Information, Answers & Reviews

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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Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State

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This six part documentary produced by the BBC looks not only at the horrors that took place in Auschwitz; but at the developments, both political and technological that resulted in what many consider the worst of all the Nazi internment camps -- Auschwitz, along with its immediate aftereffects. I can't say that this documentary was a pleasure to watch but it was educational, important, and horrific. Read more »

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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2010 Bram Stoker Award Winners

Dark MatterThe Horror Writers Association works to "raise the profile of the horror genre in the publishing industry and among readers in general." In an effort to support their mission, The Horror Writers Association every year awards prizes for the best in the horror genre.
Last week the Bram Stoker Award Winners were announced.
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Whip It

No, this post is not an ode to Devo (though I do love that song), but rather a look at the world of roller derby. I attended my first bout the other night and had the opportunity to see Bloomington's Bleeding Heartland Roller Girls win. Afterwards, I was inspired to pick up the feature film Whip It, a look at one teen's coming of age through the roller derby.

Young Adult Fiction Debate - How Dark is Too Dark?

Part Time IndianSeveral weeks ago, a contributor for the Wall Street Journal wrote an article entitled Darkness Too Visible. The author's complaint was that contemporary YA literature, aimed at the broad range of 12-18 year-olds is inappropriate for it's heavy inclusion of "explicit abuse, violence and depravity".

Then the internet blew up. Several interesting responses have come from NPR, one from pop culture expert Linda Holmes, and another interview with a YA librarian, YA authors, and the original author of the WSJ article.
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Mind over money.

Imagine that you had a group of people in a room; let's say twenty people. Then let's say that you held up a twenty dollar bill and that you were going to auction it off to the lowest bidder. Finally, you allow the participants to begin bidding. What would you expect to happen? Of course some people would bid one dollar for a twenty dollar bill. Other bids would come in as high as ten or nineteen dollars. Even at nineteen you still stand to gain a dollar if you win the bidding war. What would you say if participants bided as high as twenty-seven dollars for a twenty dollar bill? That is exactly what this documentary explores. We are used to a theory of economics that says that we all pursue our rational self-interest, but then how to do we explain the obvious irrational behavior in the experiment above? If you want to find out answer to this question then you'll want to see a new PBS documentary called, Mind Over Money.

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