Book Club to Book Club
Sharing a Love of Books and Boerne

Aug
16

A quick word of warning from both the  Famous Sisters and yours truly.  While this highly popular series is mesmerizing and engrossing, it is not for the squeamish.  The book does contain graphic violence of a sexual nature.  Now that we are done with the appropriate warning labels, here’s what Publisher’s Weekly starred review had to say:

“Cases rarely come much colder than the decades-old disappearance of teen heiress Harriet Vanger from her family’s remote island retreat north of Stockholm, nor do fiction debuts hotter than this European bestseller by muckraking Swedish journalist Larsson. At once a strikingly original thriller and a vivisection of Sweden’s dirty not-so-little secrets (as suggested by its original title, Men Who Hate Women), this first of a trilogy introduces a provocatively odd couple: disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist, freshly sentenced to jail for libeling a shady businessman, and the multipierced and tattooed Lisbeth Salander, a feral but vulnerable superhacker. Hired by octogenarian industrialist Henrik Vanger, who wants to find out what happened to his beloved great-niece before he dies, the duo gradually uncover a festering morass of familial corruption—at the same time, Larsson skillfully bares some of the similar horrors that have left Salander such a marked woman. Larsson died in 2004, shortly after handing in the manuscripts for what will be his legacy.”

The sisters also recommend this review and story from The Diane Rehm Show:  http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2010-07-21/readers-review-girl-dragon-tattoo-stieg-larsson

No matter how any one individual felt about the story, almost every famous sister agreed:  the protagonist, Lisbeth Salander, is an unforgettable, strong, female character.  And the story will keep you hooked through the entire Millenium Trilogy.  If you like mystery, intrigue, twists, turns and the dark side of Stockholm, then this is a series for you.

Aug
16

When the Boerne Beat met on the first Monday morning of August, some expressed surprise at how much they had enjoyed the once very popular Carl Sandburg, a poet they vaguely remembered from their high school days — daze? — with his ever anthologized FOG:

The fog comes

on little cat feet.

It sits looking

over harbor and city

on silent haunches

and then moves on.

But the group moved beyond and examined a few longer poems and read passages from THE PEOPLE, YES; GOOD MORNING, AMERICA; and the portrait poems of his CHICAGO selection. A few felt Sandburg had written in the tradition of Walt Whitman and served somewhat as a transition into Allen Ginsberg, but poem Archibald MacLeish felt Sandburg wrote for Americans with a tang, liveliness pungency native and natural to the American ear. MacLeish was one of the eulogizers in 1967 at the Carl Sandburg Memorial Ceremony at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial:

What Sandburg knew and said was what American knew from the beginning and said from the beginning and has not yet, no matter what is believed of her, forgotten how to say: that those who are credulous about the destiny of man, who believe more than they can prove of the future of the human race, will make that future, shape that destiny. This was his great achievement: that he found a new way in an incredulous and disbelieving and often cynical time to say what Americans have always known. And beyond that there was another and even greater achievement: that the people listened. They are listening still.

One of the participants had brought with him recordings of Sandburg reading in his dramatic, accented voice, among them,  COOL TOMBS:

When Abraham Lincoln was shoveled into the tombs, he forgot the copperheads

and the assassin…in the dust, in the cool tombs.

And Ulysses Grant lost all thought of con men and Wall Street, cash and

collateral turned to ashes…in the dust, in the cool tombs.

Pocahontas’ body, lovely as a poplar, sweet as a red haw in November or a

pawpaw in May, did she wonder? Does she remember?…in the dust, in

the cool tombs?

Take any streetful of people buying clothes and groceries, cheering a hero or

throwing confetti and blowing tin horns…tell me if the lovers are

losers…tell me if any get more than the lovers…in the dust…in the cool

tombs.

You can listen here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdQN7TKt5qw

We were also reminded that Sandburg had served as a soldier and, after active service, attended West Point as a classmate of Douglas MacArthur and Ulysses S. Grant III—for two weeks—and then reverted to his childhood goal of becoming “a person of letters” puzzling at times whether he was a

“poet, a biographer, a wandering troubadour with a guitar, a Midwest Hans Christian Anderson, or a historian of current events whose newspaper reporting was gathered into a book THE CHICAGO RACE RIOTS…. All my life I have been trying to learn, to read, to see and hear, and to write. At sixty-five I began my first novel, and the five years lacking a month I took to finish it, I was still traveling, still a seeker. I should like to think that as I go on writing there will be sentences truly alive, with verbs quivering, with nouns giving color and echoes…” (from “Notes for a Preface” in THE COMPLETE POEMS OF CARL SANDBURG, Harcourt, 1991).

Inspired, participants of the Boerne beat discussed briefly whether to read Whitman or Ginsberg for September. Taking the road less—or perhaps more—traveled, they decided on Allen Ginsberg. Are you ready to raise a few eyebrows…and HOWL?  Join us September 14 at 9:15 a.m. at the library.

Aug
16

Hosted by Kim Pipes, the Famous Sisters in July read and discussed “A Free Man of  Color,” by writer Barbara Hambly.  Amazon.com says of the book “it’s 1833 and Ben January–a man of mixed blood making his living as a musician because he’s not allowed to practice surgery–is back home in New Orleans after years of freedom in Paris. Trying to walk a caste line more complicated than India’s, January risks his precarious position to investigate the killing of a young woman who–like his own younger, lighter half-sister–is the mistress of a wealthy white man. What has changed most in New Orleans while Ben was away is the influence of the white Americans: rough, ignorant, instinctively racist. Only one of these–a policeman named Abishag Shaw–seems to understand that January is at least as smart and valuable as he is, and even he at times appears to be ready to side with the white majority and pin the crime on Ben.”

According to the Famous sisters, the descriptions of New Orleans and it’s social structures were portrayed in great detail and provides a very visual protrayal of life as it was during this part of history in the  deep south Louisiana.  The story gives a lot to think about how far we, as a society as a whole, have come as well as  how little we have progressed in prejudices and stereotyping according to skin color and parenthood, particularly paternal parenthood.  This book is full of beautiful descriptions that transport you back in time to the sights and smells of old New Orleans.

If you enjoy good writing, history, crime and Old South – you will enjoy this read.

Aug
16

THE PASTURE by Robert Frost

I’m going out to clean the pasture spring;

I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away

(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):

I shan’t be gone long.—You come too.

I’m going out to fetch the little calf

That’s standing by the mother. It’s so young

It totters when she licks it with her tongue.

I shan’t be gone long.—You come too.

After having discussed three American female poets in June, the Boerne Beat decided on good ol’ Robert Frost for July. The group came prepared with everyone bringing a few predictably favorite Frost poems to read: “Mending Wall,” “Stopping by the Woods,” “Fire and Ice,” and more.

Earlier last month one participant—playing devil’s advocate?– had emailed copies of David Yezzie’s literary article “Hard to Understand but Easy to Love” to fellow participants. This is a commentary on one of Frost’s more difficult poems, “Directive.” States Yezzie: “Typical of Frost’s colloquial style, ‘Directive’ sounds ornery and ironic, heartbroken and lyrical, all at once.”

After beginning the discussion by reading “Directive” aloud, one participant stated he enjoyed the poem because it invites the reader to become a child: “be whole again beyond confusion.” Another, however, stated that most of Frost’s longer poems just felt like words, words, words, and more blah-blah-blah words to her. That became a challenge to a few Frost-lovers to play the advocate for Frost. Another invitation-poem, shorter this time— “The Pasture”– was read to contrast “Directive” and received an approval for accessibility.

One, semi-ambivalent, who’d long read Frost poems and knew facts about the poet’s life, stated Frost appeared to have been an intense self-promoter whose poetry seems filled with predictable New England imagery and philosophy. When “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” was read, he commented that if we didn’t know this was a Frost poem, we’d probably not think much of it. That got a laugh—and a few more lively comments.

“The Gift Outright”–the poem read by Frost himself at John Kennedy’s inauguration in 1960—was read and followed by the comment that America has a need to make all her heroes larger than life and this poem expresses something of that desire.

We’re not sure anyone changed his or her previously held opinion about the poetry of Robert Frost, but the group decided to bring in the poetry of Carl Sandburg for August– “You come too”!

Below are two more short poems by Frost that reveal something of the range of his themes.  Enjoy!

THE SILKEN TENT

She is as in a field a silken tent

At midday when a sunny summer breeze

Has dried the dew and all its ropes relent,

So that in guys it gently sways at ease,

And its supporting central pole,

That is its pinnacle to heavenward

And signifies the sureness of the soul,

Seems to owe naught to any single cord,

But strictly held by none, is loosely bound

By countless silken ties of love and thought

To everything on earth the compass round,

And only by one’s going slightly taut

In the capriciousness of summer air

Is of the slightest bondage made aware.


DESERT PLACES

Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast

In a field I looked into going past,

And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,

But a few weeds and stubble showing last.

The woods around it have it—it is theirs.

All animals are smothered in their lairs.

I am too absent-spirited to count;

The loneliness includes me unawares.

And lonely as it is, that loneliness

Will be more lonely ere it will be less—

A blanker whiteness of benighted snow

With no expression, nothing to express.

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces

Between stars—on stars where no human race is.

I have it in me so much nearer home

To scare myself with my own desert places.

Aug
16

From assistant library director extraordinaire and cruise director Natalie Morgan, this dispatch is just in:  “The members of the library’s Food for Thought discussion group have traveled all over the world through the books we have read over the past year. We learned about India’s culture of poverty and wealth in Aravind Adiga’s “The White Tiger,” and we visited war-torn Poland to learn about the heroism of “The Zookeeper’s Wife. We also enjoyed the epistolary novel, “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer, which revealed the bravery of the Guernsey Islanders during World War II. We recently read “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” by Muriel Barbery, which takes place in Paris. Fidel Castro’s home country was the main character in “Telex from Cuba” by Rachel Kushner, and we learned about Japan’s traditional sport of sumo in Gail Tsukiyama’s novel, “Street of a Thousand Blossoms.” We’re about to “travel” to Sweden as we embark on the next title, “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” by Stieg Larsson. You don’t even need a passport to join this tour group. Call the library at 830-249-3053.”  Come join the adventure!

Jun
01

Despite the novel’s humor, don’t let the whimsical title fool you.  According to Famous Sister Mary Morton, the host of May’s book club meeting, Little Bee is an emotional book that describes the impact of  “Little Bee,” a young Nigerian Refugee, on the lives of the British tourists who find her on a beach (and a warning:  the beach scene for many is a disturbing read).  This is writer Chris Cleave’s second novel (the first was Incendiary) and is described by some reviewers as astonishing, flawless and resplendent.  The famous sisters agree, with comments during the book discussion that included:

*  This was an incredibly moving story. I felt frustrated and angry when Little Bee was sent back to Africa. Her story may be fiction but, surely, the reality of her story stares us in our faces every day. *  Memorable Characters  *  Story of using your wits for survival *  Tender parts  *  Takes you to some uncomfortable places. *  Poignant  *  Emotionally and intellectually provoking  *  Character development with depth & realism. *  What people will do for oil ! *  Emotional read  *  How the human spirit rises – or not – to meet what’s demanded of us in world events played out individual by individual. *  It’s about normalcy of the co-existence in each of us for being flawed in some aspect of character, yet being offered the chance for heroism and valor via randomness of opportunity. *  Eye opener  *  Well written  *  Fast Read *  It awakened my sense of what I look away from in our current lives.  It reflects our human strengths and flaws.  A complex balance of our range of emotions.

And perhaps the most important comment? A good read.

Good dinner, too.  Mary served Nigerian Stew and British Gingerbread Cookies for the evening’s discussion.


Jun
01

Join Boerne’s only poetry.coffee.social club on Monday, June 7, at 9 a.m. where we will be reading the poetry of three renowned female poets:  Sylvia Plath, Edna St.Vincent Millay and Adrienne Rich.  Bring some poetry to read, share some of your own poetry, or just come grab a cup of coffee and listen.

Club member Darlene Logan shares one of her favorite poems by St. Vincent Millay, First Fig, which she describes as “pure whimsy” and a reflection of the poet’s wild life as a 1920s flapper.

First Fig

My candle burns at both ends;

It will not last the night;

But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—

It gives a lovely light!

Jun
01

The Boerne Reading Club met May 18 at the library.  This month’s hostess and program presenter was Robin Stauber.  The program focused on the world of children’s book illustrators and the history of children’s illustrations, dating to the first recognized children’s picture book, the Orbis Pictus, published in 1657.  With the advent of affordable color printing, illustrators such as Garth Williams (Little House, Stuart Little) became out of fashion and newer illustrators, such as Eric Carle, moved to the forefront.  Today’s illustrated book market features a diverse number of artists and mediums.  Recommended books to view to capture a sens of the evolution of children’s illustrations include Charlotte’s Web, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears, and Smoky Night.  Abilene, Texas, boasts a world-class children’s illustrator museum.

May
10

 

Summary and impressions:

When 12-year-old Martha receives a journal entry written by Olive, a fellow school student who was recently killed in an accident, she is surprised to find that Olive had mentioned a few things in her note that related to Martha:  she wanted to see the ocean, she wanted to be a writer and she wanted to befriend Martha, who she didn’t know but who she thought was the friendliest girl in school.  This beginning sparks a summertime journey for Martha as she spends time at her dying grandmother’s house on Cape Cod, writing, and thinking about death, mortality, friendship, boys and most especially, Olive.  The journey, which starts out with confusion and  fear of mortality, ends with Martha’s blossoming understanding about letting go, living life on your own terms, and having the courage to say goodbye – to Olive as well as to her beloved Godbee.

This was a lovely coming of age book, with writing that perfectly captures the feelings and angst of 12-year-old “tween-ism” and the awkwardness and difficulty of growing up.  Martha’s true sounding board, her grandmother, is fortunately there to guide her through this summer, likely their final one together.  I don’t understand why this book has been challenged before, except that it seems to deal with the issue of death and the effect of that topic on a young adult.  But it seems that a book that handles this topic so deftly and honestly should be at the top of every parent’s reading list.

Bibliography:

Henkes, K. (2005). Olive’s ocean. New York, NY: Harper Collins.

Suggested library use:  A good book for tweens and young teens, and could be used in a classroom for relating text to self, text to text and text to the world exercises.

Professional Reviews:
“Themes of death, growing up, family relationships, and the mysteries of life are seamlessly interwoven into this engrossing story by Kevin Henkes.” — School Library Journal, October 1, 2005.


“Henkes’s story is subtle and satisfyingly untidy. Martha recounts an episode at school that the reader can recognize as the reason Olive admired her, but she never deduces this. There are hints that the novel’s most likeable character, Martha’s grandmother, is in poor health, but Henkes neither confirms nor denies it. And the only conclusion that Martha comes to regarding Olive is that she will never know anything else about her. Hints of romance, parents who are slightly clueless, and a sense of empathy for embarrassing moments will draw teenage girls to this book and allow them to identify with Martha.” — Voice of Youth Advocates, December 01, 2003.

May
10

Summary & Impressions:

Ruby’s mother dies at the beginning of this free verse novel, leaving Ruby to fly to Hollywood to get to know her long-lost famous, movie star dad, a prospect that finds mortifying.  She feels her one of her only roots to the planet has died and the other, her aunt, is abandoning her to a new life and marriage.  She is leaving her best friend and boyfriend behind and has to fit it at a new school.  Once she arrives, she finds solace only with her father’s assistant and the letters she writes, but can never send, to her mother.  Only after her illusions of her former life are shattered does she realize that a new opportunity awaits her with a new family and a father who deeply loves her.

Despite the title and some of the content, this was a light book, and a fun introduction to free verse novels.  There are some good lessons in the book for teenagers who can get so wrapped up in their own life drama that they forget about the possibility of new adventure around the next corner.  I was, however, put off more than a bit by the portrayal of Ruby’s mother and Ruby’s perception of her that never wavered, even after the depths of what her mother did to keep her apart from her father are revealed.  That issue – how loving is a mother whose own selfishness over lost love keeps a father and daughter separated – is never resolved or recognized in the book and I think it is a major downfall of the novel.

I do appreciate the economical writing style of free verse, which gives the author the ability to parse down entire scenes and feelings into just a few words. The poem “Peach Fuzz” for example is very short, but conveys with real feeling the entire impact Ruby feels in regards to her grief over her mother, and recognizing that the peach fuzz on the flight attendant’s face is like her mothers.  Free Verse, in some ways, can create more emotional impact than a regular novel.

Bibliography:

Sones, S. (2005).  One of those hideous books where the mother dies.  New York, NY; Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.

Suggested library usage:  This is a good introductory novel to free verse poetry for and can also be used to help teens, particular young girls, identify with feelings of family alienation and loss.

Professional Reviews:

“This winning portrayal of a teenage girl’s loves and losses, written in Sones’s signature free-verse style, opens as 15-year-old Ruby is en route from Boston to L.A. ….Sones gives the audience clear signals of what Ruby can’t allow herself to take in. Readers will accept some melodrama because, even with a few contrivances, Ruby’s voice conveys genuine emotions.” – Publisher’s Weekly, June 21, 2004).
“Sones’ novel is an unusual combination of over-the-top Hollywood fairy tale and sharp, honest story about overcoming grief. Teens may predict the novel’s surprises long before Ruby discovers them, including a revelation about Whip’s sexuality, and, as in every fairy tale, many things are too good to be true–especially Whip’s eager devotion and celebrity. It’s Ruby’s first-person voice–acrimonious, raw, and very funny–that pulls everything together, whether she is writing e-mails to her deceased mother, attending Dream Analysis class at a private L.A. high school, or finally learning to accept her father and embrace a new life. A satisfying, moving novel that will be a winner for both eager and reluctant readers.” – Booklist, May 01, 2004.