Wednesday, March 25, 2009

This Week in Reading March 22 - 28

Literary Names of Note This Week

Nobel Prize in Literature: novelist Roger Martin du Gard (1937), playwright Dario Fo (1997).

Humorists, Essayists, Editors, Journalists, Biographers, and Others: Fanny Farmer, Malcolm Muggeridge, Joseph Campbell, Gloria Steinem, Bob Woodward, Chris Hansen.

Mystery / Crime / Suspense Writers: Donald Hamilton, Stephen Hunter, James Patterson.

Fantasy / Science Fiction Writers: William Morris, Thorne Smith, Horace Beam Piper, Rudy Rucker, Kim Stanley Robinson.

Romance / Western / Historical Fiction Writers: Louis L’Amour.

Graphic Novelists / Cartoonists / Illustrators: J. C. Leyendecker.

Children’s / Teen Authors: Kate DiCamillo.

And, as usual, a myriad of events to read about.

This Week’s Questions: There’s quite a collection of poets and dramatists this week. Which of the following are lines of poetry and which are lines from a play?

Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

Everybody, my friend, everybody lives for something better to come. That's why we want to be considerate of every man— Who knows what's in him, why he was born and what he can do?”

And now the fancy passes by and nothing will remain, and miles around they'll say that I am quite myself again.“

Every day a little sting, in the heart and in the head.”

All pretty girls are a trap, a pretty trap, and men expect them to be.”

The penny candy store beyond the El is where I first fell in love with unreality.”

Answer to Last Week’s Questions: Henrik Ibsen was considered the first modernist playwright who wrote naturalist realism into his problem plays. What do those terms mean?

In this day and age, when we have such terms as Reality TV, (which is, after all, a hyper-romanticized and oft scripted pretense taking its viewers out of their every day reality rather than reminding them of it), it is very easy to become confused about the terms that defined literary and artistic movements in the nineteenth century. Broadly speaking naturalist realism was a step in the movement from divinely centered to human centered views of life, and from escapism to objective depiction of real social and personal issues.

In theatre Henrik Ibsen was one of the first to move beyond the safe well-made play, the generally overblown or staid drama and melodrama of the time. His dramas, (most of which he wrote in Italy instead of his home country, Norway,) caused both controversy and newly liberated interest as they dealt with such things as adultery and sexually transmitted disease. But Ibsen also wrote symbolic and poetic plays.

Though Shakespeare had shown psychological perception in many of his own works three hundred years earlier, the term problem play came to mean those dramas that focused on social and interpersonal conflict rather than philosophical, religious, or comedic experience. Shortly after Ibsen's time writers began to talk of themselves as modern and the modernist movement carried on into the twentieth century where it was met with deconstruction and ultimately postmodernism.

While Ibsen's realism was of his own class,one of this week's playwrights, Maxim Gorky, created political realism focusing on extreme conditions of the lower classes and later German playrwrights made expressionistic plays about realistic political situations. Those were even later turned inside out and called theatre of the absurd. In the mid-twentieth century there were such movements as kitchen sink realism and, in fiction, magic realism. Realism, of course is in the eye of the beholder. It is the artistic depiction of the banal, not the celebration of it as Reality TV seems to do. Realism, yes, say the postmodernists, but always to a different purpose by different authors in different eras. However, as George Bernard Shaw said, “Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.”

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

This Week in Reading March 15 - 21

Literary Names of Note This Week

Nobel Prize in Literature: Sully Prudhomme (1901) (first recipient), Paul Heyse (1910)

Thinkers, Spiritualists:, Scientists: Edgar Cayce, B. F. Skinner

Humorists, Essayists, Editors, Journalists, Biographers: Sir Richard F. Burton, Richard Ellmann, George Plimpton

Mystery / Crime / Suspense Writers: Lawrence Sanders

Fantasy / Science Fiction Writers: James Morrow, Margaret Weis, William Gibson.

Historical Fiction Writers: Jack Whyte

Illustrators, Cartoonists, Graphic Novelists: Kate Greenaway, Todd McFarlane, Mark Waid

Children’s / Teen Authors: Phyllis McGinley, Luc Besson, Sid Fleischman, Paul Zindel, Mister Rogers, Lois Lowry, MicheleJaffe

Events to read about: It’s mostly about time: the Ides of March, Freedom of Information Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Earth Day, Daylight Savings Time, and the first day of Spring.

This Week’s Question:

Henrik Ibsen wrote many of his major and most influential works while living away from his home country, not so much because he already scandalized their nineteenth century values but because he knew he would. He was considered the first “modernist’ playwright who wrote “naturalist realism’ into his ‘problem plays.’ What do those terms mean?

Answer to Last Week’s Questions:

Richard Steele wrote about reading as mental exercise, and how one continues to learn as one ages. Steele and Joseph Addison, created one of the first must read daily magazines in England, The Spectator, in 1711, They intended their daily 2500 word ‘talking points’ "to enliven morality with wit … to bring philosophy out of the closets and libraries, schools and colleges, to dwell in clubs and assemblies, at tea-tables and coffeehouses.” In other words, to be just like many a good blog today. Will today’s better, wittier blogs be studied by literary graduate students three hundred years from now as well? Probably. Social literary motive doesn’t change, the media we use do.

Many question whether he really did get any better at writing with age, but the salacious detective writer was only interested in being a better Mickey Spillane. At the other end of the spectrum, the very literary playwright who felt a responsibility to instruct, and did, was Edward Albee. The brilliant humorist who understood, and was likely in awe of, both of them was Douglas Adams whose Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy also had room for Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency.. What is literature after all but people talking to others in diverse ways?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Glendale History: Glendale Fire Department Orchestra, St. Patrick's Day, 1924

(click on the photograph to view a larger version in a new window)

For many years, the Glendale Fire Department featured its own orchestra, playing dances and other social functions around the city. This photograph, taken in 1924, seems to have been snapped some time around March 17th at a St. Patrick's Day celebration.

As Glendale: A Pictorial History notes, the presence of a banjo and and tuba suggest the Glendale Fire Department Orchestra "performed popular, rather than symphonic, selections."

This photograph is one of the thousands available to library patrons and researchers at the Special Collections Room in the Glendale Central Library.

The Special Collections Room also contains news clippings, books, maps, and other materials that cover the history of Glendale, neighboring cities, and California in general. The collection is particularly useful for local history and genealogy research projects. Special Collections also houses the Cat Collection, one of the largest collections of feline-related materials in the world.

The Special Collections Room is currently open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m and 1 to 3 p.m. and by appointment. Please call (818) 548-2037 for additional information.

And please note that everyone is encouraged to take part in the Glendale Public Library History Drive, continuing through June.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

This Week in Reading March 8 - 14

Literary Names of Note This Week

Nobel Prize in Literature: Poet George Seferis (1963).

Thinkers, Spiritualists, Scientists, Historians: George Berkeley, Albert Einstein.

Humorists, Essayists, Editors, Journalists, Biographers: Richard Steele, Gene Fowler, Peter Quennell, Neal Postman, John McPhee, Bob Greene.

Mystery / Crime / Suspense Writers: Mickey Spillane, Carl Hiaasen.
Fantasy / Science Fiction Writers: Algernon Blackwood, L. Ron Hubbard, Douglas Adams, Tad Williams.

Children’s / Teen Authors: Kenneth Grahame.

Events to read about: Economics both good and bad; Industry both good and bad, fads and excesses, Frankenstein, Barbie, Murrow and McCarthy; fine literature, fine dancer, fine duck.

This Week’s Questions:Reading is to the mind as exercise is the body” was written by one of this week's authors who believes as we do. He also suggested, “No man was ever so completely skilled in the conduct of life, as not to receive new information from age and experience

Along those lines another author said this. “If you’re a singer, you lose your voice. A baseball player loses his arm. A writer gets more knowledge, and if he’s good, the older he gets, the better he writes.”

One of them possibly suggested (in an interview we can't source) there might be more to it than that. "Writing should be useful. If it can't instruct people a little bit more about the responsibilities of consciousness there's no point in doing it."

Another wrote: "I'd take the awe of understanding over the awe of ignorance any day." Who were they?

Answers to Last Week’s Questions:

As a boy, Gabriel Garcia Marquez read everything he could find at the library.

Prolific novelist, story writer, and literary article author Frank Norris believed every child is a natural story teller.

Refined novelist and editor William Dean Howells described the reading habits of the daughter of his title character in The Rise of Silas Lapham.

Humorist Ring Lardner joked about the lack of reading knowledge his sports character Jack Keefe possessed.

Crime writer James Ellroy , who seldom writes in paragraphs, wrote fast words about his fast life in his book Destination Morgue: LA tales.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

From Kitsch to the Classic

Charles Phoenix loves the world of mid-century design and American Culture. The nationally known humorist, photo collector and 2008 Doo Dah Parade Grand Marshal discusses his colorful coffee table books, Americana the Beautiful, Southern Californialand and Southern California in the 50s.

7 PM, Thursday March 12
Free at the
Central Library Auditorium

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

This Week in Reading March 1 - 7

Literary Names of Note This Week

Nobel Prize in Literature: Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1982)

Obituaries: Science fiction author Philip Jose Farmer (1918 – 2009) To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Venus on the Half Shell, Riverworld, Dayworld; Playwright Horton Foote (1916 - 2009) The Young Man from Atlanta.

Thinkers, Spiritualists, Scientists, Historians: Hans Eysenck

Humorists, Essayists, Editors, Journalists, Biographers: Sholem Aleichem, Ring Lardner

Mystery / Crime / Suspense Writers: James Ellroy, Robert Harris

Graphic Novelists / Cartoonists / Illustrators: Howard Pyle, Milt Gross, Ronald Searle, Will Eisner, David Fury, Mark Evanier

Children’s / Teen Authors: Dr. Seuss, Dav Pilkey

Events to read about: Artists, musicians, and politicians: Chopin, Vivaldi, and Ravel; Botticelli, Michaelangelo, and Mondrian; Social moments: the Boston Massacre, the US Congress, Dred Scott and the Missouri Compromise, FDR’s inauguration, the Iron Curtain, and the Peace Corps.

DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME begins next Sunday, March 9 so set your clocks back one hour on Saturday and lose an hour of reading. (You'll get it back in the Fall.)

This Week’s Questions: Think you know style? Who, born this week, wrote these lines?

“If I had nothing to do and to avoid getting bored I'd hole up at the school library, where they had the Aldeana collection. I read the whole thing!”

“Thus every healthy-minded child – no matter if he develops in later years to be a financier or bootmaker – is a story teller. As soon as he begins to talk he tells stories. … he dramatizes every object of his surroundings. The library shelves are files of soldiers, the rugs are islets of the seaway of the floor …and the child creates … an entire and complex work of fiction of which he is at one and the same time hero, author and public.”

“But the elder had an odd taste of her own for reading, and she took some private lessons, and read books out of the circulating library; the whole family were amazed at the number she read, and rather proud of it.”

“We were talking about books and reading, and he asked me if I liked poetry – only he called it ‘poultry’ – and I said I was wild about it and Edgar M. Guest was just about my favorite, and then I asked him if he liked Kipling and what do you think he said? He said he didn’t know; he’d never kipled.”

“I lived to read and fantasize. I shoplifted books, food, and car models.”

Answer to Last Week’s Question: No blogger, although he would have been at least a twitterer if alive today, the often self absorbed, and ever quoting but often quoted essayist of the French Sixteenth Century was Michel de Montaigne.

John Steinbeck told young authors to not edit themselves until done with the work.

Irwin Shaw kept going and would write whether he got paid or not, but he was well paid for it.

Elizabeth George reminds new writers to “suit up and show up.” She has dozens of mystery novels and one very good book of advice to writers with examples from other famous writers.

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