By Angie Georgeff

Like most Americans, I love movies. I also adore “cinema,” the more artistic films that are not always commercially successful. Blockbusters, animation, foreign films, silent movies: I enjoy them all. Dominic Smith’s new novel “The Electric Hotel” looks back at the earliest days of motion pictures through the eyes of pioneering filmmaker Claude Ballard.

I was mesmerized by Smith’s previous novel “The Last Painting of Sara de Vos,” so when I learned about this book, I immediately preordered a copy for myself.  When I read the reviews, I promptly ordered one for the library, as well.

In 1962, Martin Embry is a doctoral candidate in the field of film history. His diplomacy and persistence finally pay off in a series of interviews with the reclusive Ballard. His masterpiece “The Electric Hotel” has long been considered lost, but Ballard has a rapidly decaying copy in his possession.

The old cellulose nitrate film is highly flammable and it can emit harmful gases.  One of Embry’s friends is working to save endangered films and he undertakes restoration of the precious masterwork.

With their relationship firmly cemented, Claude opens up to Martin. The story of how Claude, a French actress, an Australian stuntman and a Brooklyn entrepreneur created a silent masterpiece on the banks of the Hudson begins to unfold. By the way, the part of the villain is played by the inventor Thomas Edison, a brilliant but ruthless man who never hesitated to throw around his weight.

Friday Family Fun Day

Other than space itself, where can you learn more about our amazing universe than a planetarium? This Friday, Bays Mountain Planetarium will bring the universe to Unicoi County.  Join us at Erwin’s Town Hall at 11 a.m. to learn about the beauty of the night sky and the endless wonders that lie beyond the reach of the human eye. All ages are welcome at these events, so bring your entire family.

SRP 2019

Our Summer Reading Programs for children, teens and adults have gotten off to a rousing start.  Walking down the hall that leads from the library lobby to the Children’s Room is like voyaging through our solar system toward the depths of space, complete with twinkling stars. It is a treat for me to take a break from my neverending paperwork and travel through “space” to see the varied projects the kids are working on.

I just returned to my desk with my fingers spangled with paint and glitter from admiring the “galaxy jars” that some of the preteens were making. They are having fun exercising their creativity and individuality, and expanding their knowledge of the universe at the same time. Win, win!