Thursday, January 29, 2009

This Week in Reading January 22 - 31

There are so many Literary Names of Note This Week it would be hard to write about any without ignoring the others. (And while we try to list all Nobel winners in the literary category, there are too many Pulitizer prizewinners to enumerate regularly. Many American novelists and historians written about in these posts have won at least one or have been nominated for that and other well known awards.)

Nobel Prize in Literature: Romain Rolland, (1915), Derek Walcott, (1992). Kenzaburo Oe (1994).

Novelists and story writers: Stendhal, Edith Wharton, Virginia Woolf, W. S. Maugham, Colette, John O’Hara, Norman Mailer, Richard Brautigan, Mordecai Richler, Michael Dorris.

Poets and Playwrights: Lord Byron, Robert Burns, William Congreve, Beaumarchais, August Strindberg, Anton Chekhov, Paddy Chayevsky.

Thinkers, Essayists, Historians: Francis Bacon, Thomas Paine, Barbara Tuchman, Thomas Merton.

Mystery / Crime / Suspense Writers: Joseph Wambaugh, James Grippando.

Fantasy / Science Fiction Writers: E. T. A. Hoffmann, Philip Jose Farmer, Walter M. Miller, Lloyd Alexander.

Other Genre Writers: Zane Grey (westerns).

Children’s Authors: Lewis Carroll.

And Events to read about – The beginnings of the Library of Congress, birthdays of D. W. Griffith, William Randolph Hearst, Edouard Manet, Jackson Pollock, and others, as always.

This Week’s Question: Two of this week’s authors, and one of last week’s, were known by one name, in both cases a pen name. Sometimes a single name is used by the public out a habit of familiarity or because it's easier than saying the whole name, sometimes one declares it for oneself. What is the rhetorical word used to describe a person known by a single name?

Answer to Last Week’s Question: a) Edgar Allan Poe created a character named C. Auguste Dupin who was not part of law enforcement. In fact, the word ‘detective’ had not yet been coined. Dupin used what Poe called “ractiocination” to deduce what was on criminal minds in stories such as “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Purloined Letter.” Poe’s character inspired several later fictional detectives such as Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot.; b) The practice of kidnapping and drugging a person to cast votes in various precincts was called ‘cooping.’; c) Though she shares Poe's birthday, and though she was nominated three times, critically acclaimed mystery writer Patricia Highsmith never actually won an Edgar award.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Novelist John Updike, 1932 - 2009

Prolific novelist, short story writer, light verse poet, art critic John Updike has died. He was most well known for his series of Rabbit novels, beginning with Rabbit Run in 1961 and ending with Rabbit at Rest in 1990. In this series and others Updike focuses on the problems of suburban Americans as they age through various psychological and socioeconomic conditions.

While his works were both praised and dismissed by critics for political views and levels of depth, Updike has been considered a major American literary figure. He also wrote The Witches of Eastwick and its recent sequel, The Widows of Eastwick, dozens of poems and essays, some of which are included in his most recent anthology, Still Looking: essays on American Art.

“Art is, as I understand it, reality passed through a human mind” "John (Hoyer) Updike." Contemporary Novelists, 7th ed. St. James Press, 2001. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2009. available through Online Resources at with a current library card.

2009 Printz Awards for Young Adult Literature

This week, the American Library Association announced the winners of the 2009 Michael L. Printz Award for literary excellence in young adult literature. And the winners are:

2009 Printz Award Winner:

Jellicoe Road, by Melina Marchetta

"Haunted by the past, Taylor Markham reluctantly leads the students of the Jellicoe School in their secret territory wars against the Townies and the Cadets. Marchetta's lyrical writing evokes the Australian landscape in a suspenseful tale of raw emotion, romance, humor and tragedy" (From the ALA website).

2009 Printz Honor Books:

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

[Last] Week in Reading January 15 - 21

This week is an extraordinarily historical one with the inauguration of the President Obama on Tuesday, and a more than significant Martin Luther King, Jr, holiday on Monday. But in all the hoopla one author probably got shoved to the curb again.

Monday, January 19, 2009 was also the bicentennial of the birth of one of America's most revered authors, Edgar Allan Poe. Surely there will be publishing, library, and association events throughout the year, and the celebrants at this year's Edgar awards for best mystery writing, named for Poe, will obviously take note. And, at the Poe House in Baltimore, ceremonies were and are being held throughout the year.

Politics, however, did Poe in then and now, as on his last day of life it is believed by many that he, already a heavy drinker and drug user, was kept drunk and dazed by corrupt election ward thugs, moved from one precinct to another to have him cast votes for their candidate under names of voters who had recently died, and then was left in a gutter to die, and this year, his two hundredth birthday, fell at just the wrong time to be noticed by many. Was it in your newspaper?

But in other great literary news in an NEA report conducted by the Census Bureau, called Reading on the Rise, "For the first time in the history of the survey - conducted five times since 1982 - the overall rate at which adults read literature (novels and short stories, plays, or poems) rose by seven percent." Way to go, library borrowers and Book Talk readers!

Born This Week:

Literary Names of Note: Charles de Montesquieu, Peter Roget. Poe, Anne Bronte, Alexander Woollcott.

Poets and Playwrights: Pedro Calderon de la Barca, Moliere, Konstanin Stanislavsky, Robert W. Service.

Nobel Prizewinners: Johannes V. Jensen (1944)

Thinkers, Essayists, Historians: Ben Franklin, Susan Sontag.

Mystery Writers: Patricia Highsmith

Popular Authors: Nevil Shute, William Kennedy.

Children’s and Teen Authors: A. A. Milne

This Week’s Questions: While his poetry was Romantic, and his fiction Gothic, Edgar Allan Poe is often credited as the progenitor of the Detective Fiction genre in America. What was the name of his sleuth? Also, what is the word describing the actions by which he was believed to have died? How many Edgars has Patricia Highsmith won?

Answer to Last Week's Question: Psychologist and philosopher William James said: "The community stagnates without the impulse of the individual.The impulse dies away without the sympathy of the community. "

The White House Blog and Other Changes in the Federal Government Websites

Now that the transfer of power has been completed from George W. Bush to Barack Obama, some changes have taken place at the President’s official website ( One of the intriguing new features is the White House Blog. The first post on the blog (posted by Macon Phillips, Director of New Media for the White House) details some of the new features on the website and discusses the goals these new methods of communication and information will attempt to meet. Another post features the text and video of President Obama's Inaugural Address for those who may have missed it.

Links to the individual pages for members of the Obama Administration (including Vice President Joe Biden and the First Lady), as well as links to the various Departments of the Cabinet are located at the bottom of every page of

The websites for the United States Senate ( and House of Representatives (, while not overhauled to the degree of the new President’s website, will certainly have new faces and issues to explore as the 111th Congress begins. The Library of Congress ( also provides THOMAS ( to help you search for bills, resolutions, and other current legislative actions (as well as activity from congresses past).

Finally, Chief Justice Roberts, who administered Barack Obama’s oath of office in yesterday’s Inauguration, and the rest of the Supreme Court have their own website ( for those interested in researching past cases or finding out more about the Court and its present and previous Justices.

American artist Andrew Wyeth dies at 91

Beloved and iconoclastic American artist Andrew Wyeth died Friday, January 16, at his home in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. He was 91. Andrew Newell Wyeth III was born on July 12, 1917, in Chadds Ford, the son of the famous illustrator N.C. Wyeth. As a boy Andrew was frail. He was homeschooled and learned to draw before he could read. As a teenager, he did illustrations under his father's name, but despite his admiration for his father he resisted following in his career footsteps. Wyeth's other hero was the famed realist painter Winslow Homer and his influence can be seen in Wyeth's own work. Wyeth married a local Maine woman, Betsy James in 1940. Their relationship would endure a lifetime and she would be his champion, overseeing the publication of illustrated books, starting a reproduction business, creating a Wyeth archive and producing a film documentary about her husband.

Wyeth never roamed far from his boyhood home and his work almost always depicts friends and family and the Pennsylvania or Maine landscapes familiar to him. "He painted snowy landscapes under leaden skies, a barn with a door ajar, an abandoned house, tire tracks, a wedding tent in an empty field, fishermen’s nets hung to dry in the breeze: images of absence, silence, loss, abandonment, desolation but also expectation." (New York Times) Being a realist painter at the height of abstract expressionism's popularity, he had a mixed reaction from critics. His conservative politics and his commitment to his rural haunts also put him at odds with the New York art scene of the 1950s and 60s. Nevertheless, he was immensely popular with the public and enjoyed commercial success and ultimately critical recognition, as well. An exhibition of his work toured the U.S. in 1966-67, attracting huge crowds at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, the Whitney Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago, and in 1976 Wyeth was given a retrospective exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Books and DVDs about this great American artist can be borrowed from the Glendale and Pasadena Public Libraries. Also available are numerous titles about his father N.C. Wyeth, and his son Jaime, who is also a painter.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Recent Author Passings

Within the past few days not only have we lost the great painter Andrew Wyeth but we have also lost three somewhat promiment authors:

W. D. Snodgrass, 1926 - 2009, was a poet who wrote wrote what many call "confessional poetry" but who hated that description for his very personal poems. He is known also for his teaching in universities and workshops, explemified in his humorous but very educational book De/Compositions: 101 Good Poems gone bad. But, as he dryly, noted in his 1971 poem Old Apple Trees:

Not one of us got it his own way.
Nothing like any of us
Will be seen again, forever.

Hortense Calisher, 1911 - 2009, was noted more for her many short stories than for her few novels but she was highly anthologized. Her stories frequently appeared in the New Yorker magazine and, like many cartoons in that publication, her stories were as much sad and subtle as well drawn.

John Mortimer, 1923 - 2009, the creator of the BBC character Rumpole of the Bailey was a lawyer who became drawn to fiction and playwriting instead. Particularly adept and beloved for his comic characters in the British legal system, both in London and in rural settings, Mortimer said, "comedy is the only thing worth writing about in this despairing world."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dr. Krikor Beledian

Saturday, January 31, 6 pm
Sunday, February 1, 6 pm
Glendale Public Library Auditorium
222 East Harvard Street, Glendale
(818) 548-2042

The Library will host a two-day literary event with Krikor Beledian, one of the most important 21st century Armenian literary figures. The events will be organized by Hamazgayin Cultural Society and Glendale Public Library.

Born and raised in Lebanon, Dr. Krikor Beledian is a leading French-Armenian poet, novelist and critic whose work has been published in Armenia, France, Lebanon, and by Abril Books in Glendale. Dr. Beledian lives in Paris and teaches at the Institut Catholique in Lyons as well as at the Paris Institut National de Langues et Civilisations Orientales. His extensive work revolves around questions of Armenian identity; but is most powerful in the way he uses the language to express his thoughts. Beledian has played a significant role in the development of the Western Armenian literary language.

”The Artist and His Model” - On January 31, Dr. Beledian will discuss Levon Shant’s literary work. Levon Seghposian or Levon Shant was born on April 6, 1869 in Constantinople, Ottoman Empire and died on November 29, 1951 in Beirut; Lebanon. He was an Armenian playwright, novelist, poet, and founder of the Hamazkayin National Cultural Foundation.

On February 1, Dr. Beledian will discuss his newly published book Dialogue Avec Narekasti, that analyzes the literary work of Grigor Narekatsi.

Grigor Narekatsi (951–1003) was an Armenian monk, poet, mystical philosopher and theologian, born into a family of writers. The mystical poem "Book of Lamentations" has been translated into many languages.

Raphael Lemkin's Dossier on the Armenian Genocide

With Vartkes Yeghiayan and Professor Michael J. Bazyler

Thursday, January 22, 2009, 7 pm
Glendale Public Library Auditorium
222 East Harvard Street, Glendale
(818) 548-2042

This free lecture is sponsored by the Center For Armenian Remembrance and Temple Sinai of Glendale.

Raphael Lemkin, one of the most influential lawyers and human rights activists in the last century, coined the word "genocide," and in 1948 was instrumental in initiating the enactment of the United Nations Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide (the "Genocide Convention"), making genocide an international "crime of crimes." Learn how Lemkin searched for legal remedies to punish mass murderers and prevent future genocides.

Mr. Yeghiayan will also discuss his book, Vahan Cardashian: Advocate Extraordinaire for the Armenian Cause. Vahan Cardashian was a Yale-educated lawyer who set aside his successful New York practice to dedicate himself to the establishment of the American Committee for the Independence of Armenia (ACIA), the predecessor organization to the Armenian National Committee and advocate for the plight of the Armenian nation.

Vartkes Yeghiayan was one of the lead attorneys in the Genocide reparations case of Marootian v. NY Life, a case that resulted in a 20 million dollar settlement for descendants of the Armenian Genocide. Professor Bazyler is a leading authority on the use of American and European courts to redress genocide and other historical wrongs. He is the author of Holocaust Justice: The Battle for Restitution in America's Courts.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

This Week in Reading January 8 - 14

Born This Week -

Literary Names of Note: Jack London, John Dos Passos, Alan Paton

Thinkers, Essayists, Historians: Edmund Burke, William James, Albert Schweitzer (Nobel Peace prizewinner - 1952), Stephen Hawking

Poets and Playwrights: Robinson Jeffers, Karel Capek, Ferenc Molnar, Brian Friel

Mystery Novelists: Wilkie Collins, Walter Mosley

Fantasy and Science Fiction Novelists: Terry Brooks

Romance Novelists: Alexandra Ripley, Judith Krantz,

Popular Novelists: Horatio Alger, Jr., A. B. Guthrie , Jay McInerney

There are others on the list, as always, with Events, as nearly always, to read about each week.

This Week’s Question: Several authors born this week wrote about the effects of community and the individual upon each other. Which one wrote the following, which might well relate to library blogs as well as to the changes a society undergoes?

The community stagnates without the impulse of the individual.
The impulse dies away without the sympathy of the community.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

This Week in Reading January 1 - 7

Literary authors born this week:

Poets and Playwrights: Carl Sandburg and Christopher Durang.

Nobel prizewinners: Rudolf Eucken (1908) and Gao Xingjian. (2000).

Answer to Last Week’s Question: J. D. Salinger wrote several books and stories with characters from the Glass family, Franny and Zooey, and Raise High the Roofbeams, Carpenters and Seymour among them.

This Week’s Question: When you’re too rushed on the way out of town to research anything, sometimes the opposite of literature happens. Why are all these authors with initials born in the same week? (There is no reasonable answer but we'd love to hear it if you have one. Don't forget B. Kliban, the cartoonist.) See you next week.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Donald E. Westlake, mystery novelist 1933 - 2008

Prolific comic caper mystery writer Donald E. Westlake died New Years Eve. Westlake, who has been called both “the Neil Simon of the crime novel”* and “the Mel Brooks of mayhem”* wrote seven days a week producing more than a hundred novels under several pseudonyms. Several of his books and stories have been made into film, among them The Hot Rock,The Bank Shot, and The Grifters, for which his script won him the Academy Award.

He has also written as Richard Stark, Samuel Holt and Tucker Coe. One of his long standing anti-hero characters is John Dortmunder who is a burglar, last appearing in What’s So Funny in 2008. Westlake’s next scheduled publication will come out in April. He was 75.

*From the New York Review of Books and Kevin Moore of the Chicago Tribune quoted in Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2009. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2009. [Database available to Glendale Public Library card holders at our Online Resources page.]

Hillary Waugh, mystery novelist, 1920 - 2008

Detective novelist, one of the first to create the police procedural genre, Hillary Waugh has died. He was 88. After reading a book on true crime, and inspired by the post war fad of semidocumentary crime films, he came to believe mysteries that implied that law enforcement personnel were bumblers who needed the insights of amateur sleuths were not correct. He began to write a series involving the painstaking, but still dramatically absorbing work of a Connecticut small town police chief, Fred Fellows. Whereas today's police procedurals often involve several cases his focused on one case at a time just like traditional mystery novels.

He said, "I try to put a little meat into my stories in hopes that the reader won't digest the book in a gulp and forget it, but will have something to chew on afterward. I would like my books to make the reader think, without the books telling him what to think. Lastly, I try to make sure that none of my books ever ends on an anti-climax. The tension should build to an explosion, not a let-down."*

*From Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2009. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2009. [Database available to Glendale Public Library card holders at our Online Resources page.]

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