Oliver Wolcott Library - Programs

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Events are updated regularly. Please check back!

Thursday, April 2nd
7:00 - 8:00 p.m.

Jane Austen - Her Life and Times
A Live Performance with Trish Chambers
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Jane Austen - Her Life and Times
covers the realities of English Society at the time of Jane Austen’s life and literary career. Performed in period costume, Trish Chambers will discuss what a woman’s life was like at that time, what was expected of her and what options were open to her. She’ll explore how Jane Austen portrayed society in her six major works, how the personalities of her heroines developed over the span of her novels and how events and experiences of her personal life are reflected in her writing as well as why her work is still so popular today.

Trish Chambers’ unique and energetic presentation style combines humor and everyday realism in presenting the subjects she discusses. Trish is the author of Civil War Women: Their Roles and Legacies, a work of non-fiction written to document and illuminate the achievements and struggles of the women of the Civil War. She participated in the making of the Civil War movie Gods and Generals, has been a guest speaker on radio, and consulted with the History Channel about women in the Civil War. She also appeared in the History Channel’s production of “Full Metal Corset, Secret Soldiers of the Civil War.” Her website is trishchambersproductions.com. Space is limited. Registration is required.


Sundays - Jan. 25th, Feb. 22nd & Mar. 29th
1:00 - 2:00 p.m.

Southern Writers Book Discussion
with Author Todd Johnson
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Our Sunday Book Discussion Series with author Todd Johnson focuses on three award-winning Southern writers, two of whom are still working today. The selected novels represent a variety of landscapes - New Orleans, Charleston, South Carolina, and the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina - and were published in 1961, 1984, and 2008, respectively. Considered together, these works provide a range of insight into the uniqueness of the Southern voice in fiction as it has evolved through decades of social and cultural change.

Books are available at the library to borrow four weeks in advance of each discussion. Light refreshments will be served. Space is limited. Registration is required.

Todd Johnson, a native of Charlotte, North Carolina, grew up performing in choirs, bands, and orchestras. After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with honors in history and receiving his master’s from Yale Divinity School, Johnson moved to New York City where he became one of the most sought-after studio singers in the business. He has recorded a myriad of national jingles for television and radio, as well as having performed with such renowned artists as Garth Brooks, Celine Dion, Natalie Cole, Tony Bennett, Barry Manilow, and Sarah Brightman. Turning his energies to his longstanding love of theatre, he received a 2006 Tony Award nomination as a producer of The Color Purple on Broadway.

Johnson’s first novel, The Sweet By and By, won the 2010 Connecticut Book Award for Fiction and has been adapted for the stage by the Touring Theatre of North Carolina with a grant from the NC Arts Council. Johnson is currently co-writing the screenplay adaptation of the novel with Academy Award-winning screenwriter Ron Bass. 

Sunday, January 25 - The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
Winner of the 1961 National Book Award, The Moviegoer is the dazzling novel that established Walker Percy as one of the major voices in Southern literature. In it, Binx Bolling, a young New Orleans stockbroker, yearns for a spiritual redemption he cannot bring himself to believe in. On the eve of his thirtieth birthday, he   embarks on a hare-brained quest that outrages his family, endangers his fragile cousin Kate, and sends him reeling through the chaos of New Orleans’ French Quarter. Wry and wrenching, rich in irony and romance, The Moviegoer is a genuine American classic. 

Sunday, February 22 - Dreams of Sleep by Josephine Humphreys
Dreams of Sleep won the 1985 Hemingway Foundation Award for a first work of fiction. In it, Alice Reese knows that the cheerful sounds of her family eating breakfast mask a ten-year marriage falling apart. As Alice and her husband, Will, struggle to understand - and perhaps recapture - the feelings that drew them together in the first place, their interior lives are sensitively and      convincingly explored.

Sunday, March 29 - Serena by Ron Rash
A New York Times bestseller and PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist, Serena is a remarkable novel that “recalls both John Steinbeck and Cormac McCarthy” (The New Yorker). Rash’s chilling gothic tale of greed, corruption, and revenge set against the background of the 1930s   wilderness and America’s burgeoning environmental movement was named a Best Book of the Year by more than a dozen national publications, including the New York Times, Washington Post, and San Francisco Chronicle. Serena is brilliant contemporary fiction that exquisitely balances beauty and violence, passion and rage, cruelty and love.

Monday, April 6th
1:00 - 2:00 p.m.

Spring into Reading
A Book Discussion with OWL Staff
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As every reader knows, any time you finish a great book, you find yourself asking, “What do I read next?” With so many choices on the new shelves and in our stacks, it can be difficult to find just the right book. Let us be your personal guide by hearing about what we have been reading. We’ll focus on fiction with a few nonfiction and memoirs thrown in for good measure. From recently published books to favorites you might have missed, you will hear about why we loved them and why they are on our recommended reading list. 

Join Library Director Ann Marie White, Librarian Patricia Moore, and Library Book Club Liaison Cameron Bove as they share their  recommendations to get your spring reading off to a great start! 

Eighteen books will be shared. For each book, we’ll give a brief story line and then share our thoughts on why this book made it on our list. A list of each book selected, along with who recommended it, will be   provided at the talk as well as available for download from our website at its conclusion.

After the book talk, copies of all of the books discussed will be available for check-out! Wherever possible, large print and audio book copies will also be available. Light refreshments will be served. Space is limited. Registration is required.

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

An Evening with the Gillettes
A Live Theatrical Performance
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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes, but he was brought to life by William Gillette. An American actor, playwright and stage manager in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Gillette is best remembered for portraying Sherlock Holmes on stage. In this fun and lively performance, Harold and Theodora Niver portray William Gillette and his beloved bride Helen. They effortlessly embody these vanished actors and switch back and forth between being presenters and portrayers telling the fascinating history of Sherlock Holmes, William Gillette and Gillette Castle.

Harold and Theodora Niver have been portraying the Gillettes for over thirty years. They are well-known among other Sherlock Holmes’ devotees - collectively referred to as Sherlockians. Their Rocky Hill home is a tribute to the period and its characters and has been featured in such magazines as Smithsonian, Fortune and Connecticut and on TV segments for PM Magazine, ABC News and CBS News.

In addition to travelling around the country and abroad as Will and Helen, the Nivers also volunteer at Gillette Castle State Park in East Haddam, entertaining and educating visitors about the Gillettes and Holmes. As professional musicians, they also include songs from the English Music Hall era in their performances. You can visit their website at sherlockholmesct.com. Space is limited. Registration is required.


Thursday, April 23rd
7:00 - 8:00 p.m.

The Pollan Family Table
An Author Talk with the Pollan Family
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In The Pollan Family Table: The Best Recipes and Kitchen Wisdom for Delicious, Healthy Family Meals, readers will delight in a bounty of more than 110 time-tested family recipes, cooking techniques, and pantry wisdom for delicious, wholesome, and harmonious family meals from the incredible Pollan women - mother Corky and daughters Lori, Tracy, and Dana - with a foreword from Michael Pollan, whose bestselling books have shaped our culture and the way we think about food. This stunning and practical cookbook gives readers the tools they need to implement the Pollan food philosophy in their everyday lives and to make great, nourishing, delectable meals that bring families back to the table. A wine & cheese reception will follow the event. The Hickory Stick Bookshop will provide books for sale & signing. Space is limited. Registration is required.

Sunday, April 26th
1:00 - 2:30 p.m.

American Voices II:
Langston Hughes & Anne Sexton
A Poetry Discussion with Jim Kelleher
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When we look back at the 20th century we see these two poets impacted not just the literary world but our larger American society. Hughes never achieved status in academia but he wasn’t writing for it, nor needing its acceptance. He worked as a merchant seaman, a newspaperman, and produced stories and plays as well as poems. Once characterized as a jazz poet, his free verse poems were musical and deceptively simple, employing blues cadences and imagery the average person could understand.

Anne Sexton was a middle class Massachusetts housewife who turned to verse to free the genius in her head. She was criticized for her “confessional poetry” but continued to produce dazzling poems that chronicled not just her depression and fears, but advanced the careers of many women in what had been largely a man’s castle. Awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, she, like Hughes, is a major poet in American Literature.

One month before the discussion, reading packets specific to the poems to be discussed will be available as well as books by Hughes and Sexton.

Jim Kelleher teaches literature and composition at Northwestern Connecticut Community College. He has published books with Antrim House, Quarry (2008) and Mick (2011). His work has appeared in Yankee, The Christian Science Monitor, The Country and Abroad, and other publications. Jim is a poet who works as a carpenter and public school teacher. Space is limited. Registration is required.

Wednesday, May 13th
7:00 - 8:00 p.m.

The Cookbook Club - Bread
with OWL Staff
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One cannot live on bread alone--we also “knead” books and good conversation! 

Join Audra MacLaren and Patricia Moore as we discuss and celebrate food and cookbooks with the OWL Cookbook Club. Come to the May meeting to eat and discuss all things bread. From quick breads to artisanal loaves, using a bread machine to kneading and rolling it out yourself, we want to know how you bake and enjoy your bread. 

Check out our blog! www.owlcookbookclub.wordpress.com

We encourage you to make recipes from one of the selected cookbooks 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. Bread will be served! Space is limited. Registration is required. 


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