Monday, May 28, 2007

This Week in Reading May 27 - June 2

This week's authors start with Dashiell Hammett, whose mysteries hinted at some of modern society's distrust of its own formulaic expectations, and end with Thomas Hardy, whose writings' veneer of middle class respectability in the post-Victorian era hid deep narratives that led the way into more modern writing, including the Twentieth Century stories of John Cheever and the novels of Walker Percy. There are wonderful discursions along the way as well, from T.H. White's King Arthur and G. K. Chesterton's Father Brown mysteries, Ian Fleming's James Bond adventures, and authors of other genres for other tastes. Enjoy.

This week's question: Who benefited from her close association with Hammett and gained the rights to his works--instead of his daughters by a first marriage?

Answer to Last Week's question: Whether you like it or not, when you come to the Central Library you're walking in John Wayne's footsteps. Like you, he was an avid reader. John Wayne lived at 404 North Isabel Street in Glendale in 1920 (according to the US Census), and attended his freshman and sophomore years at Glendale High's Harvard Street campus, where the Glendale Central Library is located now. Glendale High School opened at its present location on Broadway in time for his senior year. Read in the Glendale News Press how he came to be known as "Duke."

Friday, May 25, 2007

Books for Sale!

Did you know that there are book sale shelves and an actual book store at the Glendale Public Library?

The Central Library is home to the Book Nook, a cozy space brimming full of eclectic books and materials, run by the Friends of the Library and staffed by volunteers.

In addition, each GPL branch has a book sale area that features donated books from the public and the occasional discarded book from the library.

Prices for books at the branches may vary, but generally run between twenty-five cents and a dollar. Magazines, VHS tapes and DVDs, or other oddities find their way to the shelves, so browse often! All proceeds from book sales go back to the library.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Ultimate Stan Kenton Book!

The Kenton Kronicles by Steven D. Harris (Dynaflow Publications 2000) is a much-praised biography on big band leader Stan Kenton. The author's exhaustive research allowed him to make corrections from earlier biographies even to the extent of finding a discrepancy in Kenton's birth date. The book covers Kenton’s youth to his rise to the top of America’s big band scene. The work includes interviews, bibliography, video-filmography and 285 photographs. The forward is by Kenton’s arranger Pete Rugolo.

Harris, a jazz archivist and historian, will present a lecture entitled The Artistry of Stan Kenton at Brand Library on Saturday June 2, 2007 at 2:00 pm.

Monday, May 21, 2007

This Week in Reading May 20 - 26

Big doings around here this week. It is not only the birthdate of one of Glendale's most famous former residents but, just like the Glendale Public Library, it is the one hundreth anniversary of movie legend John Wayne's birthday.

And also born one hundred years ago on the very same day but a world apart was one of the most famous Shakepearean actors the world has known, Sir Laurence Olivier. According to the Internet Movie Database, the only times Olivier and Wayne ever appeared together were the 1959 and 1979 Academy Awards programs.

The Glendale Public Lilbrary is proud to offer you access to the works of either in videorecordings, online databases, and books about both of them. Among our authors this week is something for every taste as well, high to low, including the author who first wrote "It was a dark and stormy night."

Answer to Last Week's Question: The Information, Please Almanac merged with the Time Almanac in 2000.

This Week's Question: Where was Glendale High School located during the years John Wayne attended and what does it have to do with the library?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


With summer almost here it’s time to get serious about gathering together enough books to help wile away the hours at the beach, pool or while stuck in the airport or on a plane. I call these, though this title isn’t original to me, “Beach Books.” The following titles are perfect examples of what a good beach book should be as their stories are compelling and they require little more of the reader than to sit back and enjoy a great story.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer is the story of the enduring relationships between parent and child. Told mostly by the very precocious nine year old Oskar Schell, this is the tale of his quest to find the lock that fits a key that belonged to his father who died in the 9/11 Trade Center bombing. From this work of interconnected stories the reader gets a good sense of New York and its inhabitants as well as new perspectives on life when you join along on this journey.

When Madeline Was Young by Jane Hamilton is a prime example of a great beach book. It is as literary as the former selection but is also the perfect potboiler to keep your mind off the heat. In this family story with a very unusual twist, a man's first wife suffers brain damage as the result of an accident and for all intents has the intellect of a six or seven year old child. The husband remarries and his second wife cares for Madeline and raises her along with the children of that marriage.

Happy vacation.

Book review: Commander in Chief

First off, let me just say that Geoffrey Perret is one cranky son of a gun. He has nary a kind word for anyone who has occupied any part of the Executive Branch over the last 60 years of American history, except--maybe--for JFK or, surprisingly, Jimmy Carter. His book, which focuses on Harry Truman, LBJ, and George W. Bush, and their involvements in disastrous misadventures in Asiatic wars, is actually a capsule history of the US Presidency's long-term power grab via their Constitutional role as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. Each President is dealt with in turn, but the bulk of his analysis is given over to a brutal raking over the coals of Truman and his apparently poorly qualified staff. To be sure, neither LBJ nor Bush come off any better, but in Perret's eyes, they were simply playing the cards that Truman allowed them to deal themselves as Chief Executive.
None of the Presidents Perret covers were at all adept at understanding foreign policy, it seems, since all of them chose to go to war instead of engaging in any form of mature communication with "the enemy", preferring instead to bluster, posture, and kill. From Truman's ill-timed foray by proxy in Korea against Mao's China to Bush's blatant disregard for any dissenting opinions, our Presidents have all helped create the complete meltdown in foreign affairs we feel today.
This is a fascinating and bracing account of our history since the end of World War II, driven well by great writing and pacing. Some (many?) may disagree with Perret's negative views of Presidential acumen, regardless of his target, but none will come away bored or understimulated.

Good Grief by Lolly Winston

A young woman's life takes a profound, unexpected turn, when her marriage of three years is cut short by tragedy. A widow at age 36, Sophie slips into depression and her life falls apart as she struggles with the pain of losing her husband. Her once bright future darkened, Sophie turns to her best friend, and together they embark on a sometimes painful, sometimes humorous, journey of self discovery.

Ultimately this is an uplifting, emotional story of a woman who, after facing terrible adversity in life, finds ways to overcome heartbreak, anguish, and devastation to begin living and loving again.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Literary Blogging Life

With the profusion of blogs out there, it seems an impossible task to decide just which ones a person might want to devote their precious time. Well, if you are a lover of books and the reading life, you may be interested in checking out blogs devoted exclusively to literature, books, and reading.
Recently, the U.K. online newspaper Guardian Unlimited rounded up what they think are the top 10 literary blogs around. One blog on the list that especially caught my eye is the Los Angeles-based blog The Elegant Variation. It is rich with local authors, book related events, and links to an array of other literary blogs.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Art Textiles of the World. USA

Telos Art Publishing from England produces a fascinating series dedicated to textile art and artists from around the world. Art Textiles of the World: USA breaks down barriers between installation art, sculpture, design and craft. American textile artists have long been acclaimed around the world for their technical mastery and assured artistic voice. This heavily illustrated book contains profiles of ten outstanding artists working across the spectrum of art textiles: Kyoung Ae Cho, Virginia Davis, Deborah Fisher, Ann Hamilton, Linda Hutchins, Jane Lackey, Susan Lordi Marker, Charlene Nemec-Kessel, Jason Pollen, Jane Sauer.

In addition to the volume on USA there are also volumes for Great Britain, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia. In 2005, Brand Library Art Galleries presented an exhibition-- Opulent Splendor -- a celebration of ornamentation, pattern, and fantasy through painting, fiber art, costume, and fashion. If you are interested in the world of textiles and fiber arts you cannot miss out on these books or looking at the images from this exhibition.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

This Week in Reading May 13 - 19

This Week marks the birthday of the patron saint of all populist book bloggers, Clifton Fadiman. In early radio and then television he personified what it meant to be well read without being a snob. The entry about him in the St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture (5 vols. St. James Press, 2000), reproduced in GPL’s database Biography Resource Center, he is called “a man of letters whose effectiveness as a broadcast personality helped him spread the gospel of the rewards of book reading to a wide public.”

Besides being an editor who wrote great introductions to classic literature, a critic, a New Yorker editor, and being one of the judges who chose titles for the Book of the Month Club, he also was the genial host of the radio quiz show Information Please! His greatest contribution, in my view, was The Lifetime Reading Plan (reissued in 1994 as The New Lifetime Reading Plan) which was a sensible list of both popular and classic books that anyone could enjoy reading to become “well read" or just pretend to be so by reading the annotations.

As the St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture also says, “To the general public, Fadiman so personified the world of great books that when one man was asked to name his favorite work of literature, he responded: ‘Clifton Fadiman's introduction to War and Peace.’”

One of his more famous quotes is "When you reread a classic, you do not see more in the book than you did before, you see more in you than there was before."
Read more about Fadiman at the The Information, Please! Almanac in return. This week's question: What current reference almanac has Information Please! Almanac merged with?

Answer to last week’s question: There’s only been one. Most appointed to the post Librarian of Congress were either scholars or businessmen with strong ties. After the profession of librarianship was established in the late 1800s, the American Library association lobbied for a real librarian in the position. The first was Herbert Putnam, head of Boston Public Library. He ran the Library of Congress from 1899 to 1939 when poet Archibald MacLeish was appointed. But L. Quincy Mumford, from 1954- 1974, director the Cleveland Public library, was the first graduate of a professional library school. The two since, Daniel Boorstin and James Billington, are historians.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Tempting Titles: Fresh Fiction - May


God of Animals by Aryn Kyle

Kyle's novel begins as adolescent narrator Alice Winston recounts the almost simultaneous departure of her sister, Nona, who elopes with a rodeo cowboy, and the drowning of Polly Cain, one of Alice's classmates. These events loom like specters over the rest of the novel, which brims with a confidence and assuredness atypical of a debut. In light of Nona's exodus, Alice becomes her father's primary assistant in tending the family's barn and her bedridden mother's intermediary to the outside world. Alice's penchant for prevarication—she makes a pretense of having been Polly Cain's best friend—helps her repel this harsh reality. In Alice, Kyle has created an adolescent voice that is charming and authentic but that also has its irksome tics: surprising events always inspire such hyperbolic responses as "the air around me sucked to the rims of the earth" and "Everything was coming undone…the entire world breaking into pieces beneath me." In the long run, though, this is a carp, as the voice exerts an irresistible pull. The prospect of other people leaving—Alice's father with a woman he trains—and the revelation of characters' secrets keep the reader glued to the story. Highly recommended for all public libraries. (Library Journal 2006)


Died in the Wool by Rett MacPherson

Torie O'Shea, genealogist and president of the New Kassel, Mo., historical society, unearths long-buried family secrets when she puzzles out the strange 1920s suicides of siblings Glory, Whalen and Rupert Kendall in MacPherson's homespun 10th Torie O'Shea mystery (after 2006's Dead Man Running). The old Kendall house is put up for sale, and Torie hopes to buy and reinvent the home as a textile museum, honoring Glory Kendall, a skilled quilter. But Torie's interest broadens beyond historic fabric and needlework when she begins researching the odd circumstances surrounding the deaths of the Kendalls, who were survived by their father, Sanders. The ominous intrigue touches the present day when a friend of Torie's is poisoned with the same substance found long ago in Glory's body. Torie's determined historical detective work will absorb cozy readers. (Publisher's Weekly Review, March 2007)


For a Few Demons More by Kim Harrison

Harrison's (A Fistful of Charms) "Hollows" series moves to hardcover with this fifth volume, which once again finds witch/independent bounty hunter Rachel Morgan in trouble with werewolves, vampires, and demons. A rash of werewolf suicides brings Rachel into another mystery, and when it becomes clear that the obvious suspects aren't behind the murders, Rachel discovers a motive rooted in an ancient curse. Meanwhile, Rachel's relationships with vampires Ivy (her roommate) and Kisten (her boyfriend) continue to evolve in different directions, resulting in a little jealousy and a lot of tension. Other familiar characters, including recovering demon Ceri and perennial villain Trent Kalamack, make appearances that will satisfy and entertain readers of Harrison's earlier books. The well-crafted world of the Hollows continues to grow more complex, and this book relies so much on the setup from the previous book that readers new to the series may find themselves lost. Harrison's following has grown as readers continue to discover her work, and fans of the early books in Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series will enjoy Rachel Morgan's supernatural adventures. Recommended for public libraries. (Library Journal 11/15/06)

This Week in Reading May 6 - 12

This is a mild week, as weeks go. Perhaps something could be said of beginning with Freud who dealt with the unspoken, and ending with the outspoken George Carlin, but if Thomas Pynchon is too obscure to comprehend and Barbara Taylor Bradford too obvious this week, you could just loll about on Limerick Day and smell the rhymes.

There was and still is a wonderful day,
Which comes around each twelfth day of May;
You make up some lines,
To give all the signs,
That Nonsense himself has not gone away.

This week's question: Archibald MacLeish was Librarian of Congress for five years, appointed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, but opposed by the American Library Association because he was not a library administrator. How many Librarians of Congress have actually been professional librarians?

Answer to last week's question: Seemingly a trick question because most everyone knows that Gertrude Stein was the author of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, but Toklas's own What is Remembered and The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook may comprise a fuller biography according to Anna Linzie, the author of The True Story of Alice B. Toklas.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Literary Blogs Need Reviews to Stay Alive

There is a recent article in the New York Times about the loss of book reviewers and the shortening of book review sections in American newspapers. It concludes with a discussion of 'literary blogs." Book Talk is a "literary blog." Don't let it go the way of newspapers. Share your comments, add your reviews. Give us choices for Summer Reading.

Also, take a look at the latest entry in CNN's blog, Marquee. In the post dated Thursday, May 3, 2007 the author, Todd Leopold, discusses this same idea:

Search the Book Talk archives!