August 20, 2019

Game of Thrones Withdrawal Lingers

Nine years ago, I tried to read The Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. I was overwhelmed with strange names, places and vocabulary. In frustration, I threw the book down, yet continued to watch the HBO tv series with avidity.

In my current throes of Game of Thrones withdrawal, my brother-in-law suggested I try reading book one of the series again. Lo and behold, all of the main characters were now familiar to me so I no longer felt like I was reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Book one is actually a page-turner. As in any book versus movie adaptation, the prose allows you to get a deeper sense of character, motivations are clearer and the palette of people and place descriptions is much richer and wider. Book Two, A Clash of Kings awaits on my nightstand.

If you have deep pockets and are a rabid R. R. Martin fan, you may want to consider attending the Carl Sandburg Literary Awards Dinner, an annual benefit for the Chicago Public Library Foundation. For $1250, you will be invited to a dinner honoring Chicago authors with George R. R. Martin as the special guest, along with U of C poet/essayist Dr. Eve L. Ewing. An acclaimed Chicago author will be at every table.

This is one of the yearly highlights of literary Chicago. Plus, you just might get to meet Martin. He has a B. S. and M. S. from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism so this is a homecoming, of sorts for him.

A member of SongShop used to play Dungeons and Dragons with Martin, back in the day. The next time you see me, you can guess who this might be!

For now, reading the books is prolonging my obsession with this fantasy series. Let me hope that a Game of Thrones intervention won’t be necessary. Any ideas on the perfect novel antidote?

For information on the Literary Awards Dinner:

GNOD – The Global Network of Discovery

I happened upon a site with the acronym gnod, quite by accident, while looking for authors similar to crime writers Donna Leon and Henning Mankell. Created by Marek Gibney in Hamburg, Germany, the Global Network of Discovery (gnod) features word maps to discover authors related to what you already like.

Not only can you look up networks of authors, but you can also fill out brief questionnaires that help the site learn more about people’s literary choices. The user is queried about whether you know, like or dislike a particular author.

The site also has sections on music, art, movies, and electronic products. In truth, the electronics portion seems to be the site’s commercial raison d’être, but this shouldn’t dampen your enjoyment of the rest of the site when you are looking for new authors, composers, films, and artists.

Early Voting in Chicago (and in states that allow it)

usflagI strongly recommend casting your vote early if you live in a state that allows it. My wait was only 20 minutes at 4:30 pm on a weekday. Chicago has early voting up until the day before the election. With multiple voting locations and convenient hours, you have no reason to miss doing your civic duty this November.

To find your local Chicago voting venues:

If you live in the 48th Ward in Chicago, one of your voting options is:
Edgewater Library, 6000 N Broadway
Monday, Oct. 31 to Friday, Nov. 4: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday, November 5: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday, November 6: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Monday, November 7: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

For other states:

The Good Lord Bird by author James McBride

I had only a vague recollection of abolitionist John Brown and his attack on Harpers Ferry before the Civil War, but James McBride’s historical fiction account,  The Good Lord Bird, makes this time period burst to life. The main character is Henry, a young slave who is mistaken for a girl and spends the majority of the book in a bonnet and dress in the orbit of “Captain Brown” who dubs her “Onion.” Not since Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn has there been such an endearing and infuriating young character.

Brown with Onion at his side fights battles against slave owners in Kansas and Missouri, visits Frederick Douglass in Rochester, NY and Harriet Tubman in Canada and finally prepares for a grand battle at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Both black and white  people, sometimes reluctantly, join Brown’s rag tag group to further the cause of slavery abolition in the United States. Brown’s campaign was seen as a great failure at the time, but history shows him to be the harbinger of the Civil War to come which finally dealt a fatal blow to slavery.

James McBride who won the 2013 National Book Award for “The Good Lord Bird,” is the son of an African-American preacher and a Polish Jewish mother. His memoir “The Color of Water” is now read in high schools and universities across America.”The Good Lord Bird” is sure to find its way onto academic reading lists as well.

I listened to this work in audio book form using the  Chicago Public Library’s Overdrive app, masterfully narrated by actor Michael Boatman who brought out the comedy as well as pathos in McBride’s writing.

Hoopla: Libraries deepen their electronic presence

I still love the feel of a non-virtual book, but I find myself using the Chicago Public Library’s digital audiobooks on a regular basis. The real discovery has been Hoopla, a web service with music albums, movies, television programs and audiobooks to rent for free if your local library is a member. My Chicago library card entitles me to six media downloads per month from the digital service’s vast collection.

You won’t necessarily find all the latest movie, tv, book or music blockbusters in the selections, but there are old and newer works worthy of attention. I am currently watching a Swedish detective series called “Beck” from the television collection.

“The Iron Lady” with Meryl Streep or Orson Welles’ “Touch of Evil” might be one of the free movies you would rent for 72 hours. Likewise the TV mini-series “Lonesome Dove” or the BBC’s “Inspector Morse” series could be your cup of tea. The audio music selections include artists like Alabama Shakes, Josh Groban, Frank Sinatra, Jay-Z or Mumford and Sons, among many others. Your audiobook taste may be satiated with a biography of Tiger Woods, a self-help book entitled “Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight” or perhaps a Robert Ludlum thriller.

The site brags that they have hundreds of thousands of movies, books, albums and tv programs. If you have a current library card, a web browser and a desktop, smart phone or tablet, why not see if your local library is a member? You just might find exactly what you were looking for. For free.

Hundreds of libraries all across the nation are members. Here is a current map of participating libraries:

The Girl On the Train: Current Fiction Thriller

The thriller book du jour appears to be “The Girl On the Train” by Paula Hawkins. I gauge how popular a book is by how long the public library makes me wait for it. I requested this popular work of fiction at the beginning of the year and finally received a copy which I literarily inhaled.

I was reminded of last season’s fiction hit, “Gone Girl” which was also a page-turner. And “The Girl On the Train” is a compelling read. Three women give journal-like entries to the lead-up, occurrence and aftermath of a murder. The entries are not always in chronological order with the crucial scenes being held back until the latter part of the novel. The alcoholic heroine passes a home along the train tracks of her daily London commute and becomes intrigued with the good-looking couple that lives there. As luck would have it, this seemingly ideal couple lives down the street from her ex-husband and his new wife and child. Complications ensue as we get to know the cast of characters.

This isn’t great literature, but the writing is descriptive and the plot keeps you reading just “one more page.” Come to think of it, this would be perfect train or bus reading fare if you are not similarly addicted to people-watching during your journey.  A film adaptation surely must be in the works. I can just imagine the movie billboard now, seen from my red line train window.