Shelf Life Blog
A Treasury of Foolishly Forgotten Americans, by Michael Farquhar, is a fascinating series of cleverly-penned essays on true-life characters whom you’ve probably never heard of but definitely are a part of American history. Meet Jack Billington, the Mayflower Murderer. Not all of the passengers on the Mayflower were sterling souls. He may have signed the famous Mayflower Compact, but Billington never kept his end of the deal. He was a foul-tempered wastrel whose son almost (accidentally and stupidly) blew up the ship on the way over and Jack had the gall to badmouth Miles Standish. For this he was bound, neck to ankles, at which point his bravado lessened considerably. But Jack Billington did not learn from that experience and went on to meet a knave’s fate.
As Faerie Wars, by Herbie Brennan, begins, the prince of a magical realm has escaped the palace in the dead of night. Someone is trying to kill him. Months pass, and, on the run from an encounter with Lord Hairstreak's men, Prince Pyrgus found himself running full-tilt down Seething Lane. A factory lay just ahead and once inside he slipped on a white lab coat and blended in with the rest of the workers.
In Dragonsong, by Anne McCaffrey, girls are for working in the kitchen, mending nets, keeping the house clean and tending the sick and the children. That’s all, and that’s enough as far as Yanus, Sea Holder of Half-Circle Sea Hold is concerned. His young daughter Menolly may –think- she has some musical talent, but that’s not a girl’s proper place. Never mind that Petiron, the old Harper, believed she had a real gift and taught her what he could. The daughter of a lord has an established place, and all her twiddlings on the harp won’t change that.
The tale has traveled far and wide over the millennia. A sinister, gigantic force of evil is vanquished by a young shepherd with a sling and a small stone. The shepherd grows up to be King David, but we know so little about the nine-foot-tall soldier who was slain. What if his real passion was not killing and maiming but filing clerical paperwork?
Mr. Ali is a bored gentleman, a bit of a perfectionist, and—much to his wife’s chagrin—recently retired and constantly underfoot. Mr. Ali clearly needs something to do with his cleverness. His rather small house with carefully tended garden and comfortable veranda is a beautiful, small haven in the heart of a busy Indian city, but it is not enough to hold the interest of a man so distinguished and wise. And so, The Marriage Bureau for Rich People began in the Alis’ front room.
In Megan Whalen Turner’s Instead of Three Wishes, mere mortals go up against crafty fey and magical mayhem with only their mundane wits to protect them.
Selene was only trying to help the cantankerous old man across the street. He seemed frozen by passing cars and probably would have been hit were it not for Selene taking him carefully by the arm. She did not realize that that she was escorting elfin royalty.
Ah, the wacky uncle. He is an institution as old as the concept of family itself. Many can claim to have one, but few can say that his uncle is one of the most important artists of the 20th century. That's where Uncle Andy's, by James Warhola, figures in.
Before Warhol was a painter, a filmmaker, and a celebrity, he was Andrew Warhola. After college, he shortened his name and left his home in Pittsburgh to start an art career in Manhattan. But back in Steel City was Andy's older brother Paul, who worked in a junkyard and was father to seven children, one of whom was our author/illustrator James. Paul used a lot of the trash he found to make sculptures, and if he found something particularly unusual, he would bring it to Andy.
During the summer’s excitement over the massive, new blockbusters, many older and more unusual films are neglected and ignored. These older monster films, though they lack the digital effects and huge budgets of more modern releases, are classics of their genre, with clever performances and intriguing plots. One day this summer, you may feel compelled to take a trip back in time and see some of these legendary movies for yourself.