$40,000 Donation to OCPL
On March 4, 2013, Friends of the Central Library presented a check for $40,000 to the Onondaga County Public Library prior to Jacqueline Woodson's lecture at the Civic Center in Syracuse.
Virginia G. Biesiada graciously accepted the donation on behalf of the OCPL Board of Trustees. Since 1997, FOCL has given $437,000 to OCPL to support programming and the purchase of books and library materials.
Pictured are Deborah Hole, Interim FOCL Director, Virginia G. Biesiada, President of the OCPL Board of Trustees, and Edward Kochain, President of FOCL.
Laura Hand will present the Muriel Koretz Award on 10-29-13
The Friends of Onondaga County Libraries(FOCL), sponsors of the Rosamond Gifford Lecture Series, presented the Muriel Koretz Award 2012 to well known Central New York resident, Laura Hand. This award honors a community individual who has made a positive impact on the literacy of CNY young people.
Laura Hand has been invited to present the Muriel Koretz award on stage to our newest award recipient during the 1st program of the 2013-2014 season on Tuesday, October 29, 2013.
The first award was presented in 2001 to Muriel Koretz who guided parents and teachers to the best books for children for over thirty years through her children’s book review column in the Syracuse Post Standard. The award was named in her honor in recognition of her dedication to children’s literature.
Laura Hand was nominated by colleagues who lauded the work she has done to foster a love of reading in children. Hand has coordinated Book Breaks, a summertime reading program throughout the libraries in Onondaga County. “The People We see on TV” visit between 15 and 20 libraries each July and August reading to children and fostering a love of reading. The program emphasizes reading skills for children during summer vacation. As a guest reader in local classrooms, Ms. Hand encourages students and their families to read.
Rosamond Gifford Lecture Series 2012-2013 Season
Lisa See is often referred to as a “book club favorite” but her writing and work about her Chinese heritage go far beyond that realm. She has done extensive civic work winning her the honor of National Woman of the Year by the Organization of Chinese American Women in 2001, and was the recipient of the Chinese American Museum’s History Maker Award in 2003.
Her first book, On Gold Mountain (1995) was a national bestseller and a New York Times Notable Book. It traced the journey of her great-grandfather Fong See, who overcame obstacles to become the 100 year old godfather of Los Angeles’ Chinatown and patriarch of his sprawling family. From her international bestseller Snow Flower and the Secret Fan to her bestseller, Shanghai Girls, See’s novels are heavily influenced by her Chinese heritage and fascination with what she refers to as “forgotten history.”
See has served as guest curator for an exhibit on the Chinese-American experience for the Autry Museum of Western Heritage and the Smithsonian. She also helped to develop an interactive space for children at the Autry Museum that focuses on her biracial, bicultural family as seen through the eyes of her father as a seven year old child and developed a walking tour of L.A.’s Chinatown and helped to create the inaugural exhibition for the Chinese American Museum in Los Angeles. Lisa See’s lecture was April 1, 2013.
Jennifer Egan was born in Chicago and raised in San Francisco. Egan has received numerous literary awards including a Pulitzer Prize. In 2001 her novel, The Invisible Circus, became a feature film staring Cameron Diaz. Her book Look at Me was a finalist for the National Book Award in fiction and The Keep was also listed as a national bestseller. Her short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harpers, Granta, and other magazines. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, and a Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Fellowship at the New York Public Library.
Egan's 2002 cover story on homeless children received the Carroll Kowal Journalism Award, and her article “The Bipolar Kid” received a 2009 NAMI Outstanding Media Award for Science and Health Reporting from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Her most recent novel A Visit from the Goon Squad won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, and the LA Times Book Prize. Egan’s lecture will take place on May 15, 2013.
Isabel Wilkerson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and the author of The New York Times’ bestseller, The Warmth of Other Suns which won seven awards including the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction. Wilkerson won the Pulitzer Prize for her work as Chicago Bureau Chief of The New York Times in 1994, making her the first black woman in the history of American journalism to win a Pulitzer Prize and the first African American to win for individual reporting. She speaks on topics such as migration, social injustice, urban affairs and 20th Century history. Wilkerson also won the George Polk Award, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, and was named the Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists. Ms. Wilkers spoke on October 3, 2012.
Tim Egan is a columnist and author. His recent book, The Big Burn – Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America, was a New York Times Bestseller and winner of the 2009 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award. In 2006 he won the 2006 National Book Award for nonfiction with his book The Worst Hard Time. He also shares the Pulitzer Prize, from 2001, with a team of New York Times reporters for their series, “How Race is Lived in America.” Egan worked as a national correspondent for the Times covering stories from the Exxon Valdez oil spill, to the O.J. Simpson trial, to the collapse of small town America in the Great Plains. The lecture was held on November 12, 2012.
T.C. Boyle, named T. Coraghessan Boyle, is the author of 22 books of fiction. He received a Ph.D. in Nineteenth Century British Literature from the University of Iowa, an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and his B.A. in English and History from SUNY Potsdam. He has been a member of the English Department at the University of Southern California since 1978, where he is a professor of English. His stories have appeared in most major American magazines including The New Yorker, Harper’s, Esquire, and GQ to name only a few. He received the PEN/Faulkner for best novel of the year in 1988 with his book, World’s End. He also received the PEN/Malamud Prize for the short story (T.C.Boyle’s Stories in 1999), and the Prix Medicis Etranger for The Tortilla Curtain, best foreign novel in France. Boyle lectured on December 10, 2012.
Jacqueline Woodson is a multi award-winning author of young adult fiction. She was raised and educated in Greenville, South Carolina, and Brooklyn, New York. She graduated from college with a B.A. in English and worked in New York City as a drama therapist for runaway and homeless teens and children. Her stories often include characters who feel out of place and face difficulties that young children can relate to. She won a Newbery Honor in 2006 for the book Show Way. Her book Locomotion was a National Book Award finalist, and she won the Corretta Scott King Honor in 2001 and 2004. Woodson received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Miracle’s Boys, which was later made into a mini-series, and she won the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults from the Young Adult Library Services Association. She lives and writes full-time in Brooklyn. She spoke at the Civic Center on March 4, 2013.
Meltzer Reads Spring 2013
This winter, my reading has been good and earnest. Once again, as I review what I have read, I am struck by the dissimilarity of the titles and the amazing ability of humans to conjure up such varied thoughts that make us all so singular.
I left you at the beginning of Dennis Lehane’s Live by Night. When I spoke to him at dinner before his lecture here, I wanted to know how he constructed his books so that it would draw the reader in. He mentioned that the opening is most important to him and how it entices the reader to want more.
That is exactly what the opening of this book did for me. The book is a sequel to The Given Day, but only in that it starts in Boston and borrows a few of the characters. The main protagonist is the youngest Coughlin brother, Joe, son of a dirty cop, who decides that crime does, indeed pay. It is Prohibition and he becomes a small time gangster who has more chutzpah than brains and pursues the girlfriend of Boston’s most notorious crime boss. Her name is Emma Gould. From the moment they meet, Joe can not get enough of her and naturally this leads us on a dizzying ride of escape, murder and deceit.
Live by Night combines the noir of Dashell Hamitt, the brass of Mickey Spillane and the mystery of Raymond Chandler with the wonderful Southie dialect of Boston’s own, Dennis Lehane. I can only describe it as fun reading at its best.
The next book was selected by my book club. It is America Aflame; How the Civil War Created a Nation by David Goldfield. Every time I read a book about the Civil War, I am amazed at how little I know. This book is not meant to be a scholarly discourse, unlocking new and as yet unrevealed facts about the war. It is, however, an attempt by the author to tie what happened prior to, during and after the conflict, into a better understanding of how the war created the country that we live in today.
America between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War was a very different place from the one that emerged after it. This book does not take sides, but does make note of events that had an inescapable influence on those who supported the war.
I learned much about the role that Evangelical Christianity played in polarizing the political discourse, poisoning the democratic process and forcing the United States to be the only country on earth to have a civil war to abolish slavery. Anti-Catholic feeling in the early 1800’s was as fervent as anti-slavery would become soon after. In fact, both movements shared some of the same players. Mr. Goldfield writes about the post-revolutionary generation that came of age during the 1830’s, and uses the words of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Fredrick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln and Walt Whitman to describe the major episodes.
A summary of this book is way beyond the scope of a brief review, but it covers a lot of territory, including the Second Great Awakening, the Mexican War, the Plains Indian Wars, none of which were religious wars, but which were clearly influenced by American religious feelings of controlling the “other”. Neither is the North spared in this book. Since most of the battles were fought in the South, the North was, in many ways untouched by the brutality and loss of property seen in the South. In fact, the North was a beneficiary during and after the war, as it led a new revolution of invention and prosperity that the South could not participate in. As a northerner who has often failed to understand the Southern hostility that exists even today, this book helps the reader to appreciate what the South went through during and after reconstruction.
It is hard for me to stop but alas, I must. This book is for anyone who loves history and especially the Civil War. It is a slow read, as it chock full of facts and quotations. But, for me, it was well worth it. I guarantee that it will teach you something on every page and make you think about our past, so that we hopefully will never have to repeat it.
If you are just getting into Civil War history, I suggest a few books that may get you started for life. Ironically, the two best books I have ever read on this subject are fiction. The first is The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane. The other is a groundbreaking book that mixes history with fictional dialogue called The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. This book about the battle of Gettysburg won a Pulitzer Prize and if you don’t cry during the last two chapters, you aren’t human. I also suggest, Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust, and finally a personal favorite, Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier.
Phew. Sorry that was so long, but so was the book. My next book is Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon. I am a fan of Michael Chabon, so I always look for his new books. The first of his books that I read was The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. This is a book about comic books and their rise and fall in American culture. Most people know a little about comic books but nothing compared to what you learn in Kavalier and Clay.
Telegraph Avenue is about music, but probably not the music most of you have listened to. It is the story of two men, Archie Stallings and Nat Jaffe, one black, one white, who own a small music store near Oakland which sells classic vinyl records of old jazz and soul artists. When ex-pro football star Gibson Goode plans to open a megastore, which will put them out of business, the two, have to figure out a way to save their store and their friendship. Lots of stuff about old music, vinyl records, Blaxploitation, and of course the underlying topic of race. I warn you, if you have never read Michael Chabon, have a dictionary handy. I was constantly looking stuff up. He is great writer and his book takes some time to appreciate.
The Round House by Louise Erdrich got great buzz and it lived up to it. Joe Coutts, an Ojibwe Indian lawyer, relates a story about when he was 13 years old, growing up on a reservation in North Dakota. His mother suffered a terrible assault and goes into an intractable depression. Joe’s father is an Ojibwe judge and he vows to bring the perpetrator to justice. But the crime took place in an area that was under tribal control and although the rapist is known, he cannot be prosecuted under existing local law. Joe and his young schoolmates decide to find the answer themselves. Justice must now be defined in a different way and the reader may be conflicted by how it is meted out. This book is both a thrilling mystery and a wonderful story of love, family and loyalty. The characters are full and real and I really enjoyed reading the honest and fluid prose. This is an outstanding work of fiction that will educate most of us and re-enforce Native American pride in their heritage. Read it.
Then there is Tenth of December:Stories by George Saunders. This collection of short stories, written by Syracuse University professor George Saunders has gotten the kind of press, that most authors only get in their dreams. The New York Times called Saunders “one of the most gifted, wickedly entertaining story writers around”. The fact that George Saunders lives near here and has won a MacArthur Genius award makes my offering a little awkward. I admit that I rarely read short stories. I find the jump from one set of characters to another to be annoying. I am looking for a more meat than the usual short story can give me, so it is not my favorite genre. Still, I will give you my impression as an unscholarly reader. Understandingly, I found the style of writing to be extremely novel and creative. At times, as in the final story The Tenth of December, I found the writing to be tender and genuine. It is the story of a man with a terminal disease who decides to commit suicide by hypothermic exposure. He unwittingly involves a young boy who risks his own life in an attempt to save him. It is poignant and believable. Saunders goes inside the man’s head to give the reader a blow-by-blow description of his final moments, something no narrator except the person himself could give. Other stories, including some that are futuristic or fantasy, are, at times, confusing and even a bit weird. Escape from Spiderhead is a look into a future where prisoners are attached to a MobiPack that administers drugs that magnify a variety of human emotions including love, lust, depression and indifference. These drugs have satiricaIly trademarked names such as Verbaluce, which “peps up the language centers” and Vivistif which enhances love-making, and my favorite, Darkenfloxx which makes a person feel “the worst you have ever felt, times ten”. The prisoners are being used as laboratory rats to see how these emotional changes affect each of them. Pretty eerie stuff. Still, there is method to the author’s madness and each story has a moral, albeit sometimes difficult to discern. I am glad I read this now very famous local author. He is unique and controversial. That by itself makes it worthwhile.
Finally I read Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan. I really like Ian McEwan. This is the story of Serena Frome, a Cambridge graduate in “maths” who is also a speed reader and lover of literature. Her lover steers her into a job with MI5, part of the British secret service. It is the time of the cold war and the Brits are looking for a way to match the CIA with funding for authors who will toe the western line and support the “cause”. She is recruited because of her knowledge of books and her reading skills, to contact and award a stipend to Tom Haley, an up and coming author. This is all very hush-hush as she convinces him to take the money and write, no strings attached. She makes the terrible mistake of falling in love with him as he writes his great novel.
Unlike John LaCarrie or Ian Fleming, this is a spy novel without cold war espionage and murder. It is typical of McEwan to create characters who let you into their minds and he does this with Serena. We feel her guilt and her ambition and her love. I can’t tell you more for fear of spoiling the twist at the end. McEwan’s best books may have been Atonement or Saturday, and while this book may not reach the heights of either, it is a darn good read.
I hope this has added to your list of possible books to occupy the rest of your winter. If you read something spectacular, please let me know. I am always looking.
Oneida Nation Donates to FOCL
August 4, 2011
The Friends of the Central Library (FOCL), producers of the Rosamond Gifford Lecture Series, received a $5,000 sponsorship from the Oneida Nation Foundation for the upcoming 2011-2012 lecture series season. The mission of the Oneida Nation Foundation is to "promote education, understanding and a higher quality of life for Oneida Members, American Indians, and society at large."The Foundation supports charitable and civic causes, and allows the Nation and its partners to make meaningful contributions to the betterment of the world. The sponsorship was in support of one of the upcoming visiting authors of the season.
Author Sherman Alexie, a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian, grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, WA. His first novel, Reservation Blues, won Booklist's Editors Choice Award for Fiction. Indian Killer was a New York Times Notable Book. The Toughest Indian in the World won the 2001 PEN/Malamud Award, honoring excellence in the art of storytelling. Ten Little Indians was a 2003 national bestseller and Publishers Weekly Book of the Year. His latest books include Flight, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, a 2007 National Book Award winner in Young People's Literature, and Face, his his first full collection of poems in nine years. His collection of short stories, War Dances, was released in Fall '09. Alexie will appear at the John H. Mulroy Civic Center at 7:30 PM on March 27, 2012.
"This sponsorship opens the door to a new partnership with the Oneida Nation Foundation," said Denise Headd, Executive Director of the Rosamond Gifford Lecture Series. It's so important to continuously move forward by creating new partners and new relationships. We are delighted to be working with the Oneida Nation this season, and very grateful for the generous sponsorship."
FOCL donates the profits from the lecture series to the Onondaga County Public Library. Books and materials are purchased with the funds, and children's programming is also made possible through the donation.
Tickets for the 2011-2012 lecture series season go on sale after Labor Day. Individual tickets are $31, a series subscription is $150, and patron level tickets are available at $250. Contact the Oncenter Box Office at 435-2121 for ticket information. For questions relating to the series contact the FOCL office at 435-1832.
Meltzer Reviews Fall 2012
Hello fellow readers, I have been asked to write a few more reviews of what I have been reading these past few months. Evidently this is to become a regular thing, which puts a lot of pressure on me to not only keep reading, but to select books that are diverse and interesting and sometimes a little out of the box. In other words, I’ll just keep reading what I usually read. I will occasionally reference previously reviewed works, mainly to create context or make comparisons. Do I like this book more or less than the author’s previous attempt? How does it compare with books of the same genre by a different author? And I will occasionally offer unreviewed suggestions to fill out a genre, i.e. Time Travel. We have entered the winter doldrums here in Syracuse, which is for me, a time to light a fire, grab the dog and search for the perfect read.
Since this may be the first time you have read one of my little critiques, let me explain a little about how I do this. Many of you know that I have owned a Kindle from the beginning. There are many reasons why I love it and we can have an open discussion about e-readers at another time. I get ideas on what to read from BookMarks, the New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker and suggestions from friends and relatives. However, the first book I will cover was given to me by a dear friend, a FOCL board member, and, I have to admit, is about the nicest present I have received in a long time. Those on the board know that we have been bequeathed a rather large piano and are currently trying to sell it for a nice profit for the library. I barely got through Fur Elise before my lack of talent overtook my zeal to practice, so a musician I am not. Never the less, my love for the piano has not diminished.
After a recent meeting I was handed a small book called The Piano Shop on the Left Bank: Discovering a Forgotten Passion in a Paris Atelier by Thadeus Carhart. This little book is a story about friendship but also about history. The author, an expatriate American is walking through his Paris neighborhood and happens across a small piano shop, the front window littered with paraphernalia used to repair pianos. He had played the piano as a younger man and wanted to purchase a used piano for his new apartment. When he walked in, he might as well have been invisible. He kept noticing that people went in and out of a back room and after repeated attempts to gain access to the inner sanctum; he found that without a referral that would be impossible. He finally met Luc, the master and they became friends. He eventually purchased for his parlor, a Stingl , a baby grand made in Austria. He began to take lessons again and was soon allowed into the small group of piano lovers who hung out at the Atelier. The author weaves his own story with that of the history of the piano, from its adaptation from the harpsichord to the incredibly complex instrument that it is today. The change from wooden to metal sounding boards allowed for the great music of Beethoven, Liszt and Brahms that we now take for granted. None of this music would exist if not for the changes made in instrumentation. When Liszt first started playing (pounding) on the older pianos, it was said that he broke four or five pianos at each performance. After the instruments were shored up, the great romantic composers were able to write music that was created in their minds and now could be played without fear of breaking the pianos and we are the recipients of the Emperor’s Concerto, the Warsaw Concerto and many others. We are slyly and subtly given the history of the instrument through the eyes of our author as he learns it himself. Mr. Carhart made me jealous of the wonderful camaraderie enjoyed by this “band “of diverse individuals who formed a bond around their love for this amazing and ubiquitous instrument. A lovely book. Thanks , Suzanne.
You may recall that I previously reviewed The Odds:A Novel by Stewart O’Nan. It is a quirky study of two people who are down to their last chance to save their marriage and their lives. I decided to go back and read an earlier offering from O’Nan. The Last Night at the Lobster, written in 2008, and also quirky. It is the story of a group of people working their last shift at a closing Red Lobster on a cold, stormy Christmas Eve in Connecticut. Manny, the manager, will be starting tomorrow as an assistant manager at a company owned Olive Garden and is determined to make this last night at the Lobster a successful one. Even though many of the employees will not be joining him at the new store, they must all negotiate the evening so that things run smoothly and normally. The store is a victim of the failing economy and although it has been fairly successful, the corporate owners are shutting it down. This little book gives you a bird’s eye view of life in the restaurant business and into the lives of those who work in it. Manny has to say goodbye to his ex-lover Jacquie, who he still pines for, along with other employees, some honorable and others not so honorable. As the storm moves in, the customers are few and far between and the workers have time to talk about their work and experience together. It is a simple plot, but a very human one and one feels for each of the players as the evening wears on. Steward O’Nan has the ability to take an everyday occurrence with everyday people and bring it to life. In the end, you care about them and it brings you closer to understanding the lives of people you often look right through during an evening out for bite to eat. Read it.
I get some of my books from on line sites, one of them being BookBrowse. They introduce new books often by new authors and sometimes they strike my fancy. One of them was The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro. I love it when art and mystery are forged together into a novel of some intrigue. This is the story of Claire, a talented, but starving artist who blew the whistle on her artist boyfriend when he passed off one of her paintings as his own. Once he became famous he threw her over and took the credit for his most famous work. Blackballed by the art community, she began working for Reproductions.com, an agency which sells originally painted reproductions of masterpieces on line. Claire is very good at it and as long as these repos are not passed off as originals, it is entirely legal. One day a famous art dealer came calling with a proposition for Claire. Reproduce a famous Degas, which had been stolen from the Gardner Museum in one of history’s most famous heists. When he brings her the original to reproduce, she is told that the buyer thinks he is buying the real painting. A reproduction now turned into a forgery. In return she is promised her own show and the fame and fortune that will follow. This thriller will teach you much about how art is forged and the underworld that deals with those who would buy and sell it.
I previously reviewed Steve Martin’s The Object of Beauty which delves into the art underbelly, and liked it. This book is better. Other books you might like are The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Carravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr and The Girl With the Pearl Earring by Tracey Chevalier.
The next two books are in some ways similar. They are written by two authors who are not afraid to step out of the box and right on your toes. The first is So Much for That: A Novel by Lionel Shriver. Shepherd Knacker, is a middle aged entrepreneur who starts a company which provides handymen that come to your house and do odd jobs. He sells his company for one million dollars and is ready for retirement (or what he calls his Afterlife). He is married to Glynis, a silversmith who doesn’t share his vision of moving to a small African island and living a life of low maintenance. He and his best friend now work for the new owner of Knacker Works who is not a nice guy. The friend has his own problems including a hard driving wife and a daughter with a rare disease who requires constant, but unappreciated, attention. Shep is ready to leave for Africa when his wife is diagnosed with mesothelioma. Each chapter begins with a running total of Shep’s Merrill Lynch account which shrinks precipitously with each passing day. Along the way this book covers a bevy of topics that most of us would not like to talk about, including dying, suicide, health insurance, chronic disease, family dysfunction and guilt. It also has some humor and sarcasm which helps to cool off a difficult read. Still, it has its moments and definitely has something to say. Let me know if you read it and we can talk about it.
The second book is One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper. If you read This is Where I Leave You, you can understand why I was so anxious to read this new one. It was poignant and hilarious. Actually one on the funniest books I have ever read. Tropper is never afraid to say anything and sometimes gets a little raunchy. This book, like the last, is about middle aged angst and crisis. Our hero, if you can call him that, Drew Silver, is an ex-drummer in a one hit wonder band which fell apart after its first album when the lead singer went off on his own. He has been kicking around for years, getting married and divorced, barely knowing his now teenaged daughter and essentially feeling sorry for himself. He lives in an apartment building inhabited by other divorced men whose lives are equally screwed up. Together they make up a motley crew of misfits, each going nowhere. Then Silver finds out he has an aortic aneurysm which will kill him unless he has surgery. Ironically he is diagnosed by his ex-wife’s fiancé who is pushing him to have the surgery and live. He refuses, feeling that he has nothing to live for. When his daughter, who is about to enter Princeton, tells him that she is pregnant he wonders why she told him and not her mother. She tells him that she told him because she cares less about how he feels and so she won’t feel as bad telling him. So much for self-esteem. This book explores the helplessness of a man who feels that he nothing to live for and who decides to make the best of what time he has left. Like the previous book, there are very funny moments, but unlike the first, this book takes itself much more seriously and doesn’t quite hit the mark.
Finally, we have San Miguel by T.C. Boyle. This is Boyle’s latest novel and it is, as expected beautiful and stark. In three parts it follows the lives of a small number of people who have inhabited the remote island of San Miguel, off the coast of California. They make their living raising sheep and selling the wool. It is a solitary existence with little communication with the outside world. The first part takes place in the late nineteenth century and we are introduced to Marantha, who has been brought here by her husband to allegedly help her deal with her tuberculosis. Instead, it makes her a virtual prisoner, in a ramshackle house, far from the upper class life she grew up knowing. Her adopted daughter, Edith, wants to be an actress and the two women dream of escape. Marantha, of course, can never escape her consumption and is forced to live out her life in misery and despair. Edith later becomes her father’s slave, forced to cook, clean and tend to womanly duties. She never gives up, however, and constantly plans her escape from this desolate and fog encircled Alcatraz. Finally we meet Elise, who arrives in the 1930’s, not only choosing this life of solitude, but flourishing in it. She raises a family and, now living in a proper home, draws the attention of outsiders, who want to use her as an example of rugged individualism, the American ideal. As the press pushes to deify her family, Elise pushes them away, preferring to protect her privacy and family from the public and the coming war. As usual, the island ultimately wins, as illness and nature take its course. San Miguel is Boyle digging through the souls of his characters and making you feel their exhilaration and their pain.
I am now a quarter through Dennis Lehane’s new novel Live By Night, his follow up to The Given Day. Let me tease you with the first paragraph.
Some years later, on a tugboat in the Gulf of Mexico, Joe Coughlin’s feet were placed in a tub of cement. Twelve gunmen stood waiting until they got far enough out to sea to throw him overboard, while Joe listened to the engine chug and watched the water churn white at the stern. And it occurred to him that almost everything of note that had ever happened in his life-good or bad-had been set in motion the morning he first crossed paths with Emma Gould.
How good is that? See you at the Civic Center.