Sunday, June 23, 2019

Dear Great Book Guru,  This coming Saturday (June 29) begins the Fourth of July week of celebration with the Sea Cliff Civic Association’s Bicycle and Stroller Parade. On Wednesday, it is followed by Happy Birthday USA at the Children’s Library and a Sunset Serenade at Memorial Park. The culminating event, of course, is the Reading of the Declaration of Independence on the Village Green on the Fourth. Each of these events is wonderful but taken together they form a magnificent glimpse into life in the Village of Sea Cliff. While involved in all this, I would like something wonderful to read.  Any recommendations?  Sunshine Patriot

Dear Sunshine Patriot,  You could read a favorite of mine: JOHN ADAMS by David McCullough This is an amazing biography which presents parallel tales of Adams and his wife Abigail, Adams and Thomas Jefferson, and, yes, most interestingly, Adams and the new nation. McCullough uses original diaries and letters in such a skillful manner that you feel as if you are reading a fast-moving novel. Because of its length (726 pages) this could be a summer project for you but definitely a worthwhile one.

A family ritual of ours is the watching/reading of Peter Stone’s 1776 every Fourth. There is nothing that makes the heart swell more with patriotic fervor than listening, watching, and reading that great musical play that recreates the drama surrounding the creation of the Declaration of Independence, except, of course, hearing the Declaration read on Sea Cliff’s Village Green. 1776 is available in book form and streaming.

Happy Fourth!!!

Friday, June 21, 2019

Dear Great Book Guru, I am looking forward to this these last days of June. There is such a feeling of anticipation and excitement with summer’s fun and freedom lying ahead. School will be closing, Story Time at Sea Cliff Beach begins, and Sunset Serenades start. Of course, in the midst of all this, I always find time to read.  Do you have a good book to recommend?
Swooning Over the Start of Summer

Dear Swooning, My book club just read TRUST EXERCISE by Susan Choi. This is a perfect start for your summer reading. Beautifully written with a complex storyline, the novel begins in July, the early 1980’s.  David and Sarah are fifteen and about to fall in love. They attend an elite school for the performing arts.   From radically different backgrounds, the two students find themselves in a life-changing situation as friends and faculty look on.  Their instructor suggests a series of trust exercises for the students, but we are also asked to exercise trust in what we see and hear.    As the timeline moves forward to the present, we realize there is much we do not know.  In fact, we may have been manipulated or misled, and it becomes obvious the identity of the narrator is crucial to our understanding.   A challenging book, but well worth the time and energy - recommended!

Dear Great Book Guru, Next Sunday is Father’s Day and we are planning a lovely day at Sea Cliff Beach, starting with a delicious breakfast at the Beach CafĂ©. Jennifer Angliss Desane is doing a spectacular job with a great menu, scrumptious food, and enthusiastic staff. Afterwards, we will all sit under those striped umbrellas and read the afternoon away! Looking for a short novel with a complex moral dilemma - any thoughts? Father’s Day Fan

Dear Father’s Day Fan, My book club is reading INCENDIARIES by R.O. Kwon and it is truly an outstanding debut novel.  Written from the perspectives of three Korean Americans, this 224-page book studies the impact of religious fervor on the lives of three young people.  Will is a scholarship student at a prestigious university (perhaps Yale?) where he meets Phoebe, also a student who is in mourning for her mother who died in a car accident caused by Phoebe.  John Leal, a former student, has returned to campus after having been jailed by the North Korean government while leading a humanitarian rescue mission. Their lives intersect when Leal forms a revolutionary group and recruits Phoebe, despite Will’s misgivings.   Soon we begin to question who is the narrator and - most importantly –
can we believe him/her?  Ultimately, we are left doubting everything we have read.  Recommended!

Friday, June 7, 2019

Dear Great Book Guru, I just checked my calendar of special events and noticed next week is Bloomsday.  Do you know of any local celebrations of this Joycean wonder?                    Bloomsday Bon Vivant

Dear Bloomsday Bon Vivant, The James Joyce Jaunt is the event for you! As most of my readers know, Bloomsday is celebrated every year to commemorate the day James Joyce’s ULYSSES takes place: June 16, 1904.  Joyce spent most his life in self-imposed exile, but he wrote obsessively about one place and one place only - his birthplace: Dublin, Ireland.  In ULYSSES, we follow three main characters through day into night- seeing and experiencing Dublin as they did. But ULYSSES is more than the portrait of one city on one day - it is also a study of the epic wanderings of the Greek hero Odysseus (Ulysses) - mocking the wanderings of the most unlikely of heroes: Leopold Bloom.  On Wednesday, June 12 at 7pm the James Joyce Society of Sea Cliff led by Fred Stroppel and Dan DiPietro will walk the streets of Sea Cliff/Dublin stopping at parallel locations along the way. Beginning at the Sea Cliff Water Tower/Martello Tower, the group will stop among other places: Still Partners/Davey Byrnes Pub, Headless Park/Nelson’s Pillar, Memorial Park/Sandymount Strand and finish up 76 Main Avenue/7 Eccles Street. There will be dramatized readings by costumed actors at each of the stops with period music throughout.  If you are planning on attending the James Joyce Jaunt, stop by 76 Main Avenue to pick up a handy guide to this iconic event. Copies will be in a basket on the porch.  Highly recommended!

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Dear Great Book Guru,  Saturday, June 1 is the Sea Cliff Civic Association’s annual Village-wide Garage Sale and I always find such great things especially at the Friends of the Library sale on the Village Green. After the sale is over, I’m sure I’ll have time for a good book.  Could you recommend a recent favorite of yours?   Garage Sale Guru

Dear Garage Sale Guru, Years ago I read a wonderful book WISH YOU WERE HERE by Stewart O’Nan. Last month its prequel HENRY, HIMSELF was published and it is as wonderful as its predecessor. In HENRY,  HIMSELF, O’Nan captures the tiny, seemingly insignificant moments that make up a life.  In many ways O’Nan reminds me of the author Barbara Pym - their characters take comfort in the daily distractions which both authors describe in precise and poetic detail. In a series of vignettes, we follow Henry as he shops (on double coupon days), trains his dog, arranges a Valentine’s Day celebration for Emily - his wife of many years - frets over holiday plans with his grown children, and  mournfully attends the funeral of his longtime physician.  We trace Henry through one year and by its end, we have grown to know and love him for all his pettiness, insecurities, and gentle kindness. Henry is indeed Everyman… highly recommended!