Monica Holloway is an advocate for the letting go of shame. Perhaps it is by force of personality that she has come to grips with horrible and dismaying acts of betrayal and abuse experienced in her lifetime, enabling her to put them all out there. For instance, when questioned about how her memoir Driving With Dead People was received by her home town, she states, “I’m not sure. I get reports from my hometown and it is a conservative place. This is a town that I never heard of sexual abuse come up, ever, when I was young. They are talking about this subject now and whether they believe or they don’t believe me. That’s OK with me. It is a huge triumph (for me) that these people are discussing this topic. I almost feel like I have climbed Mount Everest. My sister and I don’t have the shame anymore. We gave the shame back in a way, not to the public, but to the people who can accept responsibility — and that is why I wrote the book.”
A book blogger who knew her and who grew up in the same town gives another view of Monica Holloway after introducing the author this way, "It isn't often that someone you went to high school with grows up, marries someone involved with the longest-running show on TV, and writes a memoir." Here we learn about the very negative reaction of at least one townsperson to her portrayal of him, but he died before the author could discuss it with him.
Monica continues the act of shedding shame in a new project she is involved with, Dancing at the Shame Prom, in which 27 authors tell their true stories. In this excerpt, Monica begins to share details about her husband's infidelity, "My husband cheated on me. I'm just going to say it up front because it's so cliche and stupid sounding. And while I'm at it, I might as well say that it broke my heart." Apparently she has a lot to say and is not ashamed to say it.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Monday, April 1, 2013
Four sensational episodes in New Jersey history become the framework by which Fred comes to judge the nature of journalism and his own lack of scruples therein. Among those episodes were the Morro Castle fire and the Lindbergh baby kidnapping. In covering these events, Fred must face a number of moral dilemmas which tear away at his reporter's distance and dispassion. The reader is left to compare this era of celebrity and disaster-driven journalism with that of today's reporting, be it by newspaper or other medium.
Friday, March 1, 2013
Daphne du Maurier's spellbinding novels, Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel, assured her a place in 20th century notable English literature. Along with Rebecca, her 1951 book, My Cousin Rachel, must be counted among du Maurier’s best works. My Cousin Rachel is memorable for its moody narrator, Philip Ashley, who drives the reader’s feelings first one way, then another, forcing us to weigh what’s real against what is fantasized. “Philip Ashley tells the story of his cousin Ambrose Ashley, the man who had raised him and who had somewhat mysteriously acquired a wife, Rachel, shortly before he died. Philip is convinced that Rachel has killed Ambrose. But when she appears at his home he becomes less certain. He is both attracted and repelled by Rachel. By the time she dies, readers do not know whether Rachel killed Ambrose, tried to kill Philip, or was even guilty of any criminal intent. The book is ambiguous to the end, leaving the reader to judge Rachel.” - "Daphne du Maurier." Contemporary Popular Writers. Ed. Dave Mote. Detroit: St. James Press, 1997. Literature Resource Center. Web. 28 Feb. 2013.
My Cousin Rachel is far more than a suspense novel, although many people will simply be happy to puzzle over the novel’s ending and the motivation of the title character. The author stated that she was "not so much interested in people as in types--types who represent great forces of good or evil. I don't care very much whether John Smith likes Mary Robinson, goes to bed with Jane Brown and then refuses to pay the hotel bill. But I am passionately interested in human cruelty, human lust and human avarice--and, of course, their counterparts in the scale of virtue." - "Daphne du Maurier." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Literature Resource Center. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. The story of My Cousin Rachel is rooted in suspicion, desire, and misunderstanding. It details a feverish infatuation with what is unattainable, exotic and self-possessed, all in the guise of cousin Rachel. Philip, naively provincial, foolish and jealous, finds himself to be no match for her.
Saturday, February 2, 2013
Dualities, alter egos, two cities, twins, opposing halves...yes, duos are an essential aspect of Charles Dickens' novel, A Tale of Two Cities. Characters are paired or opposed according to their nature and roles, law and disorder starkly contrasted, and literary themes and motifs neatly matched up in sets of two's. Let's see what we make of all this in a book so unlike his other works. An hour's book discussion may not be enough time...
Friday, November 30, 2012
Saturday Samplers will discuss Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer this Saturday, Dec. 1, at 3:30 p.m. Under the Banner of Heaven is an examination of an extremist religion born and bred in America, that of the Fundamentalist Latter-day Saints, an outgrowth of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, otherwise know as the Mormon Church. Centering on a savage murder by two Fundamentalist brothers in 1984, the narrative of this fascinating nonfiction book follows the Mormon faith from its inception to the splintering off of polygamous sects which have spread throughout the American southwest, Canada and Mexico. Mormonism as practiced by the modern LDS is also brought under the glare of Krakauer's far-reaching, well-researched book. The intertwining of faith, zealotry and delusion makes Under the Banner of Heaven a very compelling and thought-provoking book.
Thursday, October 4, 2012
"Hello! I hope you'll come in and look around, warm up by the fire, and have a cold Canadian." So begins the website of award-winning Michigan author Steve Hamilton. Garnering acclaim for his Alex McKnight series featuring a Detroit ex-cop who has moved to the Upper Peninsula, the author continues to write to favorable reviews. His stand-alone book, The Lock Artist, was selected for the 2011 Edgar Award. A graduate of the University of Michigan, Hamilton is a Detroit native (now living in upstate New York) who brings a sense of place and character to his Michigan-based stories. So why not cozy up to his website and learn more about him before we discuss The Lock Artist?
Thursday, September 6, 2012
Here's a litreactor.com interview done last year with Daniel Woodrell, author of The Bayou Trilogy, in which he graciously and frankly discussed his career, writing style and life in the Ozarks. Movie projects and future books were also discussed as was his break-out book, Winter's Bone.
Since characters are so important to the success of the stories in The Bayou Trilogy, you'll be interested to know that he stated, "I always start with character, I never start with plot. I like to muse on a character and see where they go in my imagination and then follow them and begin to see what they’re up to. Which is a slower way of doing things, but it’s the only way it’s fun for me. And if this racket isn’t fun, there are a lot of things where you can make a lot more money. So it’s got to be fun or I’m not doing it." Read on to learn how the three Shade novels came about and what he thought of them. Interesting reading.
Friday, July 6, 2012
Christie Hodgen, author of Elegies for the Brokenhearted, is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and an award-winning writer. Her father (shown above with her daughter) is John Hodgen, a poet and college teacher. A 2006 interview by the Worcester Telegram & Gazette with Christie and her father can be read here. As John Hodgen notes, Christie has always been quite observant, and that quality stands out as a strength in her writing.
Certainly the characters in Elegies for the Brokenhearted are beautifully observed portraits of flawed or wounded individuals leading marginal lives, lives most of us might overlook or ignore. Her narrator, Mary Murphy, does not overlook them, but rather speaks to the ways, large and small, each of five dead people have shaped her own life. These five people may have known her for only a brief time (a college roommate) or all her life (her mother), but each one has impacted Mary's own course through a difficult upbringing.
While never having experienced a scatter shot life of poverty and marginalization herself, Hodgen creates such memorable, well-formed characters existing on the fringes of society that the reader might think otherwise. The voices given her characters are embued with as much depth as her descriptions of them, each character perfectly identifiable by dialogue and cadence of speech. Perhaps it was the influence of poetry in her upbringing that gave Hodgen the ability to lift heavy topics to a lyrical, captivating sphere, a place where the reader will not want to look away, but rather savor each story, each elegy.
~review by Evelyn Fischel~
Thursday, May 31, 2012
Friday, May 4, 2012
The merry month of May is just the perfect time to read and discuss Phillip Lopate's Waterfront: A Walk Around Manhattan. Our improving weather offers a suitable kick to get us out the door, feet on the street, and heads craned in search of great vistas. We're primed and ready for new adventures - to paraphrase Mr. Lopate, well, that's Spring for you!
And, of course, Phillip Lopate's book offers innumerable possibilities for day hikes and strolls in neighboring New York. Coincidentally, there are several walking events taking place in Manhattan this weekend which are referenced by the author. One is the Great Saunter sponsored by the Shorewalkers which takes place tomorrow. You'll recall that Mr. Lopate participated (to some extent) in this 35 mile organized walk around Manhattan's shores. Here is their Web site. The other notable walking event is sponsored by the Municipal Art Society of New York and is entitled Jane's Walk NYC, in honor of urban booster Jane Jacobs who was discussed numerous times in Waterfront. There will be over 70 guided, free walking tours throughout the boroughs on both Saturday and Sunday. Roosevelt Island is featured in one of the tours, and another one is entitled "An Accessible Waterfront for East Harlem." Link to their Web site here for more information.
In no case are you to pay any attention to these! Your duty is to show up and discuss the book, right?! Well, I hope to see many of you for our discussion tomorrow; if not, I'll know where you've been. If you wish, please refer to my commentary on Waterfront in Book News and More, also.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Stacy Schiff is an award-winning biographer and the author of Saturday Samplers next book, Cleopatra: a Life. Her biography of Antoine de Saint-Exupery published in 1994 became a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and Schiff's biography of Vera Nabokov won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000. A biography of Benjamin Franklin preceded her latest publication, Cleopatra. (Link here for a list of her books and essays.) Born in 1961, Schiff attended Williams College and worked for Simon and Schuster as a writer and editor until 1990, at which point she appears to have settled into the steady work of an acclaimed biographer. The video interview below from Borders touches on her writing plans for the future, but is primarily directed to questions about Cleopatra - the person and the book.
Friday, March 2, 2012
Piper Kerman's prison memoir Orange is the New Black will be discussed tomorrow by our Saturday Samplers group. Perhaps we should start with the title? Can't wait to hear what you think of both Kerman and her story. Here's a Slate review which sentences the author to thirty lashes, while The Book Lady's Blog would vote to commute her sentence. You be the judge!
Thursday, February 2, 2012
Saturday, December 3, 2011
Friday, September 30, 2011
Kathryn Stockett's first novel, The Help, has bloomed into a mega-hit regardless of criticism for its historical inaccuracies and racial insensitivity. One blog in particular, "A Critical Review of the novel The Help," is just loaded with interesting critical commentary. Nonetheless, many readers seem to adore it for the dialogue and punchy characters inhabiting a story the author thought would never be published. In fact, according to Stockett, the manuscript was rejected by 60 literary agents before hitting pay dirt in 2009. Since that time, The Help has enjoyed a great run on the book club circuit, has been released as a major motion picture, and will now be discussed this Saturday by our book group, Saturday Samplers.
The reaction to this particular book is all in one's point of view, but let's start with the book cover. The British book cover shows two black domestics caring for a white toddler in the 1950's or 60's. The U.S. book cover consists of a muted, pretty illustration of three tiny birds set against a golden background. What does this suggest? I don't know, but clearly you are meant to feel good about picking up this novel and going with the flow. If you read the first edition, would you notice that Medgar Evers's death was inaccurately attributed to a bludgeoning rather than a gunshot? In several interviews, one with Barnes and Noble on their Web site, the author repeats this error. Subsequent editions were corrected, but here is a screenshot of the mistake.
Stockett states in a Daily Mail UK interview that the story came about from her memories of her own family's black maid, Demetrie. Demetrie worked for the author's Mississippi family for 32 years, raising Kathryn and her siblings, and accompanying the family on vacations. Still, Demetrie was never allowed to use the family toilet, tub or dinnerware, and it never occurred to a young Stockett that this was unusual.
In an NPR interview with Michele Norris, Kathryn Stockett states about her book, "It's fiction, but some of the facts and the settings and the backdrops - sure, that was Southern life. Having a separate bathroom for the black domestic was just the way things were done. Certainly, in my grandmother's time and when I was growing up, yeah, Demetrie's bathroom was on the side of the house. It was a separate door. Still, to this day, I've never been in that room." Regardless, Stockett expresses her love for Demetrie and says, "Demetrie was treated like a queen, in my mind growing up, I should say." As I said, it's all in your perspective.
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Yes, Cunningham possesses a delightful, fruitful, and fanciful imagination which she let wander one day after writing an earlier book. She decided to pick up markers and start drawing. What appeared on her sketchpad was a voluptuous naked woman whom she named Madge.
"Madge" had bright orange hair and an attitude. It wasn't long before Cunningham decided Madge would make a great book character, perhaps a retired prostitute who moves to Maine to take up painting. From there the idea morphed into a book about Mary Magdalen, imagined as a flame-haired Celt named Maeve, prostitute, healer and true love of Jesus.
Now that you are tantalized, read more about Elizabeth Cunningham, her series of Maeve books called "The Maeve Chronicles," and her interesting upbringing as an Episcopalian who became an interfaith minister and counselor. Check her Web site, http://www.passionofmarymagdalen.com/, and, if you like, follow her on Twitter as EliznMaeve.
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Geraldine Brooks is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist whose first novel, Year of Wonders: a novel of the plague (2001), will be discussed this Saturday at our book meeting. Brooks grew up outside of Sydney, Australia, and resides there today with her family. She is a graduate of the University of Sydney and reported for a Sydney newspaper in the early part of her career. After attending a master's program at Columbia University, she also worked for The Wall Street Journal. Her writing demonstrates a wide-ranging interest in historical and cultural topics of an international scope. Among her books are Nine Parts of Desire: the hidden world of Islamic women, the 2006 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel March, as well as People of the Book, a fictional piece based on the history of the Sarajevo Haggadah. The latest novel, Caleb's Crossing, has just been published to excellent reviews and concerns the interplay of cultures, Native American and English, during the American colonial period. Please visit the author's Web site for more information. You might also enjoy reading here The Guardian's July 14, 2001 review of Year of Wonders.
Saturday, May 7, 2011
Rebecca Skloot, author of our next discussion book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, has a very comprehensive Web site on which you can explore her biography, news and articles concerning her science writing career and her award-winning book, and other interesting avenues of information. Among the articles under the tab, About Rebecca, is an interview she did for the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. Here she discusses how she structured her complicated narrative of Henrietta Lack's story. Shown in the photo below are her colored cards for storyboarding this book. Enjoy exploring the many interesting links on the site.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
London-born writer Tom Rob Smith just may be the go-to author for people who are ready to move on from Stieg Larsson's Millenium series. Smith's first book, Child 44, bears all the hallmarks of a great crime thriller - enduring suspense, characters who grow with the well-plotted storyline, and a relevant setting of historical authenticity, in this case, post-Stalinist Russia. His subsequent novel, The Secret Speech, and an upcoming publication, Agent 6, carry forward the story of Leo Stepanovich Demidov, former member of the MGB, as he and his family adapt to his new position in the Soviet State security system.
At the heart of Child 44 is the mystery behind a seemingly inexplicable and horrible series of child murders occurring across a wide area of the Soviet Union. A secretive, paranoid regime is unable to acknowledge that such crimes are possible, let alone that they may be connected. Innocent victims face torture, character assassination, gulags and misery, all so that the myth of a perfect political state might be perpetuated. Meanwhile the vicious child slaughters continue unabated.
One man, Leo Demidov, develops the conscience and courage to investigate these murders as crimes of a serial killer. As the author notes on his Web site, "How a crime is investigated is a very useful litmus test for larger forces within a society, the priorities and prejudices of that world. I guess with CHILD 44 I wanted to combine both those elements, the puzzle and the period in which this puzzle is unraveling." Although the novel's child murders are based on the true crimes of Ukrainian serial killer Andre Chikatilo, Tom Rob Smith fits them into his own web of cause and effect, and once again it is Leo Demidov who is at the center of it all.
Smith shares that he was always a reader, loved adventure stories and took them in whatever form they came - mythology, history, science fiction, television, drama or film. Perhaps the author's work as a storyliner for various British television shows following his graduation from Cambridge helped shape Child 44 into a story that would translate well cinematographically. Apparently Ridley Scott, director of "Alien" and "Blade Runner," thinks so too, as he has bought the rights to the book for a future film production.
Friday, March 4, 2011
Why reinvent the wheel? Here is The Harvard Lamplighter's brief bio of our next author, Jill Ker Conway.
A slightly more extensive recap can be found on the PBS Web site. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/coorain/ei_conway.html
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
|John Steinbeck 1902-1968|
|Steinbeck and wife Elaine, 1963|
John Steinbeck may be regarded as a quintessential "American" author. His fiction focused on the common man - the Dust Bowl migrant, cannery worker, the farmhand, prostitute - the lowly of the American earth. Nonetheless, he often cast his downtrodden characters in stories suffused with Biblical allegory or Arthurian references. The stories of Cain and Abel, Adam and Eve, the banishment from the Garden of Eden, were explored repeatedly in his writings, particularly in our discussion book, East of Eden, published in 1952.
Like the Biblical Adam who was created from dust, Steinbeck's literary life seems to have sprung from the dust of his Salinas origins, the setting for East of Eden. Born John Ernst Steinbeck III in 1902 to Olive and John Steinbeck in Salinas, California, the author spent his childhood, not entirely happily, in this transitional farming community in the Salinas Valley. A somewhat lonely child who loved reading, Steinbeck left the valley to attend Stanford, but could never quite buckle down to graduate. He worked odd jobs as a ranch hand, factory worker, and reporter to support himself while he wrote.
One of his first literary successes was Tortilla Flat, published in 1935, followed soon by Of Mice and Men in 1937 and The Grapes of Wrath in 1939. Cannery Row was published in 1945 and The Pearl in 1947, although there were many other books and short stories written in the intervening years. For his body of work, John Steinbeck received The Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962, ten years after the publication of East of Eden. He married three times, his last marriage to Elaine Scott being a happy and sustaining one, and he had two sons by his second wife, Gwyn Conger, who was problematic in his life. His sons suffered from their parents' divorce and were never as close to him as he would have liked.
It is for these two sons, Thom and John IV, that Steinbeck wrote East of Eden. In his journal he noted, "And so I will tell them one of the greatest, perhaps the greatest story of all - the story of good and evil, of strength and weakness, of love and hate, of beauty and ugliness. I shall try to demonstrate to them how these doubles are inseparable - how neither can exist without the other and how out of their groupings creativeness is born." In this same journal, which he kept as he was writing East of Eden, we learn that he thought this book "...perhaps...is the only book I have ever written. I think there is only one book to a man." This journal has since been published as John Steinbeck: Journal of a Novel.
Set in the Salinas of his upbringing, Steinbeck said that East of Eden was also an "autobiography" of this region. His original title for the book was "Salinas Valley." Additionally, it is a history of his mother's family, the Hamiltons. Steinbeck asserted that all the episodes in it about the Hamiltons were true. I believe the Trask family, on the other hand, is a device to explore his stated subject of good and evil on a symbolic level and how it interplays with the Hamiltons on a personal level. Steinbeck was sure that East of Eden would be his greatest work.
~ Evelyn Fischel~
Friday, November 26, 2010
Harry Bernstein, author of our next book, The Invisible Wall, is a man with a plan. Having celebrated his 100th birthday this year, Mr. Bernstein's plan for 2010 is to finish his fourth book, based on his older sister, Rose. The Invisible Wall was his first major publication which came to print in 2007 when he was 96. Since then he has written two more memoirs, The Dream, about his family's immigrant life in the United States, and The Golden Willow, about his 67 year happy marriage to this wife, Ruby.
Ruby's death in 2002 precipitated a dark spell of grief for Mr. Bernstein, but he states, "I had this gap to fill. Writing was sort of therapy. When you're old, it seems you have no future. Where are you going to go? But I could go back to my past." The Invisible Wall takes the reader back to Harry's earliest memories of life with his hard-bitten family in an English mill town in the early 1900's. Bernstein credits old photographs with bringing back a flood of memories which he then turned into his family's story of poverty, prejudice, cruelty and love.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Technical analysis completed by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and published in 2005 reveals some very interesting data about John Singer Sargent's struggle with the composition and shading of Mme. Pierre Gautreau's portrait before and after it was debuted at the Paris Salon of 1884. Museum conservator, Dorothy Mahon, and associate research scientist, Silvia Centeno, demonstrate through X-radiography that Sargent reworked Gautreau's profile at least eight times.
John Singer Sargent sold this portrait to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1916. Photographs in this posting are from the article cited: http://www.metmuseum.org/publications/journals/1/pdf/20320648.pdf.bannered.pdf
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Saturday Samplers will discuss Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X by Deborah Davis on Saturday, November 6, at 3:30 p.m. in the Community Room of the library.
Strapless tells the fascinating story behind John Singer Sargent's famous portrait of Mme. Gautreau. This life-size oil painting caused an absolute sensation at the Paris Salon of 1884. Exhibited alongside hundreds of paintings by renowned and aspiring artists, Portrait de Mme *** singularly attracted the disdain of both art critics and the Parisian public.
Why should this particular painting of a Belle Epoch socialite arouse such instantaneous revulsion and criticism? After all, Mme. Gautreau was considered to be an exotically beautiful young woman known for her remarkable neckline and figure. Why should John Singer Sargent's work be so reviled when he had successfully exhibited paintings at previous Salons? Could the artist's placement of her loose dress strap be enough to inflame the French or were there other factors behind their general disdain for what is now considered to be a masterpiece? In Strapless, Sargent's career is examined in terms of the impact this portrait had on both the artist and the sitter, Madame X.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Jhumpa Lahiri, author of our next selection, Interpreter of Maladies, started her writing career with a flourish, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for this collection of short stories. Interpreter of Maladies also won the PEN/Hemingway Award, an O. Henry Prize, and the Addison Metcalf Award. Lahiri's subsequent publications are The Namesake, 2003, and Unaccustomed Earth, 2008.
Born in London to Bengali parents in 1967, Lahiri moved to the States and earned degrees from Barnard College and Boston University. She is married and the mother of two children. Although she was raised in Rhode Island, the author visited family in Calcutta, India, numerous times. India is the setting for some of her short stories as well as for The Namesake. Of interest to our group is the fact that the character Mrs. Sen is based on Lahiri's mother who babysat in the family home. About her mother the author states, "I saw her one way, but imagined that an American child may see her differently, reacting with curiosity, fascination, or fear to the things I took for granted."
In his Time Magazine article "Jhumpa Lahiri: The Quiet Laureate", Lev Grossman notes that "Lahiri's stories are static, but what looks like stasis is really the stillness of enormous forces pushing in opposite directions, barely keeping one another in check." He further comments that "It's difficult to quote from her stories: they refuse to sum themselves up with a neat final epiphany." Lahiri states that "Interpreter of Maladies" had to be the title story for this collection because she, as the writer, is like an interpreter of the emotional pain and distance experienced by her characters.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Friday, September 10, 2010
Wow, I came right down to the line in finishing this epic book, The Candy Bombers. I started out in July listening to it, but realized I could read faster than the folksy pace of the audiobook narrator. Author Andrei Cherny did a great job weaving all the various content together to make sense of a complicated bit of history. Historical figures were given a breath of life that only narrative nonfiction can achieve, and I certainly found the book compelling and comprehensive, if rather long. Here's a CBS interview with Andrei Cherny and pilot Hal Halvorsen. What did you think of the book?
Friday, July 9, 2010
Saturday Samplers will be laughing and scratching this Saturday, July 10th, as we meet to discuss the humor of David Sedaris. Our chosen book is Me Talk Pretty One Day, but the group is welcome to share their own favorites by the author as well as other humorists. For instance, I really had a laugh riot over another Sedaris book, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, and look forward to more recommendations. Here are some short interviews featuring the author's offbeat humor as well as the issue of comic exaggeration.
Friday, June 11, 2010
In 2003 Tracy Kidder published Mountains Beyond Mountains which vividly describes the "mountains" Dr. Paul Farmer and his associates crossed to bring equitable medical care to Haiti. Although Farmer's pioneering treatment of multi-drug resistant TB in Peru and Russia is also chronicled in the book, Kidder's story begins and ends with Haiti. In fact he wrote that Farmer "would always return to Cange. It seemed to me that he didn't have a plan for his life so much as he had a pattern. He was like a compass, with one leg swinging around the globe and the other planted in Haiti."
Yet by 2004 Paul Farmer had journeyed to a new frontier and a new home in Rwanda. This country had made a remarkable recovery from the horrific genocide of the prior decade, but was still in dire need of medical care. Partners in Health established hospitals in the neediest regions with the help of the Clinton Foundation, and Paul Farmer was directly involved from the beginning in selecting sites. It might come as a surprise, but Farmer decided that Haiti had become too dangerous to raise his family, so he moved his wife, Didi Bertrand, and daughter, Catherine, to Rwanda with him. They have since adopted a Rwandan baby daughter, Elizabeth, in the same year that they had a new son, Sebastian.
Farmer's associate and co-founder of Partners in Health, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, has gone on to become the new president of Dartmouth College in 2009. Last month he invited Tracy Kidder to give a talk at Dartmouth to discuss Kidder's new book, Strength in What Remains. The imprint of Paul Farmer can be felt in this book, too, which follows the journey of a Burundi refugee, Deogratias, from homelessness in New York to Dartmouth Medical School and back to Burundi where he established a medical clinic. The common factor in this story is Paul Farmer, who introduced Tracy Kidder to Deogratias. And so it goes.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Here are some pictures and links to articles about Paul Farmer and Partners in Health.
The first picture shows Pere Lafontant and his wife, fondly called Mamito, who passed away last month. Farmer wrote a nice tribute to her on the Partners in Health Web site.
Paul Farmer with the Lafontants in the 1980's
Recently Farmer has been working in Rwanda with PIH hospitals. His wife Didi initiated the adoption of a Rwandan baby girl while pregnant with their second child who was born just a few months afterwards.
Farmer with wife Didi, daughter Catherine, new son Sebastian, and adopted daughter Elizabeth (in pink) - Rwanda, 2010
Partners in Health and Paul Farmer in Rwanda, 2010
The following link provides many recent photos of the Partners in Health clinics/hospitals in Rwanda and Farmer's current activity there. He has also published a collection of writings called Partner to the Poor. On the occasion of this new publication, Tracy Kidder, author of our book Mountains Beyond Mountains, reflects on some of his experiences with Farmer, many of which were not included in the book.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
Read more here about the author's life and the fragments of her own family history that appear in bits and pieces in Olive Kitteridge, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009.
Friday, April 9, 2010
Monday, April 5, 2010
Grann is a book author and writer for The New Yorker magazine who considers himself to be something of a couch potato. He certainly lacked camping and survival skills when he first sought answers to Fawcett's last (and lost) expedition. What a break for Grann that technology has advanced to the point where he had better odds than Percy Fawcett to survive a trek into this unwelcoming, unknown territory.
I thought you might find the interview above to be interesting. It was conducted last year by newspaperman Phil Bronstein and is quite extensive. You can hit the play button for the entire interview or link here to select topics in the interview you want to cover.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Professionally, Larsson was a graphic designer for Tidningarnas Telegrambyra, a Swedish news agency, but he devoted much of his time to investigative journalism, political activism, ethics causes and (to throw a curveball here) the promotion of science fiction. A member of the Communist Workers League and editor of a Trotskyist journal, Fjarde internationalen, Stieg Larsson put his political beliefs into action by founding the Expo Foundation, a Swedish organization formed to counteract racist and extreme right-wing Swedish groups. He was the editor for this foundation’s magazine, entitled Expo, which is more than a coincidence as the character, Mikael Blomkvist, also publishes a magazine, Millenium, in Larsson’s books.
Karl Stig-Erland Larsson was born in the northern town of Skelleftea, Vasterbotten, Sweden in 1954, but changed the spelling of his name to Stieg as an adult. He was intimately familiar with the culture, landscape and “personality” of the north, having been raised in the country by his grandparents. This knowledge is apparent in his descriptions of the towns and countryside in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. As a young man he pursued interests in photography, and he enjoyed reading science fiction and mysteries.
His efforts to expose racism, neo-Nazism and extremist groups active in Sweden garnered him numerous death threats. For self-protection, he and Eva Gabrielsson, his partner of 32 years, sought to hide their personal information and address as much as possible, and this is why they never married because under Swedish law a married couple must publish their address. The fact that they were not married became a legal issue after Larsson died of a sudden, massive heart attack. Swedish law did not recognize Gabrielsson as his wife, and Larsson’s estate went to his father and brother, neither of whom were close to him nor had the intimate understanding of Larsson’s writings as did Eva Gabrielsson. The Guardian Observer just published an interesting interview with Gabrielsson which provides more insight into Larsson’s life and literary pursuits, which I recommend you read.
Stieg Larsson died having completed three books which he had hoped to turn into a long series. Known as the Millenium series, they are The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Swedish title being Men Who Hate Women), The Girl Who Played with Fire, and finally The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (Swedish title being The Aircastle that Blew Up.) The first book has been released in film form by Swedish and English companies and the next two books are to be turned into television productions. The poster for the Swedish film is illustrated below, giving you some sense of how the characters have been portrayed on film.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
President's Lecture at Brown University. In addition, you can refer to a critical analysis of our book selection in the context of the My Lai Massacre.