Lagniappe

stories-of-your-life

The 2017 Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday night, February 26thElectric Lit has a list of the nominated movies that are based on books. Be sure to also see the Electric Lit article on the best 2016 literary adaptations for both movies and TV here.

— — — — —

A recent article in The Washington Post questions many of the prevalent ideas about how to read faster.  In fact, the article suggests that we “ignore the rules of the speed-reading gurus.”

— — — — —

the-novel-of-the-century

David Bellos, who specializes in translating French language books into English, recently completed a book about the history of Victor Hugo’s 1,500 pages masterpiece Les MisérablesA Guardian article tells us about Bellos’ book, and about the life of Hugo.  Bellos’ book will be available in the United States on March 21, 2017.

— — — — —

Flavorwire has an ongoing series that you might enjoy.  It’s called “The Sweetest Debut,” and it is made up of  interview with authors about their debut (or near-debut) books and about their lives.  You will find the articles in the series here.

— — — — —

Five Books bills itself as the site that has “the best books on  everything.”  I can’t disagree with that.  Explore the site and you’ll find something that interests you.  Go to the site, scroll down the home page, and you’ll find many, many categories of books that are recommended.  Each category features an interview with a notable person who offers five books on the chosen subject.  Many of the categories have numerous interviews based on multiple aspects of that category.  For instance, click on “Theatre,” and you’ll find articles about the best plays of Shakespeare, the best books about Broadway, the best books about twentieth century theatre, and the best books about opera.  It’s a wonderful site to explore, but it’s addictive!

— — — — —

On Sunday morning, February 5, 2017 I will host Music on the Sunny Side from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. CT on WBRH public radio (90.3 FM in the Baton Rouge area).  WBRH is also available on the internet at wbrh.org.  Most of the music is from the Big Band era, but some is much more current.  Highlights will include Glenn Miller and his orchestra “live” with five numbers that have the word “blue” in their titles, an edition of G. I. Jive with guest host Ann Rutherford, two versions of Duke Ellington’s “Concerto for Cootie,” The Camel Caravan radio show with Benny Goodman and his orchestra (from November 18, 1939) with special guest Mildred Bailey (a.k.a. Mrs. Swing), three numbers featuring Bob Hope and some of his friends, and the delightful “Johnny Be Fair” featuring Buffy Sainte-Marie.  Some of the very talented musicians and singers featured on the show include Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grapelli, Fats Waller, Doris Day, Renee Olstead, Les Brown, Al Hirt, Al Martino, Jerry Vale, Irene Daye, Patti Page, Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey, Bert Kaempfert, Nat “King” Cole, and Tony Bennett.

Fritz McCameron, a retired professor from LSU, hosts the show every Sunday except for the first Sunday of each month.  Fritz is a walking encyclopedia concerning music – especially Big Band music.  You can comment on any of the shows or make requests by calling us at 225-388-9030.

— — — — —

The next edition of the live author interview program In-Depth on Book TV (C-SPAN2) will air Sunday, February 5, 2017 from noon to 3:00 p.m. ET.  The featured guest will be author and political commentator Nick Adams.  His books include Green Card Warrior: My Quest for Legal Immigration in an Illegals’ System and Retaking America: Crushing Political Correctness.

Posted in Books, Movies | Leave a comment

Did You Know . . . ?

Kurt Vonnegut was a masters student in anthropology on the G.I. bill at the University of Chicago after World War II.  He completed his course work and proposed a subject for his thesis, but it was turned down.  He proposed another, and it was turned down as well.  In 1971 he finally received his master’s degree – for his book Cat’s Cradle.  Read this to see how it happened.

You have to wonder if Vonnegut would have become a writer if he had obtained his master’s degree as  scheduled.

— — — — —

hamilton

The hit Broadway musical Hamilton was inspired by Ron Chernow’s nonfiction book Alexander Hamilton.

— — — — —

Aldous Huxley, the British writer best known for the 1932 novel Brave New World, collaborated with others on a number of movie scripts including Pride and Prejudice (1940), Madame Curie (1943), and Jane Eyre (1944).  Huxley died from cancer in Los Angeles, California on November 22, 1963 – the same day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

— — — — —

Thomas Lanier “Tennessee” Williams III was born in Columbus, Mississippi, died in New York City, and is buried in St. Louis, Missouri.  He left his literary rights to The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee in honor of his grandfather, Walter Dakin, who graduated from there.

— — — — —

Fay Weldon, an established author, was paid £18,000 in return for her promise to mention the jeweler Bulgari at least 12 times in one of her novels  The Bulgari Connection, published in 2001, mentions the jeweler 34 times.    Many writers protested what The Guardian labeled a “Faustian pact with commerce” in return for monetary enrichment. Weldon was unapologetic.

— — — — —

Writer Truman Capote and Joanne Carson, who was once married to The Tonight Show host Johnny Carson, were close friends.  In fact, Capote died at her mansion in Bel-Air in 1984 at the age of 59.  She kept Capote’s ashes in a carved wooden Japanese box because it made her feel close to him.  She died last year and Capote’s ashes were recently sold at auction in Los Angeles to an anonymous buyer for $42,750. The clothes he was wearing when he died sold for $6,400, and a collection of his prescription pill bottles sold for a total of $9,280. I promise, I didn’t make this up.

— — — — —

the-robe

Lloyd C. Douglas was a minister until age 52.  At that point he left the ministry to write religion-themed novels full time.  He was quite successful, and received many letters from fans each week.  One letter, from a woman named Hazel McCann, asked Douglas what he thought had happened to Jesus’ robe after His death on the cross.  Douglas found the idea intriguing, and eventually wrote his bestseller The Robe based on his answer to McCann’s question.  If you look at the dedication page in the book, you will find that The Robe is dedicated to Hazel McCann.

— — — — —

According to the book  Now I Know red-headed sperm donors are not very popular because women don’t want their children to have fathers with red hair.  In the book Orphan Train, a novel based on facts, the red-headed New York City orphans who (along with other children) were taken to the west in the early part of the twentieth century in hopes that someone would adopt them, were seldom adopted, so they were returned to their orphanages.

— — — — —

When author Thomas Hardy died in 1928 it was assumed by his second wife, Florence, that he would be buried in Stinsford parish churchyard in Dorchester, Dorset, England beneath the tombstone of his first wife, Emma.  In fact, he had left room for his name to be added to the tombstone.  However, many including J. M. Barre wanted him to be buried in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey.  Florence decided that his heart would be buried in Stinsford parish churchyard while his ashes would be buried in Poets’ Corner.  Consequently, Hardy literally had two funerals.

— — — — —

We find typographic errors in books all the time, but what are the consequences if they occur in the publication of a Bible?  What if, for instance, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” should be published as, “Thou shalt commit adultery”?  Could this ever happen?  Yes, it has happened a number of times with varying consequences for the printer.

The above mistake was made in a Bible printed by the printing firm of Barker and Lewis in England in 1631.  The fact that they were the king’s printers did not save them from a £300 fine which put them out of business.  This Bible became known as “The Wicked Bible.”

In 1653 a Bible printed in England contained this statement from 1 Corinthians: Know ye not that the unrighteous shall inherit the Kingdom of God?”  That Bible became known as “The Unrighteous Bible.”

You can read about other Bible bloopers here.

Posted in Books | Leave a comment

Quiz of the Month – January 2017

This quiz will test your knowledge of books that have been made into movies and your knowledge of the actors who played in the movie adaptations.  In each case I will list a character followed by the book (and its author) in which the character appears.  We will begin with a few simple examples.  As always, you will find the answers on the Quiz Answers page.

  1. Rhett Butler in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind
  2. Dorothy in L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
  3. Yuri Zhivago  in Boris Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago
  4. Sam Spade in Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon
  5. McMurphy in Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  6. Scarlett O’Hara in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone  with the Wind
  7. Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams’ play A Streetcar Named Desire
  8. The Cowardly Lion in L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
  9. Benjamin Braddock in Charles Webb’s The Graduate
  10. Celie in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple
  11. Michael Corleone in Mario Puzzo’s The Godfather
  12.  Hermione Granger in J. K.  Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone)
  13. Forrest Gump in Winston Groom’s Forrest Gump
  14. Princess Buttercup in William Goldman’s The Princess Bride
  15. Aibileen Clark in Kathryn Stockett’s The Help
  16. Katniss Everdeen in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games
  17. Tom Joad in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath
  18. John Hammond in Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park
  19. Lora Meredith in Fannie Hurst’s Imitation of Life (1959)
  20. Sophie Zawistowska in William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice
Posted in Books, Movies, Quizzes | Leave a comment

Talking About Books . . .

words-on-the-move

John McWhorter, a professor at Columbia University, is one of the most knowledgeable people you will ever run across when it comes to talking about the English language.  He recently discussed his latest book, Words on the Move, on Book TV.  Some may find the language a bit offensive at times, but his talk is worth hearing.

— — — — —

“Don’t quit your day job” is a common expression that even applies to the authors of bestsellers.  The article you are about to read begins with the story of a well-known author who, though wildly popular, didn’t have enough money to pay her rent.

— — — — —

osccar-wao

There has long been talk about “the great American novel,” but we can’t seem to agree on which novel is the great American novel – or even if it has been written yet.  Literary Hub includes some of the contenders in a recent article.  The comments after the novel lead me to believe that we will never agree on a single novel that is the greatest.

— — — — —

difficult-women

Looking for some good books to read this year?  There are many lists, but you will find that some books appear on almost every list.  Below are the names of the publications that feature some of the many lists that you might consult for reading recommendations.

— — — — —

Just for the fun of it, ask a librarian at your local library if he/she has ever been surprised by what was found in a just-returned book.  I doubt that the answer could be more interesting (or strange) than those in a recent Tin House article.

Posted in Books | Leave a comment

Superaging

The New York Times recently ran an article titled “How to Become a ‘Superager.’”  It was written by Lisa Feldman Barrett who is a psychology professor at Northeastern University.  Barrett contends that “superagers” are those who continually push their bodies and minds to their limits – regardless of the discomfort that may occur.  “This means,” she says, “that pleasant puzzles like Sudoku are not enough to provide the benefits of superaging.  Neither are the popular diversions of various ‘brain game’ websites.  You must expend enough effort that you feel some ‘yuck.’  Do it until it hurts, and then a bit more.”  She urges us to, “make a New Year’s resolution to take up a challenging activity.  Learn a foreign language. Take an online college course.  Master a musical instrument.  Make it a year to remember.”

I think Barrett has a point.  In addition to reading books that challenge you, try learning about classical music or opera – music that might takes you way out of your comfort zone.  I also encourage you to read about music, and to learn about the fundamentals of music theory.  That’s right, music theory.  For example “Music and the Brain” from The Great Courses will fascinate you while exposing you to facts about music that most certainly never occurred to you.  The lecturer, professor Aniruddh D. Patel, talks about one fascinating study after another, and is never boring – though he will challenge you at times.

But what music should you listen to if you’re new to classical music?  Well, each year WQXR, one of the greatest classical music stations in the United States, counts down a list of the 100  classical selections that are most often requested by the station’s listeners.  You can use that, if you like, as a starting point for choosing what you might listen to and learn about.  You can find the entire list at the WQXR website.  I’ll list the top 20 selections for 2016 just to get you started.

  1. Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125 “Choral”
  2. Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67
  3. Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, “From the New World”
  4. Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92
  5. Beethoven: Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68 “Pastoral”
  6. Holst: The Planets
  7. J.S. Bach: Brandenburg Concertos
  8. Mahler: Symphony No. 2 in C Minor, “Resurrection”
  9. Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18
  10. Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-Flat Major, Op. 73, “Emperor”
  11. Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 in E-Flat Major, Op. 55 “Eroica”
  12. Mozart: Requiem Mass in D Minor, K. 626
  13. Sibelius: Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 43
  14. Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D, “The Titan”
  15. Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue
  16. Copland: Appalachian Spring
  17. J.S. Bach: Goldberg Variations
  18. Handel: Water Music
  19. Faure: Requiem, Op. 48
  20. Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61

I have a copy of the lists going back to 2010, and every one has Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 as WQXR’s most requested piece of classical music.  And to think that it was composed by a man who had been totally deaf for many years.  Notice, too, that the list includes Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, and George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (two of my favorites that are quite accessible). Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9, “From the New World,” and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 also appear near the top of WQXR’s list each year.

Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 is one of the most beautiful pieces of music you will ever hear.  And each time I hear it,  I remember that it almost didn’t exist.  Rachmaninoff found himself unable to compose at one point in his life (something similar to writer’s block).  He was so distraught that he consulted a physician for help.  The physician finally convinced him to keep trying, assuring him that his ability was still there.  The result was this gorgeous piano concerto.  That music is a reminder that we must never give up.  The best (and that was his best as far as I am concerned) may be ahead of us, but just barely out of sight.

Another type of music that will stretch your mind is opera.  And one of the best ways to learn about opera is by listening to the Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts from New York City.  They can be heard on the radio and over the internet every Saturday from December through May.  In fact, the Saturday Matinee on January 14, 2017 will feature the work that I recommend to opera neophytes: Giacomo Puccini’s La bohème.  You can learn a lot about this opera from the Wikipedia article about it.  You can also learn about it and the other operas presented by the Met at the Met Opera website.  There, you will also see that live radio broadcasts of evening performances are available live (and free) approximately once a week during the Met season.  Live Met operas as well as operas from the Met’s vast archives are also available 24/7 if you have Sirius XM satellite radio.  And finally, Met performances are now available in theaters throughout the United States a few times each year.  It’s the next best thing to actually attending a performance at one of the greatest opera houses in the world.

WQXR, which I mentioned above, also has an opera channel that presents highlights from the world’s great operas all day every day.  Those highlights are a great way to become familiar with opera.

I’ve given  you a few ideas about how to become a superager.  The rest is up to you, so get busy, and don’t give up.

Posted in Books, Music | Leave a comment

Lagniappe

There are lots of lists of the best books of 2016.  Here are a few of them:

  • Publishers Weekly offers their top 10 and the best of children’s books (broken down into picture books, middle grade books and young adult books)
  • The Washington Post lists it top 10 books of 2016, and then (at the bottom of the list) adds lists of the best in various categories including fiction, nonfiction, audio books (with audio previews), thriller & mysteries, science fiction & fantasy, poetry, graphic novels, and more.
  • The editors and writers at The Atlantic provide a list of the best books they read in 2016 – “new, classic, or somewhere in between”
  • The Guardian has a list of hidden gems of 2016 that you may have missed
  • And just in case you need a few more recommendations, Goodreads lists the best 1,154 books of 2016

— — — — —

The BBC showcases seven European bestsellers you should read in 2017.

— — — — —

Literary Hub questioned some book-related podcasters about their favorite books of 2016 and what they’re looking forward to in 2017.  If nothing else, this article will give you a huge list of podcasts about books.

— — — — —

How well do you know your Victorian novels?  The Oxford University Press blog offers you a chance to find out by presenting eight quotes from novels of that era with multiple choice answers.  Easy, right?  Well, take the test, receive your grade, and then answer my question.

— — — — —

The next edition of the live author interview program In-Depth on Book TV (C-SPAN2) will air Sunday, January 1, 2017 from noon to 3:00 p.m. ET.  The entire program will consist of a discussion about the presidency of Barack Obama by authors April Ryan, Eddie Glaude, and David Maraniss.

Posted in Books | Leave a comment

Talking About Books . . .

coffee-mug

Imagine that you’re having coffee with a friend.  Your friend begins to talk and you place your coffee mug on the table with the above message facing him/her.  That might well end the conversation.  BuzzFeed has 21 gifts that only grammar nerds will get.  Note: a few are a bit crude.

— — — — —

Great writers are not necessarily nice people.  Take Vladimir Nabokov for instance.

— — — — —

handmaids-tale

I think reading helps to keep your mind sharp, but I think we get the maximum mental benefits when we challenge ourselves by getting out of our comfort zones – by reading books from genres that are unfamiliar or daunting.  Here is an article about 30 books from different genres that might expand your mind a bit, and mark you as a well-read person.

Speaking of books of different genres, check out NPR’s best books of 2016 here.

— — — — —

The Library of Congress is probably the best known repository of books in the world, but it also has other functions as well.  One is that it is also The National Film Registry which has the duty to “recognize culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” films.  Twenty-five films were added this year bringing the total of recognized films to 700.  You can read about the 25 newly added films here.  You can browse a list of all 700 films, and get descriptions and essays about them here.

— — — — —

mister-monkey

The Wall Street Journal has an article that highlights books that well-known people read in 2016.  Click on the images in the article to find out more about the books.

— — — — —

Do you play music while reading?  If so, does it help or hurt your ability to concentrate on what you’re reading?  An article in The Atlantic indicates that music generally interferes with our comprehension of what we’re reading.

The Atlantic article mentions “Google Scholar.”  If you’re interested in serious research articles, you should check it out.  A Wikipedia entry explains what it is and what it can do for you.

— — — — —

And now for a little lagniappe: Mashable gives you a list (with links) to 30 podcasts that will help you get through the holidays.  To see the list, scroll to the bottom of the screen, and click on “CONTINUE READING.” The final podcast, Sampler, is a podcast about podcasts.    Happy Holidays!

Posted in Books | Leave a comment