May Day is that most hopeful of holidays: the height of spring, the beginning of summer, the celebration and honoring of labor. Full of possibility and change. Coming off of 30 days of poetry videos in the spirit of Poetry Month, and the first International Jazz Day on April 30th, why not take a minute to remember the labor, love, discipline, and creative abandon of the arts: of music, of vision, of food, of thought, of the heart and soul.
The May-pole is up,
Now give me the cup;
I'll drink to the garlands around it;
But first unto those
Whose hands did compose
The glory of flowers that crown'd it.
-- Robert Herrick, "The Maypole," 1660
Happy May Day!
John and all Dieselfolk
In her spare, stunning collection of stories, debut author Krys Lee has painted portraits of the Korean experience that span decades and locations from North Korea and South Korea to the United States. The characters give us insight into the lives of people fleeing the deprivations of a starving North Korea and the unprecedented financial crises in South Korea, and the struggles they encounter when they attempt to begin new lives in America. While the backdrop of these stories may be the large issues of society, the beauty of them is in the very personal tragedies, triumphs, and joy experienced by each character as they navigate their individual worlds. -- Pam Stirling
This is a great book for anyone interested in the Arctic, exploration, or 19th Century European culture. S.A. Andree was an eccentric, demonically driven Swedish aeronaut, who insisted that the North Pole was reachable by hydrogen balloon. The final result of Andree's daring was a headless and frozen body wearing a jacket monogrammed S.A.A., discovered on White Island in the Arctic Ocean. The intervening story, one of scientific intrigue, engineering brilliance, and the European culture that drove so many men towards ephemeral glory and death, is absolutely fascinating. Alec Wilkinson mixes adventure with social and historical insight but fortunately refrains from moral judgement. This is a short book. Its brevity and careful style recommend it to first-time readers visiting the Arctic as well as the most dedicated Perry enthusiasts. -- Cameron Carlson
It may sometimes seem like there's already plenty of 9/11 novels out there, but watch out for Amy Waldman's The Submission! If you're looking for a novel you just can't put down or a thoroughly discussable book club book, trust me on this one.
This post-9/11 thriller packs an incredibly powerful punch. Two years after the tragedy, architects are encouraged to submit their plans and designs for a potential memorial at the site of the World Trade Center, and to make their submissions anonymous. A jury of Manhattan elite, who are to select the entry that is most appealing, are shocked to learn that the design they have agreed upon was submitted by a Muslim -- though American by birth, his name, Mohammed, makes his cultural background instantly apparent. Before they even get a chance to discuss the potential outrage this may cause, the story is leaked to the press. This leaves everyone totally unprepared to deal with all the controversies, politics, grief, and prejudice that arrive in just a short time.
As each day goes by, things just get worse and worse, as special interest groups become involved and begin making tactical moves. The media starts to add fuel to the rumors, taking sides rather than simply reporting the news as it unfolds. The character Claire, a member of the selection jury as well as the widow of one of the victims, becomes a victim herself, suffering harassment from a young man whose brother died in the tragedy. Meanwhile, a young Bangladeshi widow who lost her husband, a janitor in one of the buildings, is left with no support or help available to her due to her husband's illegal status, his employer even denying that he worked there. Things increase in intensity as these causes and characters begin to meld together. My book club spent an hour and a half discussing this one. All in all, The Submission is a page-turning -- and I mean "awake until 2 a.m." -- read. Definitely do not miss The Submission! -- Linda Grana
Campbell's influence on writers, artists, and, of course, filmmakers, is legendary and very real. Like the work itself, his effects are unmeasurable, hovering as they do at the edges of myth, science, imagination, history, and culture. Myths of Light is a masterful selection of essays and lectures, focusing on the themes, strands, and stories that unite eastern spirituality and myth. It is fascinating, delightful, and prompting, delivered in his enthusiastic, storytelling mode. First published in 2003 in hardback, this new paperback edition will reach a wider audience and, who knows, maybe catalyze a few new mythic creations along the way. -- John Evans
For anyone who has ever been embarrassed by their parents, this one is for you. Your heart goes out to this sibling duo, who are trying to best define their lives and forge their own paths despite the shadow of humiliation cast by the outlandish escapades they endured as a result of their parents' "art." Kevin Wilson's debut novel is clever and funny, but not without its cringing, "I-can't-believe-they did-that!" moments. The parameters of family life are pushed to the limit, but how far is too far? It all depends on your perspective and objective, but I think you will be in for a surprise. This is dysfunctional family living at its most artistic. -- Cheryl Ryan
Alex Gross takes old, antique photographs and mercilessly vandalizes them. This defacement transforms these poor, hapless, long-dead individuals into modern pop-culture icons or bizarre creatures that have the faces of ancient people. Both inspired and hilarious, Now and Then is a perfect touch of weirdness for a boring day. -- Joey Puente
Like the boy in Tim Jessell's Falcon, who hasn't dreamed of sprouting wings and soaring? In a series of landscapes that are both vivid and wonderfully dreamy, Jessell scoops you up and takes you along on his protagonist's fantasy flight, swooping over mountains and crashing waves, diving down between rocky cliffs and perching high above a bustling city. The paintings are so vibrant you'll swear you can feel the sea spray, the sun on your back, the wind ruffling through your feathers. Falcon is an engrossing tribute both to the beauty of nature and to the power of imagination. -- Anna Kaufman