Archive for August, 2010

It’s been said that there are only two plots: A Man Goes on a Trip and A Stranger Comes to Town. These “master plots” can be found in every time and every literary form: Homer and Shakespeare, fairy tales and children’s books, plays and novels. Recent examples include Jack Kerouac going on the road (On the Road), Holden Caulfield running away to New York (The Catcher in the Rye), Blanche DuBois moving in with her sister Stella and brother-in-law Stanley Kowalski (A Streetcar Named Desire), and Maxim de Winter’s second wife coming to Manderley (Rebecca).

The theme of the library’s current Reading and Discussion Group is one of these master plots: A Stranger Comes to Town. All of the books discussed feature strangers who come and change the place where they’ve arrived. The group meets from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Monday, September 13; Monday, October 11; and Monday, November 8. Register either online,  by phone (248-684-0845), or in person at the library’s Adult Reference desk.

September’s book is Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, which is perhaps best known from the movie starring Humphrey Bogart as detective Sam Spade and Mary Astor as Brigid O’Shaughnessy. Brigid has appeared in Spade’s San Francisco office by the book’s eighth paragraph. She calls herself Miss Wonderly and asks Spade and his partner for protection from a Floyd Thursby. After that, Spade’s partner is killed, Thursby is killed, Spade is held up by Joel Cairo, who is looking for the “black bird,” the gunsel Wilmer takes Spade to meet Mr. Gutman, who tells the history of the Maltese Falcon…and then Spade’s life gets really complicated. Cecilia Donohue of Madonna University leads the discussion of Hammett’s noir classic.

October’s book, Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, is set in the days just before Halloween. In the dead of the night on October 24, Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show arrives in the small town of Green River. The dark carnival’s arrival is heralded by the calliope playing the Death March. Sideshow attractions include Mademoiselle Tarot, the Dangling Man, and the Demon Guillotine. Those who venture into the Egyptian Mirror Maze can see themselves “a thousand times” and get lost. And Mr. Dark, the Illustrated Man, gives out special merry-go-round tickets that are redeemable only at night, when the ride runs backward. So in “that strange wild dark long year, Halloween came early.” The Indianapolis Star called Something Wicked This Way Comes “a magical blend of creepiness and nostalgia.” Madonna University’s Kathryn O’Dowd leads the discussion of Bradbury’s dark fantasy.

November’s book is Shane by Jack Schaefer. The stranger arrives in the book’s first line: “He rode into our valley in the summer of ’89. He rode easily, yet it was the easiness of a coiled spring, of a trap set.” Bob Starrett, a boy on the cusp of manhood, watches the rider approach the fork in the road. “One branch bore left across the river ford and on to Luke Fletcher’s big spread. The other bore ahead along the right bank where we homesteaders had pegged our claim in a row up the valley. He hesitated briefly, studying the choice, and moved again steadily on our side.” And with that choice, the stranger—“Call me Shane”—has placed himself on the side of the farmers rather than the ranchers. The farmers’ fences are closing in the range and the ranchers are being crowded out. Bob’s father, Joe Starrett, is the farmers’ leader. He takes Shane on as a hired hand. The confrontation between the farmers and the ranchers begins with Fletcher’s men needling Joe and Shane when they’re in town. It escalates when one of the farmers is killed. Finally Fletcher hires a “quick draw” to kill Joe and Shane, setting up the climactic gunfight. Will Horwath of Madonna University leads the discussion of this classic Western story of the range wars.


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A quick look at books that will reach the big screen sometime soon.
One Day
Based on the book One Day by David Nicholls
Status: In Production (release date unknown)

Dexter and Emma meet on the day of their college graduation in 1988, and the book follow their relationship for the next 20 years, revisiting the on the same day each year. This book made me laugh out loud many times, so this should be a fun one in the theaters. Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess star.
Based on the book The War by Sebastian Junger
Status: In limited release

Feature-length documentary chronicling an Army unit stationed at a dangerous Afghan outpost. Publishers Weekly says, “[t]he only goal is to make viewers feel as if they have just been through a 94-minute deployment. This is war, full stop.”
Mao’s Last Dancer
Based on the book Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin
Status: In Limited Release

The Australian best-selling book is the story of the author’s life in the Chinese and American ballet world. The film stars Kyle MacLachlan, Amanada Schull, and Bruce Greenwood.

Eat, Pray, Love
Based on the book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Status: Opening August 13, 2010

The bestseller and book club favorite about a woman who ventures out on a worldwide journey to find herself comes to theaters starring Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem, and James Franco. With that cast, it’s bound to be a hit!

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