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Friday, January 30, 2015

“The Raven” Turns 170

Written by Jon Williams

Yesterday marked the 170th anniversary of the first publication of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic poem “The Raven,” for my money one of the finest examples of poesy in the English language. The long narrative poem tells the tale of a man lamenting for his lost love to a raven that he has inadvertently let into his home. Appearing first in the New York Evening Mirror on January 20, 1845, the poem is a delight in print, but for the musicality of the language, it must be heard aloud for the full effect. One such performance can be found on Select Stories of Edgar Allan Poe, narrated by Chris Lutkin.

That audiobook also features eleven other classics from Poe, the others being pieces of his short fiction rather than poetry. Several of them are classic examples of the style that has led to Poe being known as the “Master of Macabre,” like “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Cask of Amontillado.” As much as he is associated with the horror genre, though, that was by no means the only trick in his bag. “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” contains some grisly details, but it’s most notable for being the first modern detective story. So although this sometimes gets lost, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle owes as much to Poe as does someone like, say, Stephen King (who, in truth, is another writer associated with the horror genre that writes in a number of styles).

Classic literature never goes out of style or favour, of course, but merely sits on the shelf and patiently waits to be discovered by new generations of readers and/or listeners. And that’s why Dreamscape Media, publishers of the aforementioned Poe title, is producing a line of classic titles on audiobook with new recordings that will appeal to longtime literature lovers and first-time listeners alike. This includes such beloved favourites as A Christmas Carol and other Christmas stories from Charles Dickens, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, The Awakening by Kate Chopin, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and a number of other Oz stories from L. Frank Baum, to name just a few.

And that’s not all. Along similar lines, Dreamscape is also putting together narrations of historical texts. These include Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee as well as Letters from Lee’s Army, President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation (plus another edition that also includes the Gettysburg Address).

Needless to say, titles like these can add a great deal of value to your audiobook collection while enriching the lives of your patrons. SmartBrowse ‘Dreamscape Classics’ on our website for more new recordings of literature’s canon, or search for any other must-have titles you need for your collection.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

New Collection Takes Aim at Bullying

Written by Jon Williams

It’s one of the hottest topics of today, a conundrum that unfortunately has no easy solutions and isn’t even easy to discuss. The topic is bullying, and it’s a situation that occurs far too often. Teachers, school administrators, parents, and students themselves often deal with it on a daily basis. That was the case for Carrie Goldman, for whom the bullying of her daughter led her to write a book that lays out ways to help deal with bullying situations, hopefully before they start. That book is Bullied, and it’s an essential guide for anyone who deal with children on a day-to-day basis.

The one bright spot is that there are any number of resources, both fiction and non-fiction, that deal with bullying. The fiction titles can help students—and adults—think about bullying from different perspectives and perhaps come to terms with its causes and effects. The non-fiction titles offer anyone who might find themselves dealing with a bullying situation (from any angle) with practical advice on how to get through it as peacefully as possible and prevent it from happening again.

To that end, Midwest Tape has put together a collection of these audiobook resources that libraries can put on their shelves for those who need them. Kids & Bullying: Audiobooks for Conversation can be found via a panel on our homepage. In the coming weeks, you can look for a number of audiobook collections like this on a variety of topics. We hope you find them useful, and that they expose you to some great titles you may have missed. You can let us know what you think here in the comments.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Golden Globes Reflect Changing Face of Television

Written by Jon Williams

If you watched the Golden Globe awards ceremony on Sunday night—or even if you just perused the list of winners on Monday morning—you may have noticed something a little odd on the television side. Despite garnering a fair number of nominations, the major over-the-air networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC) did not take home a single award. Instead, the shows celebrated for their excellence were all from non-traditional, premium cable, or streaming services.

Non-network stations did quite well for themselves. In fact, the CW, jointly operated by CBS and Time Warner, was the closest thing to a major network to come away with the win. The channel, which is generally aimed at a young adult audience, earned its first major award nomination and win, with Gina Rodriguez taking home Best Actress in a TV Comedy for her portrayal of the title character on Jane the Virgin (which is not yet available on DVD/Blu-ray). Also winning awards were Downton Abbey (Best Supporting Actress Joanne Froggatt) and The Honourable Woman (Best Actress in a Miniseries Maggie Gyllenhaal); both were produced for British television and aired on this side of the pond via PBS and SundanceTV, respectively. Finally, FX’s television reboot of Fargo won two awards: Best Miniseries and Best Actor in a Miniseries Billy Bob Thornton.

The streaming services also won big on the night. Kevin Spacey, star of Netflix’s powerhouse political show House of Cards, won the Golden Globe for Best Drama Actor just ahead of the release of Season 3 on February 27. Following in Netflix’s footsteps of developing original programming, Amazon had a winner on its hands this year with Transparent (not yet available), which took two awards: Best TV Comedy and Best Actor Jeffrey Tambor. The show’s full first season was made available to users in September, and it was recently renewed for a second season that will be released later this year.

The premium cable outlets also came away with three awards. With fifteen nominations, it seemed like something of an upset for HBO to end the evening with just one win, but that’s the way it went down. Their award was for Matt Bomer’s Best Supporting Actor turn in The Normal Heart. Also in something of a surprise, the award for Best TV Drama went to Showtime’s The Affair (not yet available), which also featured the night’s Best Drama Actress, Ruth Wilson.

This shift in where the best shows call home is indicative of a shift in the way viewers watch television. Fading are the days of being in front of a television at a certain time on a certain day to catch the latest episode of a favourite show. More and more, it seems that viewers prefer the freedom of watching episodes at their leisure, or being able to watch multiple episodes at once, as soon as the season “starts,” and these non-network outlets are capitalizing on that. Along those lines, this column on the Huffington Post has an interesting (if non-scientific) note on most-recommended series for binge watching, including a breakdown along gender lines (which, apparently, do not diverge as much as you might expect).

The takeaway? It’s true: non-network shows are the hottest right now. In addition to this year’s crop of Golden Globe winners, make sure you’re stocking seasons of shows like Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Orange Is the New Black, and The Wire for your patrons who just can’t get enough, as well as for those who don’t have access to those channels or services.