I have nothing particularly insightful to say today, so I’m here to provide you with a thrilling list instead.
One of the fun things about ALA conferences are the ARCs – Advance Reader Copies. You get a lot of normal conference swag like tote bags, stress balls, and ballpoint pens, but the publishing houses are different, especially the big ones. They hand out piles of free books, most of which are due for release within the next few months.
Attendees who are in the YA or children’s lit fields often bring extra suitcases, and the conference always includes a post office booth, where laden librarians can send home boxes of free or greatly-discounted books.
I tend to limit myself to books I want to read for myself, which means fiction geared towards adults. Sidebar: Have you noticed that saying “adult fiction” always sounds like you’re talking about bodice-rippers? I haven’t figured out a way to describe it without getting snickers from at least one of the people listening to me.
Anyway, in my case, limiting myself to books I’d want to read for fun means that I have yet to have to ship books home ahead of time or bring an extra suitcase, but it was a close call this time. This winter was the widest pickings yet.
Here is a list of the ARCs I brought home with me this time:
1. The Green Road: A Novel, Anne Enright, May 2015
2. The Love She Left Behind: A Novel, Amanda Coe, July 2015
3. The Nightingale: A Novel, Kristin Hannah, unabridged audiobook edition narrated by Polly Stone, 2015
4. The Language of Paradise: A Novel, Barbara Klein Moss, April 2015
5. The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe: A Novel, Romain Puertolas, trans. Sam Taylor, January 2015
6. Hammerhead: The Making of a Carpenter, Nina MacLaughlin, March 2015
7. The Gracekeepers: A Novel, Kirsty Logan, May 2015
8. Girl in the Dark: A Memoir, Anna Lyndsey, March 2015
9. Paris Red: A Novel, Maureen Gibbon, April 2015
10. Words Without Music: A Memoir, Philip Glass, April 2015
11. Bennington Girls Are Easy: A Novel, Charlotte Silver, July 2015
12. The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy: A Novel, Rachel Joyce, February 2015
13. Hausfrau, Jill Alexander Essbaum, March 2015
14. I Saw A Man: A Novel, Owen Sheers, June 2015
15. A Touch of Stardust: A Novel, Kate Alcott, February 2015
16. The Daughters: A Novel, Adrienne Celt, August 2015
17. The World Before Us: A Novel, Aislinn Hunter, March 2015
18. Viper Wine: A Novel, Hermione Eyre, April 2015
When I was little, I went to an elementary school that was pretty diverse. It’s actually MORE diverse now – something like 20 languages represented – but it was pretty diverse when I went there.
Once a year, we had a special day called International Day. There were performances of music and dance from around the world, and parents representing different home cultures gave presentations to the classes on where they came from. I remember the Japanese and Indian parents always looked nicest in their outfits, but the Persian moms had the best treats. Students and staff were encouraged to wear outfits representing their heritage, from traditional ethnic costumes to the librarian’s dress made to look like she was wearing a giant Union Jack.
My brother and I didn’t have traditional outfits on hand, and it would have been hard to choose which of our ancestral branches to represent, so our mother made us t-shirts that looked roughly like this:
It was a cute t-shirt, a creative idea, and it got the point across – we are Northern European mutts.
As it turns out, it’s a bit more complicated.
This year for my birthday, my parents gave me six months’ access to ancestry.com. From what I’ve found so far, the t-shirt should have been modified a little…
Mom’s side should include:
Dad’s side should include:
I’m not doing so well with the post-once-a-week goal this month, am I? Between the holidays, technological difficulties (my laptop died and now I’m still trying to acclimate to Windows 8.1 and a new physical laptop layout), and literature-related struggles… well, you get the point.
So here’s the thing. I started to read Dan Jones’ book The Wars of the Roses, and it had the same issues as his previous book, The Plantagenets. It’s a solid enough survey, but his attention is, shall we say, uneven. He can pass over a decade in a paragraph, but then he’ll spend pages and pages going over a single battle in excruciating detail. After about 150 pages, I declared myself bored and returned it to the library.
The next book I checked out was one that I was excited about, the eminent cultural and literary historian Robert Darnton’s new work on censorship. It looks really interesting, and I do plan to go back to it, but I came up against a difficulty.
I love nonfiction. This isn’t a surprise to anyone who knows me or reads these posts (and if anyone out there reads this who doesn’t actually know me in person or online, please let me know – I’d like to hear from you!).
But sometimes I forget that I’m not in school anymore, and don’t have to finish the book if I don’t want to. Sometimes I forget that I don’t always have to challenge myself. Every so often, maybe three or four times a year on average, my brain revolts. It says it’s tired and refuses to engage with the challenging fare I set before it – and Robert Darnton, brilliant though he is, does not write easy reads. His work is always dense and challenging and incredibly insightful. So I’ll go back to the censorship book, and possibly also the one he wrote on slander, another time. For now I’m taking a break to read some things that are a little easier.
I’ve spent the last two weeks re-reading some of my favorites, from Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half, to Heather Armstrong’s It Sucked and Then I Cried, to Sarah Vowell’s Unfamiliar Fishes. I’m working on that last one right now, though I’m debating putting it down in favor of the one I just checked out of the library, the second volume of Michael Palin’s published diaries. This one focuses on 1980-1988, which means it covers his main stint in films, including Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, The Missionary, Brazil, and Time Bandits. I enjoyed his first volume, which covered the 1970s and the rise of the Pythons, so I’m looking forward to it.
I’m thinking after that I might tackle one or two of the novels on my want-to-read list. I’ve been pondering Brideshead Revisited since seeing the 1980s miniseries starring Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews for the first time this year. I’m also always a fan of Dickens, and there are plenty of his novels I haven’t read yet.
Anyone have a suggestion?
I recently posted this to a couple of places on social media:
a tip for dealing with the long-term unemployed or underemployed for this holiday season: Don’t ask me what the status of my job search is. If there was anything to report, you’d have heard. Instead, ask me about what I AM actually doing. I know you mean well, so trust me – I’m having to answer those same questions every time I see someone I haven’t seen for more than a week, and it’s making me very unhappy. Ask me about what I’m doing, not what I hope to do.
This isn’t meant as a passive-aggressive shot at anyone with whom I’ve had this conversation of late (and I have it a lot at this time of year). Consider it a plea from me, someone who’s been unemployed or underemployed since graduating a year and a half ago.
No, I can’t explain why I’m still not in a full-time job at a university or similar established institution.
And quite frankly, I don’t really want to talk about it. I apologize if that sounds rude.
I know you mean well. I know you ask because you care. I get that, I really do.
But take a moment to think about it from my perspective. This isn’t what I had planned for my twenties. I didn’t plan to be living with my parents at 28. I didn’t plan to be a year and a half into a job search with over 150 applications submitted and less than six interviews to show for it.
The conversation about my job search always goes the same way. The person asks how it’s going, I say it’s not really going anywhere. They ask me some question that boils down to where am I looking/have I considered looking outside California. I tell them I’m looking all over the country. They then ask about the volume of jobs posted, and I reply with my practiced speech about the supply-and-demand problem in the library and archives job world right now. It always ends there. They don’t ever ask about what I’m doing in the meantime.
I know you care. But asking me about this, especially in social situations that are meant to be celebratory, is not particularly kind. It makes me very upset. You can continue to enjoy the gathering as it ebbs and flows, but I’m stuck trying to quash the voices inside my head that whisper about self-doubt, insecurity, failure, and all the ways in which I’m not following the path I’m “supposed” to follow. I’m confused and struggling with a lot of things right now. Please help me rebuild my self-confidence by asking about other aspects of my professional life.
The thing is, I may not be employed full-time at an established institution, but I am working. Ask me about it – it’s interesting and different, and I’m starting to consider ways of following this path for a while, because it’s bearing a little fruit and the other isn’t.
Help me to enjoy the holidays – and help you enjoy yours more – by asking about positive things, not the things that make me want to hide in a corner and worry.
Please, ask me about my work. That conversation will leave both of us happier than the other one will.
Today I learned, while reading Anything Goes: A History of American Musical Theatre, by Ethan Mordden, that the origin novel of the famous musical Showboat is by the same author as the origin novel of the 1931 Academy Award winner for Best Picture, CIMARRON.
Quite frankly, that explains a lot about both.
Edna Ferber’s stories, apparently, were known for featuring strong women and weak, beautiful men. In both cases, the woman marries a man (against at least one parent’s wishes) who seems like a dashing hero, and finds herself pretty much having to fend for herself. In the case of CIMARRON, Sabra and her children are abandoned for years at a time, victims of her husband’s wanderlust. In Showboat, as I recall, Magnolia marries Ravenal, and after a few years of increasingly difficult circumstances resulting from Ravenal’s addiction to gambling, Ravenal flees because of his sense of shame at not being able to provide for wife and daughter.
In both stories, the woman goes on to make a vast success of herself. Sabra heads up a publishing empire and eventually goes into politics, while Magnolia becomes a wildly successful singer and actress. In both cases, when the husband resurfaces after an absence of over TWENTY YEARS, the wife joyfully welcomes him back.
I have no real point to make – I just thought it was an interesting bit of trivia and it explained why CIMARRON felt vaguely familiar, as if I’d heard that story before.
I’ve posted this elsewhere, but I’m going to post it again here, because, well, I feel like it.
I am feeling extremely cynical and crabby about the cancellation of Community. I’m actually not particularly a fan of the show (I watched a season and a half, it was vaguely amusing, but I felt no need to continue watching). What’s got me cranky is all the wailing coming from Community fans – they keep saying things like “Now I know how it feels to be a Browncoat.” No. No, you don’t.
Community got cancelled after five seasons, which is longer than your average show runs. Yes, it was on the renewal bubble basically every year and it was chronically low-rated, even though critically-acclaimed. Yes, you wish it had run longer.
But you got five full seasons. Firefly got cancelled midway through its first season, leaving all the storylines in midair, and the episodes that DID run ran out of order. The film “Serenity,” released three years later, mostly serves as an attempt at wrapping up those stories begun in the 11 episodes that got to air and the three that only appear on the dvds.
Community fans, you got five seasons. Your show got cancelled. Suck it up.
books, drama, English history, entertainment, henry v, henry viii, history, in brief, in the news, literature, national poetry month, nerds, poetry, procrastination, rant, richard iii, Shakespeare, William Shakespeare
450 years after the birth of one of the world’s most influential and often-quoted writers, it’s still astonishing to realize just how much of our perception of the major figures of that time is influenced by Shakespeare’s writings. Until the discovery of the skeleton of deposed usurper Richard III, there was no solid evidence that he had any kind of physical deformity, yet we all think of him as the hideous hunchbacked demon of the play RICHARD III. Representations of Henry VIII’s “Great Matter” are still colored by Shakespeare’s depiction of events, especially the infamous moment in the Blackfriars court when Katherine, called by the bailiff, instead kneeled at her husband’s feet and made an impassioned plea, then got up and left. There is some contemporary evidence for this, but still – what a great moment for a playwright to use.
Shakespeare was writing the sixteenth-century equivalent of propaganda films. They’re entertainment, first and foremost, but he’s careful to ally himself with the side that won at Bosworth Field in 1485.
We still revere Henry V, and think of Agincourt because of the play. Yes, he appears to have been the medieval ideal – young, handsome, militarily successful – but he also continued decades of war and then conveniently died before he could solidify his winnings. England spent the next 150 years steadily retreating from France.
In some ways, I think it’s a pity Shakespeare never got the chance to write about the Stuart kings. Imagine what he could have done with Charles I.
Without further commentary, I present to you this famous monologue from HENRY VIII:
- KATHERINE: Sir, I desire you do me right and justice,
- And to bestow your pity on me; for
- I am a most poor woman and a stranger,
- Born out of your dominions: having here
- No judge indifferent, nor no more assurance
- Of equal friendship and proceeding. Alas, sir,
- In what have I offended you? What cause
- Hath my behavior given to your displeasure
- That thus you should proceed to put me off
- And take your good grace from me? Heaven witness,
- I have been to you a true and humble wife,
- At all times to your will conformable,
- Even in fear to kindle your dislike,
- Yea, subject to your countenance–glad or sorry
- As I saw it inclined. When was the hour
- I ever contradicted your desire
- Or made it not mine too? Or which of your friends
- Have I not strove to love, although I knew
- He were mine enemy? What friend of mine
- That had to him derived your anger, did I
- Continue in my liking? nay, gave notice
- He was from thence discharged? Sir, call to mind
- That I have been your wife in this obedience
- Upward of twenty years, and have been blest
- With many children by you. If in the course
- And process of this time you can report,
- And prove it too, against mine honor aught,
- My bond to wedlock, or my love and duty
- Against your sacred person, in God’s name
- Turn me away, and let the foul’st contempt
- Shut door upon me, and so give me up
- To the sharp’st kind of justice. Please you, sir,
- The king your father was reputed for
- A prince most prudent, of an excellent
- And unmatched wit and judgment. Ferdinand,
- My father, King of Spain, was reckoned one
- The wisest prince that there had reigned by many
- A year before. It is not to be questioned
- That they had gathered a wise council to them
- Of every realm, that did debate this business,
- Who deemed our marriage lawful. Wherefore I humbly
- Beseech you, sir, to spare me till I may
- Be by my friends in Spain advised, whose counsel
- I will implore. If not, i’ th’ name of God,
- Your pleasure be fulfilled!
I HAVE LOCATED A COPY OF CAVALCADE.
Maybe the Academy heard about my project – CAVALCADE, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1933, was finally released on DVD and Blu-Ray in 2013! I’m third in line for it at the public library, so hopefully I’ll have it within the month, and then I will enjoy the sense of satisfaction that comes from having completed the set so far.
I have to admit, I’m kind of hoping that AMERICAN HUSTLE wins at the Oscars ceremony in a few weeks, if only because I think I’d rather watch that than what seems like the likely winner, TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. On the other hand, THE HURT LOCKER won over AVATAR, so you never know what might happen.