Seamus Heaney, one of Ireland's greatest poets, has died

Seamus Heaney, one of Ireland's most revered poets, died yesterday in Dublin.

Mr. Heaney was born in County Derry, Ireland, 1939, the eldest of nine children. His gift for poetry received increasing recognition, beginning in 1964 when The New Statesman, Britain's 100-year-old political and cultural magazine, published three of his poems.

He wrote poignantly and in equal measure of Ireland's Troubles and of his deep love of family. One of his most famous collections, (North, 1975), has poems on both topics.

He was a gifted academician, having taught at Harvard and Oxford. At the latter, his lecture series turned into the book, The Redress of Poetry in 1995. Also, that year he won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

He was also a renowned essayist. One of his most well-known collection, the 1980 Preoccupations: Selected Prose, 1968-1978, was a critical examination of such well-known writers, as Wordsworth, Yeats, and Sylvia Plath.

He also produced an outstanding translation of Beowulf in 1999.

In lieu of an autobiography, Heaney agreed to a series of interviews with poet Dennis O'Driscoll, his good friend. The resulting book, Stepping Stones, was published in 2008.

Two of the most moving tributes to Mr. Heaney's passing can be found here -- The Guardian and The New York Times.

Mr. Heaney, who was 74, had suffered a stroke in 2006 and had been in poor health ever since.

Elmore Leonard, crime writer extraordinaire, has died

Elmore Leonard, longtime Michigan resident who captivated his readers for years, died this morning in his beloved Detroit.

Born in New Orleans in 1925, he started out as a writer of western fiction. One of his earliest (1953) westerns, 3:10 to Yuma, was the first of many of his novels to be made into a movie. In the case of Yuma, both the 1957 original release, starring Van Heflin and Glenn Ford and the 2007 remake, with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, were popular.

Once westerns reached their peak in the early 1960s, Leonard stuck with his copywriting career which had funded his writing since the 1950s. Then in 1965, his agent sold the film rights to Hombre(1961) (on order) which was released two years later, starring Paul Newman and Fredric March.

With the money from that sale, Leonard switched gears and began writing one entertaining, suspenseful crime novel after another, many of which, again, were optioned into movies. First up was The Big Bounce, 1969, which hit the the silver screen in 1969 and again with the remake in 2004.

Get Shorty, the movie (John Travolta and Rene Russo, 1995), was based on his 1990 novel by the same name.

In all, more than two dozen Elmore Leonard novels got the Hollywood treatment.

Critics and fans adored his books, marveling at his gift for dialog and spare storytelling. On July 16, 2001, Leonard wrote an article for the New York Times. In WRITERS ON WRITING; Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle, he laid out his ten rules for writing which have become revered guidelines ever since.

Elmore Leonard was the recipient of multiple awards, including a couple of Edgars, a Peabody, and the Owen Wister Award.In addition he had honorary PhDs from The University of Michigan, Florida Atlantic University and University of Detroit Mercy.

Mr, Leonard, who had suffered a stroke on July 29th of this year, was 87 years old.

Giddy Read-aloud Picture Book: 'Dozens of Cousins'

This is my favorite book yet by Shutta Crum, the librarian, author, poet, and speaker who lives in Ann Arbor and has delighted so many readers with her writing. Dozens of Cousins, Shutta's latest picture book, is rhythmic, lyrical, warm, and hilarious.

As the annual family reunion approaches, the cozy chaos of cousins begins. "We are wild and fierce. We do not wait for invitations. We run through front doors, arms extended, slap dirty feet on cool linoleum, grab from plates thrust out at us -- and holler for more." Some wiggle their fannies toward distracted adults, in the cutest possible way. Splashy, rip-roaring illustrations are by David Catrow, editorial cartoonist and illustrator of more than 70 books for children.

Initial reviews are glowing, including one in The New York Times. Looks like another hit for the author, a former AADL youth librarian and storyteller. Check out Shutta's books and accomplishments on her website.

JJ Cale, revered singer-songwriter, has died

JJ Cale, known as the founder of 'the Tulsa Sound' for his brilliant understated sensitivity on the guitar, coupled with his minimalist lyrics and his passion for the engineering side of the sound studio, has died.

Cale was late in getting his music out there. His first album, Naturally was released in 1972 when he was 33. It contained the song, Crazy Mama which made it to #22 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart that year. By his own admission, Cale wouldn't have minded the fortune, but eschewed the fame. So it wasn't until Eric Clapton joined forces with Cale on their Emmy-winning album, Road to Escondido (2006) that Cale was reluctantly drawn back into the limelight.

Cale claimed that his genius in the recording studio where he discovered the power of drum machines, was born of necessity. In an interview with Aaron Kayce, Cale told him, "I first started out doing that because of the economics; I didn't have enough money to hire a band. Now that I have enough money to hire a band, I still like that; it's kind of an art form in itself."

Cale's roster of Blues artists who sing his praises is impressive: First and foremost is Eric Clapton who said, "...I was impressed by the subtlety by what wasn't being played." Neil Young also weighed in on Cale: "JJ's the one who played all that s*** first...he's got that thing. I don't know what it is."

On February 23, 2009, Critic Michael Corcoran wrote in the Austin American Statesman "...Cale serves the blues rock like the best $1.99 breakfast you've ever had...Nobody can hit it hard and soft at the same time, and still carry a melody, like this 70-year-old boogie minimalist."

JJ Cale's death, at 74 of a heart attack last Friday, brings to mind his lyrics of Roll On's final cut, "enough is enough, can't do it no more/ Bring down the curtain, close the door."

The Man Booker Prize 2013 longlist has been announced

The Man Booker Prize (formerly Booker Prize), one of the major literary prizes has announced its longlist of novels for 2013.

Among the longlist nominees is NoViolet Bulawayo, one of three first-time novelists. We Need New Names, set in Ms. Bulawayo's home country of Zimbabwe, follows 10-year-old Darling and her friends who make a game of scrambling for food in a desolate shantytown. When given the opportunity to move to Detroit to live with her aunt, Darling struggles to adapt to the shocking differences between her new life and her old.

Pulitzer Prize winner (for The Namesake, 2003), Jhumpa Lahiri, has been nominated for The Lowland. Her tale also involves a protagonist who comes to America. The Mitra brothers are inseparable until Subhash, the elder, leaves Calcutta and moves to America to attend college. His brother, Udayan, stays in India and becomes ever more immersed in the violent Communist uprising of the late 1960s.

In Ruth Ozeki's nominated title, A Tale for the Time Being, the migration works in reverse. Sixteen-year-old Nao was happy enough in her California life before her father moved the family back to Tokyo. Unable to endure the relentless bullying anymore, Nao plans to commit suicide. First, she wants to record the life of her centenarian grandmother. Her writing ends up in a lunchbox which washes ashore in Canada and is discovered by a writer named Ruth.

For a complete list of the longlist nominees, check out this link.

Then watch for these dates: The shortlist will be announced on September 19th. The winners will be names on October 15th.

Dennis Farina, cop-turned-actor, has died

Dennis Farina, a Chicago police officer for 18 years before becoming an actor, has died.

Farina picked up acting jobs on the side during his career as a Windy City cop. He had roles in several movies, including Get Shorty (1995), Saving Private Ryan (199), and HBO's Empire Falls (2005), based on the novel by the same name by Richard Russo.

But it was his role, for three season, as the crusty, snappy-dressed detective, Joe Fontana, that endeared him to the hit TV franchise, Law and Order fans. His years in the Chicago PD burglary division served him well and gave his performances wonderful authenticity.

Farina, who was 69, died from a blood clot in his lungs in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Helen Thomas, longtime White House journalist, has died

White House news correspondent, Helen Thomas, is dead at 92. Ms. Thomas will always be noteworthy in American journalism for having shattered the glass ceiling as the foremost White House correspondent of her generation. An iconic and prickly writer of conscience, she was always willing to speak her mind and was at her best when she once growled, Listen up, Mr. President. In 2009, we brought Ms. Thomas to Ann Arbor for a special event at the Michigan Theater cosponsored by Michigan Radio. We also had the good fortune to interview Ms. Thomas. We have both the video and interview available for streaming and downloading.

He is Legend

The world-renowned author and screenwriter, Richard Matheson died last week. He is remembered for having written numerous episodes for the legendary TV series, the Twilight Zone, but also for his science fiction novels , many of which were made into movies, such as I am Legend (made into 3 different movies: the Last Man on Earth; the Omega Man; and, most recently, I am Legend with Will Smith); the Shrinking Man (made into the 1957 classic movie, the Incredible Shrinking Man); Bid Time Return (made into the movie filmed at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Somewhere in Time); and Steel (most recently made into the movie, Real Steel). He has a long list of screenwriting credits to his name including the classic Edgar Allan Poe movie adaptations directed by Roger Corman like the Pit and the Pendulum. For me the most memorable piece he ever wrote was an episode of the Twilight Zone called Nightmare at 20,000 Feet with William Shatner as the airplane passenger who sees a monster tearing apart the plane’s wings as they are in flight. This was also remade in Twilight Zone: the Movie. He was creative all his life, having been first published at eight years old and writing through his 80’s. He was 87 when he died.

Locus Magazine announces the winners of the 2013 LOCUS Awards

Locus Magazine, the monthly magazine for the latest news and reviews in the world of science fiction, fantasy, and horror literature, has announced its 2013 winners.

John Scalzi received the Locus for Science Fiction Novel for Redshirts. At first, Ensign Andrew Dahl is enjoying serving aboard the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid until he realizes a horrifying pattern. All journeys involve deadly confrontations with aliens and its the lower ranking crew members who are at risk. Listen to Wil Wheaton read the audiobook version.

The Fantasy Novel award went to Charles Stross, for The Apocalypse Codex. The Laundry, Britain's highly secretive intelligence agency charged to protect the Queen and the realm from occult intrusions, employs the beautiful, volatile Persephone Hazard to investigate U.S. televangelist/healer, Ray Schiller. Gideon Emery narrates the audiobook.

The Young Adult award went to China Mieville for Railsea, a hugely imaginative mix of steampunk, cyberpunk, and a fantastical spin on Herman Melville's Moby Dick. Sham is an apprentice to the doctor serving the railsea train Medes. Sham is excited to be on his first hunt for moldywarpes, gigantic moles who live beneath the earth, erupting to the surface in life-and-death battles with all who track them down.

The Non-fiction award was given to William Gibson for his collection of essays in Distrust that Particular Flavor, 30 years of thoughtful pieces about the past, present, and future as influenced by technology.

The Art Book award was bestowed on Spectrum 19: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art. According to the publisher, "With exceptional images by extraordinary creators, this elegant full-color collection showcases an international cadre of creators working in every style and medium, both traditional and digital"

For a complete list of the winners, check out this link.

James Gandolfini, a.k.a. the iconic Tony Soprano, has died

James Gandolfini, an award-winning actor on both large and small screens, has died.

Gandolfini blasted his way into the public's consciousness with his nuanced portrayal of Tony Soprano, the complicated head of a New Jersey mob family in HBO's popular series, The Sopranos, which first aired in 1999. Tony Soprano was, by turns, violent enough to beat a man to death for dissing the memory of his dead horse, henpecked by his wife, Carmela (Edie Falco, cowed by his mother, Livia (Nancy Marchand), and anxious enough to see a psychiatrist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco).

Mr. Gandolfini, a Jersey man through and through, was a graduate of Rutgers. He came late to acting, having sat in on a friend's acting class when he was 25. His first acting role was in Sidney Lumet's 1992 A Stranger Among Us (on order). Many other silver screen roles followed, including the 2001 Brad Pitt/Julia Roberts film The Mexican, in which Gandolfini handily stole the show from both megawatt stars playing a gay hit man.

Mr. Gandolfini racked up an impressive number of awards for Tony Soprano, including three Emmys for outstanding lead actor in a drama, a Screen Actors Guild (2000) and a Golden Globe.

Mr. Gandolfini, who was on vacation in Italy when he died yesterday, was 51.

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