M*A*S*H by Richard Hooker 
submitted by Luke

Welcome to the 4077 or the Natural Double as the men and women of the Medical Army Surgical Hospital call it. All of the hero’s are here: Trapper John, Hawkeye, Duke, Hotlips Houlihan, Frank Burn, Radar O’Reilly, and the Colonel. MASH tells the story of three young army doctors in Korea who have to figure out a way to survive the hypocrisy of war – they save the lives of soldiers, only to see them sent back out to be killed again.

This book follows in the footsteps of “ All Quiet on the Western Front ” and “ Catch-22 ” as 20th century works that show the fallacies of war, but with a streak of dark comedic virtue. The classic scenes are all found in the book, the Pros from Dover, the incomplete suicide of Walter Kosciusko 'Painless Pole' Waldowski, the ringer football game, and more martini mornings than can be named. This is the book that inspired the movie that inspired the TV show that became an American institution.

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Good Fairies of New York by Martin Millar 
submitted by Jennifer

I was unfamiliar with Martin Millar before a copy of The Good Fairies of New York showed up at my library. But since it came highly recommended by Neil Gaiman, who stole my heart with Coraline and Stardust , I decided to give it a try. What happens when exiled fairies of the British Empire land on the streets of modern day New York? Well, chaos ensues, romance blossoms, and a few dreams come true.

Millar’s urban fairy adventure had me laughing out loud on the first page. The Scottish fairies Heather and Morag have arrived hung over and disoriented in boorish Dinnie’s Fourth Street apartment. Bad tempered Dinnie spends his days playing violin badly, watching trash TV, and drinking beer. He also dreams of finding a girlfriend…

Across the street resides the ethereal, artistic Kerry, who is seriously ill with Crohn’s disease. Dinnie wants to court the lovely spirited Kerry, but is too cloddish to go about it without fairy intervention. Morag and Heather fiddle and play, and amidst the musical and magical mayhem, Dinnie and Kerry are drawn inevitably together.

The hilarious plot machinations lead eventually to a showdown between New York’s fairy clans. As the conflict escalates, Kerry’s condition deteriorates, Dinnie nearly destroys his chances with her, and things are looking grim.

But wait! Fortunately for everyone, a bit of fairy magic, a little music, and a wee drop of whiskey can set many things aright. Millar’s book left me wishing for a sequel, and thinking that just maybe there’s something to be learned from the good fairies.

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Freedom by Jonathan Franzen 
submitted by Debbe

Recently I returned from a road trip to Boston, Hartford and other New England destinations. I toured homes owned by Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Cornelius Vanderbilt II, Paul Revere and John and Abigail Adams and their descendents. I visited the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum and the 1st presidential library set up to honor our 6th president, John Quincy Adams. I also spent time on The Freedom Trail, touring Colonial Revolutionary Boston.

The destinations were a constant reminder of the truths our early forefathers and mothers “held self evident.” When I mixed them with authors like Twain and Stowe, who challenged the lack of freedom caused by slavery and its aftermath, I again was reminded how important the freedoms set forth by the First Amendment have been to the development of these United States.

When on a road trip I always take along an audio book or two to pass the hours on the Interstate highways. It was not consciously on my mind that Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, by its title alone, would be a perfect choice. I chose it because the New York Times labeled it “a masterpiece”, the Washington Post called it the “brilliant, maddening novel” and Oprah chose it for her book club. All of that meant that people would be talking about this book at the library, and my opinion is talk they should. Albeit lengthy it is a fascinating depiction of life in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. It’s theme of personal freedom, and how the choices we make can lead us to embrace or relinquish that freedom is well worth discussing. I’m going to add my name to the list of those who are highly recommending this book. However it is your right to read or not to read and that is a freedom you should cherish.

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The Stuff of Legend, Book 1: The Dark by Mike Raicht  
submitted by Kerry

Brooklyn, 1944. The Boogeyman has taken a boy to his realm of the Dark. To save the boy his toys come together to plan a rescue mission and travel to the Dark to find him. Led by the Colonel, a toy soldier, Maxwell the teddy bear, Percy the piggy bank, Quackers the wooden duck and a few others venture into the closet along with the boy’s puppy to face unknown danger and do battle with his bitter forgotten toys.

This Graphic Novel is far from the typical realm of super heroes. It is an emotional journey not only for the characters, but for the reader as well. The toys have wonderfully developed personalities that really come to life when they enter the closet and the domain of the Boogeyman. They actually come to life and it reminded me a little of Toy Story. The characters are faced with many choices including loyalty to the boy and each other. Although the story is well written and thoroughly enjoyable it is the artwork that will draw you in and hold your attention. It is the most beautiful art for this format of storytelling that I have seen in a long time. Highly detailed pencil drawings and sepia tones give it a timeless feel and the pages look like they are in an old scrap book bring an emotional intensity that bright colours or black and white images would not have been able to convey.

There is no resolution as the story is to continue and the mystery as to why the Boogeyman took the boy in the first place deepens. However, if you are looking for something a little different I highly recommend this dark tale of loyalty, perseverance, camaraderie and redemption

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Magical Realism 
submitted by Rob

“It was as if God had decided to put to the test every capacity for surprise and was keeping the inhabitants of Macondo in a permanent alternation between excitement and disappointment, doubt and revelation, to such an extreme that no one knew for certain where the limits of reality lay. It was an intricate stew of truths and mirages that convulsed the ghost of José Arcadio Buendía with impatience and made him wander all through the house even in broad daylight.”
-One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Magical realism or magic realism – a phrase that brings to my mind a selection of hallowed authors of various backgrounds, cultures, and nationalities, all united by this unique style that has resulted in works of literature so stunning and captivating that I feel confident in saying that the works of these writers will be read well into the distant future. Formally, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms defines magical realism as “a kind of modern fiction in which fabulous and fantastical events are included in a narrative that otherwise maintains the ‘reliable’ tone of objective realistic report.”

So, what does this mean to the reader? Narrative nirvana. Quite simply, the writing literally comes to life through the ability of these authors to craft tales filled with such mystical metaphor, bewitching characters, and labyrinthine plots, whose courses weave in, out, around, and through individuals, both dead and living, societies, and entire civilizations, that the boundary between what is and what is not possible becomes blurred and the reader simply comes to accept the story that is unfolding without question, as though navigating a river in a boat with no compass or oar, giving oneself over completely to the story – an incredible experience to be sure, the ultimate reading experience.

Although this genre came to be associated primarily with authors from South America, Gabriel Garcia Marquez of Columbia being the most famous and well-known, magical realism is not limited by geography – authors such as Salman Rushdie of India/Pakistan and Guenter Grass of Germany have also dazzled the reader with their superb novels, novels that, in all reality, hearken back to those times before the printed word, when storytelling and oral history dominated societies as the primary means to convey history, whether familial, tribal, or otherwise, and not precise history, not at all – historical narrative sprinkled with the sort of magic and myth that makes these stories endure through the ages.
“I was born in the city of Bombay…once upon a time. No that won’t do, there’s no getting away from the date: I was born in Doctor Narlikar’s Nursing Home on August 15th, 1947. The time matters, too. Well then: at night. No, it’s important to be more…On the stroke of midnight, as a matter of fact. Clock-hands joined palms in respectful greeting as I came. Oh, spell it out, spell it out: at the precise instance of India’s arrival at independence, I tumbled forth into the world.”
-Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie

The following journal articles, available through library databases, provide in-depth backgrounds to magical realism:

Corso, P. (2007). Does your fiction need to be stretched?: Five authors describe the magic of magical realism in expressing emotional truths. Writer, 120(10), 19-23. Retrieved from MasterFILE Premier database.

De La Campa, R. (1999). Magical realism and world literature: a genre for the times? Revista Canadiense de Estudios Hispanicos, 23(2), 205-219. Retrieved from JSTOR database.

Ireland, K. R. (1990). Doing very dangerous things: Die Blechtrommel and Midnight’s Children. Comparative Literature, 42(4), 335-361. Retrieved from JSTOR database.

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