January 14, 2011

December 2010

It was a cold and blustery night, but inside was warm and festive.  Big thanks go to Jane for hosting our event and for cooking up a delicious stew.  It doesn't get any better than that:  good friends, good books and great laughs.

After a few glasses of wine and carrying on like we were the Rockettes, we did manage to take care of business:

The Death of American Virtue - Ken Gormley
The Best American Essays - Christopher Hitchens
Half-Broke Horses - Jeannette Walls
The Glass Castle - Jeannette Walls
Books by Janet Evanovich
A Secret Kept - Tatiana de Rosnay
Sarah's Key - Tatiana de Rosnay
Before I Forget - Leonard Pitts, Jr.
Nobody's Perfect - Donald Westlake
Open - Andre Agassi
Beginner's Luck - Laura Pedersen
Hallam's War - Elizabeth Payne Rosen
The Steig Larsson trilogy (yes, you're going to want to hole up until you're done)
Lit - Mary Karr
The Liar's Club - Mary Karr
Father Beck on ABC network
The Path Between the Seas, Creation of the Panama Canal (research for some of our lucky members *wink wink*) - David McCullough
Nineteen Minutes - Jodi Picoult
Ceres - L. Neil Smith
Kecksies and other Twilight Tales - Marjorie Bowen
The Passage - Justin Cronin
Chasing Oliver Hazard Perry - Craig Heimbuch
Fatal Error - F. Paul Wilson
Chaos and Beyond - Robert Anton Wilson
The Experience of Insight - Joseph Goldstein
Angels Flight - Michael Connelly
You Had Me at Woof - Julie Klam
Little Chapel on the River - Wendy Bounds
The Ape House - Sara Gruen
Me - Katherine Hepburn
A Highland Christmas Hamish Macbeth mystery - M.C. Beaton

Sharman in Canada is reading Shoot the Moon by Billie Letts.  She says so far so good.

From Dwight:

In the late 60's I was doing some remarkable freelance work for Simon&Schuster, up on the 14th floor of 30 Rockefeller Center. I had my own key and worked nights and weekends typing up final drafts for all kinds of work in progress. Michael Korda was my boss and a delightful and clever man. His new work on Lawrence sounds captivating, doesn't it?

I have the 1st volume of the
AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARK TWAIN, received it only Saturday.
The current TIME has a terrific review!
Also, the talented LAURA HILLENBRAND (SEABISCUIT) has a new book, UNBROKEN about a runner of Olympic strength who winds up as a p.o.w. in a Japanese prison and survives!

He also reports he's reading the new book on Cleopatra.

From Mary Lou:

Ken Follett, A Place Called Freedom (1995).  This historical romance begins in the coal mines of the Scottish highlands in the mid-1700s.  The hero and his entire village are essentially enslaved for life to the mine owners.  He discovers that Parliament has outlawed this practice and when he informs the village, he is convicted of inciting a riot and deported to the American colonies.  The heroine, the granddaughter of a local landowner, opposed the cruel practices of the mine owners while courted by their son.  The hero and heroine find their way to the same area of southwestern Virginia as the colonists begin the agitation that leads to the American Revolution.  Like Charles Frazier’s Thirteen Moons and David Baldacci’s Wish You Well, the second half of this novel takes place in colonial Virginia and westward into the Appalachians.

Robertson Davies, The Deptford Trilogy (1983), consisting of Fifth Business (1970), The Manticore (1972), and World of Wonders (1975).  Davies is a major and respected Canadian author.  His novels are less grotesque than those of his compatriot Howard Norman, but his characters are bizarre nonetheless.  The three main characters all come from Deptford, a fictional town on the Thames River in southwest Ontario.  Fifth Business is narrated by Dunstan Ramsay, an aging and retired bachelor school teacher, reflecting back on his early life in and around Deptford.   Through his eyes, we are introduced to his wealthy and charismatic contemporary Boy Staunton and the 12-years-younger Paul Dempster, son of the local Baptist parson.   In Ramsay’s mind, the events surrounding Paul’s birth precipitate the major crises that ensue throughout the lives of the three men.  This novel ends with Boy’s mysterious death as he was just about to be named to a prestigious political post.  The Manticore is narrated by Boy Staunton’s son David, who has come to Zurich for treatment of psychological disorders reaching their peak at the death of his father.  There he meets the reinvented Paul Dempster, now the magician Magnus Eisengrim.  In World of Wonders, Ramsay, David Staunton and Paul/Magnus are united as guests at a remote Swiss estate, where they come to understand their totally different interpretations of the events of the trilogy.   These novels are no match for the passion of The Forsythe Saga, but they form an intriguing trilogy with vivid (and deluded) characters whose recollections and conversations present their distinct and separate realities.  Eventually we (and they) learn who killed Boy Staunton. 

Having read quite a bit of Canadian literature in the past year, I decided to delve into the Australian literary world.  Here’s what I’ve read so far.

Marcus Clarke, For the Term of His Natural Life (1874).   This is the classical, famous, historical novel of Australia’s early years as a penal colony.  In it we learn about life in the settlements of Port Arthur, Macquarie Harbour, and Norfolk Island.  The title character, under the alias Rufus Dawes, is transported after he is convicted of murder (wrongly, of course).  His essentially honorable character contrasts sharply with that of the vain, weak, and ambitious naval officer Maurice Frere.  Romantic interest is provided by Sylvia Vickers, introduced to us and the other characters at age of 6 on the prison ship bound for Australia, captained by her father.  Mutiny, shipwreck, betrayal, brutality of both convicts and administrators, and mysteries ensue over a period of some 20 years.  The style is annoyingly pontifical and melodramatic.  As far as I know, the history and geography are accurate.

Colleen McCullough, Morgan’s Run (2000).  This is a considerably more readable and entertaining novel of the early history of the Australian penal colony.  Richard Morgan our hero is of course innocent (he was framed!) of the crime for which he is deported.  The story begins in 1775 in the shipping town of Bristol, England.  Richard’s father owns a restaurant and bar and Richard learns the provisioning trade as well as gun smithing and rum distilling.  After his conviction he spends a year on a prison ship in the Thames while the government tries to figure out what to do with convicts not that the American Revolution has made deportation to the colonies impossible.  Then he spends another year on a slave ship in transit to the new penal colony of New South Wales in the virtually unexplored territory of Australia.  Both on the ships and in the penal settlements, Richard’s abilities as a skilled tradesman bring him favorable attention.  The unfortunate events of Richard’s life that form the plot result from unscrupulous manipulation of his innate honesty and honor.  The injustices of the English legal system and the brutality of the prisons and penal colonies are vividly presented. Eventually, after some 800 pages of trials and tribulations, Richard’s virtue triumphs. 

Colleen McCullough, The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet ( 2008).  Jane Austin fans will not enjoy this novel.  Mary is an interesting character who, released from her caregiver role by the death of her mother, astounds and outrages her family by pursuing her independence in a highly unconventional, naïve and risky manner.  The other Bennet sisters are virtually caricatures of Austin’s characters and McCullough seems to have a strong dislike for Mr. Darcy.   By the end, however, and partly as a result of Mary’s adventures, the characters attain some portion of the depth achieved by Austin. 

 From our sister group in OK:

Lawton Book Bunch
November 11, 2010

And… just four again. Kim had to cancel at the last moment.
Current readers are:
Frantzie Couch is a retired government contractor from AST.
Susanna Fennema is a retired librarian.
Janie Lytle is a training developer for Northrop Grumman..
Kim McConnell is the city reporter for the Lawton Constitution.
Cynthia Usher works for the Lawton Public Schools as a reading specialist.
We are going to ask Judy Neale and Connie Robertson to join us.

Cynthia talked about the Oklahoma Soulful Stories Program which brings to life the stories of the African-American experience in Oklahoma. Wallace Moore will perform as Henry O.Flipper, who was the first African-American to graduate from West Point. The program will be February 10, 2011, which will be our February meeting.

Cynthia talked about Tulsa’s Reconciliation Park and said that she had read about the dedication in the Wall Street Journal. The Tulsa World website article is at: http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=11&articleid=20101024_11_A1_ULNSui236476  or you can google for: greenwood statue unveiled in Tulsa. The end of the timeline is:
May 2010 Tower of Reconciliation was installed at the park
Oct. 27, 2010 Dedication of the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park.

Saturday, November 13, 2010 at 7:00 at McMahon Auditorium: Lawton Fort Sill Cowboy Story Hour – “Telling the Rest of the Story” with Wallace Moore, Tim Tate Nevaquaya on the flute, Debra Coppinger Hill and Kris Forsyth. Same evening at 7:30 at McCutcheon Recital Hall the Composers’ Salon  will hold its third program.

Staking a Claim: Jake Simmons & the Making of an African-American Oil Dynasty by Jonathan Greenburg.

The New Yorkers and The Three Weismans of Westport by Cathleen Schine.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

Amish Way and Amish Grace by Donald Kraybill.

Eleven Minutes and Brida by Paulo Coehlo.

My Book House (series): Little Pictures of Japan, Nursery Friends from France, and Tales Told in Holland.

The Last Station (Movie)

Sophia Tolstoy: A Biography by Alexandra Popoff.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.

Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev.

How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler.

Alchemy of Air by Thomas Hager.

Janie is off to read some fairy tales – Swedish? or Polish? or?

Further comment concerning Reconciliation Park: Rilla Askew's Fire in Beulah is an excellent novel about the Tulsa race riots.
  Frantzie then adds:
Thanks Susanna, for the thorough wrap-up.  The story in the Tulsa World on John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park was great.  How nice that he was present at the groundbreaking, before he died in 2009.
Fire in Beulah is a very powerful book.  I believe it also mentions some of the black towns.  Askew is spot-on in her descriptions of Tulsa and Greenwood, both the physical descriptions and the general atmosphere.  I was raised in Tulsa and, even though three decades or so had passed since the riot, not much had changed.  I could see in my mind's eye the oilmen's homes, and the downtown streets and buildings, and even the Greenwood neighborhood just to the north of downtown.
Thanks again.  Am so glad to be par of this group.


For a good laugh visit Reasoning with Vampires at http://reasoningwithvampires.tumblr.com/  and a grumpy literary agent's blog at http://slushpilehell.tumblr.com/

Thanks again for a wonderful time and see you next year!  


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