Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Stephen King Universe: A Guide (Part 3)

In the last post of this series (you can find the first two posts here and here), I wanted to talk about Stephen King books that aren't necessarily related to The Dark Tower, but are connected to other Stephen King books. As always, this isn't a comprehensive list.

Note: This post may include spoilers.

Let's start with IT, because it's connected to several novels.

IT and Dreamcatcher: In Dreamcatcher, there's a plaque that mentions The Losers' Club and main characters, Beverly, Bill, Mike, Richie, Stan, Eddie, and Ben, all from IT. This plaque also mentions Pennywise, the clown from IT.

IT and 11/22/63: Beverly and Richie from IT make an appearance in 11/22/63.

IT and Christine: In IT, the ghost car Belch Huggins drives when he picks up Henry Bowers is Christine.

IT and Misery: Eddie Kaspbrak's mom and Paul Sheldon's family were neighbors.

Misery is also connected to another book, The Shining. In Misery, Annie Wilkes mentions a man burning down the Overlook Hotel; she's referring to Jack Torrance.

IT and The Dead Zone: In a dinner scene in IT, The Losers talk about Frank Dodd, a character in The Dead Zone.

Speaking of The Dead Zone, it's connected to Cujo, which is also connected to other novels. Cujo and The Dead Zone are connected by Frank Dodd, who is mentioned in Cujo. George Bannerman is also a character in both novels.

Cujo is also connected to Pet Sematary; Jud Crandal, a character in Pet Sematary, mentions Cujo. Pet Sematary is connected to Insomnia, as well; Atropos, a character in Insomnia, has a shoe that belonged to Gage Creed, a character in Pet Sematary.

Cujo has two additional connections, one to a novel, and one to a novella. Cujo is connected to Needful Things and The Body (found in Different Seasons) by the character Evelyn Chambers, who is present in all three works. In addition, Needful Things and The Body share a second character, Ace Merrill.

Needful Things is connected to The Dark Half; Alan Pangborn is the sheriff in both novels.

Last, there are some novels that have smaller connections, to only one or two other novels at the most. The first is Dolores Claiborne and Gerald's Game. The two books were going to be part of a larger work, titled In the Path of the Eclipse. The eclipse in Dolores Claiborne is mentioned in Gerald's Game, and the main characters in each story (Dolores Claiborne and Jessie) have a psychic connection, allowing them to share visions.

The second is Firestarter, The Mist, and The Tommyknockers, which are connected by an organization called The Shop, that plays a large role in each story.

Know of any other connections? Tell us what they are in the comments!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Girls to the Front: Female Music Critics writing songs about women is practically the definition of rock 'n' roll. And as a woman, as a music critic, as someone who lives and dies for music, there is a rift within, a struggle of how much deference you can afford, and how much you are willing to ignore what happens in these songs simply because you like the music.
~Jessica Hopper, "Emo: Where the Girls Aren't"

We've always had an interest in music. As teenagers, we read Rolling Stone and Spin; we've checked out Mojo's playlists and NME's Albums of the Year; we pay for Spotify, stream Pandora (and Freegal, with our valid library card), read reviews on Pitchfork, watch Tiny Desk Concerts on NPR. We still want the albums so we can read the liner notes. We remember when MTV played videos. And, while now that we're older and probably never going to make it to Coachella or Glastonbury (though we've watched movies about both, and we've been to SXSW twice), we'd still consider staying up late on a "school night" if there's a good show in town, and driving to Denver to to catch Florence & the Machine this May is a distinct possibility.

So, of course we've heard about music journalists like Lester Bangs, Greil Marcus, Peter Guralnick, Stanley Crouch, Nat Hentoff, Chuck Klosterman, Rob Sheffield, Alex Ross, Robert Christgau, and Legs McNeil. A keyword search of "Music history and criticism" in the catalog (to search by subject you would need to add a specific era, music, instrument, or location, such as "Rock music -- California, Southern -- History and criticism", "Musicals -- United States -- History and criticism", or "Piano music -- History and criticism") brings up 674 titles - in the first 3 pages, there are 8 books written by women; in the next three pages, there are only 3. Yet there are plenty of female music journalists out there, including Stacey Anderson, Daphne Carr, Dream Hampton, Nekesa Mumbi Moody, Julie Burchill, and others.

We've been thinking about this a lot, since we recently read two books by female rock critics Ellen Willis and Jessica Hopper. Ellen Willis was, notably, the first popular music critic for The New Yorker, between 1968 and 1975, though she wore many other hats; until last year, Jessica Hopper was a senior editor for the Pitchfork website and editor in chief of the print quarterly The Pitchfork Review.

When the chasm of human experience feels unbridgeable, and the past is keeping you like the stocks, and there is no absolution to be had, no forgiveness to salve you, and the world feels too much in its infinite newness and it's midnight and people are screaming and feeding babies ranch-flavor chicken fingers from a bucket, when all you see is difference and a long string of your own unqualified failures, there is Van singing, "Lay me be born again." There is so much  wanting in "Astral Weeks." but it's not desperation, it's all vessel; it's faith enough to cover us all.

Whether Jessica Hopper is talking about Van Morrison, Lana del Rey, Bruce Springsteen, Superchunk, or Kendrick Lamar, you will want to listen to their music to feel the emotions her writing evokes; trips to Coachella, L.A.'s all-ages venue The Smell, and Michael Jackson's hometown after his death will move and entertain you; "How Selling Out Saved Indie Rock" showed us how the music industry works today.  The pieces in Hopper's First Collection range from "Emo: Where the Girls Aren't" for Punk Planet in 2003 to "You Will Ache Like I Ache: The Oral History of Hole's Live Through This" for Spin in April 2014, and are split into sections such as "Real/Fake", "Nostalgia", and "Bad Reviews". At 201 pages, it's a slender tome, and one we highly recommend.

Ellen Willis' book was a bit of a harder sell for us, probably because (the horror!) we are not fans of Bob Dylan or the Rolling Stones, and both these artists get extensive coverage by Willis. Her book, just a bit longer than Hopper's, is separated into sections such as "The Adoring Fan", "The Navigator", and "The Sixties Child", gathered by content rather than chronology. Most are short pieces, although the collection includes the 20-page essay on Bob Dylan that got Willis noticed by the New Yorker in the first place. Willis' Rock, Etc. columns for that magazine make up the bulk of the collection.

Willis' voice is serious and scholarly for the most part; there is a review of Dylan's Love and Theft that describes the tensions in his music as "never...about electric versus acoustic but about personal and idiosyncratic versus collective and generic; topical and profane versus primordial and sacred; transcendence as excess versus transcendence as purgation..." Yet, in "The Decade in Rock Lyrics", she wittily uses lyrics from some of the decade's most popular tunes to sum up its history on topics like celebrities, style, the Battle of the Sexes, and economics; and the pictures of Willis in the book include one of her in typical music nerd posture, in front of a large vinyl collection, plugged into giant headphones and taking notes on her latest record, and one of her wearing a T-shirt that says "Anarchy in Queens". Interestingly, having just recently read a lot of adulation of David Bowie in the press since his death, Out of the Vinyl Deeps contains an essay about "Bowie's Limitations", written in 1972. There are also essays about Janis Joplin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Grand Funk Railroad, and others.

The library catalog features more of Willis' essays in The Essential Ellen Willis, which is a broader collection of her writings. These essays are "...both deeply engaged with the times in which they were first published and yet remain fresh and relevant amid today's seemingly intractable political and cultural battles". There are a few pieces on Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin, but far more about politics and women's rights. Like Out of the Vinyl Deeps, this collection was edited posthumously by Willis' daughter, Nona Willis Aronowitz.

We hope these books will pique your interest in reading music journalism by female writers, or perhaps to start writing your own. In focusing on female critics, we are trying to do for their work what Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill did for female audience members too put off by all the all-male mosh pit to approach the stage when she would tell the crowd,“All girls to the front! I’m not kidding. All girls to the front. All the boys be cool, for once in your lives. Go back! Back! Back!” [quoted in the film The Punk Singer] 


The World Needs Female Rock Critics [New Yorker]

33 Women Music Critics You Need to Read [Flavorwire]

The Good Listener: How Do You Break Into Music Journalism? [NPR]

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Picture Books are Not Just for Kids! Part 1

As much as I like books for people my age (as in grown ups), I spend the most time reading children's picture books.  I would never have realized  how much I love them if I hadn't begun doing preschool storytime here at the library almost two years ago.  At first it was daunting to have to select books to read.  How was I supposed to know what 3 to 5 year olds like?  And how could I find books that I liked too?  How could I find 4 or 5 good ones each week?  Who even knows how many children's books I've read since those questions plagued me, but I've learned a lot.

Over time, I have answered for myself the question of finding books that I enjoy just as much as the kids do, and here's the answer: it's no good to read books that I don't like myself.  If I start reading one that I'm not excited about to a group, then I start out questioning whether they like it (which never feels good!), and on top of that, I swear they can smell my lack of enthusiasm.  However, if I start out with a book I enjoy, it's easier to get the kids excited about it because my excitement is also contagious.  If they love it, I love it even more, and I will probably use it again in a few months.  It is so satisfying to see children really enjoy a book to the point of engaging with it - pointing excitedly at the pictures (and/or grabbing at them), gleefully shouting out what they think will happen next, rattling off question after question. 

By now I have a hefty list of favorite picture books that I have begun to recycle.  These favorites make the core of my storytime themes, and to fill in the gaps, I try out new ones that I've found.  In this series, I want to share some of these favorite picture books.  And trust me, these books are not just for kids - there is so much entertainment to be enjoyed in reading children's books, and I highly recommend the practice!  If I didn't have to read them for work, I would definitely be reading them for pleasure.

Camp Rex, Tea Rex, and Sea Rex by Molly Idle
Why I love them: Without the illustrations, the text of these books would be politely dry manuals for camping, tea time, and going to the beach.  With the illustrations, the story becomes cartoonishly amusing, the text reading "If the surf is up, you can catch a few waves..." and the corresponding illustration showing a T-Rex jumping into the sea and causing a big tidal wave to splash over the beach and the terrified character on it.  The illustrations are beautifully stylized with a uniquely whimsical flair, and as I hope I've demonstrated, much more story is told through the illustrations than the text.  These are the kinds of books (which I don't usually like, by the way) that still have a story with a beginning, middle, and end, but don't really have a plot to move along or a problem to solve.  My favorite of these three is probably Sea Rex - as a swimmer and beach-lover, I might be biased!
Note: You may also love Idle's Flora and the Penguin, and Flora and the Flamingo, a Caldecott winner. 

Tyrannosaurus Drip by Julia Donaldson
Why I love it: Dinosaurs may be my favorite subject for picture books, and kids almost universally adore them as well.  This one is authored by Julia Donaldson who writes fantastic picture book stories (check out Donaldson's other books).  I could read it over and over (like how your kid wants to read the same book every night three times before bed?  I hear that's pretty normal.) because it's everything a picture book should be - it rhymes cleverly, the villainous t-rex family is comically ugly, the illustrations are gorgeous with funny details and a unique color palette, and the story has a cheer-worthy ending that makes up for all of the protagonist duckbill dinosaur's sufferings that led up to it.

I'll stop there today, but I have enough more that I don't know how many posts I will fill before I finish.  Meanwhile, do you have any picture books you are in love with?  I would love to hear, so please share in the comments below!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Art of New Mexico

There's a thriving art scene here in New Mexico. Just here in Albuquerque, you could use a museum discovery pass to to to the Albuquerque Museum (until March 15 - we highly recommend the New Territories exhibit) or the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center; there's the Albuquerque ARTScrawl on the First Friday of the month; you can visit creative centers like the Harwood Art Center, 516 Arts, and OFFCenter Community Arts Project for exhibits, workshops, and more. As the weather warms up, there will be more opportunities to visit open-air markets and art and craft shows, here in Albuquerque and also in Santa Fe, Taos, and beyond. But all that is the tip of the iceberg!

We'd like to brag a little bit about art from New Mexico using books from the library catalog. Here's a list of some of our latest acquisitions.

A Contested Art: Modernism and Mestizaje in New Mexico by Stephanie Lewthwaite

Visualizing Albuquerque: Art of Central New Mexico by Joseph Traugott ; edited by Dawn Hall 

A Place in the Sun: The Southwest Paintings of Walter Ufer and E. Martin Hennings edited by Thomas Brent Smith 

Expressing New Mexico: Nuevomexicano Creativity, Ritual, and Memory edited by Phillip B. Gonzales 

Artists of New Mexico Traditions: The National Heritage Fellows by Michael Pettit 

Detonography: The Explosive Art of Evelyn Rosenberg by Evelyn Rosenberg  

New Mexico Art Through Time: Prehistory to the Present  by Joseph Traugott 

The Life and Art of Tony Da by Charles S. King and Richard L. Spivey

Thursday, February 18, 2016

New & Novel: Short Stories

A short story writer today is almost like a mythical unicorn, an anomaly, an artist writing for the love of a fledgling form of writing. Short stories that are consumed today by large masses usually only appear in The New Yorker, one of the only major outlets that still publishes short stories for fairly substantial amounts of money. Getting a short story published in the most lauded magazine in America is much harder than getting a novel published.

Short stories bring more pressure, because like poets, each paragraph, sentence, and word is more important than they would be inside a large novel. Short stories are precise with their delivery, they must capture the attention of the reader extraordinarily quickly, and tell a full tale from beginning to end in roughly a half hour of reading. Short stories will likely never be as widely read as novels, but they do matter to those who are paying attention. 
~Steven Petite, "Why Short Stories Matter Now More Than Ever"

We are great fans of short stories here at the blog, and happy to bring you a list of some new and novel collections. What we've cherry-picked from the library catalog includes: new stories by Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club), Helen Oyeyemi (Mr. Fox), Luis Alberto Urrea (The Hummingbird's Daughter) and Joyce Carol Oates; stories by Stefan Zweig, whose memoir inspired Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel; Ayelet Tsabari, whose stories have been called "[r]eminiscent of the early work of Jhumpa Lahiri"; Regina Ullman, whose stories have never before appeared in English but whose work was admired by Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, and Rainer Maria Rilke; stories by Helen Ellis that are part of the "resurgence of the housewife novel"; and more!

Why not take a short story collection out for a spin? Unlike a novel, where you have to decide how many pages to read before you decide whether or not you like it enough to keep reading it, you only have to give a couple of stories a whirl, and you will not have to wait to find out if the ending is disappointing.

Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War edited by Heather Webb

In the Land of Armadillos: Stories by Helen Maryles Shankman

City Beasts Fourteen Stories of Uninvited Wildlife by Mark Kurlansky [eBook]

Refund: Stories by Karen E. Bender 

Fantastic Night Tales of Longing and Liberation by Stefan Zweig [eBook] 

Me and My Daddy Listen to Bob Marley: Novellas and Stories by Ann Pancake 

The Country Road: Stories by Regina Ullmann; translated from the German by Kurt Beals 

The Queen's Caprice: Stories by Jean Echenoz; translated by Linda Coverdale 

Make Something Up: Stories You Can't Unread by Chuck Palahniuk [also eBook, eAudio, book on CD]

The American Lover by Rose Tremain 

American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis 

Louisa Meets Bear by Lisa Gornick

The Water Museum : Stories by Luis Alberto Urrea  

Oye What I'm Gonna Tell You: Stories by Cecilia Rodríguez Milanés 

England: And Other Stories by Graham Swift [also eBook] 

Gutshot: Stories by Amelia Gray [also eBook]

Also, if nothing here grabs you, try checking out our Poetry & Short Story Reference Center eResource! It's free with your library card, providing a historically rich collection of hundreds of thousands of classic and contemporary poems, as well as short stories, biographies, and authoritative essays on such topics as poetic forms, movements, and techniques—including contemporary content from the finest publishers.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

abcreads recommends: The Rook by Daniel O'Malley

Checquy statistics indicate that 15 percent of all men in hats are concealing horns.
~Daniel O'Malley, The Rook

It opens with a letter, and the letter begins: "Dear You, The body you are wearing used to be mine." Myfanwy Thomas finds the letter in her pocket when she wakes up, bruised and beaten and with dead bodies wearing latex gloves all around her, in a London park. Of course, she doesn't know that she is called, or rather, that the body she inhabiting is called, Myfanwy Thomas until she reads the letter (which tells her pronounce her first name to rhyme with Tiffany, rather than the traditional Welsh pronunciation). Her memory has been wiped clean; she is beginning from scratch. The letter was in her pocket, addressed "To You"; there is another, marked "2", that continues telling her the story of Myfanwy.

The novel is not epistolary, but letters from her former self (and a large purple binder) play a big part in telling her story. The adventure begins with a bank lockbox and a choice, and Myfanwy chooses to rejoin her body's former life as a Rook, a high-level operative in the Checquy (pronounced Sheck-Eh) Group - which is, as the book cover describes it, "Her Majesty's Supernatural Secret Service". For centuries they have protected the world from sentient fungus, the Sirens of the Mediterranean Sea, fleshcrafters (those who radically alter the properties of the human body), and the like. The purple binder is full of information about the Checquy, and about her work there. Myfanwy is literally learning her job, and how to wrangle with her own supernatural ability, as she goes along.

And what a job! Myfanwy has a large office, a secretary, an executive assistant named Ingrid, and an established reputation for being an extremely capable, but timid, administrator waiting for her. A day's work includes a woman who coughs up ectoplasm that turns into the animals that chase people; dreams of Victorian ladies who offer her afternoon tea and interrogate her; a co-worker who is four bodies with a hive mind; a secret training facility that turns children into fighters; and the knowledge that there is a traitorous conspiracy to unravel before Myfanwy's memory is taken again...or worse. This is all part of the wild ride that is The Rook.

Intrigued? Read the first 4 chapters of The Rook, watch a book trailer, and more at The Rook Files, the website of author Daniel O'Malley. A sequel to The Rook, Stilleto, will be published in June 2016. And watch for The Rook to premiere on Hulu as a television show! We can hardly wait!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Stephen King Universe: A Guide (Part 2)

In Part One of this series, I talked about the Stephen King novels that are connected to his Dark Tower series. Today, I'm focusing on the connections among those novels. Again, this is not necessarily a complete list; the connections in Stephen King novels are many and complex.

Insomnia and IT -- Both novels take place in Derry, Maine

Black House and The Talisman -- Black House is the sequel to The Talisman.

Desperation and The Regulators -- Desperation and The Regulators are companion novels. The characters in Desperation are twinners of the characters in The Regulators.

and Rose Madder -- Cynthia Smith, a character in Desperation, is also a character in
Rose Madder. Other characters from Rose Madder are also mentioned in Desperation.

Insomnia and Rose Madder -- A character in Rose Madder, Anna Stevenson, has a framed photo of Susan Day in her office. Susan Day is a character in Insomnia.

The Shining and The Talisman -- In The Talisman, a character named George Hatfield is a student at the Thayer School. In The Shining, Jack Torrance cuts George Hatfield from the debate team. It might be the same George Hatfield from The Talisman.

IT and The Shining -- Dick Halloran, a main character in The Shining, is mentioned in IT. (Halloran served in the military with the father of a main character in IT, Mike Hanlon.)

The Stand, The Eyes of the Dragon, Hearts in Atlantis, and 'Salem's Lot -- Randall Flagg is a character in each of these books.

In the last post of this series, I'll talk about other connections in Stephen King novels--ones that don't relate to The Dark Tower series.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Brilliant Brontes: Wuthering Heights Revisited

Anne Bronte (1820-1849), Emily Bronte (Thornton, 1818 - Haworth, 1848) and Charlotte Bronte (Thornton, 1816 - Haworth, 1855), English writers, Oil on canvas by Patrick Branwell Bronte (1817-1848), ca 1834. Photograph. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 19 Dec 2015.

Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte's only novel, published in 1847 under the pen name Ellis Bell, is a shock to the system, no matter which state of life you find yourself reading, or re-reading it. I first read this masterpiece when I was a teenager and was transfixed by what I considered an enviable, riveting love story. Re-reading it in midlife, I am able to be able to see how this is also about literally every character being consumed with revenge, trauma, and violence, or gravely impacted by the chaos. Tuberculosis and death also permeate Wuthering Heights, claiming multiple characters. From a 21st century recovery and self-help perspective, Wuthering Heights is also rife with alcoholism and a whole DSM-IV-TR manual of personality and mood disorders.

Set in the 18th century, doomed lovers Catherine Earnshaw Linton and Heathcliff, grow up together on the Yorkshire moors and within the confines of the isolated Wuthering Heights farm. Their story is told from the perspective of faithful servant Ellen "Nelly" Dean, to the current tenant of Thrushcross Grange, the transfixed Mr. Lockwood, our first window, into this tense Gothic standoff of profoundly wounded characters.

UK, West Yorkshire, Aerial view of moorland at Haworth Aerial view of the moorland at Haworth - West Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom Credit De Agostini / W. Buss / Universal Images Group  Rights Managed / For Educational Use Only

At the center of Wuthering Heights is the mysterious, nameless, gypsy orphan Mr. Earnshaw adopts and renames Heathcliff. The new member of the family is initially hated by Mr. Earnshaw's wife and two children Hindley and Catherine, but Mr. Earnshaw loves Heathcliff even more than his own son Hindley. Heathcliff'Gypsy origins are part of why he is treated with such discrimination and hostility. After Earnshaw's death, Heathcliff is relegated from a son to servant by the jealous Hindley. Catherine foolishly marries pampered neighbor Edgar Linton, despite her deep love and attachment to Heathcliff, who flees Wuthering Heights in a snarl of searing emotional pain and abandonment.

Wuthering Heights, colour lithograph, Phillips, Edwin (20th Century) Credit
Private Collection / Look and Learn / Bridgeman Images

Emily Bronte's impassioned words from her tormented characters are mini masterpieces strewn throughout the narrative. On the night Heathcliff runs away, Cathy agonizes to Nelly Dean, "I've no more business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in heaven and if the wicked man in there had not brought Heathcliff so low I shouldn't have thought of it. It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now so he shall never know how I love him and that not because he's handsome, Nelly, but because he's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of his and mine are the same and Linton's is as different as a moonbeam from lightning or frost from fire.”

Illustration for 'Wuthering Heights' by Emily Bronte - Valentine Hugo - French Artist - Bibliotheque des Arts Decoratifs, Paris, France - LITERATURE - 1946 - colour lithograph

As a middle aged reader, I remain vexed with Catherine Earnshaw. Given the time this character lives in, her only immediate hope for escaping the most dysfunctional of families is through an advantageous marriage to the lukewarm, prosperous Edgar. Catherine whines to Nelly that she and Heathcliff would be reduced to begging in the street and sells Heathcliff's abilities short, even to the point of thinking that Edgar would be willing to provide for them both. It is possible to see Catherine as backed into a corner or a warped personality. Her marriage to Edgar is seen as a "betrayal of the heart" by Heathcliff. Even Nelly, who raised Catherine, grows exasperated with her selfishness and mood swings.

When a wealthy, successful Heathcliff returns years later, he exacts merciless revenge on the Earnshaws and Lintons, through dispossessing the families and marrying Edgar's sister Isabella Linton. Catherine succumbs to a nervous breakdown, gives birth to a premature daughter, and dies.

Heathcliff's malediction is the crown jewel of Gothic romance: "'May she wake in torment!' he cried, with frightful vehemence, stamping his foot, and groaning in a sudden paroxysm of ungovernable passion. 'Why, she's a liar to the end! Where is she? Not THERE - not in heaven - not perished - where? Oh! you said you cared nothing for my sufferings! And I pray one prayer - I repeat it till my tongue stiffens - Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living; you said I killed you - haunt me, then! The murdered DO haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts HAVE wandered on earth. Be with me always - take any form - drive me mad! Only DO not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I CANNOT live without my life! I CANNOT live without my soul!'

Heathcliff is portrayed as a veritable ghoul at the height of his deranged obsession with Catherine. He trespasses into her sick room and funeral viewing, ripping a lock of her husband's hair out of her locket and replacing it with his own. When the opportunity arises, during the digging of her husband Edgar's grave, which happens several years after her death, he bribes the sexton to open her coffin, in order to get a glimpse of his long dead beloved.

Heathcliff's festering bitterness carries into the second generation of children, through abuse, forced marriage, and servitude. Violence erupts throughout the book. The orphaned Hareton, who loses his father Hindley to alcoholism, becomes a frightening, foul-mouthed child who hangs puppies from the back of a chair. In modern terms, we'd be contending with a budding serial killer. Heathcliff brutalizes his wife Isabelle, to the point that she escapes to London with their child Linton, whose tubercular condition is exacerbated by his father's cruelty and manipulations when he's unfortunate enough to be returned to Heathcliff after her death.

Edgar's daughter Catherine, Hindley's son Hareton, and Isabelle's son Linton become captives of Wuthering Heights. The warped and sniveling Linton is dispatched by an especially bloody case of tuberculosis, while Catherine and Hareton grow to love and support each other. Heathcliff reacts to this development, by becoming increasingly obsessed with his lost love, to the extent that he ceases to eat, speaks incessantly to her ghost, and perishes after a long night hallucinating and walking on the moors.

In one of Heathcliff's final speeches, his response to Nelly's query about his state of mind is laid bare: "Afraid? No!’ he replied. ‘I have neither a fear, nor a presentiment, nor a hope of death. Why should I? With my hard constitution and temperate mode of living, and unperilous occupations, I ought to, and probably shall, remain above ground till there is scarcely a black hair on my head. And yet I cannot continue in this condition! I have to remind myself to breathe—almost to remind my heart to beat! And it is like bending back a stiff spring: it is by compulsion that I do the slightest act not prompted by one thought; and by compulsion that I notice anything alive or dead, which is not associated with one universal idea. I have a single wish, and my whole being and faculties are yearning to attain it. They have yearned towards it so long, and so unwaveringly, that I’m convinced it will be reached—and soon—because it has devoured my existence: I am swallowed up in the anticipation of its fulfilment. My confessions have not relieved me; but they may account for some otherwise unaccountable phases of humour which I show. O God! It is a long fight; I wish it were over!"

The only hopeful note involves the two survivors, Hareton and Catherine inheriting Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, and planning to marry on the following New Year’s Day. After Nelly concludes her story, Lockwood visits the graves of Catherine and Heathcliff. This particle of hope was lost on scandalized Victorian readers. One critic from the Eclectic Review declared Wuthering Heights to be "one of the most repellant books we ever read". Readers were perplexed as to how a curate's daughter could write such a haunting and disturbing book.

After Emily's death, her sister Charlotte wrote an introduction for Wuthering Heights that half-apologized for its feral nature. Charlotte wrote: "Under an unsophisticated culture, inartificial tastes, and an unpretending outside, lay a secret power and fire that might have informed the brain and kindled the veins of a hero; but she had no worldly wisdom; her powers were unadapted to the practical business of life. An interpreter ought always to have stood between her and the world."

Of all the Bronte sisters, Emily is my favorite, the one I want to live vicariously through, at least on my most pensively introverted days. She was deeply sensitive, but also known to be extremely anti-social and rough. Her vocabulary and writing powers are sublime. Other than her family and animals, she wasn't known to have friends. Whatever correspondence she left behind, doesn't offer any insight into the inner workings of her brilliant mind. Emily Bronte is an enigma to biographers, but I believe that Wuthering Heights and her poetry are the clearest statements about a writer who used formidable imagination and her love of nature to express something that freed her from the unimaginative constraints of placid Victorian womanhood.

*This post is part of our year-long Brilliant Brontës challenge! To see more posts, search for the labels "Brontë, challenge" in the blog sidebar.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Big Brother is Watching You

The resources listed below aid in that cause in that they discuss a range of examples of mediated and restricted information exchange. They also reveal that the surveillance state is functioning internationally, as seen in recent revelations that malware is embedded into PC firmware and cell phone SIMs at the point of production and in the revelation of our country’s surveillance of leaders of even “friendly” nations. Most important, these resources show the overlapping uses of mass information collection for corporations and government.
~Jesse A. Lambertson, "Careful, You're Being Watched: Surveillance and Privacy"

Laura Poitras, director of the Edward Snowden documentary Citizenfour, says "People are starting to understand that the devices we carry with us reveal our location, who we're talking to, and all kinds of other information." We already know that Google shows you ads, and that you can edit your settling to "control the ads that are delivered to you"; your Facebook NewsFeed also has ads targeted for your specific interests or demographic, and on January 26th Facebook announced that their Audience Network (FAN) would be expanding. Every time you download a new app for your phone, you give the app permission to access a lot of information from your device, and do you even know what the app is using the data for? Have you heard about the "Google Security Princess"? Her job is try to hack Google, to find flaws in the system before "blackhat" hackers do. There have been so many hacked sites in the last few years, from the Target fiasco of 2014 to the infamous Ashley Madison debacle last year - when you give sites your information, seems like you are always taking a risk.

What are you doing to protect your privacy and secure your information online? How is your password strength? PC World recommends controlling your digital footprint by checking your settings on social media and being careful about what you post; using different identities on different sites; and browsing privately. Also, the library has many items of interest, whether you want to know what the issues are right now or want to find out more about the history of surveillance.

Current titles

I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did: Social Networks and the Death of Privacy by Lori Andrews

Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance by Julia Angwin


How do you feel about surveillance, be it done in the interests of national security or by a corporation? Laura Poitras also says, "There are people who are always going to try to engage in activity that is illegal and they're going to try to subvert surveillance. But everyone should not give up their liberties and rights to privacy because some people are going to [do that]. We shouldn't stop or limit our basic liberties because some people are going to engage in criminal activities." The Pew Research Center has done a study that found "that there are a variety of circumstances under which many Americans would share personal information or permit surveillance in return for getting something of perceived value." Let us know your opinions in the comments.

For more books on this topic, try a subject search of "Privacy, Right of" and "Electronic Surveillance".

Recommended by Library Journal

Aside from listing several technological open-sourced projects built with privacy and anonymity at the core, this site is also a reference for research related to Internet freedom.