Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
So, as we near the close of 2009, we've come full circle in a way—back to the book that successfully launched 2009 for us. Congratulations again go out to the book's coeditors, Barbara A. Seals Nevergold and Peggy Brooks-Bertram.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
“...a number of novella’s are among the classics of U.S. literature: Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, Steinbeck’s classic Of Mice and Men, and Philip Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus to name just three. Knife Song Korea may come to join that distinguished collection. It is a lapidary work of exceptional artistry as well as a valuable addition to the body of notable works by physician-writers.” — California Literary ReviewCheck out the Review's full list of top books for 2009 (you'll find Knife Song Korea on the fiction list, just below Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice), then read the entire book review.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Oprah is leaving network television. So who isn’t? I grew up in the sixties a walking talking TV Guide for our three TV stations. My first crushes were Peter Tork, Manolito Montoya and John-Boy Walton, in that order; my after school hours were spent not with homework and hovering parents, but with hours of Dark Shadows and Star Trek re-runs. I patterned my early career on Linda Kelsey’s character from Lou Grant. And yet, I can’t remember the last time I tuned into prime-time programming or even the evening news. My nineteen-year-old daughter gets her TV shows on her computer, and my sixteen-year-old son uses his television exclusively for gaming. It isn’t even hooked up to our cable.
Chicken Little media commentators should take this moment to remember that Oprah is nothing if not a savvy first adopter of trends that American women faithfully follow. Not only did she all but invent the latest self-help craze, but she was an early presence on satellite radio, and her website continues to be one of the richest and most accessible on the internet. With that in mind, I’m willing to bet that Oprah’s recently announced retirement from her CBS program and her move to cable TV and her own network (“OWN”—Oprah Winfrey Network—ah, the irony for the woman who, literally, has everything) will mark not the end of her influence but the expansion of it.
In fact, as a book lover and admirer of Ms. Winfrey, I look forward to what’s ahead. Here’s why: Imagine what she can do with all of that programming, without the constraints of a traditional, ad-driven, one-hour talk show format. She might do for cable networks what she did for TV talk shows, contemporary novels and women’s magazines. Based on her track record, I predict she will raise the level of discourse by at least a couple of notches, while being respectfully attentive to the desires of the mostly middle-aged and middle-class women in her audience. When Oprah turns her energies toward cable, maybe fewer women on Oxygen will snap or dash incessantly to the top of the Empire State building because they believe in love. And why not? Most critics agree that Oprah single-handedly stopped the downward spiral of chair-hurling exhibitionism of eighties daytime talk shows. Who better to stop the Meg Ryan re-run insanity and give women the variety and depth they deserve from the television stations that cater to them?
I anticipate that OWN might herald a return to conversations about writing, to indulgent hours spent over food and novels, to the lively exchanges between readers and authors that characterized the first six years of Oprah’s Book Club. I want to hear that old Oprah toast, “Here’s to books!” On Oprah’s network, we could hear it every day. It will be no less valuable for being sandwiched between hours of Drs. Phil and Oz.
Even before Oprah’s Book Club, I had been wishing for a Reading Rainbow for grown-ups, a TV show that captures the joy so many of us find in reading. After visiting many book groups in my research over the past five years, I can’t stop asking why Book TV is so painfully boring. Shouldn’t TV about books be even more engaging than the Discovery, Food or History channels? I blush when I listen to critics, writers and scholars on C-SPAN, PBS and NPR. Why do we get so solemn when we talk about books, modulating our tones and reining in our enthusiasms? This is terrific stuff we’re dealing with. We should sound like Mythbusters Adam and Jamie at the scene of an explosion.
And who better to capture that level of excitement than Oprah? She’s done it before, if only once a month or so for six years. With OWN, she will have the space and time to do it again. And if she builds it, women will come—or is it that she builds where innovative women are already going, pursuing Jon Stewart or Tony Soprano? Either way, it’s OK to say so long to Oprah on CBS. The new OWN might very well launch my generation into the strange new TV world our children are already exploring. I just hope Oprah brings her Book Club along for the ride.
Friday, December 4, 2009
“…Farr doesn’t just present an airtight defense of Oprah’s Book Club as a positive cultural force; she also takes on the Western canon and the critics who create and sustain it … As … Farr sees it, Oprah’s greatest sin, in the eyes of these critics, is her commitment to getting books into the hands of the masses … and encouraging them not only to talk about books as if they matter, but as if their own lives matter, too … [Farr] … presents her views in an eminently rational, plainspoken, and impeccably informed voice ... it’s difficult not to give Oprah some long-overdue props for her impressive achievement.”
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
The Orange County Register recently ran an engrossing article about Maria Suarez, a sex trafficking victim who was imprisoned by her abuser for five years in the late 1970s and then imprisoned for 22 more years in the California Institution for Women for the 1981 death of her abuser. The abuser was murdered by a neighbor, but Suarez was unjustly convicted of the crime. The story does end happily, with Suarez now free (she was pardoned a few years ago by the Governor of California) and working to raise awareness about the very real issue of human trafficking. SUNY Press author Elizabeth Dermody Leonard met Suarez years ago, while doing research for her dissertation on women who had been imprisoned for the death of their abusers.
[Maria's] case also reveals a ray of hope. That's because someone—Elizabeth Dermody Leonard—was paying attention. And she helped kick off the process that would eventually free Suarez, now 49.
Friday, Suarez spoke before a group gathered at the Borders bookstore in Costa Mesa brought together by the nonprofit Live2free, a group that seeks to raise awareness about human trafficking. And it was Leonard, a sociologist and criminologist who teaches at Vanguard University, whom Suarez acknowledged as her "inspiration" during her talk.
"She's the one who actually started to open up files (of people who) were wrongfully convicted... And a lot of people started coming out, to be free. And... I thank you for that because you are part of my freedom," Suarez told Leonard, who was in the audience.
During the time that Leonard was meeting with Suarez, she was working on Convicted Survivors, which details the experiences of women imprisoned for killing their male abusers and their treatment by the criminal justice system. Leonard’s in-depth interviews reveal what Maria Suarez and countless other women experience in these situations: they are slow to identify themselves as battered women and continue to minimize the violence done to them, make numerous and varied attempts to end abusive relationships, and are systematically failed by the systems they look to for help. Ultimately these stories are ones of hope, and in the case of Maria Suarez, that hope of freedom sustained her for years.
The first time Leonard saw Suarez after Suarez' release was in the spring of 2006, when Suarez returned to her former prison to see a play based on Leonard's research. Leonard says she strives to either talk by phone or meet the former inmates in person at least once after their release. She notes that their voices, among other things, change dramatically.
"It's like they're 20 years younger."
When she saw Suarez for the first time as a free woman, Leonard noted the difference: Shoulders back; a confident stance, a smile.
"She came back to the prison to help others. I can't imagine the type of courage it takes to walk back (behind) those walls, to hear the sound of the door clanging shut," Leonard says.
"But she knew that it gave hope to the others, and she wanted to encourage hope."
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Well, here it is again...on a cake:
That's a pretty good likeness! And we love the subtle shadings of the blue frosting—the more unnatural the frosting color the more we want to taste it. Mary says the cake was made by Sarah and Phong Nguyen, "amazing cake makers (and artist and short story writers—both University of Central Missouri faculty)." Here's Mary cutting into the creepy cake:
Mary's pals certainly know how to throw a fun book launch party. Great job, all around. Thanks for sharing these photos, Mary.
Monday, November 9, 2009
We had a steady stream of people browsing and buying all day, and the fair itself seemed very well attended. Thanks to our partners at the Albany Institute of History & Art for sponsoring this event once again.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
4 thick pork chops
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 large pears, quartered, cored and peeled
1/2 cup white wine or water
4 ounces crumbled blue cheese
Monday, November 2, 2009
"For one thing, you go everyplace. And you see every kind of person—every class, every walk of life—and you go inside their houses. Which is even weirder. I mean you can wander around the streets and see most of these people, but at 2 in the morning to be in their living room stitching them up or delivering a baby or trying to stop the bleeding coming out of somebody, that's a whole different situation."
Friday, October 30, 2009
I have a t-shirt with this picture on it. I don’t wear it many places.
This is an ad for the 1931 movie of Dracula, with Bela Lugosi, as you can see, apparently strangling Mina, but of course, that is not what he is doing because these movie vampires bite—they don’t strangle—and no such picture appeared in the movie.
The poster is selling sex and violence--mostly violence, I would say, given the position of Dracula’s hands. But isn’t Dracula up to more than just sex and violence? Not that he isn’t having fun, but it would seem sad for a powerful supernatural being like Dracula to go chasing all over Europe just to grab the neck of an English bunny, desirable as she may be.
Or is he Death destroying youth—and life? He is perhaps a demon lover, only without bothering too much with the lover business.
What would this movie be like if we were to take away the vampire idea? Dracula would just be a dirty old foreigner skulking around after innocent English girls. Maybe it would be like The Lodger. The horror in both of these movies comes from the Gothic setup, the camera angles, the sharp contrasts, the mystery, the surprises (better, all this, in The Lodger than in Dracula).
But Dracula is undead—a supernatural being—and this expands the meaning of the movie. Dracula is, after all, Death itself—and so he includes us all.
Vampire Circus is a Hammer vampire film, but without Dracula. For a summary and favorable review, check out the Movie Feast blog.
This is not a very good poster, is it? Where is the circus? There is an actual circus in the movie, complete with vampires. It visits this isolated little town in the middle of a plague. Most of its citizens are dead by the end of the movie in addition to some vampires. All in all, it is a pretty good movie as vampire movies go. Very colorful.
It is true, as the blog says, that this film ignores a lot of Hammer Film vampire lore—or Bram Stoker or Tod Browning vampire lore. But it excels in Hammer sexiness and grisliness.
The film maintains the folklore idea that the vampires cause the plague or vice versa. Which is to blame? The vampires are the bringers of death. These vampires can flourish because of the general cowardliness and corruption of some of the community and because of the plague. And the circus suggests the irresponsibility and fecklessness of the town’s citizens in the face of disaster. All these motifs are integrated into a theme of life as a sort of circus of death (rather than dance)—which suggests, of course, that, ultimately, there is nothing to be done about it. But have sex. This is a Hammer film, after all, so there are lots of boobs and bottoms.
The poster is wretched. No one in the movie puts little people in his mouth.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Sexiness is not all that immortality offers. It also offers ties with the past. The more I read and watch vampire stories, the more I am convinced that one reason for their popularity is their constant movement back and forth between present and past—although admittedly the past is often quite fabulous. Early folklore vampires do not hang around very long, one generation maybe, at most, but scholars tell us that they serve to stand for family continuity within the system of belief and ritual associated with the dead. They are related to ancestor worship, and come from our past to reward or punish us. They remind us to respect our ancestors and our elderly.
Well, you might say, but modern vampires do not do this. And I might say: Watch some vampire movies and notice how the vampires live in the past, in recollections and in flashbacks. Dracula in the novel and the movies reminisces about his family and their heroic history, which he remembers perfectly, having been there. Have you seen the television series Forever Knight? We are constantly popped back into seventeenth-century France, with costumes and all. Buffy’s Angel and Spike are always repenting their historically disreputable behavior, amply demonstrated in flashbacks. They can never escape it. Is there a message there? Why would modern American youth care for such a message?
And do we entirely want to escape our history? If the past enters our modern world insidiously, affects us, determines our actions, will it be for good or evil? Should we love it or hate it? The nineteenth century admired and tried to emulate the Middle Ages. Dracula is a perfect villain from the Middle Ages and he teaches (unwillingly, of course) knightly heroism to Van Helsing’s band of vampire killers. In some works, the vampire is the Knight. In either case, he stands for traditional virtues lost or revived, perverted or ennobled. The vampire asks us: To what extent is the survival (or revival) of the past in the present desirable? What good is the past to us?
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Calling Warhol the "first great pop dandy," Glick said the artist used glamour, effeminacy and celebrity connections to advertise himself as an artist. But, she said Warhol might have just been reflecting what people in the world around him valued.
This book explores the leadership of government on the local level. What goes on between the financial elites who control the nation’s purse strings and the political leaders elected by us, the citizens of New York City? What deals are made that affect the lives of ordinary New Yorkers? What compromises do New York City politicians make when dealing with the most powerful people in the financial world?
Monday, October 26, 2009
Is Edward, from Twilight, sexier because he is dead? Well, yes. Anyone can be charming and good looking, but what counts is being a vampire. Just being handsome is not enough, especially with that silly hairdo. Early folklore vampires, of course, were not looking to be sexy, and anyway, everyone in the neighborhood could recognize them when they appeared, usually bloated and smelly, and just as unpopular as they had been in life. Moreover, no vampire folklore has these village deviants living forever (just till their flesh decayed). Forever came with Romanticism and the literary vampires who had Satan on their side or who were pretty evil anyway. (And we all know how the wicked live forever.) Polidori made his vampire from Byron so he had to be supernaturally irresistible (as Byron supposedly was, to Polidori’s annoyance and that of a lot of other men down to the present). With Byron’s wicked charm and stunning good looks to draw on, most subsequent literary vampires lived longer and got sexier and better dressed. Well, except for poor Varney the Vampire in the nineteenth century; he was a more “realistic” vampire, ugly and stinky though properly dressed. He never could seem to get the girls. But then, they did not know he was an immortal (like a Greek god); he just did not have the pizzazz, and finally he gave up and immolated himself. When a guy gets to be a god, he just gets more desirable (and so do the gals, apparently, and bustier). If properly managed, immortality has all sorts of side benefits. Envy. Didn’t the Greeks envy their gods? Didn’t they feel awed and joyful to attract their good favor (most of the time when it was not fatal)? Didn’t it offer them some interesting opportunities? Didn’t it raise them and make them special? Isn’t this after all what Edward is doing for poor Bella Swan (and all the female audience)? Isn’t this what even Bela Lugosi did? Or Lestat? Isn’t this sexy?
Thursday, October 15, 2009
The superstitions and beliefs attached to folklore vampires suggest their connection with ancient pagan gods and goddesses of death and the underworld, from where, of course, new life arises. Why did the folk retain these beliefs and customs, for example, in their burial rituals and stories even in the face of the church’s disapproval? And why, since the eighteenth century have vampires and their “lore” recurrently revived in literature to become a constant fixture in our modern pantheon of folk figures? Do they mean the same to us as they did to the peasant folk? Well, yes, because they have something to say about immortality, about the desperate desire of mortal beings to live forever, to hold on to their selves, on this earth, with their friends and family. And they allow us to contemplate all the ramifications inherent in this desire, from the scientific impossibility of its ever being realized to the ethical and spiritual desirability. I have a Richard III t-shirt that says, “How far would you go to be a king?” The vampire leads us to ask, “How far would you go to live forever?” Would you drink blood from your cat? Would you insult a priest? Would you sleep in the dirt? Vampire literature from Varney to Dracula to Edward asks these questions, including, Would you want to live forever anyway, and if so, why?
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Going Blind explores blindness in its many permutations—within the context of the author’s family, more broadly, as a disability marked by misconceptions, and as a widely used cultural metaphor. Mara delicately weaves her family’s story into an analysis of the roots and ramifications of the various metaphorical meanings of blindness, touching on the Catholic Church of the 1940s and 1950s, Japanese internment, the Germans from Russia who dominated her hometown, and the experiences of Native people in North Dakota. Neither sentimental nor dispassionate, she asks whether it’s possible to find gifts when sight is lost.
Listen to the podcast of a recent interview between Mara and Kathy Parker, head librarian at the College of St. Benedict, where Mara is Associate Professor of English. Mara's book is available at our website.
Mara will be signing books at the College of St. Benedict Bookstore on Saturday, October 24, from 10:30–11:30 am.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Vampire literature and movies have always been popular. In my book Vampire God, I wanted to see if I could find out why. I think I did, but doing so was more complicated than I had expected. Since then, vampires have become even more popular, especially after the publication of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight books. And, guess what? This popularity has little to do with sex—or not sex directly, rather sex and death, the cycle, sex and death, sex and death, sex and death. I mostly skip the sex part; everyone knows about that. But I have a lot to say about death—that’s the focus of the book. Vampires are dead, after all. And that is why they are popular. Vampires give us the chance to contemplate death without really facing it at all—from all sorts of angles, personal, social, religious—and imagine different possibilities, in the various forms that writers have made available for us, including hot babes, cool dudes, vicious villains, femmes fatales, grubby kids, hillbillies, socialites, loners, groupies, even superheroes—all of them dead . . . but still alive. They usually don’t even stink, and they certainly don’t rot (unlike those disreputable zombies), and they frequently wear very nice clothes. Their double existences speak to our fears and desires related to questions about God, the soul, and the meaning of life, and perhaps most important: What is death and what can we do about it?
Monday, October 5, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
The meal, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the restaurant in the downtown hotel, features five courses modeled after food found on menus and in records at the Albany Institute, for which the meal is a fundraiser.
Besides sturgeon—served lightly smoked and roasted, with butter-braised cabbage—dinner will feature oysters, turkey, lamb, rabbit, pork, local vegetables and, for dessert, warm bread pudding with black currants and candied quince; the courses will be paired with beverages from Brewery Ommegang, which makes Belgian-style ales in Cooperstown.
Molino describes the fare as refined, fine-dining interpretations of dishes he found in records at the museum and books by food historian Peter G. Rose, whose works include Food, Drink and Celebrations of
the Hudson Valley Dutch and the recently released Summer Pleasures, Winter Pleasures: A Hudson Valley Cookbook.
Sounds delicious. Click here for the rest the article. Do you need reservations, you ask? Yes, you do. It may be too late at this point, but it's worth giving them a call at 518-434-7410. This promises to be a fantastic culinary experience.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
The panel consisted of L. Paul Bremer III, former U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands; Renée Jones-Bos, Ambassador of the Netherlands to the United States; Cornelis A. van Minnen, Director of the Roosevelt Study Center and Professor of American History at Ghent University, Belgium; Hans Krabbendam, Assistant Director of the Roosevelt Study Center and the author of The Model Man: A Life of Edward William Bok, 1863-1930; and Giles Scott-Smith, Senior Researcher at the Roosevelt Study Center and Ernst H. van der Beugel Professor of Diplomatic History of Atlantic Cooperation at the University of Leiden, the Netherlands.
Our very own James Peltz was on hand and sent along a link to video of the event, which you can watch at the Wilson Center's website.
The new book, which is based on the most up-to-date research, will be a valuable and much-used reference work for anyone interested in the history and culture of the United States and the Netherlands and the larger transatlantic framework in which they are embedded.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Before beginning the book, Moss, a native of Australia who moved to Chatham (NY) in 1986, said he knew little about the colonial history of New York. He happened upon a volume of "Sir William Johnson Papers" in the local history section at a used bookstore in Albany.
"I didn’t know anything about William Johnson until I laid my hands on that fat, blue volume. My hand fell on the book, and I opened it at random," Moss said.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Already a geek’s delight, the Brooklyn Book Festival will be even more so this year with the brand-new addition of the New York Comic Con Pavilion. With guest presentations and autograph sessions, the comic-book marketplace has panels including “Sci Fi and Fantasy in NYC” at noon and a conversation with the writers of Marvel at 1 p.m. The most exciting (and free!) literary event in the city, this year’s Brooklyn Book Festival also features events with Colson Whitehead, Mary Gaitskill, Heidi Julavits, Edwidge Danticat, David Cross, Thurston Moore, and Tom Tomorrow—to name just a few. Other panels to look for include one with Pete Hamill and Norris Church Mailer on the legacy of Norman Mailer at 1 p.m., and “Writers on Unforgettable Friendships” with New York Review of Books contributors Oliver Sacks (discussing Francis Crick), Darryl Pinckney (discussing Djuna Barnes), and Anita Desai (discussing Ruth Jhabvala) at 4 p.m.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
This is ... an excellent, often spellbinding account in the words of those involved, from doctors and cops to shopkeepers and neighbors to festival organizers and musicians. Makower, a veteran writer, spent a year interviewing 75 participants, and since the year was 1988, the recollections are fresher than those collected four decades after the fact.
...Makower criss-crossed the country to conduct face-to-face interviews with more than 70 festival participants—musicians, the producers, local residents, tech and backstage personnel and, of course, the fans. When the original edition was published, Rolling Stone magazine called it “the definitive story of the mega-concert.”
The new edition includes new forewords by co-producers Michael Lang and Joel Rosenman, but it’s Makower’s original interviews that are the real reason to celebrate the fact that this book is back in print again.
Friday, September 4, 2009
Coeditors Barbara A. Seals Nevergold and Peggy Brooks-Bertram will accept the award at the ABWH luncheon on October 3rd in Cincinnati, where they will also be the keynote speakers.
For more on the book, visit our website and follow Barbara and Peggy on their blog.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Joe Makower’s Woodstock: The Oral History: 40th Anniversary Edition, published by Excelsior Editions at State University of New York Press, provides a thorough, even scholarly treatment of the festival. This incredibly in-depth recounting has been “culled from face-to-face interviews conducted during 1988 with the people who made Woodstock happen: producers, performers, doctors, cops, neighbors, shopkeepers, carpenters, electricians, lawyers, journalists, filmmakers, and an assemblage of just plain folks who, by design or circumstances, became part of the event.” The separate segments, identified by speaker, are pieced together into a conversational text that takes into consideration everything from Port-O-Sans to peacekeepers to performances and ultimately tells a fascinating story. Small black-and-white historical photos and newspaper headlines are scattered throughout the pages.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
I hope readers will treat it as a mystery to be solved, and will evaluate each of the clues I find and present. Here we have one of the few paintings Van Gogh both signed and titled, a painting he described as “one of my only works with deep meaning.” The mystery is how one painting inside a café for poor workers and misfits can serve as a key to the artist’s spiritual journey.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
In his letters, Selzer refers to his native city as "my beloved Troy," and still considers himself a Trojan even though he has lived in New Haven, Conn., for 50 years. A retired surgeon and professor of surgery at Yale, the author published his first book of essays about medicine in 1973. Locally, he may be best-known for his 1992 memoir, "Down From Troy", in which he draws the city in luscious glory.
Monday, August 24, 2009
While much has been written about the festival, not much has been said about the aftermath. That story, as I chronicled as part of my 1989 oral history book and audiobook, just republished, is almost as tangled and intriguing as the story of the festival itself: How the four young co-producers untangled themselves from lawsuits among themselves and with scores of others. How Warner Bros. made off with the film and music rights, with barely nothing going to the musicians or producers. How the local townspeople around the festival site never got over the experience, in both good and bad ways.