Blog Posts by BARB W

Posted by BARB W on 08/29/18
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The Comet Seekers (2016), by Scottish physicist Helen Sedgwick, is a challenging book to categorize. There are elements of mysticism and a touch of the paranormal, and just enough bending of science to add in a fringe element of science fiction. There is also a love story.

Wait a minute, how does love fit into this scenario? Be prepared; it is unconventional, deeply personal, and spans the centuries. Sedgwick creates a sensuality between the lovers that draws you into their story and sets a powerful, urgent tone.
 
The author’s decision to set part of the story in Antarctica adds complexity if you stop to consider the unusual reasons people choose to be in such an enigmatic location. It is remarkable that the story spans time and space so extravagantly yet creates such an intimate portrait of love, all punctuated by the sporadic appearance of the comets. This is truly a story for anyone, anywhere, in any time.
Fiction
Posted by BARB W on 06/22/18
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Have you ever wondered what kind of films do best at the box office, which tower above the rest in terms of ticket sales?

Science fiction films are by far the fan favorites. Star Wars, Avatar, The Avengers, the Jurassic Park films. If these are what we choose to watch, why are we so hesitant to read science fiction?

Maybe we are afraid to hold a mirror up to who we are. Reflection is the essence of good science fiction. It may seem to transport you to the unknown, but it really explores the possibilities of who we are and the expectations of who we can be.

Check out Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer; book one of the Neanderthal Parallax. In an alternate universe, the Neanderthals have evolved at a faster rate than the Homo sapiens have, a situation that perplexes the human scientists. They discover that there is much to learn and share for the two civilizations, and a collaboration begins. But what is the cost for this rapid development?

In The Left Hand of Darkness, by the late, revered Ursula K. LeGuin, gender is fluid, making opportunities in childbirth and leadership available to all. We may not have that option, but once you take gender out of the equation, the prospects become endless. On the planet Gethen, recognition occurs based on ability, not predetermination by gender.

In The Secret City by Carol Emshwiller, we see the conditions of hospitality and hostility imposed on Others, people different from ourselves, and we grapple with the difficulties of assimilation and inclusion.

Real world problems, reimagined by brilliant minds; writers asking the big questions and taking a stab at explanations or alternate pathways. Check out some science fiction today and be part of the discussion.
 
Posted by BARB W on 06/22/18
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The Book of Hidden Things by Francesco Dimitri is a superb summer read. Dimitri, often referred to as the “Italian Neil Gaiman”, has written a suspense thriller that manages to keep one foot in the real world while dipping the other foot into a pool of wonder and fantasy.

Four friends, now grown and scattered about the world, return to their hometown once a year for their “appointment” together. For some, this is a welcome respite, for others a reminder of their inability to leave their old selves behind. When one of them does not show, a quest begins to find him and unravel the mystery.

This is a magical, fantastical tale of sacrifice and choices. It is also about the truths we face and the changes we must make in adulthood. The author takes this a step further by exploring families and friendship; those we construct and those we are born into.

Well-composed fiction, an affecting story, wrapped in an impressive fantasy adventure!
fantasy, Suspense
Posted by BARB W on 04/25/18
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Witness another entry in the already crowded canon of dystopian literature. Out in the Open, by Jesús Carrasco, has somehow managed to distinguish itself and move to the front of the pack.
 
Carrasco’s prose is sharp and precise, and like Cormac McCarthy, he does not litter his story with unnecessary distractions.  A minimum of characters, fully realized, enter our consciousness and consideration.
 
However, the story also belongs to the parched landscape the boy and the goatherd desperately maneuver in their effort to survive. The magnitude and urgency created by the absence of water terrifies with greater potency than zombies or fictitious viruses. This exquisitely written story, translated from the original Spanish, will not disappoint.
Posted by BARB W on 03/12/18
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Peach, by debut author Emma Glass, came just at the right time. With the advent of the #MeToo and the Time’s Up movements, we can no longer pretend that these unspeakable acts occur outside our circle of family and friends. The victims now have faces, voices, and the contemptible perpetrators have been unmasked. Fewer secrets, greater revelations.

With Peach, Emma Glass exposes another layer of this immense problem, the vicious act itself, difficult to describe and impossible to forget. We experience Peach’s assault in a visceral way as she relives this horrific moment repeatedly. Glass never holds back in her startlingly brutal language. If we thought it was easy to forget how it feels to be violated, Peach reminds us of every painful, degrading moment. Glass is a master of descriptive language, and Peach’s inner dialog is disturbing and relentless.

It is sometimes difficult to hear the unfiltered truth. It is even more difficult to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other and look for normal. Check out a remarkable story from this innovative author.
Posted by BARB W on 03/09/18
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Although I have not yet read The River of Consciousness, author Oliver Sacks is a man I wish I could meet. Sadly, he died in 2015, but left behind an astonishingly diverse body of work. He was a neurologist; the book and film Awakenings derive from his experiences. He was also a writer, weightlifter, passionate motorcyclist and a perennial student of life. His memoir, On the Move, will tell you all you need to know. There is a quote by another famous author, Jack Kerouac, which sums up my admiration for Oliver Sacks. “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars”. Perfect summation of the brilliance of Oliver Sacks.
Posted by BARB W on 02/19/18
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In 2017, the world lost a gifted artist, Sam Shepard. Some remember him for his many film and television roles, or as a screenplay writer for both of these mediums.

All true, but the core of Shepard’s work and deep impact will be the legacy of the forty-four plays, two novels and several short story collections he created. His last work, the short novel Spy of the First Person, was published on December 5, 2017, and is a memorable final gift from this immensely talented man.

Spy of the First Person is quintessentially Shepard and intensely personal to his struggle as he neared the end of his life. These characteristics of human uncertainty make the story relevant to everyone: the memories we have created, the paths we have pursued, and the people who went there with us. The lonely narrator becomes both the observer and the participant.

Shephard’s style is sparse, precise and affectingly significant in this beautiful read. Please try this, or one of his other rewarding works.
Posted by BARB W on 10/17/17
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Agnes, by Swiss writer Peter Stamm, begins with a startling revelation. The narrator tells us, “Agnes is dead. Killed by a story.” I am a sucker for a great opening line, and that one did it for me. In this brilliant short novel, Stamm explores the relationship between reality, and the reality we would like to create with our words.

We are all guilty of telling stories that do not accurately mirror the authenticity of actual events. If a narrative imagines future events, to what extent can these shape the direction of our lives? Agnes and the narrator meet in the Chicago Public Library and begin a curious relationship. She wants to be remembered, so she asks her lover to chronicle their experiences. But the line between fact and fiction begins to blur, and life begins to imitate art.

Stamm ponders an intriguing subject here. Can we control our own destiny, and can we shape it with our words? Can we script life as we would like it? Interesting characters, a suspenseful plot, and perfectly controlled prose make this an excellent addition to your fall reading list.
Posted by BARB W on 07/02/17
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Worlds Apart (2015), a drama from Greece, set in Greece, is a story that surrenders itself to the qualities that bind us as humans instead of succumbing to the ones that divide us. Although the stories reflect the economic difficulties in Greece, the struggles are universal.

The film intersects three stories filled with passion, pain, love and hope; stories of betrayal, emptiness and missed chances. The people in this world are you and I: kind, compassionate, positive and sometimes misguided. Good people making choices that lead to uncomfortable resolutions.

Academy Award winner J.K. Simmons turns in an endearing performance as a retired German professor looking for a second chance in life. Christopher Papakaliatis, who also portrays the troubled husband Giorgos, superbly directs the ensemble and circuitously connects the stories. To say more would be to reveal too much: savor these richly genuine relationships in this small treasure of a film. (In Greek and English, with subtitles)
 
 
Posted by BARB W on 04/09/17
The film Uncommon Grace: The Life of Flannery O’Connor is a revealing portrait of one of the most remarkable authors of the 20th century. O’Connor died at age 39, but in her short life, she left behind a series of stories that continue to captivate her readers and draw the attention of scholars and devotees alike.

The reason? A body of short fiction that will knock the wind out of you. A Southern Catholic in a primarily Protestant region, O’Connor‘s questions of faith are always at the root of her stories. Her characters will be familiar to you: mothers, fathers, grandparents, and children. She will lure you in with these characters, and as she reveals their eccentricities, get ready for these stories to take you to some very dark, violent places in their search for faith and redemption.

Before you watch this, you might want to check out one of her short story collections, Everything That Rises Must Converge, or A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories. There was also a film made from one of her two novels, John Huston’s Wise Blood, with Brad Dourif in the starring role of Hazel Motes, a crazy character in conflict with his faith.

From the violent encounter between Grandfather Fortune and Granddaughter Mary Fortune Pitts in A View of the Woods, to the bible salesman who steals Joy’s leg in the barn loft in Good Country People, you will be drawn into the peculiar and curious world of Flannery O’Connor. Indulge yourself with these flawless stories. 
 
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6.012 Patron-Generated Content

04/27/2011
The Library offers various venues in which patrons can contribute content that is accessible to the public.  These include, but are not limited to, blogs, reviews, forums, and social tagging on the Library’s website and catalog.  Any instance in which a patron posts written or recorded content to any of the Library’s venues that are accessible to the public is considered “patron-generated content” and is subject to this policy.
 
By contributing patron-generated content, patrons grant the Library an irrevocable, royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual right and license to use, copy, modify, display, archive, distribute, reproduce and create derivative works based upon that content.
 
By submitting patron-generated content, patrons warrant they are the sole authors or that they have obtained all necessary permission associated with copyrights and trademarks to submit such content.
 
Patrons are liable for the opinions expressed and the accuracy of the information contained in the content they submit.  The Library assumes no responsibility for such content.
 
The Library reserves the right not to post submitted content or to remove patron-generated content for any reason, including but not limited to:
 
  • content that is profane, obscene, or pornographic;
 
  • content that is abusive, discriminatory or hateful on account of race, national origin, religion, age, gender, disability, or sexual orientation;
 
  • content that contains threats, personal attacks, or harassment;
 
  • content that contains solicitations or advertisements;
 
  • content that is invasive of another person’s privacy;
 
  • content that is unrelated to the discussion or venue in which it is posted;
 
  • content that is in violation of the Library’s Code of Conduct or any other Library policy