October 14, 2011

October 2011

We had the pleasure of hearing Carl and Mary McDaniel read excerpts from their book Trail Magic and give a presentation on the construction of their self-sufficient, climate-neutral house.  They were out to prove that it’s possible to build one for the same cost as a traditionally-built house.  It’s been three years since they’ve moved in, and they’re still in love with it.  Many thanks to them for sharing their journey with us and taking us along for the ride.

Photos of the house construction can be found here.

And here’s what we’ve been reading:

Courage and Consequence – Karl Rove
Catcher Caught – Sarah Collins Honenberger
Home – Marilynne Robinson
Cleo – Helen Brown
Just Wanna Testify – Pearl Cleage (warning:  vampires)
A Small Hotel – Rober Olen Butler
The Living Great Lakes – Jerry Dennis
A Cup of Friendship – Deborah Rodriquez
Farishta – Patricia McArdle
The Sixth Man – David Baldacci
Sociobiology – Edward O. Wilson
Anthill – Edward O. Wilson
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot
The Unincorporated Woman – Dani & Eytan Kollin
Books by Tom Perrotta
The Leftovers – Tom Perrotta
Revolution World – Katy Stauber
Trail Magic – Carl McDaniel
Cosmic Trigger – Robert Anton Wilson
Reamde – Neal Stephenson
Take this Bread – Sara Miles
Night Road – Kristin Hanna
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer  (has anyone read this?)
The Avengers trailer is out.  Cleveland is NYC and NASA Plum Brook is the dark “star chamber”.  
The Greater Journey:  Americans in Paris – David McCollough

From Mary Lou in Maryland:

Ken Follett, Hornet Flight (2002).  This World War II espionage novel features three young Danish men from the island of Sande.  The plot is suspenseful and the characters are very well drawn.  Peter Flemming is a detective in the Danish Security Police who is eager to impress the occupying Nazis.  He detests the Olufsen family.  Arne Olufsen is an officer in the Danish Army Air Corp, engaged to Hermia, the daughter of the English Ambassador.  Her family was evacuated when the Nazis invaded and now, in Spring 1941, she is working for MI-6.  Before leaving Denmark she set up a small Resistance unit.  Some members of the unit are killed or captured by Peter and Hermia is assigned to return to Denmark to rejuvenate the unit and guide them in completing the mission of the captured agents.  She recruits Arne to the cause and he involves his younger brother, 18-year-old Harald to obtain information about the secret radar instruments on the German base on Sande.  Harald in turn obtains the assistance of Karen, sister of his Jewish classmate.  The Hornet Moth is a light aircraft that offers the only means for Harald and Karen to escape Peter and the Nazis, if only Harald’s mechanical abilities and ingenuity can restore it to flying order.  The conflict is between the amateurs in the Resistance and the professionals of the Danish Security Police and Nazi military.  There’s enough suspense in this one to keep you reading all night.

David Baldacci, One Summer (2011).  This is nothing like Baldacci’s macho Oliver Stone novels of DC political intrigue.  There’s more than the South Carolina coastal setting to remind the reader of a Pat Conroy novel.   The story concerns family relationships and the development of self-awareness.   Jack Armstrong, winner of two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star in Afghanistan, is quickly losing his battle against a rare disease when his wife is killed in an auto accident.  Her parents distribute his three children among relatives around the country and place him in a nursing home.  Strangely, he does not die and eventually he is released.  With the help of his former business partner, he begins the process of reclaiming his life and his family.  Nothing is working out until they journey together to South Carolina for the funeral of his wife’s aunt.  He discovers that Aunt Cecelia has willed him her oceanfront cottage, his wife’s childhood home.  He decides to move his family there and undertake its restoration.  Nothing is easy, but eventually the family is restored to harmony as well. 

Jane Smiley, The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton (1998).  Lydia Harkness is a 20-year-old orphan in Quincy, Illinois when she meets and marries Bostonian Thomas Newton.  With him she journeys to Kansas Territory to join a Massachusetts abolitionist settlement group.  Lacking in housewifely skills and deemed useless by the women of Quincy, Lidie’s tomboy riding and hunting skills have prepared her better than her husband for the rough homesteading life.  Kansas Territory in the 1850s is a scene of great political animosity and violence between abolitionist and slavery factions.  Violent gangs of pro-slavery Missourians roam the territory, killing abolitionist settlers and destroying their homesteads.  Thomas is a natural leader and the Newtons are reluctantly drawn into the conflict.  Despite the violence, this tale told by Lidie is often humorous.  Lidie confronts her adventures with great creativity and integrity and narrates them delightfully in her own sage and untutored voice. 

Lorna Landvik, Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons (2003).  After bonding in a midnight snowball fight, the housewives of Freesia Court, Minneapolis, form a book club that nourishes their souls and friendship over 30 years.  When one of the husbands describes the club’s monthly meetings as “angry housewives eating bonbons,” they adopt it as the title of their club.  The women are Faith Owens, a southern belle married to an airline pilot; plump, lascivious Audrey Forrest married to a lawyer, gorgeous minister’s daughter Merit Iverson married to a doctor, tiny feminist activist dynamo Marjorie “Slip” McMahon married to a U of MN meteorology professor, and Kari Nelson, a North Dakotan of Norwegian ancestry, gifted seamstress and a widow of 5 years.  The households provide a cross-section of middleclass middle America in the last decades of the 20th century.  Beginning in 1968, each chapter is narrated by a different woman, the hostess of the month’s meeting and selector of the book for discussion.  Gradually they reveal their identities to one another along with the reasons for their selections.  They grow closer over the years as they share challenges of child rearing and husband roaming.  Eventually they also share their most closely guarded secrets and find liberation from shame and fulfillment of aspirations in the process.  This is a funny and uplifting book.

Our sister group in Oklahoma discussed:

Term “fog of war:
Ascribed to Carl von Clausewitz (Wikipedia)
Nice explanation in materials to be used with the PBS program “The War of 1812: (due to technical difficulties link will be available later)
Edit. note:  Here's info on the PBS program The War of 1812.

Cleopatra: a Life by Stacy Schiff
Saint-Exupery: a Biography, Vera, and A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France
      and the Birth of a Nation  by Stacy Schiff
Imperium and Fatherland by Robert Harris
Finding Moon by Tony Hillerman
A Matter of Black and White: The Autobiography of Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher
The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
The Wedding by Dorothy West
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
In the Garden of the Beasts by Erik Larsson
Hazel and Elizabeth: Two Women of Little Rock by David Margolick
Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
New Yorker Sept. 12, 2011. Issue devoted to 9/11

Scherrey’s memoir research:
Discussion of Rabbi Sanders of Little Rock and a Seder dinner he did with an Arkansas Roman Catholic seminary in the early 1960s. Also Rabbi Sanders religious debate with Clarence Darrow.

Discussion of forgiveness based on readings and a two-weekend seminar at Cameron

Television – PBS
War of 1812


The Wizard of Oz
Music Box (1989 w Jessica Lang)
Sarah’s Key (2010 French and English)
General discussion of scary movies including:
Night of the Living Dead
They (2002)
The Thing (1951 w James Arness; 1982 John Carpenter; 2011)

Dwight in Florida says:
Don't giggle, but I just finished reading Charlotte's Web by E. B. White.  I thought it wise to read it before I began "The Story of Charlotte's Web" by Michael Sims.  Absolutely wonderful read.  Write about what you know...

Our next meeting November 9 will be at my place.  Erika Marks will be phoning in to talk about her book Little Gale Gumbo.

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