Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Reading banned books at Queens University

In honor of Banned Books Week, students, faculty and staff at Queens University of Charlotte are celebrating their freedom to read on Wednesday, Sept. 29, by reading passages from books that have been challenged or banned. They'll be on the steps of Everett Library from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

What's on the agenda? You might be surprised at how many great books make the list. Look for Cormac McCarthy's "All the Pretty Horses," Toni Morrison's "Beloved" and Katherine Paterson's "Bridge to Terabithia," to name a few.

And if you can't make it to Queens on Wednesday, check out excepts from banned books being read by members of N.C. State University's community: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/events/bannedbooks/

Monday, September 27, 2010

"Freakonomics" authors coming to Charlotte

Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, authors of the best-selling "Freakonomics" books, will speak in Charlotte Nov. 4. They'll be the inaugural lecturers for a new speaker series sponsored by UNC Charlotte's Belk College of Business.

Levitt and Dubner are famous for asking new questions and discovering unexpected answers. In "Freakonomics" and "SuperFreakonomics" they've looked at the telltale signs of a cheating schoolteacher and wondered whether a sex change could boost your salary. They've also asked what's more dangerous, driving drunk, or walking drunk?

The two will speak at 7 p.m. Nov. 4 at the Ritz-Carlton Charlotte. Tickets, which include a cocktail reception starting at 5:45 p.m., are $49. VIP tickets, which include the reception before the event, a private reception with the speakers after the event and signed copies of the "Freakonomics" books, are $149. Check here for more information.

Enough already with the zombies and vampires

Sorting through new books recently, I came across "The Zombie Night Before Christmas," a retelling of Clement C. Moore's classic. No stockings hung by the chimney -- just undead legs. The perfect gift, I guess, if you're trying to scare the crap out of your kids.
The next day, the Observer reported on a new version of everyone's favorite beginning reader: "Dick and Jane and Vampires."
These books, as you probably know, follow a slew of retold classics in which vampires, zombies and other assorted beasties have been inserted -- "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," "Jane Slayre," "Little Vampire Women," "Android Karenina," "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies."
You get the picture. In fact, by now, I think we all get the picture: Let's take what originally may have been a clever idea and beat it death, hoping to extract every last dime.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A wondrous Junot Diaz speaks at Davidson College

My plan was to jot a few quotes as Junot Diaz ("The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao") spoke Thursday night at Davidson College. I ended up scribbling the whole time.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author, dressed in a black hoodie, jeans and tennis shoes, was provocative and irreverent as he discussed his Dominican-immigrant background, his writing process and MFA programs.
Some highlights:
On cancer, which plays a role in his novel:
His older brother was diagnosed with cancer when Diaz was 12. "Cancer pulls you out of the normal stream of life," he said. "You reside on what I call Cancer Planet. It becomes a different reality altogether."
On mixing humor and violence in his work:
"In real life it gets all mixed up. People even in extreme situations crack jokes. We don't live our life in genre. My family didn't stop laughing because s--- was hard."
On mixing Spanish and English in his novel:
"These two languages have been in bed with each other for 500 years."
On people who find his work offensive:
"The truth rarely gets you friends," he said. "Really, if you want friends, be a f------ lawyer."
On becoming a writer:
"I kind of grew up in a world where if you weren't awesome at something right away, you sucked. The thought didn't enter my mind for a long time that I might be amazing at something I find very difficult."
On whether MFA creative writing programs produce cookie-cutter writing:
"If your s--- is whack, it ain't the program's fault."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Art books on sale Friday and Saturday

Find bargains on lots of big, beautiful books on art, architecture and photography when Hodges Taylor Gallery and Friends of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library host a book sale Friday and Saturday, Sept. 24 and 25, to benefit the library.
The sale runs 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Hodges Taylor Gallery, 401 N. Tryon St. Look for more bargains on books at benefit sales over the next month. Click here to find out more.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A book club milestone

In 1960, Charlotte’s Connie Braxton started a Great Books group, an outgrowth of the Great Books Foundation, founded to encourage readers to discuss enduring ideas.
For the past half century, as far as she can remember, Braxton has read every book the group has chosen. “I wouldn’t dare go the meeting without reading the book,” she says.
Now 92, she recently decided she’d no longer attend meetings because she has difficulty hearing. But she’ll continue reading the group’s monthly selections.
In fact, she just finished the most recent, Cervantes’ “Don Quixote” – all 1,000-plus pages, she told me, not some abridged version.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Charlotte's A.J. Hartley pens a new fantasy

He's a sort of literary superhero, that A.J. Hartley.

At UNC Charlotte, he's Andrew Hartley, distinguished professor of Shakespeare. But fans of his novels know him as A.J.

Hartley's newest work, "Will Power" (Tor; $25.99), is now in bookstores. The fantasy novel centers on young actor Will Hawthorne, who finds himself transported to a strange land and plunked down in the middle of a war between humans and goblins. Readers first met Will in Hartley's previous book, "Act of Will."

Early reviews are good. "All of the fast pacing, outrageous dilemmas, and sharp cynical humor (of "Act of Will") are back in full force," says Publishers Weekly.

Hartley will speak at noon Saturday, Oct. 2, at the main library, 310 N. Tryon St., as part of the "Tribute to Novello" festival.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The story behind your cute outfit

Kelsey Timmerman has traveled the world to find out where, exactly, his clothes are made.
Timmerman, author of "Where Am I Wearing: a Global Tour to the Countries, Factories, and People that Make our Clothes," speaks at 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 17 in the chapel at Pfeiffer University in Misenheimer. He'll also attend a 7 p.m. dessert reception on Thursday, Sept. 16 in the Stokes Student Center Lounge. Both events are free and open to the public.

The 2008 book is Pfeiffer's required reading for freshmen this year.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Davidson professor dedicates his new book to a fallen soldier

Stories of soldiers ancient and modern converge in Peter Krentz's new book, "The Battle of Marathon" (Yale University Press; $27.50), a new interpretation of a battle that changed Greek military history.
In the Battle of Marathon, in 490 BCE, the city-state of Athens defeated invaders from Persia. For centuries, scholars have found fault with the earliest surviving account of the battle, written by the Greek historian Herodotus. Nearly all, for instance, have doubted Herodotus's claim that the Athenians ran nearly a mile when they charged the Persians. The soldiers' heavy equipment and armor would have made such a long run impossible, they argued.
But Krentz, a Davidson College classics professor, wasn't so sure. He decided to test Herodotus's claim by consulting some modern wartime experts: American soldiers.
In 2006, Krentz emailed dozens of Davidson College ROTC graduates asking about their experience running with heavy equipment. About 50 responded, and many described training that involved running for miles with a 35-pound rucksack and gun. Based on their accounts, Krentz says he became convinced that Herodotus's story was plausible.
Among those Davidson graduates was David Taylor Jr., a 1991 graduate and Army major who took the time to email Krentz from Iraq with a long, thoughtful response. A few months later, Krentz learned Taylor had been killed -- the first Davidson graduate to die in the Iraq war.
Krentz dedicates his new book to Maj. David Taylor. "It just felt right," Krentz says, as a way of remembering Taylor and all the ROTC graduates who helped him.
It also felt right to dedicate the book to a soldier, since the Athenians' victory in the Battle of Marathon, Krentz believes, was a victory won by the soldiers, not the commanding officers.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

New children's book from Charlotte's Tameka Fryer Brown

Sometimes, Tameka Fryer Brown will tell you, persistence pays off. Brown, a Charlotte mom who lives in the University City area, worked for three years to find a publisher for her children's picture books. And she got nowhere.

Then, in 2008, lots of things happened at once. A publisher expressed interest. The Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories Author Contest awarded one of her stories a $1,000 prize. The publisher got more interested.

The result? Brown's first book, "Around Our Way on Neighbors' Day" (Abrams Books for Young Readers; $16.95). Illustrated by Charlotte Riley-Webb, the book's

rhyming lines tell the story of a diverse neighborhood holding its annual summer block party.

Brown has now sold a second book, due out 2012.

She'll be among a slew of children's and young adult authors reading and signing books 10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m Oct. 9 at Imaginon, 300 E. Seventh St. The event is part of this year's Tribute to Novello activities.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Support the public library. You may win wine.

Surely you know by now that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg library has suffered huge budget cuts. But did you know this: Neiman Marcus at SouthPark is raffling off some ritzy prizes to help our beleaguered library system.
As part of the department store's Fashion's Night Out event at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 10, Neiman Marcus is selling $20 raffle tickets, with all proceeds going to the library system.
What could you win?
1. A private wine tasting for 12 guests from Bond Street Imports, plus three bottles of Northern Rhone Wine.
2. A Ritz-Carlton hotel package that includes a night in a deluxe guest room and breakfast.
3. $500 Neiman Marcus gift card.
How do you buy a ticket?
1. At the event. It's free, but reserve a spot at RSVPCharlotte@NeimanMarcus.com.
2. Online at www.cmlibrary.org/raffle.
3. At any of library's 20 locations.
Organizers are aiming to sell 1,000 tickets. You don't have to be present to win.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A new historical novel from CPCC's president

Tony Zeiss has a plenty demanding day job -- president of Central Piedmont Community College, the state's largest community college. But Zeiss is also a history buff, a guy so passionate about the subject that he also finds time to write historical novels.

His new book, "Backcountry Fury" (Parkway Books; $19.95), tells the true story of Thomas Young, who was just 16 in 1780 when he fought against the Tories in the South Carolina backcountry during the Revolutionary War. Zeiss worries that students today are often ignorant about the Revolutionary War. He's hoping Thomas's story will educate while it entertains.

And it is a heck of a story. Zeiss discovered an intriguing quote from Thomas on an historical plaque at Kings Mountain National Military Park, on the N.C.-S.C. border near Interstate-85.

Then he found Thomas's memoirs and discovered the young man became a soldier at 16. He fought barefoot at the Battle of Kings Mountain, Zeiss learned, because his shoes had worn out. He suffered six saber wounds. He was captured and interrogated. But he escaped and lived to 83.

Though only 16, Thomas wasn't particularly young for a soldier, Zeiss told me. "The best estimate is 50 percent or more of all militiamen were teenagers," he says. Some soldiers were as young as 10.

This is Zeiss's second historical novel. His first, "Journey to Cherry Mansion," was a Civil War story. But this new one, Zeiss says, is better. "I give it a solid B, and maybe a B-plus," he says. "I’m proud of it."