Have you heard of Kirkus Reviews? The self-appointed "World's Toughest Book Critics" select the best Fiction, Nonfiction, Children's Literature, Teen Fiction, Indie Publications, and even Book Apps from the previous year. Kirkus's website is a treasure trove of exceptionally well-written book reviews and book lists.
Love audiobooks? Audible.com releases a yearly list of their editors' favorite audiobooks. Also, the Audio Publishers Association sponsors The Audies, a yearly award given to audiobooks in various categories like "Solo Narration," "Audio Drama," and "Humor."
Have a best of the year list to suggest? Share it in the comments section! Happy reading all the way into 2012.
Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season this week. Here is my brief guide to weekend activity.
Give thanks (or just GIVE).
Yes, it’s corny... At the risk of sounding like a mushy TV holiday special, telling the special people in your life that you appreciate them is always a good thing.
Contact a local homeless shelter and volunteer as a family to help prepare and serve a meal. So many people like to do this on a holiday that centers sometimes have to turn away the overabundance of volunteers. Consider giving your time the week before or after the holiday instead.
Organize a food or goods drive in your neighborhood. It is generally best to contact a local organization or charity groupfirst to ask what types of donations they will accept. Make it a family affair by having children staple flyers listing the details on grocery bags to distribute to your neighbors. Plan to go back a week later to pick up the filled bags and deliver them to your charity of choice.
This might just be everyone’s favorite Thanksgiving Day activity. Unfortunately, when you cook for a crowd you usually end up eating turkey and stuffing for the next week unless you get creative with your leftovers.
Break out the board games! If you really MUST include shopping on your post-feast to-do list, thrift shops always have board games for sale. Maybe you can find a favorite from your childhood to share with the next generation (and remind them that not all games are played on a screen!).
Take an easy stroll with the entire family around Brookside Gardens for the Garden of Lights display beginning Friday, November 25. Wind down the night with a cup of hot chocolate or tea in the Visitor’s Center while watching a local act (see website for schedule).
Black Friday shopping? Ugh. Many years of retail management make me a homebody for the biggest, baddest shopping day of the year. Yes, you can snag a great deal if you pay attention to ads and plot your itinerary well, but more people are choosing to…
Shop Small. Support your local independent business owners! Small businesses are a great place to find unique or hand-crafted items.
Cyber Monday is the new Black Friday. With more people choosing to click from the comfort of home, online shopping is a great way to surf more options without fighting the crowds. The Washington Post recently offered tips for safe online shopping.
Whatever you do, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!
Have you ever been in an art gallery and wondered what it would be like if the people in a painting could step from the frame and tell you their story? Or if the artist could explain his vision directly to you? This is exactly what happens in the new film by Polish director Lech Majewski, The Mill and the Cross, a living tableaux of Bruegel’s painting The Way to Calvary. Like all Bruegel’s work it is crowded with people, over 500 in all, and in the first scene of the film the artist walks among his subjects as they are costumed and posed. He talks with his aristocratic benefactor about the ideas and symbolism that he intends to communicate in the painting, what he means to say about his world. For though the scene is a traditional religious subject, Bruegel’s real subject is his own 16th century Flanders, suffering under Spanish rule and the cruelties of the Inquisition. He does not paint Roman soldiers leading Christ to Calvary, but red-coated Spanish horsemen leading a heretic to execution. The film follows the crowd of people out of the painting into the fullness of their lives at work and play and love, dancing and merriment going on in one corner while in another a mother mourns her tortured son. High above the people the windmill turns and grinds out the fates of all. The old wooden mill with its whooshing cloth covered sails and huge creaking interior gearwheels was painstakingly recreated for the film and is in some sense the central character. The Mill and the Cross casts a mesmerizing spell as it slowly unspools Bruegel’s vision of the human condition and his times. (The Mill and the Cross was shown at film festivals worldwide including Sundance. It is in limited release in theaters. The DVD is forthcoming).
Seeing this film reminded me of one of my favorite books, Headlong by Michael Frayn, a novel that is also inspired by Bruegel’s work. It’s a suspenseful and comic combination of art history lesson and art heist caper. Two young academics, Martin Clay and his wife Julia, move to the English countryside where they hope to concentrate on their studies. But distraction soon appears when they visit a local couple living in genteel poverty in a dilapidated mansion. Martin sees what he believes is a long missing Bruegel painting being used as a fire screen. He embarks on an obsessive dual mission to prove the painting is indeed a genuine Bruegel, and to separate it from its oblivious owners and make his fortune. In alternating chapters we follow Martin’s research into Bruegel and the progress of his madcap scheme. It is a measure of Frayn’s skill that the chapters on symbolism in Bruegel’s work are as suspenseful as the ill fated plot to steal the painting. This is a great read with appeal for art lovers, book clubs, and anyone who enjoys good writing and an out of the ordinary story.
When I read Headlong I also checked out a book of Bruegel’s paintings to refer to as they were discussed in the novel. There are many more novel/art pairings to enjoy like the bestselling Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier/Vermeer, Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland/Renoir, and Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper by Harriet Scott Chessman/Mary Cassatt. For more ideas search the library catalog for the words or phrase “art and fiction” or “artists and fiction.” You can limit the search results to Item Category 2 “Adult” for a more focused list. And if you can’t get enough of Bruegel, there is also a novel based on his life, As Above, So Below by Rudy Rucker. So during these cold winter months forget trekking to a museum to enjoy art, just pull up a chair to the fire and let the paintings speak for themselves.
For other comic research libraries in the U.S. and abroad try here and here.
Now, back to comics you can read anywhere you have an internet connection--
This year, SPX gave the Ignatz Award for Outstanding Online Comic to Kate Beaton for Hark! A Vagrant. This strip offers a wonderful range of oddball literary parodies such as Ms. Beaton's take on Wuthering Heights, or her unusual portrayals of historical characters like Ben Franklin and Napoleon. If you can't get online, however, you are in luck, because a book which collects many of the strips plus some new material has been ordered for our library collection.
This year's Ignatz Award for Outstanding Series went to Everything Dies by Box Brown. It's not anywhere near as depressing as it sounds, but certainly thought provoking.
Many online comics deal in social commentary, such as The Knight Life by Keith Knight, which is also syndicated in various newspapers. He also pens (Th)ink, a single panel snapshot of political and current events, and The K Chronicles, a weekly semi-autobiographical strip.
Some online comics that have a semi-autobiographic element include those by Corinne Mucha, or Lezley Davidson. The latter site plans on having tutorials and marketing advice for budding cartoonists as well as comics to enjoy.
Comic by Corrine Mucha
If you prefer fantasy adventure and science fiction, you might try Lost City Comics by Jonathon Dalton, Supernova Lullabye by Mike Sgier, or Tragic Planet by Joey Weiser. If you want an interesting read inspired by the biblical creation of the universe, try Luci's Letdown by Marjee Chmiel and Sandra Lanz.
Infinity Roads by Tim Sparvero has a touch of science fiction, another touch of mythology, and some romannce.
"Anthony was a man with the smallest ego in the universe. A man who hid his low self-esteem through long hair, sunglasses, and heavy metal music. All to impress a girl he loved, Miranda. A girl he felt was unreachable,but who he loved more than life itself...A girl he lost when he found out he was a robot."
In the fall I often picture Victorian houses in my mind. It may be partly because I went to college near Rhinebeck New York. In the fall I would return and admire the many beautiful Victorian houses. Also one often sees Victorian style in the fall seasonal art of Halloween and Thanksgiving. Montgomery County Public Library has a number of books with pictures of Victorian houses. My favorite is the Painted Ladies series. I've scanned some pictures to share with you from the Painted Ladies books.
One of my absolute favorite places is the house of artist Frederic Church, Olana. It is sited on a bluff with a fabulous view of the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains. It is a Victorian Moorish conglomeration. Church had a reason for everything he did, including his use of materials in the interior to manipulate light. We used to go up to Olana to admire the design of the house and also just to sit on the lawn and take in the panoramic view. Here is a partial view of Olana, taken from the side of the front entrance.
After Edwin Bradford Hall (a descendant of a member of the original Plymouth Colony) and his bride Antoinette fell in love with Italian castles while on their honeymoon on Lake Como, he designed and built this delicious towered Italianate villa in 1869-1870 with the help of architects Henry Searle & Sons. The fourth generation of the family still summers at The Pink House. America's Painted Ladies
The Gingerbread House in Chicago
[It] is said to have been built by a Mr. Schmidt in 1884, thirteen years after the great Chicago fire destroyed the neighborhood. ... In 1978 Dr. Marshall Bruce Segal purchased the house and - before moving in - began a five-year renovation of the interior. ... A few years later he completed the exterior painting. America's Painted Ladies
The Carson Mansion in Eureka California
Lumber baron William Carson built this truly astonishing ediface to keep his workers busy during the off season and to be used as a showcase for the different kinds of wood he sold. ... It is a temple of the woodcarver's art, a one-stop museum of "drop-dead" Victorian decoration. Daughters of Painted Ladies
The Gingerbread Mansion in Ferndale California, 1889, now a lovingly restored Bed and Breakfast inn.
Dr. Hogan J Ring and his wife, Orcelia Lowe Ring, built this scrumptious house and later enlarged it to include a small hospital in back. Daughters of Painted Ladies