Monthly Archives: October 2011

Masks and Robop

Instead of ghouls, ghosts, gorgons or gargoyles, one of the scariest things to think about on October 31st is the potential awfulness of other human beings.  In Fritz Leiber’s 1950 short story, “Coming Attraction,” even after World War III, reckless hooligans threateningly rip skirts off women with fish hooks attached to cars, wrestlers beat their spouses when they don’t win their matches, and nations still develop new ways to bomb each other.  Perhaps most appropriate or ironic for a blog post going up on Halloween is that, in the story, all women in America wear masks all the time, not because of religious stricture, but because of fashion that originated from anti-radiation clothing.

But because I’m a music guy, one line in particular really struck me whilst reading the tale:

Besides the inevitable chorus of sneezes and coughs (they say America is fifty per cent allergic these days), there was a band going full blast in the latest robop style, in which an electronic composing machine selects an arbitrary sequence of tones into which the musicians weave their raucous little individualities. (p. 40)

How cool does that fictional “robop style” sound?  In the late 1940s, Leiber (1910-1992) would have heard of bebop where virtuosos like Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker adeptly soloed over fast chord changes.  He also would have heard about 20th century composers such as Schoenberg, Webern, Berg, Boulez, and Babbitt experimenting with serialism, a technique where an arbitrary musico-mathematical sequence is created first and is then used to determine the music’s pitches, intervals, and durations.  Or he might have heard of the aleatory music of John Cage where chance (such as by dice throws) determines how a piece of music is composed or performed.   In the decades following Leiber’s story, certainly we’ve seen a greater interaction between live musicians and electronics both in the experimental fringe of classical music and in pop, rock, and dance music.  Authors of speculative fiction take the trends of their time and project them into the future; no wonder Leiber’s “robop style” sounds inevitable.

— Tim

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Cartoons are good.

Were you as disappointed as I was when the major networks stopped showing cartoons on Saturday mornings? Did you know that the library can help fill that void in your life?


We also have many fine cartoons of the non-Saturday morning variety – fine being a relative term, of course.


My current favorite cartoon is Futurama, so we have all five seasons and all four movies at Main (and judging by the circulation statistics, quite a few other people enjoy it as well). What are your favorites?

– Amy


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I was one of the last of the free range children born in America. In the late 70’s and most of the 80’s, my brother and I could be found every weekend in the woods, either with the Boy Scouts or behind our grandparents’ house in Elizabeth Township. There were only two rules: We had to come back when the sun started to set; and we were ordered not to shoot any living things with our Daisy Pump Action BB Rifles.  Moving into adolescence and beyond, I left the Great Outdoors for the distractions of the Big City. Now that I am settling into middle age, I am sick to death of the Big City and am searching desperately for Great Outdoors’ phone number, hoping she will answer my calls after all this time.

CLP Main’s collection boasts a wide number of titles for nature lovers of all types: hikers, hunters, campers, fishermen, photographers, and future mountain man hermits such as myself. I was scanning the shelves for some material on Pennsylvania’s wildlife and habitats and imagine my surprise when I found this gem: Eastern Coyote: The Story of Its Success.

So I stay away from nature for a decade or two and come back to find out that Pennsylvania is home to a growing population of coyotes.  It’s not exactly a new development; coyotes have been migrating east for some time now.  But in my rarefied, city slicker world view, coyotes are emblematic of the American West, scavenging amidst the mesas and plateaus, and of course, Wile E. Coyote.

Apparently the coyotes began to trickle into Pennsylvania around the turn of the century. Scientists believe they came to the Eastern US via a circuitous route through Canada. While in Canada, some coyotes interbred with wolves, resulting in our Eastern coyotes, a breed larger than their Western cousins.  These highly adaptable creatures are capable of taking down larger prey, including Pennsylvania’s Whitetails.  Virtually everything about these predators is subject to controversy.  How these coyotes will impact PA’s habitat and how they will conflict with the ever encroaching edge of new development are topics for great debate amongst scientists, residents and government.

For the larger issues involved with the clash of wildlife and suburbia I found this:

Coyote at the Kitchen Door

And no discussion of coyotes is complete without a mention of this wonderful title on offer at CLP Main:

Peter Coyote’s biography: Sleeping where I fall.

That guy was into everything, the hippie movement, biker culture, the arts, etc… It’s a great read.



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heredity, history, crime and love

Louise Erdrich’s gorgeous prose and fascination with storytelling achieve a spellbinding hold on the reader from the very first sentence of  The Plague of Doves: “The gun jammed on the last shot and the baby stood holding the crib, eyes wide, bawling.”

In this masterful novel, alternating narrators reveal the family histories and contemporary events of characters whose lives intertwine after a horrible crime takes place on a North Dakota Ojibwe reservation. The irresistibly absorbing plot examines the fallout from multiple facets over generations and culminates in a thrilling conclusion. The novel’s inciting crime is based on the historical incident of an 1897 mob in North Dakota who lynched three Native Americans, two of them boys, accused of murdering a white family.

Erdrich explores heredity, memory and guilt, and touches on the displacement of Native Americans from their land. If this sounds too heavy, don’t be dissuaded. The novel’s power affects the reader, as characters cope with the weight these events exert on their own personal histories. And the book includes a fair amount of comic relief, as in this description of grade school love:The Plague of Doves

Corwin tried everything to win me back. He almost spoiled his reputation by eating tree bark. Then he put two crayons up his nose, pretend tusks. The pink got stuck and Sister Mary Anita sent him to visit the Indian Health Service clinic. He only rescued his image by getting his stomach pumped in the emergency room. I now despised him, but that only seemed to fuel his adoration.

Some passages are so beautifully written, they’re transformative. Erdrich moves through the characters’ layered lives with  suspenseful tension, pursuing me to the last page. For example, in this excerpt from the middle of the story, a character falls under the hold of her preacher husband’s revival cult:

Deep in the night, every night, through the space of the great open center of the house, I woke to the comfort of stuttering rings of telephones… Women called to say they’d seen a light in the east, heard a voice rise from the laundry chute, felt power boil up between their knuckles, understood another exquisite language that hovered in the air all around them… Men wrote and called telling [the preacher]  their car radios exploded in the word, their power tools cried out, their names went dead, all of a sudden no one remembered who they were.

Each character is deeply human and sympathetic, from the teenaged granddaughter of one of the lynching’s witnesses, to the descendants of the murderous mob, to the town’s judge, whose story drives the novel briefly into the territory of adventure novel. During his harrowing attempt to settle along the Canadian border, he realizes:

It was true that his original purpose on this expedition had been to become a rich man, but now in the measureless night he understood it was more than that. He’d seen the blizzard sweep out of nothing and descend in fury upon them and then return to the nothingness it came from…

The Plague of Doves combines historical fiction with adventure novel, coming of age with mystery, romance with suspense. This is my new favorite novel, replacing another multiply-narrated masterpiece that explores family history, racism, religion and imperialism, Barbara Kingsolver‘s The Poisonwood Bible. But just in case my impeccable taste isn’t authoritative enough, the book was also a 2009 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Here’s an excerpt from an interview of Louise Erdrich reading advice to herself for writing:



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It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere…

Drink Up!

Do you remember your first alcoholic drink? Not only what you drank, but where you were and who you were with? Do specific places and activities have drinks that you associate just with them? Are there certain situations that scream for one particular beverage?

Whenever I hear “Long Island Iced Tea”, I am immediately transported back in time to my senior year of college, specifically to Otter’s Pub in Meadville, PA. This was my drink of choice when hanging out with my friends at that location. I can honestly say that I have never had a Long Island Iced Tea any place else. I know that it just wouldn’t taste as good. That drink is, for me, tied to that spot and that experience.

There are certainly times when a specific place and time call for a precise drink. I was reminded of this recently when reading How to Booze: Exquisite Cocktails and Unsound Advice, The Right Drink for Every Situation by Jordan Kaye and Marshall Altier. This humorous book identifies a specific cocktail for each and every circumstance you could possibly encounter. Need to know what to drink on a first date, second date, or when trying to organize a threesome?  How about the right cocktail for a sporting event, barbeque, or when at the park? What about when you’re obsessing over why he’s not answering the phone or when you’re with people you despise? This book not only has a suggested choice for imbibing under all of these circumstances (and more!), but they’ll tell you why it’s the perfect drink for the occasion. Then you get the recipe for the drink, and explanation of the chosen spirit, mixer, and/or garnish so you know what you are drinking and why it is a necessary component of the concoction. This book goes beyond the usual cosmopolitan (although that is included as the perfect drink for a bachelorette party, natch) and brings back some of the classic cocktails and ingredients that may no longer be a part of popular bar nomenclature. I personally learned things I didn’t know about absinthe and bitters.

So, if you are entering a situation and would like to know the perfect drink to accompany it or if you want to build up your cocktail repertoire, check out some of the following…

How’s Your Drink: Cocktails, Culture, and the Art of Drinking Well by Eric Felten – This James Beard Foundation Award winning author writes, “If you have a creeping suspicion that others are defining you – and judging you, too – by the drink in your hand, you’re not far wrong.” He then proceeds to give the history of great cocktails, the famous, the infamous, and the largely unknown. Each story is provided along with its recipe. This book is as fun to read as the cocktails are to drink.

Cocktail Aficionado by Allan Gage – This is a recipe book, pure and simple. The chapters are organized by the main spirit in the drinks. Here you’ll find the classics as well as some newer tasty choices, such as the Toblerone, Purple Turtle, and Butterflirt. This would make a good bar reference book as well as fodder for an evening’s entertainment. Flip the pages and point to a drink at random. Viola! That’s what we’re drinking next! Plus, I love a book with a built in bookmark. This one actually holds the page down so you can refer to the book while concocting the beverage.

Mr. Boston: 1,500 Recipes, Tools, and Techniques for the Master Mixologist – If you want one book that will tell you EVERYTHING you need to know about mixing a drink, this would be it. How to set up your bar and what equipment it should house, necessary glassware and what type of drink each should hold, mixers and garnishes to have on hand, as well as how to create those fruit and vegetable garnishes, how many drinks to have on hand for whatever kind of meal or party you are throwing, and a list of resources where you can locate that hard to find ingredient. This book has it all!

The Art of the Bar: Cocktails Inspired by the Classics by John Hollinger and Rob Schwartz – If you every wanted to see a lovely coffee table book about cocktails, then this is your book. Each creation is beautifully photographed and explained in great detail. Through the stories, instructions, and explanations, you’ll come to understand the artistic, as well as the practical, side of mixing great beverages that everyone wants to drink.

Good Spirits: Recipes, Revelations, Refreshments, and Romance, Shaken and Served with a Twist by A.J. Rathbun – This book has stunning photographs, recipes, explanations, ideas for when the cocktail should be served, factoids, and quotes about the joys of alcoholic beverages. The four drinks to induce dancing? The Don’t Just Stand There, The Eye-Opener, The Tidal Wave, and The Brass Monkey. With 38 kinds of martinis, you can’t go wrong. Bacontini, anyone?

Behind Bars: The Straight-Up Tales of a Big-City Bartender by Ty Wenzel – This is Kitchen Confidential for the bar set. Studded with the occasional drink recipe, this is a what-goes-on-behind-the-scenes tell-all book. You’ll get to hear about those who made fools of themselves when bellied up to the bar and those who didn’t even make it that far. Also included are those dirty little secrets the bartenders and the bar owners don’t want you to know about. This book is just plain good fun!

Suddenly, I feel it’s time for a drink…

-Melissa M.


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Well, since it’s October, the month of all the things frightening that also go bump in the night, I will start off with a scary story from my youth. One that illustrates my parents’ poor choices in movies that they let me watch (for which I am eternally grateful) and one that illustrates the ingenuity of a small boy and his hand-me-down watch. Since it’s late in the month and we’ve all no doubt had our fill of them, I’m not going to do a full on horror post telling you how much you should watch Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, but will instead finish up with the wonderful world of super hero movies that have come out this year.  Dear readers, let us begin. I’m guessing it was the year 1985. That would have put me at eight years of age. We were visiting my grandmother in Philly and wouldn’t you know it, A Nightmare on Elm St. was on.  Obviously confusing it for a nice family movie, we all sat down to watch.  What followed was 91 minutes of teenagers being slashed to ribbons by the only glove more popular in the 80’s than Michael’s, non-stop screaming, chases through nightmarescapes and a particularly horrifying scene of Johnny Depp being turned into a smoothie by his own bed. I can’t really remember quite what my reactions were to any of these things, but I don’t seem to remember it bothering me that much. But, that would all change. I went to bed fine. I was sleeping upstairs on a pile of cushions in my cousin’s room.  My parents were down in the basement apartment that my grandmother stayed in.  I had already forgotten about the movie and I drifted off to sleep.  Two hours later, I awoke, most likely having to use the bathroom and found myself remembering that the plot of the movie I had seen specifically dealt with kids going to sleep and then being murdered by a psychopath.  Which was exactly what I was trying to do.  Go to sleep.  But, if I did that, I might never wake up in the morning.  This was a horrifying thought that left me wanting for the comfort of my parents.  But, they were all the way downstairs in the basement and the house was pitch black. What did I do? Well, it so happened that on my wrist I was wearing the comically large G-Shock watch that my dad had given to me after he got another one to replace it. I bravely lit my passage through the home with that little watch light and am sure irritated my parents by waking them to talk about how I was going to be murdered in my sleep.  Which, it turns out that I wasn’t. I think. Unless I’m still dreaming even now. But, I promised my therapist that I would stop believing that I’m living in a dream world so I won’t follow that train of thought. Now that the prerequisite scary movie tale is out of the way, I will move onto the second nerdiest part of the post. SUPER HERO MOVIES OF THE YEAR 2011. These are my top 3 favorites.

#3 X-Men: First Class– I saw this one in the theater and was pretty pleased with the results.  When it comes to super hero movies, for some reason the creators are obsessed with origin stories. That’s all you ever get. Even the Avengers movie that comes out next year, a movie made up of characters who have all already had their origin movies, will, of course, be an origin movie about how the team forms.  First Class outdoes them all by making an origin movie that takes place like 60 years before the previously made origin movie.  It was good to see Professor X up and walking about acting like a cross between Austin Powers and James Bond.  It was also bittersweet thinking about a time when Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr were actually just a couple of good buds trying to figure it all out.  My only real complaint was that for a period piece movie, it didn’t really feel like a period piece.

#2 Thor– When I first saw the production stills from this movie, I was thoroughly frightened by the costumes.  I thought that they looked absolutely terrible. It turns out that they did a really good job and they basically look like they do in the comics.  The story is decent enough, probably owing a lot to the fantastic J. Michael Straczynski. But the look of the movie and Asgard are, to me, what sets it apart.  Branagh and Whedon really brought this comic to life. Plus, the weapon noises were awesome.

#1 Megamind-Yes, I know that technically this movie came out in 2010, but I didn’t see it until last month and it’s my favorite of 2011.  It is an origin story, but for characters that do not already exist, which is appreciated. DO YOU MEAN TO TELL ME THAT THERE IS SOME CONFUSION ABOUT HOW SPIDER MAN BECAME SPIDER MAN THAT WE NEED TWO MOVIES WITHIN TEN YEARS TELLING THE SAME EXACT STORY? Sorry. Megamind takes the whole concept of the super hero and turns it around, twists it and gives the audience a fresh look at an old idea. What makes a hero and what makes a villain are almost the same thing. The story is very well written and paced with one of the greatest character arcs that I’ve seen in this genre. Although Will Ferrell’s voice is perfect for Megamind, I will say that I found David Cross’ voice to be a little grating.  Although marketed to children, this can be enjoyed by any age group.


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Woman Cannot Live on Fiction Alone

I never liked school. It was hard for me, a shy, quiet, bookish girl who just wanted to read and write all day long, preferably outside in the fresh air. School was too restrictive (and it was inside for crying out loud) with way too many rules.

Despite this, my favorite subjects were literature and history. Since both required lots of reading and writing I did well and even majored in them in college but, still hating school, I didn’t want to teach either. So I did something even better: I became a librarian giving me full access to all the books I wanted.

But as much as I enjoy fiction, I also love historical non-fiction. There are some wonderful true stories out there, richly written and, in the process, teaching you something you never knew before. There are so many, this post is the first in a series where I highlight some of my favorites.

This post’s theme is presidents.

 The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candice Millard. Everyone knows that “TR” was an adventurous and impulsive personality, ready to go to war on a moment’s notice, but I never knew that he embarked on a perilous exploration trip to a remote part of the Amazon jungle with a small, poorly prepared party that included a celebrated guide and one of his sons.  He almost didn’t make it out alive. See also Millard’s more recent book about another president below.

Manhunt: The Twelve Day Chase for  Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson. This is a gripping account of the  day-by-day search for our 16th president’s assassin. You’ll discover the controversial role of Dr. Samuel Mudd and the conspiracy behind it all.

 The Lincolns in the White House: Four Years That Shattered a Family by Jerrold M. Packard. You already know that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated but did you also know he lost a young son to illness, that his wife had serious mental problems, and that Washington D.C. was a thoroughly horrible place to live (with swamps, poor sanitation, and disease) in the 1800s?

Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell. The witty writer and radio commentator takes you on a tour of America’s sites and landmarks related to presidential assassinations. Quirky and fascinating.

 The President is a Sick Man: Wherein the Supposedly Virtuous Grover Cleveland Survives a Secret Surgery at Sea and Vilifies the Courageous Newspaperman Who Dared Expose the Truth by Matthew Algeo. During the Gilded Age, Grover Cleveland, whose motto was “tell the truth,” disappeared for several days for a serious cancer operation on a yacht and agreed to a coverup of the incident. Also explores the early days of investigative journalism and the reporter who was criticized (and later redeemed) for his role in revealing the truth.

The President and the Assassin: McKinley, Terror, and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century by Scott Miller. This recently published book, in alternating chapters, reveals the history of anarchy in the United States alongside America’s rise to imperialism, including the Homestead Strike in Pittsburgh.

 The Destiny of the Republic: Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard. I didn’t know that James A. Garfield was a brilliant academic, soldier, and respected politician who grew up in poverty and never wanted to be president. Unfortunately, what most people know of him is that he was only president for three months before he was felled first by an assassin’s bullets and then his doctors’ horrifying lack of sanitary medical care. Yikes!



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Scar(r)ed for Life

Image from Labyrinth from the site:

There are few modern horror movies that I find truly frightening—sure, a few have made me jump now and then, but most don’t stick with me once I’ve left the theater. Rather than rehash a list of spooky movies for the Halloween season, I’ve decided instead to focus on that most sinister of genres: the children’s movie. If you grew up in the 1980s as I did, then you may also have endured some of the bizarre and frightening children’s movies that were made in that era, often involving creepy puppets. Come with me now, on a journey through time and space…

The Neverending Story

Bastian Bux finds a storybook about a magical world called Fantasia, and soon realizes he’s the only one who can save its inhabitants from a cruel fate. What could be scarier than a flying dragon, a killer wolf-beast, and a swamp of sadness? Why, nothing of course! Even creepier than the actual creatures in this world is the realization that their biggest threat is something called The Nothingness, proving there’s nothing more frightening that existential dread.


A young Jennifer Connelly (Sarah) must rescue her baby brother after he is kidnapped by the Goblin King (aka David Bowie!) Sarah is led through a horrifying labyrinth full of sinister goblins, the Bog of Eternal Stench, and a gang of creatures who try to remove her head. Plus, David Bowie wears tights, and it’s kind of inappropriate.

Return to Oz

Did anyone else accidentally watch this movie as a kid? Although I can’t completely remember the plot, I do recall: little Dorothy is in a mental institution where she’s scheduled for electroshock therapy, creatures named “Wheelers” have roller skate wheels for feet, there’s a man with a pumpkin for a head, and an evil witch keeps people’s heads in cases so that she can switch her own noggin out anytime she wants. Who thought this was a good idea for a children’s movie?

The Dark Crystal

From the mind of Jim Henson, this is the story of a race of grotesque birdlike lizards called the Skeksis. A prophecy tells of a Gelfling (a small elfin thing) who will destroy their evil empire, so in their reign of terror they commit genocide and have the entire Gelfling race exterminated. The orphaned Jen embarks on a quest to find the missing shard of the Dark Crystal (which gives the Skeksis their power) and restore the balance of the universe. Some characters die. Kind of heavy stuff for a little kid.

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

Although not technically released in the 1980s, Willy Wonka was on TV a lot when I was a kid, and I thought it was pretty great. As the story goes, our hero Charlie wins a magic ticket to tour the candy factory of the great (and somewhat sinister) Mr. Wonka. The film is based on a Roald Dahl book, and so it is a bit of a morality tale: good kids are rewarded, and bad kids are severely punished (or turned into giant blueberries). As Charlie tours the factory with a gang of other lucky winners, the kids are picked off one-by-one until Charlie is the last kid standing and inherits the Wonka fortune. Along the way there are trippy boat rides and oompa loompas. The remake is also creepy, but doesn’t hold a candle to the insane original.

Of course, traumatic children’s movies are not exclusive to the 1980s, as I’ve neglected to mention the ultimate trifecta of depressing animal films: Old Yeller The Yearling, and of course, Bambi

Lest you fear that strange children’s movies are an American thing, here’s proof that Australians also like to traumatize their children with creepy movies:

What about you? What movies do you remember from your childhood?


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China Miéville’s Embassytown: Novel of the Year

Like many of my colleagues at Eleventh Stack, I’ve found myself enmeshed in George R. R. Martin’s mammoth fantasy series, Song of Ice and Fire and basically ignoring all else (except poetry). One item, however, which I’ve read recently, while taking a break from all the boiled leather and endless sigils, gave some much-needed relief from the intense world of fantasy.

It was Embassytown by China Miéville.

Miéville is not everyone’s cup of tea and even those who have liked one of his works have found others to be head-scratchers. Variety, at least for some readers, may be bad; I know sci fi genre readers who will never pick up another book by an author if once burnt.

This is not a twice shy crowd.

I, however, found myself nonplussed by books of Miéville’s that didn’t click with me.  I liked one, Perdido Street Station (though not enough to continue with the series),  so whenever he comes out with something new, I read the reviews and see if it’s for me.  Twice I’ve done this and twice I’ve put the books aside.

Turns out that the third time was a charm.

Embassytown is one of the best science fiction books I’ve read in many a year, maybe a decade.  Conceptually, it reminds me of my favorite speculative fiction writer, Samuel R. Delany.  Yes, this is heady stuff, but also exciting stuff, a high end concept with a plot that matches it step for step.  It goes something like this:

On a distant outpost in the far future, there is a strange race called the Ariekei, whose language only a handful of altered human beings can speak.   These altered humans must speak completely different words in pairs, together, which heard simultaneously is the language of the Hosts or Ariekei.   They are in fact, though two individual humans, named as one (i.e. EzCal, MagDa etc.) and throughout the novel are spoken of in the singular tense (i.e. “EzCal is …” ).    The narrator, one of the human colonists, does not speak the language but has become a simile in the Ariekei language, which opens up another mode of communication between the two races.

Yup, that’s right, a human simile.

That’s the setup, complex enough as it seems. But there’s one more thing.  Culturally, The Hosts have no conception of lying.  Literally, they cannot tell a lie because they don’t know what it is.  Until we teach them.   And they become addicted.

And all hell breaks loose.

So, this is a book, a very intelligent book, about language, language and communication.  And, oh, it happens to be science fiction.

Describing this wonderful book is difficult at best.  However, someone with a more sophisticated point of view – science fiction Grandmaster Ursula Le Guin – has pronounced Embassytown “a fully achieved work of art” in her review for The Guardian.  And if you think science fiction isn’t for you, isn’t “real,” doesn’t engage your soul and improve your life, listen to how Le Guin brings it home:

There are men right now who have never learned how to talk to women. How will we talk to somebody really different – aliens? The Ariekei of Embassytown are immensely unlike us. The problem of communication, the nature of language and of spoken truth, is the novel’s core.

Le Guin points to the opening prologue (click to read) to underscore Miéville’s sheer inventiveness.  His neologisms, a standard trope of science fiction ‘otherness,’ are double down effective considering the novel’s all important linguistic theme.  Rather than fumble along attempting to describe the nearly indescribable (make a movie out this, Spielberg), I’ll let Le Guin give the kind of first hand insight only a master purveyor could on another colleague’s triumph:

In Embassytown, his metaphor – which is in a sense metaphor itself – works on every level, providing compulsive narrative, splendid intellectual rigour and risk, moral sophistication, fine verbal fireworks and sideshows, and even the old-fashioned satisfaction of watching a protagonist become more of a person than she gave promise of being. And all along we thought she was only a simile . . .

Or, put another way, can you say metaphor?

– Don


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Do you have your mother’s wedding dress stored in your attic but don’t know how to keep it fresh?  What about a family bible handed down for generations? Are your old photographs strewn about in some old shoebox? Are you worried about the way you are storing a precious keepsake, and fear doing it damage? Are you a fan of Antiques Roadshow?

If you answered yes to any of these, or have similar questions, you are in for a treat!  The Preservation Fair is coming once again to the Carnegie Museum’s Music Hall Foyer, on Saturday, October 22. Visit the official website for details.  

The Preservation Fair is a one-day public information event at which you can get expert advice on how to protect and correctly display many different types of family keepsakes and treasures. Over 30 professional conservators, archivists, and librarians will be on hand to discuss your individual interests. Exhibitors include conservators specializing in books, documents, paintings, textiles, photographs and films. Historical Societies, Genealogical Societies, Community Preservation Organizations, and vendors dealing in conservation and preservation supplies will also be represented. Ongoing free demonstrations and lectures will be presented throughout the event, with a keynote address at 12:00 noon by Rick Sebak, the award-winning documentary producer!

The event is free with Museum admission.

Here is a special bonus not to miss!  Bring in a family treasure, one item per visitor, for free basic conservation advice. No appraisals or valuations will be given.

Can’t make it?  Don’t worry!  The library has lots of resources.

Your librarians have created a few useful guides to pertinent subjects:

Antiques & Collectibles – Identify and price your antiques with these print and online resources.  This will point you to specific guides like Antique Furniture and Saving Your Family Treasures.

Art Research Databases – Helpful tips for locating resources in print and online, and for learning about art.

Researching Your Art – Evaluation and Appraisal – Where did this come from? Who is this artist? Are they famous? and of course, how much is it worth?!?

Historic Preservation – Resources and organizations for preserving historic homes, buildings, etc.

Historical Societies & Commissions – Join a local group to learn about local history.

Biography & Genealogy – Genealogy resources.

Audio-Visual Resources in Pittsburgh – Vendors that convert film, video, photographs, and analog audio to digital (along with other guides).

These are links to subject headings in our catalog for areas we do not (yet) provide resource guides:

Books Conservation And Restoration Handbooks Manuals Etc

Bookbinding — Repairing — Handbooks, manuals, etc.

Textile Fabrics Conservation And Restoration

Photographs Conservation And Restoration


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