Samuel Hazo Presents: Poetry and Public Speech, April 7th, 6 to 8 pm

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Samuel Hazo, founder and director of the International Poetry Forum in Pittsburgh, is coming to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh–Main to discuss how politics, historical speeches and public discourse coincide with the world of poetry. The author of many books of poetry, fiction, essays and plays, Hazo is also a McAnulty Distinguished Professor of English Emeritus at Duquesne University, where he taught for forty-three years. A National Book Award finalist, he was chosen as the first State Poet of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by Governor Robert Casey in 1993, where he served until 2003.

An accomplished poet, playwright, translator and essayist, Dr. Hazo has been the recipient of many awards and honors, including the Maurice English Award for poetry for his volume, Just Once: New and Previous Poems.

It is fitting that Dr. Hazo will be delivering his talk on April 7th in the beautiful International Poetry room on the second floor of the library, fitting because he founded  the core collection of work by poets from all over the world which now fills an entire room.

International Poetry Collection

It is a privilege and an honor to have him return in what is something of a homecoming, a homecoming for someone who, in fact, has never truly been away. Come hear Dr. Hazo talk of poetry and public speech, the places where they converge, and those where they are forever apart.

- Don

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Amusing, Whimsical, and Diverting Historical Romance

I started reading historical romance a little over two years ago because I was sick and tired of reading sad and depressing books that were highly touted in literary circles, The New York Times Book Review, and book clubs. I once derided the entire romance genre as frivolous until I actually read one.

I now only want happy endings, sparkling dialogue, and a passionate love story; even better: a book that can make me laugh and smile.

I thoroughly enjoy the witty works of Jane Austen, so historical romance is my favorite reading pleasure. I can always count on a lovely story and, with these three authors, laugh out loud humor.

wicked

The Wicked Wallflower (Wallflowers series) by Maya Rodale

We don’t own all of this author’s delightful books except for her Writing Girls series, about Regency era working women who write for the scandal sheet, The London Weekly–which, incidentally, makes a recurring appearance as it reports on scandals in almost all her novels.

Isn’t this a great cover?! In this story, the first in the series, Lady Emma Avery is a wallflower whose name is falsely linked with the handsome and rich Duke of Ashbrooke in The London Weekly. They decide to keep their pretend engagement so that he might redeem his debauched reputation and find investors to fund his invention and she, in turn, can raise her social standing in society. Of course, things don’t work out as planned. This book is part of an amusing concurrent historical/contemporary series–the contemporary part being a series of novellas called Bad Boyswith a similar theme of a pretend engagement–Rodale calls it a “fauxmance”–on Facebook and other social media. Fun fact: the heroine is a librarian at the New York Public Library.

“’It can’t be any more torturous than a wallflower’s fourth season on the marriage mart.’” (p52)

“It was official: she’d had more callers in this one hour than in four seasons combined. Behold: the power of Ashbrooke.” (p26)

heiress

In the Arms of the Heiress (Ladies Unlaced series) by Maggie Robinson

With her cheeky Courtesan Court series about the everyday lives of a group of mistresses on Jane Street to her London List series about a Regency-era scandal sheet of provocative personal ads spoofing today’s craigslist, to her most recent Edwardian-era series, Ladies Unlaced, which takes place around a slightly unorthodox employment agency, I can pretty much count on Maggie Robinson to always make me laugh.

A wacky, independent yet vulnerable heiress, Louisa Stratton hires Charles Cooper, a traumatized war veteran down on his luck, to pose as her fiancé on a visit home to her undeserving family. She hopes to display a veneer of successful independence with a loving, artistic husband while Charles just wants the cash.

“Louisa Stratton was a handful who would drive the average man to drink. Hemlock, if it was handy.” (p175)

”’If you were my wife, I’d rescue you. You could live just as you pleased—I wouldn’t interfere with whatever cork-brained scheme you dreamed up.’” (p240)

Any husband she’d have would risk being henpecked until he resembled a dartboard.” (p289)

secrets

The Secret Brides series by Valerie Bowman

Bowman is a newcomer to historical romance and her lighthearted and charming Regency era Secret Brides series is wonderfully entertaining and funny. Each title represents the scandals in the books, written in pamphlets–think of today’s zines–and are the same titles as the books:

  • Secrets of a Wedding Night is about what really happens on a wedding night as written by an unhappily married young widow.
  • Secrets of a Runaway Bride depicts the adventures of a young and impetuous debutante who tries to run away with a young man who does not requite her love.
  • Secrets of a Scandalous Marriage, the last in the series, is penned by a death-row duchess accused of murdering her husband. There are also two novellas that round out the series.

From Secrets of a Scandalous Marriage:

Since coming in the back door, she was already warming up, and she hadn’t had a proper bath in over a fortnight. No doubt she smelled like a foot. A very dirty foot.” (p44)

‘If you’re going to be a scandal, darling, be a complete scandal.’” (p318)

From Secrets of a Runaway Bride:

“First of all, you should not have been eavesdropping. It’s unspeakably rude, and second, what would you know about a marital bed? You’re not married!” (p59)

“Arthur isn’t here now to see, is he? If you’re heaven’s gift to the fairer sex, why don’t you prove it?” (p61)

-Maria, who is done with sad books forever

Note: This post is the third in a series highlighting historical romance novels I’ve greatly enjoyed.

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Spring?

Spring officially starts today at 12:57PM.

SPRING.

Lousy Smarch is almost over. It’s been a long winter.

Pittsburgh

Ten (Mostly Pittsburgh) Things I’m Going to Do Before It’s Cold Again

Kennywood!

Every single year I say I’m going. I think this is the year!

DSCN3677

The Wilds

Two words: Zipline safari!

Gallery Crawl

Carnegie Science Center 21+ Night

Carnegie Science Center

Carnegie Science Center

Swimming World Tour

There is a city of Pittsburgh swimming pool right behind my library, CLP- South Side! I’m also a fan of the county wave pools, the Dormont Pool, and Sandcastle. Plus, there is a secret river spot I take a dip in a few times a year.

Dormont Pool

Dormont Pool

Churchview Farms Dinner

Did you know there is a farm in Baldwin? Did you know that it’s run by a librarian? I have no idea how that could be more awesome. Oh wait! Add a farm tour and multi-course dinner prepared by a local chef. Awesome-er.

Panhandle Bike Trail

Not that I don’t love riding to places like Connellsville and Boston on the Great Allegheny Passage, but it’s time to mix it up. Starting in Carnegie, this trail travels almost 30 miles to Weirton, West Virginia. Impress your friends, tell them you rode your bike to another state.

Tybee Island, Georgia

The Surf Puppy

The Surf Puppy, Tybee Island, Georgia

2014 Pedal Pale Ale Keg Ride

Commonwealth Press Beer Barge

Bands, craft beer, boats. Sold.

Some other plans include going to the movies on Flagstaff Hill, exploring Frick and Schenley Parks on my bike and going kayaking on the Allegheny River.  We’re going to need a longer summer.

What special Pittsburgh (or non-Pittsburgh) activity is a “must” for you? Because I’m game for anything!

Happy Spring!
suzy

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Mind-Bending Sci-Fi

Clean-cover While perusing the shelves of the Sci-Fi and Fantasy section I happened upon Clean: A Mindspace Investigations Novel by Alex Hughes.  With no previous knowledge, but a powerful need for something new to read, I checked it out.  Sometimes you just get lucky, and you find a book that fits you.  This was one of those times!  Mr. Hughes does a great job in this book setting the scene.  It’s the not too distant future, and a dystopian one at that!  After a severe tech crash, and the rise of a generation of folks who possess psionic powers of all types, the world remains a messy place.  Told from a first person perspective, our narrator is a powerful telepath and recovering drug addict.  He works as a consultant to the DeKalb County, GA police department, interviewing suspects and investigating crime scenes.  While the normal CSI crews check for physical clues, our unnamed narrator delves into mindspace to search for the residual psychic traces of violent crime.

Hughes tells his tale through his narrator with a gritty style that brushes the edges of noir without feeling trite.  He weaves in details about this future Earth that conjure images of Blade Runner–outer world colonies exist, and a shadowy organization of people with mental powers has segregated itself and created an almost parallel government. When a powerful member of this Telepath’s Guild appears to be behind a string of grisly murders, the narrator and his beautiful partner, homicide detective Isabelle Cherabino, struggle against red tape, jurisdictional issues, and their own personal demons to find the truth.  When the killer himself turns his awesome power on them, the hunters become the hunted!

Mr. Hughes has written another book in his Mindspace setting called Sharpand once I’ve read that, I’ll need to cast my gaze about for more books in this interesting little corner of the sci-fi universe.  I got a little curious what else might be out there and went to Novelist, our best database for generating read-alikes.  I have to admit, I was a little disappointed at the results, but it did produce Patrick Lee’s Runner, which looks promising.  Elsewhere I found a copy of No Hero by Jonathan Wood, which blends police action with horror in a covert war against tentacled horrors from beyond time and space.  Good times.

Finally, leave it to sci-fi stalwart Alan Dean Foster to have something roughly in this area among his long list of books!  The Mocking Program looks to blend a near-future setting with paranormal powers in just the right mix.  I’ll end this post on that note, but I am open to more suggestions!

–Scott

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An Exciting Weekend With Dangerous Women

My idea of a good time is soaring through the air with night witches, galloping through the Old West with outlaws, tailing dangerous dames and femmes fatales, and otherwise cavorting with women you’d be crazy to cross. Luckily for me–and for you!–George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois have edited a spectacular collection of short stories called Dangerous Women,  featuring what are most commonly referred to today as “strong female characters,” though they are ever so much more than that.

Members of the Missouri University Shooting Club, 1934. Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons - click through to learn more.

Members of the Missouri University Shooting Club, 1934. Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons – click through to learn more.

I had fully intended to read one or two tales at a time to make the collection last longer, but the stories are just so great, I’ve been burning through them the way I normally polish off a bag of Fig Newtons after a long run (do not judge). So far I’ve been totally creeped out by Megan Abbott, highly amused by Joe R. Lansdale, stunned to silence by Brandon Sanderson, and treated to a whirlwind of genres from Western to noir. I’m even in possession of information that Jim Butcher fans who aren’t up-to-date on the Dresden files will be extremely excited to learn. And overall, I’m just plain delighted by the variety of genres produced by a greatest hits lineup of well-known folks–that make up the volume.

[In fact, the only thing that makes me sad about this anthology is that there are no writers of color featured in it. I fail to see how that could possibly have happened, given that authors like Nalo Hopkinson, Jewelle Gomez, and Natsuo Kirino (to name but a few of many) are alive and well, and creating dangerous women of their own. Luckily, there are other story collections to remedy this shortcoming, and I'd recommend you look into them.]

My favorite piece thus far in Dangerous Women addresses the fear of getting old with a twist of the fantastic. Megan Lindholm (better known to some as Robin Hobb) delivers the quietly brilliant “Neighbors,” the story of an aging woman named Sarah whose son is determined to put her in an assisted living facility. Sarah, who has lost her husband (to death), her brother (to Alzheimer’s disease) and her dog (to the mysterious fog that rolls into her yard every night) is determined to hold on to her house for as long as she can. But though her efforts have kept her children at bay thus far, she can’t hold out forever. Meanwhile, the fog–and the mysterious people Sarah sees coming and going inside of it–gets closer and closer to the house. Deeply moving and suspenseful, Lindholm’s story will have you rooting for Sarah all the way up to the surprising–but, under the circumstances, believable–ending.

So, if you’re looking for a series of hair-raising adventures featuring heroines–and villains–who could teach Buffy the Vampire Slayer a thing or two, I definitely recommend snuggling up for a weekend with Dangerous Women. Despite its one glaring flaw, it’s one of the most exciting collections I’ve picked up in a long time, and short story fans of all kinds will consider it a win.

–Leigh Anne

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“Everyone’s a Little Bit Irish…”

The saying goes that “Everyone is a little bit Irish on St. Paddy’s day.”  In my case it’s even a little bit true. I can claim a wee bit of Irish heritage several generations back. My great-great Irish grandfather had a daughter who married a Greek, who had a daughter who married a Greek, who had a son who married a Pittsburgher of Polish descent, who had a daughter – me. 

Maybe beyond the excuse to wear, drink and eat green things, this is a day in which people of various backgrounds can join together to help forget about a long cold winter and the hope to hurry spring along, or maybe it goes further – becoming a celebration of some sort of shared cultural heritage in order to feel like part of the group, even if it isn’t ancestrally one’s own.

Pittsburgh is an amazing city that sets a fine example of the American melting pot.  At the turn of the previous century, a huge wave of immigrants came to this country looking for a better opportunity than they had in the old one.  This immigrant wave helped to create some of the long standing Pittsburgh neighborhoods of Germans, Italians, Polish and Irish. They joined in the Pittsburghers already settled here claiming ancestry from these and other European and Middle Eastern countries, as well as those of African descent.

Another remarkable thing about Pittsburgh is that we don’t have to wait until the weekend surrounding the 17th of March every year, or for Kennywood to open its arms to the various ethnic and cultural groups during their summer celebrations, in order to appreciate our city’s diversity. There is a multitude of opportunities and experiences here in the city that are available to us year round, where we can savor those cultural groups who have helped to shape past, present and future Yinzers.

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh offers a wide variety of reference and research opportunities through its website.  Along with the vast knowledge of our learned librarians and the expansive collection of materials within our many departments and locations, the Library provides access to information for anyone interested in this city’s vast ethnic heritage. And we are fortunate to have neighbors in the city of Pittsburgh that are able to supplement that experience. Visits to the Nationality Rooms in the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning, or the Heinz History Center are musts for any resident or visitor to this city to help further understand and appreciate the many ingredients within Pittsburgh’s own melting pot.

The immigrant wave of the early 1900′s allowed for my  Irish, Greek and Polish grandparents to experience the multitude of opportunities for their growing families in this new world. This new millennium has made way for a new wave of immigrants of Asian, Middle-Eastern and Hispanic nationalities to add their talents and cultural uniqueness to this ever changing and growing mix. Today we celebrate our collective Irish heritage. Tomorrow, why not visit this city’s resources and discover one or more of the many other cultures that make up your own, and Pittsburgh’s, rich and diverse heritage.

-Maria J.

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One Book One Community: Colum McCann’s Gift to Pittsburgh and the World

Colum McCann - PAL 3-10-2014

Colum McCann, March 10, 2014

photo credit: Renee Rosensteel, renee@rosensteel.com

event photos generously provided by Renee Rosensteel and Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures

Colum McCann had us at hello.

“Happy to be here with yinz!” the National Book Award winning Irish author said, greeting the delighted sold-out crowd at Carnegie Music Hall in pitch-perfect Pittsburghese.

Colum McCann visited our city on March 10 as part of Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures Ten Literary Evenings Monday Night Lecture Series, made possible by The Drue Heinz Trust. His lecture, underwritten by UPMC, also launched One Book One Community 2014, an initiative of the Allegheny County Library Association (ACLA).  (Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is a sponsor of One Book One Community 2014.)

TransAtlantic, Colum McCann’s latest novel, is this year’s One Book One Community selection. It’s a fascinating novel about three interconnected journeys across the ocean, but also across time and history and generations.  The characters’ stories, like so many of our stories, are woven together.

“Every moment that we live in has been influenced by the past,” McCann said during his lecture. “Everything we do … matters to the future.”

Colum McCann 2 - PAL 3-10-2014

He was referring to TransAtlantic. But the magic of the evening was wrapped in stories about his childhood filled with books from a journalist father who traveled to America and who returned with the best for his young son, cultivating a “love of stories.” It was about  losing faith as a writer and regaining it through the “spectacular generosity of the Rooney family” who gave him “the oomph” to continue writing by awarding him the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature in 1994.

“I wouldn’t be here without them,” he stated.

Everything we do matters to the future.

It was about Pittsburgh – our beloved Pittsburgh, a city that Colum McCann had visited for the first time this Monday.

“I felt like I was stepping through parts of Dublin, parts of New York,” he observed. Earlier in the day, he’d spoken with students from Woodland Hills High School and he was impressed with how the youth reflected on the city.  You can learn so much about a place from talking and listening to a city’s children and young people, he said.

Everything we do matters to the future.

Indeed, we live in a city of bridges. Our everyday crossings over the Allegheny, the Ohio, and the Mon may seem more insignificant than transatlantic ones – although depending on the time of day, the weather, and the particular bridge, it may feel almost as long. Our everyday lives and actions don’t always seem historical, like they matter in the lives of others.

Everything we do matters to the future.

And especially here in Pittsburgh, our big small town, we are more connected than we ever imagined.

At the end of the evening, I stood in line, juggling my three Colum McCann books to be signed, my cell phone charged for a much-hoped for photo.  I chatted with the ladies behind me, one of whom held a copy of Dancer written in an unfamiliar language.

Igrac - Dancer in Russian

Someone had invited her to the lecture, asking her if she had ever heard of Colum McCann. I’m reading his book now, she had said.

“I could tell him that I came all the way from Serbia to have him sign my book,” she said, and we laughed. “Because it’s kind of true.”

Someone else said hello. The ladies resumed their conversation. I didn’t have a chance to hear her story. I wish that I had.

Upon seeing the book, Colum McCann was amazed. He had never seen that edition of Dancer … until that moment, right here in Pittsburgh.

I took in the electric symbolism of the moment: transatlantic crossings, connections.  “The world grows small around us, it seems.”  That’s what Colum McCann said to a sold-out Pittsburgh crowd moments before, and watching him sign that book, I felt and saw the absolute truth of his words.

Books really do have the power to connect the world.

~ Melissa F.

One Book One Community is an initiative of the Allegheny County Library Association. For details on how you, your book club or your organization can participate, stop by your local library or visit One Book One Community.org.

More information about Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures can be found here.

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