Information, Answers & Reviews

Melancholia

ISBN: 
876964004473

I'm not sure how to describe Melancholia. It's a movie about the end of the world, yes, but it's not really. It's a film about two sisters and their dysfunctional family, yes, but it's not really that either. Read more »

Dreaming in French: the Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis

ISBN: 
9780226424385

Confession: I tried to learn French once.  Years ago, I signed up for a New Orleans Free University class in what should have been a great place to learn French or at least Cajun. But each week the instructor came to class "under the influence."  Even though he shared some wild Paris stories and jumped on and off the teacher's desk, my French never improved.

I've always enjoyed books about experiencing the world through the lens of a new culture. Alice Kaplan's excellent Dreaming in French is a very fun and compelling read. In clear beautiful prose, she writes about how living in France changed the life courses of three smart and gifted women: Jackie Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis. 

Each of them spent time in France on the cusp of womanhood. In many ways, France and French culture affected not only how they viewed the world but their entire lives afterward.

In 1949 Jackie travelled to Paris by ship as part of a contingent of Smith College students spending the year abroad. It was soon after World War II and she was placed with a former WWII resistance fighter whose husband had died in a camp doing slave labor for the Nazis. Read more »

Bloomington Reads Week

Bloomington ReadsNext week marks the 2nd year for Bloomington Reads Week, a public initiative sponsored by the Foundation of Monroe County Community Schools to focus on literacy and the idea of raising a community of readers.  This week is filled with fun programs to promote reading including a read aloud event at the Farmer's Market and a Bring Your Own Book lunchtime event on the courthouse lawn. 

One of the keystone programs for next week include Scott Russell Sanders speaking about being a writer.  He is an award-winning author and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at Indiana University, and will speak about his lifelong love of reading and the path that led him to become a writer.

Mr. Sanders is the author of twenty books of fiction and nonfiction, including novels and collections of short stories and personal essays, as well as seven picture books for children. Among his honors are the Lannan Literary Award, the John Burroughs Essay Award, the Mark Twain Award, the Cecil Woods Award for Nonfiction and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.  Details below:

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Brain Games

National Geographic has produced three television episodes on the biology, psychology and other interesting parts of the human brain. Each episode has several tests to follow along with on the screen. After completing each test the viewer learns why the human brain behaves in the way that it does. There is no need to feel embarrassed about what we don't know since this is a characteristic of all human beings. It seems that we all have blinds spots and things that we miss in our every day interactions. It turns out that the reality that we construct is an illusion and is filled with many gaps and misunderstanding. Each fifty minute episode focuses on a different aspect of reality and how our brains work to construct them. Towards the end of the program there are a few suggestions to help you improve your long term memory. The library has one copy on DVD.

 

Books Plus May

Grapes of WrathOn Sunday May 6th, come join us to discuss Steinbeck's masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath. Steinbeck wrote this novel longhand in only five months. The story of the Joads during the depression-era has many parallels for many Americans today.

Please come and share your thoughts about this American classic. As always, we'll provide snacks and drinks.

Books Plus meets the first Sunday of each month. All are welcome. Join the discussion or simply come to listen.

No registration necessary. Drop in.

2 p.m., First Sundays

See the full spring and summer schedule below.

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Edgar Awards 2012

GoneThe Edgar Awards are presented every year by the Mystery Writers of America and are often considered the most prestigious awards for the mystery genre. This year's awards were presented this week and the winners include:

Best Novel: Gone by Mo Hayder

Investigating a serial carjacker whose actual targets are young children in back seats, Jack Caffery teams up once again with police diver Sergeant Flea Marley, whose life is endangered by a discovery in an abandoned, half-submerged tunnel.

Best First Novel: Bent Road by Lori Roy

Celia Scott and her family move back to her husband's hometown in Kansas, where his sister died under mysterious circumstances twenty years before, and where Celia and two of her children struggle to adjust--especially when a local girl disappears.

Best Paperback Original: The Company Man by Robert Jackson Bennett

In 1919, the McNaughton Corporation is the pinnacle of American industry located in Evesden-a shining metropolis, the best that the world has to offer. But then eleven union men are butchered by hand in the blink of an eye. Now, one man, Cyril Hayes, must fix this and uncover the dark secret behind the inventions of McNaughton.

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Huck FinnIn 1885 the year of its US publication, a number of public libraries banned The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from their stacks. According to the American Library Association, it was the fifth most-frequently-challenged book in the United States in the 1990s. Despite strong arguments that the book supports positive racial themes, Huck Finn has been controversial from the beginning.  Last year NewSouth Books published a sanitized edition, effectively keeping this book in the news and on the minds of both those who have loved and hated this classic American book.  When was the last time you visited Huck Finn? Interested in learning more and sharing your ideas?

Join us next week for a panel discussion of this story that continues to both attract and repel members of our community. Does Huckleberry Finn belong in the literary canon and in our schools? What does it reveal about race relations, art and the power of language?
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New Poetry to Discover

ISBN: 
9780062101860

Because it's National Poetry Month, I've been checking out new collections for a few weeks. Here are a couple more titles that I particularly enjoyed.

The Eternal Ones of the Dream: Selected Poems 1990-2010

Forget the sappy title--James Tate's poems are accessible yet deep, eccentric, and sometimes bizarre. His gifts include a fluid poetic style and the ability to continuously surprise.  Here's how "It Happens like This" begins:

"I was outside St. Cecilia's Rectory / smoking a cigarette when a goat appeared beside me...." The poem's speaker admires the goat, wonders if there's a leash law for them, and then when he walks away the goat follows him.  "People / smiled at me and admired the goat. "It's not my goat," / I explained. "It's the town's goat. I'm just taking / my turn caring for it." "I didn't know we had a goat," / one of them said, "I wonder when my turn is..." Whether you're a goat-lover or not, you will enjoy the odd realism here, the tongue-in-cheek humor.

In fact humor is another one of Tate's paramount qualities. Check out some of his other poetic titles in The Eternal Ones of the Dream: "Uneasy about the Sounds of Some Night-Wandering Animal,"  "Doink," "The Flying Petunias," Read more »

Quote Poet Unquote

ISBN: 
9781556592706

I'm both a poetry and quotation aficionado, so what could be better than a twofer? Dennis O'Driscoll's wonderful gathering of quotations about poetry Quote Poet Unquote: Contemporary Quotations on Poets and Poetry is the kind of book you read through to inspire you, make you laugh, or help you figure out what modern poetry is and does. Appropriately, Copper Canyon Press (the publisher) chose for their pressmark the Chinese character for poetry. It's constructed of two parts that mean word and temple.

O'Driscoll begins his introduction with Boswell's question to Samuel Johnson (the famous dictionary maker), "What is poetry?" Johnson's witty reply was, "Why, Sir, it is much easier to say what it is not."

The book itself is arranged in sections each beginning with a phrase. Examples include: "What is it anyway," "Making a Start," "Inspired Moves," "Call Yourself a Poet," "Best Words," "The Audience," "On the Contrary," and "In Memory." This is just a sampling. O'Driscoll has devised a lot more categories.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes (although there are so many good ones it's hard to winnow them down to a short list.) Read more »

The Man Within My Head

ISBN: 
9780307267610

The spirit of Graham Greene whispers through these pages. Pico Iyer is my favorite contemporary travel writer. The Man Within My Head differs from most of his books because he delves more into his own past than usual in this volume, detailing many connections he sees between his own life and that of Greene: they lived near each other in Oxford but never met, and each suffered a major house fire. They also traveled to many of the same places including Viet Nam.

Especially involving are the sections about Pico's childhood. He lived first in Britain, his father having come to England from India as a Rhodes Scholar. He was an only child and some of his earliest memories are stacking magazines with articles by his father. The little Pico loved to arrange them and stare at his Dad's pictures. When he was in grade school both of his famous parents were invited to California to be part of a think tank promoting ways to end violence. Pico tried to be an American student, to wait in the hills for the school bus with his plastic lunchbox, but he soon realized that education in the states did not challenge him. He asked his parents to send him back to England to attend boarding school. Read more »

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