November 11th marks the 65th anniversary of the publication of The Two Towers, the second book in J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous Lord of the Rings trilogy. Central to the story are the Hobbits, peaceful, large-footed people of short stature that love the comforts of home.
Most people accept that Middle Earth and its inhabitants are fantasy, but there’s some scientific evidence that hobbit-like people might have been real. In 2003 scientists discovered a hominin, or species related to humans, that was small in stature. Named Homo floreisiensis and nicknamed “the hobbit”, whether or not this fossil find is a distinct species has been hotly debated among scientists since its discovery.
There’s also some evidence that a volcano was partially responsible for the disappearance of the species and that Komodo dragons might have seen them as prey. Where have I heard a story like this before?
Scientists have found evidence that H. floreisiensis created and used tools, but there’s no word of any gold rings found at any of the archaeological sites. If there were, the find would be precious...
Check out some of the other ways science honors Tolkien’s works. Feeling nostalgic for the films? We’ve got them! Want to research our human relatives? Try our Science databases!
This year marks the 70th anniversary of George Orwell’s novel, 1984.
Numerous scholars, historians and journalists note that many of the literary components of 1984 (setting, plot, theme, characters, etc.) mirror life in 2019.
This is a novel that spotlights the evil of governments that allow their citizens no freedom of individual thought. It includes an intricate plot, unusual characters and a theme that guarantees its readers an understanding that fake news, double speak and the erosion of freedom of speech are not new phenomenons.
Last Sunday (4/14) PBS’s Masterpiece premiered a new adaptation (non-musical) of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. It continues this Sunday for the next five weeks.
“Les Miserables ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it, Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them to the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose.”–Signet Classics edition back cover.
This BBC adaptation is by Andrew Davies, directed by Tom Shankland, and stars Dominic West (The Affair) as Jean Valjean, David Oyelowo (best known for playing civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma) as police inspector Javert, Lily Collins as Fantine, and Oscar winner Olivia Colman (The Favourite) as Madame Thénardier.
If you watched PBS’ “The Great American Read” last year, you will know that the #1 novel voted on by viewers as America’s best-loved novel was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. If you didn’t watch the limited series, the premise was for viewer’s to vote for their favorite novels from a list of 100 “best-loved,” resulting in the #1 American pick.
Whether you’ve read Lee’s novel prior or not, new to our collection is a graphic novel adaptation by Fred Fordham. Fordham notes, “This adaptation…does not seek to reinvent Harper Lee’s story and characters. The text is, as far as has been possible, directly taken from the novel. Where I have made changes, they have been for the sole purpose of best representing the story and sentiment of Lee’s original work in this medium.” So if you’re looking for a refreshingly new take on the novel, check the graphic version out!
To Kill a Mockingbird in MVCC’s library collection:
The American Writers Museum, 180 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, is a new entry in the local museum scene. A current exhibit celebrates the work of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Upcoming events include a discussion of the life and work of Lorraine Hansberry (Feb. 9) and Madeleine L’Engle (Feb. 11). Eve Ewing will discuss her book Electric Arches with poet José Olivarez on Feb. 13. See the website for more information about the museum and events.
“In the first place, we don’t like to be called ‘refugees.’ We ourselves call each other ‘newcomers’ or ‘immigrants’…A refugee used to be a person driven to seek refuge because of some act committed or political opinion held. Well, it is true we have had to seek refuge; but we committed no acts and most of us never dreamt of having any radical opinion…”
These words, which are quite relevant to us today, were written in 1943 by political philosopher Hannah Arendt in her essay “We Refugees.”
Arendt is a leading 20th century philosopher who explored political thought in an era of authoritarianism and fascism before and after World War II. She has much to offer us today.
You can learn more through our library’s collection:
If “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary…” sounds very familiar to you, it should! It’s probably one of the most recognized lines from one of the most famous poems ever written by Edgar Allan Poe. The Raven was first published under his name on January 29, 1845, in the New York Evening Mirror. While it made Poe a household name, it didn’t bring him overwhelming financial success.
Our library has access to the free eBook provided by Project Gutenberg. This particular copy is illustrated by Gustave Doré. His illustrations were woodcuts, “A method of printing from an inked block of medium-soft wood (usually pear or cherry) from which an artist has excised all but an illustration…in a woodcut, the finished print is conceived as dark lines on a light ground.”[i]
While the poem is hauntingly beautiful and melodic in its own right, Doré’s illustrations are even more so. Check out The Raven in our catalog.
It’s that time of year again, when the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful…and you might want to watch the Nutcracker ballet! Two new versions have been added to our library collection. The first is TheNutcracker featuring Mikhail Baryshnikov and the American Ballet Theatre. It premiered in 1976 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and was recorded for television in 1977. It remains one of the most popular televised productions even until today and earned Baryshnikov an Emmy nomination. Our copy is the Blu-ray version which was released in 2012.
The second version is the Nutcracker choreographed by Helgi Tomasson for the San Francisco Ballet. This was a new version of the ballet, which premiered in 2004 at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco. The story is set during the time of the Panama–Pacific International Exposition, a 1915 world’s fair held in San Francisco celebrating the completion of the Panama Canal and the city’s recovery from the 1906 earthquake. Another difference from Baryshnikov’s version is that the main female character of Clara is played by a young girl instead of an adult female dancer. One of the extra features of our copy is a documentary on the 1915 World’s Fair.
Both versions of the Nutcracker can be located in the library’s main floor lounge for a limited time. In the meantime, here’s some fun Nutcracker facts!