Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Two Cups of Tea

I thought it would be helpful for Saturday Samplers to read the short story, A Cup of Tea, by Katherine Mansfield before we discuss Amy Ephron's book which is based on this short story.  Katherine Mansfield, born in 1888, left her New Zealand homeland to live and write in London as well as other European cities. She was considered to have led a bohemian lifestyle, cut short by tuberculosis from which she died at the age of 34.  Mansfield is classified as a modernist writer of the early 20th century. Here is the full text of her short story, A Cup of Tea, published in 1922.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Ghost Map

For more videos and information on the story behind the book, go to http://www.theghostmap.com/.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Cathy Day: Know Your Place

Indiana author Cathy Day knows her place, writes about it, and urges her creative writing students at Ball State University to know their places, too. And yes, we're talking about place or setting in a novel, not one's station in life. In a faculty interview on the Ball State English Department webpage, she notes "That's been a big thing for my writing and teaching: trying to encourage people to look at the places they're from for their material. It's usually all there."

By happenstance, her latest teaching blog entry deals with the importance of place or setting to the success of a good story and is quite interesting to read by itself. Ms. Day admits she didn't appreciate that her hometown of Peru, Indiana, was any different from any other place until she moved away from it as a young adult. The fact that Peru had been the winter quarters for a circus for many years seemed extraordinary only when outsiders remarked about it.

In deciding to write a fictionalized account of Peru's relationship with this traveling circus, she found herself naturally culling out the historical facts and bits that fascinated her, and these became the elements of her first book, The Circus in Winter. What gives her book its heart is the way the author anchors her story in a setting so well described as to be known and felt by the reader. Chapters of the book, like short stories in themselves, move backward and forward through time, taking the characters (and their descendants) away from Lima (the fictionalized town of Peru), but then bringing them back to it again, over and over. In this way, we get to know the town as if it were one of her main characters.  For more information about Cathy Day, please refer to her website http://cathyday.com/.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Tony Horwitz

Here's Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Tony Horwitz, whose book Confederates in the Attic will be discussed today.  We'll surely need more than an hour to cover even some of the many interesting, perplexing and vexing attitudes the author encountered on his odyssey into the Civil War's lasting pull on late 20th century American minds and hearts. To learn more about Mr. Horwitz, please use these links to explore his publications and biography.  His website provides examples of his stories and other items of interest about the author.

Friday, July 12, 2013

If You Missed The Netsuke...

In regard to The Hare with Amber Eyes, I think we all would say, "Where are the netsuke?" Perhaps the next edition of the book will include some photographs of the Ephrussi  netsuke collection, particularly the pieces often mentioned by the author, Edmund de Waal.  Meanwhile, feast your eyes on the revolving slideshow of gorgeous netsuke on the homepage of the International Netsuke Society.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

We're YouTubing It!

British author Jason Goodwin is a visual writer who employs beautifully described images of Istanbul and its notable features for the setting of his mystery, The Snake Stone: Investigator Yashim Returns.  Nonetheless, we are a YouTube generation, so here's another way to visualize "Yashim's Istanbul."  In this author-produced video, you'll even see the Snake Stone!  For further images, google "basilica cistern" for some great photos.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Driving With Monica Holloway

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.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Last Newspaperman

Saturday Samplers book group will be present for author Mark Di Ionno's talk on Saturday, April 6th, in the Community Room of Bernardsville Public Library.  Mr. Di Ionno, an award-winning reporter for The Star-Ledger, has authored The Last Newspaperman, an acclaimed piece of historical fiction set entirely in New Jersey. The Last Newspaperman recounts the life and journalistic exploits of fictional reporter Fred Haines, now elderly, who reminisces about the years he spent working in tabloid journalism of the 1930's.

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

My Cousin Rachel

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

A Tale of Two Cities, Wherein Two Is Significant

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...