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It captured my imagination when a colleague told me that Roy Blount Jr. said of Charles Portis that he “could be Cormac McCarthy if he wanted to, but he’d rather be funny.” I listened to the audiobook of True Grit soon thereafter, and I agree. He’s my favorite kind of funny, too. The humor all emerges out of-- and illuminates-- beautifully  realized characters. In this, I’d compare him to Jane Austen as much as anyone else-- Jane Austen without the courtships but with more shooting and swearing, and with a very different set of social expectations. The conversations around the campfire are priceless. And in True Grit, as in Austen's novels, the most important thing is to be a fair and strong person, even in trying circumstances.

You might already know the story of True Grit. A 14-year-old girl is determined to avenge her father’s death, so she hires a crusty U.S. Marshall to find the murderer and make sure he is punished. Much against his will, she rides into Indian Territory with him to see the job done. The Coen brothers flick absolutely did this story justice, but I'm glad I turned to the book (actually, the audiobook) to enjoy the elegant writing. I vow that there will be a lot more Charles Portis in my life in the future.

Donna Tartt, author of The Goldfinch and The Secret History, was the voice actor for True Grit, and she was perfect. If you’re interested in experiencing more classic works read by their ideal voice actor, take a look at this list, and please let me know if you think of any more audiobooks that need to be added to it.

Diabetes is a disease that people have known about for thousands of years, even if they didn't call it by that name.  Wonderopolis has a simple, helpful overview of diabetes and a quick interview with a young diabetic about how he test his blood.  There are actually two types of diabetes with similar symptoms and treatments but different causes.  The American Diabetes Association website has information about Type 1 Diabetes, and they also have a free, dowloadable booklet about living with Type 2 diabetes.  You can even find statistics about the frequency of diabetes in the United States from the Center for Disease Control.  

 

Symptoms of the disease can be scary, but it helps to know more about what is happening inside the body.  Some people take medicine to help control their diabetes, and other people can control it through their diet, choosing recipes and foods that help control their blood sugar levels.

Once you've learned about the disease, you can test your knowledge with this crossword puzzle or one of these online games about making smart food choices.  

And as always you can contact a librarian for more information!

 

I have lived in Portland for 56 years now, raising kids, writing books, and reading books. I never would have got through those 56 years without the Multnomah County Library.

“Favorites” -- A favorite book? Impossible! Seven favorite books? Impossible! I have too many favorite books. A lot of them are a lot of other people’s favorites too, so they don’t need to be mentioned. But I’ve just been rereading one that has pretty much slipped outof sight, and I want to remind people of it, because it’s a terrific novel: Thomas Berger’s Little Big Man. It came out in 1964, won the Western Heritage Award, and got a nice movie based on it. But it’s way, way better than the movie. Little Big Man is a highly improbable story told so well that you believe it.

For one thing, you want to believe it. And also you can trust it, because the true parts of it are true. The history (and ethnology) is real. There’s no whitewashing the racism and greed that have always threatened the American dream of freedom. You get the story of what really happened at the battle of the Little Big Horn, not all that Custer hype. You get an entirely new view of Wyatt Earp, Calamity Jane, and several other celebrities, too.

Like Mark Twain, Berger has a pitch-perfect ear for how Americans talk – and think. And like Mark Twain he can ruthlessly indict human stupidity and bigotry while never losing his temper, and being really, really funny. Old Lodge Skins is my hero. I love this book. I wish every high-school kid in America could read it. And then (like me) read it again twenty or forty or sixty years later...

As for nonfiction, I have to mention Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which brings together scientific and medical research (and hypocrisy), the biography of an almost invisibly elusive black woman, the exposure of an act of exploitation, racism and social injustice, and the writer’s own deeply respectful involvement with the people from whom she won this absorbing, troubling, wonderfully told story.

How about a favorite piece of music? Can I have two, please? OK! One is the short opera Galileo Galilei by Philip Glass, performed here in Portland two years ago (a recording of that performance is available now from Orange Mountain). The stage set was all magical circles and spirals and pendulums, lights moving through shadows, illuminating the story that spirals back in time from the dark end of Galileo’s life to a radiant, joyful beginning. Set, words, and music, it was and is completely beautiful.

And for a change of pace. . . how about Hoyt Axton singing “Five Hundred Miles.”  (Find it on the CD Greenback Dollar: Live at the Troubadour). There are several versions of it on YouTube. I like the one where the visual is just a b/w video of a train that comes and goes by and is gone.

For more great recommendations, customized just for you, try My Librarian.

Our guest blogger is Memo. Memo works at the Central Library. Besides reading history and literature about Latinos, workers, and immigrants, he enjoys re-reading the great literary works of nineteenth and twentieth-century realist writers.

y no se lo tragó la tierra book jacketWhat makes a literary work an American classic? Clearly, there is no one answer to this question. It is a matter of opinion. It is no wonder book publishers have debated this issue in the past, and that they will continue to discuss it in the future. The question, also, hangs over my head every time I read Tomás Rivera’s …y no se lo tragó la tierra: Is this fictional tale of Mexican American migrant farm working families an American classic? After all, this novella is an iconic piece of literary art in Chicano/a literature, and is a must read in Chicano/a literature courses in U.S. colleges. It was also the first recipient of the Premio Quinto Sol award.

Is it an American classic? Yes! It is. In spite of being written in Spanish,* …y no se lo tragó la tierra is a story of perseverance in the American tradition of pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps. Like their fictional counterparts in The Jungle and The Grapes of Wrath, the characters in …y no se lo tragó la tierra have dreams and grit. The Mexican American migrant families’ determination to make their dreams real no matter the odds given - it is the 1950s and people of color are segregated in the workplace and society—is what makes their tale of perseverance an American classic.

The story takes place in two locations: a small town in rural South Texas, where the migrant families live on a permanent basis and the Midwest, where they toil in the fields of commercial growers. The hardships they confront in their annual migrations to Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and other Midwestern states in search of seasonal farm labor say more about their determination to better their lives than about the work itself. That is not to say that the seasonal farm work they do doesn’t influence their willingness to live their American dreams. On the contrary, the very work itself, with its low wages, no rights, no dignity, and no hope, drive migrant families to continue struggling for a better life.

Like two other American classics of the twentieth century, Native Son and Invisible Man, …y no se lo tragó la tierra illuminates an experience once ignored by mainstream Americans. It sheds light on a harsh reality that can no longer be overlooked.

*The library's copy is bilingual.

What’s your favorite rock and roll movie?

Real or fictional, capturing the live concert experience is challenging. Movie logistics and bands not familiar with the filmmaking process can strip away the magic.  However, some films get it right.

Enter the Stains.  They’re an inexperienced all female punk/proto riot Grrrl band added to a conflict ridden concert bill. Without warning, the trio, two of whom played by Laura Dern and Diane Lane, are thrust into the media spotlight. Their tourmates, the Looters, featuring members of The Clash and Sex Pistols, resent their instant notoriety. Tensions quickly erupt and questions of sincerity and integrity and the accusation of “selling out” signals the end of the Stains.   

Is Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains my favorite rock and roll movie? No, but it's up there. My top honor goes to Purple Rain.

Check out this list for more rock and roll movies that do it right.

Azalea with Biba book

Before Topshop and Alexa Chung, there was Biba, an affordable women’s clothing brand that transformed girls into Hollywood starlets. The Biba Years by Barbara Hulanicki covers the career of British visionary, Barabara Hulanicki, and the rise and fall of an iconic brand.

Reading parts of The Biba Years is like hearing your much older friend recount the party of a lifetime. There are so many great details: the anachronistic design influences, celebrity gossip (the terrible thing she says about Audrey Hepburn!), and examples of Hulanicki’s unstoppable creativity. My favorite parts involved reading about the shops and how visits could best be described as revelatory or a “non-stop Fellini film.”

Want to pine after Twiggy-approved clothes? Waiting for the final season of Mad Men? Wish you could hang out with Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Freddie Mercury and their ladies? Get your paws on this book!

"You’re born naked and the rest is drag." - RuPaul
 
Without fail, at the start of a new season, I find myself in a fashion rut. Every morning is a battle with my closet. I’ll stand in front of my full closet thinking the ridiculous thought, “I have nothing to wear”. I pull a couple of things off their hangers, put them on, check myself in the mirror, sigh, disrobe, throw those clothes on my bed and start over again. If I can get out the door without covering my bed with discarded clothing choices, than I have accomplished something. It’s not that I need new or more clothes (okay, a few new things to freshen up my closet would be nice), what I really need is fashion inspiration. I know I’m not alone in this. Sometimes you just need a little style motivation. 
 
Sartorialist book jacketSince 2005, photographer Scott Schuman  has chronicled the fashion world from street style to the catwalks through the blog Sartorialist. If you haven’t already experienced Sartorialist, I highly recommend that you check it out. The Sartorialist blog has long been a favorite of mine, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the Sartorialist anthologies, Sartorialist and Sartorialist: Closer. Both books highlight some of Schuman’s favorite photographs, from all over the world, and will give you major fashion inspiration (as well as a healthy does of travel envy).
 
 
 
Advanced Style book coverAdvanced Style is another blog that led to a gorgeous fashion anthology. Photographer Ari Seth Cohen shows that style gets better with age. Advanced Style (the book, the blog, and the documentary of the same name) highlight the creative and unique personal style of some of New York's most inspiring older folks.  
 
 
I'll admit that I have fantasies of walk-in closets with an ever rotating supply of clothing options, but the truth is that style isn't so much about what you wear, as how you wear it. 
 
 
 
 

Multnomah County Library's Lucky Day service includes books for kids, teens and adults.  Lucky Day copies are available for spontaneous use and are not subject to hold queues.  Nobody can place holds on these items; it's first come, first served.  That means you might not have to wait at all for the most popular new titles!  You never know what you might find at your neighborhood library - it just might be your Lucky Day!

I don't often read young adult novels; too many of the teen characters leave me feeling like I wasn't like them even when I was fifteen, and I just can't identify.  I do have two series to recommend that work well even for a more jaded adult reader of science fiction and fantasy such as myself.

Cinder book jacketFirst is Cinder by Melissa Meyer.  This Cinderella retelling is set in a far distant, post-World War IV world, and our heroine is a clever young mechanic who has a cyborg arm and foot. This marks her as semi-human and of the very lowest social standing.  Her doting adoptive father is gone, leaving her owned by her sadistically cruel stepmother.  One of her step sisters is somewhat kind to her, but is little more than a child herself and can't help her.  There's a handsome prince, a dreadful, contagious and incurable disease sweeping the earth and an ~evil~ queen from Luna. While some elements of the story will seem old hat to the more cynical, I thought it had enough charm and verve to carry off a story we've all heard before and make it fresh again.  I like the series so well I've already got a hold on Winter (book #5 in the Lunar Chronicles) even though I'll be using up one of my holds for nine months just to read Thief's Covenant book jacketit as soon as I can.

Ari Marmell has written several adult fantasy novels, none of them particularly well known or best sellers.  I did like Hot Lead, Cold Iron and The Conqueror's Shadow. He also just published the final novel in a young adult series that begins with Thief's Covenant about a girl named Widdershins.  In this world, gods have powers based on the number of worshippers they have. Olgun's congregation is slaughtered except for one young girl hidden in the shadows. She flees to the streets and takes the name Widdershins.  Olgun can't perform miracles for his last worshipper, but he can push the edges a bit.  He can make a flintlock misfire.  He can make her run faster, jump higher, and walk quieter than an ordinary human and with his help, Widdershins survives as a thief. While Olgun's help make her mildly superpowered, she still feels real and, like any teen, she has moments of foolishness and moments of maturity.  If you like fantasy and wouldn't mind a younger protagonist, this series has been a very enjoyable light read. I'm sorry to be done with it and I'll give the next book by this author a chance because of it.

I love a good romance and I recently discovered a fun romance series written for adult learners. It led me to explore the world of books for adults learning to read.

Are you looking for books for teens or adults who need simpler texts? If you search the catalog using the phrase “readers for new literates,you’ll get a long list of books at different reading levels.  If you’re looking for levels, choose a title. For instance, when I clicked on the title Water for Life, I looked for “Series that include this title” and then I could link to all the books in the Penguin active reading series or just the Penguin active reading level 2.

You can find  versions of English and American classics or modern fiction. You can find biographies, true crime, and a book written in both Somali and EnglishWe have horror stories as well as romance. 

Back to that romance series. All of the books in the series feature photographs which add a lot of meaning to the stories about long time love and new love. My personal favorite is The Big Goof:  Jan loves Bill. Will Bill love Jan? It makes me laugh every time I read it. Everyone I’ve shared it with has noticed different things in the photos which deepened the story. 

If you’d like a customized list of books, you can ask us at My LibrarianWe’re happy to help you find good reading. Here’s a list I made that features books and poetry for a romance fan. Let’s champion reading together! Thanks.


 


 

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