David Cherry's blog

Everyone's a Critic (But Only Some Get Paid to Be): Nat'l Book Critics Circle Award Winners

Cover art: Bilyy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

Critics get a bad rap. It's the accepted wisdom that 'if you can't do, then teach, and if you can't do or teach, then tell people who can what they're doing wrong,' which is unfair to teachers (who--in my not particularly humble opinion--get a worse and infinitely more undeserved rap) and critics, both.

I would argue that besides acting as a convenient whipping boy for artists who are seldom the best judges of their own work, critics provide the valuable service of drowning out a lot of the inane Cover art: Stranger Magic by Marina Warnerpalaver in the cultural conversation. Do they miss some very worthy work? Yes, oodles of it. Do they misjudge great works? Yes, certainly. Do they have personal biases and blind spots? Yep. Do they fall prey to fads and fashions that will ultimately be looked on only with derision and regret? Yes, just like you and me--how do you feel about those pea green jeggings you bought in a fit of hubris and reckless disregard for your credit score last month?

Poetry in Motion (Pictures): Movies Based on Poems

For Colored Girls audiobook coverAm I the only one who thinks it’s a bit sad that Beowulf—one of the oldest surviving poems in English (albeit of the Ye Olde kind)—has made the jump to the silver screen with more youthful vigor and a far larger budget than…say…I dunno…something…anything...written in the intervening 1300 years? Granted Beowulf has somewhat more of the kind of stuff that both mead-drinking, horns-on-the-helmet-types, and popcorn-munching 21st century cineastes alike tend to prize in their entertainments, namely: monsters “gorged and bloodied” and “gloating over the raw corpses” of several buff but faceless actor/waiters in gore harvests of cameronian  proportions, and the requisite buxomly bewitching servant girl whose only real function in the story is to be buxomly bewitching so as to test our noble hero’s proto-democratic leanings and to make sure that no one takes all the male-bonding the *ahem* wrong way. Granted, too, that unless you’re French and/or a Comp Lit major, the vague existential dread engendered by finding a dead curlew while on a walk in the sun-dappled silence of a suburban forest that is the essential plotline of every poem written since 1950, does not make for edge-of-the-seat cinema.

If You Work or Play Downtown, New Partnership with Law Library Makes Picking Up Your Holds A Breeze

Harris County Law Library interiorIf you work downtown, you now have a convenient new location to pick up your HCPL holds. On February 18, Harris County Public Library and the Harris County Law Library launched a new partnership; so now, in addition to providing access to up-to-date legal information and research facilities, the Law Library will offer HCPL customers the option to pick up the books, DVDs and CDs they request from HCPL’s online catalog at its convenient Congress Street location.

It's simple. When you make a request on HCPL's online catalog at www.hcpl.net from your home computer or mobile device, just select the County Law Library as your pickup location. When the materials are ready, you will receive email notification, and will have one week to pick them up.

Young Historian, and Lifelong Barbara Bush Branch Customer, Honored in Washington D.C.

Smithsonian Legacy Award Winner and Lifelong Barbara Bush Branch Library Customer, Annie SalinasIn 2002, Annie Salinas and her sisters were the first kids to set foot in the children’s section at HCPL’s newly opened Barbara Bush Branch Library, and she credits frequent visits to the library for sparking her love of learning. That love has lead to awards for her research and design of historical exhibits including her 2008 National History Day exhibit on the San Sabá Mission that was shown at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. She was recently presented with the Legacy Award for the Humanities by the Smithsonian and Creativity Foundation. Annie is currently a freshman at Texas A&M University.

Harris County Public Library would like to congratulate Annie on her achievements and send her our best wishes for a bright future. 

Read the full article from the Barbara Bush Branch Library Newsletter
Creativity Foundation website article about Annie and the Legacy Award

Do you have a library success story? Tell us about it in the comments box!

One of the Original 'Red Tails' Shares His Story at Freeman

Dr. Luzine B. Bickham, one of the Tuskegee Airmen paid a visit to Freeman Branch Library. Here are a few pictures from the event.

Can't Sleep? We can help: Documentaries about Poets

cover art poetry in motionIt would take a genuine, back-slapping-swimming-pool-blue-sportcoat-and-shiny-white-loafers-with-matching-belt-wearing used car salesman with 90 proof snake oil coursing through his double-thick Teflon-coated veins to convince most folks to read a blog on this particular subject—I'm talking some mutant mix of Tony Robbins, the late Billy Mays and LBJ in his arm-twisting-brow-beating-Uncle-Lyndie-with-a-lollipop-cooing prime.

This is a subject so fearsomely, so ostentatiously, dull that if your eyes are not by now rolling up into your head like slot machine tumblers you should think about a career as a statue. The very thought of documentaries about poets is so baroquely and perversely boring as to produce uncontrollable yawning in double espresso drinking Chihuahuas. I've nodded off twice already, and I (heaven help me) actually care about this stuff.

Original Member of the Famed ‘Red Tails’ to Visit Freeman Branch in Celebration of Black History Month.

Harris County PubliThe Tuskegee Airmenc Library and Clear Lake City – County Freeman Branch Library will have the honor of hosting Dr. Luzine B. Bickham, one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, the pioneering African-American combat pilots of World War II. The all-ages program will feature a free screening of the PBS documentary, “Tuskegee Airmen,” followed by a conversation with Dr. Bickham about his Dr. Luzine B. Bickham, Original Member of the Tuskegee Airmenexperiences flying as one of the famed Red Tails.

In addition to his service to his country for which he received the Congressional Gold Medal as an original member of the Airmen, he served for many years as the Dean of Texas Southern University’s School of Business. Don’t miss this chance to meet a man who fought overseas in the greatest conflict in human history while battling for equality at home.

Every Day is Take Your Child to the Library Day

Mom and child reading at the librarymom and child sharing a bookThere are the big ones: your first kiss, your first car, your first paycheck; then there are the somewhat lesser firsts that somehow you remember just as well and almost as fondly. For a lot of Harris County Public Library’s customers, their first visit to a library is one of those. There’s something about a library that kids understand without much explaining. Children just naturally get the idea that books are made to be shared, and that life is full of possibilities, and that somehow those two notions are related.

We at Harris County Public Library think every day should be Take Your Child to the Library Day, but it’s alright with us if the folks up in Connecticut set aside, as they did, one day a year to remind everyone what a magical, life-enhancing place a library can be for a child, and that one of the best ways to give children a lifelong love of reading is for parents to read to them and to read for pleasure themselves, not to mention that a trip to the library is a no-cost, hassle-free chance for some quiet (or not so quiet) together-time.

Need Help with the Kindle, Nook, or iPad Santa Brought? eReader FAQs and Support Are a Click Away.

Santa and eReader a la Vanna White

So Santa left you an eReader or tablet under the tree this year and you’re really excited because nothing sounds better to you right now than escaping the holiday hullaballoo into a good book, but you’ve never owned one that came with a user’s manual before.

Whether you just have general questions about downloading free eBooks and eAudiobooks from Harris County Public Library’s Digital Media Catalog, or need step-by-step instructions in plain English, we have you covered with online FAQs and support, and if you would prefer a little face-to-face help, HCPL staff at all 26 branches can provide it.

eBook FAQs & Support:
What do I need to do to start downloading Overdrive eBooks
Android products
Apple products
Kindle and Kindle Fire
Nook and Nook Tablet
Sony Reader

Christmas for Curmudgeons, Or: How I Learned to Stop Complaining and Love the Holidays

A flock of scroogesAnybody who’s been reading this blog at all regularly has picked up on, I’m sure, a certain misanthropic bent running just below its surface like a sewer line, and, for the most part, it’s not an act. Chances are pretty good that if I’m awake, I’m ranting. So you would think that this time of year would be my time to shine (so to speak) with all its factory-made good cheer and it’s nauseatingly first-world problems, but it’s not. The holidays are when the amateurs, the pikers, the poseurs and the part-time grumps come out to let us all know what wrong-headed sheep we are. In the last thirty or forty years, bah-humbugging has become an industry unto itself, and it’s gotten to the point now that the complaints against the holidays have become as raggedly clichéd as the clichés they pretend to combat.

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