Art is subjective. Yet when viewing a work, most of us are quick to formulate opinions that are either positive or negative, for or against. But how often do we stop ourselves in the midst of our own judgment and take time to consider the artist’s own point of view? How often do we try to climb inside their head and ask, “What is it they are trying to say with this piece?”
In advance of bestselling author Jasper Fforde’s appearance at the Plaza Branch on March 17, 2011, the Kansas City Public Library is giving away two first-edition hardback copies of his new book, One of Our Thursdays Is Missing, the latest installment in the Thursday Next series. The Library will give away both books via a random drawing facilitated by Twitter.
Kenneth Armitage knows his marmots. Though he spent much of his 40-year academic career at the University of Kansas studying the yellow-bellied marmot or “rockchuck,” he’s enough of an expert on the burrowing beasts that he’s featured in the bonus materials of the 15th Anniversary Special Edition DVD of the hit ‘90s comedy Groundhog Day.
KC Unbound recently caught up with Dr. Armitage, professor emeritus of behavioral ecology at KU, to get the lowdown on marmots, including how they are dealing with climate change, and whether or not their shadows can tell us anything about the length of winter.
This year, it seems that Punxsutawney Phil has predicted an early Spring -- he did not see his shadow upon emerging from his den in Gobbler's Knob, PA. Were he in KC, however, he'd probably be unable to exit his burrow because of all the snow. And, unfortunately, due to the inclement weather, Dr. Armitage's lecture at the Central Library on Wednesday, February 2, at 6:30 p.m. has been canceled.
Read on to learn more about marmot biology and the history of Groundhog Day.
KC Unbound: What’s the difference between a marmot and a groundhog?
The recent release of Mark Twain’s uncensored autobiography has set the literary world ablaze. And that excitement was in the air a few weeks ago at the Central Library, when one of the editors of Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1, Robert H. Hirst, came to give a presentation before a crowd of nearly 450 “Twainiacs.”
For Garry Kasparov, life really does imitate chess. The top-ranked chess player in the world for nearly 22 years, Kasparov retired from international competition in 2005 and took on an even more challenging career. He entered Russian politics and became the leader of the opposition movement, playing democracy’s white against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s black.
Here at the Kansas City Public Library, we like to think big. Brobdignagian books line our parking garage, baffling bloggers worldwide. Our collection is huge, numbering over a million titles. And as the 2010-11 Script-in-Hand season of free public plays shows, we like our drama big, too.
What’s big about Script-in-Hand? The abilities of the actors and directors from the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre – which has produced this program for all of its’ five-year existence – are tremendous. And the plays they deliver each year are towering works of literature.
But most of all, in this 2010-11 season, it’s the ideas that are biggest.
In his preamble to the Fall 2010 issue of Lapham’s Quarterly Lewis Lapham writes, “Pericles conceived of ancient Athens as the expression of man’s humanity to man.” Though this notion seems a far shot from today’s Midwestern cityscapes, a recent battle over an old building in the heart of Kansas City shows that people feel a definite, human connection to our city’s defining places.
Juxtaposing texts from history and literature over the centuries with essays by contemporary thinkers, the Fall LQ (most of which is readable for free online) explores the evolution of the city in civilization – and our relationship to it over time. From expressions of the greatness of gods and kings in ancient times to today’s sprawling conduits of commerce, cities have shown the aspirations and limitations of society – a constant push and pull between higher ideals and economic expediency.
If you had to pick one writer alive today whose autobiography could become a bestseller 100 years after his or her death, who would you choose? Rowling? Roth? Franzen, perhaps? It’s hard to fathom which of today’s literary celebrities might still be relevant in 2110.
When it comes to native Missourian Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, his power to get people talking is as potent as it was during his lifetime. This year, on the centenary of his death in 1910, a complete and unexpurgated version of Twain’s autobiography has the literary world abuzz.
Resting comfortably in the Amazon top 10 as it awaits its November 15 release, volume one of the University of California Press’ three-volume, 500,000-word Autobiography of Mark Twain begins the fulfillment of Twain’s own decree that his memoirs not be published until 100 years after his death. The book is the work of a team of editors at UC-Berkeley, where the Mark Twain Papers are held at the Bancroft Library.
In 1908, American journalist John Kenneth Turner, posing as a wealthy investor, infiltrated hemp plantations in the Yucatán peninsula. His goal: to expose the “chattel slavery” abundant Mexico under the oppressive regime of Porfirio Díaz.
“Slavery in Mexico! Yes, I found it,” he wrote in his 1910 book Barbarous Mexico. A bestseller at the time, Turner’s exposé of the so-called “Porfirian Peace” provided context for understanding the revolution that eventually drove Díaz out of the country and ushered in years of upheaval and reform.
With Barbarous Mexico, he addressed an American audience that viewed its “Sister Republic” as perhaps a bit poorer and less technologically advanced than the U.S. but not much different in terms of liberty and justice. And while Mexico did have democratic written laws, Turner found the government to be hopelessly corrupt:
What would you do if you had to build a nation? Start Googling? Download an app? When John Adams strode onto the world stage by joining the Continental Congress as a representative from Massachusetts, he had no iPhone or MacBook Air. Contemporary European books (often in their original languages) and Greek and Latin classics were his RSS and HTML.
Unlike his more privileged colleague Thomas Jefferson, Adams was the son of an uneducated farmer. His father had to sell ten acres of land to pay his son’s tuition at Harvard. Mindpower, not money, was Adams’ currency in the social climate of colonial America, and devouring the knowledge contained in books was Adam’s ticket to self-betterment.
A more-than-avid reader, Adams built a library of thousands of volumes – a search engine in paper, ink, and binding. The knowledge contained in Adams' vast library not only fueled his passionately principled mind but shaped the creation of our country -- and set the course of a family.
A brand-new exhibit and a special event happening this week at the Kansas City Public Library celebrate Adams’ bibliophilic legacy.
The world may have never known Doonesbury if it weren’t for Jim Andrews and John McMeel. The founders of Andrews McMeel Universal (then called Universal Press Syndicate) were headquartered in a rented house in Leawood when they discovered a young cartoonist named Garry Trudeau.
Forty years, 14,000 strips, and one Pulitzer later, Trudeau and AMU are still going strong.
On October 25, Trudeau visits the Plaza Branch of the Kansas City Public Library to present his brand-new book, 40: A Doonesbury Retrospective. We caught up with John McMeel and CEO Hugh Andrews of AMU to discuss the iconic Doonesbury from a publisher’s perspective.
What’s so special about Kansas City that has kept AMU rooted here all these decades?
In 1936, Mao Tse-tung was not dead, as his enemies would have China believe. Indeed, despite frequent reports of his demise, the 43-year-old communist leader was alive and well and giving his first-ever interviews to a foreign correspondent: Kansas City-born journalist Edgar Snow.
Snow had been living in China since 1928. Before leaving for his 13-year stay in China, Snow studied at the University of Missouri School of Journalism and briefly pursued advertising in New York. By 1936, he had written two books on China, the non-fiction travelogue Far Eastern Front and the short story collection Living China.
When Snow met with Chairman Mao at the communist capital of Pao An in far northwest China, the West knew very little about this son of a peasant who would fight a war with Japan, defeat Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek, and later be responsible for social and economic upheavals such as the Great Leap Forward and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.
The 36,000 plots in Elmwood Cemetery at Truman Road and Van Brunt Boulevard compose a sweeping patchwork of history, telling the story of Kansas City from its frontier beginnings, to its role in the border conflicts of the Civil War and rise in the railroad era, to the sprawling city we know today.
Buried at Elmwood are some of the people whose names Kansas Citians see on a daily basis: August R. Meyer (1851-1905), mining magnate and father of the parks and boulevards system, who hired landscape architect George Kessler to design Elmwood Cemetery and other sites around town; Simeon Brooks Armour (1828-99), a meat packing patriarch whose family estate stretched from Warwick to Main along the boulevard that bears his name; and Jacob L. Loose (1850-1923), who made his fortune with the Sunshine Biscuit company, selling comestibles such as the Hydrox cookie, and whose name is associated with one of Kansas City’s most famous parks.
In the brilliant and gritty HBO series Rome, Cleopatra is a crafty and ambitious seductress who charms first Caesar and then Mark Antony for the sake of preserving Egypt (and her power over it) at a time when Rome was transitioning from republic to empire.
In this clip from the series (below), Cleopatra visits Mark Antony in Rome to ask his help in getting a public declaration of paternity for her son, Caesarion. (In the show, as in history, Cleopatra claimed that her son’s father was the murdered dictator Julius Caesar.)
Is this flirtatious, soap-operatic scene ripped from the pages of history? Of course not -- well, not really. Like so many other depictions of Cleopatra in historical fiction and pop culture, from Shakespeare to Elizabeth Taylor, HBO’s is based scantly on fact and vastly on imagination.