Bard Bio

As a lifelong Shakespeare fan, I’ve known of the various debates about which of his plays came first, whether Shakespeare was indeed Shakespeare (and not, say, Francis Bacon), whether he loved his wife, how educated he was, and so on with the minutiae.  I admit I haven’t much cared, preferring to focus my attention on the sublimity of his plays and poetry instead.

shakespeare.jpgAlong comes Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson, a writer generally known for his travelogues.  What caught my attention most about this short, engaging book was Bryson’s ability to sum up all the threads of an argument and then not take sides.  There is so little actual information about Shakespeare’s life that it is tempting to speculate wildly about who he was, and many people have, but Bryson invites us to revel in not knowing.

Along the way you learn about everything from the political-religious conflicts of the day and their possible effect on Shakespeare’s career to the wild diet of the average Englishman (both noble and commoner), as well as Shakespeare’s likely education as a country boy and his unparalleled contributions to English literature and our language itself.

This book was so interesting I felt like watching at least a few of the Bard’s plays.

Sleuthing for a good mystery?

I don’t know why, but somehow reading a good mystery has a soothing effect on me. Go figure. The Library has lots of mysteries, but how to know which ones you will like? Librarians are always happy to talk to you and try to match up your tastes with the “right” book. There are also some great lists of recommended mystery reading, and here are some to get you started:

The Independent Mystery Booksellers Association has come up with a wide-ranging list of excellent mysteries, The 100 Favorite Mysteries of the 20th Century.

To see what other Seattlites are reading, check out Continue reading “Sleuthing for a good mystery?”

The Wire finale: now what? (A reading list).

image-of-woman-watching-the-wire-courtesy-of-locator.jpgOkay, so it is over.  Case closed. After five captivating years, HBO’s lauded series The Wire calls it a wrap. Now what do we do? Aside from chain-watching DVDs of the series (and its excellent Baltimore precursor, Homicide: Life on the Street), we’re seeing a lot of Wire fans in withdrawal are turning to books to prolong the feeling. This is hardly surprising given the series’ strong literary ties. Here are some of our favorite gritty tales of the street from Baltimore and beyond:

  • The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner City Neighborhood, by David Simon and Edward Burns. It all starts here, with this searing, compassionate account of the hard realities underlying America’s drug culture and its victims. Wire co-creators Simon and Burns refuse to oversimplify an intractable problem twisted up with issues of race, class and unbridled capitalism. See also Simon’s Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets.
  • The Night Gardener, by George Pelecanos
    This insightful story of an old unsolved crime and its lingering effects on three police is just the latest in a succession of outstanding novels stirring up the murky moral depths on both sides of the law, by a prolific Washington DC author and Wire contributor.
  • Mystic River, by Dennis LeHane
    After penning five terrific Boston-based hardboiled mysteries, Wire contributor Lehane had a major breakthrough with this richly textured, haunting psychological thriller about the hidden wellsprings and lasting effects of crime.
  • Lush Life, by Richard Price
    Another accomplished writer recruited into The Wire’s stellar stable, Price’s unflinching, morally-complex crime Continue reading “The Wire finale: now what? (A reading list).”

Northwest author Jo Dereske creates a ‘loving sendup’ to librarians in Miss Zukas mysteries

photo of author jo dereskeTurns out my favorite librarian in the universe will be making an appearance at our very own Green Lake Library this week. Okay, make that my favorite fictional librarian, created by Northwest author Jo Dereske, who will be reading from her popular Miss Zukas mystery series and discussing writing mysteries (she has a new series in the works) on Thursday, March 13, from 6 to 7:45 p.m.

Wilhelmina (Helma) Zukas’ independent spirit, intelligence and resourcefulness make it impossible for this librarian/sleuth to resist solving murders and setting things straightcatalogue of death book cover in her beloved Bellehaven (think Bellingham/Fairhaven). I love the local setting, witty style and crisp writing that comes through in each of the ten Miss Zukas mysteries (which the New York Times called “a loving sendup” to the librarian stereotype). I was delighted when Miss Zukas returned, after a three-year break, in Bookmarked to Die and Catalogue of Death. The 11th title in the series comes out in April.

Author Jo Dereske (who is also a librarian) gives us a bit of insight into Helma Zukas — as well as some excellent reading suggestions — in part one of a two-part interview:

How does this amateur detective benefit from her librarian background?

Well, as everyone knows, library folk are sharply observant, and relentless researchers. Miss Zukas understands patterns and anomalies and she does not give up. She has a book and she knows how to use it.

Those who don’t yet know Miss Zukas may have some preconceived notions based on her profession. What do you wish people knew about Helma Zukas?

When I began writing the series I wanted to respond to two things. I’d been told: “Nobody would ever publish a book about a librarian.” The other was the way librarians were viewed as dull stereotypes by the Continue reading “Northwest author Jo Dereske creates a ‘loving sendup’ to librarians in Miss Zukas mysteries”

Tapping your feet at the Ballet

Pacific Northwest Ballet Dancers perform in A Sense of DoubtBallet is a feast for the eyes. But don’t forget your ears. DIRECTOR’S CHOICE, the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s March 2008 program, includes some material from new choreographers and some unusual composers. Musical selections by Mikel Rouse, Arvo Paart, Phlip Glass and Thom Willems will be previewed in the Microsoft Auditorium of the Seattle Public Library’s Central Library on Tuesday, March 11, at noon. See The Library Calendar for more information. And once you’ve been to the preview or to the performance, explore more unique musical offerings by some of these composers.

  • Arvo Paart is a unique electronic book that combines a biography of this Estonia composer as well as selections from his music including material in the distinctive “tintinnabuli” style developed by Pärt. You can download the book by clicking on the link above.
  • Orient & Occident – a 2002 recording of Paart’s work by the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. According to some critics this performance reveals Paart’s music genius at its most mystical.
  • Heroes Symphony – a 1997 recording by the American Composers Orchestra of this classic Philip Glass piece, which includes music by David Bowie and Brian Eno.
  • The Illusionist– a 2006 recording of Philip Glass’s score from the award-winning film from the Czech Film Orchestra. Glass’s dreamy and dramatic work won several awards for Best Score.