Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Join us for an evening with Mike Farrell also known as Captain B.J. Hunnicutt on the popular television series M*A*S*H on Wednesday, November 28 at 7 PM at the Glendale Central Library. It’s free!

Long before M*A*S*H was a household word, Farrell also began to pursue an interest in politics and human rights that took him to Cambodia, Central America, the Gaza Strip and many other strife-torn parts of the world.

This involvement stems from his belief that being a responsible citizen means being willing to see conditions improve for the ultimate benefit of all.

His passionate descriptions of the human rights abuses in many countries as well as important environmental issues show why he currently is considered one of Hollywood's most prominent activists.

His autobiography, Just Call Me Mike, provides intimate accounts of how he grew up in the shadows of wealthy Hollywood. The book also describes his continuing success as a film and television director and producer.

Monday, November 26, 2007

This Week in Reading Nov. 25 - Dec. 1

What a week. Mark Twain, Jonathan Swift, Woody Allen and Jon Stewart were all born this week. Something funny, yet pointed, was in the stars, on comets or somewhere. Throw in Louisa May Alcott, Madeliene L'Engle, Alberto Moravia, and David Mament and you'd balance the cultural conservatism of Winston Churchill, C.S.Lewis, Rex Stout, and the creator of Peanuts, Charles M. Schulz.

You'll note but one event this week, however it is an extremely important one for us librarians. Andrew Carnegie gave money to build many of the public libraries in America and regardless of how he gained his wealth in the robber baron era, he reached social consciousness by the time of normal retirement and began to give back to the democratic institutions of those countries which allowed him to amass that wealth. His generosity has nearly been matched in our era by the BIll and Melinda Gates Foundation which began a program nearly ten years ago to give computers to hundreds of public libraries so that we librarians could train others to get over the digital divide. Carnegie and Gates are the signifying bricks and clicks of this ever changing public institution.

This Week's Question: Twain, Swift, Allen, and Stewart, all use satire, as do several others born this week. Satire often uses irony and sarcasm to make the point behind the seeming absurdity linger beyond the joke. Sometimes the absurdity which is pointed out actually happens later because others do not see its absurdity. Sometimes this works against the author, such as the Archie Bunker character in Norman Lear's All in the Family television series who became a hero to the right wingers he was meant to satirize. Which of these authors said the following? One can deliver a satire with telling force through the insidious medium of a travesty, if he is careful not to overwhelm the satire with the extraneous interest of the travesty.

Answer to Last Week's Question: The Algonquin Roundtable of literary wits and games players met in New York at the Algonquin Hotel in the 1920s and was also called the Vicious Circle. It included playwrights George S. Kaufman, Marc Connelly, Robert Sherwood, humorists and columnists Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker, Heywood Broun, Franklin Pierce Adams, and editor of the New Yorker, Harold Ross. Various actors, composers and other Broadway lights flitted in and out, among them Harpo Marx, Talalulah Bankhead, and Edna Ferber. The group centered around the critic Alexander Woolcott (who was satirized as Kaufman's The Man Who Came to Dinner.) The Friends of Libraries USA declared the hotel as a national literary landmark in 1996, no doubt due to the popularity of works by and about these people in American public libraries.

Monday, November 19, 2007

This Week in Reading November 18 - 24

Thanksgiving is early this year on the 22nd. Next year Thanksgiving will be five days later, on the 27th, giving us less time to buy books as holiday gifts, but at least it won't seem like the holiday commercials, tree lots, and store displays are coming too early like they are this year.

This week's authors are a varied lot but you'll have to scroll down toward the later part of the list to get to the bigger names. Voltaire didn't write that much but what he put his naive Candide through in Dr. Pangloss' "best of all possible worlds" spoke volumes, nudging those who chose to become enlightened away from the powerful forces of greed and authoritarian destruction of the human spirit toward a more reasoned, egalitarian and humane future.

An English contemporary Laurence Sterne, on the other hand, gave us nine volumes of one novel but it, too, also had an innocent at its center. Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman has been both praised and reviled for being an unplotted, untidy, unending accumulation of whatever was on Sterne's mind, but most of it was fine comedy with some satire and I feel he was just centuries ahead of his time. If you read his novel like it was an Internet blog site you log onto every week or so you can enjoy the whole thing by skipping the tedious parts. I don't think he intended anything less.

The biggest name of the week is probably George Eliot, who wasn't a man, and who is often in danger of being ignored today because of having written Silas Marner which every high schooler used to be forced to read. However, Mary Anne Evans was a great writer and you haven't read Middlemarch consider taking it up. Especially if you'e grown up now. Eliot and Hardy do get better with age.

This Week's Question: A personal note, here: Harpo Speaks (co-authored by Rowland Barber) was my favorite biography of any I ever read. The only reason we didn't hear Harpo Marx in the movies was because of his Bronx accent, not because he didn't have things to say. He was as lovable as you imagine, and while not as bookish as his brother Groucho Marx, he was a more welcome friend to the writers at the Algonguin Roundtable and a real member of their "Thanatopsis Literary and Inside Straight Club." Who were some of the writers at the club and what was the other name by which it was called?

Answer to Last Week's Question: After all his other travels and at the age of forty, Robert Louis Stevenson bought 400 acres on the Samoan island of Upolu in the South Pacifc and settled in with his wife and family. He died there and was buried there just four years later. Who knows what other books he would have written.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Houses of Los Angeles

Leslie C. Brand and his home El Miradero (now Brand Library) is included in Sam Watters’ two-volume publication Houses of Los Angeles, 1885-1935. These volumes profile 75 of the most original residences by leading architects and landscape designers in and around Los Angeles. Illustrated with over 800 archival images these books are part of Acanthus Press’ series Urban Domestic Architecture, examining great American residential buildings of early 20th century. El Miradero is featured in volume one, 1885-1919, and Leslie C. Brand is in the company of other city founders including Henry E. Huntington, Arthur Letts, and William Andrews Clark Jr. Volume two, 1920-1935, includes movie stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Harold Lloyd and Frances Marion along with other Hollywood celebrities.

The Los Angeles Times covered the release of these books with an article on Oct. 4, 2007. "Houses of Los Angeles documents many of the great heartbreak homes—magnificent architecture and gardens built to blend with extraordinary natural settings, all destroyed by developers, city governments and an assortment of tycoons." — Los Angeles Times. Not all of the homes included in the volumes have been destroyed, as Brand Library is a testament to a surviving treasure!

The book’s author Sam Watters did much of his research for El Miradero by using archival materials at the Brand Library and also the Special Collections Room at Glendale Central Library. Watters was educated at Yale University, the University of Marseilles, and the Royal Herbarium at Kew. He currently teaches at the architecture school of the University of Southern California.

Watters will present a lecture on Houses of Los Angeles, Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 1:00pm in the Brand Library Recital Hall. This event is free and open to the public!

Ira Levin 1929 - 2007

Popular suspense novelist and playwright Ira Levin has died. Very popular with the reading public, Levin wrote only seven novels but most were made into very successful movies. His novels were filled with suspense and it was said that "he liked giving readers the creeps" as underlying evil came out to interfere with the mundane good one would normal encounter day to day.

His novels included Rosemary's Baby, The Stepford Wives, The Boys From Brazil, and A Kiss Before Dying. His most successful play was the comic mystery Deathtrap.

Monday, November 12, 2007

This Week in Reading November 11 - 17

Among the authors born this week are more who became literary institutions, but the reputation of each this week was founded upon seeing the world differently then the mainstream around them. Or, perhaps some might say, this group saw more clearly within the multiplicity of worlds that exist around the mainstream and more accurately portrayed reality through seeming unreality.

Kurt Vonnegut's other worlds sharply delineated this one populated by fools and often run by bigger fools. The novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky and poet Aleksandr Blok were both symbolists of sorts going deep into psychological realities. Eugene Ionesco's Rhinoceros, while called theatre of the absurd, shows how person after person in a society can be swept into the fascist thundering herd. Mexico's Carlos Fuentes experimented with unusual prose styles and characters. Portugal's Jose Saramago won a Nobel prize for his works of sociopolitical fantasy. In a sense though every writer is an outsider, this group wrote differently about what was around them and because of that the literary world changed around them. It is worth noting, however, that other writers born this week also pushed boundaries and others worked extremely well within them. It's a strong week all around.

This Week's Question:
Also born this week was another kind of institution,
Robert Lewis Stevenson of Scotland, who traveled the world and created some of the western world's most loved adventure books. Among them Kidnapped, Treasure Island, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Stevenson's own life would make a fine movie as his travels and romances led him from Paris to northern California, back to the United Kingdom, and then to the Adirondacks in New York State. He and his wife later returned to England where he wrote some of his best known work, but where did Robert Louis Stevenson end up in the last few years of his life?

Answer to Last Week's Question: Eugene V. Debs was the Socialist party candidate for president several times and like comedians Pat Paulsen, Stephen Colbert, and Stephanie Miller after him, Will Rogers ran for president in 1928 as the nominee of the Anti-Bunk Party arranged by Life magazine. His quotes on politics are still as fresh as when he said them "There is one rule that works in every calamity. Be it pestilence, war, or famine, the rich get richer and poor get poorer. The poor even help arrange it. "

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Norman Mailer 1923 -2007

Feisty, outspoken literary giant, novelist Norman Mailer has passed away at the age of 84. Winner of two Pulitizers and a National Book Award, his major works are The Naked and the Dead, The Deer Park, An American Dream, and a popular photograph laden biography of Marilyn Monroe, entitled Marilyn.

Mailer frequently wrote and spoke against war in novels and speeches and took on many social issues. He won his second Pulitizer for The Executioner's Song, a nonfiction work about the death penalty when it was reinstated. Thinking of himself primarily as a novelist, however, he was very much aware of the waning interest in novels as technology changes the reading public. He told an audience at the 2005 Book awards, (as reported on NPR), that he felt " the woeful emotions of an old carriage maker as he watches the disappearance of his trade before the onrush of the automobile."

Norman Mailer was considered by many to be the most outstanding literary name of his generation.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Don't be blue!

A great mix of the arts is merged in Blues: a photographic documentary by David Harrison. This elegant book is a celebration of the blues through spectacular black and white photographs of blues musicians. From the early rural blues of Son House and Lightnin' Hopkins to the electrified urban sounds of Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, and Buddy Guy, this photo essay evokes the atmosphere and cultural setting of the blues. The 120 outstanding photographs, both formal and intimate, of world-famous blues musicians are by world-famous photographers.

If you are interested in art and music then you must come to Brand Library to check out more books like this in addition to music CDs and art or music DVDs, plus a whole lot more! Brand Library is the art and music section of the Glendale Public Library.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Architectural Tour @ the Library!

Docents from The Glendale Historical Society will conduct a free architectural bus tour of the Glendale Public Library on Saturday, November 10, from 9am-1pm, featuring stops at the Central Library, Grandview Branch, and Brand Library & Art Center.

Start at the heart of the library system with the Central Library, built in 1973 by the architectural firm of Welton Beckett and Associates, and learn more about the oldest and newest architectural gems of our dynamic public libraries based on research by architect and Historical Society board member John LoCasio.

Call 818-548-2042 to sign up for the tour or for more information.

This Week in Reading - November 4 - 10

Many of the authors born this week are more than mere authors; some are institutions of their field or at least their niche. The same is true for some of the events this week: important moments that held social changes. There was only one Will Rogers, (though Glendale has had a columnist of that name in various local newspapers.) There is only one Walter Cronkite as the times may not accept another anchorman of that stature and believability. (Regardless of the street cred Bryan Williams earned by hosting Saturday Night Live this weekend, he can never have, nor necessarily want, the paternal profundity and reassurance of Cronkite's voice.)

But for all the integral names, will the last one on the list, a youngish writer with remarkable creativity and versatility, become one of a new century's insititutions? If you haven't checked out Neil Gaiman yet, it may be worth your time. His novel Stardust was made into a film this year (by other writers) and he is a co-writer of the screenplay for the soon to be released Beowulf. As you think of the Writers' Guild Association strike developing this week, consider what new media may do to change the expectations of writers and readers. Just as you think and live in several ways now, this author, among others now, writes in several formats from journalism to novels to comic books and graphic novels to television and film scripts.

This Week's Question: It's one year to the next presidental election. Besides writing and talking, which of the authors born this week also ran for president?

Answer to Last Week's Question: Orson Welles and John Houseman founded the Mercury Theatre in New York in 1937. Welles began broadcasting on radio in 1938 in a program called First Person Singular. He hired his theatre's actors and writers to dramatize famous books for the one hour radio slot and by the time they did H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds the radio program was known as The Mercury Theatre on the Air. The first book they dramatized on that series was Bram Stoker's Dracula although Welles had independently directed a well-respected adaptation of Victor Hugo's Les Miserables earlier.

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