Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dear Great Book Guru, I was at Spooky Park this weekend where I saw a remarkable version of KING LEAR. The cast was amazing and the setting-despite the 100 degree temperature- magical. The theme of the aged parent and feuding children appears to be timeless. Can you think of a current novel that deals with this topic? Enthusiastic Theatergoer

Dear Enthusiastic, What a great performance and it certainly seemed as if the actors had even more fun than the audience! There is talk of a reprise in late September - I'll keep you informed. But back to a book recommendation: A THOUSAND ACRES by Jane Smiley is a modern day version of Shakespeare's tragedy with Lear and his daughters transported to a 1970's farm in Iowa . Larry and his three daughters, Caroline, Rose, and Ginny (notice the initials correspond to Lear, Cordelia, Regan and Goneril) live tortured lives with warring husbands, lovers, and sibling grievances all coming together to form an explosive ending. We are even given a rainy night scene on a heath/pasture. The interesting difference is that Smiley's version paints richly sympathetic portraits of all three daughters. Not so lucky are the men we meet , and the reader is hard pressed to see Larry/Lear as a noble figure brought down by foolishness, pride, and old age. Larry has none of Lear's redeeming characteristics so his downfall is less than tragic but makes for a rewarding tale, nevertheless.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dear Great Book Guru, What a great Sea Cliff weekend- first the Civic Association's newest event the Summer Stroll, the Beach Committee's Movie Bash, and then the grand opening of Olives by the Sea! While standing with over a hundred other Sea Cliffers outside of Olives(corner of Summit and Central-across from Arata's) and listening to the group Crash My Party, I thought about a new book THE NOBODIES ALBUM which has as one of its subplots the culture of the music business. Have you read this book and, if so, would you recommend it to your readers?
Big Olives Fan

Dear Olives Fan,
Yes, this was quite the weekend- and you didn't even include the Crafts Fair at Memorial Park or Arts Council Show at the Library- quite a weekend indeed! NOBODIES ALBUM by Carolyn Parkhurst is a wonderful book and one I would recommend highly . The title comes from a young child's collection of songs that might have been but never were. Octavia Frost is a middle-aged novelist who is estranged from her very successful musician son- a son who is angry and guilty and very unforgiving of his mother's perceived transgressions. Her latest novel- also called The Nobodies Album- is collection of the last chapters of her novels each accompanied by a revised version of the chapter- a second chance at a happy ending, in a sense. When she learns that he has been accused of murder, she rushes across the country to be with him, wondering if this will be a chance to rewrite their past. A slip of paper is found with the words "Someone is lying" and the mystery begins to unfold. We meet a fascinating array of characters all with tortured pasts but none as tortured as her son's. The sins of omission and commission are many and the chances for redemption few, but mother and son cautiously struggle on. More than a mystery, more than a family drama- more a series of epiphanies that will haunt you for a very long time.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Dear Great Book Guru,
Last month, while attending a Summer Solstice porch party, my friend Rob and I heard members of a book club discussing their next month's choice. Although we disagreed on the title ( I think it was GOOD TO A FAULT), we both agreed it sounded interesting. Does it sound familiar to you?
Summer Solstice Senorita
Dear Summer, What a good choice for a book club! GOOD TO A FAULT by Marina Endicott is a novel that has a cozy feel to it but one whose true concern is far from cozy- what makes a good person? The heroine of the story is Clary and the book opens with a minor car accident in which Clary might or might not have been a t fault. The Pell family- a cranky grandmother, a very sick mother, an infant, two young children, and an irritating bombastic father are in the other car; everyone ends up in the emergency room for the briefest of moments. Only the mother remains hospitalized- it turns out she is gravely sick with a previously undiagnosed terminal illness. Clary, who has lived alone in her late parents' home, takes a leave from her job to care for the family. The children's father quickly deserts them , stealing Clary's extra car and is not heard from for much of the book. We witness all that Clary does for the ill woman and her very needy children ,but we also see the emotional satisfaction Clary gets from the situation. We are confronted with numerous plot developments that change our outlook on Clary's motivations. Along the way, we are introduced to a cast of fascinating characters: a sensitive, poetry-quoting recently divorced clergyman, a saintly, elderly neighbor, an equally elderly but pilfering in-law, and many more folks who all help us decide what goodness means and… is it possible to be a good person ?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Dear Great Book Guru- I am feeling pretty patriotic with the Fourth of July approaching and I’d like to read something that will make me cheer even more for the red, white and blue. Any suggestions? Sunshine Patriot

Dear Sunshine Patriot- Well, of course, you should walk yourself over to the Sea Cliff Village Green on Sunday morning where there will be a reading of the Declaration of Independence and other patriotic festivities. Then you could read a favorite of mine: JOHN ADAMS by David McCullough This is an amazing biography which presents parallel tales of Adams and his wife Abigail, Adams and Thomas Jefferson, and ,yes, most interestingly, Adams and the new nation. McCullough uses original diaries and letters in such a skillful manner that you feel as if you are reading a fast-moving novel. Because of its length(726 pages) this could be a summer project for you but definitely a worthwhile one.

A family ritual of ours is the watching/reading of Peter Stone’s 1776 every Fourth. There is nothing that makes the heart swell more with patriotic fervor than listening, watching, and reading that great musical play that recreates the drama surrounding the creation of the Declaration of Independence, except, of course, hearing the Declaration read on Sea Cliff’s Village Green. 1776 is available in book form and DVD .

Happy Fourth!!!