June 18, 2015 by Reader's Connection
Those Heechee were such rascals. They haven’t been seen in the universe for–well, they haven’t ever been seen by humans–but thousands of years ago, they implanted a bunch of spaceships on an asteroid way out there somewhere, and human beings are able to fly in those ships, to destinations preset by the Heechee. We humans call the asteroid “Gateway.”
|“Prospectors” sign up for rides on the ships, in the hope of finding Heechee “treasures.” But no one knows ahead of time where the ships are going, and mortality rates among prospectors are high. Frederik Pohl’s novel Gateway is narrated by Robinette Broadhead, an unwealthy earthling who comes into some money, sails to Gateway, and is then (understandably) scared to go on any missions. He finally makes big money on a mission, but afterward lives with a horrible guilt about what happened to his fellow prospectors.|
The chapters alternate between descriptions of life on the Gateway asteroid (with occasional accounts of voyages on Heechee ships) and appointments that millionaire Robin keeps with a computerized psychiatrist. I got bored with the psychiatrist chapters, and Robin can be tiresome, but Pohl’s asteroid mini-civilization is a wonderful claustrophobic creation. Even if Robin gets you down (and that wasn’t a major problem for me) Pohl has cleverly inserted mission logs, snippets from astrophysical lectures, and classified ads (which I’m borrowing here).
And Gateway leads to Beyond the Blue Event Horizon, the second installment in the Heechee Saga. Robin narrates parts of BBEH, but there are several other points of view, at least three of which are non-human; and these shifts in storytelling add to the fun. Not only that: We get to learn more about the “prayer fans,” strange artifacts that were left behind by the Heechee.
Two possible problems:
(1) BBEH was published in 1980. There’s a character whose father had lived “in Stalin’s times,” and another fellow who had been a member of Hitler Youth. So the situations in this novel–earthlings have colonized Mars and Venus and so on–have happened by the 1990’s or so? Wouldn’t the story have been more plausible if Pohl had set in in some distant century? I guess this was true of Gateway, but these characters in BBEH make it stand out.
(2) SPOILER ALERT? The title, Beyond the Blue Event Horizon, led me to believe that we’d spend some time in a a black hole in space, where time and gravity and what-all are warped. I had popped some black hole popcorn. But we hardly go to a black hole at all. END OF ALERT.
|No matter. If, like me, you only try science fiction on occasion, you might give the Heechee saga a try.The next two installments, Heechee Rendezvous and The Annals of the Heechee, have disappeared into a black hole and are no longer in the library’s collection; but you could request them on an interlibrary loan. And the fifth book in the series, The Boy Who Would Live Forever, is still with us.
June 15, 2015 by Reader's Connection
Explorer Marco Polo tells Emperor Kublai Khan about the many cities of Khan’s empire. Every city’s name is the name of a woman, though some names (Phyllis, Irene) are more familiar to us than others (Baucis, Zemrude). The great Khan doesn’t know what to make of these incredible accounts, isn’t at all sure that he’s hearing the truth.
This is what goes on in Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. I have intended to read the book for decades, but am only now getting around it so as to meet the translated-from-a-foreign-language requirement of the Read Harder Challenge.
And now that I’ve enjoyed the book, I don’t know what to say about it. If I told you that it was a series of prose poems about perception, memory, desire and impermance, disguised as a fantasy travelogue, you’d probably yawn.
So instead we’ll look at pictures.
I’ll name some favorite cities, and you can click on their names to visit websites where artists have created visual versions. These artworks may not be a good idea–perhaps each reader should just allow Calvino’s prose (translated from the Italian by William Weaver) to do its work–but I’m grateful to the artists in my moment of need.
The first five cities–on a website called Seeing Calvino–are visually realized by three artists–Joe Kuth, Leighton Connor, and Matt Kish–who among them have made an artwork of each of Calvino’s cities. They had intended to publish a book when their work was complete, but apparently aren’t going to be able to.
|Leandra (Art by Joe Kuth) This is a good example of why I’m glad that I’ve read the book. The Calvino fragment here begins to describe the little gods of Leandra; but in order to feel the pull, I needed Marco Polo’s whole account.|
|Eutropia (Again by Joe Kuth)|
|Baucis (Matt Kish)|
|Ersilia (Leighton Connor)|
|Zemrude (Leighton Connor)|
|Zemrude again. This art is by Colleen Corradi Brannigan. Unlike the Calvino fragments on the Seeing Calvino site, Brannigan’s passages from Calvino seem to be complete. She has presumably been given permission to use them. On the other hand, not all of Calvino’s cities are displayed on her site. There is no Leandra.|
|Brannigan is also a sculptor. I love her stoneware rendition of Zemrude, and if I had 2,200 euros to spare, I might contact the artist.|
In addition to being a fantasy travelogue, Invisible Cities may also be a prose Rorschach test; and the fact that I have linked to three different Zemrudes may mean that I’m a real downer guy. If you walk along hanging your head, your nails dug into the palms of your hands, your gaze will be held on the ground, in the gutters, the manhole covers, the fish scales, wastepaper. Like that.
|But hey, I like Raissa, too–click the link for another Brannigan sculpture–where at every second the unhappy city contains a happy city unaware of its own existence.|
Look around on these websites, and visit cities that I haven’t named. If you enjoy some of what Marco Polo is telling Kublai Khan, I encourage you to request the book. Buon viaggio.
June 11, 2015 by Reader's Connection
From Selector Emily Chandler: Despite the initially cold weather, the Summer Reading Program has officially begun! While the kiddos are busy reading and getting prizes, the grown-ups can participate in their own Summer Reading Program, with a list of titles they can read and discuss at many of the book discussion events the library will be offering throughout the summer at various locations around the city. (BTW, the book to be discussed at Bookmamas in August has changed. Check that schedule.)
All music-themed, the titles will be sure to bring a song to your lips and a boogie in your step. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg for what is available in our collection. For those interested in reading beyond the list, here are some great titles that will supplement your reading list of books with a musical twist.
Hornby, Nick High Fidelity
Follows the life, love affairs, and belated growth to maturity of Rob, a “Generation X” pop music fanatic and record store owner. Turned into a movie starring John Cusack, this is a must-read for music lovers!
Kalotay, Daphne Sight Reading
When Hazel and Remy happen upon each other on a warm Boston spring day, their worlds immediately begin to spin. Remy, a gifted violinist, is married to composer Nicholas Elko, who was once the love of Hazel’s life. Over the decades, each buried secrets, disappointments, and betrayals that now threaten to undermine their happiness. We follow the notes of their complicated, intertwined lives from 1987 to 2007, from Europe to America, and from conservatory life to the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Sight reading … is an exploration of what makes a family, of the importance of art in daily life, and of the role of intuition in both the creative process and the evolution of the self–Publisher’s web site.
Lee, Janice Y.K. The Piano Teacher
In 1942, Will Trusdale, an Englishman newly arrived in Hong Kong, has fallen headlong into a passionate relationship with Trudy Liang, a beautiful Eurasian socialite. But when World War II strikes, Will is sent to an internment camp, while Trudy remains outside. Trudy is forced to form dangerous alliances with the head of the Japanese gendarmerie, whose desperate attempts to locate a priceless collection of Chinese art lead to a chain of terrible betrayals. Ten years later, Claire Pendleton comes to Hong Kong and meets the enigmatic Will. As long-buried secrets start to emerge and she begins to understand the true nature of the world she has entered, Claire learns that sometimes the price of survival is love. A book club favorite!
Martinez, Jessica Virtuosity
Just before the most important violin competition of her career, seventeen-year-old prodigy Carmen faces critical decisions about her anti-anxiety drug addiction, her controlling mother, and a potential romance with her most talented rival Another teen novel, it is a recommended read for both teens and adults alike.
Richman, Alyson The Garden of Letters
Portofino, Italy, 1943. A young woman steps off a boat in a scenic coastal village. Although she knows how to disappear in a crowd, Elodie is too terrified to slip by the German officers while carrying her poorly forged identity papers. She is frozen until a man she’s never met before claims to know her. In desperate need of shelter, Elodie follows him back to his home on the cliffs of Portofino. Only months before, Elodie Bertolotti was a cello prodigy in Verona, unconcerned with world events. But when Mussolini’s Fascist regime strikes her family, Elodie is drawn into the burgeoning resistance movement by Luca, a young and impassioned bookseller. As the occupation looms, she discovers that her unique musical talents, and her courage, have the power to save lives. In Portofino, young doctor Angelo Rosselli gives the frightened and exhausted girl sanctuary. He is a man with painful secrets of his own, haunted by guilt and remorse. But Elodie’s arrival has the power to awaken a sense of hope and joy that Angelo thought was lost to him forever. Written in dazzling prose and set against the rich backdrop of World War II Italy, Garden of Letters captures the hope, suspense, and romance of an uncertain era, in an epic intertwining story of first love, great tragedy, and spectacular bravery.
Sales, Leila This Song Will Save Your Life
Nearly a year after a failed suicide attempt, sixteen-year-old Elise discovers that she has the passion, and the talent, to be a disc jockey. A teen title, this book is a powerful and compelling read with an uplifting message about the positive influence that music can provide to the battered human spirit looking for self-acceptance in the face of extremely cruel bullying. Just a fabulous read for teens and adults alike.
Sudhalter, Richard M Stardust Melody: The Life and Music of Hoagy Carmichael
A Hoosier native, this book chronicles the life of famous composer and songwriter Hoagy Carmichael. Known for timeless songs such as “Stardust”, and “Georgia on My Mind”, Indiana University students still hear his 1937 “Chimes of Indiana” composition, written specifically for the university, to this day.
Turned into a movie in 2002 that earned three Oscar awards, this book is a true story of a Polish Jewish musician who struggles to survive the Holocaust. Another compelling narrative about the powerful influence of music and a must-read for World War II buffs.
June 10, 2015 by Reader's Connection
Are you an author who would like a place at the October 10th Indy Author Fair at Central Library? Registrations will be accepted through July 19th.
<Click on the IAA icon for a registration form. As noted on that form, registration does not guarantee participation.
June 8, 2015 by Reader's Connection
From Selector Jessica Lawrence: Summer is the perfect time to celebrate music. Warm weather, long nights, and the spirit of the season are synonymous with summer music festivals. The Indianapolis Public Library even has a music-themed Summer Reading Program this year! The Beatz & Bookz Summer Reading Program kicked off June 1st and is open to readers of all ages.
Now is the perfect time to enjoy some truly rockin’ reads! Check out the following fifteen exceptional musical memoirs which reflect the inspiration, fame, and tribulations of a life spent in the musical spotlight.
Bound for Glory – Woody Guthrie
Cash: The Autobiography – Johnny Cash
Chronicles – Bob Dylan
Decoded – Jay-Z
Just Kids – Patti Smith
Life – Keith Richards
Loretta Lynn: Coal Miner’s Daughter – Loretta Lynn
Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove – Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson
My Cross to Bear – Gregg Allman
Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now – Paul McCartney
Sammy: An Autobiography – Sammy Davis Jr.
Slash – Slash
Waylon: An Autobiography – Waylon Jennings
When I Left Home: My Story – Buddy Guy
Check out all of these titles and more at the Indianapolis Public Library!