Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Many Faces of Jane Eyre

Mia Wasikoska (of Alice in Wonderland and The Kids Are All Right fame) is the new face of the classic heroine in Charlotte Bronte's timeless Jane Eyre. However, this isn't the first adaptation of Bronte's novel. In fact, it has been adapted over 15 times for the big screen and 8 versions for television, not including the spin-offs and sequels! In honor of our "Revival of the Classics" event, we at the Boulder Book Store decided to take a look back and remember the most memorable Janes throughout the years.

Mabel Ballin (1921)

Virginia Bruce (1934)

Joan Fontaine (1944)

Susannah York (1970)

Sorcha Cusack (1973) (TV)

Zelah Clarke (1983) (TV)

Charlotte Gainsbourg (1996)

Samantha Morton (1997) (TV)

Mia Wasikoska (2011)

Jane Eyre is in theatres now! Let us know what you think on our Facebook or Twitter. Need more reccomendations? Talk to me (Jill, the Spring Intern) on Twitter @JillLovesCoffee.

Come to our "Revival of the Classics" event on Friday, April 15th at 7:00 pm! There will be classics trivia, a book swap and local author Erin Blakemore will speak about her novel The Heroine's Bookshelf! Students with ID will recieve a free coffee/tea.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Weird is Good: Japanese Fiction Part II

Hello, spring intern Chelsea speaking. This is the second in a series of blog posts introducing Japanese fiction to English speaking readers in the hopes that we become more aware of Japan's place on the international literature stage. The previous post can be found here.

Japanese modern literature is weird, and that’s a good thing.

Weirdness comes in many forms, and in the case of Japanese fiction, levels of strangeness vary from author to author. The weirdness of Japanese fiction ranges from subtle absurdity to absolute craziness and insanity.

I am most fascinated by how a lot of this weirdness is presented realistically in real world settings, played off as normal life despite having qualities that are undeniably weird.

Perhaps the best example of 'real-life weirdness' in modern Japanese fiction is found in the realistic yet fantastical works of Murakami Haruki, such as A Wild Sheep Chase or The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, in which seemingly normal protagonists meet characters with weird traits and quirks (for example, a girl whose job is to survey the hair of middle aged men for a wig company, or a man who hides among sheep while wearing their skin), and go on adventures that aren't really adventures in a traditional sense, as they don't have that sense of urgency that usually makes adventures exciting. This weirdness is narrated along with actions that are painfully normal, like cooking pasta for lunch and going to the cleaners, and this combination of abnormal and normal life makes it hard to judge whether the novel is meant to be realistic or not.

As for the completely insane, Murakami Ryu's Coin Locker Babies comes to mind. Aside from the weird premise of following the lives of two boys who were abandoned by their mothers in train station coin lockers after birth, this book is full of crazy happenings, with a love interest so weird that she has an alligator for a pet, self tongue-cutting, pregnant-girlfriend stabbing, and a mysterious, fictional destructive substance that is eventually used to wipe out the entire city of Tokyo. The weirdness is very explicit, obvious, and out of this world, yet deceptively believable because it IS set in this world, in modern Japan.

Abe Kobo wrote The Box Man, which is a novel written from the viewpoint of a man who essentially lives his life wearing a box, with holes for eyes, feet, and his mouth. If this isn't weird enough, the appearance of a few more box men and the ambiguous way the story is told (where you're not sure which box man is which, and squabbles regarding people wanting the box and wanting to become box men themselves abound) makes it weird as well. Kobo also wrote The Woman in the Dunes, in which sand becomes as much of a character as the human characters, strangely enough. Many people consider Abe Kobo to be Japan’s Franz Kafka, and that is because the weirdness of their works brings their stories to life.

Weirdness, as I mentioned in my previous post, is a good thing for novels. It makes stories interesting. It gives them a mysterious quality and an element of surprise, because you never know what to expect or just how weird it will get.

Here's a question for you: Have you read any books that were so weird that they're good?
In light of the current situation in Japan, I encourage people who wish to lend a hand but don't know what to do to visit the following websites, all of which are contributing to help those suffering from the earthquakes, tsunami, and the aftereffects here and here.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Classic Novels of TIME's 100 Best Novels List

Hello everyone! In preparation for our "Revival of the Classics" event happening April 15th, we're going to take a look at a few of our favorite classics. We took a look at Time's 100 Greatest Novels list, which you can find here, and chose some recommendations just for you!

The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby is considered to be the "Great American Novel," set in the 1920's where wealth was power and everyone was trying to make connections. Nick Carraway, a young World War I vet and the narrator, moves to Long Island next to his cousin, the beautiful, if ditzy, Daisy. When Daisy, Nick and Tom (Daisy's husband) show up at a grand party held by the mysterious Gatsby, things become complicated for everyone involved. This novel is a personal favorite, as F. Scott Fitzgerald's enchanting writing offers something everyone can relate to. On the surface, this novel seems to be almost a middle-school romance, but as the reader delves into the world of Nick, Gatsby, Tom and Daisy, The Great Gatsby explores issues of loss, love, and the quintessential American dream. (Did you know? The Great Gatsby is being made into a 3D movie… More info to come on our Facebook Page!)

Nabakov's Lolita is written in beautiful prose that lets the reader become completely engrossed in the novel, which in my opinion is a true mark of a classic. Humbert Humbert is a distinguished man who is fixated on "nymphets," young girls upon which he fantasizes about. When Humbert moves to New England, his landlord's daughter, Lolita, sparks an obsession within Humbert so strong that he becomes completely enthralled with her. Neither Humbert nor Lolita could be prepared for the whirlwind romance that leads them across the country. This book is known for the emotional attachment the reader gains toward the characters; Lolita is a masterful piece I would recommend to anyone (above the age of eighteen, of course!).

The French Lieutenant's Woman
John Fowles brings to life a tale of Sarah Wodruff, a woman who has been exiled by Victorian England. Marked as a whore, the rumors told that Sarah had an affair with a married French naval officer who promptly left her. A wealthy gentleman takes notice of Sarah, and a forbidden romance begins to blossom. Written in Victorian prose and taking a critical eye to Victorian society, Fowles spins a story that leaves readers thinking after they finish the novel's 3 plausible endings. The French Lieutenant's Woman is wrought with interesting plot twists, literary challenges and unforgettable characters, making it one of my favorite classics.

Catcher in the Rye
J.D. Salinger is without a doubt one of the key authors that remain an authentic voice of the youth. The story of Holden Caulfield, a rebellious teenager in the 1950's, speaks to young people who read it still 60 years later. Fraught with themes of alienation, sexuality, and confusion, Catcher in the Rye is the quintessential teen angst novel. As Holden goes on a self-searching journey through New York City, we start to connect to feelings and changes we have all gone through. An iconic classic, Catcher in the Rye is a must-read for anyone who has ever been young and felt a little lost.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Though most would recognize this title from the iconic Jack Nicholson movie adaptation, Ken Kesey's novel is one of my favorite classics. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest follows the story of Randle Patrick McMurphy, who lands himself in a mental hospital, faking insanity to get out of jail. As the patients get caught up in McMurphy's rambunctious fun, the careful eye of the tyrannical Nurse Ratched becomes more keen and unforgiving. Drawing on Kesey's own experiences with mental hospitals, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest challenges everyone's sanity and leaves the reader pondering the human mind.

Recommendations made by Jill, the Spring Intern at the Boulder Book Store. Need more recommendations? Find me on Twitter at @JillLovesCoffee!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Introduction to Japanese Fiction

With the world's worried eyes currently focused on Japan, this is the first in a series of blog posts introducing Japanese fiction to English speaking readers in the hopes that we become more aware of Japan's place on the international literature stage.

My name is Chelsea, and I'm currently interning here at Boulder Book Store. I’m interested in introducing you to the small yet fascinating world of modern Japanese literature. I was first formally introduced to Japanese literature during my 9-month study abroad program in Japan. What I found fascinating was that despite being of Japanese ethnicity, a Japanese major, and an avid reader, I didn't know any Japanese authors aside from Murakami Haruki’s Norwegian Wood, which seemed to me the only one who has successfully gained popularity in the West.

Once I was introduced to more novels by modern Japanese authors and found a few more to read that hadn't been translated, I found myself hooked on the strange and unique style and plots of literary works coming from Japan, especially those that lie on the verge of literature and popular fiction.

I am writing these blogs to help increase awareness of and to promote this section of world literature that, in my opinion, is highly overlooked.

If I were to describe modern Japanese literature from what I've read so far, I’d use two words: “weird” and “connected.”

When I say that modern Japanese literature is connected, I mean that many bonds can be found between all of the subjects who have come in contact with these works. Sometimes, connections are formed between readers and a work. Other times, authors put a bit of themselves into their book in the form of a shishosetsu, or I-novel, which is a work of fiction that incorporates some aspect of its author's life into it, but is not as personal or realistic as a memoir.

Sometimes, bonds are created directly between the author and reader (as is the case with Yoshimoto Banana's readers, who often ask her for personal advice) or authors and the subject that their books are about, as in Murakami Haruki's Underground, one of his few non-fiction works about an actual attack on a train line in Tokyo by a cult, for which he interviewed surviving victims to relate accounts of what happened that day to his readers.

Through translations, foreign readers can see the connection between a work and the culture of its country of origin. By culture, I don't mean the obvious, physical cultural practices such as eating with chopsticks or taking your shoes off when entering houses. Rather, I mean that one can experience the sociological and psychological aspects of culture that show how people think and feel about the world around them.

This type of culture that isn't expressed physically is hard to teach and explain, and I believe that novels do a decent job of showing it, rather than telling. 'Showing,' to me, appears to be a natural and comfortable way to introduce and expand awareness of people from different parts of the world.

Thus, the charm of Japanese literature comes from readers' ability to 'connect' with it, and for foreign readers, from readers' ability to see these connections.

In my next post, I will explain why I find Japanese literature 'weird', and why this is a good thing.

In light of the current situation in Japan, I encourage people who wish to lend a hand but don't know what to do to visit the following websites, all of which are contributing to help those suffering from the earthquakes and tsunami here and here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mary Roach- Packing for Mars

Ever wonder what happens if an astronaut vomits in their helmet during a space walk or consider the feasibility of sex in zero gravity?
In Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, Mary Roach visits NASA to learn the answers to her sordid and weird questions regarding space travel. Her humorous and educational observations have been labeled as "truly funny" (Entertainment Weekly) and "hilarious" (Jon Stewart, The Daily Show). Packing for Mars has also been recommended as an editor's choice by the New York Times Book Review and Amazon's Best Book of the Month page.

Roach, a freelance journalist, is known for her humorous articles on scientific subjects, and has been published in Salon, Outside, National Geographic, New Scientist, Popular Mechanics, Wired, and The New York Times Magazines.
Her previous books include Stiff and Spook, which humorously explore the scientific and often revolting worlds of cadavers and the afterlife, and Bonk, for which she wrote on the topic of sexual physiology. For each of her books, she does the research personally, visiting mortuaries, graveyards, or wherever her curiosity leads her, opening her reader's eyes to the gruesome yet fascinating worlds that she visits.

For a taste of what Packing for Mars is all about, see the video Mary posted on her website that, in her own words, "captures the essence of Packing for Mars."

For more information, you can also visit her website here.

Mary Roach will visit Boulder Bookstore for an event on Sunday, April 3, at 2:00 pm to speak about and sign Packing for Mars." This is a ticketed event. Tickets are $5 and each ticket includes a coupon good for $5 off Packing for Mars OR $5 off a purchase the night of the event. Call (303) 447-2074 to purchase your ticket. We hope to see you there!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Are YOU a Mystery Lover?

If you like mysterious murders, fast-paced suspense and sexual tension, then Silent Mercy is the book for you!

Linda Fairstein, a former New York prosecutor uses her expertise to delve deep into the mysterious world of Alexandra Cooper, a woman who works as a Manhattan prosecutor. In this newest installment, Alex must face her most challenging case yet, as she is called to the scene of a Harlem church with her partner Mike Chapman. A young woman is found at the site decapitated and burned, and days later another woman is found dead at a Cathedral in Little Italy. As suspicions of religious motives start to arise, Alex Cooper finds she is getting deeper and deeper into New York City's dark religious history. The 13th installment in this heart-stopping series, Silent Mercy is sure to keep you at the edge of your seat until the last page!

Linda Fairstein will speak on Tuesday, March 22nd at 7:30 p.m. at Boulder Book Store, 1107 Pearl Street, Boulder, CO.

Got Children?

South American adventures! Missing chickens! Sinister Lords of Death! A noir-style crime story! These are a few of the things being brought to the table with the next two children's authors coming to the Boulder Book Store.

The Trouble With Chickens brings us a story of a hard-boiled retired search-and-rescue dog J.J., who gets caught in the middle of a mystery involving two missing chicks on the farm. Bribed by a cheeseburger, J.J. decides to help Moosh, a mama hen desperate to find her chicks. Doreen Cronin is best known for her books Click Clack Moo and Diary of a Fly.

Jon and Pamela Voelkel are known for their amazing presentations around the nation with their best-selling series The Jaguar Stones. In the second installment, The End of the World Club, Max and Lola must defeat the Twelve Lords of Death in a race against the clock. To uncover the secret of the long-lost Yellow Jaguar, they must get away from Count Antonio de Landa eventually find their way to Xibalba, the Maya underworld. The dynamic duo brings their dried bugs, safari gear and the Maya King costume (great for photo opportunities, see below), transporting everyone in the audience to the deep South American jungle!

Doreen Cronin will read The Trouble With Chickens on March 9th, 2011 at 6:30 p.m., and Jon and Pamela Voelkel will speak on March 31st, 2011 at 6:30 p.m.