Fabulous Fiction First #197

Cathy Marie Buchanan's debut The Day the Falls Stood Still beautifully evokes life around Niagara Falls in the early 20th century, and the beginnings of hydroelectric power.

Set in the waning days of WWI, as a child of privilege, 17 year-old Bess Heath is not prepared for the disgrace and crumblng family finances when her father loses his job. She tries to hold the family together while her sister slips into depression, and her mother withdraws from society. Against her family's wishes, Bess rejects the courtship of a wealthy young man and finds comfort in the love of Tom Cole, a river man with a mysterious connection to the falls.

Based loosely on the history of Niagara river man William "Red" Hill, the narrative incorporates mock newspaper articles and vintage photographs, detailed depictions of domestic life, local lore, and fascinating natural history.

Historical fiction fans who liked Kathleen Cambor's lyrical and imaginative depiction of the lives that were lived, lost, and irreparably changed by the tragedy of the Johnstown (PA) flood in In Sunlight, in a Beautiful Garden, will find much to like here.

Quirky Mystery Novels starring the Quirky Spellman Family

The Spellmans are not your ordinary family, nor are they your ordinary crew of private investigators. That’s right, the Spellmans are all in the family P.I. business.

Lisa Lutz’s series starts with The Spellman Files, which introduces us to the family, and centers around the rebellious Izzy, who at the age of 28 is obsessed with Get Smart, is sneaking out of windows, assuming false identities, and performing background checks on potential boyfriends. Eventually Izzy wants out of the business (like her lawyer brother David) and her mother gives her “one last case” before she is allowed to quit. Izzy is always into trouble, and her much younger sister Rae is following in her footsteps… until she goes missing, and Izzy finds herself on the other side of the interrogation table. Will Izzy be able to call it quits?

Mom is tailing Izzy, Uncle Ray always wears his lucky shirt, and keeps going on “lost weekends” requiring the family to hunt him down and bail him out of whatever insanity he got caught up in during his black outs. His namesake, young Rae, is addicted to sugar, when she gets grounded she is denied going on stake-outs, and she won’t do anything without being paid or negotiating first. Not your typical bunch! Follow Izzy and the zany Spellman family for more adventures in the laugh out loud Curse of the Spellmans, Revenge of the Spellmans, and coming soon is The Spellmans Strike Again. (Note: The Spellman Files, won a 2008 Alex Award, given annually to ten books written for adults that appeal to young adults age 12-18.)

Library iz cool & Ben Huh is coming - rite?

Do LOLcats & FAILBLOG.org give you five minutes of awesome happiness everyday? Then you must join us for an evening with Internet content connoisseur Ben Huh at the Downtown Library on Fri., Feb. 5 at 7 PM. I Can Has Cheezburger? (aka LOLcats) and FAIL Blog are two popular blog sites in Ben's company, Pet Holdings, Inc., one of the largest blog networks in the world. We expect a crowd for this event so be sure to arrive a bit early. No registration is required and this event is free of charge.

Ben Huh | Friday, February 5 | 7 PM | Downtown Library

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Traverse City Comedy Arts Festival

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Michael Moore said "In times like these, humor should ride to the rescue." Creator of films such as Roger & me, Sicko and Capitalism: A Love Story, Moore grew up in Michigan and still lives here. Along with Jeff Garlin of Curb Your Enthusiasm fame, the two are the co-founders of the Traverse City Comedy Arts Festival scheduled for Feb. 19th--21st.

Headliners are Roseanne Barr, filmmaker John Waters (Hairspray, Cecil B. DeMented) and Mike Birgiglia. Other acts will feature improvisational groups and premieres of comedy movies — including a short-films competition — plus a show for children.

Most of the events will take place at the State Theatre, a refurbished, 546-seat movie house that Moore helped save from the wrecking ball, and two other downtown showplaces: the City Opera House and the Old Town Playhouse.

For more information go to Traverse City Comedy Arts Festival.

Arrested Development

"Now the story of a wealthy family who lost everything and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together. It's "Arrested Development."

"Arrested Development", a little-known television series, consisting of only three seasons, aired first in 2003 on FOX.

The series, which also features film actors Jason Bateman, David Cross, Tony Hale, and Will Arnett, was a huge hit among the sarcastic, subtle, and a little off crowd of TV-viewers. Stephen Kelly of PopMatters called it "a laugh-out-loud, deeply quirky, and audacious series that has its own wacky agenda and dares to be delightfully different."

The series, narrated by "Happy Days" great Ron Howard, features a grounded son and father, played by Bateman, who has to keep his family together amidst crisis after crisis. His offbeat relatives, romantic relationships, and job all wreak havoc, episode after episode, and offer hilarious quotes throughout. (For more on these, see the ultimate in "Arrested Development" fan site, The Balboa Observer-Picayune.)

Now, one of its cast members, Michael Cera, is a popular indie and teen film actor, of works such as Juno, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, and the new Youth in Revolt, who may be seen as type cast in these movies, due to his role as young George Michael Bluth, the anxious and awkward teen son of Bateman's character.

The show also guest stars many well-known actors, such as Martin Short, Amy Poehler, Charlize Theron, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Liza Minnelli, and even the Fonz.

A movie based on the series is announced, according to IMDb, but is not yet in progress.

Sassy, Swashbuckling Hotdog Vendor of the Big Easy

A Confederacy of Dunces is classic novel which takes place in New Orleans. Resplendent in plaid, Ignatius J. Reilly is our hefty hero. He is full of empty threats and hot air (literally), and lives a life committed to "theology and geometry" and the "occasional cheese dip". This Picaresque novel follows his absurd exploits, which end in disaster and hilarity. John Kennedy Toole's writing is effortlessly funny and subtly socially aware, and will appeal to a broad audience.

The novel was published in 1980, eleven years after Toole's death, and won him a posthumous Pulitzer in 1981. Despite repeated attempts, the story has mysteriously resisted being made into a feature film. Perhaps Ignatious C. Reilly is a character better left to our imaginations.

AADL owns several copies of A Confederacy of Dunces, including large print and BOCD formats.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #189

Emily Arsenault's charming debut The Broken Teaglass* is quietly getting some much-deserved hand-selling, and I am glad.

Two young lexicographers stumble onto clues scattered among the citations file at the dictionary publishing office where they work. Written as “cits”, they reference a fictitious book called The Broken Teaglass but seem to be a confession to a decade-old unsolved murder case involving the “The Glass Girl”. What begins as curiosity for two active young minds turns strangely personal when many of the players involved clearly resemble their senior colleagues and mentors.

Clever word play, behind-the-scenes look at the dictionary publishing industry, and well-drawn characters make for a delightful, quietly humorous and off-beat mystery. The author has worked as a lexicographer for Merriam-Webster dictionary, an English teacher, a children’s librarian, and a Peace Corps volunteer. She wrote The Broken Teaglass to pass the long, quiet evenings in her mud brick house while living in rural South Africa.

Wordsmiths and puzzle-lovers should also try Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl, and Blind Submission by Debra Ginsberg.

* = Library Journal's Fall 2009 Editors' Picks

Hot Theater Date: Impossible Marriage

A quirky comedy written by award-winning playwright Beth Henley is coming up Dec. 4-12 in the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre Studio Series. The play "Impossible Marriage" tells the story of an eccentric family as they try to prepare for the wedding of an unlikely couple. The show will play in A2CT¹s 40-seat Studio Theater at 322 W. Ann St. Ticket information is here. Henley's other works include Crimes of the Heart and The Miss Firecracker Contest.

AADL Productions Podcast: David Alan Grier

When David Alan Grier was in town to promote his book, Barack Like Me: The Chocolate-Covered Truth, Eli had a chance to chat with him about growing up in Detroit and his time in Ann Arbor while attending the University of Michigan in the late 1970s. DAG also talks about his work on In Living Color and Dancing with the Stars; celebrity and the internet; and Obama's inauguration.

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Youth Music Notes -- A Celebration of Silliness

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As the famous commercial says, sometimes you feel like a nut, and sometimes you don't. Fortunately for those times you do feel like a nut, the youth department has a great collection of goofy, zany and downright hilarious music.

Disney's Silly Classical Songs is great place to begin the journey of silliness. All your favorite Disney characters sing along to famous pieces of classical music. You'll never hear Beethoven's Fifth the same way again. A great CD for future fans of classical music humorist P. D. Q. Bach.

Singin' In the Bathtub lets you hear comedian and author John Lithgow sing his favorite silly songs, including "At the Codfish Ball" and "From the Indies to the Andes In His Undies". These are classics of silliness, folks.

Anytime you feel your family could use more humor -- long car trips for instance -- come in and pick up a little lighthearted fun. Happy listening!

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