Friday, August 28, 2009

Dominick Dunne Dead at 83

Dominick Dunne, American writer and investigative journalist, died Wednesday, August 26 at his home in New York City, after a long battle with bladder cancer. He frequently examined the relationship between high society and the judicial system. He was successful both as a television and Hollywood film producer and a writer.

Dunne was born on October 29, 1925 in Hartford Connecticut. He was known to childhood friends as Nick and grew up one of six children of a wealthy Connecticut surgeon. His brother was the author John Gregory Dunne. He was the father of actors Griffin Dunne and Dominique Dunne. He began working in show business around 1950, as a stage manager for The Howdy Doody Show. He eventually met many actors including Paul Newman, Steve McQueen and Warren Beatty whose photographs, along with hundreds of other pictures, according to People, filled "a stack of scrapbooks four feet high."

Dominick Dunne battled drugs and alcohol for years as a Hollywood film producer in the late 1970's. Dunne turned to novel writing and wrote five best-selling novels focusing on scandal and high society crime. His best known novels are The Two Mrs. Grenvilles, People Like Us, and An Inconvenient Woman.

The Two Mrs. Grenvilles
was based on the actual killing of millionaire William Woodward by his wife in 1955. In the book, showgirl Ann Arden kills her millionaire husband after she is unable to gain sufficient respect in the elite social circle. People Like Us examined the manners and values of 1980's high society. An Inconvenient Woman focuses on an affair between married Jules Mendelson, a member of the Los Angeles elite social circle, and Flo March, a waitress and aspiring actress.

Dunne covered the trials of O.J. Simpson, Michael Skakel, William Kennedy Smith and the Menendez brothers. In March 1984, Dominicks' first major piece for Vanity Fair appeared which covered the trial of the man who murdered Dunne's actress daughter. He later began writing regularly for Vanity Fair. The essay, "Justice: A Father's Account of the Trial of His Daughter's Killer" was published as well as a piece documenting the trial of Eric and Lyle Menendez, two brothers convicted of the 1989 shotgun murders of their parents. Vanity Fair magazine also published profiles of Imelda Marcos, Elizabeth Taylor and Gloria Vanderbilt.

In September 2008, Dunne revealed that he was being treated for bladder cancer. Throughout his life, he completed 10 books, including five best-selling novels and two collections of essays. He was working on his final novel, Too Much Money, at the time of his death. His last novel will be due in stores in December.

Dominick Dunne is survived by his two sons, Griffin and Alex Dunne, and his granddaughter, Hannah. Dunne will be greatly missed.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Public Invited to Share Memories of Central Library's East Building

photos of east building
The Birmingham Public Library is celebrating the 25th anniversary of Central’s East Building. And, as with any celebration, the more the merrier, so we're inviting the public to share their memories and thoughts about the East Building. Do you remember what was located at the site prior to the new addition? Were you at the groundbreaking or grand opening ceremonies? What did you think the first time you walked into the "new" library? Click on the comments link to post your memories. Thanks for sharing!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Brown Bag Lunch Program: Birmingham Artwalk 2009

Artwalk is an arts festival that transforms Birmingham’s loft neighborhood into an arts district, featuring the work of more than 100 visual artists, live musicians, street performers, food and drink vendors, and children’s activities. The event is free to the public and in the last three years has become a much anticipated fall event, drawing visitors from all over to downtown Birmingham. For the past two years, more than 10,000 people walked the streets of downtown during the two-day event.

Join us for an inside look at this year’s Artwalk taking place on Friday and Saturday, September 11 and 12, 2009. Wednesday, September 2, noon.

brown bag imageFeed your body and mind at BPL's Brown Bag Lunch Programs. You bring the lunch and we'll bring the drinks. Wednesdays at noon in the Arrington Auditorium located on the 3rd floor of the Linn-Henley Research Library, 2100 Park Place.

photo by Bob Farley

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Secret of the JCLC

Birmingham Public Library is a member of the JCLC.

For more information visit

ProjectRead: Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World

book cover
If you enjoyed our 2008 Big Read: Project Mockingbird, you will also like ProjectRead. The Public Libraries of Jefferson County's fall selection is Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron. This is the charming story of Dewey Readmore Books, the beloved library cat of Spencer, Iowa, who was found dirty and shivering in a library book drop one cold morning and ended up staying and melting the town's heart.

Libraries will hold book discussions, film series, and children's activities during September and October. Check with your local library for programs. Visit the Calendar of Events at for the latest program information.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Food For Fines

Yes! We are doing it again.

During the month of September any Jefferson County library patron may bring in donations for our food drive and have overdue charges waived for participating.

Our food drive benefiting local food banks is open to anyone, even if that someone doesn't have overdue books.

For those with late materials however, this is a golden opportunity to take a bite out of library overdue charges and help someone else at the same time.

One dollar will be waived up to a maximum of $10 per patron for each dated canned or packaged food item the patron donates. These waived fees applies only to fines for overdue materials, not lost materials.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Farewell to Don Hewitt

Don Hewitt

When someone asked Don Hewitt about the secret to the success of "60 Minutes," he would answer, “Tell me a story.” And he did.

The creator of the long-running news magazine series even wrote about it in Tell Me a Story: Fifty Years. But on Wednesday, Hewitt succumbed to his battle with pancreatic cancer at age 86. He was reportedly surrounded by family at his home in Bridgehampton, New York.

Having a journalism background, I was influenced by news pioneers such as Hewitt, Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow. They weren’t flashy. They weren’t even handsome in today’s news anchor standards. But they were authentic. It was storytelling, pure and simple. It was brilliant.

As a reporter, I learned to be tenacious in my pursuit of the truth and tell it with eloquence. It is one place where passion and compassion merge. After all, truth without heart is just harsh. That’s how you win awards as a journalist. Hewitt should know. He won eight Emmy and two Peabody awards.

As a storyteller, you don’t so much worry about the pursuit of truth. It’s the imagination you’re after. The heart of storytelling is engaging your audience. Whether it is a group of preschoolers or a group of schooled professors, a good storyteller brings them into the tale and leaves them asking, “What happened next?”

So we bid farewell to one brilliant newsman, one insightful broadcast news pioneer. And as we commence our storytime season, we’ll meet young Hewitts and Cronkites and Murrows. They’ll sit in front of us and utter those four words every child knows. “Tell me a story.”

Other works by Don Hewitt: Minute by Minute

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Brown Bag Lunch Program: Trash or Treasure?

We are pleased to present Birmingham Public Library’s version of the Antiques Roadshow. Birmingham’s own Bill Carner will be a guest appraiser. Mr. Carner is a certified member of the International Society of Appraisers specializing in Antiques and Residential Contents. If you have an item you would like to know more about and its approximate value, bring it down and let Bill take a look. No coins or stamps, please. Wednesday, August 26, noon.

brown bag imageFeed your body and mind at BPL's Brown Bag Lunch Programs. You bring the lunch and we'll bring the drinks. Wednesdays at noon in the Arrington Auditorium located on the 3rd floor of the Linn-Henley Research Library, 2100 Park Place.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Book Review: Abandon

book coverI’ve never been a fan of thrillers. The tried-and-true thriller formula goes something like this: person disappears; detective is called; detective interviews people whose names you can’t keep straight; red herrings are tossed about; person is found, sometimes dead, sometimes alive. The end. If you want to read an outside-the-box thriller, then get in line for Blake Crouch’s Abandon.

Abandon is a parallel story that seamlessly moves from 1893 to the present day. It begins on December 28, 1893, when a mule skinner rides into the once bustling mining town of Abandon, Colorado. But now it’s all but deserted, 123 townsfolk vanished, leaving balls of crumpled wrapping paper under Christmas trees and frozen holiday dinners on kitchen tables. The only resident left behind is little curly-haired, coal-eyed Harriet. She greets the skinner with an army revolver hanging at her side. She knows the gun is used for killin’, and she promises him he’ll feel better directly.

It is 2009 and freelance journalist Abigail Foster has joined her estranged father, Lawrence, a history professor; a husband and wife team of paranormal photographers; and a guide and his assistant in Colorado to hike to the ghost town of Abandon, where they'll search for clues about this Croatoan-like disappearance. Not long after nightfall on the first day of exploration, the group discovers that the dilapidated town isn’t abandoned, and soon learn what Willliam Faulkner warned us about: The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.

Abandon’s 1893 characters are so fully realized that you’ll want them to hang around longer than their dedicated chapters. There is Ezekiel and Gloria Curtice, a husband and wife with checkered pasts trying to cope with the loss of their son, Gus; mute piano player, Lana; the pale and balding Molly Madsen, who sits in the window of her second floor room, waiting for her beloved husband's return; Bessie McCabe, battered wife of stuttering Billy and mother of 6-year-old Harriet; Stephen Cole, the town preacher who has started hearing God's voice, and making plans for the town's salvation; and hardened barkeep Joss Maddox, who is soon to be hanged for murder.

Crouch's third book is about a town named Abandon, but its theme is about abandonment, too: abandoned pasts, abandoned lovers, abandoned family, and lost children, and who might be waiting for them on the other side.

The Official Web Site of Black Crouch

Friday, August 14, 2009

School Supply Giveaway

school supplies
Councilor Roderick Royal will be sponsoring his annual School Supply Giveaway at Wylam, Pratt City, and North Birmingham Branches Saturday, August 15, from 9:00-11:00 a.m.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Graphic Novel Review - Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?

Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?

Written by Neil Gaiman, Art by Andy Kubert and Scott Williams

Batman is dead. The mourners, friends and enemies alike, arrive one by one at a seedy dive in a Gotham back alley to pay their respects. The wake is being held in the bar’s back room. One by one the eulogies begin, but it quickly becomes apparent that all is not as it seems – for none of the mourners remember Batman the same way, neither in the details of his life nor the manner of his passing. Witness to this procession, and narrating the whole affair, is the watchful spirit of the Bat-Man himself.

Superheroes are the myths of the modern age, and who better to write the capstone for one of the most iconic comic-book legends of all than the modern master of myth himself, Neil Gaiman? In comics, death has always been a revolving door, and it is without a doubt that Bruce Wayne will soon return to once again prowl the night. However, no legend is complete without an ending, and what Gaiman has penned is not just a conclusion to one particular Batman story, but for all Batmen, from the dark detective of the 1940’s, to the campy colorful boy scout of the 1960’s, to the grim Dark Knight of the modern era.

As a bonus in the hardback edition is a collection of earlier Gaiman batman stories, including an amusing black-and-white Batman/Joker piece and an origin tale of the villainous Poison Ivy that was one of Gaiman’s very first mainstream comics publications.

Reserve your copy today!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Brown Bag Lunch Program: Fall Gardening in the South

edwin marty
Edwin Marty of Jones Valley Urban Farm

Don't give up on your garden just because cooler weather is coming! In Alabama you can garden into the fall and not have to worry about excessive heat or pesky mosquitoes. Edwin Marty, Director of Jones Valley Urban Farm, will be at the Library to talk about the wonders of fall gardening in the south that will keep you in fresh produce into the winter months. Wednesday, August 19, noon.

brown bag imageFeed your body and mind at BPL's Brown Bag Lunch Programs. You bring the lunch and we'll bring the drinks. Wednesdays at noon in the Arrington Auditorium located on the 3rd floor of the Linn-Henley Research Library, 2100 Park Place.

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Purvis

Birmingham Heritage Festival Canceled

JoeChaka Khan
LudacrisAngie Stone

Does anyone remember when the Birmingham Heritage Festival used to be held at the Alabama State Fairgrounds? I'll never forget that hot August summer when my sister, my cousins and I went to see The Whispers and O'Bryan. That was so long ago, I can't remember any of the other acts. I do remember how hot it was being outdoors in the sun with all those people. The fair was in operation, so you could ride the rides between acts. We finished the day by getting in trouble for calling my mom too late to pick us up. That was back in the days when you actually had to use a pay phone to make a phone call. It was our cousin's fault that we waited so long to call, but my mom didn't buy it. However, we weren't allowed to go anywhere else with that cousin in the future.

This year's event, scheduled for August 14-16, has been canceled, but you can still stop by your local library to check out some CDs. Most libraries will send CDs to other locations, so if you don't find what you are looking for, you can place it on reserve.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Thomas Pynchon Alert

Inherent ViceHe's so quiet you might not have noticed he went anywhere, but Thomas Pynchon is back with a new book, Inherent Vice. I won't even attempt to explain what this book is about; I'll let the publisher's summary fill you in:

It's been awhile since Doc Sportello has seen his ex-girlfriend. Suddenly out of nowhere she shows up with a story about a plot to kidnap a billionaire land developer whom she just happens to be in love with. Easy for her to say. It's the tail end of the psychedelic sixties in L.A., and Doc knows that "love" is another of those words going around at the moment, like "trip" or "groovy," except that this one usually leads to trouble. Despite which he soon finds himself drawn into a bizarre tangle of motives and passions whose cast of characters includes surfers, hustlers, dopers and rockers, a murderous loan shark, a tenor sax player working undercover, an ex-con with a swastika tattoo and a fondness for Ethel Merman, and a mysterious entity known as the Golden Fang, which may only be a tax dodge set up by some dentists.

In this lively yarn, Thomas Pynchon, working in an unaccustomed genre, provides a classic illustration of the principle that if you can remember the sixties, you weren't there . . . or . . . if you were there, then you . . . or, wait, is it . . .

Reserve your copy today!

pynchon from the simpsonsAbout the author: Thomas Pynchon is probably the only celebrity who means it when he says "No pictures" and "No comments." He lets his books do the talking. He has been compared to another reclusive author, J.D. Salinger, but Salinger can at least be located. Only Pynchon's closest friends know where to find him.

Here is what is known about him:

  • He was born in Glen Cove, New York, in 1937.
  • He attended Cornell University, enrolling in engineering physics, and transferred to the College of Arts and Science his sophomore year.
  • After his sophomore year he enlisted in the Navy for two years, then returned to Cornell to earn a B.A. in English. One of his teachers was Vladimir Nabokov.
  • He was friends with poet and folksinger Richard Farina, who died in a motorcycle accident in 1966.
  • A little more was revealed about Pynchon when his former agent sold 120 letters Pynchon wrote him to a collector for $45,000. After the collector's death the family donated them to the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York.

Friday, August 07, 2009

John Hughes: Writer, Director, Producer

John HughesJohn Hughes, whose movies about teenage life became classics, died yesterday at the age of 59. He dominated 1980s box office with hits like Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club, and Sixteen Candles. His movies also turned young actors like Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, and the Brat Pack (Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, et al.) into stars.

Most of the movies Hughes made about teenage angst came out when I was a teenager. Even though I came from a different cultural background than the kids in the movies, I could relate to everything they were going through. My favorite movie was The Breakfast Club. I'm not a person who collects movies, but I liked The Breakfast Club so much that I bought it. “...what we found out is that each one of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Does that answer your question? Sincerely Yours, The Breakfast Club.”

The strength of John Hughes and the reason I love the movie so much is that it's universal. I didn't grow up in the Chicago suburbs like the kids in the movie, but I knew all those kids. I felt a lot like Brian (Anthony Michael Hall) when I was in high school. We all knew those kids and some of us were those kids, which is why the movie had such an impact. Furthermore, the strength of the movie is the lesson it taught. Take five very different people, give them an opportunity to get to know one another, and you find out you have a lot more in common than you thought. That lesson applies across all ages, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds. John Hughes didn't just make us laugh in his movies, he made us think as well. Thanks, John.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Central Library to Host Birmingham City Council and School Board Candidate Forums

naacp logo
The NAACP Birmingham-Metro Chapter in collaboration with the League of Women Voters of Greater Birmingham have agreed to head up this massive undertaking, arranging for over 60 candidates to get their message out. Natalie Davis, Birmingham Southern political science professor and political commentator, will moderate the first night; Virginia Randolph, past president of the League of Women Voters of Greater Birmingham, will moderate the following nights.

Each candidate will have the opportunity to state why they are running, why they are the best candidate, and what they hope to accomplish if elected. As time allows, questions will be taken from the audience.

There will be a reception for candidates and constituents each evening at 5:30 p.m. at the library.

Who: Birmingham City Council & School Board candidates
Where: Central Library, Arrington Auditorium on the 3rd floor of Linn-Henley
Dates and Times: Tuesday, August 11, City Council candidates, Districts 1-5
Wednesday, August 12, School Board candidates, all districts
Thursday, August 13, City Council candidates, Districs 6-9

There will be a grand reception on Thursday, August 13, at 8:00 p.m. in the Harambe Room, 1813 4th Avenue North.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Brown Bag Lunch Program: Express Yourself

express yourself logo
Check out the great happenings at the library as we wind down the summer fun and get ready to kick off a fantastic fall! Wednesday, August 12, noon.

brown bag imageFeed your body and mind at BPL's Brown Bag Lunch Programs. You bring the lunch and we'll bring the drinks. Wednesdays at noon in the Arrington Auditorium located on the 3rd floor of the Linn-Henley Research Library, 2100 Park Place.

Monday, August 03, 2009

On the Horizon: New Books in September

The Lost Symbol – Dan Brown
In his first new novel since The Da Vinci Code, Brown takes Harvard symbol expert Robert Langdon on a twelve-hour journey unlike any of his previous adventures.

An Echo in the Bone – Diana Gabaldon
In the long-awaited seventh Outlander novel, Jamie Fraser and Claire Randall are drawn into the tumult of the American Revolution.

South of Broad – Pat Conroy
In his first book in fourteen years, Conroy tells the grand story of Charleston, South Carolina, through the eyes and tempestuous life of a Southern gossip columnist.

The White Queen – Philippa Gregory
The queen of historical romance and intrigue turns her talents toward the War of the Roses in the first volume of her new series, The Cousins’ War.

Spartan Gold – Clive Cussler
Treasure hunters Sam and Remi Fargo take up the trail of a long lost Greek treasure, stolen by the Persion emperor Xerxes and hidden by Napoleon himself.

Day After Night – Anita Diamant
Based on a remarkable true story, the author of The Red Tent tells the tale of a group of young women who escape Nazi Europe in 1945.

The Murder of King Tut – James Patterson
In his second foray into non-fiction, Patterson tackles the mysterious death of Egypt’s boy pharaoh using modern forensics to unlock the coldest “cold case” of all.

Her Fearful Symmetry – Audrey Niffenegger
The author of The Time Traveler’s Wife tells the story of American twins who move to the London flat of their deceased aunt – whose spirit, it seems, has yet to leave the premises.

Where Men Win Glory – Jon Krakauer
The author of Into Thin Air recounts the true story of Pat Tillman, the NFL star who joined the Army in the wake of 9/11 and died from friendly fire in Afghanistan.

Reserve your copies today!

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