Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Novels Inspired by Works of Art & Artists

Well, I'm trying to take a different approach. And there's two things I do: When I go into a gallery, first of all, I go quite fast, and I look at everything, and I pinpoint the ones that make me slow down for some reason or other. I don't even know why they make me slow down, but something pulls me like a magnet and then I ignore all the others, and I just go to that painting. So it's the first thing I do is, I do my own curation. I choose a painting. It might just be one painting in 50. And then the second thing I do is I stand in front of that painting, and I tell myself a story about it.  Why a story? Well, I think that we are wired, our DNA tells us to tell stories. We tell stories all the time about everything, and I think we do it because the world is kind of a crazy, chaotic place, and sometimes stories, we're trying to make sense of the world a little bit, trying to bring some order to it. Why not apply that to our looking at paintings?
~Tracy Chevalier, "Finding the story inside the painting"

We're not fiction writers, but seems like sometimes a writer might need a prompt to get a story started in their head, and why shouldn't that be art? Author Sophia Tobin says they are "natural kindling for each other," and we can only concur. Sometimes it's a specific painting, sometimes a specific artist. Tracy Chevalier used works of art as a prompt for her early novels (most notably Vermeer, but also medieval tapestry); Sarah Dunant, Alexandra Lapierre, and Susan Vreeland also caused a stir with their art-inspired fiction, ranging from Louis Tiffany to Renoir to Artemisia Gentileschi. Sometimes it's not just a fictionalized account of art history, but the art or artist is completely fictional, but the creative sensibility of the writing can be no less inspired or impassioned than the real deal. If you are an art lover - even if you just know what you like - why not pick up some novels inspired by art? Maybe you'll even start looking at what's hanging on your own walls differently.

Inspiration: Edward Hopper

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Inspiration: "a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the art underworld." [library catalog]

Artful by Ali Smith
Inspiration: "Artful began with a series of lectures that Smith gave during her time as a visiting writer at St. Anne’s College. They concern big topics like art, literature, and time, and reference a host of real works, writers, and artists. But these lectures are also embedded within a larger context that gives them a fictional backdrop: the narrator finds herself being visited by the ghost of a lost love. It’s a beautifully jarring touch, bringing together aesthetic discussions with more metaphysical realms, and leaving things in a deeply unpredictable state throughout." [Signature]

I, Mona Lisa by Jeanne Kalogridis
Inspiration: La Gioconda by Leonardo da Vinci 

Dancing for Degas by Kathryn Wagner
Inspiration: Edgar Degas 

Sunflowers by Sheramy Bundrick
Inspiration: Vincent Van Gogh 

Rodin's Lover by Heather Webb
Inspiration: Camille Claudel

My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk
Inspiration: "A vivid, multi-voiced story of 16th-century Istanbul centring around the murder of a miniaturist who is working on a secret book for the sultan. But this is no straightforward murder mystery; Pamuk explores death, love and the nature of Islamic art with immediacy and an awareness of its cultural resonance." [Guardian] 

The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham
Inspiration: Paul Gauguin 

Headlong by Michael Frayn
Inspiration: Bruegel the Elder  

Girl Reading by Katie Ward 
Inspiration: "This debut novel is comprised of seven sections, each based on a separate woman and her portrait." [Guardian]  

Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey 
Inspiration: A portrait of Richard III inspires a hospitalized police detective to investigate the mystery of the princes in the Tower.

The Last Nude by Ellis Avery
Inspiration: Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka

Madame Picasso by Anne Girard
Inspiration: Pablo Picasso's early relationship with Eva Gouel

Saturday, February 25, 2017

A Year of Reading Women Authors

While catching up on some of my internet reading, I stumbled across a blog post Kelly Jensen wrote on Book Riot, in which she talked about how reading books only written by women for a year changed her life. Initially, I wasn't sure how I felt about this idea, but after reading her post and her replies to some of the comments she received, I'm intrigued. For our reading themes, my sister and I read books written by women in January, but now I'm wondering if this is something I could do for a year (or if I even want to do it). I also wondered how my reading already looks in terms of books I've read that were written by men versus books I've read that were written by women. I've never made it a point to read books based on author's gender, but I did assume that I read more books by women, just because I read so much young adult and so much of young adult books are written by women.

So, I took a look at what I read in 2016. I keep track of the books I read using Excel, and what I found was that I read 102 books by 89 female authors (one of those authors is transgendered), and I read 39 books by 25 male authors. I also read one book that was co-authored by a male author and a female author. I was surprised by the number of books I read that were written by men.

Then, I talked to one of my friends about Kelly Jensen's blog post, and the more my friend and I talked and thought about it, the more interested we became in trying it for ourselves. I still haven't decided if I'm going to try reading only women authors for a year, but if I do, I'll need to have a couple exceptions:

  • I'll still read a favorite male writers (Stephen King and Ted Kooser)
  • I'll still read books written by men if the books are work-related (which would primarily be advanced reader copies, but also middle grade fiction and non-fiction that I might want to booktalk during class visits and outreach events)
If I want to try reading only women authors, I'll need to push myself out of my comfort zones and not just read young adult fiction (which I've been more selective about anyway). I can already think of several books I'd want to read for this that I probably wouldn't read otherwise, like Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison, How to be a Woman,  and Eat, Pray, Love. I can't help but feel that if I don't read out of my comfort zone during an experiment like this, then there's no reason for me to try it.

What are your thoughts on this? Would you ever limit your reading in this way? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Blunt, Sarcastic, Inappropriate: A Reading List Suggested by the Works of Carrie Fisher

There were too many painful losses to count in 2016, and the death of Carrie Fisher was among the most painful for me. I’ve never seen any of the Star Wars movies–-I never got around to it as a kid and now it’s just fun to watch people’s horrified reactions when I tell them I’ve never seen the iconic films. I read her memoir, Wishful Drinking, the year I got sober. I related to Fisher on many levels–-as a recovering alcoholic, as a person who has learned not to be ashamed of her depression, as someone who is really and truly obsessed with her dog, and as a woman who has always found humor in the blunt, the sarcastic, and the inappropriate. So inspired not just by Wishful Drinking but her entire life, here are 10 non-fiction books I think the Great Carrie Fisher, Our Misfit Queen, would appreciate. 
~Katie MacBride, "A Non-Fiction Reading List In Honor of Carrie Fisher"

To many, Carrie Fisher was first and foremost an actress and Hollywood royalty. To others, like us, Carrie Fisher might have first come to our attention as Princess Leia, but we'd come to think of her as an engaging writer with a dry wit who'd penned some scathing social commentary based on her own life experiences. You can find most of her books, fiction and non-fiction, in the library catalog. She was also  a screenwriter and script doctor. But she always had a distinctive point of view.

In everything she wrote, she was a character. Our eResource NoveList describes Carrie Fisher thusly:
In both fiction and memoir, Carrie Fisher captivates readers with candid, insightful, funny revelations about the difficulties of celebrity life. Her humor ranges from amusing to darkly humorous as she relates characters' (and her own) struggles with relationships, addictions, and mental health. Even in the worst situations there is bittersweet emotion, a sense of thrill in survival by being not quite sane. Fisher's personal voice is witty, as is that of her heroines who are often sarcastic or sassy. Though drawn from her real life, scenes often resemble high-drama.
When she was cruelly taken from us too soon in December, we lost a voice that was "funny and sharp and witty even as she was laying her soul wide open," a generous soul who was also "a fervent activist who spoke openly about her own struggles with mental health and addiction." Inspired by the Katie MacBride reading list quoted above, we've tried to find other writings that echo some part of her voice, the wry humor in the face of adversity, the warts-and-all acceptance of family, negotiating celebrity, a willingness to share her highs and especially her lows with the world, the unflinching courage to speak truth to power (as Tavis Smiley explains it, "comforting the afflicted, and afflicting the comfortable"). Can you think of other titles? Let us know in the comments!

STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983) - FISHER, CARRIE; HAMILL, MARK. Photography. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016.
quest.eb.com/search/144_1475199/1/144_1475199/cite. Accessed 8 Feb 2017.
Notes From the Underwire: Adventures From My Awkward and Lovely Life by Quinn Cummings

Fisher herself, meanwhile, would like it to be reported that she was drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra. The joint public memorial for Carrie and her mother, Debbie Reynolds, will be in Los Angeles on March 25th. 

Debbie, Todd & Carrie. Photographer. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016.
quest.eb.com/search/115_2842483/1/115_2842483/cite. Accessed 8 Feb 2017.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

California Cooking

We recently read Ten Restaurants That Changed America, a fascinating study of how American foods, dining habits, and even the role of chefs has changed over time. As you might expect, it had a lengthy section on Alice Waters and San Francisco's Chez Panisse, which touched on topics such as California cuisine versus New American cuisine and what has been called California's "food revolution."

Joyce Goldstein, formerly of Chez Panisse and author of  Inside the California Food Revolution, has this to say about the culinary climate of California in the 1970s:

In California, we decided we would serve things that were in season and local. Restaurants like the French Laundry and Chez Panisse were the first in the country to change the menu every day. We also had self-taught chefs. Everywhere else, people were going to cooking school or working their way up through the ranks. We had a lot of people opening restaurants who had never worked in a restaurant or gone to cooking school. And it was not only chefs who were self-taught. Warren Weber taught himself how to farm organically. Bill Niman learned how to raise animals himself. Laura Chenel taught herself how to make cheese. Steve Sullivan taught himself how to bake bread. We had no rules, and we had an audience to support us. It was an amazing climate. We also had the largest number of women chefs anywhere in the world.

Now, California cuisine is such an accepted idea that you can go on California "culinary adventures" and "culinary retreats." The tastes may have changed a little, statewide, though in 2013 Rick Bayless critiqued San Francisco restaurants for being "all a little bit too alike," and now there are food trucks in the mix; but you can still go to Chez Panisse, and other chefs have embraced "hippie-chic...vegetable-centric...simple ingredients, simply prepared" for their up-and-coming restaurants, and local is still a watchword.

California cuisine has had such an impact that it even has its own subject in the library catalog - "Cooking, American -- California style." We've compiled a list of books, mostly from that subject search, to represent California cuisine for you.

This is Camino by Russell Moore + Allison Hopelain with Chris Colin and Maria Zizka

Gjelina: Cooking From Venice, California by Travis Lett 

Brown Sugar Kitchen: New-Style, Down-Home Recipes From Sweet West Oakland by Tanya Holland with Jan Newberry 

Bar Tartine: Techniques & Recipes by Nicolaus Balla and Cortney Burns  

A New Napa Cuisine by Christopher Kostow  

Manresa: An Edible Reflection by David Kinch with Christine Muhlke  

Everything I Want To Eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking by Jessica Koslow  [eBook]  

My Nepenthe: Bohemian Tales of Food, Family, and Big Sur by Romney Steele  [eBook]

The Cheese Board: Collective Works Bread, Pastry, Cheese, Pizza by Cheese Board Collective Staff [eBook] 

My Pantry by Alice Waters with Fanny Singer 

Mourad: New Moroccan by Mourad Lahlou ; with Susie Heller, Steve Siegelman, and Amy Vogler 

Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel ; with Susie Heller ... [et al.]   

Susan Feniger's Street Food: Irresistibly Crispy, Creamy, Crunchy, Spicy, Sticky, Sweet Recipes by Susan Feniger, with Kajsa Alger, and Liz Lachman 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Be Our Valentine, Jennifer Weiner

New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Weiner has released her memoir Hungry Heart: Adventures In Life, Love, and Writing and it's a warm, touching, funny, and insightful book that makes you wish she was your best friend in real life. However, you can maintain appropriate boundaries and follow Jennifer on her priceless Twitter account instead and enjoy her tweets of wisdom and obsession with the ABC reality show The Bachelor.

Hungry Heart is part memoir, part essays, and all heart when it comes to her generous sharing of life lessons about being a writer, mother, wife, and dog lover. She courageously confronts painful memories of being a nerdy outsider as a child, her parent's divorce, and her father's descent into mental illness and addiction. Weiner takes her family along for the ride, including her mom, sister, and beloved Nanna having to deal with the mean girls in the retirement home. Every chapter contains sparks of wisdom, humor, and forgiveness, along with deep inner strength that comes from resolving to accept oneself and strive for independence.

Weiner's feminist perspectives on weight and beauty are liberating and made me feel like pursuing self-care instead of self-condemnation. Her letter to her daughters about being more than our looks should be required reading for preteens. She doesn't give the publishing industry  a break when it comes to inequality and misogyny either. Her squabble with the insufferable writer Jonathan Franzen who dissed Oprah and her popular book club several years ago was blatant disrespect and a reason why Oprah went through a spell of only promoting dead writers, because they were far less troublesome and ungrateful.

Jennifer Weiner is more that Oprah sticker worthy, so read her fabulous canon of chick lit that deserves some respect!

Good In Bed

In Her Shoes

Little Earthquakes

Goodnight Nobody

The Guy Not Taken: Stories

Certain Girls

Best Friends Forever

Fly Away Home

Then Came You

The Next Best Thing

All Fall Down

Who Do You Love?

Littlest Bigfoot

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The World According To Werner Herzog

RESCUE DAWN (2006) - HERZOG, WERNER. Photography. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016.
quest.eb.com/search/144_1492018/1/144_1492018/cite. Accessed 7 Jan 2017.
Always take the initiative. There is nothing wrong with spending a night in a jail cell if it means getting the shot you need. Send out all your dogs and one might return with prey. Never wallow in your troubles; despair must be kept private and brief. Learn to live with your mistakes. Expand your knowledge and understanding of music and literature, old and modern. Thar roll of unexposed celluloid you have in your hand might be the last in existence, so do something impressive with it. There is never an excuse not to finish a film. Carry bolt cutters everywhere. Thwart institutional cowardice. Ask for forgiveness, not permission. Take your fate into your own hands. Learn to read the inner essence of a landscape. Ignite the fire within and explore unknown territory. Walk straight ahead, never detour. Manoeuvre and mislead, but always deliver. Don't be fearful of rejection. Develop your own voice. Day one is the point of no return. A badge of honour is to fail a film theory class. Chance is the lifeblood of cinema. Guerilla tactics are best. Take revenge if need be. Get used to the bear behind you.
~Werner Herzog

The German filmmaker (producer, director, author, actor) Werner Herzog was born Werner Herzog Stipetić in Bavaria - took the last name of his father for his working name, though his father abandoned the family, because he thought Herzog sounded "better" for a filmmaker. He is considered one of the most important directors of the New German Cinema (other contenders include Wim Wenders and Rainer Werner Fassbinder), but he "didn’t know that cinema existed until [he] was 11." He has made both feature films and documentary films during his long career, but since 1995 he has mainly concentrated on documentaries. He narrates many of his documentaries, and his distinctive voice has also featured in episodes of The Simpsons and Adult Swim's Metalocalypse. He has been called "one of the most diverse, uncompromising and staggeringly prolific filmmakers on the planet," with IMDb listing 68 directing credits, 55 writing credits, and more in acting and producing to his name.

But who better to tell you about Werner Herzog than Herzog himself? Here are some of the internet's favorite Herzog quotes (called by some "wonderfully bonkers"):

Film...is not the art of scholars but of illiterates.

My ideas are like uninvited guests. They don’t knock on the door; they climb in through the windows like burglars who show up in the middle of the night and make a racket in the kitchen as they raid the fridge.

I work very fast and steadily, and I don’t hardly ever notice that I’m working. It feels like just breathing or walking when I do films.

I never have searched for a subject. They always just come along. They never come by way of decision-making. They just haunt me. I can’t get rid of them. I did not invite them.

About his friendship with Klaus Kinski: “People think we had a love-hate relationship. Well, I did not love him, nor did I hate him. We had mutual respect for each other, even as we both planned each other’s murder.”

When I saw the dancing chicken, I knew I would create a grand metaphor - for what, I don't know.

Perhaps I seek certain utopian things, space for human honour and respect, landscapes not yet offended, planets that do not exist yet, dreamed landscapes. Very few people seek these images today.   

Do you not then hear this horrible scream all around you that people usually call silence?

In the face of the obscene, explicit malice of the jungle, which lacks only dinosaurs as punctuation, I feel like a half-finished, poorly expressed sentence in a cheap novel. 

I’m quite convinced that cooking is the only alternative to film making. Maybe there’s also another alternative; that’s walking on foot.

If you want more Wernerisms, consider checking out the funny Tumblr Werner Herzog Inspirationals. Or, check out something by Werner Herzog from your friendly library catalog - here's a sampling of your options: 


Werner Herzog: A Guide For the Perplexed - Conversations With Paul Cronin

Of Walking In Ice : Munich-Paris, 23 November-14 December 1974


Grizzly Man

Happy People: A Year in the Taiga

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Into the Abyss

Encounters at the End of the World

My Best Fiend

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Top Circulating Fiction: Love & Romance

The Yellow Books, 1887 . Fine Art. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 18 May 2016.
“Knowledge is like money: To be of value it must circulate, and in circulating it can increase in quantity and, hopefully, in value.”
― Louis L'Amour, Education of a Wandering Man  

In the library, "circulation" means a lot of things.  What's sometimes called the "library card desk" is also known as "circulation".  When we look at a book's record, we count how many times it has checked out as its "circs". The library's collection floats (items checked out at one branch and returned at another stay at the branch at which they are returned), but its items circulate.

In February, a librarian's thoughts inevitably turn to...Valentine's Day! (Sometimes UnValentine's Day. Also African-American History Month, Mardi Gras, and Presidents' Day, but the top circulating titles for those are harder to research.) Romance is in the air...or, at least, the smell of chocolate and flowers is in the air. Whether you are a fan of St. Valentine, a quirkyalone, or celebrating Singles' Awareness Day (tomorrow) or celebrating nothing, we wish you all the best today!

For romance diehards, though, we do have a list of the top 25 circulating "love stories" (this is the actual subject heading for most romance fiction) in the library catalog. There are plenty of fans of Danielle Steel and Nicholas Sparks out there, and not nearly as many dukes as earls represented as we expected! What do you think - what romances would you recommend?

Top Circulating Fiction:                       Love & Romance

1.  See Me by Nicholas Sparks
2. Magic by Danielle Steel
3. When All the Girls Have Gone by Jayne Ann Krentz
4. Twelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber
5. The Obsession by Nora Roberts
6. The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende
7. Property of a Noblewoman by Danielle Steel
8. Blue by Danielle Steel
9. Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
10. The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman
11. Sweet Tomorrows by Debbie Macomber
12. Me Before You  by Jojo Moyes
13. First Star I See Tonight by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
14. The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks
15. Undercover by Danielle Steel
16. Last One Home by Debbie Macomber
17. Dark Witch by Nora Roberts
18. The Liar by Nora Roberts
19. The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks
20. Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner
21. The Trouble With Dukes by Grace Burrowes
22. The Comet Seekers by Helen Sedgwick
23. Someone to Love by Mary Balogh
24 The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church
25. Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead. I have to admit that I didn't start watching it until this year, though I did try twice last year to watch it. I couldn't get into it at first, though, and it took my watching the first episode three times before I finally got into. Now that I'm into it, I'm pretty much obsessed, and I'm not the only one.

According to Wikipedia, the season one premiere of The Walking Dead garnered 5.35 million viewers, while the season one finale had 6 million viewers. From there, the number of viewers has increased for each season premiere, with the exception of season six. Wikipedia has a detailed chart of each episode's number of viewers. According to Variety, the season five premiere has the record number of viewers for The Walking Dead, at 17.29 million viewers. Forbes noted that the season seven premiere, which took place on October 25, 2016, had 17 million viewers.

The Walking Dead has also been nominated for and won multiple awards, including (but not limited to) the Primetime Emmy Awards, the Golden Globes, the People's Choice Awards, the Teen Choice Awards, and the Screen Actors Guild Awards. For a complete list of nominations and wins, Wikipedia has a handy chart.

People love The Walking Dead so much that Funko has a few different lines of merchandise dedicated to The Walking Dead, and there is plenty of fanfiction online, including a website that is solely for The Walking Dead fanfiction.

I've thought a lot about why The Walking Dead is so popular, and while one of my colleagues said he watches it for the zombies, action, and gore, another colleague and I agree that The Walking Dead is so popular because it's not about the zombies. It's about the people who have survived and are continuing to survive the zombie apocalypse. It's about humanity and how some people respond to the new world versus how other people respond (Rick versus Neegan, or The Governor, for example). As my colleague phrased it, The Walking Dead is also about how messed up humanity can be.

If you haven't watched The Walking Dead or read the novels or graphic novels, the library has you covered.

Graphic Novels
The Walking Dead Seasons 1 through 6

Are you a fan of The Walking Dead? Let us know what you love (or hate) about it in the comments--but please, no spoilers!