Elizabeth Taylor, 1932-2011
Posted March 31, 2011
Last week fans mourned the passing of one of Hollywood's most legendary leading ladies, Elizabeth Taylor. Taylor was known for her iconic movie roles, but she was equally famous for her numerous off-screen romances. Although, she wed eight times it was her tumultuous love affair with actor Richard Burton that really made headlines. The two stars actually walked down the aisle twice and maintained a relationship even after their second divorce. This dynamic romance is the subject of the recently published book by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger, Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and the Marriage of the Century.
Visit the library to read more about Taylor's life and loves in the many biographies in the library's collections. You can also check out some of her spectacular and award winning performances, including some with Burton.
Elizabeth by J. Randy Taraborrelli
How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood by William J. Mann
Liz: An Intimate Biography of Elizabeth Taylor by C. David Heymann
A Passion for Life: The Biography of Elizabeth Taylor by Donald Spoto
New Books Spotlight: How to Write a Sentence
Posted March 29, 2011
Stanley Fish, formerly a Dean at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is a noted and influential scholar, and his recent book How to Write a Sentence: and How to Read One has clearly caught the attention of readers who enjoy thinking about language. NPR covered the book. Slate recently reviewed the book, featured some of Fish's favorite sentences, then took submissions from Slate readers for their favorite sentences. All the picks are enjoyable and fascinating. Also, Fish's publisher shares his "Top 10 Sentences of All Time" (click on Extras). All this attention being given to the humble little sentence, the building block of stories, novels, histories and more; it's reminiscent of another book that received a surprisingly passionate response a few years back.
Plant a Garden
Posted March 24, 2011
Spring is slowly poking its head out and so are a few green shoots, a welcome sight after a long and memorable winter. It's also a reminder that the time has come to start planning and planting your garden. If you don't think growing food is geared for the urban set, think again. You need as little as three square feet of land, or simply some containers, to plant a vegetable or herb garden. There are also opportunities to get a plot at one of the many community gardens in the city. Check out the Chicago Park District or GreenNet's community garden listings to find one in your neighborhood. And the Chicago Public Library offers materials that will guide you through the process of planning and caring for your garden. Check out some of our great vegetable and herb gardening books:
Garden Anywhere: How To Grow Gorgeous Container Gardens, Herb Gardens, Kitchen Gardens and More, Without Spending a Fortune by Alys Fowler
Incredible Edibles: 43 Fun Things to Grow in the City by Barrie Murdoch
The Beginner's Guide to Edible Herbs by Charles W.G. Smith
One Magic Square: The Easy, Organic Way to Grow Your Own Food On a 3-Foot Square by Lolo Houbein
The New Self-Sufficient Gardener by John Seymour
Homegrown: A Growing Guide for Creating a Cook's Garden by Marta Teegan
The Complete Herb Book by Penelope Hobhouse
Talking Dirt: The Dirt Diva's Down-To-Earth Guide To Organic Gardening by Annie Spiegelman
Starter Vegetable Gardens: 24 No-Fail Plans for Small Organic Gardeners by Barbara Pleasant
The Long Red Carpet
Posted March 22, 2011
Four great actors took home Oscars last month for some exceptional new films. All four clearly still have long careers ahead of them, but each of them also has an impressive resume, which gets you wondering: which of their earlier films are worth catching up with?
Over the years Colin Firth has distinguished himself in many fine films such as Shakespeare in Love and The English Patient. He's probably best known for his role in Bridget Jones's Diary, as well as last year's A Single Man, but he's been acting in film since 1984, and the performance his long-term fans probably treasure most is as Mr. Darcy in the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice.
Though she's the youngest of the group, Natalie Portman's career began long before the new Star Wars movies. A child actor, her feature debut was in The Professional in 1994. Since then she's been in a variety of films such as Tim Burton's Mars Attacks, the literary adaptation Cold Mountain and the indie smash Garden State. But at this date, it seems most people have forgotten about her youthful supporting performance in Michael Mann's Heat, starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro.
Surprisingly, Christian Bale has been acting in films for almost as long as Colin Firth. He's well-known these days for playing the part of Batman, as well as starring in many other big hits such as Public Enemies and The Prestige. He maintains a cult following for his starring role in American Psycho and started a reputation for immersing himself in his roles to the point of altering his physical appearance in movies such as The Machinist. But he started acting very young, and he was already an excellent actor when he starred in the haunting Empire of the Sun. A few years later he played an uncharacteristically romantic part in Little Women.
Melissa Leo, too, has been acting since the early 1980s, but she has labored in relative obscurity compared to this year's other winners. After starting in All My Children, she continued to work in tv and lesser known films for many years until more recently garnering acclaim in a supporting part in 21 Grams, then a starring role in Frozen River that put her front and center for awards consideration. She was also terrific in The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, a gritty borderland tale directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones.
Posted March 17, 2011
Heather Armstrong was hailed as queen of the mommy bloggers in the New York Times Sunday Magazine a couple of weeks back. For those not in the know, Armstrong is the woman behind Dooce.com, a personal blog she started in 2001. While she had a strong following before motherhood, it seems that sharing this new stage of her life really put her on the map. The article explores the popularity of mommy blogs and particularly the phenomenon of Dooce.com, which is speculated to be a million dollar business. It has also garnered Armstrong the No. 26 slot on Forbes list of the Most Influential Women in the Media because of her huge social media presence. This busy mom of two shares the ins and outs of her days with her family and is not shy about giving her readers all the gory details. Perhaps it is that candidness that has won her such a loyal following.
Armstrong has also done some more traditional writing. You can check out her book, It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown and a Much Needed Margarita which chronicles her struggle with postpartum depression.
Curious about the mommy blogger trend? You can find many more on Babble’s list of Top 50 Mom Blogs, 2010.
2011 National Book Critics Circle Awards
Posted March 15, 2011
Last week the winners of National Book Critics Circle Awards were announced. The winners are chosen by critics and honor the "best literature published in English" in a number of categories. The fiction prize was awarded to Jennifer Egan for A Visit from the Good Squad which the Chicago Tribune called "edgy" and "groundbreaking," and Entertainment Weekly noted was "frequently dazzling." Egan beat out some formidable competition including Jonathan Franzen's Freedom. The other nominees in fiction were To The End of the Land by David Grossman, Comedy in a Minor Key by Hans Keilson, and Skippy Dies by Paul Murray.
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson took the prize for nonfiction. Will Wilkerson's book become the definitive text of the Great Migration? It's certainly possible. Publisher Weekly noted, "The drama, poignancy, and romance of a classic immigrant saga pervade this book, hold the reader in its grasp, and resonate long after the reading is done." The other nominees in nonfiction were Nothing to Envy by Barabara Demick, Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne, Apollo's Angels by Jennifer Homans, and The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee.
Check out the nominees and winners in other categories here.
Neverwhere, everywhere at Chicago Public Library
Posted March 3, 2011
Yesterday the One Book One Chicago program announced its 20th selection, and it's one of the most exciting picks yet: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Gaiman is a groundbreaking and bestselling author who combines classic elements of English fantasy with modern settings and sensibilities. He's also just about the closest thing to a rock star we've ever found in the world of books.
Neverwhere tells the story of an ordinary young man who stops to help an injured girl and finds his life transformed. Suddenly, the people around him can no longer see him as he finds himself in an alternate universe: London Below, a magical world where "The things and the people that fall through the cracks go." While a traditional fantasy starts with a map of a land of mountains and forests populated by wizards and elves, Gaiman's novel starts with a map of the London Underground. That gives you a sense of the way Gaiman turns the genre on its head in this classic of urban fantasy, a novel that's dazzlingly suspenseful, imaginative and engaging.
Be sure to check out the full guide for listing of the many exciting events planned for this special book discussion, including visits with Gaiman himself and several other exciting authors, as well as a staged reading and workshops.
Don't Miss This: 2000
Posted March 1, 2011
Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. This collection of stories went on to be one of our very own One Book, One Chicago selections. Lahiri was hailed by critics for her original voice and her ability to provide both a window into Indian and American cultures as well as glimpse into what happens when those cultures intersect and at times collide.
At the movies Gladiator took home the Academy Award for Best Picture. Russell Crowe also took home the Best Actor Oscar for his role as General Maximus Decimus Meridius. The film has gone on to make many best-of lists. With award winning costume design and visual effects this movie is a feast for the eyes and is often praised for its enthralling battle scenes. It is not to be missed for entertainment value alone.
In music Santana took home the Best Album of the Year Grammy for Supernatural. Beck won the Best Alternative Music Performance award for Mutations. The Best New Artist award went to Christina Aguilera.