Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Calling All Poets (and Poetry Lovers)

Are you in love with the written word? Does a rhyming couplet make you lose your doublet?
Okay, seriously, sorry for the bad rhyme - but I'm not the poet. Our speakers next week are!
Take a look at our recent announcement on the Alabama Writer's Forum:

October 1st
12:30-1:30 pm

Brown Bag Salutes National Poetry Day

Emmet O'Neal Library welcomes poets Jeanie Thompson and Jim Reed. In keeping with the National Poetry Day 2008 theme of Work and the Jefferson County Library Cooperative reading of Rick Bragg's Prince of Frogtown for October, Jeanie & Jim will recite poetry in response. Q & A to follow.

Our Brown Bag series meets every Wednesday from 12:30-1:30 in the library's meeting room. Bring a sack lunch, we'll provide coffee, beverages and snacks.

Now, next week's program will for sure be full of good poetry - but if you like bad poetry (and honestly, who doesn't every now and then) try this link to the poem generator. Enjoy!

Questions? Comments?
Let us know here!
Hope to see you next Wednesday.

Monday, September 22, 2008

October is ProjectRead month!

Jefferson County Library Cooperative presents

The Prince of Frogtown!

Read Rick Bragg's newest book, The Prince of Frogtown and see what the Public Libraries of Jefferson County are doing to celebrate ProjectRead!

Here at Emmet O'Neal Library:

Wednesday October 1st, Noon - The Brown Bag Lunch program will feature a film on the folk musicians and musical heritage of the Appalachian foothills

Wednesday October 8th, Noon - The Brown Bag Lunch program will hear from Alabama Humanities Foundation speaker Joyce Cauthen on "Fiddlers, Banjo Players, and Strawbeaters"

Tuesday October 14th, 10A.M. - The Bookies will be discussing Prince of Frogtown

Wednesday October 15th, Noon - The Brown Bag Lunch program will feature a film about one of Alabama's favorite storytellers, Kathryn Tucker Windham.

Wednesday October 22nd, Noon - The Brown Bag Lunch program will feature a film from the PBS series "The American Experience" which will examine one of America's first families of music, the Carter Family.

Tuesday October 28th, 6:30P.M. - The Genre Reading group will be discussing biographies.

Wednesday October 29th, Noon - The Brown Bag Lunch program will feature a film today about Shelby Lee Adams, who has been photographing the eastern Kentucky Appalachian mountain people for thirty years. Many claim she has exploited these people - our film today explores this controversy.

If you'd like to see Rick Bragg:

Friday, October 10th - Noon
Gardendale Civic Center, Magnolia Suite
Enjoy a special event with Rick Bragg, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the critically acclaimed and best-selling All Over but the Shoutin' as he reads from and discusses his latest book, The Prince of Frogtown. This event will be held at the Gardendale Civic Center, Magnolia Suite. For more information, contact Lisa Keith, Gardendale Public Library Adult Services Librarian at 205-631-6639 or

Thursday, October 23rd - 6:30 P.M.
Vestavia Hills Public Library presents An Evening with Rick Bragg, author of The Prince of Frogtown, Thursday, Oct. 23rd, 6:30p.m. at the Vestavia Hills Baptist Church (2600 Vestavia Drive, Birmingham, AL 35216). Bragg will be discussing his latest book, The Prince of Frogtown, his third foray into his family history and Alabama roots. Bragg has again created a wonderful heartwarming story, full of laughs, great stories, and great truths about his perceptions of his father and his own turn at parenting his young step-son. Books will be available for purchase and signing. For more information, contact Vestavia Public Library Adult Services Librarian Leslie West at 205-978-3683, or

Thursday, November 13th - 5:30 P.M.
Annual Birmingham Public Library Friends of the Library Meeting
Birmingham Public Library Friends membership is required to attend the event and you may join at the door. Contact the BPL Friends for more information at (205) 226-3610 or visit their website.

Happy Reading!

Target to Sell Sony Reader

Hi Readers!
I found this article at PW today and thought you might be interested. So for those of you who may have been thinking about purchasing Amazon's Kindle, there is another option. From what I understand, the Kindle device only allows you to download Amazon titles. The Sony Reader, apparently, will allow you to download multiple formats - including Overdrive's e-books.
Mayhaps I should look into purchasing such a creature?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle - Oprah's New Pick!

I can honestly tell you, dear reader, I am not ONE BIT surprised that this book is Oprah's newest pick! The Story of Edgar Sawtelle has been getting a lot of buzz since its publication. In fact, back in the spring Holley and I went to the Public Library Association's conference in Minneapolis and heard oodles of praise from all the other book-ish types about this book. In particular, the editorial staff at HarperCollins (Wroblewski's publisher) raved about this hefty book with an even bigger heart.
Briefly, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is a coming of age story about a mute boy from America's heartland. Edgar lives in a remote area with his family who run a kennel. Edgar's friends are the dogs his family breeds, and when a tragedy strikes Edgar is forced to flee with some of his family's dogs. The similarities to Hamlet are very real and poignant.
I am eager to hear more about this not-so-little book. I checked it out, but alas, had to return it as I could NOT get to it. At over 500 pages, this is not a quick read, but you won't be sorry you read it, that's for sure. Mark my words - this one is set to be the National Book Award winner this year.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

a Berretta, a blowtorch, and a submachine gun...grenades optional

New York Times best-selling author Stephen King lends his considerable talent to Entertainment Weekly and to the topic of "manfiction," a term coined by his son Joe Hill, a best-selling author in his own right. King opines that, "to misquote Mark Twain, reports of the male reader's death have been greatly exaggerated." King backs up his opinion with a solid description of some of the greatest characters in men's fiction ever written. Elmore Leonard, Robert B. Parker, Jonathan Kellerman, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, John D. Macdonald, and Lee Child all make the list of King's recommended manfiction. King's article goes on to say that these authors and their characters "satisfy the most elemental male daydream, which is at bottom quite sweet: to ramble around and help out when help is needed. Possibly with a Beretta, a blowtorch, and a submachine gun.
Grenades optional. "

Check out Stephen King's Entertainment Weekly article, What a Guy Wants, AND some of these books!

Happy Reading!

Take A Look At The Encyclopedia of Alabama

This new online encyclopedia has been almost ten years in the making. It is a FREE online resource for anyone with interest in Alabama. Editor in chief of this great new resource is one of our state's pre-imminent historians, Dr. Wayne Flint. I would be remiss if I did not mention the enormous effort put into this project by the awesome Alabama Humanities Foundation. Please take a look at their site too, if you get a chance, they do some wonderful things for people all over our great state. Lastly, the other party some of you may be interested to know is Auburn University, our great school on the plains.

According to the Encyclopedia Of Alabama (EOA) website, the EOA's mission is " to present trustworthy and authoritative information on a wide range of topics. Its editors believe that in order to be credible EOA must strike a balance between celebration and condemnation. Alabama's problems are not glossed over, nor are its accomplishments and successes overlooked. Rich and poor; educated and illiterate; Confederate and Unionist; planter and slave; male and female--Alabamians of all stripes--have contributed to the development of the state, and EOA endeavors to present all these stories."

Take a look at this great site, wander our state via the virtual world, and leave a comment if you think this is about one of the coolest things that has happened to our state in a very long time!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Get on the train!

Recently I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying a triple dose of the western genre with 3:10 to Yuma.

While on vacation this summer with my brother and his family, the car DVD player ran through the newest incarnation (starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale) twice but I was too carsick to watch it. The movie sounded exciting though so I quickly moved it to the top of my Netflix cue in order to finally get a look at it. I loved this movie for a variety of reasons. The scenery was beautiful; the characters were stark and so-very western; the soundtrack spot on for what I thought a modern western should sound like. Crowe’s Ben Wade was creepily malevolent throughout, though I thought Bale’s portrayal of down-on-his-luck rancher Dan Evans was a bit overblown. Spectacular stagecoach crashes, wild and bloody shootouts, and hell-bent-for-leather horsework combined for what I thought was a rollicking good time!

I love that moment at the end of a movie when I catch those two little words that are frequently flying by at the speed of light, “Based on,” and I saw at the end of this film that it was based on an Elmore Leonard short story of the same name that was originally published in Dime Western Magazine in 1953. After reading up on the film and short story, I also learned that the Russell Crowe/Christian Bale film was a remake of the original 1957 film adaptation of the same name. I quickly located the both the short story and the 1957 original and settled in to compare all three.
The short story opens with Marshall Paul Scallen arriving at a side entrance to the Republic Hotel in the city of Contention with his prisoner, the infamous outlaw Jim Kidd. Mr. Butterfield from the film is Mr. Timpey in the short story and he meets Marshall Scallen at the door and shows them to Room 207 of the Republic Hotel. From this point on, the 1957 film follows the dialogue of the short story more closely than the recent film but the trip the marshall and outlaw take to the station has definitely been lengthened and dramatized more in the current film. The ending of the story, which I won’t share since some of you may not have seen or read any version of the story yet, is again more closely followed by the 1957 film and abandoned all together in the current version. Suffice it to say that Jim Kidd/Ben Wade is on the 3:10 to Yuma, but you’ll have to check out all three versions to see how he gets there.

It was fun reading AND fun watching to compare these two film interpretations and the original shortstory so I believe I'll be doing something like this again. I have my sights set next on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The film is due out December 25, 2008 (starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchette) and the shortstory is by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Great Fall Book!

Every now and then a book is published that pushes our boundaries, be they cultural, philosophical, religious, moral, or otherwise. For my part, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger was unreadable to me because of the profanity. I cannot stand to hear someone talk like that in person and I could not read it either. That much profanity, for me, seems to cloak an ignorance of vocabulary in general, though I certainly won't accuse Salinger of not having a strong command of the English language. To Kill a Mockingbird was published in the 1960’s, a particularly hot time in civil rights history, and elicited a furor because of Lee’s sympathetic treatment and characterizations of African Americans and equally disdainful treatment of some of the Caucasian citizens of the fictional Alabama town.

More recently, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini was a very powerful novel that portrayed disturbingly violent abuse among a group of young boys in Afghanistan. I had many patrons become so angry, both at the situation and the characters in it, that they turned the book back in without finishing it. I asked them to think about the fact that Mr. Hosseini had made them angry over the lives of imaginary people and to think about what that said for his talent and character development. I do not remember one patron who did not end up getting the book again and finishing it, proclaiming it one of the best they’d ever read.

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books have become one of the most cherished series of literary history, but also one of the most banned and challenged of all time as well. It is imperative to look beyond this whimsical tale of magic, wizards and witches to the real discussions of importance of honesty, loyalty, bravery, of choosing to make the right decisions when you know the tragedy that will follow, where friendship is king and evil is to be defeated at all costs.

Last but not least, who can forget the controversy surrounding Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code? An adventurous ride through speculative religious history by way of some of the world’s most beloved art works, during its 140+ weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List The Da Vinci Code seemed to ruffle just as many feathers as it smoothed. Sometimes it is difficult to keep in mind that it is just a story--an intriguing story, an entertaining one, even an enchanting one, but still just a story--and this is especially true with authors that take artistic license with real events, places, things, and people.

And so, we come to Andrew Davidson’s debut novel, The Gargoyle. In one of the most disturbing opening scenes I have ever read, our narrator leads us step by step through a horrific car accident which leaves him with severe burns to most of his body. The first 50-75 pages are not a comfortable read. The recovery process is long and just as horrifying as the crash that precipitated it. Eventually, our narrator is on the mend physically but his mind is obviously having a more difficult time with it as he intends to heal only enough to be able to leave the hospital and commit suicide. We learn that he is an atheist, an actor/producer/director in the adult film industry, and has drug and alcohol addictions not helped by the flow of narcotic drugs currently being pumped into his system in the burn unit. Into this chaotic scene steps Marianne Engel and she brings with her the certainty that they shared a passionate love affair in Germany during the Middle Ages. As she tells of him of their past life, as a soldier suffering from horrible burns and the nun who cared for him, she also shares tragic affairs of lovers in Japan, Iceland, Italy and England.

Is Marianne crazy? Is the narrator crazy for thinking she might be telling the truth? Is it possible for two people with so many problems to love each other fully? Who/what exactly is the gargoyle of the book’s title? Do you believe? I find so many things to like about this book. It is a sweet love story between two much damaged people who manage to achieve real affection for one another despite their problems. It is a series of wonderful historical tales in a sort of frame narrative, each one separate and independent but adding to the story as a whole. It is an exploration of the darker places of the human soul and psyche from the safety of literary distance. What would you do in such a situation? How would you handle yourself in the face of such painful and debilitating medical circumstances? Would you take a shot at love and not consider the costs? What is your definition of sanity?

Questions, questions, questions….read The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson and find some of the answers for yourself.