Posted March 27, 2008
It’s still March, so that means there’s time still to celebrate Women’s History Month. Why not check out some graphic novels and comics featuring strong women? CPL has many titles to get you started. Persepolis, the highly praised graphic memoir by Marjane Satrapi recounts her childhood in Iran and was recently made into a full-length animated film. Another lady sure to get you amped is the stake-wielding powerhouse Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The first volume of the Omnibus collects an adaptation of Joss Whedon’s original screenplay and leads into season one of the wildly popular TV series. And let’s not forget the classic comics superheroine, Wonder Woman. Her latest adventure, Love and Murder, has bestselling author Jodi Picoult trying her hand at the comics genre. Looking for more women who inspire? Check out these titles, which not only feature female protagonists, but are also illustrated and written by women:
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of…Melancholy?
Posted March 25, 2008
Can happiness be found in the pages of a book? The debate seems to have shifted into high gear of late. Of course, advice books that promise happiness are as prevalent as ever. Notable recent examples include: The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky, Happiness Is an Inside Job by Sylvia Boorstein, Be Happy Without Being Perfect by Alice D. Domar and Happy for No Reason by Marci Shimoff. Lately, however, there seems to be a glut of books claiming to look at the whole business in new ways.
In The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World, Eric Weiner comes to some surprising and not always pleasant conclusions about why some areas of the world rank high in measures of happiness. Jennifer Michael Hecht scrutinizes historical notions of happiness (such as those found in advice books published by the thousands) in The Happiness Myth: Why What We Think Is Right Is Wrong. In Stumbling on Happiness, Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert draws on modern psychology, philosophy and neuroscience to discuss where we go wrong in our pursuit of happiness. Finally, in Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy, Eric G. Wilson questions the whole enterprise of consciously striving for happiness. Watch out for paper cuts.
Legendary Science Fiction Writer Arthur C. Clarke Dies
Posted March 20, 2008
2001 seemed like a long time in the future when Arthur C. Clarke collaborated with Stanley Kubrick on his most famous work: 2001: A Space Odyssey. The film and the book that accompanied it were groundbreaking when they came out in the late 1960s. But author Clarke lived to see the date most associated with his name come and go, passing away this week in Sri Lanka, where he lived for many years. Although his name might be forever linked to 2001, Clarke had a long career and was one of the most respected writers in science fiction. Early classics include the chilling Childhood’s End, where an alien race arrive to rescue Earth from disease and poverty, but at a cost. His popular Rama series kicks off with Rendezvous with Rama, a classic space story of a group of humans who intercept a spaceship, the Rama, passing through our solar system and attempt to unlock its secrets. In later years, Clarke had several successful collaborations with fellow SF writer Stephen Baxter, including The Light of Other Days, which explores the concept of wormholes through time. A brilliant scientific thinker (his science writing anticipated satellite networks by decades) as well as a writer of great prose, Clarke’s body of work is his greatest legacy.
DIY Film Festival – Anthony Minghella
Posted March 18, 2008
Trying to decide on a good movie to check out from the thousands available in the collections of the Chicago Public Library? It can be a daunting task! When trying to pick what film you might be in the mood for, CPL can offer a few suggestions about how to create a do-it-yourself film festival. On a regular basis, we will suggest a small selection of films that we think would make for a great exploration of a director, actor or theme. Try one film from the list for an enjoyable evening’s entertainment, or try a few for a more extended stay on the couch. This week, due to the far-too-early passing of British director Anthony Minghella (who died this week at the age of 54), we suggest three of his best films:
One Book Gets Hard Boiled
Posted March 14, 2008
The Chicago Public Library has chosen a new title for the twice-yearly One Book, One Chicago program, and it is a masterpiece of crime fiction. The Long Goodbye is Raymond Chandler’s last book to feature the iconic private eye Philip Marlowe, and surely ranks as one of his very best. This is also the first crime novel (or genre fiction book of any kind) to be chosen as part of the citywide reading initiative. Visit the One Book, One Chicago site to find the resource guide for The Long Goodbye and to see the many exciting One Book events that we have planned.
The Long Goodbye is a truly wonderful introduction to hard-boiled or noir crime fiction. This novel features Marlowe’s wise-cracking hard-drinking detective sharing his cynical views of society as he tries to help a friend in trouble. In Marlowe’s world trouble is almost always accompanied by dead bodies, guns, blondes and, inevitably, the cops. Enjoy The Long Goodbye for its twisty plot, its beautifully flawed characters, and for the sheer love that Chandler has for language.
We will be celebrating The Long Goodbye through April here at Beyond Words, sharing our favorite hard-boiled novels both old and new, as well as some of the film noir of the period that were influenced by and in turn influenced crime writers then and now.
We’ll leave you now with the words of Philip Marlowe, private detective:
“So passed a day in the life of a P.I. Not exactly a typical day but not totally untypical either. What makes a man stay with it nobody knows. You don’t get rich, you don’t often have much fun. Sometimes you get beaten up or shot at or tossed into the jailhouse. Once in a long while you get dead. Every other month you decide to give it up and find some sensible occupation while you can still walk without shaking your head. Then the door buzzer rings and you open the inner door to the waiting room and there stands a new face with a new problem, a new load of grief, and a small piece of money.” – The Long Goodbye, Raymond Chandler
Happy Birthday, Jack!
Posted March 12, 2008
Jack Kerouac’s birthday is as good a time as any to pick up one of the books commemorating the 50th anniversary of On the Road, a novel which (according to a recent Chicago Tribune article) still sells 100,000 copies a year. In addition to the classic version, Viking recently published Kerouac’s original first draft of the novel. Written as a single long paragraph, the draft formed a single 120-foot scroll, and so this version is known as On the Road: The Original Scroll. As published in this edition, the novel is said to be a little longer, a little more raw and somewhat more like a memoir in tone. Characters are identified by the real names of friends who inspired Kerouac’s story. If you’re ready to delve deeper, consider the novel’s place in American culture by reading Why Kerouac Matters: The Lessons of On the Road (They’re Not What You Think) by John Leland, or soak up the ambience captured in the photos of The Beats: From Kerouac to Kesey, an Illustrated Journey Through the Beat Generation by Mike Evans.
Barbie, Pushing 50
Posted March 10, 2008
Barbie was first unveiled at the International American Toy Fair in New York City on March 9, 1959. Over the years, the pint-sized doll has undoubtedly brought joy to many, but she has also inspired her share of controversy. Critics have accused the tiny blonde bombshell of promoting an unhealthy body image. How many times have Barbie’s measurements been recited to denounce the doll? In case you’ve missed the numbers, here’s the rundown. If Barbie were real, her measurements would be somewhere in the ballpark of 36-18-33, and she would stand about 5’ 9’’ tall. Furthermore, she would lack sufficient body fat to menstruate. That certainly sounds both unhealthy and unrealistic. In 1998 Mattel issued a new model Barbie with a wider waist and a “less graduated profile.” While this appeared to be a move to appease critics, the toy manufacturer insisted that was not their motivation. Judging by Mattel’s web presence, they continue to be mindful of their critics. They have set up a site devoted to addressing parents’ concerns, www.webelieveingirls.com. It includes discussions on hot-button issues such as body image, bullying and Internet safety. Whatever your position is on the much talked-about cultural icon, you have to agree the gal has provoked some necessary debates about body image and unrealistic standards of beauty. The Chicago Public Library carries many books that discuss issues related to body image as well as the cultural impact of Barbie.
Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll by M.G. Lord
The Barbie Chronicles: A Living Doll Turns Forty ed. by Yona Zeldis McDonough
Adiós, Barbie: Young Women Write about Body Image and Identity ed. by Ophira Edut
Beauty Junkies: Inside our $15 Billion Obsession with Cosmetic Surgery by Alex Kuczynski
More Than Skin Deep: Exploring the Real Reasons Why Women Go Under the Knife by Loren Eskenazi
Barbie’s Queer Accessories by Erica Rand
The Critics Pick
Posted March 7, 2008
The National Book Critics Circle, an organization of those who professionally review books, gave out their prestigious awards last night. Their pick for best fiction was quite a staff favorite around here, but we also own many of the other award-winners.
The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross
Elegy by Mary Jo Bang
Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa’s Greatest Explorer by Jim Teal
Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Dandicat
Best General Nonfiction
Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet Washington
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Past winners of the National Book Critics Circle award for Best Fiction
Daylight Savings Time Begins
Posted March 6, 2008
Don’t forget to change your clocks and watches this weekend, as Daylight Saving Time starts early again this year, at 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 9, 2008. Last year, the date was pushed back a month from its usual start time of the second Sunday in April to the second Sunday in March. We will stay on Daylight Savings Time until the first Sunday in November. Although initially introduced during WWI, Daylight Savings Time as we know it did not really begin until the late 1960s and 1970s, a response to the energy crisis. If you want to read more about this curious tradition, you could try Seize the Daylight: the Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time by David Prerau.
Can’t remember which way to turn the clock? The easy way to remember is “spring forward, fall back,” which means that you lose an hour of sleep but gain some much needed daylight. If you need some ideas about what to do with that extra hour of daylight, why not read a really short book? All of these titles are under 180 pages!
Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
Everyman by Philip Roth
Pobby and Dingan by Ben Rice
The Clothes They Stood Up In by Alan Bennett
The Mystery Guest by Gregoire Bouiller
Women’s History Month
Posted on March 4, 2008
National Women’s History Month celebrates the achievements of women throughout history. Early movements to recognize the importance of women’s contributions date back to 1911 with the first International Women’s Day, March 8. Interest waned in post-war years and the cause was not taken up again until the women’s movement of the 1960s. Still, women continued to be underrepresented in history books, and in 1978 a California school board began a weeklong program on the week of March 8 to spotlight women’s history in schools. This spurred others around the country to promote similar programs. The initiative took off, and in 1981 there was a congressional resolution declaring a National Women’s History Week, and the program finally reached its pinnacle in 1987 when Congress passed a resolution to expand the celebration to the entire month of March.
The Chicago Public Library has many books in our collections celebrating the contributions of women to society. Sample some of these books on our Women’s History Popular Topic page.
Happy Pulaski Day!
Posted March 3, 2008Newcomers to Chicago may be forgiven for wondering what occasions the celebration of Pulaski Day. A Polish nobleman, Casimir Pulaski gained fame as a hero of the American Revolutionary War, sustaining a mortal wound in battle near Savannah. (A fort in Georgia, named in his honor, was the site of an important Civil War battle.) Although generally Americans observe Pulaski Day on October 11 if they observe it at all, in Illinois by law Pulaski Day is the first Monday in March, with several public institutions (including the Chicago Public Library) closed for the holiday. His name also graces several places in Chicago, including a road, a park and several ‘L’ stops. The general also inspired one of the songs on the Sufjan Stevens album Come on Feel the Illinoise. Those interested in a book-length biography might consult Casimir Pulaski: a Hero of the American Revolution by Leszek Szymanski.