Monday, December 30, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  Happy New Year to you and please, please help me keep my New Year’s resolution- I want to read one book a week. With all the wonderful things happening in Sea Cliff, I do find it hard to find the time so I need something short but worthwhile to start 2014 off right.  Resolute Reader

Dear Resolute, How admirable of you and indeed I do have a recommendation that should work very well for you:  THE APARTMENT by Greg Baxter.  This debut novel is set on a cold December day in an unnamed East European city- some reviewers suggest Prague, others Istanbul, while the author insists it’s an amalgam of many cities. The first person narrator is a forty-one year-old American who has become wealthy from profiteering during the Iraq War. We follow him as he travels around the city in search of an apartment- a new home.  He is accompanied by a young real estate agent and various friends of hers. Everything our American sees is colored by his past- with its memories of violence, camaraderie,  guilt, isolation, alienation.  We come to realize that this is a deeply political book, a study of America and its place in the 21stcentury .   Beautifully written, very provocative, and less than 200 pages, this book is definitely the way to start the new year!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  My friends and I are planning a small New Year’s Eve dinner  party here in Sea Cliff and we would like to add  a literary twist to the evening’s festivities. Can you think of anything that might fill the bill?  New Year’s Eve Literary Reveler

Dear Literary Reveler, What a great idea and I have a great, great suggestion: “THE DEAD” by James Joyce,  perhaps the finest short story ever written and it is set at a gala party celebrating the new year. The description of the delicious food and drink coupled with sparkling conversation and lilting music, all set in the home of two elderly sisters and their niece, makes for a delightful glimpse into life in Dublin one hundred years ago. But the story is so, so much more. We meet the courtly, self-absorbed Gabriel - the sisters' adored nephew- and his wife Gretta; the easily intimidated and intoxicated Freddy Malins; his tedious, complaining mother; Lily, a young servant girl; and a whole array of colorful partygoers. There is a feverishly familiar litany of past parties, achievements, slights, and political barbs but the story's climax comes shortly after the party ends. Gretta in a melancholy mood mentions a young boy from the countryside who had loved her. Her husband immediately becomes jealous and questions her fidelity only to find that the boy had died decades before . Michael Furey had despaired when Gretta left their village for boarding school, and came to her window on a brutally bitter night to bid her farewell; he died from the cold but the devotion he showed was still vividly alive for Gretta these many years later. Gabriel laments his own pettiness, his lack of passion in contrast to young Michael's. The story closes with Gabriel looking out as the snow covers Ireland, falling "upon all the living and the dead." A truly beautiful piece!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  Last weekend, I was at Elizabeth Weinstein’s 24thAnnual Cookie Swap and as usual, the cookies were delicious, the treats tasty, and the company  stellar.  As is often the case at Sea Cliff events, conversation turned to books.  One partygoer went on and on about her favorite author- I think her name was Alice McDermott. Have you read anything by her? I am looking for something relatively quick to read over the upcoming holiday weekend.   Elated Cookie Swapper

Dear Elated, I agree- Elizabeth’s cookie swap is one of the highlights of the holiday season, and I agree too that Alice McDermott is a very fine writer. I just read her latest novel SOMEONE and it touched me greatly.  Set largely in Brooklyn between the two world wars, the story is told by Marie who is seven when we first meet her.  Her neighbors, her friends, her parents, her brother-all the “someones” that make up Marie’s life are described in exquisite, almost painful detail. We go back and forth in time and characters we meet early on are reintroduced and seen through the different prisms of time and memory.  As we observe and, yes, examine Marie’s long life: its tragedies, its triumphs, its mysteries, we come to see the ordinary as truly extraordinary.  Highly recommended!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,   Last week I was at a magnificent production:  An Introduction to "The Nutcracker "at the Children's Library here in Sea Cliff . The music was beautiful  and the performances of the twenty children outstanding  and especially memorable with the debut of the young  Lara as Clara. Dan DiPietro returned in his classic role as the mysterious but kindly  Drosselmeyer,  and the Stroppels- Fred and Joe and Liz admirably served as the production crew.  Afterwards, some of the audience members began talking about  a collection of short stories  they were reading for a book club discussion. The author was Junot Diaz but I can't remember its title.  Do you know this book and if so would you recommend it?  Nutcracker Devotee

Dear Nutcracker Devotee,  How  I too loved this performance ! And yes, I have read Diaz's latest work: THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE HER.   Written from the perspective of Yunior, this is a  collection of love stories- and they are love stories- four of them  are named after  women who Yunior loved and eight of the nine stories tell how he lost their love. Yunior's life trajectory follows closely that of Diaz's himself- born in the Dominican Republic, brought to this country at an early age, he ultimately becomes a highly successful teacher and author.  But much comes in between and herein  lies the theme  of these stories- Yunior loses each of his loves through serial infidelities that he describes in a flippant, almost cruel manner, and each time he ends up sad, lonely, repentant  but  seemingly  having learned nothing . In the final story, the longest by far in the collection, there is a sense of enlightenment as he tells us "the half-life of love is forever."   Still one wonders what Yunior feels : is it loss,  is it love, or is it  loss of love ? His lack of empathy remains a chilling indictment of the man.  A disturbing book!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  Thanksgiving was such fun, and followed by the wonderful Hanukkah Happening, and then this weekend we will have the Tree Lighting on the Village Green with an afternoon of Village gift shopping . But now I need the always important good book suggestion.  My book group is looking for something we can discuss at length, something topical, something stimulating….Any ideas? Baffled Book Club Booster

Dear Baffled,  I have just the book for you and your book club: THE CIRCLE by Dave Eggers.  On the first page,  we meet Mae, a young woman  a few years out of college who has been dispiritedly  living home with her parents and seemingly stuck at a dead end  job when  her fairy godmother of sorts appears: Annie,  a close friend  from school.  Annie has a coveted position with  the Circle, a company that bears a strong resemblance to Google, Facebook, or perhaps Amazon.  Annie hires  Mae  and suddenly  life turns golden.  The Circle is magical- everyone is young, beautiful,  smart, and so very friendly and  so, so willing to share. Yes, that is the company motto: "to share is to care." Soon Mae is caught up in the company culture, her parents (and she, of course) are given the best health insurance imaginable, her meals are prepared by gourmet chefs on the exquisite company campus,  her every need - known and unknown- is met. So …what could be wrong?  Nothing really just that she and all those around her have no private thoughts, no private moments. Everything is shared with the entire world. Everyone rates everyone and the company keeps score of all these ratings or "likes" which run into the multi- millions at times.  This novel is our Orwellian 1984, our Faustian bargain with the devil, our Bonfire of the Vanities, and to some degree, all of us are complicit.   A terrifying look into the present and the future!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  I was at a  Thanksgiving party this weekend and talk turned, as usual to…. BOOKS!   One of the partygoers mentioned a new novel  about art museums that had gotten a very good review. I am looking for something to read during the long weekend ahead and it sounded interesting. Any thoughts?           Thankful in Sea Cliff

Dear Thankful,   I was at a wonderful party last weekend too-  the Doherty Family Reunion Thanksgiving-  and the book recommendations were flying.  My niece Melissa  always has great suggestions and we talked about many books, including the one you are interested in: ASUNDER by Chloe Aridjis.  Marie is a woman we have seen many times and have seldom noticed .  She is of an indeterminate age, she is neither attractive nor unattractive.  She has been a museum guard at the British National Gallery for ten years, lovingly  contemplating the many works of great art that surround her and the passersby who unknowingly  amuse her with their observations. A number of  masterpieces are mentioned  and Marie's enduring affinity for them. One in particular- Velazquez's "Venus and Cupid" has a particular hold on her. Almost a hundred years earlier,  in one of art history's most famous destructive acts, Marie's  great-grandfather was standing guard at the National Gallery when a militant suffragette Mary Richardson slashed this painting.  Marie obsessively relives that moment  throughout the book.  A trip to Paris suggests a romantic interlude but always the writer returns to Marie's quest to understand life through art. A haunting book that leaves the reader with many questions …..

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  Have you heard about Sea Cliff latest happening : the first annual  Toy Turkey Hunt ? Yes, it is this Sunday, November 24 from 2 to 3pm at Geohegen  (aka Headless aka Plaza) Park- the one near the Water Tower. The Brady Brothers Band will be  performing and there will be treats for all. What fun and yet another great Sea Cliff Civic Association event! While waiting for the hunt to begin, I would like to have something to read on my Kindle.Any ideas? Turkey Troubadour

Dear Turkey Troubadour,   The Toy Turkey Hunt  does sound like a wonderful beginning to the holidays and  my family and I will surely be there. You might like a book I read over the weekend which was so much better than its title would suggest: THE HUSBAND'S SECRET by  Liane Moriarty.  Three women living in  Sidney, Australia are confronted by a myriad of decisions, memories, crises which are all eerily linked. What is one's responsibility to community, to family, and finally to self-  these  are the  questions the  three women  grabble with and always the question remains  "what if". In the epilogue, we are given the answer to this question. We find ourselves  with  a sense of parallel universes where lives can be lived in many different ways with many different   outcomes. An unsettling book but a compelling read!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  After the past weekend here in Sea Cliff I think I need a vacation.  Starting with the wildly successful Chill Out , then the delightful Progressive Dinner, and  finally, the moving Veterans' Day ceremony at Clifton Park, this was surely  a Sea Cliff weekend for the annals and  apparently plans are already being made for next year -so mark your calendars.  Talking about vacations, I am planning a trip to China this summer and I would like to begin preparing.  Do you have any suggestions?   Eager Traveler

Dear Eager Traveler,   I have just finished reading the perfect  book for your introduction to present day China: DREAMING IN CHINESE  by Deborah Fallows. Subtitled  "Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Marriage," this book recounts the author's attempt to learn Mandarin, the principal language of large parts of China, but it is  much more than an exploration of language.  Fallows divides this short book (200 pages) into sections which detail the years she spent working and traveling throughout China with her husband and young children.  She uses her study of the language to underscore cultural differences whether it be the limited use of personal pronouns,  arrangements of north and south on maps,  the  order of names and addresses from large to small ( country, city, street, apartment number),  or the fact  that 85% of Chinese share 7 family names and how all  this impacts the individual's view of self, family and nation. Throughout, Fallows offers interesting anecdotes about her adventures with the language and culture of China. A very good introduction, indeed!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  This is a big weekend in Sea Cliff with the Chill Out starting Friday at 5:30 on the Village Green and then Saturday with the  Civic Association's  always popular Progressive Dinner. Last year this event was doomed twice over, first by Hurricane Sandy and then by the Blizzard of 2013. Well, this year the weather forecast looks fine and with its many  guests and hosts  signed  up since last year, this sellout event promises to be spectacular.  However busy the weekend, of course, there is always time for a good book- what do you recommend?                              Chilling and Dining Out in Sea Cliff

Dear Chilling and Dining,  What fun awaits us this weekend, and you are right- there is always time for a good book -and I have a very good book to recommend: THE LOWLAND by Jhumpa Lahiri. Set in Calcutta, Rhode Island, and California, told in alternating chapters by four generation of the Mitra family, this is a tale of promising beginnings and tragic endings, and all that happens in between. The Mitra brothers- fifteen months apart- are the archtypical Cain and Abel . Subhash is gentle, responsible, fearful while Udayan is daring, resourceful, and violent.  The student unrest movements of the '60's  here and in India fuel the plot but its heart lies in the bittersweet unfolding of the lives of these brothers. Universal questions of what makes a moral life , what  one owes parents, siblings, spouses, children, country, and what sins are unforgivable-  all these make for a profoundly moving  book!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  I think Fall is my favorite time of year and autumn in Sea Cliff is especially wonderful. From September through December, the calendar is filled with fun happenings  and now I've heard there is a new event on the Sea Cliff scene: The Chill Out, masterminded by multitalented  Kathleen DiResta and exuberant  Village Trustee Ed Lieberman.  Set for Friday, November 8,  beginning at the Village Green, the Chill Out will feature music from many of our local bands, special happenings from our  retail shops, and great meals at all our fine restaurants .  Of course, I will want something to read and talk about during the evening.  Any ideas?    #1 Chill Out  Fan

Dear Chill Out Fan, I love your enthusiasm and indeed  I have just the book for you: THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt.  When the book opens, we meet Theo, a thirteen year-old bright scholarship boy living a comfortable Manhattan existence with his single mom, the beautiful Audrey. Before the first chapter ends, Theo's life is changed forever. As he and Audrey run into the Metropolitan Museum of Art  to escape the rain, a terrorist bomb explodes; Audrey and many others are killed. As Theo awakens,  a mysterious benefactor whispers a strange message and urges  him to rescue "The Goldfinch" a small 17th century painting lying amidst the bomb's debris and destruction. From this point, Theo's  life begins to resemble the plot of a Dickensian novel: Great Expectations, Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, The Old Curiosity Shop, and a little J.D. Salinger's Cather in the Rye thrown in. Despite its enormous length-nearly 800 pages- the reader craves for more of this fine book. Highly recommended!                

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  I am so excited- I am going to my first ever Sea Cliff Fire Department Halloween Costume Party this Saturday, October 26. I heard it is great, great fun and I want to go as a character from a book- something glamorous yet scary, and, of course,  I am always looking for something good to read….any ideas?    Halloween Reveler

Dear Halloween Reveler,  I just finished reading a novel replete with costume ideas and also a perfect  read for this time of year:  NIGHT FILM by Marisha Pessl.  Let me start by saying this is  a very odd book-   I enjoyed it,  I found it  disturbing yet compelling,  and  I would ultimately recommend it, but it is very , very strange, indeed. The story is told by  investigative journalist  Scott McGrath who is obsessed with a  legendary film director Stanislas Cordova whose dark horror movies have taken on cult status over the years; his films are so terrifying  they are banned from  public theaters  and shown  only in underground venues .  The reclusive Cordova's daughter is found dead in the opening chapter and for the next 500 or so pages, we follow McGrath as he tries to unravel the mysteries surrounding father and daughter that Cordova's films eerily seem to mimic.  Black magic, violent mishaps, cryptic sightings, an array of colorful characters- all make for a good read but  then add in Pessl's special effects.  She intersperses her narrative with newspaper clippings, Rolling Stone articles from the ' 70's, police transcripts, yellowing photos…. all contributing to a blurring of magic and reality.  A perfect read for this Halloween weekend and, yes, a great source book for the perfect costume.   See you at the Fire Department's Costume Party! 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,   Next  weekend is going to be extraordinarily busy here in Sea Cliff. On Saturday, Oct 26 there will be two major  events: the Second Annual Pet Parade at 11am and then the Good of the Village's Second Cemetery Walk at 4pm. And, yes- Jack Pierce  and the Fire Department will be collecting canned goods for Mutual Concerns in front of the Fire House.  On Sunday,  October 27, the Civic Association hosts its annual Cider Social with  songs, crafts, costumes, and tasty treats at Central Park at 3pm. Despite this busy weekend, as always,  I will need something to read.  Any suggestions?   Happy  Halloween Reader

Dear Happy,  My suggestion for you is a collection of short stories: NINE INCHES  by Tom Perrotta.  Each story stands on its own so you can stop and start as your busy schedule allows. This is an extraordinary collection with a common theme of community life. Little League games,  school dances, leaf raking, teacher evaluations, college applications, tree ordinances-  all mirror life in a small 21st century community. Each story shares a common theme- one tiny misstep and your life changes forever- no second chance- no forgiveness …. but wait-  was that a  single misstep or perhaps a  deep character flaw just waiting to be unearthed ? In many subtle ways these stories mirror James Joyce's collection of short stories "The Dubliners" in which each story reveals a character whose bad judgment reflects his own failings and even more so- Dublin's  intrinsic corruption . Perrota's people also are products of time and place. A disturbing but worthwhile read!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  I had such fun last week at the Mini Mart and now I am looking forward to the opening of my friend Fred Stroppel's new play "The Hunter's Moon"  which begins its Off Broadway run  October 23.  Before then, however, I would like to read a good book- something like the one you suggested last year: " Major Pettigrew's Last Stand. " Any thoughts?    An Autumn Anglophile

Dear Autumn Anglophile-  We were at Metropolitan Bistro recently with a group of friends, when the talk turned to good books . Petrice Kaider, always a great source,  mentioned one that she had read recently and loved: THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY by Rachel Joyce . Harold Fry is a lonely man living  a joyless life.  Recently retired from the local brewery, he is a source of constant irritation to his wife of forty-seven years.  Their son that they doted upon never visits, never calls. They have few neighbors and no friends.  Yes, Harold's  is surely a" life of quiet desperation"  but everything changes with the arrival in the morning mail of a letter from a former colleague - Queenie Hennessy.  Her message is brief: she is dying and wishes  Harold a fond farewell.  Shaken, Harold writes off a perfunctory get well card and leaves for the post office. Four months and 600 miles later, Harold arrives at Queenie's bedside after this most unlikely of pilgrimages.  On the journey we  learn a great deal about this gentle man who has suffered much. He meets many fellow pilgrims along the way: some who help , some who harm , some who simply share their stories.  Petrice was right- this is a wonderful book- one that reminds us that everyone we meet has a story waiting to be told and, yes, things are seldom as they appear. Highly recommended! 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  This Sunday is Sea Cliff's  Mini Mart when thousands of people stroll down Sea Cliff Avenue in search of good food and great buys. For me the most fun is meeting up with old friends and checking out the Children's Library's used toy and book sale- the ultimate recycling  event of the year!  But as always I would like to spend some time reading a good book…..any suggestions?  Mini Mart Maven

Dear Mini Mart Maven,  I share your enthusiasm- in fact my friend and neighbor Lou Ciampi and I have been counting down the days until Sunday; we are both huge fans of Mini Mart. But I do admire your quest for a good book and I have a very special one for you: MORTAL BONDS  by Michael Sears.  Sears is a much acclaimed writer of mysteries and he and his wife, artist Barbara Segal, are Sea Cliff luminaries.  This latest book is a sequel to his  prize winning BLACK FRIDAYS.  Jason Stafford returns, embroiled in yet another financial debacle: a family- based billion dollar Ponzi scheme. Also returning is The Kid, his six-year-old autistic son, who once again captures our affection and respect.  A fast-moving thriller and so much more, MORTAL BONDS offers a compassionate look into the struggles and rewards of life with an autistic child while also illuminating the complex world of bearer bonds and Swiss bankers- a truly unique achievement!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  I have received an invitation the Sea Cliff Civic Association's annual Newcomers Party for this Sunday.  I am so excited- I heard that over thirty fellow newcomers will be attending.  I would like to make sure I have something to talk about- other than tales of Sea Cliff, which, of course, is my favorite topic.   Please recommend a book that will be a good conversation starter.           Nervous Newcomer

Dear Newcomer, Don't be nervous- this party is such fun and marks the first of many, many exciting Sea Cliff events for you. But I do have a very good book you might enjoy: THE O'BRIENS by Peter Behrens.  Set in the wilds of Quebec in 1900, the novel  quickly moves to Venice, California to Kennebunkport, Maine , then on to  Montreal  and New York City . Over the years and miles, we come to know the O'Briens, especially Joe O'Brien who is fifteen when we first meet him and the head of a recently orphaned family.  He is a dynamic force propelling his siblings out of backwoods misery  into lives not necessarily of their choosing.  Mistakes are made but Joe's concern is always for his family. When he marries Iseult,  he vows to do better by his new family and he does , but again mistakes are made. The book studies the effects of family, fate, and geography over a span of sixty years, two world wars, and many  triumphs and tragedies.  Highly recommended!

Literary Event Reminder:  Dan Fagin - illustrious Sea Cliff resident and author of the much acclaimed TOMS  RIVER- will be discussing his book this Thursday, September 26 at 7pm at the Sea Cliff Library.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  I have noticed that many former Brooklynites are  moving here to Sea Cliff.  In fact, many say that Sea Cliff has a Brooklyn feel.  Do you have a book to recommend that is set in Brooklyn so I can judge this for myself?  Burgeoning Interest in Brooklyn

Dear Burgeoning,  At last year's Newcomers' Party, we noted that the majority of newcomers were indeed from Brooklyn .  I just recently read VISITATION STREET  by Ivy Pochoda ,but the Brooklyn she writes about bears little resemblance to Sea Cliff or the Brooklyn most of us have experienced .   In many ways it is closer to the communities described by Dennis Lehane in "Mystic River" and "Gone Baby Gone." Set on Visitation Street in  Red Hook, a neighborhood devastated by the Balkanization tactics of city planner Robert Moses,  the novel opens with two young teenage girls floating in the murky waters of the Gowanus Canal. Val is rescued  but June  remains missing.  We meet an interesting array of characters all of whom are marginally connected to the missing girl: Fadi, the enterprising Lebanese bodega owner who loves his adopted community and tries to bridge the gap between old time residents and the affluent newcomers;  Jonathan, a local musician- teacher whose life is being destroyed by grief and guilt; Cree, a boy from the projects, whose father was murdered years before; Ren, a young graffiti artist recently released from prison; and Lil, the alcoholic bartender whose bar attracts new and old residents, all troubled. While the author describes these damaged characters in exquisite detail,  the most vivid portrait is that of Red Hook.  Recommended!
Reminder:  Silly Shakespeare Company's  THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF HENRY VIII is this Saturday, September 21 at 6pm at the Sea Cliff Beach Pavilion.  The Great Book Guru has a small but meaningful role in this production

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  The village is abuzz with talk of the latest production of the Silly Shakespeare Company- "The Real Housewives of King Henry the Eighth" which will be performed  at Sea Cliff Beach on Saturday, September 21.  I have never been able to keep  Henry's wives straight and I'm sure I will be totally confused that night .  Can you think of a book I could read in preparation for this play?  Simply Not a Shakespeare Scholar

Dear Simply Not,  I have just the book for you: BRING UP THE BODIES by Hilary Mantel. This prize-winning  historical novel tells the story of Thomas Cromwell,  a relatively obscure figure in the court of Henry the Eighth, but a man who wielded immense power and influence. It was Cromwell that arranged and help ended many of Henry's marriages.  Mantel presents us with a fascinating study of one year  1535- a year in which Cromwell conspires with Henry to end the king's marriage to the lovely Anne Boleyn. Anne and Cromwell are both commoners who have reached enormous positions of importance in this world of royal pedigree but neither -rightfully- trusts the other.  We witness the gradual ruination of Anne as Henry turns from her to Jane Seymour- aided of course by the politically astute Cromwell.  While told from the perspective of Cromwell ,   the novel presents us with  a stark portrait  of sixteenth century England,  filled with conspiracies, hypocrisies, scandals, and devastatingly brutal reversals of fortunes- somehow strangely reminiscent of our present time.  Highly recommended!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru, Now that summer is almost a distant memory, my thoughts turn to  the many upcoming events here in Sea Cliff, starting with the Good of the Village's Antique Fair this Saturday, September 7 from 9 to 4 at the Saint Boniface Field followed by Sea Cliff Fire Department's  Music by the Harbor at 5:30 at Sea Cliff Beach. What fun!   Do have a good book that I can read between events? Enjoying September in Sea Cliff

Dear Enjoying September,  I just finished a very moving book- some might call it a coming of age piece but it is much more than that .  BREWSTER  by Mark Slouka is set in 1968, in  Brewster, New York,  a sleepy town near the Connecticut border, an hour or two from Woodstock . The novel focuses on two young people who particularly need to move on: Jon whose  immigrant  parents have shut down emotionally, and Ray whose family life is suffused with violence.  Both families are suffering from the  after effects of World War II but the  country has little sympathy, as it is  enmeshed in another war.  Vietnam,  the Beatles, the draft, Charles Manson - all color the lives of these teenagers . The tragedy that finally allows the boys to leave is long in coming but shocking nevertheless.  This is not an easy book to read, but  worthwhile.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru, With the Labor Day weekend coming up and the Beach Committee's Family Day on Sunday, September 1, it is going to be a fun time here in Sea Cliff, but as usual I am looking for a good read. I would like a little suspense. Any suggestions?       Labor Day Enthusiast and  Reader

Dear Reader,  While I will be in England  this week, celebrating Barbara Pym's  centennial with the other members of the Pym Society of Sea Cliff, I will be thinking of all my friends  here in Sea Cliff on this glorious holiday weekend.  I just finished a book you might enjoy:  A PERSON OF INTEREST  by Susan Choi.  Choi's novel combines two high profile cases of the early 2000's- the Unabomber and Wen Ho Lee, a scientist falsely accused of espionage.  Choi's person of interest is not a particularly appealing character- Professor Lee is a rather elderly Asian -American who has a tenured position in the math department  of a third rate mid -western university. He is suspicious, jealous, and intractable. The novel opens with the violent death of a charismatic young math teacher whose office Lee shares. Why was this young man chosen- or was he chosen? Could Lee have been  the target or was Lee actually  the perpetrator?  As we watch with horror, we see Lee making mistake after mistake, cementing public opinion against him.  Lee  gradually reveals his shameful past  , but we continue to root for him as more and more damaging circumstantial evidence is unearthed. This  is a fascinating study of the power of fear, antipathy, prejudice and 'otherness'… and how all of us are complicit.  Recommended!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  I plan to spend this last August weekend at Sea Cliff Beach under one of those beautiful blue stripped umbrellas. Of course, I am looking for something to read under that umbrella- a page turner, something seasonal, a culmination of sorts. Any suggestions? Loving the Last Days of August

Dear Loving the Last Days of August,  Last year Joan Neuhoff, a most discerning reader, suggested THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS by Vanessa Diffenbaugh but somehow I never got around to reading it. Then my dear friend Jackie Hudak, a reader extraordinaire, gave me a copy plus a glowing review of its contents. How right Joan and Jackie were!  The book is a tale of despair, damage, and ultimately redemption.  We meet Victoria Jones at age eighteen, alone and wary after years in the foster care system. Despite many missteps, she finds  her redemption through an old Victorian custom of expressing emotions through flowers- the language of flowers.  Alternating chapters record Victoria's present and past , and while we learn in painful detail of the events which determined her life's trajectory, we also see the restorative powers of nature.  A wonderful summer read!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,   Last weekend, I was in Martha's Vineyard  with  the Anzalones, DiPietros and Marcheses,  enjoying a day at the Edgartown beach when the conversation turned to favorite authors. One of the group enthusiastically proclaimed her newest favorite was Kate Atkinson.  Have you read any of her books and, if so, which one would you recommend I begin with?                                                Vacationing in MV but Missing Sea Cliff

Dear Vacationing,   How funny- Kate Atkinson's name came up just the other day.  Shelia Wenger and I were discussing  the  Good of the Village Antique Fair (which is scheduled for September 7 at the St.Boniface 's Field).   Having recently read  LIFE AFTER LIFE, Atkinson's latest novel,  I was  trying to describe to Shelia how much I enjoyed it,  but it is a very difficult book to explain.  We meet Ursula Todd on the day of her birth:  February 11, 1910- the night she dies- which is also the night she is saved from death, for  Ursula is to die and escape death many , many times throughout this  five hundred page saga  of  twentieth century England . The upper class family life of the Todds  is  beautifully described in Downton Abbey detail ,but the devastation of war torn London is even more vividly described.  Buddhism, chance, fate, déjà vu - all color this story and by the middle of the book we  begin to find an eerie comfort in  knowing that  despite terrible suffering and miraculous triumphs , nothing is final.  We mourn characters  who die tragically only to meet them  in subsequent chapters alive, happy and posed for new adventures.   This is a very unusual novel  and highly recommended!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  While at the  Sea Cliff Civic Association's Teen Serenade this week,  I met a friend who had just finished a novel she said was based on a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, but definitely meant for adult readers.  During these lazy, hazy days of August, I am captivated by  its title: SNOW CHILD. Have you read it?  Lover of Summer and Snow

Dear Lover of Summer and Snow,  I really enjoyed the Teen Serenade- what talented  young musicians we have here in Sea Cliff!  Yes, I have read  THE SNOW CHILD  by Eowyn Ivey - actually during the height of our recent heat wave and found it a refreshing and unusual novel.  Set in Alaska in the 1920's, the book opens with Mabel,  a transplanted Virginian trying unsuccessfully to  drown herself in the icy waters near her homestead.  Her husband Jack and she are despondent as they face another winter with little food, friendship,  or fuel. The death of an infant child years before continues to haunt them.  Into this grim story wanders a small sprite of a child who seems at first to be seen only by them but over time becomes a vital part of the small, struggling farm community. The harsh beauty of the land is as much a character in the book as Faina, their snow child.   What is magic, what is real - these are the questions that haunt the reader long after the story has ended.  A lovely, lovely book!

Readers, check out Tim and Cathy Madden's fabulous  online  news site:

Monday, July 29, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  I love mysteries, I love spy novels, I love courtroom dramas, but this summer I think I should expand my literary horizons .  Do you have a really fine book that I could read as we begin the month of August?  A  Determined  Summer Reader

Dear Determined,  Last month I was at an amazing musical event- the  WNYC's  Battle of the Boroughs where a great innovative band  Victor V. Gurbo and Co. won the audience's vote. While there I was talking to two voracious readers Cecilia and Louise Voccoli .  Having been a fan of his earlier novel,  Cecilia strongly recommended Colum McCann's newest : TRANSATLANTIC.  Well, this weekend I read it and a most wondrous book it is! McCann links his native Ireland and his present home America in three novellas that transport us back and forth over the Atlantic. We enter the mind of Frederick Douglas as he visits Ireland in 1845; he contrasts the exalted treatment he receives from the Irish aristocracy to his status as a slave in the United States, but he is also horrified at the living conditions of Ireland's poor.  Next we meet  pilots  Alcock and Brown in 1919 as they attempt the first transatlantic mail flight under extremely dangerous conditions. The last of the three journeys is George Mitchell's,  the former US  Senator,  as he attempts to broker a peace deal in Northern Ireland in 1998.  These three journeys across the Atlantic and over three centuries are tied together by the lives of four women we meet who share a common lineage and a letter.  This is a beautifully written, lyrical novel of intriguing complexity. Highly recommended

Monday, July 22, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  I was having breakfast at Sea Cliff Beach last Sunday and what a great experience it was! Ann Kopple and her staff keep the Beach and the Pavilion pristine plus we have Bernard's  serving  the most delicious meals all through the day. And the best part- you can always find friends to share a table with and that's just what I did- I met up with Gail and Bob Lafferty. As you would expect with such an erudite couple,  the conversation quickly took a literary turn. We were sharing recent recommendations and I couldn't remember  the name of the  new highly acclaimed  novel about a young girl who had been cyber-bullied with a tragic result.  Do you know the book?                                 Sea Cliff Beach Breakfaster

Dear Beach Breakfaster,  I share your enthusiasm- I had a scrumptious grilled vegetable omelet there last week. On a darker note, the book is RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA  by Kimberly McCreight. Amelia is the fourteen-year-old  daughter of Kate Baron, a partner in a prestigious New York City law firm. The novel opens with Kate traveling to Amelia's exclusive private school in Brooklyn's Park Slope. Amelia is about to be suspended for plagiarizing a paper on Virginia Woolf. Kate's irritation turns to horror when she realizes that Amelia is dead- despondent over disappointing her mother, she has jumped to her death. Within hours though, Kate receives a text "she didn't jump" and the mystery unfolds-  this is all within the first ten pages . We learn much about Amelia as Kate gains access to Facebook accounts, text messages, and notebooks,  but we learn much  about Kate as well . While this is definitely a  literary mystery,it is also a coming of age novel., a study in mother-daughter relationships, and an indictment of social media.   Recommended!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  Last weekend, I went to see the classic film "Lawrence of Arabia" in Brooklyn's iconic BAM Harvey Movie Theater.  Recently renovated and restored to its 1920's gloriously gilded past, the Harvey is showing some of the best movies of the last decades and "Lawrence…. " was certainly one of those. Making it even more interesting and relevant was the picture it drew of how the Middle East of 2013 with its myriad of issues came into being. I would love to learn more about that period of history and its many colorful characters.  Any suggestions?  Loathe to Leave Sea Cliff but….

Dear Loathe to Leave…. I know just how you feel about venturing out of Sea Cliff on the weekend but sometimes one just has to do it. We joined Joseph Anzalone and Gillian DiPietro to see that movie in Brooklyn  and it was indeed incredible.  (Of course, we returned to Sea Cliff for a delicious dinner at the Metropolitan Bistro !) We were left with so many questions that I searched out some books for answers and I found an especially good one:  GERTRUDE BELL-QUEEN OF THE DESERT, SHAPER OF NATIONS by Georgina Howell. Bell was a contemporary of Lawrence's and in many ways more influential in determining the fate of that region. Born into the sixth wealthiest family in Britain, Bell had the means, personality, and intelligence to do whatever she wanted and her passion was Arabia. While she, Lawrence, and many of their allies were  ultimately viewed as  puppets of British imperialism, Bell remains a fascinating figure in a fascinating time.  Recommended!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  This weekend is the Sea Cliff Beach Committee's annual  Beach Palozza and I can't wait! It will be  Saturday, July 13 from 11am until 11pm with bands, contests, and great food, but when  I am at the beach, I must always have something  to read. Do you have a recommendation?     
Sea Cliff Beach Palooza Fan

Dear Beach Palooza Fan,  I just heard from Justin and Jenna DiPietro who are on the Beach Committee that this year's Palooza has an amazing lineup of bands plus activities for everyone from toddlers to nonagenarians. A book I think you will enjoy reading  at the event  is Claire Messud's  THE WOMAN UPSTAIRS, the story of Nora Eldridge, a forty-two year old third grade teacher. She is grieving her mother's death, she regrets not pursuing a career as an artist,  and she fears- most of all -that she will  be "the woman upstairs" colorless, nameless, always on the fringe of other people's lives… until into her life come the Shahids: husband, wife, and eight year Reza. Glamorous, successful people, the Shahids become Nora's obsession.  The book opens with an angry tirade by her, five years after having met the Shahids,  but most of the book is devoted to the year that she and the Shahids' lives intersected . This is a psychological thriller of sorts because we are never sure if Nora is a credible witness to the events she describes. She might be, but then again, maybe not. A disturbing portrait that rings true on many levels! 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Dear Great Book Guru,  What great fun we had this week at Sea Cliff's many Fourth of July related celebrations.  My favorite is always the reading of the Declaration of Independence on the steps of the Library. Carol Vogt and her committee do a super job every year and this was no exception.  While  on the refreshment line - love those Grassroots' muffins-  I heard someone mention having  just finished  a book about the changing state of America told through a series of short biographies. It sounded interesting to read on this holiday weekend. Any thoughts?    Summer Patriot

Dear Summer  Patriot,  Yes, I know the book: George Packer's  THE UNWINDING: The Inner History of the New America. This is a very sad, very disturbing book, but worthwhile and beautifully written.  In its essence, "unwinding" is the coming apart of all that has kept the country together: economically, politically, and morally. While America has undergone unwinding in the past and emerged stronger than ever, this time he sees major differences that do not auger well for the future. He traces the lives of three citizens all born in the 1960's who are struggling to reinvent themselves in a changing America,  a country he sees as Walmartized- cheap goods, low salaries, and huge profits for the very few- as an example,  the six Walmart heirs have more money than the entire bottom 30% of the population.  Interspersed with the tales of these three, are ten short biographical sketches of modern day icons, some virtuous (Elizabeth Warren) but most - if not villainous- complicit (Oprah Winfrey, Joe Biden, Colin Powell, Robert Rubin, Sam Walmart) in Packer's view.  Certainly not light holiday reading, but highly recommended!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  This week Sea Cliff Civic Association's Sunset Serenades begin at Memorial Park, Thursday at 7pm.  I always love these concerts with toddlers,  children, and adults enjoying the music, picnic dinners  being shared,  the crowd watching the sun set,  a great sense of community  in a beautiful setting throughout the summer. .. One of my favorite things to do is to get to the park early, set myself up under a tree with a good book, and wait for the music to start. Do you have a book you would recommend?         Sunset Serenade Supporter

Dear Sunset,  I, too, love the Serenades and we all have Petrice Kaider to thank for organizing them every year. And  I just read a book I think you might enjoy:  PASSING ON by Penelope Lively. Written in the eighties, this short novel chronicles the lives of a middle-aged brother and sister living in a small English village in the year that follows the death of their mother. Helen and Edward  and the reader come to realize over the course of the book  how powerful a force  she had been and that even in death, she controls her children.  The sweetly melancholy air that pervades the book is shattered  when events occur, revealing the depth of their misery.  This a beautifully written, short work- perfect for a summer evening!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  Last weekend I participated in a Sea Cliff's Second Annual  Bloomsday Walk . What fun!  Christine Abbenda and Joe Hughes  were there in their Edwardian finery and Joe played a series of lively tunes on his Irish penny whistle as we marched through the streets of Sea Cliff, recounting  the episodes of James Joyce's Ulysses.  I have often tried to read this iconic novel but- how can I say it?- it is just too much for me with its eight hundred pages of  thousands of literary and political allusions.  Is there a "Joyce lite"  I could start with, so I can at least say I am a fledgling member of the James Joyce Society of Sea Cliff?   Eager Noveau Joycean

Dear Eager,  The Bloomsday Walk was a great success with its many enthusiastic Joyceans- check out the photo in this week's Gold Coast Gazette. And indeed, I have just the book for you:  Joyce's  THE DUBLINERS .  Written a few years before the famed Ulysses, this work is a series of fifteen short stories linked by time, place, and theme. Joyce divided the stories by life stages,  using the ancient Roman system: childhood (to seventeen years), adolescence (  seventeen to thirty years) and maturity (the remaining years). We  follow the lives of these early twentieth century characters  as they cope with the spiritual, moral,  and intellectual oppression that Joyce saw as Dublin but throughout, he treats them not as victims but as a people ultimately aware of their own  fate.  Highly recommended!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru, I was at a recent celebration  here in Sea Cliff of the famed author Barbara Pym's centenary   when someone at the party mentioned an upcoming trip to Paris.  Everyone had suggestions as to what would be best to read in preparation, but Ed Lieberman, our newest trustee and a great lover of fine literature, insisted there was one book that had to be read. He said it was written by David McCullough, famous for his writings on Harry Truman, John Adams, and, yes, the Brooklyn Bridge, but  Paris?  What do you think?  Lover of All Things Parisian

Dear Lover of All Things Parisian,   McCullough's  THE GREATER  JOURNEY is the perfect introduction to Paris. It opens in 1830 as a group of travelers prepare to depart for an arduous ocean journey to Paris for intellectual, spiritual, and political awakening. His travelers will eventually include among others Samuel Morse, James Fenimore Cooper, Harriet Beecher Stowe,  Mary Cassatt, Elizabeth Blackwell, P.T. Barnum, and  Oliver Wendell Holmes. Their stories develop and intertwine throughout the book but always the main, overarching character is Paris.  We meet the beautiful, exotic, medieval Paris of the 1830's in the early chapters, and we are there to witness its transformation into the Paris we know today which began with Louis Napoleon and  city planner (a rather generic term for such a transformative figure) Georges Haussmann. The book is filled with exquisite illustrations and, yes, Ed is so right: do not visit Paris without having read this book!

Major Literary Event:  Sunday, June 16 at 8:30am the James Joyce Society of Sea Cliff will meet for its annual  Bloomsday  walk, beginning at the Marcello Tower aka the Sea Cliff Water Tower. This event will take about one hour. Hope you can join us!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,    I am very excited about the upcoming Spring Fest in Sea Cliff- I have heard it described as a village-wide block party and then again as a intimate version of Mini-Mart. It will take place along Sea Cliff Avenue from Arata's to Partners with Village organizations and artists and artisans set up to greet and meet the citizenry with lots and lots of live music from 11am to 4pm. Then- can it get better- yes!- because at 4pm we will all march over to Clifton Park  for a concert with more than eighty musicians performing- a perfect setting for a picnic supper. Well,  do you think there be time for a good book?  Swooning Over a Sunday in Sea Cliff

Dear Swooning,  What a great day awaits us and, yes, I have a wonderful, wonderful book for you to read :THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN  by Katherine Applegate.  This is a  short, simple novel that appeals to all ages and whose message lingers long after the book is finished. Ivan is a silverback gorilla who long ago left his native land and has lived in a shopping mall circus for thirty years. He has been more  or less content, but when a young elephant Ruby joins the circus, he sees how wretched his own life has been and he is consumed by the desire to make Ruby's  better. Family becomes an overwhelming interest of Ivan's as he tries to make sense of his existence. While the book is written from Ivan's point of view, we can see human  parallels .  A thought-provoking book based on a real life story…

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  What a lovely weekend in Sea Cliff!  The  early rain only made Monday even more beautiful  with its sweet parade and ceremonies at Clifton Park. I especially loved the essays Kylie Kenny and Jackson Best presented to us, and Kirtland Watkins, the pastor at the Methodist Church, gave  a  beautifully thought-provoking invocation. While at the Children's Library before the parade began, I was talking to my friend Allison Ryan who- with her family- was helping put out the food and treats we all enjoyed so much.  We were discussing  vacation plans when a passerby mentioned a new , very controversial book on tourism. Do you know anything about this book? I would love to read it.   Intrigued by Travel

Dear Intrigued by Travel,  I just finished it:  OVERBOOKED  by NPR correspondent Nancy Becker,  and I really learned a lot about the business  and culture of tourism.  Becker gives the reader a history of travel  starting around  1960 when vaccines, fast air travel, and a paid two week vacation became the norm, and Arthur Frommer had just come out with his "Europe on Five Dollars a Day" approach to tourism. From 25 million trips to foreign countries that year, the number jumped to 1 billion in 2012. The impact this has had on the environment, the economy, and the psyche is closely analyzed with special attention paid to the gargantuan cruise ships that enter ports each day and the havoc they wreak.  From Venice to Dubai to Martha's Vineyard to Costa Rica, the author takes us on an amazing journey, offering us fascinating insights  all along the way.  This is a troubling book for anyone who travels and apparently there are a billion or so of us out there.

The Friends of the Sea Cliff Library  led by Carol Poll are hosting a huge book sale on the Village Green Saturday, June 1 from 9am to 4pm as part of the Village-wide Garage Sale sponsored by the Sea Cliff Civic Association. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,   How can anyone think of leaving Sea Cliff on Memorial Day weekend?  Besides being a lovely, lovely time of year, there are so many wonderful events going on- from the opening of Sea Cliff Beach,  great music and fine dining at all our restaurants, and then , of course, the Memorial Parade on Monday morning and the moving ceremony afterwards at Clifton Park.  But I do always like to have a good book on hand, so do you have any suggestions?         Stay in Sea Cliff Advocate

Dear SISC Advocate,  I agree with you completely, and now there is one more reason not to leave Sea Cliff- Bernard's of Glen Head will be operating the food concession at Sea Cliff Beach this summer.  Bring your book and stay from breakfast through dinner and, yes,  I have just the book for you: THE BURGESS BOYS  by Elizabeth Strout,  author of the  earlier, very popular OLIVE KITTERIDGE. This novel too is set in Maine and Brooklyn and follows the family history of the Burgesses, Jim, Bob, and Susan - middle-aged siblings whose lives have been colored by the premature death of their father. When the brothers return to the family home to help Susan cope with a bizarre hate crime incident, they find themselves addressing not the present crisis, but instead long buried childhood grievances. Highly recommended!

Major Literary Event :  Acclaimed Sea Cliff poet  Charles Hansmann's latest work POEM OF THE AHEAD PLACES has just been published and a beautifully crafted work it is!  The thirty-two poems, each a  joy to read, are bound between exquisite hand-pressed  endpapers.  You can contact to purchase copies of the book.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  I was with my friend Tina Marchese this weekend and she told me about the exciting Sea Cliff  Landmarks House Tour that will take place on Sunday, May 19. Ten houses!!!! I would love to read a book earlier in the day and then again perhaps when the tour is over. Do you have a good book you would recommend?  Lover of Landmarks

Dear Lover of Landmarks , Yes- I have a wonderful book for you: THE PRIVILEGES  by Jonathan Dee. It begins with a wedding and then goes on to chronicle the bride and groom's life together over the next twenty years.  Cynthia and Adam are a couple so in love with one another, so privileged that the rest of the world simply does not exist for them.  Their children , their parents, their friends, all play essentially minor roles in this- the  story of their life together. Reminiscent of The Great Gatsby, the novel showcases the effects of  great wealth, good fortune, and  youthful exuberance, and  New York with its intensively competitive culture serves as a colorful backdrop.  Always there is the sense that the characters will pay for their misdeeds but no- that is not the case: good and evil, reward and punishment,  do not exist in this novel of 21st century sensibilities. A disturbing but recommended book!

Major literary event:  Sunday, June 2 is author Barbara Pym's 100th birthday and the Pym Society of Sea Cliff will be celebrating by reading an early novel of hers:  CRAMPTON HODNET and gathering for sherry, tea, and sweets that afternoon. Contact me at if you are interested in participating.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  Next Sunday is Mother's Day and I plan on taking my mother out to dinner - maybe Billy Long's Metro Bistro- and then  a movie and, of course,  I would like to buy her a book.  Any suggestions?   Devoted Son

Dear Devoted,   A great plan and I have both the movie and the book!  "The Great Gatsby" movie with Leonardo DiCaprio  opens this weekend which prompted me to reread the F.Scott Fitzgerald novel THE GREAT GATSBY.  While most of us are familiar with the story told by a young bond trader from the Midwest who finds himself enmeshed in the lives of his Long Island  millionaire friends,  I had forgotten, despite many readings of the novel ,how powerfully tragic the character of Gatsby is portrayed and how eerily noble he truly is.  Of course, the setting is familiar with North Shore mansions and roads playing a huge part in my enjoyment of the novel. Gatsby lives in nouveau riche Great Neck (West Egg) as opposed to the more genteel, old wealth of Manhasset ( East Egg) and the horrific climax takes place in- is it Douglaston, Queens ?   In many ways this is a simple book  with a simple plot but Fitzgerald's  narrator Nick draws us in  and we are as shocked as he by the outcome. This is a book to be read over and over with new insights to be found each time. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  I am planning a trip to Italy in the next few weeks- of course, I will be back for all Sea Cliff's wonderful upcoming events: the Landmarks House Tour on May 19, the Memorial Day Parade, and the spectacular Village-wide Garage Sale on June 1- but meanwhile, I would like something to read to begin my Italian immersion .  We will be visiting the Amalfi  Coast region. Any suggestions?   An Amalfi Adventurer

Dear Amalfi Adventurer, We just came back from an amazing vacation planned by our friend Toni Montello, expert on all of Italy! One of the highlights of the trip was our visit to Pompeii and I'm sure you will want to go there too.  Robert Harris's POMPEII is a great mood-setter for this excursion. Set in Pompeii   69AD, two days before Vesuvius erupts, the novel gives a fascinating look into the culture, geography, and history of that ill-fated city. It is told from the perspective of a young engineer Attillius who has been sent from Rome to manage the vast aqueducts that provide water for the area. Something is terribly wrong- fish are dying, strange cracks are appearing, the water flow is slowing , and it is his job to find out why.  The lavish life style of the rich, the harsh existence of the poor and enslaved, and the political corruption that permeates the society are all recorded, but we alone know that it is all to end within hours.   A compelling read!

Dear Great Book Guru,  I was at the Doherty Family Rubber Ducky Hunt this weekend and as usual, it was great, great fun!  The conversation soon turned to books with Big Jim Doherty mentioning that he was looking for a new mystery to put on his Kindle. None of us could think of one off hand. What would you suggest?                 Duck Hunt Devotee

Dear Duck Hunt Devotee,  How appropriate for the Duck Hunt- Donna Leon's newest book THE GOLDEN EGG (think the goose that laid the golden egg!). .. Leon is a native  New Yorker who has lived in Italy for over thirty years . Her stories are set in Venice and the hero of her 22 books is Guido Brunetti, a sophisticated, classics scholar turned police commissioner who relishes in family dinners and word games with his academician wife and two teenage children.  There is little violence if any in this mystery and we are unsure if a crime has been committed, but we do know that there has been an injustice that must be addressed.  A young man appears to have committed suicide, his mother is acting strangely, and , oh yes, there is no record of his ever having existed. With many asides about  cyber loss of privacy, political corruption, and spurious piety,  Brunetti more or less solves the case but was there a case to begin with?  An excellent read for the weekend!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,   I was at the Sea Cliff Yacht Club over the weekend and I noticed a  large group of people gathering for what I assume was a book signing by a local author. The crowd seemed very enthusiastic- I was wondering who the author was and if you had read his book?   Book Signing Spectator

Dear Book Signing Spectator, What a shame you didn't come join us! The author was Dan Fagin, a Sea Cliff luminary and journalist/author extraordinaire. He gave a riveting reading and a summary of his much acclaimed TOMS RIVER, the story of a town in southern New Jersey, a town whose name  over the years came be synonymous with tainted water,  industrial  pollution, and childhood cancers. Dan's book is a fascinating amalgam of science, politics, history, and biography. He weaves a story of valor and cowardice, virtue and corruption, from Basel, Switzerland to a factory town in central China,  but  the heart of the story is always the parents and children of Toms River who suffered much  and fought to find out why and how this could  have happened in their town.  Highly recommended!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  Some of my friends attended a book discussion with members of libraries from all over Long Island's  North Shore community .  What a great idea- to have scores of people read the same book and then gather to discuss it and share insights. Were you there and what book was chosen for this year's event? Sorry to Have Missed It

Dear Sorry, Oh yes, I would not have missed the annual Long Island Reads event which once again took place at the Metropolitan in Glen Cove.  Readers from Locust Valley, Sea Cliff, Bayville, Glen Head, Roslyn, Glen Cove, the Brookvilles, Oyster Bay, East Norwich,  and Glenwood Landing were in attendance, and the book discussed was SUTTON  by Long Island author J.R.  Moehringer.  It was great fun and John Canning did a masterful job in moderating the discussion.  SUTTON  is a fictional recapturing  of the life and times of the infamous  bank robber Willie Sutton. Told from the perspective of Sutton himself, the novel takes place on Christmas Eve, the day Sutton is released from Attica Prison.  He and a young  idealistic reporter and  a world weary photographer revisit  fourteen sites that played pivotal roles in Sutton's life.  We travel through time and place from his childhood in the early 1900's in downtown Brooklyn to all the boroughs of New York City in 1969. The anger felt by so many (including Moehringer himself)  towards the banking industry  permeates this book .   Throughout time there  has been a fascination with the "good crook" - think Robin Hood-  and Willie Sutton certainly qualifies as such. A fascinating read!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  I was at a lovely Easter dinner party in Sea Cliff- delicious food and wonderful company- when the conversation turned to books. One of the guests mentioned having read an exciting novel that she said reminded her of the literary thriller bestseller GONE GIRL but it involved a gourmet meal.  Any thoughts?   Seeker of Literary Thrills

Dear Seeker,  We too had a great Easter and, in addition to delicious food and wonderful company, we enjoyed a spectacular production of "The Country Bunny and the Golden Shoes" in which Ethan, Lara, Jenna, Justin, Alexis, Daniel and Dan DiPietro starred. But back to the book you are asking about- THE DINNER  by Herman Koch. A bestseller in Europe, it was translated from the original Dutch and released here last month where it is already on everyone's must read list.  Set in a preciously pretentious Dutch restaurant, the novel opens with aperitifs and ends with digestives; in between we listen to two brothers and their wives discuss the holidays, real estate holdings,  their children.  The narrator is a  retired school teacher with serious sibling rivalry problems. His brother is a charismatic politician- think Bill Clinton- who is about to become prime minister if  only the two couples can find a way out of a horrific situation not of their making….or is it?  As we move from one course to the next,  our narrator reveals more and more about himself and his dinner companions until the final moment when we realize  that all evening we have been in the presence of pure evil.   Highly recommended !