Sweetness in the Belly

In alternating chapters, Lilly, a nurse in a London hospital, recounted evocatively life among the immigrant Muslim families and her unimaginable hardship growing up as a “farenji”(foreigner) in Africa. Orphaned at 8, Lilly was left in care of a learned scholar in Morocco by her hippie parents and was brought up a devout Muslim. Civil war forced her to flee to Harar, Ethiopia where she courageously built a life among abject poverty and famine, and eventually fell in love with an idealistic young doctor.

Written with great warmth, clarity and grace, Camilla Gibb examines the concept of home and what it means to be “foreign”. This novel also celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the redemptive ability of Sweetness in the belly (love). A remarkable novel from a young writer on the Orange Futures List.

Peter Benchley, author of Jaws, has died

Peter Benchley

Peter Benchley, author of Jaws, one of the scariest shark-infested thrillers ever written, has died.

A freelance writer since the age of 16, Benchley finally published his long-imagined novel in 1974. When it was snapped up by Hollywood a year later by Steven Spielberg, the electrifying iconic music by John Williams won an Oscar in 1976 for in the Best Music: Original Score category.

Benchley went on to write nearly a dozen more novels as well as several non-fiction titles.

Benchley, who was 64, died of pulmonary fibrosis.

Local Composer Wins Grammy

Last week Ann Arbor-based composer William Bolcom won the Grammy Award for Best Classical Recording for his Songs of Innocence and Experience. He also won a Grammy for Best Choral Performance. The eclectic nature of the work, which is based on the poems of 18th-century poet William Blake, means everyone will find a section to match their musical taste. This performance was recorded at Hill Auditorium as part of the re-opening festivities in 2004.

Michael Crichton won the WHAT?!?!?!? Award

In a move that has already raised the ire of more than a few scientists and is sure to raise a whole bunch of eyebrows in the publishing world, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists has just named Michael Crichton its Journalist of the Year for his poo-pooing of global warming in his 2004 eco-terror thriller State of Fear.

Daniel Schrag, director of the Harvard University Center for the Environment said this award is "a total embarrassment." Stephen H. Schneider, a climatologist at Stanford, was more blunt -- "demonstrably garbage." (New York Times, Feb.9, 2006)

Crichton, who was called as a key witness in a Senate Hearing on Science in Environmental Policy-Making on September 28, 2005, uses as the heart of State of Fear, the belief that global warming has no basis in reality and is merely the product of the imagination of evil scientists.

A look back at slavery

Julius Lester, author of many books for young people celebrating African American traditions, takes us in his latest story, Day of Tears, to the largest slave auction in U.S. history in 1859 on a Georgia plantation. Told in dialogue and monologue, the story moves back and forth in time. In the present, Pierce Butler, plantation owner, sells Emma, the one who cared for his children, along with other slaves to pay off his gambling debts. Some time later, the characters look back on that painful time and comment on the horrors they experienced. Many characters fictionalized from history speak, including the auctioneer, several runaway slaves and an abolitionist.

Tobias Wolff and Adam Haslett share the 2006 PEN/Malamud prize

The 2006 PEN/Malamud Award for short fiction is being shared this year by Tobias Wolff and Adam Haslett.

The PEN/Malamud Award, established in 1988 by the family of the late Bernard Malamud, recognizes established short story writers as well as emerging talent.

Wolff, author of memoirs and novels, has written three short story collections -- In the Garden of the North American Martyrs: A Collection of Short Stories, Back in the World (will be ordered next week), and The Night in Question: Stories.

Computer outplays man!

Ten years ago today, on February 10, 1996, IMB’s Deep Blue computer defeated world chess champion Garry Kasparov—the first such victory by a computer in a tournament. Kasparov won the tournament, beating the computer three times (the other two matches were draws). In a six-game rematch the following year, Deep Blue came out the victor. Read about these exciting man vs. computer chess battles in Behind the Deep Blue: building the computer that defeated the world chess champion and Kasparov versus Deep Blue: computer chess comes of age.

Lincoln scholarship continues to flourish

Abraham Lincoln's birthday anniversary (Sunday, February 12) is an appropriate occasion to note the ongoing contributions to the historical appraisals and biographical investigations which are continuously amplifying the huge literature on the 16th president. Richard Carwardine's soon to be released Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power will probably be one of the most important Lincoln books of the next few years. Written by a British scholar, the book is a judicious, generally laudatory, portrait of Lincoln as man and president. Joshua Shenk's Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled his Greatness claims that Lincoln was a lifelong sufferer of depression, but that he used it to strenthen his resolve and commitment to the causes he fought for. A more controversial analysis of Lincoln's personality is C.A. Tripp's The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln, by a well-known therapist and former Kinsey sex researcher, which argues that Lincoln was bisexual, and exhibited many homosexual traits.

Older and Wiser?

Do you wonder what's ahead in life? Did you enjoy Tuesdays With Morrie? More moving and unexpected treasures lie in Am I Old Yet? and the documentary film Sunset Story. Think on!

Think Cool Thoughts by Elizabeth Perry

The city is hot. Angel is hot and wants nothing more than to be cool. She counts ice cubes in the hope that they will magically make the summer heat end. Elizabeth Perry's first picture book is a journey into the magic and wonder of childhood.

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