February 26, 2007
"The Colorful Apocalypse: Journeys in Outsider Art" by Greg Bottoms
Imagine having a dining room conversation with contemporary evangelical artists who saddle the divide between Christian ecstasy and insanity. Professor Bottoms takes readers on a journey into the everyday world of some of the recognized, working American outsider artists, and explores their religious visions and critique of contemporary society. The book is a travelogue, profiling the work and thought of artists such as Norbert Kox, a Wisconsin ex-biker who, after dropping acid in the 1970’s, began to paint apocalyptic allegorical works; William Thomas Thompson, a disabled, former businessman turned self-taught artist and creator of a 300-foot version of the book of Revelation; and Myrtice West, a friend of deceased luminary Howard Finster, who took up painting after the murder of her daughter by West’s son-in-law. The writing is meditative, yet clean and perky. Bottoms observes his subjects with daring honesty and openness, relating his own life experiences with a schizophrenic brother to artists whose world views offer an extreme challenge to mainstream culture.
Renoir, public services librarian
"Strange Candy" by Laurell K. Hamilton
Laurell K. Hamilton has a new book out that is a collection of short stories, each introduced by the author. For fans of her Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series, the book is begun and ended with stories about Anita, another couple are set in the same world as her book Nightseer. All of the stories fall into the fantasy/paranormal sort of genre. Strange Candy contains 14 short stories and Hamilton does a nice job of mixing them up so that a heavy story will be followed by a lighter one. Subjects include everything from housecleaning superheros to elves and demons. This is a fast read - I read it in less than a day - but is nice break from normal life.
February 19, 2007
“The Endurance: Shackleton’s legendary Anarctic expedition” by Caroline Alexander
In the spirit of what the weather channel keeps referring to as an “Arctic blast,” I reminded myself of what cold really is by reading “The Endurance: Shackleton’s legendary Anarctic expedition” by Caroline Alexander. The book retraces Ernest Shackleton’s ill-planned attempt to be the first to hike across Antarctica and is assisted by the ample use of ship photographer Frank Hurley’s salvaged film record of the events.
Alexander approaches the story chronologically, providing context for the expedition by summarizing previous Antarctic explorations and the international competition surrounding them. For the story of the Endurance, Alexander draws material from the diaries, letters and later remembrances of the crew. Photographs and quotations punctuate many of the anecdotes of life aboard the Endurance, as well as the freezing hell endured after its’ sinking. The book makes great use of the existing photographs of the ordeal and they do quite a lot to make these unbelievable circumstances more real to the reader. The ship’s photographer captured impossible, fascinating images, such as the enormous wooden Endurance being cracked like a bundle of twigs by mere shifts in the Antarctic ice.
A good story like this makes it a lot easier to bear temperatures at just barely below freezing for a few weeks!
Sara, reference assistant
February 12, 2007
"Fragile Things" by Neil Gaiman
This is the first volume of short works by Gaiman that I've read, and from the start I was swept up in his elegant use of language. He is a wordsmith and a storyteller - a combination that makes for a great read. Gaiman's style is palpable throughout; he mixes reality, fantasy and horror with a distinctive flair. His story "Other People" is a fascinating take on what may happen when we die. Other tales are creative reworkings of the Sherlock Holmes series, some old fairy tales, and one of his own longer works, "American Gods." The density with which he paints his stories is astounding. However, it is also a bit tiring. This is not a quick read by any means, and by the end of the book I was pushing myself to keep wading through his sparse, elegant prose. In a word: wow.
February 05, 2007
"Not Your Mother's Vampire: Vampires in Young Adult Fiction" by Deborah Wilson Overstreet
“Not Your Mother’s Vampire: Vampires in Young Adult Fiction,” by Deborah Wilson Overstreet is a scholarly discussion of vampire literature geared to young adults. Overstreet includes information about the classic adult vampire fiction, both novels such as The Vampyre (1819) and Dracula (1897) and movies including Nosferatu (1922) and Dracula (1931 and later), and modern classics such as Anne Rice novels. She compares and contrasts the modern young adult vampire novels to these ten classic adult samples. The book includes information on the history of vampire tales, the classic vampire conventions (such as whether or not vampires can see their reflections, be affected by religious objects such as crosses, need an invitation to enter a victim’s home, etc.), and covers several types of vampire tales: becoming a vampire, stories of power negotiations, and romances. There is also a chapter devoted completely to “Buffyverse” the worlds of the Buffy and Angel tv series and their characters. The author teaches a course on Buffy Studies at the University of Maine at Farmington. Although interesting, easy to read, and with a lot of cited sources for further research, the book is very repetitive. It reads almost as if several stand alone journal articles had been strung together into one book since the same ground is plowed over, and over again (but from different perspectives).