Les Blank, innovative documentary filmmaker, has died

Les Blank, whose much-praised documentaries covered topics as disparate as garlic, the blues, and shoe diets, has died.

Born in Florida in 1935, his first documentaries focused on musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie and Lightnin' Hopkins. Then he broadened his subjects to include food, women with gapped teeth, and the German director, Werner Herzog.

In the 1980s, Blank came to The University of Michigan for a showing of his sweetly weird Garlic Is as Good as Ten Mothers. To the delight (and digestive torture) of his audience, Blank had arranged to have garlic roasting in the back of the theater. Currently, this iconic Les Blank film is unavailable in DVD format, which is a shame. In 2004, the Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the United States’ National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Another famous Blank documentary made in 1980 is Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, a 20-minute film of the famed director fulfilling a bet he lost to eat his footwear. Herzog wagered that director Errol Morris would never make a film. Morris collected on the bet with the release of his first documentary, The Gates of Heaven,1978, about a California pet cemetery. This odd meal can be seen in the DVD, Burden of Dreams, 1982, Blank's examination of Herzog's challenges in filming his award winning Fitzcarraldo, 1982.

Blank, who had been diagnosed with cancer less than a year ago, was 77.

Roger Ebert, beloved Chicago movie critic, has died

Just one day after announcing he was taking a 'leave of presence' from his 46-year gig as movie critic for the Chicago Sun-Times and his 31-year career on TV reviewing films, Roger Ebert lost his long public battle with salivary and thyroid cancer.

His announcement yesterday said he would just review the movies HE wanted to see and leave the rest of the reviews to his trusted colleagues at the paper. When he lost part of his jaw and thus his ability to eat or speak, he used his good humor and courage to write about his experience fighting, and often triumphing, against, his devastating illness.

Ebert's long career resulted in a 1975 Pulitzer Prize, the first movie critic to receive this honor. The Webby Awards named him their 2010 Person of the Year. And Hollywood, which lived and died by Ebert's laser-beam ethical demand for excellence in all things film, honored him with his own Walk of Fame star in 2005.

Ebert's career took off in a new direction when he and Chicago Tribune movie critic, Gene Siskel, took their 'point/counterpoint' routine to television in 1975. Originally titled Coming Soon to a Theater Near You, PBS picked it up and renamed it Sneak Previews three years later. There were two more name-changes: In 1981, it morphed into At the Movies. Five years later, accompanied by their signature 'thumbs up, thumbs down' rating system, it settled on Siskel & Ebert & the Movies.

Sadly, Siskel died in 1999. He had had brain surgery for brain cancer but it was complications from another surgery that ended his life.

Despite his long fight with illness, Ebert wrote almost seventeen books on movies, the internet, his life (Life Itself: A Memoir, 2011), and yes, even a cookbook for rice cookers (The Pot and How to Use It: The Mystery and Romance of the Rice Cooker, 2010).

Ebert, who was 70, died today in Chicago.

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, award-winning screenwriter and novelist, has died

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Oscar-winning screenwriter and much-honored novelist, died today in Manhattan.

Ms. Jhabvala was born in Germany to Jewish parents who fled to England in 1939. In 1951, Ms. Jhabvala married an Indian architect. They lived in New Delhi for a quarter of century, an experience which informed much of her examination of the privileged lifestyle of the British upperclass in India.

In the early 1960s, she was discovered by filmdom's producer/director power team, Ismail Merchant and James Ivory. They had read her 1963 novel, Householder (on order) and asked her to write the screenplay for the film (on order) by the same name which was released later that year.

Thus began a long successful partnership. The Merchant/Ivory/Jhabvala 22-film collaboration resulted in two Oscars for Ms. Jhabvala -- A Room with a View (1986) and Howards End (1993).

Ms. Jhabvala was also feted with many literary awards, as well. In 1975, she won the then-called Booker McConnell Prize for Fiction (now known as the Man Booker Prize) for Heat and Dust. In 1984, she was tapped for one of the much-coveted MacArthur Foundation fellowships.

Ms. Jhabvala's last novel, My Nine Lives was published in 2004. Her final book, a collection of short stories, A Lovesong for India came out two years ago. Her very last piece of published writing appeared in the March 25, 2013 edition of The New Yorker. It is a short story called The Judge's Will.

Ms. Jhabvala, who was85, died of an unspecified pulmonary ailment.

2013 Hugo Award Nominees Announced

Nominees for the 2013 Hugo Awards, the most prestigious prize in science fiction, were announced Saturday afternoon via livestream. The announcement was also made simultaneously at four major science fiction conventions across the country.

The Hugos have been awarded since 1953, and are given to both written and dramatic works in over a dozen categories. Well-known previous winners include Frank Herbert's Dune, Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, and the Pixar film Wall-E. Check out all the great the nominated works in the AADL collection before this year's winners are announced on September 1st!

Nominees for best novel:

2312, Kim Stanley Robinson
Blackout, Mira Grant
Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Lois McMaster Bujold
Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas, John Scalzi
Throne of the Crescent Moon, Saladin Ahmed

Nominees for best film:

The Avengers, Screenplay & Directed by Joss Whedon
The Cabin in the Woods, Screenplay by Drew Goddard & Joss Whedon; Directed by Drew Goddard
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro, Directed by Peter Jackson
The Hunger Games, Screenplay by Gary Ross & Suzanne Collins, Directed by Gary Ross
Looper, Screenplay and Directed by Rian Johnson

Episodes of Doctor Who, Fringe, and Game of Thrones were also nominated for awards in short-form dramatic presentation.

Click over to the Hugo Awards official site for a complete list of nominees, including graphic novels, short fiction, and fan authors and artists.

Benjamin Alire Saenz makes history -- he is the first Latino to win the PEN/Faulkner literary award

Benjamin Alire Saenz, a novelist from Texas, has become the first Latino to win the prestigious 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for his collection of short stories, Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club (on order). Set along the border between the U.S. and Mexico, near the Rio Grande, Saenz's stories focus on the people who live and work along Avenida Juarez.

Saenz is no stranger to awards. Among the honors he has collected over the years as a poet and a novelist are the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry in 1993 and the Southwest Book Award in 1996, given by Border Regional Library Association, for Carry Me Like Water. 1995.

Saenz, 58, was born in New Mexico. A former Catholic priest, he is now the Chairman of Creative Writing at the University of Texas, El Paso. This latest honor comes with a $15,000 check.

Sci-fi/Fantasy Award Nominees


The Nebula Awards, voted on by notable Scifi/Fantasy writers, are to be awarded in May and the nominees for best adult novel are:

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed: Fantasy writing doesn't get much better than this. World building that takes place in a medieval city that reminds one of an Arabian fairy tale for adults or a Ray Harryhausen adventure. One reviewer described it as, "...swashbuckling mythos mania."

Ironskin by Tina Connolly: Fey scarred Jane finds employment as a governess for a fey child following a war between fey and humans in this alt-Victorian, Jane Eyre-inspired fantasy. Great pick for older teens too!

The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin: Some may know Jemisin from her Inheritance trilogy, nominated for multiple awards, this book is the first of the Dreamblood series, rich in character and substance (Jungian psychology, Egyptian history)

The Drowning Girl, by Caitlín R. Kiernan: Taking a real world subject like schizophrenia and creating a fantasy element around it can be difficult to say the least, but Kiernan accomplishes both with the character, Imp, who has 'hauntings', missing timelines, & odd coincidences

Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal: Sequel to Shades of Milk and Honey set in an alternate Regency-era with some romance, lots of magic, & a bit of espionage to boot. You can place holds on the 3rd book in this series Without a Summer due out in April. Jane Austen fans take note of this inspired novel!

2312, Kim Stanley Robinson: My pick for winner. This is a brilliant, thought-provoking novel. It has real world building since Earth is eeking by from severe climate changes, terra-forming Mars, Mercury, & Venus has happened. The main character, Swan, is pulled into a plot involving personal artificial intelligences (qubes) and the destruction of the worlds. Award-winning author, Robinson, continues to amaze with some realistic possibilities for our distant future. Read the transcript or listen to the podcast with him from Wired here.

Another Big Winner from Jon Klassen

This is Not My Hat is a clever, gorgeous picture book, a 2013 Caldecott Medal book, and a must-read for anyone connected with children in preschool through first grade and beyond. Jon Klassen repeats the theme from his 2011 bestseller I Want My Hat Back and adds a smart twist. The story opens with the memorable lines "This hat is not mine. I just stole it," spoken by a brave little fish who has lifted a blue bowler hat from a big sleeping fish. Little fish swims quietly to a hiding place, not knowing -- but we know -- that the big fish is chasing him. When the two fish vanish into seaweed, the words stop, and big fish reemerges with the blue hat on his head. The story is simple and works beautifully.

A six-year-old Amazon reviewer echoes what many people, young and older, are saying about this gem of a book: "I liked the story and I liked the big fish. The bubbles create movement. The little fish was bad and the big fish was just a big fish. You don't steal from a big fish."

The Listen List 2013

Established in 2010 by the CODES section of Reference and User Services Association (RUSA, a division of the American Library Association), The Listen List: Outstanding Audiobook Narration seeks to highlight outstanding audiobook titles that merit special attention by general adult listeners and the librarians who work with them. The Listen List Council selects these 2013 winners. They include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and plays.

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway. Narrated by Daniel Weyman.
In a gravelly yet gleeful voice, Weyman narrates this swashbuckling genre-blend of spies, gangsters, and a doomsday machine. The lavish and imaginative story of Joe Spork, a clockmaker out of his depth as he attempts to save the world, is brilliantly realized through Weyman’s attention to inflection, characterization and pacing.

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. Narrated by Simon Vance.
In this grim and gripping tale, masterfully told, Vance brings Tudor England to life.
Beautifully accented and paced, his pitch-perfect narration deftly navigates the large and diverse cast and the intricate plot machinations to create a stunning glimpse into a dangerous time when Henry VIII ruled and Thomas Cromwell served as his “fixer.”

The Chalk Girl by Carol O’Connell. Narrated by Barbara Rosenblat.
The discovery of a blood-covered little girl wandering in Central Park draws police detective Kathleen Mallory into an investigation involving long hidden secrets of New York’s elite. Rosenblat’s warmly expressive voice embodies each character effortlessly while adroitly managing the pace of Mallory’s gritty and harrowing tenth case.

The Death of Sweet Mister by Daniel Woodrell. Narrated by Nicholas Tecosky. (on order)
Welcome to the world of Shug Akins, a thirteen-year-old loner coming of age in the Ozarks. Tecosky skillfully demonstrates that the vernacular of this country noir novel is at its lyrical best when spoken aloud. In a youthful detached voice, he authentically captures the violence, poverty, and heartbreaking bleakness of Shug’s life.

The Garden Intrigue by Lauren Willig. Narrated by Kate Reading.
In this lively ninth Pink Carnation romp, Eloise and Colin are beset by a film crew, while in the 19th century, agent Augustus Whittlesby, infamously bad poet, investigates rumors of Napoleon’s plotting and encounters love. Reading’s companionable, husky voice reveals all the humor in the rich banter and bad verse, as well as the passion.

Heft by Liz Moore. Narrated by Kirby Heyborne and Keith Szarabajka. (on order)
This magnificent dual narration illuminates a poignant story of the isolation, family relationships, and new beginnings of two lost souls on a collision course. Szarabajka’s richly sonorous voice captures morbidly obese Arthur’s physical and emotional weight while Heyborne’s quietly expressive voice exposes the desperation of the teenaged Kel.

The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel by Anthony Horowitz. Narrated by Derek Jacobi. (on order)
In a refined, resonant, and delightfully self-aware voice, Jacobi re-creates the world of Sherlock Holmes. His pacing is lovely – leisurely, inviting, and seductive – while his accents are grand and fit the characters perfectly. In this authorized addition to the canon, Holmes investigates a conspiracy linking criminals to the highest levels of government.

The Inquisitor by Mark Allen Smith. Narrated by Ari Fliakos. (on order)
Fliakos’ unflinching depiction of Geiger, an expert in the art of “information retrieval” (aka torture), intensifies this absorbing and disturbing thriller. He sets the mood from the opening line, offering a tormented, affectless but surprisingly sympathetic hero. His skill in creating tone, character and pace enhances the haunting quality of Geiger’s world.

Macbeth by William Shakespeare. Narrated by Alan Cumming.
Cumming makes “The Scottish Play” an electric event, allowing modern audiences a chance to experience it with the same excitement, horror and wonder Shakespeare’s contemporary audiences surely felt. From stage directions delivered in furtive whispers to the cackle of the witches and the grim resolution of Lady Macbeth, Cumming astounds.

Miles: The Autobiography by Miles Davis and Quincy Troupe. Narrated by Dion Graham.
With his raspy, whispery voice Dion Graham inhabits musical genius Miles Davis in this tell-all autobiography that flows like a jazz riff. While setting the record straight about Davis’s career, lovers, addiction and racial issues, Graham channels Davis’s voice and cadence so completely that listeners will believe they’re hearing the master himself.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. Narrated by Ari Fliakos. (on order)
Affectionate and playful, Ari Fliakos’ narration is addictive as he expertly voices full-bodied characters, savoring their eccentricities, in this imaginative work of “geek-lit.” His optimistic wonder and understanding of the subtext bring tension to even the minutiae of this grand quest by a motley crew of book lovers hoping to crack the code of immortality.

The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens. Narrated by David Timson. (on order)
Timson’s irrepressible performance of this rollicking romp through 1830s England in Dickens’s first novel invites listeners along as Pickwick and his crew ramble through the countryside. With broad satire and clever irony, Timson proves a delightful guide through slapdash adventures and a host of eccentric characters.

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. Narrated by Simon Prebble. (on order)
Prebble’s performance is like listening to a full cast production so great is his skill in crafting characters. Navigating memories of both “upstairs” and “downstairs,” dutiful butler Stevens revisits past pains and triumphs. Prebble creates a poignant reflection of a life given to service seen through the eyes of a man finally questioning his purpose.

The Reading List 2013 (ALA RUSA)

Established in 2007 by the CODES section of Reference and User Services Association (RUSA, a division of the American Library Association), The Reading List seeks to highlight outstanding genre fiction that merit special attention by general adult readers and the librarians who work with them.

The 2013 List in 8 categories. What sets this list apart from all the other awards is the short listed honor titles, and the thoughtful readalikes.

Adrenaline
Gone Girl
by Gillian Flynn
It’s her fifth wedding anniversary: where’s Amy? Assumptions are dangerous in this chilling psychological thriller. The dark and twisty plot, unbearable levels of tension, and merciless pacing will rivet readers.

Fantasy
The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
When Myfanwy wakes up with no memory, surrounded by corpses, she must immediately impersonate herself in order to unravel the conspiracy at the heart of a secret supernatural intelligence agency. This offbeat debut combines the fast pacing and suspense of a thriller with the gritty, detailed world-building of urban fantasy.

Historical Fiction
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Ambitious royal advisor Thomas Cromwell is at the pinnacle of his power and uses it to subtly engineer the downfall of his enemies, including the Queen, Anne Boleyn, and her inner circle. This intricately plotted character study presents a fresh perspective on the ever popular Tudor Court.

Horror
The Ritual by Adam Nevill
In the remote forests of Sweden, the friendship between four men disintegrates when they wander off the hiking trail and find themselves stalked by an unseen and increasingly violent menace. “Blair Witch” meets black metal in this dark and suspenseful horror novel.

Mystery
The Gods of Gotham
by Lyndsay Faye
The discovery of a mass grave of child prostitutes spurs “copper star” Timothy Wilde to hunt a killer through the seamy underbelly of 1840s New York City. Colorful period slang enlivens this carefully researched story about the dawn of modern policing.

Romance
Firelight by Kristen Callihan
Bartered as a bride to the masked nobleman Benjamin Archer, Miranda Ellis – a woman with a supernatural secret – becomes his only defender when he is accused of a series of murders. This is a dark and smoldering Victorian paranormal where love redeems two complex and damaged characters.

Science Fiction
Caliban’s War by James S. A. Corey
One wants control; one wants vindication; one wants his daughter back; and one wants revenge (and maybe a new suit). The shifting points of view of these four distinctive characters, an electrifying pace, and the threat of an evolving alien protomolecule propel readers through this grand space adventure.

Women’s Fiction
The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns by Margaret Dilloway
Galilee Garner’s carefully managed routine of teaching, rose breeding, and kidney dialysis is disrupted when her teenage niece moves in. Readers will root for the growth of this prickly character as she discovers the importance of cultivating human connections.

Rose Martin, champion of Ann Arbor's low income citizens, has died

Rose Martin, co-founder and director of Ann Arbor's Peace Neighborhood Center, died yesterday.

PNC was established in 1971 to provide a safe environment for residents of the diverse West Side to get together to solve problems. Co-operation between Peace Lutheran, Trinity Lutheran, and Zion Lutheran Churches made possible the Center at 1111 North Maple Road. Five years later, Ms. Martin became its Executive Director, a position she held for 30 years. Over the years she expanded its services to include working to end violence and drug abuse through educational and economic initiatives.

In 2001, Ann Arbor's Nonprofit Enterprise at Work awarded PNC its Prize for Excellence in Nonprofit Management.

A year later, Ms. Martin published her autobiography, One Rose Blooming: Hard-Earned Lessons about Kids, Race, and Life in America. Former Ann Arbor Mayor Ingrid Sheldon wrote of this book: "It grabbed my heart and forced me to evaluate myself. A fantastic book from a visionary community leader."

When she retired, Ms. Martin went right back to work. She opened Rose's Good Company whose clientele, according to RGC's mission statement is to "...serve individuals and families who have lost hope." The organization's focus is on the unemployed, the homeless, dependent children, ex-convicts and recovering addicts.

Ms. Martin, who was 70, died at a local restaurant of cardiac arrest.

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