A Blizzard of Horror Stories

February 1, 2011

This article is a great starting point for getting acquainted with horror short stories. After reading about these 12 stories I feel motivated to pick up some of the old and new authors in this collection. I definitely want to reread Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” and perhaps after that try Laird Barron’s “Old Virginia,” which is about CIA human experiments that have decidedly nonhuman dimensions.

Another nice feature- you can access a couple of stories from the article.

(This wonderfully spooky cover is from American Fantastic Tales and includes Harlan Ellison‘s  ” I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream.” )

Shira S.

How is Mayor Daley’s Chicago like China? Let us count the ways . . .

March 7, 2010

Former Tribune writer Evan Osnos profiles Mayor Daley in the March 8, 2010 issue of The New Yorker. “I’d been interested in Daley since I lived in Chicago a decade ago . . . and, after moving to China, I started encountering him in Beijing more often than I saw most American pols. . . . It was only after I began reporting the story in earnest that I came to appreciate some of the reasons why he might feel so at home here.”

The True Meaning of…whatever: Soothing your Inner Grinch

December 11, 2009

In 2nd grade, I played the title role in my school’s production of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, an experience that clearly warped me for life. Although I enjoy conspicuous consumption and fatty foods as much as the next person, the enforced jollity of the holidays has always grated on my embittered soul. For those of you who share the pain of repressing your inner grinchiness, here’s my essential holiday reading and viewing list.

You can take your Dickens, your Clement C. Moore, your Garrison Keillor.  For my money, no author captures the elusive spirit of the holidays like…Lemony Snicket. What true grinch  doesn’t identify with the misunderstood, Christmas-phobic Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming or the artistically frustrated  Lump of Coal whose holiday destiny falls short of his dreams?

Saving Hanukkah and Kwanzaa: The Hebrew Hammer[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mx0WauS9Sus]

Santa Claus has been eliminated by his evil nephew, who plans to wipe out Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and all other competitors to Christmas. Who can save the day but a street smart  Jewish detective  and his bros from the Kwanzaa Liberation Front? This ethnic inflected parody of the Shaft/Superfly genre will have you laughing so hard you’ll plotz over the kinara. Sadly, EPL doesn’t own a copy but if you enjoy this preview, we’ll be happy to get it for you from elsewhere. Stars Adam Goldberg, Mario Van Peebles and Andy Dick. Rated R, 2003.

In God We Trust; All Others Pay Cash

Cult radio personality Jean Shepherd created the immortal Ralphie and his Red Ryder b.b. gun in this hilarious novel about Christmas in small town Indiana. Of course it became the basis for A Christmas Story, that refreshingly unsentimental look at mean-spirited Santas, overly confining winter garments, and unwise holiday gift choices.

If You Think Your Family is Nuts During the Holidays…

…try sipping mead Christmas Eve with a Dad who’s put Mom in prison, and 3 brothers who may be plotting to kill each other. Such is the happy family dynamic behind The Lion in Winter, the classic Peter O’Toole, Katharine Hepburn film about the dysfunctional, yet highly entertaining home life of megalomaniac monarchs Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.  There’s a tv version with Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close, but it doesn’t quite match the fire of the original. Rated PG, 1968.

No true grinch list would be complete without Holidays on Ice, the modern classic that first brought David Sedaris and the caustic “Santaland Diaries” to national attention. The 2008 edition adds 6 new stories to the original collection; check out the audiobook to fully experience the Sedaris wit, or  download the e-audiobook version to your iPod or mp3 player!

Lesley W.

The Meaning of Ichiro by Robert Whiting

August 25, 2009

18722009“Americans liked Ichiro because, for one thing, he was a throwback to another time. He had reintroduced them to a style of offense that many MLB fans, accustomed to andro-induced sluggers and tape-measure home runs, had forgotten – an attack based on the single, the hit and run, and intrepid baserunning that had once defined the game.” – Robert Whiting, The Meaning of Ichiro

Robert Whiting’s book, The Meaning of Ichiro: The New Wave From Japan and the Transformation of Our National Pastime is a fascinating look at Japanese baseball – its history, its teams, its roots in martial arts, the tight grip that nationalism and corporate culture hold on players (and coaches), and how the pursuits of physical discipline, athletic perfection, and the “submergence of ego” destroy countless young players, as well as produce stars like Ichiro. You’ll read about Japanese managers who push their players in practice until they bleed, vomit, and collapse. You’ll read about how umpires in Japan are intimidated to change calls (offering insight into why the American rules protecting umps also protect the integrity of the game itself), as well as the details of a tortuous practice routine called “the 1,000 Fungo Drill.”

For those who enjoy reading stories about the clashes between players, agents and the front office, Ichiro has them in spades. Whiting’s book captures the inside negotiations, loopholes, crafty maneuvering, and bitter fights that finally cleared the way for Japanese players like Hideo Nomo and Ichiro to try their hands in America, (where before they were all but bound to Japan for life).

It’s also got stories about Americans in Japan, too. Pick up the book just to read the outrageous chapter in which former Mets manager, Bobby Valentine, leads one of the worst teams in Japan to second place and then gets sacked for it.

The book can get kind of dense, and it only covers the history of Japanese players in America up until 2003 (so you won’t find a mention of Cubs favorite, Kosuke Fukodome), but Whiting’s book is a portrait of how one sport and its fans can represent the nuances, peculiarities, and damning, as well as beautiful, aspects to a nation’s character. If you’re a baseball fan (or interested in Japanese culture) and you want to learn about Japan’s role in transforming MLB baseball into an international pastime, this one covers a lot of bases. (Jarrett D., The Loft)


Dear American Airlines

February 15, 2009

                                           Miles, Jonathan. Dear American Airlinesdearaa. 2008. (Fiction Miles.J)

This debut novel by Jonathan Miles hinges on a simple premise which gradually unfolds to reveal a book that manages to be both subtly moving and extraordinarily hilarious. Benjamin Ford is an ex-alcoholic, ex-poet, and ex-husband two times over. Left in the wake of his years of drinking were the two Stellas: his first wife, much embittered and estranged, and their daughter whom he barely knew. Now that daughter is grown and getting married and offering Bennie the merest shred of redemption for begging out of his own life and hers in the form of a wedding invitation. All Bennie has to do is get there, but the employees of American Airlines have other ideas. Stranded at O’Hare with all flights grounded and the time clock ticking on his last best chance, Bennie picks up a pen and a piece of paper and begins to rage and seethe on the page, hurling verbal Molotov cocktails in the general direction of the good folks at the corporate offices of the titular airline. As the hours grind by with no progress or prospect of leaving the airport anytime soon, Bennie’s letter slowly begins to shift some of the blame over his circumstances from the airline to himself, as his missive becomes more or less the story of his life. Rehashing and reevaluating the memories and mistakes that led him to his current situation, Bennie tries for the first time in his life to come clean with someone, anyone, even if it is only the faceless, nameless corporate cubicle drone somewhere at the AA headquarters whom he imagines someday poring over his letter. While the novel is rife with regret and heartbreak, it is also one of the funniest books in recent memory. In addition to American Airlines, Bennie’s impotent fury takes aim at modern American culture at large as he skewers his fellow strandees with precise and acidic hilarity. This brief book is very dark, very funny, and very much a product of our current cultural climate. If this modern world fills you with some combination of confusion, dread, and rage, this book may just be the temporary antidote you’ve been looking for.  (Andy R., Reader’s Services)

The Suicide Index

February 2, 2009

suicideindexphotoWickersham, Joan. The Suicide Index. 2008. (155.937 Wicke.J)

When Paul Wickersham killed himself in 1991, he not only ended his own life, but also shattered the lives of his wife and two adult daughters, irrevocably altering their futures, as well as their pasts. Every former notion, thought, and memory of the man that they had known and loved so well is called into question by the final act of his life. Now, 16 years after the fact, his daughter Joan, attempts to make sense of the man, and the action that has come to define him. Rather than tackle the memoir as a straight chronological narrative, Wickersham tells the story in the form of an index. Imposing this formal, orderly structure on such a chaotic and emotional event allows her to bring a level-headed objectivity to the story and enables her to clearly organize the labyrinthine and erratic nature of her thoughts and feelings about her father’s suicide. Wickersham recreates her father’s life by skipping backwards and forwards through time, gradually unpeeling layer after layer of the man, searching futilely for a motive which she knows she will never find. As the details of the suicide and her family history unfold, painful truths about abuse, failures, and betrayals kept hidden for years are revealed, and to her credit, Wickersham never backs away from the conflict, confronting it head-on with an unflinching intimacy. Despite the heavy subject matter, the book never gets bogged down in despair. Wickersham’s beautiful writing is fluid and concise throughout, and she occasionally finds room for humor amid the darkness. This book will appeal to fans of biographies, memoirs, and psychology texts, as well as anyone personally touched by suicide. Wickersham puts a bold human face to an oft hidden topic.  (Andy R. Reader’s Services)

The Piano Teacher

pianoteaLee, Janice Y.K.  The Piano Teacher. 2009. (Fiction Lee.J)

Soon after following her husband to Hong Kong in 1951, Claire Pendleton is hired as piano teacher to the daughter of a wealthy Chinese family and becomes involved with their chauffeur, an enigmatic Englishman haunted by memories of war with the Japanese and his relationship with a beautiful Eurasian socialite. Moving back and forth in time, this complex and richly atmospheric romantic thriller involving a missing Crown Collection of jewels, wartime crimes, deceit and betrayal, is also available on CD. (Susan R., Reader’s Services)

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