Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Literary Mashup

I have to admit, that when I read in today's New York Times that Electronic Arts is releasing a video game loosely based on Dante's Inferno, I had to both laugh out loud and then consider whether or not I would actually buy this game for myself. Having a PlayStation 3 at home, and having read Inferno for a medieval history class it is quite tempting to see the, um, differences. Dante as a sword wielding, body-building crusader, clad in armor and trailing shredded ribbons of clothes... Far from the casual observer of the epic poem.

But that got me thinking. With all of these mashups of classical literature like Inferno the video game, Beowulf the animated adventure starring Angelina Jolie as Grendel's mother, the Manga Shakespeare series, the novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (which also has ninjas), and the forthcoming Android Karenina, what could possibly be next? What other classics could they turn into action packed thrill rides?

Here's a few of my thoughts.

Sid Meier's War and Peace the video game. Civilization Revolution is already half-way there, it's just a quick jump to focusing solely on Napoleon's invasion of Russia.

Don Quixote where his delusions are actually a result of the aliens who implanted a device controlling his mind.

The Sun Also Rises MMORPG where you gain experience points by drinking your way across Europe and going to bull fights in Pamplona.

Moby Dick the fishing simulator where you work your way up from catching little minnows and guppies to going after the great white whale.

What do you think the next great classic novel mashup will be?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Halflings, Half-Nerds, Worms...

A lot of my friends are half-nerds. What I mean is they've seen and read The Lord of the Rings trilogy and agree the books are better. They love Blade Runner, but they've probably never actually read a book by Philip K. Dick. They've never been serious about Dungeons & Dragons or those Dragon Lance books, but they can recite more than one popular Star Wars quote. Some of us listened to Rush, a band who wrote concept albums about fantastical planets. While these all rest comfortably in fantasy worlds, their prevalence in modern pop-culture allows non-nerds do nerdy things without being labeled. Err...

This bit of labeling tomfoolery is partly to make fun of the labeling process that, like it or not, still exists in high schools, colleges and only slightly seriously into adulthood. Then we get to Dune. The book was given to me by an artsy friend in college, and after a few pages (on several occasions) I decided that there was no better treatment for insomnia than reading Dune.

However, after being successfully seduced by the books-on-iPod reading method, I had to revisit the books I'd wanted to read but never could. The only annoying part about reading Dune on iPod was importing the eighteen discs into iTunes. Since then, I've waded into a fantasy world that, secretly, I prefer to Tolkien's. The idea of humans cultivating their own natural potential into a sort of half-magic is much easier for me to get into. As a half-nerd. Ahem...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Great Coffee, Great Books

Starting in February the Watha T. Daniel Library will be partnering with the Starbucks Coffee shop in Logan Circle to bring you an all new book club program outside of our library walls. Join us for Great Coffee, Great Books, a monthly book discussion group held at 7:00 p.m. on the final Wednesday of the month at Starbucks Coffee, 1429 P St NW.

Our book for February 24 will be The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

For 15-year-old Michael Berg, a chance meeting with an older woman leads to far more than he ever imagined. The woman in question is Hanna, and before long they embark on a passionate, clandestine love affair which leaves Michael both euphoric and confused. For Hanna is not all she seems. Years later, as a law student observing a trial in Germany, Michael is shocked to realize that the person in the dock is Hanna. The woman he had loved is a criminal. Much about her behaviour during the trial does not make sense. But then suddenly, and terribly, it does - Hanna is not only obliged to answer for a horrible crime, she is also desperately concealing an even deeper secret.

Great Coffee, Great Books
Final Wednesdays
7:00 p.m.

Held at Starbucks Coffee in Logan Circle
1429 P St NW
Washington, DC

To RSVP please contact the Watha T. Daniel Library at 202-671-0265 or email librarian Paul Sweeney:

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Her Father's Daughter

"Who's the Daddy?" is a question most often posed in paternity episodes of the Maury Povich show (not that I've ever watched it) or in the pages of celebrity rags discussing the newest "baby bumps" in Hollywood (not that I ever read them while standing in line at the grocery store). "Who's the Daddy" is also a fitting turn of words for a host of fiction and non-fiction books. I uncovered no less than 17 books in the D.C. Library catalog with the title, The [insert occupation here]'s Daughter.

For example:

The Calligrapher's Daughter
The Doctor's Daughter
The Gerbil Farmer's Daughter
The Alchemist's Daughter
The Professor's Daughter
The Agitator's Daughter
The Impostor's Daughter
The Fat Man's Daughter

You'll find these titles in our new "Who's the Daddy?" display. Of course there was a time when one's patrilineal descent meant everything. It can still carry great influence (see Bush 41 and 43), or serve as another type of transformative force in one's life, as President Obama has described through his tenuous relationship with his own father. The father/daughter memoirs here also have fascinating stories to tell. In The Agitator's Daughter, a Georgetown University law professor recounts growing up in a family of civil rights activists that goes back four generations, and the family ruin brought about by her father's relentless pursuit of justice. In the graphic novel The Impostor's Daughter: A True Memoir, the narrator tells how she grew up in awe of her war veteran father, only to discover later that his stories of heroism and adventure were lies.

The daughters in these books remain nameless until you flip open their covers. Come and check one out!