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.

October Books to Film, Part 1

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An Education, winner of the Audience Choice award and the Cinematography award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival is adapted from British journalist Lynn Barber's "short, sharp" memoir (currently only available in the US @ amazon.com in the kindle edition).

Jenny, Oxford bound, is a bright young girl on the cusp of her 17th birthday who finds herself in a whirlwind romance with a much older David. Smooth, dashing and worldly, he offers Jenny the lifestyle she never imagined might so easily be hers and an education of another kind. Oxford goes out the window.

Critics like Rex Reed, Joe Morgenstern, Kenneth Turan and Peter Travers all agreed that Education is " one of the year's best" . With the script written by Nick Hornby, one could expect his trademark pitch-perfect dialogue, mordant wit and resonant humanity. (Limited release this weekend).

I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell is based on Tucker Max's shocking, ridiculous and hilarious real-life adventures - an impromptu bachelor party gone horribly awry thanks to a midget, a fat girl, a gaggle of strippers, public intoxication ordinances, and the consequence of Tucker’s unflinching narcissism and selfishness.

Where the Wild Things Are tells the story of Max, a rambunctious and sensitive boy who feels misunderstood at home and escapes to an island where he meets mysterious and strange creatures whose emotions are as wild and unpredictable as their actions.

The Wild Things, desperate for a leader, crowned Max king, and he soon finds that ruling his kingdom is not an easy thing. This animated feature film is adapted from Maurice Sendak's lovely tale that has captivated generations of young readers.

Coming Out in the Movies

Coming Out Day 2009Coming Out Day 2009The week of October 4-12 is National Coming Out Week. LGBT visibility and acceptance has changed drastically over the course of cinematic history and is still changing today. Need proof? Check out these documentaries. The Celluloid Closet uses clips and anecdotes from over 120 films to show the changing social climate towards homosexuals in the movies. Fabulous! The Story Of Queer Cinema provides an overview of the history of gay and lesbian cinema of the past 50 years.

There have been many great films telling the stories of people coming out of the closet and facing their sexuality with honesty and courage. Here are a few of my favorites.
Beautiful Thing - teenage love in England.
Big Eden - city dweller readjusts to small town life.
Transamerica - a road trip full of discoveries.

For real life Coming Out stories, try these documentaries on for size.
A Jihad for Love - Islam like you've never seen it.
Being Gay: Coming Out in the 21st Century - a look at people's first steps.
Just Call Me Kade - transitioning as a teen.
Dangerous Living: Coming Out in the Developing World - a glimpse of an emerging global movement.

You must read Zeitoun!!

If you haven't added Zeitoun by Dave Eggers to your must-read list, please do so immediately. This amazing piece of non-fiction made me laugh, cry, shake with rage, smile with triumph, and recoil in horror and disbelief. For me, it was definitely the best book I have read this year.

After copious research, Eggers shares the story of Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a successful Syrian-born painting contractor, who decided to stay in his New Orleans home during Hurricane Katrina while his wife Kathy and their family fled. Egger's text, simple yet incredibly eloquent, recounts Zeitoun's experiences in such a riveting way, I often forgot that it wasn't Zeitoun himself telling his story. He describes the water filling the city, when the levees first broke, as beautiful and crystal clear, giving everything a surreal, sparkly, otherworldly quality. You, the reader, can easily imagine the scene of him paddling around the city in his canoe, rescuing neighbors and feeding stranded pets. Zeitoun's story takes a horrifying and heart-breaking turn when he is arrested, accused of being a member of Al Qaeda, and thrown into an injust Bush administration/bureaucratic nightmare. The ending of this book kept me up late into the night, unable to go to sleep until I found out what happened to Zeitoun and his frantic family. Out of one family's tragedy does come something positive: Proceeds from the sale of this book go towards supporting the Zeitoun Foundation, formed in 2009 by the Zeitoun family, Dave Eggers, and McSweeney's.

I Was Right On Time

If you are like me, every time you watched Baseball – A film by Ken Burns, you waited with anticipation for the segments featuring Buck O’Neil. O’Neil told the best and most relevant stories, and I for one wanted more. I was right on time is the answer. While reading Buck O’Neil’s autobiography, I could practically hear him sharing the stories written in the book. Some of his accounts overlap with those he told in the documentary but he often provides additional information in the book.

In his autobiography, O’Neil doesn’t write much on his life outside of baseball. He does write about other topics such as his family and World War II but only in how they relate to baseball. He also shares numerous memories about the athletes he played with like Satchel Paige, Jackie Robinson, and Josh Gibson. I found his insights invaluable.

I was right on time is a quick read. When I finished the book I had learned a great deal and went away with even more respect for Buck O’Neil (this is a feat I didn’t think possible).

If you enjoy his autobiography, Joe Posnaski spent a year traveling with O'Neil and wrote a wonderful book about the experience. The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O'Neil's America

Teen Stuff: The Oxford Project

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This book with text by Stephen G. Bloom and photographs by Peter Feldstein is a fascinating leap into a great project. The Oxford Project was one of the ten books to receive the 2009 Alex Award, given to the top ten books written for adults that have a special appeal to young adults, age 12-18. The book features photographs taken in 1984 of every resident in Oxford, Iowa, and then also photographs of many of them again in 2005. The Oxford Project offers a peek into the lives of many, showing how much a person can change in 21 years. It is an interesting social study, and the large black and white photographs keep you turning the page to see who’s next. I couldn’t help but keep smiling with each turn of the page. It really makes the ordinary seem extraordinary! Check out the books’ website for a look inside, as you can actually "flip" through the pages.
File under: fabulous coffee table book.

I Love Lucy

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I’ve always been an I Love Lucy fan and have seen many of the episodes over the years - especially from watching with my mother while I was growing up. Recently though, I have decided to watch every single episode of I Love Lucy in order from beginning to end. This has now become what I have named “The Lucy Project,” and it is, of course, a hilarious one. Rewatching the show also inspired me to read Lucille Ball’s very own autobiography, Love, Lucy. (Did you know she and her family briefly lived in Wyandotte, Michigan?) In addition, there are several biographies written about Lucy that are probably quite interesting, too! You can also see her in movies such as the musical Best Foot Forward, the film noir Lured or the dramatic 1942 film The Big Street co-starring Henry Fonda.

Happy Birthday Mr. President!

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48 years ago today President Barack Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. (News outlets claim he is spending the day at the White House, lunching with the entire Senate Democratic Caucus.) On his birthday, August 4, 1961, John F. Kennedy held the office of the presidency in a very different United States of America. To explore the journey of Obama from Hawaii to Washington D.C., visit the AADL for a wealth of material, including books, dvds, books on CD and videos about this history-making man.

August's Books to Film

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JULIE & JULIA is based on two true stories. It intertwines the lives of two women who, though separated by time and space, are both at loose ends...until they discovered that with "the right combination of passion, fearlessness and butter, anything is possible".

Julia Child single handedly awakened America to the pleasures of good cooking with her cookbooks and her television show The French Chef, but as she reveals in her bestselling memoir, My Life in France, she didn't know the first thing about cooking when she landed in France.

Indeed, when she first arrived in 1948 with her husband, Paul, she spoke no French and knew nothing about the country itself. But as she dove into French culture, buying food at local markets and taking classes at the Cordon Bleu, her life changed forever. Julia's unforgettable story unfolds with the spirit so key to her success as a cook/teacher/writer, brilliantly capturing one of the most endearing American personalities.

Nearly 30 and trapped in a dead-end job, Julie Powell, in her delightul memoir*, resolved to reclaim her life by cooking, in the span of a single year, all 524 recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking thus risking her marriage, her job, and her sanity.

In theaters August 7th, Julie & Julia is written and directed by essayist, novelist, screenwriter (and foodie) Nora Ephron. Did you see the NYTimes Magazine article about her famous meatloaf, and the nice write-up in USA Today?

* = Starred review

Alison Bechdel's Bittersweet Biography

Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel, is one of the most poignant and touching memoirs I have ever read. Her autobiographical graphic novel centers on her relationship to her father, the discovery of his homosexuality (and her own), and his death. The name of the book refers to the family home, a funeral home run by Bechdel’s father, Bruce. Bechdel spent seven years writing and illustrating Fun Home and it's packed with detail, allusions, and pop culture references. The novel pulls off the difficult feat of being simultaneously a quick and easy read and a complexly layered piece of literature. Fun Home was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award, in the Autobiography/Memoir category, and won the 2007 Eisner Award for Best Reality-Based Work.

Alison Bechdel is also the author of the popular comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For.

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