April 8, 2013 by Reader's Connection
Ball State University has sponsored the Magna cum Murder mystery conference in Muncie for the past 18 years–for most of those years at the Roberts Hotel. But that hotel closed in 2008, and the conference moved to the Horizon Convention Center in downtown Muncie.
The center was a wonderful host, but as the organizers put it, “we’ve missed the convenience and intimacy that we enjoyed at the Roberts Hotel. . . ”
So for the first time, this October 25-27, the conference will be held at the Columbia Club on Monument Circle in Indianapolis. Click on the blood-dripping logo above for the conference website where you can register in advance.
Steve Hamilton will be the Guest of Honor and the Banquet Speaker will be Hank Phillippi Ryan. Other authors scheduled to appear are listed on McM website. That list will be updated as authors sign up, and the program schedule should appear on the website in early October.
The blood-dripping logo is used by permission.
April 4, 2013 by Reader's Connection
My friend Don has dreams that let him know what his friends are thinking. My own dream life has been rich and illuminating, jetting around through time and space, but I’m not aware of having received many messages from friends.
When I glanced at the jacket notes on Heidi Julavits’s The Vanishers, and saw that it had to do with an “institute of psychics,” I figured that I’d be on familiar ground. The novel would be populated with sensitives like Don.
But our narrator Julia Severn is in another league.
[At] the age of three . . . I was diagnosed by a pediatric neurologist with electromagnetic hyperactivity, which explained why our household appliances–toasters, radios, computers–were perpetually blowing fuses or known to spontaneously, in my presence, fail. By the time I was eight I could darken street lamps by walking beneath them . . . By the time I was twelve . . . I knew when I saw a woman crying on the street that she’d had her purse stolen on the train. I knew by the backs of a bank teller’s hands that his wife had recently suffered a miscarriage.
Are there really people like this? Does Julavits believe that there are? The novel is like a Ross Macdonald mystery, with people forever being driven by traumas out of the past, except that Julia keeps slipping back into that past–I mean actually going there, not just daydreaming about it; and some of the suspicious characters she bumps into turn out to be spirits of the dead; and no Macdonald character, however vicious, could have pulled off a “psychic attack.”
This is a dark tale–Julia, whose mother committed suicide, likes to quote Sylvia Plath–but I enjoyed its humor, its confusion, its skepticism about human nature and identity. A downloadable e-book version is available, if Julia’s funny way with electrons doesn’t have you spooked.
April 1, 2013 by Reader's Connection
Ezra Pound is back, to remind us that April is National Poetry Month. I hope to get some poems posted here during the month, but in the meantime, you might want to be aware of a few poetry sources on the Web.
Do you have a Twitter account? Would you like to be poetically tweeted?
The magazine feed seems to tweet once or at most twice a day, usually with a poem or article from the magazine. And they skip some days, as is their right, whereas the foundation tweets like a bird, with links to articles from other magazines, and anything that resonates with their tweeters.
Also: The Academy of American Poets sends me a poem a day. If that sounds good to you, click here: http://ow.ly/jEfQp
And the Academy has a remarkable assortment of online resources at http://ow.ly/jEeJO
And poetry is around, here and there. Selector Kathy Barnard kindly sent me this link to an article at the Brain Pickings website, with some reflections by poet James Dickey about how to enjoy poetry: http://ow.ly/jEf3E.
If any of my unpoetically shortened links don’t work, let me know. Have a wonderful month.
Thanks to the Poetry Foundation for permission to use their logo, and to Adrian Stasiak for the use of Ezra Pound.
March 28, 2013 by Reader's Connection
Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 (©2011) is a historical novel, set in 1984. But some of the characters realize that they’ve slipped into some other sort of year, which one of them calls 1Q84. The Q is for question mark. You know that something has changed when you look up and see two moons.
One was the moon that had always been there, and the other was a far smaller, greenish moon, somewhat lopsided in shape, and much less bright. It looked like a poor, ugly, distantly related child that had been foisted on the family by unfortunate events and was welcomed by no one.
Tokyo residents Aomame and Tengo wander into this parallel-universe year by separate paths. Aomame is the first to realize that something is amiss, and she goes to the library to do historical research, trying to determine when the aberrations of 1Q84 began to appear.
No especially major events had occurred in the early autumn of 1981. Charles and Diana had married that July, and the aftereffects were still in evidence–reports on where they went, what they did, what she wore, what her accessories were like. Aomame of course knew about the wedding, but she had no particular interest in it, and she could not figure out why people were so deeply concerned about the fate of an English prince and princess. Charles looked less like a prince than a high school physics teacher with stomach trouble.
I’m on page 844 out of 925. There’s a detective so unattractive that he can’t be inconspicuous, a bestselling author who didn’t exactly write the book, a dowager who loves butterflies and rough justice, a couple of religious cults, a supernaturally obsessive collector for the NHK (Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai, official English name: Japan Broadcasting Corporation), and some paranormal sex, as well as the other kind. If there is another kind. The translated-from-Japanese prose, dry as it may sometimes seem, keeps me hooked, and some of the human situations–Tengo’s dealings with his dying father, for example–are enhanced rather than diminished by the fantasy threads.
1Q84 is also available as a downloadable e-book, as an audiobook on CD (don’t be scared away by the 38 discs) in a Chinese-language print version, and as a white object you’ve never seen before, nearly five feet in length, with smooth, beautiful curves. If there’s a tear in this last version, and you haven’t already read the book, you won’t know whether it’s a good idea to open that tear and see what’s inside.
March 25, 2013 by Reader's Connection
We begin the month in the Awakening Land, take a thousand-mile journey through that land, stop off in Paris for a Stravinsky premiere, are involved with crime and sainthood in Manhattan, and then go whaling. And that’s just in the first week.
The Trees is a moving novel of the beginning of the American trek to the west. Toward the close of the eighteenth century, the land west of the Alleghenies and north of the Ohio River was an unbroken sea of trees. Beneath them the forest trails were dark, silent, and lonely, brightened only by a few lost beams of sunlight. Here, in the first novel of Conrad Richter’s Awakening Land trilogy, the Lucketts, a wild, woods-faring family, lived their roaming life, pushing ever westward as the frontier advanced and as new settlements threatened their isolation.This novel gives an excellent feel for America’s lost woods culture, which was created when most of the eastern midwest was a vast hardwood forest—virtually a jungle. The Trees conveys settler life, including conflicts with Native Americans, illness, hunting, family dynamics, and marriage. — Publisher’s note
Mary Ingles was twenty-three, married, and pregnant, when Shawnee Indians invaded her peaceful Virginia settlement, killed the men and women, then took her captive. For months, she lived with them, unbroken, until she escaped, and followed a thousand mile trail to freedom–an extraordinary story of a pioneer woman who risked her life to return to her people. — Random House
Thomas Forrest Kelly’s First Nights : Five Musical Premieres includes a section on the premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps, and that section will be emphasized in the discussion at Central Library on Tuesday, April 2nd at 6:00 p.m.
This is a unique and extremely attractive account of the premieres of five musical masterpieces spanning from 1607 to 1913: Monteverdi’s opera Orfeo, Handel’s oratorio Messiah, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, and Stravinsky’s ballet Le Sacre du printemps. The focus of each essay is the actual premiere, but Kelly, who teaches a course called “First Nights” at Harvard, first places each event in its broader historical and cultural setting and then proceeds to fill in the scene with numerous interesting details and asides. One of North America’s most prominent musicologists, Kelly paints a vivid and fascinating picture of each premiere by combining information taken from a number of sources, including letters, archival documents, and observations of the music itself. This should appeal to all music lovers. — Library Journal
When a deceased nun, Sister Catherine, becomes a candidate for sainthood in this gripping thriller from bestseller Clark, Monica Farrell, a 31-year-old Manhattan pediatrician, becomes the target of those who don’t want her to inherit what’s left of a fortune created by her unknown grandfather, Alex Gannon, with whom Catherine had a secret love child before she took up holy orders. That child, given up for adoption, became Monica’s father. Monica must now testify whether two boys became cancer-free due to prayers to Sister Catherine so she can qualify for beatification. Meanwhile, Olivia Morrow, Catherine’s 82-year-old dying cousin, ponders whether to tell Monica she’s Alex’s granddaughter. Clark skillfully mixes spiritual questions with down and dirty deeds as she reveals Gannon Foundation funds have been steadily siphoned off by greedy heirs and associates who will stop at nothing, even murder, to keep their criminal misbehavior under wraps. — Publisher’s Weekly
This cover art is from a Norton Critical Edition, and that’s what we are using, but our edition is more recent and our art is much cooler. Queequeg’s tattooed face is on the cover. Drop by and have a look.
Spades Park’s regular book discussion group will meet on April 24th and is noted below.
A 14-year-old boy is stabbed to death in the park near his middle school in an upper-class Boston suburb, and Assistant District Attorney Andy Barber takes the case, despite the fact that his son, Jacob, was a classmate of the victim. But when the bloody fingerprint on the victim’s clothes turns out to be Jacob’s, Barber is off the case and out of his office, devoting himself solely to defending his son. Even Barber’s never-before-disclosed heritage as the son and grandson of violent men who killed becomes potential courtroom fodder, raising the question of a “murder gene.” Within the structure of a grand jury hearing a year after the murder, Landay gradually increases apprehension. As if peeling the layers of an onion, he raises personal and painful ethical issues pertaining to a parent’s responsibilities to a child, to a family, and to society at large. Landay’s two previous novels (Mission Flats, 2003; The Strangler, 2007) were award winners, but he reaches a new level of excellence in this riveting, knock-your-socks-off legal thriller. — Booklist
Ever since high school, Rebi Lucas has not led a discreet lifestyle. She has grown accustomed to using her body as a bargaining tool. Although more than a few men have known her physically, only one man has dared to love her as a true friend. Now Rebi must return to her hometown after her mother’s death to face that man. William Donovan is now the assistant pastor of Grace Apostle Methodist Church, adjacent to her family’s home estate. He’s devoted to helping Rebecca heal old wounds and rediscover her passion when she returns home. As they are settling her mother’s estate, Rebi and William unearth a generational curse that threatens to dismantle their carefully built love affair. — Barnes & Noble
As the twentieth century begins, two teenagers living in the Italian Alps, Enza and Ciro, share a kiss that will linger across continents and time. Forced by circumstances to leave their beloved mountains, both land in New York City, where they pass in and out of one another’s lives. Gradually, the practical-minded Enza makes a name for herself as a seamstress, eventually sewing for the great Caruso at the Metropolitan Opera, while Ciro develops into a skilled shoemaker and the charming rake of Little Italy. Their paths remain star-crossed until Ciro realizes what Enza has known all along, that they are destined for each other. Drawing on her own family history, adored, best-selling Trigiani has crafted a gorgeous romantic saga that succeeds on the appealing chemistry of her well-matched lovers, whom readers will take to heart as dear friends. Though set a century ago, this expansive epic, which seems tailor-made for a miniseries, manages to feel both old-fashioned and thoroughly contemporary as Enza and Ciro come to exemplify the immigrant experience in America as strangers in a strange land who ultimately find themselves at home in a new world. — Booklist
Compiled for the first time, by his close friend and fellow author [Dan] Wakefield, Vonnegut’s correspondence spans 60 years, from a 1945 letter he wrote to his parents upon being released from a German POW camp to a final declining, at 84, shortly before his death, of an invitation to deliver a lecture at Cornell, his alma mater. In between, bearing all the canny observations and sardonic witticisms that distinguished his most famous works, are dozens of letters to relatives, friends, and sometimes foes, many revealing fascinating insights into Vonnegut’s private thoughts and inspirations. Highlights include reflective letters on his sudden rise to fame, supportive notes to such colleagues as Bernard Malamud and Norman Mailer, and a scathing missive to a school board threatening censorship. Arranged in chronological order and including Wakefield’s insightful background information on Vonnegut’s life, this is a volume fans will treasure. — Booklist
The Pike Library will host a discussion of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope, by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, on Monday, April 15th at 6:30 p.m.
American readers will have their imaginations challenged by 14-year-old Kamkwamba’s description of life in Malawi, a famine-stricken, land-locked nation in southern Africa: math is taught in school with the aid of bottle tops (“three Coca-Cola plus ten Carlsberg equal thirteen”), people are slaughtered by enemy warriors “disguised. as green grass” and a ferocious black rhino; and everyday trading is “replaced by the business of survival” after famine hits the country. After starving for five months on his family’s small farm, the corn harvest slowly brings Kamkwamba back to life. Witnessing his family’s struggle, Kamkwamba’s supercharged curiosity leads him to pursue the improbable dream of using “electric wind”(they have no word for windmills) to harness energy for the farm . . . This exquisite tale strips life down to its barest essentials, and once there finds reason for hopes and dreams, and is especially resonant for Americans given the economy and increasingly heated debates over health care and energy policy. — Publishers Weekly
De Rosnay’s U.S. debut fictionalizes the 1942 Paris roundups and deportations, in which thousands of Jewish families were arrested, held at the Vlodrome d’Hiver outside the city, then transported to Auschwitz. Forty-five-year-old Julia Jarmond, American by birth, moved to Paris when she was 20 and is married to the arrogant, unfaithful Bertrand Tzac, with whom she has an 11-year-old daughter. Julia writes for an American magazine and her editor assigns her to cover the 60th anniversary of the Vl’ d’Hiv’ roundups. Julia soon learns that the apartment she and Bertrand plan to move into was acquired by Bertrand’s family when its Jewish occupants were dispossessed and deported 60 years before. She resolves to find out what happened to the former occupants: Wladyslaw and Rywka Starzynski, parents of 10-year-old Sarah and four-year-old Michel. The more Julia discovers–especially about Sarah, the only member of the Starzynski family to survive–the more she uncovers about Bertrand’s family, about France and, finally, herself. [Sarah's Key] beautifully conveys Julia’s conflicting loyalties, and makes Sarah’s trials so riveting, her innocence so absorbing, that the book is hard to put down. — Publishers Weekly
On Wednesday, April 17th, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m., the Eagle Library will host the first session of its new book discussion series: Romance Potluck!
The “first immortal human cells,” code-named HeLa, have flourished by the trillions in labs all around the world for more than five decades, making possible the polio vaccine, chemotherapy, and many more crucial discoveries. But where did the HeLa cells come from? Science journalist Skloot spent 10 years arduously researching the complex, tragic, and profoundly revealing story of Henrietta Lacks, a 31-year-old African American mother of five who came to Johns Hopkins with cervical cancer in 1951, and from whom tumor samples were taken without her knowledge or that of her family. Henrietta died a cruel death and was all but forgotten, while her miraculous cells live on, “growing with mythological intensity.” Skloot travels to tiny Clover, Virginia; learns that Henrietta’s family tree embraces black and white branches; becomes close to Henrietta’s daughter, Deborah; and discovers that although the HeLa cells have improved countless lives, they have also engendered a legacy of pain, a litany of injustices, and a constellation of mysteries. Writing with a novelist’s artistry, a biologist’s expertise, and the zeal of an investigative reporter, Skloot tells a truly astonishing story of racism and poverty, science and conscience, spirituality and family driven by a galvanizing inquiry into the sanctity of the body and the very nature of the life force. — Booklist
Portal, the Indianapolis Science Fiction and Fantasy Discussion Group, will meet at Glendale Library on Sunday, April 28th from 1:00 to 3:00. The theme this month will be “Good Fairy/Bad Fairy: The Fairy Folk in Modern Fantasy.”
On Monday, April 29th at 6:30 p.m., the Southport Library will host a discussion of Dance on the Water, by Laura Lynn Jeffers