Book review: Coco Chanel the Legend and the Life

By , April 26, 2012

Coco Chanel the Legend and the Life
By Justine Picardie

Fashion columnist and author Justine Picardie has produced a well written, beautifully laid out, fun to read biography on Coco Chanel. The book is filled with great black and photos of Chanel and her inner circle and also features sketches by Karl Lagerfeld. Photographs are liberally interspersed throughout the entire book. Picardie takes a tough look at the woman and the myth, and at times Chanel does not always come out as likeable. What you have to admire is how Chanel took control of her life and changed it, and in the process changed fashion and the way we dress today.

While you’re reading about Coco Chanel, I would recommend looking at Chanel by Harold Koda. In 2005 the Metropolitan Museum of Art had a Chanel retrospective, this book was the exhibit catalog. It features over 200 pages of photos of Chanel’s designs, including clothing, jewelry, hats, perfume bottles, purses and shoes. The exhibit showcased fashions created by Chanel and by Karl Lagerfeld for the House of Chanel.  Be sure to read the catalog section in the appendix, for details on each piece: the designer, the year it was made, the materials used and most interestingly, the sewing techniques.

With these two books, you can now read about the little black dress and see it in all of its glorious detail.




Legends of Film: Philip Kaufman interview

By , April 25, 2012

Legends of Film is proud to present an interview with writer and director Philip Kaufman.  Mr. Kaufman has directed such movies as The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Right Stuff, The Wanderers, and The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid.  

- Bill

DVD review: Kids These Days

By , April 25, 2012

If you’ve been bemoaning the state of today’s youth, check out one of these inspiring, uplifting documentaries about kids who are hardworking, talented, and driven.

Louder Than a Bomb
You may not think you’re a fan of slam poetry (I certainly didn’t), but wait until you meet the teenagers in this documentary.  They take the sometimes painful raw material of their lives and come up with amazing performance poetry that will make you proud.  Don’t be surprised if you find yourself on your feet, cheering, in your own living room.


This tracks eight kids competing in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, and it’s a tense but often hilarious nailbiter.  Don’t miss the 2012 live broadcast of the bee on Thursday, May 31 on ESPN.


Climb every mountain!

By , April 24, 2012

It’s almost May, and that means it’s Mount Everest summit season.  Why the month of May you ask?  Just before the summer monsoon, the jet stream is pushed northward, reducing wind speeds high on the mountain up in the death zone, making May just about the most opportune time to attempt reaching the summit.  National Geographic has sent a team of mountaineers that seek to repeat the historic climb of the 1963 National Geographic-sponsored American Mount Everest Expedition, almost 50 years after the first American ascended the highest point on Earth.  You can follow the progress of all 2012 Everest summit expeditions here.  To enhance your own armchair mountaineering experience, put on your crampons and check out the following materials.                                                                                     -crystal

Into Thin Air: a Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster

Although he came under fire from others that were on  the mountain, Jon Krakauer‘s account of the May 1996 tragedy that left twelve climbers dead is one of the most compelling books I have I have ever read, and is an essential read if you’re interested in Mount Everest.


Into the Silence: the Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest

Go back to the beginning with anthropologist, explorer, and writer Wade Davis‘s book about the first climber’s attempts to ascend Everest after the horrors experienced during World War One.


Storm Over Everest

World renowned mountain climber and filmmaker David Brashears was also on Everest in May 1996, filming an IMAX documentary.  He  aided the rescue efforts and tells his story in this haunting Frontline special.



To the Summit: Fifty Mountains that Lure, Inspire, and Challenge

If any subject deserves the coffee table book treatment, it has to be the moutain peaks of the world!  This hefty text is worth the checkout.  It includes  facts such as the elevation and first ascent of each mountain, as well as beautiful photographs.

Book review: Ragnarok

By , April 23, 2012

Ragnarok: The End of the Gods
by A.S. Byatt

Byatt revisits her childhood for this exquisite retelling of the Norse apocalypse. A nameless child narrator is evacuated to the English countryside during the Blitz. She has three books: The Bible, Pilgrim’s Progress, and Asgard and the Gods. Can you guess which captures her the most? Byatt confirms her reputation as a literary heavyweight by making the old numiniously new. Ragnarok‘s short length and low key (pun?) twist ending make it the best re-imagining of Norse mythology since Neil Gaiman’s more playful American Gods.

My endorsement here is specifically for the Playaway version. Harriet Walter’s narration feels a bit posh at first but once she hits the Norse proper nouns it is pure incantation. I suppose you could read the print version aloud to your children if you wanted them to have nightmares about wolves and snakes.

Ragnarok is part of the Canongate Myth series which invites contemporary authors to interpret a myth of their choice. The library owns many titles in the series including entries from Margaret Atwood, Alexander McCall Smith, and Philip Pullman.

- Bryan

Book review: DIY Jeni’s Ice Creams and Pharmacy Sodas

By , April 18, 2012

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home
Jeni Britton Bauer


Homemade Soda
Andrew Schloss


Can’t get enough of the ice cream at Jeni’s or the old-fashioned sodas at The Pharmacy?  Recreate these Eastside treats at home!  Jeni’s book requires an electric ice cream maker and includes instructions for local favorites Goat Cheese with Roasted Cherries and Queen City Cayenne.  Homemade Soda includes recipes for Orange Rosemary Crush, Balsamic Date Soda, Chai Fizz, and about a hundred others, all of which can be made by mixing homemade syrups with seltzer water.  Both books are beautifully photographed and will make you want to start whipping up your fancy concoctions right away.

DVD review: Sans Soleil

By , April 16, 2012

A coworker who often blogs about fashion books suggested I write up a recommendation of a certain 1968 movie musical after I mentioned I had a hole in my pocket. I said sure but decided to Puckishly one up the semiotic slipperiness and give a nod to Chris Marker’s 1983 masterpiece Sans Soleil. Supposedly a film director reading letters from her cameraman lover with accompanying images, the film is a profound Gassian meditation on what it means to remember and what it means to forget. Who would want to watch a meandering 2 ½ hour dreamalogue of people who are far more traveled and poetic then yourself? Apparently, library patrons, as the library’s recently purchased copies already have holds. We are Nashville. You make me proud.

For all its snooty French pretension, what really gets me about this movie is some swee-eat early 80s video effects and a shot of seemingly everyday Japanese people doing public aerobics to Throbbing Gristle. Surely, this is trickery.

Included on the disc is Marker’s dystopian slideshow reinterp of Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Le jetée. Dream your heart out.

- Bryan

Book review: Montana 1948

By , April 12, 2012

Montana 1948 : a novel by Larry Watson

I’ve been living with several Larry Watson books for some time now; thinking them over and appreciating his writing.  They are thought provoking, evocative and memorable and really capture a sense of people and places with skill and economy.  Detailed enough to take you there in a few pages and hold your attention throughout.  Montana 1948 is a story of moral dilemma told through the eyes someone who was  a 12 year old boy at the time. In that year  his small-town sheriff father was involved in the ultimate family/moral test that builds and unravels in a compellingly written novel that remains haunting to me.

I first read American Boy which is an intriguing coming of age story set in 1962 in Willow Falls, Minnesota.  Funny, heartbreaking and absorbing with great characters – this pulled me right in,  eager to explore other books by this author.  This reminded me of another writing instructor’s memorable book – Tony Earley’s Jim the Boy, but with a completely different theme.

I then read Justice, a surprisingly cohesive collection of short stories tracing back the Hayden family of Bentrock, Montana and their offshoots.  Great stories abound with the brothers Wes and Frank getting into trouble on an ill-fated hunting trip in North Dakota in 1924 leading off the book in dramatic fashion.  But it’s really the clear-headed, understated, character driven writing, often with a sense of menace or uncertainty that stands out.  This is a great one to read before settling in for the brilliant Montana 1948.  You’ll definitely have some more background to appreciate the family dynamics which come to the forefront in that one.

All three are great reads by a recently discovered author (Thanks to Book Pages) that I now consider a favorite.


Book review: Something Permanent

By , April 12, 2012

Something Permanent
By Walker Evans and Cynthia Rylant

Something Permanent is an illustrated poetry book that combines the work of renowned American photographer Walker Evans with the contemporary poetry of Cynthia Rylant.

Walker Evans’ simple, yet haunting, black and white photographs capture every detail of life during the Great Depression, from the dirt on the floor to the news papered walls, transporting the viewer to another time and place. Rylant’s poems of love, faith, hope and hardship have an atmospheric quality perfectly suiting Evans’ work.


 April is National Poetry Month…..enjoy a poem today.



Book review: Island of Vice

By , April 11, 2012

Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt’s Doomed Quest to Clean Up Sin-Loving New York
by Richard Zacks

This is the first nonfiction history book I’ve ever read that had me laughing out loud numerous times. If you’re a fan of turn-of-the-century New York, you do not want to miss this well-researched, extremely entertaining picture of Teddy Roosevelt versus brothels, saloons, and crooked cops.


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