Tuesday, 10 January 2012 00:00
Edith Newbold Jones Wharton was born in 1862 and died in 1937. She was a member of the aristocratic Jones family, the very Jonese with whom people tried to keep up. She is, of course, best known for her majestic novels, from The House of Mirth to Age of Innocence (though my personal favorite is the bitter and ironic Custom of the Country), but legions of high schoolers are annually deadened to her charms by being forced to read her grim novella, Ethan Frome. Taught so much and to the exclusion of her other work, because of its useful length (this is my theory and I'm sticking to it) rather than any other literary quality, Ethan Frome is a terrible introduction to the novels and short stories of one of the great American writers.
"Roman Fever" is a late work, published first in Liberty Magazine in 1934 and then in Wharton's last story collection, The World Over. While the trappings of the story could seem to be all brocade and bromide, it is a subversive and sly work of fiction that deserves close reading.
Sunday, 11 December 2011 00:00
A couple of weeks ago, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the fifteen finalists for the five Documentary Feature nominations at next year's Oscars. As usual, critics and bloggers responded with howls of anger and indignation at the Academy documentary committee's exclusion of several highly regarded films. The snubs this year included our next featured title, Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams.
Herzog himself is a fascinating figure, the German director of more than sixty feature films and documentaries since the early 1960s. In 2011, Herzog produced two acclaimed documentaries, neither of which made the Academy's short list. One was Into the Abyss, an examination of the death penalty and the nature of justice. The other is our featured film, Cave of Forgotten Dreams.
In 1994, a group of scientists discovered a cave in Southern France containing the earliest known human paintings. Recognizing the cultural significance of the find, the French government immediately restricted access to it, save a few archaeologists and paleontologists. For this documentary, the filmmakers were given limited access to the caves and their 32,000-year-old artwork. Herzog documents the difficulties in viewing these astonishing paintings and the technical problems he encountered in filming them. He also manages to find and interview the several interesting and eccentric people to help him illustrate the remarkable nature of the find.
Cave of Forgotten Dreams scored an impressive 96 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and an outstanding 86 on Metacritic. The film was heralded for its unique use of 3D, though you'll need a 3D television and the 3D Blu-ray to view it in this format. The documentary is now available in HD on Netflix streaming but for some reason cannot be seen on Amazon Instant at this time. The movie is 90 minutes long and is rated G.
Join us for this remarkable journey to the south of France and speak your mind beginning Wednesday, December 14!
Friday, 09 December 2011 00:00
The latest story up for discussion in One Story at a Time is "Bullet in the Brain" by Tobias Wolff. "There is something cinematic about the way the story unfolds," Katharine Weber says in her introduction to the discussion. "I also think this story exemplifies the alchemy of inevitability and surprise that drives the best fiction."
Monday, 03 October 2011 00:00
Everybody Sees the Ants launches today, October 3, and we are lucky to have author A. S. King here for a special event.
Join us October 3 and 4 for a discussion with Amy about her book, writing YA, ants, and everything. Bring your questions and your comments about her previous books, too: Please Ignore Vera Dietz and The Dust of 100 Dogs.
School Library Journal calls Ants, "A haunting but at times funny tale about what it means to want to take one’s life, but rising above it so that living becomes the better option." Find out more about Everybody Sees the Ants at King's website.
A. S. King will be at BookBalloon beginning Monday, October 3. Please join us in the forum -- and bring your questions for Amy. Forum participation requires registration, which is free.
Thursday, 08 September 2011 00:00
Prince of Thorns has been heralded as the fantasy debut of 2011. On September 20 and 21, author Mark Lawrence will be visiting the BookBalloon forum, where you'll have your chance to find out what the fuss is all about.
Prince of Thorns is the first volume in a planned trilogy about Prince Jorg, heir of the kingdom of Ancrath, and his bloody quest to unite a kingdom. Publishers Weekly called it a "morbidly gripping, gritty fantasy tale ...not for the squeamish." Read an excerpt here, and learn more about the author at the Prince of Thorns website.
Mark Lawrence will be at BookBalloon beginning Tuesday, September 20. Please join us in the forum -- and bring your questions for Mark. Forum participation requires registration, which is free.
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