The Piano Teacher by Janice Y. K. Lee

There are numerous means by which history can be recorded: oral history, paintings, poems, monuments, and, of course, the written word. While they all have their particular advantages and strengths, I find the written word most powerful, especially when put forth in the form of fiction. Experiencing history through the narrative of fictional characters personalizes history and brings it to the level of the individual. In reducing history to mere facts and figures, much is lost, and the novel is capable of preventing such a reduction.

pianoteacherThe Piano Teacher, written by Janice Y. K. Lee, is just such a novel. Set in the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong and alternating between the years 1941/1942 and 1951/1952, the reader is provided prose of the highest caliber with which Ms. Lee effectively recreates pre- and post-WWII Hong Kong, a city teeming with drama of every sort and serving as a nexus between East and West. It is within this setting that the story’s complex characters navigate romances, intrigues, and the general trials and tribulations of life. Of course, romance can manifest itself in many ways, and in demonstration of this point, take, for example, the following dialogue from the novel and between two lovers:

A few weeks later, she asked, “Why me?”
“Why anyone?” he answered. “Why is anyone with anyone?”
Desire, proximity, habit, chance. All these went through her mind, but she didn’t say a word.
“I don’t like to love,” he said. “You should be forewarned. I don’t believe in it. And you shouldn’t either.”

Wow. Now that is pure romance, no?

Of course, once Hong Kong is conquered by the Imperial Japanese Army in December of 1941, romance of any sort takes on quite different trappings. The forty-four month occupation of Hong Kong by the Japanese was quite horrendous, and the reader is not spared the gory details. With such trying and overwhelmingly bleak conditions and with death constantly at hand, the true natures of the characters emerge.

Ms. Lee, by means of her skilled writing, transports the reader to Hong Kong of the 1940s and 1950s introducing a cast of characters who face many difficult challenges and choices, which by itself is very engaging. However and in addition to this, what I found especially interesting were the details of life on the island of Hong Kong before, during and after the war, a segment of history about which I knew very little, something that this novel has, to a certain extent, rectified.

Reviewed by Rob, Crescent Hill

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

Towards the end of 2015, I discovered the various forms of reading challenges on the Internet from social media sites such as GoodReads to reader’s advisory websites such as NoveList and Book Riot.  For 2016, I along with other library colleagues decided to hold the 2016 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge.  The purpose of the reading challenge is simple, select a book based off one of the category selection and continue reading until all the categories are occupied by a book.

Fortunately, thanks to Book Riot, there is a clause at the bottom of the challenge saying if the reader finds a book that fits one or more categories listed, it can be counted, or simply you can double dip and sometimes even quadruple dip if you are fortunate enough to find the best selection.

ReadHarderChallenge2016_checklist-1

As I perused the list, the first category is Read a Horror Book.  Not having read much horror, I did not have a clue where to start looking but popular authors like the famous Stephen King and Shirley Jackson caught my attention.  However, I visited a site by a library worker (who goes by the nom de plume Calliope Woods) and determined to read their suggestive horror selection, A Headful of Ghosts.  Thus, I would like to feature Calliope Woods’s review on this selection.

If you are interested in reading this piece, you can follow this link to reserve it or visit the author’s website for more information.

Enjoy and Happy Reading!  — MicahShawnee Branch

A Head Full of Ghosts by Calliope Woods, post on 9/24/2015

Web address: http://www.calliopewoods.com/blog/a-head-full-of-ghosts

Everyone can agree that Merry’s sister Marjorie was very disturbed, but was she suffering from schizophrenia, possessed by demons, faking for the eventual attention that her family received, or some mixture of all three?

A Head Full of Ghosts is a story told fifteen years after the events occured, by the younger sister of the girl who was deemed possessed by a priest, the man who subsequently invited a film crew into their home and lives. ​

The distance from the action is exacerbated by Merry’s online blogger persona, analyzing the reality show that starred her family purely as a work of fiction.

It’s not surprising that this book is most commonly compared to House of Leaves, which uses a simlar technique of an academic analysis of a movie to reveal what most consider the main story of the convuluted book. While I do enjoy the mixed-media, twisty-turny approach of House of Leaves, there’s something to be said about the simplicity of Tremblay’s novel when you compare the two. ​Picture

Even though the novel is written through two frames, Merry telling her (sister’s) story to a bestselling novelist intending to write a book from Merry’s perspective, and the literary analysis of Merry’s hyperactive online alter-ego, we’re really only getting the one (admittedly dissociative) narration from Merry.

The framing of the story is what really attracted me to this book. Another book about the possession of a teenage girl by demons? Meh. A book about the writing of a book about the younger sister’s perspective on the reality show that covered her sister’s supposed possession? Sign me up.

This was a fast read; I finished it in a day, but it was an extremely satisfying page turner of a novel. I found it on a list of books that supposedly scared Stephen King, and though I can’t say this book really scared me, I’m not going to say I’m braver than the master of horror– I’m assuming he has an addiction to horror that leaves him as dead inside as I am and simply gave this list as books that gave him a good fix, which A Head Full of Ghosts certainly is.

Over the Rainbow Project Top Ten for 2016

June is Pride Month.

To get in the spirit, try some of the titles from the 2016 Over the Rainbow Project book list.  The list is sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association.  These are books for adults that are recognized for their “authentic expression of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experiences.”

 

Mislaid
Mislaid
By Zink, Nell
2015-05 – Ecco Press
9780062364777
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Awards:
National Book Awards (2015)

In 1960s Virginia, college freshman and ingenue Peggy falls for professor and poet Lee, and what begins as an ill-advised affair results in an unplanned pregnancy and marriage. Mismatched from the start she’s a lesbian; he’s gay Peggy eventually finds herself in crisis and runs away with their daughter, leaving their son behind.

Estranged from the rest of the family, Peggy and her daughter

…More

The Argonauts
The Argonauts

By Nelson, Maggie
2015-05 – Graywolf Press
9781555977078
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An intrepid voyage out to the frontiers of the latest thinking about love, language, and family

Maggie Nelson’s “The Argonauts “is a genre-bending memoir, a work of “autotheory” offering fresh, fierce, and timely thinking about desire, identity, and the limitations and possibilities of love and language. At its center is a romance: the story of the author’s relationship with the artist Harry

…More

Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home
Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home

By Piepzna-Samarasinha, Leah Lakshmi
2015-11 – Arsenal Pulp Press
9781551526003
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Lambda Literary Award finalist

In 1996, poet Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha ran away from America with two backpacks and ended up in Canada, where she discovered queer anarchopunk love and revolution, yet remained haunted by the reasons she left home in the first place. This passionate and riveting memoir is a mixtape of dreams and nightmares, of immigration court lineups and queer South

…More

How to Grow Up: A Memoir
How to Grow Up: A Memoir

By Tea, Michelle
2015-01 – Plume Books
9780142181195
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A gutsy, wise memoir-in-essays from a writer praised as impossible to put down (“People”)

As an aspiring young writer in San Francisco, Michelle Tea lived in a scuzzy communal house; she drank, smoked, snorted anything she got her hands on; she toiled for the minimum wage; and she dated men and women, and sometimes both at once.But between hangovers and dead-end jobs, she scrawled in

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No House to Call My Home: Love, Family, and Other Transgressions
No House to Call My Home: Love, Family, and Other Transgressions

By Berg, Ryan
2015-08 – Nation Books
9781568585093
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Awards:
Minnesota Book Award (2016)

In this lyrical debut, Ryan Berg immerses readers in the gritty, dangerous, and shockingly underreported world of homeless LGBTQ teens in New York. As a caseworker in a group home for disowned LGBTQ teenagers, Berg witnessed the struggles, fears, and ambitions of these disconnected youth as they resisted the pull of the street, tottering between destruction and survival.

Focusing on

…More

Visions and Revisions
Visions and Revisions

By Peck, Dale
2015-04 – Soho Press
9781616954413
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Novelist and critic Dale Peck’s latest work part memoir, part extended essay is a foray into what the author calls the second half of the first half of the AIDS epidemic, i.e., the period between 1987, when the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) was founded, and 1996, when the advent of combination therapy transformed AIDS from a virtual death sentence into a chronic manageable illness. <br

…More

The Evening Chorus
The Evening Chorus
By
Humphreys, Helen
2015-02 – Mariner Books
9780544348691
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Awards:
Governor General’s Literary Awards (2015)

“The Evening Chorus” serenades people brutally marked by war, yet enduring to live and relish the tiny pleasures of another day. With her trademark prose exquisitely limpid Humphreys convinces us of the birdlike strength of the powerless. Emma Donoghue Downed during his first mission, James Hunter is taken captive as a German POW. To bide the time, he studies a nest of redstarts at the edge of

…More

The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle
The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle

By Faderman, Lillian
2015-09 – Simon & Schuster
9781451694116
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Awards:
ALA Notable Books (2016)

The most comprehensive history to date of America’s gay-rights movement. “The Economist”

A “New York Times” Notable Book of 2015

The sweeping story of the modern struggle for gay, lesbian, and trans rights from the 1950s to the present based on amazing interviews with politicians, military figures, legal activists, and members of the entire LGBT community who face these

…More

Arresting Dress: Cross-Dressing, Law, and Fascination in Nineteenth-Century San Francisco
Arresting Dress: Cross-Dressing, Law, and Fascination in Nineteenth-Century San Francisco

By Sears, Clare
2014-12 – Duke University Press
9780822357544
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In 1863, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors passed a law that criminalized appearing in public in a dress not belonging to his or her sex. Adopted as part of a broader anti-indecency campaign, the cross-dressing law became a flexible tool for policing multiple gender transgressions, facilitating over one hundred arrests before the century’s end. Over forty U.S. cities passed similar laws during

…More

Girl Sex 101
Girl Sex 101

By Moon, Allison
Illustrator Diamond, KD
2015-04 – Lunatic Ink
9780983830955
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Girl Sex 101 is a sex-ed book like no other, offering helpful info for ladies and lady-lovers of all genders and identities, playful and informative illustrations on each page, and over 100 distinct voices, plus a hot narrative that shows you how to put the info to good use Learn how to navigate the twists and turns of female sexuality with special guidance from thirteen guest sex educators

…More

 

NOTE:  LFPL does not carry the last two items.  If you are interested in obtaining copies, you might want to see if they are available through our Interlibrary Loan service.

My Top Ten Graphic Novels of 2015

Man, 2015 was a killer year for the graphic novel format and especially for the library’s ever-expanding collection of graphic titles (thanks to LFPL’s graphic novel selector and manager of the Newburg Branch, Kerry Hunter).

I’ve been sitting on this top ten for so-o-o long because I keep on changing my mind about what should make it and what shouldn’t.  Since it’s way beyond late for best-of lists, let me drop it on you as is…ten picks in alphabetical (rather than rank) order.

Many of the titles are ongoing series so I’ve just named each series as a whole rather than any specific volume. I have included artists when listing creators but some titles have multiple artists so then I’ve only listed the writer.

  • Batgirl by Cameron Stewart/Brendan Fletcher — Barbara Gordon is off to college, living in a new part of town, and Batgirl is changing along with her! The stories are well-paced and the art by Brendan Fletcher is a fresh change of pace from typical superhero fare.

batgirl

  • Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro — Imagine The Handmaid’s Tale if it was a women-in-prison exploitation film…set in space!  The art by Valentine De Landro perfectly reflects the 1970’s grindhouse aesthetic that co-creator Kelly Sue DeConnick is evoking.  However, rather than titillating the male gaze, DeConnick serves up an entertaining kick to the groin of the Patriarchy!

bitchplanet

  • Deadly Class by Rick Remender — Set in 1987, this tale of punk rock rebellion mixed with a twisted take on the classic boarding school setting is a non-stop thriller.  Rick Remender once again deftly develops his outsider character, here named Marcus Lopez.  Lopez clearly has a lot of heart, screwed up as it may be, as he trains to be an assassin and falls in love with the wrong girl.

deadly class

  • Finder by Carla Speed McNeil — Whoa! It is hard to describe this series as Carla Speed McNeil, both author and artist, has spent the better part of 20 years developing this sci-fi/fantasy tale about a futuristic society that may or may not be here on Earth.  The main character, Jaeger, is the titular Finder, his aboriginal society’s title for a certain kind of shaman.  Issues of race, class, the nature of work, the power of reading, magic, and sexuality are all explored as we follow Jaegar’s travels.

finderthird

  • Ms. Marvel by G.W. Wilson — Kamala Khan is a nerdy but cool first generation Pakistani-American teen just trying to get through school and keep up with her fan obsessions (one of whom is Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel) when she is exposed to the mysterious Terrigen Mist.  Once exposed, Kamala finds herself with new powers, ones that she she uses to keep her hometown safe – even though she has strict immigrant parents, a curfew, and the constant monitoring of the Inhumans to boot.

msmarvel

  • Nimona by Noelle Stevenson — Nimona is one heck of a little hell-raiser and don’t you forget it!  She forces her way into the life of the villain Lord Blackheart so that she can become his apprentice.  As Lord Blackheart battles his arch-nemesis Sir Goldenloin, he finds Nimona just may be too wild to guide.  Noelle Stevenson’s art can be said to be simple and cute but is sophisticated enough to portray the darkness of the soul when needed.

nimona

  • Outcast by Robert Kirkman/Paul Azaceta — Demon possession is tackled by Robert Kirkman, the writer who brought us The Walking Dead.  Kyle Barnes’s life has been ruined by demons by the time he meets Reverend Anderson, who is trying – and failing – to successfully perform an exorcism. The art by Paul Azaceta is creepy, allowing the story to breathe as it unfolds at a psychologically compelling pace.

outcast

  • Polarity by Max Bemis/Jorge Coelho — Can a drifting young man with bi-polar depression be a superhero?  This question is explored in a visually stunning tale from Max Bemis and Jorge Coelho.

polarity

  • Phonogram by Kieron Gillen/Jamie McKelvie — I’m a sucker for comics about music and Phonogram is just that.  But it’s also about identity, magic, the nature of reality, and really great tunes!  Kieron Gillen is an old hipster for sure but he’s got none of the out of touch boringness that such a label suggests…yes, Gillen knows how to keep you coming back for more.  Jamie McKelvie renders the characters and the setting in crisp lines but the real magic is in his facial expressions…every character is clearly their own.  This is a boon as many comics with what I call the “indie autobiographical style” of art fail to strongly differentiate anyone but the main character.

phonogram

  • Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe — Quick synopsis: four party-hardy women in a medieval world roam the countryside and slay monsters.  Yeah, this could have been stereotypical sword and sorcery fluff but Kurtis Weibe slips in subtle, convincing character details for all four warriors along the way. He also is great with writing banter so I found myself laughing all the way, too.  Roc Upchurch was the artist on the first few issues and his character designs are gorgeous.

ratqueens

 

If you are interested in talking about these comics or others, LFPL’s Graphic Novel Discussion Group is the place for you!  The Group meets at the Main Branch on the second Monday of every month at 6:00 PM.

ThePrivateEye
Join us on June 13, 2016 as we explore the future-noir world of The Private Eye by Brian K. Vaughan (co-creator of the New York Times best-selling series Saga) and Marcos Martin.

Formats Available:  Graphic Novel

Reviewed by Tony, Main Library

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang

In Real Life is a book about gaming, economics, politics, and labor. Sounds like a tall order for a graphic novel, right? Not for Cory Doctorow!

InRealLife

Anda discovers a new online game when a guest speaker comes to her tech class. Miss Liza McCombs, a gamer herself, introduces Anda and her classmates to one of the fastest growing multiplayer role playing games, Coarsegold Online. Anda begins to spend most of her free time on Coarsegold. It’s a place where she can be different than her real life self; strong, independent, a fighter, a leader and a hero. She also gets to meet people from all over the world and make new friends. And for Anda gaming is fun and a good thing.

However, things become problematic when she befriends a gold farmer, who turns out to be a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game collects valuable objects illegally and sells them to players from developed countries. This kind of behavior is against the rules in Coarsegold and Anda discovers the line between right and wrong is not black and white, especially when it comes to someone’s livelihood. Anda finds herself learning about the consequences of your actions and the courage to stand up to bullies.

Doctorow explores heavy topics such as poverty, culture clash, and the addictive nature of gaming. Yet he also delves into the advantages of gaming, including the self-confidence and cross-cultural benefits Anda gains throughout her online experience.

In Real Life is a timely read for adults and teens in an age of online gaming, digital addiction, and ever increasing dependence on technology. Doctorow and Wang have created an immensely fun, engaging and fast paced graphic novel for gamer girls and guys of all ages. Here’s hoping for more adventures with Anda!

Formats Available: Graphic Novel

Reviewed by Heather, St. Matthews

You Were Here by Cori McCarthy

Death can blind us to a person’s past and push our imagination into an unrealistic “what if” future for the one we lost. When all we have left are our memories, the fear of losing them can send us running back to places where it all began.

youwerehere

Jake was the dare devil of the family. He was forever pulling crazy stunts, searching out abandoned places to explore, even playing around with drugs. He would accept any dare but the last one cost him his life. Jaycee, his sister, was there. She watches as he falls, sees him lying on the ground with his head at an impossible angle.

It’s been five years since she saw Jake fall to his death. And tonight she will meet up with Mik, her brother’s old friend to explore one of Jake’s favorite abandoned buildings. These days she rarely talks to anyone. She has shut everyone out but Mik and he only shows up once a year on the anniversary of Jake’s death. She has never forgiven Natalie, her best friend, for deserting her after Jake died.

Jaycee is now where Jake was the night he died. She’s graduated from high school. And while she should be focusing on college, she dresses in his clothes, sleeps in his room, all she can think about is Jake. It’s like she’s lost something she can’t find and is constantly looking, searching, hoping to finally understand why all of this has happened. Hell-bent on retracing Jake’s journeys through the abandoned places, to see where he had been, Jaycee will even try out some of his old stunts, trying to unearth him in the only way she can, to walk in his shoes.

But she won’t do it alone. Her friends won’t let her.

Mik, who hasn’t said a word to her since Jake died, is there as always to watch over her when she ventures to these ruins. His secret keeps him silent.

Natalie, the practical one, hides behind the rules, afraid not to be perfect. But she can’t escape the secret she has buried for the last five years, the real reason she and Jaycee are no longer friends – Zack.  Zack, Natalie’s on again off again boyfriend, chases the bottle to keep down his own fears of not being good enough, of an uncertain future, and the possibility of losing Natalie when she leaves for college.

And then there’s Bishop, a friend with the soul of a poet.  Bishop is trying to find his way out the dark place he is in after he crashed and burned when the girl at the center of his universe left him behind.

Told in alternating voices, we walk with these four teens as they try to decide just what is going happen now that school is over. Following in Jake’s footsteps, daring to tread in places long abandoned by man, this dangerous environment brings out the best and worst in each of them. Old feuds will arise, the fear of being left behind, uncertainties that come with change and in the end maybe a little peace.

This coming of age story blends art and words together in glorious black and white, while it sets the scene and brings the story to life.  There are dysfunctional families in several shapes and forms, drinking and some sexual content. But there is real love and friendship here, because in spite of everything these teens care about each other. The descriptions of the abandoned ruins make you feel like you are there. Mik’s point of view is told almost totally in graphic novel form, even some of Bishop’s poetry is displayed in urban graffiti. A tale that blends art and words together in glorious black and white, it sets the scene and brings their story to life.

For me this was a hard look at a scary time, the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood, wrapped around a story that is as realistic and heartbreaking as some of things today’s teens will face. This is also an adventure, exploring those places man has left behind in our rush to move forever forward. As these four teens will see, sometimes it takes stepping back into the past before we can move forward. Besides some of these places are wonderfully creepy, as are this parts of this tale.

Formats Available:  Book 

Reviewed by Katy, Shawnee Branch

Will in the Ville: Celebrating All Things Shakespeare!

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Will in the Ville is a collaborative initiative—spearheaded by the Frazier History Museum, University of Louisville, and the Louisville Free Public Library—involving more than 45 arts, cultural, and educational organizations throughout Louisville and Southern Indiana. As part of the international commemoration of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, it aims to make Louisville a “city of Shakespeare.”

Shakespeare events begin in April and continue throughout 2016. The celebration culminates with the arrival of the national traveling exhibit, First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare, on display at the Frazier History Museum from November 10–December 10, 2016. The exhibit—co-hosted by the Frazier, UofL, and LFPL—is made possible through a grant from the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Cincinnati Museum Center, and the American Library Association and is traveling to all 50 states. Louisville was selected as the representative site for the state of Kentucky.


Community Partners


frazierAbout the Frazier History Museum: The Frazier History Museum is located at 829 West Main Street on Louisville’s downtown “Museum Row.” This world-class museum provides a journey through more than 1,000 years of world and American history with ever-changing and interactive special exhibits, daily performances by costumed interpreters, and engaging programs and special events. The Frazier is open Monday–Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 5:00 p.m. For more information, visit www.fraziermuseum.org.

UL_primary_CEHD_wbAbout University of Louisville: The University of Louisville is a state-supported research university located in Kentucky’s largest metropolitan area. It was a municipally supported public institution for many decades prior to joining the university system in 1970. The University has three campuses. The 287-acre Belknap Campus is three miles from downtown Louisville and houses seven of the university’s 12 colleges and schools. The Health Sciences Center is situated in downtown Louisville’s medical complex and houses the university’s health-related programs and the University of Louisville Hospital. The 243-acre Shelby Campus is located in eastern Jefferson County.

Library Logo color w white spaceAbout Louisville Free Public Library: The Louisville Free Public Library’s mission is to provide the people of Metro Louisville with the broadest possible access to knowledge and information and to support them in their pursuit of learning at all stages of life. LFPL is the largest library system in Kentucky, serving nearly 4 million visitors annually at our 18 locations and on the web at LFPL.org.

About Folger Shakespeare Library: Folger Shakespeare Library is a world-renowned center for scholarship, learning, culture, and the arts. It is home to the world’s largest Shakespeare collection and a primary repository for rare materials from the early modern period (1500–1750). The Folger is an internationally recognized research library offering advanced scholarly programs in the humanities; an innovator in the preservation of rare materials; a national leader in how Shakespeare is taught in grades K–12; and an award-winning producer of cultural and arts programs—theatre, music, poetry, exhibits, lectures, and family programs.

Learn more at www.folger.edu

About Cincinnati Museum Center: Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) at Union Terminal is a nationally recognized institution and national historic landmark. Dedicated to sparking community dialogue, insight, and inspiration, CMC was awarded the 2009 National Medal for Museum and Library Service from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and received accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums in 2012. CMC is one of only 16 museums in the nation with both of these honors, making it a unique asset and a vital community resource. Union Terminal has been voted the nation’s 45th most important building by the American Institute of Architects. Organizations within CMC include the Cincinnati History Museum, Duke Energy Children’s Museum, Museum of Natural History & Science, Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX® Theater, and Cincinnati History Library & Archives. Recognized by Forbes Traveler Magazine as the 17th most visited museum in the country, CMC welcomes more than one million visitors annually.

For more information, visit www.cincymuseum.org.

About the American Library Association: The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with approximately 58,000 members in academic, public, school, government, and special libraries. The mission of the American Library Association is to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.

ALA’s Public Programs Office provides leadership, resources, training, and networking opportunities that help thousands of librarians nationwide develop and host cultural programs for adult, young adult, and family audiences. The mission of the ALA Public Programs Office is to promote cultural programming as an essential part of library service in all types of libraries. Projects include book and film discussion series, literary and cultural programs featuring authors and artists, professional development opportunities, and traveling exhibitions. School, public, academic, and special libraries nationwide benefit from the office’s programming initiatives.

Additional information can be found at www.ala.org/programming.

About the National Endowment for the Humanities: Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation.

Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at www.neh.gov.

Cozy Mysteries: What’s the Deal?

Many readers more than likely assume that all mysteries are the same.  That’s not true mysteries are as unique as their fiction counterparts.  There’s the classic detective story, the traditional suspense, as well as the murder mystery, the police drama just to name a few.

Then there’s the cozy mystery subgenre, which is a whole different type of mystery.  Think Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote.  Don’t let that fool you – these aren’t your grandmother’s mysteries.

Jessica-Fletcher

Another way to look at cozy mysteries is basically that they are Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys for grownups.  So if you loved those series as a kid and want to continue reading similar books but know that you don’t want to read kids’ books as an adult then cozy mysteries are the perfect alternative to getting caught reading adult books.

The main character in a cozy mystery – the mystery solver – just happens to be an average citizen with no police, or detective experience.  Many times they work to so solve the mystery because the local law enforcement is incompetent or they are a family member or friend have been accused of the crime, and they want to clear themselves or some else as quickly as possible.

There is a cozy mystery out there for just about any reading taste. Cozy mysteries have a cast of characters though on average it tends to be heroines.  They can have any type of career, the following of which are but to name a few:

There are quite a few cozies that feature librarians as the hero or heroine, such as the Library Lover’s Mystery series by Jenn McKinlay.  There’s even a series or two that have a cat helping to solve a mystery, the Cat in the Stacks series by Miranda James and the Lighthouse Library Mystery series by Eva Gates.

There’s a cozy mysteries for every reading type, and there’s one for you.  If you’re not sure where to start just stop in at any library and the reference staff will help find the right cozy for you.

Article by Carissa, Main Library

How-To Festival is One Month Away!

5th annual How-To Festival returns to LFPL’s Main Library

Saturday, May 14, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

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Want to learn how to milk a cow? Make a robot? Stop a leaky faucet? Act out Shakespeare?

Those are just a sample of more than 100 things people can learn in five hours at the Louisville Free Public Library’s fifth annual How-To Festival.

This year, local presenters will offer a variety of free interactive learning experiences – from dancing to crafts to gardening – that offer entertainment and practical skills for adults, children and teens. “How-to” sessions last anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes and cover a range of activities, from brewing your own beer to Zumba.

This year’s Festival is a mix of past favorites – how to age gracefully, train your dog, and BBQ – along with new lessons, including how to create a banana piano, how to read Tarot cards, and how to make chainmail jewelry. Kid-friendly activities include how to walk, talk and dance like a pirate and how to hula hoop. Plus, Mayor Greg Fischer will be a special guest presenter this year, teaching “how-to start a business.”

The How-To Festival takes place on Saturday, May 14, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Main Library, 301 York Street. Sessions will be located in more than 20 areas throughout the building and surrounding grounds, transforming the entire library into a giant classroom. Food trucks will be available.

The How-To Festival is free and open to the public. For more information, including a schedule of sessions, visit LFPL.org/how-to.

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Classic Adaptations: The Count of Monte Cristo

This is the first of a series of posts on works of classic literature and their adaptations. Classic literature is usually classic for a reason (especially if they’re older than 100 years or so) ; these works tap into central concerns and universal themes. Given all of this, they’re especially prone to being remade over time, as people tell and re-tell the stories – usually while trying to knock off the jagged edges of the age and culture in which it was originally written. Taking a good hard look at classic adaptations can lend a lot of insight into cultural differences and changes over time, and also into what does not change, that universal core of experience.

My pick to launch this project is, naturally, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

Here’s my reasoning:

  1. It’s good (really good), especially if you like broody, psychological revenge tales.
  2. Counts as a double adaptation, since I read English, and the original is in French.
  3. This post will involve space vampires. Of course.

Before we dive right in, let’s establish some ground rules. “Classic Literature” refers to the super-stars of the literature world. These are the most famous works in the canon of their respective cultures, proverbially famous, even, and endlessly re-told. I’m also only counting works over a century old, since it would take at least that long for the culture to change around it enough to see if the story can truly stand the test of time. Until then, it’s just a best-seller.

Due to how well-known these stories are, there’s no such thing as spoilers for the most part. I mean, imagine this situation:

Romeo and Juliet’s puppy love for each other [SPOILER ALERT guys! Highlight with your mouse between the asterisks to read the spoilers!] * Doesn’t end well, because they’re impulsive teens. They both die. The end. * [Spoilers end here!]

Yeah, it’s sort of silly. If it’s been out for four centuries, and/or it’s grade school level history, it can’t be spoiled. That said, I won’t assume you know everything about it, and I’ll step lightly on the plot to keep it fresh. The focus here is on how the story is told, and how it changes in adaptations. Let’s get this party started!

 

The Classic

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

This cuddly photo of the author is completely unrepresentative of the contents. Perfect cover choice, guys.

If you haven’t read this book, read this book. Right now. It’s not like you’re on a library website or anything like that. Get to the catalog, and get a copy. It’s that good. It’s also very very long, but it covers a huge span of time, lots of characters, and a complex plot. If you like juicy, scandalous, vicious revenge stories, this one is the granddaddy of them all. There’s romance, intrigue, and action aplenty. Arguably, what makes this book a classic is how credible the characters are, and the interactions, motivations, and mental states behind what they do. This level of detail lends extra weight to the central concern of the book – revenge measured against redemption and mercy. This is heavy, good stuff right here. It’s like a rich, dark chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and drizzled in hot fudge made of more chocolate and utter ruin.

 

The Adaptations

The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)

This is the movie poster for the 2002 Count of Monte Cristo adaptation.

Here’s the cover art for the DVD, and I think it does a very good job of conveying what it’s all about.

This is some tremendously ambitious stuff, right here. The unabridged novel is a real doorstop of a book, and the aim in this case is to make an adaptation that fits into a standard feature-length film, with a run time of about two hours. Do they succeed??

Maybe: it’s an entertaining movie, gripping, action packed, fun to watch. I remember catching it on TV re-runs once, though, and was utterly confused about the last third or so, where it diverges wildly from the novel. Also, given only about an hour and fifteen minutes of Count of Monte Cristo, much of the psychological richness that makes the original successful gets lost in the compression to film. The storytelling would have to be incredibly compact to begin with, to fit in a complete adaptation, so maybe taking an alternate path as the filmmakers did is the better choice? But I have a hunch that they made the changes to conform to what a modern audience expects in a feature film: we want action, suspense, and a “love story” where the main character has a romance and ultimately gets the girl. The novel has no love stories in this sense, given that all of the relationships are immensely complicated by the social, economic, and political environment in which it is set, to say nothing of the plot’s impact. Any of the novel’s female characters, however, are infinitely more interesting and complete as credible characters than the stock “love interest” of most of our feature films.

In sum, a good movie, but only a very loose adaptation.

 

Gankutsuou: the Count of Monte Cristo (originally aired 2004)

Gankutsuou DVD cover art.

Any still image is a very poor representation of what this anime is like. Imagine a breathtakingly elaborate animated digital collage.

I promised you space vampires, didn’t I? You know how I implied in the movie review that an adaptation of such a long book would be more nuanced and complete if it had longer than two hours to develop characters and motivations? If it was, perhaps, a miniseries? This is that miniseries. In the future. In SPACE.

(Why yes, it IS an anime, too. How could you tell??)

Despite the changes to the setting, this is still the most faithful and complete adaptation of the book that I have seen. Told over 24 episodes, the series does make changes to the original, but keeps the engine of the plot running strong fueled by sensitive characterization and giving the story a chance to pace itself and develop to maturity. In terms of major plot points, none are lost in the telling, and only a few are shuffled around in order to accommodate the run time.

Visually, this is an impressive work of art as well ; where many series use computer animation and coloring to take cheap shortcuts, this anime uses it to render the entire series in a unique style, with each scene a moving collage of textures and patterns. The largest difference between this adaptation and the book, apart from medium and setting is what, precisely, happened at the island prison (space station) Château d’If, therefore changing the Count’s true motivations in his quest for revenge. The series begins during Carnival on the Moon, and is told completely through the point of view of Albert de Morcerf, the trusting and innocent son of one of the Count’s enemies – this choice conveniently focuses all 24 episodes on the revenge plot itself, leaving the Count’s imprisonment and escape to brief allusions. It’s worth watching even a few episodes of this riveting series, if just to admire the artistry and vision of the creators.

 

In the case of these versions of The Count of Monte Cristo, the changes made in the course of adapting the work, even in the most successful adaptations, are generally due to the constraints of space available for the plot to play out in (2 hour run length), as well as face-lifts intended to improve the attractiveness of the story to a different audience and culture than it was initially written for (love story, space vampires, the Count’s motivations). As we will explore in future installations of this series, changes to the original story don’t necessarily make an adaptation a bad one, even if it starts with Carnival on the Moon.

Alexandre Dumas, Sr.

I’ve never seen a picture of Dumas, Sr. not looking cuddly, though. Like everybody’s storytelling grandpa. Seriously, though, the Dumas family has an incredibly interesting history. Like one of his novels, actually. Specifically, The Count of Monte Cristo.

Article by Katherine, Highlands-Shelby Park Branch