When I was thirteen, I bought my first cassette tape. (Yes, this millennial is old enough to remember what a cassette tape is!) It was Jewel’s Pieces of You, that folk album that came out of nowhere, sold 11 million copies, and produced such chart topping hits as “Who Will Save Your Soul,” “You Were Meant for Me” and “Foolish Games.” Read More..
In the Spotlight
Thursday, October 15 will be a busy evening in Lawrence Kansas. At 6:00 pm, zombies will take to Massachusetts Street for their annual walk from South Park. The bibliozombies among them will continue their stroll to Abe & Jake’s Landing, where they will have a rare opportunity to hear Karen Russell, one of America’s great creative writers, speak on “Literary, Geographic and Ghostly Influences.”
This weekend I had the chance to visit the Lawrence Arts Center’s exhibit curated by Daniel Joseph Watkins that explores Hunter S. Thompson’s bid for Mayor of Aspen in 1970 through art, writing, and ephemera. The exhibit transported me to Budig Hall on the University of Kansas campus, where I spent a semester my Freshman year of college ignoring my Journalism 101 lectures and instead reading the collected works of the Gonzo journalist.
Books have the power to change lives on the individual and societal level. They’re portals to magical lands and guides for navigating life’s most gruesome struggles. Because of this, the freedom to access information through books has been highly contested since the birth of the written word. The American Library’s Association (ALA) has reported that it tracked roughly 500 requests to challenge or ban books from schools and libraries each year. Thus, Banned Books Week was created. The first Banned Books week began in 1982 as a celebration that called attention to the dangers of stifling creative expression and access to books. Banned Books Week focuses on readers’ freedom and open access to information, and also acts as a Thank You to the librarians, teachers, students, and community members who have fought for these freedoms.
“It’s time we had the talk.”
No six words strike more terror into the heart of a teen, not to mention the parent who has been practicing them in front of a mirror.
Inevitably, I hear the same four words when I talk to parents of grown children: “It goes so fast.” Parents with kids just a few years older than my own, when asked for tips on common problems, rarely muster more than “I can’t remember.” I draw a blank myself when I think back on how my wife and I handled stuff that happened just last year. “It’s a blur,” say newbie and veteran parents alike, and there’s no better word I can think of to describe this mysterious sensation of amnesia and accelerated time.
Lawrence native Andrew Malan Milward has combed through Kansas history for all the secrets, idiosyncrasies, and forgotten moments of our state. With this trove of knowledge, he didn’t try to write a textbook or manifesto; instead, he created a work of short stories, speaking of the lives of Kansans, some historical, and some imagined.
So is it kosher to criticize a work of art according to contemporary standards if it was written when standards were different? I ask because I have heard people object to stories that show gender relationships and gender norms that, according to today’s values, are politically incorrect or offensive to a particular group or insulting to women. I’m thinking particularly of The Winds of War by Herman Wouk and The Women by Claire Boothe Luce since I have just finished reading the first and have an anecdote that fits with my thesis sentence for the second.
Confession: I used to be kind of a book snob. It started in high school, when I developed an interest in philosophy (my first dog was named Rawls, after John Rawls, author of A Theory of Justice). I had a subscription to the The Economist.
Luckily for me, I had an existential (reading) crisis halfway through grad school and discovered vampires (in fiction).
And after years of reading academic texts and dense journal articles, I discovered that reading could be fun when I randomly picked up a mass market paperback of the first Sookie Stackhouse book, and I’ve never looked back. Now, I read a balanced diet of all genres, try new formats, and sample the flavors of diverse writers.
Some might characterize the genre fiction I love as guilty pleasure reading, but I don’t feel guilty about it at all. I’ve read enough urban fantasy to know what kind I like (humor! action! romantic tension!), so when I’m in the mood for what I characterize as “junk food reading” I know what to look for in a book (strong heroine, unique world-building, a dash of snark). Just like my favorite food is broccoli, my typical reading diet is heavy on thoughtful, literary fiction, but that doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally indulge my reading sweet tooth with a little urban fantasy and a side of ice cream. Read More..
You’re fifteen. You’re smart. You’re poor, black, pregnant, in love, and Daddy says there’s a hurricane coming.