Eric Robb’s Best Reads of 2016

eric-robbMy name is Eric Robb.  I am a resident of Evanston and work as an associate teacher at Baker Demonstration School.  Outside of my teaching duties, I volunteer for the Dare2tri Paratriathlon Club – an organization that supports triathletes with disabilities.  My duties include fundraising as well as guiding and supporting athletes with a diverse array of disabilities toward their athletic goals.  I spend what free time I have left playing either guitar, bass guitar, or piano.

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1)  A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1980)

This is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read, so much so that this was actually my second time reading through it.  Toole’s main character, Ignatius Reilly, who considers himself a great misunderstood genius of his time, provides a perfect mixture of highbrow humor and slapstick comedy.

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An Interview with Paul McComas and Greg Starrett: Men of Monstrous Ambitions

FIt For A Frankenstein

Paul McComas wears many hats…as well as the occasional half-head Frankenstein’s Monster mask.  McComas is the author of two novels and two short story collections, and the editor of two short-fiction anthologies.  In addition, the Evanston resident is an award-winning indie filmmaker, a teacher of writing, literature, and film, and a performance artist of no small repute.  His latest project is the novella Fit For A Frankenstein, co-authored with his long-time friend, Greg Starrett.  This is the first book for Starrett, a resident of Munster, Indiana, and the founder of Veidt Radio Theatre.

Fit For A Frankenstein pays homage to Universal Studio’s monster movies of the 1930s and 1940s, as it follows Ygor’s and the Monster’s increasingly zany quest for a size 66 X-X-Long suit. Logan’s Run author William F. Nolan recommends it for any reader with “fond memories of the iconic Monster.”  On Saturday, October 26, McComas and Starrett will perform scenes from the book, answer questions, and sign copies for anyone brave enough to venture to the Community Meeting Room at 3 p.m.  We recently overcame our fears, and sat down to talk with the co-authors about their monstrous collaboration.

Continue reading “An Interview with Paul McComas and Greg Starrett: Men of Monstrous Ambitions”

An Interview with Paul McComas

Author Paul McComas will read at EPL on May 5th at 7 p.m.

Paul McComas has creative energy to burn.  An award-winning filmmaker, dynamic performance artist, and a mean punk bassist to boot, McComas is perhaps best known for his two acclaimed novels – Unplugged (2002) and Planet of the Dates (2008) – as well as for editing the short-fiction anthologies First Person Imperfect (2003) and Further Persons Imperfect (2007).  Now the Evanston author has added to his impressive artistic resume with his ambitious new genre collection Unforgettable: Harrowing Futures, Horrors, & (Dark) Humor.  Comprised of McComas’ fifty best speculative-fiction, horror, and dark-comic works, Unforgettable is an entertaining and enlightening thrill ride described by Logan’s Run author William F. Nolan as “a literary tour de force… that will leave you breathless.”  On Thursday, May 5th, you can hear Mr. McComas read from Unforgettable when he visits EPL’s 1st Floor Community Meeting Room at 7 p.m. along with fellow author Tim W. Brown.  In anticipation of his visit, we recently spoke with him via email about the genesis of Unforgettable, the joys of dystopian worlds, No-Budget Theatre, his band The Daves, collaborating with Nolan on the forthcoming Logan’s Journey, and much, much more.

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An Interview with Tim W. Brown

Author Tim W. Brown reads at EPL on May 5th at 7 p.m.

Tim W. Brown is not an author to limit himself to a single genre.  In Second Acts – Brown’s latest novel following Deconstruction Acres (1997), Left of the Loop (2001), and Walking Man (2008) – the long-time Chicagoan and current New Yorker effortlessly blends sci-fi and western elements into the comic historical tale of Dan Connor, a 21st-century slacker who time travels to 1830s America in search of his adulterous wife.  Winner of the 2010 London Book Festival Award for General Fiction, Second Acts is a sly, satirical page-turner in the vein of Mark Twain that is guaranteed to leave readers laughing and thinking.  On Thursday, May 5th, you can hear Mr. Brown read from Second Acts when he visits EPL’s 1st Floor Community Meeting Room at 7 p.m. along with local author Paul McComas.  In anticipation of his visit, we recently spoke with him via email about his extensive research for Second Acts, Potawatomi berdaches, second chances in American life, and what he’s working on next.

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Book Trailer of the Week

Our latest Book Trailer of the Week is this stylish short for Carl Hiaasen’s outrageously offbeat novel Star Island.  The madcap fun begins just as 22-year-old fading pop star Cheryl Bunterman (aka Cherry Pye) is frantically attempting a comeback designed by her uber stage mom, Weed Whacker wielding bodyguard, and fraternal twin publicists who’ve spent thousands to look identical.  However, when Cheryl overdoses yet again and her stunt double is mistakenly kidnapped by an obsessed paparazzo, the harebrained scheme goes hilariously awry.  Filled with Hiaasen’s trademark pop culture barbs and environmental subplot, Star Island is a rollicking lampoon of celebrity life in the fast lane.

“Geezer Lit”—A New Genre?

Baby boomers (and their retired pals) might want to take a look at some Websites that deal with a genre someone had dubbed Geezer Lit. An LA Times article from 2007 seems to be the first mention of it. Then there’s the Geezer-Lit Mystery Blog written by one of the genre’s practitioners, Mike Befeler. And this chime-in from Cornell College. And finally, the LeRoy Collins Library in Tallahassee, Florida, looks at recent Geezer Lit and at examples written before the genre was invented.

Mary B, Reader’s Services

Being Thankful for Librarians

Perhaps some of you have seen this, but I like the range of 85  silly to serious reasons to appreciate those of us who work in libraries.  OK,  so we’re not worried much about good costumes (number 7), however, there are several thought-provoking points scattered through this list.

Shira S.

Hi, My Name is Ted

Every once in awhile you come across something that is just too good to be described, too amazing to waste the time necessary to convince someone else of why they should care. In these rare instances there is nothing to be done but to grab the person by the shoulders, shake vigorously and shout in their face: “YOU NEED TO SEE THIS!” If it doesn’t take and you are met only with disinterest, confusion, or (most likely) a startled and somewhat frightened countenance, give up and move on. There are way too many people on this hunk of sweaty rock to waste time on the coy holdouts. But I digress. So now, kind reader, to return to my point, please take careful note of the large virtual hands on your shoulders, the strange (and vigorous) shaking sensation convulsing your body, and the intense and intent face of a half-crazed library employee shouting in your face: YOU NEED TO SEE THIS! Continue reading “Hi, My Name is Ted”

From London with Love

Click above for an NPR interview with David Rose, creator of the LRB's personal ads column.

Spring has officially arrived, and if you choose to believe the hype, love is in the air.  Truth be told, however, the springtime air is also filled with pollen, mold, bees, and countless other love-inhibiting allergens and insects.  So, if you’d rather not trust your love connection to a seasonal weather change, allow me to suggest a matchmaking option you may have missed:  the London Review of Books.

Established in 1979, the London Review of Books is best known for its highly-regarded commentary on literature, film, art, and politics from such distinguished contributors as Martin Amis, John Ashbery, Julian Barnes, Christopher Hitchens, Hilary Mantel, and Susan Sontag.  But make no mistake, the LRB isn’t all business.  When advertising director David Rose joined the magazine in 1998, he spearheaded the creation of a personal ads column to help LRB readers with “similar literary and cultural tastes get together.”  Rose envisioned “a sort of 84 Charing Cross Road endeavour, with readers providing their own versions of Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft finding love among the bookshelves.”  The ads Rose received, however, were anything but expected. 

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The True Meaning of…whatever: Soothing your Inner Grinch

In 2nd grade, I played the title role in my school’s production of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, an experience that clearly warped me for life. Although I enjoy conspicuous consumption and fatty foods as much as the next person, the enforced jollity of the holidays has always grated on my embittered soul. For those of you who share the pain of repressing your inner grinchiness, here’s my essential holiday reading and viewing list.

You can take your Dickens, your Clement C. Moore, your Garrison Keillor.  For my money, no author captures the elusive spirit of the holidays like…Lemony Snicket. What true grinch  doesn’t identify with the misunderstood, Christmas-phobic Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming or the artistically frustrated  Lump of Coal whose holiday destiny falls short of his dreams?

Saving Hanukkah and Kwanzaa: The Hebrew Hammer

Santa Claus has been eliminated by his evil nephew, who plans to wipe out Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and all other competitors to Christmas. Who can save the day but a street smart  Jewish detective  and his bros from the Kwanzaa Liberation Front? This ethnic inflected parody of the Shaft/Superfly genre will have you laughing so hard you’ll plotz over the kinara. Sadly, EPL doesn’t own a copy but if you enjoy this preview, we’ll be happy to get it for you from elsewhere. Stars Adam Goldberg, Mario Van Peebles and Andy Dick. Rated R, 2003.

In God We Trust; All Others Pay Cash

Cult radio personality Jean Shepherd created the immortal Ralphie and his Red Ryder b.b. gun in this hilarious novel about Christmas in small town Indiana. Of course it became the basis for A Christmas Story, that refreshingly unsentimental look at mean-spirited Santas, overly confining winter garments, and unwise holiday gift choices.

If You Think Your Family is Nuts During the Holidays…

…try sipping mead Christmas Eve with a Dad who’s put Mom in prison, and 3 brothers who may be plotting to kill each other. Such is the happy family dynamic behind The Lion in Winter, the classic Peter O’Toole, Katharine Hepburn film about the dysfunctional, yet highly entertaining home life of megalomaniac monarchs Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.  There’s a tv version with Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close, but it doesn’t quite match the fire of the original. Rated PG, 1968.

No true grinch list would be complete without Holidays on Ice, the modern classic that first brought David Sedaris and the caustic “Santaland Diaries” to national attention. The 2008 edition adds 6 new stories to the original collection; check out the audiobook to fully experience the Sedaris wit, or  download the e-audiobook version to your iPod or mp3 player!

Lesley W.