Just Kids

Being a Patti Smith fan, you might imagine my delight when I discovered she had written a new memoir about her early life in New York City. The book, Just Kids, centers on her relationship that took place in the late 60s/early 70s with the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Mapplethorpe, who took the iconic cover photograph for the Patti Smith Group’s Horses album, met Smith in 1967 when she was working at the now-defunct Scribner's bookstore on Fifth Avenue. Later, they lived in and around the historic Hotel Chelsea and became each others muses – developing a relationship that would last for years to come, always focusing on their artistic endeavors. Although Smith would have later relationships with other men, such as her marriage to the late Fred “Sonic” Smith of the MC5, her time with Mapplethorpe was always dear to her, and they remained friends through his coming into his own as a gay man, and up until his death from AIDS in 1989.

Patti Smith talked about her new book on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross, you can listen to the interview or read a transcript here.

Italian Holiday?

Ever dream of going to Italy? Can't afford it? Using the library is a great alternative!

First, you can experience the sights through art books in our collection. The works of greats such as Botticelli, Bernini, Michelangelo, and Caravaggio will transport you into the culture of Italy. However, if you wanted something a little closer to the real experience, you could try this book of paintings within the Uffizi. It's basically a tour in itself!

If you want to feel like you're actually walking the streets of Italy, try a book on the architecture of Brunelleschi, the famous creator of Florence's Il Duomo, or maybe something a little broader.

Perhaps you're anxious to taste some real Italian food? Unfortunately, you'll have to cook it yourself. But books on Italian Cooking will be able to make that a bit easier for you.

In order to hear Italy, you can try your hand at speaking it yourself. With our fantastic Italian language-learning collection, you'll be able to go from a beginner's lesson, to something more advanced. Although, if you tired yourself out with all that cooking, you might just like to listen to some opera.

If you're really into this whole plan, maybe you want to get some more background? There are tons of Italian history books. There are also biographies on key figures, such as Caesar, Lucrezia Borgia, Savonarola, Garibaldi, Mussolini, and the well-known Medici family.

Maybe all of these books are too much for you, and you really need a break? Well, luckily, AADL also carries movies. Something lighthearted, like Roman Holiday might help you through your journey. Or, if you'd like something a little more thrilling, perhaps The Talented Mr. Ripley? We even have films in Italian, like La Dolce Vita!

It may not be exactly the same as climbing the Spanish Steps, but it's as close as you can get without actually going! But, if you ever decide to go, don't forget your travel book.

It's good to be short

While perusing the blog of a Harper Collins marketing coordinator (read about it on muffy’s post), I saw that she invited readers to create six-word memoirs, inspired by the book It All Changed In An Instant : More Six-Word Memoirs By Writers Famous & Obscure. This got me thinking about how the new kind of mass communication (that is, personal broadcasting) is all about brevity. 140 characters in Twitter and texting, four-word film reviews, six-word memoirs, or 55 fiction, the personal tale is trending to shortness.

The cynic in me might attribute this to what seems to be an increasingly shorter attention span in the human animal, but the English major in me knows there’s more to the (short) story: rigid structure and restraint often help us process and speak about things in a more poignant way. Perhaps one of the most moving examples of this phenomenon is W.S. Merwin’s “Elegy,” which can be found in The Carrier of Ladders or The Second Four Books of Poems. Another amazing example of hard-hitting, extremely short poetry is The Really Short Poems of A.R. Ammons.

Other short things I can suggest? The song “Minimum Wage” on the classic They Might Be Giants album Flood is 46 seconds long and contains two (maybe three) words. Kristin Chenoweth is reportedly 4’11,” and has done quite a bit of fun work in music, television, theater and film. Find her song “Taylor the Latte Boy” on your online vendor of choice or check out Pushing Daisies. The Ann Arbor District Library conducts its own short story contest, and the winning stories are a part of the circulating collection. I haven’t gotten around to watching the Pixar Short Films Collection (v.1), but if the shorts you always get to see at the theater before one of their features are evidence of anything, it’s the beauty of simplicity and diminutiveness.

Girls Interrupted

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by author Joanne Greenberg is a now-classic semi-autobiographical account of a sixteen-year old girl’s struggle with schizophrenia. Following traumatic events that occurred during childhood, Deborah withdraws further into herself, living in a fantasy universe called Yr (pronounced “eer”), and drifts in and out of reality. After a suicide attempt, Deborah’s parents seek treatment for her in an institution.

The story is reminiscent of Susannah Kaysen’s 1993 memoir, Girl, Interrupted. Kaysen was institutionalized in the 1960s after a suicide attempt and diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. However, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden was published many years earlier (1964) under the pseudonym Hannah Green, and of course, deals with a very different kind of mental illness. Still, a major theme in both of the books is that both of the young women feel "safe" being on the "inside", and feel liberated from social stigma and responsibility. But they both eventually realize that unless they take steps toward their recovery - frightening as the "outside" world may be - they will remain hospitalized, and never actually, truly, be free.

Intriguingly Factual Reads on the Hot- and Blue-Blooded

These are not your high school history teacher's textbooks.

Sex with the Queen: 900 Years of Vile Kings, Virile Lovers, and Passionate Politics, and its male consort Sex with Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge, are both written by a namesake descendant of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Eleanor Herman.

In these two luscious books, Herman outlines the auspicious--and more often ominous--adulteries of European royalty, from the middle ages up until the modern Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

As you might expect, they cover many subjects not often touched by history teachers. But, probably for that reason, they are entertaining while still being factually correct. Perhaps a guilty pleasure to read, you will nevertheless be assured that they are not simply fabricated for your enjoyment.

The two books offer intriguing insight into the act of adultery among nobility--its origins and outcomes--with a pinch of feminism and a heaping spoonful of wit. Herman explains not only political and social risings among the mistresses and lovers of kings and queens, but also the fashions and foods inspired by them. They cover nearly all of Europe, from Britain and France to the cold reaches of Russia, and they span from five to nine decades.

She also offers a book on a papal puppetry by a woman, called Mistress Of The Vatican: the True Story of Olimpia Maidalchini, the Secret Female Pope, which Publisher's Weekly called "a window into an age of empire, nepotism and intrigue that rivals any novel for fascinating reading."

If you're looking for a painstakingly-researched read that delves into social and political history, but don't want to be reading yourself to sleep, take a look at these.

Looking back on New Year's Eve

I've never been one to make challenging declarations about how I'm going to behave in the future (you know, those pesky "resolutions"). I know that I am a cookie fiend and I'm okay with that. That being said, there does seem to be some call for marking the time when we start to train ourselves not to sign our checks '2009' anymore.

Groundhog Day is one of the classics when it comes to 'marking' time. Bill Murray attempts to answer the question of how, exactly, to mark time that doesn't seem to obey its own laws... or possibly even exist. (Personally, I prefer some of his original ideas to the path that finally makes this movie a romantic comedy.)

In Wristcutters, time, though certainly odd, is one of the least surreal functions of the setting. Still, the characters' histories and their place in whatever continuum they reside in is a major factor in the film. The story mainly takes place in an afterlife populated only by suicide victims. In author Etgar Keret's imagining of such a place, everything is the same, just slightly worse. Despite that somewhat depressing premise, the story is comedic and touching, and just odd enough to keep the viewer intrigued. Tom Waits also helped in that department. This one's quite fun for its uniqueness.

You may know Janwillem van de Wetering for his mystery writing, but prior to that, he penned The Empty Mirror: Experiences in a Japanese Zen Monastery. Van de Wetering marks his time at the monastery extraordinarily honestly; he's a bit of a grouch, and he takes advantage of nearly every opportunity to break the rules (just as his peers do). Janwillem bumbles through his experience so erratically that the reader - in between laughing out loud - can't really conclude that he learned much during his time there. But, what was that old saying about those who are enlightened not speaking of it?

The Red Book of Carl Gustav Jung

Red Book

One literary masterpiece which is presently creating a stir is known simply as the Red Book. Unveiled recently, after being hidden in a bank vault in Switzerland for 25 years, it is the very revealing and brave self-analysis of Carl Jung, containing the exploration of his own psyche, his visions and dreams, in both narrative text and glowing art work. Read this article to learn the history of the red leather diary, which was carefully guarded, until now, by Jung’s heirs for fear that their venerable grandfather would be considered, well...crazy.

Currently on display at the Rubin Museum in New York City, a page is turned every day and shown online at this website. Resembling an illuminated manuscript, with carefully hand-lettered text and finely detailed, pulsating color paintings of mandalas, winged serpents and mythic characters, it reveals the inner life of one of the world’s experts on inner life. It will soon be published and, though fascinating, it might not be recommended for bedtime reading!

In our collection, there is a wealth of information about Carl Jung, including his classic autobiography Memories, Dreams, Reflections, the popular The Tao of Jung and the DVD The World Within.

"As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being". Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, 1962

More November Books to Film

Feature film The Blind Side is based on Michael Lewis's sports biography The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game.

Teenager Michael Oher, homeless, wearing shorts and a t-shirt in the dead of winter is spotted on the street by Leigh Anne Tuohy who, without a moment’s hesitation, takes him in. What starts out as a gesture of kindness becomes much more as the family helps Michael fulfill his potential, both on and off the football field. Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron, Sandra Bullock, and Kathy Bates star in this inspirational film. (November 20th release)

The Road is based on Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, set in an indefinite, futuristic, post-apocalyptic world, a father and his young son make their way through the ruins of a devastated American landscape, struggling to survive and preserve the last remnants of their own humanity. (Starring Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron , it opens November 25th everywhere).

Newcomer Christian McKay, Claire Danes, Zac Efron star in Me and Orson Welles - based on a romantic coming-of-age novel about a teenage actor Richard Sameuls, who lucks into a role in Julius Caesar as it’s being re-imagined by a brilliant, impetuous young director named Orson Welles at his newly founded Mercury Theatre in NYC, 1937.

Author Robert Kaplow chronicles the roller-coaster week leading up to opening night when the charismatic-but-sometimes-cruel young Welles stakes his career on a risky production while Richard mixes with everyone from starlets to stagehands. When the mercurial Welles casts his eye on the woman with whom Richard himself had fallen in love, all hell breaks loose. (Limited release November 25th).

Patrick Swayze: Time of my life

P SwayzeP Swayze

We have the new audiobook The Time of my Life written by Patrick Swayze and his wife Lisa Niemi. Patrick Swayze died this past September, at age 57, twenty months after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His book is a reflection on love, life, and his fight with cancer. What is really great about this book is that it is written from the heart. Patrick tells us much more about his life than just being diagnosed with cancer. He describes his childhood in Texas, his personal struggles, his rise to fame, and his wife who has stood by his side through it all. It is an inspirational story and a love story all rolled into one, and he wears his heart on his sleeve when he recounts his life for us.

Off with her head!

On October 16, 1793, Marie Antoinette, Queen of France under Louis XIV, was beheaded by the French citizenry who were angered by her extravagance. The statement: "Let them eat cake" was credited to her. As the French Revolution raged, she was taken to prison where after several failed escape attempts, was led to the guillotine.

The novel, Marie Antoinette by Sena Jeter Naslund describes her rise and fall in rich, evocative language. "The French Revolution Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, A New Republic Is Born is an excellent film that includes quite a bit on the tragic queen.

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