An Embarrassment of Riches

An Embarrassment of Riches is a blog about the best the library has to offer. From audio books to movies, from novels to zines, library staff and guest bloggers will tell you about their latest library discoveries. Read. Watch. Listen. Chat.

PDX pop now coverOnce upon a time, I went out to see bands play several times a week, I read Spin (remember Spin?) and I was on top of the local and national music scene. I had friends with encyclopedic music knowledge, and they lavished it on me. Now I’m old and I’m busy, and so are my friends who used to give me the heads up on music they thought I’d like. Babysitters are expensive, and I find that I like to be in my bed by midnight, book in hand. But although I’m not so interested in standing up in a club or music venue for hours and hours, I still love music. I’m especially always looking for new music to energize me as I take long walks around this city. There’s nothing like a new song I’m really into to get me up to the top of MountPDX pop now cover Tabor faster.

A few years ago, I stumbled upon a CD in the library called PDX Pop Now! 2008, and I found that it was just one of a great annual series. PDX Pop Now is a local nonprofit whose mission is to celebrate local music. In 2004, they started having a music festival every year and releasing a CD of recorded music by the artists chosen for the festival. The music is wildly varied and the CDs don't really hang together as albums, but as a tool for finding something new to love right here in your own city, they are unbeatable. I found a band I’ll call Starf***er, who have three whole CDs of music to get me moving. I found Ioa’s song, called “The Boxcar Children”, which unites my love of kid’s literature and pop music ("Henry and Jesse lived under no rules at all in the little red boxcar..."). And there’s a rolicking song called “Let’s Ride” by Andy Combs and the Moth that always gets me up to the top of Mount Tabor really fast. This CD series might just add some excitement to your life as well.

As a child, my uncle Mike would pay me 25 cents to say ‘hello’. Once I said, ‘Hello Uncle Mike’ and got a fifty cent piece. I was an extraordinarily shy child, raised by an extraordinarily shy mother. It was a good partnership and suited me well, until I had my own child.  

My unabashedly sociablSoceity of timid souls bookjackete son liked to sit in other parent’s laps at library storytime. He chats up intoxicated passengers on airplanes and is absolutely confident that whomever sits near us at the neighborhood sushi house is dying to see his Lego minifigure collection. All of this sends me into a state of near panic. I’ve often felt that I ought to start a support group for shy and introverted parents of extroverted children. This was on my mind when I came across Polly Morland’s book The Society of Timid Souls: Or, How to Be Brave.  

Polly Morland is a documentary filmmaker and this book reads exactly like the most captivating of documentaries. From meetings of anxiety-ridden concert musicians struggling to overcome stage fright in the 1940s, to interviews with modern military heroes and high line walkers,  Moreland explores the many different forms that bravery can take and how we define it as a society. What struck me most however, was the idea that some forms of bravery may be practiced and learned. I'm unlikely at this stage in my life to undergo training to fight a bull and let’s just forget about joining Toastmasters. Parenting however is one training I can't opt out of.  My uninhibited son is guaranteed to test my faltering social skills for the rest of my life. In doing so, he might just be training me to move one small step further from timid to brave.

Dylan Thomas Caedmon Collection book jacketIt is a truism in the audiobook world that authors do not make the best narrators. Audiobooks have come a long way since Dylan Thomas sing-songed some of his poems in what is considered to be the first audiobook, produced in 1952 by Caedmon Records.

Audiobooks in the 21st century are more performance than reading, and performance requires different skills than reading aloud. Hence the hesitation about having authors read their own works. At the same time, no one is more familiar with a book than its author, and familiarity can bring out aspects of a story that a professional narrator might overlook. Some authors are memorably bad (unnamed here, click through for a book you should NOT listen to!), but some are surprisingly good, even excellent. Here are a few authors I’d be glad to listen to again:Neverwhere book jacket

Neil Gaiman. Absolutely the best author/narrator, his quiet English accent and subtle characterizations make for an entertaining visit to a haunted graveyard (The Graveyard Book) to an alternate London (Neverwhere), or perhaps down at the end of the lane (I’m still waiting for this one!).

Khalid Hosseini. The author reads his debut novel, The Kite Runner, with a sensitivity and emotion that makes it clear that this is a very personal story.

Barbara Kingsolver. With exception of her early books, Kingsolver has read all her work since. Prodigal Summer (2000). Her gentle Southern-tinged voice, along with her clear identification with her female heroines, brings out the humor and pathos of their stories.

Susan OrRin Tin Tin book jacketlean. This writer narrates her most recent book, Rin Tin Tin, in a conversational fashion that makes the listener feel like she’s enjoying a chat with a friend who wants to impart some very interesting information.

Simon Winchester. This prolific master of narrative nonfiction is an excellent reader of his own work, as he delivers a hint of British reserve and irony, fused
with absolute authority and command of his subjects. I enjoyed Krakatoa.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention three author/narrators of books for young adults that are well worth listening to:
ShermThe Golden Compass book jacketan Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian is a revelation into the mind of his alter-ego, Arnold Spirit, Junior.

Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens is a hilarious romp.

Philip Pullman expertly guides the full-cast performances of the His Dark Materials trilogy. Don’t miss them!

It’s easy to find most of the audiobooks read by the author at MCL. At the Advanced Search page, type “read by the author” (use quotes) and click Search.

Violeta, Troudale's Bilingual Youth Librarian says this about Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina:
I loved the occasional, seamless code switching between English and Spanish, and there were several times I had to put the book down to finish laughing about what I'd just read. And yet I've also had deep conversations with others about the themes of this book: cultural identity, mother-daughter relationships, and bullying.

 

​“What caLeopold von Kalckreuth - The Artist's Wife Reading in Bedn I do for you?” I ask my friend undergoing chemo. “Oh, just bring me a funny audiobook to distract me.” I used to arrive with stacks of them, but over time I’ve developed a list of greatest hits that work well for our recuperating loved ones. Some criteria: Not too embarrassing for one unrelated adult to read aloud to another, not too many worrying situations (why did I think that book with a scene where the author is interrogated by the protagonist was okay?), and of course, the kind of humor that makes for belly laughs. Some people claim that anything by David Sedaris will work, and there are plenty of those to choose from, but moving beyond that, here are my three greatest hits for the healing, or anyone wanting a laugh. 

​The story of the beleaguered corporate drop-out Samantha as she tries to fake her way through a live-in cook and cleaning job in Sophie Kinsella's The Undomestic Goddess has left men and women alike unable to stop laughing. Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods seems like it might be a macho mind over matter tale of a journey on the Appalachian trail but is instead a tale of absurd urban warriors. The humor and scenery together make a great distraction. Richard Peck’s look back at his Grandma in the 1930s is so funny because Grandma is not the usual grandma of memoirs. She ​exaggerates, connives, trespasses, and contrives to help the town underdogs outwit the establishment. While A Long Way from Chicago lives in the children’s section, it's a great read for adults. 

Here's Matthew, Branch Administrator at the Belmont Library. He's reading Charles Portis' The Dog of the South. He says that the blurb by Roy Blunt Jr. on the cover says it best: "Charles Portis could be Cormac McCarthy if he wanted to, but he'd rather be funny."

So IAn Inhabitant of Carcosa by Ambrose Bierce haven’t been this knee-deep into a tv show since The Sopranos ended and believe me you don’t want to know the withdrawals I had from that  North Jersey family.  Only four episodes into HBO’s new crime series True Detective, and I have regained faith in episodic storytelling. Inspired, I had to post a tribute to one of my personal literary heroes, Ambrose Bierce, the "Devil's Lexicographer," following dialogue I heard from characters in True Detective.  Suspects in the juicy crime story, interrogated by Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, reference his story “An Inhabitant of Carcosa” as well as The King in Yellow, a collection of stories by Robert W. Chambers. This is the perfect segue to highlight these pioneers of early American weird fiction.  

For those not familiar with Bierce’s life, he was a versatile man known for a sharp, sarcastic tongue and deadly with the inkwell. He fought for the Union in the Civil War, an experience that generated his Tales of Soldiers, eerie pieces that begin as war stories and end up nails of psychological terror. This all sounds quite gruesome, and much of it is, but another Bierce trademark, black humor, always finds its way into his work. He wrote with this sardonic style and in fine retrospection, it defined him.

During his time in San Francisco William Randolph Hearst gave him his own column, Prattle, which sustained his journalism career and earned him the nickname “Bitter Bierce.” He lived in London briefly with Twain and Bret Harte and his mysterious disappearance in Mexico while chasing Pancho Villa was a fitting ‘end’ to his Wild West, accomplished life.  However, it was his stories of horror and the supernatural, many written with different narrative devices unknown in literature at the time, that would establish a diverse legacy of an important American genre initiated by Poe, Hawthorne, Irving, and Charles Brockden Brown.  Yellow Sign, Yellow King, Carcosa, Bierce, Chambers, LovecraftGhosts, werewolves, Confederates, zombies, the unknown, or agoraphobia, Bierce wrote it all.  

“An Inhabitant of Carcosa” and other Bierce stories influenced Robert W. Chambers, a successful romance novelist whose stories in The King in Yellow  tell of a cosmic terror controlling our world through an infamous play that spells doom for anyone who reads it.  This in turn would eventually inspire H.P. Lovecraft, who called “The Yellow Sign” ‘altogether one of the greatest weird tales ever written,’ in his Cthulhu mythos and dreaded Necronomicon. Each generation inspired the next, but Chambers and especially Bierce were integral to the timeline of American horror fiction.  Their stories are still fresh and it’s comforting to see their presence in 2014, even on television. Buy the ticket, take the ride: early American weird fiction

 

Larry recently discovered Anna Kavan's Asylum Pieces and really enjoyed it. Ice was her final book. Published in 1967 it's described as "a surrealistic dream-novel set in an unrecognizable world padded by ice and snow, run by a secret government, invaded by aggressors, and threatened with nuclear destruction."

Larry is a Library Assistant at the Gresham Library.

Our guest blogger is Rod, who says this about himself: "Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated by history and technology. Instead of reading juvenile literature, I read my father’s military history and aviation books. Somehow, those interests morphed into science fiction as a teen. I guess I liked the technology that didn’t exist yet . . . Today, I read a lot of history because I teach it part-time and not as much fiction as I would like."

I was a teenager in the 1980s and had a morbid fascination with nuclear war. Honestly, I was certain that my short life would end with a brief, brilliant flash followed by radioactive oblivion. That was my realistic understanding of what would likely happen, but I also enjoyed reading the many novels and watching the many films that came out during the Cold War depicting what life would be like in the aftermath of World War III. While many were flimsy background for some sort of monster tale, there were also those that made a serious effort to imagine what the world would look like if the Cold War turned hot. If you have similarly “fond” memories, maybe you’ll find something on this list worth checking out.

On the On the Beach bookjacketBeach by Neville Shute This is both a great novel and film. The U.S. and the U.S.S.R. have destroyed each other in a nuclear holocaust. The Northern Hemisphere is a radioactive wasteland and the fallout is slowly moving south. Those living in Australia are faced with the certainty of death. This includes the crew of the USS Scorpion, an American submarine. As the Scorpion prepares to voyage north to investigate an unexpected radio signal, the men and women who have survived contemplate how to spend their final days.

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
Sleepy Fort Repose, Florida is untouched by the bombs but suffers nonetheless. Cut off from the rest of the U.S., the town falls back on the resources it can find gather from the countryside and scrounge from the mechanized world they can no longer support. It is an ultimately hopeful take on the subject.

A Canticle for Liebowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
This one starts many years after a nuclear war brought an end to modern civilization. A group of Catholic monks in the American desert seek to preserve as much of the world’s knowledge as possible. The story follows the same monastic order over the centuries as a new technological civilization reemerges only to be faced, in the end, with the same threat of nuclear annihilation.

Dr. Blood bookjacketDr. Bloodmoney, or How We Got Along After the Bomb by Philip K. Dick
Most people blame Bruno Bluthgeld, a physicist, for destroying the world, so he goes into hiding and seeks psychiatric help for his overwhelming feelings of guilt. This is complicated, however, as he believes he has magical powers. He is just one of the many survivors who have, or may have, telekinetic abilities. It isn’t always clear what is real and what the characters imagine to be real. Regardless, it does not stop them from engaging in the same selfish behavior they practiced before the world exploded. Like so many Phillip K. Dick novels, this one has a strong surrealist slant with elements of the absurd.

Testament
This is a powerful, understated film about a family trying to cope with the aftermath of a nuclear war. Carol Wetherly lives in a typical suburban city. When the war occurs, her husband is away and she doesn’t know if he is alive or dead. She tries to keep her family together as her neighbors slowly succumb to radiation and despair. This is a grim movie that, similar to On the Beach, makes no effort to sugar coat the likely fate of those who did not perish directly in the war. Despite that, it is still very compelling.

The Wild Shore  by Kim Stanley Robinson
A small fishing village has grown up along the California coast in what was Orange County. The older residents remember the world before the war, but their stories are just that, stories,to the succeeding generations. The residents try to be self-sufficient but must scavenge from the ruins at times. While there are those who would like to recreate a technological society, powerful forces work to prevent a resurgent America.

Beyond Armageddon edited by Walter M. Miller, Jr. and Martin H. Greenberg
This is a collection of 21 short stories that imagine a variety of different post-nuclear war futures. There is a mix of well-known and obscure tales collected here. Perhaps best known is Harlan Ellison's "A Boy and His Dog" which was made into a movie starring a very young Don Johnson in 1975. Like most compilations, the quality isn’t uniform but I found all of them to be worth the time.

Postman bookjacketThe Postman by David Brin
This is a great novel and, well, judge the movie for yourself. Gordon Krantz is something of an idealist in a world ten years after a limited nuclear exchange. While making his way to the Pacific Northwest as a modern minstrel, he stumbles upon an abandoned postal vehicle with the unlucky postman inside. To stay warm he takes the deceased occupant’s jacket and, suddenly, those he meets see him as a symbol of hope, a fact he cultivates for his own benefit. This becomes problematic when he finds another group in Corvallis, Oregon with their own secrets. Ultimately, they must all work together to resist an invasion from the south led by a seemingly unstoppable army.

The Last Ship by William Brinkley
USS Nathan James, an American guided missile destroyer on patrol when World War III erupts, finds itself alone at sea after the spasm of nuclear annihilation has eliminated any safe port. After encountering a Soviet nuclear submarine, the two agree to cooperate in their efforts to survive. Maintaining morale and the chain of command become serious problems as the American crew seeks a refuge in the vast Pacific Ocean. Will they succeed? Will the crew destroy themselves? Will the Soviets prove to be reliable allies?

Wild bookjacketThe comedian Steven Wright said, "everywhere is walking distance if you have the time." The line makes me smile, but it makes me wistful too. If only I had the time to go on a long, long walk, one without an agenda or an end point.

Walking embeds the walker in the pace and life of the world, while at the same time providing respite from the cares and worries that are sometimes attached to our home or workplace. Baudelaire used the word "flaneur" to describe the person who explores the world by walking: "For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world." (Charles Baudelaire: The Painter of Modern Life, De Capo Press, 1964)

Short walks can be enjoyable, but if you're hankering to take off for weeks on end, here are some titles to try, and a longer list, to boot. (Sorry! Couldn't resist.)

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry is the story of a man in early retirement who has the uneasy sense that he has made nothing of his life. Then one day he receives a letter from an old friend who is dying, and who wants to thank him for his kindness. Harold writes a letter of condolence, but when he goes to mail it, he's struck with the sense that nothing will do but to deliver the letter by hand. And so he sets off on a journey of several hundred miles, with only the clothes on his back. As he walks he reflects on the events that shaped his life.

If you'd rather read a true account, there are a number that are engaging and informative to boot. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed and A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson cover both edges of the country and are equally compelling stories of the kind of change that a long walk will effect. The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot, by Robert Macfarlane details the author's effort to become more intimately acquainted with his country by starting at his home in Cambridge, England and following the old roads and ancient tracks that crisscross his country.

Happy reading, and happy trails.

I love the screwball, slapstick, fast-talking romantic comedies of the first half of the 20th Century. Wild dream sequences? Triangles? Ridiculous misunderstandings? Yes please!

The Miracle of Morgans Creek poster

I’m slowly working my way through a perhaps-too-academic study of the genre, Romantic Comedy in Hollywood from Lubitsch to Sturges by James Harvey. It relates what I always suspected: the best directors of the era felt duty-bound to “get really dirty jokes into [their] script or picture, and to get away with them.”

Lubitsch and Sturges were probably the all-time champions of this sneaky ribaldry. The 1944 New York Times review of the wartime comedy The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek begins by marvelling that Sturges got its “irrepressible impudence” past the Hays office, and, after relating the bold content of the film, concludes that “he made the film so innocently amusing, so full of candor, that no one could take offense.”

What might this bold content be? Betty Hutton plays Trudy Kockenlocker (that's right, Kockenlocker), who goes out for a night on the town to support the troops and gets hit on the head, then gets married. The next day she can't remember the name of the soldier who she got hitched to. And she's pregnant.

So, in less coy terms, this is a frothy 1944 comedy about a small town girl who gets drunk and knocked up. The performances are excellent, with Eddie Bracken and William Demarest rounding out the cast as Hutton’s hapless paramour and harried father, respectively.

We own The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek in our streaming video service Hoopla. So while we don’t have the DVD, you can watch it right this second. New to Hoopla? Check out our Getting started page.

And for more in sophisticated risqué viewing, from the falling of walls of Jericho between Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable to the wholesome sexiness of Doris Day bottling ketchup, take a look at the list Romantic comedies with a double dash of sass.

Ugh, Valentine's Day is the worst!

The only reason I look forward to this time of year is the flourishing of Valentine's chocolate and candy.  Because in Portlandia, eating seasonally applies to candy, too, right? Jelly beans and Peeps at Easter. Candy corn at Halloween. Best of all is the chalky goodness of Sweethearts, made by NECCO (New England Confectionery Company) since 1901. Maybe it's nostalgia for my New English youth.

But it also provides an annual zeitgeist check. Timeless messages like  "SOUL MATE" or "QT PIE" mix with fads like "FAX ME" or "TWEET". (Heads up - if you find "FAX ME", there's a good chance that bag is well past optimum freshness.)
"143". What the heck does that mean?
Wait, what's this? "LET'S READ"! Awesome!
According to NECCO's website, "in 2014, the longtime favorite “Let’s Read” also reappeared in the mix."

Yeah, "Let's read"!

Let's read Walt Whitman's yawps and H.P. Lovecraft and Batman comics and Mary Oliver's poetry.
Let's read Rumi's chickpea, Chuang Tzu's fish, Icelandic sagas.
Garcia Marquez, Garcia Lorca, cat detectives, dog detectives.
Zombie novels, Amish romance, Zombie-Amish Westerns.
Let's read zines like Librarian Cathy's own Sugar Needle.
Eduardo Galeano, Paco Ignacio Taibo, Italo Calvino, just to say their names!
Let's read blogs! Let's read on phones and laptops. Paperbacks on the bus, or audiobooks in the car!
Let's read magazines and newspapers while they still exist.
Dr. Seuss at bedtime, or breakfast, or whenever, really.
Let's read with friends, with family, alone, or alone in a crowd.

Let's read Dar Williams' lyrics to "What do you love more than love."
(Pizza! No, wait - beer! No, wait - pizza AND beer!)

Or Dead Milkmen's love letter to "Punk rock girl."

Oh, man, Valentine's Day is the best!

Our guest blogger is Eric, who talks about himself in third person: "Eric has been enjoying libraries since the '60s, man. In his 4th decade at MCL, he drives the library's tiniest truck, which some people still call The Bookmobile, for Adult Outreach. His favorite movie, if it existed outside his mind, would be "Batman vs Godzilla", with Chow Yun-Fat as Batman and Nicolas Cage as Godzilla. Co-directed by John Woo and Guillermo del Toro. Scored by David Byrne and performed by The Ukrainians featuring Yo-Yo Ma. The graphic novelization is written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Mike Allred.

Danielle is excited to read Legends, Icons & Rebels, a children's nonfiction book about the legends of music who change how we hear and feel about the world. 27 mini-biographies, playlists, and accompanying CDs will introduce a new generation to the Greats of music.

Danielle is a Youth Librarian at the Hollywood Library.

Parlor Games book jacketWelcome to our new blogger Carol, who says this about herself: I read widely and profusely, propelled by a natural curiosity about everything under the sun and the belief that for me there is no better place to be than living inside a good book.  I have deep love for all things fiction and could not imagine my life without any of the works of Nevil Shute, Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited or Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping, just to name a few.

It’s 1917 and May Dugas is on trial for extortion. Did she take the money? Well, May Dugas has been taking money all her life! From her early years working in a Chicago bordello to her financially rewarding marriage to a Dutch baron, May has earned her living being the arm candy of some very rich men. May is the ultimate social climber, blackmailer and seductress, skills she developed and utilized in the name of supporting her family. But despite all her scheming, May doesn't plan on the dogged determination of Reed Doherty, a Pinkerton detective who has tracked her across the globe, from Chicago to San Francisco, to Tokyo and London and parts in-between and finally to a Wisconsin courtroom where May must finally answer for her supposed crimes.

Based on an extraordinary true story, Portland writer Maryka Biaggio’s Parlor Games is a non-stop global chase, a thrill ride whose last stop isn’t revealed until the very last second. Cold-hearted grifter or resourceful family provider. When the gavel comes down in that courtroom, will May Dugas finally meet her match?

Sooner or Later coverSomewhere in the past few years Portland morphed from a Tonya (Harding) into a Nancy (Kerrigan) kind of town - from a scrappy backwater to a burgeoning condopolis full of fancy ice cream shops, artisan beard oil, and chic boutiques peddling faux lumberjack outfits. I kid, I kid... but believe it or not, touring bands often used to skip Portland, due to it being a grey, unfashionable spot with small audiences. There wasn’t much for young people to do here, and not much employment either, so they had to form their own bands, and make their own fun.

Which brings us to Sooner or Later, the new double album that collects the recordings of the Neo Boys. One of Portland’s most notable punk bands, they often played with the Wipers, and opened for X, Nico, and Television, among others. Their sound is a very early form of punk, not frenetic or thrashy at all - in fact, it’s very catchy and melodic, with guitar parts that go beyond the usual couple of power chords. The tracks are in chronological order, so be sure to listen past the first few to get a feeling for them at their most skilled - try “Give Me the Message” if you want to get hooked fast. And, oh yeah… despite the name, they weren’t boys at all - over ten years before the whole Riot Grrrl movement, these four young women, some in their late teens, were shaking up local music. They’re worth a listen if you’re interested in early punk, the history of Portland music, or women who rock.

To learn more about the Neo Boys, the Wipers, Poison Idea, and other Portland punk and underground bands, try some of the items on this list.

Judy is reading Fresh Off the Boat, a memoir by Eddie Huang, the founder of the popular East Village food shop Baohaus.

Judy is a Library Assistant at the Hollywood Library.

Every once in a while I come across a book that makes me feel as though the years I spent before reading it were half lived. Here are three books that were published long before I was born that opened my eyes up a little wider this year.

Dandelion Wine cover

Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine is sweet, brave, and precious. I use all three adjectives in the fullest sense of their meanings, and feel as though if anyone less honest and skilled than Bradbury had written this it would be treacle. In his hands, it's the magic and fear of childhood distilled.

In the 1935 noir novel about the era's dance marathons, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? what should be a pleasure becomes a horrific ordeal. Both a peek into a world that existed briefly and a point on a continuum of exploitation extending from Roman gladiators to Honey Boo Boo.

 

When I picked up Eugénie Grandet I expected exuberance and humor.

Instead I found something beautifully constrained and subtle. Balzac wrote with uncharacteristic somberness to tell the story of a girl whose life is stunted by her greedy father. This was only the second Balzac novel that I have read, and it revealed the scope of La Comédie humaine.

Recently I was digging around for something to satisfy me in the same way that Connie Willis' Oxford Time Travel series does and I dragged up the Small Change Series by Jo Walton. I am deep into book two, and I love it.

Book One, Farthing, is a Christie/Sayers-style country house mystery, the stakes increased enormously by the fact that this 1949 England has made peace with Hitler and the murder in question may push the country decidedly into fascism. The book is deceptively modest -- "oh, I'm just a mystery with a funny bit of alternate history, don't mind me" it whispers -- but manages to pull off a riveting whodunit, a chilling 'it really could have happened', and a lovely portrait of how brave everyday people can be.

Book Two, Ha'Penny, replaces the 'whodunit' with an effort to assassinate Hitler. But this isn't just a fantasy of derring-do in the face of evil. People who dream of a free England ally with Stalinists in order to accomplish their ends, good people are killed by other good people in the effort to do What Must Be Done. In other words, Walton acknowledges that the world is complicated while keeping the pages flying by.

The third and final book is Half a Crown, & I almost can't bear how much I want everything to be OK by the end of this reality-that-wasn't.

Welcome to our new blogger Azalea, who says this about herself: I have been a Multnomah County Library fanatic since moving to Portland in 2006 from San Diego, California. I love cookbooks, the author Elena Ferrante, books with kitty pictures, and that moment when I pick up a brand new or overwhelmingly popular item from the holds shelf.
 
Adobo Road Cookbook bookjacket
Like lots of Asian-American kids growing up, sometimes I got tired of eating rice at home and loved novelties like hamburgers and pizza. It was only when I moved away for college that I found myself missing comfort foods like arroz caldo, pancit palabok, and chicken barbecue. I missed those garlicky, savory, sour, and sweet flavors that exist somewhere near, but are not quite Chinese or Thai food. 
 
Years of making disappointing or unremarkable Filipino food ended the day I picked up The Adobo Road Cookbook by Marvin Gapultos. I found recipes that looked like they were just for me: Filipino spaghetti, homemade longanisa (breakfast sausage), a cocktail with calamansi juice, and more. So far, I'm most proud of becoming an expert at making some amazing lumpiang shanghai, which are egg rolls.
 
Browsing the new cookbooks page and discovering Adobo Road brought me closer to my culture and improved my culinary abilities. If you enjoy the complex flavors in Thai cuisine, want to explore a new food, or earn some bragging rights through cooking, check out Adobo Road.

 

Billy Wilder, director of such diverse and wonderful films that to begin to list them is to agonize over your exclusions, had a sign in his office that said “What would Lubitsch do?”

Ernst Lubistch made movies that sparkled, with wit and sophistication that has not been matched since. Trouble in Paradise

Lubitsch’s 1932 film Trouble in Paradise was released before the Production Code acquired the power to prevent ‘immoral’ movies from being shown. Crime pays. People who are not married have a great deal of fun together. The screening of such delights was considered dangerous. Trouble in Paradise was unavailable for years, and never released on VHS.

Sometimes it seems to me that the Production Code changed our view of the past, that this board of censors determined not only the morality of what was on American screens, but also the way that we would see their times. The past becomes a foreign country where good was good, bad was bad, and human beings were somehow not so human.

I’ve made a list of Effervescent Pre-Code Movies in our catalog. For me these movies break down the barrier between us and the past, showing that our great-grandparents had desires and foibles that were just like our own. And that they were very funny and had great gams.

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