Rebecca Tull

Ian McEwan’s Nutshell

The Ides of March have come and gone, and while this may call to mind the drama of Julius Caesar, for this librarian the date just reminded me of Shakespeare or, to be more accurate, Ian McEwan’s 2016  retelling of another Shakespeare play. Nutshell is the story of pregnant Trudy and her lover Claude’s plot to murder Trudy’s husband, John. Sound familiar? It’s the story of Hamlet, this time set in modern London and told from the perspective of Trudy’s unborn baby. The story is a suspenseful, psychological, even disturbing read, with a great deal of dark humor infused throughout the short book. From the initially perplexing opening line of “So here I am, upside down in a woman,” through all of the unavoidable, uncomfortable and horrifying situations the narrating, verbal fetus, Hamlet, finds himself in, McEwan’s spare, clever version of the story is pretty unforgettable. Visit the Moraine Valley Library to check out this book (or one of the many versions of the original Shakespeare play it’s based upon). You can find it in our After Class collection in the library lounge.




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Thankful for Podcasts

Talk of turkey, family, gratitude, all signs the Thanksgiving holiday is just about here. The long hours spent on the road or in the airport – facing down boredom, perhaps – don’t get as much attention. How to enliven those hours after you’ve tired of your musical playlist and making conversation, but are not ready for silence? Try downloading or streaming a new (free!) podcast.

When I asked  Moraine Valley librarians what they were planning to listen to over the break or have enjoyed listening to, this is what they shared.

Sharon Byerly: “I started listening to episode one, “Time,” of the Ways of Hearing podcast series written by Damon Durkowski, musician and writer, first because sounds often bother me. Too many sounds at once or certain sounds stress me out. Second, because I am philosophically interested in the concept of time, especially in regard to my life spent online vs. offline. Third, because one of the guests is Shaheed Muhammed of A Tribe Called Quest, a group I admire.”

Dan Matthews: “I’ve been listening to Adam Ruins Everything, Invisibilia, Nancy, and Call Your Girlfriend. They all center around social issues in some way, and have engaging interviews, and fun personalities to listen to.”

Marie Martino:  “Bad at Sports is … irreverent and smart and funny at times and includes interviews with some great contemporary artists. The Nerdette podcast is a celebration of nerdom!  Hosts and guests geek out over cool and oftentimes fascinating pop culture goodies, artifacts, events, and issues. This American Life is definitely a staple and I have had a number of “driveway moments” when I happen to catch it live on public radio.  A few of my all-time favorite pieces/episodes are: Animal Sacrifice; Plan B, Act 4, A Fate Most of Us Fear by Jonathon Goldstein; and God Said Huh by Julia Sweeney.”

Troy Swanson has lots of recommendations, including: A Storm of Spoilers, which focuses on the hit HBO show Game of Thrones, and other stuff in the off season;  I Was There Too  tells stories of the crew and background actors of major films and TV shows; You Are Not So Smart: A Celebration of Self Delusion looks at the psychology of belief; and Ivy Envy: Chicago Cubs Fan Podcast includes discussion about the Cubs from well-informed and heartfelt fans.

This librarian had planned on taking a break from her usual political, newsy, bookish podcasts in the coming days and spending at least an hour of her interstate drive listening to the Le Petty Prince Edition of Slate’s Hit Parade, in which the hosts “track the surprising parallels between two artists gone too soon.” Now she may listen to one – or more – of these, too.

You can check out a more extensive list of Moraine Valley librarians’ favorite podcasts, originally shared on the Library blog last spring, here.


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Graveyard Story? Lincoln in the Bardo?

Looking for a graveyard story as we head toward Halloween? Maybe an  exceptionally beautifully written graveyard story that also meditates on life and death with humor and extreme… thoughtfulness? Check out George Saunders’ latest, Lincoln in the Bardo, an unconventional and surreal story of the days following the death of President Lincoln’s 11-year-old son, Willie. The 16th president visits his son’s tomb, mourning his personal loss and coming to terms with the role he plays in the unfolding Civil War, while at the same time unknowingly influencing the reality of the Washington cemetery “residents” caught somewhere between life and death. Saunders’ first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, mixes fact with fiction, and was awarded the Man Booker Prize yesterday. Check it out at the Moraine Valley Library, available as book, e-book, and on audio.

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Novels in Verse and Young Adult Readers

Did National Poetry Month pass without your having the chance to read a sonnet or haiku? Maybe you prefer to read novels. Historical fiction? Non-fiction, even? Anything but poetry? If so, novels in verse may be for you.

The library’s Young Adult (YA) and Children’s collection has a number of interesting novels in verse that may help diminish your reluctance to reading poetry. (Critics may argue that novels in verse aren’t really poetry but few will quibble with their ability to resonate emotionally with readers, especially young adults.)  Consider these:

Like interesting rhymes and sports, try Coretta Scott King and Newbery Award winner Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover or Booked, available electronically or in print. Did you see the movie Loving (2016), which recounted the story of the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court Case that invalidated states’ laws prohibiting interracial marriage? If so, maybe you would like Patricia Hruby Powell’s Loving Vs. Virginia, which combines verse with illustration and artwork. Carnegie Medial winning Irish author Sarah Crossan’s One tells the story of conjoined twins forced to make the most difficult choice of their lives.

A catalog search for novels in verse will bring up more titles, including print and e-books. Need help finding the right title or accessing the format that works for you? Ask a librarian.

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All the News That’s Fit to Print… and Digitize

Last month The New York Times released its latest self-study, Journalism That Stands Apart: The Report of the 2020 Group, outlining its principles, priorities, and goals. By many accounts, The New York Times is hugely successful – $500 million in digital only revenue, more than one million print subscriptions – but the changing media landscape is forcing the news organization to rethink just about everything they do. The report highlights their drive to maintain the journalistic integrity and standards the paper is known for, while modernizing the way they tell stories and involve readers; who they hire and task with curatorial, writing, and editing responsibilities; how they train those individuals; and a more or less overall redefinition of successful journalism. Interestingly, some takeaways may resonate further than the newsroom and maybe even prove inspirational to organizations outside of the media.

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Progressive vs. Flat Tax?

On October 6th, the Library hosted Senator Pat McGuire, Chair of the Illinois Senate Higher Education Committee, along with a panel of Moraine students, in a discussion on how Illinois colleges are facing the impact of the current budget crisis. During the Q and A, the focus turned to sources of revenue and taxes. The point was made that while the terms progressive tax and flat tax are often thrown about, many people don’t actually know what they mean.

During the discussion, Senator McGuire referred to a couple of resources for differing views on tax information: the bipartisan Center for Tax and Budget Accountability and the nonpartisan Civic Federation of Chicago. In addition, the independent Tax Policy Center offers a Briefing Book (a “citizen’s guide” to the federal Tax System) and the Treasury Department Resource Center’s website has a page on The Economics of Taxation. But for a more direct explanation on the progressive tax vs. the flat tax, check out this Forbes article from Kelly Phillips Erb, aka the Taxgirl.

Finally, if you are a part of the Moraine Valley community (student, faculty, or staff), you have access to the SIRS Researcher database, which offers background and an array of viewpoints on the taxation issue through its Essential Questions. Looking for more? Visit a Moraine Valley Library (or the Library’s Ask A Librarian webpage).


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Facts, Please

The 2016 Presidential Election is less than two months away. If you haven’t already, it’s not too late to start fact checking what the candidates, their supporters, and detractors, are saying, especially if current headlines and tweets leave you skeptical.

The nonprofit, nonpartisan, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, may be a good place to start. The Pulitzer Prize winning Politifact, run by editors and reporters from the independent Tampa Bay Times, “rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others who speak up in American politics,” may be another. (Punditfact, Politifact’s sister site, offers insight on the accuracy of statements made by those in the media and political analysts.)

Wherever you fall on the spectrum of political preferences, be wary of biased “fact check” web sites. And if you are interested in reading up on mass media, a simple search for media bias in the library catalog offers titles on media bias in presidential elections, partisan journalism, and more.

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World Migration Mapping

This year’s One Book One College selection, Illegal: Reflections of an Undocumented Immigrant, considers a number of immigration issues, including undocumented immigration in the U.S.; acculturation and belonging; and political polarization. While the MVCC community explores these issues locally, the world is watching another migration story unfold through headlines and imagery coming out of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Check out the fascinating World Migration Where We’re From app, from the International Organization for Migration, which shows inward and outward migration statistics for nations worldwide in an easy to use visual map. The Library can also give you access to books, articles, and other resources related to this quickly changing topic.

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Forthright Voice on Media Dies

The New York Times lost one of its most distinctive voices last night. David Carr, the media columnist for the paper, died after collapsing in the newsroom. Carr was known for his unpretentious but sophisticated style, his journey to prominence the more impressive in light of the addictions from which he suffered in the 1980s. You can read his obituary in The New York Times, or check out the DVD Page One: Inside The New York Times from the library and see his take on how the Internet is redefining the news business. A sad loss for the news world.

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