Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Dear Great Book Guru, This Saturday September 8 will be the Sea Cliff Civic Association’s annual Movie Madness at Roslyn Park. The fun will start around 7pm and everyone is invited.   I’m getting there early to set up my blanket and picnic dinner, but I would like something exciting to read while I’m waiting for the show to begin.  Any ideas?  
Movie Madness Maven.
Dear MMM, I just finished a crime noir novel with a strong feminist bent that I think you will enjoy: GIVE ME YOUR HAND by Megan Abbott.  Abbott has written a number of books using different milieus but always featuring strong women and intricate female friendships.  This latest novel probes the internecine conflict in a research lab where post docs vie for positions in a project headed by the formidable Dr. Servin, a woman of great fame and much mystery.  Into this volatile mix comes Diane Fleming a childhood friend and adversary of Kit Owens, long standing member of the lab. Years before the two women had shared a secret that now returns to haunt them both as they compete in this politically charged arena. An explosive tale of passion, obsession, and deceit- recommended!

Friday, August 17, 2018

Dear Great Book Guru,  My family and I are planning a vacation on Martha’s Vineyard next week and I would like to suggest a book we could all read and then discuss.  I think non-fiction might work best.  Any ideas? 
Family Book Discussion Devotee
Dear Family Book Devotee,  I have a wonderful book your will love and enjoying discussing: FANTASYLAND by  Kurt Anderson.  Anderson gives us a sweeping history of America from the 1500’s until the present time- coming to the startling conclusion that Americans have always been drawn  to fantasy. Starting with our reverence for our Puritan forefathers who pledged to take down Quakers, Catholics, and most other Protestants, followed quickly by the myth- making of George Washington’s cherry tree escapades, our fellow countrymen and women have reveled in the magical, the pseudoscience, the great con.  Having been founded by dissident zealots, America became home to many fantastical religions, conspiracy theorists, and truth benders.  Anderson names Buffalo Bill Cody as the exemplar of this credo.  Cody toured the country fake-scalping actors playing warrior chiefs and then actually began killing real warrior chiefs while in costume.   Later generations were taken with UFO sightings and diabolical interventions.  He also questions the increasing infantilization of Americans  and the increased interest in fantasy versus reality.   Finally, we have to ask ourselves, what will the American people accept as truth?   Recommended!   

Monday, August 13, 2018

Dear Great Book Guru, I have been invited to a “Great Gatsby Gala.”  It has been many, many years since I read THE GREAT GATSBY.  Any suggestions as to how I should prepare?  
Gatsby Gala Guest
Dear Gatsby Gala Guest, What fun awaits you! First, of course, reread THE GREAT GATSBY.  You will be astonished how much you missed your first time.   Next, I would read Maureen Corrigan’s SO WE READ ON: HOW THE GREAT GATSBY CAME TO BE…. A long time book reviewer for NPR’s Fresh Air show, Corrigan examines the novel with great enthusiasm and personal affection.  She believes it to be indeed the greatest of the Great American Novels with prescient commentary on race, class, and gender.  When first published, it was viewed as a crime noir with its violent deaths, femme fatales, and mobster connections.   Later it was appreciated for its commentary on the quixotic American dream of redemption.  Then for many years, it was seen as a cautionary tale of the danger of passions pursued. Today many readers admire it for its lyrical prose and profound metaphors.  Corrigan traces all of these reactions and then brings us back to her high school in Astoria, Queens where she first read GATSBY. And as Fitzgerald wrote, “so we beat on, boats against the current, borne ceaselessly into the past.”  Highly recommended!  

Monday, August 6, 2018

Dear Great Book Guru, I love August in Sea Cliff- it is as if time has stopped.  Everything and everyone moves more slowly, voices are lower, music is softer. There is a magical Brigadoon quality to the entire Village- a perfect time to read a new book- something a little unusual. Any ideas?   August Acolyte

Dear August Acolyte, A few weeks ago, I read an unusual book with an equally unusual title: THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP by Joanna Cannon.  The title relates to a biblical parable about judgment day when the good and the bad will be recognized for their deeds.  But the trouble for the young narrator of this novel, Grace and her friend Tillie, is that the goats and sheep seem one and the same. Set in an English suburb first in the summer of 1976 and then back in time to 1967, the book centers on two mysteries: the recent disappearance of a neighborhood woman Mrs. Creasy and that of  a baby girl ten years earlier.  How are the two time periods and the two missing characters connected?  Grace is an amusing, perceptive, but ultimately unreliable narrator. The dynamism of the book rests in its six main characters - each with a backstory that ultimately explains the strange happenings on this one very British block.  When the mystery is finally solved, we realize there have been many goats in sheep’s clothing and none should be judged.    Recommended!