December 2009 Archives

Read My Pins by Madeleine Albright

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Madeleine Albright, the first woman U.S. Secretary of State, tells stories about her pin collection. She says, "Before long, and without intending it, I found that jewelry had become part of my personal diplomatic arsenal. Former president George H. W. Bush had been known for saying 'Read my lips.' I began urging colleagues and reporters to 'Read my pins.'"

After criticizing Saddam Hussein as an ambassador to the United Nations, she was called 'an unparalleled serpent.' What to wear? A snake pin of course. International leaders found comfort when she arrived wearing a patriotic or cheerful pin, but blanched when her choice was a wasp or anything intimidating.

Her collection of pins is vast, with both dime-store and heirloom quality pieces included. The over 200 photographs, highlighted by often humorous stories, showed me another facet of this most accomplished woman. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Jacki @ MPL Central

The Early Stories: 1953-1975 by John Updike

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I was reminiscing about a favorite high school English class that I had somehow survived many moons ago and I fondly recalled a short story titled A & P that I had been forced to read by the bearded ogre that was professionally known as "teacher." So, in my waxing nostalgic state of mind, I decided to re-evaluate that short story that had left such a favorable impact on me as a young man. Heck, I could even remember the title AND the author. Hmmm. Well, I'm tickled to say that in twenty-five years, few things have changed. I still hate going to classes and I still love this short story. A & P was first published by acclaimed author John Updike in the July 22, 1961 edition of The New Yorker magazine. It's been a perennial favorite of high school English teachers since!
This SHORT story simply describes why a young man quits his job at an A & P grocery store after his manager disapproves of three bikini clad girls who enter the store to buy herring snacks. Funny, witty, sharp and still relevant today, A & P is a story of arrogant adolescence and the consequences dictated by rash actions meant to win the adoration of the opposite sex. In other words, it's about a guy who acts cool to meet some cute girls and fails at everything miserably! A & P can be found, amongst many other short story anthologies, in this nice collection of John Updike's work titled Early Stories: 1953-1975.

John Updike (March 18, 1932 - January 27, 2009) was a highly accomplished author who wrote of middle class America with a unique prose style that was both distinctive and original. He was a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist for two entries in his "Rabbit" series of novels. He was also a acclaimed poet and critic.

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Submitted by Dan@Central

The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

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The Lacuna tells the story of Harrison Shepherd, born in the United States but whisked to Mexico when his mother, Salome, divorces his father. He is given a notebook by his mother wherein he is instructed to record the events of his everyday life. He does this eagerly and willingly. Along the way he becomes employed as kitchen help and cook in the household where Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and Leo Trotsky, among others, reside. The relationships he forges with these individuals and others in the household impact his life later, and provides the catalyst when, as a young man, he returns to the United States and becomes a novelist. This book is a kaleidoscope of imagination and fact, vividly told in Kingsolver's usual way, making you feel you are living the book yourself. It is Shepherd's return to the United States that catapults you into the political fervor of the time. Kingsolver has once again provided a tale guaranteed to stir your emotions. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Mary S. @ MPL Central

The National Parks: America's Best Idea

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You may have seen one or more of the six episodes that make up The National Parks: America's Best Idea airing on public television. The series is directed by Ken Burns and written by Dayton Duncan. From Acadia to Yosemite, Yellowstone to the Everglades, it is the story of the people who devoted themselves to saving the land for future generations to marvel at. In addition to the film, there is a beautifully illustrated, narrative history of the National Park System. The events and political battles that led to each parks existence are detailed as well as their most distinctive features. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Jacki @ MPL Central

Native Son by Richard Wright

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When poverty-stricken African-American Bigger Thomas inadvertently murders a young white woman in 1930's Chicago, the extreme weight of a class divided, racist and oppressed society falls heavily on his broad shoulders. It flattens him.
In 1940, Richard Wright published what, perhaps, could be the most starkly poignant and morally bankrupt American novel. The desperation, fear, manipulation, poverty and hopelessness portrayed by the angry and unrepentant main character offers a vivid portrayal of racism and class distinction in a supposedly free 20th Century American landscape. The chains that bind Bigger Thomas, his family and the liberal "friends" that try to help him are the chains of a lifetime of racism, the weight of an age and the weld of stupidity and fear. Truly a great American novel, Native Son opens a closet door in the basement of America's past that is sometimes best left closed. But, like Pandora's Jar of pain and illness, the released evil also contains a warming blanket of hope.
Check catalog for other great Richard Wright titles.

Submitted by Dan

Dracula: The Un-Dead by Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt

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The familiar story of Count Dracula has been updated in this new sequel to Bram Stoker's seminal vampire novel. Coauthored by the Stoker's great-grandnephew, the continuation of Dracula's saga may feel like a comfortable old blanket to some readers and like a burr in a boot to others. The central characters from the original work are all here, including Van Helsing, Jonathan and Mina Harker, John Seward, Arthur Holmwood and, of course, Dracula. In addition, we get some bonus historical characters like Countess Bathory and Jack the Ripper and even a reference to the Titanic! Taken for what it is, this novel is a fun entry into the vampire genre. Amongst the gratuitous sex, bloody carnage and breakneck pace, the reader is introduced to a new and improved (maybe) Count Dracula who exhibits a sense of morality and docility that make him seem more like a deeply flawed, intelligent man than a blood-thirsty creature of the night.

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Click here to read a review of the original Dracula

Submitted by Dan@Central

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The Other Boleyn Girl: A Novel by Philippa Gregory, 2002

This is by far Gregory's strongest work. If you haven't read this one, do. This novel tells the tantalizing story as narrated by Mary, Anne Boleyn's older sister. This novel recounts the self-destruction of the Howard and Boleyn families as they tirelessly scheme to gain power in the court of Henry VIII. Their ruthless efforts result in the beheading of Anne and, unbeknownst to all at the time, the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Check the catalog for availability.

Submitted by Paula N. @ MPL Central

Far North by Marcel Theroux

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Stories of human survival in a post apocalyptic setting are not unfamiliar, but when finely crafted and well written, they can be fresh, thought provoking, and lovingly bleak. The inevitable comparison to Cormac McCarthy's The Road aside, Far North is a captivating tale of perseverance and survival. Set in the far northern section of Siberia after civilization is decimated by a global warming disaster and nuclear contamination, Makepeace Hatfield is the sole survivor of her settlement. She lives a solitary life spent patrolling an empty town with her precious guns and horse. After seeing an airplane crash, Makepeace realizes there must be some advanced civilization left in the world and sets out to find it. Her quest is filled with loneliness, desolation and hardship, much like the barren wastelands and empty cities through which she travels. Though the world she lives in is fraught with violence and fear, Makepeace is a woman of exceptional strength and the driving force of this novel.

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Submitted by Dan@Central

The Up and Up by Lee Irby

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1928 Miami is the setting for this absorbing novel that entwines real historical figures like Gloria Swanson, Joseph Kennedy and Harvey Firestone into the fictional world of ex-thug Frank Hearn and his attempts at going straight in the real estate business.
When Parker Anderson, a swindler being investigated for real estate fraud, invites Frank to gamble on a fixed jai alai match and they win thousands off a brutal mob boss, any chance for Frank to start a new life come to a screeching halt. After Parker is found shot through the head and Frank is pegged for the crime, things rapidly spin out of control. Enter into the opulent world of Roaring Twenties Miami in this highly entertaining and original work of thrilling historical fiction!

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Submitted by Dan@Central

David Grann's The Lost City of Z

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This is the fascinating story of British explorer Percy Fawcett's attempt to find The Lost City of Z, deep within the Amazon jungle. In 1925 Fawcett disappeared during an expedition to find this ancient civilization. His adventure is interwoven with the author's own pursuit into this mysterious wilderness in hopes of uncovering some of the jungles deepest secrets. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Jacki @ MPL Central

Making Milwaukee Mightier by John M. McCarthy

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Marquette University graduate John McCarthy examines how the Socialists, led by Mayors Emil Seidl, Daniel Hoan and Frank Zeidler, had a coherent city planning philosophy to build a "bigger, brighter and better Milwaukee."

From being one of the most densely populated American cities in the early 1900s, Hoan, Zeidler and annexation director Arthur Werba dispersed a growing, crowded population through quadrupling Milwaukee's land area for new housing and industry. English garden communities inspired the building of Garden Homes, Greendale and low-rise row houses that contrasted with high rise public housing in other cities. Charles Whitnall's vision of a comprehensive parks and parkways necklace mostly came to fruition during the New Deal.

This major work also looks at how they fell short in trying to unify city and county government, expand into collar counties and create a metropolitan government. Check catalog for availability.

Submitted by Van Lingle Mungo @ MPL

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This page is an archive of entries from December 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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