Fabulous Fiction Firsts #223


How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe* is NOT, a how-to manual. Author Charles Yu a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Award winner (for his short story collection Third Class Superhero) delivers his debut novel, a razor-sharp, ridiculously funny, and utterly touching story of a son searching for his father . . . through quantum space-time.

Minor Universe 31 is a vast story-space on the outskirts of fiction, where paradox fluctuates like the stock market, lonely sexbots beckon failed protagonists, and time-travel is serious business. Every day, people get into time machines and try to do the one thing they should never do: change the past. That’s where Charles Yu, time travel technician—part counselor, part gadget repair man—steps in. He helps save people from themselves. Literally.

When he’s not taking client calls, Yu visits his mother (stuck in a onehour cycle, she makes dinner over and over and over) and searches for his father, who invented time travel and then vanished. Accompanied by TAMMY, an operating system with low self-esteem, and a nonexistent but ontologically valid dog named Ed, and using a book titled How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe as his guide, Yu sets out, and back, and beyond, in order to find the one day where he and his father can meet in memory.

"A fascinating, philosophical and disorienting thriller about life and the context that gives it meaning."

Critics are comparing Yu to Mark Danielewski and an early Douglas Adams. Don't miss this one.

* = Starred review

October's Books to Film

funny storyfunny story

Now a Focus Features film, teen novelist Ned Vizzini's It's Kind of a Funny Story is a "whimsical coming-of-age story".

Craig Gilner sees entry into Manhattan's Executive Pre-Professional High School as the ticket to his future. At his new school, Craig realizes that he isn't brilliant compared to the other kids and soon sees his once-perfect future crumbling away. The stress becomes unbearable. One night, he nearly kills himself.

Craig's suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio. There, isolated from the crushing pressures of school and friends, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.

Ned Vizzini, who himself spent time in a psychiatric hospital, has created a remarkably moving tale about the sometimes unexpected road to happiness. For a novel about depression, it's definitely a funny story.

Based on the graphic novel** by Posy Simmonds Tamara Drewe (trailer) is loosely inspired by Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd. It delightfully skewers modern mores and manners with great wit and understanding for the foibles of humanity.

At a bucolic writers' retreat run by Beth and Nicholas Hardiman, where Dr. Glen Larson, an American professor and struggling novelist, is staying. An ambitious young Tamara Drewe, mourning the loss of her mother, has returned to her family home nearby. A bookish girl not so long ago, Tamara is now a gossip columnist at a London paper and undeniably sexy. She quickly has every man in the vicinity falling at her feet. Meanwhile, long-suffering Beth sees to the needs of the writers while managing the farm, the household, and the many affairs of her husband, a best-selling detective novelist.

** = starred reviews

Groucho Marx Turns 120

What can I say about comic legend Groucho Marx that he didn't say better? In honor of Groucho's birthday on October 2nd, I bring to you some of his finest one-liners:

"I don't want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member."
"I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury."
"I married your mother because I wanted children. Imagine my disappointment when you came along."
"I never forget a face, but in your case I'll be glad to make an exception."
"Don't look now, but there's one too many in this room and I think it's you."

The AADL owns several Marx Brothers films, including those that many consider their three best: Duck Soup, Horse Feathers, and Animal Crackers. Check out the cigar smoking, fake mustache wearing, joke a minute Groucho Marx today from your local library.

101 Places Not to See Before You Die

Didn’t get time to travel over the summer? Don’t fret. Author Catherine Price’s new book 101 Places Not to See Before You Die describes in detail all of the places you never should have bothered to see. From The Museum of Tap Water in Beijing (sounds thrilling) to the germy Blarney Stone in Ireland, Price has done the legwork so you don’t have to. One particularly exciting-sounding destination that caught my attention is the Karostas Cietums Prison Hotel in Liepaja, Latvia where, and I quote, “guests” of the prison sleep on iron beds or prison bunks. For an extra-special occasion, you can arrange to be abducted at your workplace and delivered to the hotel.” Check out the author’s blog to follow Price’s further adventures in travel madness.

Laugh Yourself Into a Stitch With The Manny Files

Don't read this book around other people. You'll probably find yourself giggling aloud and folks nearby will constantly want to know what's so funny. The Manny Files chronicles the life of Keats Dalinger, an eight year old boy with a lower-than-average self image but a ton of charisma. What he needs is the help of the manny (a male nanny) -- a cross between David Sedaris and Mary Poppins -- who is hired by the Dalinger family to help take care of Keats and his three sisters.

The manny's mantra (written on a coconut in Keats' lunchbox) is "Be interesting," and he sets the standard for that advice. From dressing up in wacky costumes at the bus stop to setting up a picnic in the bathroom, every day is interesting when the manny's around. Unfortunately, Keats' sister, Lulu, is an expert at getting nannies fired, and when she starts a journal -- aptly named The Manny Files -- of all the things the manny does "wrong", Keats must defend his role model.

I've been recommending this book left and right because of all the giggles it's brought into my life, and so far no one I know has been disappointed. It's in the youth chapter book section, but don't let that stop you from having fun with the manny.

Muffins and Mayhem: Recipes for a Happy (if Disorderly) Life

Check out Muffins and Mayhem: Recipes for a Happy (if Disorderly) Life, Suzanne Beecher’s first novel!

For those of you who don’t know, Suzanne Beecher is the creator of the website Dearreader.com, which sends you daily (Monday-Friday) selections of a book from the genre of your choice. In her book Muffins and Mayhem: Recipes for a Happy (if Disorderly) Life, released June 1st, Suzanne shares her love of baking (with recipes) and stories about her life from leaving home at a young age and overcoming substance abuse problems to being a hard-working single parent to her now comfortable life encouraging and inspiring others.

A past blog about Dearreader.com can be found here.

Reacquaint yourself with Sex and the City!


Reacquaint yourself with the first feature length film starring Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, Samantha and Mr. Big!

The new film, Sex and the City 2, is opening tonight at 11:59 pm. This movie is set two years after the original. Carrie and Big are feeling more settled in their marriage, Charlotte is dealing with raising two daughters, Miranda is back on track with Steve, and Samantha is still a serial dater at 52. However, while everything seems great on the surface, the women are feeling a bit restless, and when Samantha gets a job offer that includes an all expenses paid trip to India for 4, the women embark on a new adventure.

For ticket and show times information, checkout Yahoo’s movie page.

AADL also owns five seasons of the TV Series on DVD.

"Upun what?"

The above comment was Samuel Johnson's response to a request for a pun. If you share Dr. Johnson's love for punning, and you happen to be in Austin, Texas today, you can join the O.Henry Museum Pun-Off World Championship. If you can't make it, you can still enjoy the art of the twisted word at their punster site. The Library also has a great collection of joke books including puns for all ages. Bennet Cerf's Treasury of Atrocious Puns is a classic. Following are a few gems that hopefully will make you groan with either delight or disgust:

"Mick Jagger has a filter on his Facebook account that protects him
from receiving any misinformation in updates from his friends.
Apparently he can't get no status fiction." by Gary Hallock

No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still stay stationary.

BBC Historical Drama: Part 2

Part 2 – George Eliot

Lately, I've been reading a lot of historical fiction based in England. With images from those books/novels in mind, I started checking out different historical dramas, the best of which I've seen are from BBC. Step into the 1800s and get involved of the lives of Daniel Deronda, Dr. Tertius Lydgate, Adam Bede, Silas Marner and Maggie Tulliver. The following five programs are based off of works from George Eliot. George Eliot is in fact Mary Anne Evans, who wrote under a male pen name so that her work would be taken seriously.

Daniel Deronda is a film concerned with two strong-willed young people whose self-determination is under attack by legal constraints on their rights to an inheritance, the noble yet illegitimate Daniel and also the fiery vivacious Gwendolyn.

Middlemarch is the widely acclaimed mini-series featuring a talented and engaging cast. When an idealistic gentleman, Dr. Tertius Lydgate moves to Middlemarch with the expectation of running a charity hospital, he is surprised to find that not all of the town supports his modern medical practices.
By all accounts, Adam Bede is a very headstrong man with a very black and white view of the world, like a fair percentage of men of that period. Once he learns that the beautiful farm girl Hetty is undeniably attached to his wealthy friend Arthur, he believes their relationship is based on falsehood and begins to plot to gain the Hetty’s affections for himself.

Silas Marner is perhaps Eliot’s best known work and is the story of a man who is wrongly accused of theft in a very religious community and is forced to move elsewhere. Marner (played beautifully by Ben Kingsley), closes himself off to society until he takes in a baby girl and starts to raise her as his own.

The Mill on the Floss tells the tale of Maggie Tulliver and her up-tight ambitious brother Tom and their cousin Lucy, who is more often than not, the peacemaker between the two. When she becomes older, Maggie’s interest in her neighbor Phillip Wakem is unwelcome according to her brother, who is enemies with a Phillip’s relative.

If you’ve missed part one of my BBC Historical Drama blog, you can find it here: Part 1.

BBC Historical Drama: Part 1

Part 1 – Anthony Trollope and Elizabeth Gaskell

Lately, I've been reading a lot of historical fiction based in England. With images from those books/novels in mind, I started checking out different historical dramas, the best of which I've seen are from BBC. Step into the 1800s and get involved of the lives of Louis and his wife, Emily Trevelyan, Augustus Melmotte and Margaret Hale.

He Knew He was Right is an adaptation of an Anthony Trollope novel that follows the breakdown of a marriage of a newly married young couple, due to the husband’s jealousy and insecurity.

The Way We Live Now is a Trollope narrative that centers on Augustus Melmotte, an Austrian Jewish financier and his attempts to become a proper English Gentleman, among various subplots and subterfuge.

The library also has a copy of Anthony Trollope’s The Barchester Chronicles. A lawsuit aimed at church reform forces a decent clergyman into a moral crisis. Alan Rickman co-stars in this seven episode series.

The miniseries Wives & Daughters boasts misguided stepmothers, romantic betrayals, and secret marriages to keep you entertained and is based off of written works by Elizabeth Gaskell.

Cranford, which was adapted from a Gaskell novel, stars two of Britain’s paramount actresses, Judi Dench, and Imelda Staunton. In this film, the women of Cranford deal with the changing events that come with “progression.”

Elizabeth Gaskell’s North & South is by far my favorite BBC Miniseries. It follows the life of Margaret Hale, a middle class woman who is forced to move to a working class city when her father leaves his post at the church for lack of religious conviction. Having grown up in the country and also living in high society London with her wealthier aunt and cousin, “the North” represents a new challenge for Margaret. Around them are class struggles between the workers and mill owners and ideological struggles between the industrial North and the agrarian South. In Milton, Margaret clashes with her father’s new friend Mr. Thornton, when she sees him treat one of his mill workers harshly. Romantic entanglement follows.

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