Thursday, April 28, 2011

What's up with that? Romance novel character names

Let me clarify from the outset that I'm not dissing romance novels (I have read some, but it's not my usual fare)... I'm just pointing out an observation on their oftentimes ridiculous character names. I realize that romance novels are escapist, so the setting, time period and names will inherently be more unusual, but some are actually laughable. Where's Matt? Or Maggie? I know, not different enough. Try Cerynise Kendall and Beauregard Birmingham (who find love in Kathleen Woodiwiss' The Elusive Flame; I think it's the alliteration of his name that gets me on that one).

However, romance novels' cousin, chick lit, does find balance between naming characters uniquely without entering ridiculous territory. For example, in Emily Giffin's Something Borrowed (the movie based on this book will be in theaters May 6), the characters are Rachel, Darcy and Dex. Overused, everyday names? No, but you actually might know someone in real life named Rachel. Maybe it's the time periods that determine the names more so than the genre ...

For a little fun, check out this amusing Regency name generator.

So, have any funny character names to share?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Me Want Books!

I came across this hilarious Sesame Street clip today, featuring the one and only Cookie Monster (my favorite Sesame Street-er).  Personally, I think the librarian is being far to stuffy and dramatic.  Who doesn't want books with a side of cookies?!

Via LIS News.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Frank O'Hara Goes to the Movies

"glorious Silver Screen, tragic Technicolor, amorous Cinemascope,
stretching Vistavision and startling Stereophonic Sound, with all
your heavenly dimensions and reverberations and iconoclasms!"
- Frank O'Hara, "To the Film Industry in Crisis"
Frank O'Hara (1926 - 1966) loved the movies. His poetry is bursting at the seams with actors and actresses, arcane film references, even Hollywood gossip. O'Hara literally composed love poetry to the entire film industry. (While he doesn't seem to make any distinction between "good" and "bad" movies, I'd hesitate to call his feelings about Hollywood uncomplicated. See his wry poem "Ave Maria" as evidence.) Without question, his most direct ode to the art of movie-making is "To the Film Industry in Crisis", available in The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara. This exuberant poem is breathless in its praise of everyone from Clark Gable to the extras.

Follow the link for my breakdown of the many film references in this poem:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Have you mastered the Dewey Decimal System?

Mental Floss created a belated National Library Week lunchtime quiz about the much beloved (and frequently misunderstood) Dewey Decimal System. While I always knew that non-fiction books were arranged by numbers starting with 000 and ending at 999, I didn't have all 10 major classes memorized (let alone the divisions under each class).  I pretty much only knew the numbers I visited frequently (641= cookbooks, 741= graphic novels, 810s= American Literature, 780s= Music, and so forth). This is probably the way most library users understand Dewey.

However, now as a librarian, I am almost fully fluent in Dewey. You can give me a call number (613.25 for instance) and I can tell you what the subject of the book is going to be (dieting) and where it is in the stacks.  It's a nerdy and specific science, but useful. Naturally, I scored a (perfect) 10 on the quiz, not that I'm the bragging type...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Happy Record Shop Day!

Remember back in the olden days, when you used to buy music in actual stores?  As a kid, I always wished I lived in an area where we had a cool independent record shop, like Reckless or Permanent Records.  Instead, I was stuck ordering all my weird indie rock CDs online, and once a year or so, heading to Chicago or Madison (home of B-Side Records) to check out actual records stores.  Now it seems like everyone purchases their music online.  I, for one, still prefer the cramped, messy record stores to the convenient but austere and sonically inferior route of purchasing digital music online.  In honor of Record Store Day, here is a few books about records and Rock n' Roll:

Record Store Days: From Vinyl to Digital and Back Again by Gary Calamar and Phil Gallo (2009).
Call #: 780.266 CAL
Find it in the catalog!

An appreciation of music stores past and present, this book explores the history of record stores and their place in the community.

Wish You Were Here: An Essential Guide to Your Favorite Music Scenes- From Punk to Indie and Everything In Between by Leslie Simon (2009).
Call #: 780.66 SIM
Find it in the catalog!

Sort of like a travel guide for music geeks, this books has primers on major music scenes, as well as locations to visit in the different cities profiled, including even obscure sights like the Dunkin Donuts on Clark St. in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago aka. "Punkin Donuts," supposedly a popular punk hangout since the 80s.

The Show I'll Never Forget: 50 Writers Relive Their Most Memorable Concert Going Experience (2007). 
Call #: 781.66 MAN
Find it in the catalog! 

Record and music geeks will probably relate to these stories about unforgettable shows.

Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984 by Simon Reynolds.
Call #:  781.66 REY
Find it in the catalog!

Profiles a very cool era of music history, featuring the formation of bands like Gang of Four, Joy Division, and Talking Heads. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Awkward Moments with Rocco Dispirto

 Just a dude, sitting on a stoop, petting my tomatoes.

Celebrity chef/ author/ awkward hand gesture-maker Rocco DiSpirito has several different cookbooks with delicious looking but healthy meals.  However, I mostly enjoy his cookbooks for another reason, DiSpirito's odd posing in photographs.  Blessed with generically handsome looks, DiSpirito could have been a Sears catalog model in another life.  Below are some of my favorite DiSpirito poses from his books:

Dog, you are the only one I can trust now. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

National Poetry Month 2011

"ONE'S-SELF I sing, a simple separate person,
Yet utter the word Democratic, the word En-Masse."
- Walt Whitman, Ones-Self I Sing
National Poetry Month has afforded us here at the Reader's Block the welcome opportunity of addressing a literary form that's too often neglected. Last April we allowed our repressed love of poetry to come proudly to the surface. Danielle highlighted the many volumes written by and about Shakespeare, sundry poetry anthologies, and provided a thoughtful introduction to the work of Billy Collins. I took inventory of some of my own favorites, specifically Hart Crane, Pablo Neruda, Frank O'Hara, Carl Sandburg, and Dylan Thomas. Well, it's April again, and the 800s are our destination. (I'm speaking of Dewey numbers, natch.)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Recommended read: Open by Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi was thought to be a punk-- all you had to do was look at his hair, outfits, and jewelry (the horror!). But the truth is that he was really trying to rebel against the situation he was put in. Forced to play tennis as a youngster by his father, Agassi never really chose to be a tennis player.
“The net is the biggest enemy, but thinking is the cardinal sin. Thinking, my father believes, is the source of all bad things, because thinking is the opposite of doing. When my father catches me thinking, daydreaming, on the tennis court, he reacts as if he caught me taking money from his wallet. I often think about how I can stop thinking. I wonder if my father yells at me to stop thinking because he knows I’m a thinker by nature. Or, with all his yelling, has he turned me into a thinker? Is my thinking about things other than tennis an act of defiance? I like to think so.”
As was well publicized when the book came out, Agassi discloses his crystal meth use in the late 90s. Shocking, not really. Disappointing, yes. What I found to be shocking was his revelation about his feelings on tennis: he views it as a necessary evil because as a teenager, who had dropped out of school, it was his only real skill to earn a living. It is sad that he hated the very thing that brought joy to so many.

Agassi is a talented writer. He skillfully conveys the contradictions that go on in an athlete's head-- especially an athlete in "the loneliest sport." The passages that recall his crucial tennis matches over the years are as riveting as watching them. He delves respectively into his marriage to Brooke Shields, his relationship with Barbra Streisand, and ultimate courtship and marriage to Steffi Graf. An excellent autobiography, even if you're not a tennis fan.

Open by Andre Agassi
Find it in the catalog!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Recommended read: 13, rue Thérèse by Elena Mauli Shapiro

Trevor Stratton, an American professor and translator in Paris, finds a box containing old photographs and keepsakes in a cabinet in his office at the university. Unbeknownst to him, his office assistant Josianne placed it there, selecting him as the recipient, after having tried the same experiment with other professors who took little interest in the mementos. Trevor becomes obsessed with the old box, diligently studying its contents, translating the letters, and attempting to piece together the history of its owner, Louise Brunet. Because Trevor is spending so much time thinking about the mysteries of the letters and photographs, he creates his own narrative of Louise's life, using the photographs, keepsakes, and letters as glimpses into her life and relationships. We read the love letters from her cousin Camille, who her father forbade her to marry, fighting in the war. We view photographs of Louise's father, one from his youth and the other as an older man. We even see Louise's white communion gloves. Since scans of the items from Louise's box, in addition to Trevor's translations, are shown in the book, readers may attempt to decipher their histories just like Trevor.

I was drawn to read this book because of its unique concept, which originated from the author's own life. Growing up, she lived on 13 rue Thérèse in the same building as a woman named Louise Brunet. When Louise died, she had no known relatives to collect her things, so other people living in the building were able to take what they wanted from her apartment; Shapiro's mother took the box of mementos. 13, rue Thérèse was a very enjoyable read. Shapiro's style of writing is quite poetic, and I often re-read certain passages because of her distinctive way with description. I look forward to more from this author in the future.

Find it in the catalog!