Thursday, November 30, 2017

spy novels


Mark your calendars and join us on Thursday, December 7 at 7pm for a live reading of Charles Dickens’ beloved story, “A Christmas Carol.”  Your favorite neighborhood librarians, shop owners, and friends will appear as characters in the story.  The reading should last approximately one hour and live music will accompany.  Admission is free and cider, hot chocolate, and cookies will be available!

This week, the Genre Reading Group met to discussion spy/espionage novels!

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Pattern Recognition by William Gibson
Cayce Pollard is a new kind of prophet—a world-renowned “coolhunter” who predicts the hottest trends. While in London to evaluate the redesign of a famous corporate logo, she’s offered a different assignment: find the creator of the obscure, enigmatic video clips being uploaded to the internet—footage that is generating massive underground buzz worldwide.

Still haunted by the memory of her missing father—a Cold War security guru who disappeared in downtown Manhattan on the morning of September 11, 2001—Cayce is soon traveling through parallel universes of marketing, globalization, and terror, heading always for the still point where the three converge. From London to Tokyo to Moscow, she follows the implications of a secret as disturbing—and compelling—as the twenty-first century promises to be...

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Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
In 1942, Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse—mathematical genius and young Captain in the U.S. Navy—is assigned to detachment 2702. It is an outfit so secret that only a handful of people know it exists, and some of those people have names like Churchill and Roosevelt. The mission of Waterhouse and Detachment 2702—commanded by Marine Raider Bobby Shaftoe-is to keep the Nazis ignorant of the fact that Allied Intelligence has cracked the enemy's fabled Enigma code. It is a game, a cryptographic chess match between Waterhouse and his German counterpart, translated into action by the gung-ho Shaftoe and his forces.

Fast-forward to the present, where Waterhouse's crypto-hacker grandson, Randy, is attempting to create a "data haven" in Southeast Asia—a place where encrypted data can be stored and exchanged free of repression and scrutiny. As governments and multinationals attack the endeavor, Randy joins forces with Shaftoe's tough-as-nails granddaughter, Amy, to secretly salvage a sunken Nazi submarine that holds the key to keeping the dream of a data haven afloat. But soon their scheme brings to light a massive conspiracy with its roots in Detachment 2702 linked to an unbreakable Nazi code called Arethusa. And it will represent the path to unimaginable riches and a future of personal and digital liberty...or to universal totalitarianism reborn.

A breathtaking tour de force, and Neal Stephenson's most accomplished and affecting work to date, Cryptonomicon is profound and prophetic, hypnotic and hyper-driven, as it leaps forward and back between World War II and the World Wide Web, hinting all the while at a dark day-after-tomorrow. It is a work of great art, thought and creative daring; the product of a truly iconoclastic imagination working with white-hot intensity.

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All the Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer
Six years ago in Vienna, terrorists took over a hundred hostages, and the rescue attempt went terribly wrong. The CIA's Vienna station gathered intel during those tense hours, assimilating facts from the ground and from an agent on the inside. So when it all went wrong, the question had to be asked: Had their agent been compromised, and how?

Two of the CIA's case officers in Vienna, Henry Pelham and Celia Harrison, were lovers at the time, and on the night of the hostage crisis Celia decided she'd had enough. She left the agency, married and had children, and now lives in idyllic Carmel-by-the-Sea. Henry is still a case officer in Vienna, and has traveled to California to see her one more time, to relive the past, maybe, or to put it behind him once and for all.

But neither of them can forget that long-ago question: Had their agent been compromised? If so, how? Each also wonders what role tonight's dinner companion might have played in the way the tragedy unfolded six years ago.

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The James Bond Series by Ian Fleming
The James Bond literary franchise is a series of novels and short stories, first published in 1953 by Ian Fleming, a British author, journalist, and former naval intelligence officer. James Bond, often referred to by his code name, 007, is a British Secret Service agent; the character was created by journalist and author Ian Fleming, and first appeared in his 1953 novel Casino Royale; the books are set in a contemporary period, between May 1951 and February 1964. Fleming went on to write a total of twelve novels and two collections of short stories, all written at his Jamaican home Goldeneye and published annually. Two of his books were published after his death in 1964.

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The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
The winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, as well as six other awards, The Sympathizer is the breakthrough novel of the year. With the pace and suspense of a thriller and prose that has been compared to Graham Greene and Saul Bellow, The Sympathizer is a sweeping epic of love and betrayal. The narrator, a communist double agent, is a “man of two minds,” a half-French, half-Vietnamese army captain who arranges to come to America after the Fall of Saigon, and while building a new life with other Vietnamese refugees in Los Angeles is secretly reporting back to his communist superiors in Vietnam. The Sympathizer is a blistering exploration of identity and America, a gripping espionage novel, and a powerful story of love and friendship.

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Whirlwind by Joseph Garber
Charlie McKenzie was the best in the business of CIA dirty work -- until he was double-crossed by his bosses and jailed to cover up a mammoth intelligence blunder. Now they want him back. And Charlie wants to get even.

A Russian spy has stumbled upon the most important U.S. military breakthrough since the atomic bomb -- a top-secret technology called Whirlwind -- and only the disgraced former operative has the skills necessary to retrieve it. But Charlie already knows too much. And once Whirlwind is back in Company hands, his enemies intend to betray him again -- and put him out of the game permanently.
However, Charlie McKenzie has other plans. And he won't be that easy to kill.

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Mata Hari: the name breathes mystery, intrigue and sexual allure. Who better to play the notorious World War I spy than Greta Garbo, the enigmatic, exquisite screen icon called The Swedish Sphinx? Garbo is mesmerizing as the dancer-turned-German secret agent in a wartime Paris seething with secrets and betrayal. The notable supporting cast includes Lionel Barrymore as a Russian general besotted with her, Lewis Stone as an icy master spy, and Ramon Novarro as a handsome aviator who wins the heart Mata Hari did not know she possessed. With the world at war, love was her weapon. And the only men she couldn't seduce were the 12 in the firing squad that ended her tragic and tumultuous life.

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Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive draws on the rich palette of Poe's evocative imagery and sharply drawn plots to tell the real story of the notorious author. Featuring Tony Award-winning actor Denis O'Hare, the film explores the misrepresentations of Poe as an alcoholic madman. It reveals the way in which Poe tapped into what it means to be a human in our modern and sometimes frightening world.

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Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene
MI6’s man in Havana is Wormold, a former vacuum-cleaner salesman turned reluctant secret agent out of economic necessity. To keep his job, he files bogus reports based on Charles Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare and dreams up military installations from vacuum-cleaner designs. Then his stories start coming disturbingly true…

First published in 1959 against the backdrop of the Cold War, Our Man in Havana remains one of Graham Greene’s most widely read novels. It is an espionage thriller, a penetrating character study, and a political satire of government intelligence that still resonates today.

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The Polish Officer by Alan Furst
September 1939. As Warsaw falls to Hitler’s Wehrmacht, Captain Alexander de Milja is recruited by the intelligence service of the Polish underground. His mission: to transport the national gold reserve to safety, hidden on a refugee train to Bucharest. Then, in the back alleys and black-market bistros of Paris, in the tenements of Warsaw, with partizan guerrillas in the frozen forests of the Ukraine, and at Calais Harbor during an attack by British bombers, de Milja fights in the war of the shadows in a world without rules, a world of danger, treachery, and betrayal.

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A Legacy of Spies by John Le Carre
Peter Guillam, staunch colleague and disciple of George Smiley of the British Secret Service, otherwise known as the Circus, is living out his old age on the family farmstead on the south coast of Brittany when a letter from his old Service summons him to London. The reason? His Cold War past has come back to claim him. Intelligence operations that were once the toast of secret London, and involved such characters as Alec Leamas, Jim Prideaux, George Smiley and Peter Guillam himself, are to be scrutinized by a generation with no memory of the Cold War and no patience with its justifications.

Interweaving past with present so that each may tell its own intense story, John le Carré has spun a single plot as ingenious and thrilling as the two predecessors on which it looks back: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. In a story resonating with tension, humor and moral ambivalence, le Carré and his narrator Peter Guillam present the reader with a legacy of unforgettable characters old and new.

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In the shadow of the newly erected Berlin Wall, Alec Leamas watches as his last agent is shot dead by East German sentries. For Leamas, the head of Berlin Station, the Cold War is over. As he faces the prospect of retirement or worse—a desk job—Control offers him a unique opportunity for revenge. Assuming the guise of an embittered and dissolute ex-agent, Leamas is set up to trap Mundt, the deputy director of the East German Intelligence Service—with himself as the bait. In the background is George Smiley, ready to make the game play out just as Control wants. Setting a standard that has never been surpassed, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is a devastating tale of duplicity and espionage.

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The Gabriel Allon series by Daniel Silva
Gabriel Allon is a master art restorer and sometime officer of Israeli intelligence.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

memoirs and biography

The Genre Reading Group met last night to discuss memoirs and biographies.  Have a gander at what we read!

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In a work that beautifully demonstrates the rewards of closely observing nature, Elisabeth Tova Bailey shares an inspiring and intimate story of her encounter with a Neohelix albolabris-a common woodland snail. While an illness keeps her bedridden, Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand. As a result, she discovers the solace and sense of wonder that this mysterious creature brings and comes to a greater understanding of her own place in the world. Intrigued by the snail's molluscan anatomy, cryptic defenses, clear decision making, hydraulic locomotion, and courtship activities, Bailey becomes an astute and amused observer, offering a candid and engaging look into the curious life of this underappreciated small animal. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a remarkable journey of survival and resilience, showing us how a small part of the natural world can illuminate our own human existence, while providing an appreciation of what it means to be fully alive. (amazon.com)

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The extraordinary New York Times bestselling account of James Garfield's rise from poverty to the American presidency, and the dramatic history of his assassination and legacy, from bestselling author of The River of Doubt, Candice Millard.

James Abram Garfield was one of the most extraordinary men ever elected president. Born into abject poverty, he rose to become a wunderkind scholar, a Civil War hero, a renowned congressman, and a reluctant presidential candidate who took on the nation's corrupt political establishment. But four months after Garfield's inauguration in 1881, he was shot in the back by a deranged office-seeker named Charles Guiteau. Garfield survived the attack, but become the object of bitter, behind-the-scenes struggles for power—over his administration, over the nation's future, and, hauntingly, over his medical care. Meticulously researched, epic in scope, and pulsating with an intimate human focus and high-velocity narrative drive, The Destiny of the Republic brings alive a forgotten chapter of U.S. history. (amazon.com)

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Fragments is an event―an unforgettable book that will redefine one of the greatest icons of the twentieth century and that, nearly fifty years after her death, will definitively reveal Marilyn Monroe's humanity.

Marilyn's image is so universal that we can't help but believe we know all there is to know of her. Every word and gesture made headlines and garnered controversy. Her serious gifts as an actor were sometimes eclipsed by her notoriety―and by the way the camera fell helplessly in love with her.
Beyond the headlines―and the too-familiar stories of heartbreak and desolation―was a woman far more curious, searching, witty, and hopeful than the one the world got to know. Now, for the first time, readers can meet the private Marilyn and understand her in a way we never have before. Fragments is an unprecedented collection of written artifacts―notes to herself, letters, even poems―in Marilyn's own handwriting, never before published, along with rarely seen intimate photos.

Jotted in notebooks, typed on paper, or written on hotel letterhead, these texts reveal a woman who loved deeply and strove to perfect her craft. They show a Marilyn Monroe unsparing in her analysis of her own life, but also playful, funny, and impossibly charming. The easy grace and deceptive lightness that made her performances indelible emerge on the page, as does the simmering tragedy that made her last appearances so affecting. (amazon.com)

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Equal parts showman and artist, hustler and faithful son, trained tenor and fast-talking raconteur, Sam Tenenbaum is—to paraphrase Whitman—large, he contains multitudes. In this inspirational and quintessentially American “song of himself,” we see Sam pick himself up by the bootstraps of an awkward childhood in mid-20th Century Birmingham, Alabama, and forge an unlikely path through the roughriding, anything-goes early days of professional wrestling in the American South—all while nurturing his faith and pursuing, on the sly, his  rst true love: operatic singing. In the end, we learn what Sam learned early on: how to live large, fear nothing, and never give up on your dreams. (amazon.com)

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In 1978, the first group of space shuttle astronauts was introduced to the world -- twenty-nine men and six women who would carry NASA through the most tumultuous years of the space shuttle program. Among them was USAF Colonel Mike Mullane, who, in his memoir Riding Rockets, strips the heroic veneer from the astronaut corps and paints them as they are -- human.

Mullane's tales of arrested development among military flyboys working with feminist pioneers and post-doc scientists are sometimes bawdy, often comical, and always entertaining. He vividly portrays every aspect of the astronaut experience, from telling a female technician which urine-collection condom size is a fit to hearing "Taps" played over a friend's grave. He is also brutally honest in his criticism of a NASA leadership whose bungling would precipitate the Challenger disaster -- killing four members of his group. A hilarious, heartfelt story of life in all its fateful uncertainty, Riding Rockets will resonate long after the call of "Wheel stop." (amazon.com)

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Welcome to Bryson City, a small town tucked away in a fold of North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains. The scenery is breathtaking, the home cooking can’t be beat, the Maroon Devils football team is the pride of the town, and you won’t find better steelhead fishing anywhere. But the best part is the people you’re about to meet in the pages of Bryson City Seasons. In this joyous sequel to his bestselling Bryson City Tales, Dr. Walt Larimore whisks you along on a journey through the seasons of a Bryson City year. On the way, you’ll encounter crusty mountain men, warmhearted townspeople, peppery medical personalities, and the hallmarks of a simpler, more wholesome way of life. Culled from the author’s experiences as a young doctor settling into rural medical practice, these captivating stories are a celebration of this richly textured miracle called life. (amazon.com)

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(Patron review) I have enjoyed reading Stephen King over the decades, his books and novellas.  This memoir was no exception as he shares his early life growing up in Maine with his older brother and his single mother (his father having long left the scene).  

One of the kicks I got from reading his book was his description of his brother Dave.  

"Dave was a great brother, but too smart of a ten-year-old.  His brains were always getting him in trouble and he learned at some point .... That it was usually possible to get Brother Stevie to join him in some point position when trouble was in the wind." 

Several passages later:

"We each had our part to play in creating the Super Duper Electromagnet.  Dave's part was to build it.  My part would be to test it.  Little Stevie King, Stratford's answer to Chuck Yeager.
Dave's new version of the experiment by-passed the pokey old dry cell... in favor of actual wall current. Dave cut the electrical cord off an old lamp someone had put on the curb with the trash, stripped the coating all the way down to the plug, then wrapped his magnetized spike in spirals of bare wire.  Then, sitting on the floor in the kitchen of our West Board Street apartment, he offered me the Super Duper Electromagnet and bade me to my part and plug it in.
I hesitated – give me at least that much credit – but in the end, Dave's manic enthusiasm was too much to withstand.  I plugged it in.  There was no noticeable magnetism, but the gadget did blow out light and electrical appliance in the building and in the building next door (where my dream-girl lived in the ground-floor apartment).  Something popped in the electrical transformer out front and some cops came.  Dave and I spent a horrible hour watching from out mother's bedroom window, that only one that looked out on the street..... When the cops left, a power truck arrived.  Under other circumstances, this would have absorbed us completely, but not that day.  That day we could only wonder if our mother would come and see us in reform school.  Eventually, the lights came back on the power truck went away.  We were not caught and lived to fight another day.  Dave decided he might build a Super Duper Glider instead of a Super Duper Electromagnet for his science project.  I, he told me, would get to take the first ride.  Wouldn't that be great?"

I've included Stephen King's own words because one of long short stories from Nightmares and DreamscapesThe End of the Whole Mess, (page 67) channels this childhood memory.  The story was both frightening and endearing when I first read it.  The tale caught the terrible sweetness of familial ties and consequences.  I hope this piques your curiosity to check it out.  There are several other well told stories in the particular book. 

King's book touches on the craft of writing - very simply and very plainly.  In essence, he outlines the toolbox of a writer. He brings up the fundamental need to read – a lot if you wish to become a writer.   
"But TV came relatively late to the King household and I'm glad.  I am, when you stop to think of it, a member of a fairly select group: the final handful of American novelists who learned to read and write before they learned to eat a daily helping of video bull---x.   This might not be important.  On the other hand, if you're just starting out as a writer, you could do worse than strip your television's electric plug wire, wrap a spike around it and then stick it back into the wall.  See what blows and how far.    Just an idea"

"Common tools go on top.  The commonest of all, the bread of writing, is vocabulary.  In this case, you can happily pack what you have without the slightest bit of guild and inferiority. "  Stephen King then provides case studies on the use of vocabulary.

Next, he brings up grammar and bows out for "the same reason that William Strunk decided not to recap the basics when he wrote the first edition of The Elements of Style, if you don't know, it's too late."

King continues later, "I am approaching the heart of this book with two theses, both simple.  The first is that good writing consists of mastering the fundamentals (vocabulary, grammar, the elements of style) and then filling the third level of your toolbox with the right instruments."   In succeeding chapters, he expands on narration, description, dialogue and plot. 

At the very end of the book, he shares a list of books he has read over the last three to four years that he suspects has had an influence over the books he wrote.  The list also helps answer the perennial question from his "Constant Readers" on "what do you read?" In short, King is encouraging, down to earth and pragmatic as he weaves examples from his own life in a sincere effort to encourage writers in this memoir.

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Patricia Volk’s delicious memoir lets us into her big, crazy, loving, cheerful, infuriating and wonderful family, where you’re never just hungry–your starving to death, and you’re never just full–you’re stuffed. Volk’s family fed New York City for one hundred years, from 1888 when her great-grandfather introduced pastrami to America until 1988, when her father closed his garment center restaurant. All along, food was pretty much at the center of their lives. But as seductively as Volk evokes the food, Stuffed is at heart a paean to her quirky, vibrant relatives: her grandmother with the “best legs in Atlantic City”; her grandfather, who invented the wrecking ball; her larger-than-life father, who sculpted snow thrones when other dads were struggling with snowmen. Writing with great freshness and humor, Patricia Volk will leave you hungering to sit down to dinner with her robust family–both for the spectacle and for the food.

GENERAL DISCUSSION:

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A stunning, personal memoir from the astronaut and modern-day hero who spent a record-breaking year aboard the International Space Station—a message of hope for the future that will inspire for generations to come.

The veteran of four spaceflights and the American record holder for consecutive days spent in space, Scott Kelly has experienced things very few have. Now, he takes us inside a sphere utterly hostile to human life. He describes navigating the extreme challenge of long-term spaceflight, both life-threatening and mundane: the devastating effects on the body; the isolation from everyone he loves and the comforts of Earth; the catastrophic risks of colliding with space junk; and the still more haunting threat of being unable to help should tragedy strike at home--an agonizing situation Kelly faced when, on a previous mission, his twin brother's wife, American Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was shot while he still had two months in space.

Kelly's humanity, compassion, humor, and determination resonate throughout, as he recalls his rough-and-tumble New Jersey childhood and the youthful inspiration that sparked his astounding career, and as he makes clear his belief that Mars will be the next, ultimately challenging, step in spaceflight. In Endurance, we see the triumph of the human imagination, the strength of the human will, and the infinite wonder of the galaxy.

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Space is a world devoid of the things we need to live and thrive: air, gravity, hot showers, fresh produce, privacy, beer. Space exploration is in some ways an exploration of what it means to be human. How much can a person give up? How much weirdness can they take? What happens to you when you can’t walk for a year? have sex? smell flowers? What happens if you vomit in your helmet during a space walk? Is it possible for the human body to survive a bailout at 17,000 miles per hour? To answer these questions, space agencies set up all manner of quizzical and startlingly bizarre space simulations. As Mary Roach discovers, it’s possible to preview space without ever leaving Earth. From the space shuttle training toilet to a crash test of NASA’s new space capsule (cadaver filling in for astronaut), Roach takes us on a surreally entertaining trip into the science of life in space and space on Earth.

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Have you ever wondered what it would be like to find yourself strapped to a giant rocket that’s about to go from zero to 17,500 miles per hour? Or to look back on Earth from outer space and see the surprisingly precise line between day and night? Or to stand in front of the Hubble Space Telescope, wondering if the emergency repair you’re about to make will inadvertently ruin humankind’s chance to unlock the universe’s secrets? Mike Massimino has been there, and in Spaceman he puts you inside the suit, with all the zip and buoyancy of life in microgravity.

Massimino’s childhood space dreams were born the day Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. Growing up in a working-class Long Island family, he catapulted himself to Columbia and then MIT, only to flunk his first doctoral exam and be rejected three times by NASA before making it through the final round of astronaut selection.

Taking us through the surreal wonder and beauty of his first spacewalk, the tragedy of losing friends in the Columbia shuttle accident, and the development of his enduring love for the Hubble Telescope—which he and his fellow astronauts were tasked with saving on his final mission—Massimino has written an ode to never giving up and the power of teamwork to make anything possible. Spaceman invites us into a rare, wonderful world where science meets the most thrilling adventure, revealing just what having “the right stuff” really means.


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A Russian astronaut, Svetlana Savitskaya, became the first woman to walk in space on July 25, 1984.  Read the 7/26/84 New York Times article here.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

photography

Mark your calendars for these exciting October programs:

Sunday 10/1, 2pm – An Afternoon with the Author
Drop by this afternoon and meet Amy McDonald, local teacher and author of Determined to Survive, a memoir that details the experiences of Holocaust survivor Max Steinmetz.  Mr. Steinmetz is a Romanian-born Auschwitz survivor who relocated to Alabama in 1955.

Thursday 10/5, 10am – A Morning with the Author
Drop by this morning for a fun, casual coloring event with author and illustrator Laura Murray.  Laura’s coloring book, Amazing Alabama: A Coloring Book Journey Through Our 67 Counties will be published soon by NewSouth Books.

Friday 10/6, 6-9pm – Western Wine & Food Festival at the Birmingham Zoo, tickets available online, at the library, and at Western Supermarkets locations 

Thursday 10/12, 6:30pm – UAB Neuroscience Café explores the science of sleep

Friday 10/13, 10am-noon – Yoga with Marie Blair

Friday 10/13, 5-10pm – Ages 18 and up Nightmare on Oak Street Dinner Double Feature and Terror-ium building, RSVP to Holley at hwesley@bham.lib.al.us or 205-445-1117 for this free event.  Bring your own glass container, plants and decorations provided, supplies limited.

Saturday 10/14, 7pm – Birmingham Arts Music Alliance presents l’ Ao artiste ordinaire, a collaborative partnership between composer-performers Melissa Grey and David Morneau.

Tuesday 10/17, 6:30pm – Documentaries After Dark presents Top Secret Rosies, a film about a group of female mathematicians who helped win WWII and usher in the modern computer age.

Tuesday 10/24, 10am – Community Conversation on Aging: Alzheimer’s and Dementia care

Tuesday 10/31, 6:30pm – GRG rolls around again!  October’s topic is memoirs and, as it’s Halloween, costumes are optional!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  Well, we met this week to talk all things photography so there were plenty of pictures and WAY more than a thousand words!

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Published in 1983, this book discusses the importance of family photographs as a means of understanding the passage of time, establishing ties with ancestors, and varying ways of recording important events in family life. Includes suggestions for collecting photographs and putting together an album. Obviously, some information is outdated but the ideas behind it are solid!

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Published on the one hundredth anniversary of the death of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), Reflections in a Looking Glass presents Carroll's remarkable photography. Richly illustrated, this important book presents seldom-seen works-most of them formal portraits and staged scenes that combine Carroll's famous childlike sense of play with the Victorian propriety that characterized his age.

Also included in Reflections are selected drawings by Lewis Carroll and by John Tenniel, who illustrated the original Alice books. The central text by Morton N. Cohen, the world's leading authority on Lewis Carroll, provides an in-depth account of Carroll's experimentation in the new medium of photography. His hobby opened the door to many of his "child friends" as well as to leading artistic and literary figures of the day, all of whom came to Carroll's studio to sit for their portraits.

Excerpts from Carroll's diaries combine with Cohen's annotated captions to make this book an invaluable resource. The book also includes a Preface by Mark Haworth-Booth, curator of photographs at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The Afterword is by Roy Flukinger, curator of photographs at the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin, the source collection for much of the material in this extraordinary book. 

GENERAL DISCUSSION:
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Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
Part love story, part literary mystery, Melanie Benjamin’s spellbinding historical novel leads readers on an unforgettable journey down the rabbit hole, to tell the story of a woman whose own life became the stuff of legend. Her name is Alice Liddell Hargreaves, but to the world she’ll always be known simply as “Alice,” the girl who followed the White Rabbit into a wonderland of Mad Hatters, Queens of Hearts, and Cheshire Cats. Now, nearing her eighty-first birthday, she looks back on a life of intense passion, great privilege, and greater tragedy. First as a young woman, then as a wife, mother, and widow, she’ll experience adventures the likes of which not even her fictional counterpart could have imagined. Yet from glittering balls and royal romances to a world plunged into war, she’ll always be the same determined, undaunted Alice who, at ten years old, urged a shy, stuttering Oxford professor to write down one of his fanciful stories, thus changing her life forever.

GENERAL DISCUSSION:
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Many people do not know that Leonard Nimoy was a talented photographer. View a selection of his work here.

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During the 1830s, in an atmosphere of intense scientific inquiry fostered by the industrial revolution, two quite different men―one in France, one in England―developed their own dramatically different photographic processes in total ignorance of each other's work. These two lone geniuses―Henry Fox Talbot in the seclusion of his English country estate at Lacock Abbey and Louis Daguerre in the heart of post-revolutionary Paris―through diligence, disappointment and sheer hard work overcame extraordinary odds to achieve the one thing man had for centuries been trying to do―to solve the ancient puzzle of how to capture the light and in so doing make nature 'paint its own portrait'. With the creation of their two radically different processes―the Daguerreotype and the Talbotype―these two giants of early photography changed the world and how we see it. 

Drawing on a wide range of original, contemporary sources and featuring plates in colour, sepia and black and white, many of them rare or previously unseen, Capturing the Light by Roger Watson and Helen Rappaport charts an extraordinary tale of genius, rivalry and human resourcefulness in the quest to produce the world's first photograph.

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At Work by Annie Leibovitz
The celebrated photographer Annie Leibovitz, author of the New York Times bestselling book A Photographer's Life, provides the stories, and technical description, of how some of her most famous images came to be. Starting in 1974, with her coverage of Nixon's resignation, and culminating with her controversial portraits of Queen Elizabeth II early in 2007, Leibovitz explains what professional photographers do and how they do it. The photographer in this instance is the most highly paid and prolific person in the business. Approximately 90 images are discussed in detail -- the circumstances under which they were taken, with specific technical information (what camera, what settings, what lighting, where the images appeared). The Rolling Stones' tour in 1975, the famous nude session with John Lennon and Yoko Ono hours before Lennon was killed, the American Express and Gap campaigns, Whoopi Goldberg in a bathtub of milk, Demi Moore pregnant and naked on the cover of Vanity Fair, and coverage of the couture collections in Paris with Puff Daddy and Kate Moss are among the subjects of this original and informative work. The photos and stories are arranged chronologically, moving from film to digital. Leibovitz's fans and lovers of great photography will find her stories of how one learns to see -- and then how to photograph -- inspiring.

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Group f.64 is perhaps the most famous movement in the history of photography, counting among its members Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Dorothea Lange, Willard Van Dyke, and Edward Weston. Revolutionary in their day, Group f.64 was one of the first modern art movements equally defined by women. From the San Francisco Bay Area, its influence extended internationally, contributing significantly to the recognition of photography as a fine art.

The group-first identified as such in a 1932 exhibition-was comprised of strongly individualist artists, brought together by a common philosophy, and held together in a tangle of dynamic relationships. They shared a conviction that photography must emphasize its unique capabilities-those that distinguished it from other arts-in order to establish the medium's identity. Their name, f.64, they took from a very small lens aperture used with their large format cameras, a pinprick that allowed them to capture the greatest possible depth of field in their lustrous, sharply detailed prints. In today's digital world, these “straight” photography champions are increasingly revered.

Mary Alinder is uniquely positioned to write this first group biography. A former assistant to Ansel Adams, she knew most of the artists featured. Just as importantly, she understands the art. Featuring fifty photographs by and of its members, Group f.64 details a transformative period in art with narrative flair.

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Before Elvis There Was Nothing by Patrick Higgins (not available in JCLC)
Memorable quotes, funny stories, serious tributes, and revealing comments from people as diverse as Bruce Springsteen, Imelda Marcos, and Richard Nixon combine with photographs presented in chronological order of Elvis's life.

GENERAL DISCUSSION:
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Bellocq’s Ophelia: Poems by Natasha Trethewey (not available in JCLC)
In the early 1900s, E.J. Bellocq photographed prostitutes in the red-light district of New Orleans. His remarkable, candid photos inspired Natasha Trethewey to imagine the life of Ophelia, the subject of Bellocq's Ophelia, her stunning second collection of poems. With elegant precision, Ophelia tells of her life on display: her white father whose approval she earns by standing very still; the brothel Madame who tells her to act like a statue while the gentlemen callers choose; and finally the camera, which not only captures her body, but also offers a glimpse into her soul.

GENERAL DISCUSSION:
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We are a brand new independent, reader-supported, quarterly journal of fine art photography and poetry on our way to our very first year of publication.  We are proud to announce that our Inaugural issue, and all of our future issues will be available in both print and online editions.

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It’s a Zoo Out There by Rachael Hale 
A wonderful menagerie of animal portraits by celebrated photographer Rachael Hale. Puppies and tigers and pigs...oh my! Get ready for more oohs and aahs. It's a Zoo Out There is the next adorable installment of Rachael Hale's bestselling book series. This collection of Hale's finest photographs of enchanting and magnificent creatures both large and small, domestic and exotic, is beautifully presented in this over-sized volume. Hale's special rapport with animals has allowed her to capture the true essence of her subjects.

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One: Sons & Daughters by Edward Mapplethorpe
A baby's first year is filled with an endless stream of new experiences, contributing profoundly to their physical, mental, and emotional development. Typically at the age of one-year an infant has the motor skills and ability to sit on their own for the first time and their uninhibited gaze provides a window into a distinct personality that will endure throughout their lifetime. It is these individual natures that photographer Edward Mapplethorpe expertly captures. 

The culmination of a twenty-year project by one of today's top-commissioned and internationally-recognized photographers of baby portraits, ONE features a series of 60 photographs that catch the fleeting, yet universal, moment of life when a child reaches one year of age. There is something remarkable in the innocent faces of the children portrayed in this book that serves to underscore our common humanity.

The luxuriously printed duo-tone photographs in ONE are accompanied by essays from esteemed contemporary authors Adam Gopnik, Susan Orlean, Francine Prose, and Andrew Solomon. Patti Smith contributes an original poem while Dr. Samantha Boardman writes the introduction. Contributions from such diverse luminaries emphasize the widespread appeal such innocent, unguarded beauty has for so many people.

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William Wegman / Fashion Photographs (not available in JCLC)
Published to accompany a major travelling exhibition, this book presents a collection of eerily anthropomorphic photographs by William Wegman. They feature clothes by Helmut Lang, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Alexander McQueen, Issey Miyake and others being modeled by dogs.

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Top blogger and pro photographer Lara Ferroni serves up a one-stop guide to food-photography success! Packed with her tried-and-true secrets, this comprehensive guide details everything you need to know about sourcing and styling food, drinks, and props. Ferroni profiles several of the industry's top professional food photographers, and includes detailed case studies of their most successful shots--complete with lighting diagrams and equipment setups. This diverse collection of stunning images images and easy-to-follow shooting instructions perfectly encompasses the field of modern food photography, covering everything from blog and editorial photography to corporate advertising and publicity shots.

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Presented here are signature images by twenty of this century's greatest photographers, interviews with the author, and his portrait of each photographer. The result combines the photographers' visions with their words, broadening understanding of their personalities and work and providing an international portrait of the twentieth century.

GENERAL DISCUSSION:
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Get out! Run! We must leave this place! They are going to destroy this whole place! Go, children, run first! Go now!
These were the final shouts nine year-old Kim Phuc heard before her world dissolved into flames―before napalm bombs fell from the sky, burning away her clothing and searing deep into her skin. It’s a moment forever captured, an iconic image that has come to define the horror and violence of the Vietnam War. Kim was left for dead in a morgue; no one expected her to survive the attack. Napalm meant fire, and fire meant death.

Against all odds, Kim lived―but her journey toward healing was only beginning. When the napalm bombs dropped, everything Kim knew and relied on exploded along with them: her home, her country’s freedom, her childhood innocence and happiness. The coming years would be marked by excruciating treatments for her burns and unrelenting physical pain throughout her body, which were constant reminders of that terrible day. Kim survived the pain of her body ablaze, but how could she possibly survive the pain of her devastated soul?

Fire Road is the true story of how she found the answer in a God who suffered Himself; a Savior who truly understood and cared about the depths of her pain. Fire Road is a story of horror and hope, a harrowing tale of a life changed in an instant―and the power and resilience that can only be found in the power of God’s mercy and love.






Wednesday, August 30, 2017

plays on stage and screen

Here at EOL, we’re excited about all the great programs coming up this month!  Before we get started with that, just a reminder that the library will be closed in observance of Labor Day Saturday, Sunday, and Monday September 2-4th.  Additionally, the library will not begin Winter Hours until Sunday, September 10th.  We’ll be open 1pm-5pm that day and hours will be as follows: Mon, Tue, and Thu: 9am-9pm, Wed: 9am-6pm, Fri-Sat: 9am-5pm, and Sun 1pm-5pm. 

The UAB Neuroscience Café returns on Thu, Sep 14th at 6:30pm with an update on Parkinson’s Disease research. On Tue, Sep 19th, you won’t want to miss Documentaries After Dark.  We’ll be screening the conservation/green burial movement documentary, A Will for the Woods, with a Skype Q & A session with one of the filmmakers!  The Community Conversation on Aging series returns Tue, Sep 26th at 10am with a discussion of wills, trusts, and banking in relation to aging.




The next Genre Reading Group meeting will be on Tue, Sep 26th at 6:30pm and the topic up for discussion is photography.  There is a selection of books on display at the second floor reference desk but you are always welcome to make your own selection!

Last evening, GRG took to the stage for discussion of plays:

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Arcadia by Tom Stoppard
Arcadia takes us back and forth between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, ranging over the nature of truth and time, the difference between the Classical and the Romantic temperament, and the disruptive influence of sex on our orbits in life. Focusing on the mysteries―romantic, scientific, literary―that engage the minds and hearts of characters whose passions and lives intersect across scientific planes and centuries, it is "Stoppard's richest, most ravishing comedy to date, a play of wit, intellect, language, brio and . . . emotion. It's like a dream of levitation: you're instantaneously aloft, soaring, banking, doing loop-the-loops and then, when you think you're about to plummet to earth, swooping to a gentle touchdown of not easily described sweetness and sorrow . . . Exhilarating" (Vincent Canby, The New York Times).

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Incident at Vichy by Arthur Miller
In Vichy France in 1942, eight men and a boy are seized by the collaborationist authorities and made to wait in a building that may be a police station. Some of them are Jews. All of them have something to hide—if not from the Nazis, then from their fellow detainees and, inevitably, from themselves. For in this claustrophobic antechamber to the death camps, everyone is guilty. And perhaps none more so than those who can walk away alive.

In Incident at Vichy, Arthur Miller re-creates Dante's hell inside the gaping pit that is our history and populates it with sinners whose crimes are all the more fearful because they are so recognizable.
"One of the most important plays of our time . . . Incident at Vichy returns the theater to greatness." —The New York Times

Hamlet is Shakespeare's most popular, and most puzzling, play. It follows the form of a "revenge tragedy," in which the hero, Hamlet, seeks vengeance against his father's murderer, his uncle Claudius, now the king of Denmark. Much of its fascination, however, lies in its uncertainties.

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Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
The Metamorphosis (original German title: "Die Verwandlung") is a short novel by Franz Kafka, first published in 1915. It is often cited as one of the seminal works of fiction of the 20th century and is widely studied in colleges and universities across the western world. The story begins with a traveling salesman, Gregor Samsa, waking to find himself transformed into an insect.

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Long Day’s Journey Into Night by Eugene O’Neill
Written around 1940, but not staged until 1956, this autobiographical work by the Nobel Prize-winning playwright recreates his own family experience, in an attempt to understand himself and those to whom he was tied by fate and love.

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The Royal Hunt of the Sun by Peter Schaffer (not available in the JCLC system)
"This story is about ruin and gold," says the old man who narrates the story. And what is fascinating is the way Pizarro and his small band of 16th century Spanish conquerors view the Inca civilisation largely as a source of imperialist plunder. They are indifferent to its communal values, turn its priceless treasures into liquid gold and see Christianity as an instrument of power. Drawing his facts largely from Prescott's History of Peru, Shaffer uses the past as a metaphor for mankind's endless colonial instinct.

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Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Eleven Tony Awards, including Best Musical

Lin-Manuel Miranda's groundbreaking musical Hamilton is as revolutionary as its subject, the poor kid from the Caribbean who fought the British, defended the Constitution, and helped to found the United States. Fusing hip-hop, pop, R&B, and the best traditions of theater, this once-in-a-generation show broadens the sound of Broadway, reveals the storytelling power of rap, and claims our country's origins for a diverse new generation.

Hamilton: The Revolution gives readers an unprecedented view of both revolutions, from the only two writers able to provide it. Miranda, along with Jeremy McCarter, a cultural critic and theater artist who was involved in the project from its earliest stages--"since before this was even a show," according to Miranda--traces its development from an improbable perfor­mance at the White House to its landmark opening night on Broadway six years later. In addition, Miranda has written more than 200 funny, revealing footnotes for his award-winning libretto, the full text of which is published here.

Their account features photos by the renowned Frank Ockenfels and veteran Broadway photographer, Joan Marcus; exclusive looks at notebooks and emails; interviews with Questlove, Stephen Sond­heim, leading political commentators, and more than 50 people involved with the production; and multiple appearances by Presi­dent Obama himself. The book does more than tell the surprising story of how a Broadway musical became a national phenomenon: It demonstrates that America has always been renewed by the brash upstarts and brilliant outsiders, the men and women who don't throw away their shot.

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The Lady’s Not For Burning by Christopher Fry
The Lady’s Not for Burning, a verse comedy in three acts by Christopher Fry, was produced in 1948 and published in 1949. Known for its wry characterizations and graceful language, this lighthearted play about 15th-century England brought Fry renown. Evoking spring, it was the first in his series of four plays based on the seasons. (The others are Venus Observed [1949; autumn], The Dark Is Light Enough [1954; winter], and A Yard of Sun [1970; summer].)