Friday, March 25, 2016

Dear Great Book Guru,  This Friday, March 25 at 10:30am in Spooky Park,  Mike and Gwynn Lennon will be hosting their 21st Annual Egg Hunt. Afterwards  I will be meeting up with friends to celebrate Daniel DiPietro’s  birthday and I would love to have a thought-provoking book to discuss.   Egg Hunter Extraordinaire

Dear Egg Hunter Extraordinaire,  I just finished a very interesting but troubling book: A LITTLE LIFE by -Hanya Yanagihara.  I couldn’t decide whether it was a moral fable, a Dickensian melodrama, or a serious study of human suffering…. but definitely a very disturbing read. Four young men meet in a small, elite college, form a deep friendship, and move to New York City where most of the story takes place.   The thirty year time span is hard to place but probably mid-  twentieth century to the present.  All four achieve fairytale successes in their careers: prominent attorney, celebrated actor, renowned artist, awarding-winning architect.  While we learn much about all four, it is the physically and emotionally scarred Jude who remains center stage throughout.   The author’s description of  luxurious apartments, manor homes, travels abroad, drivers, servants, fine restaurant dining, beautiful clothes-  all fueled by an endless supply of money and well-connected caring friends- imbues the novel with a sense of magical realism. Nominated for both the National Book Award and the Booker Prize, this book has many fans and equally as many detractors. I am not sure which camp I would put myself in, but it is surely thought-provoking.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Dear Great Book Guru,  This weekend I will be attending my first ceilidh- a celebration of Irish songs and poetry with acclaimed minstrel Joe Hughes leading the festivities.  I would like to do some reading ahead of time to get in the spirit of things. Any suggestions?  Lover of All Things Irish

Dear Lover of All Things Irish,  This time of year I always take out my copy of James Joyce’s THE DUBLINERS,  a collection of fifteen short stories set in early twentieth century Ireland. All are linked by a common theme: the spiritual and economic paralysis of Ireland brought on by English rule. The stories are divided into the three stages of life: childhood, adolescence, and adulthood with the concluding piece entitled “The Dead.”  Each of the characters in each of the stories faces a moment of decision but is unable to act. Pitilessly, Joyce judges Ireland and the Irish people and finds them guilty because of their failure to throw off the domination of England and its agent- the Church.  In each story, a character is allowed a moment of revelation – an epiphany. That they cannot act on their epiphanies only furthers the tragedy that Joyce sees as Ireland.  The songs and poems at your ceilidh will seem to bear little resemblance to these stories, but listen closely and you will hear Joyce’s angry, soulful message.  Highly recommended !

Check out the lecture Tuesday, March 22 7pm on James Joyce by esteemed Irish Studies expert Maureen Murphy at the Sea Cliff Village Library....

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Dear Great Book Guru, Spring is such a beautiful time of year here in Sea Cliff and I have resolved to spend as much time as possible outdoors.  I plan to visit each of our seventeen parks regularly with a good book always in hand.    Any suggestions? Lover of Sea Cliff’s Parks

Dear Lover of Sea Cliff’s Parks, What a great idea and I have a wonderful book to suggest: SOME TAME GAZELLE by Barbara Pym. This is a favorite of mine and the perfect choice for early spring reading.  It is the story two middle-aged sisters Belinda and Harriet Bede who are always searching for adventure in their small English village which bears a strong resemblance to Sea Cliff.  Throughout the novel, the Bedes’ fierce love of life finds form in food, clothing, poetry, flowers, friends, and all those wonderful things that fill and enrich our lives. When the two women are presented with the opportunity to leave,  they decide it far better to stay and enjoy these very real pleasures. Change will come but they know that as long as they have something to love even “some tame gazelle or some gentle dove” life is good. Coincidentally, this weekend is the annual Barbara Pym conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts which I will be attending with other members of the  Pym Society of Sea Cliff. There Pym’s characters take on lives beyond their novels in plays, papers, and academic discussions; for Pym lovers this is as close to Paradise as one can get….Highly recommended!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Dear Great Book Guru,  I am looking forward to the Sea Cliff Civic Association’s Meet the Candidates this Tuesday, March 8 at 8pm in Village Hall. The Trustee candidates get to talk about their dreams for Sea Cliff and the audience gets to quiz them about specific issues.  While I am waiting for the event to begin, I always like to have a good book on hand.  Any suggestions?                   Fan of Village Politics

Dear Fan of Village Politics,  I just read a very good, very short novel: MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON by Eiizabeth Strout.  Strout is the author of the Pulitzer Prize winning OLIVE KITTERIDGE.  This latest work  is a series of short chapters in which the narrator Lucy  Barton recounts moments in her life from early childhood to late middle age with the longest section of the book focusing on a few weeks when, as a young mother and wife, she was hospitalized  following a complicated appendectomy. In and out of a dreamy consciousness, she awakens to find her mother, whom she has not seen  for many years, sitting across from her.   Over the weeks, she tells Lucy about friends and neighbors from their small rural town. Strangely, all these stories are about unhappy women and disastrous marriages.  What are they meant to convey- what can this mother and child not say to one another?  We gradually come to realize Lucy’s life has been very, very hard… far harder than even Lucy realizes.  Highly recommended!