Fun at Foster's blog

Beautiful Darkness

If you like your fairy tales with a dark edge, then you might want to read Beautiful Darkness, written by Fabien Vehlmann and illustrated by Kerascoët. At turns sweet and disturbing, this graphic novel tells the tale of young Aurora, her prince, and their friends as they find themselves struggling to survive in a frightening—yet familiar—world.

While on the surface the characters seem as sweet as the illustrations might suggest, as the story progresses a darkness pervades, and their true natures become alarmingly apparent. The princess is sweet and good-intentioned, but naïve and jealous; the prince is charming, but self-absorbed; the loyal servant is helpful, but greedy; the injured waif is deceitful and downright sociopathic.

According to the book jacket, “the sweet faces and bright leaves of Kerascoët’s delicate watercolors serve to highlight the evil that dwells beneath Vehlmann’s story as pettiness, greed, and jealousy take over.” It’s easy to get distracted by the illustrations, which are indeed quite lovely. It’s only when you stop and take a real look that you realize what’s actually going on. The characters’ forms, although pretty to look at, lie in stark contrast to their true natures, which become worse with each page. Many meet unfortunate ends. Even the setting of the story is beautiful and horrible at the same time. I won’t bother spoiling that awful surprise—you’ll just have to see for yourself.

Although it is a fairy tale, this one is best left to adults.

 

Heather, the Graphic Novel Goddess

Saturday Matinee @ Foster

On Saturday, July 26, E.P. Foster Library will show two films for this month’s Saturday Matinee!

The films will be shown in the Topping Room, and will include a 1960s fantasy feature based on Greek mythology and a 1940s film serial about an arch-criminal attempting to steal a superweapon. This event is free and open to the public.

The first film starts at 4 p.m. We hope to see you there!

ArtWalk: Late Night @ Foster

ArtWalk is coming to Ventura on Saturday, July 19, and Sunday, July 20! There will be venues throughout downtown, including E.P. Foster Library.

ArtWalk is a signature Ventura event where visitors can take part in self-guided tours to view artistic displays and exhibitions at a number of galleries, studios, and other locations. It’s a great way to spend the day, and is also totally free!

Foster Library will be holding a special after-hours event on Saturday from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Stop by for art, music, and food, as well as a special book sale by the Friends of the Library!

London: Off the Beaten Path

If any traveler, armchair or otherwise, feels they have exhausted the possibilities of London—one of the world’s most historic and sprawling cities—several recent guides have focused on the lesser-known aspects of one of the planet’s most fascinating destinations.

Secret London, An Unusual Guide is one in a series of “local guides by local people” from by Jonglez Publishing. While dealing with some of the lesser-known aspects of major attractions (such as the Triforium at St. Paul’s cathedral which provides a “secret history of a London landmark”), the compact illustrated volume primarily takes readers way off the beaten path.

And the variety is astonishing, from Henry VIII’s wine cellar, located “deep within the bowels of the Ministry of Defense,” to a Cinema Museum in Kensington housed in a former Lambeth workhouse where a nine-year-old Charlie Chaplin once labored. An exhibit of playwright Joe Orton’s famously (and lewdly) defaced library books can be seen at the Local History Centre at the Finsbury Library in Islington.

Like most London guides, Secret London is divided by district. Maps and suggestions for unusual bars, cafes, and restaurants are included. Detailed instructions for finding each sometimes quite secret destination are provided.

Another guide to a once-illegal but now-hardly-secret aspect of London life is Gay and Lesbian London (Time Out Group Ltd., 2010), which conforms to the usual district-by-district form of most city guides, but with a focus on the interests of the GLBT visitor or native. But really, anyone interested in the “in” and off-beat aspects of London would find this volume of interest.

The guide includes interesting personal perspectives by prominent Londoners. But a highlight is a fascinating history of gay London which takes you from the Celts and Romans through various royal and artistic affairs to the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1962 and contemporary icons such as Orton and Elton John. Depressingly (but conscientiously), the guide opens with a full-page cautionary essay on the history of AIDs in London.

Guides quickly become out-of-date, but another Time Out publication, London 2012, doubles as an official (and now historic) memento of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, with maps and features on the Cultural Olympiad and Olympic Park.

Hands-down, however, my favorite London book is David Piper’s The Companion Guide to London. Due to the changing character of any great city, this exhaustively detailed and brilliantly written volume has been reissued in various revised editions. But it’s still a London guide/history for all seasons in any revision, and some of the best and most informed travel writing I have ever read.

First published in 1963, my personal copy is the 1996 seventh edition, and you may have to do an interlibrary loan search for a newer reissue.

Cheers!

Ross Care

Font to Film: “A Princess of Mars” / “John Carter”

Sometimes an author creates a world which is so richly detailed and epic in scope that readers can’t believe that any adaptation could do justice to what they’ve constructed in their own imaginations. These days the limits of what is possible to put on the screen are being continuously stretched, and fans are finding themselves admitting to being impressed with the results of some very ambitious productions. However, Hollywood didn’t always have access to the techniques and technologies that are commonplace today, and there was a time when filmmakers were forced to throw up their hands and admit that they simply couldn’t do an adaptation the way they wished they could.

Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote the story that would become A Princess of Mars as a serial in 1912; it was first published as a standalone novel in 1917. Often held up as a prime example of the pulp fiction of the period, the novel has a fairly standard sci-fi adventure plot that revolves around a traditionally masculine hero showing off his martial prowess by fighting to save a damsel in distress—in this case, the titular princess. The first-person narration is straightforward and matter-of-fact, reinforcing the idea that Captain John Carter is a simple man who is only doing what he believes is right under the (admittedly fantastic) circumstances in which he finds himself. Carter fights for his life, his honor, and his princess in a very uncomplicated manner, and a large part of what saves this novel from unremarkability is the fact that it was published back when the genre was young, and as a result Burroughs has served as inspiration to many of the sci-fi authors who followed him. While the plot may be too bland for some readers, the world that Burroughs creates is rich and vibrant, fleshed out with unique creatures, cultures, and environments that secure its place as a sci-fi staple.
There were rumblings about adapting A Princess of Mars as early as the 1930s, with the idea that it would be animated due to the difficulty of creating a live-action representation of Burroughs’ Barsoom. The project ultimately fell through, as did subsequent attempts in the 1950s and 1980s. Work began on John Carter in 2009, and while it wasn’t released until 2012 critics agreed that the film was—visually at least—a general success. John Carter features some impressive effects, including its CGI representations of Barsoom’s Tharks and other native creatures, and has a somewhat altered story which presents Carter’s heroics in a more complex—and at times hilarious—light. It also gives a greater role and increased agency to Dejah Thoris, who is no longer a simple damsel but a scientist and warrior of great skill. The film’s plot can be difficult to follow for someone unfamiliar with Burroughs' works; having read at least A Princess of Mars definitely gives the viewer a leg up on following the action. Still, one gets the feeling that the film isn’t taking itself too seriously, instead embracing its pulpy roots and inviting the audience to appreciate it for what it is: a fun, somewhat silly, visually impressive sci-fi adventure.

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars is available as part of E.P. Foster Library’s adult science fiction collection. In addition, you can download an eBook version of the novel from our eLibrary through Project Gutenberg. John Carter is available within the Ventura County Library system as well; if the film or novel is not on the shelf, you can request for a copy to be sent to your preferred branch in person, over the phone, or online through our catalog.

 

Penned by Ronald Martin.

Summer Fun, Fun, Fun at the E.P. Foster Library!

The Summer Reading Program is on! Remember to bring in your reading logs for prizes. Each reading log will earn you a prize and another ticket for a chance to win one of the grand prizes: a remote-controlled robot (grades 5 and under) or a $50 gift certificate to Target (grades 6 and up).

Join the fun on Wednesday, July 2, at 3:30 p.m., when we will be making a Fourth of July summer visor to wear to the parade and to our TAG Book Sale on July Fourth. The book sale will be right outside the library, so come get GREAT deals on books and support our TAG and FOL supporters.

Abracadabra! Presto! Mystical magic with LaBak the Magician will be presented on July 9 at 3:30 p.m.

The MakerSpace at Foster has its own 3D printer! Come in and learn how to use it on July 15 from 7-9 p.m. in the Topping Room.

Nifty Balloons is returning to the E.P. Foster Library on Wednesday, July 16. Mr. Dave and Ms. Shayna will present two shows, one at 11 a.m. and another at 3 p.m.

On July 23 the library will be pulsing with the sound of local drumming. Kim Brower from Pulse Drumming will be bringing in her special drums for our musical entertainment. Don't miss this fun time at 3:30 p.m.

Come shake your tail feathers to the guitar and vocals of Miss Jessica! Music & Movement will be the theme for our July 30 show at 3:30 p.m.

Games Galore is every Thursday from 3-5 p.m. on the second floor.

Our regular programs continue throughout the summer with Storytime on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings at 10:30 a.m. and Paws for Reading on Saturdays between 12-1 p.m.

Check out our webpage for more Foster Fun!

Novelties: “A Shiver of Light,” by Laurell K. Hamilton

While some fiction lends itself to a certain critical consensus (“good” books and “bad” books), there are other works which end up having a particularly polarized reception. This month, Novelties takes a look at a popular paranormal romance that exemplifies this phenomenon due to the widely-ranging opinions reported by its readers. Laurell K. Hamilton’s A Shiver of Light is an urban fantasy romance, and the two read-alikes we’ll be focusing on share its juxtaposition of fantastical elements with an otherwise familiar, contemporary setting.

Hamilton is primarily known for two series, one focusing on her character Anita Blake and the other on Meredith Gentry. Those interested in A Shiver of Light should know that it’s the ninth book in the Merry Gentry series, and Hamilton had reader’s waiting five years between it and the previous installment. For many this led to great expectations, and here is where the controversy begins: some readers felt that this novel was all they were waiting for and more, while others were disappointed with how it played out after having been so patient. As for the plot, Gentry is a faerie princess who spent time working as a private detective in Los Angeles and who begins this book pregnant with triplets. Facing the need to protect herself and her future children, she enlists the help of several of the men in her life, each with a set of unique supernatural powers, to help her resist the nefarious forces seeking to dominate or destroy her. Potential readers should be aware that this book is very much a romance novel, and contains some fairly explicit scenes of Gentry and her lovers. If that’s what you’re looking for, have at it; otherwise, you might want to skip this one.
Charlaine Harris’ Dead in the Family is another later (in this case, tenth) installment of a series, this one centering on Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse. The book begins with the aftermath of the previous book, Dead and Gone, which saw Stackhouse tortured by supernatural enemies and suffering serious psychological trauma before being rescued. As she is recovering she finds herself dealing with several other sources of drama, including the arrival of her vampire lover’s sire, the discovery of a dead body on her property, and mounting government pressure on the werewolf community. While this all sounds exciting, many readers report feeling that this novel is more “filler” than they would like, slow-moving and unnecessary. However, others claim that it’s an appropriate change in tone after an intense predecessor and does some essential work in wrapping up the intense action from Dead and Gone. There is some good character development and plot advancement, as well as some interesting exploration of the idea of family, but while the book was released to generally positive reviews the popular consensus appears to be that this entry in the series is worth the read but unlikely to be anyone’s favorite.
Lastly, we have Jasper Fforde’s third installment in his Thursday Next series, The Well of Lost Plots. Another novel with elements of crime literature and contemporary fantasy, The Well of Lost Plots is set within an alternate history where fiction is very real and has an often significant impact on reality. Thursday Next is a literary detective who handles cases related to the fictional world (a previous book has her pursuing her antagonist through the plot of Jane Eyre), and in this novel she is newly pregnant and taking a break after her previous assignment. Residing inside an unpublished book within the titular well, Next finds herself having to contend with a murderer who is targeting her colleagues on top of book scavengers and other threats lurking within the unregulated world of the well. Fforde’s universe has been hailed as refreshingly original and imaginative, and his premise leads to a great metafictional treat for the well-read. His writing is full of some solid wordplay and clever references to other works that make for a witty and engaging book. Readers who enjoy this genre but are looking for something different would do well to give this novel—and series—a shot.

E.P. Foster Library has copies of A Shiver of Light, Dead in the Family, and The Well of Lost Plots in its collection, and additional copies are available at other Ventura County Library branches. Dead in the Family is also available to borrow in eBook format through OverDrive. If you want to find more read-alikes, you can access NoveList Plus from our eLibrary’s Reading Suggestions section. If the book you are interested in is not currently on the shelf at your branch, you can always request that a copy be sent to the branch of your choice in person, over the phone, or online through our catalog.

 

Conjured up by Ronald Martin.

Friends of the Library Book Discussion @ Foster

On the first Saturday of July, the San Buenaventura Friends of the Library will hold their next book discussion in the Topping room at E.P. Foster Library.

This group reads a variety of fiction and non-fiction works, and this month’s read is God and Mr. Gomez, by Jack Smith. You can visit the SBFOL website for more information on this discussion group and its future selections.

The event begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 5, and is free and open to the public. New members are always welcome!

Book Binding @ Foster

This event has been postponed; we apologize for the inconvenience. Please keep in touch for a rescheduled date!

Stop by E.P. Foster Library next Saturday, June 28, for a special talk on the Craft of Bookbinding!

This presentation will include information on the history of books and on the tools and techniques necessary to maintain modern volumes. If you’re passionate about the preservation of important works—or if you’re just curious about how it’s done—this is the event for you!

This free talk begins at 10 a.m. in Foster Library’s Topping Room. Call or visit the library for more information!

Font to Film: “The Sun Also Rises”

While it is always impressive to see the latest best-sellers turn into big-screen epics with even bigger budgets and loads of special effects, it’s easy to forget that many of the great literary classics also got the box office treatment. A lot of books that are still relevant today were made into films so long ago that the current generation of readers probably wouldn’t recognize the stars that brought the original text to life. Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises offers us a great example of a work that has had the honor of being appreciated and dissected in multiple formats and across decades of social and cultural change.

The Sun Also Rises was published in 1926, and has been celebrated as a quintessential representation of the idea of the Lost Generation—those individuals who came of age during World War I. Hemingway introduces us to a number of complex characters, including narrator Jake Barnes and the free-spirited Lady Brett Ashley, whose relationship is central to many of the novel’s themes relating to love and shifting views on sexuality. Barnes served in the war, and suffered an injury which left him impotent and therefore unable to consummate a relationship with Lady Ashley, whose own frustrated feelings for Barnes lead her to indulge haphazardly in a series of affairs and meaningless relationships. The two travel from Paris to Spain with several other expatriates, friends of theirs—mostly writers—who exemplify the aimlessness and desperation of the generation that Hemingway is praised for capturing so well. With Barnes’ injury, Lady Ashley’s conquests, and the portrayals of other male characters which include drunks, hangers-on, and bullfighters, The Sun Also Rises has a lot to say about masculinity in particular, and a critical reader will find a lot to digest and appreciate.
One thing that most critics agree on regarding the 1957 film version of The Sun Also Rises is that it is a fairly faithful adaptation of the events in the novel. In a way it’s almost surreal to see scenes and dialogue replicated to such a degree; at times it seems that the film suffers from trying to maintain the pacing of a novel, dragging in places it should not, particularly in the first hour. That said, when the pace picks up and the cast is out in force the film is noticeably better; the second half benefits from a more compelling setting and an improved chemistry between the actors. But despite strong performances from Ava Gardner as Lady Ashley and Errol Flynn as the drunkard Mike Campbell, the film’s casting is perhaps its weakest point. As many have pointed out, the actors chosen for the film are at least a decade too old to be truly believable representations of Hemingway’s characters, creating an experience similar to watching a movie about high school students played by actors in their thirties. The Lost Generation’s wandering purposelessness seems less romantic in those already well past middle age; still, the film manages to reproduce a good deal of the existential heft that makes the novel such an important cultural touchstone.

Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises is available to borrow at E.P. Foster Library as part of the adult and young adult collections, and is also available as an audiobook. The film is available at Foster as part of a collection which includes several other screen adaptations of Hemingway’s work. If the item you are interested in is not on the shelf at your local branch, you can request for a copy to be delivered to your home branch in person, over the phone, or online through our catalog.

 

Laid out by Ronald Martin.

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