Blogs

Avenue Library Presents: Writing Essentials with Doug Taylor

Doug Taylor, author of Bogota by Bus, hosts an interactive workshop focusing on the elements of a successful novel at Avenue Library on Saturday, March 15, from 1 to 2:30pm.

 

Using his own novel as a template, Doug will cover mapping out a novel in advance, character development, creating good dialogue and the differences between action and descriptive narrative.

 

Django Unchained, the Graphic Novel

When you go to see a movie, what was originally in the script doesn’t always end up on the screen. To keep a film within a reasonable viewing time, some cuts need to be made. Do you ever wonder about those missing parts of the story? Do you think it would make a difference to the way the story is told?

Well, in the case of Django Unchained, those missing parts are missing no more. Based on Quentin Tarantino’s original, uncut screenplay, this graphic novel tells the story of a slave who seeks to find his wife and bring vengeance upon those who took her. With the help of a German bounty hunter, Django learns to play a dangerous charade that takes him all the way to the doors of a southern plantation known as Candyland, run by a ruthless and twisted “gentleman” named Calvin Candie.

Django Unchained, the graphic novel, is every bit as violent as the movie it’s based on. It takes place two years before the Civil War, when slavery was in full swing, and slaves were ruled by the cruel hands of their masters. While I did enjoy the graphic novel, be warned: it is violent, and the N-word is used profusely. It is a product of that time (and it is Quentin Tarantino’s story, after all), but the language may be uncomfortable for some. What made it worth reading was Django’s determined search to find his wife, as well as his friendship/partnership with the bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz. At first, Schultz merely needs Django’s assistance in tracking down a bounty, but the two men form a friendship of sorts as Schultz teaches Django the ways of a bounty hunter. More importantly, he treats him as an equal.

If you’re a fan of the Tarantino film, this book will give you an expanded view of the story, one that is worth reading.

 

-Heather, the Graphic Novel Goddess

Make! a paracord survival bracelet!

 

Tuesday 2/18: starts at 7:30pm
Topping Room at E.P. Foster Library
 
Come to make! and learn how to create paracord survival bracelets, keychains and more!

Learn basic paracord tying techniques to create endless paracord survival accessories.
(Paracord will be provided.)

 

February Staff Picks!

Each month, our staff sends in a list of their favorite books, DVDs, children's and young adult materials they recommend.

See something you like? When viewing the list, click on the "Check Library Catalog" link to be taken directly to our catalog. Then, sign in and place a hold request to have the item brought to your local library for pick up!

Can't remember to check the list? You can sign up to receive this and many other book recommendation lists directly into your email box at our "Newsletter & Booklists" page found under Special Interests (on the left side of this page) > Books & Reading > Staff Picks.

Enjoy!

Font to Film: "The Positronic Man" / "Bicentennial Man"

Most people with even a passing interest in science fiction will have heard of Isaac Asimov, a writer responsible for hundreds of books and who created a compellingly intricate fictional universe in which he explores complex cultural issues and delves into the mystery of what it means to be human. He accomplishes the latter primarily through his treatment of robots and artificial intelligence, using synthetic life forms as an effective foil for organic ones. An effective example of this dynamic is The Positronic Man, a 1992 novel co-written by Asimov and Robert Silverberg and based on a 1976 novella by Asimov titled The Bicentennial Man. The 1999 film Bicentennial Man, starring Robin Williams, is based on both of these works, and all three deal heavily with the theme of emergent humanity.

The Positronic Man is Andrew Martin, who begins his existence as a standard model of household robot, designed to perform various service tasks for the family to which he is assigned. However, it quickly becomes apparent to Andrew’s owners that he is something more than a robot of the sort that exists in Asimov’s universe. He displays a spark of creativity and potential for distinctly non-robotic thinking, traits which excite some of the humans around him and deeply trouble others. As the novel progresses, Andrew himself gains an understanding of his unique nature—and along with it a motivation to forge his own destiny free of the restrictions, both social and technological, which govern his fellow machines. His adoption of the name Andrew (derived from his serial number, NDR-113) ends up having been the first of many increasingly significant steps he takes along the continuum linking robot and human.

The novel presents Andrew’s situation, with all of its paradoxes and intricacies, in a precise and almost technical manner. As a result, it reads almost like an essay on the definition of humanity, with various characters arguing whether or not a machine can truly be said to be alive. Every stumbling block Andrew encounters, from attempting to gain legal recognition of his freedom to wearing clothes for the first time, addresses a small piece of the puzzle that is sentience. Many readers have felt that this leaves the novel feeling coldly clinical in its approach, lacking an emotional punch that one would think would be central to a work dealing with our shared humanity.

Enter Robin Williams, who plays Andrew in Bicentennial Man. The movie addresses the same issues as the book, but the approach is substantially different. While many of the climactic conflicts in the book take place in courtrooms, those in the movie are at weddings and in deathbed conversations. The emotional elements are pushed to the foreground, arguably at the expense of some of the more complex philosophical issues. The performances of the film’s actors, particularly Sam Neill and Oliver Platt, give a somewhat different answer to the question of what makes us human than was found in the book. Unfortunately, many moviegoers found that the film went too far in this direction; Bicentennial Man had a somewhat cool reception, and is generally regarded as having failed to meet the potential of its source material. Nonetheless, it is a heartwarming story in its own right, and worth viewing if for no other reason than to contrast it with Asimov’s version.

The Positronic Man is available to borrow at E.P. Foster Library, as is Bicentennial Man. Please note that both of the previous links will connect you to our new catalog, which has many exciting new search features that can help you find whatever materials you are looking for. If you would like assistance with navigating the new catalog, feel free to call or stop by the library, and remember that you can still access the classic catalog and use it to search the Ventura County Library’s holdings.

 

Carefully assembled by Ronald Martin.

Know Your Pets, and How to Care for Them

Americans spend over sixty billion dollars annually on their pets. The average household spends about $500 a year on pets that range from cats, dogs, and rabbits to exotic birds and reptiles.

With all the time, money, and love we lavish on our pets, it’s important to know how to care for them. Foster Library has many books on cats, dogs, and pets in general to assist you in choosing the best pets for your family and to help you learn how to care for them after you bring them into your home.

Resident Photographer Aleta A. Rodriguez

February is African American History Month

Ventura County Library joins the Library of Congress and many others in paying tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society.

For starters, in our eLibrary under "Biography":

 * See Biography In Context for articles about famous figures in African American history, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks and Barack Obama.

 * Explore Chelsea House Biographies - their featured collection this month highlights Black History Month.

 * Browse Gale Virtual Reference Library's "Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History"

 Enjoy exploring - it's all free with your library card!

We have a new catalog in the works! Why not give it a try?

We have launched a beta version of our new Catalog! We are quite excited about it as it has new and more efficient search capabilities than our Classic Catalog.

Once in our classic catalog, find the new catalog by clicking on the tab in the upper right (see <== image). 

After your initial search, see the left sidebar of the search results for filters (include or exclude): authors, other titles, publication year, languages, library, series, etc.

As always, you can request an item and log into your account.

It is a work in progress and we encourage your feedback and participation. Try it out and let us know what you think!
Send your comments to: library.postmaster@ventura.org

For our patrons who wish to download books: By searching with the default setting ("Everything"), you can then limit results to ebook and eaudiobook content by selecting/checking the eBook, eAudiobook, Electronic Resources, etc. filter under "Format" in the left sidebar.

Font to Film: "The Namesake"

Jhumpa Lahiri’s first novel, The Namesake, tells the story of an Indian couple who, joined in an arranged marriage, begin their lives together as new immigrants in America. Their journey begins steeped in the alienation and culture shock that the two encounter as they settle in and begin building a home and family. The novel is ultimately a multigenerational saga, devoting itself first to the young couple, then to their experiences as young parents, their relationship with their American-born children who become teenagers immersed in contemporary culture, and finally the lives of those children as they grow into adulthood themselves.

Lahiri manages to create an engaging narrative which explores the nature of identity both in terms of the ways our cultures shape us and the impact of our names themselves on who we will eventually become. She also captures the ever-present sense of separateness felt by many immigrants with respect to their new countries and children with respect to parents who seem to be from another world—because, in many ways, they are. Her second-generational protagonist, Gogol (arguably the novel’s main character—Lahiri is herself the child of immigrant parents), struggles to build an identity that distances himself from his parents’ world despite having no guarantees of acceptance from the one he is growing up in.

The Namesake, originally published in 2003, was made into a film that was released in 2006. On the one hand, it seemed like a given that Lahiri’s follow-up to her Pulitzer Prize-winning Interpreter of Maladies would receive this treatment, although, as one reviewer pointed out, the book has a pace to it which seems too meandering for the screen (in his words, “Not enough happens. Hardly anything happens”). Additionally, the breadth and complexity of both the themes and characters make a conversion to film a risky proposition. Nonetheless, the film, starring Kal Penn as Gogol and Irrfan Khan and Tabu as his parents, was a critical and commercial success, keeping close to the events of the book and bringing many of its most poignant scenes to life faithfully and with striking, even heart-wrenching emotionality. It must be said, however, that there is a sense of brevity about the film that, particularly when compared with the novel, might leave one feeling it ought to have been several hours longer.

The book The Namesake is available to borrow at E.P. Foster Library, as is Interpreter of Maladies, a collection of short stories. The film is also available through the Ventura County Library system; if it is not at your local branch, you can use the “Request Item” option to have it sent to the branch of your choice. The book review mentioned above, originally published in The Kenyon Review, is available through Literature Resource Center, which can be accessed remotely by Ventura County library card holders through our eLibrary.

 

Thoughtfully prepared by Ronald Martin.

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