Readers Scene

Army Navy 1944 program cover
Randy Roberts  A Team for America
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Monday, January 30, 2012

There are lots of college football rivalries. But the annual collision of Army and Navy is in a league of its own. Even for people who don’t follow either team during the fall, the season-capping Army-Navy game is a big deal.

Part of that is tradition. In the pre-Super Bowl era, the Army-Navy game was widely considered the most important football contest of the year.

Maybe it has to do with the fact that these are true amateurs playing for the love of the sport. Few graduates of Annapolis or West Point will go on to play professional football after completion of their military service.

Instead they’re playing for tradition and honor and inter-service bragging rights – and the fans appreciate that.

Meet the Past Edgar Snow
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Friday, January 27, 2012

What does Star Trek have to do with Kansas City journalist Edgar Snow, let alone Richard Nixon’s 1972 visit to the People’s Republic of China to meet with Mao Tse-Tung?

Randy Roberts A Team for America
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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

In his new book A Team for America: The Army-Navy Game that Rallied a Nation, historian Randy Roberts talks about the pivotal 1944 football game that came to symbolize national pride in a time of war.

Wendell Potter portrait
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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Wendell Potter has good news and bad news. The bad news, according to him, is that health care in America is sick. Life expectancy and infant mortality rates here are lower than in some Third World countries. People die because they can’t get insurance – upwards of 45,000 a year.

Justice Stephen Breyer
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Friday, December 9, 2011

This past Thursday at the Plaza Branch, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer stood before a crowd of nearly 700 people and made a strong case for civic literacy in the face of cynicism.

Just One Catch book cover
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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Joseph Heller was lying in bed in his four-room apartment on the West Side of Manhattan, New York, when suddenly it came to him: It was love at first sight. The first time he saw the chaplain, Someone fell madly in love with him.

The next morning, Heller went to work at the Madison Avenue ad agency where he was a copywriter and wrote, in longhand, the first chapter of what would become his masterpiece.

“Before the end of the week I had typed it out and sent it to Candida Donadio, my agent,” Heller recalled in a 1974 interview with George Plimpton. “One year later, after much planning, I began chapter two.”

That was 1953. Over the next eight years, in what would prove a laborious, agonizing, and, in retrospect, appropriately postmodern, process, Heller began birthing a book titled Catch-18. Working from a series of index cards, Heller crafted a nonlinear, looping, hilarious, and irreverent fictional narrative based on his career as a B-25 bombardier in World War Two.

As Donadio began shopping the manuscript, many editors found it incomprehensible.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

We all know Emma Lazarus for giving voice to the Statue of Liberty through her sonnet "The New Colossus" (Give me your tired, your poor). But as Esther Schor shows in her enthralling biography of Lazarus, she was a feminist, a Zionist and an internationally famous Jewish-American writer – before those categories even existed.

Benton illustration
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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

One of the greatest artistic collaborations in Missouri history is on display right now at the Central Library. Our exhibit Mark Twain and Tom Benton: Pictures, Prose, and Song features illustrations Benton made for three limited edition Twain novels, along with lithographs by Benton, a record album, first edition Twain books, and portraits of both men.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

In his new book, Genius of Place, biographer Justin Martin says that Frederick Law Olmsted “may well be the most important American historical figure that the average person knows least about.”

If the average person, indeed, knows him at all, it’s most likely for Olmsted’s famous design of New York’s Central Park or possibly the U.S. Capitol Grounds. But as Martin, a former Kansas Citian, shows, there was a lot more to Olmsted than his green grounds.

“Fred-Law” (as his family sometimes called him) was born in Hartford, Conn., in 1822 – a time when Missouri was the westernmost state and middle names were fairly uncommon. The first three decades of his life would take him through a series of wildly divergent and fascinating careers before he more or less fell into the role of America’s premier landscape architect.

This Wednesday, September 7, 2011, at the Central Library, Martin returns to Kansas City to discuss not only Olmsted’s impact on the urban American landscape (and, by extension, its psyche) but also Olmsted’s other lives – as sailor, farmer, journalist, abolitionist, Civil War medic in an early version of the Red Cross, environmentalist, and, above all, reformer. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. following a 6 p.m. reception. RSVP now.

Scarlett O'Hara
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Monday, August 29, 2011

What do you call one part Southern Comfort, three parts cranberry juice, and a squeeze of lime shaken and served up in a martini glass? Answer: a bibulous good time for a bibliophile like yourself at the Kansas City Public Library this Tuesday night.

The name of the cocktail described above is the Scarlett O’Hara. It was invented by a post-Prohibition New York liquor distributor to boost sales by capitalizing on the mass popularity of Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 blockbuster novel.

The drink, like its namesake heroine, appealed to a deep-seated American nostalgia for a quainter, simpler, more genteel Old South – the antebellum land of plantations, moonlight, and magnolias, far away from the technological clatter and urban nightmares up North.

It was, unfortunately, also a South filled with reprehensible ethnic stereotypes.

In her new book, Dreaming of Dixie: How the South Was Created in American Popular Culture, University of North Carolina – Charlotte historian Karen L. Cox argues that pervading American conceptions of the South were framed by those who did not live there, i.e. white Americans of the East Coast.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Screwballs or doosras? Pitchers or bowlers? Hot dogs and beer or cucumber sandwiches and tea? The strangely parallel worlds of baseball and cricket needn’t be mutually exclusive.

Astonish your school by grabbing a Tom Sawyer e-book.
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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Kansas City Public Library is bringing back The Big Read this year, and you needn’t plunk down cash to buy in. You can download e-book versions of this year’s selection, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain from the Library’s website to keep and use on your e-reader free of charge. 

For the fourth year, the Library has been awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to help fund a series of public programs to get everyone reading and talking about the same book. This year’s Big Read selection hits closer to home than ever before.

In fact, it’s going to be hard to escape the sounds of Sawyer this fall in Kansas City. One of the first productions in the brand-new, gush-worthy Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts will be the world premiere of Tom Sawyer – A Ballet in Three Acts, performed by Kansas City Ballet. As a special treat for our community of readers, the Library is partnering with KC Ballet to bring patrons a preview of the production, featuring Tony-winning composer Maury Yeston. Other Big Read events – including a visit from Autobiography of Mark Twain Vol. 1 editor Robert Hirst – will be announced soon.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Three years ago, Blendtec CEO Tom Dickinson came up with a simple but highly effective means of advertising his product online to millions of people without spending millions of dollars. The secret formula: Household Object + High-end Blender = Supreme Entertainment for the Folks Online.

Bruce Roach
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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

For a while there, it looked as if Birnam Wood would not come to Southmoreland Park, toil and trouble would not bubble in view of the Nelson-Atkins’ shuttlecocks, and cries of “Out, damned spot!” would not sound across midtown Kansas City.

But thanks to a tempest of support from the community, the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival was able to raise needed funds, and this year’s production of Macbeth will run from June 14 through July 3. It was just over a month ago that the Festival’s organizers announced they would need to raise $100,000 to keep the 19th season afloat. Luckily, the ducats came rolling in, and the show will go on.

That’s good news for the Kansas City Public Library, too. Not only are we fans of the Festival – which always brings veteran actors to top-notch productions of the Bard’s works – we’re also proud to host an annual Shakespeare lecture series that’s free and open to the community. In its 11th year, the series brings extra context and insight to the plays staged in the heart of our city.

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Monday, June 6, 2011

Andrei Codrescu has always been interested in the ways stories are told. As a poet, essayist, novelist, and founder of the avant-garde journal Exquisite Corpse – not to mention his hilarious NPR commentaries – Codrescu has made a name for himself as a master at both creating and exploding narrative forms.

On Thursday, June 2, 2011, Codrescu visits the Plaza Branch of the Kansas City Public Library to discuss his newest novel, a smart, dizzingly adventurous, and hysterical retelling of the Arabian Nights – Whatever Gets You Through the Night: A Story of Sheherezade and the Arabian Entertainments. (Please RSVP if you wish to attend this free event.)

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