A conversation with Alfred Corn, poet of WWI

Mon, 07/28/2014 - 8:01am

July 28 marks the 100th anniversary of World War I. The military and political consequences of the Great War will be told and retold throughout the week. Therefore, I've decided to focus on the great poets of World War I through an interview with Alfred Corn, a poet equally well-recognized in both America and in the U.K.

Alfred, here's a question for beginners: who are the great WWI poets?
The category of First World War poet is at its narrowest if the requirements are these: you fought as a soldier and wrote about that experience. This would include British poets Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Isaac Rosenberg, Robert Graves, Rupert Brooke, and Edward Thomas, though only a few of Thomas's poems refer to the war and never describe combat. Surely those are the best war poets, and as you know four of them died during the conflict. There are Canadian, Australian, French, German, and American war poets, but those are not much read now. The American group is especially small because the USA didn't come into the war until 1917. But Alan Seeger, who was in France when war broke out, joined the French Foreign Legion and served the entire four years. His work is regarded as old-fashioned and high-flown, but "I Have a Rendezvous with Death" was reputedly John F. Kennedy's favorite poem.

Actually, poems about what is sometimes called "the Great War" continued to be written for decades after the fact, by poets who were not contemporaries of the event. The best-known example is Philip Larkin's "MCMXIV," with the famous lines "Never such innocence,/Never before or since."

How have the WWI poets influenced succeeding generations?
That could be the subject of a five-hundred-page dissertation, Jonathan, and probably has been. I'm not a professional scholar, but my sense is the inclusion of horrors in Owen's, Sassoon's and Rosenberg's work set the precedent for a poetry that departed from sweetness and light, instead confronting what was ugly and vile in human experience. The sense of rage and futility left by a conflict that butchered millions in the cruelest way and for an undiscoverable purpose fostered a postwar mood of disaffection and gloom that we see echoed in a work like The Waste Land. Poetry written without meter and rhyme, in fragmented formats, became very common and has often been regarded as an emblem of postwar hostility to the discredited traditional order.

Is there any more we can learn from them?
Yes. Human beings forget, and we can't be reminded too often how unbelievably horrible modern warfare is, with its explosives and machine-made carnage. The war poets haven't lost the power to shock. Owen repays study, with his careful control of tone and irony and the innovation of consonantal rhyme (the rhyming of consonants but not vowels). For example, from "Strange Meeting":

I mean the truth untold,
The pity of war, the pity war distilled.
Now men will go content with what we spoiled.
Or, discontent, boil bloody, and be spilled.

Which of these poets had the most interesting personal life?
Depends on what you find interesting. Rupert Brooke was the best-looking, with the result that dozens of people, women and men, fell in love with him. And he traveled extensively before the war, going to the South Seas and the Continent. He knew notables of his day like Virginia Woolf and Winston Churchill.

We haven't mentioned three important avant-garde WWI poets: Guillaume Apollinaire, Andre Breton and Tristan Tzara. The first two poets served in the war.
Yes, Apollinaire and Breton did fight, and Apollinaire received a head wound that he never fully recovered from. The flu epidemic finally carried him off. His best work was already done before 1914, but there are a handful of war subjects, what you might call love poems from the trenches. Some of these ascribe aesthetic aspects to warfare, for example, nocturnal explosions are figured as a kind if flowering. He doesn't dwell on the horror. As for Breton, he was unconcerned with subject matter in the usual sense, so none of his poems qualify as war poems, though it's possible to think of his postwar =Surre'alisme= as being inflected by PTSD; for example, when he says, "Beauty will be convulsive or will not be." Tzara, again, wasn't much concerned with topics in poetry but instead provocation, a gestural absurdism. He was contemporary with the First War but not interested in it.

Which WWI poems do you enjoy the most?
"Enjoy" isn't the word I would use, because more often than not they stir up painful feelings. I'm gripped by, taught by, and admire Rosenberg's "Dead Man's Dump," which includes hideous lines like

The wheels lurched over sprawled dead
But pained them not, though their bones crunched....

Or Sassoon's "Attack," which concludes this way:

They leave their trenches, going over the top,
While time ticks blank and busy on their wrists,
And hope, with furtive eyes and grappling fists,
Flounders in mud. O Jesus, make it stop!

But all in all, I'd say Owen's poems are the best, approaching the subject from so many angles and typically with great technical skill. "Dulce et decorum est," "Strange Meeting," "Anthem for Doomed Youth," "The Parable of the Old Men and the Young," "Mental Cases." And many others. You may know that Benjamin Britten used Owen's poems in his great orchestral and choral work War Requiem. I will begin my commemoration of the centenary by listening to it again. Particularly effective is his setting of these lines from "Anthem for Doomed Youth":

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, -
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires."

article from the Huffington Post written by Jonathan Hobratsch

*Alfred Corn is the author of a new book entitled Unions. He has written over a dozen other books and is often anthologized.

*Jonathan Hobratsch is the poetry editor for the Literati Quarterly.

Do it! Write!

Mon, 07/28/2014 - 7:46am

"To anyone who wants to be in many places at once, write.

To everyone who doesn't think they're a "good writer," write.

To those wanting to connect to their soul and inner wisdom, write.

To all who have been saying they want to write more, write.

To you who loved writing years ago, write.

Write for yourself. Write for those who will benefit in what you value, believe and stand for because they need to feed the seeds of what they value, believe and stand for. Write for all who will finally understand they're not alone because of the way you uniquely string the words together.

Write for what you have no business in writing about but were born knowing.

Even if you never share it with anyone (though we wish you would), write to connect dots, to lighten the mood, to help ground and anchor, celebrate and/or birth your or someone else's aha. (Global happiness depends on each one of those ahas.)

Everything you put out there, regardless if one person or thousands experience it, sends energy into the world. You have the opportunity to send out a ship of positivity or negativity and decide which you believe will come back with the gold. If you stand for the former, again, in many ways it doesn't matter if you push post or get it published. The fact that you said it and took up that space in the world means the latter can't.

That said, next time you write someone or use the voice given to you to connect, inspire and motivate for something other than that, own it; own the energy you bring to the room.

I ask, if writing feeds you, why go hungry? Do it regardless of what the mind believes, do it to feed your soul. Your authentic voice, in full integrity and perfect imperfection is tied to your vitality, your very life force.

It helps you expand outside the box and what may feel like cubicle nation. It helps you forgive and fly. It creates space to feel more joy and connects you with your tribe. It also licks the fresh wound to heal it in record time.

In finding, then getting the words out, you go from wounded bird to wise warrior and it's in this very process that you also find a way to say what you really want to say when you finally get on that stage, have the difficult talk or respond (vs. react) to clients.

The medicine and elixir is always inside.

Finally, and maybe even most importantly, it helps you pass the torch of self-respect and expression to your kids, nieces and grandchildren who can't verbalize it, but want desperately to continue expressing themselves as they grow. They know how to do it beautifully now but as little humans grow to be bigger humans, sadly, they lose it.

To anyone and everyone that considers themselves on the path -- write. Write so that in stirring the soul, whether it lies inside you or someone else, you stir the mess into a type of soft serve or daring delight.

It's truly a sweet assignment."

Find inspiration to write by browsing your library catalog.

article from the Huffington Post writter by Michelle Ghilotti Mandel

Hey Amazon users! This one is for you!

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 9:57am

Library Extension The #1 Browser Extension that let's you instantly see book and e-book availability from Calcasieu Parish Public Liibrary on your favorite book shopping sites. 

NOTE: The Library Extension currently only works with Google's Chrome web browser.

Download it from http://www.google.com/chrome today!


If you've ever wanted to see whether a book is available at your local library while you browse for books on Amazon.com, then Library Extension is for you!

As you browse book and e-book titles on Amazon.com, the Library Extension checks your library's online catalog and displays the availability of that title on the same page. If the book is available at your library, you'll know instantly, with a quick, convenient link reserve the title at your library!



Once you've installed the extension, choose your local library from the comprehensive list of supported libraries. Yes! Calcasieu Parish Public Library is supported.

Immediately begin to browse Amazon and see if the books and e-books are available from Calcasieu Parish Public Library.

Celebrating the life of Thomas Berger

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 8:48am

NEW YORK (AP) — Thomas Berger, the witty and eclectic novelist who reimagined the American West in the historical yarn "Little Big Man" and mastered genres ranging from detective stories to domestic farce, has died at age 89.

Berger's literary agent, Cristina Concepcion, said Monday that he died in Nyack Hospital on July 13, just days before his 90th birthday. He had been in failing health, Concepcion said. One of the last major authors to have served in World War II, Berger wrote more than 20 books, including the autobiographical "Rinehart" series, a "Little Big Man" sequel and "The Feud," about warring families in a 1930s Midwest community. "The Feud" was recommended for the 1984 Pulitzer Prize by the fiction jury but was overruled by the board of directors, which awarded another Depression-era novel, William Kennedy's "Ironweed."

Berger's biggest mainstream success was "Little Big Man," published in 1964 and an ultra-wry tale of 111-year-old Jack Crabb, who alleges that he was abducted by Indians as a young boy and later fought with the Cherokees in the Battle of Little Big Horn. The novel was adapted into a 1970 movie of the same name, starring Dustin Hoffman and directed by Arthur Penn. A leading American Indian writer, Sherman Alexie, would cite "Little Big Man" as an influence on his screenplay for the 1998 movie "Smoke Signals."

Other Berger novels made into films include "Neighbors," which starred John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, and "Meeting Evil," featuring Samuel L. Jackson and Luke Wilson.

Never as famous as such contemporaries and fellow veterans as Norman Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut, Berger became the kind of writer who made fans feel special just for knowing about him. Admirers regarded him as unique and underappreciated, a comic moralist equally attuned to the American past and present.

"Berger's books are accessible and funny and immerse you in the permanent strangeness of his language and attitude, perhaps best encapsulated by Berger's own self-definition as a 'voyeur of copulating words,'" Jonathan Lethem wrote in a 2012 essay. "He offers a book for every predilection: if you like westerns, there's his classic, 'Little Big Man'; so, too, has he written fables of suburban life ('Neighbors'), crime stories ('Meeting Evil'), fantasies, small-town 'back-fence' stories of Middle American life, and philosophical allegories ('Killing Time')."

Berger was born in Cincinnati, the son of a public school business manager and a housewife. He was a dreamer, seeking out new worlds on the nearest bookshelf. His favorite works included the legends of King Arthur and, since he was born close enough to the 19th century to hear firsthand accounts, histories of the Battle of Little Big Horn.

"Very early in life," he once said, "I discovered that for me reality was too often either dull or obnoxious, and while I did play all the popular games that employ a ball, lower hooks into the water, and, especially fire guns, I preferred the pleasure of the imagination to those of experience, and I read incessantly."

Berger served in the Army from 1943 to 1946 and used some of his experiences in Germany for his debut novel, "Crazy in Berlin." He was an undergraduate at the University of Cincinnati, then a graduate student at Columbia University, where he studied under the critic Lionel Trilling and attempted a book on George Orwell, a lasting influence.

Berger worked in libraries as a young man and for a variety of publications, from The New York Times Index to Popular Science Monthly. At a workshop at The New School for Social Research, Berger met such fellow students as Jack Kerouac, Mario Puzo and William Styron and a painter, Jeanne Redpath, who became his wife. He wrote short stories in his 20s but disliked the art form, believing he needed more space "to create my alternative reality."

"Little Big Man" was his third novel. As he told American Heritage magazine, he began the book in 1962 with "the intention of comprising in one man's personal story all the themes of the Old West that have since become legendary."

Jack Crabb was based on a fictional character, the blowhard Kit Carson in William Saroyan's play "The Time of Your Life."

"The book's appeal traces to two main currents: one, it's a tall tale in the great American tradition of Mark Twain, and, second, it's hip, modern and funny and anticipates appreciation and understanding of a vanished Indian culture by decades," the critic Allen Barra wrote for Salon.com in 2006.

In more recent novels, Berger satirized the frustrations of contemporary domestic life. In "Best Friends," he contrasted the overachieving Roy Courtright and the underachieving Sam Grandy, with Grandy's wife trapped in the middle. "The Houseguest" was a comic gangster story in which a thug ingratiates himself with a Long Island family, then keeps them hostage — at least they think he does. In "Adventures of the Artificial Woman," a technician unlucky in love constructs an ideal partner, only to have her leave him and become a movie star.

"I ... have never thought of my work as being funny except incidentally," Berger once said, disputing the idea that he was a comic novelist. "I write as I do because that's the way I instinctively look at things."

Library Copies

Article written by By Hillel Itale

Why Is It So Hard for Us to Do Nothing?

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 8:55am

image (Ella Cohen)
A new study shows that many people would rather get an electric shock than just sit and think

Doing nothing but thinking can be profound, but is it fun? 

It is summer time, and the living is easy. You can, at last, indulge in what is surely the most enjoyable of human activities—doing absolutely nothing. But is doing nothing really enjoyable? A new study in the journal Science shows that many people would rather get an electric shock than just sit and think.

Neuroscientists have inadvertently discovered a lot about doing nothing. In brain-imaging studies, people lie in a confined metal tube feeling bored as they wait for the actual experiment to start. Fortuitously, neuroscientists discovered that this tedium was associated with a distinctive pattern of brain activity. It turns out that when we do nothing, many parts of the brain that underpin complex kinds of thinking light up.

When people lie in a tube with nothing else to do, they reminisce, reliving events in the past ("Damn it, that guy was rude to me last week"), or they plan what they will do in the future ("I'll snub him next time"). And they fantasize: "Just imagine how crushed he would have been if I'd made that witty riposte."

Though we take this kind of daydreaming for granted, it is actually a particularly powerful kind of thinking. Much more than any other animal, we humans have evolved the ability to live in our own thoughts, detached from the demands of our immediate actions and experiences.

Descartes had his most important insights sitting alone in a closet-sized stove, the only warm spot during a wintry Dutch military campaign. When someone asked Newton how he discovered the law of gravity, he replied, "By thinking on it continually." Doing nothing but thinking can be profound.

But is it fun? Psychologist Tim Wilson of the University of Virginia and his colleagues asked college students to sit for 15 minutes in a plain room doing nothing but thinking. The researchers also asked them to record how well they concentrated and how much they enjoyed doing it. Most of the students reported that they couldn't concentrate; half of them actively disliked the experience.

Maybe that was because of what they thought about. "Rumination"—brooding on unpleasant experiences, like the guy who snubbed you—can lead to depression, even clinical depression. But the researchers found no difference based on whether people recorded positive or negative thoughts.

Maybe it was something about the sterile lab room. But the researchers also got students just to sit and think in their own homes, and they disliked it even more. In fact, 32% of the students reported that they cheated, with a sneak peek at a cellphone or just one quick text.

But that's because they were young whippersnappers with Twitter-rotted brains, right? Wrong. The researchers also did the experiment with a middle-aged church group, and the results were the same. Age, gender, personality, social-media use—nothing made much difference.

But did people really hate thinking that much? The researchers gave students a mild electric shock and asked if they would pay to avoid another. The students sensibly said that they would. The researchers then put them back in the room with nothing to do but also gave them the shock button.

Amazingly, many of them voluntarily shocked themselves rather than doing nothing. Not so amazingly (at least to this mother of boys who played hockey), there was a big sex difference. Sixty-seven percent of the men preferred a shock to doing nothing, but only 25% of the women did.

Newton and neuroscience suggest that just thinking can be very valuable. Why is it so hard? It is easy to blame the modern world, but 1,000 years ago, Buddhist monks had the same problem. Meditation has proved benefits, but it takes discipline, practice and effort. Our animal impulse to be up and doing, or at least up and checking email, is hard to resist, even in a long, hazy cricket-song dream of a summer day.


written by Alison Gopnik

A Conversation with Michael Connelly

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 8:02am

Library Copies

written by Mark Rubinstein, author of Mad Dog HouseLove Gone Mad and The Foot Soldier

"Michael Connelly's books have been translated into 36 languages and have won many awards. His best known crime fiction series features LAPD Detective Harry Bosch. His other hugely popular series features criminal defense attorney Mickey Haller. Michael has been a crime reporter, has written the Jack McEvoy series, stand-alone novels, many short stories, as well as non-fiction.

There's a fascinating story how at age 16 your interest in crime peaked. Tell us about that.

One night, I was driving my beat-up VW home from my job as a dishwasher and was stopped at a traffic signal. I saw a man running with something in his hand. As he passed a hedge, he shoved it into the hedge and kept going. When the light turned green, I made a U-turn, drove over to the hedge and pulled out a shirt wrapped around a gun. I put it back in the hedge. This was before cell phones, of course, so I walked to a gas station and called my father. Very soon, police cars with flashing lights descended on the area. I realized something had happened and flagged down a cop. I told him what I'd found and that I'd seen the guy run down the street and go into a bar. I became a partial witness to what had happened earlier, namely a man had attempted to hijack a car at gunpoint. His gun had gone off and the victim was shot.

The guy looked like a biker: he was big and had an unruly beard. There were a bunch of motorcycles parked in front of the bar. The police entered the place looking for a guy who fit my description. But all the guys in the place were big and had beards. The cops took them all to the police station. I spent most of the night looking at lineups, trying to identify the guy I'd only glimpsed for a few seconds. I was certain he'd gone in that bar and left through the back door. None of the men in the lineups were the one I saw.

The detective questioning me was a rough kind of guy. I could tell he didn't really believe me and thought I was a scared kid who was afraid of fingering somebody. It was frustrating--not being believed. The experience hooked me on the idea of learning more about detectives. From that night on, I found myself reading crime stories in newspapers. I began reading true crime books looking for that rough kind of detective--like the guy who questioned me.

I had been reading some mysteries my mother read, but she preferred the soft-boiled, cozy ones. So I began reading the hard-boiled stuff, which led me to loving the genre, and thinking I'd someday write this kind of stuff. That's how it all began.

Tell us about the influence Raymond Chandler played in your writing life.
At first, my interest in crime fiction was contemporary stuff. I avoided old mysteries, and never read Raymond Chandler's novels. His most recent novel at that time was twenty years old, and there was stuff going back forty years. That wasn't my cup of tea. So, I never read anything by Chandler, even as I was immersing myself in crime fiction.

When I was in college, there were dollar movie nights. I went to see The Long Goodbye, which was based on one of Chandler's books, but was contemporary and set in Los Angeles in 1973. I loved the movie which motivated me to read the book. As I read it, I realized it was set in the 50s, not the 70s. It was a great book. I read all his novels in about two weeks. I got over this dumb idea of only reading contemporary crime fiction. I not only read Raymond Chandler but read all the crime fiction classics. I was hooked. A light bulb went off and I knew what I wanted to do.

You've said that you and Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch share some similarities. What are they?
It depends on which Harry Bosch book you're reading. I've been so lucky to have written about him over a period of twenty years. When I first began with him, I didn't know if it would be published. So to make it interesting and fun, I wrote about a guy completely opposite of me. He's a smoker; I'm not. He's an orphan; I come from a big family. He's never been lucky in romance; I've been married for a long time.

I got lucky and the first book, The Black Echo, got published. I'm the luckiest writer on the planet: it's twenty years later and I'm still writing about this character. He's had to evolve, just like anybody would. In the process of his evolution, I started sharing more of myself with him, so he wasn't that different from me. It turns out he's left-handed, just like I am. He has a daughter who's the same age as mine. It's not only a sharing of these basic things, but Harry's come to a world view that I have. Yet, in some ways he's different from me. He's a reactionary guy. He's undaunted and relentless. He's out there solving murders and carrying a gun. That's quite different from me. But if he stepped back and looked at the larger world picture, I think we would have a very similar take.

In that first Harry Bosch novel, The Black Echo, Harry is haunted by his Vietnam experience. What made you choose claustrophobia as a feature?
My father was a builder. During my high school years, I worked for him. One summer, I was working with a guy who had just come back from Vietnam and had been a tunnel rat. He wouldn't talk about the experience, but it sounded really scary to me. There was no Internet back then, but there were some books about tunnel rats. It seemed to connect to my own life. When I was a kid, I had some claustrophobia about things. I slept on the bottom bunk and felt like I was in a coffin. That always bothered me. There was a rite of passage in my neighborhood where kids had to crawl through a storm drain. I had a fear about when my time would come to do it. So, the idea of a tunnel rat played into my life, long before I became a writer.

I moved to Los Angeles and worked at the LA Times. Just as I arrived, a big news story broke about a heist where the robbers used storm water tunnels beneath the city to get inside a bank. They then dug their own tunnel into the vault. As a police reporter, I was getting inside details from the detectives. It struck me that this could be the plotline of a novel. I could connect it to a detective whose past included tunnels. That became the framework for the plot of the first Harry Bosch novel.

What made you name your most famous character Hieronymus?
You draw from stuff you know, and from the past. Realizing I wanted to be a writer, I took lots of English and art history classes in college. I had a humanities professor who was enamored of Hieronymus Bosch, the 15th century painter. His work was very dark stuff and stuck with me.

So fifteen years later, while putting together this book, it seemed an appropriate name because this detective would be treading across terrain similar to those paintings. Bosch's paintings are about a world gone wrong and the wages of sin. You can ascribe that to a crime scene. And Harry Bosch would decipher crime scenes, the way fifteen years earlier in class, we looked at paintings and tried to read then--understand what they meant. So, his name, Hieronymus, came from that. I have some Hieronymus Bosch prints hanging in my house and office: The Garden of Earthly Delights, and the darkest one, called Hell.

You've said your "real" job is to write about Bosch. What did you mean by that?
Bosch is my real focus. To keep writing about him, I need to move away from him at times. The Mickey Haller novels really derive from the need to keep Harry Bosch alive. The other books might have varying degrees of success, but my main focus is Harry Bosch. With the movie, The Lincoln Lawyer, the Mickey Haller novels are more successful than the Harry Bosch books, but Mickey was really born out my need to take time off from Harry Bosch.

Mickey Haller is one of the most intriguing characters in contemporary fiction. Is he based on anyone you know?
Writers take from everywhere. He really comes from three points. One is that years ago, I met a guy--a lawyer--at a baseball game. During the game, we talked about our lives. And, he's the one who told me he worked out of the back seat of his car. I thought that was an intriguing set-up and someday I might write about that.

When it came to doing research about a criminal defense lawyer, I went to a couple of lawyer friends. They allowed me to be a fly on the wall in their lives. So, Mickey Haller came from these three lawyers.

Your fictional universe has Mickey Haller and Harry Bosch interacting. You've compared your work to a canvas with the characters floating across it as currents on a painting. Will you elaborate a bit?
I compare them to the Hieronymus Bosch paintings. They're busy with stuff happening in every quadrant of the painting. It's not all related, but yet, it is. In a Bosch painting, you can spend an entire day looking at one corner, and look at another corner of the painting the next day. That infused my thinking about the series. Of course, the same character moves through the books, but I wanted a mosaic of interlocking characters; and, if you look hard enough, you find connections between them all.

Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller are half-brothers, and often represent opposing interests. Does this represent the duality of human beings?
I don't know if I would reach that high in my thinking. I needed to take a break from Harry Bosch and wanted to challenge myself with something different, but within the genre. From page one, Harry Bosch is a good guy trying to solve murders. The reader is on board, riding with him. But, I wanted to write about a character who would have to earn the reader's empathy. I chose to write about a defense lawyer because he's not trying to solve a murder; in fact, he might be defending a murderer. There's a duality within the criminal justice system. It's sanctioned by our laws, and a defense lawyer, like Mickey Haller, is required to do what he does.

Having read the Mickey Haller novels, it's difficult to believe you're not an attorney. Their verisimilitude is astounding. What kind of research or collaboration do you do?
I have more than just professional relationships with the lawyers I've consulted, they're friends. One was a college roommate. I run my ideas by them, write the book, and then they vet it for me. I have no legal experience so I use this team of lawyers.

Unlike many writers, you listen to music while writing. Tell us about that. Harry Bosch likes jazz and your writing reflects this.
Music helps me get in tune with the character. Like Harry, I listen to instrumental jazz without lyrical intrusion because it's difficult for me to put words on a computer screen when there are vocals. There's something improvisational about jazz, and you're improvising as you're writing. It all works together for me in some way. It's a bit magical and hard to put my finger on it.

What has been one of the most surprising things you've learned about writing in creating your novels?
Basically, I write the story I would like. I write for an audience of one. What's surprised me is how storytelling is so important around the world. So, a character trying to solve a murder and find his place in the world in L.A. can connect with someone in Dublin or Paris. As I've had more success, I've had more opportunities to travel. It always surprises and fulfills me when someone stands up at a book signing in France and says they're very worried about Harry Bosch. It just connects to your heart that you created this character with this almost universal appeal. It surprised me when it first happened, and it's stayed a surprise to me.

In the just-released book, Faceoff, you and Dennis Lehane wrote a short story called Red Eye. What was that collaboration like?
It was a long-distance collaboration done with emails. Dennis and I have a twenty year relationship. I love what he does. When we were asked to do this together, I didn't have any hesitation. I have more than a twenty year investment in the creation of this character, and do I dare to want anyone else to write what Harry is thinking or might say? Dennis was the guy to do it with. I'm very familiar with his work and characters, and there's a similarity between Bosch and Dennis's character, Kenzie.

Did you write your own dialogue for Harry?
No. I sent Dennis a plan. Harry would start in Los Angeles and would end up in Boston on a cold case. I figured I'd get Harry to Boston and Dennis would take it from there. So in Boston, Harry is largely Dennis's doing. I think I sent him seven pages and he sent back thirty. Dennis wrote the parts with Harry speaking and thinking. We emailed it back and forth and fine-tuned it.

If you were to have dinner with any five people, either in literature or history, living or dead, who would they be?
An obvious one would be Raymond Chandler. The other one is easy: my father passed away before I was published and had any success, so I'd like to have a meal with him now. I was very close to a cousin who passed away when we were twelve. I'd like to catch up with her. And maybe I'd like to meet the real Hieronymus Bosch. But, he might throw soup at me for taking his name.

Tell us about the new Harry Bosch novel, The Burning Room, due in November 2014.
Harry's over sixty now and he's going to be retired soon. They partner him with a young detective, Lucy Soto, so he might mentor her. The book is primarily about their relationship. I look forward to writing about her again, possibly by herself, without Harry.

Thank you for being such a prolific artist who has provided so much pleasure to millions of people for so many years."

article in the Huffington Post

Borrowing Books (aka Interlibrary Loan) is changing!

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 10:04am

The current Interlibrary Loan Request option (aka LoanSHARK) will be changing on July 31st

Two major changes that you’ll see include a more attractive interface and improved options for filtering and displaying search results.

NOTE: Recommended browsers include Firefox and Chrome; IE and Safari can be used.

Here's a sneak peek!

Writing for FUN!

Fri, 07/11/2014 - 4:07pm

?You don’t have to be a writer to enter this year’s Write a DearReader Contest,because it’s all about writing for fun. 

Write about the day you wore your t-shirt inside out until some kind soul pointed it out to you. Tell us about the stray cat or dog you found curled up on your front porch, and how it was love at first sight. Write about your favorite aunt, a bizarre and whimsical woman who vacuums her living room in the buff.

Describe the overwhelming love in your heart when you held your first grandchild, or write about your fear of writing—but start writing about something—because it’s time to enter our tenth annual Write a DearReader Contest."  Guidelines

How far are you into your summer reading?

Wed, 07/09/2014 - 1:21pm

How far are you into your summer reading? After a month, I've plowed through a few books on my nightstand (as well as under it). To qualify as a "great summer read," I want a book that offers sympathetic characters, depth of emotion, and a forward narrative momentum that keeps me sitting on the porch long after the fireflies have gone to bed.

Here are the beach reads I've tried so far that I thought would meet that criteria. Some did, some didn't.

Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman
This hair-raising mystery novel centers on Nora Hamilton, the wife of a cop whose world is turned upside down when her husband commits suicide. It soon becomes apparent that all is not as it seems, and this book, with its fantastic descriptions of small-town life in the Adirondacks and tense emotions, grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go. Milchman's muscular prose delivers psychological terror, creepy side characters, and amazingly beautiful (if grim) descriptions of the landscape.

The Vacatoners by Emma Straub
For something a little lighter, reach for this this astonishingly clever, often side-splittingly funny romp. You think your family is dysfunctional? Check out the Posts, who take a vacation with their children and friends to the island of Mallorca, Spain. There is lust and fighting aplenty, yet somehow Straub manages to make every one of her characters likeable -- plus, she has some extremely wise, tender observations about love, family, and friendships to share along the way.

Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
This is one hot mess of an almost-great book. I picked up Bittersweet because it had gotten so much media attention that I couldn't avoid it. As someone who loves a good Gothic read of any kind, I was really looking forward to this novel because it seemed to have everything I adore: a wealthy creepy family, a gorgeous lakeside setting, and a dumpy heroine looking for love in all the wrong places. I read it straight through in two days, so kudos to the author for keeping my interest. There are plenty of plot twists and enough sex to keep you turning pages. However, the writing is overwrought -- a stylistic thing, perhaps -- and, by the time I finished this book, I regretted the time spent on it. The plot twists are completely improbable (and yet predictable), one plot line is dropped completely, there were a lot of sluggish paragraphs, and the characters -- without exception -- were completely annoying. By the end of the book I was kind of hoping some giant sinkhole would swallow the entire family compound.

Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen
I've always liked Anna Quindlen for her heartfelt emotions, crisp writing, and the way she approaches topical issues (domestic violence, for instance) without seeming to hit you over the head with the themes. I wanted to love this book, since the themes and bones of the story are good -- they deal with a female artist who is 60 years old and believes her best years are behind her, only to discover, as she spends time alone in a cabin in the woods, that it is, indeed, possible to reinvent yourself -- as well as the nature of art and how that defines you when you succeed (or fail). However, much of the writing and story felt underdeveloped to me, and the May-December romance with the hunky roofer just feels tacked on to keep female readers happy.

White Heat by M.J. McGrath
Since we have a summer house in Canada, I've been searching high and low for great reads set in Canada. This is one of my favorites. White Heat takes place on Canada's Ellesmere Island in the Arctic circle, and it's the first novel in a series featuring hunter, tourist guide, and sometimes-detective Edie Kiglatuk, a half-Inuit woman. Here, Edie is drawn into solving a mystery revolving around the death of her stepson and two tourists. The book is rich with geological and cultural details that are almost as gripping as the mystery itself, such as when our heroine downs a bowl of seal blood, builds a snow cave for her husky, or stands still as lemmings race over her feet.

written by Holly Robinson, author, Beach Plum Island, The Wishing Hill for the Huffington Post

The Good Spy (Review from Huffington Post)

Tue, 07/08/2014 - 8:28am

The Good Spy by Kai Bird (Library Copies)

In 1979, while I was living through a revolution in Iran that brought my family and I first to France then to the States, the shifting elements that make the Middle East the perpetual tinder box that it is were aligning in Lebanon for a firestorm that would last well into my college years in Boston. Then a young intellectual, sure that I knew all that there was about the Middle East and the ominous Arab Israeli conflict that seemed to color every event in the region, I met a few young Lebanese men who introduced me to an all too personal and painful account of their country's struggles. A Shia, a Sunni and a Christian, these three Arab Lebanese men were friends in Boston and often exchanged viewpoints and ideas with an underpinning of reconciliation that was absent, I suspect, on the diplomatic stage in the halls of power, where decisions are made to keep the Middle East on a perpetual burn.

The Good Spy by Kai Bird chronicles these events in living color through the eyes of Robert Ames, an American CIA man who eventually became the National Intelligence Officer in charge of the Middle East and advised Presidents Carter and Reagan on the events and strategies of this troubled and complicated region -- the latter with respect to Iran and the Hostage crisis along with the failed rescue attempt, the former on Arab Israeli peace that includes Palestinian Autonomy.

Ames presides over the transfer of Palestinians refugees from Jordan to Lebanon, and eventually the evacuation of Arafat and his PLO fighters from Beirut to Tunis with the promise of protection for the residents of refugee camps left behind without their strongest men. Through this gripping tale of love and war, alongside an elusive but ever present ideal for peace, Bird introduces us to the flamboyant characters of Mustafa Zein -- a business man and enabler of back-channels, and Ali Hassan Salameh -- a PLO insider and intelligence Chief who marries a beauty queen and travels to Disneyland.

I first heard about Ali Hassan Salameh through the conversations of my Boston Arab friends. Through their personal stories of friends lost and families broken I realized that amid the frightful tactics used by many in the region in the name of nationhood, there was also a valiant fight for basic rights and self-determination that went largely ignored. I soon realized that those with the greatest fire power in the region had the biggest voice, and the more surgical the attack, the more credible the cause. One was called "terrorism" while the other was termed "the defense of state". I don't know that I agreed with either, but I began to see the frustrating fissures that fueled the venom that kept the Middle East alight, and made a resolution more complex by day. Eventually, I heard about the devastation in Sabra and Shatila through one of these Lebanese men, who seemed genuinely disappointed when he realized I didn't already know that gruesome crimes against humanity were anonymously committed in those refugee camps. I cried for the voiceless dead, but was certain that the solution to this pointless violence was within the grasp of my generation. Robert Ames probably would have agreed with me. Alas, he would fall to the blast of a bomb at the US Embassy in Beirut trying to achieve it.

The Good Spy is an account of all these events through the tale of the CIA's Ames, who had lived in the Arab world, felt the struggle of the Palestinians and become versed in the nuances that made the Arab resistance the complex battle ground that it is. He had recognized that Arab governments are not united in cause but more entrenched in personal power sources. Robert Ames, a classic American man raised in Philadelphia to a steel working father and a disciplinarian mother, had found an interest in these faraway lands and developed a liking for the Arab soul. He learned the language and internalized the struggles of an ill understood people who believe that their collective destiny has been pre-ordained by a God that loves them. Therein lies the essence of an unending struggle against an opposing people who believe the same -- and in that battle all means seem to be justified by the ends. Ames made unlikely alliances with shady personalities in whom he saw the best of their ways and was willing to lend them the credibility to negotiate. One comes away from this book wondering what the world would have looked like if some of the indiscriminate killing from both sides had stopped -- and some hard thought-out solutions were given a chance to engage long marginalized people with a chance to work towards a peace that could spare lives and give hope where there has historically been vengeance and death.

Kai Bird pieces together multiple accounts, recollections, diary entries, letters written home, diplomatic cables and embassy notes to compile a rivetingly detailed account of a time that is essential to world history. In the day of our famed "War on Terror," which seems to envelop so many indiscriminate targets, this is an essential read for anyone involved or even interested in the events that brought us to this day, through the inescapable lens of Middle East peace. On the sidelines, the 1979 Revolution in Iran seems to have provided the fuel, both ideologically and logistically, for much of the mayhem that ensued over the next few decades. In this book, Bird demonstrates through the tale of the CIA's Middle East point man and his contacts, the initial ruthlessness of the Iranian Revolution and the ideological firebrand that spread fast through much of the Arab lands looking for inspiration.

The inspiration turned out to be hollow. But the devastation it wreaked is real and continues today.

Review by Maryam Zar, founder of Womenfound, Development Director for Fistula Foundation, Communications Chair for UN Women (LA), writer, mother, wife, and humanitarian.

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