The Flip Side of Funny

Public Speaking

Two recent documentaries show the tragic side of comedy through comedienne Joan Rivers and literary wit Fran Lebowitz.

"Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work" is an intimate look at a comedienne in decline. The documentary doesn't follow her career chronologically, but rather shows the peaks and the valleys in the life of a stand-up comic. There was a lot to overcome in her personal life as well as breaking new ground on the comedy scene and holding her own on late night talk shows. "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work" is for fans of the comedienne and will likely inspire new appreciation of her chutzpah. Surprisingly, the tears outnumber the laughs.

Nothing is Private

A friend of a friend--that is, a complete stranger--posted a comment on my Facebook wall. In French. I never studied French and can't even fake it. Nonetheless, my curiosity was piqued. I highlighted the phrase and held down Ctrl then typed C on my keyboard. From the SLCL homepage, I clicked on the link to Research and then clicked on the link to Language & Multinational databases. The Mango Languages database, I recalled, has a translation tool. It pops up as a tab after Start Learning is clicked. With Mango, users can choose from 42 "source" languages for a translation into one of 54 "target" languages. I chose French from a dropdown menu as the source language. I then chose English as the translated target language.

Family Vacations Made Easy

500 Places to Take Your Kids Before They Grow Up

 

Remember the days when you and your partner would throw together a suitcase, hop in the car, and drive off on a whim for a little unplanned weekend getaway? Or that wine-addled backpacking adventure through Italy that you shared years ago? All that was before the kids, and let's face it, traveling with kids lacks the glamour that it did in pre-parenthood days. But don't worry--travel with children can be fun, it just requires a different approach... and a lot more preparation.  

The Three Richards

The Three Richards: Richard I, Richard II and Richard III

The Three Richards:  Richard I, Richard II and Richard III by Nigel Saul.

On first glance, the title of this book would leave the reader wondering how three English kings, each separated by decades from the next and of different dynasties, could be combined into one book based solely on their names; it would be akin to a book linking James Madison, James Buchanan, and Jimmy Carter, yet Nigel Saul compiles enough information to pull it off. The author describes ruling styles, religious tendencies, and even similarities with their deaths to link all three. From internal disputes and challenges to the throne to efforts at launching crusades, the book ties three seemingly unrelated historical figures into one narrative that makes the reader appreciate the work done to tell the stories of these three kings of England. 

Was 2011 A Bad Year for Fiction?

The Pale King by David Foster Wallace

 

The Pulitzer board announced on Monday that, for the first time since 1977, there would be no award for fiction this year. The jury for the fiction prize selected three finalists for the 2011 award out of a group of roughly 300 novels. But the board failed to get a majority vote for any of the three selections. Jury members interviewed insist that this does not reflect poorly on the novels selected. What do you think? The three finalists are:

"Train Dreams" by Denis Johnson is a novella about a day railroad laborer in the American West at the start of the twentieth century. Johnson won the National Book Award in 2007 for his novel "Tree of Smoke."

The Poet for Poetry Haters

The Poet for Poetry Haters

Billy Collins is the poetic everyman. He writes poems about lingerie catalogs coming in the mail or deciding not to own a gun because his neighbor's dog won't stop barking. In spite being one of the most acclaimed living poets, he is easy to like, understand, and enormously funny. He doesn't pen metaphors about mending walls or snowy woods, or compare body parts to nature like Byron or Song of Solomon. Collins' poems make you chuckle or make you muse, but won't frustrate you.

The poem "Revenant," is written from the perspective of his dead dog. Here is an excerpt:

Unpredictable Destiny

Unpredictable Destiny

 

Author Candice Millard was working on a book about Alexander Graham Bell when she found a fascinating connection between Bell and President James Garfield. Garfield, as you know, was shot soon after his inauguration and died in office. What you may not have known was how Garfield suffered in the weeks after being shot and how his medical treatment may have contributed to his demise.

Destiny of the Republic : a tale of madness, medicine and the murder of a president  by Candice Millard is a very good book about the little known president. Each chapter begins with a quotation from Garfield, which gives a glimpse of his erudition. One can't help but wonder what Garfield's presidential legacy might have been had not a deranged crackpot assassinated him.

Missouri Harvest

Missouri Harvest

The local food movement has exploded in recent years, and St. Louis has jumped on board this trend in a big way. Farmer's markets featuring everything from organic produce to cage-free eggs to local honey are weekly events in most St. Louis neighborhoods, and stores like Local Harvest in South City sell products made or produced locally. On April 16, the library will host the authors of "Missouri Harvest," a new book showcasing Missouri's agricultural diversity. The book is part travel guide, taking readers on a tour of Missouri's farms, and part cook book, providing recipies on how to prepare the great bounty of our state. "Missouri Harvest" is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in eating and shopping locally. Watch the book trailer below, and meet the authors at Library HQ on April 16 at 7:00 p.m.

 

 

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