Tuesday, January 27, 2015

On This Day In...2010

On this day in 2010 author J.D. Salinger passed away at the age of 91.  Salinger was a famously private person who avoided public life so completely that he gave up publishing altogether in 1965.  Not publishing isn't generally the best career move for a writer, but it actually worked out pretty well for Salinger.  He is a literary legend whose work continues to sell in extremely high numbers to this day.

Key Library Checkouts

The Catcher in the Rye- Duh!

Franny and Zooey- Holden Caulfield may be Salinger's most beloved character, but the author devoted more time and literary space to his fictional Glass family.  Franny and Zooey are the youngest of the seven Glass children, their older siblings being Seymour, Buddy, Boo Boo, Walt, and Waker.

Posted by Grahm Underwood, Library Clerk

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

On This Day In...1950

English writer George Orwell died from tuberculosis on this day in 1950 at the age of 46. Orwell's real name was Eric Blair, but he chose to publish under a pen name to spare his family from embarrassment since his first book Down and Out in Paris and London was a nonfiction account of his time spent living as a tramp. A prolific writer who worked as a journalist, novelist, essayist, and critic, Orwell was never hugely successful in his own lifetime, but has become one of the most widely read and highly regarded authors of the 20th century.

Key Library Checkouts:

Burmese Days, A Clergyman's Daughter, Keep the Aspidistra Flying, Coming Up for Air, Animal Farm, Nineteen Eighty-Four - Of his six novels the final two, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, are the most popular for good reason, but even the worst of Orwell is a lesson in what good writing looks like.   

Facing Unpleasant Facts - This 2008 collection packages most of Orwell's best narrative essays together in one volume, including "Such,Such Were the Joys," Orwell's brutal and pulverizing account of his early years spent at an elite English boarding school.

Posted by Grahm Underwood, Library Clerk

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Film Review | The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies


  The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies is the third and final movie in Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy and the sixth and final movie in the director's Middle Earth saga. Jackson's "Tolkienverse" (named for the author, J.R.R. Tolkien) concludes after more than a decade of Holiday box office dominance and nearly eighteen hours worth of movie. From the highs (2003's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) to the lows (last year's The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) the franchise has never failed to maintain a consistent, signature style and a pedigree of production. There is little else in cinema history that compares to the Jackson-Tolkien six movie, twenty hour magnum opus of fantasy and there is a degree of sweet sorrow in seeing it finally laid out to rest.

     The Battle of Five Armies is a marked improvement over The Desolation of Smaug and a worthy end to The Hobbit trilogy. Five Armies very much plays the role of The Return of the King to this series, with grand, epic battles spiced with blunt, sometimes heavy-handed drama. Like The Return of the King, The Battle of Five Armies is the ultimate battle between good and evil for the fate of Middle Earth. Everything in the film strives towards climax and closure with unbridled momentum.

     The film's refusal to take its foot off the gas both works in its favor and to its detriment. On one hand, this approach makes The Battle of Five Armies feel much more exciting, emotional, and consequential than The Desolation of Smaug. On the other, it makes the film a bit exhausting and repetitive as there is barely any of the nuance and world building found in the first film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The Battle of Five Armies is aptly named, especially compared to its original subtitle There and Back Again, as nearly the entire movie is one giant war. This is exciting material as the grand climax of a story that has been being told in installments for years, and is fabulous to watch on the big screen of the local multiplex, but I suspect may not lend itself to making the film one to be watched time and again.

     Just as in The Desolation of Smaug, the titular Hobbit and his world take a backseat to the grander happenings of Middle Earth in The Battle of Five Armies. It should come as no surprise to anyone that Jackson continues to stretch and take liberties with the material to craft an overarching narrative between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings that did not exist so explicably in the books. The insertion of characters like Legolas, Sauraman, Elrond, and Galadriel alone reaps and sows plenty of connective plot material but the casting of the character known only as "The Necromancer" in the book to Sauron incarnate firmly sets the stage for The Lord of the Rings. Little things also, like Bilbo and Gandalf's reactions to (what we as the audience recognize as) the "one ring of power" foreshadows the following stories in ways that Tolkien himself never had (as he hadn't fully conceived of The Lord of the Rings when he wrote The Hobbit). Whether all of this effects your experience of the films positively or negatively depends on how much of a Tolkien purist you are. Personally, I welcome the changes and think its the only sensible and natural way to handle the unique situation, and perhaps even a rare and valuable opportunity to further thread one of the greatest yarns ever spun.

    The Hobbit trilogy is not as good a The Lord of the Rings trilogy. This is as close to indisputable fact as something can get in the subjective world of analysis and criticism, but its fair to factually state that The Hobbit hasn't had the commercial, critical, or cultural success of The Lord of the Rings. Even with the success The Hobbit films have had (and make no mistake, they have still been quite successful), they probably aren't everything that everybody involved - the fans, the crew, the studio - once dreamed they could be. Still, we all could do worse than too much of a good thing and The Hobbit trilogy is a solid and enjoyable extension of Jackson's Tolkienverse. The Battle of Five Armies may not be everything that is required of the capstone of a six film saga but it is the perfect bridge between the two trilogies, which was a wise play for the long game as the grand Middle Earth saga now sails off for the distant shores of cinema history.

Grade: B

Posted by Terry Pierson, Library Clerk


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Love in Blum

This Valentine's Day wouldn't it be great to wow that special someone with a really unique, creative, sophisticated, elegant, and romantic evening that they will never forget? And wouldn't it be really great if you could do this totally for free? Well guess what: the Collinsville Memorial Library Center has got you covered. Just stop by the Blum House on Saturday, February 14th  from 7-9pm for "Love in Blum," our one-of-a-kind poetry night. The beautiful and historic Blum House is the perfect setting for romance, especially when decadent desserts and wine are being served in a candlelit ambiance as love poetry fills the air. The mic is open to all so you can recite a poem yourself or simply sit back and listen, but either way "Love in Blum" is a can't miss.

Posted by Grahm Underwood, Library Clerk

Monday, January 12, 2015

Ongoing Learning with LearningExpress

The library has a new online resource called LearningExpress and it's pretty darn awesome.  Through LearningExpress you can access a variety of "learning centers" that help you study for tests, get into college, search for a job, and become a U.S. citizen!  Check out what this (totally free!) resource can do for you:
  • Adult Learning Center- improve math, reading, and writing skills; prepare to become a US citizen
  • Career Center- tools to prepare for career exams, improve workforce skills, get ready for WorkKeys assessments
  • College Center- strengthen academic skills, prepare for placement tests, practice grad school entrance exams
  • College Prep Center- tutorials, practice tests, and more for the ACT, SAT, and many AP tests
  • Computer Skills- computer and internet basics, popular software programs, Windows and Mac operating systems
  • High School Equivalency Center- Prepare for the GED, HiSET, and TASC
  • Job & Career Accelerator- explore careers, search for jobs, create resumes and cover letters, prep for interviews
  • Recursos en espanol para adultos- mejore sus niveles academicas, preparese para su Cuidadania Americana, y mas
  • School Center- resources for elementary, middle, and high school students to prepare for important tests, get extra help for assignments, boost skills in core subjects

Monday, January 05, 2015

Film Review | The Interview


The Interview doesn’t need much of an introduction in light of the media hysteria that surrounded the film preceding its release. The latest in the dynamic duo partnership between James Franco and Seth Rogen, The Interview is a raunchy comedy about a harebrained plot to assassinate the Supreme Leader of North Korea Kim Jong Un. The Interview was the center of a political firestorm that verged on becoming a full blown international incident when terrorist threats caused Sony to retreat from the film’s distribution and temporarily cancel the film’s release.

It was much ado about nothing though, as The Interview released right on schedule. While the number of theaters the film opened in was drastically diminished, it simultaneously became instantly available to watch on online streaming services such as YouTube and Google Play on Christmas Day. Some have suggested the whole thing could have been one of the most elaborate and successful publicity stunts of all time but the FBI and The White House don’t get involved in PR schemes for movie releases and Sony wouldn’t so severely cut down the number of theaters for press. The hype surrounding The Interview is the real deal and whether one agrees with or is interested in the politics involved or not, the furor surrounding the the film has granted it some significance in cinema history.

So how is The Interview as a film? When you push past the circus of hype, you’re still left with an exceptionally funny movie with some genuine laugh-out-loud moments. If you have seen anything starring Rogen before, you know what to expect: crass and crude humor that often crosses from cringe-worthy to downright jaw-dropping. Just to be perfectly clear, if you are sometimes offended by the type of humor in shows like Family Guy and South Park, stay as far away from The Interview as possible.

For everyone else, The Interview is the knockout punch in cementing Seth Rogen and James Franco as the leading comedy men of this generation. The close friends have collaborated before in similar genre films Pineapple Express (2008) and This Is the End (2013) and can trace their on screen bromance all the way back to 1999’s television “comedrama” Freaks and Geeks. The chemistry between the two is palpable and their off-setting styles are up to snuff with the best comedic duos in history. As always, Rogen’s dry, witty, and sarcastic humor perfectly balances Franco’s extravagant, overstated, and flamboyant showmanship.

The plot isn’t worth outlining but needless to say that by the time the big climactic finish rolls around there is no room left to be surprised or shocked. The story is deeply, seemingly purposefully flawed with enough nonsensical situations and gaping logic deficiencies to numb the brain. Nothing about the narrative makes any kind of sense and viewers who need even a figment of reality and believability need not apply. However, The Interview isn’t meant to be a great or realistic story and it’s almost admirable that the film doesn’t just embrace that but picks it up and runs all the way down the field with it. The Interview wears its absurdity like a badge of honor. It exists for Franco to drop lines designed to go viral (“They hate us cause they ain’t us”) and drive around in a tank with Kim Jong Un while blaring Katy Perry.

It’s impossible to separate The Interview from the brouhaha that surrounded its release and that indisputably works in the film’s favor. The Interview would have been a funny and successful Rogen-Franco comedy either way but the commotion around it has endowed it with a special significance. The Interview is more than just a film, it is an event, a cultural milestone, and a champion of the modern breed of scatological, screwball comedies.

Grade: B+

Posted by Terry Pierson, Library Clerk

Friday, January 02, 2015

Staff Picks- Best Books of 2014

2014 was one of the highest content-producing years on record, if not the highest.  With so many new books to choose from, it can be difficult to find the stand-outs.  Our staff is here to help you find the literary gems!  Here are our picks for 2014's best books (click on the titles to learn more or place a request):

Alison, youth services librarian- Clariel by Garth Nix

Ashley, library clerk- Sanctum by Madeleine Roux

Diane, library clerk- The Bees by Laline Paull

Grahm, library clerk- Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle

Jed, marketing/public relations- Me, Inc. by Gene Simmons

Jim, library clerk- The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah

Kyla, adult services librarian- The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

Matt, assistant branch manager- The Children Act by Ian McEwan

Sarah, library page- The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Wayne, library clerk- The Cast Away by Wayne Reinagel

Posted by Grahm Underwood, library clerk