January 14, 2011

October 2010

A small party of the book club saw Jeannette Walls the night before, and she was practically with us at the meeting.  We all came away from it with different takes, but I was impressed with how warm and funny she is.  She could have been bitter and angry, right?  Her choice to move on and succeed is a lesson for all of us.  She signed my book, Life is an Adventure!  

Now on with the show:

Water Stone Heart - Will North
Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk - David Sedaris
Three Men in a Boat - Jerome K. Jerome
Travels in Siberia - Ian Frazier
Countdown to Valkyrie - Nigel Jones
The Earth Will Shake - Robert Anton Wilson
Kecksies and other Twilight Tales - Marjorie Bowen
Visit Project Gutenberg at www.gutenberg.org and turn your cellphone into an e-reader!  Tom made us swoon by showing us Pride and Prejudice on his.
Fortunate Harbor - Emily Richards
Prodigal Summer - Barbara Kingsolver
Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver
The Fiddler in the Subway - Gene Weingarten
The Island - Elin Hilderbrand
Maybe This Time - Jennifer Crusie
Sara's Key - Tatiana de Rosnay
The Last Child - John Hart - good suspense thriller if you're looking for one!
What If? - Robert Crowley
Then Karen joined us and was also reading The Fiddler in the Subway.  A coincidence?  I think so!
The Help - Kathryn Stockett
Simply from Scratch - Alicia Bessette
The History of Christianity - Paul Johnson
The Red Tent - Anita Diamant
The Glass Castle - Jeannette Walls
Corduroy Mansions - Alexander McCall Smith
Baking Cakes in Kigali - Gaile Parkin
Death of American Virtue - Ken Gormley

Pam and Barb couldn't join us but  - another coincidence - they are both reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series.  Pam reports that reading them while the Wallender series was on PBS has given her the itch to go to Sweden.  Count me in.

For the best in new fiction visit www.thenewcanon.com.  (The New Canon - Ted Gioia reviews books)

Read Tom's blogs!  
Robert Anton Wilson:
Modern classical music:

Jane Austen had a great editor:  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130838304    See for yourself.  Her manuscripts are now in a digital archive.

From our sister group in OK: 

Lawton Book Bunch
October 14, 2010
Just four again. May need to expand. But we did spend almost two hours talking – even as we ate.
The Alchemy of Air: A Jewish Genius, a Doomed Tycoon and the Scientific Discovery that Fed the World but Fueled the Rise of Hitler by Thomas Hager. Think this is the book Cynthia was trying to think of for the title. Was reviewed on C Span.
Tipping Point and What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell. This led to a discussion of Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics.
Cesar Milan and intuition. And what does the dog see and understand?
Cynthia talked about the Ferris Street Project that would be on Ferris Street from 11th to Sheridan. It would include an art walk. Sounds like a terrific idea. My interpretation is that it would be more community oriented than 2nd – including shops, housing, etc.
Still Alice by Lisa Genova. The author holds a PhD. in neuroscience and works for the National Alzheimer’s Assoc. The novel is a first person account of early onset Alzheimer’s. Interesting, informative, and sad.
Separate from the World: An Ohio Amish Mystery by P.L. Gaus. The background is a place very much like Wooster, Ohio with a college named Millersburg College. There is a bell tower, and oak grove, etc. Good mystery which will lead to further reading.
Beowulf and The Wreck of the Zanzibar by Michael Morpurgo This version of Beowulf is very good if you want to skip Middle English and read a narrative. Plus the art work is lovely. Morpurgo is a YA author with many books in his bibliography. His War Horse is currently running at the National Theatre in London. In August 2011 the Spielberg movie will be on screen.
Electric Kool-Aide Acid Test by Thomas Wolfe.
Stones into Schools by Greg Mortenson, the author of Three Cups of Tea.
Suttree by Cormac McCarthy. Janie is reading some McCarthy and says she can handle the violence because she admires his writing.
Molly Ivans. A discussion of her writing and whether a reporter/journalist should be partial or impartial – the difference in roles between a reporter and a columnist. And also discussion of where we (people in our group) get their news.
Tess Gerritsen’s books and writing.
Ezra Jack Keats’ picture books.
War Horse clips: http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/warhorse
 No matter what you think of Jonathan Franzen, if you think about him at all, there are some interesting short observations/statements in this review.

From Mary Lou:

Charles Frazier, Thirteen Moons (2006).  Although fictional in both characters and setting, this novel nevertheless travels against a familiar historical background.  Historical persons and events include President Andrew Jackson, Davy Crockett and John C. Calhoun; the Cherokee Nation, the Trail of Tears, and the Civil War.  The fictional setting is somewhere in the Carolinas on the western slopes of the Appalachians. The major character is Will Cooper, a clever, literate orphan who at the age of twelve is sent to journey westward alone through the wilderness to the Cherokee Nation, where he is indentured at a trading post.  There he is befriended by Bear, a Cherokee chief who favors the old culture in which the men hunt and the women farm.  Will also meets and falls in love with Clare who is eventually taken west along the Trail of Tears by her father or guardian, the wealthy Featherstone.  The events of Will’s life are presented in the form of memories and reflections back over a period of more than 70 years, spent largely in struggling against the tide of history.  Of equal importance to these events are Will’s thoughts on the nature of “truth” and the texture and meaning of individual life as determined by one’s choices.  The title refers to the divisions of the Cherokee calendar, including Planting Moon, Green Corn Moon, and Hunting Moon.  These are some of the chapter headings and they also are emblematic of the stages in Will’s own life. 

David Baldacci, Wish You Well (2000).  This is another novel set in a remote area of the Appalachians.  Twelve-year-old Lou, her younger brother Oz, and their comatose mother go to live with their great-grandmother in a frontier cabin in southwestern Virginia.  Although the story takes place in the 1940s, the farmhouse has no electricity, running water, or heating and the farming is powered by mules. Great grandmother Louisa Mae is highly respected in her mountain community, where she has lived alone for many years and tended the farm with only the assistance of a young orphaned black man.  There’s an element of mystery, with Lou and Oz’s mother’s condition and the well in the woods where young Oz goes to wish her recovery.  Conflict is represented by the greed and exploitations of the local coal company and the courtroom denouement is reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird. 

Howard Norman, The Haunting of L ( 2002).  Norman writes strange novels.  The story of Peter Duvett begins in Halifax, Nova Scotia and soon shifts to Churchill, Manitoba, where Peter accepts a job as assistant to a photographer, Vienna Linn.  He is fascinated by the photographer’s wife Kala, who lectures on “spirit pictures” that allegedly present the ghostly image of a dear (or feared) departed behind the subject of the portrait.  Peter and Kala develop a sexual relationship.  Vienna attempts to murder his wife in a plane crash while he attempts to capture the spirits of the victims on film.  Peter gradually comes to understand the depth of Vienna’s evil.  This is a chilling, grotesque tale.   

Lisa See, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2005).  Set in a remote area of China in the nineteenth century, this novel is presented as the autobiography of one Lily.  As she approaches the age for foot binding, she is paired with another girl as a friend for life, an “old same” named Snow Flower.  They exchange poetic messages on a fan in the secret language of women.  We learn (more than we ever wanted to know) of the tortuous and sometimes fatal custom of foot binding, as well as the ceremonies of match-making, betrothal, marriage, motherhood, midwifery, funerals, widowhood, and the unfortunate role of women in this culture.  Lily narrates her story clearly and without self-pity.

Gwendolyn Bounds, Little Chapel on the River (2005).   Thanks to Omni Book Club for introducing me to this fascinating book.  The author and her partner are rendered homeless when the nearby Twin Towers collapse on 9/11. Offered a short-term lease, they make their way to the small Hudson River town of Garrison.  The Little Chapel of the title is Guinan’s, the local pub, general store, and commuter train stop.  All the locals gather here and from time to time help keep the pub going.  Eventually the author herself takes her turns behind the bar and becomes inescapably involved in the lives of the proprietors and regulars. She finds it impossible to return to Manhattan when the time comes, and instead purchases a house in the town and writes the story of Guinan’s, the regulars, and the town.  It is a fine exploration of the nature of community.

James Lee Burke, Bitterroot (2001).  In this continuation of Burke’s series featuring defense attorney and Billy Bob Holland of Deaf Smith, Texas. Holland has journeyed to the Bitterroot Valley of Montana, where a friend has requested the assistance of this former Texas Ranger.   A parolee has targeted both Billy Bob and his friend for vengeance.  As always, Burke’s descriptions of the Big Sky setting are lyrical and compelling. 

James Lee Burke, The Moon of the Red Ponies (2004).  This is another novel featuring Billy Bob Holland, who has married and relocated to Missoula, where he has opened a law practice.  He is representing Johnny American Horse, a Native American environmental activist accused of murder (wrongfully, of course). 

Clive Cussler, Pacific Vortex (1982).  Fans of Cussler’s oceanographic novels of adventure and intrigue will enjoy this is the first Dirk Pitt novel.  The plot is somewhat less complex than Cussler’s later novels but Pitt is already the familiarly shrewd, unconventional and death-defying escape artist.   

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