January 28, 2013 by Reader's Connection
Lyndon Johnson and Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill and T. E. Lawrence and Louie Zamperini, all together for the first time in this month’s book discussions. With a novel about the aftermath of slavery and a memoir about growing up in a bar.
The Shared Reading Group at Spades Park has begun to read and discuss Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. We take turns reading and I, myself, unworthy blogger, was actually allowed to speak the words, “Call Me Ishmael.” My heart is still thumping.
We will continue every Friday, February 1st, 8th, 15th and 22nd from 10:00 until 11:30. A new member has joined the group, perhaps two new members, and we are delighted. More new members would be so welcome.
The Spades Park Book Discussion, not to be confused with our whaling crew, will meet on February 27th and is noted below.
On Monday, February 4th at 6:30 p.m., Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken: A World War II Airman’s Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption will be discussed at two different branches: the Franklin Road Library and the Wayne Library
A second book by the author of Seabiscuit would get noticed, even if it weren’t the enthralling and often grim story of Louie Zamperini. An Olympic runner during the 1930s, he flew B-24s during WWII. Taken prisoner by the Japanese, he endured a captivity harsh even by Japanese standards and was a physical and mental wreck at the end of the war. He was saved by the influence of Billy Graham, who inspired him to turn his life around, and afterward devoted himself to evangelical speeches and founding boys’ camps. Still alive at 93, Zamperini now works with those Japanese individuals and groups who accept responsibility for Japanese mistreatment of POWs and wish to see Japan and the U.S. reconciled. He submitted to 75 interviews with the author as well as contributing a large mass of personal records. Fortunately, the author’s skills are as polished as ever, and like its predecessor, this book has an impossible-to-put-down quality that one commonly associates with good thrillers. — Booklist
The Chosen is the story of two young men who form a friendship that changes both their lives. Reuven, an orthodox Jew, and Danny, a Hasidic Jew, struggle to understand each other, though to the outside world they are simply both Jews. Through their relationship Potok teaches us about Hasidism, the ultra-conservative sect that originated in Poland in response to the persecutions suffered by Jews hundreds of years ago. Each group of Hasidic Jews is led by a Tzaddik; a mystical leader who is rabbi, prophet and even a Messianic figure to his followers. They dwell in a world closed even to other Jews, and as Reuven enters this world through his friendship with Danny, we have the rare opportunity to experience a fascinating culture within a culture. — Marilyn Green Faulkner at MeridianMagazine
Updegrove, director of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum in Austin, Texas, presents an account of Johnson’s presidency through the eyes of those who interacted with him: friends, family, staff members, and political supporters and opponents. Rather than a presidential biography, Updegrove seeks to present “a collection of impressions illuminating the totality of who [Johnson] was,” while still touching on the major events of LBJ’s presidency. The result is a balanced account that draws on the LBJ library’s oral history collection, transcripts of Johnson’s telephone conversations, memoirs, and books about the Johnson years. Updegrove provides context and transitions, but allows individuals to speak for themselves in quotations–usually brief paragraphs, but occasionally longer. Updegrove’s witnesses echo Johnson biographers, who have stressed the president’s complexities. Press secretary George Reedy claimed that “as a human being he was a miserable person … a bully, sadist, lout, and egoist” who nonetheless inspired “strong attachments even with people who knew him for what he was.” Texas Governor John Connally described him as “cruel and kind, generous and greedy, sensitive and insensitive, crafty and naive, ruthless and thoughtful.” — Choice
Stedman’s haunting tale opens in 1918 with the return of Tom Sherbourne to his home in Australia after serving four years in the Great War. He applies for a job as a lighthouse keeper and is assigned to the light on Janus Rock, a remote island off the southwest coast where he hopes to erase his horrific memories of war. Several years later, Tom brings to the island his bride, Isabel, a free-spirited young woman who is determined to adapt to Tom’s solitary life with their only contact with the mainland a quarterly visit from the supply boat. Four years later, after Isabel has suffered two miscarriages and a very recent stillbirth, an event occurs that forever changes them. A dinghy washes up on the beach carrying a dead man and a newborn baby girl, giving Isabel hope that she may become, at last, a mother. The choice they make as a couple comes to haunt them, their unexpected happiness replaced by guilt and mistrust. Stedman draws the reader into her emotionally complex story right from the beginning, with lush descriptions of this savage and beautiful landscape, and vivid characters with whom we can readily empathize. Hers is a stunning and memorable debut. — Booklist
Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Pitts once again demonstrates his gift for historical fiction; having examined the African-American experience of the 20th century in 2009’s Before I Forget, he turns his lens to the painful aftermath of the Civil War in his newest. The traumatic period is viewed from the perspectives of two very different, but equally inspirational protagonists. As soon as the end of the fighting has been announced, runaway slave Sam can only think of reuniting with his wife, Tilda, whom he has not seen in 15 years. Despite the difficulties of travelling from his current home of Philadelphia to Buford, Mississippi, and his uncertainty about how warmly she will welcome him, Sam perseveres. His encounters in the South, which jarringly assert that the end of the war does not equal an end to bigotry and hatred, parallel those of Prudence Kent. An affluent white woman from Boston, Kent is headed to Buford to establish a school for former slaves, an idealistic vision that rapidly earns the violent wrath of white Southerners. In lyrical prose, Pitts unflinchingly and movingly portrays the period’s cruelties, and triumphs in capturing the spirit of the times through eminently-identifiable lead characters. — Publishers Weekly
Moehringer, a Pulitzer Prize winner, Yale graduate, Harvard fellow, and national reporter for the Los Angeles Times , grew up in a bar. Specifically, Publicans, a Manhasset, Long Island, NY, bar. Abandoned by his radio host father and raised by a strong but luckless mother, he looked to the neighborhood bar for male role models. There he was taught such disparate lessons as how to throw a ball, how to bet on horses, and how to analyze a poem. His teachers were a hilarious, flawed, and diverse lot–Wall Street financiers, actors, poets, cops, bookies–and Moehringer’s knack for characterization brings every one of them to life. At Publicans, the author found a home, the masculinity he yearned to assume, and eventually, the strength to leave. Just like at Cheers, everybody knew your name at Publicans. They also knew your cousin’s name, your grade point average, and the best Frank Sinatra song to mend a broken heart. — Library Journal
The Stonecutter’s Aria is a novel in the unique format of an opera program narrated in first-person perspective, based on the true stories of an Italian marble carver and opera tenor during the beginning of the twentieth century. Aristide, the protagonist, immigrated to America where his skills in gothic architecture led him to carve some of this nation’s most distinguished landmarks, including the National Archives, Duke University, and the University of Chicago. Over a century later, his spirit reaches out to help his troubled great granddaughter. A vigorous and attention- catching narrative about an artist’s passion, adventures, regrets, and remembrance. — Midwest Book Review
A remarkably vivid account of a woman’s accidental witness to history as she encounters Churchill and T.E. Lawrence in Cairo, where in 1921 they redrew the map of the Middle East . . . Agnes Shanklin . . . lived an unremarkable existence until her late 30s, when the great influenza epidemic killed her mother and siblings. Left alone with an inheritance, Agnes makes an uncharacteristically impulsive decision: She books a tour to Egypt and the Holy Lands. With newly bobbed hair and gauzy dropped-waist dresses, former ugly duckling Agnes leaves America a fashionable woman of means. On her first day in Cairo, she and her dachshund Rosie are banned from their hotel but are saved by a chance meeting with T.E. Lawrence and redirected to the more dog-friendly Continental. There she meets Karl Weilbacher, a German-Jewish spy who falls for Rosie and charms Agnes. Agnes spends her holiday in two camps: She’s swept away on often dangerous excursions by Lawrence, Churchill and Gertrude Bell, and she engages in quiet, intelligent strolls with Karl the spy, eager to hear about Agnes’s new friends — Kirkus Reviews
Portal, the Indianapolis Science Fiction and Fantasy Discussion Group, will meet at Glendale Library on Sunday, February 24th from 1:00 to 3:00.
The theme this month will be “From Asimov to Zelazny: A Fantasy and Science Fiction Primer”
Just before I began the book I had seen, in Paris, an exhibition of old and modern Dutch paintings. In many of them the scene presented was a living-room warmly furnished, or a kitchen full of food and coppers. But in most of the interiors, whether drawing-room or kitchen, there was a square window, open, through which one saw the masts of ships, or a stretch of grey. The feeling of the sea that one got through those square windows was remarkable, and gave me a sense of the fleets of Dutch ships that ply quietly on all the waters of the globe—to Java, etc.
In my book I tried to make Professor St. Peter’s house rather overcrowded and stuffy with new things; American proprieties, clothes, furs, petty ambitions, quivering jealousies—until one got rather stifled. Then I wanted to open the square window and let in the fresh air that blew off the Blue Mesa . . . Willa Cather
Killing Lincoln : The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard will be discussed at the Spades Park Library on Wednesday, February 27th at 6:00 p.m.
O’Reilly, the popular and controversial cable news commentator, teams here with Dugard to cover Lincoln’s assassination in a simple and morally unambiguous style. They offer no new insights into the death of Lincoln, just a sensationalist retelling of a familiar story. In pages filled with conjecture about the mental states of the protagonists, the authors succinctly describe the closing battles of the Civil War, the assassination, and its aftermath. They frequently speculate on conspiracy theories that involved secretary of war Edwin M. Stanton in the assassination plot, but they never make accusations except to say his behavior was “suspicious.” It will be interesting to see whether fans of O’Reilly’s television show will flock to his first foray into history the way they have to his books on contemporary issues. — Library Journal