Monday, June 30, 2014

Dear Great Book Guru, What an exciting weekend awaits us here in Sea Cliff!  The Civic Association’s 4th of July celebration on the Village Green at 10am this year will be followed by a parade down Sea Cliff Avenue led by world acclaimed bagpiper Paul Haining. The parade’s destination…  Sea Cliff‘s newest park: Lincoln Plaza!  Native son Donald Mullen will return in his role as Abraham Lincoln for the Plaza’s dedication.  Then, of course, there is the Beach Committee’s iconic event: the Palooza- all day Saturday there will be music, games, prizes, great food and drink!  But when will I get time to read?   Loving the Red, White, and Blue

Dear Loving…..This is indeed a spectacular weekend ahead and I do have a great book for you to read –David McCullough’s 1776, a rousing, fresh look at the year that changed the course of American history.  McCullough’s approach is fascinating. Throughout, he pairs the two George’s- King and General- and shows their common humanity. He introduces us to shopkeepers, lawyers, farmers who changed history. He shows how disease, horrific weather- and most of all luck- good and bad- all   played crucial roles throughout that tumultuous year. While carefully documented, the book reads like an exciting adventure novel, so much so that we almost forget we know the ending, but no spoiler alerts needed. Happy 4th and see you on the Village Green!    


Monday, June 23, 2014

Dear Great Book Guru,  I was with my friends Vic Ambrose and Linda Halliday at a great Solstice party over the past weekend and we were discussing  how we were going to spend the long, lazy days of summer.  We agreed reading a book a week would be one of our  goals.  Where shall we start?                    Summer Goal Setter

Dear Summer Goal  Setter,  I just finished the novel HOME LEAVE by Brittani Sonnenberg that I think you might enjoy.  Relatively short (257 pages), this book offers an interesting study of home- what does home mean when you and your family are “expats” Americans living and working abroad . The Kriegsteins –Chris and Elise and their two daughters Sophia and Leah- have lived in Germany, China, Singapore, England, Thailand, Mississippi, Indiana, Georgia and Wisconsin- all because of Chris’s business ventures. The story begins rather oddly but interestingly with the family home as the narrator- but only for the first chapter. Later we hear from each of the family members as they describe their feelings of alienation, reinvention, and excitement, as they move from place to place as a family. In the opening chapter we learn of the tragedy that leaves each of the family in a permanent state of grief exacerbated by their “homelessness.”  The colorful descriptions of the schools, homes, food, friends they encounter abroad and at “ home” add to the richness of this novel. Recommended!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Dear Great Book Guru,  Last weekend, I was at a Father’s Day /Bloomsday celebration at Sea Cliff Beach with the Stroppels, the Abbenda-Hughes, and the DiPietros, when the conversation turned to books and parenting. Someone mentioned having read an horrific account of really bad parenting that was on the best sellers list for years. No one could remember the title but I would love to read it.  Any thoughts?                        Book Enthusiast

Dear Enthusiast, My book group just read THE GLASS CASTLE  by Jeanette Wallis and I am sure it is  the book your friends were trying to remember.  On the  New York Times Best Sellers list for five years, THE GLASS CASTLE tells the story of the Wallis family from the perspective of the middle daughter Jeanette who is now a  renowned journalist and novelist.  Her parents were eccentric to put it mildly- deeply disturbed would be a more accurate description.  Charismatic, handsome, flawed, the couple led a nomadic life- 27 homes in five years until finally settling in a small town in West Virginia where their family of six lived in a three room house with no electricity or indoor plumbing. The deprivations the children endured- little food, tattered, unwashed clothing, the barest of supervision- were interspersed with occasional moments of tremendous love, affection, and approval. The question which goes unanswered is how could the children survive and, in some cases prosper with such bizarre, erratic parenting.   A thought-provoking read!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Dear Great Book Guru,  I just checked my calendar and sure enough Monday is Bloomsday.  I usually celebrate with friends reading excepts of ULYSSES but this year I want to do something a little more special.  Any thoughts?  Bloomsday Celebrant

Dear Bloomsday Celebrant , I have a wonderful plan for you which will begin on the eve of Bloomsday.    As most of my readers know, Bloomsday is celebrated every year to commemorate  the day James Joyce’s ULYSSES takes place: June 16, 1904.   Joyce spent most of his adult life in exile  but he wrote obsessively about one place and one place only: his birthplace - Dublin. In ULYSSES, we follow  three main characters through the day into the night- seeing and experiencing Dublin as they did.    But ULYSSES is more than the portrait of one city on one day- it is also a study of the epic wanderings of the Greek hero Odysseus (Ulysses)- mocking the wanderings of the most unlikely of heroes: Leopold Bloom. On Sunday, June 15 at 8am, the James Joyce Society of Sea Cliff will lead a tour of Sea Cliff/Dublin stopping at parallel locations along the way. The tour will begin at the Sea Cliff Water Tower ( Martello Tower). Other places will include Still Partners ( Davey Byrne’s Pub), Headless Park (Nelson’s Pillar),  Memorial Park (Dublin Cemetery), K.C. Gallagher’s (Barney Kiernan’s Bar) and Sea Cliff Beach (Sandymount Strand). Dan and Ann DiPietro will lead the tour which will take about one hour.  In preparation you might want to read ULYSSES AND US by Declan Kieberd, FOUR DUBLINERS  by Richard Ellmann, or the recently released THE MOST DANGEROUS BOOK by Kevin Birmingham. Happy Reading and Happy Bloomsday!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Dear Great Book Guru,  This is an amazing few days  here in Sea Cliff- first, on Saturday, the Village-Wide Garage Sale sponsored by the Sea Cliff Civic Association; then on Sunday,  Springfest, a creation of Kathleen DiResta and Trustee Ed Lieberman, in which local organizations, artists, and musicians gather together to celebrate the spirit of Sea Cliff. Later in the day everyone will meet at Clifton Park to hear the eighty piece Northwinds Band perform from 5 to 6pm.  Phil Como, the organizer of the event, suggests everyone bring blankets, chairs, and a picnic dinner.  When will I find time to read? Do you have something relatively short but definitely worthwhile?  Enjoying June in Sea Cliff

Dear Enjoying June…, A great, great weekend awaits us, indeed!  I just finished a wonderful book that I would like to share: REGENERATION by Pat Barker.  This novel is set in an English convalescent home for officers damaged in combat during World War I.  It is peopled by historical figures such as Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owens, and W.H.R.Rivers ( who pioneered the treatment of post traumatic shock) plus fictional characters who represent various classes of English society. Those of you who enjoy “Downton Abbey” may find this a disturbing but revealing sidebar to the series. And as we approach the 100th anniversary of the Great War- as it was called,  this novel reminds us of how truly little we have learned. Highly recommended!

Reminder: Who will be this year’s recipients of the prestigious White Caps awarded by the Sea Cliff Civic Association to those who have shown extraordinary community spirit?  Come to the Metro Bistro on Tuesday, June 10 at 8pm to find out….

Another book I enjoyed  and might appeal to some of my readers: FROM POMPEII by Ingrid Rowland. Rowland traces the history of the ill-fated city of Pompeii. Renoir, Mozart, Freud, Dickens, and Mark Twain among countless others,  found inspiration in this Roman city, where in 79 CE,  time did stop.