No "Stranger in a Strange Land"

Today, July 7, is the 100th birthday of science fiction writer, Robert Heinlein. Considered by some to be the father of modern science fiction, Heinlein wrote over 50 novels and collections of short stories. He never considered becoming a writer. While serving in the Navy, Heinlein contracted tuberculosis and was at a loss on what direction his life would take. When he saw an ad in a pulp fiction magazine offering $50 for a story, he wrote one but decided it was too good and sent it to a science fiction magazine where it was accepted. And so began his new career. Unlike other science fiction stories at the time that were full of gadgets and imaginary machines, Heinlein's fiction dealt with the world as it was and how it could be imagined realistically in the future.

What Boomers Want?

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Publishers Weekly has teamed up with AARP to recommend books "for, by and about boomers and others in the over-50 age bracket", called Books for Grownups.

Each bi-monthly list will include five picks each in fiction, nonfiction and self-help/lifestyle. It will appear on the AARP's book portal, as well as the PW site.

The next one will be out in August.

Czezlaw Milosz

Today, June 30, is the birthday of poet, Czselaw Milosz who was born in Lithuania in 1911. His family eventually settled in Poland. After studying law in college, Milosz worked for a Polish radio station but was fired when he let Jews broadcast their opinions on the air. He also worked for another radio station where he covered the invasion of Poland by the Nazis in 1939. While working as a janitor at a university, he began to secretly write anti-Nazi poetry. His first book of poems, Rescue, was about the mass killing of Jews in Warsaw. After the war, he moved to Paris and then to the U.S. where he taught at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1980, he received the Nobel Prize for literature.

Following is one of his poems:

A Task

Coal town blues

In her debut novel, When We Get There, Shauna Seliy describes the coming of age of 13 year old Lucas who in 1974 lives in one of the few remaining coal mining towns in Western Pennsylvania. His large Eastern European family is ruled by Lucas' grandmother, Slats. Lucas' father has recently died in a mining accident. His grief-stricken mother, Mirjana flees and Lucas goes off in search of her. Seliy's novel is a moving and authentic description of a vanishing culture and way of life and the maturation of a young man who faces his losses head on.

For two other novels that expose union busting by coal companies in Kentucky and West Virginia, try Denise Giardina's Storming Heaven and its sequel, An Unquiet Earth.

Literary Insights

With increasing life expectancy, family relationships may change over the course of many years. How can we make the most of these years and learn from the experience? Good books—both fiction and non-fiction—have a lot to say about family dynamics and aging. Gerontology educator and consultant Joanne Grabinski will address the topic in Aging and Family: Literary Insights on Sat., July 21 at 2 - 3:30 pm at the Malletts Creek Branch. Join the discussion and bring your own recommendations of helpful literature.

Another Dillard classic

Annie Dillard, known for her evocative nature writing in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, fiction and poetry brings us a tender, beautifully written love story called The Maytrees. Set in Provincetown, Cape Cod, the novel is about Toby Maytree, poet and handyman and his livelong love, Lou Bigelow, a painter, who meet and marry in this bohemian town after World War II. They read books together, cook lots of soup and raise a son, Petie. Dillard evokes the windswept beauty of the Cape as a backdrop for changes that to others may seem cruel when Tobey, leaves Lou to live with another woman. The Maytrees is a poetically imagined story of love's resillience and proves once again that Dillard is truly a master of her craft.

".....of clay and wattles made...."

Today, June 13 is the birthday of Irish poet, William Butler Yeats who was born in Dublin in 1865. Although brought up in a Protestant family, he was not pro-British. Yeats as a young man was more interested in mysticism than politics and his early poetry reflects involvement with some teachers of the occult at that time. But after meeting and falling in love with Irish nationalist, Maud Gonne, Yeats became a spokesman for Irish independence, becoming a senator in the Irish Parliament in his later years. He was also a strong supporter of theater, co-founding the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. Yeats was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1923. As a lyrical poet, Yeats was able to evoke the magic of place as in one of his most famous poems, "The Lake Isle of Innisfree."

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

Portrait of a great photographer

First time novelist Emily Mitchell in her book Last Summer of the World, presents a compelling portrait of photographer Edward Steichen. She focuses on the period in which Steichen was a photographer on airborne reconnaissance missions during World War I. His pictures presented the horrors of war and are described in detail. A major part of the story takes place in France including a visit to sculptor Auguste Rodin. Also described is his stormy marriage to Clara, rocked by an affair. In this powerful narrative, Mitchell skillfully combines fact and fiction to create a profile of a visionary whose ego complicated the lives of others.

Saul Bellow Remembered

On this Suday, June 10, Nobel Prize winning author Saul Bellow would have been 92. Born in Lachine, Canada, Bellow broke from the literati in writing picaresque novels like The Adventures of Augie Marsh in which the title character says about himself: "...I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent." Bellow glorified the urban anti-hero who questioned the morals of his society but like Herzog, one of his most lovable characters, with a humorous deadpan look at his own foibles.

Mississippi journey

Mary Morris, author of another travel journal, Nothing to Declare takes a different kind of journey in The River Queen. The Mississippi River is her trail and a fixed up junker which she names the River Queen is her boat. With two eccentric but skilled boatman, Tom and Jerry, Morris makes the trip in tribute to her father, recently deceased, who grew up along the river in Illinois. Morris includes facts about the river and the personalities she encounters. She tries to come to terms with the difficult father she knew by visiting the run down towns and hot tourist spots he frequented. A good story for women who may be facing a similar passage as well as anyone who is fascinated by the lure of the great river,

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