Monday, February 22, 2010

Dear Great Book Guru, A friend of mine, well actually a friend to most of Sea Cliff, Monique McGhee died last week. Monique was an incredible person whose mantra was always "Celebrate Life." She refused to let her life be overtaken by fear or despair . Do you have a book for me to read which would reinforce this wonderful outlook? Grieving Friend
Dear Friend, Yes, Monique was an extraordinary person who was admired and beloved by so many. I have been thinking about your request and while nothing I can think of precisely mirrors her philosophy, I would suggest you read BROOKLYN by Colm Toibin. Like Monique, the heroine immigrated here and despite misfortune and loss, she prevailed and made many friends and a good life for herself. Set in the fifties, this novel captures a time and a culture foreign to many of us but compelling nevertheless. An added reason to read this book is that noted Sea Cliff author and critic Dr. Maureen Murphy will be discussing the works of Colm Toibin and BROOKLYN in particular at the Sea Cliff Library on Thursday, March 11 at 7:00pm. Copies of this book are available at the Library.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Dear Great Book Guru, How did you spend this Valentine weekend and did you get to read anything special? Curious
Dear Curious, What a fun weekend and thanks for asking! The Reres hosted a fabulous dance/cooperative dinner party at their lovely home, and conversation followed as rhythmically as a tango. One of the books everyone there was talking about was SLOW DEATH BY RUBBER DUCK- THE SECRET DANGER OF EVERYDAY THINGS by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie. The premise of this book is that even the sweetest, most innocuous items in our home might pose long term dangers because of chemical contaminants- yes, even the beloved rubber ducky. From mercury in your light bulbs to the plastic in a child's sippy cup, the chemicals in your stain resistant carpet to the toxins in your flat screen TV- all of these are accumulating in our bodies with unknown results. Being naturally phobic about almost everything, I found myself drawn to chapter after chapter with mounting horror. Ultimately, though, the book is hopeful, since it offers simple ways to avoid some of the more egregious dangers. But I cannot recommend this as a good choice for an uplifting winter read. For that I would go with NOTHING BUT YOU, a collection of love stories from THE NEW YORKER edited by Roger Angell. The thirty authors include such notables as John Updike, William Trevor, Alice Adams, and Edna O'Brien; my favorite was "The Man in the Moon" by William Maxwell. Both books are available at the Sea Cliff Library.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Dear Great Book Guru, Friends of mine are raving about a lecture sponsored by the Sea Cliff Library last week about the Spanish painter Velazquez. I am sorry I missed it since I will be visiting Spain in April, and I would like to learn something about its artists and cities. Do you have any suggestions? Spring Tourist

Dear Spring Tourist, I was at Ines Powell's lecture too and your friends were right: it was fabulous. Ines is a renowned lecturer and educator at the Metropolitan Museum and a beloved Sea Cliff resident. Coincidentally, after the lecture, the Murrays, who are also traveling to Spain asked for some book suggestions. Here's what I told them- first, HOMAGE TO BARCELONA by Colm Toibin is a fascinating description of this beautiful city- its history, its art, its essence. ( Toibin, who is also the author of the current bestseller BROOKLYN, is going to be the subject of a lecture given by Maureen Murphy, Irish literature expert, on March 11 at 7:30 at the Sea Cliff Library) Another must read is the SPANISH GAME by Charles Cumming. This book is a fast moving spy novel set largely in Madrid. In reading this book, you find yourself quickly immersed in the daily life of the city and its inhabitants. Finally, you should read VELAZQUEZ- TECHNIQUE OF GENIUS by Jonathan Brown. Thirty paintings are discussed in wonderful detail and all but two of them are on display at the Prado Museum in Madrid. Also, while I do not pretend to be the Great Movie Guru, I would recommend seeing Woody Allen's VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA, a beautiful presentation of the city. Happy travels!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dear Great Book Guru, I was at the Family and Friends opening of the Five Napkin Burger Uptown this week. Although 5NB is located in NYC on Broadway and 84th Street, this was definitely a Sea Cliff happening. The Laffertys, the Gordons, the Speranzas, the Calzonettis, the Harrigan-Fleishmans, the Warrens, and of course, the host family , the D'Amicos were all in attendance and what a night it was! The food was delicious and the ambiance perfect . During the evening, someone mentioned that J.D. Salinger and Howard Zinn had both died during the week. Everyone at the table had read books by these authors but people's opinions of them varied greatly. What are your thoughts? Five Burger Fan

Dear Five Burger, I too was at the restaurant this week and my reaction was similar to yours- another great D'Amico restaurant in a great location. My thoughts on Zinn and Salinger are equally strong. THE CATCHER IN THE RYE is a book every adolescent must read in order to understand that he/she is not alone in the universe. The angst and cynicism of Holden Caulfield so mirrors most contemporary teenagers' psyches that is truly shocking to realize it was written sixty years ago. It is a book that does not age but its audience does . Read it somewhere between the ages of thirteen and eighteen but then never again. Howard Zinn, on the other hand, while assigned to high school students, can be read throughout one's life. Zinn was a World War II bomber pilot who became an historian, teacher, playwright, and pacifist. His most well known work A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES offers a fascinating and sobering take on our country's history. THE ZINN READER is a compilation of his other writings and delineates his belief that a country's power must rest in its people . Both books are highly recommended.