Born weighing less than three pounds, Yeonmi Park, had to fight to survive infancy. Her can-do spirit and inner resiliency also kept her alive through the Great Famine that struck North Korea in the 1990s.
Park describes the horror that descended upon North Korea after Russia and China stopped supporting their economy. In the far north, Park’s mother and father had to scramble for work. Most of the manufacturing jobs in their city disappeared so Yeonmi’s father began selling on the black market.
Even doing this dangerous work, the family tottered on the edge of famine often, and at other times did quite well. But well in this context was relative. In the flush periods, the Parks had rice three times daily, and meat only two or three times a month.
January 14, 2016 marked the passing of Alan Rickman. Rickman was best known in recent years as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter Movies. One of his earliest roles to command attention was that of the villain Hans Gruber in the first Die Hard. You might also remember him as Alexander Dane in Galaxy Quest, the classically trained actor resigned to be forever remembered for playing an alien in a television series. Like his Galaxy Quest character Alan Rickman was a classically trained actor who was equally at home on stage as he was on screen, though he preferred the stage and often passed up choice movie roles to appear on stage.
The link below will provide a list of films and other materials featuring Alan Rickman.
On January 10th of this year we lost one of the most the most innovative musical performers of the late 1960’s on: David Bowie. David Bowie managed to re-invent his stage persona and musical style to fit the times and keep himself relevant. Bowie was not just a talented musician and singer. He was also a talented actor and he starred in a number memorable and now classic films. In his first major role his acting ability and unique looks brought the alien character of Thomas Jerome Newton to a life in The Man Who Fell to Earth. And few who have seen the film Labyrinth can forget him as the King of the Goblins in his M.C. Escher inspired castle.
Below I have provided a link which will bring up a list of Monroe County Public library’s holdings wish feature the music, writing or acting talent of David Bowie. Mr. Bowie, you will be missed.
This absorbing new memoir by artist, poet, performer, and rock star Patti Smith provides a personal take on her daily life: her dreams, philosophical musings, friendships and myriad exotic journeys. Favorite black jacket, check. Watch cap, check. Black coffee at Café ‘Ino, check.
Unlike Just Kids, which focused on her past, her life with artist Mapplethorpe in the famous Chelsea Hotel, in this book the past and present intertwine. Coffee, the connecting themes.
Appropriately enough, it begins with a dream. One of many that thread through the book. Next Patti describes her trip to French Guiana in the 70s. After her husband promised her a trip anyway in the world. Patti--idiosyncratic as always--chose the place where French writer Genet was imprisoned. They were almost jailed themselves on the way back when their driver was caught ferrying a man in the trunk to the airport. Read more about M Train
While I was growing up in the 60’s and 70’s I learned in my history classes about the horrors of what happened in Germany during WWII. However in these classes the German people were painted with broad sweeping strokes of black as supporters of the Nazi movement and Hitler. I never learned of people such as Oskar Schindler, the German industrialist who managed to save the lives of so many of the Jewish people. Nor had I heard of groups, such as “The Swing Kids,” “The Edelweiss Pirates,” “The Solf Circle,” and “The Kreisau Circle.” All of these were groups of German Nationals who were either vocal opponents of the Nazi doctrine or actively fought against them as part of the underground resistance in Germany. In fact there were a lot more “subversive groups” in Germany than I was aware existed. Another group I had never heard of was one founded by Hans Scholl and his sister Sophie known as “The White Rose.” Read more about Sophie Scholl: The Final Days
The year 2015 has rushed out the exit door, but no worries, this wonderful mix of essays is not time-centric.
My favorite in the collection I randomly chose first. Sorry, editor, Ariel Levy, I just dive into these collections and start reading wherever my finger lands. Tim Kreider’s “A Man and his Cat” describes a single fellow’s devotion for his cat. How one small nonhuman creature fills his home with love and his life with a sense of purpose.
On the other hand, in the humorous sounding essay “My Grandma the Poisoner” John Reed makes a strong case that the early deaths of several relatives and the upset stomachs and inertia of certain houseguests were not accidental. Reed found himself comatose for fourteen hours several times after eating a Grandma meal.
The sweet and spot-on “65” describes how aging has affected one boomer’s life. Mark Jacobson milks the slowing down and aches and pains of age for all they are worth. The tone is light but the sentiments serious, especially when he ponders the overarching question, how did this happen to me. Read more about The Best American Essays 2015