Shelfish: The Blog of Answers

The Great Gatsby

Jay Gatsby holding Daisy Buchanan in formal wear with the eye doctor billboard in the background.The new Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!, Australia, Strictly Ballroom) movie, The Great Gatsby is part video game, part Busby Berkeley extravaganza. It's a two and a half hour wild ride, "Old sport." If you're looking for a faithful interpretation of the Scott Fitzgerald classic, you'd be better off picking one of the older versions. The novel has been made into a movie six times.

Find the Robert Redford version in the Library.

The Invisible War

The Invisible War cover. Photograph of female soldier's face.I first heard about this film after it was nominated for an Academy Award. I decided to see it after Henry Rollins wrote about it. I'm going to repeat what he wrote, I encourage everyone to see this movie, but I can't recommend it. That may seem like a strange thing to say, especially on a page of recommendations, but the stories that are told in this film are devastating and will likely haunt you.

The Invisible War refers to the the epidemic of sexual assault within the U.S. Military. Today, a female soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire. Statistics like this are peppered throughout the film, most of them coming directly from official Department of Defense reports. Academy Award nominated director Kirby Dick could have spun this as an anti-military film, but he didn't. Instead, through the emotional accounts of the men and women interviewed, the viewer gets a sense that change is possible.

This is a hard film to watch, but works of this nature are often the best way to facilitate change. Though The Invisible War did not win an Oscar, the nomination has brought national attention to the epidemic of intra-military sexual assault. Since its release, in late 2012, the Pentagon has developed policies aimed at increasing accountablity and victim care.

Find The Invisible War in the Library.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

norwegian wood cover. young couple facing each other with eyes closed.“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”

If you've enjoyed any of Haruki Murakami's other novels you'll instantly recognize the protagonist Toru, a Caulfield-esque student moving aimlessly through school and youth while trying to reconcile the few important relationships in his life.

Norwegian Wood is a coming of age novel that explores first love and intimacy against a Tokyo backdrop in the late 60's. This is a great rainy day read as it has themes of beauty, sorrow and introspection. Although not his best work, Murakami fans will not be disappointed. Many will enjoy this book for the lush scenery and vivid atmosphere. For those wanting a less meandering tale, check out critically acclaimed novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

Find a copy of Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami on the shelf, as an eBook through Media On Demand, or the movie based on the book.

Famous Imaginary Places - A Quiz

wizard of oz characters on yellow brick road leading to the emerald city of oz.The Answers Department is full of people who are rabid pop culture junkies or just obsessively read and watch a lot of stuff. We have also spent our careers finding and storing away seemingly useless bits of information that we can pull out whenever we need to and use to convince people that we are brilliant. Therefore, we all thought we had this quiz in the bag. None of us got 100%, but all of us had a blast taking it and grading each other.

You can find a shortened version of the quiz on the AARP website, or the full quiz in the April issue of the AARPBulletin. Be sure to stop by the Answers Desk and tell us how you did.

Passage by Connie Willis

Cover image of the book Passage by Connie Willis. A long arched hallway where a woman walks with water close behind her. While investigating Near Death Experiences, psychologist Joanna Lander chooses to become her own subject. 

This means putting herself in a near death state to see what she discovers. What she finds is this: a bright light, a long corridor, and a door.  But it’s when she opens the door that she finds the real surprise.  Joanna is on the Titanic, and the Titanic is sinking.

Joanna, to her horror, now knows that the distinction between death and near death is not at all as well-defined as her experiments have led her to believe.

Find Passage in the library

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Dust jacket is of Yellow flowered Wallpaper.The last two book books I’ve read (I Capture the Castle & Divining Women) mentioned the “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.  Deciding to fix this gap in my education, I picked up a copy of the 24 page/6,000 word short story. Published in 1892, it is written as the secret journal of a woman living in a rented country house while undergoing a rest cure for depression. Although she has been forbidden to do so, the unnamed narrator writes down her feelings. Her frightening descent into madness manifests itself in a chilling rendering of the creature she believes resides beneath the bedroom’s yellow wallpaper.

Find The Yellow Wallpaper in the library.

Inspiration Information/Wings of Love by Shuggie Otis

Shuggie Otis, Insipration Information. Older Shuggie facing left, younger Shuggie facing right with a butterfly in the middle. It's hard to pin this album down to any one genre. Shuggie's own label, Shugiterius Enterprises, admits that he would only be a household name to "those that are knowledgeable about popular R & B-Blues-Rock-Funk music that was released during the mid-sixties, and early seventies."

Shuggie Otis has been in the music business for a long time. In fact, he started performing with his father, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Johnny Otis, at the tender age of 12 in night clubs throughout southern California. After his father brought him into the recording studio he became an in-demand session guitarist and appears on albums by everyone from Above the Law to Frank Zappa. Eventually Shuggie started recording his own tracks and released his first album in 1969. Inspiration Information  was originally released in 1974 as Shuggie's third studio record. Shuggie has absolute control over this album. He played every instrument and sang every part.  The album was reissued in 2001 on David Byrne's label, Luaka Bop. That edition had four tracks from Shuggie's 1971 album Freedom Flight. This release doesn't, but it does have four brand new bonus tracks. It also comes with a second disc of previously unreleased recordings from 1975-2000 entitled Wings of Love.

This album is, in a word, smooth.

Find Inspiration Information/Wings of Love in the library.

Gun Machine by Warren Ellis

Gun Machine by Warren Ellis"The room was full of guns. Guns were mounted on all the walls. There were half a dozen guns at his feet... Rippling patterns of gunmetal, from floor to ceiling... There were guns in all the rooms."

John Tallow is a New York police detective who's having a very bad week. He's discovered an apartment in a condemned building, filled with hundreds of guns - each used to commit a single murder.  His disturbance of the trophies of the city's most prolific serial killer sets off a chain reaction. Now, powerful people are trying to silence him and the killer is stalking him. Tallow must race against the clock and dig into the history of the city to solve the crimes.

This is actually pretty sedate by Warren Ellis standards (check out his graphic novel series Transmetropolitan or Freak Angels or his other novel Crooked Little Vein for some truly bizarre and rather graphic science fiction). I love the way he weaves mythologies into the story, though. His characters banter and work together wonderfully. And you can't beat Warren Ellis for clever hangdog heroes like John Tallow.

Find Gun Machine in the Library

The Heist by Macklemore, featuring Ryan Lewis

cover for The Heist by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, text and lizard or snake skin patterning in gold outlines on black background"We came here to live life like nobody was watching"

With danceable beats, social-consciousness, and an excellent sense of humor, Macklemore's first studio album features the Billboard Hot 100 #1 hit "Thrift Shop", as well as "Can't Hold Us" and "Same Love".

I first heard "Thrift Shop" on the radio and I did a double-take. A song about resale shops? That's not only funny but catchy and promotes bargain-conscious shopping.. from a rapper? Different, to say the least. Give the rest of the album a listen, too!

Find The Heist in the Library

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

jacket art the beautiful mystery"'And a man's foes,' she read out loud, 'shall be they of his own household.'"

Throughout Louise Penny's award-winning mystery series, this Bible verse has been a constant theme, most significantly in The Beautiful Mystery. Chief Inspector Gamache and Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir travel to a remote monastery populated by an order of monks who escaped the Inquisition and have lived in solitude for hundreds of years in the woods of Quebec, Canada. Gamache and Beauvoir’s mission is to solve the murder of the order’s choirmaster. With the suspect list limited to the other monks in the monastery, the hunt begins – slowly, painfully, as these men are not accustomed to outsiders. Two even more unexpected and unwelcomed guests heighten the anxiety for the inspectors and the monks, and for good reason. These men are heralds of chaos.

I had a bit of trouble connecting with the book at first, but that quickly changed. The monastic setting really does convey a cloistered feeling, making the characters seem a bit distant. Eventually, I found myself completely sucked into the facets of the central mystery and felt a growing sense of dread for my beloved Gamache and Beauvoir. The ending left me gasping, a little heart-broken, and immediately wanting more.

Find The Beautiful Mystery in the Library