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In the Spotlight

High Fidelity: Once, Twice, Three Times Awesome (part 1)

Most of us breathe a sigh of relief when a film adaptation of a favorite book turns out to be actually pretty good. When an adaptation is more than actually pretty good, it’s cause for celebration. When the music for that movie is so good that the soundtrack stands as a terrific album in itself, it’s such a rare occasion that the fact that it’s happened at least twice warrants, in my humble opinion, writing about. Nick Hornby’s ‘High Fidelity’ and Brian O’Malley’s graphic novel series, ‘Scott Pilgrim,’ managed to succeed where so many other adaptations have come up short. Just how were they able pull off this miraculous convergence of all things awesome? Read on to find out!  This week I will be talking about High Fidelity, and will continue up with Scott Pilgrim in an upcoming post. Read More..

Multimedia Like, Try, Why: Part 2

Last month, Fisher from Readers’ Services brought us a special “Like, Try, Why” featuring not only books but movies and CDs from our catalog. This month, he shares another round of picks!

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Wild Brits? I say! Exploring the Global Wilderness

Feeling less cranky than usual, Ed Abbey, prickly prophet of the desert Southwest, once looked around and suggested this:

“Beyond the wall of the unreal city… there is another world waiting for you. It is the old true world of the deserts, the mountains, the forests, the islands, the shores, the open plains. Go there. Be there. Walk gently and quietly deep within it.”

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Talking Booker T. Jones with Brad Allen

Libraries have connected their communities with authors forever. It’s what we do. People love to hear beloved authors talk about their process, maybe read a chapter from a book. It’s fun stuff to see an author. As I sat at my desk one morning, I began to think about our lovely town of Lawrence, Kansas, and what other kinds of folk our community would be interested in seeing in person at the library. We’re a music town, and I thought perhaps people would get a kick out of hearing the stories of musicians. And thus, the 780s Series was born.

From a young age, I was always intrigued with learning the stories behind the music I loved. One of the earliest music books I read was The Love You Make, a biography on The Beatles (not the best one, but the only one I knew of as a kid). Since then, I’ve read dozens of books about rock, folk, jazz, blues, soul, and funk. My fascination with knowing the stories about music I loved led all the way to writing an oral history of a funk band as a Master’s thesis. I love the stories behind the music, and I am so excited to begin this new series bringing some of the best musicians around to Lawrence for us to hear their stories.

sliderI am so thrilled to have Booker T. Jones visit Lawrence, Kansas, for the inaugural event in our 780s Series. His life and his music stand at the convergence of pop, rock, and soul music from the 1960s and onward. Booker T. and the MG’s were one of the first integrated rock and soul bands in the United States and as the “house band” at Stax one of the greatest backing groups of the soul music era. You may know Booker T. and the MG’s from their own hit “Green Onions,” but they are the band that plays on hundreds of songs from the Stax/Volt catalog, including hits by Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Sam and Dave, Rufus and Carla Thomas, and many others.

It’s All About Commune-ity

I recently came across a book that I’ve been needing to read for a long time — but never knew it existed. Arcadia, Lauren Groff’s dreamy, lyrical novel hooked me in tight and then pied-pipered me along a winding path through what would be a strange and beautiful tale of a boy’s life as it relates to a 1970’s commune in western New York.  Read More..

Once upon a time there was a drummer, and his name was Oskar…

If I was forced to name a favorite fictional character, it would have to be Oskar Matzerath from German writer Gunter Grass’ 1959 novel The Tin Drum. It’s been several years since I read that outlandish and sprawling World War II era satire, and many of the finer details have been lost to memory, but I have never been able to forget about little Oskar who is, easily, the most radical and subversive figure I have ever encountered.  After all, could there be a greater act of defiance than to purposefully throw oneself down the cellar stairs, as a three-year old Oskar does, permanently stunting his growth for the sole purpose of avoiding  entrance into the grownup world? Oskar, who claims to have been fully mentally developed at birth, can already see the trappings of the adult life and he chooses to opt out. And with perfect timing too. This bold decision will leave him nearly invisible to the majority of the adults in his home city of Danzig, as they’re slowly being seduced by Hitler and the Third Reich. Read More..

About a Boy

 On the tail end of a warm, windy afternoon last month at Lyons Park, my 4-year old son, who had been running the bases on the ball fields there for 45 minutes, reached a familiar point of no return, triggered by his frustration that I was unable, at the moment, to continue trying to tag him out with an invisible baseball.  Reason being, my 2-year old daughter, whose idea of fun doesn’t have much to do with imaginary plays at the plate and “real baseball dirt” swirling into her eyes, had reached her own point of no return just moments earlier.  I was close to a meltdown myself as I shuffled over the mound through the screams, trying to conjure a little inspiration from a vision of big league pitchers struggling on up here without their best stuff.

Usually at times like this I look for humor in the situation, but that wasn’t working today, even though at the same time my son was pretending to be Eric Hosmer, he was also wearing his little sister’s Minnie Mouse sweatpants—pink with white polka dots and a long black mouse tail attached in back—quite tight in the seat and three inches too short for him at the ankles.  It would be a few more hours until I could cure myself of the weariness and frustration of the afternoon.  Kids put to bed, my wife and I watched a DVD from the library that shifted my perspective and transformed my dusty funk into a sense of wonder, as if I had been able to zoom out and glimpse a big picture view of family life akin to one of those images of Earth from space.   Read More..

Child-free Spinsters: Two Brand New Books on Adulting Differently

Adulthood is kind of difficult. Supposedly, millennials (or Gen Y, or whatever the hell) are having an even tougher time than previous generations at figuring out the whole “growing up” thing, or at least that’s what we’ve been told many, many, many times. Rather than dashing directly into marriage and children and life-long careers just after school — as had previously been the assumed “correct” path in America — those of us born in the 1980s and later are waiting longer and longer to wed and start families, if at all. Read More..

Literary Cribs: William Faulkner Edition

For spring break this year, I didn’t go to Malibu. I didn’t go to Cancun. I didn’t drain two forties in a bowling alley parking lot. I went to place that was even crazier– a place humming with machismo and a legacy of “getting tore up”…

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Contributing a Verse: O Me! O Life! O Film and Poetry!

For movie lovers who love poetry (and poetry lovers who love movies), these three unforgettable films all have poetry and poets as central characters or themes.

From an irrepressible English teacher in a stuffy Delaware all-boy’s prep school challenging his young students to ‘suck the marrow out of life;’ to a soft-spoken coach of a rowdy, young-yet-streetwise slam-poetry team in Chicago pushing his kids to work harder and dream louder; to a communist poet exiled to a small Italian island helping an uneducated neighbor to woo the woman of his dreams, these riveting films engage, entertain, and uplift. And still they manage to explore with heart and honesty the bittersweet truths of life–love, death, friendship, identity, courage in the face of oppression–that unite the human race. These films will no doubt leave you inspired, exhilarated, and aching for your own unique and powerful voice to be heard.

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