Monthly Archives: March 2012

An Evening With H.D. Thoreau

It was the last day of winter, and the Crandall Monday Evening Book Discussion Group had gathered to discuss two of Henry David Thoreau’s most influential essays.  The discussion was moderated by eminent Thoreau scholar Richard J. Schneider.  Mr Schneider was accompanied by his lovely wife Mary, and was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd.  I must admit that I wasn’t surprised to sense a sort of quiet inspiration.  After all, both On the Duty of Civil Disobedience and Walking have long  inspired man and movement alike.

Looking rather dapper in a blue button down shirt and dark pants, Mr Schneider served-up a mini-library of relevant materials for examination.  He also offered an edifying PowerPoint presentation, which explored the historical and conceptual aspects of both essays in considerable detail.

Ever nimble on his verbal feet, Mr. Schneider responded to all queries with great insight and aplomb. The ensuing discussion sauntered in eclectic directions – ranging from manifest destiny to melon parties. Names were dropped.  Emerson, Hawthorne, Alcott, Tolstoy, Abbey, King, and Ghandi.  Tales were told.  Henry David Thoreau rubbed elbows with legends, and giants stood on his shoulders.  Sheer magic.  Bravo!

Our next meeting is slated for April 16, 2012, and will feature The Widower’s Tale by Julia Glass.  According to Publishers Weekly, “Glass spins a beautifully paced, keenly observed story in which certainties give way to surprising reversals of fortune. . . . A dramatic, thought-provoking, and immensely satisfying novel.”  I can’t wait to to talk about it.


Wikipedia: Henry David Thoreau

The Thoreau Society

SparkNotes: Civil Disobedience

Wikiquote: Thoreau

Mark Ruffalo Reads from On the Duty of Civil Disobedience

Select H.D. Thoreau at the Library

Cape Cod

The Heart of Thoreau’s Journals

The Maine Woods


A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

My friend and fellow Thoreau enthusiast Sue Pierce wanted me to let everybody know that The Thoreau Society hosts an annual gathering in Concord, Massachusetts.  This year’s gathering is titled Celebrating 150 Years of Thoreau’s Life, Works, and Legacy, and features scientist and author extraordinaire E.O. Wilson.  Details can be found here.

Sue also wanted to recommend two relevant titles, which are both available via the library system.  The first is The Thoreau You Don’t Know by Robert Sullivan.  In her own words, “purists may scoff at it, academics may recoil, but I think it’s a good start for someone who is completely new to Thoreau, or was forced to read him in junior high, and left it at that.  Among other things, it discusses the times he lived in, and helps you to understand some of his actions against that background.  And he describes a modern-day pilgrimage to Walden Pond, warts and all.  It’s not quite as bad as he says it is, but it is someone of an eye-opener on one’s first visit. It just might get folks interested enough to take another step, and read more about him in general.”  You can find a New York Times review here.  The second work is Thoreau: A Life of the Mind by Robert D. Richardson.  As she enthused, “this one is fantastic. I have read it over and over.”  You can find more info here.

News Flash

We are scheduled to read Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks on June 18, 2012.  According to Booklist, which gave the work a starred review, “Skloot tells a truly astonishing story of racism and poverty, science and conscience, spirituality and family driven by a galvanizing inquiry into the sanctity of the body and the very nature of the life force.”

Phyllis Miyauchi wanted to let group members know that on April 26th, 2012 “Saratoga Reads will hold a discussion with the son of Henrietta Lacks at Bernhard Theater at Skidmore at 7 p.m.  He will describe what it was like, decades after the fact, to find out that his mother’s cells were being used for research worldwide.  Joe Donahue of WAMC Northeast Public Radio will moderate the discussion.”

Check out the book trailer below, and if you like what you see, maybe Phyllis and I will see you there…

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Book Trailer


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Some words are worth a thousand pictures.  Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis is filled with such words.  Words like revolutionaries and war, dreams and prophets.  But it’s a graphic novel, so we can’t forget the pictures.  They’re black-and-white, bleak and spare.  It’s a cautionary comicscape, seemingly meant to convey a sense of the darkness of oppression.  In light of this, I must admit to a bit of trepidation in the weeks leading up to our discussion, as the potential for polemic peril was high.

In the end, I decided to adopt an attitude characteristic of iconic social critic Alfred E. Neuman.  That is, “what, me worry..?”  It was, after all, the Crandall Public Library Monday Book Discussion Group who gathered on February 27, 2012 to discuss Persepolis.  Not to mention, I had Anne “Always Awesome” Nelson riding shotgun.

As expected, the conversation sparkled with eclecticity , and offered a nuanced exploration of what Ms. Nelson has accurately dubbed a “Persian pen-and-ink mini-masterpiece.”  I am quite sure that all in attendance would have to agree with reviewer Mark Haddon.  As he explains,  “…in one afternoon Persepolis will teach you more about Iran, about being an outsider, about being human, than you could learn from a thousand hours of television documentaries and newspaper articles. And you will remember it for a very long time.”

It goes without saying that I am looking forward to our March 19, 2012 meeting, during which we will examine two of Henry David Thoreau’s seminal essays, with the discussion moderated by noted Thoreau expert Richard Schneider.  ¡Ay, caramba!   From graphic novels to the literary canon.  It’s true, the Crandall Public Library Monday Evening Book Discussion Group is certainly no ordinary band of book lovers.  In any case, attendance for this special event is strictly limited to 24 participants.  As ever, materials can be obtained via any of the help desks in the library.

I hope that you’re enjoying the new blog format.  My apologies for not responding to comments, but plain and simple, I’ve been extremely busy.  From this point on, comments will be responded to in a timely fashion.

And finally, many thanks to Anne Nelson who coauthored this post!  That’s all folks!


Wikipedia: Marjane Satrapi

Random House: Author’s Page

YouTube: Satrapi on Comics

Book Slut Interviews Satrapi

Selected Satrapi at the Library

Chicken with Plums


Persepolis 2

The Sigh

5 Thought Provoking Graphic Novels

The following non-fiction graphic novels have been given the Anne “Always Awesome” Nelson stamp of approval, and lend credence to the notion that fact is often stranger than fiction.  No super heroes here.  Just ordinary people dealing with that extraordinary thing called life.

Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman
“Maus is a book that cannot be put down, truly, even to sleep…”
–Umberto Eco

Alan’s War: The Memories of G.I. Alan Cope by Emmanuel Guibert
“This epic graphic memoir spans oceans and generations, with a narrative as engrossing as the artistry that illustrates it.”
–Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden
“[A] touching and often funny story… The simplicity of the drawing is offset by bright, delicate watercolors that belie our heroine’s unresolved struggle with history and heritage.”
–Publishers Weekly

Good Eggs: A Memoir by Phoebe Potts
“Nearly impossible to put down . . . . Fantastic. . . . Overwhelmingly likeable on the page, Potts tells the story of her and her husband’s frustrated efforts to have a child with equal parts comedy and pure narrative skill.”
–Publishers Weekly

Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle
“Pyongyang will appeal to multiple audiences: current events buffs, Persepolis fans and those who just love a good yarn.”
–Publishers Weekly

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