What I’ve Been Reading

Do my reading tastes so far this year have a pattern or not? Take a gander at the list below and judge for yourself!

Cat Person by Seo Kim – You don’t have to be a cat person to enjoy this collection of comix. There are many panels those who are over-fond of felines will be able to relate to, but there are many more that will speak to single females, those in search of relationships, and those seeking to sustain them. I make this sound more boring than it is. What this graphic novel is, is laugh-out-loud funny. And I have two teenagers to back me up on this opinion.

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr – Huguette Clark inherited a lot of money from her father, copper baron and Senator W.A. Clark. When I say a lot of money, I mean A LOT OF MONEY. How she chose to live her reclusive life, whom she associated with and how she spent her money became the subject of scrutiny and speculation from the press when she passed away at the age of 104 on May of 2011.  Which was exactly what she didn’t want. And by all accounts, she didn’t want her family fighting over her will and money, but that’s exactly what happened also. This well-researched and extensive history of Huguette’s family and life is alternately fascinating and frustrating for the reader. You’ll sympathize with her, but also want to shake her silly!

Extra Virgin: Recipes and Love from Our Tuscan Kitchen by Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar, photographs by Eric Wolfinger – This cookbook is a feast for your eyes as well as your stomach. The recipes have been photographed beautifully. I also enjoyed the stories about each of the recipes. I’m a huge fan of Italian food and there are several things in here that I can’t wait to try. I’m considering adding this to my personal cookbook collection.

No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D. – Although the kids I share my life with are teenagers, I wanted to peruse this book to see if there were tips for dealing with some of the situations that continue to confound me, like getting homework done without drama. There most definitely are suggestions for that particular situation, but what I appreciated most was the practical advice for how to talk to your kids so they develop those parts of their brain that allow them to develop critical thinking skills. As well as the concession by the experts writing the book that no parent is perfect, not even them. (And they each tell a story of a time when they didn’t follow their own suggestions and how poorly it turned out. You’ll feel better about your parenting skills almost immediately!)

Pittsburgh Chef’s Table: Extraordinary Recipes from the Steel City by Laura Zorch, Sarah Sudar, Amanda McFadden, and Julia Gongawere – Want to know the person behind those restaurants that are making Pittsburgh the next great food destination? Want to be able to make some of their signature dishes at home? This gorgeous cookbook allows you into the kitchens and minds of the Steel City’s best and brightest. Almost immediately after I finished reading this cookbook, I went online and ordered it to add to my collection.

There Was a Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me by Brooke Shields – Brooke Shields’ mother, Teri Shields, was an over-involved stage mother who pushed her child into acting and let her portray a prostitute and be filmed nude at the age of 11. Well, not really. Teri Shields was a relatively high-functioning alcoholic who never coerced her daughter into doing anything she was remotely uncomfortable with, except maybe living with a mean drunk. Because the story of her relationship with her mother has been told incorrectly so many times, Brooke decided it was time to tell it herself. Here you’re going to get the whole story, from Brooke’s point-of-view, of course.

Underwire by Jennifer Hayden – This graphic novel by a mother of two is an almost-too-honest look at life, relationships and parenting. If you are a parent, you will see yourself in the pages. If you are married, you will see yourself in these stories. If you are a woman, you will see yourself in these illustrations.

What have YOU been reading?

-Melissa M.

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The Pop Art Nun

Be Patient, Corita Kent

Be Patient, Corita Kent

I was off last Friday and instead of laying around my house, watching terrible daytime television, and eating Jalapeno Cheetos (they are a thing, a delicious, delicious thing) I actually put on pants and left my house. Not only that, but I did something cultural. I am so glad I did! I cannot remember the last time I was so inspired by art. Now I think everyone needs to see the Corita Kent show at the Andy Warhol Museum before it ends on April 19th. (Who can resist anyone called The Pop Art Nun?)

from the Warhol:

Someday is Now is the first major museum show to survey her entire career, including early abstractions and text pieces as well as the more lyrical works made in the 1970s and 1980s. The exhibition also includes rarely shown photographs Corita used for teaching and documentary purposes.

In other words, it’s a big deal. (If you don’t believe me, here is a review from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and an NPR review- both glowing.)

“Like a priest, a shaman, a magician, she could pass her hands over the commonest of the everyday, the superficial, the oh-so-ordinary, and make it a vehicle of the luminous, the only, and the hope filled.” -Friend and theologian, Harvey Cox

“Like a priest, a shaman, a magician, she could pass her hands over the commonest of the everyday, the superficial, the oh-so-ordinary, and make it a vehicle of the luminous, the only, and the hope filled.” -Friend and theologian, Harvey Cox

Corita Kent was a designer, an illustrator, a writer, an artist, a feminist, a nun, an activist, and according to artist Ben Shahn, “a joyous revolutionary.” She was born Frances Kent in 1918 in Fort Dodge, Iowa. In 1936, she entered the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart, taking the name Sister Mary Corita Kent. She earned her MA in Art History at the University of Southern California and taught at the Immaculate Heart College for almost 30 years. During her time at IHC, she worked with such ground-breaking artists as Alfred Hitchcock, Buckminster Fuller and Charles & Ray Eames and her classes became a mecca for inventors and avant-garde creators. She eventually left the order (because of some disagreements with the Vatican) to pursue her art full-time in Boston, MA. She died of cancer in 1986.

She worked almost exclusively with silkscreen and designed the United States Postal Service’s annual “love” stamp. Her ground-breaking (and massive) body of work includes pop-inspired prints that used the writing of Albert Camus, Robert Frost, e.e. cummings and even Jim Morrison of the Doors to question the social upheaval of the 1960s, religion, activism, and also spread messages of hope, faith, and tolerance.

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As a librarian and lover of words, I love that she uses text in her work. It took nearly two hours for me to move through the exhibit because I had to read every word she printed. I left wanting to reread all of Frost and then read all of the speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. I had to make a list so I could discover more about the artists she references. I found myself laughing and questioning and getting teary-eyed as I moved through her life’s work. It made me want to share her with everyone.

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Who needs paper? Not this librarian!

 

SomedayIsNowSomeday is Now: The Art of Corita Kent, curated by Ian Berry & Michael Duncan

Full-scale survey of her work

Damn Every Thing but the Circus: A Lot of Things Put Together, Corita

Illustrations, quotes and poetry from Corita.

DamnEverythingButTheCircuCome Alive: The Spirited Art of Sister Corita, Julie Ault
The first study of her work, containing essays that examine her life and career.

Learning by Heart: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit, Corita Kent, Corita Kent

This was the textbook she used in her classes. Sadly, we don’t have this title. But I found lots of copies for sale online!

Also, if you would like to look at more of her work, there is a brilliant online collection through the Harvard Art Museums.

And finally, the full quote from the painting “Be Patient” is from  Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke:

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

The show ends April 19th! Don’t miss it!

suzy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Traveling back in time with Outlander

Note: Today’s post includes spoilers – read at your own risk.

Outlander is a TV show that airs on Starz and is based on a series of books with the same name by Diana Gabaldon. A friend recommended the TV show to me. Now, I haven’t read the books nor do I plan on it. Usually, I’m not a fan of historical fiction, but I like this show. I think that I enjoy period pieces on screen instead of in literature.

The main character is Claire Beauchamp and she’s a nurse during World War II in 1945. The war ends and Claire is reunited with her husband.

While out exploring plants, Claire stumbles upon a stone and after touching it gets transported back in time to Scotland in 1743. When she arrives, Captain Randall of the Red Coat army, who eerily looks just like her husband, Frank, tries to sexually assault her. Claire is then rescued by Dougal Mackenzie of the Mackenzie clan of Scotland and taken back to their castle. Everyone there is suspicious of Claire and thinks that she’s a British spy. Some of the people get over it, but not all. Claire adjusts to life at the castle, but there are some bumps along the way as she tries to make it back home.

Claire Beauchamp herself is a strong, female character. She stands up against injustice. An example of this is in episode 5 when Dougal wanted to keep a goat that belonged to a family who had a baby that needed milk. Claire also doesn’t take crap from anyone. I would consider her to be a feminist because she always has lines that echo this sentiment. A lot of the men on the show are sexist and misogynistic and Claire points that out every chance that she gets and I love it.

Claire is also a sexually liberated woman and isn’t afraid of her sexuality. An example of this occurred in episode 5 when she asked Jamie if he wanted to sleep in her room after she found him sleeping outside of it. Jamie asked her “What about your reputation?” Her response was “I’ve already slept under the stars with you and 10 other men.” I loved this response. I thought that it was very progressive.

One complaint that I have about the show is that a lot of the male characters define Claire only by her beauty instead of by her intelligence and talent as a nurse. Although it doesn’t surprise me it still manages to annoy me. One thing that surprised me was that the writers made Jamie’s character a virgin instead of Claire. Considering the time period it’s all about a woman’s purity, so the fact that Jamie was a virgin was a switch of gender stereotypes. Jamie is a part of the Mackenzie clan and Claire ends up nursing him back to health a few times. As the show goes on, their relationship develops. I love the development of their relationship. Although the creator of the show, Ronald D. Moore, said in an interview that episode 7 is when we see Claire and Jamie fall in love with each other; I noticed the signs earlier on. It may seem fast to a lot of people, but it didn’t to me because I had seen the signs earlier, so when episode 7 came on I was fine and happy about it.

Outlander isn’t a perfect show, but I thoroughly enjoy it. There were a couple of scenes that disturbed me so I’m warning you now. The first part of season one is available in our catalog. The second part of season one started on Saturday, April 4th on Starz.

Kayla

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Courtesy of Wikipedia

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Haiku’s Winding Path / Seventeen Syllables Long / One Million Steps

Shaping sounds like clay?
Beating sand with a hammer,
wrestling with haiku…

Haiku In English: The First Hundred Years

The Classic Tradition Of Haiku: An Anthology

Past All Traps

Baseball Haiku: American And Japanese Haiku And Senryu On Baseball

–Scott P.
Past-All-TrapsHaiku-baseballHaiku-Eng-100 Classic-Haiku-Cover

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Better Than a Chocolate Bunny

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

For me, Easter is all about the books.

Obviously, the holiday is about chocolate and – for some of us – family and church. In my world, Easter has been (and always will be) connected with reading.

I wasn’t a kid who indulged in a lot of candy.  I had quite a few dental woes as a child, including one tooth being so decayed that it required a silver cap when I was all of three years old.  Good times, those.

So, whether it was because he was particularly sensitive to my parents’ having adult-sized dental expenses for their fun-sized toddler, the Easter Bunny who was assigned to my house got a little creative when it came to filling my basket.

There was a ceramic bunny which looked uncannily like the real deal and which made its appearance every year, long after ceramics were no longer A Thing. (Hey, this was the ’70s. Ceramics were IT.)

There were a few Hershey’s Kisses and the requisite plastic eggs.

And there were the books.

Oh, the books.

Because he hangs with Those Holiday Things Who Magically Know Stuff About Children, the Easter Bunny knew how much I loved to read.  Perhaps the fact that my birthday was (and, hey, it still is!) around Easter might have been a giveaway.  But every Easter morn, there it was: a brand new book with a springtime theme tucked in my basket, inscribed with a message written especially for me.

To Melissa, age 5
Happy Easter
1974.

The Velveteen RabbitThere would be my new friends: Little Quack and Gertie the Duck and The Velveteen Rabbit, which I still turn to when, at 46 years old, I need a reminder of its timeless lessons.

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse.  “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real, you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse.  “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real, you can’t be ugly, except to folks who don’t understand.”  ~ The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams

All these years later, I still have each of these books that the Easter Bunny put into my basket.

More importantly, I have the love of reading that several special people – bunnies and all – gave me, too.

And that’s much better (and less cavity-inducing) than all the candy in the world.

~ Melissa F.

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No Fooling

Hey, hey, guess what day it is!

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No, not that. The other thing. April Fools’ Day, the one day of the year when the Internet tries to deceive you more often than usual!

Not here at Eleventh Stack, though. We’re dedicated to the truth, and nothing but the truth, no matter what day it is. This is, of course, because truth is usually wackier and more interesting than anything we could try to trick you with. For your edification and delight, here are some books with titles that sound bogus, but are 100% real, and available for checkout through the Library.

Eating People is WrongMalcolm Bradbury. Being the English department chair isn’t all eatingit’s cracked up to be. Exhibit A: one year in the life of Stuart Treece,  a professor at a small British university. You’ll cackle–or wince–as the hapless Treece bumbles his way through the school year, making social blunders and questionable moral decisions. A fine example of the academic comic of manners, in the same vein as Kingsley Amis and David Lodge.

Eeeee eee eeee, Tao Lin. Fresh out of college and at loose ends, Andrew spends his time working at a pizza shop, driving around with his ex-girlfriend, ruminating on the meaning eeeeof life, and–occasionally–working on some short stories about “people who are doomed.” Between episodes of navel-gazing, strange things happen. Random celebrity cameos, the occasional bear, and highly intelligent dolphins who could speak to humans, but choose not to, dance in and out of the narrative. Think of it as a somewhat snootier version of the Clerks universe randomly interrupted by acid flashbacks. Ideal for anyone excited about experimental fiction, the daily life of the North American hipster, or dolphins.

The Tetherballs of Bougainville, Mark Leyner. If you like satire, black humor, and endless discussions of literary/film culture, this is the Godiva truffle of a novel you didn’t know you were searching for. Leyner’s protagonist is…a 13-year-old Mark Leyner, who has just won tetherballs$250,000,000 a year for life in a screenwriting contest. The problem is, the screenplay is due in 24 hours, and he hasn’t actually written it yet. Wait, what? It gets weirder. Luckily for Leyner, his dad is about to survive his execution by lethal injection due to a very high drug tolerance. And onward and downward and around we go, into a world where Leyner and his dad are ghostwriters for some of America’s most popular novelists.  Add in the use of three different narrative styles, and this novel is a head-scratcher only a dedicated lit maven could love. Includes one incredibly intense sexual situation, for those of you who are leery of (or fond of) such things.

Theatre of Fish, John Gimlette. If you like travel memoirs, you might enjoy Gimlette’s tale of retracing his great-grandfather’s footsteps across the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador. Dr. Eliot Curwen spent the summer of 1893 tending the sick of the region, and fishhis frank account of the inhabitants’ difficult life inspired Gimlette to travel there himself and see what it’s like in the present day.  Gimlette’s approach was simple: arrive in a town, head for the bar, and find the area’s most talkative people (no mean feat with this crew) to spin him some yarns. As a result, bear-fighting goats, nearly impenetrable dialects, tall tales, bizarre pasts and strange presents await the curious reader who can appreciate the absurdity of life in a region where, despite changes, much has remained the same.

I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems By Cats, Francesco Marciuliano. April peeis National Poetry Month, so why not start it off on the right foot with this collection of the finest feline verse in America (and, quite possibly, the planet)?  If you’ve ever wondered what your kitty is really thinking about you, her/his psyche will be laid bare in poems such as “Kneel Before Me” and “This is My Chair.”  Marciuliano, who is also the current writer of “Sally Forth,” includes all the common cat foibles, such as knocking over Christmas trees and dipping their paws in whatever your were drinking, organized into four categories: family, work, play, and existence. Dog lovers, fret not: the companion volume, I Could Chew on This, ensures that puppy poets also get their day in the sun.

Believe it or not, there is an actual prize for weird book titles, the Bookseller/Diagram Prize sponsored by–who else?–The Bookseller (UK). Some of the winning choices strike me as unfair and unkind, given that they actually make sense in the context of what the author was trying to do (this mostly happens with non-fiction). But even so, there are definitely a lot of titles out there that fall into “what is this I don’t even” territory.

What’s the weirdest book title you’ve ever seen? Did it make sense in some way, or was it a complete mystery to you? I’d love to hear your choices in the comments section…no fooling.

Leigh Anne

 

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Penny(wise) For Your Thoughts

itcover

This cover was clearly inspired by juggalos. And nothing is more terrifying than a juggalo. Nothing.

A remake of Stephen King’s It has been languishing in development hell for years. I first became aware of it in 2009 when I started reading the book (which I’ve yet to finish), but it was reported in December 2014 that Cary Fukunaga, the director of the first season of True Detective, would be helming the remake. If you’ve seen True Detective, you know that Fukunaga is more than capable of crafting an unseen horror that is still tangible. While filming of the two-part adaptation is expected to begin this summer, Fukunaga is still searching for the perfect actor to portray Pennywise, the titular It who takes the form of a vicious clown. Tim Curry played the character in the 1990 made-for-television miniseries.

One of the things the Internet loves as much as cats is fan casting. New lists pop up each time an adaptation of a known property is in the works. A simple Google search of “pennywise casting” returns several articles, some dating back to 2009. The names I’ve seen range from wonderfully inspired (Tilda Swinton, Geoffrey Rush), to downright amazing (Willem Dafoe, Michael Shannon), to uninspired (Johnny Depp, Michael Fassbender) to so far out in left field that they might just be fantastic (Nicolas Cage?! Channing Tatum?!). Not to be outdone, I thought I’d throw my own names into the ring.


Michael Keaton
Michael_Keaton_Face
Coming off a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his performance in Birdman or, (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Keaton is hotter than ever right now and as a fellow Pittsburgher, I couldn’t be more proud. Keaton is always golden in everything he does and while horror films are generally looked down upon by Academy voters (The Exorcist, Silence of the Lambs and The Sixth Sense being exceptions) Keaton might be able to score another Best Actor nom.

Robert Downey Jr
Robert_Downey_Jr_2014_Comic_Con_(cropped)
He’s also hot right now, thanks to those small superhero movies he keeps making. I feel like he’s versatile enough (extremely versatile) to pull off the killer clown. And he’s never really played an outright bad guy so it’d be an interesting change of pace.

David Bowie
David-Bowie_Chicago_2002-08-08_photoby_Adam-Bielawski-cropped
Think of the lanky alien from The Man Who Fell to Earth or the tights-wearing, bulge-sporting Goblin King from Labyrinth. There’s a charm that Bowie exudes in those roles that would make his portrayal even more unsettling. Granted, The Thin White Duke might be a bit too old for it now, but clown makeup could probably make his age a non-issue.

J. K. Simmons
JK_Simmons_2009
I will openly admit that I have a man-crush on J.K. Simmons (I think it’s those baby blues). I laughed with him in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films and empathized with him in Jason Reitman’s films, but he terrified me in Whiplash. Shouldn’t an eldritch evil manifested as a clown do the same thing?

Meryl Streep
Meryl_Streep_by_Jack_Mitchell
Since Tilda Swinton is in almost every other fancast for this project, I wanted to offer another female name. Streep was wicked in Into the Woods and is obviously a capable actor. However, I feel like casting her might result in a hammy performance, a la Death Becomes Her. That could be scary in its own way, though.

BONUS
Matthew McConaughey or Woody Harrelson
Matthew_McConaughey_-_Goldene_Kamera_2014_-_BerlinWoody_Harrelson_2009
I haven’t checked my history books lately so I don’t know if we’re still living in the McConaissance or not, but picture him as emaciated as he was in Dallas Buyers Club, but  in clown make up and you’ve got yourself a new nightmare for a new generation. And Harrelson can go from friendly to mean and angry at the drop of a hat. It’d be terrifying to see him go from playful to evil. Given the fact that Fukunaga has already worked with both on True Detective, I’d really love to see what they could cook up here.

Ron Perlman? Christian Bale? Tom Hiddleston? The possibilities are endless! Who would you cast as the demonic clown?  Are you looking forward to the remake? Let us know in the comments.

–Ross

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