An Interview with Martha Meyer

Martha Meyer is a local photographer, business owner, and the latest artist to be featured in our ongoing exhibition series Local Art @ EPL.  Her show – titled Grecian Spring, Italian Summer – is currently on display on the 2nd floor of EPL’s Main Branch where it invites you to slow down and appreciate the world’s beauty with a radiant photographic series captured during a recent trip abroad.  You can warm your winter days with Grecian Spring, Italian Summer through January 5th, and after that, you can learn more about Ms. Meyer’s work by visiting her Fotogiardino website. We recently spoke with Ms. Meyer via email about her artistic inspirations, taking “pretty” pictures, and the blessing that is Lake Michigan. Continue reading “An Interview with Martha Meyer”


Uncertainty the Only Given for Publishers

Publishers of print books have been struggling for control in the new  world of publishing. Borders has gone by the wayside in the aftermath of the shift to digital publishing and presently publishers maintain control over pricing for e-books. However, attempts to increase revenue through adding extra features has not been very successful. As John Makinson, CEO of Penguin Books,  explains consumer reaction to paying for added features, “‘Well, that’s marvelous but that’s not something I’m going to pay for….'”

(left: Random House offices, NYC)

A different aspect of the publishing battles being waged in the industry is apparent in Amazon’s Prime loyalty program for Kindle customers which allows users to choose a free book every month.  Several of the larger publishers have flatly refused to join. Worries about piracy, intellectual property, and revenue are only some of the complex issues troubling publishing houses.

For now, book publishers have fared better than the music business regarding the thorny issues of ownership and compensation. It remains to be seen for just how long they can keep doing so.

Shira S.

Alphabet Art

As a special Local Art @ EPL winter exhibit, we are proud to feature the highly original series Alphabet Art by local painter and writer Marjorie Price.  From now through mid-January, her playful take on the letters of the alphabet will be on display on the 1st floor of EPL’s Main Branch near the Circulation desk.  Ranging from straightforward interpretations to the more abstract, her brilliant watercolors will spark the creative imagination in children of all ages.  You can preview Ms. Price’s work by visiting her website.

Libraries in Crisis? Librarian Says “Act Like Lady Gaga”

The Huffington Post has started a series on the status of libraries in the US. As I read this article, I noticed a quote from an Evanston resident regarding the closure of South Branch! At the heart of the discussion is the acknowledgment that the economy is weak and cities must cut back on expenses, but which jobs and what services should be cut?

Here in the Chicago area City Hall noted public outrage over projected cuts to the city library system. Given back: $ 3.3 million out of a proposed  $ 7 million decrease. Another article which details the statewide cuts shows that education and social services took the biggest hits this year in Illinois. On the optimistic side, here’s a blog post on why librarians should adopt an in-your-face attitude like that of Lady Gaga!

Shira S.

A Passion for the Past: Penman’s Picks of 2011’s Best Historical Fiction

Critically accalimed author of tales set in Medieval England, Sharon Penman chatted with NPR’s Pricilla Nielson last weekend, and shared her list of the best historical fiction of 2011. Penman offered a brief overview of each title and her opinion on why it made her a-list. Of course, my ears prick up any time I catch author interviews and critiques on the radio, but I especially enjoyed this one because I’m a lover of good historical fiction. What makes a novel historical fiction? On this Penman and I agree: it is not just a novel set in a particular historical period; rather, actual historical events must come into play in the plot line and help shape the actions of the characters, even though they may be fictional. If nonfictional characters are included, they must not veer off and do radically different things than they really did way back when.  And, it’s important to remember that good historical fiction is not a history lesson, but it does “teach” us history because it makes it come to life in a way we are able to vicariously experience. Authors skilled in writing historical fiction must, of course, do careful research to provide readers with an accurate telling of the factual parts of their stories as well as to portray the period details. Listen to the interview.

Here are Penman’s picks:

 Elizabeth I by Margaret George; The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman; Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks; Death of Kings by Bernard Cornwell; and The Paris Wife by Paula McLain.

Barbara L.

The Evolution of the Detective

Today on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” Linda Wertheimer interviewed editor Michael Sims about his new book The Dead Witness: A Connoisseur’s Collection of Victorian Detective Stories in which he offers fans of the genre an opportunity to read some of the obscure writers of that period, many of them women. Readers will meet wonderfully named female detectives such as Violet Strange and Loveday Brooke, and enjoy lesser known works by established authors such as Conan Doyle, Poe, and Wilkie Collins.

Wertheimer and Sims discussed the evolution of the detective and the detective story. Did you know that though Wilkie Collins is credited with authoring the first true detective novel, The Moonstone, Edgar Allan Poe created the first “locked room” crime story with The Murders in the Rue Morgue featuring a sleuth that used deductive reasoning to solve the mystery? Poe’s Auguste Dupin was not a professional, and that established the character of the brilliant amateur so beloved by crime writers. Sims added that the women authors of the Victorian age have been systematically left out of many anthologies by editors who believed crime writing was a man’s game. If you’ve ever wondered why so many mystery novels are by authors with names like P.D. James, M. C. Beaton, and J. D. Robb, the custom may harken to a time when anything written by a women had slim chance of getting published so the clever ladies chose genderless pen names. Listen to the interview.

Barbara L.

The Difference Between Poetry and Lyrics?

“Lyrics, even poetic ones, are not poems.” This statement is from none other than Stephen Sondheim, one of the most famous and well-regarded lyricists ever to have his work appear on Broadway. See this thoughtful article which discusses some nuances of music and poetry and different ways of understanding them.   Shira S.

Jesmyn Ward to Visit Chicago Feb. 2012

Young National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward will be making a stop in Chicago between Feb. 29 and Mar. 3, 2012.  Her book on the days leading up to Katrina garnered much attention, standing out against many better known and established authors. Salvage the Bones is her second novel.

Shira S.

Mysterious Paper Sculptures

A phantom sculptor has been leaving beautiful  paper sculptures in libraries and museums all over Edinburgh, Scotland — really amazing artworks created from books and paper. One sculpture of a gramophone and a coffin was sculpted from a copy of Ian Rankin’s book Exit Music.  Another sculpture had a tag on it that read: “This is for you in support of libraries, books, words, ideas”. Check out this NPR article for more info and pictures.


There’s More Than Crime in Scandinavia

If you’re a connoisseur of fine Scandinavian crime fiction, 2011 has given you plenty more to enjoy.  Back in March, for instance, genre forefather Henning Mankell wrapped up his wildly-popular Kurt Wallander series with The Troubled Man, and a mere two months later rising star Jo Nesbo’s The Snowman finally hit U.S. shores.  Now with Hollywood’s take on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo hitting theaters in just a few short days, crime fiction lovers are likely giddy with their good fortune.  But what if you’re not a fan?  What if you’ve yet to acquire that particular taste for dark Nordic mysteries?  Well worry not, gentle reader, for there’s more than one dish cooking in Scandinavia’s literary kitchen.  Truth be told, the Scandinavian lit scene is a veritable smorgasbord of top-notch sci-fi, satire, historical and literary fiction, horror, and more.  So don’t delay in sampling Scandinavia’s full fiction menu.  The following list will get you started, but there is still plenty more to discover.

Continue reading “There’s More Than Crime in Scandinavia”