Hosted by Jen Dayton
Greetings! I trust everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving and that the carcass from The Bird is a distant memory. Or at the very least, soup. This year we actually went the traditional roasted route which thrilled the TC beyond reason. I think that he was really afraid of the frying. Which, I can sort of understand. But really? What is a holiday without that that impending sense of panic that something is about to go really truly drastically spectacularly wrong? Usually this feeling is supplied by your family members, but, since in the case of Cousin’s Thanksgiving, we really like each other, we need the fryer to give us that particular thrill. The words from the SoNo Loft this week are “Santa ♥ ‘s you” A nice message and the first time we have seen color used! Very festive! And now it’s time for Sweet Ann Words of Wisdom! “My words of wisdom for this week are for everyone to take a moment in this holiday rush to tell someone via phone, e-mail, text or in person that you are glad he or she is in your life and that they make your heart a little bigger. I like to say they make my heart soar.” This week we have a little something, Nazis, a madam, some illness, consequences, New Zealand and of course Paris.
Let us begin!
Abby is reading but not sipping. “While browsing the Washington Post Best Books of 2013 list, the title Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol by Anne Dowsett Johnston jumped out at me as an interesting topic about which I knew very little. A successful journalist, the memoir piece of Drink is Anne’s story on how she came to recognize and face her issues with alcohol and the impact her drinking had on those around her. Having grown up in a home with alcoholic parents, she presents compelling evidence of how the disease of alcoholism is passed down from one generation to the next. The social science piece of Drink looks at the culture of drinking as it pertains to women. Gender alone makes women significantly more prone to the potentially negative effects of alcohol, but targeting women in marketing campaigns throws plenty of fuel on the fire. Beverage lines geared towards women touted as having fewer calories than other products certainly add to the message drink up, ladies! There is also the phenomenon of alcorexia or ‘efficient drinking’ where women choose not to eat so they may instead allocate those calories to drinking, or to simply get drunk faster or more ‘efficiently.’ While a bit self-pitying when discussing her fractured relationship, Drink is an engaging book about an important subject.”
Barbara M. is reading Once We Were Brothers by Ronald Balson. “In the book Ben Solomon, a retired park worker in Chicago who immigrated to the United States after having survived the holocaust in Poland, threatens Elliot Rosenzweig, a respected, well-known philanthropist and accuses him of being a former Nazi. He claims that Elliot Rosenzweig is actually Otto Piatek who lived with him and his family in Poland and subsequently became a Nazi SS Officer. My only criticism of the book is that Balson doesn’t incorporate historical definitions smoothly into the text. He has his characters explaining certain terms that sound like dictionary entries. Although I find that jarring the story is so intriguing and exciting that I can’t stop reading it. The book is a page-turner; I can’t wait to see what the outcome is.”
Sweet Ann when not reaching out and touching someone is working on The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan. “I have read a number of Amy Tan's novels which I have enjoyed some more than others. I thought this one was good. It begins in 1912 in Shanghai, China and tells the story of Violet Minturn. She is the young daughter of an American madam who runs a high class courtesan house. China will change in the next couple of years and Violet and her mother will face many hardships and heartaches. Violet will be separated from her mother and will discover who her father truly is. The book also tells how Violet's mother, Lucretia, left the United States to begin her life in China. Their story is quite interesting. Ms. Tan has a whole chapter devoted to how to be a courtesan; those women had very different and difficult lives. While I enjoyed this book; it was not my favorite of Ms. Tan's which for me is The Joy Luck Club.”
Jeanne is back to doing two things at once. “I am reading Stephen Hawking’s new memoir, My Brief History. This brilliant scientist writes plainly and with humor about his life and family, career and debilitating illness, which did not stop him from a remarkable (understatement) career as a theoretical physicist and cosmologist. He talks about his studies at Oxford and his collaborations and many theories on subjects such as the Big Bang and black hole radiation. The book is very brief in length, but long in engaging stories and has many wonderful photographs of Hawking with family, friends and colleagues. I am listening to Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. The story is of Dee Moray who is playing a minor role in the film Cleopatra in the early 60s. She falls in love with Richard Burton (that one!) and is spirited away to the coast of Italy by the Hollywood studio. While kind of dreary and a little bizarre, the story does pick up after the midpoint of the book and is beautifully narrated by the Italian-American actor Edoardo Ballerini. When he is speaking for Pasquale Tursi, the young hotelier who befriends Dee, I keep picturing Stanley Tucci from the wonderful video, Big Night. Walter reminds readers that there are always consequences to our actions, even when one is talented and beautiful.
Steph was under the weather this week. We were very happy when she finally took a day to get herself back to, well, herself. She is on the mend and reports in with this: “During my sick day this week I finally finished this year’s Booker prize winner, The Luminaries. It’s beautifully written and I was sucked up into the intricate dramas of New Zealand during the gold rush. Like the smartest of reality TV shows! I still am not that sure what the astrology stuff has to do with everything, but it suits. But I’m torn about its length. Much like The Goldfinch, the length seems to be necessary to the story, but the beginning really drags. It’s absolutely a page-turner after the first section, but that takes 361 pages. 361 well-written, searching, thoughtful, clever pages! But not quick ones. It really picks up speed after that, though, and the last 150 pages fly. Historical fiction fans, especially Hilary Mantel fans, will love it.”
I spent this week in the thrall of All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. One of the hazards of my job is that I often read the best books of the year not in the year they are going to be published. This happened to me last year with Life After Life and Transatlantic and wouldn’t you know it has happened again with this one? Doerr gives us two stories. Maire Laure is a blind girl living in Paris with her father who is the locksmith at the Museum of Natural History. Unfortunately their comfortable routine is disrupted when the Nazi’s come marching into Paris forcing them to flee to the Brittany Coast. Werner Pfennig is a young orphan growing up in Germany whose talent for fixing radios gets him tapped for the Youth Army. You can be sure that their worlds will collide but it does so in the most remarkable of ways. The writing is tight and exquisite. The story is quite literally breathtaking. I can’t say enough good things about this one but sadly it won’t be out until May 2014 so you all are just going to have to wait. But trust me on this one. It’s well worth it.