Blogs: Adults

I’m struggling to find a term for this. I don’t think it’s metafiction (according to the online definitions I’ve found), but if it’s not that, then what do you call a novel where the author has taken as her/his fictional universe a fictional universe created by an earlier author?

Mr. Timothy book jacketLouis Bayard, in Mr. Timothy, and Lynn Shepherd, in The Solitary House, both clearly know (and love) their Charles Dickens, a master of 19th century plot, setting, and people. A Dickens universe is filled with vivid atmosphere and memorable characters, so why not borrow them for your novel? Bayard sets his novel 17 years after the events in A Christmas Carol, and features a Timothy Cratchit all grown up and the inheritor of E. Scrooge’s substantial estate.  No longer needing that crutch, Tim finds himself weighed down by the love and trust of his late benefactor.

Shepherd, on the other hand, opts for a mystery set slightly before the tumultuous events of Bleak House, where that novel’s villain, The Solitary House book jacketSir Edward Tulkinghorn, requests the assistance of private investigator/“thief-taker” Charles Maddox to determine who is threatening one of his clients.

In both novels, half the fun (for this reader) is anticipating and recognizing how the sort-of remembered details of the originals are incorporated into the homages. It doesn’t hurt that both authors happen to tell a rattling good story on their own.

In Bayard’s subsequent historical fiction, he has switched his settings to actual events and characters (Edgar Allan Poe at West Point, Theodore Roosevelt in the Amazon), while Shepherd has stayed with fiction (killing off a Jane Austen heroine, placing mysterious bite marks on the neck of her hero).

And, if you like your Downton Abbey served with a slice of cheerful snark, don’t miss Bayard’s recaps of each episode in the New York Times.

Glitched haptics. The klept. Homunculus parties. Disoriented yet? Like that feeling? If so, you should read The Peripheral, the new novel by William Gibson. Known in the past for cyberpunk, near-futurism, and epic,city-destroying battles with Neal Stephenson, here he tries his hand at that most tricky SF device: time travel. Or at least, something close to that.  Fear not - this is no stereotypical yarn: no one becomes his own grandpa, and no attempts to kill Hitler go horribly awry. And it’s even slyly humorous, if you pay attention (I loved the awkwardly romantic telepresence via Wheelie Boy… you’ll see).

The Peripheral book jacketFlynne Fisher lives in the near future, somewhere in the south in a house without running water. She makes a living playing video games for hire or doing shifts down at the 3D printing fab. Wilf Netherton is a publicist in London sometime after a mysterious event known as “The Jackpot” has occurred. In his time, genetic modification is rampant, nanobots scurry everywhere, and you can control live bodies with your mind. When Flynne covers a gaming shift for her brother (a former soldier suffering from the aformentioned glitched haptics) she sees something she shouldn’t have, something that will threaten her life and cause these two worlds to become forever entangled.

We’re talking neutron star density of the new here… It’s heady stuff, bewildering and alien at first, but that’s part of the pleasure. And yet, the more things change… well, you know what they say. Artspeak is just as cipherlike and nonsensical in the future as today, publicists are still hapless and gutless (sorry Wilf!), tattoos are still a thing, and unfortunately for most of us, the rich are still getting richer, a grim reality that even those in future can’t escape.

For more cyber thrillers and biotech chillers, try this list.

 

Her bookjacketThe 2015 books are starting to arrive and I zipped through my first psychological thriller of the new year. Harriet Lane’s Her sucked me right in with a deceptively ordinary story of two mothers (though if you prefer to read about parents who dote on their children, you'd best skip this book). What a fabulously entertaining, suspenseful, well-written book. The story centers on the build-up of revenge plotted by one of the characters towards the completely oblivious other.

Told in alternating chapters by the two main characters, the interplay of reality and perception is pretty chilling. It’s sort of The Bad Seed with middle aged women. Her is a story that builds from the misunderstandings and disappointments in our lives and the twist lies in the overlooking of those matters.

I’m ready to be pulled into more psychological suspense novels in the coming year; here are a few that I'm eagerly anticipating. I hope they turn out to be as unpredictable and surprising as Her.

"My sadness, my story, my wantoness, my skipping
My wish and my despair, my erasure, my plantation, my chocolate
My thoughtlessness, my gracelessness, my courage and my crying
My pockets, my homework
Like lions after slumber in unvanquishable number
Oh yeah."

"Oh how your flesh and blood became the word"

Cupid Psyche 85 album cover image

By 1985, Scritti Politti's Green Gartside had fully emerged from the peripheries of the UK's indie post-punk sleeper cells into quasi-global pop brilliance.  But appearances are often deceiving and although Cupid & Psyche '85 was a top 50 LP in the States, "Perfect Way" a number 11 US single, and Green a bonafide pop pin-up for 8 months or so, it's also well-known to many of Gartside's avid disciples that Cupid & Psyche '85 was meant to operate on multiple frequencies.

Cupid & Psyche '85 is celebrated as one of the UK's most successful manifestations of pop entryism and for a couple of months that year, it seemed as though Green's cherubic smirk was on the cover of every other teen/pop music magazine.  But long-time Scritti fans knew that Green's origins came out of the late 1970s UK student/squat scene - bravely committed to a radical and austere project of DIY collectives, demystification and music that rigorously confronted its own reasons for existing (see Scritti's Early collection).  Early song titles like "Hegemony," "Messthetics," and "Doubt Beat" presumably speak for themselves. After a (now mythic and perhaps exaggeratedly apocryphal) nervous breakdown, illness, and extended convalesence, Green turned his back on "the ghetto of the Independent scene" and focused his intelligence and acumen on doing music "properly" - which (hopefully) meant hits.  Cue "The 'Sweetest Girl'" - a mellifluous, almost vertiginous, incantation to the ghostly subject of millions of pop songs.  It was a major step forward and, while not the hit Green hoped for, it was a brilliant first shot into the pop citadel.

By 1983, Green/Scritti had signed with Virgin Records and relocated to NYC - where he began to construct the individual elements that would eventually constitute Cupid & Psyche '85.  First single "Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)" rolled out in February 1984 and "Absolute,""Hypnotize," and "The Word Girl" followed - each single a carefully crafted, expensive, subtle dislocation of the norm.  Green never fully abandoned his commitment to rupture, to tracking the voids that fuel everyday emotions, the endless loops of logic that underpin our notions of "how things are."  His project attempted to embed deconstructive petroleum jelly in the dark recesses of "hyper-saccharine sweetness" with a strange bounce to the ounce.  He worked with some of the best, biggest, and priciest hit-makers in the industry and it all finally paid off in late 1985 when "Perfect Way" (only a moderate hit in the UK) nearly broke the US Top 10.

Of course this begged a major question for anyone invested in Green's purported project - when does pop entryism become tautology?  When a song - no matter how potentially subversive - transcends its origins of production to become, first and foremost, a glittering object - is
there still a project beyond entry into a value-commodity stream?  Reading interviews with Green circa 1983-85, it's clear that, despite his intial sense of excited purpose, he regularly wrestled with this contradiction.  And one might even argue that it ultimately did him in (as a pop star, at least).  Cupid & Psyche '85  was followed in 1988 by Provision - a modest commercial success, but tracked by many as an enervated doppelganger of C&P  85  (though "Boom! There She Was" is a classic Scritti hypno-pop white star). 

Green eventually "retired" from the music business, only to return in 1999 with Anomie & Bonhomie, a strange though compelling fission of guitar pop, airtight gloss and hip-hop, and then again in 2006 with the understated but gorgeous White Bread, Black Beer.
 

Scritti Politti - "Doubt Beat" (1979)

 

Scritti Politti - "The 'Sweetest Girl'" (1981)


 

Scritti Politti - "Lions After Slumber" (1982)

 

Scritti Politti - "Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)" (1984)

 

Scritti Politti - "Perfect Way" (1985)



Scritti Politti - "Boom! There She Was" (1988)


Scritti Politti - "Umm" (1999)


Scritti Politti - "Boom Boom Bap" (2006)

 

Chester A. Arthur photoYou remember Chester A. Arthur, right? Twenty-first president of the United States. Served from 1881 until 1885 following the assassination of James Garfield. Not really? Don’t feel too bad -- you’re in good company.

Several years ago, I set out to memorize all 43 (now 44) presidents in order, along with the years they served. I thought it would be an interesting brain exercise and a great alternative to counting sheep when I couldn’t sleep. However, I soon found that if I neglected reviewing the list from time-to-time, I would forget some of the lesser known figures like Arthur, Taft and Pierce.

Now, this phenomenon of forgetting the presidents has actually been documented in two studies on cultural memory published in the journal Science and reported in the New York Times! The long and short of the studies is that most people can identify five or six recent presidents; the founding father presidents like Washington, Adams and Jefferson; and a small number who were at the helm during huge events in our nation’s history such as Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt.Image of Presidential Seal

Maybe committing the list to memory isn’t important to you, but maybe you are interested in learning more about some of our chief executives through time. Here here are some great resources

 

Among Thieves

by John Clarkson

An intense crime thriller set in Brooklyn with tough characters and a page turning plot.  For fans of Lawrence Block and Lee Child.

Etta and Otto and Russell and James

by Emma Hooper

The story of eighty-three year old Etta who decides to walk across Canada to see the ocean. Along  the way she makes many friends who share their own life stories.  A poignant novel for literary fiction fans.

A Touch of Stardust

by Kate Alcott

A novel about the filming of Gone With the Wind and the budding love affair that happens between Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. Sure to be a hit with romance readers and fans of vintage Hollywood.

Dorothy Parker Drank Here

by Ellen Meister

Meister's second novel about the acid-tongued Dorothy Parker and her encounters with a down and out writer who has given up on life. Parker's classic wit and wisdom is sprinkled throughout. Enjoy!

Hell and Good Company: The Spanish Civil War and the World It Made

by Richard Rhodes

Rhodes, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, now presents the Spanish Civil War as a turning point for influencing military conflict in the 20th century. He discusses the new military weapons and strategies that emerged along with giving the perspectives of famous witnesses to the conflict such as Picasso and Hemingway.

Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells a Story

by Michael Rosen

Rosen takes us though the history of the alphabet devoting a chapter to each one. He describes how we ended up with 26 in the first place, how we came to write them down, and what they really mean. Filled with interesting facts and told with humor, it is sure to appeal to language freaks.

Silence: the Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise

by Thich Nhat Hanh

One of the most beloved zen masters shares his wisdom on how to find happiness and inner peace by guiding our minds to cultivate calm and learn the power of silence.

 

Book Jacket: The Unspeakable and Other Subjects of Discussion by Meghan DaumWhen a loved one receives bad news at the doctor’s office, you should squeeze their hand and give them a steely glance that says, “I’m here with you.  We’ll beat this thing.”

Throughout this life, you’re supposed to push yourself outside of your comfort zone to achieve real growth and we all want to grow, right?

If you survive a life-threatening event, you’re expected to live each day thereafter with gratitude and heightened perspective.  

It’s these preassigned responses to human experiences that Meghan Daum challenges in her latest collection of personal essays, The Unspeakable: and Other Subjects of Discussion.  

Covering topics that range from cream of mushroom soup casserole to waking up from a medically induced coma,  Daum’s writing is funny, but not frivolous. I loved her keen recognition of the absurd and her unapologetic honesty. As a fellow Gen Xer, I also relished her many 1970s-80s pop culture references. What I loved most about these essays however, is how moving they were. How they started off so specific and individual and ended with broader truths that left me considering the emotional expectations we have of ourselves.

It’s true that the topics covered in The Unspeakable, aren't the type of thing that people readily talk about.  But they are precisely the type of subjects that lead to the best conversations you have with your closest friend. The kind where you can confess to dreading what you're supposed to be looking forward to; Where you can laugh inappropriately and be completely yourself. Maybe not your most becoming self, but your most human self.

 

Cover image of Love Saves The Day   
     "If there's a cure for this
       I don't want it
       Don't want it
       If there's a remedy
       I'll run from it
       From it"

If you ask many people what the term "disco" conjures, you'll likely hear about drugs, excess, sex, celebrity and exclusive parties/clubs - not to mention the questionable fashions, the quintessential hairstyles and the inevitable accusations of artificiality and inauthenticity  (anyone remember "Disco Sucks"?).

But disco was a complex musical and cultural set of coordinates that originally emerged from the economic, sexual and racial peripheries of early 1970s New York City.  Tim Lawrence's Love Saves The Day - a definitive and exhaustive intervention in cultural history - uncovers these radical roots in eye-opening detail.  Lawrence draws upon a ton of archival material and interviews with many of the (surviving) primary players to construct a wonderful narrative that should appeal to anyone fascinated by the intersections of the social, economic and cultural in the 1970s. Lawrence documents the founding of David Mancuso's legendary Loft and tracks the myriad divergent strands forward that ultimately lead to the dead end of Studio 54 and the mass burning of disco LPs in Chicago's Comiskey Park.

Especially of interest for pop music aficionados (disco touched just about every pop musical genre that followed), sound junkies and anyone curious about the complex intersections between sexuality, technology, music and politics. 

And for your dancing pleasure, here's a playlist featuring some of the best music of the period:
 











1040 tax formMultnomah County Library is here to help with tax season. All library locations can access state and federal tax forms and instruction booklets online as they become available. Library staff members are happy to help print what you need. Printing costs 10 cents per page; two-sided printing is available.

Thanks to the AARP, the library will offer filing assistance programs at the Midland, Gresham, Woodstock, and North Portland locations. We can also help refer you to tax professionals.

Federal Hard Copy Forms

Due to federal budget cuts this year, libraries will not be receiving any instruction booklets and only the 1040, 1040A, and 1040EZ forms.  We can't promise when they will be available, or that we won’t run out, but we can always download and print out most federal tax forms and instruction booklets that are available on the IRS Forms & Publications page. There is also a contact page for the local IRS offices serving Portland and Gresham for further questions. Of special note, neither the 1099 and 1096 forms nor any of the W series (W-2, W-4, etc.) are available for download. Many office supply stores have the 1099 forms or you can contact the IRS directly to have those mailed to you.

State Hard Copy Forms

Public libraries are no longer a distribution center for state tax forms and booklets. If you need Oregon forms or booklets, you can come into the library to print them or do it yourself from the Oregon Department of Revenue page. They have a separate page for personal income tax forms & instructions. If you want forms mailed to you, then you can contact the Oregon Department of Revenue via:

Other States

You can stop by the library for assistance printing out tax forms for other states, or you can go to the Federation of Tax Administrators Links to State Tax Forms & Filing Options, which provides links to tax forms for each state.

Online Filing

Once the tax season officially opens, both the IRS and Oregon Department of Revenue will have listings for online filing services. Remember, state and federal taxes are due by April 15th.

hands filing out tax form

Tax Help/Filing Assistance

Volunteers with AARP will be offering preparation assistance through Tax Help at four different Multnomah County Library locations beginning in February. Keep your eye on the events listed to the right of the library's Taxes page or search the Events page for "taxes." Requirements to get tax help vary by location:

  • Midland: Fridays and Saturdays; No further appointments are available at this time. 
  • Gresham: Wednesdays; No further appointments are available at this time
  • Woodstock: Saturdays; same day registration
  • North Portland: Thursdays; first come, first served

If you can't make it to the library for tax help, see AARP's Tax-Aide Locator for more free tax preparer locations.

Finally, be sure to check out the post from guest blogger Janet Hawkins, of Multnomah County's Department of County Human Services, on ways to save big money with free tax filing services.

 

 

 

Generation V book jacketThere are a lot of vampire novels out there.  Some are good.  Some are okay.  Some are very, very bad. If you'd enjoy a fresh take on vampires, I've got a series for you. M. L. Brennan has a new trilogy (so far...) of vampire novels that begins with Generation V. At the time of writing this blog entry, I've only finished the first two books.  I've got the third sitting unread on my shelf.  I liked the first two so much I think the third will be a great diversion from my misery the next time I get sick. I find this series has had enough charm and fun that I think I'll be totally distracted from pitying myself.  I'll be almost happy to be unwell!

Fortitude Scott is a young slacker in a dead end job avoiding the family business and trying very, very hard to pretend he's a normal guyIron Night book jacket and not the youngest child of a merciless alpha predator.  Vampires in this universe aren't undead humans.  They're a separate species really, and Fortitude is trying desperately to pretend that he loves vegetarian food and that his roommate's leftover steak doesn't smell really, really good. Raised by humans, Fortitude remembers that his foster parents loved him, that they would do anything to protect him, and that they were brutally murdered in front of him.  Their murder was by his mother's order when his foster parents thought to try to run away with him to protect him from his mother and whatever she had done to traumatize their beloved son so.  So, as the saying goes, Fortitude doesn't have issues - he has entire subscriptions.

Tainted Blood book jacketFortitude's mother is a survivor and remorseless as a shark.  Vampires in this world do age and die - eventually. As vampires age, they become less and less able to eat solid food until blood is the only thing that they can still digest. Thus they are still "vampires" as per the standard mythos.  Vampire reproduction is... interesting and probably the creepiest part of this series.  As vampires tend to have very few young, Fortitude's mother stands out for having three surviving offspring. She has indulged her odd youngest instead of killing him as a weakling. Fortitude's older brother is kind to him in a distant sort of way. He's also kind to his wives as he kills them slowly, eating their life a bit at a time, one after another after another. Fortitude's sister is as brutal as her mother and seems to delight in tormenting Fortitude like a cat with a mouse.

This series is more for the urban fantasy fan than for readers of horror or paranormal romance. Sex and violence are side notes, although still there, in this heavily character-driven story.

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