Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dear Great Book Guru, I am looking forward to a great Fall weekend in Sea Cliff filled with Halloween happenings.  On Sunday from 3 to 4pm we will be at Central Park for the Cider Social, an annual Sea Cliff Civic Association event, hosted this year by Heidi Hunt and the her Girl Scout Troop #22. There will be music, crafts, and treats and hopefully everyone will come in costume.  Time for reading will be limited but do you have something that would make me laugh but make me think ?    Halloween Reveler

Dear Halloween Reveler,  This is indeed a fun weekend in Sea Cliff- don't forget the Fire Department's Halloween Costume party on Saturday night, Oct. 27.   I just finished a very funny, very provocative book:  HOW TO BE A WOMAN by Caitlin Moran, a columnist for the Times of London. She writes about growing up as one of eight children in an impoverished English suburb in the1980's but this is not simply an autobiographical sketch .Rather the author's well met goal is to humanize and universalize feminism. She talks frankly about body image, motherhood, celebrity worship, weddings, pornography, and overpriced purses. I laughed aloud throughout the book but also found what she said disturbing and certainly thought-provoking.  She fiercely denounces sexism in its many subtle and not so subtle forms and always with great wit.     Highly recommended!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Dear Great Book Guru,   Last week I attended the Sea Cliff Civic Association's Newcomers'  Party . I had a great time meeting over forty fellow newcomers  and learning how we all found our way here to Sea Cliff.  As the evening went on, some of us started discussing favorite novels and one couple mentioned a book about a lost girl who reluctantly returns to her family after a four-year absence. It sounded like an interesting take on parenting, marriage, and the adolescent psyche. Does this  book sound familiar and, if so, would you recommend it?    Newcomer to Sea Cliff

Dear Newcomer,  Welcome to Sea Cliff and yes, you belong to a wonderfully enthusiastic group- the Newcomers' Class of 2012!  The book you are thinking of is a dark tale indeed but a worthwhile and compelling read: THE CEMETERY GIRL by David Bell.  Tom Stuart and his wife Abby have one child-  the mysterious, beautiful twelve-year old Caitlin who disappears one beautiful spring day with only the family dog Frosty as witness to her departure.  As the years go by, Abby turns to religion to offer her solace while Tom obsessively follows  every possible lead an attempt to make sense of this eerie mystery. The novel opens as Abby is planning a memorial for Caitlin despite Tom's angry refusal to admit she is truly gone .  The story that unfolds is a complicated tale of deceit, anger, false steps, and redemption ; yes, nothing is as it seems at first.  Be prepared to read straight through the almost 400 hundred pages- this is the proverbial page-turner!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dear Great Book Guru,   I was at a great debate party this week in Sea Cliff and, between politically charged outbursts and shouts, someone mentioned a recently published collection of biographies. I am looking for a something for a rather difficult- to- please book group and this sounds like it might work. What do you think?         Avid Debate Partygoer

Dear Avid, I too have attended some merry and some not so merry debate parties lately . But yes, indeed, I do know the book mentioned. And you are right- it would work beautifully for a group with divergent interests and limited time.  Joseph Epstein's ESSAYS IN BIOGRAPHY is made up of forty short (15 to 20 page) character sketches of 19th and 20th century icons with a quick dip into the 18th century (George Washington) and the   5th Century BCE (Xenophon).  Politicians form one category- Adlai Stevenson's story titled "the Man Who Couldn't Say Yes" was particularly memorable, showing a man in constant conflict with his strong moral compass and weak political skills.  Literary figures are treated  less kindly- Gore Vidal is pummeled  with "his essays are the intellectual equivalent of the comics."  Athletes fare much better-Michael Jordan's piece is particularly adulatory. Epstein calls him "the reincarnation of Achilles without the sulking and without the heel."   Start with any one of the forty and you will quickly become enmeshed in a sometimes brutally critical, sometimes outrageously funny , but always fascinating take on a life. Very good read!  

Monday, October 1, 2012

Dear Great Book Guru,  This Sunday is the Sea Cliff Mini Mart and I hear that the Friends of the Library will be having a huge book sale on the Village Green .  While I have scores of books on my Kindle, I always like to buy some interesting  hardcovers to read and enjoy. Should I be looking out for anything special?    Mini Mart Maven

Dear Mini Mart Maven,   While many of my friends  have lost their enthusiasm for the Mini Mart, it is still one of my favorite Sea Cliff events. My friend and neighbor Lou Ciampi agrees with me; in fact, he goes so far as to say after Christmas, it is probably his favorite holiday. But as you are looking over the huge selection of books Carol Poll and her Friends committee have amassed, you might want to look for HOUSE OF STONE  by Anthony Shadid.   Shadid chronicles the restoration of  his family's abandoned home on the outskirts of Beirut, Lebanon.  Much more than a story of bricks and tiles, plumbing and landscaping, the book tells of the family who left this house to find lives in other countries but always carried with them a combined sense of loss for their past and gratitude for the present. He meticulously records the turmoil the village underwent as the landscape of the Middle East changed with  the rise of new governments and old religions.  As  the book ends, Shadid predicts that the house will endure and be a source of joy for decades to come; however, we the readers know that while covering the Afghanistan war for the New York Times,  Shadid died - just weeks before the book was published.   He was forty-three years old.   A disturbing read….