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Celebrate The October Country’s 60th Anniversary.

July 19, 2015 by Reader's Connection


The October Country, Ray Bradbury’s 1955 collection of short stories, has never been out of print.

Click on the book cover to hear an interview with Dr. Jonathan Eller, Director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at IUPUI, about the importance of the collection.

Eller will be at Central Library on Wednesday, August 19th, at 6:00 p.m., to give a program in celebration of the book’s 60th anniversary.





2015 Indiana Authors Award Winners and Finalists Announced

July 15, 2015 by Reader's Connection

On Saturday, October 10th, at the Indiana Author Award Dinner at Central Library, Marianne Boruch will be given the award in the National Author category, Adrian Matejka will receive the award in the Regional Author category, and one of three finalists–Clifford Garstang, Skila Brown, or Laura Bates–will receive the award in the Emerging Author category.

Click on the award icon for more details about the award.


National Award Winner: Marianne Boruch

Cadaver, Speak

Cadaver, Speak

Born out of a gross anatomy course, the title poem of Boruch’s eighth collection is a 30-part sequence in the voice of the 99-year-old woman whose body was dissected in the class: “The body–before they opened me–the darkest dark// must live in there. Where color is wasted./ Because I hear them look:/ bright green of gallbladder, shocked yellow fat.” Boruch’s broad attention, intelligence, and imagination manage questions of death, physicality, and the transactions of knowledge both within the lab and across history. Every moment is charged with multiple meanings–narrative, scientific, epistemological, ontological–as the deceased speaker references her own life and death, comments on dissection techniques, explores anatomical formalities, and ponders the clinical and social negotiations of the medical students (“The way one of them,// I’m sorry to me/ when her knife flashes wrong.”). Equally concerned with mortality and meaning, the collection’s other poems are contained lyric meditations anchored in the real and specific. — Publishers Weekly


Regional Award Winner: Adrian Matejka

The Big Smoke

The Big Smoke

The third book from Matejka (Mixology) covers the life of legendary heavyweight champion Jack Johnson, and like a fighter in the ring, these poems are fierce and fast on their feet: “It’s always better to whip than/ to be whipped, so I took the fight/ straight to the bigger boy. Not long// after, fighting became a way/ to make money.” This Jack Johnson, whose channeled voice dominates the book, resembles the real-life boxer in his lovers, opponents, enthusiasm for opera, and in the marks racism left on his life: “I always abide by the rules inside/ of the ring. Those dock fights were/ more about survival than winning.” The five sections here are woven with lyrics, letters, and brief interviews. Strongest are the shadow-boxing poems, titled alternately “Shadow-Boxing” and “The Shadow Knows,” because they go far beyond elaboration in verse to argue with the dominant narrative: “You’re not fooling me/ by quoting Shakespeare, Mr. Champion of the Negro/ World. No matter how/ carefully you enunciate,/ Tiny was a slave/ & the condition of the son/ follows the condition/ of the mother.” Matejka’s project straddles that risky line between life and art, and some readers may question whether it transforms Johnson’s life sufficiently into art, but others will find this to be a powerful and accessible poetry collection. — Publishers Weekly


Emerging Author Award Nominees:
Clifford Garstang

What the Zhang Boys KnowWhat the Zhang Boys Know has a dozen chapters, each one a vivid short story in itself. Garstang makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts. The lives of the inhabitants of a condominium in Washington, D.C’s Chinatown are told separately AND as part of a web of entanglements. The entrances and exits are handled with the deftness of a French comedy, but the empathy of the author brings all the characters achingly alive. What the Zhang Boys Know is a wonderful and haunting book. – John Casey, author of Compass Rose and Spartina, winner of the National Book Award


Skila Brown



“Forest sounds / all around / but on the ground / the sound / of Me / grew. Echoed. / I heard a path I could not see.” Exquisitely crafted poems are the basis of an unusually fine verse novel set in 1981, in the middle of the Guatemalan Civil War. When the government helicopters appear over the small village of Chopán, young Carlos obeys his mother when she tells him to go into the forest to hide. When all is quiet, he climbs down from his tree and soon comes across a group of four guerrilla rebel soldiers, lost in the forest. They confirm his greatest fears — that Chopán was burned to the ground, and that the people there were massacred by the government soldiers. Wracked with survivor’s guilt, Carlos begins to walk — caminar — on a mission to reach his grandmother’s village at the top of the mountain, to warn them about the helicopters. The poems, all written from Carlos’s point of view, are emotional, visceral, and lyrical. Layered and varied, some are shape poems; some can be read in more than one way, as if written from two perspectives; and all are accessible to young readers. When Carlos first encounters Paco, the rebel soldier his own age, their meeting is described in a poignant mirror poem. All combine to give us a chillingly memorable portrait of one child surviving violence and loss in a time of war. — Horn Book


Laura Bates

Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary With the Bard

Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary With the Bard

The unorthodox bonding of a Shakespeare instructor and a convicted murderer. Beginning in 2003, English professor Bates (Indiana State Univ.) began an inaugural group-study program in a solitary confinement prison space, much to the chagrin of the university department chairperson, who found the foray into criminal education a risky venture. The author’s history with prison education extends back to 1983, when she volunteered at Chicago’s Cook County jail while studying for her doctorate. She then taught English classes and Shakespeare studies at Indiana’s supermax Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, an institution housing her home state’s most dangerous criminals. There, she taught an inmate who became the first to seriously frighten her, even after many years boldly volunteering in solitary confinement. The prisoner was “caged beast” Larry Newton, a nefarious yet intellectually sharp murderer serving a life sentence without parole for crimes committed as a teenager. Bates inherited her mother’s “mix of fearlessness and fearfulness,” which fostered the way into the maximum security penitentiary to host an intellectual discussion on Shakespeare’s plays. The author emerges as a selfless tutor dedicated to education without reservation, and she fought hard to educate Newton and other surprisingly charismatic inmates, whom she profiles with a dignified mixture of pride and humanitarianism. The 10 years spent in supermax became a transformative journey for students and teacher alike. An eye-opening study reiterating the perennial power of books, self-discipline and the Bard of Avon — Kirkus Reviews


For more information about the Award Dinner, please contact the Library Foundation at 317-275-4700 or 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 Indianapolis Public Library Foundation.


The ALL IN Irvington Pleasant Run FLOW, and a related book discussion.

July 13, 2015 by Reader's Connection

ell9On Sunday, August 9, from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., there will be an event at the Irvington Pleasant Run Trail, Pleasant Run Parkway and Ellenberger Park.

It’s called the ALL IN Irvington Pleasant Run FLOW, and its purpose is to raise awareness of Pleasant Run waterway, celebrate the Pennsy Trail, and encourage community interconnection, cooperation and collaboration. Click here for more details.

And on Monday, August 3rd, at 6:30 p.m., in anticipation of the FLOW, the Irvington Library will host of discussion Richard Florida’s book The Rise of the Creative Class, Revisited, which is a 2012 update of a 2002 book.

The Rise of the Creative Class, RevisitedAuthor Florida brings his book up to date to reflect recent trends in the growth of a new economic class made up of architects and engineers as well as writers, artists, musicians, educators, and innovators in business and law. Data and statistics demonstrate that rather than being driven by corporations or technology, economic growth occurs most in places that are tolerant, diverse, and open to creativity, because these are places where creative people of all types want to live for quality of life reasons. This edition integrates insights from the 2008 recession and the Occupy Movement and offers new chapters on the global spread of the creative class, the geography of inequality in the US, and the continuing influence of class as a force shaping the economy, politics, and health. A new final chapter presents six key principles for creating new institutions to rebuild our economy and society. — Book News Reviews

From an announcement about these programs: “FLOW is an example of creative placemaking, a collaborative effort to improve the quality, character or experience of a place.  Examples include festivals, community gardens, farmer’s markets, block parties and public art.”

And the announcement includes links to sites about creative placemaking:

If you were wondering, Irvington Library’s regular book discussion will take place on August 13th, and will feature Ellen Straub’s The Vacationers. It will be included when I do my blog post of August book discussions.


Has Glenn Betrayed His Family? A Detective Story.

July 9, 2015 by Reader's Connection

A Walk Among the Tombstones

Whoever you are, you fit into one of 4 categories:

1. You have read Lawrence Block’s novel, A Walk Among the Tombstones, but you haven’t seen the movie.

2. You have seen the movie, A Walk Among the Tombstones, but you haven’t read the book.

3. You have done both. Book & movie. My personal category.

4. You have done neither. My blog post is addressed chiefly to those in this fourth category, and my message, of course, is Read the book first.

A personal story: Over the 4th of July weekend, at a family gathering, I saw a stack of DVDs that someone had rented. A Walk Among the Tombstones was on top of the stack, which made me go Wooo hooo.

I hadn’t seen the film in a theater last autumn, but I’d rented it from a Redbox earlier this year. The changed ending didn’t make me happy (detective Matthew Scudder is more of an action hero than he is in the book), and I had mixed feelings about the story’s being told partly from a point of view of other than Matt’s, which allows the filmmakers to dwell on unsavory elements. Members of categories 2 & 3 will know what I mean.

A Dance at the Slaughterhouse But I was glad the film had been made.

As revealed in at least one earlier blog post, I’m a Scudder fanatic. It’s true that while reading A Dance at the Slaughterhouse, an incredibly violent Scudder novel, I have thought to myself I wouldn’t want to watch a movie of this. But the attempt to film Tombstones was worth the effort. Liam Neeson is a fine Matthew Scudder. Dan Stevens, whom you may or may not recognize as the fellow who played another Matthew on Downton Abbey, is a interesting surprise as a New York drug trafficker who hires Scudder to find his wife’s kidnappers.


Eight Million Ways to DieI like it that the movie is set in New York, and–if IMDb is correctat least some of its exteriors were shot there. A movie was once made of the Scudder novel Eight Million Ways to Die, but they moved the story to Los Angeles, which was preposterous. Sorry to complain about that again.

Back to my 4th of July story. I did not tell my brothers and sisters “You’re all going to love this.” I did not say it was a great movie. I just said that I loved the books, and would be glad to watch the movie again. I warned them, at least twice, that the movie (like the book) was “nasty.”

My family nevertheless freaked out. After the first horrific moment and its subsequent groans and gasps, I said, “Hey, we should watch something else!” But it was too late. They were locked in to being freaked out, and voted against switching to Paddington, which we watched the next night.

So is my family partly to blame, since they chose to press on? It doesn’t matter. I felt guilty, and still do. I love these people, and I helped to lead them down a dark road for which they weren’t prepared with flashlights or flares. So to those of you in Category 4–whom I might love, too, if I knew you–I say again: Read the book first. Then, if you feel like it, check out the DVD.

A Walk Among the Tombstones is also available as an audiobook on CD.

A Dance at the Slaughterhouse is also available as a downloadable e-book and a downloadable audiobook.

Although Eight Million Ways to Die is not available at the library as a DVD (Good riddance! Los Angeles? Hah!) it is available as a downloadable e-book and a downloadable audiobook.

Hey, wait. I posted this, yesterday, but I want to add a complaint about the movie. Not enough side characters. I like Brian “Astro” Bradley, who plays TJ, but where is Elaine Mardell, the prostitute who has become Matt’s girl friend? Jim Faber, Matt’s AA sponsor? Joe Durkin, the cop?


The Read Harder Challenge: This Crucial Report Will Be Updated Regularly

July 6, 2015 by Reader's Connection

• I am reading my way through Book Riot’s 2015 Read Harder Challenge, as created by Rachel Manwill. I doubled the requirement, so the goal for the year is 48 books.
• With the doubling, I’ve decided to change a rule: Rereads are to be avoided, but they’re allowed on my chart if the reading is compulsive, and as long as one of the books in each category is a first time read. Only 2 so far, both in the other-gender category


The Red Window, by Adrian Stasiak

  • Whenever I’ve read the required 2 books for any category, I am stamping that slot withThe Red Window.

• Another change: If I have 3 first-time reads in one category (as I will in translated books) I can get away with just one in another category.

A book written by someone when he or she was under the age of 25 The Opposite of Loneliness, by Marina Keegan
A book written by someone when he or she was over the age of 65 The Book of Sand, by Jorge Luis Borges, and Every Third Thought by John Barth redwindow_thumb
A collection of short stories Get in Trouble, by Kelly Link
A book published by an indie press Song of the Shank, by Jeffery Renard Allen, published by Graywolf Press Poverty Creek Journal by Thomas Gardner, published by Tupelo Press redwindow_thumb
A book by or about someone who identifies as LGBTQ The Testament of Mary, by Colm Tóibín James Merrill, Life and Art by Langdon Hammer redwindow_thumb
A book by a person whose gender is different from your own The Hearts of Horses, by Molly Gloss Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto A compulsive re-read. In the Freud Archives, by Janet Malcolm Another compulsive re-read. redwindow_thumb
A book that takes place in Asia The Kite Runner & And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. Yes, I know, the characters move around, not everything happens in Afghanistan. But I say: these characters all take Afghanistan with them. redwindow_thumb
A book by an author from Africa The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, by Dinaw Mengestu.
A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture Forty Days Without Shadow, by Olivier Truc, about the Sami of Sápmi
A microhistory Stay : A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It Microhistories don’t have to be about little things like salt and pepper shakers.
A YA novel The Hybrid Chronicles, by Kat Zhang I had read the first of the trilogy, What’s Left of Me, a few years ago, and I knew I wanted to read the rest to meet the challenge. redwindow_thumb
An SF novel Frederik Pohl’s Gateway and Beyond the Blue Event Horizon, the first two books in his Heechee saga The Southern Reach Trilogy, by Jeff Vandermeer redwindow_thumb
A romance novel New Uses for Old Boyfriends, by Beth Kendrick Smoke and Fire, by Julie Cannon redwindow_thumb
A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade
A book that is a retelling of a classic story
An audiobook–but I’m unable to listen to audiobooks safely, so I’ve invented a new category: Read a magazine, cover to cover. The May 2015 issue of Poetry And then the June issue redwindow_thumb
A collection of poetry Who Said, by Jennifer Michael Hecht
A book that someone else has recommended to you Heart of Darkness: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Invisible Universe, by Jeremiah P. Ostriker and Simon Mitton, recommended (more or less) in a poem by Ostriker’s wife.
A book that was originally published in another language Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, trans. from the Italian by William Weaver
A graphic novel, a graphic memoir, or a collection of comics of any kind Justice League 3000. Volume 1, Yesterday Lives The Graveyard Book (2 volumes) redwindow_thumb
A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure Lament of the Dead: Psychology After Jung’s Red Book Felt guilty because I didn’t think I’d get a blog post out of it. Eventually blogged about it, but the guilt was there while I was reading.
A book published before 1850
A book published this year The Girl Who Slept with God, by Val Brelinski
A self-improvement book I had left this one out, and Chris kindly commented, and I shamefacedly responded.

The Red Window appears, as always, courtesy of Adrian Stasiak.