Author Archives: Tony

Upcoming Author Talks at LFPL

Bestselling author and historian

H.W. Brands

brandshw

Main Library, Monday, June 15, 7 p.m.

Join bestselling author and historian H.W. Brands for a discussion of his latest book Reagan: The Life. Brands teaches history and writing at the University of Texas at Austin. #LFPLAuthors

This is a free event, but tickets are required – click here.


Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist

David Hoffman

hoffman

Main Library, Thursday, July 21, 7 p.m.

Join Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist David Hoffman for a discussion of his latest book The Billion Dollar Spy. Hoffman is a contributing editor at The Washington Post. #LFPLAuthors

Tickets available starting June 1, 2015.


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In Defense of Comics, pt. 3

I had originally intended this segment to be a discussion of how comics can be differentiated from other visual arts but points in my original post have generated some very good questions from readers that should be addressed first.

The questions all refer back to the following statement:

“Comics are not just for kids and never really were except for those with some deep investment in an arbitrary highbrow/lowbrow distinction. This distinction is one based on historically constructed relations that give privilege to very debatable aesthetic principles.” (Buchanan, 2014)

You’ll notice that this paragraph is – primarily – composed of two assertions, one about the appropriateness of comics to any particular age group and another about the standards for judging a form of art.  The latter point also expressly questions such standards based on an – ancillary – investigation into how such standards are derived (or rather, constructed).  Implied in the standards are further questions regarding the nature of this “authority” (i.e., what fits a certain category of art, who can or should enforce standards for the categories, etc.).

Let’s look at the first assumption, often expressed by critics of comics as some variation of “comics are just for children,” and how it fails to hold up as something other there than a pat dismissal of the art form.

For the sake of discussion, let’s define comics quickly as publications that tell stories with pictures on paper using pencil and/or ink that may or may not incorporate words.  It’s not the only – or even best – definition but it conforms well to the general understanding of what makes a comic.  In the West, broadsides and their descendants, mass publication newspapers, have included such stories – either editorial or entertaining – in some form since the 18th Century.

These information outlets have hardly been within the purview of children in that time.  Other than following the comics page, children have used newspapers mostly for mandatory research into a current or historical event for class.  With the rise of the Internet, even the modern media-savvy child is less likely to read the printed newspaper than ever before.  Further, children’s input into mass publication newspapers has rarely extended beyond the comics page.  Only a few features such as comics page war-horse Slylock Fox have solicited input from and encouraged participation by kids.

Mass publication newspapers are owned by, created by, and published for adults.  As cartoons (and comic strips) have been a staple of newspapers for over 200 years, it would indicate that they are deemed appropriate for adults.  The function of the comic strip was to leaven serious publications with some light-hearted fun, helping to increase circulation.  It is this aspect of joviality that gave the comic its name, separating it from the more serious (in intent) “cartoon.”

The evolution of the comic strip to the comic book was tied to the fortunes of the newspaper in the era between the First and Second World Wars.  The earliest comic books were simply republications of strips in a different format.  The first monthly comic book, Comics Monthly, was published in 1922. It lasted for 12 issues and reprinted various comic strips from 1921. During the Great Depression, publishers even created comic books for give-away just to keep their very expensive printing presses running.

Traditional comic books have been consumed by adults continuously since 1920’s.  During World War II, about 44% of servicemen read comics regularly and another 13% read them occasionally. (Gordon, 1998, p. 139)  According to the U.S. War Department, comics accounted for approximately 25% of all printed materials sent overseas to soldiers in 1944. (Gordon, 1998, p. 140)  Figures for comic book readers over the years are notoriously hard to pin down but adults have become the dominant demographic as generations of comic fans have grown older and continue to read them.

So why were comics supposedly just for children?

Looking back to the period before World War II when this cultural attitude took root, the newspaper was often considered a lower form of information than literature or scholarly studies.  It was literally disposable.  Comic strips – one of the least important features – were especially ephemeral, viewed by many as nothing that an adult would think twice about.

Even the stand alone comic book was thought to be a cheap publication akin to pulp magazines rather than a proper book.  The lurid or gaudy figures that dominated comics in those days – private detectives, action adventurers, funny animals, and superheroes – were deemed inappropriate for “literature.”  The stories were seen as less coherent and less meaningful, as something that appealed to the under-developed tastes of children.

Further comics were under attack during the late 1940’s to early 1950’s.  The attacks were part of a general paranoia about the rising demographic of the “teen” and its potential delinquency.  It culminated in the Comics Code Authority, a self-regulating board for the comics industry, which enforced a series of rules which guaranteed that comics in the U.S. would be suitable for children.  Unfortunately, the industry was also stifled from developing for many years, so much so that mainstream comics ended up reinforcing the idea of the art form being “just for children.”

How this all changed is something for another article, though.

If you would like to talk about comics further, please join us for the Graphic Novel Discussion Group at the Main Library. The next meeting will take place tomorrow, May 11th, at 6:00 PM.

GraphicNovelGroup_Planetary_Main

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Works Cited:

Buchanan, A. (2014, September 25). In Defense of Comics. Retrieved May 10, 2015, from http://blogs.lfpl.org/readers/734/

Gordon, I. (1998). Comic Strips and Consumer Culture, 1890-1945. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.

 Article by Tony, Main Library

Redeployment by Phil Klay

redeploymentGerman philosophy Peter Sloterdijk talks about books as “thick letters to friends.”  Phil Klay mentions this in his acceptance speech for winner the recent National Book Award winning title for Redeployment.  Drawing from the front line of serving in the Marines during a 13 month deployment, Klay follows the life of one soldier on the front lines serving with his troop and the daily routine of survival in the Anbar Province where the Islamic State is attempting to takeover currently. Filled with grit, laughter, sadness, and contemplation, this work lured me in to keep on reading in attempting to understand how one individual attempts to resettle after being deployed in to another country.

Readers, who may suspect the story being filled with horrid violent scenes and moments of combat, will be disappointed as the real battle not only exists amongst the time away from the United States but in answering the question of “Who am I as a human being?”  While listening to book in my vehicle and having to keep it for a longer than the average 2-3 weeks, I contemplated on what personal challenges have I dealt with where the soldier survived to tell.

Formats Available:  Large Type, Audiobook, Regular Print, Book Discussion Kit, and Downloadable EBook.

Reviewed by Micah, Shively Branch

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If this title pleasures your literary mind, here are some titles similar in first person point of view and military orientation that you can check out from the Library.

the things they carriedYellow Birds

 

Earth Girl by Janet Edwards

earthgirl

It’s the year 2788.  Through space exploration and terraforming, other worlds now have become home for many humans.  Freedom to travel (“portal”) from one world to another within a cluster of settled planets, each with its own culture and distinctive life styles, have caused prejudices that are hard to overcome.  For those living on Earth, it has become a world that exists for only two reasons.  One is to study our past history in search of knowledge lost during wars, the Exodus, and solar storms that wiped out thousands of databases.  The second is as home to those who are handicapped.

Jarra’s eighteenth year is coming up, she has just completed school and is looking forward to entering college to become an archeologist studying pre-history.   Jarra, an Earthling, is one of the handicapped.  She is what off-worlders call an “ape,” a throw-back.  Because of her faulty immune system, leaving Earth would be a death sentence.  Over the years, vids have been a window into other worlds and their inhabitants.  She has learned the hard way that many “exos,” those who exited Earth for other worlds, see the handicapped as lesser beings.  In turn  Jarra has set up defensive walls and has difficulty overcoming her  hard feelings towards the off-worlders when she has to interact with them.

Since she was eleven Jarra has worked on excavation digs, crumbling ruins of cities left behind hundreds of years ago.  She has gained much knowledge and skills needed to excavate artifacts of old Earth, its history, environment , the ruins left behind.  It will be sorely needed in the months to come.  Jarra is tough, smart and wants to prove that she, an “ape”, is just as good as those who can move freely from one planet to another.  Living and working side by side with a group of “exos” shows Jarra that seeing only one side of a person doesn’t tell the whole story.  This dystopian world has friendship, romance, interplanetary exploration, action and adventure all wrapped up in a burlap sack of tolerance towards others.

Earth Girl gives us some background for this dystopian world and a smattering of what it might be like to search out and live on other worlds.  It’s a coming of age sci-fi tale with characters that can get under your skin and make you wonder what you would do in a particular situation.  It is an older teen book with some sexual content, not graphic, and verbal abuse, name calling mostly.  Conflicts don’t just completely go away but you can see how changes might take place. There is some repetitiveness in the story but it captures teen viewpoints well and points out adults can learn, too, if they take time to talk with teens.  All in all a good read for older teens and some adults.

This is the first in a trilogy, followed up by Earth Star and Earth Flight.

The author, Janet Edwards, has written several short stories about the characters in the books that you might also want to read. They are all free at her website.

Formats Available:  Book (Regular Type), eBook

Reviewed by Katy, Shawnee Branch

Alexander McCall Smith is coming to LFPL

AMS

New York Times bestselling author of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series

Alexander McCall Smith

Main Library, Thursday, April 9, 7 p.m.

Join author Alexander McCall Smith for a discussion of his latest book Emma—a retelling of Jane Austen’s classic story, with a modern-day twist. #LFPLAuthors

This is a free event, but tickets are required – click here.


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Author Events and Book Talks Around Louisville

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Events are free unless otherwise noted.


MARCH 2015

Tuesday, March 17, 8:30 a.m.: Tom Rath, bestselling author of Strengths Based Leadership and How Full is Your Bucket?  will give a keynote address at the Best of Leadership Summit at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts at 501 W. Main Street. Learn more online or by calling (502) 561-0458.

Thursday, March 19, 7:00 p.m.: Louisville’s own Tania James will read and sign her newest novel, The Tusk That Did the Damage, at Carmichael’s Bookstore, 2720 Frankfort Ave.  Learn more online or by calling 502-896-6950.

Tuesday, March 24, 6:00 p.m.: The Kentucky Author Forum presents David Boies, author of Redeeming the Dream: The Case for Marriage Equality.  Boies will be interviewed by Jeffrey Toobin. Toobin is a prominent legal journalist, staff writer for The New Yorker, senior analyst for CNN, and author.  Purchase tickets at the Kentucky Center’s box office or drive-through on Main Street, by calling 502-584-7777 or 800-775-7777, or online.

Thursday, March 26, 7:30 p.m.: Novelist Michelle Latiolais will read from her work in the Bingham Poetry Room, Ekstrom Library as part of the William Axton Reading Series at U of L.  Learn more online or by calling 502-852-6801.

Tuesday, March 31, 7:00 p.m.: Sam Halpern will read and sign his debut novel, A Far Piece to Canaan, at Carmichael’s Bookstore, 2720 Frankfort Ave.  Learn more online or by calling 502-896-6950.

APRIL 2015

Thursday, April 2, 7:30 p.m.: U of L professor and novelist Paul Griner will read from his work in the Bingham Poetry Room, Ekstrom Library as part of the William Axton Reading Series at U of L. Learn more online or by calling 502-852-6801.

For information about author appearances throughout Kentucky, visit the Kentucky Literary Newsletter.

The Splendor Falls by Rosemary Clement-Moore

Sylvie Davis was a Prima Ballerina.  One step, two steps, then she heard a crunching sound.  Now Sylvie Davis a broken doll.

splendorfalls

It was hard not to be bitter, she would never dance again. And now, Sylvie’s mother was sending her off to her father’s old family home in Alabama to stay with a cousin.  It was for the best she was told, recuperate away from everything she’d lost. The alternative was to be shut away in an institution for drug and alcohol abuse. At least Gigi, her dog, was going with her. What she hadn’t expected to find was the Southern plantation type of home complete with secrets, ghosts, a steel magnolia relative who wasn’t fond of dogs and two guys playing dangerous games, with Sylvie at the center of it all.

At first it was hard not to be cynical. All she wanted was to be left alone. It was Gigi who found the over grown garden with the large blue stone, similar to those at Stonehenge, at its center.  Just what Sylvie needed to take her mind off of herself for a time. As she worked to restore the garden, she began to open her eyes to those around her, including Shawn, the charismatic leader of the Teen Town Council and Rhys, the young Welshman, doing research at an archeological dig nearby. Then she heard the sound of a baby crying, saw a young woman, dressed in old fashioned clothing, running towards the cliff and the cold, the incredible cold that followed.  There was a supernatural power in the earth and what Sylvie didn’t know was that she had the ability to draw it out for good or bad, just as she would have to choose between Shawn and Rhys.

While not a speedy read, the story is in the telling.  This paranormal romance has a mash of history, a few hints at environmental lessons, a splash of magic, a smattering of mystical folklore and a bit of greed. It’s peopled with the good, the slightly self-interested and finally those who will find their way in the end. Puzzling out how it all fits together can be fun in itself. You won’t find all the answers, for some of the story you can simply fill in the blanks. However, if you are looking for a rainy day read, this one can while away the hours with a bit of Southern charm, romance in the air and a touch of magic.

Formats Available:  Book (Regular Type)

Reviewed by Katy, Shawnee Branch

Book Sizzle

Looking for new reading suggestions? 

Each of the lists below feature titles with descriptions and links to LFPL’s catalog

Click on your favorite genre or expand your horizons and try something new!


What’s hot in fiction, from young sensations, established literary masters, and tomorrow’s bestsellers. Selections in women’s fiction, historical novels, suspense and more.

 

Enter the world of romance fiction, where love is always exciting and new. You can read reviews of the best new romance novels, from historical and contemporary love stories to romantic suspense and inspirational titles.

 

Truth is often stranger than fiction. If you lean towards true stories, you’ll want to check out this list to see the newest non fiction titles added to the library.  Whether your goal is improving your personal finances, or leading your company to record sales, get a heads-up on books that will help you get ahead in the business world.
Get the lowdown on the hottest whodunits. Check out your favorite sleuths, forecasts of promising new mystery series and profiles of top writers in the world of crime fiction. From self-help and fitness to home decor, books designed to fit your active lifestyle and renew your spirit are featured here. This list will steer you toward the best new cookbooks, gardening guides, pet care manuals and more.
Are you a fan of thrillers, espionage, westerns…? Don’t miss this list of fiction adventure titles new to the library. Find out about cutting-edge discoveries and travel to exciting destinations. Including the best new books in medicine, biology and the great outdoors.
Stay informed on the people, places and events that influence world affairs. Check out new books on current events, along with recommended memoirs, biographies and history titles. Step into the future with reviews of new science fiction titles that will take you to brave new worlds. This list also recommends rising stars in fantasy and alternate history.
Independent readers will appreciate these monthly recommendations on exciting new chapter books in fiction and nonfiction. A monthly preview of the best new books for budding readers. You will learn about sure-to-please choices for storytime.
Take a sneak peek at the hottest new titles for young adults. From science fiction to romance, history to mystery, these monthly picks for teens offer something for every reader.

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by Dr. David D Burns

feelingoodWinter months can seem to drag on forever.  With all the gray gloom it’s easy to start feeling glum.  It’s rare I recommend a self-help book — or even read one myself — but if you find this winter is taking its toll on you, try Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by Dr. David D. Burns.  Dr. Burns has been studying cognitive therapy and mood fluctuation for decades.  When Feeling Good first hit the shelves in 1980, no one knew much about cognitive therapy or how successful it could be as a means to treat depression and low self-confidence.  Now, many years and revised editions later, Feeling Good has sold millions of copies and is recommended by mental health professionals over and over.

Don’t let the topic scare you, this book is a wonderful reminder for us on how to be kind to ourselves whether you need a little winter pick-me-up, or are suffering with long term negative thoughts.  In studies, the ideas Dr. Burns discusses in Feeling Good are proven to work better than many other methods currently used to help improve mood and confidence.  Feeling anxious with life?  Work?  School?  Life?  These are all things which can bring people down and make them feel unsure.  The main focus of Dr. Burns research is that all thoughts create feelings.  Further, if we are able to turn initial negative thoughts around – and look at things more objectively – then our feelings will be more positive.  Sounds simple but for many of us it’s not.

Don’t let the winter months get you down, if you need a break from the cold but can’t afford a trip to warmer climates, try Feeling Good By Dr. Burns instead – and maybe mentally you can find your beach oasis.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Feeling Good  is discussed in Marbles by Ellen Forney which is one of March’s suggested reading titles for the Graphic Novel Discussion Group at the Main. Library.  The topic is Graphic Medicine: Narratives of Illness & Caregiving.  The meeting starts at 6:00 PM on Monday, March 9, 2015.

The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton

secretwisdom

The tragic loss of a small child drives Annie into herself. Her husband can do nothing to console her, but readily points the finger at their surviving son, Kevin, who is smothered by guilt, but unlike his mother is aware of the need to move on. The decision is made for mother and son to leave Indiana for Annie’s family homestead in the Appalachian mountains, where readers find out that this was not the first premature or violent death visited upon the Peebles bloodline; Annie’s mother died as a complication of her birth, while her grandfather was targeted as an early activist for miner’s rights. When Annie returns to her father’s home, he too has known grief and is ready to give his daughter and grandson the space to heal.

Pops Peebles has commanded a great deal of respect amongst the inhabitants of fictional Medgar, Kentucky. He entertains his closest friends most every night with front porch talk and colorful stories, always accompanied by glasses of sour mash in engraved crystal. Like his father, who stood up for safe working conditions for his fellow miners, Pops is also concerned with fighting for what he thinks is best for his community that has slowly degraded due to surface mining practices.

Medgar was once thriving and proud, but in 1985, its beauty has been scarred, its waters polluted, and its economy has slowly trickled to almost nothing. Decline and loss are a painful terrain from which The Secret Wisdom of the Earth‘s youngest characters develop; some who triumph and others only add to the devastation. Kevin, who for most of the book holds back on revealing the circumstances of his brother’s death, finds himself with open-ended days to wander the forest around his grandfather’s home. There he meets Buzzy, a local boy near his own age, and they spend their days exploring the wilderness, navigating bullies, and admiring the opposite sex. The two become inseparable until another tragedy strikes, and the boys are forced to weigh allegiances over conscience.

Whether you’re a fan of regional stories, have an interest in mountaintop removal, or just appreciate a great coming-of-age tale stocked with colorful characters, I encourage you give this first literary effort by Christopher Scotton a top place on your reading list.

Formats Available: Book, eBook

 Reviewed by Natalie, Crescent Hill