Wednesday, December 30, 2009
(all novels mentioned are available at the Austin Public Library)
“So [said the doctor]. Now vee may perhaps to begin. Yes?”
-Philip Roth, Portnoy’s Complaint
“I’ll pray, and then I’ll sleep.”
-Marilynne Robinson, Gilead
“And however superciliously the highbrows carp, we the public in our heart of hearts all like a success story; so perhaps my ending is not so unsatisfactory after all.”
-W. Somerset Maugham, The Razor’s Edge
“He wrote: So this is what everybody’s always talking about! Diablo! If only I’d known. The beauty! The beauty!”
-Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
“’Like a dog!’ he said, it was as if the shame of it must outlive him.”
-Franz Kafka, The Trial
“Columbus too thought he was a flop, probably, when they sent him back in chains. Which didn’t prove there was no America.
-Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March
“Everything we need that is not food or love is here in the tabloid racks. The tales of the supernatural and extraterrestrial. The miracle vitamins, the cures for cancer, the remedies for obesity. The cults of the famous and the dead.”
-Don DeLillo, White Noise
“It was a fine cry—loud and long—but it had no bottom and it had no top, just circles and circles of sorrow.”
-Toni Morrison, Sula
“’Meet Mrs. Bundren,” he says.”
-William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying
“I was grateful to him for calling me back and reminding me where I belonged, in the clamorous, radiant, painfully beautiful kingdom of the living.”
-Francince Prose, Goldengrove
Going a bit further, the last page of The Great Gatsby is my favorite last page of all time. I won’t say it is my favorite novel, but that last page is incredible.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Saturday, December 26, 2009
When asked how he could write such sad but funny books, Tropper replied, “It wouldn't occur to me to write it any other way. I don't do it with great consciousness. No matter what you're writing about--death, divorce--in every situation that involves more than one human being, there's going to be an element of comedy. Irony is everywhere.” (Publisher's Weekly interview June 1, 2009) Warner Brothers has acquired the rights to the book and Tropper will write the first draft.
Family Man by Elinor Lipman is another book that will make you smile over and over, but without the tears. In this sparkling comedy, gay Manhattan attorney Henry Archer gets the shock of his life when he realizes the receptionist he's just tipped is none other than his stepdaughter, whom he hasn't seen in 25 years. Before long, his stepdaughter is back in his life and Henry's got his hands full with her, his endlessly chatty ex-wife Denise, a new lover, and the countless others who wander in and out of his elegant Upper West Side brownstone. As always, the pleasure of a Lipman book is not so much the wispy plot, but the characters. But it's the first book I have read in a long time that has a happy ending.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Oh, yes, this is the time of the year when everybody talks about The Nutcracker, the wonderful ballet with music by Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky that fascinates children and adults.
In 1816 E. T. A Hoffman wrote the book Nussknacker und Mausekönig or Nutcracker and the Mouse King. He was a prolific artist: writer, composer, caricaturist, and music critic. Hoffman was one of the most influential artists during Romanticism in Germany. His work not only inspired authors, but composers as well, as in the case of Jack Offebach, who wrote his composition Tales of Hoffman.
In 1891 Marious Petipa hired Tchaikovsky to write the music for the ballet inspired by Hoffman’s book. A year later, the first Nutcracker show was performed at the Russian Mariinsky Theatre. This ballet was performed in different cities around the world, and finally in the 1930s the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo performed it in New York. Little by little, this ballet started gaining popularity and could be now considered a Christmas tradition.
Austin Public Library has copies of the children's book by Hoffman, the music by Tchaikovsky, and videos with different performances of this ballet. Feel free to check those out and have a happy holiday!
- The Nutcracker (DVD) Baryshnikov, Mikhail
- The Nutcracker (DVD) Tomasson, Helgi
- Maurice Béjart's The Nutcracker (a different take on Tchaikovsky’s ballet)
- The Nutcracker Ekaterina Maksimova
- Nutcracker by Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky
- The Nutcracker: Complete Ballet, Op. 71 sound recording
*Picture taken from Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center, University of Northern Iowa
Monday, December 21, 2009
So, you have four days until the big day, and you haven't done any shopping. You're off work, but don't really want to hit the big box stores, who does? Well, luckily you live in Austin. A wonderful town full of libraries with great books, museums, and crafters. Personally, I like a gift that isn't all plastic and cheap. I love something handcrafted or something made by someone who lives in the same town I do! Below are some handy links to folks who make things, some wonderful shops, and fabulous books and magazines on how to make that one of a kind, beautiful gift, available right here in the library. Hurry!
Denyse Schmidt Quilts: 30 Colorful Quilt and Patchwork Projects
Last-Minute Christmas Gifts: Crafting Quick and Crafty Presents for Everyone on Your List by Carol Taylor
Last-Minute Fabric Gifts: 30 Hand sew, Machine Sew & No Sew Projects by Cynthia Treen
Last-Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson
Last-Minute Patchwork & Quilted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson
Weekend Sewing: More Than 40 Projects and Ideas for Inspired Stitching by Heather Ross
Cloth Paper Scissors
Shuttle Spindle & Dyepot
Austin Craft Mafia
Austin Independent Business Alliance
Events and calendars:
Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, an Austin favorite
Art of Texas events
Austin Convention and Visitor's Bureau
Blue Genie Art Bazaar
Museum gift shops:
Austin Children's Museum
Austin Museum of Art
Texas State History Museum
Austin Convention and Visitor's Bureau
Austin Independent Business Alliance
Friday, December 18, 2009
Fallada’s novels are about average people grappling with being unexceptional. Some succumb, some accommodate, some triumph in small ways. Fallada loathed accommodating his Nazi censors, but triumphed after the war with Every Man Dies Alone, a work Primo Levi calls “The greatest book ever written about the German resistance to the Nazis.” In it, a bland husband and wife who have lost their soldier son risk everything to oppose the regime. Central to the story is the futility of the couple’s effort and the smallness of their deed compared to the monster they’re up against.
The English publication earlier this year of Every Man Dies Alone was a literary event, and two other of Fallada’s novels were republished to make a set. The library has all three. (A fourth, Wolf Among Wolves, will be published in January, 2010.)
If you’re into bleak, Fallada is your man.
Little Man, What Now?
Every Man Dies Alone
Every Man Dies Alone is a staff pick for 2009.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
The New York Times profiled Mr. Achebe today and discussed his new book, The Education of a British-Protected Child. The Austin Public Library has ordered it and it should be arriving shortly.
In the meantime, the Austin Public Library owns numerous works by Chinua Achebe as well as books about Nigerian literature.
Things Fall Apart
Anthills of the Savannah
Girls at War
A Man of the People
Home and Exile
Bernth Lindfors’ Early Nigerian Literature
Wole Soyinka's The Open Sore of a Continent
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
Who made the first snowman? Who first came up with the idea of placing snowballs on top of each other, and who decided they would use a carrot for a nose?
Humorist Bob Eckstein successfully argues for the cultural importance of the snowman in The History of the Snowman. Journeying backwards through time, Eckstein searches for the first snowman, moving from the present all the way back to the 14th century. Again and again, the snowman pops up in rare prints, paintings, early movies, advertising and, over the past century, in every art form imaginable. The book includes more than two hundred surprising pictures of snowfolk, both contemporary and historical, from Old Dutch to Charles Addams.
Some facts in the book:
- There are no snowmen in the dry, cold Arctic where humidity is below 20% and the temperature below 10° F--both must be higher in order to pack snow.
- The Association of Education Publishers has banned the use of the word "snowman" in textbooks because it is gender biased.
- The Taliban banned snowman-making when it came to power in 1996.
- Snowmen go way back. Even cavemen are thought to have made snowmen.
- The Middle Ages were the snowman’s heyday.
- Bottle-postcards from the 1920s show all the snowmen drunk. Later they were big in liquor ads.
And of course, the book has its own website.
Recent fiction featuring snowmen:
The Chocolate Snowman Murders
Lee Woodyard, who runs a chocolate store in a Michigan tourist town, is coordinating the local holiday art festival when the guest juror ends up dead.
The Night of the Wolf
Stories in this collection center on an impossible crime, especially in The Abominable Snowman, in which witnesses see a snowman come to life and stab a man to death.
The snowman building contest turns into a double murder investigation after the frozen bodies of two policemen turn up inside two of the snowmen.
The Snowman’s Children
Moving, psychologically intense novel tells the story of an incident from one man's childhood in the 1970s, when a serial killer called The Snowman stalked the streets of suburban Detroit.
The Year of the Flood
Retelling of the 2003 novel Oryx and Crake shows how Glenn and Jimmy became Crake and the Snowman.
For more books that explore one, sometimes obscure, topic, see Good Read's One Word Wonders list.
*Postcard from the Smithsonian magazine.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Four hundred years ago, Galileo designed his most wonderful creation: a telescope. At that time, there were already other telescopes invented by other scientists in Europe. The problem with those was that they could only magnify objects 4 times. Galileo’s telescope, on the other hand, was able to magnify things 20 times. This tool allowed Galileo to prove, to his misfortune and to our fortune, that the Copernican Theory that says that the planets rotate around the sun was correct.
If we think about it, it is amazing to see how such a small tool was used for these enormous discoveries. This telescope had only two lenses inside of a stick of wood; if compared to the elaborate ones scientists use nowadays, this is a minuscule instrument. It is with this telescope that Galileo could see Venus, the satellites of Jupiter, a supernova, and the moon. Less light pollution and perhaps better vision back then could have helped Galileo to see more with a rudimentary tool like this.
NASA is planning to launch the James Webb space telescope in 2013. This telescope will use wavelengths and infrared light to be able to see hidden objects in space. With its great mirror, Webb will be able to see 200 million years after the Big Bang. Compared to what happened 400 years ago, it is amazing to see how far science has gone, how many things we know and how many we will learn. I wish Galileo could be here.
Some websites for your enjoyment are:
- More information about Galileo Galilei, his life and findings can be found at the Galileo Project
- Harry Ransom Center has an exhibit called: "Other Worlds: Rare Astronomical Works" from September 8th 2009 to January 3rd, 2010. This is a collection of some of the most important astronomical discoveries over the last 500 years
- Telescopes From the Ground Up
- Galileo’s Battle for the Heavens
If you feel like checking something out from the library, here are some suggestions:
- 400 Years of the Telescope [DVD]: A Journey of Science, Technology and Thought
- Galileo's Glassworks: The Telescope and the Mirror
- Galileo's Battle for the Heavens [DVD]
- The Church and Galileo
- Galileo's Mistake: A New Look at the Epic Confrontation Between Galileo and the Church
- The Telescope: Its History, Technology, and Future
- Stargazer: The Life and Times of the Telescope
** Picture taken from Encyclopædia Britannica Online
Sunday, December 06, 2009
In America, we are very familiar with the media and the people whose lives get thrust upon the television screens, newspapers and magazines. In turn, we, the average citizen, form our own opinions of those people. Chris Brown, Tiger Woods, Courtney Love, President Clinton, and Michael Jackson are just a few people who have been judged in the court of public opinion in recent time. Their stories have been splashed and vamped up with minutia of information.
I have listed below some items that are quite interesting to read. Read as much as you can, listen to as many people and opinions as you can, then form your own.
Private Death of Public Discourse
Connecting Social Problems and Popular Culture: Why Media is not the Answer
Peaches & Daddy: A Story of the Roaring Twenties, the Birth of Tabloid Media, and the Courtship that Captured the Heart and Imagination of the American Public
Michael Jackson: The Magic, the Madness, the Whole Story, 1958-2009
Media Message: What Film, Television, and Popular Music Teach us about Race, Class, Gender and Sexual Orientation
Importance of Being Famous: Behind the Scenes of the Celebrity-Industrial Complex
Read as many newspapers and magazines as you can here.
Friday, December 04, 2009
It has actually become somewhat common knowledge by now that the FBI deliberately set out to destroy the BPP in the 1960s and early 1970s. J. Edgar Hoover and other officials classified the group as nothing more than another criminal gang to contend with. Ultimately, though, it was state and local officials that lent a big hand in destroying the leadership of the BPP. Members and leaders that officials did not kill have been accused of crimes, often serious crimes, they insist they have not committed, such as former Party member Assata Shakur. Even today, the FBI is still offering a $1 million dollar reward for information leading to Shakur's arrest and capture for crimes she is adamant she did not and could not have committed.
One of the consequences of this targeting of the BPP and other members of the Civil Rights Movement, is that African-Americans have been repeatedly robbed of some of their best and brightest leaders. Fred Hampton was a well-known activist who started up food programs for low income kids and health care clinics in areas that desperately needed them, negotiated truces among Chicago inner city gangs, and brought together different minority groups coining the phrase "rainbow coalition." He was charismatic, intelligent, well-respected and well-liked. It was leaders like this that were deliberately targeted, and, as Dr. Quentin Young, put it, "the people who made it their business to kill the leaders of the black movement picked the right ones."
Many people have very strong opinions on this matter and I'll leave it up to you to form and/or strengthen your own. The library is the best place out there to do just that:
*Anything quoted in this article comes from the "Fred Hampton" entry in Contemporary Black Biography, volume 18, and was found using Biography Resource Center - an excellent source for comprehensive biographies and links to resources on a large number of well-known people.
Breaking the Cycle
*Requires an APL library card
Article from 1992 expressing outrage at Fred Hampton, Jr.'s (Fred Hampton's son) arrest during the riots that took place after the Rodney King verdict. Hampton, Jr. spent 9 years in prison for the arson conviction that came after this arrest. He maintains his innocence and details his other run-ins with law enforcement (including being wrongfully accused of murder) here.
Fed by Fear: The FBI's Crusade Against Fred Hampton and the Black Panters
Was Fred Hampton Executed?
*Requires an APL library card
Article from 1976 providing details of the raid and evidence that contradicts the police report.
BOOKS, CDs, MOVIES
Assata: An Autobiography
The Black Panthers: Photographs
Eyes on the Prize (documentary)
The Huey P. Newton Reader
The Murder of Fred Hampton (documentary)
Two Nations of Black America (documentary)
Up Against the Wall: Violence in the Making and Unmaking of the Black Panther Party
You Can't Kill Revolution: Black Panther Party, 1969 (CD - a recording of a speech made by Fred Hampton)
Black Panther Coloring Book
Very interesting; distributed by the FBI in the late 60s
Fred Hampton sound clip from UC Berkely
Power Anywhere Where There's People
Text of a Fred Hampton speech
Shoot it Out: The Death of Fred Hampton
Very thoroughly researched and detailed account of the December 4, 1969 raid
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Nope. Fortunately the library isn’t the place for giving up. The following books are great introductions to weather forecasting. They might not enable you to predict the weather, but they will provide a foundation and just maybe prompt a little slack for the local news meteorologist.
Authors of the Storm: Meteorologists and the Culture of Prediction
Man vs. Weather: How to be Your Own Weatherman
Meteorology Today: An Introduction to Weather, Climate, and the Environment
The Rough Guide to Weather
Storm Warning: The Origins of the Weather Forecast