Sunday, December 27, 2020

Dear Great Book Guru, My friends and I have been watching and discussing lots of films over the last months and we all agree that Alfred Hitchcock’s are spellbinding.  We have decided to focus on his works on a weekly basis.  Do you have any books to suggest that will help us on our journey?                           Hooked on Hitchcock

Dear Hooked on Hitchcock, I have the perfect book for you: A YEAR OF HITCHCOCK by Jim McDeVitt and Eric San Juan.  The authors have organized this book into fifty-two chapters covering 68 works of Hitchcock.  Starting with his silent films (“The Lodger” and “The Farmer’s Wife”), they analyze his entire body of works, week by week, including some episodes of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” which appeared on TV from 1958 through 1961.  Each week follows the same format: key film facts, a synopsis, trivia, recurring themes, things to look for, awards, and a critical appraisal/ranking.  “Rear Window” and “North By Northwest” are mentioned as standouts in a career of spectacular successes, but each week offers insight into yet another of Hitchcock’s films.  Because it is chronologically organized, you can see the progression and development of common themes which the authors define in the appendix.  Like you, my friends and I are planning a weekly virtual Hitchcock discussion group starting in January and working our way through 2021… with this book in hand!

Monday, December 14, 2020

 Dear Great Book Guru, I read in today’s paper that spy novelist John Le Carre died over the weekend. While a big fan of his books and movies over the years, I don’t think I have read his latest work. Are you familiar with it and - if so - would you recommend it?  Sanguine for Spies

Dear Sanguine for Spies, I too am a fan of John Carre and just recently read his last work: AGENT RUNNING IN THE FIELD.  It is set in 2018 and touches on many of the moral and political issues facing both the UK and the US. The hero of the novel is Nat, a forty-seven-year-old member of the British Secret Intelligence Service - MI6.  A British citizen, he grew up in France and is the son of a Scottish aristocrat and Russian exile.  While in Cambridge, he was recruited by MI6 where he met Prue, a young lawyer. When we meet him, the couple has been married for many years and his time as a double agent throughout Eastern Europe has badly damaged their relationship. His passion – outside of work - is badminton. When he is challenged by Ed, a young player, Nat quickly accepts only to find himself enmeshed in Ed’s obsessive preoccupation with the ravages of Brexit and British decline. When he is offered a shabby assignment in London, Nat reluctantly accepts, knowing his and Britain’s best days are long over. A stunning indictment of present-day politics and highly recommended!

Friday, December 11, 2020

 Dear Great Book Guru, We just watched the Sea Cliff-Glen Head Lions Club’s video of the Menorah and Christmas Tree Lighting.  It was spectacular and really put me in the holiday mood.  I am thinking of book gift giving.  Any ideas to start with?  In a Holiday Mood

 Dear In A Holiday Mood, I just finished a book you might enjoy reading yourself before giving as a gift: MONOGAMY by Sue Miller.  We are introduced to Graham and Annie in the opening pages - they had met thirty years before at the grand opening of Graham’s bookstore near Harvard Square in Cambridge. This bookstore plays an important role throughout their marriage. In the very first pages of the book, Graham dies and the rest of the novel explores the impact his life and death have on those around him.  The story is told over many decades and from many perspectives: mostly Annie’s but also their children Sarah and Lucas, Graham’s first wife Frieda, long time friends, an aging neighbor Karen, and Graham himself.  Annie and he seem an unlikely match: he is a bon vivant - large, exuberant, intensely social while she is a photographer - small, reserved and introspective.  Many aspects of their relationship are gradually revealed and, in the end, we are left with a feeling of bittersweet sorrow over the complexity of all human interaction. Highly recommended!