Yale ornithology professor Richard Prum did his graduate work at U-M in the 1980s, but the two places where he spent much of his leisure time no longer exist.
“The Del Rio was a great place,” Prum said of the beloved bar that stood at Ashley and Washington for more than 30 years. "And I went to Borders, back when it was the only one in the whole world. It was such a great bookstore. I remember going to Borders and deliberately leaving my wallet in my office. Not that I ever had much money in it, anyway, but I didn’t want to be tempted.”
Temptation, as it happens, plays no small role in the former MacArthur “genius” fellow’s new book, The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World -- and Us, which he will discuss at the Ann Arbor District Library Downtown Branch on Thursday, May 18, at 7 pm. The book argues that mate choice in the natural world is often driven by a subjective desire for beauty instead of more pragmatic considerations, thereby complicating the long-held notion that natural selection explains every branch on the tree of life.
Laura Hulthen Thomas' reading from her debut collection, States of Motion, at Literati on Wednesday, May 17, will be special to her. “I was one of the last authors to read at Shaman Drum, the iconic indie bookstore that was the last downtown seller to shutter," said Thomas, the head of the creative writing and literature program at the University of Michigan’s Residential College.
"Honestly, I didn't think another bookstore would ever take a chance on a Midwestern downtown, even a literary city like Ann Arbor," Thomas said. "Thank goodness [owners] Hilary and Mike [Gustafson] have the vision and passion to make such a success of this marvelous store. And having a beautiful reading space to showcase authors and even host student readings and other community events is just incredible. ... I would love to thank Literati for hosting me, and for being downtown’s literary light and gem."
States of Motion is published by Wayne State University Press, whose press release said, “
We chatted with Thomas about how Michigan is reflected in her stories, how that’s shifted in the recent political climate, the Midwestern voices that have inspired her writing, and more.
Last year Steve Hamilton took a u-turn.
The award-winning author of the popular Alex McKnight detective series introduced a new series with a very different main character in The Second Life of Nick Mason, a New York Times bestseller and multi-award winner that is being developed as a major motion picture.
McKnight was a straight arrow ex-Detroit cop, who left Detroit after his partner was killed and he was seriously wounded in a confrontation with a mentally ill man with an Uzi. McKnight escaped to rent cabins in tiny, isolated Paradise on the shores of Lake Superior in the U.P. But soon he was reluctantly being drawn into one case after another as a private detective.
By contrast, Mason is a tough kid from the south side of Chicago, a career criminal. He and two of his buddies began stealing cars as teenagers and then moved on to a series of minor crimes. Mason tried to give it up for his wife and daughter, but he and his pals became involved in a dock heist that went seriously bad, leaving one friend and a policeman dead. Mason took the rap and refused to rat on his associates, one his best friend. He was given 25 years without parole.
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Every first Sunday in May since 2011, Ann Arbor’s Water Hill neighborhood becomes a giant outdoor nightclub. Bands set up on lawns, porches, and inside homes and play for free as people pack the streets roaming from venue to venue.
The festival, which also gave the previously unnamed neighborhood its name, is heavy on folk, bluegrass, and Americana. But I went to Water Hill in search of the artists who didn’t fit under those umbrella terms. The event has always included music that’s not based on acoustic strings, but according to some longtime Water Hill attendees, this year was particularly low on bands bucking the festival’s perceived standard sound.
Sonic Lunch is one of summer’s most delightful mainstays in Ann Arbor. Every Thursday in June through August, crowds gather in Liberty Square, where a pop-up stage has been set up. Starting at noon, musicians -- sometimes local, sometimes nationally known, but almost all with some tie to the area -- play a free concert for anyone who cares to listen. The scene is fun, festive, and eclectic. Employees of nearby businesses swing through in small groups, families bring their children to dance and run around, and older folks set up lawn chairs near the stage to enjoy the show. Each week, a local restaurant sells lunch in the park, so many people grab a bite while they listen to the music.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Sonic Lunch, a partnership between Bank of Ann Arbor and local radio station 107.1. Ann Arbor’s own blues musician Laith Al-Saadi will kick off the summer with his season-opening show on June 1. Although Al-Saadi had been playing music in the area for years, he skyrocketed to national fame in 2016 as a finalist on Season 10 of The Voice.
Violet Weston is the sharp-tongued, nasty piece of work at the center of Tracy Letts’ brilliant family dissection August: Osage County. Violet can be awfully unpleasant, but she has her reasons, as do all the others in this play that is rich in symbolism but played with a tough realism.
Any good production of this Pulitzer Prize-winning play starts with a ferocious, vulgar, and yet sympathetic Violet, the matriarch of an Oklahoma family in transition. Janet Rich is all of that and more in Ypsilanti’s PTD Productions presentation of Letts’ play. She grumbles, complains, coos, and rages in the face of a tragedy that briefly unites her broken family.
Longtime professional music journalist Jas Obrecht regularly tells his Washtenaw Community College creative writing students a story from early in his career.
Obrecht was sent by Guitar Player magazine to a music festival to interview Canadian rock guitarist Pat Travers, who, flanked by two young women while snorting cocaine off a mirror in his dressing room, sent Obrecht away. Obrecht stumbled upon a basketball hoop and ball, and after a few minutes of taking shots, a wiry young guy approached and asked to play.
That guy was Eddie Van Halen, who’d recently released Van Halen’s debut, self-titled album; and Obrecht found a new subject for his article.
Fabulous Fiction Firsts #636
At long last. After 170 years, readers of Charlotte Brontë's beloved Jane Eyre (1847) and Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea (1966), which tells the story of the mysterious madwoman in the attic, will finally hear from Mr. Rochester himself. Not only will we get a first-person perspective from "the brooding romantic antihero" created by Charlotte Brontë, but debut novelist Sarah Shoemaker has also created a credible back story and adds unexpected twists to the tale.
To evoke Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern, music was in the air in 1987. Two major children’s choirs were founded in Ann Arbor that year and both are celebrating their 30th anniversaries: the Boychoir of Ann Arbor and Ann Arbor Youth Chorale (AAYC).
“There was a boom in children's choir development in the U.S. at that time,” said Shayla Powell, who's directed the AAYC’s preparatory Descant Choir for 25 years. “The European boy choir is a significant piece of choral music history and in the early ’90s English cathedrals such as Salisbury were beginning to launch girl choirs.”
While the Boychoir of Ann Arbor followed the European tradition for youth-choir membership, the Ann Arbor Youth Chorale charted a path that welcomes boys and girls. “The mixed gender treble choir has been a somewhat unique American tradition,” Powell said. “The Indianapolis Children's Choir, founded by Henry Leck, was the model that our founders looked to for inspiration.”
What is the Westside Art Hop? Is it an art fair? A historic home tour? A block party?
Well, it’s all of those things plus a nice stroll, and it’s scheduled for Saturday, May 13, from 10 am to 5 pm on the streets and in the homes, garages, porches, and artists’ studios of Ann Arbor’s historic Old West Side.
The district’s resident artists, friends, and neighbors will be showing off -- and offering for sale -- a broad array of paintings, ceramics, blown glass, photography, and assorted fine crafts. On hand to greet visitors and converse will be the artists themselves. Organizers of the free event describe Art Hop as “artists supporting artists … rooted in the local community. We present high-quality art and hand-made crafts for sale to the public in a festive atmosphere.”