Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Ferguson Library IS Open

Image and quote via NPR

Scott Bonner, the library's director and its only full-time librarian, kept the building open to provide programming for local students and to offer adults a safe place in the midst of the tumult. The decision marked a renewal of the library's work in August, when it opened its space to impromptu classes during local schools' long closures during protests this summer. On Tuesday, Bonner said, it was tough to gauge just how visitors were reacting to the news.

"I'm seeing a mix of moods," Bonner told Library Journal. "Our volunteers are excited and optimistic, and here to help, and then I have patrons who come in and literally hold my hands and cry — they just needed someone to hold onto and talk to. And everything in between, including people who are doing the regular walk-in, walk-out stuff."

News of the Ferguson Public Library's opening also prompted an outpouring of donations. Partly spurred by social media support from Neil Gaiman, Rachel Maddow and even the show Reading Rainbow, Bonner told CNNMoney that the library's received donations "in the five digits" since the grand jury announcement. And they continue to flood in.

Friday, November 21, 2014

World AIDS Day Suggestions

Image via ybfchic's photobucket

I've agreed to read something for a World AIDS Day event here in Lexington. I'm searching for that thing. Any suggestions?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

AAaaannd...Joni Mitchell once lived in a cave in Crete

Image via The Boston Globe

Maybe Greece really is the cradle of civilization.

Click over for more.

Ursula K. Le Guin at the National Book Awards

More at NPR

Bureau for General Services, Queer Division

Image via Next Magazine

Via the New York Times: At A Gay-Specific Bookstore - Just Books on a Shelf Won't Do

An independent bookstore opened last month with a performance by Gio Black Peter, a downtown artist. Wearing only black boxers, he stood on a translucent plastic tarp and read a poem entitled, “The Morning Star,” flanked by two beer-drinking men.

The crowd, a mix of young bearded men in button-down shirts and their equally hirsute but graying elders, applauded heartily at the end of the reading, their introduction to the Bureau for General Services – Queer Division, a gay bookstore that relocated last month to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center in Greenwich Village.

The opening act was almost as unusal as the store’s mission: operating a bookstore in an era when print is supposedly dying and when there are only a handful of gay-specific bookstores left in North America.

“That was a nice christening, wasn’t it?” said Greg Newton, who owns the store with his partner, Donnie Jochum. To succeed, they plan to do things differently. “The Bureau needs to be a very lively, active space where people come to hang out, kind of like a salon. We can’t just put books on a shelf and wait for people to buy them.”

Visit the Bureau

Out of the Birdcage: how Mike Nichols made gay culture mainstream

Image via IMDB

The Daily Beast has an article on how Mike Nichols' role in the mainstream acceptance of gay culture.

It would be foolish to celebrate Nichols’s impact on gay society by reducing it to the mere fact that he made two big movies—well, one film and one miniseries—about gay people. As a leader, though perhaps an unknowing one, in a Hollywood revolution with a penchant for empowering the outsiders and a keen eye for taste, fabulousness, and strong women, he imbued the community with so much more.

Mike Nichols Dies at 83

Mike Nichols, director of such movies as The Graduate, The Birdcage, and Angels in America, among others, has died. Here you can see him as part of the improve due Nichols and May with Elaine May.

Here is his New York Times obituary

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Seems Relevant: On Returning Homer's Iliad to the Library. Unread.

After weeks of not being motivated to read Homer's Iliad, I finally returned it and added it back to my "to-read" list on Goodreads. I'm just not ready for it.

Which brings me to this post that's been fairly prominent on the website BookRiot: Reading Is Not a Chore: On Quitting Books

I wish we could talk about our reading preferences without invoking the health or state of literature every time, as if Literature is a Fairy that will drop dead somewhere if someone says they don’t believe in it. I like learning about people’s reading habits, and I wish we could just leave it at that.

What am I on about? This article, in which we learn that you must finish every book you begin. I’m not sure there’s a lot of reason to respond to this kind of talk, because that’s the sort of imperative command that you, Dear Reader, probably know what to do with unconsciously. You either go “I do!” or you go “the hell I will.” Unconsciously, you either plow through books, or you give up and wander off to greener pastures.

It got me thinking about the last time I forced my way through a book, though. It was Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. A classic of literature. Widely taught and widely hailed, it is definitely A Great And Important Book. And I’m sure it’s all of these things, but…god, I hated it.

It was boring (to me anyhow). The language was pretentious. The characters were dull. The plot went on and on and seemed determined not to arrive at any kind of resolution until I had confessed to all the crimes I had done, or something.

I can’t remember why I kept reading it. It wasn’t even for school or anything, so I had no excuse. Somehow I had got it into my head I was going to finish this stupid thing, and I did. I remember reading the last 50 pages standing upright (to stay awake), reading them at the speeds I normally read the conclusions of books I’m in love with…but this time, it was desperation, trying to get out of this damn book so I could go read something else. Anything else. It was like pulling a massive all-nighter on the last day of a long driving trip, just to get it over with.

It was the most miserable reading experience of my life. And it had some effects. For one, I actively resent both the book and the author now. I couldn’t help it. This was a form of aversion therapy. Perhaps if I had put it down and wandered off, I might have come back to the book a few years later and tried again. Or perhaps I would have gone “maybe it was just this one, let’s try some other Nabokov.” Neither of these things have happened in the intervening two years since I jammed Lolita up my nose. Examining my feelings now, I loathe the idea of that book, or Nabokov. You would think he slashed my tires or something, but no. It’s all because I forced my way through a book I hated.

So if we are considering whether or not it “hurts literature” for us to finish or not finish books, we can mark this down as a “hurting literature” moment. Because if Nabokov is a super important author that we should read…I am not going to read him. Forcing myself to finish the book cost me that.

Here is my advice: when you love something, don’t do variations on that thing which will make you hate it.

I love exercising, and running in particular…but now and then, I get tired of it. So I stop and go do other stuff for weeks or a month or so. Because if I force it long enough, I’ll stop because it’s turned into a miserable slog, not a pleasure. And if I push too hard, I’ll lose it altogether. It’s no different with books. If you spend all your time slogging through, finish books you really aren’t enjoying while books you are gonna love are hovering tantalizingly nearby, soon reading is going to be as exciting as it was when you were in school and getting novels you weren’t interested in (right that second) stuffed into you.

And as for the state of literature…I think your enthusiasm will do much more for it, than your personally slogging through. This past week or so, I’ve read three or four books which I have been absolutely nuts over. Just last night, I finished a book that doesn’t come out til next year, called Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley and I was in love with it. I spent ages gushing about it on Twitter, jabbering about it to everyone around me, pacing around the house while reading because my enthusiasm was running so high. I will be talking about it – and other books I have gone nuts for – between now and their release next year. When they come out, I will force them onto people. I will babble incessantly. I will be a hyperactive pest, because they’re books I love.

Now surely this is better for the state of literature, this unbridled enthusiasm and joyful desire to push these loved books further and further into the world…than instead sitting around complaining as I slog through Lolita, hating what I’m reading or (what usually happens) not reading and doing something else. Putting it off like a chore.

A final thought: I don’t think this means you shouldn’t read hard books, or tricky stuff you aren’t quite ready for. What I think you should do is be willing to say not “this is a crap book” but “maybe me and this book aren’t syncing up quite yet” or something along those lines. Put it back on the shelf and circle back to it. This year, the summer of 2014, I finally read a book I bought in 2001, which I’ve had zero interest in. And I loved it. We matched up now. Do this, I suggest. Wait until you and the book are ready for each other. You’ll be better for it, and the “state of literature” will too. Save your acts of miserable endurance for the dentist or the DMV.

Decorative Pieces from Coffin

Image via The Amphipolis Tomb

Pieces of coffin decoration, made from bone and glass were found inside the burial trench. Metal nails from the wooden coffin were also discovered.

Also pieces of the Tumulus Wall (the wall surrounding the entire tomb) were found in a nearby lake.

How Exactly Does One Say "Holy Shizballs!" in Greek?

A limestone tomb found below the floor in the third chamber of the Amphipolis Tomb. Inside was found a wooden coffin containing a fully intact skeleton.

Image from BBC News <-- click over for more!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Gene Roddenberry would be proud.

As you may know, the European Space Agency landed a craft on a comet. And the Philae lander recorded the comet "singing."

Read more at NPR which also has other links to the ESA blog and the Rosetta site.

And In This Corner: the Battle over Maurice Sendak's Estate

Image and quote via NPR

In the more than two years since Maurice Sendak died, a dispute has simmered over the celebrated author and illustrator's wishes for the works he left behind. Now, the fate of that personal library will be settled in court.

The Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia has filed a lawsuit against Sendak's estate, alleging that the Sendak trustees have failed to comply with the terms of his will. In the will, according to the lawsuit, Sendak requests that much of his rare book collection — as well as many of his own writings and illustrations — remain in Philadelphia to be displayed at the museum, with which Sendak shared a decades-long relationship.

Although the will allows leeway for negotiation between both parties, talks between the Rosenbach and the executors of Sendak's will have failed to reach an agreement.

At the heart of the dispute lies two gems of Sendak's collection, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer: William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, and several books by Beatrix Potter, author of Peter Rabbit. The newspaper reports that the debate over the latter boils down to a question central in Sendak's own writing.

The suit argues that the estate doesn't intend to transfer to the Potter books because "they are children's books, not rare books," the Inquirer writes. "The Rosenbach calls that reasoning not only faulty but rife with irony: Sendak argued that divisions between adult and children's literature were invalid — in his work as well as that of others."

Filed in Connecticut, where Sendak lived, the lawsuit has an added wrinkle: a possible deadline. Sendak trustees are planning an auction in January. Although trustees have said none of the disputed items would be auctioned, according to the lawsuit, the Inquirer reports that the Rosenbach has nevertheless sought a court order to keep executors from transferring, disposing or distributing until a resolution is reached.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Vonnegut

This was basically the sentiment that I discussed when presenting for the opportunity to go to Greece - but in that case, the library was the last bastion of the Hellenic Ideals which includes Democracy, rather than simply the last bastion of Democracy.

Kurt Vonnegut would be 92.

Goodbye, Mrs. Wolowitz

Amazing how someone you've never probably seen could mean so much to you.

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The actress best known for voicing the unseen Mrs. Wolowitz on "The Big Bang Theory" has died.

Carol Ann Susi's agent, Pam Ellis-Evenas, says the actress died Tuesday in Los Angeles after a brief battle with cancer. She was 62.

The veteran character actress has made numerous guest appearances on TV shows since the 1970s.

On the "The Big Bang Theory," she wasn't seen on camera as the mother of Simon Helberg's character, Howard, but her character's loud voice with a Brooklyn accent was instantly recognizable.

The executive producers of the CBS sitcom say Susi was a beloved member of the "Big Bang Theory" family, and they praised her "immense talent and comedic timing."

Susi is survived by her brother, Michael Susi, and his wife, Connie.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Some pretty for your post election blues.

Image via Warwick: Center for the Study of the Renaissance

Alexander Lee is a stipendiary lecturer in early modern history at St. Catherine's College, Oxford. A prize-winning specialist in the history of the Italian Renaissance, he holds degrees from the universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh and is the author of numerous academic works on the Renaissance [all that's from his author's blurb] AAAANNND the book The Ugly Renaissance: sex, greed, violence and depravity in an age of beauty.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Election Day Books: Get Out and Vote and then Go Home and Read

“My name’s Henry Dudlow. I’m fifteen and a half. And I’m cursed. Or damned. Take your pick. The reason? I see demons.”

So begins the latest novel by horror master Dave Zeltserman. The setting is quiet Newton, Massachussetts, where nothing ever happens. Nothing, that is, until two months after Henry Dudlow’s 13th birthday, when his neighbor, Mr. Hanley, suddenly starts to look…different. While everyone else sees a balding man with a beer belly, Henry suddenly sees a nasty, bilious, rage-filled demon.

Once Henry catches onto the real Mr. Hanley, he starts to see demons all around him, and his boring, adolescent life is transformed. There’s no more time for friends or sports or the lovely Sally Freeman — instead Henry must work his way through ancient texts and hunt down the demons before they steal any more innocent children. And if hunting demons is hard at any age, it’s borderline impossible when your parents are on your case, and your grades are getting worse, and you can’t tell anyone about your chosen mission.

A very scary novel written with verve and flashes of great humor, The Boy Who Killed Demons is Dave Zeltserman’s most accomplished and entertaining horror novel yet.

Sexy, racy, hilarious, and even moving, The Indifference League is a story of what happens when the starry-eyed optimism of the Greatest Generation crashes into the obsessions and fears of the New Lost Generation.

Under the faded banner of Superman, Wonder Woman, and other heroes past steps the Indifference League: The Statistician, Time Bomb, Hippie Avenger, SuperKen, SuperBarbie, Miss Demeanour, Mr. Nice Guy, Psycho Superstar, The Drifter, and The Stunner. All archetypes of Generations X and Y, they are here to show us just how much things have changed.

Sex and love. Religion and politics. Left and Right. Right and Wrong. Can anyone be a hero in an age where the lines are so blurred? When they meet again at The Hall of Indifference for a long weekend together, The Indifference League will fight to find out. Or not.

Thirteen hilarious, moving, and beautifully brutal stories by David Gordon, the award-winning author of Mystery Girl and The Serialist.

In these funny, surprising, and touching stories, Gordon gets at the big stuff—art and religion, literature and madness, the supernatural, and the dark fringes of sexuality—in his own unique style, described by novelist Rivka Galchen as “Dashiell Hammett divided by Don DeLillo, to the power of Dostoyevsky—yet still pure David Gordon.”

Gordon's creations include ex-gangsters and terrifying writing coaches, Internet girlfriends and bogus memoirists, Chinatown ghosts, and vampires of Queens. “The Amateur” features a cafe encounter with a terrible artist who carries a mind-blowing secret. In the long, beautifully brutal title story, a man numbed by life finds himself flirting with and mourning lost souls in the purgatory of sex chatrooms. The result is both unflinching and hilarious, heartbreaking and life-affirming.

The definitive biography of the great soldier-statesman by the New York Times bestselling author of The Storm of War

Austerlitz, Borodino, Waterloo: his battles are among the greatest in history, but Napoleon Bonaparte was far more than a military genius and astute leader of men. Like George Washington and his own hero Julius Caesar, he was one of the greatest soldier-statesmen of all times.

Andrew Roberts’s Napoleon is the first one-volume biography to take advantage of the recent publication of Napoleon’s thirty-three thousand letters, which radically transform our understanding of his character and motivation. At last we see him as he was: protean multitasker, decisive, surprisingly willing to forgive his enemies and his errant wife Josephine. Like Churchill, he understood the strategic importance of telling his own story, and his memoirs, dictated from exile on St. Helena, became the single bestselling book of the nineteenth century.

An award-winning historian, Roberts traveled to fifty-three of Napoleon’s sixty battle sites, discovered crucial new documents in archives, and even made the long trip by boat to St. Helena. He is as acute in his understanding of politics as he is of military history. Here at last is a biography worthy of its subject: magisterial, insightful, beautifully written, by one of our foremost historians.

From an acclaimed African writer, a novel about family, freedom, and loyalty.

When Bella learns of the murder of her beloved half brother by political extremists in Mogadiscio, she’s in Rome. The two had different fathers but shared a Somali mother, from whom Bella’s inherited her freewheeling ways. An internationally known fashion photographer, dazzling but aloof, she comes and goes as she pleases, juggling three lovers. But with her teenage niece and nephew effectively orphaned – their mother abandoned them years ago—she feels an unfamiliar surge of protective feeling. Putting her life on hold, she journeys to Nairobi, where the two are in boarding school, uncertain whether she can—or must—come to their rescue. When their mother resurfaces, reasserting her maternal rights and bringing with her a gale of chaos and confusion that mirror the deepening political instability in the region, Bella has to decide how far she will go to obey the call of sisterly responsibility.

A new departure in theme and setting for “the most important African novelist to emerge in the past twenty-five years” (The New York Review of Books) Hiding in Plain Sight, is a profound exploration of the tensions between freedom and obligation, the ways gender and sexual preference define us, and the unexpected paths by which the political disrupts the personal.

This sensitive and compelling biography sheds new light on John Singer Sargent s art through an intimate history of his family. Karen Corsano and Daniel Williman focus especially on his niece and muse, Rose-Marie Ormond, telling her story for the first time. In a score of paintings created between 1906 and 1912, John Singer Sargent documented the idyllic teenage summers of Rose-Marie and his own deepening affection for her serene beauty and good-hearted, candid charm. Rose-Marie married Robert, the only son of Andre Michel, the foremost art historian of his day, who had known Sargent and reviewed his paintings in the Paris Salons of the 1880s. Robert was a promising historian as well, until the Great War claimed him first as an infantry sergeant, then a victim, in 1914. His widow Rose-Marie served as a nurse in a rehabilitation hospital for blinded French soldiers until she too was killed, crushed under a bombed church vault, in 1918. Sargent expressed his grief, as he expressed all his emotions, on canvas: He painted ruined French churches and, in Gassed, blinded soldiers; he made his last murals for the Boston Public Library a cryptic memorial to Rose-Marie and her beloved Robert. Braiding together the lives and families of Rose-Marie, Robert, and John Sargent, the book spans their many worlds Paris, the Alps, London, the Soissons front, and Boston. Drawing on a rich trove of letters, diaries, and journals, this beautifully illustrated history brings Sargent and his times to vivid life."

Longlisted for the 2014 National Book Award

Gathered here is a half century’s magnificent work by the former poet laureate of the United States and Pulitzer Prize winner whose haunting and exemplary style has influenced an entire generation of American poets.

Beginning with the limited-edition volume Sleeping with One Eye Open, published in 1964, Mark Strand was hailed as a poet of piercing originality and elegance, and in the ensuing decades he has not swerved from his vision of how a poem should be shaped and what it should deliver. As he entered the middle period of his career, with volumes such as The Continuous Life (1990), Strand was already well-known for his ability to capture the subtle music of consciousness, and for creating painterly physical landscapes that could answer to the inner self: “And here the dark infinitive to feel, / Which would endure and have the earth be still / And the star-strewn night pour down the mountains / Into the hissing fields and silent towns.” In his later work, from Blizzard of One (1998) which won the Pulitzer Prize, through the sly, provocative riddles of his recent Almost Invisible (2012), Strand has delighted in reminding us that there is no poet quite like him for a dose of dark wit that turns out to be deep wisdom and self-deprecation. He has given voice to our collective imagination with a grandeur and comic honesty worthy of his great Knopf forebear Wallace Stevens. With this volume, we celebrate his canonical work.

No matter how beautiful some dreams are, there comes a time when we must let them go.

It is the summer of 1972, and Katie has just turned eighteen. Katie and her town, Elephant Beach, are both on the verge: Katie of adulthood, and Elephant Beach of gentrification. But not yet: Elephant Beach is still gritty, working-class, close-knit. And Katie spends her time smoking and drinking with her friends, dreaming about a boy just back from Vietnam who’s still fighting a battle Katie can’t understand. In this poignant, evocative debut collection, Judy Chicurel creates a haunting, vivid world, where conflicts between mothers and daughters, men and women, soldiers and civilians and haves and have-nots reverberate to our own time. She captures not only a time and place, but the universal experience of being poised between the past and the future.

Take the format of a spy thriller, shape it around real-life incidents involving international terrorism, leaven it with dark, dry humor, toss in a love rectangle, give everybody a gun, and let everything play out in the outer reaches of upstate New York—there you have an idea of Brock Clarke’s new novel, The Happiest People in the World.

Who are “the happiest people in the world”? Theoretically, it’s all the people who live in Denmark, the country that gave the world Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales and the open-face sandwich. But Denmark is also where some political cartoonists got into very unhappy trouble when they attempted to depict Muhammad in their drawings, which prompted protests, arson, and even assassination attempts.

Imagine, then, that one of those cartoonists, given protection through the CIA, is relocated to a small town in upstate New York where he is given a job as a high school guidance counselor. Once there, he manages to fall in love with the wife of the high school principal, who himself is trying to get over the effects of a misguided love affair with the very CIA agent who sent the cartoonist to him. Imagine also that virtually every other person in this tiny town is a CIA operative.

The result is a darkly funny tale of paranoia and the all-American obsession with security and the conspiracies that threaten it, written in a tone that is simultaneously filled with wonder and anger in almost equal parts.

In a new novel from the best-selling author of The Hearts of Horses and The Jump-Off Creek, a young ranch hand escapes a family tragedy and travels to Hollywood to become a stunt rider.

In 1938, nineteen-year-old ranch hand Bud Frazer sets out for Hollywood. His little sister has been gone a couple of years now, his parents are finding ranch work and comfort for their loss where they can, but for Bud, Echol Creek, where he grew up and first learned to ride, is a place he can no longer call home. So he sets his sights on becoming a stunt rider in the movies — and rubbing shoulders with the great screen cowboys of his youth.

On the long bus ride south, Bud meets a young woman who also harbors dreams of making it in the movies, though not as a starlet but as a writer, a real writer. Lily Shaw is bold and outspoken, confident in ways out of proportion with her small frame and bookish looks. But the two strike up an unlikely kinship that will carry them through their tumultuous days in Hollywood — and, as it happens, for the rest of their lives.

Acutely observed, Falling from Horses charts what was to be a glittering year in the movie business through the wide eyes and lofty dreams of two people trying to make their mark on the world, or at least make their way in it. Molly Gloss weaves a remarkable tale of humans and horses, hope and heartbreak, narrated by one of the most winning narrators ever to walk off the page.