Shaping sounds like clay?
Beating sand with a hammer,
wrestling with haiku…
Shaping sounds like clay?
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
“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.
Hey, hey, guess what day it is!
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 Wrong, Malcolm Bradbury. Being the English department chair isn’t all it’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 of 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 $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 his 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 is 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.
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.
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
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.
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
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?
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.
Matthew McConaughey or Woody Harrelson
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.
When I tell people that I’m a librarian, I can practically see the many stereotypical images that come to their mind in terms of what my day-to-day duties involve (and no, librarians do not get to sit around reading all day). I like to quickly dispel those stereotypes by describing all the fantastic projects that I get to be a part of thanks to my job at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, in my role of bringing a variety of services and learning opportunities to the residents of the city.
These were just some of the things that I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to do this past month alone:
- Present on a grant and related library gardening programming at the Farm to Table Conference
- Sit in on a library webinar on the topic of racial and gender microaggressions
- Provide financial literacy and conduct a discussion with inmates at the Allegheny County Jail participating in the jail’s Re-Entry program
- Provide computer instruction to residents at Veterans’ Place home for residents
- Learn how to solder and fine tune my portrait photography skills thanks to colleagues in The LABS department of CLP
- Conduct a conversation with CLP staff and Pittsburgh organizations on the topic of sustainability as it pertains to libraries in communities, and library programming
- Provide library card registration and a small collection of materials for circulation to the residents of Wood Street Commons, a downtown homeless shelter
- Interact with gallery crawlers at the opening of an exhibit at the Pittsburgh Glass Center by taking green screen photographs with attendees
I know, I know – I’ve just blown your mind! So next time you meet a librarian, you may look at us with a different image in mind – not one of someone dusting off old books, but maybe with a soldering iron in hand instead!
Maria J. – “jack of all trades” librarian
Today’s post is a guest essay from Megan, a children’s library assistant at the East Liberty branch. You can learn more about her, and the other Eleventh Stack contributors, on the About Us page. Enjoy!
If you grew up in the 80s, love video games, pop culture, Dungeons and Dragons, or just enjoy unique stories full of awesome puzzles and clues, you’ll probably devour this book. I know I did.
The story is set in a bleak future where most people’s only escape is a virtual reality universe called the OASIS. It brings together the world wide web, games, shopping and entertainment. Thousands of places from movies, games and TV are re-created and ready to explore. Many people even work or attend school in the virtual world.
When James Halliday, the ridiculously wealthy creator of the OASIS, dies, he leaves his fortune to whoever can find an “Easter egg” he hid somewhere in the online universe. Of course a lot of people want to find it, including a corporation that hopes to take over the OASIS and commercialize it, charging a fee for access.
The story is told by a dedicated “egg hunter” named Wade, who lives in his aunt’s trailer with 14 other people. The money would change his life, but it’s just as important to him that the OASIS not fall into the hands of a company that would monetize it, cutting off millions who can’t afford to pay.
Finding the egg will require not only cleverness, but a deep knowledge of 80s culture and games. Halliday was a teen in the 80s, and he made it clear that sharing his obsessions is the only way to win. Wade spends all of his free time studying these subjects. We readers can enjoy the book without that level of dedication, but the more references you get, the more fun it is.
What can you do to maximize your enjoyment? I don’t want to spoil anything, but you may want to brush up on your arcade and Atari games, 80s shows, movies and music. Thankfully, the library has you covered!
Read about 80s music
Listen to 80s songs
Read about arcade games
Or browse the catalog for the album, movie or show of your choice. We’ll hook you up. The rest is up to you. Are you ready?
Tell us in the comments if you’ve already read it, or report back once you do. We’d love to hear your opinion, but no spoilers please.
Since mid-December, I’ve been neck-deep in the process of buying a house and then renovating it. This has severely cut into my comic book reading time.
To keep me from going insane with all the (hopefully) good books I’m missing, I’ve compiled a want-to-read list.
Fables Volume 20: Camelot by Bill Willingham and various wonderful artists
Fables starts out with showing how fairy tale characters have adapted to life in present-day New York City, but has morphed into something much deeper and more epic over the ten-plus years of its run. The past few volumes have been beautifully devastating, so I’m both excited and scared to find out what happens next.
Fatale Volume 5 by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
I’ll read anything by Ed Brubaker. He does crime noir so well, it’s like he invented it. This particular series mixes the femme fatale and horror genres to create a dark, twisted mystery.
Ms. Marvel Volume 1 by G. Willow Wilson
When Marvel announced the new Ms. Marvel would be a shape-shifting Iranian immigrant Muslim lady, and that it would be written by a real live Muslim woman, I was psyched. Sales for this have been going steady, so I’m thinking it’s going to be even more awesome than the concept alone implies. I suggest following author G. Willow Wilson on Twitter–she posts interesting tweets about religion, social justice, and of course, comics.
Rat Queens Volume 1 by Kurtis J. Wiebe and various artists
Like a Dungeons and Dragons quest, only with ladies kicking butt. Need I say more?
Have you read any of these? What did you think?