Fabulous Fiction Firsts #350 - Remembering Marilyn

August marks the 50th Anniversary of Marilyn Monroe's death but the appetite and obsession with this universal icon have never waned in the intervening years. Just in the past year, we saw the Hollywood adaptation of Colin Clark's memoir My Week with Marilyn and Smash, the 2012 successful television series (renewed for another season), a musical based on Marilyn's life.

Now we have J.I. Baker's The Empty Glass *, a "heartbreaking, pulse-quickening" novel that delves into one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th century.

Los Angeles County deputy coroner Ben Fitzgerald arrives at the scene of Monroe's death and finds her diary. The deeper Ben reads into the diary, the deeper he finds himself embroiled in a conspiracy far bigger than he can imagine. Then there were the photos taken of the night stand next to Marilyn's bed, where no water glass was found, contradicting a second set of photographs being used in the investigations.

Debut novelist James Ireland Baker is the executive editor of Condé Nast Traveler and had worked for various national magazines. He is a founding editor of Time Out New York.

If fact is more to your liking than fiction, then check out a new biography by Lois Banner Marilyn :The Passion and the Paradox *.

As one of the founders of the field of women's history, Lois Banner (Scholar/Faculty, USC) appreciates the complexities of Monroe's personal life in the context of her achievements as an actor, singer, dancer, comedian, model, and courtesan. In the research, she gained access to material no one else has seen (personal papers, interviews with Kennedy's Secret Service detail). The new information she unearthed is nothing short of revelatory.

"A passion for precision and truth fuels Banner's electrifying portrait of an artist caught in a maze of paradoxes and betrayals. Here is Marilyn as we've never seen her before."

* = starred review

Video from "An Evening With Dan Rather"

In May, the AADL hosted Dan Rather at the Michigan Theater where the legendary broadcaster discussed his memoir, "Rather Outspoken: My Life In The News." If you were unable to attend or want to review his talk, watch the video of his presentation!

Rather's memoir highlights major stories from his decades of reporting and his reflections on the state of journalism today and what he sees for its future, as well as never-before-revealed personal observations and commentary.

First-ever Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction have been awarded

The American Library Association, long noted for its revered, prestigious awards for children's books (Newbery, Coretta Scott King, Caldecott, Printz, Alex, to name a few), has entered the adult field.

Yesterday, at their annual conference in Anaheim, CA, ALA gave the nod to adult writers in the organization's first AndrewCarnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction. This honor is bestowed on the best nonfiction and fiction titles published in the previous year.

Anne Enright received her medal and cash prize for her novel, The Forgotten Waltz, a lyrical novel of adultery between two deeply flawed Irish citizens and the fallout on both of their families. Enright won the 2007 Man Booker Prize for The Gathering.

Robert K. Massie captured the nonfiction category for his riveting biography, Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman. Massie, who is THE preeminent biographer of Russian czars (he won the 1981 Putlizer Prize for Biography or Autobiography for his seminal Peter the Great, His Life and World. In Catherine, Massie's edge-of-the-seat storytelling gifts bring to life this fascinating historical figure, from her roots as a minor German princess to her enormous influence on Russia.

Public lists for the winners and finalists of this award have been created here:

winners

finalists

Her Life

The past year has given us a number of excellent LGBT stories, especially from the L and the T. From graphic novels to memoirs to teen fiction, check out one of these incredible stories. You won't be able to put it down.

Are You My Mother?, by Alison Bechdel - Bechdel's amazing 2006 graphic novel, Fun Home, told the story of her relationship with her father and her experiences growing up with him. Are You My Mother gives the same treatment to her other parent. With references to Virginia Woolf and various psychotherapists, Bechdel's recollections are as literary and allusive as they are fascinating.

Pariah - Alike is a 17-year-old living in Brooklyn with her mom, dad, and sister. She is starting to embrace her identity as a lesbian, but this causes tension between her mother and father who differ in their attitudes toward their daughter. Alike's home life and her friends constitute two different worlds, and her struggle to reconcile the two is heartfelt and compelling. This critically acclaimed film currently boasts a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, by Jeanette Winterson - Winterson recounts the story of her early life, growing up with a fanatical mother obsessed with hell and damnation, not unlike the mother character in Carrie. She tells of finding shelter in her local library, discovering poetry and the world of words, and eventually becoming an author herself. This book is a fascinating autobiography of a leading lesbian author. Don't miss it.

Albert Nobbs - The titular character, played by Glenn Close, lives in 19th century Ireland, a time and place unwelcoming of independent women. Nobbs is living the life of a man, working as a butler in an upper class hotel. Nobbs maintains an introverted personality in order to prevent any discovery of the nature of her gender, but when other employees of the hotel get too close, her carefully constructed walls are compromised.

The Difference Between You and Me, by Madeleine George - Two very different high-school girls, Jesse, a politically active outsider, and Emily, a popular girl on the student's council, have been having clandestine meetings in the third-floor library bathroom to kiss. The"opposites attract" formula is put to the test when the two find themselves on opposing sides of a battle about a megastore threatening to crowd out local businesses. This is smart, thoughtful writing that will entertain, but also make teens (and adults) think.

Happy Accidents, by Jane Lynch - Fans of Tina Fey's Bossypants will be tempted to assume the two comedian-penned memoirs are similar, but Lynch's book is less jokey and more personal. She tells it all, from her teenage alcohol abuse to her success as a popular actress. Jane Lynch has led an amazing life, and I'm happy she put it all down on paper for our enjoyment.

Smell & Tell: Using Your Sense of Smell For Creative Inspiration

Wednesday June 13, 2012: 6:30 pm to 8:45 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

Michelle Krell Kydd is a flavor and fragrance expert and award winning blogger who uses her training as a "nose" to bring stories to life. She is editor of an award-winning blog on smell and taste, Glass Petal Smoke.

This "Smell and Tell" workshop is perfect for food lovers and writers who are interested in smell and the autobiographical memories that it inspires.

This event is for adults and teens (grade 6 and up).

An Evening With Dan Rather

Monday May 21, 2012: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Michigan Theater
603 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor, MI. 48104 (map)

The Ann Arbor District Library is honored to host an evening with journalist Dan Rather as he discusses his new memoir "Rather Outspoken: My Life In The News" at the Michigan Theater. There is no charge to attend this special evening event, cosponsored by Michigan Radio.

You've seen him on the news reporting, now see him in-person as he discusses his memoir. Rather will highlight major stories from his decades of reporting and his reflections on the state of journalism today and what he sees for its future, as well as never-before-revealed personal observations and commentary. This event includes books for sale and a book signing.

Meet this broadcast legend outside of the television screen!

Saloma Furlong Discusses Her Memoir "Why I Left The Amish"

Friday May 11, 2012: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

Author Saloma Furlong was born and raised in an Amish community in Ohio. Driven by her desire for freedom and more formal education, she broke away from her community -- not once, but twice. Her story was recently featured in February's PBS "American Experience" program, "The Amish."

Learn more about Furlong's Amish background and her decision to the leave the community as she visits the AADL to discuss her life and her memoir, "Why I Left the Amish." Books will be on sale and the event will include a book signing.

Mark Rothko & "Red" At The Performance Network Theatre

Tuesday May 8, 2012: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm

Love art? Enjoy the theater?

Performance Network Theatre and the AADL present an enlightening evening focusing on Mark Rothko, the famous abstract expressionist painter and the subject of the Tony Award-Winning play "Red" (now showing through May 27 at the Performance Network). UM History of Art Department PhD student Grant W. Mandarino leads the discussion on Rothko's life and work. Gain insight into the artist's life before attending one of the theater's performances.

The Performance Network Theatre is located at 120 East Huron St in Ann Arbor. There is no charge for this lecture, however there is limited seating - so please arrive early.

Video: Shipwreck Survivor Pierette Domenica Simpson

If you missed last night's talk with author and shipwreck survivor, Pierette Domenica Simpson, watch this video from her visit last year. Pierette shares her up-close and personal account of surviving the most catastrophic ship collision in history between the Andrea Doria and the Stockholm, in July of 1956, when she was 9 years old. Check out or place a hold for her new young adult novel: "I Was Shipwrecked on the Andrea Doria: The Titanic of the 1950s."

Fear of Lethem

This month, 33 1/3, the intriguing music review book series, drops what is sure to be another gem into its readers' eager hands. One of my favorite writers, Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn, Fortress of Solitude, and Chronic City (among others), tackles the seminal 1979 post-punk album, Fear of Music, by Talking Heads. Jump on the AADL hold list for this forthcoming book by clicking here.

Fans of Lethem's work will remember his stake in the late-70s Brooklyn scene in Fortress of Solitude, as well as in his collection of essays, The Disappointment Artist. Fans of Talking Heads will find Lethem's nervy characterizations of place and time a fine pairing with David Byrne's lyrics.

For those unfamiliar with the 33 1/3 book series, each book focuses on one album from one musical artist. The books are each written by a different author, ranging from critic to uber-fan to musician, and now, even to bestselling authors. I always look forward to tossing a great record on repeat and diving into the back-stories behind the songs and the personal connections to the author's life.

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