The Vampire List, Part 2: Urban vamps

If you’re looking for vampires, the best place to find them is in the library. I’m serious. Even the undead lThe Turning by Jennifer Armintroutike to read. You can also check the bank, the grocery store, the gas station, and, considering current gas prices, probably even catching a ride on a Metro bus. The point is, in the parallel worlds of urban fantasy, our fanged neighbors are not monsters, but normal, everyday people — they put their black capes on one shoulder at a time, just like anyone.

Below you’ll find a list of titles by authors who put vampires in everyday, often mundane, circumstances. Watch vampires deal with your problems Continue reading “The Vampire List, Part 2: Urban vamps”

Destination Venice

If your interest is piqued by ancient cities with mazes of streets and canals, of hidden plots and secrets, then you must like reading about Venice.

The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt begins on January 29. 1996 the day the Fenice Opera is destroyed by fire. Berendt’s citizen interviews reveal the intricacies of customs, society, politics, the city’s decades of decay and preservation. Among them are Archimede Seguro, an aging glassblower who makes 100 vases depicting the fire as viewed from his window only feet away. Berendt learns much about Ezra Pound and Olga Rudge, his paramour, whose art collection disappeared in mystery from the home she still inhabited. The inside story of the Palazzo Barbaro (where scenes from Brideshead Revisited were filmed) and so much more brings Venice off the page in a chatty and informative way.

Travel back to the time following the 1527 sacking of Rome, as the wealthy courtesan Fiametta Continue reading “Destination Venice”

The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares

invention of morelThis haunting novella – sort of an ethereal counterpart to Wells’ Island of Doctor Moreau, inspired in part by the author’s fascination with Louise Brooks, The Invention of Morel is the curious fable of a man lost on an island where he falls in love with the beautiful Faustine, who seems not to know he exists. It is small comfort that nobody else on the island seems to know he exists either. Is he a ghost? Are they? The answer to this riddle is gradually revealed to be something that resonates mightily with life as we know it, which is to say often not at all. How many of the people who matter most to you actually exist? I don’t have a whole lot of patience for metafictions that lend themselves to some handy symbolic reading about life, but they rarely seem as elegant and inviting as this. A good titles for Borges fans – he writes the prologue in the handsome nyrb classics edition that I read) – and for fans of folks like Paul Auster, Steven Millhauser, Haruki Murakami, and other dreamscapers.

May Question of the Month – An irregular series

ask_a_librarian_button.gifThe reference librarians at The Seattle Public Library are pretty darn amazing. They don’t know everything, instead they know where to find everything. As part of an irregular series of posts we salute the talented and dedicated reference staff at your local library. Names and other identifying information have been removed from the questions we showcase.
Got a stumper? Click on Ask a Librarian. It’s what we do.

“On antique cutlery dating from the 1600s-1900s, was it the convention to have the man’s family initials engraved or the woman’s family initials? “

     “We checked in several books including:
The story of cutlery from flint to stainless steel by Joseph Beeston Himsworth from 1953 and
The cutlery trades; an historical essay in the economics of small-scale production, by Godfrey Isaac H. Lloyd from 1913

But the Encyclopedia of food and culture by Solomon H. Katz, 2003 provided the clearest answer:

At that time (18th century), women could not legally own land or other property, so the scope of their lives was limited to home and family. For this reason, silverware was significant as a woman’s contribution to the financial part of a marriage, and it was often purchased for her one piece at a time and kept in what was called a “hope chest,” along with other household goods such as linens and quilts. Because it was bought with a woman’s taste in mind, most silverware was designed for women. Silver flatware, along with other household goods, has traditionally been monogrammed with the bride’s initials.”

Shelf Talk(s) with Cory Doctorow, pt. 2

image of cory doctorow courtesy of joiLibrarians like Cory Doctorow a lot, not least of all because we both tend to think that information wants to be free, and we both get a kick out of giving books away. However, if you want his actual analog pen-and-ink signature on his latest book – Little Brother – Cory will be appearing at the library’s Ballard Branch on Sunday, March 18 at 2 p.m, where he can oblige you. Generous guy that he is, he recently obliged us with a mind-expanding phone call, and here’s some more of that conversation (here’s part one):

Q: Congratulations on your latest project, your new daughter.

Oh yeah – my wife just sent me the world’s most awesomely cute one minute video clip of getting ready for bath time and I swear to god its just hypnotic, I’ve watched it a hundred and fifty times.

Q: (In addition to the effect this experience will have on your writing), how do you think having a child will effect your views on your creative children, and giving them away on the Internet?

…you know, it did get me thinking. I wrote a column for Locus magazine that just came out called Think Like a Dandelion – actually the title’s an homage to a James Patrick Kelly book called Think Like a Dinosaur – and its about the different reproduction strategies of plants and mammals. And I understand why as a mammal my intuition is that I need to be really closely attuned to the disposition of my reproductions, of my offspring. That is our reproductive strategy. But it’s not the reproductive strategy of a dandelion. The reproductive strategy of a dandelion is to be just utterly profligate to just blow your seeds Continue reading “Shelf Talk(s) with Cory Doctorow, pt. 2”