Saturday, November 18, 2017

Dear Great Book Guru,  We are looking at another busy weekend here in Sea Cliff with the Harry Potter 20th Anniversary celebration at the Children’s Library on Friday, November 17 from 5 to 7pm and then the Sea Cliff Civic Association’s annual Turkey Hunt ( 400 toy turkeys waiting to be found) with the promise of a visit from the Great Turkey Himself on Sunday, November 19 from 2 to 3pm at Geohegan Park- ominously aka Headless Park.  After the weekend I am looking to do some serious reading.   Any thoughts?
Fall Reader

Dear Fall Reader,  Last month at the Brooklyn Historical Society,  I heard Linda Gordon speak about her latest book: THE SECOND COMING OF THE KKK.   In the 1920’s the United States saw a revival of the Klu Klux Klan, focused largely east of the Mason Dixon line.  The original KKK of the 1870’s had intimidated  African Americans living in the South, successfully curtailing their voting rights and economic prosperity through stealth violence.   The new Klan broadened its range to include Catholics, Jews,  immigrants, and Northern “elites.”  Unlike the early Klan who attacked secretly during the night, the new Klansmen ran huge public rallies,  recruited members openly, charged dues, and owned over 200 newspapers and even a motion picture company.  Public officials including many Congressmen, a Supreme Court Justice, and  a President were  members.  The new Klan’s attraction seemed to lie in its ability to offer an “us against them” level of comfort to a large part of the population.  Prejudices were already in place, and the Klan was ready and eager to exploit them.   A startling read and highly recommended!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Dear Great Book Guru, We have a three day weekend coming up with the children off from school. First, we will attend the Veterans’ Memorial Service at Clifton Park on Friday at 11am and then it’s off to the city. With train time and a weekend without chores, I would love to read a good novel- something thought-provoking and literary.  
Reader of Novels in November

Dear Reader of Novels… Jon McGregor’s latest book RESERVOIR 13 has been nominated for the prestigious Man Booker award and would be a good choice for your upcoming weekend.  Rebecca Shaw disappears while on vacation with her parents in a small village in England’s Lake district- a place  they have visited many times before.  The novel is divided into thirteen chapters each covering a year following her disappearance. We meet the villagers as they live their lives – marrying, being born, separating, starting businesses, graduating from school- all impacted but  not consumed by the girl’s plight. Reminiscent of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” or James Joyce’s “The Dubliners,” the novel is an homage to the  magnificence of our petty concerns- those wondrous  distractions that move  our lives from day to day.   In the end, we know little about the fate of Rebecca but we have learned much about ourselves.  A beautifully written book and highly recommended!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Dear Great Book Guru, This weekend I am going to be hosting my very first Progressive Dinner.  Every year the Sea Cliff Civic Association sponsors this iconic event at which almost 200 residents get to share appetizers, dinners, and dessert at each other’s homes.  I have my menu in place, my table set, and flowers arranged- but what will we talk about?  I was thinking I would bring up a new book that might spark some lively conversation.  Any suggestions?  Progressive Dinner Diner and Host

Dear PDDH,  Great idea and I have just the book for you:  THE ROOSTER BAR by John Grisham.  This is the latest legal thriller from the  ever prolific Grisham and his focus this time is the scam behind for-profit law schools that lure  students with the promise of high paying jobs while hiding   the  reality of staggering tuition debt     Mark, Todd, Gordy, and Zola are in their final semester at Foggy Bottom Law School with no prospects for employment and student loans close to $200,000 each.  After meticulous, manic research, Gordy discovers their school is one of a chain that is run by a corrupt hedge fund operator mired in numerous banking and investment scandals.  When Gordy dies, the friends decide to start their own law firm… without law degrees.  Things go well until things go very badly and only Grisham can make it all come together so seamlessly.  A great tale of greed, friendship, and redemption- highly recommended! 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Dear Great Book Guru,  Sea Cliff is ablaze with Halloween fever- so many beautifully, ghoulishly decorated homes, so many fun events!  One of my favorites is the Cider Social this Sunday, October 29 from 3 to 4pm at Central Park near the old Harbor Day Care building. Heidi Hunt and her amazing high school assistants provide crafts, music, and refreshments for the many costumed Villagers who attend.  Afterwards, I would love to have a great book to read  – preferably something short and current.   
A Cider Socialite
Dear Cider Socialite,  One of my favorite authors Alice McDermott just came out with a new book: THE NINTH HOUR.  The story opens with a young Irish immigrant turning on the gas jets in his Brooklyn tenement apartment, leaving a pregnant wife to grieve for him and whatever their future might have held.  Their grandchildren narrate the story of this ill-fated couple- going back in time to Civil War Brooklyn where we meet Red Whelan who for $350 took their great-grandfather’s place in the Union Army. He remains a vivid part of the family’s history a century after his death.  But the most vivid players in the family narrative are the Little Nursing Sisters of Sick Poor who took Annie the widow and her baby Sally on as their cause, providing them with material and spiritual care.  There is nothing saccharine about these women with each of them willing to sacrifice everything- even eternity- for the present good.  This is a dark but very rich tale and highly recommended.

And a very happy birthday to a great fan of great books….Dan DiPietro! 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Dear Great Book Guru,  I am looking forward to the Scarecrow Gathering at the Children’s Library in Sea Cliff this Sunday, October 22 from 1 to 3pm.   Everyone is encouraged to bring a favorite scarecrow to the library’s front lawn and Mutual Concerns will have a basket for canned goods donations.  It sounds like a great autumnal afternoon and afterwards I would love an interesting book to read.  
Ardent Fan of Scarecrows

Dear Ardent Fan of Scarecrows,  I read a troubling book last week: HISTORY OF WOLVES  by Emily Fridlund.  Madeline- known as Linda by everyone other than her parents- is the sole remaining child from a disbanded commune.  She lives in a remote, decaying homestead in northern Minnesota.  Life is hard for everyone but particularly for Madeline.  Miles from her nearest neighbors and ostracized at school by her classmates, she finds her life suddenly transformed the year she turns fourteen.  A new teacher with a troubled past arrives and encourages her interest in the study of wolves  At the same time, a family moves in across the lake from her home and she is drawn to the young mother and son. She becomes the child’s babysitter or as the mother calls her “the governess.” Immediately, the reader senses something is terribly wrong but Madeline overlooks much either out of fear or adolescent narcissism.  When we meet Madeline as a grown woman in her thirties, we see how this one year so changed  her life and we are left to question – just as with wolves- when does the prey become predator? Recommended!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Dear Great Book Guru,  We have a very busy weekend ahead here in Sea Cliff- first on Saturday there is the Silly Shakespeare’s production of “A Winter’s Fail” directed by Elizabeth Sehring in an open air setting.  On Sunday we will have “Starry Starry Night” an astronomic delight with music provided by The Milky Ways (aka  Heidi Hunt and  Joe Hughes), stellar sweets, and a chance to view the night sky with telescopes and instruction provided by a local group of enthusiasts: the Amateur Observers Society. Petrice Kaider of Sunset Serenade fame is the organizer. With so much going on, I am  looking for an enthralling but quick read.  Thoughts?   
Wishing on a Star

Dear Wishing on a Star, I just finished a fast  moving, relatively short book: LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE by Celeste Ng. The story opens with a fire that destroys a beautiful home in the affluent community of Shaker Heights, Ohio in the late “90’s.  The Richardsons – parents and four teenage children – and their tenants the Warrens – Mia and her daughter Pearl- are the main characters and we soon see how all are connected  as the story shifts from present to past. What makes a good parent is a question that underlies much of the storyline as Elena Richardson and Mia Warren vie for their daughters’ approval.   While good intentions abound, misunderstandings and missed cues accentuate economic, racial, and class differences.  Who or what can put out these fires?   A great choice for a book club with many issues ripe for discussion –highly recommended!  

Friday, October 6, 2017

Dear Great Book Guru, With the long Columbus Day weekend coming up, I’m planning on spending my days and nights in Sea Cliff- it’s such a beautiful time of year here and the perfect opportunity to read a good novel.  Any suggestions? 
Loving October in Sea Cliff

Dear Loving…. I just finished a fun book I’m sure you will enjoy: THE MISFORTUNE OF MARION PALM  by Emily Culliton. It’s a first novel, and the young author is skillful at capturing voice and venue. Marion Palm is a Brooklyn Heights mother who has been embezzling money from her daughters’ exclusive private school.  When the book opens, Marion has just learned the IRS is about to audit the school’s tax returns.  She packs a knapsack with $40,000 in cash, takes her children out to a local restaurant for a farewell lunch, skips out without paying, and thus begins her odyssey through the outlying neighborhoods of Brooklyn in an attempt to avoid her clueless poet- husband, a baffled detective, and an avenging school board. It’s a madcap journey with strong feminist undertones as she confronts and defies many of society’s stereotypes.  Told in very short chapters in the voices of Marion, her husband, and daughters, the novel is a compelling read and highly recommended!