Blog Archive

December 2009 Blogs

Wednesday, December 30, 2009
by: reference

There is something about the end of the year that renders us suckers for “best of” lists. Whether it is the best albums or the worst movies, the last week of December bombards us with these lists. It is compounded this year with the closure of the decade as well. Any “best of” list is wrought with subjectivity. (Un)fortunately, that won’t keep me from providing a “best of” of sorts. I like novels. So, I present my own highly subjective list of the best last lines in novels. I mined my memory and was greatly assisted with reminders from the American Book Review’s 100 Best Last Lines from Novels to come up with the following favorite last lines. What is your favorite last line?

(all novels mentioned are available at the Austin Public Library)

“So [said the doctor]. Now vee may perhaps to begin. Yes?”
-Philip Roth, Portnoy’s Complaint

“I’ll pray, and then I’ll sleep.”
-Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

“And however superciliously the highbrows carp, we the public in our heart of hearts all like a success story; so perhaps my ending is not so unsatisfactory after all.”
-W. Somerset Maugham, The Razor’s Edge

“He wrote: So this is what everybody’s always talking about! Diablo! If only I’d known. The beauty! The beauty!”
-Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

“’Like a dog!’ he said, it was as if the shame of it must outlive him.”
-Franz Kafka, The Trial

“Columbus too thought he was a flop, probably, when they sent him back in chains. Which didn’t prove there was no America.
-Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March

“Everything we need that is not food or love is here in the tabloid racks. The tales of the supernatural and extraterrestrial. The miracle vitamins, the cures for cancer, the remedies for obesity. The cults of the famous and the dead.”
-Don DeLillo, White Noise

“It was a fine cry—loud and long—but it had no bottom and it had no top, just circles and circles of sorrow.”
-Toni Morrison, Sula

“’Meet Mrs. Bundren,” he says.”
-William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying

“I was grateful to him for calling me back and reminding me where I belonged, in the clamorous, radiant, painfully beautiful kingdom of the living.”
-Francince Prose, Goldengrove

Going a bit further, the last page of The Great Gatsby is my favorite last page of all time. I won’t say it is my favorite novel, but that last page is incredible.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009
by: reference
 

Oh, yes, this is the time of the year when everybody talks about The Nutcracker, the wonderful ballet with music by Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky that fascinates children and adults.

In 1816 E. T. A Hoffman wrote the book Nussknacker und Mausekönig or Nutcracker and the Mouse King. He was a prolific artist: writer, composer, caricaturist, and music critic. Hoffman was one of the most influential artists during Romanticism in Germany. His work not only inspired authors, but composers as well, as in the case of Jack Offebach, who wrote his composition Tales of Hoffman.

In 1891 Marious Petipa hired Tchaikovsky to write the music for the ballet inspired by Hoffman’s book. A year later, the first Nutcracker show was performed at the Russian Mariinsky Theatre. This ballet was performed in different cities around the world, and finally in the 1930s the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo performed it in New York. Little by little, this ballet started gaining popularity and could be now considered a Christmas tradition.
Austin Public Library has copies of the children's book by Hoffman, the music by Tchaikovsky, and videos with different performances of this ballet. Feel free to check those out and have a happy holiday!

Books

Ballet

CD

*Picture taken from Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center, University of Northern Iowa

 

Wednesday, December 9, 2009
by: reference

 

 

Four hundred years ago, Galileo designed his most wonderful creation: a telescope. At that time, there were already other telescopes invented by other scientists in Europe. The problem with those was that they could only magnify objects 4 times. Galileo’s telescope, on the other hand, was able to magnify things 20 times. This tool allowed Galileo to prove, to his misfortune and to our fortune, that the Copernican Theory that says that the planets rotate around the sun was correct.

If we think about it, it is amazing to see how such a small tool was used for these enormous discoveries. This telescope had only two lenses inside of a stick of wood; if compared to the elaborate ones scientists use nowadays, this is a minuscule instrument. It is with this telescope that Galileo could see Venus, the satellites of Jupiter, a supernova, and the moon. Less light pollution and perhaps better vision back then could have helped Galileo to see more with a rudimentary tool like this.

NASA is planning to launch the James Webb space telescope in 2013. This telescope will use wavelengths and infrared light to be able to see hidden objects in space. With its great mirror, Webb will be able to see 200 million years after the Big Bang. Compared to what happened 400 years ago, it is amazing to see how far science has gone, how many things we know and how many we will learn. I wish Galileo could be here.

Some websites for your enjoyment are:

 

If you feel like checking something out from the library, here are some suggestions:
 

** Picture taken from Encyclopædia Britannica Online

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