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Gorillas and Graves – Today…in Readers’ Advisory

Nonfiction: Woman in the Mists by Farley Mowat

In 1984, after finishing Gorillas in the Mist, her definitive book on the mountain gorillas of Africa, primatologist Dian Fossey returned to Rwanda to continue the research she had begun 17 years ago. One year later she was found slain in her mountain cabin. The book Woman in the Mists, written by environmentalist Farley Mowat, gives an in-depth glimpse into the lives of these great apes, and reveals the intimate and often troubling thoughts and actions of the woman who ultimately gave her life to study them.

Although Woman in the Mists is presented as a biography the abundant use of Fossey’s own journal entries makes it read as if it was written by Fossey herself. Where Gorillas had been criticized for its occasional dry and technical language, Woman uses candid language to put the reader in touch with the struggles and triumphs endured in Fossey’s professional and personal life. We learn of how her commitment to her gorillas, considered fanatical by many who worked closely with her, left her feeling alone and alienated many of her colleagues, how her reluctance to leave the misty mountains of Rwanda contributed to the severe deterioration of her health, and how the methods she employed to protect her beloved gorillas became increasingly strange and violent. Woman in the Mists is an intriguing read of a fascinating woman, and though author Mowat lauds Fossey as a brave scientist and innovator in her field, he leaves it up to the readers to decide if she is deserving of the title hero or anti-hero.

For more information on woman behind the gorillas check out Harold Hayes’ The Dark Romance of Dian Fossey. Multnomah County Library also carries the National Geographic cover story [library card log-in required] that introduced Fossey’s research to the public, as well as the Academy Award nominated film, Gorillas in the Mist, based on the book of the same name.

Fiction: Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indriðason

For many, the mention of Iceland conjures images of grand Viking ships and massive glaciers or perhaps reminds some of the ethereal and eclectic sounds of Sigur Ros or Bjork.  But with his series of Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson novels, Icelandic author Arnaldur Indriðason is determined to become one of Iceland’s most well-known exports in the genre of crime fiction.

Silence of the Grave begins innocently with a child’s birthday party but the party is cut short after one of the children discover something gruesome has been dug up in the backyard.  The first chapter paints a crime scene that seems so implausible it borders on the absurd, and readers may even wonder if the sort of dark comedy present in the book’s first few pages will remain throughout – however, it does not.  Silence of the Grave follows Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson and his investigative team as they try to solve the mystery of what has been buried in the backyard. Indriðason excels at intertwining Inspector Erlendur’s own troubled story, set in modern day Reykjavík, with the events that explain the crime, which we soon discover has taken place decades before in World War II-era Reykjavík. Silence deals with serious issues such as abandonment, domestic violence, and drug abuse but the tale Indriðason weaves, albeit dark and at times disturbing, is so intriguing the reader cannot help but read on.

Silence of the Grave is the fourth novel of the Inspector Erlendur series [and the second to be translated into English] and winner of the 2003 Nordic Glass Key Award and 2005 British Gold Dagger Award.  Multnomah County Library carries several titles in the Inspector Erlendur series, and if you are interested in other Icelandic-related reads be sure to check out The Icelandic Trilogy, the final installment of Brian Woods’ graphic novel series Northlanders, or the classic sagas of Iceland.

Work It Out: A comic about working out

Pumping iron puts me in a contemplative mood. While running, yogar-ing, or doing some intense pec work I often find myself getting…ideas. Ideas for the future, for recipes, for work, and even for comics. It just so happened that I have a friend who makes comics so I shared some of my ideas with him and the result is called ‘Work It Out’. It will mostly be set in a gym and deal with the gross/hilarious/irritating things I encounter whilst working it out. Click on the image to enlarge!

In addition to illustrating Work It Out – Ryan creates comics for Nerd Puddle & Tiny Mix Tapes. Oh, and he also drew the awesome Retrobacklore logo!

Margot Ruth Kidder: Queen of the Margotnauts

In 2008, I saw the movie Black Christmas for the first time and was reacquainted with a lady named Margot Kidder. In Black Christmas she played Barb Coard, the foul-mouthed, hard-drinking sorority gal who dissed authority and told it like it was. Her character stole the show and made me want to investigate her further, so I did, and what resulted is shown here:

Two Margot Kidder fanzines.

I just finished no.2 and will have it available at this year’s Portland Zine Symposium as well as Floating World and Reading Frenzy. If you are interested in a copy or a trade feel free to message me at retrobacklore at gmail dot com.

Adventure! Danger! Intrigue!: Today…in Readers’ Advisory

Fiction: Bookhunter by Jason Shiga

In the city that boasts its own comic book month, Portland’s annual Stumptown Comics Fest offers an array of comics books, graphic novels, and art books made by local and national artists. One of recent years’ standout titles is the graphic novel, Bookhunter by Jason Shiga, a book written with a wink and nod to all book and library lovers. Set in 1972, the book begins with Special Agent Bay and his Library Police/SWAT team on an undercover mission to find the culprits behind the theft of several rare books. It is not long before we find the extremes Agent Bay is willing to go to recover a stolen book – risking even his own life to ensure books are returned to their rightful owners. The book is a sepia-toned gem, written with librarians in mind. Cataloguers will appreciate Shiga’s use of Dewey digits and cutters, and terms such as incunabula, bone folder, hinge strips, and Caxton will make rare book enthusiasts, archivists, and book binders giddy with joy.

Fans of Bookhunter‘s creative action scenes, including high-speed book cart chases and battle sequences involving card catalogues and books as weapons may also enjoy Hideyuki Kurata’s Read or Die. This popular manga tells the story of Yomiko Readman, a superhuman library agent who has the ability to control and shape paper into weapons and other objects. Both books are fast-paced reads that will have readers looking at libraries in a thrilling new light!

Nonfiction: The Lost City of Z by David Grann

In 1925, acclaimed British explorer Colonel Percy Fawcett led a highly publicized expedition into the Brazilian Amazon in search of the remnants of a lost city simply known as Z, said to have held riches on par with the kingdom of El Dorado. Along with him he took his 22 year old son Jack and Jack’s long time friend Raleigh Rimmell. After a month of traveling Fawcett sent word back to his wife that he was about to enter into unexplored territory. It was to be the last communication ever sent by Fawcett who, along with Jack and Raleigh, was never heard from again.

David Grann’s The Lost City of Z gives a riveting account of Fawcett the fearless explorer, his rivals, and those who set out to discover the mystery behind his disappearance, including author Grann himself. Filled with mystery and mysticism, danger and international intrigue (really!), it is no wonder that Fawcett’s South American exploits have been the inspiration for the setting of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World as well as the popular Indiana Jones character. For further exploration on Percy Fawcett and the Lost City of Z see PBS’s Secrets of the Dead: Lost in the Amazon. Or for another harrowing tale of real-life adventure set in the Antarctic be sure check out Alfred Lansing’s Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage.

Aria the O & Aria the Natty

Without knowing the backstory you would never guess Aria the Original and its follow up series Aria the Natural are actually set in the 24th century on Mars, because it has been terraformed to look EXACTLY LIKE VENICE. And it really does! The creators went to great lengths to recreate the real-life setting of Venice, doing extensive research on the city’s canals and architecture. The city is actually called Neo-Venezia, while planet Mars’ name has changed to planet Aqua.

As for what Aria is about well, it is a slice-of-life/sci-fi-ish anime about a bunch of lady gondoliers [aka Undines] in training, exploring their city, meeting new folks. It is probably one of the most beautiful anime shows I have seen. The illustration is lovely, the music involves a lot of mandolins and dreamy chants [theme song not included], and overall is just a beautiful, serene, and at times mysterious, anime. Each episode focuses on the appreciation of the small things in life, friendship, doing your best, etc – it is amazing how positive the show is without going over the top or becoming preachy and boring. Aria sort of just makes you feel good about life. If it hadn’t been for this anime I don’t know if I would have made it through this past winter. Whoah, shiz just got DARK. But really, the weather was AWFUL. Aria really saved the day. Here are a few screenshots of some choice scenes:

Bigger, broader

I’ve broadened the collecting scope for this site in hopes that I may update it more. So instead of this being a place for archive-ey, library-ey, comic book-ey things it will be a place for whatever I want! And today I want to share some screencaps from ST:TNG of Lt. Tasha Yar’s ‘party hair’. I recently cut my hair is a similar style but would never be so bold as to style it like Tasha’s. So voluminous!

From season 1, ‘Haven’.

Comic books as foreign language learning aids

Italian 203 has been pretty difficult so far. I have had to spend more time studying and memorizing vocab and grammatical rules, which means I have had less time to do class projects. I did, however, decide to do one of the final projects for class. It was to be a PowerPoint presentation on something, anything Italian. So I chose to discuss, in Italian, the comic Dylan Dog by Tiziano Sclavi. I gave a brief history of comics or i fumetti in Italy, then went on to discuss the story of Dylan Dog, an investigator of the paranormal [l’investigatore dell’incubo].

But what I mostly wanted to share was how comic books are great tools for intermediate to advanced language learners. I have noticed that many language teachers will include readings in class that are from stories we are already familiar with, such as those from popular fairy tales or Disney movies, or they will choose extremely dense Italian classics. Both can be useful but I see comics books as a great happy-medium. Illustrations provide clues to the text [which can be challenging] and the stories are exciting to read.

Local comics publisher Dark Horse actually publishes the English version of Dylan Dog but several foreign language comic books are available at Powell’s as well as local libraries.

Terrible twos: Happy B-day Retro-b-lore

And for your very special day I gift unto thee an update after an almost six month hiatus.

Prison for Bitches – a Lady Gaga fanzine.

Prison for Bitches is a collaborative piece by the dudes from Haus von Electric Ant and a bunch of awesome artists such as Hellen Jo, Johhny Ryan, and Lisa Hanawalt. The content is great my only complaint is that I wish it were less of an art zine and more of a comics [meaning more strips] and text-based zine. The Fruits-like scene report on Lady Gaga Cosplay in Kobe is a great section too that I wish would have been expanded. The artwork is excellent – really nothing disappoints.

My favorite piece is the single page by Michael Kupperman. On it, Gaga’s disembodied head floats above two primates while her heavily shadowed eyes stare out at the viewer – her mouth is open slightly, her hair is tousled around her head in a way that calls to mind Beethoven or Mark Twain’s signature locks. She does not look like a pop star, instead she resembles some sort of ominous ape deity. I’m into it. And something about it makes me think of Lawnmower Man…wild hair, apes, god-like presence…

Check out a preview of Prison for Bitches HERE!

My year in review – a month or so late.

In the year 2009 I…

1.) Hosted many Interlibrary Lushes, then…didn’t.
One of the biggest changes was the passing of the Interlibrary Lush torch. I began Interlibrary Lush, the monthly meetup for librarians and information professionals, in September 2008, and one year later I decided to move on to have time for other projects, and let someone else take over. So that is done. Besides the occasional, ‘How do I start a librarian happy hour in my town?’, I have little part in the group but the new organizers continue to host meetups each month. For more information on ILL check out the MySpace page, as well as the Facebook group.

2.) Learned to accept that I work in an archive, not a library
Having worked in libraries since 2001, this was difficult for me. For a long while I wanted to return to the library environment, the one I felt most comfortable in, and found it frustrating to live in a city with such a competitive job market – particularly for librarians. Two years ago, I found work in a departmental archive, and did not like it. I felt like I was settling, but over time this changed. It took a lot of work but now the archive is something of my own creation. I have a ‘system’ in place – it is efficient and it works, and I am pretty happy about that.

3.) Completed many Rad Ref related projects
Which I have mentioned here and here and here.

4.) Wrote a fanzine about Margot Ruth Kidder
The fanzine is called Margot Ruth Kidder: Queen of the Margotnauts and is about all things related to Ms. Kidder. For those of you not familiar with her work…well, guess what? You actually ARE familiar with her work! Maybe from Sisters or Amityville Horror but most likely from the Superman movies where she played Lois Lane. Issue #2 is in the works but its completion date, at this point, is unknown.

5.) Read one million comics books
Yes, one million comics books, which need to be reviewed, so I will, here, and soon!

Interlibrary Lush checks out…sort of.

Please join us Thursday, September 24 @ 7p at Vendetta, a lovely bar frequented by librarians and…mayoral incumbents? Yeah, I’ve seen Mr. Adams there once or twice. We mostly just ignored each other.