July PBF: Emily’s Island or the Dickinson-Gilligan Connection

Emily Dickinson, the name is synonymous for intellectualism and poetry. Dickinson most often employs the ballad stanza, a traditional form of poetry that is divided into quatrains, using tetrameter for the first and third lines and trimeter for the second and fourth, while rhyming the second and fourth lines (ABCB). Dickinson played with punctuation from time to time as her nearly 2,000 poems are all similar in stanza structure.

In short this predictable use of meter and rhyme means that almost all of Emily Dickinson’s poems can be sung to the tune of the Gilligan’s Island theme song.

gilliganwtfPictured: Not a synonym for intellectualism and poetry. 

Go on, try it yourself! here is the Gilligan’s Island Theme Song….

Now, sing one of  Dickinson’s most famous poems to the tune. Let’s pick ‘There is no Frigate like a book.’

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away,
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –

This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears a Human soul.

Here it is sung by a high school student on youtube:

Weird, right? Apparently there are other songs that her poetry melds well with, Amazing Grace for instance, but that’s no fun. Gilligan’s Island is so beautifully irreverent. Now you’ll never be able to read one of her poems without singing it again. Try it out at a bar and watch all your literary friends freak out at how the queen of misanthropic poetry ended up mashing with a 1960’s screw ball sitcom theme song.


LOVE your Library : Fiction

It is said that a writer should read more than they write. For this reason, writers tend to be library users. Their love of the printed word and the need for unfettered access to information for their work makes the library a haven to the creative literati. It is not surprising then that many fiction stories take place in and around libraries. I dispensed with the obvious titles like Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (if you haven’t read it yet, how in the world did you get through high school without reading that book?)

Here are just a few of my favorite, slightly less known, fiction books that involve libraries and librarians.


The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

Rebecca Makkai’s first novel is a touching, funny and moving book about a librarian who gets swept up in an adventure with her favorite patron. Ten year old Ian Drake runs away from home to camp-out in the library in order to escape his overbearing mother and weekly gay conversion therapy. When librarian and only understanding adult figure in Ian’s life discovers him after hours she makes the life changing decision to help him escape. The pair make their way from Missouri to Vermont on a road trip filled with secrets,  and laughs.


Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

“The chief character in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell isn’t, in fact, either of the magicians: it’s the library that they both adore, the books they consult and write and, in a sense, become.” – Susanna Clarke

This ridiculously entertaining and riveting tale about two magicians, an old pro and a young rogue, bringing real magic back to England at the turn of the 19th century features many scenes of the main character’s pouring over ancient books and occult texts at the Library at Hurtfew Abbey. Most of the major scenes take place in the library and the library truly becomes a character with it’s own powers and  desires. The book has been turned into a BBC mini-series as well.


The Grand Complication by Allen Kurzweil

A young reference librarian with esoteric tastes delves into the mystery of the theft of Marie Antoinette’s watch. Interestingly, this watch still exists, though Marie Antoinette had been dead for nearly 35 years upon completion, and it was actually stolen. This book was published between the time of the robbery by master thief Na’aman Diller in 1983 and the recovery of the watch in 2007. Still, it’s a modern-day tale of literary intrigue, eccentric passions, and delightful secrets. It really goes to show what a reference librarian can do!

people of the book

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

A phenomenal mystery about Australian rare-book expert, librarian, and misanthrope Hannah Heath getting a dream job; analysis and conservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, which was rescued from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war. Priceless and beautiful, the book is one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with images. While working on the volume she discovers strange items in the ancient binding; part of an insects wing, wine stains, white hair, and salt. The story that unravels crosses space and time and sweeps the reader up in an epic mystery.

LOVE your Library: Non-Fiction

I really like libraries (if that wasn’t obvious, you know…being a librarian and all). They are the cornerstone of intellectual freedom, you can read anything in a modern American library, even if it is controversial, “banned,” or frowned upon by some corner of society. They are a home away from home where tired readers can take refuge from reality. They are community centers designed to bring people with similar interests together.

There is something more to libraries than that though, something magical in the potential of knowledge and undiscovered worlds hiding silently in rough wood pulp pages and stark black ink. Though the physical volumes themselves are still, merely objects, they posses a kind of kinetic energy brimming with possibility – for lack of a better word, a soul.

According to the American Library Association there are an estimated 119, 487 libraries in America, maybe more. To put that in perspective, there are only approximately 35,000 McDonald’s restaurants (using the term restaurant loosely here) world wide. We LOVE our libraries, and always have. The earliest libraries, archives of clay tablets of cuniform script consisting mostly of trade and inventory records, would still be recognizable as a library to the modern patron. How cool is that!?

The library is synonymous with human civilization, and we happen to have some pretty cool books on the subject.


Improbably Libraries: A Visual Journey Through the World’s Most Unusual Libraries by Alex Johnson

Remember how I said a modern library patron would be able to recognize even the earliest libraries? Well that does not go both ways. Heck, most people today wouldn’t recognize these spaces as libraries. The world of information has evolved with the introduction of the internet and digital content and Improbably Libraries showcases the exciting and surprising ways in which the library has evolved with it.


Part of Our Lives : A People’s History of the American Public Library by Wayne A. Wiegand 

There has been a prevailing worry that libraries were on their way out due to the wealth of information on the internet. However the numbers of libraries has actually increased  since the turn of the Millennium. Instead of recounting librarian’s view of the library, Part of Our Lives uses the testimonials of patrons going as far back as the 1850’s to explain why the library is important, and will stay important, to Americans.


Libricide by Rebecca Knuth

“Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.” – Heinrich Heine

This FASCINATING, though dark and depressing, book looks at the connection between the crack down of intellectual freedom – especially libraries – and the rise of vicious political regimes that end in violence and death.  Knuth examines Nazi Germany, Nazis, Serbs in Bosnia, Iraqis in Kuwait, Maoists during the Cultural Revolution in China, and Chinese Communists in Tibet. Along with the historical case studies, she also examines why some people believe book burning is good for society, even outside of brutal regimes. Something a bibliophile like me has always struggled to comprehend.


The Dismissal of Miss Ruth Brown : Civil Rights, Censorship, and the American Library by Louise S. Robbins

In 1950 Oklahoma librarian Ruth Brown was dismissed from her position after thirty years of service. The people who made the decision to terminate Miss Brown’s position argued that she had circulated subversive materials when in reality she was targeted for forming a group affiliated with the Congress of Racial Equality. Her story reveals the values of the McCarthy era, foregrounding those who labored for racial justice, sometimes at great cost. It reveals a masking of concerns that led even Brown’s allies to obscure the cause of racial integration for which she fought. Relevant today, Ruth Brown’s story helps us understand the matrix of personal, community, state, and national forces that can lead to censorship, intolerance, and the suppression of individual rights.


The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel

This book is as emotional about libraries as I am. Inspired by Manguel building a library for his 15th century home in France (lucky devil)  he romanticizes the role of collecting, organizing, preserving, and providing guidance to books. Manguel delves deep into history exploring the doomed libraries of the ancient world from Greece and Alexandria to China and the Arab world while also making a personal journey back to his childhood bookshelf and his first trips to the public library.  He explores stories of people who have struggled against tyranny to preserve freedom of thought—the Polish librarian who smuggled books to safety as the Nazis began their destruction of Jewish libraries; the Afghani bookseller who kept his store open through decades of unrest; oral “memory libraries” kept alive by prisoners, libraries of banned books, the imaginary library of Count Dracula, and a library of books never written.

741.5 : Brian K. Vaughn

Brian K. Vaughn is a consummate story teller. His creator-owned comics were described in a 2007 interview with Wired Magazine (after he won their Rave Award) as “finite, meticulous, years-long story arcs”, to which Vaughan comments, “That’s storytelling, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Something like Spider-Man, a book that never has a third act, that seems crazy.” Swoon. Truly a comic book writer after my own literary heart.


Don’t worry girl, I’ve got well structured plot for days
(2014 DC Comic-con)

When I say something is a creator-owned comic that means it is a story without a comic book legacy. Spiderman, Batman, Superman, they all are legacy comics owned by DC or Marvel with hundreds of different writers following a prescribed pattern. Vaughn ended up writing for big names like Captain America, Spiderman, The X-Men, Green Lantern, and even the wildly popular Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics (considered the eighth season by series creator Joss Wedon) early in his career. He also wrote for the television show Lost and was an executive producer for Under the Dome.

However, Vaughn started writing his own stories in 2000 and hasn’t looked back. In 2002 he started Y: The Last Man with Vertigo Comics. This is his first huge independent success. The story is about an amateur escape artist named Yorick Brown and a  badly behaved Capuchin monkey Yorick is training named Ampersand. They are the only two males of their species to survive the simultaneous deaths of every XY chromosome carrying creature on Earth. Planes once piloted by men drop out of the sky, doctors drop dead in the middle of surgery, cars crash wildly on the streets. Society plunges into chaos while the women left behind are forced to deal with the destruction.


A Man and his monkey
(Cover of Issue #23)

Like any well written science fiction, it is a fascinating thought experiment as well as a hero’s journey. While we follow Yorick on his quest to find his family and the girlfriend in Australia he attempted to propose to immediately before the death of half of all life on Earth, he has run ins with women of all ilks who are working, sometimes to different ends, to rebuild society.

There is a group of roving anti-male, one breasted, Amazons hunting him down to destroy him while another group made of Israeli soldiers seek him out as a political bargaining chip. He has a secret agent and a biologist accompanying him on his travels to protect him and to try to find the secret of what saved him and how it can save humanity’s future. He comes across a town completely made up of former female convicts happily and peacefully building a community where he is forced to reevaluate his sense of right and wrong. In addition to being a hero’s journey, the series asks, “What would it be like to be literally the last man on Earth?”


Apparently beggars CAN be choosers.

Vaughn’s characters are incredibly well written and complex, and the voice he lends to his female characters comes across as totally genuine. In fact, while reading this comic, you’d swear that Yorick is more of a supporting character, the real story is about the women left behind. They are flawed, strong, and believable characters who are out not just to survive this apocalypse, but to thrive.

A movie of Y: The Last Man has been in and out of production for years but Vaughn announced in October 2015 that the project had found new life in a different form as a television series through FX. Keep and eye out as Ryan Reynolds has been tapped as a possible Yorick Brown.


Vaughn’s latest work has also been very popular. An epic space opera entitled Saga. In Saga’s two worlds, Landfall and it’s only moon Wreath, fight a never ending war. The war has been so destructive that the two sides decide to export the war, dragging other worlds into the fray as battlefields and forcing the inhabitants to choose a side. The technologically advanced people living on Landfall have wings, everyone’s wings are different, from butterfly wings to feathered appendages. Wreath’s population have varying styles of horns and reject technology, using magic instead.

Two worlds give rise to our two main characters, Alana from Landfall and Marko from Wreath. Both are former soldier’s for their respective sides but when Marko is taken prisoner and Alana is assigned to guard him they, with the assistance of a trashy romance novel, fall in love and decide to go AWOL.

keepreadingKeep reading!

The story begins with the birth of the the narrator and the couple’s daughter, Hazel, blessed with both wings and horns. Vaughn said this about the story in Comic Book Resource in 2011:

I realized that making comics and making babies were kind of the same thing and if I could combine the two, it would be less boring if I set it in a crazy sci-fi fantasy universe and not just have anecdotes about diaper bags … I didn’t want to tell a Star Wars adventure with these noble heroes fighting an empire. These are regular people on the outskirts of the story who want out of this never-ending galactic war.”



They are real parents, dealing with real parental problems, such as disapproving in-laws and a snotty teenage (undead) baby sitter, while also being the two most hunted beings in the Universe. Both Wreath and Landfall see them as a threat to victory over the other, (blinded by their own generational hate, they cannot see their daughter as a symbol of peace) and both look upon Hazel with complete revulsion and disdain. There are multiple assassins trying to catch up with the new family as well as a terrorist group who are against both sides trying to use her as a bargaining chip.

This story is filled with other stories branching off of Alana and Marko’s tale. We meet a six year old sex-slave, liberated by two of the assassins trying to locate Marko and Alana, who can see the past of any object she touches. The story of the assassins, who are joined by Marko’s ex-fiancee, is fascinating as their goals begin to shift due to personal tragedies and new found understanding. The crowned prince of Landfall, a robot with a television for a head, chases down  the low born robot revolutionary who killed his wife and stole his infant son from the palace.


Don’t you want to read this comic just to find out about the snow seal in overalls with a battle ax?

The art in Saga deserves more than just a mention. Fiona Staples designs all of the ships, characters, and weapons. Vaughn stated that no one’s art is like hers and he gives her incredible artistic license to create his world. It was her choice to give all the robots different kinds of televisions for heads, all the Wreath residents different horns, and all the Landfall people varying wings.

Vaughn has certain themes that are threaded through all of his stories, creation and destruction especially interest him. Yorick is needed for the creation of children for the destroyed planet. Alana and Marko create a child who, though totally innocent, cannot help but leave destruction in her wake. Swarming around these dual realities of nature are emotional and fragile creatures, desperate to make sense of what is happening and clinging to each other while attempting, and often failing, to find solace through love. Though Vaughn writes science fiction, these tropes are so familiar that the reader cannot help but feel gutted by the events that unfold in each story.

In short (too late), I highly recommend his work.

3 to 5 Questions: Tom Carr

Local author and journalist Tom Carr’s first book, Blood on the Mitten: Infamous Michigan Murders from 1700s to Present, has been making quiet a splash in Traverse City and beyond. In fact during our interview, folks at Brew were stopping our interview to congratulate him. I was also privileged to learn about Tom Carr’s exciting future projects, but you’ll just have to keep your eye on this Northern Michigan author to see for yourself!

What got you interested in writing about true crime? 

Tom Carr: Well I always liked reading about it. I really enjoyed semi-true book The Michigan Murders they change the names of victims and perpetrators, another book I finished recently was Devil in the
White City. I thought it would be interesting to do stories that talk about Michigan that goes across time and across the state. I’ve lived a lot of different places in Michigan. I’ve also covered some crime as a reporter for the Record Eagle.
The book has a really interesting format, was that your idea?
I had a lot to do with design in that after Heather Shaw at Mission Point Press designed it and I said, wow that is really great! She was the editor and the designer, she is one of the three people who started Mission Point Press, along with Anne Stanton, who I worked with at the Record-Eagle and has been a friend ever since and Doug Weaver, who was head of books and other specialty publications for the Kansas City Star. The look just nails the tone of the book and it’s just fantastic.
What are you reading right now?
I like to read history, historical fiction, and true crime, the whole gamut really. I really like historical westerns and I really like Sarah Vowell, I just read Take the Cannoli and I really liked Assassination Vacation. I also really enjoy Stephen King’s more experimental fiction like 11/22/63 and Under the Dome. But my kindle broke and a lot of my books were on there!
As a true crime buff, you have to have a favorite mystery, what is your favorite murder mystery?
Well, the story of the Robison murder and Mardi Jo Link did such a wonderful book on that, that is such a perplexing case (When Evil Came to Good Hart). There are the New Year’s Eve 1970-71 murders, and that one happened in my home town. It’s a really hard case because when I called around to the police stations the jurisdiction of the crime had changed so many times that it unfortunately seems to have been lost in the shuffle and has gone cold. Hopefully, someone will come forward with information, but it’s been forty five years but you never know. It would be nice to see someone working on it or maybe a deathbed confession.
How well do you know your Dewey Decimal? Do you identify with any particular number?
I’d have to look at the shelves! What number would I be?
We have you down as 977.4 – Michigan History!
That’s great, I was thinking of getting a t-shirt with the book’s ISBN number on it.
Very Cool!

741.5 : Mark Carey

In which a librarian delves into the literary world of graphic novels and comic books. 

Graphic novels are becoming more and more popular in library collections for adults, teens, and kids. Adults, I’ve noticed, struggle with appreciating graphic novels. They have a tendency to hear the term “graphic novels” and picture 50 Shade of Gray. If you bring up “comic books” they assume it’s all Marvel or DC Comics caped crusaders spouting rehashed dialogue in runaway, over-complicated story lines. This assumption about comic books isn’t always mistaken, how much character development can you get out of an indestructible alien who is faster than a speeding bullet and can leap tall buildings with a single bound?


But there is a thrilling breed of graphic novel/comic out there, a literary one where story lines and characters are dynamic and powerful as well as entertaining. There are so many titles, writers, and artists that I can’t wait to explore in this new segment of Fine Print. The first author I’d like to highlight is an author whose career I have followed since the late 1990’s : Mike Carey. Now this post is definitely not meant to be an exhaustive over view of Carey’s work. We have a number of his comic books and novels in our collection. I’m just touching on some of the most accessible and most popular work he has published in an effort to get you, the reader, interested in comic books.

Carey’s latest work is a fantastic and unique zombie thriller, and a novel rather than comic book, called The Girl With All the Gifts. It is a great introduction to his writing style and story structure and a fantastic way to start reading a comic book author without reading a comic book. The Girl with All the Gifts is the Books and Brewskis’ book club pick for July and is being made into a movie starring Glenn Close which will be released to theaters September 23rd, 2016.


Carey’s literary focus doesn’t stop at writing gripping fiction. His original comic book series entitled Unwritten deals with Tom Taylor, misanthrope and son of a wildly successful missing youth fantasy writer. As Tom, a writer in his own right, begins to investigate what happened to his father, his identity becomes more and more malleable and tied to his fathers fictional protagonist; Tommy Taylor.


Mike Carey, in an interview with Nicholas Yanes from scifipulse.net, said that:

“The most important reference point is the autobiography of Christopher Milne – who is famous as the Christopher Robin of the Winnie the Pooh books. Milne grew up feeling that his father had stolen his childhood from him, turned a profit from it and then given it back to him in a form he couldn’t use. Our Tom is very much in that situation when we first meet him, although we take his identity crisis a fair bit further than that.”

Carey may be best known for his series Lucifer, a spin off of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman series published through DC’s Vertigo comics. The premise is the Judaeo-Christian Devil has retired as King of Hell to run a cabaret in Los Angeles. In the Sandman story “Season of Mists”, Lucifer expels all demons and damned souls from Hell before locking Hell’s gates and handing over the key to Hell to Dream of the Endless, the title character of the Sandman series. Eventually, Hell is turned over by God to two Angels to run,  Duma (the angel of silence) and Remiel (“set over those who rise”).


(Gaiman insisted that Lucifer be drawn to look like David Bowie, I think he nailed it)

But you do not need to be familiar with the Sandman series to enjoy Lucifer, you just need to know a little bit about western mythology. The gods, demons, and other divinities that exist in other faiths are vital to the story line. Lucifer, as an apostate of Heaven, is able to travel through different realms and work with and manipulate the powerful creatures of each realm, including his brothers in Heaven, to get to what he wants.

What does he want? He wants to show the Host the folly of worship and blind obedience. Lucifer’s personality is not “evil” as most would view evil, but rather he is driven by his own free will and desire for complete freedom.  Lucifer makes it a point of always being honest, but in a way that is still manipulative in true devilish fashion. This personality quirk makes for some excellent twists and turns set to the backdrop of a very complex mythological universe. Mike Carey said this about the character;

“We play safe. Most of us do, most of the time… but Lucifer doesn’t know the meaning of safe, and he never bothers to look down at the tramlines. He goes wherever the hell he likes, picks his fights where he finds them and generally wins… following [his] own will and [his] own instincts to the very end of the line, no matter what the obstacles are.