Old Favorites: Ambrose Bierce

I was going to substitute this feature with something else about the Great American Read, but then I realized that Ambrose Bierce’s birthday was this coming Sunday and, well, I just had to pen an ode to one of my favorite writers, AKA Bitter Bierce, The Diabolical Bierce, The Wickedest Man in San Francisco, The Rascal with the Sorrel Hair, The Laughing Devil, and (last but not least) The Devil’s Lexicographer. (I think I hit all the high points and included all the nicknames.)

Now, these nicknames make Bierce seem like evil incarnate, but he wasn’t. Honest!

He was just really, really, really, really grouchy, even by 19th century standards. And according to biographers, he was a crotchety, eccentric kid, so maybe when he entered this world on June 24, 1842, in rural Ohio, he was already destined to be one of the world’s best known literary misanthropes. (Though certain life events certainly did help him along that path.)

If you know of Bierce, it is likely because his two most famous works: his delightfully mean Devil’s Dictionary and his haunting, surreal Civil War short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” These are both great, but there’s a lot more to Bierce than meets the eye. . . .

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Book Buzz: Mysterious Tea Cakes, Ill-Fated Arctic Expeditions, and Tasty Bread Recipes

Every month, we’re profiling new-ish releases that are getting critical and commercial buzz. For May, we’re looking at a story of a mother and daughter long separated,  a really cold camping trip, and an ode to bread. . . .

In honor of the upcoming Books in Bloom festival, each of the books we’re profiling is also from a Books in Bloom author. It’s not too late to check out a copy and read it just in time to meet the author in person at Books in Bloom on Sunday, May 20th, at the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

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Dawson City: Frozen Time (2016)

Dawson City

Dawson City is a remote outpost, deep in the rugged Yukon and not far from the Arctic Circle. Nevertheless, it was a veritable boomtown in the late 1800s and early 1900s after gold was found there. At its peak, tens of thousands moved to Dawson City in the hopes of striking it rich. As with most boomtowns, though, the town’s fortunes waned, and it now has a population of only about 1,000. Dawson City might have just been a footnote in Gold Rush history if it were not for the treasure trove of silent films found there in the 1970s, long forgotten.

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Larry Campbell’s Rollin’ Down The River (2017)

Rollin Down the River

For two months in 2016, Larry Campbell conducted an epic solo road trip, following the Missouri River from Montana down through the Dakotas, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri. And in this gorgeous coffee table book, you can follow along, as he recounts the places and faces he met along the way.

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Caitlin Doughty’s Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Caitlyn Doughty is a lot more famous than your average mortician. She’s the author of two books, hosts a YouTube series where she answers viewer questions, and is an advocate for reform in the funeral industry. Late last year, she released her second book, From Here to Eternity, which looks at funeral practices around the world, and that’s gaining a fair amount of buzz. But at the library, we’ve also been buzzing about her first book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. Jen suggested it to me a few weeks ago, and it’s an excellent, thought-provoking read! (Thanks for the great suggestion, Jen!)

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Book Buzz: Alice in Wonderland Fan Fiction, Small-Town Olympic Glory, and Intergalactic Adventures

Every month, we’re profiling new-ish releases that are getting critical and commercial buzz. For March, we’re looking at a fantasy anthology that celebrates a classic work, a profile of a small Vermont town that generates an unusually high number of Olympians, and a coming-of-age science fiction trilogy.

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David Carlson’s The Hunting Accident: A True Story of Crime and Poetry

The Hunting Accident

Charlie Rizzo has spent his life thinking his father was blinded in a hunting accident as a child. Not that it has stopped his dad from living his life or enjoying one of his greatest hobbies — studying poetic masterpieces of world literature. It’s an unusual hobby to have in their 1960s working-class Chicago neighborhood, but Charlie never suspects anything out-of-the-ordinary with his dad. That is, until Charlie finds himself in trouble with the law. He then learns that his mild-mannered father was blinded in a botched robbery and did time for it in the Illinois State Penitentiary, where he was cellmates with Nathan Leopold. As in, Nathan Leopold of Leopold and Loeb thrill-killing infamy.

I had this book (a nonfiction graphic novel that combines true crime and poetry appreciation) recommended to me recently by one of my undergraduate English professors. I always enjoyed the books I read in her classes, so her suggestions are ones I always try to follow up on. And I was not disappointed. Thanks so much for the great suggestion, Leslie!

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