Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Dear Great Book Guru,  Last week I read in the New YorkTimes about a book that had been published here in Sea Cliff that focuses on Middle East espionage.  Are you familiar with the book and if so, would you recommend it?   Intrigued by Intrigue

Dear Intrigued, This book: SPIES AGAINST ARMAGEDDON by Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman has been much discussed on TV, radio, in the print and online media , and, yes, on the streets of Sea Cliff;  I definitely found it fascinating. Raviv and Melman trace the history of the Mossad,  Israel's  elite secret service, from its inception in the late1940's until the present time. Much of the book deals with fascinating stories of Mossad  past successes and some of its notable disasters. The authors' most startling revelation is that the intelligence agency has changed its focus  from a myriad of countries  to one : Iran. Anything and everything is being done  to prevent  nuclear warhead development by Iran with assassinations and cyberattacks  the chief means used.  An illuminating book and one that reads like a novel!

On another completely different note- best wishes to Jenna Fendt and Justin DiPietro on their wedding this weekend.  May you have a life filled with joy and, of course, much good reading… Love to you both!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dear Great Book Guru, I have just taken the New York State law boards and after months of arduous study, I have an overwhelming desire to read for pleasure and excitement.  I plan on checking out your past recommendations but is there something this week you would particularly recommend?                                                         Law School 2012 Grad Seeking Literary Pleasure

Dear Law School Grad,  What a relief to have that exam completed and now to a summer of reading delights!  I just finished  a first novel that you might enjoy:  THE AGE OF MIRACLES  BY Karen Thompson Walker.   Set in present day California, the novel opens on the most ordinary of days: eleven-year old Julia is having typical middle school problems: her best friend seems distant, her parents are irritating, her teachers unreasonably demanding, the school bus is late… and then the world begins to slow down- literally. The day is no longer  24 hours- it is 24 hours 36 minutes and this is only the beginning. Quickly the world is coping with 6 weeks of daylight followed by 6 weeks of darkness. Life on earth changes completely and yet Julia’s life, dominated by concerns of parents, friends, and school, remains  much the same in this eerily apocalyptically transformed world.  We see what little control humans have when the physics that control the earth go awry, but there is also a sense of joy in the small miracles that continue to color people’s lives.  A quick read but one that you will remember for a long time!

In Memoriam:  Donald Sobel- author of the Encyclopedia Brown series of mysteries- a favorite of many, many children and adults and a special favorite of Daniel and Justin DiPietro.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Dear Great Book Guru,  You mentioned a few weeks ago that you were starring in a performance of “Julius Caesar” to be performed here in Sea Cliff. When will it be since I certainly want to attend?  And,  is there a book you would recommend I read in preparation?  Smitten with Shakespeare

Dear Smitten,  Yes, the Silly Shakespeare Company under the very able direction of Elizabeth Sehring will be celebrating its tenth anniversary this summer with a performance of “Julius Caesar”  Saturday, July 21 at 7pm with a dress rehearsal on Friday also at 7pm both in Spooky (Elm) Park on Dayton and Elm Streets. While my role is small, yet meaningful, the play itself is an amazing visual  spectacle  with a very talented cast.  Definitely attend and bring a blanket or beach chair and be prepared for a evening of  great fun and much pathos! The book I recommend you read is Robert Caro’s THE PASSAGE OF POWER.   Just as Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is a study in the  passage of power from one leader to another, so too is Caro’s biography of Lyndon Baines Johnson- a detailed study of the days and months that followed the assassination of JFK and how LBJ transformed the country with his power to control the minds and actions of his fellow politicians. Caro devotes much time to the bitter feud of Johnson and Robert F. Kennedy, both powerful figures with long standing grievances who are brought together by a brutal  assassination.  Julius Caesar, Brutus, Marc Antony, and Cassius all can be seen as prototypical characters in  Caro’s modern day tragedy. A chilling, informative read!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Dear Great Book Guru,  I had such a wonderful time at the Beach Palapalooza this weekend. The Beach Committee deserves a round of applause for orchestrating this great event. While listening to the beautiful music of Rich Boehm, one of the event’s many, many talented performers, I overheard someone mentioning a book she was reading for a book club; it was a mystery set in New York City in the 1850’s based on an actual murder trial. I love that time period in NYC history. Do you know this book?  Fixated on the 1850’s

Dear Fixated,  I too enjoyed the Palapalooza tremendously. I was there off and on from morning until the 11pm closing…great fun!  The book you are interested in is a favorite of mine: 31 BOND STREET by Ellen Horan. Based on a sensational murder case,  this historical novel  explores a time of enormous wealth and crushing poverty,  the tensions brought about by the recently passed Fugitive Slave Act which seemed posed to undo the successes  of the Underground Railroad, the dubious ethics of sensational journalists, and the massive corruption of city police and politicians.  New York City is described in such detail that you quickly come to realize the city is a major character in this  novel.  While our sympathies lie with the defendant, the mysterious Emma Cunningham and her  idealistic attorney Henry Clinton,  we are still shaken by the brutality of the dentist Harvey Burdell’s murder. Although the story takes place 150 years ago, there is a strange sense of the familiar throughout. A compelling read!  

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Dear Great Book Guru,   I hope you can help me- everywhere I go in the beautiful village of Sea Cliff I am assaulted by visual spam.  Our streets and sidewalks are cluttered with signs advertising services, events, real estate, politicians, garage sales….on and on and growing in number every day. Is there anything we can do to stop this scourge on our landscape and, if not, can you at least recommend a good book to distract me?    Down on Signs

Dear Down on Signs,   Oh, how I agree with you and let us hope the populace will rise up against these intrusive blemishes but until this happens, I do have a wonderfully distracting book to recommend- GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn. A psychological thriller of high literary caliber, this book is the story of a marriage gone really, really bad  in an economy gone really, really bad. With lost jobs, foreclosed McMansions, failing industries and empty storefronts as  backdrop, former Brooklynites Nick and Amy Dunne prepare to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary in Nick’s hometown of North Carthage, Missouri.  The day’s festivities take a dark turn when Nick returns home to find Amy missing, the house in disarray, and a life built on lies beginning to implode . The reader is cleverly manipulated throughout as the story shifts in time and perspective until a shocking but very satisfying conclusion.  A good read, indeed!