Tag Archives: classics

The Classics, Renewed

Do you re-read books, or do you prefer to find new ways to enjoy your favourite stories?

There was one family vacation where I read the third Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, 8 times within one week.  I had only brought two books, which was my first mistake, and the other was a murder mystery, disqualified because I had already figured out whodunit, which was my second. By the end of the week, I was quoting passages from specific pages that I had memorized, and I had grown thoroughly sick of the book! But when J.K. Rowling released the next volume in the series, I read it right away – and have with every book she’s released about Harry and his friends since, including The Cursed Child. 21 years after Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was first published, we still want to revisit those characters and that setting. Luckily, the books are still popular enough to warrant Rowling producing more content within the Harry Potter universe – but what do you do about other books that you’ve loved, with authors who are long gone?

With some, you can watch the movie and film adaptations: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was first adapted for the screen in 1938 as a television movie, then in 1940 as a film, as a TV miniseries in 1952, 1958, 1967, 1980, and 1995, and then again in 2005 as the film starring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet. This isn’t even counting the productions inspired by the plot and characters – Bride and Prejudice, the 2004 Bollywood musical version (which is very fun), the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, or Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. If Pride and Prejudice is your favourite, you have a plethora of ways that you can revisit the story. But enough: this is not a blog titled Adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, an Incomplete List.

texts My current favourite way to return to a story I have loved is through Daniel Mallory Ortberg’s Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters. In it, Ortberg transforms each of the chosen classic (or contemporary!) tales, ranging from the Greek myths and Beowulf to The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, into a text message dialogue between two characters, and they are hilariously done. Check out this excerpt from the conversation between Odysseus and Circe as an example:




(Ortberg 14-16)

If you like comics and quick summations of stories, Henrik Lange’s 90 Classic Books for People in a Hurry might be just up your alley! Alternatively, maybe you want to take a bit more time with a book you’ve loved before: consider a graphic novel adaptation! Our collection has options ranging from Artemis Fowl to Shakespeare’s The Tempest. There’s something to suit everyone – including Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Happy reading!


Get those old classics off the shelf

“Classic.” A book which people praise and don’t read.

Mark Twain

You can call me a relic, but I like classic literature. I enjoy a lot of contemporary authors, too, but for me there’s nothing like the books that have been around for hundreds of years. Summer vacation is my prime reading time, and I always leave room for some golden oldies on my holiday reading list.

A lazy day at the cottage or a leisurely afternoon in the backyard is a great time to savor some of the classics. You know the ones I mean – the titles that are touchstones for what is often considered great literature, the books you skimmed through for a school assignment, the ones you’re going to read someday when you get a chance. Reading the classics offers a great deal of insight into what’s being written today, and they are really enjoyable once you give them a chance.

Featured imageLeo Tolstoy is one of the biggies when it comes to important novels. War and Peace, Tolstoy’s painstaking recounting of the war Napoleon waged with Russia,  is a slow read, but most definitely worthwhile, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Nelson Mandela considered War and Peace his favourite book of all time. A side benefit is that there’s nothing like a vivid description of a Russian winter to make you appreciate summer, mosquitoes and all.

Featured imageThe plots of Jane Austen’s novels have been told and re-told in many ways and many formats, but the experience of reading the originals is what enables you to really recognize the value of her writing. My personal favourite of her books is Pride and Prejudice, but I’d recommend any or all of them. Spoiler alert – Mr. Darcy doesn’t take a dip in the pond in the book as Colin Firth did so memorably in the movie. If you’re looking for a project, try finding all of the versions of Austen’s works that have been made into movies.

Featured imageF.Scott Fitzgerald’s novels are the perfect complement to a sunny day on the beach. His descriptions of the seaside in Tender is the Night, or the pool parties in The Great Gatsby provide a glimpse into a time and place not so different from today, only with far better fashions and no worries about sunscreen. Fitzgerald is a relatively modern author compared to Jane Austen or Leo Tolstoy, but his works still resonate in much the same way.

These books may be heavy on plots, themes and characters, but thanks to modern technology, they don’t need to add weight to your backpack or beach bag. Many of these works are available for free downloads through sites like Gutenburg.org  and the public domain titles on Overdrive. Or you can go with audio books, for road trips, long walks or while you’re gardening.

So whether you’re packing up for a week at the lake, a day at the beach or an afternoon in your backyard, why not dust off those old classics and bring them out into the sunlight? They may be old-fashioned, but they’re definitely not over the hill.


A blog post 65 Million Years in the Making

“Now, eventually you do plan to have dinosaurs on your dinosaur tour, right?”
– Dr. Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park


It’s cool to talk about dinosaurs again, you guys! On June 12th, Universal Pictures will be releasing Jurassic World. Jurassic World is a direct sequel to 1993’s original Jurassic Park, pretty much ignoring the events of Jurassic Parks 2 and 3. This is probably a smart move, as I tend to remember those second and third movies being sad echoes of Spielberg’s brilliant original masterpiece. I still remember seeing the original Jurassic Park at the Grant Park cinemas. It was the first movie I saw after those theatres converted to digital sound, and I’ll never forget the scene when the T-Rex attacks and the first sign of it was when those cups of water started to shake. The sound was so crisp and clear in the theatre that our seats actually rumbled a bit.

But enough about me and my sudden geeking out about Jurassic Park. Did I mention I was at opening night when they re-released the movie in 3D a couple of years back? And I don’t even LIKE 3D. I even have a Jurassic Park coffee mug.

So to celebrate the 12 year old in all of us, let’s take a quick look at some of WPL’s dinosaur related fiction in preparation for Jurassic World. See you opening night!


Jurassic Park: Michael Crichton

Well it’s probably best to start with the original novel. Arguably Crichton’s most famous novel, it tells the story of a mysterious theme park on an island off of Costa Rica on the eve of it’s opening. I’m trying to stay spoiler free, but is there such a thing as spoiling something that’s 25 years old and has had movies and book sequels spun off of it? Okay, let’s just say there are dinosaurs on the island and stuff happens.


The Lost World: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Best known for creating Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Conan Doyle also wrote a series of fantasy novels. The first one in this series was called The Lost World and followed the adventures of Professor Challenger as he led an expedition to a plateau in the Amazon Basin where prehistoric creatures have somehow survived. This series of books became very influential for other 20th century fantasy writers including Edgar Rice Burroughs and Ray Bradbury.  J.J. Abrams said that The Lost World was one of the inspirations for his TV Series Lost, and Michael Crichton himself paid tribute to it by calling his 1995 Jurassic Park sequel The Lost World.

Dinosaur Summer: Greg Bear

Another homage to Conan Doyle, Greg Bear sets this novel in Conan Doyle’s “Lost World” universe. Dinosaurs are real and have been “domesticated” to the point where they are a part of “dinosaur circuses.” The plot of this novel concerns an expedition to return the remaining dinosaurs from the last dinosaur circus to the plateau in the Amazon Basin where they came from. I’m sure it all goes fine.

Journey to the Centre of the Earth: Jules Verne

Another scientifically questionable tale ( I guess that’s why they call it FANTASY), this novel is about an expedition to the centre of the Earth that starts through an Icelandic volcano. Now I’m no scientist, but I’m pretty sure going into a volcano, especially one of those disruptive Icelandic ones, is a bad idea. But guess what? They are okay and there are all kinds of prehistoric things living down there. It’s a pretty fun tale if you just decide to go with it.

Dinosaur Thunder: James F. David

Speaking of “going with it,” Dinosaur Thunder makes Jurassic Park look like a PBS documentary. This book has so many temporal disturbances and alternative timelines it even has a T-Rex living on the Moon, you guys. It’s a pretty high concept thriller, but if dinosaurs are your thing, check it out.

Kamandi Archives: Jack Kirby

Jack Kirby was a giant in the world of 20th century comics, creating (or co-creating) most of the original Marvel lineup including Captain America, The Avengers, and the Fantastic Four. He also worked for DC comics where he created Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth. Kamandi actually takes place in the distant future, after “The Great Disaster” reduces the Earth to a prehistoric state. Granted, there aren’t dinosaurs as much as super-intelligent mutated animals in this series, but it was an excuse to mention Jack Kirby.

Anonymous Rex: Eric Garcia

It seems like I’ve been listing these titles in order of “most plausible” to “least plausible.” If this is the case then let’s finish up with Anonymous Rex, possibly the least plausible of the whole bunch. The idea in this story is that the dinosaurs only faked their extinction and live among humans in latex costumes. Vincent Rubio is one of these disguised Dinos ( a Velociraptor, no less!) who also happens to work as a Los Angeles P.I. The story itself is quite funny and fast-paced, and might be just the thing for a quick backyard read this summer. It even hatched a sequel called Hot and Sweaty Rex. If you read the first one, you might as well keep going.


Books turning into Movies in 2015

Watching your favourite book as a movie is like watching your child turn into something you weren’t expecting. You want to hold on to what was, but you know you have to let what “is” be free.

Recently I watched the Danish film adaptation of Jussi Adler-Olsen’s crime-thriller The Keeper of Lost Causes. The movie is actually quite good, but I first cringed when I saw the film version of my favourite character, Carl Morck the bumbling, wildly sarcastic cop who solves cold cases. My imagination of who he  needed to be was retooled when I saw him on the screen – he wasn’t as funny and awkward as I thought he was. But he was still Carl, a newly reimagined character who had more subtle contours in his personality. I learned to like the new Carl, and that made all the difference. By the way, I recommend the movie (but only if you like subtitles)!

Here are some notable books being made into (hopefully) interesting movies this year:


Serena: “Newlyweds George and Serena move from Boston to North Carolina in 1929 to start a timber business. The pair are ruthless in building their empire, and when Serena finds out that she can’t have children, she sets out to kill George’s illegitimate son.” Based on the novel from noted Southern author Ron Rash.


The Zookeeper’s Wife: “This true story follows the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo, who helped to save hundreds of people from the Nazis in World War II by smuggling them into empty cages.” Based on the novel by Diane Ackerman.

Walk-Woods-Bill-Bryson A Walk in the Woods: “The humorous memoir follows an Iowa-born man who returns to America after 20 years in England to walk the Appalachian Trail.” Based on the memoir by Bill Bryson.



Silence: “Set in 17th-century Japan, the book follows the story of Jesuits who are trying to bring Christianity into Japan.” Based on the book by Shusaku Endu.


The Secret in Their Eyes: “An M15 agent trying to solve a murder works for the FBI and uncovers a terrifying new truth.” Based on the book by Eduardo Sacheri.



Room: “A 5-year-old boy grows up in a small shed, which becomes the only world he knows because his mother hides the truth — they’re being held captive.” Based on the novel by Emma Donoghue.


Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: “In this YA novel, a teenager named Jacob explores the ruins of a strange house on an island near Wales.” Based on the book by Ransom Riggs. The movie may be delayed until 2016.

Martian-Andy-WeirThe Martian: “Astronaut Mark Watney gets stranded on Mars and must survive alone while NASA tries to rescue him in this sci-fi novel.” Based on the fantastic novel, in more ways than one, by Andy Weir.


A Hologram for the King: “A struggling businessman heads to Saudi Arabia for a fight to save his finances, hoping to steer clear of foreclosure and pay his daughter’s college tuition.” Based on the book by Dave Eggers.

Frankenstein (Movie title is ‘Victor Frankenstein’): “Told from Igor’s perspective, we see the troubled young assistant’s dark origins, his redemptive friendship with the young medical student Victor Von Frankenstein, and become eyewitnesses to the emergence of how Frankenstein became the man – and the legend – we know today.”  Note that Igor is not actually in the original novel but a welcome addition in the early movie versions.

Far from the Madding Crowd: “A young woman named Bathsheba Everdene has to deal with the difficult, sometimes tragic consequences of being in a relationship with three different suitors at the same time.” Based on the novel by Thomas Hardy.

Dark-Places-Gillian-FlynnDark Places: “This thriller from the author of Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn) tells the story of Libby Day, whose mother and sisters were murdered at the family’s farmhouse when she was only seven. Her testimony sent her older brother, Ben, to prison for life, and 25 years later, Libby decides to meet with the Kill Club, a group of crime enthusiasts who investigate the case and force her to rethink what really happened.”

A Book of Common Prayer: “An American woman travels to Central America to reunite with her fugitive daughter. The country is on the brink of a violent revolution, and she is anything but prepared for what she sees.” Based on the novel by Joan Didion.

Black Mass: “The true crime novel follows the infamous mobster Whitey Bulger, the head of the Irish mob in the ’70s, and his relationship with childhood friend John Connolly, who grew up to work for the FBI.” Based on the novel by Dick Lehr and Gerald O’Neill.

The Secret Scripture: “A 100-year-old mental patient, Roseanne McNulty investigates her past and unearths some troubling memories.” Based on the novel by Sebastian Barry.

More movie-based-on-book descriptions at PopSugar.

– Lyle

Classics to Chill your Blood!

The nights are getting darker and there’s a chill in the air. The wind whips through the spidery branches, causing an unearthly howl to rip across the air; a warning to all to be wary of the shadows. A bolt of lightning streaks through the gloom, revealing a cabin that was veiled by the night. A solitary candle flickers within the icy glass, struggling against the darkness with its single-minded purpose of illuminating a speck of the night and offer some measure of warmth and comfort. Its sisters have long since fallen, despite the walls that surrounded them. Locked within armor of orange warmth and life, they were cast into the void of night, with the chorus of “trick-or-treat” to guide them to their eternity.

Light and dark, and the shadows in between, are often elements that are highly utilized within Gothic fiction. Along with ghosts, vampires and other figures of the wandering dead (or undead as the case may be), Gothic fiction ties into our fears of the unknown, illicit yearnings and superstition to create a realm where all the rules of society can be undone…and are not always able to be put to right. According to legend (or history, depending on who you talk to), much of gothic fiction owes its inspiration to a party that Mary Shelley hosted at Lake Geneva with Byron and John William Polidori; Byron asked everyone to compose a ghost story as a source of amusement, and that led to the birth of an unforgettable creature: Frankenstein.

The story focuses heavily on the man, Victor Frankenstein, and how he comes to not only create the monster, who remains nameless throughout the novel, but also reject him. The creatures’ response will lead him to become the definitive figure of a man and of a monster. There have naturally been many film versions about Frankenstein, but none have the presence that Boris Karloff had as the creature. Kenneth Branagh does give a very dramatic performance of Victor in the later version and combines elements from the later B movies into his version that adds a bit more flavour to the text. The latest film version, I, Frankenstein with Aaron Eckhart of Batman fame, picks up the story where the book ends and implies that the creature is still alive and fighting evil demons (in an Underworld kind of fashion). Excellent film, the CGI alone is worth a peek.

For those that enjoy a lighter touch, then I would highly recommend Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie and Gene Wilder’s Young Frankenstein. These are both wonderful spoofs that remind the viewer of the importance of human interaction and love.

John William Polidori, also there for the fateful party,  would be known for writing The Vampyre, the first book that would incorporate vampires and romance into a cohesive form, which naturally leads into a discussion of Dracula, by Bram Stoker.

Said to have been inspired by a nightmare (though Stoker had been involved with extensive research into superstitions and folklore,) the tale of Dracula is filled with love, loss and above all, the boundary between the living and the dead. In the search of finding a better life for himself and his new bride Mina, Jonathan Harker becomes entrapped by the ambition of Count Dracula to expand his influence into London. Throw in a little bit of blood, wolves, superstition, and a few madmen to boot, and you a have tale that puts most folks to shame. But if the book is not as enticing as you would wish it be, by all means, watch Bram Stoker’s Dracula with Gary Oldman, Keanu Reeves, Wynonna Ryder and Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing. That versionwas the first version to introduce the concept of a love story between Mina and Dracula that has become the staple of all later versions, including the one currently in theatres. We also have the version with Bela Lugosi if a real classic appeals to you and the newer one with David Suchet (Poirot), Marc Warren and Sophia Myles for those with a Dracula fetish.

Now, no Gothic experience can be complete without including Washington Irving’s story of the Headless Horseman. Better known as today as The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, it tells the story of Ichabod Crane, who comes to Sleepy Hollow to be the town’s new teacher. Upon his arrival he falls head over heels in love with Katrina, the daughter of the Van Tassels at a fall festival. While Ichabod fails to ask for her hand in marriage, he is regaled by the tale of the headless horsemen who haunts the area.

Anyone who has seen The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, the classic Disney version of the story, knows how the story ends, but the Tim Burton version with Johnny Depp takes a different tack, with more emphasis on the inhabitants of Sleepy Hollow and their relationships, along with more witchcraft and, of course, blood. The supernatural elements, along with the more macabre aspects of the horsemen, have now evolved to add a touch of evil to the legend in the form of a TV series (season one available on DVD!). Adding a bit of comedy to the tale with the presence of a 18th century man appearing in the 21st century, Sleepy Hollow proves that not even death can stop love… or evil.

So on this night, where one candle, with nothing to neither aid nor hinder its presence, it continues to glow; to offer a beacon to those who can see nothing but the mists that hold them between worlds. And on this night, this single night of the year, when the veils between worlds fades away, this light is the only thing to stand between the hopes of life with the fears of death.

That is… until the candle dies. 


January is (unofficial) Jane Eyre month

And we’re back! Across the city, winter programming for adults and kids is getting under way. (I can’t pass up the chance to specifically mention our Skywalk series of talks and concerts, our free Folk Fest concerts, and our variety of movie screenings).

Here at Millennium, this means the return of our popular From Page to Stage series with the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. This series offers casual talks about the process of turning a book into a play.  They are currently mounting an adaptation of the beloved classic Jane Eyre and we thought we’d have some talks about that!

**Important note: it was necessary to switch the dates for these programs after the newsletter went to print, so the details in the newsletter are no longer accurate.

Jane Eyre

Tuesday, January 21, 12:10 pm: Vanessa Warne (Associate Professor and Graduate Chair in the Department of English, Film and Theatre at the University of Manitoba) will discuss the novel and what may explain it’s continuing popularity.

Tuesday, January 28, 12:10 pm: The two leads in RMTC’s new production, Jennifer Dzialoszynski (Jane Eyre) and Tim Campbell (Edward Rochester), will discuss playing the classic romantic couple.

Tim Campbell and Jennifer Dzialoszynski in MTC's Jane Eyre. Photo by Bruce Monk

Tim Campbell and Jennifer Dzialoszynski in MTC’s Jane Eyre. Photo by Bruce Monk

In excitement and anticipation of all this, and because this is what we do, we put together a list of related books (and movies) that you might enjoy. Some are inspired by the Jane Eyre story, some are inspired by the author of Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë, and her remarkable novelist sisters, and some offer a little more information about the life and times of both the fictional, and the very real, characters.

Explore more of the Jane Eyre story

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
The remarkable, dark, and compelling story of Antoinette Cosway, Creole heiress from the West Indies, who becomes the first Mrs. Edward Rochestor and brings ruin to Thornfield Hall.

FlightThe Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesay
An intelligent and passionate orphan triumphs over misfortune and a largely uncaring world. Gemma Hardy is Jane Eyre set in Scotland and the Orkney Islands in the 1950s and 60s, with more than enough originality to make the familiar story new again.

Jane Eyre (1944 film adaptation)
With Aldous Huxley collaborating on the screenplay, and Orson Welles influencing the script and the filming (and starring as Rochester), this dark and moody adaptation is still thought of as one of the best.

Jane Eyre (2011 film adaptation)
Cary Fukunaga directs a popular and lauded adaptation, with Michael Fassbender as Edward Rochester and Mia Wasikowska as what some consider the best Jane yet.

Explore the Brontës – fiction inspired by Charlotte and her sisters

BecomingBecoming Jane Eyre by Sheila Kohler
A vision of what life could have been like in the secluded Brontë home, from the thoughts of the Brontë patriarch to the family nurse, from boarding school deaths to the genesis of the Jane Eyre character, and the interrelationship between life and fiction.

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë by Syrie James
This fictional diary turns Charlotte into a romantic protagonist in her own right. The setting is the moody moors of Yorkshire. Charlotte and her sisters are desperately trying to handle their peculiar father, who is slowly losing his eyesight, and a brother with a drug problem. The plot thickens with the introduction of Arthur Nicholls, a mysterious, and intriguing, new neighbor.

Explore the Brontës – what we really know about them

LifeThe Life of Charlotte Brontë Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell
The official biography of Charlotte by a fellow female Victorian novelist, who also happened to be her friend, and so had access to personal letters, interviews, and her own observations.

The Brontë Myth by Lucasta Miller
The Brontës have inspired more works (biographies, plays, movies, and novels) than they themselves produced, and have reached what could be argued is cult status. This work tracks the different ways they have been and continue to be portrayed and analyzed, whether romantic, feminist, Marxist, or postfeminist.

VictorianThe Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed by Judith Flanders
Running water, stoves, flush toilets – even toilet paper – arrived slowly throughout the century, and only to the prosperous. See the not-too-charming manual labour behind the outward elegance, with a room by room tour of everyday life in a Victorian home; From childbirth in the master bedroom, through the scullery, kitchen, and dining room (cleaning, dining and entertaining) and upwards, ending in the sickroom and death.

And on that cheerful note – hope you find something you enjoy!

It’s a Wonderful Movie: My Top Picks of Christmas Flicks

charlieWhen it’s cold outside all I want to do is curl up and watch my favourite Christmas movies, cuddled up under a blanket with my kit-cat Hubert keeping me warm. Of course, the reality is that I seldom have time to do just that, and try and sneak a Christmas movie in here and there as the Christmas rush descends. With several weeks still to go until Christmas, I’m hoping that I can still find the time to watch a few of my all-time favourite Christmas movies and shows. If you’re looking to do the same, here are some titles worth considering.

My all time favourite Christmas movie is Desk Set starring Katherine Hepburndesk set and Spencer Tracy. Katherine Hepburn plays a Librarian in a research library, and Spencer Tracy is the efficiency expert hired to implement a mainframe computer into the workflow of the library. Katherine’s character Bunny and her colleagues think this means they’re being phased out and will lose their jobs. Set during the Christmas season, this movie is funny, sweet and comical. The most Christmasy part of the film is when all the librarians are chugging champagne at work as they celebrate Christmas with the other departments in the organization. If only we could all have champagne at work around Christmas! An interesting bit of trivia is that this movie script was penned by Nora Ephron’s parents.

connAnother favourite is Christmas in Connecticut, starring Barbara Stanwyck. Her character (Elizabeth Lane) writes a regular column on domesticity in a woman’s magazine. Her articles revolve around motherhood, cooking and other housewifely tasks. Her boss and those reading her column assume that Lane is the epitome of the perfect housewife, when in fact the reality could not be further from the truth. She lives in a small apartment and is without the husband and baby she pretends to have. Her house of cards is set to crumble when a nurse writes to Lane’s boss and asks if a returning soldier can spend a homey Christmas with Lane and her family. Not only does the boss agree, he decides that he too would like to experience a traditional Christmas. Watching Lane try and keep up the pretense of being the perfect housewife in a borrowed farmhouse is funny, and her character is endearing. Definitely worth watching.

The Christmas season is not complete without watching a few other classicmiracle flicks. Miracle on 34th Street is about an executive named Doris who has become rather jaded by life. When a department store Santa claims to be Kris Kringle and convinces her daughter of this as well, Doris believes the man to be insane. Is he insane, or could he be the real thing? It’s a Wonderful Life is another film not to be missed at Christmas. In fact, this movie is the perfect film to watch on a snowy Christmas Eve. George Bailey tries to commit suicide on Christmas Eve, but is shown by angel Clarence what life would have been like had he never existed. White Christmas is a musical with a great number of hits (White Christmas, Sisters) and stars Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. Their song and dance act teams up with two sisters to perform at a failing Vermont inn, run by their former commanding general. Even if you’re not a fan of musicals, this movie is worth a watch.

oliveThere are many animated shorts suitable for kids and adults alike. Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman is an animated short with no dialogue – only music. A boy builds a snowman that comes to life, and they go on adventures (including a visit to the North Pole). Excellent animation with an imaginative story. Another animated film that’s become an annual favourite is Olive the Other Reindeer. Olive is a dog who thinks she’s a reindeer when she mistakes “All of the other reindeer” in the Rudolph song for “Olive the other reindeer”. She runs away from her owner after she mistakenly thinks he doesn’t want her any more and sets out to find Santa and help him deliver Christmas presents. Olive meets many interesting characters along the way, and Drew Barrymore is excellent as the voice of Olive. Of course, what Christmas could be complete without the classic animations: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Frosty the Snowman and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (not the Jim Carrey version!).

I wasn’t going to mention A Christmas Story, as this is on almost everyone’s list A_Christmas_Story_1983_R1-cdcovers_of favourite Christmas flicks. Yet, I found I had to include this gem. Directed by Canadian Bob Clark, this movie makes me laugh every time! Who could forget the leg lamp prize, the handmade bunny outfit or the kid getting his tongue stuck on the frozen pole? This story is told from the point of view of Ralphie, who wants nothing more than to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Have to watch this movie each and every Christmas, and now my son is old enough to enjoy it with me as well!

If the previous titles aren’t to your liking and you’re more of an action aficionado, I do have one more suggestion for you. (And it is set on Christmas Eve!). How about a little Bruce Willis in Die Hard, anyone?

Literary Fib List

Round about this time each year we start to hear a lot of holiday carols with words like naughty and nice, and small children everywhere start to worry about Santa’s verdict on their recent behavior.

Woman with book.And while most folks don’t usually think of book lovers as being a dangerous bunch (except for a few persistent stereotypes such as the whole naughty librarian phenomenon, which we all find very entertaining) it turns out they could, in fact, be harboring some dark secrets, as revealed by a study that just recently came to my attention.

As summarized in this article and this article, the study compiled results from 1,342 responses to a survey on the World Book Day website. The responses revealed that when it comes to whether respondents had read some classic books, THEY LIED… Or at least, a lot of them did.

According to the results, 65% reported that they had claimed to have read a particular book, when, in fact, they had not. The top 5 on the “literary fib list” were:

19841. Nineteen-Eighty-Four by George Orwell (42 percent pretended to have read it) Maybe this is because even those who haven’t read it feel like they have; references to Big Brother abound in today’s discussions of surveillance, brainwashing, and manufactured news.

War and Peace2. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (31 percent) But, can you blame them? This epic, often called the greatest novel ever written, is made up of 700 pages of Napoleonic wars, philosophy, and Russians.

Ulysses3. Ulysses by James Joyce (25 percent) Another ambitious read, this time featuring the thoughts, emotions, memories, humour, and vulgarity that make up a day in the lives of turn-of-the-century Dubliners.

Bible4. The Holy Bible  (24 percent) Though it has a foundational place in the make-up of much of the western world, how many know first-hand what it actually says?

Madame Bovary5. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (16 percent) A scandalous classic  — especially when it was published in 1857! — chockfull of extra-marital exploits and reckless spending.

Some may ask: why would one lie about such a thing? It seems as though a common reason is to impress, or even save face in front of, someone else; be it friend, boss, or potential romantic partner.  One article mentioned that these results are actually reassuring, in that it means that “reading has a huge cultural value in terms of the way we present ourselves as intelligent and engaged people.” Do you agree?

Woman readingAnd now I can suddenly hear you asking me a different question: have I ever said I’d read something when I hadn’t?

I’ll never tell.

What about you?


Autumn and the Arts

Over the past few weeks the leaves have slowly been turning colour and flocks of birds are heading to warmer locations. Autumn has arrived in Winnipeg and this time of year also marks the beginning of the season for various Arts organizations. The 2012-2013 seasons for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet , Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, and Manitoba Opera (just to name a few!) all have so much to offer. Take a moment to view their online season guides and you will be amazed at the variety. Music and performances for all ages to experience and enjoy!

More often than not, before I take in a performance I like to re-familiarize myself with the work or perhaps review its history or acquaint myself with the composer. Winnipeg Public Library has numerous resources to help enrich your experience before attending the symphony, ballet or opera.

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet has entitled their 2012-2013 season ‘Fairy Tale Fantasy’. It will begin with the Canadian Premiere of Twyla Tharp’s The Princess and the Goblin, based upon the classic children’s fairy tale by Victorian novelist George MacDonald.

The production’s roots in children’s literature made for a perfect opportunity for Winnipeg Public Library to partner with the RWB and host a free program for children. The program included a booktalk, games, classical music and a craft in which they decorated authentic ballet slippers!

Watch for two more ballet programs at the Millennium Library this coming season. In December, we will host a ballerina reading of The Nutcracker which celebrates the classic fairy tale as well as the ballet’s annual production.  During the Winter months, the focus will turn to the well-known characters of Charles Perrault’s fairy tales with the production The Sleeping Beauty.

The 2012-2013 season is also officially underway for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. The new WSO season began their 65th season opener with Strauss’s Don Juan as well as some Tchaikovsky and Beethoven. Many of the works that will be performed this year can be borrowed from the Library. Just check our catalogue.

If it happens to be opera that strikes your fancy, not only will you find full CD and DVD recordings of numerous operas at the library, but you can gain further appreciation for the story by checking out the libretto or gain a bird’s eye view of the production by examining the score. You can search specifically for CDs, DVDs and Musical Score titles in the catalogue!

If you still can’t get enough, the Library has many great reads about classical music – both fiction and non-fiction.

Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs and Classical Music  by Blair Tindall.

A tantalizing memoir written by the gifted American oboist, Blair Tindall. Not for the faint of heart, in this book Tindall looks back on her 25 year career as a symphonic musician. It’s an exciting and candid portrayal of the inner-workings of orchestral life in the highly competitive New York City.

The Tristan Chord: Wagner and philosophy by Bryan Magee.

This is a must read for opera lovers and those striving to further understand the complexity of Wagnerian opera. Magee titles his biography after what is arguably the most innovative use of 4 notes of the 19th Century. Experience the stunning power of the chord for yourself by downloading the Prelude from Tristan und Isolde from Freegal Music. Once again the score, libretto, CD and DVD recordings of the opera are all available at the Library!

The Violin Lover  by Susan Glickman.

This moving novel set in 1930s London follows the story of a man and a woman who are brought together by the intense musical relationship the man forms with her 11 year-old prodigy son. Glickman, “well known for her lithe, rich poetry and brilliant literary criticism, has infused her first novel with music. Beautifully evoking all the senses awakened by playing and listening, this brilliant work of fiction accomplishes the rare feat of recreating the experience of one art form in another.”

As you can see the Library offers many ways to engage yourself and your children in the sensational world of art music and its history.



Rockin’ Around the Christmas CDs…


Are you a Christmas music fanatic? Do you long to hear something different, something other than the standard Bing Crosby, Burl Ives or Nat King Cole? Well, check out the library’s extensive Christmas music collection on CD. The library has more than 800 Christmas music CDs!

For the past year (since last November), I’ve been listening to Christmas music non-stop. Luckily I love Christmas music, and I have a desk job so I can wear headphones while working (I think my coworkers would kill me if I played this stuff out loud year-round). I made it my personal goal to listen to every Christmas CD the library has. I’ll admit sometimes it’s been difficult, especially when it’s been over 30 Celsius in the middle of summer, but now that it’s November again and the snow is back it has become easier. Surprisingly, after a year, I’m still not sick of Christmas music!

In the past year I’ve listened to over 60% of the collection, so I still have a ways to go, but I have listened to hundreds of CDs I would never have listened to and some of those CDs have been so good I’ve went out and bought myself copies. I also know what sort of Christmas music I don’t like, but this article will focus on the some of the ones I think deserve some recognition.

Ashanti’s Christmas was the first CD I listened to that I liked enough to buy. I was vaguely aware that she was a singer, but I had no idea what she sang or anything about her. I have to admit I thought it would be another trite, overdone CD. I couldn’t be more wrong. Her voice is so pure and clear and the songs are fairly traditional. I love this CD!

In a similar vein, A Winter Symphony by Sarah Brightman is also well worth listening to. Again I thought I wouldn’t enjoy the CD, but I was proved wrong once again. She has a clear and powerful, but, at the same time, soft voice and it works wonderfully well with the arrangement of traditional and unfamiliar carols.

Who knew I liked Celtic music, or medieval music? I had never heard of Celtic Woman, but I certainly put A Christmas Celebration on my wish list. Of course I knew of Loreena McKennit, but I was only vaguely familiar with her music. After listening to A Midwinter Night’s Dream I have definitely put it on my “to buy” list.

If you prefer your music more upbeat try Destiny’s Child’s 8 Days of Christmas. I loved the CD and especially loved their interpretation of the 12 days of Christmas. Elton John’s Christmas Party is also great for a rocking good time. His compilation includes everyone from Otis Redding, U2 and The Pet Shop Boys. Of course Elton sings a couple of tunes himself. I would highly recommend both CDs if you’re hosting a party.

Never in a million years would I think I would like choir music, but I loved Joy to the World by the Robert Shaw Chorale. Perhaps because I attended churches with an “open door” policy on choir members (if you wanted to join, you could, regardless of any sort of musical talent), but I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was.

If you really can’t go without Bing or the other crooners, you’ll love the 3-CD set entitled Happy Christmas Memories. Bing, Elvis, Rosemary Clooney, The Andrew Sisters and Danny Kaye are well represented along with many others.

Although I think that Bing Crosby gets overplayed, I did quite enjoy The Voice of Christmas : the Complete Decca Christmas Songbook. It has got all of the tunes we are familiar with, as well as some I had never heard before, including “O fir tree dark”, “Looks like a cold, cold winter” and “Little Jack Frost, get lost”. It’s a great find.

Some other recommendations include: Christmas Portrait by the Carpenters ; Christmas Greatest Hits (a compilation) ; Peace on Earth by Matt Dusk ; Christmas Stays the Same by Linda Eder ; Christmas by Colin James & the Little Big Band ; Joy : a Holiday Collection by Jewel ; Christmas with Dino and Season’s Greetings both by Dean Martin ; and finally The Christmas Music of Johnny Mathis.