Saturday, April 30, 2011

Thinking Outside the Canon, Or The Best Books You've Never Read

Even in this age of e-readers, I am still a sucker for a beautiful edition of a book.  Sometimes I have picked up a book just because I am intrigued by the cover.  Also, I like to find neglected classics-books that might have been famous or at least widely read in their day, but hard to find now-"discoveries", as the New York Review Books site suggests.  These two imprints have lovely editions & some interesting reads.

NYRB Classics

An innovative list of fiction and nonfiction for discerning and adventurous readers. The NYRB Classics series is designedly and determinedly exploratory and eclectic, a mix of fiction and non-fiction from different eras and times and of various sorts. The series includes nineteenth century novels and experimental novels, reportage and belles lettres, tell-all memoirs and learned studies, established classics and cult favorites, literature high, low, unsuspected, and unheard of. NYRB Classics are, to a large degree, discoveries, the kind of books that people typically run into outside of the classroom and then remember for life.
~from their webpage

Visit the catalog to find our NYRB Classics holdings! Here are two titles I have read from the series so far:
The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy
English, August: An Indian Story by Upamanyu Chatterjee
Persephone Books
Persephone Books reprints neglected classics by C20th (mostly women) writers. Each one in our collection of 93 books is intelligent, thought-provoking and beautifully written, and most are ideal presents or a good choice for reading groups. Our titles include novels, short stories, diaries and cookery books. They are all carefully designed with a clear typeface, a dove-grey jacket, a 'fabric' endpaper and bookmark, and a preface by writers such as Diana Athill, AS Byatt and Polly Toynbee. The books are guaranteed to be readable, thought-provoking and impossible to forget.
~from their webpage

Check out the full list, or here are some from the catalog (we have fewer of their titles, perhaps because they are a British imprint):
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson
Flush by Virginia Woolf (not the Persephone edition, but a title they publish)
Somewhere Towards the End by Diana Athill (a Persephone author, not one of their titles)

Blogger Hannah Stoneham has some interesting pieces involving Persephone Books in her Book Blog.

Here are a few other titles I recommend for those who like to find a book off the beaten path:

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

The Pursuit of Love ; & Love in a Cold Climate: Two Novels by Nancy Mitford

Empire of the Senseless by Kathy Acker

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim

Pagoo by Holling Clancy Holling

A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Monsters are Invading the (Literary) World!

"Monster Lit" -- Classic Works, Now with Added Monsters!

Some people think it all started with YouTube.

The video sharing website that encouraged users to "broadcast yourself" made it easy to post videos. Off-the-shelf software made video editing simple, and people discovered that they could easily cut together video footage from two different genres -- say, Star Trek and Love Boat -- and get something possibly very entertaining. Thus was the video mashup born.

But mashups have been around long before that term was coined. In the world of literature, they are called pastiches: works that include characters or elements from other works, either in homage or as satire. A popular form of pastiche is for an author to write in the style of a famous author. Another popular pastiche is to put characters from different series or genres together -- a literary "culture clash."

The literary mashup went a new direction with the release in 2009 of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by "Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith." The work took Jane Austen's text and added "ultraviolent zombie mayhem!" The book was a surprise success, reaching the New York Times bestseller list. A followup prequel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith, also went bestseller.

And thus the monster mashup was born and now no favorite work, no matter how revered, is safe from the army of the undead and supernatural beings flying, running, swimming, and shambling toward the classics shelves. The mashups range in style from the original text with interjections of monster action, to entirely new works that give fresh insight into the characters and the cultures they lived in.

Publishers like monster mashups because they don't have to pay for the rights on the classic book -- once a work is in the public domain, anyone may legally use the text and characters.

Authors like mashups because they get to have loving revenge upon works that they had to write reports on in high school, and nowhere they take the story can be too outrageous.

And readers like mashups because -- they're fun! It's a matter of opinion whether mashups are hilarious or horrific (people sometimes mutter the word, "sacrilege") but no one can argue against the fact that monster mashups take beloved characters in entirely new directions.

Jane Austen was the first victim of this monstrous invasion, but the Bronte sisters, Louisa May Alcott, Lewis Carroll, Leo Tolstoy, and many other famous writers were soon assaulted, as well as some of the great figures from history.

It seems as though there are new mashup coming out every week.

Visit the Monster Mashups LibGuide to learn more about the

wide wild world of the monster mashup.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Your Library is So Punk Rock

Yesterday's passing of Poly Styrene, formerly of X-Ray Spex, has put me in a pensive yet punk mood this morning.  I am a latecomer to punk-in the '70s, I was a child listening to ABBA & my mom's show tunes-but I began reading about & listening to punk a few years ago & I just got caught up in it.  Poly Styrene was one of my favorite artists of that era. Her new album, Generation Indigo, just came out.

Most of my punk research was actually done under the auspices of the library.  Here are some of my favorite reads:

Punk by Stephen Colegrave & Chris Sullivan

Cinderella's Big Score: Women of the Punk and Indie Underground by Maria Raha

We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk by Marc Spitz and Brendan Mullen
Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain
Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984 by Simon Reynolds
Also consider checking out Rob Sheffield's wonderful memoir Love is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time, where "Rob, now a writer for Rolling Stone, uses the songs on fifteen mix tapes to tell the story of his brief time with Renée...a hell-raising Appalachian punk-rock girl," as the publisher writes.  It's not really about punk, but the way Sheffield uses music to remember & reflect is really well done.
The library system has some punk media offering as well, most notably:
The Clash Live: Revolution Rock (DVD)
American Hardcore (DVD)
The Filth & the Fury (DVD)
ABC Libraries' catalog also features a smattering of punk rock CDs.
More about X-Ray Spex:

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Royal Wedding

We've caught a bit of royal wedding fever here at abcreads.

Check out some royal wedding related items in the library catalog!

Here are a couple of links you may enjoy:

The Royal Wedding (official page)

Today Show's Wacky Royal Wedding Memorabilia

BodenUSA's Conjugal Compendium
(includes downloadable Wedding Broadcast Bingo!)

HuffPost Style's Royal Wedding: A Complete Guide

The Royal Wedding: William & Kate

Royal Wedding app from iTunes

Yahoo's Royal Wedding blog (sign the guestbook!)

Anglophenia's Royal Wedding Insider (they have a countdown widget!)

edfm's Royal Wedding page

The Union Flags are already hung along Regent Street in London in celebration!  Closer to home, the Cherry Hills Library will be having a Royal Wedding Party on Thursday, April 28, from 3:30 - 4:30 p.m. Light refreshments will be served and the wearing of millinery is encouraged (wear your own or make your own fascinator at the party).  There will also be a craft for guests under the age of 10.  You can register for this event online or at the library's Information Desk.

Local purveyors of high tea enchantment St. James Tearoom will have their Royal Wedding Celebration on the evening of the 29th.

Here's a nod to those of you who might not be so enthused by the upcoming nuptials:

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day 2011: A Billion Acts of Green®

As Earth Day approaches, the price of gasoline increases again and the government once again starts talking about an energy plan it seems like a good time to gather some knowledge on the environmental state of the world. The library offers several resources that you may find helpful:

The Kill-a-watts are now available for checkout. Test your appliances and see how much energy each is using. Maybe you can cut back and save some money.

The April featured databases are:

Home Improvement Reference Center: contains repair information for all your projects including decorating, electrical, maintenance, outdoor, plumbing, remodeling, and woodworking. See our tip sheet.

Garden, Landscape & Horticultural Collection: Gardening hobbyists, master gardeners and biotechnologists alike will find practical tips as well as the scientific theories of horticulture studies in this searchable collection of books and articles. See our tip sheet.

Some books that I found interesting:

Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas Friedman

This book looks at how warming temperatures, increasing population and a worldwide desire to live like middle class Americans are worsening environmental problems and some suggestions on what needs to be done.

Running Dry by Jonathan Waterman

National Geographic writer Jonathan Waterman makes his way down the Colorado River from its beginnings in the Colorado snowpack to it’s dry end in Mexico. Along the way he compares the current health and flow of the river to observations recorded in the late 1800s and talks to local people, park rangers and river managers about their use and needs of this dwindling resource.

A View From Lazy Point by Carl Safina

I really enjoyed this book because of its poetic and vivid descriptions of wildlife throughout the year and the framing of environmental damage in terms of future generations.

Other environmental books I hope to soon read:

Bird Cloud by Annie Proulx

There's more information on "A Billion Acts of Green®: Personal, organizational and corporate pledges to live and act sustainably" at the Earth Day Network website.

Also check out the Earth Day Celebration at the ABQ BioPark tomorrow!!
Written by Laura of the Cherry Hills Library staff.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Proust at the Majestic by Richard Davenport-Hines

"Surely some of you know what we're talking about: that shelf filled with books you meant to read or, more likely, fully intend to read some day. When Luis introduced that phrase [the Shelf of Constant Reproach] at a meeting last week, we all admitted to some revered works of literature on our shelves. 'Anything by Proust!' some of us shouted out."

Marcel Proust has been malingering on my Shelf of Constant Reproach for quite some time-ever since I first started to try to read Lydia Davis' acclaimed translation of Swann's Way.  So, since Proust fit neatly into my Paris: The Luminous Years reading challenge, I thought I would try to tempt myself back to Swann's Way with a little light reading about the author himself.
Unfortunately, I was somewhat underwhelmed with my choice. Proust at the Majestic is a bit of a misnomer, I think, for a book where Proust's appearance at a party at Paris' Hotel Majestic plays such a tiny part. The first & next-to-last chapters make a nice framing device for the book: Chapter 1 introduces the party at the Majestic, which was attended not only by Proust but also by Picasso, Stravinsky, Joyce, & Diaghilev; while Chapter 8 introduces us to Sydney & Violet Schiff, the hosts of the infamous party, & their relationship with the author. Other than those chapters, the party was only mentioned once or twice.  I didn't understand the significance of the party to the book.

The rest of the book meandered a bit, trying to decide if it was a biography of Proust or literary criticism, & featuring long tangents into the lives of other celebrities of the era. It seemed to be well-researched & had a lot of interesting information-it just lacked focus.  Perhaps the author was trying to set a scene, but it was just too dense & a little too dry.  I did learn a lot about Proust, the role of homosexuality in his life & work, his illness (he "renounced his life, & forfeited his creative spirit, in order to fulfil his vocation"), his interest in all the social classes ("he ardently, sincerely found transcendant profundity in people & things that were generally dismissed as mundane"). It was just not a compelling read for me.

Maybe Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris by Graham Robb, in which Proust plays a part, will manage to tempt me back to Swann's Way.  But for now, it's back to the Shelf of Constant Reproach.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Coffin Ship by Peter Tonkin

For our next book review in the Oceans 11 reading challenge, here's a few words from library patron & friend of abcreads Susan:

My 3rd book for the Oceans ’11 Reading Challenge is The Coffin Ship by Peter Tonkin, the first book in the Richard Mariner high-seas thriller series. A rollicking adventure that never lets up - plan to stay up late to finish!

Oxford English Dictionary definition of a coffin ship: A ship sent to sea in an unseaworthy condition, destined to sink before the end of its voyage as part of an insurance fraud. (first used 1833)

Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) Prometheus is the largest supertanker in the seas, laden with oil and set to begin a voyage through the Gulf, south through the Indian Ocean, around the southernmost tip of Africa, north through the Atlantic, to the English Channel. Greedy and unscrupulous supertanker owner Kostas Demetrios, and several crew members in his pay, know the ship will never make it. The first "accident" (effect of sabotage) occurs before the ship departs, and kills several crew members. Demetrios is forced to hire additional crew members. Crewfinders, a business founded by Richard Mariner, supplies qualified crew members to ship owners at short notice. Richard can fill all but captain for Prometheus from his contacts, and he agrees to captain the Prometheus himself. Fully qualified as a captain, he had retired from seafaring after an onboard explosion that killed his wife.

The owner of the cargo arrives to challenge Richard and insist upon becoming 3rd mate. While qualified for the position, the new third mate opens up painful memories from Richard's past.

Once underway, the voyage constantly faces challenges, from additional sabotage efforts to violent weather hazards. Tremendous bravery and teamwork is required for survival. And always present is the question of what dangers are still set in place to destroy the voyage.

Action scenes predominate; this would be an exciting movie. I look forward to many more thrilling escapes - reading Richard Mariner's exploits.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Featured New Mexico Author: Rudolfo Anaya

A distinctly New Mexican voice

Don't be surprised if the man in the picture above looks familiar. Chances are you have seen Rudolfo Anaya around Albuquerque and New Mexico, at an event supporting writing, education, or just New Mexico in general.

A native New Mexican, Rudolfo seems tireless in his efforts to bring to light the things that make New Mexico and New Mexicans special. His 1972 work Bless Me, Ultima is considered a classic and is often used in schools, and he has since written many works set in a distinctively New Mexican environment. Many of these books are for children and young adults.

Besides his literary works, Anaya has also been a schoolteacher and a professor at the University of New Mexico, and a constant promoter of education and Chicano writers.

The National Hispanic Cultural Center is hosting a well-deserved tribute to Rudolfo Anaya on Saturday, April 16 2011. Below is the notice from the Cultural Center's calendar.

Join in the celebration honoring one of New Mexico's foremost authors!
Stories of Rudy: Tribute to Rudolfo Anaya

4 pm -- Free ticketed event

Albuquerque Journal Theatre

Native New Mexican Rudolfo A. Anaya is a founder of the contemporary Chicano literary movement and one of the most celebrated Mexican American writers. Best know for his iconic novel Bless Me, Ultima, he has received numerous awards, including the National Medal of Arts in 2001, for both his contributions to contemporary literature and his long-standing promotion of U.S. Hispano writers. This event, part of the conference "East Coast/South West Dialogue on Narrative Voices and the Spoken Word," and recognizes his many achievements as storyteller, writer, educator, and mentor.

Tickets will be available at the box office one hour before the show. Call (505)724-4771 for more information.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Though it is no longer February with the Valentine’s Day fueled candy euphoria, or Halloween, with its tempting fun-size offerings, chocolate still beckons from the recesses of my pantry. Though chocolate is now commonplace, part of the American experience, it was not always so. Though the history of the spread of chocolate from Meso-America to Europe and the rest of the world is interesting, the facts about chocolate production are what set my mouth salivating. Cacao trees, which produce cocoa beans, only grow within 20 degrees of the equator. These cocoa beans are fermented, cleaned, roasted, and the outer shell removed to leave cocoa nibs. Cocoa nibs are ground and liquefied, creating chocolate liquor. Chocolate liquor sounds like ambrosia to me. One can only hope the Greek gods’ ambrosia was similarly delicious.

Chocolate liquor is composed only of cocoa solids and cocoa butter. At this point, additional cocoa butter, sugar, milk solids, and flavorings can be added to create dark and milk chocolate. Just picturing the blending process a la Charlie and the Chocolate Factor makes me itch to experiment with different ratios of liquor to cocoa butter, to add both exotic flavors and the old standard, vanilla. Perhaps I should have been a chocolatier.

If you also feel the need to not only eat chocolate, but read about it, a selection of books is below, containing history, production and recipes. Real chocolate lovers can also check out the Southwest Chocolate and Coffee Fest at the Albuquerque Convention Center on April 16th and 17th. Bon appétit!

The Book of Chocolate, by Nathalie Bailleux et al

The True History of Chocolate, by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

150th Anniversary of the Civil War

On April 12th, 1861 the first shot was fired on Fort Sumter, S.C. and thus began the American Civil War. It has remained a steadfast interest in the minds of many Americans, through research, the reading of old diaries, and through re-enactments of actual battles. ABC Libraries has over 1200 items listed from a keyword search, "History--United States--Civil War, 1861-1865" and this list includes, audiobooks, movies, fiction titles for adults and children, non-fiction titles and genealogical materials currently located at the Main Library 2nd floor.

A sampling of a few of our newest items include:

--A new 3 volume DVD set titled The American Civil War.

--The Crossing by author Gilbert Morris. It is a new Christian fiction series subtitled "The Last Cavaliers" with Stonewall Jackson as one of it's main characters.

--A children's novel titled Will at the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863 by Laurie Calkhoven. There are also several well-known and not so well-known titles that you can check out.

--You Wouldn't Want to be in the First Submarine!: An Undersea Exploration You'd Rather Avoid: The story of the H.L. Hunley geared to juvenile audiences.

--The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, considered to be one of the best novels ever written about Gettysburg and a Pulitizer Prize winner. A prequel novel Gods and Generals was written by Shaara's son Jeff and centers around four leaders, Joshua Chamberlain, Winfield Scott Hancock, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson and the journey each of them takes from 1858 to the battle of Gettysburg in 1863. You can also check out the two movies based on these books, Gettysburg, starring Martin Sheen as Robert E. Lee, Jeff Daniels as Joshua Chamberlain and Tom Berenger as James Longstreet and the follow-up movie Gods and Generals with Robert Duvall as Robert E. Lee, Stephen Lang as Stonewall Jackson and Jeff Daniels reprising his role as Joshua Chamberlain.

--The three volume set The Civil War, a Narrative by Shelby Foote. Volume 1 is Fort Sumter to Perryville, Volume 2 is Fredericksburg to Meridian and Volume 3 is Red River to Appomattox. The link will allow you to choose which volume you would like to check out.

--The Confederate War by Gary Gallagher is a history and social work on the Confederacy.

--Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson is a one-volume history on the war that can be read by novices and academics alike.

--Glory is a story of the 54th Massachusetts regiment from it's inception by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw to it's demise at Fort Wagner is a compelling movie starring Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington. Winner of three Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actor for Denzel Washington.

--The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane was published in 1895 and has long been read by millions of students throughout the country. You can also watch the DVD directed by John Houston, starring Audie Murphy as the young soldier Henry Fleming.

--New Mexico had a crucial, if not limited role in the Civil War; some of the works we have include Pati Nagle's works The Guns of Valverde and Glorieta Pass as well as Distant Bugles, Distant Drums by Flint Wheelock, to name a few.

--Of course no list would be complete without mentioning Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell and the equally brilliant DVD, starring Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable.

This list is just a sampling of the large collection the library has of the Civil War and if you need something that ABC libraries does not have, be sure to check out Interlibrary Loan program to see if we can find it for you.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Wilder Life

I recently got hold of an advance copy of Wendy McClure's The Wilder Life (I sometimes review books for Librarything's Early Reviewers). Subtitled "My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie", it is a wonderfully entertaining look-particularly for someone who grew up in the '70s, when the book series reached an epic popularity-at the works & life of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Those who read the Little House series as a child should definitely check out this book-you won't want to miss Wendy's detailing of her obsession with "Laura World", which takes her through buying a butter churn on e-Bay to homesteading lessons to pilgrimages to sites from the book (including a stay in a sleeping wagon at the Ingalls Homestead in De Smet, South Dakota).

Here are some of the locations Wendy McClure visited:

Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum

Ingalls Homestead ("Laura's Living Prairie")

Little House on the Prairie (Independence, Kansas)

Little House Wayside

Walnut Grove, Minnesota

I was happy to see that ABC Libraries owns some of the background titles referred to in The Wilder Life:

Laura: The Life of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Donald Zochert

The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Classic Stories by Barbara M. Walker

On the Way Home: The Diary of a Trip from South Dakota to Mansfield, Missouri in 1894 by Laura Ingalls Wilder (with a setting by Rose Wilder Lane)

West from Home: Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder to Almanzo Wilder, San Francisco, 1915 edited by Roger Lea MacBride

Searching for Laura Ingalls: A Reader's Journey by Kathryn Lasky & Meribah Knight

The Ghost in the Little House: A Life of Rose Wilder Lane by William Holtz

The library system also owns many other titles on the subject of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Reading The Wilder Life made me want to reread the Little House books as an adult-though I'm not sure I'll be churning butter or travelling to De Smet anytime soon-even though the book does deal with some of the questions surrounding how fictionalized the series was, some of books' prejudices (particularly towards Native Americans) & the troubled life of Laura Ingalls Wilder's daughter, Rose Wilder Lane.

I also found myself waxing nostalgic for other children's books classics I read in the same period: Anne of Green Gables & Emily of New Moon, both by L.M. Montgomery; Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott; All-of-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor; & the Betsy-Tacy-Tib books by Maud Hart Lovelace, even though Wendy McClure writes

"I don't have a sister, but for a time, while growing up, I had Laura Ingalls... Plenty of [books] offered surrogate sisterhood through their chacters, but none filled the need the way the Little House books did. I enjoyed Little Women, but the March sisters were a self contained bunch, the four of them so chummy together that I could only be an onlooker at their attic plays and Christmas mornings. Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables was a little more solitary, but she seemed awfully needy. I loved that Laura World was full of wide open spaces that expressed the sort of not-alone lonesomeness that I often felt. One frontier seemed to stand for another."

Right on, sister.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Day in the Library Life

Well, perhaps a day in the library life is not exactly like the video above. But it has a lot of the elements...bookdrop, Information Desk, customers needing assistance.

Recently the staff at my library kept track of the kinds of questions we were asked during the average day. For instance:

--Library cards: We created 10 new customer records! We also answered questions like "The machine says my card is invalid, why is that?" [Most of the time, the card has expired or your record is open in 2 locations, such as check-in & check-out.]

--Location, location, location: a good deal of the library day involves helping people find things, as you might imagine-the restrooms, the holdshelves, the book return, the DVDs, the study rooms. We also might get questions like "How are the holdshelves organized?" [Alphabetically, by the customer's last name.]

--Reference: In an average day, we might get asked (in person or by phone) for book recommendations, help placing holds, help renewing items, to print a document off a USB drive, how to download books, & for help on the computer (ranging from "I can't get on the internet" to "Can you help me create a resume?").

In addition to the basic reference questions, we might get something a little out of the ordinary, such as:

  • "How many hits on Electrical Sensitivity?" (Google site hits)

  • "What sounds do horses make & what are the names of those sounds?"

  • "I need a book about Joan of Arc. Not a novel. Not what she might have done."

  • "Do you have any books about maneaters?"

  • "Do you have any books about parkour?"

  • "What were Ancient Egyptian cosmetics made of?"

  • "I just moved to New Mexico. Can you tell me information about New Mexico counties, county seats, & general New Mexico demographics?"

  • "I'm teaching an editing class-can you recommend some badly written books?"

The great thing about working in the library is you never know what kind of people, questions, & situations you'll run across in a day. Some days you get a hard reference question, & you end up researching online & in books for quite some time. Some days you find yourself tied to the public computers-either there are lots customers needing assistance, or something is wrong with the system. Other days, you end up helping little kids find picture books, or there's an interesting program going on that you get to look in on, or a customer introduces you to something cool (a book or movie, perhaps) that you hadn't heard of before.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Featured Author: Steve Hockensmith

(Cowboys + Mystery Fiction) x (Zombies + Romance Fiction) = What Next?

Author Steve Hockensmith is making a name for himself with entertaining, genre-blending fiction series.

First in the saddle is the Holmes on the Range series, cowboy mysteries set in the 1890s. Cowboy brothers Otto “Big Red” Amlingmeyer and Gustav “Old Red” Amlingmeyer are just two more cowhands drifting between jobs, until the fateful night when they read something new around the campfire: a Sherlock Holmes story. Old Red finds a purpose in life, starts "detectiving" (with Big Red as his Watson), and their lives will never be the same as they pursue mysteries amid stampedes, rustlers, Holmes-hating English aristocrats and a cannibal named “Hungry Bob.”

The series follows their adventures as they seek to mix cowboy wisdom with Holmes's methods in a time and place where justice was often swift, sometimes arbitrary, and most folks just didn't have a clue what a clue was.

  • Holmes on the Range (2006)

  • On the Wrong Track (2007)

  • The Black Dove (2008)

  • The Crack in the Lens (2009)

  • World's Greatest Sleuth (2011)

  • To see how other authors are working with Arthur Conan Doyle's legacy, visit the Sherlock Holmes Universe LibGuide.

    Hockensmith went another direction in 2010, proving himself a master of the mashup (a current term for pastiches that blend several genres) with the release of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls, the followup prequel to 2009's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by "Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith." Both titles were New York Times bestsellers.

    His next installment in these monstrous adaptations of a classic is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After, wherein the new Mrs. Darcy is faced with the problem of having to deal with husband Fitzwilliam being bitten by an "unmentionable." This third book promises to be as popular as the first two. Visit Steve Hockensmith's website for information on these works and what mashups he might be tackling next.

    See what other (non-monstrous) authors are doing in the Jane Austen Universe.

    More monstrous Jane Austen mashups:

    Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance -- now with ultraviolent zombie mayhem! by "Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith"

    Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by "Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters"

    Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange

    Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford -- featuring Jane Austen herself as a deathless bookstore owner!

    Friday, April 1, 2011

    Celebrate National Poetry Month!

    In her poem, “A Word with You”, Elizabeth Bishop observes that “Bright objects hypnotize the mind.” When our glittery public discourse becomes addled or trivial or shrill, it’s a relief to spend time under the spell of well placed words, genuine feelings, and vivid images. Welcome to National Poetry Month, our annual respite and reminder to share and celebrate the uniquely human art of poetry!

    Poems are not puzzles to solve or riddles to answer. Each poem combines words, images, and emotions, all deployed at maximum power, designed to reveal a moment and reverberate beyond it. A good poem articulates something its reader hasn’t been able to express. Some of the pleasure of reading poetry is the relief of this discovery: someone has said what, before we found this poem, we weren’t able to say ourselves.

    The ABC Libraries Poetry Page offers many opportunities for both readers and writers to play among the poems, and as always, we have books! I highly recommend:

    --Gwendolyn Brooks’s Selected Poems: The poet who brought you “We Real Cool” does the most amazing things with words.

    --Garrison Keillor’s compilations Good Poems and Good Poems for Hard Times. Keillor’s collections mix wonderful contemporary poems with wonderfully familiar poems from centuries past. Either is a great introductory anthology for the reluctant poetry reader.

    --Ron Koertge’s The Brimstone Journals: this story-in-poems for young adults builds suspense as high school students react to potentially explosive pressures in their lives.

    The following titles can be found in the children’s collection, but I recommend them for adults, too. There are delightful poems in all of these for adults and kids to share:

    --Tomie dePaola’s Book of Poems: dePaola’s illustrations complement the selections beautifully.

    --A Child’s Anthology of Poetry, edited by Elizabeth Hague Sword and Virginia McCarthy: the scope and variety of the poems in this collection keep me coming back to it again and again.

    and finally,

    Ogden Nash’s Custard the Dragon is the tale of a cowardly dragon. Or is it? Seriously silly.

    If you’re already a poetry fan, April is your month to wallow in what you love. If you’re tentative about poetry, it’s a chance to explore, to find a poet or a poem that speaks to you, that you can return to again and again when you need some good company. Also check out our Poetry Month LibGuide for tips on writing poetry, poetry events @ your library, & more!

    Written by Eileen O'Connell of the San Pedro Library staff.