October 23, 2013 by Reader's Connection
The National Book Award Finalists were announced last Wednesday, October 16th. Click on that link for the title lists & write-ups. I contacted Louisiana State University Press for permission to print a couple of poems from finalist Matt Rasmussen’s Black Aperture, but was told, very kindly, that no permissions would be granted until after the winners were announced on November 20th.
And then the woman told me, even more kindly, that free poems from NBA finalists were available.
And it’s true. Not only poems, but prose selections, are available on free downloadable e-books. If you want to sample some of the finalist titles, those of you with Kindles or Kobes or Nooks can click, right here and now, on the red place where it says “Click Here,” and you’ll be taken to a National Book Award web page that looks like this . . .
. . . except that the vendor listings on their page, Amazon and Barnes & Noble and so on, are live links. Click on the one of those appropriate to your device, and you’ll be given a chance to download a free e-book with selections from the finalists in the category you’ve chosen, Fiction or Nonfiction or Poetry or Young People’s Literature.
The pages of the different vendors look a bit different, and I accept no responsibility for what happens when you try to download. My device is so sad, so old, that I’m too embarrassed to name it, and unable to take advantage of this offer.
The finalists are, of course, all available from the library, or at least we’re in the process of making them available. But if you would like just an idea of what the books are like–what’s all this about Ben Franklin’s sister?–and you have a device more respectable than mine, enjoy.
October 21, 2013 by Reader's Connection
From Steve Bridge at the Irvington Library:
When I was about 13 and just at the very beginning of my science fiction reading, I found in my public library a copy of R is for Rocket, a collection of Ray Bradbury short stories which Bradbury had assembled to be particularly interesting and accessible for older children and teens. The second story in that book, “The Foghorn,” completely captivated me. I had never read anything like it before. That began a lifelong enjoyment of Bradbury’s writing. Prime for me have been The Martian Chronicles, the collection I Sing the Body Electric, and especially Dandelion Wine.
I have read Dandelion Wine at least 6 times and it is, like all great literature, a different book every time I read it. The sequel, Farewell Summer, was finally completed and published in 2006. These two books are not science fiction. They are primarily realistic novels about the conflict between youth and age, about the desire to be both grown-up and forever young. There is the “flavor” of fantasy about them, but you can read them completely as about growing up in a small Midwestern town.
Several years ago I read The Bradbury Chronicles by Sam Weller, which was the first full biography of Bradbury. Weller knew Bradbury personally and had Bradbury’s cooperation in writing the book, so there is a lot of autobiography in it, through a series of interviews. It’s terrific, one of the best biographies of any kind I have read. Bradbury was not just a fine writer, he was an interesting man, who remembered his childhood in detail, and who had examined his own life. If you want to know what Bradbury the man was like, this is the book. Even if you haven’t read a lot of Bradbury, you might enjoy this just as a great example of a fine biography. Weller deserves a lot of credit for this and he earned every one of the fine reviews the book collected.
Now we have an entirely different but also excellent biography, Becoming Ray Bradbury by Jonathan Eller, a professor at IUPUI, and the Director of The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies. This is the first of three volumes of a “literary biography” of Bradbury, which will be an essential permanent text for future students of Bradbury and of the science fiction/fantasy field which Bradbury is (sort of) a part of. He never considered himself to be a science fiction writer at all. Eller makes a strong point that Bradbury was the first American writer to expand beyond the previous pulp fiction limitations placed on the early SF writers.
Eller’s focus in this first volume is on Bradbury’s sources and influences, along with his friendships with Ed Hamilton, Jack Williamson, Leigh Brackett, Henry Kuttner, and Catherine L. Moore, who were his early writing mentors. Since Eller has three volumes to work with (Volume 2 has been submitted to the publisher and Volume 3 is underway), he can get into details about Bradbury’s reading, education, and mentoring that Weller did not have time for. (On the other hand, Weller spent more time describing Bradbury’s family and childhood in the Midwest.)
You might guess that a discussion of favorite authors and sources of inspiration would be dry, but Eller makes it fascinating. He has a lively writing style, and his own long friendship with Bradbury gives him plenty of entertaining stories and refreshing insight. We learn about Bradbury’s inspiration gained by reading well-known authors like Katherine Anne Porter, Hemingway, Steinbeck, and dozens of others. But I also learned about authors I had only vaguely known. One of the biggest influences on *Fahrenheit 451* was the post-WWII novel, Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler. Another major influence was Ayn Rand’s first giant novel, The Fountainhead, where Bradbury learned to write what he wanted and not to take societal restrictions into account. (Many of his best stories were not published for decades, because they dealt with questions of racism, censorship, and morality which the magazines of the time would not touch.)
I was recently fortunate to be part of a small group of library staff members to visit with Professor Eller at the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies. Eller and his assistants were obviously very excited about their work and full of interesting stories (especially to a librarian!) about different editions of Bradbury’s stories and books. Bradbury was a near-compulsive about revising stories, and some stories have been printed in 7 or 8 different versions. The Center is working on a complete collection of the original versions of his stories with textual notes.
So far they have finished The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury, Volume 1: 1938-1943. They have several more volumes to go. If you have the opportunity to meet Professor Eller at a science fiction or literary convention, he is both a really nice guy and a fascinating trove of knowledge. (He reads a lot of other science fiction, too, so he’s not limited to Bradbury stories).
The Center is on-line at: http://iat.iupui.edu/bradburycenter/
Now I have to back through Eller’s book and make a list of several other books besides Koestler’s novel that I want to track down. And I want to re-read several Bradbury books and get to ones I have never read. And I’m excitedly awaiting Eller’s second part of the biography set, where I will find more books I want to read.
Maybe that is part of the appeal of Dandelion Wine for me – I need to stay young forever so I can read all of the books I haven’t gotten to yet!
So – read Sam Weller’s biography first for the whole life of Ray Bradbury. And then if you really want to study Bradbury the writer, dig into Eller’s books. Bradbury’s long-term literary reputation is well-served by these two outstanding biographers.
October 18, 2013 by Reader's Connection
When their 13-year-old daughter Kate is hit by a car and killed, Charlie and Susan break up. Susan goes to stay with her parents, and Charlie begins a strange year of mourning, taking whatever drugs he can find and wandering through the town of Enon by night.
Enon is Paul Harding’s new novel, and I had a problem with it.. It seemed to me that some of Charlie’s fantasies about Kate, after her death, were coming not from a well-read house-painter and lawn-cutter who is strung out on drugs and in emotional agony, but from a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist fashioning a second novel.
I found myself peeking ahead to see when quotation marks would appear on the page, because that would mean that Charlie was encountering another real human being.
But I think I should reread the book, because I have faith in Harding, and I figure that at times I was digging my heels in, not wanting to go where Charlie was going. And because I have to admit that those fantasies, those night-wanderings of Charlie’s, turned his occasional encounters with people into gold–into what encounters with people really are, if we’re wide awake. A guy working in a convenience store, and an elderly pair from whom Charlie steals drugs, come back to me, now, as avatars.
And those two goth girls, smoking cigarettes and looking at a book about Tarot cards in the graveyard at night.
The girl with the book held it close to her face and fingered through the pages until she said, “Here it is.”
“What, what; What is it?” the other girl said.
“Give me a second, will you?” The girl examined the book, then dropped it into her lap and stared at her friend. She said, “Dude, this deck is whacked, it’s always so right. This card is that you lust for someone you know is evil.”
The other girl blew smoke out of her nose and clapped herself on the head, her forearmful of bracelets and trinkets clinking and twinkling in the moonlight, and groaned, “Oh man–that’s freaking Carl!”
Both girls had long, very dark, unkempt hair, which I assumed was dyed black but could not tell for sure. They both had pale skin and heavy black eyeliner on, and very dark lipstick, which might have been black or a very dark shade of purple or red, and they both wore all black clothes. I guessed they were a couple years older than Kate. I liked them immediately, and imagined Kate being their friend and going through a safe and uproarious adolescence with them.
I, too, am fond of these girls, and should wander with Charlie again, sometime soon, in the hope of meeting them once more.
If someone on your holiday list loved Harding’s Tinkers, and hasn’t already read Enon, you might make a gift of it. This is my first 2013 THASCOKNY (Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Years) pick, though I’m retroactively tagging Dara Horn’s A Guide for the Perplexed, for that someone on your list who’s interested in software or memories or adultery or terrorism.
Did you know that the first day of Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving this year? This is very rare, and different websites disagree about when it will happen again. On his blog, quantum physicist Jonathan Mizrahi says it will happen in 79811.
Happy Thanksgivukkah! Enjoy it while you can.
October 16, 2013 by Reader's Connection
Okay, impresario isn’t the right word, but according to his website bio , Belanger is “an author, adventurer, and one of the most visible paranormal researchers today. He’s written books for both adults and children, he’s a talk show host, television producer, lecturer, and the founder of the new legend tripping movement. Since 1997, the former journalist has interviewed thousands of eyewitnesses to paranormal occurrences.”
The author of The World’s Most Haunted Places and Picture Yourself Legend Tripping: Your Complete Guide to Finding Ufos, Monsters, Ghosts, and Urban Legends in Your Own Backyard and Encyclopedia of Haunted Places: Ghostly Locales from Around the World and other titles will be at Central Library on Saturday, October 19th, speaking from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.
All are welcome. Humans, I mean. No telling what other sorts of beings will appear. Mr. Belanger will share his ghostly tales.
What is legend tripping? I don’t know. Come and ask Mr. Belanger.
October 15, 2013 by Reader's Connection
This year’s Ann Katz Festival of Books and Arts at the Jewish Community Center runs from October 28th through November 17th. Here’s a list of the authors who will appear.
There is a $8.00 charge for each program ($5.00 for JCC members). Tickets are available on the JCC website, and will be available at the events, BUT BE AWARE that on November 3rd you can gain admission with ten cans of tomato products, and that on November 13th you can see three authors for the price of one.
Letty Cottin Pogrebin | Mon, Oct 28 | 7 pm
A cancer survivor channels her ordeal into reflections on the nature of empathy and friendships. Ms. magazine founding editor Pogrebin offers sound counsel to those comforting ailing friends. In 2009, a routine mammogram revealed a suspicious mass that not only changed the author’s relationship to her body, but also the interactions with her friends, some of whom were hesitant to visit. Pogrebin’s text serves her well as both an informative guide and an autobiographical chronicle. Evenly distributed throughout are personal interludes from her battle with breast cancer combined with helpful sections guiding those who are conflicted “when your role in the relationship is no longer easy or obvious.” For many, she writes, worry for a friend’s sudden or prolonged illness can be an intimidating, touchy subject, and communicating genuine concern could understandably be met with either graciousness or an irritable “Thank you for caring. Now leave me alone.” . . . A useful refresher course on navigating the complicated territory of compassionate companionship. — Kirkus Reviews
Dara Horn | Wed, Oct 30 | 7 pm
I reviewed this novel in my previous post, but failed to mention the feel of the Library of Alexandria, or the way the character Josephine, when kidnapped, relates to her captors. Didn’t mention her husband or daughter. Left out almost everything about Solomon Schechter and the way he enters the Cairo
Genizah–that room of holy documents.
Read the book.
Miriam Rubin | Sun, Nov 3 | 2 pm
In Tomatoes, Miriam Rubin gives this staple of southern gardens the passionate portrait it deserves, exploring the tomato’s rich history in southern culture and inspiring home cooks to fully enjoy these summer fruits in all their glorious variety. Rubin, a prominent food writer and tomato connoisseur, provides fifty vibrant recipes as well as wisdom about how to choose tomatoes and which tomato is right for which dish. Tomatoes includes recipes that celebrate the down-home, inventive, and contemporary, such as Stand-over-the-Sink Tomato Sandwiches, Spiced Green Tomato Crumb Cake, Green Tomato and Pork Tenderloin Biscuit Pie, and Tomato and Golden Raisin Chutney. Rubin also offers useful cooking tips, lively lessons on history, cultivation, and preserving, and variations for year-round enjoyment of the tomato. — University of North Carolina Press
Bring in 10 cans of tomato products for free admission! — JCC website
John Green’s visit on November 4 has been sold out.
Rabbi Arthur Green | Thu, Nov 7 | 7 pm
Radical Judaism is nothing less than a call to re-envision the Jewish God and, by extension, Jewish practice and belief. This is not new although previous attempts, from Maimonides to the Zohar, the Baal Shem Tov, Ahad ha-Am, and even Martin Buber, did so without the openly claiming to undermine what preceded them. Even Ahad Ha-Am and Buber, both quite radical in their assessment of Judaism, still maintained that their positions were extensions of previous traditional threads. Living in the era of New Age religion (a movement Green never openly identifies with but one that I believe informs his entire project) Green, among others, has less need to tie his radicalism to the past. — Shaul Magid, from an essay that appeared on Zeek. Used with the author’s permission.
David Harris-Gershon | Mon, Nov 11 | 7 pm
In this courageous memoir, Harris-Gershon stares down the thorny Palestinian-Israeli crisis. The complex conflict becomes a deeply personal matter when his wife is seriously injured in a Jerusalem terrorist bombing. The author, a blogger for Tikkun magazine, takes us through the lives of his wife, Jamie, and Hamas bomber Mohammed Odeh in the hours before the explosion at the Hebrew University’s cafeteria. He then describes the horrible aftermath of the explosion, Jamie’s agonizing journey of healing, and the death of her friends. While Harris-Gershon’s friends and family think he should be outraged, he clings to his Hebrew faith, seeking meaning from the ordeal, concluding that the terrible act was “the inevitable consequence of living in Israel.” His assured narrative pace–an excellent hybrid of moral confessional and reporter diary–measures the emotional and spiritual impact of his wife’s recovery and his decision to find Odeh’s family in East Jerusalem. Harris-Gershon seeks solace in the terrorist’s remorse upon his arrest. Full of unexpected surprises and insight, this book serves up a treasure of possible options of compromise, forgiveness, and political cooperation. — Publishers Weekly
John Schwartz | Tue, Nov 12 | 7 pm
A family’s memoir of raising a gay son. Schwartz enlightens readers on the difficulties he and his wife faced while trying to help their son, Joe, accept his homosexuality. From a very early age, Schwartz and his wife suspected Joe might be gay . . . However, because they had raised all three of their children in a gender-neutral environment, with dolls, action figures and trucks available to both their older son and daughter, they simply assumed Joe was just different. When Joe started school, though, behavioral problems developed. Because he was an avid reader at an early age, his parents suspected boredom; Joe’s teachers suspected mental issues and suggested therapy . . . Thanks to Internet research, the coming-out of TV personalities and new acceptance and legislation for homosexuals, the author was able to provide Joe with a safe home environment for him to reveal his “secret.” . . . Definitely defined as “not a self-help book,” Schwartz’s frank discussion of a subject many still find taboo will be helpful to parents of LGBT children as one example of how to accept a natural condition with dignity and love. — Kirkus Reviews
Michael Dahlie, Allison Lynn, Ben Winters | Wed, Nov 13 | 7 pm
From the JCC website: These three young authors are true professionals who have each written thoughtful and highly readable novels that look at our world from unique perspectives. Whether it is the story of a young couple exiled from New York City with baggage they dare not even share with each other, a lost young millionaire trying desperately to find himself amongst a cast of wacky characters who generally do not respect him, or a determined detective who almost inexplicably continues his work despite the fact that the world is literally coming to an end, each of these authors tells tales full of creativity, empathy and integrity. In conversation with Lev Rothenberg, Director of Arts and Education, JCC.
Matthew Levitt | Sun, Nov 17 | 7 pm
The word Hezbollah (“Party of God”) derives from the Koranic term hizb Allah, referring to the body of Muslim believers who will triumph over hizb al-Shaytan (“the Devil’s party”). There are several political/religious movements that carry this name, but the largest and most significant of them is Lebanon’s Hezbollah, an important political force in Lebanese politics today, participating in the government and carrying out military operations against its domestic and foreign enemies. Notwithstanding the group’s significance in today’s Middle East, there are few books in English on Hezbollah’s genesis and development . . . this book by Levitt is different in that it focuses on Hezbollah’s global reach as seen from “inside the beltway” and in official Washington circles. Relying on interviews with various U.S. and other officials (not from Hezbollah), court documents, declassified intelligence reports, and secondary Western sources, Levitt’s is a wide-ranging portrait of Hezbollah’s activities on five continents and its actions, both real and alleged. VERDICT A valuable resource for studying Washington’s perception of Hezbollah. — Library Journal