Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Dear Great Book Guru, The Fourth of July has always been a favorite holiday of mine and its celebration in Sea Cliff is especially grand.  Every year Carol Vogt and her merry band of Sea Cliff Civic Association folk present a rousing reading of the Declaration of Independence, a short play, songs, and refreshments-  all on the Village Green. At 10am the bell rings and it all begins… Do you have something to keep me in the patriotic mood for the day?  Lover of the Red, White, and Blue

Dear Lover of the Red, White, and Blue,  I too love this iconic Sea Cliff event and would like to suggest something that will add to your enjoyment of the celebration: a reading and watching of  1776.  Written in 1969, this play retains an enthusiastic freshness that draws me back each year.  We find ourselves magically transported to “foul, fetid, fuming, foggy, filthy Philadelphia” throughout those momentous weeks leading up to the Fourth.  I love to read  the book because it includes a valuable addendum that points out just where the play veers from the total truth (and, of course, is there ever such a thing?).  While affirming its basic historical accuracy, the authors show why for dramatic and aesthetic reasons, there were additions, deletions, suppositions, and rearrangements. Later in the day, check out Amazon Video for a glorious streaming of the film.  See you on the Village Green! 

A fascinating perspective on the reasons for the   American War for Independence ! 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Dear Great Book Guru, With the summer months comes one of my favorite Sea Cliff traditions: the Sunset Serenades in Memorial Park- music every Thursday at 7pm from now through August. The brain child of Petrice Kaider, these concerts are such fun for everyone from our youngest to our oldest residents. I like to get there early, find a  shady spot, and read for an hour or so before the music begins. Do you have a good book to recommend?  Sunset Serenade Supporter

Dear Sunset Serenade Supporter, I too love those concerts and I am going to recommend a book I read a few months ago: THE ORPHAN TRAIN by Christina Baker Kline.  Kline writes about an almost forgotten piece of American history: from 1853 until 1929, over 250.000 orphaned, abandoned or homeless   children were placed on trains from crowded East coast cities and taken to rural towns in the Midwest where they were placed with farm families. The lives of these children were sometimes improved,  frequently  not…. and this is where Kline’s story begins. Vivian Daly is a ninety-one year-old Irish immigrant who rode the Orphan Train and found hardship, pain, and some kindness along the way.  Her counterpart is Molly Ayres, a rebellious unhappy seventeen year-old who is aging out of foster care. The novel traces the parallel histories of these two women, and while we see the damage inflicted on both we also learn that lives can be recast.  This book is a favorite with book clubs across the country for its sociological, historical and mutigenerational appeal.  Highly recommended!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Dear Great Book Guru,
We will be celebrating the Summer Solstice this Saturday followed by a Father’s Day gathering on Sunday. Of course, I will want to have a good book on hand –can you suggest something that reflects the shared events of this weekend ?                   Celebrating in Sea Cliff

Dear Celebrating,  Amazingly, I do have a book to combine your weekend pursuits: H IS FOR HAWK  by Helen Macdonald. I heard about this book from Daniel DiPietro who highly recommended it.  Part memoir, part nature study, part autobiography, and part biography, the book is hard to classify but a joy to read.  Macdonald decided to purchase and train a goshawk falcon to help her cope with the sudden death of her father, a world famous British photographer. She had adored her father and fell into a deep, paralyzing grief with his death.  She had always been fascinated by raptors and the goshawk is the fiercest of the fierce- a stealth, highly intelligent killer of prey.  She saw in this bird a way to unravel the mysteries of life and death. But this is much more than a grief memoir- at one point she writes touchingly of T.H. White- author  most famously of “The Once and Future King”- the story of King Arthur and Merlin,  and then she goes on to illuminate  the role falconry has played throughout history.   Macdonald’s book is hard to tag… beautifully written, it gives us insight into the shared nature of living creatures, human and otherwise.  Highly recommended!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Dear Great Book Guru,  Another great weekend coming up in Sea Cliff- the Springfest- Ed Lieberman and Kathleen DiResta’s creation- a full day of music and activities to showcase the many faces of Sea Cliff- its volunteer organizations, its crafts people, its businesses. It runs from 11am to 5pm along Sea Cliff Avenue and is immediately followed by the Northwinds Community Concert at Clifton Park. But before all of this, early on Saturday morning the streets will be filled  chatter and song as a merry band of James Joyceans recreate his famous ULYSSES Bloomsday walk through not Dublin but, yes- Sea Cliff ! The group will meet at 8am by the Water Tower for the hour odyssey. I would like to prepare a bit- any suggestions? Bloomsday Bon Vivant

Dear Bloomsday Bon Vivant,  I will certainly be attending  all these fun-filled events and, yes,  I do have a great book for you to read: THE MOST DANGEROUS BOOK- THE BATTLE FOR JAMES JOYCE’S ULYSSES by Kevin Birmingham.  Birmingham traces Joyce’s early years as he experiences the people and events that will populate his masterpiece:  Nora Barnacle his Molly Bloom, Alfred H. Hunter his Leopold Bloom,  plus a myriad of colorful Dubliners. We are in and out of New York and British courts as jurists struggle with the question of what constitutes obscene literature.  We learn of the pivotal role that the United States Postal Service played and the enormous influence the women’s suffragette movement had on Joyce’s fate. From 1904 when he began the novel until the final court case in 1933, we are on an emotional, educational, evocative odyssey equal indeed to Homer’s .  Highly recommended!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Dear Great Book Guru,  With over 100 families participating in the Sea Cliff Civic Association’s Village-wide Garage Sale this Saturday, June 6,   I am sure to find some great treasures, but- of course- the greatest treasure is always a good book. Do you have something to recommend- I feel a mystery is in order…..   Garage Sale Shopper Extraordinaire

Dear Garage Sale Shopper Extraordinaire,  My first stop Saturday will be the Village Green where the remarkably energetic Friends of the Library will be holding their book sale and if I am lucky, I might find a copy or two of my new favorite mystery writer’s works : Louise Penny.  Definitely start with her first  STILL LIFE   and  if you enjoy it, you can work your way through  the ten or so books in the series.  Set in the fictional village of Three Pines ( which reminded me  very much of Sea Cliff), the novel opens with the death of beloved artist and long time resident, Jane Neal, who was about to have her first  gallery show.  Much of the mystery involves one of her paintings and its connection to family feuds going back generations.  Inspector Armand Gamache is a man of great integrity and intelligence who approaches this case with  respect for  the many colorful residents of Three Pines. So much more than the traditional murder mystery, STILL LIFE  offers an interesting take on village life, art appreciation, and the psychology involved in police investigations.  A very good read!