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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Canine Celebrities

Susan Orlean, a New Yorker writer, best known for The Orchid Thief, a non-fiction account of John LaRoche and his band of Seminoles that poached orchards in south Florida, has now written a biography of Rin-Tin-Tin and his many descendants. One reviewer (“Rin Tin Tin: The Life and Legend,” Christian Science Monitor, Sept. 27, 2011) wrote: the “unfurling narrative of Susan Orlean’s Rin Tin Tin, about the canine movie star, unleashes a cultural history of German shepherds and the changing role of dogs from farm workers to war heroes to pets; the evolution of the motion picture industry from silents to talkies to television; and an exploration of why some cultural icons continue to beguile. ” Place a hold on this unique bio.

While Orlean’s wide-ranging curiosity is a delight, I also wondered what other canines – famous or otherwise – have merited their own bios. Here are a few:

First Friends: American Presidents and Their Best Friends by Roy Rowan

Millie’s Book by Barbara Bush

Shaggy Muses: The Dogs Who Inspired Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Edith Wharton, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Emily Bronte by Maureen B. Adams

Laika by Nick Abadzis (Young Adult)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Storm Reading

It’s a bit late, perhaps. But, since we endured both the remnants of hurricanes Irene and Lee in recent weeks, you may want to sample some great fiction and nonfiction devoted to stormy weather. During Irene, The Daily Beast published its list of the best "hurricane lit." Here are some you can curl up with during the next bout of bad weather.

Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938 by R.A. Scotti

The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger

Typhoon by Joseph Conrad

A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes

Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Halls of Ivy

“School is a near universal experience,” wrote Rachel Syme in National Public Radio’s “Monkey See” blog last week ("Books With Class: Autumn Books That Bring Back the School Daze," Sept. 10, 2011). She admits that we recall our days of study in many different ways, but whether our memories are fond or otherwise, many reflect on our classroom experiences during the early days of September. Syme recommends five novels that attempt to capture those complex times – sometimes innocent and sometimes not:

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Old School by Tobias Wolff

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Fiction and 9/11

The BBC recently asked an interesting question online: "Is There a Novel That Defines the 9/11 Decade?" (Aug. 27, 2011). Writer Alizeh Kohari mentions several works of fiction: The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid; Incredibly Loud & Extremely Close by Jonathan Safran Foer; and Open City by Teju Cole, but concludes that a decade may not be long enough for a defining novel to emerge. After all, Tolstoy’s War and Peace appeared 50 years after Napoleon invaded Russia. According to Bowker’s Books in Print database, 164 works of fiction have appeared in the past 10 years that deal with the events of 9/11. Whether one of them will endure the test of time – or is still to be written -- may yet be determined.

The library’s catalog lists 40 novels with a 9/11 theme. Here are just a few:

My New American Life by Francine Prose

Falling Man by Don DeLillo

The Submission by Amy Waldman

The Writing on the Wall by Lynn Sharon Schwartz

The Whole World Over by Julia Glass