September 16, 2015 by Reader's Connection
My 12-Weeks-of-Christmas list isn’t supposed to start until October, but I’m jumping the gun. Has anyone on your gift list read Elena Ferrante’s first three Neapolitan Novels? The final book in the series, The Story of the Lost Child, was released on September 1st; and if your friend doesn’t run out and buy it, here’s your shot at the perfect present.
The four novels are:
(I’m using the cover art, here, but please note Steve’s comment down below, and my response.) (And check out Silvana’s, too.)
Raffaella Cerullo, called Lina or Lila, and Elena Greco, sometimes called Lenù, are born in August of 1944 and grow up in a tough section of Naples. (One day one of their mothers-in-law will refer to all of Naples as a “disorderly city.”)
Lila disappears one day, when she’s 66 years old. Elena, a published novelist, decides to tell the story of their lives, their friendship, their loves and marriages and livelihoods, and how they lived through a period of political and technological change and (I just read this passage yesterday) the horrible earthquake of 1980.
Their friendship is at the heart of the novels. Early on, the two little girls are climbing the stairs, planning to knock on the door of a neighborhood villain. I always felt slightly detached from my own actions, Elena tells us. Lila, on the other hand, had, from a young age–I can’t say now if it was precisely so at six or seven . . . the characteristic of absolute determination. Whether she was gripping the tricolor shaft of the pen or a stone or the handrail on the dark stairs, she communicated the idea that whatever came next–thrust the pen with a precise motion into the wood of the desk, dispense inky bullets, strike the boys from the country side, climb the stairs to Don Achille’s door–she would do it without hesitation.
That’s from My Brilliant Friend. The words “brilliant friend” are used at one point in reference to Elena, but don’t be confused. Lila might not be writing any books, but readers know that she’s ingenious and resourceful, and sometimes a little frightening. Elena is the one with the brilliant friend.
I’m halfway through the 4th book (7/8 of the way through the series, in other words), and I would have been lost without the the index of characters, listed by family, at the beginning of each novel. If you use these indexes when reading the books, DO NOT PEEK AHEAD. If you’re just starting My Brilliant Friend, for example, and you check out the character index at the beginning of The Story of the Lost Child, you’ll learn way too much about the future interactions of these Neapolitan families.
Just allow Elena to guide you through the years.
The Story of a New Name is also available as a downloadable audiobook.
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay is also available as a downloadable e-book.
The Story of the Lost Child is also available as a downloadable e-book.
September 13, 2015 by Reader's Connection
On Saturday, October 10th, the doors of Central Library will open at 10:00 a.m., as usual. And the Indy Author Fair, which is not so usual, which happens only once a year, will begin.
Mari Evans Celebration
The festivities begin with a celebration of author Mari Evans.
From 10:15 to 11:15 a.m., friends from Mari Evans’ professional and personal life will gather in the Clowes Auditorium to share stories and offer brief readings to honor the celebrated Indianapolis poet.
Meet the IAA Winners
11:30 am – 1:00 pm, in the Clowes Auditorium
|The winners and finalists of the 2015 Eugene & Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award (click the picture for information about them) will engage in a panel discussion about their writing and their connections to Indiana.|
Meet Hoosier Authors
12:00 pm – 2:00 pm, in the Simon Reading Room
|Writers and book lovers of all ages are invited to network with over 40 up-and-coming Indiana authors who offer a wide variety of writing styles and genres. Book sales and signings will be available.|
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm, in the Learning Curve Arena
Writing and Publishing Nonfiction Books
1:30 pm – 3:00 pm, in the Clowes Auditorium
This program is offered twice during the day, in the Knall Meeting Room:
Writing About Your Life
1:30 pm – 3:00 pm, , in the Learning Curve Arena
Writing and Publishing Humor
1:30 – 3:00 pm, in the Goodrich-Houk Room
Blogging for Writers
3:15 pm – 4:45 pm, in the Learning Curve
How to Lead an Effective Book Club Discussion
3:15 – 4:45 pm, in the Goodrich-Houk Meeting Room
So You Want to Write a Novel?
3:15 pm – 4:45 pm, in the Clowes Auditorium
The Indiana Authors Awards will be presented at the Award Dinner at 6:30 p.m. For more information about that event, please contact the Library Foundation at 317-275-4700 or email@example.com. Thanks to a generous grant from The Glick Fund, a fund of Central Indiana Community Foundation, 100% of the proceeds from the Award Dinner will benefit programs of The Indianapolis Public Library and the Indianapolis Public Library Foundation.
September 9, 2015 by Reader's Connection
Joyce Carol Oates, Nicky Finney, Gerald Stern, Laila Lalami, Denis Johnson, Dean Young. I was going to list all the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize wins and nominations garnered by the authors visiting Butler University this fall, but I’m not a good enough juggler. I keep dropping things.
The Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writers series kicks off next Monday, September 14th, with Nikky Finney, who the 2011 National Book Award with the title listed below. Oh, I wasn’t going to do that.
All programs are free and open to the public.
Click on Butler’s name up there for maps.
Click on the authors’ names below to see the titles owned by IndyPL.
Monday, September 14
Clowes Memorial Hall, Krannert Room
*Writers’ Harvest Event
Head Off & Split: Poems (2011)
This fourth collection from Finney should prove hard to forget. Against other black poets’ interest in congregations, Finney is drawn to defiant individualists, to black women who let no one tell them what to do. Several long sequences animate, or answer, public figures, from Rosa Parks to Strom Thurmond to President George W. Bush and Bush adviser Condoleezza Rice, who imagines herself (in Finney’s telling) “fifteen again, all smiles, and relocated/ to the peaks of the Rocky Mountains,// where she and the Steinway/ are the only Black people in the room.” Finney’s politics are unmistakable, and her sympathy for the dispossessed–shown with anger and verve in poems about Hurricane Katrina–pervades the volume’s thickly painted scenes. Yet Finney’s most original contributions could be the stranger, less topical pages, especially late in the book. She offers explicit depictions of bodies at play (“The arc of your boneless back flags above me… The long twin inches of my hands take the/ whole night”), and she takes from the title, a term used by Southern fish sellers, a defiant way to see her world: depicting herself as a fish “Hungering/ to be called Delicious.” — Publishers Weekly
Monday, September 28
Clowes Memorial Hall
*Writers’ Harvest Event
In her new memoir following in the wake of the best-selling A Widow’s Story (2011), Oates reflects with piquant wit, startling frankness, and mesmerizing specificity on the aspects of her life that made her a writer. Such as the fact that her favorite playmate when she was a little girl on a small, faltering farm in western New York State was Happy Chicken, who mysteriously disappeared on the very day her beloved “town” grandmother brought her to the public library for her first library card. Deep down Oates knew her pet hen’s cruel fate. It’s just that she tried not to dwell on the grim realities of her world, which included the traumatic secrets of her poor, struggling Hungarian and Irish immigrant relatives and the “meanness and brutality” of the older boys in her one-room schoolhouse. Oates found refuge in books, and, as a chronic insomniac, she prowled, alone and at risk in the night, the land that so deeply influences her work. Amid redolent descriptions of Sunday drives, laundry on the line, playing the piano, and tricky friendships, Oates pays tribute to her parents and tells the wrenching story of her sister, born, on the writer’s eighteenth birthday, afflicted with such severe autism that she has no language. Generous in her personal disclosures in this graceful and bracing chronicle, Oates also considers the writer’s calling and the necessity and resonance of sympathy. — Booklist
Tuesday, October 6
Howard L. Schrott Center for the Arts
In Beauty Bright (2012)
Stern is the master of muscular, ambushing, yet finely calibrated poems–poems that swoop at you like birds of prey, then lure you in like “pieces of glass embedded in the mud,” an image that evokes Stern’s perspective throughout this potent collection, his eighteenth, in which he finds beauty glinting within endless darkness and sorrow. This revered recipient of the National Book Award, Ruth Lilly Prize, and National Jewish Book Award reaches deeply into memory and imagination to create poems of clamorous and lush juxtapositions between the recognizable and the inexplicable, the tangible and the fugitive. Each saxophone-solo lyric seems to rise up from some hidden dimension, tracking disconcerting metamorphoses and peculiar moments of confusion or connection. Stern whirls from the funhouse mirrors of dreams to the sharpest of realism, from bristling anger to despair over war between humans and against nature to striking portraits of family members, long-ago lovers, neighbors, friends, Blake, Whitman, and Eleanor Roosevelt. Each surprising, fully loaded poem reflects Stern’s long practice of heightened attention, passion for language, reliance on love, and eyes-wide-open embrace of life. — Booklist
Tuesday, October 13
Atherton Union, Reilly Room
The Moor’s Account (2014)
Assured, lyrical imagining of the life of one of the first African slaves in the New World—a native, like Lalami, of Morocco and, like her, a gifted storyteller. The Spanish called him Estebanico, a name bestowed on him after he was purchased from Portuguese traders. That datum comes several pages after he proudly announces his true name, “Mustafa ibn Muhammad ibn Abdussalam al-Zamori,” and after he allows that some of the stories he is about to tell may or may not be quite true owing to the vagaries of memory and—well, the unlikelihood of the events he describes. The overarching event of this kind is, of course, the shipwreck that leaves him, with a body of Spanish explorers whose number will eventually be whittled down to three, to walk across much of what is now the American Southwest. Led by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, “my rival storyteller,” the quartet encounters wondrous things and people: cities of mud brick, maidens draped with turquoise, abundant “skins, amulets, feathers, copper bells,” and always the promise of gold just beyond the horizon. They provide wonders in return: Estebanico is a source of exotic entertainment (“It was harmless fun to them, but to me it quickly grew tiresome”), while his fellow traveler Andrés Dorantes de Carranza sets broken bones and heals the sick. Lalami extends the stories delivered by Cabeza de Vaca himself . . . hers is certainly the most extensive telling of the tale from “the Moor’s” point of view. As elusive as gold, she tells us, is the promise of freedom for Estebanico . . . Adding a new spin to a familiar story, Lalami offers an utterly believable, entertainingly told alternative to the historical record. A delight. — Kirkus Reviews
Wednesday, November 11
Atherton Union, Reilly Room
The Laughing Monsters (2014)
Roland Nair is a NATO intelligence operative assigned to report on his old comrade-in-arms Michael Adriko after Michael, currently an attaché with a Green Beret unit in the Congo, mysteriously summons him to Africa. Arriving in Sierra Leone, Roland soon hooks up with Michael and his fiancée, Davidia St Claire, an American college girl and daughter of Michael’s commanding officer. Michael wants Roland to accompany him to his home village to get his clan’s blessing to marry Davidia and to participate in scamming Mossad about a flight load of highly enriched uranium rumored to have disappeared in a plane crash many years earlier. Their adventures take them from the Congo and capture by American special forces to the crazed remnants of Michael’s clan and finally back to Sierra Leone, where Roland has his own bit of illegal business to transact. In a work that’s part spy novel and part buddy tale, Johnson aptly locates his portrayal of a shadowy world of complicated relationships and ever-shifting alliances in one of the more broken places on the planet. This is what you might get if you combined Casablanca‘s cynicism and sense of intrigue with a touch of Heart of Darkness post-9/11. — Library Journal
Monday, November 16
Robertson Hall, Johnson Board Room
Fall Higher (2011)
“Poetry is a good provider of the strange,” writes Young, an observation well supported by the torrential downpour of surreal imagery (“the piano turns out to be 88 mousetraps”), offbeat humor (“You were nearly killed putting up Xmas decorations”), and existential pronouncements (“We all feel/ suspended over a drop into nothingness”) that fill to the brim his latest book. Inspired by “the hocus-/ pocus gnosis of this world,” Young’s fast-paced improvisations are held together not only by the occasional imposition of rhymed couplets and triplets and a self-rationalizing philosophy in which a grounding belief in the protean illogic of human existence is the point (“I did hallucinogens for corroboration”), but through a subtle yet strong emotional engagement, as recognizably deep notes of loss, failure, regret, tenderness, awe, and despair can be discerned amid the bright dissonance of non sequiturs. Some serious-minded readers may grow exasperated with Young’s kitchen-sink approach and class-clown shenanigans, but others will admire an energetic imagination that shows no sign of depletion even after 11 vibrant collections. — Library Journal
*Writers’ Harvest: Please support Butler in the fight against hunger by bringing a donation of dried pasta or rice to support Second Helpings.
September 7, 2015 by Reader's Connection
Back in January, librarian Sherry Utterback began writing about the authors whose names are engraved on the walls of Central Library. She pauses in her Read Around Central tour to ask: Who picked these names?
While looking over the list of literary names, I wondered about the process of selecting them. I know that there was a committee formed, and there were some pretty pitched battles about the merits (or lack thereof) of the potential candidates. Wangling and intrigue in the public library! I read over the portions on the selection in both A Live Thing in the Whole Town: The History of the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library, 1873-1990 and Stacks: A History of the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library, but felt that both accounts left some out, so I began asking questions of staff that have been here longer than I, ultimately going to Lois Laube who is our archivist. The result was that I got a folder with copies of the original plans, suggestions, and correspondence. Based upon this information, I will insert pieces about the committee activities and correspondence on a regular basis.
Originally, there were to be 10 names chiseled across the front of the building. Next thing I read the number was up to 44, then 52, and finally, 79. But Sherry, I hear you ask, how did the names get chosen? Excellent question, o history lover! At the time of the Cret building’s construction, Eliza Browning was the Librarian, a post equivalent to Jackie Nytes’ CEO position today. It was decided to form a committee to select and vote on the names and their placement around the building.
The committee was titled “The Committee Chosen to Decide Names of Authors to be Carved on Outside of Central Library and Inside”. The committee numbered six members in December 1916, and consisted of the following individuals: Demarchus C. Brown, chairman, Evans Woollen, Carl Lieber, Mary E Nicholson, Eliza G. Browning, and Jacob P. Dunn. Who were these people that they were entrusted with the task of choosing the names to be inscribed on the walls of Central Library?
• Demarchus C. Brown was the Indiana State Librarian beginning in 1906. He was also the president of the National Association of state Librarians from 1910-1911.
• Evans Woollen a local lawyer, banker, and politician, Woollen founded the Fletcher Savings and Trust Company in 1912.
• Carl Lieber was an Indianapolis businessman with an appreciation for the arts. He was chairman of the fine arts committee of the John Herron Arts Institute and a life member of the American Historical Association.
• Mary E. Nicholson began her life in Indianapolis as a teacher at Indianapolis High School, later becoming principal of the Indianapolis Normal School. Miss Nicholson has the distinction of being the first woman elected to the Indianapolis School Board. IPS #70 is named in her honor.
• Eliza G. Browning was the sixth Librarian of the Indianapolis Public Library. She served in this capacity from 1892-1917, starting the job when she was just 23. As Librarian, Eliza Browning was in charge when the library was moved to its current location at 40 East Saint Clair Street. She has an entire chapter in A Live Thing In the Whole Town, if you wish to read further.
• Jacob P. Dunn was an Indianapolis historian, journalist and author. Mr. Dunn was the recording secretary for the Indiana Historical Society from 1886 until his death in 1924.
One notable who was not on the committee but still followed its activity with keen interest was Booth Tarkington. From Kennebunkport, Maine he dispatched several letters to Miss Browning expressing his feelings about the selection with little, if any reservation. In following posts about the selection process, I plan to print some of his letters.
There you have the players who ultimately chose the names of literary greats to be carved in stone across the façade of Central Library, and determined where each one would be placed, as well as one who observed and offered his opinions on the choices.
Believe me, it gets interesting.
September 3, 2015 by Reader's Connection
I have just finished reading Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, which concerns itself with Area X, and I’m unable to answer any of these questions.
The three novels, Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance, tell the story of Area X from different points of view. The government has led its citizens to believe that the area is the site of an environmental disaster, but readers know early on that there’s more involved.
Or, rather: Readers know early on that we must expand our definitions of environment. Four women–a psychologist, a biologist, a surveyor and an anthropologist–enter Area X, to see what they can learn. Theirs is said to be the twelfth “expedition.” Terrible things have happened on earlier expeditions. The biologist is our narrator, and her mind-altering account is what we read in Annihilation.
Authority is set outside of Area X, with more indoor activity and espionage, but I still look back on some moments with horror. If John le Carré had ever collaborated with H. P. Lovecraft, something like Authority might have resulted.
And Acceptance is all over the place, jumping around in time, in and out of Area X.
You’ll note that I’m not even trying to explain what’s going on in Area X. As for its whereabouts, I would guess that it lies on the Atlantic coast of the southeastern United States, but this cannot be proven. No state or country is named, no one refers to a president or senators. There is only the Southern Reach–an organization that is in some way governmental, and which tries to monitor and investigate Area X, with the hope of controlling its borders. (Readers soon understand that our notion of borders must evolve.) And there is Central, which somehow governs the Southern Reach. (And is in no way related to Central Library, which I may never again refer to simply as “Central.”)
Reference is made to “rusting gun emplacements from wars fought seventy years ago.” If we’re in the United States, we have moved to some unspecified future.
I’ve only read the trilogy once, and there may be all sorts of clues that I’m missing; but to be honest, locating Area X on a “real” map is probably pointless.
Now, then: Have the borders of Area X expanded without my hearing about it? Am I living in Area X? Reading through the trilogy, I used a Darryl Jones postcard of Jug Rock as my bookmark. Jug Rock is near Shoals, Indiana, in Martin County, and is the largest free-standing “table rock formation” east of the Mississippi River. (The picture here is from Wikimedia Commons, not from Darryl Jones.)
Whenever I glanced at Jones’s photograph of this topographical anomaly, I couldn’t help thinking about the other “topographical anomaly,” a horribly important feature in Area X. And that was troubling. There’s not much resemblance between the two anomalies, but such is the effect that the book (or Area X) was having on me.
And not only that: I subscribe to e-mail services that send me poems every day, and the poems I’ve received recently all seem as though they might be at home in Area X.
When I’ve spent some time away from the Southern Reach, I may look back at these poems and see that my associating them with Area X has been silly. Right now, I’m going to make some coffee and settle down.
This trilogy is a masterwork, and I recommend it to anyone more stable than myself. As Laura Miller said on Salon, “It’s about science as a way of not only thinking but feeling, rather than science as a means of becoming certain about the world.”
Certain about the world? Ha!
Annihilation is also available as a downloadable e-book, a downloadable audiobook, and a mug that I bought at the Spades Park Festival of Lanterns a few years ago, and which I brought to work because my wife hates it, and which shimmers on my desk, now, sending off a green glow as it sings the biologist’s story.
Authority is also available as a downloadable e-book, a downloadable audiobook, and an armadillo with strangely inquisitive eyes, which lives under an unused desk in my cubicle, and which I feed with scones and crabgrass and tears. To receive this pulsing story properly, I must hold the wriggling armadillo against my diaphragm.
Acceptance is also available as a downloadable e-book, a downloadable audiobook, an audiobook on CD, and a sponge-like entity which floats above our work area, and which my colleagues refer to as Glenn Halberstadt, which had once been my name. He do the biologist in different voices.