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A Never-Ending Story

January 21, 2016 by Reader's Connection

The Readers of Broken Wheel RecommendFrom Selector Emily Chandler:
When a person becomes a reader, it’s a love affair that lasts for a lifetime. The accessibility to books are as vital to a reader as the air we breathe, and we are constantly in a voracious search for the next great read. In fact, the only thing we readers like more than reading is to talk about what we are reading and share our favorite books with fellow readers. Yet the road to becoming and staying a reader can be difficult sometimes. Yes, we encourage children at a young age to become lifelong readers through our early childhood literacy efforts. But what happens when they become adults and the distractions and responsibilities of everyday life discourage or even prevent time for reading? Moreover, what if the access to books is difficult or non-existent? This sentiment is reflected by the newly released The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald.

This critically acclaimed international bestseller follows Sara, a Swedish bookseller, as she visits the town of Broken Wheel, Iowa, to stay with Amy, a pen-pal and fellow bibliophile she has been corresponding with for several years. Dismayed to find Amy had passed away shortly before her arrival, she is nonetheless embraced by the eccentric townspeople with open arms and encouraged to stay for the duration of her visit.

Yet, when Sara decides to open up a bookstore using Amy’s books, she is met with a bemused skepticism by the nonliterary townsfolk. They conspire to make it a success and recognize the potential prosperity the shop would provide for the struggling town, but they struggle with understanding the personal benefits that easy access to books would provide for them. They slowly come around, however, as Sara introduces them to books that transport and entertain them. Whether it be a 60 year old recovering alcoholic man entranced by the antics of Bridget Jones, a woman getting hooked on GLBT literature she was initially reading to understand what she was going to fight against, or even a female bartender bolstered by the girl power embodied by Idgie Threadgoode, the townspeople grow to understand the value of reading by the end of the story.

Interspersed with humorous events, books, and even a bit of romance, this story also touches upon deeper socio-economic and discrimination injustices that plague our society today, both in rural and urban communities. Ultimately, this a must-read for readers, as well as a great reminder of what a wonderful thing it is to be a reader. And, if you would like to read other stories that revolve around reading, check out this list of titles, available for checkout from the library!

 

The Eyre Affair

 

Fforde, Jasper   The Eyre Affair

 

 

The Jane Austen Book Club

 

Fowler, Karen Joy   The Jane Austen Book Club

 

 

The Princess Bride

 

Goldman, William   The Princess Bride

 

 

The Shadow of the Wind

 

Ruiz Zafon, Carlos   The Shadow of the Wind

 

 

The Thirteenth Tale

 

Setterfeld, Diane   The Thirteenth Tale

 

 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

 

Shaffter, Mary Ann   The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

 

 

The Book of Speculation

 

Swyler, Erika   The Book of Speculation

 

 

The Story Keeper

 

Wingate, Lisa   The Story Keeper

 

 

The Book Thief

 

Zusak, Markus   The Book Thief

 

 

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A lovely day in Paris, a mysterious Irish past–and I found it all in a refrigerator.

January 19, 2016 by Reader's Connection

An Unexpected GuestAnne Korkeakivi is the wife of a human-rights lawyer with the United Nations. She has lived in France and Finland, and as of 2012 lived in Switzerland. Perhaps it’s no surprise that her first novel’s heroine is Clare Moorhouse, the wife of a British diplomat in Paris.

Clare’s husband might be promoted to an full-fledged ambassadorship, so the dinner they’re hosting this evening has to go perfectly. An Unexpected Guest tells the story of Clare’s preparations for the dinner–dealing with maids and cooks, going out to buy flowers and asparagus and cheese–and this part of the story is more interesting that you might expect. The book would have been fun even if shopping had filled the whole novel.

Jean-Benoît at the flower shop, for instance, always wants to speak to Clare in English, even though his command of the language is scant:

Jean-Benoît’s insistence on speaking English with her was different from Amélie’s. Her housekeeper was desperate to learn the language to keep her job. Jean-Benoît was desperate to keep French out of a foreign mouth. However, Clare had learned that being condescended to in barely intelligible English, with labial contortions beyond imagining, was the price she had to pay for having a mother tongue that was also the international language of communication. All over the world, people had made English their own; it had spawned bastard children on six continents.

But more than dinner prep is going on in the novel. The ambassadorship that might come her husband’s way will take the couple to Ireland; and Clare has an Irish past of which no one is aware. Also, one of her sons has gotten into trouble at his London boarding school. And while she’s out shopping, Clare encounters a confused-seeming fellow who will become an infamous celebrity in the course of the day.

I enjoyed the way Clare thought her way through mounting complications. A couple of the story’s threads were more conveniently parallel than was necessary, but I had a good time.

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And the book has another outstanding feature: I found it in a refrigerator–a refrigerator with a cat on top. As you’re walking into the Indianapolis Museum of Art, before you get to the gift shop or the café, you encounter Cool Books, Food for Thought. This is artist Tom Torluemke‘s contribution to The Public Collection, nine works of art which are also little libraries here and there in the city.

 

 

foodforthought2

 

I had the honor of being on hand in 2008 when Torluemke’s mural The Book of Life was being mounted on the sixth floor of Central Library. That was exciting for me, and I thought Cool Books, Food for Thought should be my first Public Collection visit.

The refrigerator made me smile, and it provided nourishment–Korkeakivi’s novel moves smoothly while giving the reader a cagey look at diplomatic life after 9/11–so the first installment of my 2016 reading challenge has gone well. (The second installment is turning out to be less agreeable, but that’s another blog post.)

Before departing, I should say that the opening paragraph of this blog post might be misleading. I just now looked at Korkeakivi’s website, where she says, “Anyone thinking I am married to a diplomat and lead a life like Clare’s in An Unexpected Guest would be mistaken.”

 

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Origins of the Dream

January 15, 2016 by Reader's Connection

Last year on Martin Luther King Day, Jr. Day, I linked to Danez Smith’s poem, “Dinosaurs in the Hood,” on my wildly personal theory that King would have liked it.

Here, I’ll link to it, again. (Bad Language Alert)

Origins of the Dream: Hughes's Poetry and King's RhetoricBy contrast, W. Jason Miller actually did some research for his 2015 book Origins of the Dream: Hughes’s Poetry and King’s Rhetoric. He has documented King’s love for–and use of–the poetry of Langston Hughes.

So you don’t have to depend on your hare-brained blogger to get an idea of King’s feel for poetry. Here’s a review of the book:

In volume 2 of his The Life of Langston Hughes, Arnold Rampersad suggested that Martin Luther King Jr. was well aware of the poetry of Langston Hughes and sometimes recited Hughes’s poems in his sermons and speeches. Miller documents how extensively King utilized the poems and vocabulary of Hughes. Certainly King was inspired by the “American dream.” However, King often recited Hughes’s “Mother to Son” and commented that life for black people was no “crystal stair.” He borrowed from and paraphrased “Let America Be America Again”: “let it be the dream that the dreamers dreamed.” He borrowed from “What Happens to a Dream Deferred” when he alluded to shattered dreams and deferred dreams. He also borrowed from “I Dream a World.” This brilliant, thoroughly researched book shows how King often had to hide direct mention of Hughes even as he borrowed from his dream motif, because J. Edgar Hoover maintained that Hughes was a communist. Miller’s book will help correct the historical amnesia that has for too long blotted out recognition of the cultural continuity between Hughes and King. A masterpiece. — Choice

Have a safe, warm Martin’s day.

 

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Butler Visiting Writers Spring 2016

January 14, 2016 by Reader's Connection

The Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writers Series at Butler University begins again next week and runs through April 5th.

All programs are free and open to the public. Click on Butler’s name for maps and campus info.

 

Roxane Gay

January 19, 7:30 PM
Schrott Center for the Arts
Bad Feminist: Essays

Bad Feminist: EssaysThis trenchant collection assembles previously published essays and new work by cultural critic and novelist Gay. Even though she loves pink, feels nostalgic about the Sweet Valley High series, and lets degrading rap lyrics blast from her car stereo, Gay is passionately committed to feminist issues, such as equal opportunity and pay and reproductive freedom. Writing about race, politics, gender, feminism, privilege, and popular media, she highlights how deeply misogyny is embedded in our culture, the careless language used to discuss sexual violence (seen in news reports of sexual assault), Hollywood’s tokenistic treatment of race, the trivialization of literature written by women, and the many ways American society fails women and African-Americans. Gay bemoans that fact that role models like Bill Cosby and Don Lemon urge African-Americans to act like ideal citizens while glossing over institutional problems in the education, social welfare, and justice system that exacerbate racism and poverty. Although Gay is aware of her privilege as a middle-class Haitian-American, she doesn’t refrain from advising inner-city students to have higher expectations. Whatever her topic, Gay’s provocative essays stand out for their bravery, wit, and emotional honesty. — Publishers Weekly

 

Daisy Fried

February 2, 7:30 PM
Clowes Memorial Hall, Krannert Room

Women’s Poetry: Poems and Advice

Women's Poetry: Poems and AdviceThe title poem in Fried’s dazzling new collection begins, “I, too, dislike it. / However,” and skips down a full stanza before completing the line and lavishly describing a tricked-out Nissan G-TR emerging from a garage. The patently masculine sight sparks an unexpected epiphany in the speaker about desire. In the potent blank space between “However” and the rush of the second stanza, Fried displays her gift for honoring hesitation not as a feminine quirk but more as a necessary pause before reaching enlightenment and sometimes even ecstasy. Fried, ponders pregnancy, Italian art, frustrating adjunct teaching jobs, Stendahl, and Henry Kissinger. The final section, “Ask the Poetess: An Advice Column,” shows wit and range worthy of playwright Wendy Wasserstein. In one of the most memorable exchanges, the oracular, tongue-in-cheek poetess is asked why people write confessional poetry when they could just “go to church and confess.” With irony and equanimity, she responds, “In church confession, Catholics confess their sins. In confessional poetry, persons of all faiths confess how others have sinned against them.” —Booklist

 

Lev Grossman

February 17, 7:30 PM
Atherton Union, Reilly Room

The Magician’s Land which is the final volume in the Magicians trilogy, the first two volumes being The Magicians and The Magician King.

The Magician's LandBanished from the magical land of Fillory at the end of 2011’s The Magician King, Quentin Coldwater plans to settle into a quiet life teaching at his magical alma mater, Brakebills Preparatory College of Magic. His past is not so easily set aside, however, and when he is drawn into a shadowy conspiracy to steal an object that cannot be stolen, of course, it all leads back to his homeland. Quentin will need to seek out former mentors, old friends, and even his lost love if he is going to achieve his goals and save his kingdom. VERDICT From the trilogy’s beginnings as a coming-of-age story, it is perhaps inevitable that Quentin will finally have to grow into his own as the series closes. Luckily that doesn’t mean we don’t get to spend quality time in the marvelous land of make-believe made real, Fillory. While Grossman consciously leans heavily on Narnia and Hogwarts to create a frame of reference, this series taken as a whole brings new life and energy to the fantasy genre. The final volume will please fans looking for action, emotion, and, ultimately, closure. — Library Journal

 

Benjamin Percy

February 29, 7:30 PM
Schrott Center for the Arts

The Dead Lands

The Dead LandsPercy offers a tip of the hat to American explorers Lewis and Clark in this harrowing postapocalyptic thriller. After a flu pandemic, followed by nuclear war, decimates Earth’s population and renders much of the land unlivable, the survivors, huddling together in a place called Sanctuary (formerly St. Louis), believe they are the last people alive on the planet. Their tyrannical leader, Mayor Thomas Lancer, uses fear and water rationing to cow the populace, so when a strange woman rides up to the gates, he wants her quickly killed. She has come to find Lewis Meriwether, museum curator and some say magician, and take him to Oregon, where there are other people and clean water. Fortunately for the original Lewis and Clark, their journey was not fraught with radioactive lands, human-size bats, and other dangers that reside in Percy’s surreal landscape. Meriwether teams up with Mina Clark, a Sanctuary ranger, and several other characters as they secretly depart the city and head into the dead lands. Short chapters shift from character history to fast-paced action, and Percy uses his gift for literary horror, as seen in Red Moon (2013), to create a compelling and at times disturbing story that will leave readers wanting more. — Booklist

 

Claudia Rankine

March 17, 7:30 PM
Robertson Hall, Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall

Citizen: An American Lyric

Citizen: An American LyricIn this trenchant new work about racism in the 21st century, Rankine, recently appointed chancellor of the American Academy of Poets and winner of the 2014 Jackson Poetry Prize, extends the innovative formal techniques and painfully clear-sighted vision she established in her landmark Don’t Let Me Be Lonely. Accounts of racially charged interactions, insidious and flagrant, transpiring in private and in the public eye, distill the immediate emotional intensity of individual experience with tremendous precision while allowing ambiguity, ambivalence, contradiction, and exhaustion to remain in all their fraught complexity. Combining poetry, essay, and images from media and contemporary art, Rankine’s poetics capture the urgency of her subject matter. Indeed, much of the book focuses on language: sound bites from cultural commentators; the words of acquaintances, colleagues, and friends; responses and moments of silence; what it means to address and be addressed; and what it means when one’s only recourse is to sigh. “A body translates its you–/ you there, hey you,” she writes, “The worst hurt is feeling you don’t belong so much/ to you.” Once again Rankine inspires sympathy and outrage, but most of all a will to take a deep look at ourselves and our society. — Publishers Weekly

 

Marilyn Hacker

April 5, 7:30 PM
Clowes Memorial Hall, Krannert Room

A Stranger’s Mirror: New and Selected Poems, 1994-2014

A Stranger's Mirror: New and Selected Poems, 1994-2014Multiaward winner Hacker continues to write with an unflinching clarity. “The body [of her work] is a festival,” notes the introduction, a feast of form and feminism, a banquet of the political and politic. In her latest volume, she brings readers generous selections from four previous collections, as well as translations and 25 new poems that range in location from the Middle East to the bedroom. Hacker writes in multiple forms, in crowns of sonnets, sestinas, ghazals, and rengas, mirroring the world’s terrors while exploring the poet’s relationships to and relevance in these worlds. Her poems leave “all the parentheses filled,” using a language that is often intimate and always verbally dexterous, painstakingly musical, and formal and colloquial at the same time. Though composed in the voice of another, these lines could describe Hacker’s life as a poet: “I live in my own house now. In my line of vision,/ an almond tree flowers. I live by words,/ .and on each page I write a letter to my brothers.” While spanning 20 years of Hacker’s poetry, this volume has an immediacy that makes it ageless. An important book from an essential poet. — Library Journal

 

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Drugs, Booze, and Science Fiction! The Portal re-opens at Glendale.

January 12, 2016 by Reader's Connection

portalPortal, the Indianapolis Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion Group, will begin its 2016 discussions at Glendale Library on Sunday, January 24th at 1:00 pm.

As is usually the case, there is not a specific book to be discussed. Instead, there is a theme. I have used this month’s theme as my blog post title, in a shameless attempt to get your attention: “Drugs, Booze, and Science Fiction.”

An explanatory note goes on: From weak beer to exotic thionite, science fiction and fantasy stories about substances that alter the mind in strange and surprising ways.

If you bring any exotic thionite to Glendale, please keep it in your purse or billfold. All you’ll need is some interest in the subject matter–and you’re welcome to bring along any books that relate.

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