Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Book Group Miracle

With only 3 weeks notice we were able to pull off a book group miracle and gather together on a Friday night with our significant persons for a fabulous dinner. This is the same group that has troubles picking a week night to gather with 6 weeks notice and no child care issues to work out.


We cozied in around Melinda & Mark's dining room table and chatted away about current events, (Is Sarah Palin really considered an "author"?) Hobbies, kids, recent social events and of course... books.

We rounded the table sharing which books were our favorites as kids, titles included:

Little House on the Prairie

Island of the Blue Dolphins

Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Ayn Rand, The Fountain Head

Larry McMurtry

A Wrinkle in Time

Monster at the End of this Book

Where the sidewalk ends

Some of the more "adult" Judy Bloom titles even made an appearance.

Each title was met with oohs and chatter. We did discuss at length weather or not "The Giving Tree" is a good book or very depressing. We did agree that while it has been used as a corporate gift that it is a questionable selection. Are they saying that the receiver is the tree, who gives and gives until it is dead, or the human that takes and takes until it is filled with regret. Either way, not a merry sentiment.

Another book that we decided was creepy is "Love You Forever" by Robert Munsch.

The story goes like this: A mom goes into her son's room and rocks him to sleep professing she will love him forever. As he grows older - um, like to a teenager he's not so excited about being rocked to sleep so she's forced to sneak into his room after he's asleep and cuddle with him while he is unaware. He, getting irritated at waking up in footed pj's eventually moves out of state, but she continues to commit crimes of breaking and entering to assault him in his bedroom.

Eventually, she gets to old to make the trek across the state and the son, never having been able to form normal man/woman relationships starts to do what he knows with his mom. He starts to sneak into her room and rock the feeble old woman with no boundaries to sleep professing he will always love her.

Then, they buy a hotel, a cute hotel and they name it after themselves. Thus is the story of Mrs. Bates and her sweet boy Norman.

Anyway - back to the party. We had lots of laughs, enjoyed each others company and celebrated the simple miracle of scheduling.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Look at us

Here we are goofing around at someone's wedding.

Hello Again...

Sorry for the delay - the scribe has had a busy summer and fall. Not that getting married and moving should be an excuse.

So, here's what you missed.

The Measure of a Man, a spiritual journey by Sidney Poiter.

To be perfectly frank, this book did not receive high praise from our group. We were not taken in by the tone of the book, felt Mr. Poiter needed a better editor, and were frankly irritated by things he chose to gloss over.

This book was not intended to be a study of his life in hollywood but because that life is how we know him, we felt that the book could have followed a more traditional type of timeline.

The book encourages you to separate the persona of Sidney Poiter and his true self - however, he seems to grasp onto that spiritually elevated perception of himself and when he deviates we didn't really like him. His spiritual journey wasn't quite clear enough and we didn't 'get it.'

The Fate of Africa
Oh my... never let the gal who is moving and getting married in the same month try to pick a book on the fly. This seemed like such a great pick, smart, educational and according to the book jacket and reviews "accessible" to the non-academic reader.

I was wrong. It seems like a fantastic book, and now that we all own it, I'm sure we will use it as reference when preparing our speeches on African nations.

One week in, we switched to "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society." A much lighter work of fiction that was about a 4 hour read from beginning to end. Set against a post WWII occupied Great Brittan this little book tells of the German occupation on the Channel Islands (one in particular) and the fate of a few characters.

Consensus among the book group was that it was an enjoyable read, that the format (letters and telegrams) was a bit contrite and limiting, that some of the characters were more developed than others. Some were nothing more than devices to move the story along.

We enjoyed the historical nature of the book and the portrait of an idyllic little community that was transformed overnight. We were thankful that the author(s) didn't completely take the easy way out about the story resolution, but were not overly involved in the primary love story.

One of our astute members did draw a comparison to the archetypes in an Emily Bronte / Jane Austin story and the characters in this tale. We had the dark moody man, the seemingly perfect but totally wrong guy, and the "maligned hero".

Did we enjoy the book, yes. Did we love it? Don't know. Next meeting is our final year end gathering and our next set of books may (or may not) eke out the 2009 Book(s) of the year.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Two That I Forgot

Somehow in the course of 2009 I failed to write up two of our books because I skipped the book group meetings (due to a failed attempt at a real estate transaction and the other due to an unfortunate work reschedule.) I can’t comment on the discussions but the books are summarized here as follows:

The White Tiger, by Aravind Agida The White tiger tells the story of a driver in India who murders his employer. He feels justified in his actions and in letters to the Premier of China, tells his story. His act was in response to the Indian elite and the social and financial inequities, and through the letters he describes is upbringing and the transforming landscape within a land that he loves, but a land where the kind of work you can do is largely determined by the caste you were born into.

The Geography of Bliss; a grumps search for the happiest place on earth. This non-fiction book follows a sociologist (National Public Radio reporter) as he travels from location to location attempting to discover why certain countries and people are considered “happiest”. He travels to Bangalore India, strip clubs in Bangkok and drinks himself into next Tuesday in Reykjavik. He is on a vacation of discovery and the irritations of travel surface in his journey (are all local guides 100% responsible for only showing you the nice side of a location? Why don’t they ever show you the seedy side?) In addition to seeking out the happiest people on earth he also gives us the gloomiest and grumpiest folks. If you live in Moldovia can you truly be happy anyway? This book offers no real answers but does pose some funny questions such as are the Swedes really happy or just overly polite?