January 14, 2011

August 2010

Books make a difference and our group is doing its best to spread the word.  Our photos were uploaded to Penguin's site Picture a Book Changing Lives.  Every photo of a person reading or holding one of Khaled Hosseini's books will bring a $2 donation to his charity dedicated to providing humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.  More of us will be uploaded later - we have until December 1.  Visit our group page at http://community.penguin.com/service/displayKickPlace.kickAction?u=25309386&as=150186&b=

Now on with the show!

The Touch - Colleen McCollough
My Father Frank Lloyd Wright - John Lloyd Wright
Little Chapel on the River - Gwendolyn Bounds
T is for Trespass - Sue Grafton
'Tis - Frank McCourt
Angela's Ashes - Frank McCourt
Wall St. Journal
Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest - Stieg Larsson
Happiness Key - Emilie Richards
Sizzling Sixteen - Janet Evanovich
You Never Give Me Your Money - Peter Doggett
What They Didn't Teach You About WWII - Mike Wright
Jesus - Paul Johnson
Historical Figure of Jesus - E.P. Sanders
History of Christianity - Paul Johnson
World History Timeline
The Human Spark PBS series
Unbound - Dean King
Lives Like Loaded Guns Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds - Lyndall Gordon
Shouldn't we be discussing erotic beach reads?????  Come on - fess up!
Wild Nights! - Emily Dickinson
The Belle of Amherst - one woman play by William Luce
I'm nobody!  Who are you?  Are you nobody too?
Alexandria Link - Steve Berry
The Bible Came From Arabia - Kamal Salibi
Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini
We Die Alone WWII Epic of Escape and Endurance - David Howarth
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer

From Mary Lou:

Howard Norman, The Bird Artist (1994).  Like The Museum Guard, the novel begins with the narrator introducing himself as a murderer.  The victim is his mother’s lover, the local lighthouse keeper.  Fabian Vas is a gentle and talented artist who, from boyhood, is obsessed with the drawing and painting the birds of his native Newfoundland.  The setting is a small fishing and shipbuilding town called Witless Bay and Fabian is as naïve as the town’s name suggests.  While he is inept and impressionable, he is more charming than Norman’s other protagonists.   The village is isolated and the time period is the early 1900s.  The strictures and hardships of such a solitary existence drive the plot more than individual motives or decisions of the characters.  The novel has something of the atmosphere of Camus’s The Stranger.

Evelyn Hood, Voices from the Sea (2006).  This historical romance is set in the 1860s on the North Sea coast of Scotland.  Eppie and Marion McNaught are the daughters of school teachers.  Marion continues the family tradition, but Eppie falls in love with a fisherman and marries him.  When she is left a widow, she sends her daughter to be raised by her parents and sister and supports herself packing fish and selling them from door to door.  Soon, however, she is hired as housekeeper to the village’s wealthy widower.  Eventually her sister comes to serve as governess to his daughter.  Family feuds and romances ensue.  This is light reading but time and place are well researched and skillfully presented.

Alan Furst, The Polish Officer (1995).  This is a compelling novel that will be all the more fascinating to readers with a strong interest in World War II in Europe.  Captain Alexander de Milja is recruited into the Polish underground intelligence service as Warsaw falls to Hitler in 1939.  His varied and seemingly hopeless missions in the next few years take him to Bucharest, the Ukraine, Paris, Stockholm and Calais.  He barely escapes with his life many times.  He must change his identity as he moves from one assignment to the next, plaguing the Wehrmacht and the Gestapo at every opportunity despite desperate circumstances. As unlikely as the story seems, the novel rings true.  We are accustomed to viewing World War II from a British or American perspective.  Furst here provides us with a fresh look at anti-Nazi espionage and its contributions to Hitler’s defeat.  This is a fine book, equal to Le Carre’s spy novels. 

Nicole R. Dickson, Casting Off (2009).  This beautifully written novel tells the story of Rebecca, a cultural anthropologist who journeys to the home island of her college roommate, off the west coast of Ireland, to study the culture through the medium of their sweaters.  Each family has its own favored stitches and patterns for its sweaters, or ganseys, as they are called, and each gansey is individually designed to reflect the personality and life history of the family member for whom it is knit.  While the wise old women of the island require Rebecca to learn to spin and knit as a foundation for understanding the ganseys and the family histories they tell, the novel also gradually reveals the events that have left Rebecca scarred and fearful.  At the beginning of each chapter is a definition of a particular knitting stitch or technique, often linked metaphorically to the events of the chapter.  The title is a metaphor for the resolutions reached by Rebecca and other major characters in the course of the novel.  This novel will delight readers with its unusual manner of revealing and developing the characters.    If you knit, you must read this book. 

Simon Winchester, The Professor and the Madman:  A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary (1998).   This is a fictionalized account of the role of two real individuals in the development of the OED.  It is extremely well researched and relates in exacting detail the efforts and techniques involved in this mammoth project that began in 1857 and finally was completed in 1927.  The Professor is James Murray, the “Editor-in-Chief” who successfully managed the compilation and serial publication of the dictionary for over 30 years.  The Madman is Dr. W.C. Minor, a Yale-trained physician and an American Civil War Veteran who murders a man in London and is committed to the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. Dr. Minor came across one of Murray’s appeals for volunteer contributors to the dictionary and as a result he contributed some 12,000 quotations over the years.  Each chapter begins with a quotation from the OED, complete with pronunciation, derivation, definition, and quotations, beginning with murder and ending with acknowledgment.  While the novel tells the life stories of the two men of the title, it is every bit as much the fascinating story of the development of the OED.

Bernard Shaw, John Bull’s Other Island (1907; definitive revised text, 1941).  Since we were seeing this at the Shaw Festival this year at Niagara-on-the-Lake, I decided to reread the play (and the considerably longer set of prefaces).  The “Preface for Politicians” (1906) analyzes the Irish Protestant-Catholic dynamic as well as Irish-English relations.  It also illustrates the disastrous consequences when Britannia presumes to rule “for its own good” another culture which she does not understand.  In the “Preface to the Home Rule Edition of 1912” GBS acknowledges that events have shattered many of the assumptions on which the original preface was based. “Twentyfour Years Later” (1929) discusses the unexpected (and disastrous) division of Ireland on religious grounds.  The Prefaces provide context for the characters and actions of the play, which exist in a milieu firmly displaced by historic events.  Nevertheless, the play is timeless in its humorous and incisive portrayal of the error and confusion that result when a magnate of a “superior” culture seeks to impose his ways on a people he profoundly and (this is GBS, after all) hilariously misunderstands.  I’m glad I reread the prefaces and play before we saw the play.  This preparation particularly enhanced my appreciation of the major characters:  obliviously, wrong-headedly superior John Bull Englishman Broadbent, come to “improve” and develop the Irish town of Roscullen, and the poetic visionary Irish priest-turned-deist, Peter Keegan. This is a delightful play and of course The Shaw Festival staged an excellent production.

From Dwight:

my fondness for small, little volumes helped me spot MEMORY, a novel, by Philippe Grimbert, originally published in France under the title, SILENCE (made into a DVD under that name). Powerful, gripping.

THE MASTER by Colm Toibin, author of BROOKLYN (a novel biography of Henry James, not William!)

Of course I just had to find something by Edith Wharton (at one time she was the IT girl for me) and I did: HOUSE OF MIRTH, timeless...

Currently scribbling graffiti having to do with the onslaught of bedbugs.

From our sister book group in OK:

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly (a continuation from last month)
My Garden Book by Jamaica Kincaid (we seem to be making our way through her works)
In Search of Lost Roses: Through Ghost Towns, Graveyards, Wildernesses - Even Other People's Backyards - An Intrepid Gardener Joins the Quest for the Great Old Roses of the Past by Thomas Christopher. (This is the book that inspired Susanna to travel to Tombstone to see the Lady Banks which was planted in the 1880s and covers over 10,000 square feet.)
Dancing to the Precipice: The Life of Lucie de la Tour du Pire, Eyewitness to an Era by Caroline Moorehead (French Revolution to the United States)
My Own Country: A Doctor's Story and Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese 
War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk  (following up on "Winds of War.")
New York: The Novel by Edward Rutherford (to read. by the author of "Sarum")
Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life by Amy Tan
Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd
Electric Acid Kool Aid Test by Tom Wolfe
When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
National Geographic Channel: Last Sunday: "And Man Created Dog" and "Lost Gold of the Dark Ages. This coming Sunday there will be a tour of the Universe.
Mad Men
Inception, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Winter's Bone, The Kids are OK, Despicable Me, Salt, and Kill Bill
Jane's trip in July to Spain for John's neice's wedding. The marriage was the same night as the Spain vs Paraguay soccer game, so a TV was set up at the reception. And the partying went on and everyone was happy - for not only was the couple happy, but Spain won!
Email from Cynthia:

I’ll be late and possibly absent due to a school reception I’m scheduled to attend with my son.
For the record, I’ve read Night Fires by George Stanley and Cricket, A Little Girl of the Old West by Forrestine Cooper Hooker.  Both are of interest to me because their settings are of the local area (Lawton/Fort Sill).  Since our last meeting I’ve collected a number of Mrs. Hooker’s books.  That was an adventure!   After seeing Inception at the theater, watched Freud, (a BBC DVD) starring David Suchet (Poirot).  This set in motion a hankering to review some of Joseph Campbell’s books.  
Hope to arrive before meeting’s end.

please look at http://littlechapelontheriver.blogspot.com There are photos of the Cleveland group. And www.popularplates.com - it is all BBQ and we are becoming saturated - noticed a new one where Gandolpho's used to be near Lowe's. 

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