Tuesday, September 29, 2015

 Dear Great Book Guru, The first Sunday in October is always Sea Cliff’s Mini Mart and this weekend I plan an early start before the crowds arrive on the scene. Of course, my first stop will be the Children’s Library with its great “pre-owned” books and toy sale. But that leaves the rest of the day for a good book- any recommendations?  Mini Mart Maven

Dear Mini Mart Maven, Let’s hope the sun shines all day Sunday because there is no rain date… But rain or not, I have a wonderful book for you to read this weekend: DID YOU EVER HAVE A FAMILY by Bill Clegg. In the opening pages we learn that June Reid has lost her entire family- her daughter, her daughter’s fiancĂ©, June’s charismatic boyfriend, and her ex-husband- all in a fiery gas explosion on the eve of her daughter’s wedding.  Set in a lovely old Connecticut town, the story is told by the sundry people impacted by this tragedy: the caterer, the florist, the parents of the bridegroom, the mother of the boyfriend, the owners of the motel where the young couple had stayed, and of course June, herself.   As secrets are told and motives revealed, we come to understand how each of these characters played a role that night.   Beautifully written, the story offers a profound insight into the nature of grief.   A National Book Award and Booker Prize nominee – and highly recommended!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Dear Great Book Guru,  I have waiting all year for this weekend- yes, it is the Sea Cliff Civic Association’s Silly Shakespeare performance of “The Tempest” well -actually the company’s very own hilarious version: “The Tem-Pissed” with a strong “ Love Boat” overlay. It’s this week Saturday, September 26 at 5 pm at Sea Cliff Beach with a raindate of Sunday. But wait, I will need something to read while I wait for the show to begin- do you have a recommendation?   A Besotted Silly Shakespeare Fan

Dear Besotted,  I can appreciate your excitement and I do have an interesting book to fill the hours before “The Tem-Pissed” begins:  HOLD STILL by Sally Mann.  Miranda Best, who has a beautiful exhibit of her paintings this month at the Sea Cliff Library, recommended Mann’s book and it is quite wonderful, indeed.   Sally Mann is a world renowned photographer and this  autobiography  touches on her family, her art, and  her views on the South,  racism, death, memory, technique and more. . She writes about colorfully eccentric family members who traced their roots back to the Mayflower.  Texas billionaires, Connecticut drug dealing in-laws, and Virginia philandering philanthropists are all described in rich detail.   While Mann’s treatment of her mother is brutally frank and unsentimental, she is unflinchingly admiring of her father.  She also addresses the controversy surrounding the photos she took of her three young children that prompted wide criticism. Most startling is her assertion that photographs have destroyed our memories- when we look at a photograph we no longer  remember the actual event;  in fact,  seeing the photo alters our perception of the event.  A very entertaining and ultimately thought-provoking book- highly recommended!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Dear Great Book Guru, This weekend  Sea Cliff is filled with a myriad of activities.  Saturday morning is the Good of the Village’s  golf outing through the streets and gardens of the Village, followed in the early evening by the world famous Antigone Rising’s performance at Sea Cliff Beach. Then on Sunday afternoon, is the Sea Cliff Civic Association’s annual Newcomers’ Party.  Busy weekend, indeed! Do you have a good book that I can read in between these wonderful events?  Enjoying September in Sea Cliff

Dear Enjoying September in Sea Cliff,   Sounds like great fun and I do have a disturbingly powerful book for you: IN THE LANGUAGE OF MIRACLES by Rajiah Hassib.  The Al-Menshawry family migrated from Egypt twenty years before the story opens and has been extraordinarily successful in assimilating into the community.  They live in the affluent New Jersey  suburb of Summerville where the husband is a well-respected physician with a thriving practice , his wife is active in community affairs, and their three children are good students with many friends. Then the unimaginable happens- the eldest son murders his high school girl friend and then kills himself.  The book begins a year after this tragedy as the townspeople and the girl’s family prepare for her memorial service.  The boy’s father insists he must be allowed to speak at this service. Everyone is outraged especially his wife and children who want only to move on, to find anonymity, and to build new lives. The story touches on religious bigotry, familial discord, cultural disconnects, the quest for forgiveness, and ultimately the need for redemption. Beautifully written and highly recommended!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Dear Great Book Guru,  I just arrived back in  Sea Cliff from the annual Barbara Pym conference in England and I am eager to read another Pym novel .  Is there one you would especially recommend? A Faithful Pymian

Dear Faithful Pymian,  The Pym conference is always a highlight of the year for the many Sea Cliff Pymians and this year was no exception.  Meeting up amidst the spires of Oxford with friends from around the world and listening as scholars and fans discuss the finer points of a beloved author’s works- what can be better than this? Today I am going to recommend one of her lesser known novels: NO FOND RETURN OF LOVE.  Set in post World War II London, the book tells the story of Dulcie Mainwaring, a thirty year-old woman working for the pompous albeit handsome  academician Alywin Forbes.  While she is gently obsessed with him, we the readers quickly realize he is a tediously arrogant philanderer - certainly not worthy of the lovely Dulcie.  As in all Pym’s novels, the plot is secondary to her cleverly humorous descriptions of people, places, and custom.  Those wonderful distractions that fill our lives are presented here in exquisite detail.  As the noted attorney Paul Marchese remarked- this is a perfect title for a perfect Pym piece.   Highly recommended as are all twelve Pym novels!