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Monday, April 27, 2015

David R.'s Foreign Film Selections

Posted by David R.

American director Jules Dassin predates the Western cinema’s Tarantino-driven gangster pap with this smart, fascinating French production, a dissection of a jewel heist gone awry, released in 1955. The cinematography by Philipe Agostini is assured, and the pacing of the film is fairly intense even when viewed today.

Get Out Your Handkerchiefs 
A French romantic comedy from 1978 that wears its bravery on its sleeve, about a young woman who desires a unique cure for her, uhm, depression, a status which neither of her two lovers can fix even though they dedicate themselves to helping her. Humorous, lighthearted, and to Western audiences most likely offensive. Not recommended for younger viewers.

Russian science fiction entry from 1972 is a sleep-inducing dredge through the interior corridors of the mind of psychologist Kris Kelvin as he prepares for an interstellar trip into a reality-busting sphere of space—but in your sleep, you will discover one of the most haunting and picturesque dreamscapes ever committed to celluloid, assuming you have enough Nodoz on hand to make the journey. Not nearly as boring as Western critics have deemed it to be, Andrei Tarkovsky weaves together a fantastic tapestry of sheer cinematic poetry.

The Wages of Fear
Clouzot’s original action adventure spectacle from 1953 is still a gripping trek through jungle hell as two nitroglycerin truck drivers face unconscionable peril as they transport the shaky cargo along rough Southern Mexican terrain. You can’t have contempt for adventure film after seeing this one. Recommended for those who appreciate cinema at its most pleasurably harrowing.

Throne of Blood
It’s Shakespeare, kids, and that’s the entire academic defense that anyone requires to enjoy Akira Kurosawa’s 1957 film—a violent but unendingly epic exploration of revenge and tragedy (this one is based upon the Scottish play). Toshiro Mifune’s astonishing performance is still legendary among cineastes, and the film has had a major impact upon literary critics as well as film societies.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Books in the News: Pulitzer Prizes 2015

Posted by Katherine R.

The Pulitzer Prizes for 2015 were just awarded on April 20th.  The prize was established in 1917 by provisions in the will of American (Hungarian-born) publisher Joseph Pulitzer, and is administered by Columbia University.  Prizes are awarded yearly in twenty-one categories. In twenty categories, each winner receives a certificate and a $10,000 cash award. The winner in the public service category of the journalism competition is awarded a gold medal. This year's winners that you can check out from our library are:

Fiction: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
An imaginative and intricate novel inspired by the horrors of World War II and written in short, elegant chapters that explore human nature and the contradictory power of technology. 

History: Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People by Elizabeth A. Fenn.  An engrossing, original narrative showing the Mandans, a Native American tribe in the Dakotas, as a people with a history. 

Biography: The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe by David I. Kertzer. An engrossing dual biography that uses recently opened Vatican archives to shed light on two men who exercised nearly absolute power over their realms. 

General Nonfiction: The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert. An exploration of nature that forces readers to consider the threat posed by human behavior to a world of astonishing diversity. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Books from Around the World

Posted by Allie L.

Take a look at the books you have read and you might realize that some of them were originally published in a different language and translated to English. When I did this and went back to those books, it made me wonder if I could see any differences in writing style, techniques, characters, or plot twists from what we would normally expect out of an English book. While I did find some subtle differences in the layout of the narrative and the way the author presents the story, there were very few things that I could point to and say “That’s what shows this is a foreign title.” In a way, this is good; we as readers are being shown different styles and cultures often without realizing it.

So, don’t think that by picking up a translated title you are going to get something completely strange and unreadable. The books listed below are good representations of different types of translated works ranging from current Japanese translations to a classic Italian.

            This book was recommended to me and should be to everyone who loves a good mystery. The story takes twists and turns that still leave me scratching my head. As a murder mystery that gives nothing away until the very last page, Confessions is hard to put down once picked up.

            Add this novel to your reading list if you haven’t already. It has the ability to tell a story from both a surface level and more in-depth. Multiple generations of characters with the same name might get confusing at times, but this only adds to the ambiguity of the story and causes you to think more deeply about the storylines presented.

Hopscotch – Julio Cortazar (Spanish)
            Cortazar’s novel is not for light reading; this is for someone who enjoys a challenge. There are two ways to read this book: sections one and two, leaving out section three, or the way the author prefers, by bouncing around chapters in every section. For example, the story starts with chapter 72 and then you read chapter 1, then chapter 50, then chapter 2, and so on. Don’t let this deter you, though. It seems confusing at times, but the story is wholly interesting and thought provoking.

            I was hesitant to read this at first, as anything by Dante always appears slightly daunting. Once I started, though, I realized why he was held in such high regard. His language is beautifully translated and the story is terrifying, inspiring, and lovely all at once. He makes you feel as if you were actually traveling through the levels of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise with him searching for his beloved Beatrice.