Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Scary Characters

Happy Halloween!

Just in time for the scariest night of the year, polled visitors on the 10 scariest characters in literature.

The results:

1. Big Brother from 1984 by George Orwell
2. Hannibal Lecter from the novels by Thomas Harris
3. Pennywise the clown from It by Stephen King
4. Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over a Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
5. Count Dracula from Bram Stoker's novel
6. Annie Wilkes from Misery by Stephen King
7. The demon from The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
8. Patrick Bateman from American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
9. Bill Sykes from Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
10. Voldemort from the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling
I'd add these characters from books I read this year:

Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
Mr. Whittier from Haunted: a Novel of Stories by Chuck Palahniuk

Who would YOU add?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Day of the Dead Celebration

A tradition that has been documented, studied, and still fascinates locals and foreigners is the Day of the Dead Celebration in Mexico. This celebration started as a ritual performed by indigenous people at least 3000 years ago. When the Spaniards came to America, they tried to eradicate this rite. When they realized it was impossible they decided to combine it with the Day of All Saints, celebrated by the Catholic Church on November 1st. The mix of these two traditions enriched this celebration and it has become one of the most captivating events in the world.

Although this is a big celebration throughout Mexico and nearby areas, there are two special places where you can see the most of this event: Mixquic, a small community in Mexico City an the Janitzio Island in Michoacán. For three days, starting on October 31st and ending on November 2nd, people will bring ofrendas: flowers, sugar skulls, “pan de muerto” bread and the favorite dishes of their dead relatives to the cemetery. Altars, music, and decorations resembling the skeletons painted by the famous artist Guadalupe Posada can also be seen everywhere.

This is a very brief description of all the traditions and rites that take place during these three days of celebration to remember, with happiness, those who are not among us. If you want to learn more about this festivity, here are some titles you can check out from our library:

Austin Public Library will host two celebrations for El Día de Los Muertos, one at St. John Branch and another one at University Hills. Enjoy!!!

Picture taken from Britannica Online.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Graphic Satire

We’ve all cheered or bristled at one of those black and white caricatures in the editorial pages. The successful political cartoon offers a powerful commentary with a simple picture and possibly a few well chosen words. Benjamin Franklin is considered the first American political cartoonist with his "Join or Die" cartoon of a snake representing the colonies. The 1860s marked the beginning of the daily political cartoon in newspapers. While political cartoons typically lampoon political figures or policies, the editorial cartoon appeared later and broadened the commentary to less political issues.

In the book Them Damned Pictures: Explorations in American Political Cartoon Art, author Roger Fischer explores why cartoonists practice their art. While some believe they have the ability to change minds, others only seek to start conversations. In the book, Bill Watterson (of Calvin and Hobbes fame) is quoted as saying, "People do not turn to cartoonists to learn what to think. Rather they turn to cartoonists to be confronted with an opinion –one that could just as easily be unpalatable as palatable."

Read more about cartoons and cartoonists at your library:

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Church of the Hardwood

It’s autumn. The Church of the Hardwood opens its doors as basketball takes center court. It might not be cold outside yet, but the action is inside. Gymnasiums and arenas across the country have shaken off summer’s slumber, crawled out of off-season hibernation, and are shaking with the sound of swishes and bricked shots. Whether you’re a crack shot or couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, basketball offers something for everyone: skill, entertainment, and great books. Below are just a few of the great basketball books in the Austin Public Library collection. Post up with one of ‘em.

Hoops Nation: a guide to America's best pickup basketball

Black Planet: facing race during an NBA season

A Season on the Brink: a year with Bob Knight and the Indiana Hoosiers

Values of the Game

Playing for keeps: Michael Jordan and the world he made

The Miracle of St. Anthony: a season with Coach Bob Hurley and basketball's most improbable dynasty

The Best Seat in the House: a basketball memoir

Tip-Off: how the 1984 NBA draft changed basketball forever

Longhorn hoops: the history of Texas basketball

Pistol: the life of Pete Maravich

Seven Seconds or Less: my season on the bench with the runnin' and gunnin' Phoenix Suns

Life on the Run

Loose Balls: the short, wild life of the American Basketball Association

Heaven is a playground

Monday, October 22, 2007

The novella

The novella is commonly known as a work of fiction falling somewhere in length between a short story and a novel. The first novellas started in Italy during the Middle Ages and were quite a bit shorter than what is considered a novella today. These tales were often gathered in collections and some authors would use a frame story to tie the tales together, such as in Giovanni Boccccio's Decameron or The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. The German version, called a Novelle, was very successful beginning in the 18th century. According to Encyclopedia Brittannica, these stories were "characterized by brevity, self-contained plots that end on a note of irony, a literate and facile style, restraint of emotion, and objective rather than subjective presentation." The novella was established as a major literary genre from this point forward.

Do you have a favorite novella? Let us know! Here are a few classic and contemporary novellas available at the Austin Public Library:

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Death in Venice by Thomas Mann

The Death of Ivan Ilych and Other Stories by Leo Tolstoy

The Scribe: A Novella by Francine Rivers

A Soul in a Bottle by Tim Powers

Agamemnon's Daughter: A Novella and Stories by Ismail Kadare

Come Together, Fall Apart: A Novella and Stories by Cristina Henríquez

Becoming Abigail: A Novella by Christopher Abani

Friday, October 19, 2007

Perfume Books

"Where should one use perfume?", a young woman asked. "Wherever one wants to be kissed", I said.
Coco Chanel The New Quotable Woman (p. 276)

The Library has a variety of books on most subjects. Quite often, you can approach a topic through reading fiction and nonfiction books. Below you will find books about the allure and history of perfume.

The Secret of Scent: Adventures in Perfume and Science of Smell
Author is a biophysicist who uses his theory of olfaction to design new fragrances.
The Emperor of Scent : a Story of Perfume, Obsession, and the Last Mystery of the Senses
A portrait of the secretive and Byzantine perfume industry.
Essence and Alchemy
Treatise on the history and making of perfume.
Scented Palace : the Secret History of Marie Antoinette's Perfumer
The author, a professor at the Versailles School of Perfumers, draws on the papers of perfumer Jean-Louis Fargeon to reveal the secrets of his luxurious creations for Marie Antoinette.

Perfume: the Story of a Murderer
A murderous perfumer of decadent eighteenth-century France wants to isolate the most perfect scent of all, the scent of life itself.
Madame Mirabou's School of Love
As newly divorced Nikki tries to find herself, her old dream of making perfume as a business instead of a hobby infuses her with purpose.
Crimson Petal and the White
In this bawdy, brilliant novel, a prostitute in Victorian England is taken up by a wealthy man, the perfumer William Rackham, and she must balance financial security against the obvious servitude of her position.

For more reading recommendations, please see the Good Reads Historical Fiction and Historical Romance lists.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Craft series: Embroidery

It seems like everywhere you look, everyone is knitting, or talking about crocheting, or buying something embroidered…what’s the deal? What’s all the hubbub? It seems like everyone is crazy about knitting, crocheting, embroidery, or any of those wonderful DIY crafty type things.

This week, I’ll chat about embroidery.

Beginnings: The 2005 Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion states that “(t)he origins of this art form, mentioned in the Bible and in Greek mythology, are lost. Textile scholar Lanto Synge posits that it probably originated in China, and documents early surviving fragments that are estimated as being 4,500 years old. In South America embroideries from the fifth century B.C.E. have been recovered from tombs.”

Books: Do a simple subject keyword search for embroidery in our Library catalog. You will find hundreds of books on patterns, how-to, and history, including 2006’s Sublime stitching: hundreds of hip embroidery patterns and how-to by local embroidery extraordinaire, Jenny Hart. You can also scan the bookshelves in any of our Libraries in the call number area 746s.

Who’s doing it: If you’re in Austin, you’re in good company when it comes to embroidery! The Internet has had a hand in bringing crafts such as knitting, crocheting and embroidery back in a big way. There are tons of blogs, websites, guilds, and other fun stuff online. Here’s one for the locals:
Jenny Hart’s fabulous website

Don’t forget! We have a “knitting” circle here at the Central Branch of the Austin Public Library, every Friday 11-12. Bring your new or continuing projects and chat with fellow stitchers!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Che Guevara: polemic icon

Ernesto “Che” Guevara died on October 9th,, 40 years ago. His work throughout Latin America, and his ideals have been a point of controversy while he was alive and even today. For some, Che Guevara symbolizes the revolution, the fight for the common good and democracy, but for others he is seen as an enemy of freedom and a supporter of extreme communist ideologies.

Something inarguable is his impact in the history of Latin America during the 20th century: he has a key role in the Cuban revolution, for example. Current political movements in Latin America still use Che Guevara’s beliefs as part of their core values.

Che Guevara has turned into a social and cultural icon that people either love or hate.

To learn more about “el Che” here are some books that you can check out from our library:

Che: a memoir

Traveling with Che Guevara: the making of a revolutionary

Back on the road: a journey to Latin America

Chasing Che: a motorcycle journey in search of the Guevara legend

Che Guevara: a revolutionary life

Compañero: the life and death of Che Guevara

Friday, October 12, 2007

2007 Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing

You can’t win the Nobel Prize in Literature as a flash-in-the-pan. Nope. You need a substantial body of highly regarded work to even be considered. Worth over $1.5 million in tax-exempt prize money, the Nobel provides a hefty nest-egg plus the glamour of pocketing the world’s most prestigious literary award.

Yesterday, the Swedish Academy announced the selection of Doris Lessing as the 104th Nobel Laureate. Ms. Lessing’s first book was published in 1950, and she has remained incredibly prolific over the last six decades. Her early works expressed the world’s burgeoning feminist ideals; she devoutly condemned colonialism; and she became a noted science fiction writer. She followed disparate paths throughout her career, yet no matter which way she went, Doris Lessing always wrestled with society’s ills gracefully.

The grass is singing

The golden notebook

The memoirs of a survivor

The good terrorist

The fifth child

The Doris Lessing reader

Under my skin

Love, again

The cleft

The making of the representative for Planet 8

An interesting history of the Nobel Prize

The Nobel Prize: a history of genius, controversy, and prestige

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Pantomime: silence and art

Who hasn’t seen a mime while passing by or while sitting comfortably under a tree at the park? Most of us have seen them and enjoyed their ethereal and magical silent art. Mimes can make us dream about love and freedom; they can also transmit deep messages about human nature and conflicts.

This unique form of art has its origins in ancient Greece. It evolved during the medieval times and during the nineteenth century. Jean-Gaspard Deburau, a Czech artist, gave mimes or pantomimes the appearance and characteristics they have today.

One of the most important exponents of pantomime in our times was Marcel Marceu, who passed away last month. This wonderful French artist toured the world inspiring new generations to explore this form of art and to enjoy it.

Our library has books on the art of pantomime that you can check out:

All about mime : understanding and performing the expressive silence

Talking about mime : an illustrated guide

Be a mime!

Mime and beyond : the silent outcry

Monday, October 08, 2007

Think Before You Send

A new book, Send: the Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home, will help you avoid the myriad of problems that can occur with emails. The authors want us all to think before we send. In fact, they have created a website called Thinkbeforeyou send that collects annoying emails.

The authors begin the book by listing the main problems with email:

1. The email that's incredibly vague.

2. The email that insults you so badly that you have to get up from your desk.

3. The email that puts you in jail. Remember it's a permanent and searchable record.

4. The email that's cowardly. Often things need to be said in person.

5. The email that won't go away - Re: Re: Re: Re:

6. The email that's so sarcastic that you have to get up from your desk.

7. The email that's too casual for the situation.

8. The email that's inappropriate. And remember that your email can be easily forwarded to someone else.

9. Email that should have been a phone call- conveying emotion, handling a delicate situation, testing the waters, trying to reach an agreement, bringing things to a close.

10. Email with huge attachments that take up a lot of space.

Friday, October 05, 2007

What Are You Watching?

It’s that time of year when once again we rush home from work, plop down on the couch and become slaves to our favorite television shows. That’s right, prime time is back with brand new episodes, but before you see what happens next you might want to catch up with what’s already happened. Can’t remember who is still lost on that mysterious island or why Dr. House is so grumpy, then look no further than your local public library. The Austin Public library has an extensive audio-video collection that contains a number of popular television series on DVD.

Here is just a sample of some of the popular series you can check out from the Austin Public Library:

House M.D.
Desperate Housewives
Grey’s Anatomy
Prison Break

If you don’t see your favorite on the list, then take a minute to search the FindIt catalog or call the reference desk for help at 974-7400. All you need is a library card to check out videos and DVDs from the library, no expensive rental fees required. So grab a snack and put on something comfortable and take a weekend to get caught up with all your favorite characters. And don’t forget to check out the TV Guide website to find local listings for your favorite shows so you don’t miss an episode this season!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Whole lot of short stories

The short story is unique. Unlike the typical novel, a short story can be read in one sitting. Therein lies its mystique: a complete literary experience occurring within the time it takes to enjoy a cup of coffee. Some of the world’s best writers primarily penned short stories. Although, some novelists couldn’t write a short story if their legacies depended upon it.
Within the past couple of years, an American short story renaissance has not only begun, but flourished. Whether a classic short story or one of the American new breed, give one of these collections a whirl. You might be surprised by the depth and skill encapsulated within a mere thirty pages.


Flannery O’Connor The Complete Stories

Anton Chekhov Stories

The Stories of John Cheever

Grace Paley The Collected Stories

Raymond Carver What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway

Franz Kafka The Complete Stories

The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty

Bernard Malamud The Complete Stories

New breed

Lorrie Moore Birds of America

Anthony Doerr The Shell Collector

Oscar Casares Brownsville

Charles D’Ambrosio The Dead Fish Museum

Edward P. Jones All Aunt Hagar’s Children

Richard Ford A Multitude of Sins

Miranda July No One Belongs Here More than You

Lydia Davis Varieties of Disturbance

Yiyun Li A Thousand Years of Good Prayers

Monday, October 01, 2007

Improving the Workplace

If you, or someone you know, complains about low morale at work, reading some books on how to improve the workplace might help.

The Seven-Day Weekend

Joy at Work

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace

Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-based Management

Weird Ideas that Work: 11 1/2 Practices for Promoting, Managing, and Sustaining Motivation

Or you can watch
The Office, the TV series about a dysfunctional workplace, and be convinced that your workplace is not so bad. The original BBC version is even better.