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Brad Allen

Broken River Could Be J. Robert Lennon’s Breakout Novel

Each time J. Robert Lennon drops a new book I think, this is the one, this is the time the “general public” will discover J. Robert Lennon.

Entertainment Weekly will give it an “A+,” Angelina Jolie will tweet about it, or some such thing. Famed writer of thrillers Lee Child calls Mr. Lennon’s latest novel, Broken River, “compelling from the first page, and then smart, sophisticated, suspenseful and satisfying throughout — [it] is a first-class ride.” It has also been chosen as the May 2017 Indie Next #1 Pick, so who knows, perhaps Broken River, his eighth novel, will be that breakout book. It is certainly worthy of that distinction. Read More..

A Reflection on Zadie Smith, 15 Years in the Making

[Nota Bene: What I have attempted below is most likely better left to academics and others better suited to pontificate upon Zadie Smith and White Teeth, her critically-acclaimed debut novel, but oh well, here goes…]

In celebration of Zadie Smith’s December 1st visit to Lawrence—thanks to our lovely friends at KU’s Hall Center for the Humanities—I was asked to write a piece about Zadie Smith.

Why me, you may ask? Fantastic question. Anyone who has mentioned Zadie Smith within earshot of me will most likely have been told (by me!) a well-worn, old story of writing a grad school paper on White Teeth and then accosting Ms. Smith with said paper at an author event in Kansas City. Read More..

The Lawrence Basement Tapes

When I arrived in Lawrence, humbled and honored to be LPL’s new director, the library was in the midst of a building project. I was so excited be a part of this experience. With a new building, we could completely reimagine what a library could be for Lawrence. In my mind, this was a once in a career opportunity to do something meaningful for a city I love so much. Read More..

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.