Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tidbits and Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

 I am looking forward to seeing this movie, as I have always been a fan of Emily Dickinson's poems.

Cynthia Nixon will play poet Emily Dickinson in A Quiet Passion
from British director Terence Davies (House of Mirth), who also wrote
the screenplay for the film that "will trace Dickinson's life from
precocious schoolgirl to the tortured recluse who saw only seven of her
more than 1,000 poems published in her lifetime," the Hollywood Reporter

"I wrote the screenplay with Cynthia in mind," Davies said. "It was the
kind of dream casting you hope for. I never, for a moment, imagined my
wishes would materialize. Cynthia has such a strong feeling for the
work--and now she is our Emily Dickinson. I'm over the moon."

"When I read what Terence had written, I was consumed by the character
he had so beautifully put on the page," Nixon observed. "Emily
Dickinson's words and Terence's somehow dovetail to create a heady
elixir. When I put the script down, I knew it was a story that I simply
have to be part of."

This seems like such a great idea to me, to pass the time while you're on a ferry boat. I have a friend on Facebook who lives in Kitsap, and I wonder if he became part of this book group?
For its monthly Ferry Tales book group
program, the Kitsap Regional Library takes to the water via the
Washington State Ferries system on the trip between Seattle and
Bainbridge Island. At Boing Boing, librarian Audrey Barbakoff explained
that in "the direction of the commute, a group of regulars discusses one
title each month; in the other, I host a drop-in, ask-a-librarian
session. I love helping our community of commuters get to know each
other, expand our reading horizons, and just share an incredibly
enjoyable ride!"

I imagine that lots of people left these books behind, and I am glad that someone is offering a better book in trade:
"Hotels may be creating packages around the novel Fifty Shades of Grey
to attract visitors, but turns out visitors are leaving their copies
behind when they check out of hotels," according to ABC News, which
reported that E.L. James's erotic bestseller was the book most often
left behind
at Travelodge U.K. properties.

The hotel chain's annual survey found that 7,000 copies of the novel
were discarded, amounting to nearly one-third of the total 21,786 books
left behind in 36,500 Travelodge hotel rooms.

"It is interesting to see that our list is not dominated by celebrity
biographies and chick lit

books, which it has been in the past," a Travelodge spokeswoman told the

But if you're in more of a trading than leaving behind mood, publisher
OR Books is currently featuring a "Bonnets for Bondage Giveaway"
promotion through which OR will "send the first fifty respondents a
free, illustrated copy of Fifty Shades of Louisa May
which is simply a superior read, and might actually rock your world, old
school style."

I adore Carl Sandburg's poems, too, and I hope to be able to record this on Monday.
American Masters: The Day Carl Sandburg Died, commemorating the 45th
anniversary of the author's death, makes its premier Monday, September
24, at 10 p.m. on PBS stations. Film outtakes featuring Peter Seeger,
Studs Terkel, Norman Corwin, a Sandburg playlist, podcast and more can
be found here:

It is nice to know that Roger Page and company at Island Books held firm in the face of censorship and fatwas from third-world despots! This is from Salman Rushdie himself, as he has now written a book about his experiences during that terrifying time:

"In February 1989, my novel The Satanic Verses was published in the United States a few days after the Khomeini fatwa; in the eye of the storm, in other words. What happened in the months that followed was something I will never forget. American writers gathered together in a show of almost complete unity to defend freedom of speech. Thousands of ordinary Americans wore “I am Salman Rushdie” buttons to express their solidarity. The independent booksellers of America put the book in windows, mounted special displays, and courageously stood up for freedom against censorship, refusing to allow the choices of American readers to be limited by the threats of an angry despotic cleric far away. The bravery of independent booksellers influenced other stores to follow their lead, and in the end a key battle for free expression was wonnot by politicians who, as usual, arrived cautiously and tardily at the battlefield, but by the determination of ordinary people that it not be lost. I have never ceased to be grateful for what the independent booksellers of America did in 1989 and, now that I have finally been able to tell the full story of that battle, I’m glad to be able to honor your courage and give you all your due, both in the pages of my book and in what I will say about it when it is published. This is just to thank you personally. It was a privilege to be defended by you, and I have been trying, and will continue to try, to be worthy of that defense."

Island Books was one of the independent stores that kept The Satanic Verses on the shelf, selling it nervously and proudly.

I can't see the words "Shadow of Night" without hearing Pat Benatar's song "Shadow of the Night" in my head, running in an endless loop. The music video for that song was the intrepid Ms Benatar in a WWII airplane dog-fighting for the Allies and belting out her defiant tune to those Mezerschmidts full of Nazis. "We're runnin' with the shadows of the night, so baby take my hand it'll be alright, surrender all your dreams to me tonight, they'll come true in the end."
So it was with great nostalgia that I opened my hardback copy of the sequel to "A Discovery of Witches," which had us meeting professor Diana Bishop and Matthew de Clermont, soon to be star-crossed lovers. Diana, it turns out, is a witch from a long line of witches, and Matthew is a vampire, and though they are forbidden by Covenant law to wed or engage in sexual activity, inevitably, they do both, and end up running away through time to 16th century England, where they are supposed to find a magic book, and Diana is supposed to learn more about her powers and how to control them. Hence the first part of Shadow of the Night finds us touring London in 1591, complete with discussions of clothing, food, shopping, life at Queen Elizabeth first's court, etc. Being a history major, I enjoyed the daily life of Elizabethan England paragraphs, and I found Harkness' treatment of actual historical figures, such as Kit Marlow and Shakespeare fascinating. I also enjoyed the people surrounding Diana and Matthew, the 'regular' people, like the little pickpocket they take in, and the local creepy vampire king, who, like the Holy Roman Emperor, wants to get his hooks into Diana because she's apparently irresistible. And therein lies one of my problems with the book, Diana seems to be a bit of a ninny for someone who has multiple degrees from Ivy League colleges and who didn't grow up in an era where women were supposed to be demure or reticent. Once she's in 16th century England, she seems to become more 'girly' and less intelligent, and makes it clear that she wants Matthew to dominate her in every way possible, as this seems to be her ideal of what makes a good relationship. Much discussion is had about vampires being "possessive" of their mates, and things get even more strange when Diana becomes pregnant, and then loses her child (only to become pregnant with twins later, of course). There is also a great deal of attention paid to how beautiful and extremely attractive Diana is, how her strawberry blond hair is so luxurious and I almost expected a "Twilight" like reference to surface about how her hair smelled of strawberries, just like that idiot Bella Swans did in those vile YA vampire novels. Fortunately, Matthew tells us she smells of honey, instead, which is, I suppose, a marked difference between the two heroines. However, despite its shortcomings with stereotypical characters and lots of black and white characters (good vs evil), I did enjoy this fantasy novel, and was surprised that it wasn't wrapped up in the end, so I can only assume there is another novel on the way that will bring readers closure in the Diana and Matthew saga. All in all, a B+ novel that will appeal to Twilight fans and to historical romance fans as well.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Quotes, Poems, Ancient Libraries and Dragon Ship

"The only bookshop I haven't fallen in love with is one I haven't
visited yet."

--Wendy Grisham, v-p and publisher of Hachette imprint Jericho Books,
speaking at the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance trade show
recently in Naples, Fla.

Though I am not a fan of tattoos, and could never have one myself, these are some amazing tats that relate to libraries:
Mental Floss showcased "11 amazing librarian tattoos," noting that there
"are plenty of literary tattoos out there, and plenty of tattooed
librarians. A bit less common are librarians with tattoos celebrating
their career choice."

This is a great review from Shelf Awareness about a new book of poetry by one of my favorite Science Fiction authors, the marvelous Ursula K LeGuin:
Review: Finding My Elegy: New and Selected Poems, 1960-2010

Ursula K. Le Guin is known as the Hugo- and Nebula-winning author of
science fiction and fantasy novels like The Left Hand of Darkness, The
Lathe of Heaven and the ambitious Earthsea series. She has also been
writing and publishing poetry--11 books and chapbooks since the 1960s,
which she draws upon for the retrospective Finding My Elegy. The
wistful, pensive title is taken from one of several new poems that also
appear in the collection, in which she tells us "my search" for an elegy
"must be a watch,/ patiently sitting, looking out the open door."

The titles of many poems invoke the Pacific Northwest landscape Le Guin
has grown to love: the Columbia River, Mount Rainier, the Coast Range
Highway, Cannon Beach, Clackamas and on and on. She also writes of her
love for the old poets--Virgil, Dante, Lucretius, Shelley, Hugo. In "She
Remembers the Famous Poets," she writes: "Now I am old and grey and sit
alone beside my fire,/ I think of lovely boys I knew when I was young
and fair." And in the witty "Heroic Couplet," we find: "In adolescent
tides of fear and hope, / I prized the canny certainties of Pope;/ when
all I did seemed wrong, it was delight/ to hear him say, Whatever is, is

There are a number of gems in this collection, including "The Queen of
Spain, Grown Old and Mad, Writes to the Daughter She Imagines She Had by
Christopher Columbus," "The Elders at the Falls," "For the New House"
and the just about perfect short poem, "Pelicans," with its wistful echo
of Hopkins:

They're awkward, angular, abstruse,
the great beak on a head so narrow,
a kind of weird Jurassic goose
lurching into the modern era.
But the blue arc of sky lets loose--
look, now!--the brown, unerring arrow!
And see how beautiful, how grave,
the steady wings along the wave.

The only thing missing from this superb collection is a few of Le Guin's
translations of poets like Lao Tzu and Gabriela Mistral, the first (and
only) Latin American woman poet to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Le
Guin has written, "It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it
is the journey that matters in the end." The poems in Finding My Elegy
help chart her journey. --Tom Lavoie

I would love to have about 7 of these really awesome bookcases. In fact, the one that looks like a tree would look great in my living room!

I was actually in one of these ancient libraries, the Long Room at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, and it was one of the most holy experiences of my life. The smell alone, of all those ancient volumes, sent me into a rapture of exstacy. I could have remained in that room for days, just looking at books that are older than the country I was born in. What I wouldn't give to visit the Vatican Library! Oh dear God! Imagine the treasures on those shelves!
Noting that older libraries "seem to hum with wisdom through that black
and white film--and we bet the old-book smell is just to die for,"
Flavorwire showcased "vintage photographs from inside 10 famous

Dragon Ship is the third book in the Theo Waitley series of Liaden Universe novels by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. I am a huge fan of all of Sharon and Steve's work, and I eagerly await each new novel, though I have to buy them in hardback (which is spendy) when they first come out in order to assuage my curiosity about what's next for our intrepid young Theo, who is half-Liaden (her father is Daav, former delm of Korval).
Dragon Ship continues where Ghost Ship left off, with Theo going out to explore a new trade route in space for Shan and Val Con in her ship, the ancient machine Bechimo, replete with an AI brain and an AI crewmate that interacts with the crew via vid screen named Joyita. Theo is headstrong and gets into some scrapes, but shows her true colors when she responds to a pilot-in-distress call and helps save a whole group of people from destruction. Meanwhile, Kamele, her mother, seeks Jen Sar, her mate with whom she made Theo, and journeys to Surebleak to try and find him, not knowing that this aspect of his personality has been put aside in favor of Daav, who is extremely ill and is being 'repaired' by a special autodoc system that is with "Uncle" a shadowy character who has control of a great many things behind the scenes. Win Ton, Theo's boyfriend, is also under repair aboard Bechimo, and he has to be totally repaired by his DNA specs, after having spent some time in Uncle's medical machines that only healed him part way.  Clarence, a former Juntavas and Kara, Theo's former room mate and apparently former lover, also come along for the ride, with Norbears and weapons and ships and politics and oh, my, everything else one could ever want in a space opera/adventure! I must say that this book surprised me, especially in outing Theo as a bisexual young woman who feels comfortable bedding down with her old friend Kara while her boyfriend and lover is being healed in a special autodoc on the ship. But that is just one more facet to this already fascinating character. Now that she's bonded to the ship as captain, I can't wait to see what will happen with clan and crew when she returns to Surebleak and has a chat with her half-brother Val Con and his lifemate Miri. Though the language of their novels is often complex and detailed, it is always worth it to read more about the marvelous characters that inhabit the Liaden Universe. A solid A, for this book and a strong hope for the sequel next year.