Monday, February 25, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,   I went  with friends this week to a book signing for our friend Fred Stroppel's new book LUCKY ME that he wrote with Sachi Parker. There was a huge crowd and we had so much fun! While on line, I heard a group of literary types talking about a novel they had chosen for their book club. It wasn't a bestseller and certainly not new but it sounded very interesting- something about sibling relationships, astronomy, and J. Robert Oppenheimer.  Have I given you enough clues?                             Always Looking for a Good Book

Dear Always Looking,  I know just the book:  FIRST LIGHT by Charles Baxter. Written in 1987 and recently re-released,  this novel uses a very interesting technique: beginning in the present, each  chapter brings us further into the past. Baxter opens with Dorsey and her brother Hugh,  spending the Fourth of July weekend together with their respective  spouses and children;  the concluding chapter  chronicles their first meeting : the day Dorsey was born. It is a touching, gentle story of family miscues,  faltering affections,  and shared history .   The title comes from the term used to describe a telescope's first view which is imprecise before a series of corrections bring it to full clarity. By the end , we  understand  with telescopic clarity this brother and sister's present relationship , certainly more clearly than they themselves can.  A beautifully written book- highly recommended!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  I have noticed the quiet of Sea Cliff's streets with so many friends and neighbors vacationing this Presidents' Week so I  am really looking forward to this Friday's Pub Crawl.  Tickets will be available at the former Rose's General Store- beautifully decorated  by the Beach Committee with mermaids galore ! But I certainly have time the rest of the weekend for a good book. Suggestions?   Presidents' Week  Reveler

Dear Presidents' Week Reveler,  I do have a book you might enjoy, but perhaps enjoy is not the word I am looking for because this a painful book to read but enlightening and ultimately rewarding.  THE TWELVE TRIBES OF HATTIE  by Ayana  Mathis is a novel that recounts the story of the Grand Migration  from the perspective of seventeen year-old Hattie Shepherd who flees the Jim Crow racism of Georgia to find herself caught in the economic and social upheaval  of  the twentieth century North.  The twelve tribes of the title are Hattie's children who are each described in interconnecting  chapters .   The children  confront  their own adversities , but all  are bound by their love for the coldly dispassionate Hattie .  The American dream remains  painfully elusive for Hattie, echoing the struggles of the biblical Hagar and the twelve tribes of Israel.  This is certainly not an easy book to read, but definitely a story and character you will long remember.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  I was so disappointed last week when the Sea Cliff Civic Association's Progressive Dinner had to be canceled because of Snow Storm Nemo. Well, at least we have the Beach Committee's Pub Crawl to look forward to next week- Friday, February 22.  You don’t have to drink to enjoy this event- it is just great fun walking around the Village , meeting up with friends, snacking, chatting, and supporting a great cause: our Beach! But I do have some free time and would like to have a good book to read over the weekend. Any recommendations?  Pub Crawler

Dear Pub Crawler, Yes, I plan on gathering a group of friends and visiting all the restaurants on the Pub itinerary. But I hope you will find time to read a book I just finished:  BOMB by Steve Sheinkin.   It is the fascinating and frightening history of the race to build and steal the first atomic bomb.   Sheinkin  focuses on three major players: Harry Gold- the  timid salesman from Philadelphia who was a Soviet spy bent on stealing the American blueprints  for the bomb,  J.Robert  Oppenheimer- the brilliant, much conflicted leader of the Manhattan Project that developed the bomb, and Knut Haukelid- a Norwegian resistance fighter who, despite tremendous obstacles, successfully sabotaged German attempts to create the bomb.  The physics and politics of the bomb are factually presented here, but there is also the sense  you are reading a fast-paced espionage novel.  Relatively short, clearly written, and well-illustrated, this book works for both the novice and the enthusiast.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Dear Great Book Guru,  This weekend is the Sea Cliff Civic Association's annual Progressive Dinner and I am very excited to be attending.  I am sure that some time during the evening - maybe at appetizers, maybe at dinner- the talk will turn to books and I would like to be able to contribute to the conversation. What would be a good book to read ahead of time?   Progressive Dinner Diner

Dear Progressive Dinner Diner,  Tina Marchese who has chaired this event over the last ten years does a fabulous job and I am sure this year's  will be better than ever.  And lucky for you, I have the perfect book: Fred Stroppel's just published LUCKY ME  that he has written with Sachi Parker, daughter of actress Shirley MacLaine.  Fred is a local celebrity here in Sea Cliff and  a well known writer in the wider world of network TV and Off-Broadway theater .   Sachi and Fred combine their talents to tell a story of much greater interest than simply  a celebrity memoir. No, they tell  a universal  story of family:  the painful misunderstandings, miscues, secrets, and ultimately great affection that characterizes the histories of so many of us, but Sachi's  is acted out on an international stage under the scrutiny  of a very  demanding  public.  A fascinating read and highly recommended!