741.5 : Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood is one of the most important writers of the modern era, period. Her dark dystopian visions have made for incredibly entertaining and jarring fiction. There is more to her than dark science fiction however, she is a very accomplished poet, environmentalist, and in 2008 even wrote the libretto to an opera.

Yep, She’s Awesome.

But it turns out, she’s always been a comic book writer at heart.

In a PREVIEWS world Exclusive interview that was conducted at the Dark Horse Comics booth for this year’s San Diego Comic Con Atwood said, “I started with drawing comics when I was a very, very young person. Only later did I become a novelist.”

Pictured: Atwood’s reaction to getting to write a comic book.

Her first professional attempt at comic book fame is entitled Angel Catbird. It’s about a scientist who, through a freak lab accident (of course) has his genes spliced with those of an owl and a cat. The resulting super hero can, “see both sides of the complex cat/bird relationship.” If you couldn’t tell, there is a fair amount of tongue-in-cheek humor to this graphic novel while also raising awareness of environmental  issues, especially rare and migratory bird conservation.

Environmental activism has been a hallmark of Atwood’s fiction and her personal life for decades. Recently, Margaret Atwood won the 2016 PEN Pinter Prize for her political and environmental activism. Angel Catbird  is being published by Dark Horse Books in tandem with Keep Cats Safe and Save Bird Lives, www.catsandbirds.ca, an initiative led by Nature Canada, the oldest conservation charity in the country.

Margaret Atwood will be visiting Traverse City on October 20, 2016 as part of the National Writers Series and will be discussing her new novel Hag-Seed, a modern re-telling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I would highly recommend getting tickets for this event as she is a literary and cultural icon. It doesn’t get much better than Margaret Atwood.

741.5 : Ben Templesmith

We’ve focused a lot on comic book writers in 741.5, while neglecting the other side, the artists. Great comic books are more than just the writing and plot, there is a big, impossible to overlook element : the art. No, not drawings, art!

Handsome devil Ben Templesmith at the New York Comic-Con 2011

Ben Templesmith, an Australian comic book artist and writer, has a very recognizable and eccentric artistic style. He is best known for his work on popular comics like 30 Days of Night, Doctor Who, and Batman: Gotham by Night. However, with the exception of Batman, he mostly draws and writes for the smaller comic book publications like Image Comics and IDW Publishing. These smaller outfits are more likely to publish comic books from lesser known artists and their subject matter is almost entirely outside of the caped crusader genre. We’re talking zombies, sci-fi, and other worldly cop dramas and mysteries.

Check it out!


SPEAKING OF ZOMBIES! Ben Templesmith’s twisted style is most apparent and most effective in a bizarre horror/detective comic called Wormwood, Gentlemen Corpse. Technically Wormwood is a demon worm (but often claims to be a God) who takes over dead bodies and uses them to communicate and move about different layers of the underworld. This is one that Templesmith didn’t just illustrate, he is also the writer and creator.

Wormwood’s most typical form is a well dressed gentlemen but he can take over any available corpse.


It isn’t all zombies in Templesmith’s world. One of the most stunning stories he worked on is a short lived detective story called Fell: Feral City, written by king of horror (in comic and novel form) Warren Ellis. The combo of Ellis and Templesmith sent fans into a frenzy for this comic, and we (I mean ‘they’) were devastated when the story dropped off suddenly. Apparently, Ellis’s computer died and took all the scripts for future comics with it in 2008. In 2010 Ellis had created a new script and sent it off to Image Comics and Templesmith but the story had lost momentum and it was difficult finding the money to continue the project. Both artists are planning on picking the story back up though.

Some day….


Only nine issues long, the comic concerns the disgraced Detective Richard Fell who gets sent out of his home precinct into Snowtown, a collapsing urban nightmare across “the bridge” from the regular city. It seems that Richard Fell has been exiled to a place where true depravity reigns and he alone is fighting for justice. As the comic goes on it becomes clear that there is something else going on in Snowtown, aside from the unimaginably horrible crimes. Many fans of this comic theorized that Richard Fell actually was killed, and is now trapped in a Hell of his own design.



Templesmith has a ton more comics where he is illustrator and writer or co-creator. Comics like Silent Hill, Welcome to Hoxford, Dead Space, and Ten Grand cement his place as a creator of the weird and horrible, with a tongue in cheek humor and a devastatingly twisted mind.  He is truly one of my favorite story tellers and illustrators and if I see his name on a cover, I usually get it. I’ve yet to be disappointed.

So awesome.

3 to 5 Questions: Kathleen Stocking

Kathleen Stocking; writer, teacher, traveler, and Northern Michigan native. Her life is a collection of amazing experiences in incredible places. She has been a  teacher to hardened criminals and vulnerable children around the globe and she shares her experiences in her autobiographical books. Lake Country: A Series of Journeys, Letters from Leelanau, and her latest The Long Arc of the Universe detail in essay form her experiences and the people in her life. Her life is moving, inspiring, and surprisingly familiar. Although she travels the world and makes an effort to see and experience as much as possible, Northern Michigan has always kept her “grounded.”

How did you start your literary journey? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

Not sure how to answer this because I think that, at least in my case, I didn’t start my literary journey, as such, but it was more that it started me, or maybe the way to say that is that it was “in me” and after a while I recognized it. At that point, maybe when I was about nine or ten years old, I began to see that this desire to express in words, a deep need to do so, is what was called being a writer.

You’ve been to and seen some incredible things. Where do you find the strength to face so much human suffering?

Well, a lot of people have more strength than I have to face a lot of human suffering: Doctors without Borders comes to mind, people working in refugee camps. People who work in hospitals, schools, prisons in this country and all across the world.  A neonatal intensive care nurse, how does she do her job, day after day? And, of course, soldiers and policemen.  Somehow, in each person there must be inner reserves of strength, maybe from a good childhood where they were loved and they know it, or they find that helping others is its own reward, that they are doing something to make things better, and that makes them feel good and gives them the strength to continue doing the work. And for the writer, someone with a lot of curiosity like me, there’s always the chance to understand something difficult. But, that said, people need to have a break from ceaseless trouble and I found that by returning to my home in Lake Leelanau from time to time, I could rest and build up my reserves, and go out again.

What was the best teaching moment you’ve ever had?

The child in the homeless shelter who didn’t speak for weeks and weeks, because of trauma, and then one day wrote the most beautiful poem about a star in the night sky. I’ve never forgotten it.

Who is your favorite author?

There’s more than one. Here are a few: Shakespeare, Nabokov, Walt Whitman, D. H. Lawrence, Marguerite Duras, James Baldwin, Jim Harrison. I admire writers who have an intuitive sense of the way images and events in nature create emotions. I admire writers who have moral courage.

Have you ever considered writing fiction?

All the time. But fiction takes more time than I’ve ever had.  I would like to write a mystery and put in it all the things I had to leave out of the nonfiction. In nonfiction you can’t use certain material because it might put someone in harm’s way or sometimes, even though you know something to be true, you can’t write about it because you don’t have corroborating evidence or a second witness. But in a fictional mystery story I could talk about the things I left out.

What book is on your bed stand right now? (What are you reading right now?)

I’m reading, “The Story of America,” by Jill Lepore. She’s so logical and witty and her research is extensive.  It’s wonderful. Nonfiction. I read, “The South,” by Paul Theroux a while ago and it was great.

With which Dewey Decimal number or section do you identify? (your books rest squarely in the 900s – 910, 917, and 977.)

I love the whole library and at different times have read a lot of fiction: Somerset Maugham, Mark Twain, Thomas Wolfe, John Steinbeck, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Gorky, Ibsen, Malraux, V. S. Naipaul. Many, too many to name.

Terrible Treasures: Virgin Heat

I was casually making a display of books where the main characters are anthropomorphized cats (a surprising amount of books) when Amy Barritt, our Special Collections Librarian and Archivist, popped up with this little terrible treasure.

Why wasn’t this brought to my attention before?!


Now, Virgin Heat does not count as a book with a cat main character, as far as I know, but it does count as a hilarious and slightly disturbing book cover. The photo above, snagged from our online catalog, doesn’t really do it justice.


The cat on this cover is not mentioned in the book jacket or in any of the reviews I found. Why is he ringed in fire? Why are the fleshy pink parts of the corners of his eyes so lovingly detailed?

Honestly, if it weren’t for the title of this book it probably would just be dismissed as another cat on a book cover, nothing to write home (or blog) about. But Virgin Heat sounds just gross, like a catholic nun unable to stop herself from grinding on virulent males. It happens to also be the title of a self published Amazon.com erotic series, which makes way more sense.

This book however is not about sexless women lusting to breed, but about a prude daughter of an imprisoned mobster and her attempts to find love with the man who betrayed her father. The book garnered four stars on www.goodreads.com which is high for the notoriously picky and opinionated site. Furthermore, Laurence Shames is actually a relatively popular author with most of his books filed under comedy/suspense and mostly taking place in Key West, Florida. For some reason though, he likes weird animals on his book covers.



The old adage remains true, you can’t judge a book by its’ cover.

PBF: August – The Zone of Death or How to get away with murder.

Sounds SCARY doesn’t it? Well… it is.

Not to be confused with the Death Zone – a section of Mt. Everest 8,000 feet above sea level where breathing becomes nearly impossible and many climbers succumb to the elements – the Zone of Death is right here in America.  Specifically, it’s a fifty square mile section of Yellowstone National Park.

The interesting legal conundrum was explained in 2004 by Michigan State University law professor Brian Kalt’s article titled, “The Perfect Crime.” Kalt explains that in 1872 Congress created Yellowstone National Park – the world’s first national park – as a federal enclave which would not be subject to state law. Technically, there weren’t any states in the area at the time anyhow.  In 1889 and 1890 Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho became states but Yellowstone was put exclusively into the State of Wyoming’s federal district. Even today it is the only federal district in the country to cross state lines.



This is a problem.

Why? How well do you know your constitution? Article III of the Constitution says that federal criminal trials need to be held in the state where the crime was committed. On top of that, the Sixth Amendment states that a defendant has a right to a trial by jurors who live in the same state and district as said crime.

Follow all that?

In the Wyoming federal district residing inside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park there is a population of zero. It’s actually one of the most remote areas of the park, lacking even a road leading to or through that area. With no ability to create a federal jury and no state jurisdiction, there would be no way of actually prosecuting a crime, if one were to occur in this lawless no-man’s land. Minor offenses that do not require the formation of jury could still be prosecuted, but anything big enough to require the judgement of peers is off the table.

And no one seems interested in fixing the problem.

I’m shocked that Congress won’t act, SHOCKED. Well, not that shocked.”

The attitude seems to be that the area is so remote and inhospitable- bears, wolves, and biting insects, oh my! – that it probably won’t ever be an issue.


We’ll see.

Frankly,  the ‘we’ll deal with it when we have to’ mentality is pretty prevalent on this issue. I originally debated posting on this topic as I am not too keen on helping people commit serious crimes, but you have to admit, it sounds like a total pain in the butt to pull off and I’m definitely not the first author to bring this to readers attention. You can read a fictionalized account of a murder being committed in the Zone of Death in C.J. Box’s award winning mystery Free Fire.  Brian Kalt was even a consultant on the book so it’s as accurate as it can be while also being fiction!


741.5 : Marjane Satrapi

So far, we’ve reviewed comic books that have strong literary value. Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novels, however, are literature that just happen to be graphic novels! And honestly, if you haven’t heard of them before this blog post, I feel bad for you since you must be living under a rock….in a cave… on Mars. Seriously, they are incredible for their moving content and brutal honesty. Satrapi’s books are consistently well reviewed, and this review will prove to be no different.

Comics Alliance voted the French-Iranian artist and writer Marjane Satrapi as deserving a life-time achievement award at the age of 45! Her autobiographical graphic novels (and almost all of her work is autobiographical) consistently win awards for their illustrations and for the literature. If you are someone who is just stepping into the world of graphic novels, Satrapi’s Persepolis is an ideal first step. It is gut wrenchingly powerful and very funny.

marjane-satrapiSo French!

Satrapi has the distinction of being the first artist featured on 741.5 who is the graphic artist and author of her books (and she’s a woman, if you hadn’t picked up on that yet). Her art style is comprised solely of stark black and white images, meant to create a deep emotional impact while still being easily navigable and important to the story. I also feel, especially in her work related to the Iranian Revolution, that the black and white images reflect the with-us-or-against-us mentality of the post-revolution society.

persepolis1  persepolis2

Satrapi’s graphic novels, Persepolis (Vol. 1 & 2) describe her childhood and experiences growing up during and after the Iranian Revolution and her escape to Europe and adulthood. This thoughtful, sensitive, and astounding story brings the historic event into a new personal light. A light which shines brightly to uncover a young girl’s hopes and dreams, her very soul, in the midst of unrest and oppression.

The story starts with Satrapi as a child at the beginning of the political protests against the Shah of Iran in 1977. With little to no understanding of the political world, she supports the early days of the revolution based on what she hears from idealistic grown ups. Her childlike devotion to God and the revolution mirror the fanatic crowds protesting in the streets. The revolution is wrestled away from the liberal idealist and thrown in the opposite direction resulting in the imposition of Islamic law. The oppressive regime comes of age just as Satrapi does, both wanting to assert their will over the other and impose their own meaning of independence and justice.

punkisnotdead punkisnotdead2 punkisnotdead3And she’s a punk!

These fantastic graphic novels were turned into an award winning French animated film in 2008, which you can also borrow from our sight and sound department. Be warned, it is in French so you’ll be reading either route you take.

Another spectacular piece of non-fiction from Satrapi is a book called Embroideries.

oyly calling to you to open the cover

 Embroideries is phenomenal, I may like it even better than Persepolis. It’s about three generations of Iranian women drinking tea together, the conversation inevitably turning to discussions of love, men, their bodies, and sex. This amazing story looks at the sexuality of Iranian women across generations and is very insightful, pragmatic, and blunt. The story provides insight into arranged marriages, forced childhood marriages, and sex outside of marriage in a country where that could lead to imprisonment and public humiliation/punishment and even death.


Finally, there is Satrapi’s stunning and unusual book Chicken with Plums, which was recently adapted into an award winning film. It is the story of Marjane Satrapi’s Great Uncle, the famous Iranian musician  Nasser Ali Khan. He played the tar, an important Iranian stringed instrument. When Khan’s tar is destroyed by his angry wife and he cannot find a suitable replacement, he gives up on life and wills himself to death. “Since no other tar could give him the pleasure of playing, Nasser Ali Khan decided to die,” we read early in the book, “He lay down in his bed…. [And] eight days later, November 22, 1958, he was buried beside his mother in Shemiran’s Zahirolodoleh Cemetary. All those who had known him were present on that day.”  This story of Khan and his tar is a heartbreaking treatise on the soul, art, and the struggle to truly live.  

Terrible Treasures: Wendell Hall.

We find a lot of weird content at the library. A bizarre book cover or disconcerting illustrations hiding in a children’s story, things that may have been popular or acceptable at some unimaginable time in our history but just has not age well. Or maybe it has been terrifying forever and we just uncovered it again, like a mummified sacrificial victim frozen in a scream or an eighties hair metal band. These are Terrible Treasures; too weird to live, too rare to die.

A terrible treasure should meet a few requirements to be included on the Fine Print Blog.

1.) It needs to be jarring, shocking, or stunning. There should be a visceral and sudden gut- reaction upon seeing it for the first time, especially if it freaks out a hardened library professional.

2.) The shocking nature of the object should be incidental. It wasn’t produced specifically to horrify. By the grace of time and changed sensibilities, it simple does.

3.) Only material from our collection should be featured, extra points if the item was found by an unsuspecting coworker.

Keeping these things in mind, one of our fantastic pages found a really terrible treasure while putting away sheet music in our little-known and under-utilized Liz Bannister collection.


This is Wendell Hall. According to experts on Wikipedia he was a famous hillbilly musician who focused on ukulele, banjo, and something called a tiple. He was known as the Red-Haired Music Maker as well as the Pineapple Picador in the 1920’s and 1930’s. he may have also been the first person involved in a broadcast wedding when he was married live on the radio in 1924 to Marion Martin. Many would recognize his most famous piece of work, a cover of Harry McClintock’s ‘Big Rock Candy Mountain,’ but his best seller was a song we also have the sheet music for called ‘It Ain’t Going to Rain No’ Mo.‘ .

The seductive tiple

By the 1950’s Wendell had a five-day a week radio show. Based on his former red headed identity, he sold a line of ukuleles and banjos with red tuning heads. He died in 1969. Hall was a surprisingly interesting fellow and, based on these sheet music covers, he also was a regular visitor to R’lyeh.

UntitledCthulhu 2016!

His maniacal smile, while terrifying, seems to distract from a larger issue. WHY, oh God why, is the space between his teeth blue? Did he want to match the back drop and painted his mouth? Did he just finish a delicious blue raspberry slushy and it happened to match?  Is he missing the backside of his head allowing us to see right through? What is he looking at that is presumably both hilarious and terrifying?  So many questions….

His eyes are wide and turned upward and to the right. He looks like he is either on the verge of cracking up at some inappropriate joke or he’s going to rip the throat out of a tiple strumming rival. Or that might just be how his face looks….


If you would like more information on the Liz Bannister collection come in and see us at the Reference Desk. The works featured in the collection are also in the online catalog so if you are looking for an old, obscure piece of sheet music, give our catalog a roll. You never know what kind of treasure is lurking beneath the surface!

3 to 5 Questions : Judith Hartley



Judith A. Hartley, a poet enjoying her senior years in Traverse City, lives with fibromyalgia and can barely get around anymore, but she is a tough woman who still manages to create beautiful poetry. Interviewing her brought me to tears with her gut wrenching honesty about poetry, humanity, and her struggles with mental illness and loneliness while discussing her work.

Judith uses a free form style for most poems but can be found to play with more structured verse throughout her works. She deals with topics like death, love, longing, and spirituality.  She also works some quirk and humor into her poetry which makes it easier to relate to her and her verse. She wrote, “my poetry is born from a deep need to find the divine in the everyday experiences of a good life.” Her poetry flows straight from her heart. She said in our interview that without poetry in her life, she wouldn’t still be here today. Each poem is a life preserver.

TADL carries three of her poetry collections; The Winged Life, Wise Child, and Behind My Curtain.


How did you start writing poetry?

I started writing when I was 22; I think it was a broken heart. When you are young with unrequited love, you know, you’re dating and it doesn’t work out. I had a son in my teenage years, I had a teenage marriage that didn’t last very long. So at 22 my son [Scott] was five years old and I was looking for a good job to support both of us. I found a secretarial job at GM and it paid good money so I took it and I worked there 4 ½ years and I made good money but I didn’t stay there because I was a round peg in a square hole! I wasn’t suited for GM, I was a poet! I was trying to go to college and raise my son and occasional go out on a date and it was all too much. My son always came first. After a while Scott started crying when I went out. I asked him if I could go out when he was asleep but he said he wanted me with him all the time so I stopped dating and stopped going to college. That’s when I started writing poetry; there was a lot of stress and depression in my life which plagued me for many years. They [doctors] tried so many medications on me and they didn’t work. I was in and out of mental wards for many years and my mother had to take over raising Scott because I wasn’t stable enough to raise him. In the mean time I was taking jobs and struggling and paying my mother to take care of Scott. I kept writing and eventually went back to school. I was on a special program through Lyndon Johnson called New Frontiers, a program for patients with mental illness and drug addiction, and it paid for my education and even my textbooks. I worked 20 hours a week and went to school 20 hours a week. I did graduate from Oakland University with a BA in English with a concentration in Psychology and Sociology, it took me 10 years! I just kept persevering.

Then I got a good job with the state of Michigan as an interviewer of people with disabilities who were trying to get help with finding jobs. It was a wonderful work. I really liked working with people who had disabilities, especially depression because I knew what to ask and how to help them cope. We really need to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness in this country, people think that mentally ill people are violent but they are not. Most of the people I worked with, people with schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder, were simply afraid.

About that time they transfer me up to Traverse City. I was originally working in the Pontiac area but I was having dreams of water and rocks, I knew I was going somewhere special. Poets are prophets they say! I went up to TC by myself, didn’t know anyone, and I loved it. I was driving around and wondered why people didn’t have smiles on their faces! They should be smiling all the time, it’s so beautiful! The landscape brought me to tears. I worked at a rehab for about 8 years.  I retired to focus on writing and devote all of my attention to poetry. So here I am, retired and doing exactly what I wanted to do.

Which poets have influenced you?

Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. I t’s funny, they are so opposite, Whitman goes on and on and Dickinson is so succinct. Also Wallace Stevens cause you have to think with him and he’s very deep. I didn’t like Robert Frost too much.

How has your poetry changed over the years?

I don’t think it has changed much at all. I just thought about my son, you know how mothers brag about their sons. When he was nine months old I was worried because he hadn’t walked yet and then at a year old he just popped up and started walking. I was very professional, I didn’t wobble around or feel my way, I just started and I was top grade. I don’t think I’ve changed much, I don’t really. I was in my 30s and that’s when I was having serious depression and that was when I was writing the most. I went to a psychologist at some point and he said the best way to cope with anything is to create something. So I was staying stable by creating poems. It was then that I produced the most and the best poems.

What type of books do you read? What books are on your nightstand right now?

I like deep books and I like spiritual books. I read spiritual books mostly and I am a student of the bible. When there was nothing else there was always the Lord.  And Non-fiction, I’m not a patient anymore with fiction. I don’t like stories, I want the truth! I’m between books now! Someone gave me a book about ice skaters, it’s about Russian Ice skaters and that was interesting. I like biographies and autobiographies. I like people who have overcome odds, like Marie Curie and Helen Keller. I like strong woman, and strong men too, people who are heroes and heroines. I’ve done that since I was a small child. I’ve always looked for the people who succeeded despite handicaps.

If you were a Dewey Decimal Number, which would you be and why?

Between 100 and 200 because those are the ones that I studied in university and that’s where my brain my goes, that is my mental position.