the Roman name - Martius or Mars.

In this talk we’ll discuss how ancient peoples thought of Mars, its place in the ancient world view, its significance in the development of modern astronomy and the amazing discoveries made by spacecraft and rovers. Along the way we’ll look at the enduring fascination Mars has had on popular culture - from more than 100 novels, countless short stories and at least 74 movies including The War of the Worlds and The Martian.

Denis Williamson is the Secretary of the Litchfield Hills Amateur Astronomy Club where he has been an active member since 2009 and organizes the star parties hosted by the club at White Memorial. He gives talks on various astronomy topics and enjoys engaging new and advanced amateur enthusiasts. Retired from a career in the computer industry, Denis spends clear days sailing on Bantam Lake and clear evenings stargazing.

The Litchfield Hills Amateur Astronomy Club, founded in 1957, promotes the enjoyment and pursuit of astronomy with regular meetings and public events.  For more information about the LHAAC, visit their website at lhastro.org. Registration is required. 

Sundays, Mar. 13th, Apr. 10th & May 15th
1:00 - 2:00 p.m.

The Irish in Fiction
A Book Discussion Series with John Tully
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Irish Americans have a rich literary history, one that encompasses the sweep of their history in the United States. Novels, in particular, have been a way for Irish Americans to explore issues of family, religion, politics, assimilation, and alienation. Our reading group and discussions will focus on three of the most iconic and insightful works in this long tradition.

Dr. John Day Tully will provide an historical context of both the novels and their settings within the wider struggles of Irish Americans to find their own identity and meaning. The legacy of those efforts live on in every Irish American family today.

Dr. John Tully is a Professor of History at Central Connecticut State University and the author of Ireland and Irish Americans, 1932- 1945: The Search for Identity, published by Irish Academic Press. He has been a Visiting Fellow at the Clinton Institute for American Studies at University College, Dublin, and has presented papers at meetings of the American Conference for Irish Studies and the American Historical Association. In April, he will be presenting at the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Registration is required. Books are available at the library to borrow four weeks in advance of the discussion. 

March 13: Ironweed
, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, is the remarkable story of Francis Phelan, once a talented major league baseball player, husband, and father of three, who has fallen so far from grace that his home for the past twenty-two years has been the street. Author William Kennedy takes us into the mind and heart of a homeless vagrant and explores the situations which have brought Francis to this heartbreaking station in life. 

April 10: Brooklyn

It is Ireland in the early 1950s and for Eilis Lacey opportunities are scarce. When her sister arranges for her to emigrate to New York, she arrives in a crowded lodging house in Brooklyn and can only be reminded of what she has sacrificed. Just as she takes tentative steps towards friendship and more, Eilis receives news which sends her back to Ireland. There she will be confronted by a terrible dilemma - a choice between duty and one great love.

May 15: Charming Billy
Billy Lynch’s family and friends have gathered to pay their respects to one of the last great romantics. As they trade tales of his famous humor, immense charm, and consuming sorrow, a complex portrait emerges of an enigmatic man, a loyal friend, a beloved husband, and an incurable alcoholic. The winner of the 1998 National Book Award for Fiction, Alice McDermott’s striking novel is a study of the way good intentions can be as destructive as the truth they were meant to hide.


Thursday, May 19th
7:00 - 8:00 p.m.

French Chic Living
with Author Florence de Dampierre
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French Chic Living is overflowing with time-tested advice and conventional Gallic wisdom for everything from setting up the bar and brewing the perfect cup of tea, to selecting a variety of cheeses for the well-balanced platter. Drawing on the ways French mothers and grandmothers manage their households, Florence de Dampierre provides accessible ideas for maintaining a stylish home and there is her signature flair for creating home accents to give your abode that quintessential French touch.

Florence de Dampierre - author, interior designer, lecturer, historian, and entrepreneur - is also known for her energetic personal style, warmth, and exuberance. Her first book, The Best of Painted Furniture, has sold over 100,000 copies. Other works include Chairs: A History and Walls: The Best of Decorative Treatments. Florence grew up in Paris and currently lives in an old house in Connecticut with her husband, children and dogs. Visit her website at florencededampierre.com.

This event is co-sponsored with the Alliance Française of Northwestern Connecticut, a non-profit organization, whose mission is to promote French culture and language with programs, language classes and more. Visit their website at afnwct.org. A wine & cheese reception will follow the event. The Hickory Stick Bookshop will provide books for sale & signing. Registration is required.

Tuesday, May 24th

7:00 - 8:00 p.m.

Gardens at First Light
A Conversation with
Author & Photographer Stacy Bass
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With Gardens at First Light, Stacy Bass offers a rare and privileged glimpse of a range of stunning private gardens in the Northeast. Her work showcases a variety of garden types, from those taking root along serene shorelines to others blooming in rolling hills near open farmland. Bass’s camera takes readers on an intimate tour of each property to tell the story of the individual gardens. She trains her lens on her subjects with the same care and attention that the gardeners lavished on their verdant flowers and foliage.

Join Catherine Oneglia as she facilitates this conversation with author and celebrated photographer Stacy Bass.

Stacy Bass began to focus on fine art and photography in college, and then studied at the Maine Photographic Workshops. From her first solo exhibition in 1988, her work has become part of numerous private, corporate and hotel collections. Stacy’s passion for capturing light, color and the essence of a place, event or feeling manifests itself in her images. Her work has appeared in: Garden Design, Horticulture, House Beautiful, and California Homes. Visit her website at stacybassphotography.com.

This event is co-sponsored with the Litchfield Garden Club. For more than a century, they have been serving the Litchfield Community. Visit their website at: www.litchfieldgardenclub.org. A wine & cheese reception will follow the event. The Hickory Stick Bookshop will provide books for sale & signing. Registration is required.


Wednesday, June 1st
2:00 - 3:00 p.m.

The Stone Walls & Structures of England & New England 
with Andrew Pighills
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Here in New England we have a unique historical record in drystone walls and structures. Stone Artisan Andrew Pighills believes the more he can make their history a part of our lives, the better chance there is of preserving this wonderful heritage for future generations.

In this slide presentation and lecture Andrew will draw comparisons, both similar and dissimilar, in geology, building styles and techniques, and follow the development and evolution of stone walls and structures in England and New England from colonial times to the present day. He will explain how they fit into the garden and wider landscape past and present.

Born in Yorkshire, England, Andrew Pighills is an accomplished stone artisan, gardener and horticulturist. He received his training with The Royal Horticultural Society and has spent 30+ years creating gardens and building dry stone walls in England.

Today, he is one of a handful of US-based, certified, professional members of The Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain. Andrew moved to the United States more than ten years ago and now continues this venerable craft here. His stone work has been featured on British and American television, in the New York Times, on Martha Stewart Living radio, and in books and magazines. Visit his blog at: http://heaveandhoe.blogspot.com. Registration is required.

Wednesday, June 8th
7:00 - 8:00 p.m.

The Cookbook Club - Salad
with OWL Staff
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SALAD! Join Adult Services Librarian Audra MacLaren and Librarian Patricia Moore as we discuss and celebrate food and cookbooks with the Cookbook Club. Come to our June meeting to eat and discuss all things salad - tossed, Caesar, potato, seafood, Cobb! The choice is yours! Just be sure to come ready to eat!

Beginning a month before the discussion date we will have an assortment of cookbooks available for check out - select the one that most interests you.

Over the course of the month we encourage you to make recipes from your selected cookbook and come ready to chat about what worked, what didn’t, and what you cannot wait to make again. Audra and Patricia will be bringing some of their favorites to the discussion and if you are feeling adventurous we encourage you to do the same - don’t be intimidated, we are all just amateur cooks who love books. Learn more about the highlighted cookbooks, read about trial recipes, and reference the post-meeting round-up of recipes on our new blog: owlcookbookclub.wordpress.com. Registration is required.

Wednesday, June 15th
7:00 - 8:00 p.m.

The Flags at Shea
with Author Frank Strauss
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In 1948 after getting an autograph from Babe Ruth, Frank Strauss, at age 13, thought he’d be a lifetime Yankees fan. But that all changed in 1965 when Yogi Berra was fired from the Yankees and then hired as a coach for the Mets. In his book, The Flags of Shea, Strauss captures the New York Mets glory days. Through a “you-are-there” narrative, his book covers such topics as the Miracle Mets of ’69; Harrelson and Pete Rose brawling in the 1973 playoffs; Willie Mays saying goodbye to baseball; Lenny Dykstra’s home run to win game three in the ’86 playoffs; and much more. The lights may have been turned out and the stadium is no more, but the memories still remain.

The Flags at Shea had its origins as a scrapbook of Mets’ World Series memorabilia. It was Strauss’ wife who advised him to turn it into a book. Overall it is a salute to the Mets teams that won four pennants and two World Series while playing at Shea Stadium and touches on what happened in the intervening years. 

Frank Strauss grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens. After graduating from Antioch College, he worked as a journalist and public relations official in Manhattan. While working as a marketing and public relations director at the Council of Jewish Federations in New York, he met and married his wife, Joan. Today they divide their time between New York City and Goshen, Connecticut. Reception will follow with light refreshments. The author will provide books for sale & signing. Registration is required. 


Thursday, June 16th
7:00 - 8:00 p.m.

Lilac Girls 
A Conversation with Author Martha Hall Kelly
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Join Joseph Montebello as he facilitates a very special conversation with author Martha Hall Kelly. 

Inspired by the true story of Caroline Ferriday using her home in Bethlehem, Connecticut and her social position to help the women who were tortured and experimented on at Ravensbrück concentration camp by the Nazis during World War II, Lilac Girls is a powerful historical fiction novel that has been meticulously researched.

Between 1939 and 1945, it is estimated that 130,000 female prisoners passed through the Ravensbrück camp system. Only 15,000 of the total survived until liberation. Although the inmates came from every country in German-occupied Europe, the largest single national group incarcerated in the camp consisted of Polish women.

Starting in the summer of 1942, medical experiments were conducted without consent on 86 women; 74 of them were Polish inmates. Two types of the experiments were conducted on the Polish political prisoners. The first type tested the efficacy of sulfonamide drugs. These experiments involved deliberate cutting into and infecting of leg bones and muscles with virulent bacteria, cutting nerves, introducing substances like pieces of wood or glass into tissues, and fracturing bones. 

The second set of experiments studied bone, muscle, and nerve regeneration, and the possibility of transplanting bones from one person to another. Out of the 74 Polish victims, called Lapins, or Rabbits by the experimenters, five died as a result of the experiments, six with unhealed wounds were executed, and (with assistance from other inmates) the rest survived with permanent physical damage.

To prepare for the writing of the novel, Martha visited the Ravensbruck and the Museum of Martyrdom, a former Gestapo detention center. She describes on her website that, “It’s somewhat terrifying descending into the Museum of Martyrdom Under the Clock. I’d read many cryptic references to ‘Under the clock’ in the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp survivor testimonies and was beyond curious to see it for myself. The museum is….housed in the basement of the building the Nazis used for their Lublin headquarters. A visitor wouldn’t give it a second look, for it’s an ordinary looking building from the outside, but there is a hellish prison below, now a museum dedicated to those who gave their lives in the extraordinarily active Polish underground.”

In Lilac Girls, Martha Hall Kelly has crafted a remarkable novel of the quest for love and freedom, of terrible secrets and redemption. It is a story that will keep readers bonded with the characters, searching for the truth, until the final pages.

Martha Hall Kelly worked as an advertising copywriter for many years. Lilac Girls, her first novel, took ten years to research and five years to write. She is currently working on a prequel to Lilac Girls. Visit her website at marthahallkelly.com. A wine & cheese reception will follow the event. The Hickory Stick Bookshop will provide books for sale & signing. Registration is required. 



Tuesday, June 28th
7:00 - 8:00 p.m.

Mark Twain’s Hartford
with Author Steve Courtney
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"Of all the beautiful towns it has been my fortune to see,” Samuel Clemens said on his first visit in 1868, “Hartford is the chief.” Throughout his two decades of residence in the city he enjoyed a joyful family life, produced his best-read books, pursued vigorous social activities and poked fun at local icons such as the insurance industry and the Charter Oak.

Mark Twain’s Hartford follows the tale of the author’s early life, the city he saw when he arrived, his interrelationships with city matters and people, the building of his grand home on Farmington Avenue and his family’s eventual departure in the face of financial distress. It covers the city’s role in spurring him to comedy, the tragedy that led him to call Hartford the “city of Heartbreak,” and the later revival and restoration of his house to the iconic national landmark it is today.

Steve Courtney has been a journalist for 40 years, largely at The Hartford Courant, and won the 2009 Connecticut Book Award for Joseph Hopkins Twichell: The Life and Times of Mark Twain’s Closest Friend. He served as publicist for The Mark Twain House & Museum, founded its Writing Program and Twainian lecture series, and now works in the Museum’s Curatorial Department. A wine & cheese reception will follow the event. The author will provide books for sale & signing. Registration is required. 

Sundays, July 10th & August 14th
1:00 - 2:00 p.m.

Harper Lee: A Book Discussion Series
Led by Joseph Montebello
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In 1961 To Kill a Mockingbird won the Pulitzer Prize and has become a classic of modern American literature. The plot and characters are loosely based on Lee’s observations of her family and neighbors, as well as an event that occurred near her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. The novel deals with the irrationality of adult attitudes towards race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s, as depicted through the eyes of two children. Go Set a Watchman, was written in the mid-1950s about these same characters but was not published until July 2015.

Join Joseph Montebello as he leads a book discussion on these two novels. The discussion will begin with Go Set a Watchman on July 10 and finish with To Kill a Mockingbird on August 14. Books will be available to borrow beginning in June.

Joseph Montebello was the former Vice-President and Creative Director at HarperCollins. During his tenure, he worked with some of the most prominent authors publishing today: Annie Dillard, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Tony Hillerman, Stuart Woods, Jackie Collins, Roxana Robinson, Allen Ginsberg, among many others. In addition to being Creative director, he also founded his own imprint Harper Style, where he published books on fashion, photography, and interior design. He discovered Carolyne Roehm and published her series of flower books. He is a contributing editor for Litchfield magazine, The Litchfield County Times, Passport Magazine, and Berkshire Style







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