Saturday, June 27, 2009

Wet and Wild

It's week #4 of our Summer Reading program, so here's your new question. Remember the third floor of the library is chock-full of contests and we will be giving the contest winners gift certificates to local merchants. The following question is for The WILDerness Films contest and the prize will be a $25 gift certificate to STARBUCKS! If you know the answer, drop by the third floor and fill in a ballot OR email us at Readers2@dppl.org.

Where would you find the Niagara of the South?

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Confession

In 1982 I was 14 years old. I wanted to grow my hair long but my parents wouldn't let me. I listened to music constantly. I love bands like Rush, Van Halen, KISS, Motley Crue, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. It was all hard rock and heavy metal. It was before all those hair bands started to appear silly (or perhaps it was because I was 14).

I was appalled when I heard that Eddie Van Halen, the greatest guitarist in the history of guitarists performed on the song Beat It on the new Michael Jackson album Thriller. I couldn't not hear it. It was on MTV nonstop and on every radio station. Usually when a song gets overplayed I get sick of it really fast. Not this time. I grew to love it. I had it on tape. I listened to it over and over. I sang it, I danced to it (and metal heads never danced to anything), but all in the secrecy of my room. I can still hear it in my head.

It Doesn't Matter Who's Wrong Or Right Just Beat It, Beat It, Beat It, Beat It. . .

I've been harboring that little secret for 27 years. If my metal friends back then knew I liked that song I would have been ridiculed. I'd have been forced to hand in my leather studded wristbands. So I kept it a secret. And yesterday Michael Jackson died. Say what you want about him, but the man could write and perform a song. Many openly loved him and his music, many others did so in secrecy. It's time I got that off my chest.

Anyone else have a song or album you secretly loved?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Grab Your Sunscreen and Chick Lit and I'll Meet You at the Beach

Summer is finally here and if it stops raining, you can find me at the beach with a new chick lit book.

This genre of fiction is one of the newest stars in the constellation. The subject of chick lit is almost always urban, single, career women in their 20s and 30s and the tone is light and funny. These gals like to work, break up with their boyfriends and buy shoes. And if you think that you can't judge a book by its cover, think again at least as far as Chick lit is concerned: the book covers routinely feature stilettos, designer bags and neon pink backgrounds.

This doesn't sound like literature that would be birthed from the Women's Liberation movement but it is. Starting in the late 1960s, women have been entering the workforce in droves and choosing career paths in professions once denied to them. They have also been delaying marriage and children: today, the average American woman marries at age 26. These lifestyle changes have created a new phase of life for women - after high school and before the committment of motherhood, and it is this phase that is described most often in Chick Lit.

But can you really call it feminist literature??? It seems to focus on hyper-consumerism and obsession with ex-boyfriends, hardly traditional feminist priorities. According to many, however, chick lit is feminist literature, a new type of feminist literature that examines the interplay between women and popular culture and takes itself far less seriously than the women's libbers of the 1970s. Even the word "chick" is regarded differently. Once a word of derision, it is now a perfectly acceptable appellation. Chick is now chic.

Today, the Chick lit boom that started with Bridget Jones' Diary and Sex and the City has traveled around the world with original titles originating in India, Russia, Sweden, Italy, Indonesia and Japan to name a few. Here's a list of new titles you can find a little closer to home on the third floor of the Des Plaines Public Library:

Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner

Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

Summer House by Nancy Thayer

Hot House Flowers and the Nine Plants of Desire by Margot Berwin

Dune Road by Jane Green

The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder by Rebecca Wells

Queen Takes King by Gigi Levangie Grazer

The Wedding Girl by Madeline Wickham

Pick one up on the 3rd floor and I'll see you on the sand. I'll be under the giant straw hat reading a book with Jimmy Choos on the cover.

P.S. I am not one of the woman in this photo. I have a bigger... hat.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Watch Your Toes!

Week 3 of Summer Reading activities is already upon us, let's celebrate with another question! Before we do that, however, I wanted to remind everyone that the 3rd floor of the library is densely populated with trivia contests - each of which offers a drawing prize of gift certificate to some of our fine dining establishments throughout town. The following question is for the Don't Go In the Water movie trivia contest and the prize will be a $50 gift certificate to Longhorn Steakhouse! If you know the answer, drop by the third floor and fill in a ballot OR email us at Readers2@dppl.org.

A monster created from chemical waste dumped into the Han River kidnaps a girl whose dysfunctional family will stop at nothing to get her back in this movie that shattered Korean box office records. Name the film.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Win a Pair of Ravinia Lawn Tickets!

To celebrate our new Classical Music Center on the 3rd Floor, we're offering a chance to win one of three pairs of Ravinia lawn tickets for a Brahms/Dvorak concert on Saturday, July 25th at 7:30 pm.

What will you find at our Classical Music Center, which is located behind the 3rd floor elevator?

For starters, you'll find the latest issues of Strings, Gramophone and BBC Music. My favorite of the three magazines is BBC Music, a beautifully produced magazine out of Britain written in an engaging, accessible style. One of my favorite sections is Composer of the Month, which generally includes an essay, composer quotations, a timeline of main events in the composer's life and recommended recordings. Another cool feature is the backpage interview called Music That Changed Me.

The Classical Music Center currently houses all of our Orchestra section CDs, as well as CD lists to get you started on your classical music journey, such as Music of the Baroque and Relax to the Classics. You'll also find a small selection of our classical music DVD collection, like From the Top at Carnegie Hall. Season 2, which features gifted musicians aged 8 to 18. And don't forget to check out our list of best-selling classical CDs, as well as the rest of our classical CD collection on the third floor.

So stop by between now and July 12th to fill out an entry for the Ravinia tickets drawing, but be sure to check out our classical music offerings here at the library as well. My hope is that if you like classical music enough to travel to Ravinia in Highland Park, you'll also take advantage of what we have to offer in the way of classical music right here in Des Plaines--at the library.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Joe Dee Pea Koe

Do you know that song by Gershwin, "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," that has the line about... you say Tomato and I say Tomahto...? Well, how do you say Picoult? As in the prolific writer of contemporary novels, Jodi Picoult. The pronunciation of her name confuses the best of us. Thank heavens for audiobooks, radio interviews and the Library of Congress for help with the pronunciation problem. The Say How page at the Libray of Congress web site shows her name as pē-KŌ.

And Jodi pē-KŌ is pretty popular this summer. A movie based on her novel My Sister's Keeper opens June 26. But even without the movie, her novels are never on the shelf. Young adults and book groups devour her writing. She is known for well developed characters dealing with a topical problem and a moral dilemma.

Readers are often asking for an author like Picoult. If you've enjoyed her books, or are just waiting for one to become available, consider these authors in the meantime.

Elizabeth Berg
Chris Bohjalian
Kim Edwards
Karen Joy Fowler
Patricia Gaffney
Ann Hood
Sue Miller
Jacquelyn Mitchard
Luanne Rice
Anita Shreve

Have any authors' names you are wondering how to pronounce? Thoughts about Jodi Picoult's books? What about the casting of Cameron Diaz as the mother of three in My Sister's Keeper?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Death Becomes Her

It's week #2 of our Summer Reading program, so here's your new question. Remember the third floor of the library is chock-full of contests and we will be giving the contest winners gift certificates to local merchants. The following question is for The Wild Women of Literature contest and the prize will be a $50 gift certificate to Cheeseburger in Paradise! If you know the answer, drop by the third floor and fill in a ballot OR email us at Readers2@dppl.org.

Being a wild woman of literature has its disadvantages. Which of the following characters does not die at the end of the story?

1. Lady Macbeth

2. Madame Bovary

3. Edna Pontellier ( The Awakening)

4. Anna Karenina

5. Cloris Leachman

Friday, June 12, 2009

Zombies Are the New Black

Well, summer is coming and trends are changing. Swimsuits that match and flip-flops have become passé; wide-leg pants and platform wedges are currently the hot thing. Changes are sweeping through literature and media forums as well: vampires are so last year, the creature du jour is now the zombie.

Vampires gained traction throughout the seventies and eighties with novels like Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot and The Keep by F. Paul Wilson (still one of my personal favorites), but it was Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire series that really put the torch to the gunpowder. The nineties brought us movies such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the film version of Interview With the Vampire, and Blade. The latest manifestation of this trend is the Twilight saga by Stephenie Meyer, which proves that people are still as hungry for the troubled and lonely stranger motif as ever.

Yet, a change is in the air. There has been a fascination with the walking un-dead throughout the years, from George A. Romero's 1968 cornerstone film Night of the Living Dead to Michael Jackson's Thriller video of 1983, to the Evil Dead trilogy directed by Sam Raimi (culminating in Army of Darkness in 1993) but it seems that in the 21st century, stories concerning zombies are reaching critical mass. Resident Evil (based on the popular video game) and 28 Days Later were crafted in 2002. The year 2004 saw both a re-make of Dawn of the Dead (based on Romero’s 1978 release of the same name) and the release of one of my favorite movies of all time: Shaun of the Dead (Shaun’s tagline is “A romantic comedy. With zombies.”). More zombie films have followed, but a recent zombie film has already become a cult hit, Dance of the Dead, that combines the zombie genre with a high school coming of age story.

The recent trend has bled over into books as well. World War Z by Max Brooks, Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament by S.G. Brown, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s latest installment of the Agent Pendergast series Cemetery Dance, David Wellington’s Monster Island trilogy, even the superhero comic series Marvel Zombies: all are recent novels using zombies as a major plot vehicle. And just to prove that nothing is sacred, Seth Grahame-Smith has infused the living dead into one of literature’s crown jewels in his book: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance - Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem. This re-telling of her classic love story with the addition of action sequences featuring animated corpses searching for human flesh may have Jane Austen turning over in her grave, but it is certainly a sign of the times.

Why does it matter, you ask? Well, this entire zombie hullabaloo is merely social commentary. We as a society tend to pay more attention to ubiquitous television screens or personal communication devices than we do in developing relationships with one another. While people seem to be drawn to the vampire’s sensual struggle between vulnerability and power that seems to exist in another (previous) age, zombies represent the numbness of today, of us going through the motions of living, without really doing so. The apocalyptic plague aspect of these stories of the living dead is also a warning. It represents the bleakness of a future where we kill our own planet through pollution and negligence. In the movies and books, zombies are often unavoidable; in real life, they show a present and a future that we can avoid by taking care of ourselves and our environment. So go out, don’t be bitten by intransigence, but put your soul into everything that you do!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Wild Reads - It's a Jungle Out There

If you are a fan of the television series Monk you are probably familiar with it's catchy theme song "It's a Jungle Out There" written and performed by Randy Newman. It is a jungle out there and that's a good thing when it comes to books. If you prefer your summer reading to be hot, steamy adventures then we have the books for you. You've probably seen the movie Jurassic Park but try reading the book by Michael Crichton. It's definitely a "Read on the Wild Side" adventure. Another "hot" adventure is 24/7 by Jim Brown. The setting is an island reality show with a unique and deadly twist to the process of being voted off of the show. Temple by Matthew Reilly is a wild walk through the jungles of Peru and Stormy Weather by Carl Hiaasen takes you through the urban jungles of South Florida after a hurricane.

Come in and check out our "Wild Reads" selections and enter our trivia contests for fun summer prizes. There is also a ballot box where you can fill out an entry ticket telling us what you have read. Each week there will be a drawing for a Des Plaines Public Library tote bag.

What wild books are you reading this summer?

Linda Knorr - Readers' Services

Monday, June 8, 2009

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

This week marks the beginning of our Summer Reading Club and this year it is WILD! Our theme is Read on the Wild Side. We have a number of different trivia contests on the 3rd floor with questions changing weekly. Winners for each drawing will receive gift certificates to local businesses. Each Monday we will post a question from one of our contests that you may answer via email for a chance to win. Email us at Readers2@dppl.org with your answer along with your name and phone number.

This week's question:

Born to Be Wild (Pop Music) Trivia:
Name that Tune: What is the title of the song that features these lyrics:

Im wearin
Fur pyjamas
I ride a
Hot potata
Its tickling my fancy
Speak up, I cant hear you

Here on this mountaintop

For those of you who like to put the emphasis on the reading aspect of our summer reading club. Each book you read can be entered into a weekly drawing for a library book bag. To submit online, email us with the title and author as well as your contact info at readers2@dppl.org.

Thanks and Good Luck

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Waiting for the new Steinbeck

70 years ago the great American novelist John Steinbeck published his masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath. It chronicles the sorrowful journey of the Joad family, Okies who lose their tenement farm during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Like thousands of other migrant farmers, the Joads head west to the verdant farms of California. What they find instead are akin to squalid refugee camps, forgotten by their government and exploited by the wealthy land owners who use this tragedy as a means to pay the migrant farmers pennies a day for their labor. While The Grapes of Wrath is ultimately a homage to the "ordinary" hard working people of this country, it also took a swipe at class inequities, greedy businessmen and corrupt local governments. It was this last characteristic that got Steinbeck in trouble and makes The Grapes of Wrath so much more than another popular novel of its day.

This was during the world-wide Depression, of course, which many blamed on the greediness of the wealthy. Many other countries sought to solve this class struggle with Communism and there was a growing sympathy for Communism in the United States especially among labor and the far left. The Grapes of Wrath was just too close to the bone in this regard, especially in passages where the characters discuss how revolution erupts when too few have too much. Although Steinbeck was not a Communist, his book brought a beacon of light to the miseries of the migrants and caused a national stir including charges that he was "a Red." The southern California county which was the fictional setting of the story actually banned and burned the book as did many other local governments and schools.

The putative reason for this condemnation was obscene language. Indeed, Steinbeck's characters often speak in earthy phrases and there is a famous or should I say infamous scene where Rose of Sharon, the Joad's daughter offers her mother's milk to a starving man after she miscarries. But it is generally agreed today that the book was banned because it portrayed the farm owners as inhumane and promised that the working people would someday rise to power. In short, it was banned because of its political message, not its language.

The bans and the book burnings brought new attention to the novel and propelled it to the top of the bestseller list. People had charity drives for the migrants called "Grapes of Wrath" parties. Hollywood rushed a movie adaptation which won awards. Even the hat worn by Henry Fonda as Tom Joad in the film became popular and known as "a Joad cap." Steinbeck became famous, which he hated and rich, which he liked.

What really fascinates me about this book, however, is how it intersected with history as few books do. Steinbeck believed that art could be used for the social good, and surely The Grapes of Wrath is a reflection of the hardships wrought by history, in this case, the Great Depression. On the other hand, the book also caused history. It brought needed attention to the migrants' plight and is certainly infamous for being a banned book. That's quite a lot of heavy-lifting for one book.

So, who's our Steinbeck now? Where's our contemporary Grapes of Wrath? During these troubled economic times, who's the author who will write about the suffering, rise to the bestseller list, tick off the powers that be and have a hat named after his character?

Nobody comes to mind like Steinbeck. Perhaps Tom Wolfe??? Suggestions please!

P.S. The person who was responsible for ending the ban in southern California on The Grapes of Wrath was a librarian.