Wednesday Videos: Harry Potter and Friends

WednesdayVideoThis video has been posted EVERYWHERE – but it’s so sweet you’ll probably want to see it twice.  So here you go – Harry Potter and Co. set to the opening credits from the TV show “Friends”.  I have something in my eyes…oh right, those are SENTIMENTAL TEARS.  *sniff*

And here’s the Avengers version because OMG AGE OF ULTON I CANNOT CONTAIN MY EXCITEMENT!!

Kickass Women: Mary Bowser

Over on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, I run a monthly column about Kickass Women.  This month was about Mary Bowser, Civil War spy.  Bowser was born a slave and freed by the Van Lew family.  She worked for Elizabeth Van Lew as a servant.  Van Lew was a spymaster for the Union and she got Bowser as job as a domestic at the Confederate White House.  Everyone assumed that Bowser was illiterate, and she also pretend to be not very bright.  As a result, she had access to maps, letters, documents, and conversations.  Not only could she read and write, but she had an eidetic memory.  Van Lew considered Bowser to be the most valuable spy in her network.

You can read more about Mary Bowser here!

Between the Lines Book Club: All the Gossip about Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Ibetween the lines book club logot’s that time in the Between the Lines Book Club session when I post links, and oh what yummy links I have for you!  This month we’ve been reading Love in the Time of Cholera.  If you are in or near Sacramento, CA, be sure to visit our in-person  book club at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM Saturday April 25.

The life and work of Gabriel Garcia Marquez lends itself to much deep, thoughtful, intellectual conversation.  It also lends itself to some VERY juicy gossip.  For example:

Garcia Marquez’ parents had a tortured courtship similar to the early courtship between Florentino and Fermina in Love in the Time of Cholera.  Dad did not approve of these two crazy kids getting together, but Garcia Marquez father won him down through dogged persistence, and won Garcia Marquez’ mother through love letters and serenades.  You can read all about it in this article: “Serendade: How my Father Won my Mother”, by Garcia Marquez himself.

Oh writers, they are such a dry lot, always arguing about grammar – except for when they are punching each other in the face. In this New York Times article, you can read about the literary and personal feud between Garcia Marquez and Mario Vargas Llosa, and see a photo of Marquez sporting a spectacular black eye after Mario Vargas Llosa pouched him.  The cause seems to have been jealousy regarding Vargas Llosa’s wife.  At one point Vargas Llosa and Garcia Marquez were best friends, but they had literary and political disagreements.  Then Vargas Llosa cheated on his wife, Garcia Marquez befriended her, Vargas Llosa and the wife reconciled, cue punching.  Interestingly, both writers ended up winning the Nobel Prize in literature – Garcia Marquez in 1982 and Vargas Llosa in 2010.  You can read more here.

Of course the man was not all about scandal – he was a writer who wrote gorgeous, often very moving prose.  When he died, Arts.Mic posted Thirteen Quotes to remember him by.  Here’s my favorite:

“There is always something left to love.” —One Hundred Years of Solitude

Between the Lines Book Club Meets Tomorrow!

between the lines book club logoTomorrow (May 30, 2015) Between the Lines Book Club meets at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30 AM (891 Watt Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95864). If you are following along online, drop us a comment and let us know what you thought of this month’s pick, The People’s Platform, by Astra Taylor!

The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in a Digital Age is a book that challenges commonly held ideas about how “democratized” and “open” the Internet actually is.  Here’s a couple of quotes from the book:

“wealth and power are shifting to those who control the platforms on which all of us create, consume, and connect. The companies that provide these and related services are quickly becoming the Disneys of the digital world—monoliths hungry for quarterly profits, answerable to their shareholders not us, their users, and more influential, more ubiquitous, and more insinuated into the fabric of our everyday lives than Mickey Mouse ever was. As such they pose a whole new set of challenges to the health of our culture.”

“Those who applaud social production and networked amateurism, the colorful cacophony that is the Internet, and the creative capacities of everyday people to produce entertaining and enlightening things online, are right to marvel. There is amazing inventiveness, boundless talent and ability, and overwhelming generosity on display. Where they go wrong is thinking that the Internet is an egalitarian, let alone revolutionary, platform for our self-expression and development, that being able to shout into the digital torrent is adequate for democracy.”

“New media companies look remarkably like the old ones they aspire to replace: male, pale, and privileged.”

What do you think?  How does the Internet benefit you?  How does it hold you back?  Leave your comments below and join us tomorrow for coffee and conversation.

Young Jane Austen: Becoming a Writer, by Lisa Pliscou

YoungJaneAustenCOVER-214x300Young Jane Austen is a sweet, but odd, children’s book about the childhood of Jane Austen.  It’s actually three books.  The first is a children’s book which is a “speculative biography”.  The author is clear in the introduction that she is using the few facts about Jane’s early life as a springboard to try to imagine this life in more detail.  It’s graced with charming illustrations by Massimo Mongiaro.  They are lovely line drawings that convey a delicate sense of emotion and detail.  The writing is more awkward – in trying to keep the language simple, the author frequently comes across as talking down to her audience.

Art by Massimo Mongiaro

Art by Massimo Mongiaro

The second book within a book is the annotated version – here we get the whole book again with each section followed by more factual notes and background.  It’s an odd structure.  I preferred the annotations to the actual book, to be honest, because they involved less conjecture and were more matter-of-fact in tone – the main text is quite cutesy.

The annotations are followed by a short biography of Jane Austen and a timeline, as well as a bibliography.

So did I like the book?  Well, I found the information in the timeline and annotations to be helpful, and I loved the illustrations.  To be fair, I should find some children and get their opinion of the main section of text.  I’m pretty sure that my eleven year old daughter would view it with withering scorn because the tone is so cutesy.  Perhaps it might work better for a child of around eight?  Of course it’s hampered by the fact that not much happens. But I can imagine a very specific type of child being interested in the portrait of an avid reader from long ago.

The construction of the book was needlessly repetitive – honestly I’ve never seen a book constructed this way before.  The book did do a good job of showing Jane as a person instead of a mysterious genius icon.  And the illustrations are lovely.  Die-hard adult Austen fans will enjoy the details about Jane’s early life and younger children might be attracted to the portrait of a little girl who loves to play and read.



Between the Lines Book Club: Magical Realism

between the lines book club logoWelcome to Between the Lines Book Club!  This month, we are discussing Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ novel, Love in the Time of Cholera.  You can leave a comment below, or come join us for our in person book club on April 25, at 10:30AM.  We meet at Arden Dimick Library at 891 Watt Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95864.  Coffee and light snack provided.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez is famous for his use of magical realism.  He described the style in these words: “It was based on the way my grandmother used to tell her stories. She told things that sounded supernatural and fantastic, but she told them with complete naturalness.”

The term “magical realism” is a nebulous one.  At it’s core, it describes a style in which magical things occur without comment or explanation.  Often these things serve as metaphor.  A matter-of-fact tone is key, as stated by

One important aspect of any magical realist text is that the author recounts seemingly incredible events without sounding the least bit surprised, impressed, or spooked. It’s essential that the author present these supernatural aspects of the story in a matter-of-fact way, like Gabo does here – otherwise it wouldn’t be magical realism. It would be a ghost story.

The online magazine Margin, which is devoted to modern magical realism, asks contributors to consider these questions when deciding whether or not a story is one that uses magical realism:

“Is there an event in my story that cannot be explained by universal laws or logic?”

“Will my reader witness a collision of disparate realms in my story?”

“Does my fictional world clearly resemble my own real world? Does it share the same historical and/or cultural realities?”

“Have I allowed certain contradictions and ambiguities to exist in my story?”

“Is there a metamorphosis in my story? Is it treated as something mundane?”

“Do I use imagery, symbols, and/or metaphor to drive the narrative?”

“If the story is in first person, is my narrator a charmed or extra-ordinary storyteller?”

“Does the structure of my story reflect its deeper meaning?”

“Do I employ folklore, mythology and/or ancient systems of belief in my story?”

“Is the realism in my story heightened, even exaggerated or supercharged?”

“Might my story have a subversive message?”

“Do I have elements of both the unreal and reality interwoven into my story? Is the weave seamless?”

“Does my story involve otherwise voiceless characters, abandoned places or rejected ideas? Is my story told from the point of view of The Other?”

“Do I achieve a sense of enchantment without using fantastical devices and creatures — i.e. crystal balls, dragons, magic spells, elves — in favor of realistic objects and characters?” (TIP: YOUR STORY WILL GET PAST THE FIRST READING IF YOU MEET THIS GOAL.)

“Does my story illustrate an alternative truth?”

Although magical realism is associated with Latin American authors, it’s by no means limited to that part of the world.  Some notable examples of works that can be considered magical realism (other than the work of Garcia Marquez) are Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Equivel, White Teeth, by Zadie Smith, Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie, and A Bear Called Paddington, by Michael Bond.

Margins magazine has an amazing links page with recommendation of articles and books on magical realism as well as interviews with authors.  You can find it at