Author Archive for Jason Paulios



2017 National Book Award winners announced

by Jason Paulios on November 16th, 2017

Last night the 2017 National Book Award ceremony was held and winners were announced in the four categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature.  You can check out the winning titles and the authors’ other works from the Iowa City Public Library via the following links:

Fiction

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
From the Publisher: Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie’s children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise.

Nonfiction

The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia by Masha Gessen
From the Publisher: Hailed for her “fearless indictment of the most powerful man in Russia” (The Wall Street Journal), award-winning journalist Masha Gessen is unparalleled in her understanding of the events and forces that have wracked her native country in recent times. In The Future Is History, she follows the lives of four people born at what promised to be the dawn of democracy. Each of them came of age with unprecedented expectations, some as the children and grandchildren of the very architects of the new Russia, each with newfound aspirations of their own—as entrepreneurs, activists, thinkers, and writers, sexual and social beings.

Poetry

Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016 by Frank Bidart
From the Publisher: Gathered together, the poems of Frank Bidart perform one of the most remarkable transmutations of the body into language in contemporary literature. His pages represent the human voice in all its extreme registers, whether it’s that of the child murderer Herbert White, the obsessive anorexic Ellen West, the tormented genius Vaslav Nijinsky, or the poet’s own. And in that embodiment is a transgressive empathy, one that recognizes our wild appetites, the monsters, the misfits, the misunderstood among us, and inside of us. Few writers have so willingly ventured to the dark places of the human psyche, and allowed themselves to be stripped bare on the page with such candor and vulnerability. Over the past half century, Bidart has done nothing less than invent a poetics commensurate with the chaos and hunger of our experience.

Young People’s Literature

Far From The Tree by Robin Benway
From the Publisher: Being the middle child has its ups and downs. But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including—

Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can’t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs.

And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him.

We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson

by Jason Paulios on November 14th, 2017
We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson Cover Image

This was my first experience reading something by Shirley Jackson though I was familiar with her reputation as a modern Gothic horror fiction writer. I haven’t read much in this genre style and was prepared for pure spooky but instead found the story just made me tense. After finishing, I read a Readers Advisory article about the genre from Novelist Plus  (use your ICPL card and password for at-home access) and discovered many of the standard characterizations of the genre were present in this novel :

  • “A naïve heroine trapped in a claustrophobic setting” – check
  • “foreboding progressing into full-blown fear” – yep
  • “melancholia, insanity, mayhem, cruelty, and death” – check, check, check, check, and check!
  • “Narrators can be chronically unreliable and occasionally unhinged” – ha!
  • “Settings are dark and ancient – a decaying manor house…” – right there in the title

This was a very quick read at just over 160 pages. The story takes place in a small town in the aftermath of an arsenic murder that has killed off most of one of the old money families, the Blackwoods. Years later those that remain in the estate are 18-year-old Mary Katherine (Merrycat, a child at the time), her older sibling Constance (found not guilty of the crime), and poor old Uncle Julian. Julian has barely survived the poisoning, he is physically disabled and via his senile ramblings we learn more and more about particulars from the day of the terrible incident. The mostly working class town resents the family and a new generation is growning up with a sort of urban legend regarding the murder, this uneasy history will lead to the novel’s climax. The daily life of the three Blackwoods is oddly tranquil and very routine. Constance has taken up the matriarch mantle and keeps house though never leaves it except to pick from the garden. Julian is forever revising his notes regarding the fateful day’s events leading up to that dessert of blackberries with sugar. Odd Merrycat exists in a feral childlike state, roaming the estate, occasionally sleeping out in a bed of leaves, and casting warding spells against the town’s residents either verbally or through destruction or burial of family objects. Jackson then drops in a visit from a distant Cousin hoping to finagle a fortune and that strange calm over Blackwood estate is ruined.

Local Music Project redesign

by Jason Paulios on October 26th, 2017

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The Iowa City Public Library’s Local Music Project, a free digital music collection composed of eastern Iowa musicians, is newly redesigned. Over the last few years the ways in which we discover and listen to music has radically shifted, subscription services and streaming via phones and tablets are now the norm. In response, the Local Music Project now offers streaming alongside the download options in a mobile-friendly web design. This service is now available to all residents of Johnson County with a current Iowa City Public Library Card and password (see Account page for password creation/reset or contact us).

Mobile screenshot of Local Music Project

Mobile streaming player

The Local Music Project collection was the first of its kind for libraries and has inspired many other communities to create similar programs celebrating local music. Over the last five years, we have responded to interest from more than 30 different library systems across the United States and shared our story at regional and national library conferences related to technology in libraries. Since the project has begun, ICPL has leased the rights to a revolving catalog of more than 160 different albums from over 80 regional solo artists and bands.

We hope the new site will inspire ICPL patrons seeking new music options. Each stream and download helps demonstrate support for the artists and potential expansion of the project. The library will look to add new works throughout the year, interested artists may contact Jason Paulios for more information. 

 

 

 

 

2017 music

by Jason Paulios on June 30th, 2017
2017 music Cover Image

I was in a bit of a music rut this year, turning down the chance to listen to unfamiliar contemporary artists in favor of revisiting nostalgic albums from 20 years ago and seeking out music genres I either missed the boat on (Britpop) or wasn’t around for (Post-punk). A plethora of recent “Best of 2017 …so far” articles have inspired me and I’ve discovered a few new albums from our collection that I think ICPL users should check out!

Jlin – Black Origami : An electronica album that is full of nervous energy and samples heavily from global music. On first listen I thought it would be too busy to be something I would casually throw on during a work session at my computer, but by the third track I was won over by the busy trance-like beats. Jlin rarely uses party-style electronica driving bass lines, instead she gets your head bobbing to a wide variety of percussion instrument samples (handclaps, drumlines, african drums) woven with repeated vocal snippets. If you’re having trouble connecting to the album, I recommend at least watching the choreography in this video for her song “Carbon 7 (161)”, jaw-dropping.

Big Thief – Capacity : Their 2016 album Masterpiece was one of my favorites last year, nothing new or particularly inventive but it had such passion and the big, dirty guitar countering singer Adrianne Lenker’s warbling hit me just right. There’s not as much of that basement rock sound on Capacity but the melodies and songwriting are terrific. Favorite tracks for me include a Nebraska-style road saga, “Shark Smile” and “Mary” which should be the final track to that mix-tape you make for your friend who is moving away.

2016 National Book Awards

by Jason Paulios on November 17th, 2016

The 67th National Book Awards Ceremony was held last night, you can watch here and read the winning books from the Iowa City Public Library’s collection at the links below:

YOUNG PEOPLE’S LITERATURE

March (Book 3) written by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and illustrated by Nate Powell

http://www.nationalbook.org/_images/nba/2016/winners/ypl-lewis-march.jpg


 

POETRY

The Performance of Becoming Human by Daniel Borzutzky

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NONFICTION

Stamped From The Beginning : The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi

http://www.nationalbook.org/_images/nba/2016/winners/nf-kendi-stamped-from-the-beginning.jpg


 

FICTION

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

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Banned and Censored Music

by Jason Paulios on September 29th, 2016

ICPL is currently celebrating Banned Books Week and we have a strong history of supporting people’s Freedom to Read. As the music selector, the theme this week has also made me reflect on how amazing it is that the U.S. still creates lyrically censored versions of music because “won’t somebody please think of the children“. The National Coalition Against Censorship created a great list last year of 40 banned and censored songs that I felt needed to be shared as an ICPL display with a vintage shot of Tipper Gore and the Parents Music Resource Center.

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There were some surprises on their list, I never would have guessed someone would have a censorship concern about Phil Collins! I definitely remember MTV censoring Tom Petty’s use of the word “joint” in “You Don’t Know How it Feels”, you can check out the original from us.

As a youngster, I was minimally affected by the PMRC and further outcry, though the summer after 4th grade my friend wasn’t allowed to get the Whitesnake cassette for me for my birthday because my mom told his mom it was too racy. Just imagine the person I might be today if I’d been able to rock out to “Here I Go Again” that summer! I recall being in Musicland just a few years later attempting to convince my Dad that the Parental Advisory label on the Tone Lōc cassette was probably put on by mistake. To his credit, he bought me that tape and I rapped along to “Cheeba Cheeba” blissfully unaware of what Tone was talking about. And while Tone Lōc might not be musically or historically interesting enough to warrant inclusion in the ICPL collection, I’m happy to report that we only purchase unaltered lyrical versions of other albums and leave the decision up to your household to decide what is appropriate. I highly recommend all parents take the risk and check out “Appetite for Destruction” for their kid(s), I learned an important 5th grade playground life lesson about swearing at classmates when parroting Axl from their song “It’s So Easy“! Feel free to share your own stories in the comments!

On Bowie – Rob Sheffield

by Jason Paulios on September 16th, 2016
On Bowie – Rob Sheffield Cover Image

Rolling Stone columnist Rob Sheffield’s book “On Bowie” is an ode to rock legend, David Bowie, who died in January of this year. Sheffield, a Bowie fanatic, was approached immediately following the news of Bowie’s death and asked to write a book with a very short turnaround. “On Bowie” reads quickly, there are concise chapters that could easily be individual columns for his magazine, covering impressions of a specific time period or album. His writing is confident and somewhat off-the-cuff, it conveys that he’s someone who has thought deeply about Bowie’s music and life and has read widely on the subject. It’s easy to skip around to read his thoughts about your favorite Bowie period or uncover juicy anecdotes culled from larger works on the artist. Despite his obvious adulation, Sheffield isn’t afraid to critique Bowie’s personal decisions or output (even the biggest Bowie fan can’t justify the two albums following “Let’s Dance”). I wasn’t as interested in the author’s lyric dissection or penchant for shoehorning lyrics into the bigger picture writing. There is obvious passion and respect in this short overview, I found it to be a terrific gateway for some larger works (ex. “Moonage daydream: the life and times of Ziggy Stardust”) as well as an inspiration to check out some of the eighteen different albums carried here at ICPL.

New downloadable local music

by Jason Paulios on August 4th, 2016

LocalMusicProject_imageThe Iowa City Public Library is celebrating our fifth year of offering free downloadable music from regional artists via the Local Music Project. This unique service allows ICPL cardholders to download over 80 albums from artists based in eastern Iowa. The project is currently limited to those living in Iowa City, Hills, University Heights, Lone Tree, or unincorporated (rural) Johnson County. The offerings are always changing with new albums added throughout the year from a variety of genres. Read the rest of this entry »

Finding a record of ownership

by Jason Paulios on April 22nd, 2016

Back in November I wrote about using the City of Iowa City Housing & Inspection Services’ permit activity lookup tool for finding more information about Iowa City house history.  A coworker recently showed me another great house history link hidden at the bottom of individual accounts on the Iowa City Assessors parcel search results page.  If you are looking at a house result you can scroll to the bottom of that page and you’ll see “related information links” below the GIS map.  There are a few useful links for house hunters here including former tax information for the property as well as a quick link to the GIS map with coordinates.  The most interesting link for local history buffs is the “Old Property Report Card” in the lower right corner which will show you a past record of ownership with names and prices paid.  There’s also often pointed comments on these cards regarding the huge leap in sales prices that happened in the 1990s such as these :

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A Sugar Creek Chronicle – Cornelia F. Mutel

by Jason Paulios on April 22nd, 2016
A Sugar Creek Chronicle – Cornelia F. Mutel Cover Image

The latest in the Bur Oak Books series from the University of Iowa Press is Cornelia Mutel’s account on climate change as seen from the mixed oak woodlands in rural Johnson County, Iowa. The book is cleverly structured to follow the four seasons during the year 2012, each season features daily journal entries detailing weather and climate notes. Interspersed are notable updates on various woodland species in the acreage alongside Iowa natural history. Paired with the day-to-day of 2012 country living are complimenting memoir sections detailing growing up in Madison, her mother’s early death, and parenthood in Iowa City.  

Her writing is organized and passionate, her love of the natural world is infectious and I often found myself considering putting down the book to wander a nearby nature trail. Throughout all the meditative trail walking anecdotes filled with chipmunk scurrying and spring ephemeral blooming are sobering climate science facts and how they are impacting all these things we care about. Her research is presented in small digestible amounts and her teaching background is evident in the way in which she breaks down complicated earth science processes.