Thursday, March 22, 2018

Dear Great Book Guru,  I have just been invited to a ceilidh by a friend- apparently it’s a party with  Irish dancing, music, and storytelling. It sounds like great fun and- as usual- I’d like to have a good book to read beforehand- perhaps something about the creative process. 
Ceilidh Celebrant
Dear Ceilidh Celebrant,  I just finished a widely praised book about writers and the writing process: ASYMMETRY by Lisa Halliday. It is divided into three distinct but overlapping stories. In the first, we meet Alice- a young junior editor for a publishing house- and Ezra Blazer- a famous author who is much older than Alice. Set in the 1990’s in Manhattan and Long Island’s East End, the novel humorously and touchingly chronicles their love affair.  The second story opens in 2008 at Heathrow  Airport where Amar, a Brooklyn economist, is being detained by immigration police as he attempts to visit his brother in Kurdistan.   In the final piece it is 2011 and Ezra Blazer is being interviewed  on the BBC  about his award winning career, exquisitely capturing his thoughts on love, life, and  legacy. How can the three pieces come together?  Halliday does a remarkable job of capturing the creative forces that unite these disparate stories in this -her semi-autobiographical debut novel.    Recommended!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Dear Great Book Guru,  This weekend, a number of my friends and I will be attending a literary conference at Harvard’s Law School on the British author Barbara Pym.  They are huge fans of hers, but I have never read any of her novels.  Would you suggest one to start my Pymian adventure?
Preparing for Pym
Dear Preparing for Pym,  Like your friends, I too am a huge Pym fan.  She has written about a dozen books  - each  a jewel to be read and reread many times.  Her novels are about the exquisite loveliness of everyday life with each word, each gesture, each character treated with humor, care, and respect-  offering gentle but frequently biting insights into the human condition.  Her descriptions of food, clothing, and those daily rituals which consume and distract us, envelope her readers in a familiar yet unique world.   This weekend’s conference at Harvard will be focusing on one novel in particular: THE SWEET DOVE DIED.   Lenora, the central character, is a middle-aged, rather self-absorbed woman who spurns the devoted Humphrey for his twenty-four year-old nephew James. Lenore’s romantic overtures are thwarted when James turns first to Phoebe- a young woman his own age- and then to Ned, a visiting scholar from America.  We watch in growing dismay as Lenore tries time and again to win James’s affection.   A wonderful look into the mysteries of attraction and love- highly recommended!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Dear Great Book Guru, Next Tuesday, March 13 at 7:30pm all the candidates for Sea Cliff Village Trustee will meet at St. Luke’s Parish Hall to state their beliefs about Village governance and answer questions from the audience.  It should be an exciting, informative evening.  While I am waiting for the event to begin, I would love to have something interesting and worthwhile to read.  A recommendation?
Hoping to be Informed
Dear Hoping,  Every year the Sea Cliff Civic Association sponsors this Meet the Candidates forum and –you are right- it’s a great evening to learn about the workings of the Village. While waiting, you might want to get a copy of Elizabeth Flock’s debut work: THE HEART IS A SHIFTING SEA: Love and Marriage in Mumbai.  Flock writes about three couples living in present day Mumbai and how Indian culture – past and present- impacts their marriages.   We meet Veer and Maya, a Hindu couple whose life together is a struggle for Maya a school principal and Veer who is haunted by an earlier love- Shahzad and Sabeena, a Muslim couple who battle parental interference, depression, and childlessness- and Ashok and Parvati, a highly educated Hindu couple whose  marriage was arranged with the help of an online matchmaker.  A fascinating story of love, religion, economics, technology, and life in a changing world- highly recommended!