The Tudors

I have become obsessed with the Tudors. It all started when I checked out image-from-showtimes-the-tudorsthe DVD set of the first season of the Showtime series The Tudors, which stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers as King Henry VIII, from the Central Library right before the big snowstorm this past December. My husband and I spent several evenings in front of a blazing fire devouring every episode on the four discs in the set. Soon after finishing season one, we visited a nearby Silver Platters and were happy to discover that the second season would be released on DVD in early January. Needless to say, we bought it the first weekend after its release, and within a week or so we had devoured all of season two as well.

While I have read that The Tudors contains certain historical inaccuracies, I have to give it credit for sparking my interest in that particular period of English history. Although I had learned about Henry VIII in history classes, I’d never found him particularly interesting. However, seeing his character and those of his court brought to life by such skilled actors and in such rich detail suddenly made me want to learn more about him, his court and family, and his legacy.

As I anxiously await the premiere of the third season of The Tudors, I am exploring the wealth of resources available at the library to feed my new interest. A general keyword search of the library catalog for the term “Henry VIII” yields well over 200 results! Here are some notable ones:

Anne Boleyn: A New Life of England’s Tragic Queen by Joanna Denny
An attempt to redeem Anne Boleyn from her historical reputation, written by the author of a fictional trilogy on the Tudors.

The Other Boleyn Girl
Originally a novel by Philippa Gregory, this fictional account of Henry VIII’s relationship with the Boleyn sisters, Mary and Anne, is available in two different film adaptations: one originally broadcast by the BBC in 2003, and one starring Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, and Eric Bana.

image-of-the-young-henry-8The National Portrait Gallery History of the Kings and Queens of England by David Williamson
An excellent introduction to the history of British monarchy, with paintings from the National Portrait Gallery of Great Britain.

The Last Days of Henry VIII: Conspiracies, Treason, and Heresy at the Court of the Dying Tyrant by Robert Hutchinson
A detailed and readable account of the reign of Henry VIII.

The Third Policeman

The Irish may be said to possess the gift of gab, but the truth is they’re none too shabby with the pen, either. Most readers have at least a passing familiarity with the usual suspects-Joyce, Yeats, Wilde-but may not be aware of the lesser known author Flann O’Brien. O’Brien (a pseudonym of cover-of-flann-obriens-the-third-policemanBrian O’Nolan) wrote, among other things, a novel entitled The Third Policeman. Tongue-in-cheek, somewhat nonsensical, and completely engrossing, The Third Policeman relates the tale of an ill-fated murder committed by a nameless protagonist and the subsequent journey he embarks on in an effort to retrieve his victim’s wealth. Our ‘hero’ rambles along, sharing observations of his own and of his idol, the philosopher de Selby, who’s theories run the gamut from housing (he objects to a life constrained by a roof and four walls and recommends getting rid of either the former or the latter) to nighttime (darkness is caused by a staining of the atmosphere by ash from volcanic eruptions too fine to be seen by the naked eye). When he encounters a two dimensional police station and its eccentric inhabitants things really start to get strange.The plot is somewhat incidental, however, as the real magic of the book lies in the language. Rather than describe it, I feel it’s better to let O’Brien speak for himself and so here follow some select quotes Continue reading “The Third Policeman”

The Visitor and Little Bee

Two of the most powerful stories that I recently encountered were stories about immigrants and refugees. One was in a film and the other was a novel, but both left a strong impression on me.

In the film, The Visitor, a widowed, burnt-out professor in Connecticut, Walter Vale, (played to perfection by Richard Jenkins, who garnered a Best Actor nomination for the role) travels to New York for a conference and finds two strangers in his Manhattan apartment. Someone rented his apartment to this young couple, and when Walter enters at night he is accosted by the young man, Tarek, (Haaz Sleiman) who believes Walter is breaking in. When Walter lets Tarek and his girlfriend Zainab stay until they find a new place, their lives become intertwined in ways they never would have expected. Walter forges an unlikely friendship with Tarek, and his secret love of music flourishes. Walter learns that Tarek, who fled Syria with his mother, and Zainab, who fled Sengal, are both illegal and fear deportation. The more he gets to know Tarek, the more he cares about his fate, and it is this growing compassion that grounds the film.

Directed by Tom McCarthy, who also directed The Station Agent, another understated, charming independent film, The Visitor feels like a short story. It is riveting, artful, restrained—and over too quickly. Its strengths are the subtlety in its storytelling, and its clean focus on the characters and their relationships. There is no happy ending here, but Continue reading “The Visitor and Little Bee”

Women of the Seattle Fire Department


Women fire fighters-Washington (State)- Seattle-Recruiting Poster-1978


beers_portrait_med1What’s it like being a pioneer?  Just ask Bonnie Beers.

Here’s your opportunity.  Beers, the first woman hired as a fire fighter for the Seattle Fire Department will be speaking on March 24th at 2:00 p.m. in the Bertha Knight Landes Room of City Hall.

The Seattle Municipal Archives has created a terrific online exhibit, “Strength & Stamina: Women in the Seattle Fire Department.” 

Lest you believe times must have surely changed a great deal since Beers joined the SFD,  this report from Cornell University, will enlighted you. While Seattle does have a higher than average percentage of women fire fighters (9%) on the job, the national average is still just 2.5%. ~ Carol L

Book review: Pure Blood by Caitlin Kittredge

pure-bloodWashington author Caitlin Kittredge (she lives in Olympia) takes readers on another trip to Nocturne City. In Pure Blood, the second book in her series about werewolf Luna Wilde, bodies of dead drug addicts are turning up around town. Luna knows these people are more than just victims of overdoses, and when the son of a powerful witch dies under the same mysterious circumstances, the stakes in the case are raised exponentially.

The Nocturne City series is really starting to come together in this second book. Where the first story, Night Life, had a tendency to be over-eager and a bit muddled in style, Pure Blood is fast passed, gritty and suspenseful. Even though Luna is essentially the same smart-aleck, abrasive character we’ve seen in most other urban fantasy stories, she also has enough vulnerability to make her interesting. Furthermore, she is not the most powerful creature in her magical world, and that is a refreshing change.

Fans of the Nocturne City series might also check out Nightwalker by Jocelynn Drake, as well as Kittredge’s appearance at Seattle Mystery Bookshop on March 21.