Aurora Public Library Blog

Welcome to Aurora Public Library’s Blog. A place where our library staff share their thoughts, insider knowledge and overall love of all things book and community.

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January 2018 - Posts

Steve Erickson

Post by Chris G. 

For me, 2017 will go down as the year I discovered Steve Erickson.

 I have this habit where when I come across an author I really like, I'll read a ton (if not all) of their work in a very short span of time. Last year it was Jesse Ball. The year before that it was Murakami. Before that it was Lorrie Moore, and George Saunders, and Zadie Smith, and David Foster Wallace. In college it was Vonnegut, and in high school it was Salinger. This year it was Erickson.

ZerovilleSeveral of the Erickson novels that I've read can rightfully be labeled as masterpieces. My favorite among these is “Zeroville”. “Zeroville” is a book written for cinephiles and puts Erickson's encyclopedic knowledge of the film industry on full display. It is filled with references that reward students of cinematic history and serves as a discovery tool for aspirational movie buffs. It is hilarious and heartbreaking and mind-blowing. If you're going to read one Steve Erickson book in your lifetime, you should absolutely make it this one.

But I want to talk about a different book, Erickson's latest, released on Valentine's Day of 2017, called “Shadowbahn”. “Shadowbahn” is the sixth Erickson book I read this year. That's how good “Zeroville” is.

“Shadowbahn” is actually a sequel to 2012's “These Dreams of You”. I realize that, before even really getting into the meat of this, that I've given you quite a bit of homework, but as a general rule you don't read the sequel first, and “These Dreams of You” isShadowbahn another of Erickson's so-called masterpieces. Describing the plot of an Erickson novel is a futile task. They are all experimental works of postmodern fiction, where you have to experience them for yourself to even begin to get a feel for what's going on in them. But I'll give it a shot.

“These Dreams of You” tells the story of the Nordhoc family – writer and pirate radio DJ Zan, his wife and photographer Viv, and their 13 year-old son Parker and their 4 year-old daughter Zema, who they adopted from Ethiopia when she was 2. It follows the Nordhocs from Los Angeles to London to Berlin to Addis Ababa and back, throughout which a woman named Molly mysteriously appears and entwines herself in their lives. There are elements of realism, like the election of America's first black president at the onset of a recession or Molly's involvement with vaguely described politicians and musicians in the late 60s, but they are interwoven with postmodern concepts, like Zan's novel-within-a-novel or that Zema seems to have her own radio frequency.

Steve Erickson Something has happened to the Nordhoc family between “These Dreams of You” and “Shadowbahn”. In “Shadowbahn”, Parker and Zema, now 23 and 15, are driving across the country from Los Angeles to Michigan to visit Viv. They're listening to playlists made by their late father Zan. Erickson offers no explanation as to why Viv relocated or how Zan died. They are just facts of life.

In the midst of their trip, Parker and Zema hear that the twin towers have reappeared in the Badlands of South Dakota, so naturally they make a detour to go check it out. When they get there, music seems to cease to exist from everywhere except their car. Zan's playlists become the sole soundtrack to the world. It begins to make sense (sort of) when you realize that Parker and Zema are listening to the twin playlists Zan made the day after 9/11. Also, the songs aren't coming from the car's stereo but from Zema's radio frequency, or as Erickson puts it, "the receiver of her body and the stereo of her eyes."

“Shadowbahn” is a sister piece to “Zeroville” in that it also showcases Erickson's wealth of cultural knowledge, this time zeroing in (so to speak) on music. While “Zeroville” progresses something like a movie mixtape, “Shadowbahn” embeds a book soundtrack. Throughout the novel, one of Zan's playlists, called Day 0 Millenniux (9/12/01): Almanac in Song, or an Autobiographical Soundtrack, is cryptically described.

With these two books, Erickson has done something different. He's used words to suggest multimedia experiences, and left it to the reader to see that they are realized.

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Citation:

Erickson, S. (2017). Shadowbahn. New York: Blue Rider Press.

Posted by behrhart@auroragov.org  On Jan 31, 2018 at 1:13 PM
  

Harry Potter Book Night

Post by: Julie Stephens

Grab some Floo Powder, get your broom ready or head to Platform 9 ¾. On Feb. 3 the Tallyn’s Reach Library will be presenting their fourth annual Harry Potter Book Night. This event is open to muggles and wizards of all ages. The evening begins at 6:30 p.m. and ends at 8:30 p.m. Dress robes are encouraged, but certainly not required.

Harry Potter is a cultural phenomenon that began with the world’s most perfect sentence, “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” Since then the books have been translated into 68 languages and have sold more than 400 million copies worldwide. The Harry Potter brand is worth well over 15 billion, yes BILLION, dollars. There are currently nine films with the tenth coming out in November 2018 and a theme park in Florida, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Not to mention the countless fan websites and fan fiction. Harry Potter is no longer seen as just a children’s book series, but rather much more than that.

Harry Potter has always been more than a fandom or collection of stories to those who love it. People have thanked J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter for helping them battle depression or helping them heal after a devastating loss. Harry Potter and its message of love and friendship has found a way to mend broken hearts. J.K. Rowling herself suffered from depression after the loss of her mother. She found herself a single mother scraping to get by while writing Harry Potter whenever she had time. The Dementors in the series, creatures that will make you see your worst memories and if given the chance will suck out your soul, are based on Rowling’s battle with depression. Harry saved her just as he saved the wizarding world and so many of us. Albus Dumbledore’s famous quote “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light,” has become more than just words.

As fans, we immerse ourselves into this magical world. Knowing what Hogwarts House you belong to has become a way for an entire generation to define themselves. I am an extremely proud Hufflepuff and you will never convince me there is a better house. We know what animal is our patronus (mine is a badger). Not to mention our favorite magical subject (History of Magic), magical creature (Niffler), Quidditch position (spectator), favorite character (Luna Lovegood) plus a million other things. We must all remember that the wand chooses the wizard. The wand that chose me was ebony wood, phoenix feather core and 10 ¾" in length -that's surprisingly "swishy." If all of this sounds crazy to you just remember it all started with The Boy Who Lived. For us, it’s real. Always!

This year's amazing event is hosted by the Tallyn’s Reach Teen Advisory Group (TAG) with the help of the Mission Viejo TAG and library staff. These teens choose what activities will take place at the event and oversee all details down to what food is served in the Great Hall. They help to run every activity the night of the event in costume. The TAG group and others have been hard at work for months to ensure the night is full of magic for everyone. 

As the TAG adviser for the Tallyn’s Reach Branch I cannot fully express how proud I am of all of our teens. Each and every year they put in hours of their own time to make the event perfect. I have the pleasure of working with the best TAG group in the world. It’s not every day that you meet a teenager who would rather spend time giving back to their community at their local library than hang out at the mall. The Tallyn’s Reach Teen Advisory Group is made up of an exceptionally wonderful group of teens, and I am honored to work with them. 

If you want to know what to expect this year, the following is an abbreviated preview. We will be hosting many similar activities from previous years, including shopping in Diagon Alley, being sorted into your Hogwarts House, attending classes, dining in the Great Hall, competing for the House Cup plus new surprises. The class list this year includes Astronomy, Care of Magical Creatures, Charms, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Divination, Flying Lessons, History of Magic, and Potions. This will be the first year that the event will take place throughout the entire library and be completely after hours. We have some magical additions that we can’t wait to share with everyone!

Please join us for an evening filled with magic (both literally and emotionally)!

Sources:

Posted by zsmith@auroragov.org  On Jan 24, 2018 at 11:31 AM 1 Comment
  

Winter Learning Program

Post by Brittni E. 

It wasn’t until I climbed my first 14er that I truly felt like a real Coloradoan.

Don’t let guide books fool you-or your very fit friend, hiking a 14er is hard. Granted, I am not in peak physical shape but I do enjoy hiking. A 14er always felt like the peak physical challenge-something that I knew I had to do for myself but something that I didn’t think I could physically do. One Saturday in August though I did. I climbed and climbed and jumped over a creek to reach the top. When we got to the top, it was snowing-cold and blustering wind that made my breath all the more hard to catch. While we stood at the top I started to cry. I couldn’t believe I had done it and just when I was about to turn around and head down those rocks at the very top of Mt. Bierstadt, a rainbow appeared. It went across the whole sky and its colors seemed to be the most vibrant sight I had ever seen.

Rainbow

As we made our descent down, I thought of how much I had discovered about myself since moving to Colorado from Pennsylvania. I was no longer a girl, taking a chance on a new life in Colorado with nothing more than a car load of things, a cat and my boyfriend in tow. I was a strong and confident woman, who climbed mountains and discovered the root of my happiness was out in the mountains of Colorado. Since climbing my first 14er, traveling and adventuring throughout Colorado and the American West has fueled the root of my happiness. And all it took to find, was a very hard climb up a mountain.

As you start your 2018, I hope that you find time to discover your roots. Your roots of cultural heritage, your roots that fuel a new adventure, or even the root of your happiness. At Aurora Public Library, our 2018 Winter Learning Program aims to help you discover your roots via reading, fun and engaging activities and of course prizes. If you ever find yourself on top of a mountain when a rainbow appears-I hope you snap a picture and share it with me but most importantly, I hope you discover your roots. Sign up today here:

Posted by behrhart@auroragov.org  On Jan 22, 2018 at 10:16 AM 1 Comment
  

MLK, Jr., Master of the Sentence
Post by Steven K.

This month we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and for good reason. Dr. King was the greatest champion of the Civil Rights Movement and is one of the most influential Americans to have ever lived. He was an activist and a leader, a husband and a father, a role model and a martyr. Others have written extensively about his life and legacy, far more gracefully than any blog post could accomplish. (We have many of these works in our collection. Check out the call number 323.092 in the stacks, for starters.) So rather than gild the lily, I want to give you a glimpse into an often overlooked aspect of Dr. King’s identity, a secret hiding in plain sight.

Undeniably, Dr. King was a master of the sentence.

Master of the sentence. There’s a headline that won’t stop the presses. It’s not even surprising, considering his reputation as one of history’s great orators. But in an age where words are carelessly dashed off in 280-character Tweets and mangled in website comments sections, it’s worth taking the time to appreciate the skill of a true wordsmith.

I also want to make this clear: I’m not the prophet here. I’m more like the prophet’s third cousin’s baker’s apprentice who’s just heard the good news. The real prophet, the source of my secondhand revelation, is the legendary English professor Stanley Fish. But gospel is gospel, and as such needs to be shared.

In his delightful book How to Write a Sentence (2011), Fish devotes several pages of analysis to one of Dr. King’s great sentences from “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (1963). Rightfully so, Fish declares the sentence to be “a tremendous rhetorical achievement, a sentence for the ages” (p. 55).

Behold:

"Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her little eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing a bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son asking in agonizing pathos: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “n-----,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”; then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.”

Now that’s powerful. It’s a behemoth of a sentence, weighing in at a whopping 314 words. It’s the kind of sentence that your high school English teacher warned you not to write, lest you dissolve into an incoherent mess or pull a muscle. And yet, Dr. King pulls it off flawlessly, leaving his audience captivated, dazed, ashamed, righteously indignant, awed.

So, how did he do it? What makes it a “sentence for the ages?”

Fundamentally, this sentence has a body and a soul and the source of its power rests in the harmony between the two.

Its body is its grammatical structure. Technically speaking, Dr. King’s sentence is an extended chain of incomplete dependent “when” clauses linked by semicolons, which is finally completed with a short independent clause. It’s a sentence of tremendous, unbalanced tension. For over 300 words the reader is left waiting for completion—an unnaturally long time to wait, given the typical sentence length we’re used to. In a sense, it’s almost like Dr. King is slowly pulling back the bowstring of a vast longbow, with each clause his words growing increasingly tauter in our minds; yet, just when our reading muscles are ready to snap, he gently slips his fingers from the string and we’re struck—not with a heavy iron bolt, obliterating us. But with a feather. A breath, merely 11 words long.

As compelling as its structure is on its own, Dr. King’s sentence is nothing but artifice without its soul. If its body is its structure, then its soul is its content, its message. Dr. King’s message was vital to the eventual success of the Civil Rights Movement and this sentence potently captures its spirit.

In terms of content, his “sentence for the ages” was a response to critics of his campaign of civil disobedience, critics who saw his tactics as excessive, rabble-rousing, and impatient. These critics who told him to wait—identified as his “fellow clergymen” in his letter’s salutation—are the specific target of Dr. King’s tour de force response. And as we’ve already seen, he lays waste to their objections.

Once again, Stanley Fish perhaps says it best, writing that Dr. King’s response to his fellow clergymen “is at once withheld and given” (54). In writing his lengthy sentence front-stacked with dependent clauses, Dr. King flips the standard argumentative structure on its head. Instead of making his claim first, he leads with his reasons. And those reasons are weighty, myriad, and beyond reproach.

Each reason—each “when” clause—is itself justification enough to take action rather than wait. Dr. King starts with how blacks have been assaulted and murdered by both lynch mobs and the justice system alike, “at will” and “at whim” and “with impunity,” without punishment. It’s the ultimate affront to human morality and he could have left it at that, case closed. But still he persists, piling up grievance upon grievance, pulling that bowstring tighter and tighter. The shackles of poverty, his images recalling the monstrous conditions on the slave ships endured by their ancestors; the daily psychological abuses heaped upon children as young as five and six, polluting their minds with “clouds of inferiority”; verbal abuse ranging from ugly dehumanizing racial slurs to simply being denied polite titles like “Mrs.” and “Sir,” which cuts all the same, even if not as deeply; and all of these transgressions culminating in the impending erasure of black personhood. “Nobodiness,” as he put it.

On top of it all, Dr. King cleverly manipulates narrative perspective in all the horrific imagery, daring his audience to see themselves in the shoes of black Americans: “when you,” “when your,” “when you...” He wants his readers to confront those atrocities as if they had happened to them, rather than something that happened to others. It’s a shocking exercise in empathy, a head-first dive into the frigid waters of discrimination. By the end of the dependent clause chain, when the truly empathetic reader feels as if the tension is unbearable; when even the coolest, calmest and most collected observer would howl in rage and demand swift justice, even violence; then Dr. King gives us the feather: “then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.” Not, “then you will understand why we demand vengeance.” He ends not with a blow, but with an invitation for us to understand.

That pivot in tone—from brutal and pain-ridden to gentle, even humble—is a breathtaking display of linguistic skill. Some might even be tempted to characterize it as ironic, but of a constructive sort instead of a cynical one. We should expect the rage of Achilles, but instead receive the calm resolve of Christ, the patience of the Buddha, the wisdom of Socrates. It’s almost a sacred text unto itself. As such, that final clause is the perfect distillation of Dr. King’s nonviolent movement, as good a maxim for the Civil Rights Movement as any.

One massive sentence, its body and soul in perfect harmony, a monument crafted from words rather than stone. This month, let’s remember Martin Luther King Jr. for all that he accomplished and for all that he continues to inspire. Let us remember him as a liberator of people and a master of the sentence. There’s plenty more work of his for you to discover, so get to reading!

References
Stanley Fish. (2017, December 12). Retrieved December 15, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Fish
Fish, Stanley. (2011). How to Write a Sentence. New York, NY: Harper Collins.
King, M. L., Jr. (1963). Letter from a Birmingham jail. Retrieved December 15, 2017, from https://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html


Posted by zsmith@auroragov.org  On Jan 10, 2018 at 4:06 PM
  
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Post by Sara V

From the Page to the Screen:
An Adaptation Wish List

Movie Adaption Wish List

It seems nearly every popular title receives an adaptation of some sort - whether a movie, a streaming service series, or some other format. Each time one of my beloved stories goes from the page to the screen, I always watch with excitement and anticipation, hoping the book is given due justice. Often the adaptation is great in its own right, even if it does not follow the book exactly. Sometimes the adaptation is just awful. But, every now and then, the adaptation does a phenomenal job of bringing to life the characters you’ve grown to love.

The book is usually better, but here are some adaptations that I would like to see.

The Selection by Kiera Cass

The Selection Series

 This dystopian fairytale brings together royalty, romance and rebellion in what can best be described as The Hunger Games meets The Bachelor. Strong-willed America Singer is selected to compete for the heart of Prince Maxon in a competition that is televised across Illea (formerly the United States). Though begrudgingly, she agrees to compete so that her family may receive the financial benefits, though her heart belongs to her first love Aspen. Amid dates, beautiful gowns, broadcasts and drama with the other girls, the rebellion against the crown is growing and attacks on the palace are increasing. The Selection is the first in the popular series by Cass that spans five books and two generations.

            There has been a lot of chatter about The Selection series being brought to the big screen as a feature film, but it seems like it has been just that - chatter. In June 2016, it was announced that the film had a director - Me Before You's Thea Sharrock - but not much else has been said regarding the status of the project. Given the Bachelor-esque nature of the story and the details behind each character, I think the series could be adapted into a wonderful series or mini-series, even better than a movie. This is a fun and exciting book series, and I look forward to its eventual adaptation in whatever form it takes.

 

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Moon Over Manifest

            Newbery Award-winning Moon Over Manifest follows young Abilene Tucker as she explores her home for the summer of 1936 - Manifest, Kansas. While her father is away at a railroad job, Abilene stays with Pastor Shady Howard, an old friend of her father’s from his time in Manifest. When Abilene takes the fateful Road to Perdition, she meets the diviner Miss Sadie, who adds more mystery to the history of Manifest as she shares stories of the past which align with mementos Abilene found at Shady’s house. This encourages Abilene’s hunt for the spy “The Rattler” and her search for the role her father played in Manifest’s history. The story shifts from “modern” day 1936 to 1918 as Miss Sadie shares the stories of former Manifest residents, bringing to life history and modern-day until their momentous intertwining.

One of the best parts of this book is that the reader can vividly see the story as it unfolds - and it was an exciting one. Timehopping from 1936 to 1918 and back again, I could see this easily being an engaging television series. Its historical timeline filled with mystery and adventure would make for a fun movie as well. However, a standalone film may not hold up as well with the constant flashbacks. Either way, this is a great book that could be a great adaptation.

 

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie

            A Young Adult book that has both received accolades and faced criticism since its publication, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian tells the story of Arnold Spirit, Jr., better known as Junior, as he moves from his high school on the Spokane Reservation to an all-white high school in Reardan, Washington. Junior, a budding cartoonist, faces bullying at his new school, near abandonment by his friends on the reservation, the struggles of his family’s poverty and alcoholism, and the tragic deaths of loved ones. Despite these many struggles, Junior holds onto the love of his family and his new friends as well as onto the hope that his future is brighter than what he used to think was his destiny. While it does not sound like an overwhelmingly uplifting story, I can assure those who have not the book that it is absolutely amazing. Drawing from his own experiences growing up on the SpokaneReservation, Alexie writes with such a poignantly true voice and shares the experiences of so many.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is another book that has been rumored to be hitting the big screen too and it looks like looks like those rumors may be true. A high-profile production team, including Hugh Jackman, has been assembled for the Fox 2000 production with Alexie serving as executive producer and adapting the book into a screenplay. According to a USC study in 2015, less than 1 percent of the top 800 movies since 2007 featured Native American characters. With Sherman promising a “culturally authentic” film, an adaptation of  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian would provide a wonderful opportunity for representation and diversity.  Alexie’s involvement in the adaptation assures me that the film will live up to the book completely and I look forward to seeing it when it hits theaters.

What book would you love to see
adapted into a movie or TV series?

Posted by behrhart@auroragov.org  On Jan 04, 2018 at 11:03 AM
  
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