Fabulous Fiction Firsts: #624, #625, #626 & #627

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #627
“There are only two worlds - your world, which is the real world, and other worlds, the fantasy... these worlds provide an alternative." ~ Neil Gaiman

Set in an alternate modern-day England, Gilded Cage * by (Dr.) Vic(toria) James is first in the Dark Gifts dystopian trilogy. It is one of the LibraryReads February picks, "where enticing drama and social unrest mix with aristocratic scandal and glamorous magic." (Kirkus Reviews)

Thanks to clever Abi(gail), the Hadleys believe they have a better deal than most, as they have arranged to serve their decade of servitude (being commoners without the magical power of the aristocratic rulers) together. They will work as slaves at Kyneston, the country estate of the Jardines, one of the most powerful families in the country.

At the last minute, 16-year-old Luke Hadley is separated from the family and sent to Millmoor, Manchester’s infamous slave town to toil in its horrific factories where he finds friendship among those with a dangerous agenda. Meanwhile, Abi, yearning for love and knowledge, stumbles into the middle of Jardine family intrigues and political scheming that could alter their world forever.


No More Cakes in the Rain: Colson Whitehead at Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre

Colson Whitehead

"[T]ake any Stephen King title and put ‘the black’ in front of it, that’s what I wanted to do." --Colson Whitehead

Bestselling author Colson Whitehead spoke in Ann Arbor on January 12 as part of U-M’s bicentennial celebration theme semester, but it wasn’t his first visit to Treetown. Apparently, in 2001, Whitehead gave a reading at Borders to “about five people,” on a night when the Red Wings were playing for the Stanley Cup.

“It seemed like a good excuse,” said Whitehead with a shrug –- this time, to a near-capacity crowd packed into Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre.

Whitehead now has many more published books and years of experience under his belt, of course. But his mainstream profile spiked most dramatically in the last few months, when the publication date of his newest novel, The Underground Railroad, got bumped up a month (from September to August) due to it being named an Oprah’s Book Club selection -- and nothing makes an author’s career explode quite like receiving Oprah’s imprimatur.

That’s far from Railroad’s only distinction, though. The novel also won the National Book Award for fiction and was named one of the best books of the year by The New York Times, The Washington Post, GQ, Newsday, and more.


Word Up: U-M's Zell Visiting Writers Series Winter 2017 Lineup

Zell Visiting Writers Series

Writing becomes reading at U-M's Zell series.

Bestselling author Colm Toibin’s November 2016 reading/talk in Ann Arbor -- part of the U-M’s fantastic Zell Visiting Writers Series -- drew a big enough crowd to not only fill all the 185 seats in UMMA’s Helmut Stern Auditorium, but also the wall end of both side aisles and the back wall.

Toibin, best known for his novel Brooklyn, the basis for an Oscar-nominated film, was one part of ZVWS’s star-studded lineup for fall 2016, which also included Everything I Never Told You author (and U-M MFA program grad) Celeste Ng and Tony Award-winning playwright/actress and Michigan native Lisa Kron (Fun Home).

“That was a large turnout for one of our readings, but not unprecedented,” said Douglas Trevor, director of U-M’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program, in reference to Toibin's event.

With big and/or rising literary stars on the roster, and increasing community awareness of the series, Trevor and HZWP assistant director Maya West (who oversees the reading series) should probably expect more full houses in future.

“Our list to date is pretty incredible,” said Trevor. “We really hope and strive to provide more opportunities for literary engagement in Southeast Michigan.”

“And we’ve cast a wider net with our marketing, especially in the last year or two,” said West, who noted that Literati has partnered with the series to be the bookseller on-site while also including the readings on the indie bookstore’s event calendar.

The new semester’s lineup includes:


Ann Arbor District Library 2016 Staff Picks: Books, Movies, Music & More

Ann Arbor District Library 2016 Staff Picks

We don't just lend media; we indulge in it, too!

The Gregorian calendar rules most of the world, but time is a continuum. That's why our 2016 Ann Arbor District Library staff picks for books, music, film, and more include items that go back as far as 1865. Our list is comprised of media (and a few other things) that made an impact on us in 2016, no matter when the material came out.

Libraries have always acted as curation stations, helping sort through the vast amount of media released every year. On our website, we have more than 50 staff-curated lists of recommendations, but we don't just advocate for things digitally. We share our "picks" in person every time you step into the library. Books with prominent positions in our spaces, whether facing forward or on shelf tops, are chosen by staff members because they want you to pick up those pages.

Consider the massive post below featuring 55 books, 25 films and TV shows, and 20 albums -- plus a few odds and ends -- as a continuation of those curated lists, those forward-facing books, and the Ann Arbor District Library’s ongoing mission to bring high-quality art, entertainment, and information into your lives.

So, ready your library cards: Most of the recommendations below are in our collection; just click on the {AADL} link at the end of each pick to be taken to the item's page on our website.


Fabulous Fiction Firsts #623

In the same vein as fictional biographies such as Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen; The Paris Wife by Paula McLain; and Mrs. Engels by Gavin McCrea - in which intelligent women whose own aspirations and contribution were marginalized in favor of their spouses. Marie Benedict's debut gives us the story of Mileva Maric, a brilliant physicist and an extraordinarily gifted mathematician.

In 1896, before she was The Other Einstein, Mileva Maric´ was the only woman studying physics at Zurich Polytechnic and easily fell under the spell of a charismatic fellow student. Their courtship was kept secret not only due to the disapproval of the social-climbing Einsteins, but also for disappointing her father who held great hopes for her. An unplanned pregnancy, and failed qualifying exams sent Mileva home alone without any support from Albert.


Animal Magic: Donald Hall's "Eating the Pig"

Donald Hall

Donald Hall's poetry is the apple of our eye.

If you’re a vegetarian, Donald Hall’s poem “Eating the Pig” might make your stomach churn.

But if you’re a meat eater and are disgusted by Hall’s imagery -- or the pictures in the Eating the Pig: A Dinner Party in Poetry, Photography & Painting exhibit, on display at the Ann Arbor District Library, that document the evening described in the poem -- you need to get in touch with where your animal-based protein comes from and the often brutal ways it gets to your plate.

(Read the "Eating the Pig" poem here or listen to Hall read it here.)

In 1975, Hall left his teaching job at University of Michigan and bought his maternal great-grandfather's farm in New Hampshire, where he spent many summers as a child. With so much of his life spent in a rural area, the 2006 Poet Laureate is deeply in tune with nature and the creatures that populate it. His poems show a clear-eyed vision of how real life is always an ongoing mix of beauty and struggle, inextricably linked and forever a source of consternation and inspiration. Hall recognizes that a gorgeous horse can become a broken down beast of burden; that a majestic but aging rooster’s final morning crow is lost to the wind before his head is chopped off; and that a cute little suckling pig can also be a source of human sustenance.

Hall has written many poems that feature animals -- and no, they aren’t all about eating them. Below is a selection of those poems, which display Hall’s reverence for animals and the many things they provide for humanity. These poems also give additional context to “Eating the Pig,” which ties a single October 1974 Ann Arbor evening spent carving and devouring an animal to a historic ritual of life and death that stretches back to the Stone Age when flint cutting tools first appeared.


Fabulous Fiction Firsts #622

“You're my star, a stargazer too, and I wish that I were Heaven, with a billion eyes to look at you!”

Former research physicist Helen Sedgwick's The Comet Seekers* will transport readers to the magical world she creates as her protagonists grapple with the big issues of love, family, freedom, and loneliness. See a recent New York Times review.

Róisín, an Irish scientist and François, a French chef, meet at a research base in the frigid wilds of Antarctica in 2017, there to observe a comet. More than their expressed purpose, they both suffered devastating loss and share an indelible bond that stretches back centuries.

"Sedgwick tackles a centuries-spanning interconnected narrative by placing each chapter within the context of a comet’s appearance in the sky. The sections...that explore Róisín and Liam’s star-crossed romance are the standouts, both quietly moving and delicately portrayed. Uniquely structured and stylistically fascinating, the multilayered story comes full circle in a denouement that is both heartbreaking and satisfying." (Publishers Weekly)

Reminiscent of the works of Amy Bloom and Elizabeth Strout (Booklist) for their intimate stories of family drama; its setting and story line will appeal to fans of Midge Raymond's My Last Continent.


Review: Owen Gleiberman Discusses His Book, "Movie Freak: My Life Watching Movies

Owen Gleiberman

Owen Gleiberman keeps it freaky.

Nationally known film critic Owen Gleiberman appeared in his hometown -- specifically, the University of Michigan’s Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library Gallery -- on the evening of December 7 to talk about his book, Movie Freak: My Life Watching Movies.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Ann Arbor plays a key supporting role in Gleiberman’s story. Gleiberman moved to Treetown with his family when he was about five, and he grew up during the '60s and '70s -- which happened to be the heyday for U-M’s campus film societies. Gleiberman wrote about film while a student at Pioneer High, and he continued to do so for The Michigan Daily as a college student.

“I don’t know if i would have ever wanted to become a film critic, or a film buff, or everything this book is about if it hadn’t been for Ann Arbor, and the way this place kind of nurtured me,” Gleiberman said before reading a passage from his book on Wednesday night.

But in addition to chronicling his descent into movie madness, Movie Freak also, Gleiberman noted, turned out to be a kind of valentine to analog culture.


Interview: U-M Professor Stephen Rush, author of “Free Jazz, Harmolodics, and Ornette Coleman”

Ornette Coleman

Ornette Coleman, the least understood person in the room.

Ornette Coleman’s music can be inscrutable to unprepared ears. The jazz giant, who died in 2015 at 85, developed a music theory he called “harmolodics.” It’s a style that goes beyond the “free jazz” tag that frequently accompanies Coleman’s name -- even if the alto saxophonist/trumpeter/violinist did release a genre-defining record under that name in 1960 -- and relies as much on a philosophical idea as a musical one. Simply put: Harmolodics is about race.

Harmolodic theory can baffle experienced musicians, too. Even guitarist James “Blood” Ulmer, who played with Coleman for 6 years, said, “I don’t get it!” in a new book called Free Jazz, Harmolodics, and Ornette Coleman by Stephen Rush, professor of performing arts technology at the University of Michigan.

But Professor Rush, who has taught at U-M for more than 30 years, breaks down Coleman’s complicated theories in a series of free-flowing interviews with the legendary composer that clarify harmolodics’ underlying philosophy. Plus, the book’s in-depth musical examinations will help students absorb the style into their own playing.

In addition to being a U-M prof, keyboardist Rush has a staggeringly wide body of work that includes everything from chamber jazz and opera to digital music and sound installations, and he explores harmolodics (and all sorts of other styles) in his Naked Dance quartet.

To celebrate the release of Free Jazz, Harmolodics, and Ornette Coleman, Rush is doing two area readings: Wednesday, December 7, at Literati (Ann Arbor) and Sunday, December 11, at Trinosophes (Detroit). Both are at 7 p.m. (For the Literati event, Rush is joined by Jason Corey, associate dean and associate professor of music at the University of Michigan, who just released a new edition of his book Audio Production and Critical Listening: Technical Ear Training.)

Rush answered questions over email about Coleman and the book, and he gave Pulp a list of recommended recordings that illustrate harmolodics at its finest.


Fabulous Fiction Firsts #621: Spotlight on Women's Fiction Debuts

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #621

Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen. This LBD, darling of the season (picked no less by WWD) is 90-year-old Morris Siegel's swan song, capping a long career as the celebrated pattern-maker for the Max Hammer line. But before he can truly retire, his LBD will touch 9 women's lives in unexpected ways.

From a Bloomingdale’s salesgirl dumped for a socialite to a secretary secretly in love with her widowed boss. From a young model fresh from rural Alabama to the jaded private detective who might have a chance to restore her faith in true love. From an unemployed Brown grad faking a fabulous life on social media to a mean girl who would die for the dress. Their encounter with the dress will transform them in ways beyond their imagination.

"Rosen’s debut novel is rich in relationships, written with clarity and humor and surprise twists that bring the tale to a satisfying conclusion." (Kirkus Reviews). Charming and irresistible, Chick lit at its best.