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!