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Meta Critics


Reading reviews of the documentary Life Itself on is, well, indeed a “meta” experience.  The reviews are about a movie about someone who wrote movie reviews.

The new documentary’s source material is largely based on film critic Roger Ebert’s memoir, called Life Itself itself (there’s another meta moment for you). It can be checked out in print or audio CD format from the library. 


Here are other books about the lives of well-known critics, all available in SJPL's catalog:


Film Critic
Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark by Brian Kellow 
"The most powerful, loved and hated film critic of her time" - Roger Ebert, critic.


Literary Critic

The Anatomy of Influence: Literature as a Way of Life by Harold Bloom 
"It is admirable to want to write criticism for someone other than one's colleagues and graduate students, and Bloom's intelligence, erudition, and charm have made him America's best-known man of letters." - James Wood, critic.

Music Critic

Let It Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs, America's Greatest Rock Critic by Jim DeRogatis

"An elegy for one of the few critics whose work is worth reading for itself, apart from its subjects." - Roger Ebert, critic. 

Theater Critic
White Girls by Hilton Als

"Als is one of the most consistently unpredictable and surprising essayists out there, an author who confounds our expectations virtually every time he writes." - David Ulin, critic.


"We are all allotted an unknown but finite number of hours of consciousness. Maybe a critic can help you spend them more meaningfully." - Roger Ebert, critic

International Museum Day

The International Council of Museums (ICOM) has coordinated the celebration of International Museum Day on May 18 at museums around the globe since 1977.  Several local museums are marking the occasion in 2014 with free admission this Sunday, May 18 including:



Why not take this opportunity to explore a new museum or revisit a favorite art collection?


There are some terrific museum-themed books and movies available at the library.  Check out one or more of these books to share with a child:


Arthur Lost in the Museum cover Bailey at the Museum cover Frank's Great Museum Adventure How the Sphinx Got to the Museum The Museum by Susan Verde


Consider borrowing Night at the Museum or Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian and enjoy family movie time together.


Adults may enjoy The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel, the book on which the 2014 film of the same name is based.  If you enjoyed The Monuments Men (the book, the movie, or both) and want to learn more about the roles of museums and the armed forces in preserving art and artifacts during World War II, you may also like these books:


The Battle of the Louvre; the Struggle to Save French Art in World War II by Matila Simon


The Venus Fixers: the Remarkable Story of the Allied Soldiers who Saved Italy's Art during World War II by Ilaria Dagnini Brey

Hungering for More

The World of The Hunger Games book coverAt the info desk, I’m getting even more requests than usual right now for the three books in Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy.  Maybe that has something to do with Catching Fire being the highest-grossing movie in the country right now (just a wild guess!).

If you want to borrow The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, or Mockingjay novels from SJPL right now, chances are pretty good you'll need to put yourself on the holds list first. You shouldn’t have too long of a wait before you can pick up or download your copy, however. 

But even if you have more immediate Hunger Games needs and would like to be able to check something Hunger Games-related out of the library right now, you’ll find many of SJPL’s branches have interesting companion books waiting on the shelves for you to take home and enjoy. Try an advanced search by subject to look for "hunger games"-related material in our catalog.

Some of the things you could find include:

The World of the Hunger Games
 by Kate Egan.
A companion guide to Panem, the world in the "Hunger Games." 

The Hunger Games: Tribute Guide by Emily Seife.
Provides profiles of the tributes from the twelve districts.

The Hunger Games and Philosophy: a Critique of Pure Treason Edited by George A. Dunn and Nicolas Michaud.
Examines the key characters, plot lines, and themes of the series while applying the perspectives of Charles Darwin, Thomas Hobbes, and Plato.

The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide
 by Creek Stewart.
Infused with themes and references from "The Hunger Games" books and movies, this survival field manual provides practical instructions for real-world skills, from building a shelter and finding water to making a fire and providing field first aid.

And if all this dystopian angst gets to be a bit much, maybe try:

The Hunger Pains

A parody from The Harvard Lampoon, starring Kantkiss Neverclean.

King of Fiction

Doctor SleepDoctor Sleep, Stephen King’s much-anticipated follow-up to The Shining, has finally been released and the San Jose Library has copies in both print and audio format. However, as there are currently a healthy number of patrons on the waiting list, some Stephen King fans may want to tide themselves over with other Stephen King works while they await their turn for the latest from the celebrated storyteller.

Carrie book coverOne older title that immediately springs to mind is Carrie, since a new movie adaptation of the 1974 novel is being released later this month. I just borrowed the e-book from SJPL myself. I wouldn’t call myself a fan of the horror genre in general and I actually hadn’t read much by King before, but I was gripped by Carrie from the first page. I was impressed by Stephen King’s focus on character and how sympathetic he is to some of the most uncomfortable, awkward and downright painful elements of being an adolescent girl. I say that as someone who has been a teenage girl in admiration of someone who has not (which is not to say I would have ever been driven to Carrie’s most infamous uses of her telekinetic power, even if I had any).

As the October 18 opening date of the new film approaches, you can borrow the 1976 film adaptation on DVD too. Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie both received Academy Award nominations for their performances.

You can also check out the audio recording of Carrie on CD or as an e-audio book on Overdrive (you can even listen to a couple of excerpts from the e-audio book before checking it out).  The audio book is narrated by Sissy Spacek.

Question of the Week: Fernandel

DON CAMILLOA caller asked for a movie with a title of "something like God’s Little Acre," but she could not remember any better. I looked up "God’s Little Acre" in the library catalog showing the result of only a book, God’s Little Acre by Erskine Caldwell. By searching Link+ there was a videocassette, "God’s Little Acre," based on the same novel by Erskine Caldwell, about a "saga of a Georgia farm family and their search for a treasure which an ancestor may have buried on their farm…" This, the caller said, was not what she had in mind; then said, matter-of-factly, the actor of the movie was Fernandel! Great! 


By searching "Fernandel" in the library catalog, there were three entries (of book and music), but no movies or videos. I went on searching "Fernandel" on IMDB database, the result page contained a filmography for Fernandel as "Actor" listing 152 titles. Featured on the same page were a few movies for which he was known, and one of them was "The Little World of Don Camille" which the caller recognized immediately as what she wanted. The description of the movie reads "In a village of the Po valley where the earth is hard and life miserly, the priest and the communist mayor are always fighting to be the head of the community…"


There were also a biography for Fernandel (1903–1971), as well as photos and reviews of his comedies all of which appeared to be so much fun. By now, I wished I had known these movies sooner. For a copy of the movie, the caller wondered where she could buy one. It turned out to be easy - Available on Amazon was a DVD release of 2008 for the movie.  


This reference exchange was gratifying for both the caller and me – she located a DVD of the movie retrieved from her memory and I discovered a popular movie of the 1950s.


See more Questions of the week!

The Great Gatsby Alive Again

F. Scott FitzgeraldI saw the new Baz Luhrmann film adaptation of The Great Gatsby yesterday, and much as that story's narrator Nick Carraway ponders the life and character of his mysterious rich neighbor Jay Gatsby, I found myself pondering some mysteries about F. Scott Fitzgerald. I wonder how he would have received this most recent retelling of his master work, with its rap soundtrack and 3D effects. After The Great Gatbsy was published in 1925, Fitzgerald wrote to his friend Edmund Wilson "that of all the reviews, even the most enthusiastic, not one had the slightest idea what the book was about." It makes me wonder if Fitzgerald would think this new movie has any idea what the book is about, or whether the critics who have reviewed the movie do. In my entirely humble opinion, I think he just might have approved of Luhrmann's visions of decadence, disillusionment and disappointment, but as the author has been dead for 73 years, my opinion must remain mostly wild speculation.


I am reasonably rather more sure that F. Scott Fitzgerald would have enjoyed the resurgence of interest in his novel that the release of the movie has brought about. The book was never a commerical success in Fitzgerald's lifetime, but today it holds the #3 bestseller spot for all of the books available at, and there is a waitlist to borrow it from the San Jose Public Library (but not a horribly long waitlist, so don't hesitate if you want to add yourself to it!).