Thursday, February 26, 2015

GROLIER CLUB EXHIBITS "THE FIRST PAPERBACKS"

Anyone who has ever sat in a cafe, or in the bath, with a paperback owes a debt to Aldus and the small, cleanly designed editions of the secular classics he called libelli portatiles, or portable little books. (New York Times)
A Tribute to the Printer Aldus Manutius, and the Roots of the Paperback

Monday, February 23, 2015

WIDE SARGASSO SEA, BY JEAN RHYS

BOOK DISCUSSION DATE AND TIME: MONDAY, MARCH 23, 2015, AT 1:00 PM.
Jean Rhys's reputation was made upon the publication of this passionate and heartbreaking novel, in which she brings into the light one of fiction's most mysterious characters: the madwoman in the attic from Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. Set in the Caribbean, its heroine is Antoinette Cosway, a sensual and protected young woman who is sold into marriage to the prideful Rochester. In this best-selling novel, Rhys portrays a society so driven by hatred, so skewed in its sexual relations, that it can literally drive a woman out of her mind.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT ANNE FRANK: STORIES, BY NATHAN ENGLANDER

BOOK DISCUSSION DATE AND TIME: MONDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2015, AT 1:00 P.M.

A collection of short stories includes the title story about two marriages in which the Holocaust is played out as a devastating parlor game, and a dark story of vigilante justice undertaken by a troop of geriatric campers.

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Read a discussion guide prepared by the library staff 

Read a review by Stacey Schiff in the New York Times Book Review 

Read a review by Michiku Kakutani in the New York Times 

Read a review from the New Republic 

Monday, December 15, 2014

FEVER: A NOVEL, BY MARY BETH KEANE

Book Discussion Date and Time:

Monday, January 12, 2015, at 3:00 PM. (Please note that we are meeting at a later time this month.)

The story of Mary Mallon, known as "Typhoid Mary," who came to New York in 1883 and cooked for the wealthy families of Manhattan.

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Monday, November 10, 2014

THE CIRCLE: A NOVEL, BY DAVE EGGERS

Book Discussion schedule: Two sessions: (evening) Wednesday, December 10, 2014, at 7:00 P.M., and (afternoon) Monday, December 15, 2014, at 1:00 P.M.

Set in an undefined future time, The Circle is the story of Mae Holland, a young woman hired to work for the world’s most powerful internet company.... Mae can’t believe her luck, —even as her life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. (McSweeney's)

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Publishers Weekly:
/* Starred Review */ The latest offering from McSweeney's founder Eggers (A Hologram for the King) is a stunning work of terrifying plausibility, a cautionary tale of subversive power in the digital age suavely packaged as a Silicon Valley social satire. Set in the near future, it examines the inner workings of the Circle, an internet company that is both spiritual and literal successor to Facebook, Google, Twitter and more, as seen through the eyes of Mae Holland, a new hire who starts in customer service. As Mae is absorbed into the Circle's increasingly demanding multi- and social media experience, she plays an ever more pivotal role in the company's plans, which include preventing child abductions through microchips, reducing crime through omnipresent surveillance, and eliminating political corruption through transparency courtesy of personal cameras. Soon, she's not alone in asking what it will mean to "complete the Circle" as its ultimate goal comes into view; even her closest friends and family suspect the Circle is going too far in its desire to make the world a better, safer, more honest place. Eggers presents a Swiftian scenario so absurd in its logic and compelling in its motives that the worst thing possible will be for people to miss the joke. The plot moves at a casual, yet inexorable pace, sneaking up on the reader before delivering its warnings of the future, a worthy and entertaining read despite its slow burn. Agent: Andrew Wylie, The Wylie Agency. (Oct.) --Staff (Reviewed September 16, 2013) (Publishers Weekly, vol 260, issue 37, p)
Kirkus:
A massive feel-good technology firm takes an increasingly totalitarian shape in this cautionary tale from Eggers (A Hologram for the King, 2012, etc.). Twenty-four-year-old Mae feels like the luckiest person alive when she arrives to work at the Circle, a California company that's effectively a merger of Google, Facebook, Twitter and every other major social media tool. Though her job is customer-service drudgework, she's seduced by the massive campus and the new technologies that the "Circlers" are working on. Those typically involve increased opportunities for surveillance, like the minicameras the company wants to plant everywhere, or sophisticated data-mining tools that measure every aspect of human experience. (The number of screens at Mae's workstation comically proliferate as new monitoring methods emerge.) But who is Mae to complain when the tools reduce crime, politicians allow their every move to be recorded, and the campus cares for her every need, even providing health care for her ailing father? The novel reads breezily, but it's a polemic that's thick with flaws. Eggers has to intentionally make Mae a dim bulb in order for readers to suspend disbelief about the Circle's rapid expansion--the concept of privacy rights are hardly invoked until more than halfway through. And once they are invoked, the novel's tone is punishingly heavy-handed, particularly in the case of an ex of Mae's who wants to live off the grid and warns her of the dehumanizing consequences of the Circle's demand for transparency in all things. (Lest that point not be clear, a subplot involves a translucent shark that's terrifyingly omnivorous.) Eggers thoughtfully captured the alienation new technologies create in his previous novel, A Hologram for the King, but this lecture in novel form is flat-footed and simplistic. Though Eggers strives for a portentous, Orwellian tone, this book mostly feels scolding, a Kurt Vonnegut novel rewritten by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.(Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2013)

 

Monday, October 13, 2014

FLORA: A NOVEL, BY GAIL GODWIN

BOOK DISCUSSION DATE AND TIME: MONDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2014, AT 1:00 PM. 

Isolated in a decaying family home while her father performs secret work at the end of World War II, 10-year-old Helen, grieving the losses of her mother and grandmother, bonds with her sensitive young aunt while desperately clinging to the ghosts and stories of her childhood. (NovelistPlus)


BookList:
/* Starred Review */ Godwin, celebrated for her literary finesse, presents a classic southern tale galvanic with decorous yet stabbing sarcasm and jolting tragedy. Helen, a writer, looks back to the fateful summer of 1945, when she was a precocious, motherless 10-year-old trying to make sense of a complicated and unjust world. Young Helen lives on a hill in North Carolina in an old, rambling, haunted house that was once a sanatorium for folks she calls the Recoverers. Raised by her immaculately turned-out, tart-tongued, and stoic grandmother, whom she worships, Helen is bereft after Nonie’s sudden death. Worse yet, her father is summoned to work on the secret military project at Oak Ridge. He recruits a 22-year-old Alabaman cousin to stay in his place. Sweet, emotional, and seemingly guileless Flora is no match for feverishly imaginative, scheming, and condescending Helen. When a polio outbreak keeps them at home, and a war veteran begins delivering their groceries, tension builds. Godwin’s under-your-skin characters are perfectly realized, and the held-breath plot is consummately choreographed. But the wonder of this incisive novel of the endless repercussions of loss and remorse at the dawn of the atomic age is how subtly Godwin laces it with exquisite insights into secret family traumas, unspoken sexuality, class and racial divides, and the fallout of war while unveiling the incubating mind of a future writer. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Best-selling Godwin is always in demand, and with early accolades for this tour de force from the likes of John Irving, requests will multiply. -- Seaman, Donna (Reviewed 02-15-2013) (Booklist, vol 109, number 12, p25)
Publishers Weekly:
/* Starred Review */ Narrator Helen Anstruther, “going on eleven,” is the relentlessly charismatic and wry star of this stirring and wondrous novel from Godwin (Unfinished Desires). In the summer of 1945, in the mountains of North Carolina, Helen is trying to make sense of the world since her beloved grandmother’s death. When her father leaves to do “secret work for World War II” in neighboring Tennessee, this becomes much more challenging, and Helen, motherless for years, is left in the care of 22-year-old Flora, a delicate and, Helen might say, hopelessly effusive relative. Helen has grown up in a rambling old house that once served as a home for convalescent tubercular or inebriate “Recoverers” under the care of Helen’s physician grandfather. For a precocious girl who has lost everyone who’s ever loved and known her, the house becomes a mesmerizing and steadfast companion. Though Flora initially appears to Helen as little more than a country bumpkin, their time together profoundly transforms them both. Godwin’s thoughtful portrayal of their boredom, desires, and the eventual heartbreak of their summer underscores the impossible position of children, who are powerless against the world and yet inherit responsibility for its agonies. Agent: Moses Cardona, John Hawkins & Associates. (May) --Staff (Reviewed February 11, 2013) (Publishers Weekly, vol 260, issue 06, p)
Library Journal:
/* Starred Review */ Ten-year-old Helen is a precocious, imaginative child who must spend the summer with her guardian, Flora, while her father is in Oak Ridge, TN, during the last months of World War II. Helen is a "haunted little girl" who lost her mother at age three and whose grandmother, who raised her, has just died. She and her late mother's cousin, 22-year-old Flora, are isolated in Helen's family house on a mountaintop, quarantined from the polio that threatens their community. Helen is resentful of her caretaker, Flora, who cries easily and appears to Helen to be unsophisticated. But Flora is singled-minded in her attempts to do right by Helen. The aftermath of that formative summer will steer the course of Helen's life and haunt her forever. VERDICT A superbly crafted, stunning novel by three-time National Book Award award finalist Godwin (A Mother and Two Daughters ), this is an unforgettable, heartbreaking tale of disappointment, love, and tragedy. Highly recommended.— Lisa Block, Atlanta --Lisa Block (Reviewed May 1, 2013) (Library Journal, vol 138, issue 8, p73)
Kirkus:
/* Starred Review */ Godwin (Unfinished Desires, 2009, etc.) examines the intricate bonds of family and the enduring scars inflicted by loss. In the summer of 1945, 10-year-old Helen Anstruther has just lost Nonie, the grandmother who raised her after her mother, Lisbeth, died when she was 3. Helen's father, the discontented, hard-drinking principal of the local high school in Mountain City, N.C., needs someone to stay with her while he does "more secret work for World War II" in Oak Ridge, Tenn. So he asks her mother's 22-year-old cousin, Flora, and, when one of Helen's best friends comes down with polio, insists that the pair remain at home to avoid the risk of infection. It's a bad idea: Weepy, unbuttoned Flora seems like a dumb hick to snobbish little Helen, who at first makes a thoroughly unappealing narrator. But as Godwin skillfully peels back layers of family history to suggest the secrets kept by both Nonie and Lisbeth (some are revealed; some are not), we see that Helen is mean because she's terrified. She's already lost her mother and grandmother, she's afraid her polio-stricken friend will die, and another close friend is about to move away--after delivering some home truths about how "you think you're better than other people." Helen got this trait from Nonie and both her parents, we realize, as Flora's comments gradually reveal how cruel Lisbeth was in her eagerness to leave behind her impoverished background. As usual with Godwin, the protagonists are surrounded by secondary characters just as fully and sensitively drawn, particularly Finn, the returned soldier whose attentions to Flora spark Helen's jealousy and prompt the novel's climax. Not all mistakes are reparable, we are reminded, but we learn what lessons we can and life goes on. Unsparing yet compassionate; a fine addition to Godwin's long list of first-rate fiction bringing 19th-century richness of detail and characterization to the ambiguities of modern life.(Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2013) 

 

THE DINNER: A NOVEL, BY HERMAN KOCH

Book Discussion date and time: Thursday,  October 23, 2014, at 1:00 PM.

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Meeting at an Amsterdam restaurant for dinner, two couples move from small talk to the wrenching shared challenge of their teenage sons' act of violence that has triggered a police investigation and revealed the extent to which each family will go to protect those they love.