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Fabulous Fiction Firsts

You know that feeling --- you found that perfect pair of pink-satin kitten heels on the sale rack and it is YOUR size. Oh that thrill of discovery, you just have to call your girlfriends. It is that way for me when I come across a first novel or a new author that is a cut above. In the next months, I will be sharing some of my finds with you.

Koula by the three-time Greek national book award winner Menes Koumantareas is the first of his works to be translated (nicely done by Kay Cicellis) into English.

Originally published in 1978, this timeless novella is set in Athens. The plot is fairly clichéd – an affair between young handsome Dimitri and the middle-aged Koula. What distinguishes this 88-page little gem is the “spare, immaculate prose… and the ending that is logical, appropriate, and poignant without being cheaply bittersweet”. A perfect short read. Starred review in Booklist.

One Thumb Up--Roger Ebert's Best of 2005

Roger Ebert has announced his list of the best movies from 2005. The library has many of these movies in its collection and more are on the way. The list includes Fear and Trembling, Millions, Hustle and Flow, and two movies starring Joan Allen, The Upside of Anger and Yes. Ebert also mentions several movies that are candidates for his annual Overlooked Film Festival, including The Woodsman, starring Kevin Bacon.

What's on your best of 2005 list?

The Play Ground

American works for Balinese gamelan orchestra

Often lauded as the pinnacle of aesthetic achievement in Indonesia, Javanese shadow puppet theater is one of the world’s great classical theatrical forms. The mythological stories feature ancient kings, humorous antics of clowns, fierce battles and deep philosophical questions. This concert stars puppeteer Sigit Adji Sabdoprijono and Javanese dancer Yulisa Mastati, artists-in-residence at the Residential College. Susan Pratt Walton directs the gamelan, which is part of the Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments.
Rackham Auditorium, January 14, 2006 at 8pm, No tickets required

'Tis the season to read about mythology

Today the Diane Rehm show on NPR spotlighted author Kenneth C. Davis and his book, Don't know much about mythology: Everything you need to know about the greatest stories in human history but never learned. Their on-air discussion touched on everything from Jewish myths to the Saturnalia, from the winter solstice to early Christianity. It was all fascinating. Currently all copies of this book are checked out, but readers drawn to myths will want to get on the waiting list.

New Poetry Collection

A new collection will be welcomed by fans of Jane Kenyon. Collected Poems is a compilation of all of her work including the poems in her celebrated book, Otherwise which was published in 1996, less than a year after her death from leukemia. Kenyon is especially well known and loved in Ann Arbor because of her marriage to Donald Hall, former professor at the University of Michigan and an honored poet himself. Kenyon found refuge from her disabling depression in the simple beauties and comforts of the rural landscape of New Hampshire. She was highly influenced by Russian poet, Anna Akhmatova, some of whose work she translated. Several of those translations are included here. Kenyon's poetry expresses the soul's longing like no other.

Mr. George Baker by Amy Hest

Harry and George are friends. George is a 100-year-old jazz musician and Harry is 7.
They have a lot in common. They both have red backpacks and go to the same school. They are also learning to read. George can’t read, A hundred years old and never learned how. "That must be corrected," says George. Amy Hest captures the warmth of this unlikely friendship in this tender story of the challenge to conquer illiteracy.

Family Bits: 10 years old and Coping

Two stories of 8-10 year old kids coping with a parent who has cancer. It is serious stuff, and family goes on. Ida B. is home-schooled until her mother must go into cancer treatment. Ida B. must find a new place in public school. Ida's patient teacher makes a significant difference in her outlook. Tobin in Chicken Boy has lost his mother to cancer. He changes significantly when Henry takes him home after school one day to see the chickens. Tobin's outlook grows through friendship with Henry and chickens.

History Bits: Historical Fiction 1930

Grandma's General Store: the Ark is the story of two young children in an African-American family in Florida during the Great Depression. The children must remain with Grandma in Florida, while their parents go north to find work in Philadelphia. This slim book maintains strong and honest characters and events while it leads to a simple happy ending. The family is re-united to live in the north, without Jim Crow laws.

The Big Apple

Transit strikes come, transit strikes go. The City endures. Pete Hamill knows, as only an old newspaper reporter can, the streets, the people, the stories that make New York City so captivating and so confounding . Listen to Downtown: My Manhattan and you’ll want to visit even if you have to walk from the airport.

Once Hamill has you hooked on the Big Apple, you’ll want to know how it all started. The Island at the Center of the World takes you back to the founding of New Netherland, describing the array of cultures and peoples that created one of the most diverse cities in the world.

Comedy or tragedy?

In The Apartment (1960) Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine star as C.C. Baxter, an upwardly mobile insurance clerk and Fran Kubelik, the whimsical elevator girl in Baxter’s office building. Little does Baxter know that Miss Kubelik is having an affair with his boss—in Baxter’s apartment! One of Billy Wilder’s more emotionally complex comedies, The Apartment was nominated for ten Oscars in 1961 and won five of them.

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