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Short End of the Stick

OrientationI have to admit, even as someone who has great appreciation for short stories, I often find it hard to muster the same kind of enthusiasm for reading them as I do when approaching the pleasant immersion of a novel. But I've proven myself wrong so many times, as I take up a book with a sense of duty and find myself thoroughly enthralled instead. Short stories are perfect for those with a hectic schedule (or a short attention span); they offer condensed, pithy prose and plot, and they can often alert you to a new talent before everyone's going crazy for their debut novel. I was inspired to write this post by Daniel Orozco's Orientation, which I just read. "Officer Weeps" in particular is one my my favorite short stories ever. His characters are weird and liminal--a woman on a late-night cookie binge, an ex-dictator, a pair of officers falling in love amidst an odd vandalism streak--and he presents them with hilarious and terrible brevity. Here are a few other collections that I really enjoyed, written with a similarly strange focus and an equal blend of heartbreak and humor.
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End of an Era: Read on Hogwarts Grads, Read on.

Secret History14 years ago, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was published in the United States. Kids who started reading that book in elementary school are now onto college, or have even graduated from college. So Harry Potter and his wizardly friends mark the end of an era on Friday, with the opening of the final film.
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The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of His Friend Marilyn Monroe

Maf the DogOK, OK Andrew O'Hagan's title snookered me in, but this lovely gem of a novel has it all: dog psychology, human philosophy, Stanislavski's Method Acting, Bloomsbury, Hollywood, Vegas, anarchists in Mexico, President Kennedy, and Marilyn Monroe. Though the narrator is a tiny ball of fur, he's a true aristocrat, a fancy bichon maltais with the name of Mafia Honey.
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Mark Twain: Man in Whte

Man in White"The report of my death was an exaggeration." Most people have heard this famous quote by one of our most beloved writers. Mark Twain: Man in White focuses on the last four years of Twain's life when his fame was at its peak, and the problems that dogged his life, including the bad health of loved ones and the stealing of his money by associates also continued.

But what a wonderful man Twain was--always up for a good practical joke, always putting his entire self into his writing and gosh, thoroughly addicted to playing pool. Not only addicted to it, but he was one of those hosts that had to beat you if only by a little.
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2011 RITA Award Winners

Iron KingThe 2011 RITA Awards were announced last week for excellence in the romance genre by recognizing outstanding published romance novels awarded by the Romance Writers of America.

Some of winning titles that MCPL owns include:

REGENCY HISTORICAL ROMANCE: The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig

HISTORICAL ROMANCE: His at Night by Sherry Thomas
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July's Books Plus Discussion

Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksJoin us this Sunday, July 10 at 2:00 p.m. for July's Books Plus book discussion. Wendy will lead a discussion on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Scientists named a poor African-American tobacco farmer HeLA. Without her or her family's knowledge, they removed some of Henrietta's cells. They became the first so-called "immortal" cells grown in a laboratory and were used for many vaccines including the polio vaccine. Decades later, they also used her husband's and children's cells without their consent. The book brings up many interesting questions: do we own the rights to our own bodies, do scientists treat research subjects differently based on race and class, and why do scientists not always communicate what they are doing to the people most involved.

Please join us for an interesting discussion on a book that many have found fascinating.
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Foreign Fiction

True DeceiverThere was a dustup not too long ago about Tim Parks' suggestion (in the NYRB blog ) that foreign writers are adapting their prose--even if it's still written in their native tongue--to the structure of English. He contests that it has gotten easier to translate novels because "contemporary writers [have] already performed a translation within their own languages". Whether or not this is evidence of the English language's unfortunate dominance and bulldozing of local culture, or a natural adaptation among writers wanting to communicate as widely as possible, is left somewhat up in the air. It's an interesting argument, but I wonder how much relevance it has to most readers.
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Fighting Words

Fighting WordsNot only do I spent a lot of time reading books, but I spend a lot of time reading about books. I recently ran across Flavorwire's article 'The 30 Harshest Author-on-Author Insults In History' and I have to admit that I laughed out loud. Collected here are real quotes from authors about authors - disparaging in a cruel but also often funny way.
My favorite? Truman Capote on Jack Kerouac - "That's not writing, that's typing." Ha!
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Gone With the Wind turns 75

GWTWI ran across an article this morning that mentioned that Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind turns 75 this month. In June of 1936, Mitchell published this now classic saga while recovering from a broken ankle. It was an instant hit, and brought immediate fame to the Atlanta journalist.

What is it about? Well....er...I haven't actually read it. "I'll never go hungry again!", right? But I only know that from the movie. It is high time to put this book on my to-read list.
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The Book of the Maidservant

Book of the MaidservantDo you think you've had bad luck being squeezed between two obnoxious air travelers? Imagine what it was like in the 15th century to be forced to take a religious pilgrimage to Rome with your boss (a fervent woman who screams her prayers out loud) and a fierce man from your English town who threatens you daily. Plus, after an arduous day climbing mountains and fording dangerous rivers, the other pilgrims demand that you cook their evening meal (dried peas, anyone, or how do you skin a rabbit?) Afterwards when the pious folk are resting by the fire, they send you out to do their washing in the nearest frigid stream.
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