Westport Reads (And Does Math)

Next Friday marks the start of a new year — a fresh start for many of us.  But what if every day you had to start fresh — all over again?

That’s the premise of The Housekeeper and the Professor, by Yoko Ogawa.  An accident has left a professor with all his old memories — and only 80 minutes of short-term memory.  He remembers his theorems and favorite baseball players, but his housekeeper must reintroduce herself several times a day.  But she — and her 10-year-old son — work through his profound losses.

The book weaves together the effects of memory loss, the joys of math, the intricacies of Japanese baseball, and the ties that define a family.

Publishers Weekly calls it a “gorgeous tale,” adding:  “Ogawa lifts the window shade to allow readers to observe the characters for a short while, then closes the shade.”

Um, okay.  But what’s this have to do “06880”?

The Housekeeper and the Professor is the 2010 “Westport Reads” selection.  Each year the Westport Public Library picks a book for the entire town to read — and discuss.  There are school discussions; clergy weave it into sermons, and the Library plans special “Westport Reads”-themed activities for an entire month.

January is that month.  The lineup of events is indeed intriguing.

A math professor speaks about mathematical modeling for sports and gambling.  The president of the Japan Society in Greenwich talks about the differences and similarities between American and Japanese baseball.  A neurologist discusses the brain and memory.  A Saturday afternoon event features family activities involving “math and memory throughout the library.”

Two evenings seem extra special, however.  On January 27 Staples math team members, coaches and teachers describe how students use math to enrich their lives.

Earlier, at the kickoff event — 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 6 — Westporters Doug and Patti Brill share the ups and downs of coping with memory loss.  They have a powerful perspective:  Doug lost his short-term memory when he was just 42 years old.

The Housekeeper and the Professor is a short but profound read in a quiet, Japanese way,” says Westport Library director Maxine Bleiweis.  “Dozens of book groups plan to read it, and people will open up their homes for neighborhood discussions.  This is all about bringing community together over a book, talking to people you’d never engage in conversation at this level.”

Click here for a complete list of “Westport Reads” events.  Mark them down on your calendar.

Then don’t forget to go.

(For copies of the book, call 203-291-4821 or email smadeo@westportlibrary.org)

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