Fabulous Fiction Firsts #5

Two sisters, two wars, one hot summer, one thoughtless act with devastating consequences, and one achingly beautiful first novel.

Adolescent Kate, watchful and sensitive, her wild and theatrical sister Frankie, (the gwaimui White Ghost Girls, lovingly called by their Chinese nanny) were left navigating an idyllic summer in Hong Kong while their photographer father was on assignment for Time magazine, covering the Vietnam war. It was 1967. The Mao rebellion in China was spilling over the border.

The story was set against the backdrop of the insular colonial American/English society of tea parties, cricket games and private schools and the awakening Chinese nationalism.

Newcomer Alice Greenway gave us one of the most memorable debut novels in a long while. Starred review from Booklist. Don’t miss this one.

A Few DVDs for Black History Month

Just released on DVD and soon to be available here at AADL is 1994's A Great Day in Harlem, left, a documentary that explores Art Kane's famous 1958 photograph featuring 57 legendary jazz musicians. Other recent titles include: Brother Minister: The Assassination of El-Hajj Malik Shabazz, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, The Rosa Parks Story, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Super Fly, and this year's Hustle and Flow, starring Academy Award nominee, Terrence Howard. Two other classic films, Cabin in the Sky and Stormy Weather, are on order.

If Horses Could Talk

Grace Archer would be in even more trouble. Eight years ago the CIA put Grace and her young daughter under protective custody on a small horse farm in Alabama, a place where she can use her uncanny talent for handling horses to good purpose. Needless to say, evildoers and Iris Johansen have other ideas.

On the Run is a runaway good story from one of the best suspense writers around and the audio version is sure to be in the running for an Audie Award this year. A sequel is all but guaranteed.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

February 4, 2006 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Though he was an accomplished theologian and writer, Bonhoeffer is best known for his resistance to the Nazi regime and his involvement with plots to assassinate Hitler. On April 5, 1943, Bonhoeffer was arrested for his subversive activities and he spent the rest of his life in prison. He was hanged at Flossenberg on April 8, 1945.

A number of books about or by Bonhoeffer are available at the library, including Letters and Papers from Prison, Christ the Center, The Cost of Moral Leadership: the Spirituality of Bonhoeffer, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Man of Vision, Man of Courage.

The library also has a documentary about Bonhoeffer called Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace. Also, PBS will be showing a more recent documentary called Bonhoeffer. It will be shown on Detroit Public TV on Sunday, February 12 at 3pm.

Marginalia: Writing in Books

When you search the library catalog and find a title there is a new link to “Card Catalog Image”. Clicking on this link brings you to a yellowed old catalog card for that title (A note says: “This service is somewhat experimental and is here as a novelty”). You are offered the opportunity to add your marginalia to the catalog card. I larded one of my favorite recent reads, Tropic of Night by Michael Gruber, with remarks. Years ago the library used to stick a Reader’s Comment sheet in the front of fiction titles, with room for brief comments from six to eight patrons.

The library has two books by H. J. Jackson on marginalia:
Romantic Readers: the Evidence of Marginalia and
Marginalia: Readers Writing in Books

Nicholas Basbanes, who has written numerous books on books and reading, has a little about marginalia in Every Book Its Reader: the Power of the Printed Word to Stir the World.

My wife has a copy of one of her grandfather’s college textbooks in which his roommate, Reginald Marsh, had drawn a variety of sketches.

(please note: the library definitely discourages writing in library materials)

Women Writing

Journalistas: 100 Years of the Best Writing and Reporting by Women Journalists, edited by Eleanor Mills and Kira Cochrane. Jill Abramson, in her review in The New York Times Book Review (January 8, 2006), hated the title and was doubtful of the concept but she was won over, “most of the pieces…are so marvelous I quickly cast aside my doubts. Their choice of writers, including Martha Gellhorn, Rebecca West, Susan Sontag and Mary McCarthy, as well as a number of British writers who were less familiar to me, is superb.”

This Day in the Life: Diaries from Women Across America created, compiled, and edited by Joni B. Cole, Rebecca Joffrey, and B. K. Rakhra. On June 29, 2004, a diverse group of women wrote down their thoughts. “The results are fantastically complex: an entertaining, heartwarming, and empathetic glimpse into many lives” (Library Journal, November 2005).

Women’s Letters: America from the Revolutionary War to the Present, edited by Stephen J. Adler. Chronologically arranged letters from the famous and the unknown with biographical information on the writers, contextual information about the letter or topic, and many period illustrations.

The Aunt Lute Anthology of U. S. Women Writers, edited by Lisa Maria Hogeland and Mary Klages. The editors have “gathered a startling variety of female texts, from a report of Anne Hutchinson's 1638 heresy trial to Emily Dickinson's poetry and an anti-lynching essay by Ida B. Wells” (Choice Reviews, June 2005).

Wilson Pickett and the Beatles' Hey Jude

Wilson Pickett (In The Midnight Hour, Land of 1,000 Dances, Mustang Sally) died of a heart attack on January 20 at the age of 64. He was totally sweet. It's really sad that he died, but it's a good excuse to rave about one of my favorite songs of all time, his cover of Hey Jude.
He recorded Hey Jude at Muscle Shoals Studio, in Alabama, after playing for most of his career on Stax Records, with Booker T and the MGs. The first time I heard it I really wasn't so sure about it because he really, really souls up the vocals in that way that can tire you out (you know, like when people really over-soul the Star-Spangled Banner). But upon several listens, I got pretty addicted.
It starts out pretty tame, just going through the motions of Hey Jude. Then this AMAZING bass line comes in and makes it all funky. And when they hit the bridge, the horns come in and swing it a little, and the bass is really solid and does this great staggered rhythm. And we go through this a few times, and then Pickett just wails, and the outro hits really hard. And Pickett's just screaming, and Duane Allman kicks out these totally awesome guitar lines, and the bass and drums are driving really hard, but the horns keep swinging! And Pickett just keeps screaming, and if you're wearing headphones, you can faintly hear in the background a chorus of female singers really low in the mix doing the whole "na na na na" thing, and the fact that it's hard to hear just makes it that much more awesome. And it just fades out like that and you can hear Wilson saying "It's gonna be all right" but at this point you just don't care because you're just astounded at how much that song rocked you. And then if you're me, you hit repeat and turn it up some more.
Anyway, the world will miss you, Wilson Pickett, but thanks for totally wailing and recording it for us. Because that song is AWESOME. (this entry is from my son’s blog)
Pickett’s Hey Jude is on three CDs in the library collection: In the Midnight Hour: and Other Hits, A Man and a Half: the Best of Wilson Pickett, and The Very Best of Wilson Pickett.

The Worst of 2005

The nominees for this year's Oscar awards have been announced, but let's be honest...the awards we really care about are the ones for the worst movies and performances of the year! This year's Razzie nominations have been announced and the masses are waiting with great anticipation to see who will end up at the bottom of the list!

Will The Dukes of Hazzard win the Worst Picture award? Will Tom Cruise cap off an embarrassing 2005 by winning Worst Actor for War of the Worlds? He'll have some serious competition from Will Ferrell, who has the distinction of being nominated for both Bewitched and Kicking and Screaming. The award for Worst Actress will probably come down between Jessica Alba for Fantastic 4 and Jennifer Lopez for Monster-in-Law.

So, what are the worst movies and performances you've seen this year?

Wickett's Remedy by Myla Goldberg

In a story eeriely relevant for our time, Myla Goldberg, acclaimed author of Bee Season, creates in Wickett's Remedy a tale that chronicles the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918 through the travails of the main character, Lydia Wickett, who creates a medicinal tasting mixture that her husband tries to market. Lydia loses her husband to influenza and is exploited by a shady businessman who converts the remedy into QD Soda which becomes a nationwide sensation and makes him millions. Returning to South Boston, Lydia begins nursing victims of the disease and then naively volunteers for an unethical research project on Gallups Island using prisoners as subjects to be exposed to the virus. Along with the narrative are bulletins describing the 75th anniversary of QD Soda and articles on the ravages of the influenza. Sidebars in the margins are written from "the other side," i.e. the dead, commenting on the story. Wickett's Remedy is an ambitious undertaking that vividly depicts the tragedy that took so many lives.

Calling all Edge Chronicle Fans!

Mark your calenders to meet the authors, Englishmen Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell, of the popular series the Edge Chronicles at Nicola's Bookstore on Wednesday, March 15th at 11am. The Edge Chronicles is a cool British fantasy series with woodtrolls and sky pirates. You might even be able to get your books signed! If you love Harry Potter, you should try this series out.

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