The Gypsy Poet

Zoli, the most recent novel by Colum Mccann, is loosely based on the life of Polish Gypsy poet, "Papusza". Zoli is a Gypsy from Slovakia who is also a talented singer and poet. Raised by her grandfather after her parents are drowned by the Hlinka Guard, Zoli is discovered by a publisher who wants to use her as a symbol of the new Czechoslovakia, post 1945, a socialist state where Gypsies will be given permanent homes even if this goes against everything their culture stands for. The Gypsies view Zoli as a traitor and she is banished from their community. Zoli becomes a true wanderer, escaping Eastern Europe on foot and barely surviving. This is a beautifully written, compassionate portrait of a rich culture in danger of losing its identity.

Polar Bear in March

polar bearpolar bear

Have you heard of the recent news about the youngest Germany star--Knut?

As the first polar bear cub born at the Berlin Zoo in 30 years, Knut has made his first puiblic debut this past Friday. This even called "Knut Day" attracted hundreds, maybe thousands, of people from all over the world!

See, isn't he irresistibly cute?
So... want to know more about polar bear or read some polar bear stories?
We've got some books on polar bears!

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #56

This almost slipped by me…

Ice by Vladimir Sorokin came out quietly without much media fanfare.

In this, his first English-language debut, postmodernist (and often controversial) Sorokin gives us a frighteningly engaging page-turner. Critics are calling it “ a gritty dispatch from the front lines of the contemporary world, a gnostic fairy tale, a hard-boiled parable, a New Age parody, a bitingly funny fantasy in the great Russian tradition…”

Blond, blue-eyed contemporary Muscovites are being kidnapped, driven to remote areas and bashed in the chest with hammers made of ice. It appears the victims are being "cracked" by their assailants, who want to free their hearts to "speak”.
Suspense builds with the incrementally telling of the story from the perspectives of three "heart-speakers” and Khram, their spiritual leader who was herself "hammered" by a German S.S. officer in a slave labor camp during WWII.

Ice ”…succeeds brilliantly as both a thriller and a cautionary tale about totalitarianism, bigotry, elitism, and fundamentalism". (Library Journal).

Click here for a NYRB review of Ice, and a biography on Sorokin.

A long journey home

On March 23, 1806, Lewis and Clark began their journey back from the Pacific coast to the East to report on their expedition. The winter had been brutally cold and wet. They had traveled about 4,000 miles from St. Louis and had been gone almost two years.

Lewis and Clark thought they could avoid the trip back over land by getting on a merchant ship but there were none to be found. And so, without much food or supplies, they began the trek back. In six months, they arrived in St. Louis.

Slowing Food, Trading Seeds

Slow Food Huron Valley is gearing up for spring events promoting locally produced foods and sustainable agriculture. On April 12 there is a membership meeting and Michigan cheese tasting. The library has lots of resources on slow food, including the book Slow Food: The case for taste. Keep an eye out this Saturday March 24 for the second annual Project Grow Seed Swap from 10 a.m. to noon at the Leslie Science Center, 1831 Traver Road in Ann Arbor. Even if you don’t swap seeds, you are welcome at this event and people will help you get started.

Genealogical Society to hold session on writing your life story

Have you ever thought of writing stories from your life or compiling an autobiography? The next meeting of the Washtenaw County Genealogical Society will feature Stephanie Kadel Taras, a professional personal biographer, speaking on "One Story at a Time" in a hands-on workshop designed to inspire individuals to craft their own life stories. The program, which is open to all, will take place at the Education Center Auditorium, St. Joseph Mercy Hospital Campus, 5303 Elliott Drive, Ypsilanti on Sunday, March 25, 2007. For more information on the speaker check out her web site. For additional help check out some of the library's books on writing your life story and leave a legacy for your family and descendants.

New Fiction on the New York Times Best Sellers List (3/18/07)

I have been a fan of Robert Crais and his Elvis Cole series since Elvis first appeared in The Monkey's Raincoat in 1987. I was disappointed that his latest was featuring Cole's silent sidekick Joe Pike. However, from the moment I picked it up, I could not put The Watchman down, reading late into the night. It debuted at #5 on this week's List.

I am not sure I can go along with Pike's situational ethics but oh what a thrilling adventure this was. At the end of the day, Joe Pike made the smart-alecky Elvis seem lightweight and definitely not your first choice in a life or death situation.

Other new titles are Shopaholic & Baby by Sophie Kinsella (aka Madeleine Wickham), The Taste of Innocence by romance author Stephanie Laurens, and Innocent Traitor by best-selling Tudor historian, Alison Weir.

Women on the move

March is Women's History Month, a time to celebrate the past accomplishments of American women and those who continue to work for women's rights. March 22 is the anniversary of two significant events for women. On that day in 1972, the Senate passed the 27th amendment, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex. Known as the Equal Rights Amendment, the law was then sent to the states for ratification. Even with an extension from Congress, the ERA failed to pass, short of three votes.

Toast Spring in Michigan with Wine

Time to get ready for the spring wine season around Ann Arbor. Coming up April 21 and 22, there’s a wine-and-food-pairing weekend planned by the Southeast Michigan Pioneer Wine Trail. Then on May 5 there is Ann Arbor Art Center’s WineFest, a great chance to taste dozens of wines from around the world and to support the center. If you're just wanting to re-stock your cellar with good wine, check out the new book Andrea Robinson’s 2007 wine buying guide for everyone.

Lulu Blooker Prize Short-List for Non-Fiction

A blook is a blog book, a book that started as a blog and eventually generated a book. And Blooker Prize is obviously a take-off on the Booker Prize. The Sunday (London) Times (3-18, 2007) quotes Peter Freedman of the prize organizer Lulu.com, an online publisher, “It’s clear that grand publishing houses, which perhaps once had little regard for online writing, are now mining blogs and websites for the next big author.”

The Short-List (annotations are from the Lulu Blooker Prize website)

Crashing the Gate by Jerome Armstrong – www.myDD.com and Markos Moulitsas – www.dailykos.com

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