Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Dear Great Book Guru,  I am very excited about MiniMart Sunday, October 5.  I love walking around town and meeting up with neighbors and friends- old and new-  but late in the day when the crowds are heading home, I like to sit with a good book and read for a few hours.  Do you have something short but challenging?  Mini Mart Maven

Dear Mini Mart Maven,  Mini Mart is  also one of my favorite Sea Cliff holidays; in fact, my neighbor Lou Campi  and I agree it might be up there with Christmas and Thanksgiving! This week my book group finished a short novel that just might fill the bill for you: BORDER CROSSING by Pat Barker. Tom Seymour is a child psychologist who, thirteen years before, had served as an expert witness at the trial of Danny Miller, a ten year old accused of murdering an elderly neighbor. Danny has just been released from prison and has begun a new life with an apartment, a job , and a new name- all provided by the British social services system. Danny tracks down Tom in an attempt to understand what happened those thirteen years ago.  More a psychological study than a mystery, the book gradually reveals the imperfect borders that exist  between good and evil and we are left to wonder what is innocence, what is guilt?   Highly recommended!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Dear Great Book Guru,  After the last couple of fun-filled weekends here in Sea Cliff, it is sad to realize Summer is really over and Fall is about to begin, but I can seek comfort in a good book, right? Any suggestions?   Adjusting to Autumn

Dear Adjusting to Autumn, I just finished a very interesting book- a book that reminded me in some ways of Sea Cliff: PERFECTLY MISERABLE: GUILT, GOD, AND REAL ESTATE IN A SMALL TOWN  by Sarah Payne Stuart.  Having left her childhood hometown of Concord, Massachusetts when she was eighteen, Payne returns fifteen years later, married and pregnant with her third child. Her goal is to gain her parents’ approval, show them have bad they were at parenting, and, yes, give her children the childhood she thought she’d had.  Needless to say, a recipe for disaster.   Real estate agents, home renovators, and PTA officials are all described in humorously biting detail as are the Alcotts, Thoreaus, and Emersons of 19th century Concord fame. But Payne’s most humorous and painful descriptions are saved for her mother.  A descendent of a wealthy, literary family, now married to a mattress salesman, she never had the money or grace to live as she wanted.   But the book is much more than a family memoir- it is also a story of zoning battles, architectural review boards, tear downs, landmarks, preservationists versus modernists…  Sound familiar?  

Monday, September 15, 2014

Dear Great Book Guru, What a wonderful weekend we just had….the Antigone Rising concert was a spectacular event with the most amazing music.  The verve, the crowds , the delicious food and drink all added to a great night and guess what….we will all have one more time to celebrate before Sea Cliff Beach’s Summer 2014 comes to an end. Saturday, September 20 at 6pm the Sea Cliff Civic Association will present Silly Shakespeare Company’s Mac…Nooo…or “the Scottish Play” as the superstitious among us call it. How I would love to spend one more afternoon down at the beach reading a good book and waiting for the fun to begin!  Any suggestions?   Fan of the Bard

Dear Fan of the Bard, You are so right…..  Sea Cliff’s own Kristen Henderson and Nini Camps and the rest of the band gave an unforgettable performance at Sea Cliff Beach and I do have a great book for you to read while waiting for Silly Shakespeare to begin:  THE LIAR’S WIFE by Mary Gordon.    This- her latest work- is a collection of four novellas each about seventy pages long, all connected by a search for truth. In “The Liar’s Wife” an older, affluent woman meets her ex-husband after fifty years and learns about the person she has become; in “Simone Weil in New York” a young mother meets her teacher, the legendary mystic, and questions her earlier devotion to the woman. In “Thomas Mann in Gary, Indiana” a ninety year-old man looks back on the finest day of his life- the day in 1939 he was chosen to introduce the famed writer Mann to his high school class- the day in which he began to question the truths his family and community lived by.   In the final piece “Fine Arts” a young woman travels to Europe to study the artist Civatali’s sculpture and discovers the depth of her passion for truth. Beautifully written, each of these novellas leaves the reader with many unanswered questions about one’s own need for truth.  Highly recommended!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Dear Great Book Guru,  I am very excited about the coming weekend performance of my favorite group Antigone Rising at the Sea Cliff Beach Pavilion- Saturday, September 13 at 6pm.  I plan on getting there early and reading on the beach while waiting for the concert to start. Can you think of a book I might enjoy?  Fan of Antigone Rising

Dear Fan, I am sure most of Sea Cliff will be joining you at the concert, including myself.  I read an interesting autobiographical novel a few weeks ago that has remained with me: FLYING SHOES  by Lisa Howorth.  The story opens as Mary Byrd Thornton is listening to an NPR newscast in her Oxford, Mississippi home as she waits for her children to come from school. The phone rings – the caller is a detective who has been studying cold cases and has just discovered who had killed Mary’s nine- year old brother over thirty years ago. Mary must appear in Virginia with other family members, but he will not reveal the killer’s identity until they are all present.  Mary has a paralyzing fear of flying so she embarks on a road trip to Richmond with a colorful array of friends. The novel takes place over one week and we soon realize this is not a murder mystery but a more a study of how people’s lives are shaped by tragedy. Zany eccentrics, a vivid description of life in the Deep South in the 1990’s, and a beautifully poetic voice all come together to give the reader an unexpected treat.  Recommended!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Dear Great Book Guru,  I am headed over to the Antiques Fair this Saturday, Sept. 6 at the St. Boniface Field.  It is always great fun and I love to support its sponsor: the Good of the Village Association.  My children attend those wonderful science workshops at the Children’s Library that are funded every summer by the GVA. Do you have a good book for me to read afterwards?  Go GVA!

Dear Go GVA,  I just got back from the annual Barbara Pym Society in Oxford, England and one of my first stops will be the Fair. While we were away, with the long plane ride back, I began  Rick Perlstein’s book: THE INVISIBLE BRIDGE.  Over 800 pages, this book chronicles the years 1973- 1976 when Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace and Ronald Reagan began his run for the presidency.  It is the third  book in a proposed quartet: BEFORE THE STORM and NIXONLAND are the earlier works.  Together they offer a fascinating account of the political and cultural history of America in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s.  What do Patty Hearst, The Exorcist, long gas lines, and Watergate have to do with America in 2014?  Perlstein brings these and much, much more together as he takes us through the  years  to show  the remarkable impact they have had on our nation.  A chilling reminder that seemingly innocuous events  can have devastating consequences.  Recommended!

PS.  Don't forget Sea Cliff Fire Dept.'s Music on the Harbor at Sea Cliff Beach on Saturday, Sept. 6  from 6pm on....  great music with Chicken Head and Kris Rice & Company plus food and drinks. Sounds like a fabulous night !