Friday, March 30, 2012

The Answer, My Friend ....

Lately I've noticed a trend in my reading. It began a year ago when I breezed through the 400-plus page novel The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, and while anyone who knows me is probably tired of listening to me bluster about how it was the best book I read in 15 years, it certainly began this current trajectory of my fiction reading today. I am now deep into the Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss, the first book of which is entitled The Name of the Wind: a fantastic account of the formation of a young folklore hero that seizes its own identity despite its slight undercurrent of Harry Potter trappings. A possible next choice from my infinite reading list could be the Dark Tower novels by Stephen King, the latest of which is named The Wind through the Keyhole (Are you starting to catch the draft of where I'm heading?).

There are gusty titles in whichever direction you look. If you are into hard science fiction you may have read Julie Czerneda's prequel to her Trade Pact Universe trilogy, Reap the Wild Wind. If romance is more your speed, Kat Martin's Against the Wind or Christine Feehan's Magic in the Wind might set your heart fluttering. A waft of mystery might be in order for others, in which case readers can wind up enjoying In the Wind by Barbara Fister or a something by Tony Hillerman, who managed to do it twice: Dark Wind and Wailing Wind.

It doesn't stop there, however; it breathes back through the years. A significant contribution to American literature is the play about the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trail (but was also an oblique statement on the McCarthy Trials) Inherit the Wind. And, of course there are the classics The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.

Is it the transient nature of wind that attracts authors to incorporate it into their stories and titles: here today but possibly not tomorrow? The wonder of not knowing which way it will blow next? The unseen yet completely real presence of it?

I am unsure, but the one thing I do know is that my friend Bob assures us that the answer is "blowin' in the wind".

Can anyone cast about for any other zephyrous titles?

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Other Side of Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese, the director of Raging Bull and The Departed, is so closely associated with dark, violent films, that at the 2012 Academy Awards, host Billy Crystal serenaded him with the following lines, to the tune of That's Amore:

When Scorsese yells "print"
And no one's in a splint
Well that's Hugo.
There's no Pesci no Bob
There's no killing no mob
It's just Hugo.

But it's true I'd prefer
For the sequel
You don't be so arty.
Have the kid crack a head
Shoot Ben Kingsley in bed
'Cause you're Marty!

But there's more to Scorsese than Goodfellas, Mean Streets and Taxi Driver. The aforementioned Hugo, nominated for eleven Academy Awards and the recipient of five, is the story of a Parisian orphan who lives and tends to the clocks in a Paris train station. It's also a story that allows Scorsese, a passionate film preservationist, to introduce viewers to the figure of Georges Méliès, a French film pioneer who fell into obscurity and became a shopkeeper. (In the film he's played by Ben Kingsley.) Although based on a book for kids, this is a movie adults can enjoy, too. And it's especially poignant for longtime Scorsese fans to see the child hero, Hugo, peering down at the world through a clock as the young Scorsese, an asthmatic child, used to peer down at the streets of Little Italy from his parents' apartment.

Much has been made of Hugo's departure from what many see as the typical Scorsese film: one filled with violence and inhabited by wiseguys played by actors like Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. But in truth, Scorsese has long explored the lives of characters with no connection to Little Italy or the mob. Back in 1974 he directed Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, in which Ellen Burstyn played a thirty-five-year-old wife and mother. Newly widowed after an unhappy marriage, she heads for California in search of a singing career, but finds herself waitressing in Arizona, where she falls in love with a rancher played by Kris Kristofferson.

Scorsese, who considered becoming a priest and who attended seminary for a year, has also explored religion and spirituality in his movies. People sometimes forget that Kundun, about the current Dalai Lama, and The Last Temptation of Christ, based on the controversial novel of the same name, were both directed by Scorsese. Of The Last Temptation of Christ, Roger Ebert writes that it is"likely to inspire more serious thought on the nature of Jesus than any other film ever made."

And then there's my favorite Scorsese film, The Age of Innocence, which, like all of Scorsese's films, is visually stunning, its colors rich and vibrant, and so sensual that you'd swear you hear the crunch of a red velvet opera curtain as it touches down on a stage. Based on the novel by Edith Wharton and set in New York in the 1870s, The Age of Innocence stars Daniel Day-Lewis as Newland Archer. Archer is a wealthy young man engaged to the conventional young woman that New York society expects him to marry. But as the wedding approaches, he finds himself falling in love with her older, more independent cousin, a divorcée who offers a glimpse of a freer, more satisfying life.

Scorsese once referred to it as "the most violent" film he's ever made, though no punches are thrown, no tables overturned. He's speaking, I think, of the ability of Archer's clannish New York crowd to thwart and separate in the interest of preserving the clan whatever the emotional cost. A bit of a stretch? Perhaps. And yet there's a scene in which a lovely young woman approaches Archer, all crinoline and smiles, and it's horrifying, because the door to a wider and more promising life is about to slam shut.

Do you have a favorite Scorsese movie? Click here to see the Scorsese-affiliated titles owned by our library.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Show and Tell Time!

It's time for the Friends of the Library book sale again! I know, I know, you've probably already heard about this from our awesome web services librarian, Brodie Austin, on Plaintalk. But since this is an event I get absolutely giddy about, quite frankly, you shall hear about it again! This is just too good to keep to myself. Today I got sixteen books, and spent less than $10. Just to give you an example, here are the books I picked up.

J.R.R. Tolkien's Unfinished Tales
Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream
Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice
Shakespeare's King Lear
Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamozov
C.S. Lewis's The Lion, The Witch, And the Wardrobe
Eric Knight's Lassie Come Home
Henry James's The Turn of the Screw
Shakespeare's As You Like It
Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass
Shakepeare's The Tempest
Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita
Jean Rhys's Sargasso Sea
Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being
William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying
Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis

(In case you can't tell, I'm trying to bulk up my Shakespeare collection at home!)

Although this was most likely just my first trip around, considering this selection, I think I restrained myself admirably.

The Friends of the Library book sale will take place in Meeting Room B/C on the first floor of the library, Friday the 23rd (Today!) from 6pm-9pm, Saturday the 24th from 9:30am to 4pm, and Sunday the 25th from 1pm-5pm. You can find more information here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Beginning of the End

As anyone in the local area knows, it's been an unusually mild and warm year so far. In contrast with last year, we hardly had a winter this year at all, getting off easy with barely three snowstorms. Even the just-above-freezing temperatures ended abruptly last week, and it's been progressively more pleasant and green since then. Today is just the first day of spring, and it's currently 85 degrees outside. Now, this could mean a few things. Maybe it's just Midwest weather up to its old tricks again. Maybe fate is smiling upon us and giving us a lovely, sunny year full of beach volleyball and short shorts. Maybe we're starting to feel that climate change. Or maybe, just maybe, it's 2012 and the world is about to come to a fiery end and we're just sitting in a proverbial simmering pot waiting to boil alive.

This is the notion I'd like to entertain today.

Now, I know that sounds scary. Living in a post-apocalyptic world isn't something many of us have given a lot of thought to beyond storing a few bottles of water and some Twinkies in the garage “just in case.” But fear not! Even if you haven't got your running-from-zombie boots stashed under the bed for a quick getaway, just think of this as the beginning of a wonderful new world of possibilities. Once we're past the whole society-falling-apart thing, anything could happen! And, if we want a little peek into just a few of the possibilities, we need look no further than the 3rd floor of the library. We've got you covered.

The Stand by Stephan King
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
World War Z, an Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Blood Red Road by Moira Young
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Ashes of the Earth, a Mystery of Post-Apocalyptic America by Eliot Pattinson
And of course, the overwhelmingly popular Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins!

The Road
The Book of Eli
28 Days Later
Children of Men
I Am Legend

And of course, there are many, many more out there. What do you picture when you think of the end of the world as we know it?

Friday, March 16, 2012

From glen to glen...

Each year in America, we see St. Patrick's Day as an opportunity for everybody, of Irish ancestry or not, to revel in our love for the country, its history, and its spirit. Many of us who can trace our heritage back to the Emerald Isle feel nostalgia for a land we have never even set foot on. But anyone who can pick up a book and read can "be Irish for a day."

There are a whole host of novels to choose from. Here are some of our newest acquisitions of Irish fiction:

Minding Frankie by Maeve Binchy 
The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright 
Homecoming by Cathy Kelly 
The Silver Boat by Luanne Rice

The Last Storyteller by Frank Delaney 
The Linen Queen by Patricia Falvey 
Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan 
Ghost Light by Joseph O'Connor

A Death in Summer by Benjamin Black 
Headstone by Ken Bruen 
Death at Christy Burke's by Anne Emery 
Dublin Dead by Gerard O'Donavan

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

And once the celebrating winds down, the Guinness is mopped up, and the green clothing is tucked back into wardrobes, if you are still looking to transport yourself back to old Erin, join our discussion of Benjamin Black's first mystery, Christine Falls, on Thursday April 12, 7:30 pm.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


While watching the film Super 8 this past weekend, there was a massive train wreck with explosions galore. I turned to my wife and half-jokingly said, "This scene is so Spielbergian!" Now, I understand the film was directed by J.J. Abrams, but Steven Spielberg was the executive producer, and I'd like to imagine that he managed to put in his touches here and there. While the explosion scene seemed right in the wheelhouse of Abrams (the creator of the Alias and Lost television shows and director of the 2009 Star Trek film, among other projects), there was a scene a bit later on that seemed to be heavily influenced by Spielberg. It is just a simple scene of the junior high-aged lead character coming out of his house, getting on his bike and riding away. The way the camera pulls back slowly to reveal him biking into the surrounding neighborhood captured the perfect combination of energy and wonder that only a young teen, a bike, and a summer vacation can bring. It was a direct echo from the Goonies, E.T., or even Empire of the Sun. "Now that," I exclaimed, my finger leveled at our TV, "is Spielbergian."

As the movie continued, I was hyper-aware of the tug of emotions that were pulling at me, and I considered how much of an expert heartstring yanker Steven Spielberg has become throughout his career. He is certainly attuned to the human condition and has become adept at putting it on-screen.

Films made by Steven Spielberg have certainly affected me throughout my life, whether it be:
  • Jamie jumping and identifying the American planes at the top of his lungs while they are bombing his Japanese prison camp in Empire of the Sun
  • Mikey talking about Troy's bucket and Mouth ruing his failed dreams in the Goonies
  • The stunned wonder of the scientists as they first encounter the live exhibits of Jurassic Park
  • Private Ryan, in his later years, kneeling in front of Captain John Miller's tombstone and gasping in remembrance of the sacrifice of his fellow soldiers
  • Indiana Jones riding his horse accompanied by the Raider's March.
You get the idea. If there was ever a master of creating that swelling feeling in your chest that creeps slowly into your throat and makes you want pump your fist into the air (or fight a tear in your eye), then he or she would have to thumb wrestle Steven Spielberg for top honors in that category.

Spielberg is my guy for a slam-dunk favorite movie. Who are some of your favorite directors?

Friday, March 9, 2012

All American Nightmare

All American Nightmare. Hmm...whenever I hear that I automatically think of music. Hard Rock in fact. Why do you ask? Well, a band from the midwest by then name of Hinder have an album that was released quite some time ago entitled, All American Nightmare. Most of the lyrics involved in this production you would find in most 80's Hair Rock albums and instrumentally this album sounds a bit southern with a touch of Hard Rock influence in it. While their previous two albums had a more softer, more standard rock sound, this album took on a more of a harder turn. In my eyes these guys are a Hard Rock band covered by Glam and Hair. This album is pretty much straightforward, talks about girls, relationships and just having the best time you can possibly have. 
If I were to name three similar sounding bands compared to this specific album I would have to narrow the bands down do Nickelback, Warrant, and hints of Def Leppard.

My personal favorite tracks off the album which I highly recommend for various reasons are: What Ya Gonna Do, The Life, Red Tail Lights and Striptease. The first song What Ya Gonna Do tells somewhat of a little story of someone who has a problem with drinking. The songs asks "What ya gonna do when the whiskey ain't working no more?" The drunk person in the song never calls home, misses days, and receives calls from his significant other just see see if he's alive or ready for a relationship. This song I hope helps anyone who has to deal with someone whom they love has drinking issues. The Life talks about when you work hard and try to do all that you can to accomplish and achieve your dreams and once you get there, maybe your dreams aren't all that exciting as you would hoped it would be. Like some of the lyrics say, "This is the life they talked about...when all the dreams are all your own, turn to nightmares all alone, it hits you right between the eyes, this is the life. Nothings ever what it seems, maybe that grass ain't so green, nothings out of reach." Probably my favorite lyrics off this album. Wow. Red Tail Lights is another song about a relationship that is on the line and ending right then and there. The chorus explains it all "Girl I swear I wasn't running around, Just got sick of you puttin' me down, and who died and made you queen? You can't put this all on me, girl our love's on the line right now, should we fight or turn around? I know there's got to be more to this thing, then two hearts goin' their separate ways, red tail lights in the pourin' rain." Another great set of lyrics which I'm sure will help anyone cope with breakups and hard relationships. Finally Striptease is straightforward is about talentless pop artists who only live life on solely by their looks and think they are the greatest and best singers. Ill let you discover the satisfying lyrics in your own, its worth the wait.

Well this album pretty much tells everything like it is. Straightforward and direct with its lyrics while keeping the instrumentals simple and rocking. I definitely listened to this album almost everyday for the longest time after I received it. Personally on a scale I would give this album 8.5 stars out of 10. Great album. I suggest you give it a listen if your into Rock of course or just need a little pick me up when times are tough.

Official Site: http://www.hindermusic.com/home/index.shtml
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Hinder
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/hindermusic

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Destination Fiction

It doesn't take too much to get bogged down in the ceaseless grind of the everyday. So easily are the small pleasures of daily life forgotten; replaced in their rightful home at the forefront of our consciousness by the burdens and stresses with which we all cope. You burn the toast at breakfast, and someone bought the orange juice with pulp even thought everyone knows you only drink it without; you find a parking ticket on your windshield when you get to the car, face obscenely bad traffic during your commute, arrive late to work on the day you were meant to give a presentation to the CEO of the company, spill coffee on your shirt at lunch, and arrive home just in time to have a knock-down drag-out argument with the first family member you see. At the end of such a day it's difficult not to be overcome by a thick, murky emotional fog tainted by the inescapabilitiy of our personal commitments--it's at moments like these when we most often say to ourselves "I need a vacation." Vacations, however, are expensive, difficult to plan, and have all sorts of impractical prerequisites like time off from work and someone to watch your dog. As such, sometimes the best thing you can possibly do is get out of town for free and in such a manner that you can snap back to reality at a moment's notice when your attention is required by your real, everyday life. What I mean to say, is that sometimes one really needs a fic-cation, and here at your local library, we aspire to facilitate your journey, but please be advised there are no emergency exits on this flight.

On the precipice of what I hope will be a thrilling and memorable personal adventure in Spain I've been reflecting a lot on anything and everything I've read which might give me some insight into what I might expect, but there are myriads of wonderful books set in exciting and exotic locations all over the world. To name a few:

Donna Leon's street-smart and capable Commissario Guido Brunetti stars in a mystery series set in modern-day Venice. The series offers up great local flavor from one of the most beautiful and unique cities in the world. To get started pick up Death at La Fenice. Click on the picture to check on availability.

 Chris Ewan's "The Good Thief's Guide" series is a prime candidate for anyone who is a globe-trotter at heart. It features reformed burglar Charlie Howard as he begins a crime-writing career. His co-star in each new novel? A whole new city. So far we've seen Amsterdam, Paris, Vegas, and Venice. These novels are fast, funny reads and don't have to be read in any particular order. If you want to start at the beginning go for the Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam.

 The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman is a standalone novel which takes place in Rome. It's the story of an English language newspaper run out of Italy. Rachman does a wonderful job of bringing both Rome and the newsroom to life but the meat of this story is the relationships between characters and the essence of the human condition.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett takes place in the home of the president of small South American country. It's a political thriller which is more about the emotional exchange between hostages than a sunny South American getaway, but it earns a place on the list because it's a great book by a great author.

When in Rome by Gemma Townley earns a place on this list for the exact opposite reason as Bel Canto--it is completely frivolous, with very little depth, but as they say..."When in Rome..." and that's exactly the time to read this fun, fast-moving chick-lit romantic comedy--or maybe when you'd just really like to be in Rome.

Temple by Matthew Reilly is also a thriller which takes place in South America--but it's got more of an Indian Jones vibe as competing organizations search for a lost relic from an ancient civilization. The group competing on behalf of the American army is lead by an intrepid linguist. The search takes the story through abandoned gold mines, ancient ruins, and rural villages for a good up-close look at the landscape of the Peruvian jungle.

A special shout out to The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón recently featured in another Positively Ellinwood Street post. Evocative imagery and a fast-moving plot-line lend incredible vivacity to this coming-of-age novel set in post-war Barcelona.  To read more about it click here.

Reading is such an excellent opportunity to escape the drudgery of the everyday, and why not take advantage of the most distant and exotic places on earth since, after all, when it comes to fiction, not even the sky is the limit?

Bon Voyage, readers!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Coming Attractions April 2012

So many hot new books to choose from in April. 
This is just a taste...

Click on the book cover to reserve your copy today!
Click here to view our full list.