Red Rising (and rising)

YA lit easily makes up 40% of my reading choices  — don’t get me started on that Slate piece. For the past few years, a number of those books have been of the dystopian variety, most of which has been really interesting (please check out Marie Lu’s Legend trilogy or Neal Schusterman’s Unwind series for some underrated selections), but I had finally hit the wall when it came to scary prospective futures.

Or so I thought. Let us welcome a new contender to the arena, Pierce Brown and the start of his Red Rising trilogy. I was knocked a bit sideways by this one and have made it my duty to spread the good word.

Our hero is a sixteen year old Helldiver (a skilled driller who works deep under the surface of Mars) named Darrow. In the Mars caste system, he and his family are Reds. They believe that generations of dangerous work to mill precious elements is all to make Mars livable.  After an act of defiance, Darrow finds that everything he knows is a big old lie. Mars was terraformed years ago, with a whole society riding on the slave labor of the Reds.

Darrow is recruited to infiltrate the Golds, the peak of society, at the Institute — a Hunger Games/Battle Royale-style “school” that filters out the best of the best to be future leaders. While some of the elements here are a bit derivative of other books, it all works, and you really don’t care because the book is so engrossing. You completely forget that these are supposed to be kids between the age of 16 and 18. They quickly become fierce warriors, working to literally conquer each other and eliminate their opponents. Brown fills his book with tons of fascinating characters (Sevro will be your favorite, I promise) and forces those characters to come to terms with some hard questions.

The second book, Golden Son, is out early next year. Which is entirely too far away.

Have any books taken you by surprise lately?

- Jess

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If Hellboy’s There, Hell Is Going to Be Awesome

Hellboy in Hell: The DescentLast year, Hellboy turned 20, and this year, he went to Hell.

Although the library doesn’t yet have a copy of Hellboy: The First 20 Years, a collection of art celebrating Mike Mignola’s comic creation, you can start placing your holds on Hellboy in Hell: The Descent, the first collection in Hellboy’s new story cycle, out this month from Dark Horse Comics.

So what has Hellboy been doing the past 20 years? How exactly did he wind up in hell? Why should you care?

If you’re only familiar with Hellboy through Guillermo del Toro’s two blockbuster movies, Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army, I should warn you that the comics are completely different–but each incarnation has its charms.

Hellboy Volume OneIf you’d like to start at the beginning, I suggest reading the collected hardback library editions instead of the individual trade paperback volumes. Volume One might seem vaguely familiar if you’ve seen the Hellboy film, as it tells the red demon’s origin story and introduces most of the recurring characters in the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, B.P.R.D. for short.

The main two differences between the movies and the comics is that there’s no love interest between Hellboy and Liz Sherman in the comics, and no civilians freak out when they see Hellboy or the other members of the B.P.R.D. People act totally normal when the big crimefighter shows up at the scene of a haunted house, supernatural carnage, or other strange happening. I prefer it this way–the freak trope is pretty over-used in comic books and Hollywood movies, and dispensing with it allows Mignola to get right down to the meat of the story.

B.P.R.D. Plague of Frogs 1After you read Hellboy’s first two hardback collections, you’ll want to pick up the first hardback volume of the spin-off series B.P.R.D., entitled Plague of Frogs 1 (see this website for a full reading order, and this page of the Hellboy Wiki for what material is collected in which volume). Fire-starter Liz Sherman, fish-man Abe Sapien, ecto-plasmic being Johann Krauss, homunculus Roger, and the other members of the BPRD make do without Hellboy and work toward solving the world’s growing frog problem. Although there’s lots of icky gore, funny hijinks, and paranormal investigative goodness, the best part of B.P.R.D. is the way the characters develop over the course of the series.

By now you’ve probably realized I’m not actually going to tell you how Hellboy winds up in hell. If you want to find out, you’ll have to read the series (there are only five hardback volumes–trust me, you’ll be itching for more when you close the cover on the last one). If you’re not sure you want to commit to 20 years worth of material, try one of the off-beat collections or shorter spin-off series, like Hellboy: Weird Tales, Abe Sapien, or Lobster Johnson–a series about a supremely bizarre crime fighter.

–Kelly

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5 Held in Plot to Bug Democrats’ Office Here

By Alfred E. Lewis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 18, 1972
And so began Watergate, 42 years ago tomorrow. I was in my early teens during the last year of Richard Nixon’s first term, 15 when he resigned on a hot & humid August 9, 1974. I was certainly politically aware and had followed the course of the investigation during the two years from break-in to resignation; but I have to admit that at the time I don’t think I fully appreciated Watergate’s significance.  From my POV, Watergate and the doings of CREEP – that’s right, CREEP - the Committee to Re-elect the President – were a string of related events and reactions, but not something that could be isolated as a singular historic event like an assassination or landing on the moon.
So, what is Watergate? It’s kind of like manna from heaven, it can be many things;
  • the Washington DC apartment complex that housed the headquarters of the DNC – the Democratic National Committee
  • the burglary and bugging of the DNC offices at the Watergate (twice actually)
  • the denials and cover-up that followed after investigators connected the burglars to CREEP
  • the discovery and exposure (Woodward, Bernstein, Rather, etc.) of the roles prominent members of the cabinet and advisers to the President played in investigating opposition to the President and how they used the executive branch for illegal partisan political purposes.

Finally Watergate is the President of the United States caught up in his own fears, insisting he’d done nothing wrong, but not being able to convince anyone outside of his most partisan supporters.  Much of what Richard Nixon did wasn’t unique or pioneering in terms of political wrongdoing, stretching the bounds of credibility and abusing Executive Privilege, but as the expression goes; he got caught.

If such a thing is possible, I’m reminiscing here about the Watergate era because it all came back to me after watching Frost Nixon a few weeks ago; it was a memory tripwire.  It wasn’t abstract history like watching a documentary or infotainment about McCarthy or Truman; I read and heard about Watergate (in all its guises) almost everyday as a teen (no need to add impressionable as a qualifier, it should be assumed.)  The memories stuck. In the days before C-Span or CNN, we watched Sam Ervin preside over the televised proceedings of the  Senate Watergate Committee on network TV while in school; ringside seats for Civics and US Government without needing a textbook.  For all its low-points and revelations, we wanted to believe Watergate also had a lesson; that the system worked. That the independent branches of government worked, that the Press plays an important role in informing and examining, and that the interests of the public will be represented and discharged by elected public servants regardless of party and affiliation as exemplified by Senators Ervin and Baker.

The legacy of Watergate is political and cultural. For those of you too young to have observed it, you have Watergate to thank for the ubiquitous -gate suffix for any and all snafus and wrongdoings that have occurred since the mid 70s.  There is also a legacy of film and literature that capture the timelines and complexities of the episode / era.

Frost Nixon [DVD]
Cover ImageRichard Nixon (Frank Langella) is the disgraced president with a legacy to save. David Frost (Michael Sheen) is a jet-setting television personality with a name to make. This is the legendary battle between the two men and the historic encounter that changed both their lives.

Cover ImageFrost/Nixon the original Watergate interviews [DVD]
“Includes in-depth interviews of U.S. President Richard Nixon by Sir David Frost in May, 1977 regarding the infamous Watergate scandal, followed by a segment, “Behind the scenes.” That final segment features footage from 2007 of Frost discussing “clinching the interviews, Nixon’s advisors, ground rules, on location, Nixon’s reaction, and the final meeting” he had with Nixon at San Clemente.”

All the president’s men / Carl Bernstein & Bob Woodward
The two young “Washington Post” reporters whose investigative journalism smashed the Watergate scandal wide open tell the whole behind-the-scenes drama the way it really happened. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were assigned to cover the breakin at the Watergate. The two men soon learned that this was not a simple http://librarycatalog.einetwork.net/bookcover.php?id=.b26394030&isn=141981706X&size=large&upc=&oclc=&category=&format=burglary. Woodward and Bernstein picked up a trail of money, secrecy and high-level pressure that implicated the men closest to Richard Nixon and then the President himself.
Over the months, Woodward met secretly with Deep Throat, now perhaps America’s most famous still-anonymous source. 

All the President’s Men [DVD]
Based on the book by Carl Bernstein and Bod Woodward whose roles are played by Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford.

The Palace guard / Dan Rather
The first Watergate book I picked up. Rather, the CBS News White House correspondent covering the Nixon White House, starts his recitation with an introduction to who was behind who in the administration.  Not the Secretary of Defense or Head of the NSA (Henry Kissinger BTW,) but rather the men who controlled access to the President, set agendas, and (important to keep in mind in this case) provide the President plausible deniability; keep him officially out of the decision-making loop when the decisions are ethically (or legally) questionable.  This was my first exposure to the likes of White House Chief of Staff H.R. Bob Haldemann, John Erlichman, Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs, and of course Henry Kissinger the President’s National Security Adviser.  At the time they were euphemistically referred to as the Berlin Wall.  Given his role in formulating international policy to the exclusion of all domestic politics, Dr. Kissinger seems to have avoided any taint by Watergate.

Washington Journal / Elizabeth Drew
“Forty years after the tumultuous events that led to Richard Nixon’s historic journaldownfall, a new edition of Elizabeth Drew’s Washington Journal,
featuring a brilliant new afterword. Originally published soon
after Richard Nixon’s resignation, Elizabeth Drew’s Washington Journal is a landmark work of political journalism. Keenly observed and hugely insightful, Washington Journal opens in 1973 and follows the deterioration of Richard Nixon’s presidency in real time.”

DOONESBURY-1973-strip

Just a note. The Doonebury strip above appeared on May 29, 1973. In several newspapers Doonesbury was either dropped for a time, or moved from the Comics section to the editorial pages. The Washington Post didn’t show it at all, until last year.

- Richard

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What’s New in Austenland 2014

Surprises are foolish things. The pleasure is not enhanced, and the inconvenience is often considerable.

Emma (1815)

Greetings! It’s time once again for my annual update–this is the fourth!–about the new publications in scholarship and biography on my favorite author, Jane Austen. Despite studying her for over twenty years, the sheer volume of new books and articles that are published on her works and life continues to astound (and delight) me. Here are some of the newest acquisitions at the library:

list

The List Lover’s Guide to Jane Austen by Joan Strasbaugh

A treasure trove of every list you can possibly imagine (and more!) about Jane Austen, her life, and her works: of suitors, first lines, places she lived and traveled, literary references in her novels, books she owned, characters in her novels, hearts she broke, and balls and dances she attended to name but a few. This is a handy little guide for scholars and students as well as a great introduction to the esteemed authoress.

northanger

The Annotated Northanger Abbey, edited by David Shapard

English professor Shapard has a clear and concise way of making Jane Austen’s works approachable and enjoyable for both students new to Austen as well as for scholars and fans; this is his fifth publication of Austen’s novels. There are period maps of England and Bath, fashion plates, vocabulary and context of the time period, remarks on questionable content pertaining to grammar or sentence structure from the original edition, and much more.  One of its best features–yes, the librarian is speaking–is the exhaustive list of works referenced on every topic imaginable: from the history of the post office, the study of the picturesque, to the architecture of abbeys in England.

england

Jane Austen’s England by Roy and Lesley Adkins

Many critics have lambasted Austen over the years for excluding mention of historical events of her time in her works choosing instead to describe minutely the daily lives of everyday people in a country village. This book describes life daily life during Austen’s lifetime, from the dangers of childbirth and illness to the necessities of hygiene and the practicalities (or not) of fashion.

matters

Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity by Janine Barchas

Did you know that the generally accepted scholarship on Jane Austen has been that she didn’t base her stories and/or characters on real events or people she knew? But all writers are influenced in some way and Barchas’ intriguing thesis explores this in detailed and fascinating depth. The names of Wentworth (Persuasion), Woodhouse (Emma), Vernon (Lady Susan), Allen, and Tilney (Northanger Abbey) were all well-known surnames of great and landed families in eighteenth century England, suggesting that Austen did indeed borrow from celebrity and events from her day. For the devoted Jane Austen fan and scholar, this book is a treat of fun discoveries.

na

Northanger Abbey: An Annotated Edition, edited by Susan J. Wolfson

Like the title below, this book is a big and beautiful gift book edition of one of Jane Austen’s lesser-known novels, a spoof of the gothic novel, made popular by Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolfo. The works cited list at the end of the book highlights further information and readings.

sense

Sense and Sensiblity: An Annotated Edition, edited by Patricia Meyer Spacks

This is the fourth gorgeous coffee-table edition of Jane Austen’s six novels to be published by the Belknap Press of Harvard University. The perfect gift for the Jane Austen fan in your life, there are beautiful illustrations and images of fashions, furniture, paintings, and maps from the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century relating to the novels. And for a student, the enlightening introduction as well as the copious annotations about vocabulary and language, word use and definitions in the context of their time, commentary on scholarly opinions of critical analysis, and references to different editions make this a veritable cornucopia of helpful information.

Until next year!

-Maria A., who finally wore out her old Modern Library copy of the Complete Novels and recently purchased the lovely Everyman’s Library editions to replace it.

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Lost Girl Found

We close out Pride Week at Eleventh Stack with a guest post from Tobin, of Shelving and Stack Services here at Main. You can read more about her–and the rest of the writing team–here.

Seeing the title Lost Girl for a television program might invoke images of pixies, pirates, and adolescents escaping the inevitabilities of adulthood boredom, but you would be incorrect. If you are anything like me, after discovering what this show is all about you might breathe a sigh and say, “Finally, my people [on the small screen]”. I do not mean faeries, monsters, or pleather-clad mischief makers; I am referring to bisexual folks (characters), and those portrayed in a more favorable, if not downright complex, light to boot. There is much to love about this show, but it is not perfect either.

Spotted at the Lost Girl Fae_bles Tumblr - click through for more animated hijinks.

Spotted at the Lost Girl Fae_bles Tumblr – click through for more animated hijinks.

Lost Girl, for the uninitiated, is an urban fantasy series about a defiant succubus, Bo, (whose sexual identity is literally bound to the survival of her being) as she tries to make heads and tails of herself, the world of the Fae, and where she belongs within it. It is similar to a toned down version of True Blood, but with deliciously cheesy banter, more non-monogamy, and baddies that could give Buffy a run for her stakes. Our bi and rather amorous protagonist, Bo, comes into this world of mythic proportions merely by chance, but it leads her on a path of self-discovery that carries the plot from season to season like life experiences carry any one of us from year to year.

Bo, Lost Girl, Season 1

Bo, LG Season 1, courtesy of Syfy

Given the plethora of rather negative portrayals of bisexuals in media, and animosity or rejection from our own communities, Lost Girl is a much welcomed form of queer representation, even for prime time entertainment. Bo is a multi-dimensional character who has genuine feelings toward those close to her, some more so than others, but she also makes mistakes or does not have the words to properly express her feelings at a time of interpersonal conflict. Who has not been through similar situations at least a few times? The relationships formed within the show certainly traverse a spectrum of “traditional” to “who-knew-that-was-even-possible?!”, but the bottom line always comes down to respecting the choices of your friends, even if you do not like them.

With that said, we can hope for better than Lost Girl. I maintain it is one of the most sex positive shows on air, and certainly one many of us bi folks can sink our teeth into, but it does have its pitfalls. Sexual clichés of bisexual women are not common, but certainly rear their eye-roll-inducing heads from time to time. There is also the issue of the season three opener in which the episode played out with the “deceptive transsexual” theme. Arguments can be made for that, but the bottom line is it was very unnecessary and downright offensive.

Steps can be taken to create more authentic portrayals of queer and minority characters in the media, and Lost Girl is a step in the right direction for bisexual characters, but we have a long way to go. Seeing more LGBTQ people behinds the scenes and taking the reins of production, outside of LGBTQ specific networks, is inevitable. I, for one, look forward to the type of programming viewers might be able to enjoy when that happens. Showing support, or voicing criticisms, is another valuable step to changing the face of entertainment and equality. It also never hurts to write your own stories and put them out into the world for others to experience, even identify with quite strongly.

In the spirit of LGBTQ Pride Month, our stories are relevant to the whole of humanity, and within the world of Lost Girl each character contributes to the diversity of the fantasy world in which it takes place. Be authentic, love fully, and kick a little butt when times get tough.

Happy LGBTQ Pride, everyone!
-Tobin

This concludes our first-ever themed post week! Have a suggestion for a future series of themed posts? E-mail us at eleventhstack at carnegielibrary dot org.

 

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GLBT Is Now LGBTQ and We Have Something for You!

pride week_slider

Changes have been afoot in the GLBT collection at the Main Library this year. We’ve added a DVD section in our Film & Audio Department on the second floor and launched a name change that reaches all of the locations that have this genre section. The collection is now labeled “LGBTQ” to be more inclusive and representative of the people that we serve.  Plus, we have new “loud and proud” stickers labeling the various materials.

LGBTQ Sign        LGBTQ Stickers

I’ve been working on updating some of our LGBTQ themed booklists to create bookmarks for Pittsburgh PrideFest on Sunday. (The library will have a table with activities and great people, so be sure to stop by!) While reviewing the collection, I was stuck by the assortment of genres, subjects, and topics available. We have the typical romance and erotica titles, as well as a good selection of general fiction. But we also have fantasy, horror, science fiction, short stories, mysteries, thrillers, African American titles, historical fiction and a wide variety of nonfiction, including biographies and memoirs, travelogues, travel guides, wedding planners, parenting guides, spiritual works, self-help and history.

LGBTQ Section

I’m not sure anyone would expect the variety this collection offers. But we are always looking to add more. If you have suggestions for authors and titles you’d like to see added to our LGBTQ collection, please contact me on the First Floor at the Main Library.

Happy Pride Week!
-Melissa M.

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LGBTQ Videos for All

Pride week 2014

We’re proud to Watch LGBTQ as well.

Recently, we here in the Music, Film & Audio Department (at the Carnegie Main library) were able to create a special LGBTQ film collection—mostly due to the support and generous donation of local group The Queer Video Vault.

We already owned quite a few LGBTQ titles, but until recently they did not have their own space in the library, making them difficult to browse.

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In the coming months, some 200+ titles will be added to this special collection, thanks to the lovely folks at The Queer Video Vault. From their website:

“The Queer Video Vault is a collection of nearly 350 queer videos from the former Dreaming Ant. The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (Main) hosts the majority of the collection and rental will be available for free for all library card holders. The Big Idea Bookstore hosts a smaller collection and rental is free with sliding scale membership. We host regular screenings to build queer community in Pittsburgh.”

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Pittsburgh is lucky to have a positive group like this supporting our library, and we look forward to hopefully collaborating with them in the future on special screenings and film guides.

Happy viewing and happy pride week!

Tara

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