And They're Off! Runners Prep for Chicago and Detroit Marathons

There's one month left until the gun fires to signal the start of the Chicago Marathon on October 11, and the Detroit Free Press/Flagstar Marathon on October 18. First time marathoners looking for some advice can check out the books Run Your First Marathon by Grete Waitz, or Marathon: The Ultimate Training and Racing Guide by eminent training guru, Hal Higdon. For those veteran marathoners looking for some extra racing mojo, see Spirit of the Marathon, the story of several marathon runners of varying experience -- from first timer to pro -- all of whom are filmed while training for, and competing in, the Chicago Marathon.

Volunteers are still needed for both Chicago and Detroit marathons in such exciting positions as Course Marshal, Crowd Control, and Split Timer, so there's still time to sign up to participate in these inspiring events.

Teen Stuff: The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

The novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, may have been published in 1999, but it doesn't look like it's lost much of its controversy or readership over the last 10 years. A CNN article published late last month reported a battle over book banning in West Bend, WI, in which this Stephen Chbosky novel is cited as one of those that a group of patrons wants moved from the public library's youth section and labeled offensive.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is structured as a series of letters written by fictional high school sophomore, Charlie, to an unstated confidant in the early 1990s. In the letters that cover one year of his life, Charlie discusses the difficulty he has making and maintaining friends, dealing with emotional instability, and trying to make the right decisions despite pressure to do otherwise. Of course, within those larger themes are incidents -- not atypical of many teens -- that have drawn ire from some readers, hence the controversy. The AADL owns copies of the novel, though you'll have to jump on the hold list due to its resurgence in popularity.

The Dirty Projectors -- Bitte Orca

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The terms 'accessible' and 'listener-friendly' don't exactly sit at the same lunch table as The Dirty Projectors. The band's manic tendencies to change rhythm mid-song, or pile melodies like clothes in a hamper, or noodle away on a riff into next week make them something of the Gujarati cuisine of indie rock -- strange to many, but obsessed over by a vocal few. Is Bitte Orca, The Dirty Projectors' latest release, going to make them arena rock stars of the Coldplay caliber? Hardly. Though Dave Longstreth manages to hold onto a unified idea for more than 4 bars on the record, the lo-fi sounds and disjointed structures of the songs are certain to turn many off after the first three tracks. But for those who want to hear music teetering on the edge of the esoteric without falling into the John Cage realm, check out Bitte Orca.

Phoenix -- Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

The first time I threw on the much-buzzed new Phoenix album with the bombastic title, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, I lost control of both legs. They started dancing and wouldn't stop. I looked ridiculous. After only making it through "1901," the second track on the album, I had to turn it off to avoid further embarrassment. The next day, I was ready. Blinds closed, stereo cranked, I made it through the whole thing. The French indie rock band has been making records for the last 10 years, with each a step forward in both complexity and songcraft, though this year's dance-pop, hook ready release marks the first time they've put together a complete set of tunes that exemplify the group's wit, confidence, and exuberance. Jump on the hold list for this record, and get ready to put Phoenix on heavy rotation.

Conor Oberst -- Outer South

You love him or hate him, find his emotive lyrics and inimitable wailing endearing or nauseating, but no doubt you know when you've heard a Conor Oberst, a.k.a. Bright Eyes, song. His latest record, Outer South, once again features the Mystic Valley Band, and continues down the alt-country vein of his eponymous previous album. This time around, Oberst takes a page out of the Weezer playbook by not only including six songs penned by backing bandmates, but giving up the vocal reins and letting the songwriters sing the songs they wrote. All signs point to Oberst attempting to erase his image as a tortured, self-absorbed wunderkind, as he plans on recording only one more album under the Bright Eyes moniker, becoming more of a lead singer than a singer/songwriter. But for those fans looking for a latter day "The Calendar Hung Itself," don't miss "I Got the Reason # 2" off Outer South.

New Wave/Post-Punk Redux

Good news for those still arguing over whether New Order is a better band than their previous incarnation, Joy Division, or if David Byrne of Talking Heads ever did go corporate: the new wave/post-punk sound is alive and well in this millennium. As evidenced by the popularity of Franz Ferdinand's latest record, Tonight, and The Killers continuing to sell out arena shows and summer festivals, the synth-driven, lo-fi tones of many bands from the late '70s/early '80s are proving to be increasingly influential on the direction of rock music in the coming decade.

So does this mean it's safe to blast some XTC and Gang of Four at your next party without fearing everyone will laugh at you and leave? Guess that depends on your audience, but chances are if your iPod shuffles to "Blue Monday" after playing Passion Pit's "The Reeling," few will notice that the former came out in 1983, and the latter in 2009. Now, whether you want to look like you're post-punk in 1982 at said party, that decision is entirely up to you.

Take Me Back to the Moors

Although it's unreasonable to judge every book-to-film adaptation against the first iteration of a title, when it comes to Wuthering Heights it's nearly impossible to cast out of mind William Wyler's 1939 version, especially Laurence Olivier's stormy yet affable portrayal of Heathcliff, and the Hollywood-ization of the novel's morose ending. In these two regards does PBS' 2009 rendition of Wuthering Heights most severely contrast Wyler's version.

Tom Hardy's Heathcliff is one of the darkest and most menacing screen incarnations of the character, with outstanding scenes when he's intimidating young Catherine in front of the hapless Hareton and exacting his revenge against Cathy, Edgar, and Hindley in the latter half of the film.

Running nearly 2.5 hours in length, few scenes from the novel are entirely absent, though the plot sequence has been changed, and Lockwood's character has been cut.

Thankfully, the harrowing ending of the novel is kept intact, catharsis and all. Decidedly a PBS Masterpiece presentation in its staginess, the acting is nevertheless sharp, carrying the story and its characters gracefully over the moors once again.

Following the crowds to Nora Roberts

Just for fun, I typed Nora Roberts into our catalog--245 hits. More than Stephen King! Wow, I thought, maybe I will read one of these in our Summer Reading Game. Then, for more fun, I searched J.D. Robb, the name under which Roberts writes police procedurals. Whoa, another 72 hits! Clearly Roberts is beyond prolific, and you can learn (lots) more about this bestselling phenom in Lauren Collins’ wonderful profile in the June 22 New Yorker. As many as 27 Nora Roberts books are sold every minute, the article suggests.

I Heard it on NPR

What was that song on NPR? I'd know it if I heard it again! If you've ever been frustrated by that conversation, now you're in luck, for National Public Radio has begun releasing the music collection series, I Heard it on NPR, and the AADL owns several of these diverse box sets. Fill your house with the voices of Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Krall and others on these long, hot summer nights with Ladies Jazz It Up. Or for those looking for music from around the globe, check out One World Many Voices, featuring the Algerian folk-pop of Souad Massi and the Brazilian rhythms of Caetano Veloso, among others. Other sets in this collection include alternative country artists in Down to the Roots, stellar jazz standards in Jazz for Blue Nights, and premier singer-songwriters in Singers, Songs, and Sessions.

Dark Was the Night

Compilation albums usually add up to one of two things: disposable cover songs from big name artists, or hit-or-miss tracks from artists on an adored small label, say Sub Pop or Drive Thru Records. The label makes money, the bands get heard, the buyer remorses. Bucking this trend, the Red Hot Organization made Dark Was the Night, a compilation so good that it needs two discs to hold all the great tunes. With album-worthy original material from the likes of The Decemberists, Bon Iver, Arcade Fire, and My Morning Jacket, this compilation has done everything right -- credible bands, great songs, and exclusive tracklisting.

Even the cover songs are intriguing. Antony Hegarty sings a pre-Freewheelin' Bob Dylan folk-tune, I Was Young When I Left Home, and Jose Gonzalez taps his '60s folk hero, singing Nick Drake's Cello Song. One of the AADL's hottest CDs right now, jump on the hold list for Dark Was the Night today.

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