Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Dear Great Book Guru,  Sea Cliff Beach was definitely the place to be this weekend.  Early Sunday,  we headed down to have “ breakfast by the sea” and what a delicious breakfast it was and the lunch menu looked great, too!  While waiting on line, I overheard a couple discussing a new book set in the near future. One loved it and other said it was terrifying- something about New China and Baltimore???   Sea Cliff Beach Fan

Dear Sea Cliff Beach Fan,  I was there with my family everyday of the weekend and I agree totally with you – Carol Vogt, the Beach Committee, and Ann Koppel and her staff all deserve our thanks. ON SUCH A FULL SEA  by Chang-Rae Lee is a dystopian novel that  describes a future where disease, pollution, and financial collapse have left  the world a very grim place.  China’s population  has been  decimated by  industrial pollution and a group of its survivors have been resettled in Baltimore, a city Americans have abandoned because of civil unrest. These survivors live a constrained life- albeit safe and comfortable- where their sole function is to provide food and delicacies for an elite population of scientists, financiers, and technocrats who live in lavishly affluent gated communities. Between these two worlds, is open space where violence, anarchy and pandemics reign. The novel’s protagonist is Fan, a young girl whose  adventures  we follow as she travels in search of a missing friend. There is an uncomfortable recognition of many of our own concerns:   global warming, bird flu, swine flu, cancer epidemics, social inequality,  service economies,  outsourcing….  As a chilling commentary on our present ills and a despairing prediction for our future, this novel is not for the fainthearted. 
Reminder: Sea Cliff Civic Association's Annual Village-Wide Garage Sale is Saturday, June 7. Deadline to register is May 31. Need a form?  Available at Village Hall or Children's Library.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Dear Great Book Guru,   I am so looking forward to the Memorial Day ….. the spirited parade through the streets of Sea Cliff, the bittersweet ceremony at Clifton Park,  breakfast on the front lawn of the Children’s Library, the opening of the Beach- all make for an iconic  day.  As usual I am looking for a good book to read when there is quiet moment.  Do you have any suggestions?   Eager Reader

Dear Eager Reader, Wherever I am, whatever I am doing, I make sure I am back in town for Memorial Day so, yes, I can certainly understand your excitement. I am going to recommend a book that might surprise you: CRESCENT AND STAR: TURKEY BETWEEN TWO WORLDS by Stephen Kinzer.  Why this book for this American holiday weekend? Well, Kinzer tells  the story of a country most of us know very little about, but one that is a valuable and fascinating ally. Largely Islamic, it has been a democracy of sorts since 1923. Kinzer describes in colorful detail  the food and drink , the poets and novelists, and the generals and politicians of modern day Turkey.   Reading about the missteps, the triumphs, and the potential of this ancient country, we can see vestiges of our own history. Recommended!

Remember to get your treasures together for the Civic Association’s annual Garage Sale- Saturday,  June 7. If you need an application form, pick one up at Village Hall.  

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Dear Great Book Guru,   What a beautiful weekend we just had!  There were Mother’s Day celebrations throughout Sea Cliff- in its homes, restaurants, parks with blossoming trees and flowers everywhere. While at a lovely porch party, I overheard a conversation about a new novel recently reviewed on the front page of the New York Times Book Review about an Indian American family. The review was very positive. Have you read it and, if so, would you recommend it?  Sea Cliff Spring Sojourner

Dear  SCS Sojourner,  I spent part of this lovely weekend reading  FAMILY LIFE by Akhil Sharma.   While a quick read (only 220 pages long), this semi-autobiographical  novel was deeply moving. It is 1979 and Ajay  (our narrator), his older brother Birju, and their mother are preparing to leave India to join the boys’ father in America.  The excitement of this move is vividly captured as is young Ajay’s realization that everything- good and bad- is about to change.  The small apartment in Queens, the unaccustomed luxuries of libraries and the unending supply of hot water, the pain of playground bullying, new foods- all are described in exquisite detail. Shortly into the book, fourteen year-old Birju is accepted into the prestigious Bronx High School of Science, and the family feels their future is secured, their highest hopes realized.  Within weeks their dreams and lives are shattered.  Birju suffers a terrible accident that leaves him in a permanent vegetative state.  The rest of the book describes the anger, pain,  remorse, and, yes, guilt each family member feels. The Indian community is presented as yet another character as it  too struggles to deal with this tragedy in its midst.   An extraordinary book – highly recommended!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Dear Great Book Guru,  I just finished reading  Sea Cliff author Charles Hansmann’s latest collection of poems- APOSTASY OF THE WAYLESS POET.  I enjoyed it very much and friends have told me that Alice Munro’s short stories have a similar appeal. Have you read either of these authors ?  Poet Partisan

Dear Poet Partisan,  I too am a great fan of Hansmann’s poetry  and actually I just finished an early short story  collection of the 2013 Nobel Prize Winner Alice Munro’s – THE MOONS OF JUPITER but I don’t see a strong connection  between these two authors.  In almost all of Munro’s stories, the main character is a woman approaching forty, well educated, self-aware, and struggling with memories long buried.  Frequently these memories appear to be faulty causing her to reconsider decisions made and judgments rendered. In the last of twelve stories from which the collection gets its title, the woman reminisces with her elderly dying father and she sees in their troubled relationship startling similarities to problems she has with her daughters.  The stories are told in a circular format rather than linear- just as its many moons all circle Jupiter.   Set in rural Canada, the stories are beautifully written in streams of consciousness with characters’ lives coming into focus as they move back in forth through time.