Friday, May 29, 2009

Really Good, Short Novels

It seems that too many novels are too long by as much as 200 pages. Often those pages aren't without interest, and if--like the author--you find the narrative voice of the novel compelling in itself, you will not mind the lengthy anecdotes, detailed descriptions, and irrelevant digressions, but sometimes you want a well-written, short book, one that you can finish easily within the Library's 3-week check out period.

Our latest blogs have been about male authors, so these authors are all women. The six titles listed are recommended by myself, friends, and coworkers.

Good, short novels, recently published, at APL

The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Muriel Barbery 325 pp
Wry and erudite tale of a middle-aged French concierge named Rene, who hides her hard-won self-education in the humanities from her building's wealthy tenants, astutely comments on class, presumption and power.

The Great Man. Kate Christensen 320 pp
Scintillating comedy of life among the art avant-garde.

Lark and Termite. Jayne Ann Phillips. 272 pp
Lyrical novel about sibling love is narrated by four characters and set during the 1950s in West Virginia and Korea.

Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name. Vendela Vida. 226 pp
The hunt for her biological father—and the resumption of a search for her mother who left when Clarissa was 14—lead Clarissa to mystical Lapland.

Life Class Pat Barker 320 pp
Explores the impact of World War I on three student artists in England.

Ms Hempel Chronicles. Sarah Shun-lien Bynum. 208 pp
Funny, masterfully written, collection of eight interconnected stories about Beatrice Hempel, a middle school English teacher who is full of both hope and insecurity on the brink of confident adulthood, and despite feeling disenchanted with her job, she regards her students as intelligent and fascinating.

Olive Kitteridge. Elizabeth Strout. 304 pp
Thirteen linked tales with themes of suicide, depression, poor communication, aging and love, revolve around Olive Kitteridge, a

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Thanks for the fire, dear Benedetti

I never liked to listen to poets reading their own poetry out loud, but there was an exception: I loved listening to Mario Benedetti. His voice made his own poetry sound more powerful and deep. His intonation made your heart change shades of feelings: anger, loneliness, love, desperation, hope, sometimes all at once. You start listening to his poems and he seduces you, making you an addict.

But Mario Benedetti’s writing was not only limited to poetry. He authored short stories, essays, plays, and novels. Human nature, one can say, is the main topic of his works and that might be the reason why he has been one of the most widely read and translated Latin American authors of our time. Because of his political views Benedetti was in exile for 12 years. During that time, he lived in various Latin American countries and Spain where his work is well known and admired.

This exceptional Uruguayan writer passed away two weeks ago and people around the world are in mourning. So thanks for the fire, dear Benedetti, thanks for all the feelings, and ideas you shared with us through your art. Now, enjoy a sample of his work:

I can´t still believe it,
You are arriving to my side
And the night is a handful
Of stars and happiness.
I feel, taste, listen and see
Your face, your long step,
Your hands and, however,
I can´t still believe it.
Your return has so much
In common with you and me,
That, because I guess it I say it,
And because of the doubts I sing it.
No one ever could replace you
And the most trivial things
Become fundamental,
Because you are arriving home,
However I still
Doubt of this good luck,
Because the pleasure of having you
Seems to me like a fantasy.
But you come and it is sure
And you come with your gaze,
And for that reason your arrival
Makes the future magic.
And although I have not always understood
My blames and my breakdowns,
On the other hand I know that in your arms
The world has sense.
And if I kiss the audacity
And the mystery of your lips
There won't be doubts nor misunderstandings,
I will love you much more.

Some of his books that you can find at the library are:

Memoria y esperanza (audio book)

Little stones at my window = Piedritas en la ventana : poems (Book in English and Spanish)

Blood pact & other stories

La tregua
(audio book on cassette)

El cumpleaños de Juan Angel

El amor, las mujeres y la vida

Monday, May 25, 2009

Summer Lovin'

As a kid, Memorial Day weekend always meant the beginning of the greatest season on earth, SUMMER! I knew that school was coming to an end and I could spend the summer in shorts and flip flops. I could go to the library and check out books that I would actually enjoy reading. I could go swimming every day. I could explore my neighborhood and play with the kids on my street until after dark. I love summertime and as a Mom, I intend on passing that love on to my kid. Austin is chock full of wonderful things to do and see. I've put together a little list of links and things to look at for your summer pleasure. Enjoy!

The 2009 guide to free summer movies in Austin, enjoy watching movies? Check out this blog with a pretty comprehensive list of neat places to check out some good flicks this summer.

The Austin Family Fun Guide, a GREAT collection of free or inexpensive activities to enjoy this summer, or anytime of the year.

99 Things to do with your little one in Austin before Kindergarten, nice list for those of us with little-bitty ones!

Free fun every day of the week in Austin, a short list of things you can do in town on certain days.

200+ ideas for summertime fun, ideas from kids and their Moms for those “I’m bored” moments.

15 quick activities to keep kids busy, a Mommy blog with some great ideas on how to keep the kids busy.

Austin Kidbits Blog on Play, things to do in town with the kids, some things cost money, but sound fun!

I Buy Local Austin, support your local businesses, links to places all over town.

City of Austin's Park department, Good ole City of Austin’s park department webpage. Packed with tons of things the kids (and adults!) will enjoy this summer! Click on “Summer Fun” for specially planned activities for the family.

Check out the Austin Museum of Art for FREE this summer. Just show your Austin Public Library card and you can check out the museum for free, June through August. Check out their other family-friendly events as well.

Do you have 20 bottle caps, plastic lids or two yards of fabric? Strange question, right? Well if you do, bring them to the Austin Children’s Museum for a free pass! (this offer ends on May 31st) Then find out how all those caps and fabric will be used.

And, of course, don't forget the Library! This summer's reading program is called "One Green World". Join in this summer and read some great books. Come to a storytime, a gaming tournament, or check out the crafting sessions. Whatever you enjoy, the Library has it!

Some fun books:
Day trips: Texas tours, maps & photos from the column of the same name in the Austin Chronicle

Day trips from Austin: getaway ideas for the local traveler

The Family Manager's Guide to Summer Survival

Pocket Guide to Games

Friday, May 22, 2009

Buy Green, Save Green

This Memorial Day weekend offers shoppers the chance to save money and help the environment by purchasing Energy Star-approved appliances tax free. The Energy Star sticker indicates that the item adheres to “strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the EPA and US Department of Energy.” Visit the Window on State Government web site for more information about the tax-free weekend.

Buying energy-efficient appliances is only the beginning. Here are a few more tips for being green from John Javna’s new edition of the classic 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth:

  • Learn about and talk to your legislators about electric cars.

  • Plant a tree.

  • Set up a rain barrel.

  • Don’t take a bag at the store if you only have an item or two.

  • Buy organic and avoid genetically engineered food.

The Austin Public Library will be hosting free series of Green Livin' talks presented by Austin Energy beginning June 6th. Come by for information on green building, harvesting rainwater, conserving energy, and saving money. Below are additional resources available for check out at your library:

Green: Your Place in the New Energy Revolution by Jane Hoffman

Hey Mr. Green: Sierra Magazine's Answer Guy Tackles Your Toughest Green Living Questions by Bob Schildgen

The Eco Chick Guide To Life: How to Be Fabulously Green by Starre Vartan

The Complete Guide to a Green Home: The Good Citizen's Guide to Earth-Friendly Remodeling & Home Maintenance by Philip Schmidt

The Green Book: The Everyday Guide to Saving the Planet One Simple Step at a Time by Elizabeth Rogers

The Lazy Environmentalist: Your Guide to Easy, Stylish, Green Living by Josh Dorfman.

Who Killed the Electric Car? [videorecording]

Building Green [videorecording]

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hugo Chavez as tastemaker

If you invited the Venezuelan president to your birthday party, he would probably present you with a book. Let’s say that for some reason international media is also attending the party, that book would rapidly become a bestseller. Hugo Chavez gifted a Noam Chomsky tome a few years back and it rocketed up the charts. Last month at the Summit of the Americas, Chavez did it again. He gave Barack Obama a copy of Eduardo Galeano’s seminal The Open Veins of Latin America. The book quickly climbed from number 54,295 to number two on Amazon’s bestseller list.

Eduardo Galeano is one of my favorite writers. Galeano writes like no one I’ve ever read. He tells of struggles and triumphs using poignantly poetic vignettes rather than the traditional chaptered structure of history texts. Galeano provides a lesson to the realm of historiography: history has a literary and beating heart that we all share despite our myriad differences. His writing is engaged, witty, and never short of compassion. Galeano constantly reminds us that we are infinitely more similar than we are different.

The Austin Public Library owns several works by Eduardo Galeano.

The Open Veins of Latin America

Voices in Time

Upside Down: a Primer for the Looking-Glass World

Soccer in Sun and Shadow

We Say No: Chronicles 1963-1991

Memory of Fire

Galeano’s newest work—Mirrors—will be published May 25th.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Intensified Rude Boy

It’s beginning to get warmer here in Austin. Having grown up never being more than 15 minutes from the nearest beach, my mood shifts to more of a tropical state of mind as winter comes to an end. It’s hard to reconcile my music inclinations with living in Central Texas. I feel so completely odd, more so than usual, driving around town listening to one of my favorite Jamaican musicians, Desmond Dekker, in the land of twang. But that doesn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying one of Jamaica’s greatest musical talents. Listen for yourself. The Austin Public Library has a good selection of Desmond Dekker’s music readily available for checkout.

You can get it if you really want [sound recording]: the definitive collection

The harder they come [sound recording]: original soundtrack recording

This is reggae music [sound recording]: the golden era, 1960-1975

The King Kong compilation: the historic reggae recordings 1968-1970 sound recording

Rebel music. Volume 2 [sound recording]: a reggae anthology

Caribbean playground [sound recording]

Friday, May 15, 2009

Steve Martin - From Waco to LA

I was a Steve Martin fan before I read his memoir, but I really enjoyed reading Born Standing Up , which begins with his unhappy childhood, and then takes us through his formative years at the Knott's Berry Farm Bird Cage Theatre, his salad days as a TV writer for the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and his interminable stint as a road comic, performing in a different city every night, seemingly destined for nowhere, but then, finally, when he had become the country’s most popular standup comedian, he packed his bag of props one night after a performance in front of 30,000 fans and never did it again. It’s also about an artist’s creative process, how he put together his act, using his intellectual rigor, planning and honing, to use all his talents and interests – magic tricks, singing, banjo playing, logic, vaudeville.

In the book, he relates how meticulously he studied tapes of his standup performances, warily cutting out missteps. From the beginning he was devoted to his craft - a mix of astute, observational wit, fluid body language, and a desire to do a different type of comedy. He explains his theories of comedy, and those of others, too. He’s more dedicated and sympathetic, than “wild and crazy”.

Most comics work the celebrity roast circuit when they grow older, but Martin now writes serious novels and collects contemporary art. In fact, Steve Martin wrote the afterward in a book the Library just received about the American artist, Eric Fischl.

Sampling of Steve Martin’s work at the Library

Novels, Essays, Plays
Cruel Shoes
The Pleasure of My Company
Pure Drivel
Picasso at the Lapin Agile and Other Plays

Father of the Bride
LA Story
The Jerk

Comedy CD

A Wild and Crazy Guy

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bicycle! Bicycle! I want to ride my bicycle!!

It is time to celebrate National Bicycle Month!

Bikes have experienced drastic changes over time. The first bikes, like the ones called “push bikes” invented by Karl Von Drais and introduced to the public for the first time in 1817, were made out of wood and didn’t have pedals or chains. Several inventors, mostly from Europe modified this bicycle during the 1800’s, adding chain-drive transmission, pedals, rubber wheels, and also changing its design by trying different sizes of tires and materials to manufacture them.

Today, high technology is used in the design of bikes. Bikes can be as light as a feather and come in different styles depending on the interest of the rider. Riders can choose from road bikes, mountain bikes, recumbent bikes, and even tandem bikes for those who want to share the biking experience with someone else at the same time.

Austin has been designated as a bicycle friendly community by the League of American Bicyclists and the City of Austin Bicycle and Pedestrian Program has lots of events for you to enjoy this month. Check out these activities! By the way, this Friday May 15 will be a Bike2work day nationwide. So, this is the perfect time to dust off that bike that is hanging in the garage and bike away!

If you are a bike enthusiast don’t forget to sample the magazines the library offers:

Southwest cycling news
BMX plus

Some titles you might find interesting are:
Bicycle repair manual

Bike, scooter, and chopper projects for the evil genius

The Bicycling guide to complete bicycle maintenance & repair : for road & mountain bikes

Every woman's guide to cycling : everything you need to know, from buying your first bike to winning your first race

The Chainbreaker bike book : a rough guide to bicycle maintenance / by Ethan Clark and Shelley Lynn Jackson

And don't forget Il Giro D'Italia is on right now, enjoy!!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Postal Service

In honor of the stamp rate increase, today's post is about our beloved postal system. A lot of people gripe about the increase in cost of postage stamps (up from 42 to 44 cents), but few know why. From what it looks like, the stamp price increase has followed inflation the last few years. That, added to rising fuel costs, production costs, businesses not using the USPS for their advertising, online bill pay systems and the tanking economy, all has contributed to the 2 cent rise. Read the many articles about the rate increase on one of my favorite Library databases, Pressdisplay.

In the meantime, read about the postal services and other postal related things.

Famous Postal Workers - did you know Charles Bukowski, Walt Disney, Sherman Hemsley, Rock Hudson, and Knute Rockne all worked in the post office?

Introduction of self-adhesive stamps in 1989 - have you ever licked a postage stamp, it's been a while.

Learn more about stamps at the Smithsonian Museum - a beautiful little museum in Washington, DC.

Thumb through the latest edition of the Postage Stamp Catalogue at the Library.

Are you a stamp collector? How about checking out a buyer's guide?

Interested in a Post Office job?

Here's a nice book on the Texas Post Office Murals.

And one for the kids, The Post Office Book.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Home Sweet Home

Young couple resting on sofa in front boxes on front lawn

Buying a new house is an exciting experience, but it’s also fraught with stress and endless complications. Option fees, earnest money, inspection fees, and commissions all eat away at your loan down payment. Just when you think you have the perfect house, a foundation or other serious structural problem emerges during the inspection. Then, when the planets align just so and everything comes together, you are still faced with the move. My own move last weekend brought trouble with the moving van, scheduling issues with the previous owners, and the clichéd story of the cable company not showing up…twice. We’ve managed to muddle through the entire process, but I wish I had checked out some of the following titles before we decided to buy a new home. Knowing more in advance about all of the real estate vocabulary and contracts would have made the experience less nerve racking. Check out some of these recent titles especially if you are taking advantage of the first-time home buyer tax credit:

Mortgage Myths: 77 Secrets That Will Save You Thousands on Home Financing by Ralph Roberts

Home Rich: How to Buy, Manage, Improve, and Sell the Most Valuable Investment of Your Life by Gerri Willis

Your Guide to VA Loans: How to Cut Through the Red Tape and Get Your Dream Home Fast by David Reed

Condo Buying & Ownership Made Simple: Tips to Save Time and Money by Kay Senay

Moving With Kids: 25 Ways to Ease Your Family's Transition to a New Home by Lori Collins Burgan

The Expert Expat: Your Guide to Successful Relocation Abroad: Moving, Living, Thriving by Melissa Brayer Hess

Moving 1-2-3: Expert Advice from the Home Depot by Home Depot

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Crazy Horse, man, myth

Crazy Horse was a loner. He preferred solitude and quiet. It is this reticence that led to well over a century of misinformation and misinterpretation. He left no written words and spoke only sparingly, which left historians with little to construct the story of Crazy Horse, but with a whole lot from which to construct the myth of Crazy Horse. The myth of a man and the actual man aren’t necessarily opposed, but without much rooting in interviews and documents, the writer is left free to interpret and the myth slowly creeps away from the man. While other notable American Indians, such as Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, and Spotted Tail, interacted with frontier officials, Crazy Horse remained a fleeting figure. He sparingly entered the theater of the frontier, and it still remains difficult to confirm in which battles he actually participated. Many aspects of Crazy Horse remain debatable, but his bravery and generosity have remained unchallenged.

Some notable books about Crazy Horse and the American Plains

Crazy Horse (Larry McMurtry)

Crazy Horse: the Strange Man of the Oglalas (Mari Sandoz)

To Kill an Eagle: Indian Views on the Death of Crazy Horse (Edward Kadlecek)

The Lance and the Shield (Robert M. Utley)

On the Border with Crook (John Gregory Bourke)

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (Dee Brown)

Son of the Morning Star (Evan Connell)

The Sixth Grandfather (John Neihardt and Rayond DeMaillie)

The Crazy Horse Memorial (pictured above) is under construction in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Mutiny on the Bounty / Mutiny on Pitcairn Island

The Mutiny on the Bounty really did happen. It’s not just a movie that was made in Hollywood starring Marlon Brando or Mel Gibson or potentially some future leading man depending on what generation you belong to. One component of the story is that some of the crew members, led by Fletcher Christian, were so enamored with the beauty of the women and way of life on the island of Tahiti that they turned against their ship’s captain, set him adrift in a lifeboat, and ultimately made course for another island of the South Pacific to live blissfully with these native women for the rest of their lives.

Fast forward a few hundred years and holes in the fabric of this exotic and romantic fantasy begin to appear. Much like in the Lord of the Flies, the dark side of human nature manifested itself in the form of some very unsavory cultural practices. The natives, who are all the direct descendants of the mutineers, contend that these practices are in keeping with other island cultures of the region. The British authorities, who have very loosely governed Pitcairn Island from a very long distance for hundreds of years, did not agree. Read all about these troubling occurrences in a new work entitled, Lost Paradise: from Mutiny on the Bounty to a Modern-Day Legacy of Sexual Mayhem, the Dark Secrets of Pitcairn Island Revealed. Find this and other resources associated with this infamous historical event at the Austin Public Library. I’ve listed a few titles below just to get you started.

The Bounty : the True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty

The Mutiny of the Bounty

Mutiny on the Bounty

Friday, May 01, 2009

How to Have a Memorable Meal

Do you remember that rich, delicious piece of chocolate torte you ate last week? If so, you shouldn't feel like food rules your world – it’s only natural. Some of the world’s leading memory researchers at the University of California at Irvine have found that eating fat-rich foods triggers the formation of long-term memories of that activity. They discovered that dietary fats cause memory consolidation, the process by which superficial, short-term memories are transformed into meaningful, long-term ones. You can see how this would help our ancestors find their next meal. They would remember where they spotted that woolly mammoth. Of course, we have to be more careful today, because it’s all too easy for us to hunt down fat-rich foods at the corner fast-food restaurant.

So the next time you want to have a memorable meal, add some (unsaturated) fat to your recipes. The Library has a wonderful collection of cookbooks. Below are some new Library titles from the James Beard Foundation 2008 Cookbook Awards that are relevant to the study. And for more information on healthy fats see the Library’s array of health and medicine databases. Or visit the Library to copy a recipe from one of the Library's many cooking magazines.

Edited by: Marcelle Bienvenu and Judy Walker

Decadent Desserts (on order)
By Jennifer McLagan

By Ellie Krieger

If the book is checked out, you can place it on hold.