John McPhee is 80 years old, has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1965 and has written 28 books. Mr. McPhee has written about Arthur Ashe, Bill Bradley, oranges, Alaska, human-powered flight, a cattle-brands inspector and several books on geology. While factual in nature, his work has the power to draw the reader into the world of each essay’s topic like a good novel.
Reading any McPhee book is a joy but Silk Parachute is something new for him. His beautiful craftsmanship, highly detailed description and ability to turn what, at first glance, would seem mundane into a can't-put-it-down page-turner are all here. But in one significant way, it's different. He writes about himself.
The titular first essay is about his mother and things she did for him when he was young that formed his life -- taking him to the theater and the observation deck at LaGuardia to watch the DC3s land and the gift of a toy silk parachute that "always returned safely to earth". In three-and-a-half pages he calls up scores of images that leave you overflowing with admiration for this now 99-year-old woman.
Entrepreneurs know hard work, long hours, and difficult times. Every year, the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City salutes the Top 10 Small Businesses for their contributions to the well-being of our community.
Selection of the companies is based on growth or sustainability, excellence in employee relations, and outstanding service to the community.
This year’s nominees represent many industries and include an advertising agency, a pizzeria, a pet service business, and a company operating in the railroad industry.
Entrepreneurs are not only vital to the economy, many of them are interesting people as well. Pick up one of these books from the Kansas City Public Library’s H&R Block Business & Career Center to read about what makes them tick and their secrets to success.
Omar Khayyam (1048-1131 AD) was a mathematician and philosopher at a time and place where such were highly valued fields of endeavor. His work on algebra was a pioneering effort in the discipline. Outside of Persia (modern-day Iran), Khayyam is known primarily as the author of the Rubaiyat.
During his lifetime he was not renowned for his poetry, nor was this type of poetry considered high art. It wasn't until the 19th Century, in fact, that Khayyam got his due.
It was largely thanks to Edward FitzGerald’s translation of some of these poems that the Rubaiyat is regarded a classic work today. From 1859 to 1889, FitzGerald published 5 translations (numbers 2-5 were modifications and expansions of his first attempt – the fifth translation was published posthumously).
It must be noted that FitzGerald’s translations are not strictly accurate – they owe a lot to FitzGerald’s own poetic sense. Still, they capture the spirit of Khayyam’s work, even if in a somewhat romanticized way. The title comes from the ruba’i – a Persian poetic form consisting of couplets, in which there is a rhyme scheme of AA BA in the two lines. FitzGerald cast the couplets as quatrains, with each line roughly equal to a half line in the original.
With enough time, effort, and research you really can change history. Just ask Alvin Sykes. Over the past several years, Sykes has built a reputation as a champion of the forgotten victims of racial violence, helping to bring about the re-opening of two Civil Rights cold cases. As Brad Stephens of KCTV5 reports, Sykes did most of that work within the walls of the Kansas City Public Library.
In 1955, a young African-American boy named Emmitt Till was murdered in Mississippi for whistling at a white woman. His killing fanned the flames of the Civil Rights movement. But Till's murderers were never brought to justice -- that is, until Sykes began digging.
Using the Library's research resources, Sykes discovered an obscure legal opinion that allowed the FBI to reopen the case. Sykes' efforts led to the signing by George W. Bush of the 2007 Till Bill, which allows for the re-opening investigation of unsolved Civil Rights murder cases.
More recently, Sykes has turned his citizen-sleuthing skills to the 1965 murder of Jimmy Lee Jackson, which Sykes says was the inspiration of the Selma-to-Montgomery March. That case, too, has been re-opened.
"The Library is a great equalizer," Sykes tells Stephens.
From the outset, The Road is a post-apocalyptic tale focusing on a man and his son’s quest for survival following a horrific disaster that has destroyed civilization. However, beyond these facts, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what to make of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
At least, this is how a lot of us felt after discussing the story at our recent Barista’s Book Group meeting. Some felt it was a parable about faith. Some felt it was simply a story about the love of a father and son. There were thoughts that perhaps it was a futuristic western. There were also comments that there were religious implications to the story with its focus on good and evil.
But regardless of what we thought the novel was about, we almost all agreed it was a good book. Few of us could put it down once we started reading it and most of us cried at the end.
When Joe Louis fought in Kansas City on February 17, 1937, Boss Tom Pendergast was in power, jazz was jumping downtown, and black athletes were decades from being accepted as equal to their white counterparts. In fact, some historians believe that Louis' only local fight, against Jewish-American boxer Natie Brown at Municipal Auditorium, was the first interracial sporting event in Missouri history.
Mystery, romance, suspense, animated talking chameleons. Yes it is true. Recently I saw one of the most oddly, yet satisfying animated films since last summer. Mix in some beautiful colors and the tongue and cheek references to other movies; Rango is well worth the ticket price.
Rango tells the story of a chameleon (Johnny Depp) who lives a simple life in his tank, until one fateful day, his life changes in an instant when he is accidently lost in the Mojave Desert. Being the house pet he is, he finds it hard to cope with the new surroundings for five whole minuets. Making his journey to wherever the next place could be, a group of owl mariachi players, narrate the story of the desert journey.
When the chameleon (he is nameless for about the first twenty minutes) finally finds a fellow lizard that takes him to the town of Dirt (seems humble enough), he must prove himself a “tuff guy” and earn respect from the citizens. I think plot wise, it is a good place to stop because going on, would give away most of the mystery surrounding what this movie is about. Let me just say, water and power play a key role in the mystery of the town of Dirt.
In my opinion, Johnny Depp can do possibly anything that comes his way. He knows how to take characters written on paper, or in this case drawn, and turn it into something unique.
To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It’s where he was born, where he eats and sleeps, and where he plays for hours every day with his beloved Ma. To Ma, Room is an 11-by-11 square-foot prison where she has been confined and sexually abused for the last seven years.
Emma Donoghue’s ninth novel, Room, introduces us to Jack and Ma in a strangely uplifting story of survival, hope, and love. Completely told from the viewpoint of Jack, we learn that Ma was abducted when she was 19 years old by a man they call “Old Nick.” After kidnapping her, he threw her into a windowless, soundproof shed in his backyard and locked the door. Two years into her captivity, and after trying every possible way of escaping, she gave birth to Jack.
If you glance through Room quickly, you might mistake it for a wannabe crime novel copied from today’s headlines. In actuality, Room focuses little on the crimes committed by “Old Nick.” Instead, it intricately examines the lives of Jack and Ma – how Ma protects Jack, and what they do to mentally and physically survive each day. Donoghue herself describes the story as being about, “the essence of confinement and captivity.”
Art is subjective. Yet when viewing a work, most of us are quick to formulate opinions that are either positive or negative, for or against. But how often do we stop ourselves in the midst of our own judgment and take time to consider the artist’s own point of view? How often do we try to climb inside their head and ask, “What is it they are trying to say with this piece?”
Many of us may dream about one day waking up, putting on a disguise, and completely walking away from life as we’ve known it. But take a quick second and consider the situation: could you actually do it? Could you throw on a wig and walk out the door without looking back? This is what Holly Hogan does in Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd.
Holly wakes up one day, decides she’s had enough, and hits the road in search of her old life.After spending some time in a home for troubled teens, Holly is sent to live in a foster home in England. Instead of embracing a new life in a new place, Holly is haunted by thoughts of her past. When she discovers a blond wig in the attic, Holly takes off in search of her mum in Ireland. A new wig means a new hairstyle, a new attitude, and a new life for Holly. She begins calling herself Solace and embarks on a journey with many ups and downs that almost cost Holly her life in the process.
As an outsider looking in on Holly’s situation, I started to wonder about Holly and why she so desperately wanted to find her “Mam” and return to her old life. If her life was so wonderful before, how did she end up in a place for troubled youth? The farther she treks on her journey, bits and pieces of Holly’s past life come to light, however, and soon we can see that everything wasn’t as wonderful as she remembers it, even if she can’t yet realize it herself.
As the 2011 Adult Winter Reading program came to a close, the Kansas City Public Library found its collective cup neither full, nor empty. It was gone altogether. By the time best-selling author Jasper Fforde brought the yearly program to a smashing finish before a crowd of 190 in Truman Forum at the Plaza Branch on Thursday, March 17, the 750 custom bistro mugs that the Library had been giving away as awards were all but vanished.
In the preceding weeks, the mugs had flown off circ desks faster than anyone had anticipated. Even before Winter Reading officially ended on March 13 (it had begun on January 10), the Public Affairs team had begun working up IOU's to hand out until more mugs could be ordered.
What else were we to do? For one thing - celebrate!
After 2010's mystery-centric "Readers in the Rue Morgue" theme, Readers' Services Manager Kaite Mediatore Stover and Public Affairs Communications Specialist Paul Smith decided to mix things up for 2011.
Derrick Barnes knows how to get guys to read. On a recent mid-February night, the lights of the midtown cityscape glimmered through the windows in the northwest corner of the Kansas City Public Library's Plaza Branch as Barnes, a local author, read for a small gathering of parents, teachers, librarians, and teens.
The story for the evening was a selection from Barnes' new novel, We Could Be Brothers, featuring two teenage boys, a father, and an errant pair of pants.
The protagonist, Robeson Battlefield, has brought his friend and classmate in the eighth grade, Pacino Clapton, home to meet his parents. Pacino has made the mistake of letting his jeans sag.
...Dad tapped Pacino on the chest twice. "No real man walks out of the house looking like a clown. You gotta know that. If for nobody else, wear the belt for you, Clapton."
Bam! Dad was laying it down hard.
Libraries have started grouping thrillers, action/adventure novels, and suspense together under one umbrella that we like to call “Adrenaline.” What do all these books share? The ability to get your blood pumping and to literally stop you from putting them down.
Here are some of the best adrenaline reads from the past year. Click the title links to see the items in our catalog, and, if you’re feeling adventurous, put one or two on hold.
They’re Watching by Gregg Hurwitz
What would you do if you found out you were being watched? When Patrick Davis starts to get DVD’s showing him inside his home, going about his day, he realizes that he is in serious trouble. And then he gets a phone call asking, “Are you ready to get started?” and that is when the fun really begins. This is one nonstop ride full of action and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing until the very end.
For this month’s Crafty Reads (a KC Unbound Blog series for people looking to take up new crafts and hobbies) we’ll be exploring the Kansas City Public Library’s resources for music performance and musical instruments. I’m pleased to report we have a good selection of materials!
By the Book
Now, first things first – what if you don’t already play an instrument, or perhaps you’re helping your child find an instrument to learn? You might want to check out Which Musical Instrument Shall I Play, which describes string, woodwind, brass, percussion, and keyboard instruments, and outlines their importance in the production of various types of music. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Musical Instruments: From All Eras and Regions of the World might also be a good place to start. You might also want to browse shelves in the 784.19 call number area at any Library location for general books on musical instruments.