If you are enamoured at all with the Lost Generation era, Rules of Civility by Amor Towles may just be the next read that recreates that initial flutter. It's not technically Lost Generation, but the feel is much the same. The setting is the tail end of the roaring 30s in New York City. It is the leftover last hurrah of the long party, which was the 20s, with the Great Depression still lingering. It is a sophisticated novel, which captures the romance of the time while never letting the reader forget the gritty underbelly. Mr. Towles manages to write convincingly from a woman’s perspective and has created quite the character in Katey Kontent. Katey is a witty and independent young woman making her way in the world when she meets Tinker Grey, who may as well be Jay Gatsby himself with his rags to riches story and suave debonair manner. This novel has many elements to enjoy. It has interesting, admirable, flawed, yet relatable characters, a plot that keeps you turning pages because of the subtle twists in the story, a setting in a major metropolis at a memorable time in history, and language that is simply exquisite with its rich and unique turns of phrases like “slurring is the cursive of speech." There is unrequited love, loss and gain of fortune, clever quips, and a cinematic atmosphere. So relax. Sit back with a drink and loll the passages over with your tongue. This is one unpredictable journey.
Today I made a discovery. I still enjoy reading old fashioned stories about the Old West.
Some people call it pulp fiction, but for me it brings with it memories of spending hot summer afternoons lying on the old metal bunk in my grandfather’s office in Eastern Washington, reading Zane Grey’s Western magazine and paperback westerns by Louis Lamour.
Well I’m more sophisticated now. I read Swedish mysteries by Henning Mankell and Pulitzer Prize winners like The Goldfinch and Olive Kitterige. But something inside me still loves those stories about strong silent cowboys and rugged, bold spirited American Indians who feel much but say little; times when everything seemed black and white simple. So when I saw The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard, my hand was already picking it up before I knew what I was doing. From the first story "Trail of the Apache" which takes place in Arizona in the 1880s, I was hooked again. The tough realism of his later suspense and crime novels is there as well as a dispassionate awareness that makes the characters- native or white stand out from their stereotypes.
If you are looking for a good read for a long afternoon, give it a try.
It’s wonderfully original and highly compelling. I generally read only the first book in a series (as my mission is to help you all find great reads, I choose reading widely over reading deeply) — however, I’m so attached to the main character that I will be dropping everything when Ancillary Sword is published next month.
Breq was once a spaceship, and a soldier, and a thousand other parts of a vast artificial intelligence that existed for hundreds of years. Now Breq is just one heartbroken cyborg, bent on vengeance against the ruler of the culture that created him. If you are familiar with the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy-inspired song "Marvin, I Love You" (You Tube), then you have an inkling of how I feel about Breq.
Looking for more good space opera? Check out my list.
We hear a lot about women’s health issues, but men have specific health concerns, as well. As with all health information, it’s important to find trustworthy, reliable resources. Here are some places you can go to find quality information specific to men’s health.
ealth screening for men, health issues specific to men, news on men’s health issues and more. The MedlinePlus Men’s Health page is also available in Spanish, and you can find information about men’s health in Chinese (traditional), as well.
Brown University links out to a number of resources for men to learn more about their health: testicular cancer information, the Center for Disease Control’s Men’s Health Portal, information about nutrition and eating disorders and more.
Two of my favorite things to do around town when I can’t be at the Maker Faire PDX are going out to listen to music and watching movies. While I’m not bad at making music (yay cellos!) and I can take cute videos of my dogs, I can’t really claim to be great at making either. But not to fear! We do live in a great town for making things, from chairs to computers to art and we can all learn together.
Are you feeling musical? Explore the science of music with your own musical creations, and learn to make your own instruments from maracas to didgeridoos. (This website is set up as lessons for teachers, but there’s no reason for teachers to have all the fun.) Once you have made (or chosen) your instrument it’s time to make some music: Indulge your inner rocker girl or you can check out the Community Music Center for lessons, concerts, workshops and practice space. Or just find some friends and start playing--it’s how all the greats got started.
Visual arts more your thing? You can play with your films at the Hollywood Theater with B Movie Bingo and Hecklevison and other series. The Portland Art Museum’s nwFilm Center has films you won’t find at the mall and classes on how to make your own. If you prefer things to be more non-fiction, head over to Northwest Documentary. They come complete with classes, lab time, opportunities to work with other filmmakers and a great library, all at your creating and making disposal. And if the slow and methodical isn’t your way, maybe The 48 Hour Film Project will be more to your liking.
Do want to make and learn more? Contact a Librarian!
by Greil Marcus
An entertaining and rewarding look at music history by one of the major musicologists of today.
by Karen Abbott
A remarkable story about bold and cunning women told with passion. Has book club potential.
by Ben Lerner
Beautifully written novel which weaves contemporary life, art and writing in a New York City setting.
by Jessie Burton
A debut novel which takes place in a rich historical setting about love, betrayal and retribution. Book club potential.
by Jussi Adler-Olsen
From Denmark's top crime writer, another sinister and engrossing tale taking place in the underbelly of Copenhagen.
by Garth Nix
Another tale in the Abhorsen series with compelling characters and strong magic. Sure to be a hit with fantasy readers.
by Mac Barnett
A witty and engaging picture book about birds on a telephone wire attempting to relay a single message with the usual mixed-up results.
Technically Street Literature began with classics like David Copperfield and Maggie: a Girl of the Streets and the genre continued through other canonical writers like Jack London, Henry Miller, Ralph Ellison, and William Burroughs. However, the Renaissance of Street Literature is the most obscured part of its history.
During the Mid-20th century, the Pulp Fiction racks were a place to by-pass the censors and tell stories outside of regressive cultural mores. Here, Street Literature thrived along with Queer fiction and other genres that were deemed obscene and low-brow. Among the languishing writers of Pulp, was a man named Robert Beck; better known as Iceberg Slim.
Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp recounts his life in detail (so I will not here). Instead, I want to highlight Slim’s most surprising and underrated work Mama Black Widow, which recounts a poor sharecropping family’s move to Chicago and descent into the madness of the streets.
Addiction, violence, prostitutes, pimps, pool hustlers, dope peddlers, crooked preachers and cops, numbers, extortion, and manipulation spin around the black widow. Drag Queen Otis (aka Sally/Tilly) relays her story with vivid detail and haunting emotion as she tries to break free from her mama’s sinister web and survive the violence waiting beyond. Tragic, graphic, and years ahead of its time, Mama Black Widow is not for the faint of heart.
I bleed black and gold. If you don't know what I am talking about, then you are not from western Pennsylvania. We natives learn at an early age that fall Sundays are reserved for Steelers football, and not much else. I have lived in many other places, but nowhere else have I encountered the football fandom that exists in and around my hometown. Since moving to Portland, I have discovered other expats, and we pine for the hometown atmosphere on Sundays, sometimes at a local watering hole, sometimes at home. Even though these days I sometimes catch myself rooting for Seattle (gasp!), the Steelers will always be my number one team.
The league has been having some serious troubles lately, and they need to be addressed. And I have found my enthusiasm waning. But this column is about my love of the game, the pure sport of football. Some of my favortie football-themed titles are on the booklist below. If football gets your black and gold (or navy and green) blood flowing, give some of them a try, and celebrate all things pigskin. And if you aren't a fan of the best sport on earth, I encourage you to try one or two titles. You might just find yourself becoming a fan. Football's back!
Street photography according to Wikipedia is “photography that features the human condition within public places.” I realized I love street photography with the discovery of photographer Vivian Maier’s work. She took a lot of photos of children that were very tender. Maier also took many thought-provoking photos of the poor. She seemed to be looking to capture moments of comfort, like holding hands or cuddling together on the train.
There are a few websites devoted to this style of photography. There’s the Sunday Styles section column On The Street in the New York Times featuring Bill Cunningham's street photography. I’ve been a fan this column for years. There is also a series of videos derived from Bill’s photography. Sometimes the Willamette Week covers local fashion that intersects with street photography.
This type of photography is sprinkled throughout images of our popular culture. And of course our library has many books on the topic. A great photographer takes great photos. Great photos make me pause and wonder what happened before and what happened after that moment in time was captured on film. What about you? Do you wonder?