The Political Novel
Posted October 30, 2008
With the presidential election right around the corner, there’s no doubt you have heard plenty of political chatter on the television and radio, in the office and at home. Here at the Library, all the buzz has got us thinking about fictional accounts of American politics. Not surprisingly, American political fiction has been around for quite awhile. Henry Adams, the grandson of John Quincy Adams, anonymously published Democracy: An American Novel in 1880, a light satire about a young widow who goes to the nation’s capital and hobnobs with Washington insiders. Primary Colors inspired by Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign was also published anonymously. It was later revealed that journalist Joe Klein was the author. One of the more enduring works in the genre, All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren, loosely based on Louisiana governor Huey Long’s political career, won a Pulitzer in 1947 and was adapted twice adapted to film. Another Pulitzer winner was Allen Drury’s 1959 novel Advise and Consent about a former Communist party member’s controversial nomination as secretary of state. The genre offers something for every reader. Walter F. Starbuck, the protagonist in Kurt Vonnegut’s Jailbird, is imprisoned for a minor role in the Watergate scandal, Thomas Mallon’s recent novel Fellow Travelers depicts Washington, D.C. in the McCarthy era, and the recently published American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld is a fictional account of the life of the first lady.
Here are a few more recommendations for anyone needing a break from campaign coverage but still wanting to stay immersed in the world of politics:
Supreme Courtship by Christopher Buckley
Getting It Right by William Buckley Jr.
Sammy’s House by Kristin Gore
Roscoe by William Kennedy
Echo House by Ward Just
The Running Mate by Joe Klein
Shelley’s Heart by Charles McCarry
Lucky Bastards by Charles McCarry
Face Time by Erik Tarloff
Around the World with Mysteries: China
Posted October 28, 2008
With the cost of actual travel so high, armchair travel is looking better than ever. And since one of the great benefits of mystery reading is the opportunity to creep along beside detectives as they investigate the more dangerous and secret spots of the world, those places usually kept hidden from actual tourists, we herewith inaugurate an occasional series of blog posts to gather the best recent mysteries set in a variety of enticing locales from around the world. With the Olympics just past, China seemed the logical place to start.
Diane Wei Liang’s recent Beijing-set mystery The Eye of Jade features Mei Wang, a private eye in all but name (the profession is apparently illegal in China), who is hired to track down a precious jade seal from the Han dynasty. The investigation leads her to uncover some disturbing secrets about life during the Cultural Revolution, including some surprising discoveries about her own family. Qiu Xiaolong’s popular Inspector Chen series numbers five volumes now. It began with Death of a Red Heroine, and the latest in the series is Red Mandarin Dress. In that most recent mystery, Police Inspector Chen Cao investigates Shanghai’s first serial killer, who leaves his victims garbed in the fancy red dresses of the title. Scottish writer Peter May’s “China thrillers” are usually set in Beijing and feature the team of American pathologist Margaret Campbell and Chinese deputy section chief Li Yan. The Firemaker kicked off the series, with two later installments published so far in the United States: The Fourth Sacrifice and most recently The Killing Room, in which the duo become involved when the bodies of 18 mutilated women are found at a new Shanghai construction site. Publishers Weekly said of the latest that “May offers a little politics, a little romance and a lot of autopsy details.” Definitely sounds like something you won’t find in Fodor’s.
Posted October 23, 2008
Just in time for Halloween, Norton has released The New Annotated Dracula. This new edition, edited by Victorian scholar Leslie S. Klinger, is a treat for all those who love the classic tale. Klinger had access to Bram Stoker’s original manuscript and notes, which he used to illuminate the story of the most infamous vampire of all time. Klinger added 1,500 annotations that bring the Victorian period to life and explore the assertion made by Stoker that his most celebrated work was actually based on historical fact. Those craving further insight into the lore of their favorite vamp will be sated by the essays covering topics such as Stoker’s career, vampire mythology, and the count on stage and screen. Adding to the fine detail put into this book are the many photos and illustrations that make it a visual feast. And as an added bonus we get an introduction by Neil Gaiman. Of course, Dracula is always fun, but you can find more classic spine-tinglers and new horror stories at many of our branches. The picks below will get you on your way to a very scary All Hallows Eve. For an even more frightful experience try one on audio. We dare you.
A Good and Happy Child by Justin Evans - Available on CD or downloadable audio
A darkly suspenseful literary thriller with the eerie heart of a ghost story, Evans’ debut novel delves into 30-year-old George Davies’ childhood memories to reveal ominous visions and mysteries that have been long suppressed.
20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill - Available on CD or downloadable audio
This award-winning collection of short fiction by the New York Times bestselling author of Heart-Shaped Box leads readers into a maze filled with exits into a vast country of the surreal. Available for the first time in the United States, this volume includes an exclusive bonus story.
Lisey’s Story by Stephen King - Available on CD
Two years after the death of enigmatic and celebrated author Scott Landon, his wife Lisey fields inquiries from academics and private collectors requesting his personal letters and unpublished works—if any exist. Then another interested party makes contact by leaving a dead cat in her mailbox. And then the terrifying phone calls begin. Lisey’s only escape comes in the strange fantasy world where her husband found his inspiration. Now she must struggle to survive in a place where nightfall brings terrifying danger.
The Keep by Jennifer Egan - Available on CD or downloadable audio
Two cousins, irreversibly damaged by a childhood prank whose devastating consequences changed both their lives, reunite 20 years later to renovate a medieval castle in Eastern Europe, a castle steeped in blood lore and family pride.
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova - Available on CD or downloadable audio
A young woman discovers an ancient book and a cache of old letters in her father’s library, and thus begins her adventurous quest for the truth about Vlad the Impaler, a search that will span continents and generations, and a confrontation with the darkest powers of evil.
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson - Available on CD or downloadable audio
Robert Neville is the last man on Earth because everyone else has become a vampire. Now Neville must struggle to survive in a world overrun by the bloodthirsty undead. Hunting by day and waiting out the long terror-filled nights, how long can he stay alive?
The Collected Tales of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe
This edition includes classics such as: “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Tell-Tale Heart,” plus many more.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley - Available on CD or downloadable audio
The world’s most famous monster comes to life in this classic novel, a tale that combines Gothic romance and science fiction to tell of a young doctor’s attempts to breath life into an artificial man. Despite the doctor’s best intentions, the experiment goes horribly wrong.
Dracula by Bram Stoker - Available on CD or downloadable audio
On a journey from Transylvania to the nighttime streets of London, the vampire Dracula seeks blood while his enemies plot to rid the world of his frightful power. Although this classic is a cultural phenomenon that has influenced countless novelists and filmmakers, few retellings are true to the original tale of repression and desire.
Caught Reading on the CTA: Brown Line Edition
Posted October 21, 2008
We’ve been checking out what Chicago is reading again! This time we’ve been snooping on Brown Line riders to see what keeps them occupied to and from work. You have eclectic tastes, but you like to read, and we observed many of you toting library books.
We spotted you reading crooner Nick Cave’s novel And the Ass Saw the Angel and cult favorite Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. We also saw you poring over I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe (whose book The Right Stuff is Chicago Public Library’s current One Book selection), The White Mary by Kira Salak and Choke by Chuck Palahniuk, which has recently been adapted for film. We were impressed to see you reading the fourth book of John Updike’s Rabbit series, Rabbit at Rest. It also appears you have a bent for the supernatural as we caught you with the popular Twilight by Stephenie Meyer and Lasher by Anne Rice. Here are some other titles we spotted:
Dark Hallow by John Connolly
The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon
False Impressions by Jeffery Archer
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
Second Chance by Jane Green
An Actor’s Work: A Student’s Diary by Konstantin Stanislavski
Posted October 16, 2008
Need a distraction from the headlines? Halloween is fast approaching, and the holiday festivities are sure to provide scares of a more enjoyable nature. Throwing a party? Looking for recipes? Crafts for the kids? Racking your brain for costume ideas? Or perhaps you just want to sport the coolest jack-o-lantern on your block. Your neighborhood library has resources aplenty. Here’s a sample of recent titles:
All new crafts for Halloween by Kathy Ross
Extreme Pumpkin Carving by Vic Hood
Extreme Pumpkins: Diabolical Do-it-yourself Designs to Amuse Your Friends and Scare Your Neighbors by Tom Nardone
Great Pumpkins: Tricks and Treats for Halloween by Peter Cole with Jessica Hurley
Halloween: A Grown-up’s Guide to Creative Costumes, Devilish Decor & Fabulous Festivities by Joanne O’Sullivan
Halloween Celebrations: Everything You Need for a Fabulous Halloween Party… ed. by Morgana De Ville
Halloween Recipes and Crafts by Christine Lyseng Savage, Rosa Poulin and Tamara Eder
Hocus Pocus!: Halloween Crafts for a Spooktacular Holiday
Posted October 14, 2008
Is all the news about the country’s economic crisis keeping you up at night? Are you wondering what to do about your retirement accounts, how to cut costs or how to pay down your debt? We feel your pain and have a ton of resources to help you become more informed about your money. You can visit our popular topics page on Personal Investing to research stocks, bonds, company information, or just to read up on current financial news. We’ve also compiled this list of recommended titles on personal investing. You can also check out the titles listed below for more tips on how to weather these difficult times. And just think: they’re all free!
You know what else is free? Programs at CPL: as part of our continuing Money Smart series there are some timely programs coming up at various locations, including an Introduction to Investing to be held on October 18 at Sulzer Regional Library. You can see the full schedule of upcoming programs here.
America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money: Your Guide to Living Better, Spending Less and Cashing in on Your Dreams by Steve and Annette Economides
Everything Personal Finance in Your 20s and 30s: Erase Your Debt, Personalize Your Budget and Plan Now to Secure Your Future by Debby Fowles
Busy Family’s Guide to Money by Sandra Block, Kathy Chu and John Waggoner
The Budget Kit: The Common Cents Money Management Workbook by Judy Lawrence
Rich Dad’s Increase Your Financial IQ: It’s Time to Get Smarter with Your Money by Robert T. Kiyosaki
The Road to Wealth: A Comprehensive Guide to Your Money by Suze Orman
Yes, You Can Get a Financial Life!: Your Lifetime Guide to Financial Planning by Ben Stein and Phil DeMuth
Retire Happy: What You Can Do Now to Guarantee a Great Retirement by Ralph Warner and Richard Stim
The Neatest Little Guide to Stock Market Investing by Jason Kelly
The Little Book that Builds Wealth: Morningstar’s Knock-Out Formula for Finding Great Investments by Patrick Dorsey
The Mortgage Answer Book by John J. Talamo
Fight Foreclosure!: How to Cope with a Mortgage You Can’t Pay, Negotiate with Your Bank and Save Your Home by David Petrovich
The Credit Repair Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Maintain, Rebuild and Protect Your Credit by John Ventura
Posted October 9, 2008
Please join us on October 21 for a reading and book signing with former U.S. Poet Laureate Louise Glück! Among Glück’s numerous books of poetry, Averno (2006) was a finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry, The Wild Iris (1992) received a Pulitzer Prize and The Triumph of Achilles (1985) received the National Book Critics Circle Award. She has also been awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations and the National Endowment for the Arts. Recently in the Washington Post, fellow poet and author Mary Karr wrote of Glück: “The way mere ruins of the Coliseum evoke lost grandeur more than a newly articulated structure, or the way a few strokes from Picasso conjure a whole guitar, so Glück’s plain speech makes maximum impact in smallest space.” This event is co-sponsored by the Poetry Foundation in celebration of the 54th annual Poetry Day; you can check out a few of Glück’s poems in their online archive, and you can find more of her books at the Library.
Paul Newman (1925 - 2008)
Posted October 7, 2008
Paul Newman, who died last month at the age of 83, was one of the biggest stars in American history. He was also an excellent actor, which isn’t always true of big Hollywood stars, and when you consider that he was a significant humanitarian, our loss seems all the greater. Fortunately, Newman left a tremendous body of work for film lovers to remember him by. Newman broke into the film business in the 50s, around the same time as James Dean (which puts Dean’s early death into even sadder perspective), but lived long enough to charm today’s youngest audiences by voicing a character in the Pixar movie Cars. He’s left quite a legacy to celebrate. Here are just some of the most notable Paul Newman films available on DVD in the Library’s collection:
The Long Hot Summer
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Cool Hand Luke
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
The Color of Money
The Hudsucker Proxy
Road to Perdition
Road to Perdition
DIY Film Fest: Flights of Fancy
Posted October 2, 2008
We began celebrating our fall One Book, One Chicago selection a little early this year. Back in August there was a film screening of The Right Stuff at Grant Park. The 1983 film was an award-winning adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s classic based on the true story of the seven men who were chosen to man the first space flight, known as Project Mercury. Now that we’ve got the flying bug, we thought we’d put together a list of some great movies and documentaries that play off the theme of pilots, flight and space exploration.
Tom Hanks stars as Jim Lovell, lead astronaut of Apollo flight 13, the historic mission that experienced technical difficulties of grave proportions, prompting Lovell to utter the unforgettable phrase, “Houston, we have a problem.”
2001: A Space Odyssey
Stanley Kubrick’s classic film was said to be ahead of its time when it was released in 1968, winning an Academy Award for its visually stunning special effects, and made yet another contribution to pop culture with the introduction of the HAL 9000, a computer that takes control of the ship shuttled by Dave Bowman and Frank Poole.
This 2007 film starring Cillian Murphy and Michelle Yeoh set 50 years in the future has a team of astronauts trying to save the sun from dying out, but it’s no easy feat, and the crew struggles to survive the mission.
This feature film spun off from the short-lived Fox series Firefly features a stellar cast and an edge-of-your-seat space adventure. Led by a rogue captain, the crew of the Firefly has unwittingly taken aboard two fugitives: a troubled young woman and her protective brother. Now they must flee from the authorities and hope that they make it out alive.
A very young Tom Cruise stars as Maverick, the guy with a need for speed trying to out-fly everyone and win the girl at the U.S. Navy’s fighter-weapons school, Top Gun.
In the Shadow of the Moon
This 2007 documentary explores the history of the Apollo space program by presenting archival film footage from NASA as well as never-before-seen interviews with the surviving astronauts who lived through this historic period.
From the Earth to the Moon
This five-disc set collects the 12-hour HBO miniseries presented by Tom Hanks. It chronicles the Apollo missions from President Kennedy’s speech calling for the program to reach the moon within a decade to the pinnacle of that quest and all the ups and downs in between.