Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

WE RECOMMEND: Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks Definitive gold box collection


Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

I have the great capacity to be a TV junkie. We got rid of cable at my house in large part because no matter how embarrassingly degrading a show was, I could get sucked into the menial drama in no time. My most embarrassing moment in TV viewing might have been the short-lived reality show “Dating in the Dark,” in which contestants—you guessed it!—dated each other in the dark and then had to decide whether their feelings were real once they saw the person through a two-way mirror. I’m not a big believer in “guilty pleasures” but this was a real low point.

So now that we don’t have cable, my TV show viewing is limited to shows on Netflix or on DVD. Since it’s so easy for me to get sucked into a new show, I love having the option to watch the entire run of a series without having to wait for the next episode. And the show that has so far sucked me in the most, that I managed to watch over the course of about a week (30 episodes in 9 days!), is the early 90s cult classic “Twin Peaks.”

I’ve desperately tried to love David Lynch but to me his movies almost always fall flat somewhere along the way. While “Twin Peaks” isn’t perfect (wait until the second season subplot involving James and the manipulative housewife Evelyn), I think this is the best Lynch gets. “Twin Peaks” starts off as a murder mystery when the titular Washington town’s homecoming queen turns up dead. But in true Lynchian fashion things are not always what they seem, and what started off as a simple stranger-comes-to-town crime solver devolves into a supernatural head trip. The ensemble cast includes some of the decade’s up-and-comers (Lynch favorite Kyle MacLachlan, Lara Flynn Boyle, Heather Graham) and surprising appearances by seasoned actors (Piper Laurie, the mom from Carrie; Peggy Lipton, former star of the “Mod Squad” and ex-wife of Quincy Jones; Richard Beymer and Russ Tamblyn, both stars of the film version of West Side Story). MacLachlan’s Dale Cooper is one of the greatest characters in TV history. The images the viewer takes away from the show are lasting and haunting. Someday I want my bathroom to look like the “Red Room.”

“Twin Peaks” made such an impression on me that I was truly sad when it was over. Over for me, anyway, since it’s actually been off the air since 1991. I watched the show for the first time last summer. I rewatched it in its entirety this winter. This time I think it took about 14 days to watch the whole thing, but that’s because the DVD has some pretty great extras. And the cult of “Twin Peaks” lives on, which I realize now that I understand references to the show. The Log Ladies are a New Orleans band saluting their namesake’s memorable character; “Twin Peaks” festivals occur around the world; and the show’s stars still pop up all over the place (Leland Palmer on “Mad Men?” Awesome!).

The Monroe Library has the full series on DVD with all the excellent extras. There’s also a prequel film called Fire Walk With Me. I’m not a fan, but it’s worth seeing if only to round out your “Twin Peaks” experience. If you’re like me, you’re going to finish watching the series and then jump in your car to come back to the library 10 minutes before closing time to check out the movie. The spooky town of Twin Peaks just has that effect on some of us.

-Elizabeth Kelly, Instruction and Special Collections Librarian

We Recommend: Prep: A Novel by Curtis Sittenfeld

Prep: A Novel by Curtis Sittenfeld

Prep coverThere is no shortage of coming-of-age stories (especially coming-of-age stories set in boarding schools), but rarely is there one as realistic and relatable as Prep: a novel by Curtis Sittenfeld. As the story begins, the lovably awkward Lee Fiora is a freshman at Ault, a prestigious boarding school near Boston. Lee is a witty and intelligent teen, but as a scholarship student from the Midwest, she sometimes feels as though she does not fit in with her wealthy, privileged classmates. She spends a lot of time observing her classmates instead of interacting with them and soon gives herself the role of “the outsider.”

Occasionally, Lee can be a frustrating character, because she would probably be accepted if she gave people more of a chance. She eventually makes friends and finds her place at the school, but it’s a little bit of a struggle. Along the way, she works through her feelings of isolation and she handles difficult social situations; sometimes with hilarious results. She also deals with issues of sexuality and the loss of a first love (and Prep deals with these issues in a very frank and honest way, there are a couple sexually explicit scenes and there is explicit dialogue throughout the novel).

Overall, Prep is a fun, nostalgic read. There is some “teenage angst” and heartbreak, but also a lot of laughs. Many people will find something that they can relate to; I think there’s a little bit of Lee Fiora in all of us.

Kayla Whitehead, Technical Services Assistant/Serials Specialist

WE RECOMMEND: Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon

Pynchon, Thomas. Inherent Vice. New York, NY: 2009, Penguin Press. Call number PS3566 .Y55 I54 2009

Set in the greater Hollywood area in late 1969 and early 1970 Inherent Vice tells the story of hippie, private eye Larry “Doc” Sportello. Doc is contacted by his former girlfriend, Shasta Fay Hepworth, to investigate a conspiracy involving her current lover Mickey Wolfmann, a wealthy real estate developer. Soon after, Doc is hired by Tariq Khalil to find Mickey’s bodyguard Glen Charlock. At the beginning of Doc’s investigation Shasta and Mickey disappear, while Doc is framed for the murder of Glen. These events propel him through a whirlwind of marijuana inspired conspiracy theories, a myriad of side cases, more than one acid trip, and direct conflict with the nefarious and mysterious organization, The Golden Fang.

Inherent Vice is a straight detective story with all the characteristics of a Pynchon novel. Lost continent conspiracies, a plethora of original songs, and a cast of unique and hilarious characters make for an enjoyable read. I highly recommend Inherent Vice to anyone that enjoys Pynchon, detective fiction, or zany fiction.

Brian Sullivan, Online Learning Librarian

WE RECOMMEND: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. Boston, MA: Haughton Mifflin, 1986. Call number PR9199.3 .A8 H3 1986

Nothing says “controversial read” like a dystopian novel making social commentary on the United States of America — both of its government and people. The Handmaid’s Tale does just that. Written by Margaret Atwood, this novel takes place in “the near future.” Set in the former United States, this story tells of a new society where many things have changed, primarily the role of women in society. In the fascist Republic of Gilead, society emphasizes procreation due to a recent epidemic of infertility, some say due to a toxic waste spill. As a result, a new caste in society has developed, that of the handmaid.

The story follows protagonist Offred who has experienced the downfall of “freedom” in this new society and been forced into the role of a handmaid. Handmaids, who are chosen for their fertility, are assigned to high-profile couples who are unable to reproduce. The handmaid lives in the home of her assigned couple and is forced to procreate with the husband, providing a child for the couple. Offred’s struggle to change from her previous life to her role as handmaid is unveiled as the novel progresses. Will she be able to escape her place in society as kept woman, and if she does, what happens next?

This is a smart, complicated, and emotional page turner that I would recommend anyone read! The Handmaid’s tale falls at number 88 in the most frequently banned/challenged book list from 2000-2009.

Read a banned book today! Find the Top 100 list here.

Liz Cashman, Outreach and Development Coordinator

WE RECOMMEND: The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell

Bushnell, Candace. The Carrie Diaries. New York, NY: Balzer & Bray, 2010. Call number: PZ7 .B965467 CAR 2010

It’s almost like going back in time – The Carrie Diaries allows you to meet Carrie Bradshaw…before she was THE Carrie Bradshaw. Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw: the shoe-loving, man-toting, sexy single who rules the social scene in New York. The Carrie Diaries focuses on Carrie as she makes her way through high school in a small town outside of New York City. Carrie is crushed when she isn’t accepted into the New School’s Advanced Summer Writing Seminar, and instead begins to resentfully plan her college career at Brown University. But as her senior year rolls along and Carrie joins the newspaper in an “undercover” sort of way, her writing begins to blossom along with her spirit.

For those fifteen and up, The Carrie Diaries will occupy a special place in the heart of Sex and the City fans. Readers are introduced to Samantha Jones in a hilarious, very “New York moment” while Carrie, although not quite yet the fashion guru she becomes in SATC, is endearing and charismatic. Drugs and sex are major topics of the book, so be prepared to see how Carrie…became so Carrie. Recommended for all fans of Candace Bushnell’s works and those who want to slip into that New York slice of life.

Ria Newhouse, Learning Commons Coordinator

The Graveyard Book by Gaiman and The Amulet of Samarkand by Stroud

The Graveyard Book

Gaiman, Neil. The Graveyard Book. New York: Harper Collins, 2008. ISBN: 9780060530921 Call Number: PZ7 .G1273 GR 2008

With finals starting soon now is an inopportune time for pleasure reading. But after finals during winter break, when your brain feels fried, might I suggest you refresh yourself through the power of modern fantasy novels?

First, Neil Gaiman’s Newbury Award winning The Graveyard Book. The book tells the story Nobody Owens, a child growing up in a graveyard raised the ghosts. The book is a superb fantasy tale that involves ghosts, ghouls, witches, President Harry Truman, and an international group of evil men. While the book remains largely episodic in nature, readers will feel right at home in the abnormal, yet familiar world.

The Amulet of Samarkand

Stroud, Jonathan. The Amulet of Samarkand. New York: Hyperion Books for Children, 2003. ISBN: 078681859X Call Number; PZ7 .S92475 AM 2003

Next, journey to an England ruled by magicians that harness the power of spirits to maintain their rule over the common folk in Jonathan Stroud’s The Amulet of Samarkand. The story begins with the magician’s apprentice Nathaniel summoning the snarky djinni Bartimaeus. Nathaniel wants to use Bartimaeus to get revenge on the high ranking Simon Lovelace for embarrassing him. The novel splits the narrative duties between Nathaniel and Bartimaeus as they realize the depth of political corruption these magicians are involved in. The novel is exciting and accessible with load of moral ambiguity, political power grabs, and off-beat sarcastic humor.

Brian Sullivan, Online Learning Librarian

Novels in Three Lines by Felix Fénéon

Fénéon, Felix. Novels in Three Lines. New York: New York Review of Books, 2007.
ISBN: 9781590172308
Call number: PQ2611 .E565 N613 2007

In 1906, French anarchist, art critic, and former clerk Felix Fénéon went to work for Le Matin, a Paris broadsheet, where he wrote the small news clips known as “faits divers” – sometimes translated as “hard facts”. Never more than a few lines, they covered the outliers of the everyday: oddities, obituaries, and accidents. Today, we would call these “Short Takes” or “News in Brief” and they’d be in a sidebar or tucked away on A17.

Fénéon’s faits divers are, instead, a world unto themselves. Consider this example:

On the bowling lawn a stroke leveled M. André, 75, of Levallois. While his ball was still rolling he was no more.

Or my favorite passage, this one:

The sinister prowler seen by the mechanic Gicquel near Herblay train station has been identified: Jules Ménard, snail collector.

There isn’t much to say, to add, to this work. Fénéon himself wrote anonymously, these stories saved only by the attention of his mistress who clipped them from the paper. He never published any of his own work in his lifetime, despite being closely tied to the vibrant intellectual culture of Paris and championing artists like Georges Seurat and Paul Signac. It stands to reason that one could easily read these works as trifles or period pieces. Just as easily, however, can they sit with Nietzsche’s aphorisms of The Gay Science or Stein’s poetic experiments of Tender Buttons.

And by way of final recommendation, allow me to direct you toward the Fénéon Twitter feed, which is, in its own way, nearly perfect.

-Phil Rollins, Learning Technologies Developer (prllns on Goodreads)

Four Novels of the 1960s by Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick

Dick, Philip K. Four Novels of the 1960s. New York: Library of America. 2007.
ISBN: 1598530097
Call Number: PS3554 .I3 A6 2007

In many ways, Philip K. Dick is the quintessential science fiction author. His novels are rich with ideas, dizzying in scope, and profoundly concerned with the human condition in a world made sick with progress. On the other hand, his novels are often unwieldy, his writing at times an afterthought. It would surprise no one -  having read a novel like “A Scanner Darkly” or “The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch” – to learn that Dick himself was prone to hallucinations, mysticism, and extensive, punishing drug abuse. Even without the frequent (and typically institutional) drug use in his novels, they are clearly the product of a mind straining against itself or, possibly, a world out of joint. Both are frequent themes in his work.

It would be impossible to sum up even one of the four novels in this collection using this space. Needless to say, they represent some of the best of his work. “The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch” contains some of Dick’s wildest ideas (which is saying something) while “The Man In the High Castle” is a more conventional – yet totally entertaining – alternate history set in the early 1960s wherein the US has lost World War II. “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” would later be reduced to “Blade Runner” and probably remains his best-known work for that reason. However, “Ubik” is his virtuoso performance: formally, it is his most readable and densely layered work. Illusive, allusive, elusive, it is one of the very few Dick novels that puts it all together without falling apart. His vision of a commoditized future is only one element with the ring of prophecy to it, and like the best works of the genre it poses many more questions than it hopes to answer.

More than describing fantastic worlds or space battles, Dick’s best work seeks the human element in a confusing and shifting world. And what is most surprising, of course, is how familiar it all is.

- Phil Rollins, Learning Technologies Developer (prllns on Goodreads)

The Beast God Forgot to Invent by Jim Harrison

Harrison, Jim. The Beast God Forgot to Invent. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2000.
ISBN: 0-8711-3821-2.
Call Number: PS3558 .A67 B4 2000

“The danger of civilization, of course, is that you will piss away your life on nonsense.” This is how Jim Harrison begins the first of three novellas that comprise The Beast God forgot to Invent. In this novella, which shares its title with the book, we watch as an aging collector tries to locate, in all senses of the word, a once wealthy young friend who is torn out of society by a horrific accident. It is in this discovery of a creature, reduced to little more than id, virile and brain-damaged, that we find a life so abundant, that it could not possibly exist in civilization.

In language that undulates between the humorous and the visceral, we are presented with characters caught in the constant metamorphosis of changing identity. In the last of the three stories, entitled I Forgot to Go to Spain, a quixotic biographer finds that he has squandered the dreams of his younger self, and finds himself barely recognizable. In a moment of introspection he ponders “The language I was using to describe myself to myself might be radically askew.”

Jim Harrison writes from a place of such prodigious life and reverence, that reading him is to swim once again in some childhood memory, suddenly uncomplicated, unmoored from the lives we have led.

Those interested may also wish to look into Jim Harrison’s other works which range from fiction (The Woman Lit by Fireflies, Julip) to poetry (Returning to Earth, The Theory & Practice of Rivers and New Poems)  to essays (Just Before Dark).

-Jonathan Gallaway, Blackboard Manager

2666 by Roberto Bolaño

2666 by Roberto Bolaño

Bolaño, Roberto. 2666. New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.
ISBN: 9780374531553
Call Number : XX(819121.1) (1 copy in process)

Bolaño’s literary body is woven tightly together without ever being sewn up, and in 2666 – his final novel before his death in 2003 at age 50 – he refuses still to close old wounds and old characters. While the title has been said to refer to the Biblical Exodus from Egypt, a mystical future date of redemption, or simply an earlier novel, the story’s wobbly orbit is Santa Theresa – generally considered to be a fictionalized version of Ciudad Juárez in northern Mexico. It is here that a flood of unexplained murders of young women has threaded itself into a pervasive atmosphere of dread. Like many of Bolaño’s works, the dread is not so much fixed on a point as existential, with the events of the book coloring and being colored by it as they weave to the fore and to the background. The city and its murders are never too far behind, even when globetrotting around Europe (in “The Part About the Critcs”), moving backwards through time (“The Part About Archimboldi”) or following a sportswriter (“The Part About Fate”). A harrowing fourth section – “The Part About the Crimes” – is a masterfully rendered portrait of this landscape, and may have you putting down the book a few times to regroup. No light reading, that.

For those new to Bolaño’s world, it might be said that the equally masterful Savage Detectives or the more compact Distant Star would be better starting points. That might even be so. But, then, that’s the beauty of Bolaño: you can pick up the thread wherever you like and follow wherever it leads. Probably, like Newton’s cannonball, back in on itself. At a high velocity.

Phil Rollins, Learning Technologies Developer, (prlins on Goodreads)