Saturday, February 27, 2010

Wicked Awesome

by Joe Hill
William Morrow, (c) 2010

Recently I had the misfortune of being terribly sick, layed up in bed and feeling awful. That said, I was incredibly lucky that I had, mere days before, checked out Joe Hill's latest novel Horns. Had I not been in bed for an entire day I would have not had the luxury of reading the entirety of this book in one sitting, and I would have had to steal every spare moment here and there to dive back into the book and find out what happened next.

And let me explain just one other thing, for a librarian, I'm not a terribly fast reader. I read at the speed of spoken conversations, which is amazingly slow compared to many of my colleagues. For me to actually blaze through a novel as quickly as I did, means that it was a relentless onslaught of reading from morning to night.

I could absolutely not put this book down.

Horns follows the life of Ignatius Perrish. He is the son and brother to famous musicians, as well as being the prime suspect in the brutal murder of his former fiance Merrin. It seemed that all those troubles were behind him, until he wakes up one morning with two large knots on the side of his head. It's clear that they are horns, but he has no idea why. What he quickly learns is that under the power of the horns people will reveal their darkest truths to him, beginning with his live-in girlfriend Glenna who immediately confesses that she wants to make herself repulsive to him because she can't bear to tell him to get out of her life. And that's just within the first ten pages.

What follows is an ever deepening look into the differences between the face we show the world and the thousand things we wish we could say to one another save for propriety. Hill asks a lot of intriguing questions about lies, omissions and truth; what we say to people versus what people hear; what we say and what we mean and the blurry lines between good and evil. Not only that, but it's wrapped in the most deeply intertwined writing where every element of the story fits neatly into every other. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Horns is that it doesn't really fit into any easily defined category. While sure, there are elements of fantasy or horror, I wouldn't say that it's either of those things. It's just a great story.

I would strongly encourage anyone who read Joe Hill's short story collection 20th Century Ghosts to get this latest novel. I admit that I wasn't that thrilled with his first novel Heart Shaped Box, but I gave 20th a shot and it was absolutely brilliant work. Horns fits right in with some of those great pieces, particularly You Will Hear the Locust Sing which blends Kafka's Metamorphosis with school violence. In both stories the reason for the transformation is very unclear, but the power that it awakens in the character leads to some of the most intriguing metaphors.

So, check out the book, carve out a day, sit down and read from morning 'til night. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Kia DuPree, Tonight!

Author Talk: Kia DuPree
Wednesday, February 24, 6 p.m.

Calling all urban fiction fans! Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Interim Library will host award-winning author Kia DuPree, who will talk about her new book, Damaged.

"Dupree's debut offers readers an unvarnished look at the troubled, violence-filled lives of inner-city youth in Washington, D.C., frequently through the eyes and experiences of Camille Logan. Ten-year-old Camille is placed with the Brinkleys, yet another foster family, where she suffers extreme mental and sexual abuse for years, until she's rescued by Chu, a low-level drug dealer who actually loves and looks after her. But when Chu is murdered in a drug deal gone wrong, Camille makes a desperate choice to join a cruel pimp's stable, where she faces her situation and struggles to change her life."1

DuPree, who now lives in Washington, D.C., was an assistant editor at St. Martin's Press in New York. In 2005 she received the Fiction Honor Book Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association for her debut novel, the self-published Robbing Peter. DuPree earned a B.A. in Mass Media Arts from Hampton University, as well as an M.A. in English from Old Dominion University.

Copies of Damaged will be available for purchase and for check out at the reading.

1Review: Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Wintry Mix

I've absolutely loved spending the last few days at home staying warm and dry from the snow. I spent the time watching movies with friends, baking, and working on a new quilt. We're open today and if you make it before the next wave of snow hits you can come and pick up some entertainment to help you and your family get through this historic snow storm.

Here are a few wintry suggestions to get you started.


The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Snow Dogs
Why Did I Get Married
The Shining
30 Days of Night


The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
Snow by Uri Shulevitz
The Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

Monday, February 1, 2010

Democracy in America

" Democracy in America " by Alexis de Tocqueville, tranlated by George Lawrence, edited by J.P. Mayer, Penguin Press, Selection of Watha T Daniel Book Club

Because of the recent debates about Health Care and Environmental legislation there has been a companion discussion by many about the nature of how the popular will should be expressed in a democracy and consideration of a possible manipulation of the voters by populist organizations. In my group house in Takoma there are skeptics about the validity of these groups and those who really feel their protest is valid. This discussion inspired me to take a new look at the classic work on democracy, “Democracy in America” by the French traveler Alexis de Tocqueville. "Democracy in America” is important because it is the first study that attempted to create a portrait of how government and society in a democracy actually worked. It was written during the emerging democracy of the United States during the Jackson Administration in the early Nineteenth Century.

What I found when I looked into this work was a surprise. This is a profound book that sheds light on the causes and conditions for real democratic expression in the United States, even in our own day. De Tocqueville came up the idea of the reality of society, society was apart from the state, politically significant. It was an idea that revolutionized the understanding of political science and has great import for us today. Alexis de Tocqueville believed that there were two distinct realities: the patterns or habits of social life and the governmental structures of the state. They influenced each other but were separate.

In de Tocqueville’s view, democracy was not so much a government as a way of life, as a set of patterns of political participation and expression that were connected to how relationships within families, among neighbors and life in larger communities were conducted. American society itself, then, established habits of political activism that were part of the personality and associations of each citizen. They were patterns established by the mores of the early settlers and shaped the town meeting and other institutions of early American democracy.

Now with regard to the controversies today about health care and other issues, one can conclude that every kind of expression of opinion, even the rancorous ones, may have some value, because it is an expression of the people’s habitual expression of concern. This may be true even if the message is not well thought-out or articulate. It is still an expression of a determination to have one’s say. Democracy is nourished by these movements even if they come in the form of strident statements. It seems one has to take a larger view regarding the import of these events and view them as part of a continual back and forth movement of ideas that is part of our political culture. Even though there was strong expression of dislike for a specific health care program in those town meetings and this was expressed in a rude and strident way that expression may not be by itself destructive.

These movements can be seen as part of the pattern of direct expression of the passions of a particular group in society that feels threatened. Overall, it is an expression that is healthy for both the body of society and the government that represents it. As de Tocqueville found in his tour of America in the 1830s, the expression of popular sentiment in politics causes disorder and disturbs governance. Democratic debate is a messy business that often offended the sensibility of Alexis de Tocqueville as an aristocrat. But he saw how those habits of political participation were deeply ingrained in American social life. It was those long held patterns that are the foundation for a well functioning republican government. We can take heart today to find that our political life is just as disorderly and disturbing as it was in the times of the early republic when de Tocqueville observed it.