Monthly Archives: May 2012


It is commonly held that you should never judge a book by its cover.  Unfortunately, that’s a rather difficult proposition these days, as more often than not, book covers are littered with glowing endorsements.  And though it may be true that the road to sell is paved with good mentions, I believe that the practice is a step in a decidedly dangerous direction.  Emma Donoghue’s Room serves to demonstrate the peril inherent to this phenomenon.

Readers giving credence to all the hype adorning the copy I read might expect an experience bordering on mystical.  For example, renowned author Michael Cunningham relates a reading experience just short of epiphany.  As he professes, the novel is

 “potent, darkly beautiful, and revelatory.”

Perhaps it was the expectation generated by such hyperbole, but I found the book less than satisfying.  While it was by no means the worst thing I’ve ever read, it definitely fell short of the hype.  In fact, in many respects Room is a remarkable literary effort.  Donoghue had to work under the restraints imposed by her decision to use a very young narrator, and the challenge of believably presenting life lived inside of a garden shed.  On the other hand, the narrative illusion faltered occasionally, and at times I was all too aware of the wizard behind the curtain.  Furthermore, I found the work’s structure odd and anticlimactic; the novel’s second-half seemed thin and markedly less powerful than its beginning.

In light of my experience, I was not looking forward to the May chapter of the ongoing saga known as the Crandall Public Library Monday Evening Book Discussion Group.  As it turns out, I need not have worried.  Much as I had found fault, a number of the attendees arrived well-armed with similar substantive misgivings.  Many of these revolved around issues with Jack’s speech, which often failed to ring true.  In any case, an interesting digression developed about what constitutes an ideal work for discussion.  And finally, many thanks to Anne “Always Awesome” Nelson for her help in putting this post together.


Emma Donoghue’s Home Page

Donoghue Discusses the Parent Child Relationship

Donoghue Talks about Room

Select Emma Donoghue at the Library

Kissing the Witch


The Sealed Letter


Touchy Subjects

Relevant Reading

Captivated by tales of those held captive?  If that’s the case, then you might enjoy Still Missing by Chevy StevensAccording to Library Journal:

“…it’s a knockout, a psychological thriller that pulls no punches…”

Fetch a library copy here

Explore Still Missing at LibraryThing

Parting Shot…

And finally, I am hoping that you might consider joining us for our June 18, 2012 discussion of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  The trailer below offers a good sense of what the work is all about.  As for me, I am working my way through a second reading, and finding it even more impressive than the initial encounter.  Take care and see you there.



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On This Day in History – May 7

There are four versions of Edvard Munch’s iconic painting The Scream.  Three ofthe paintings hang in public museums.  Two of these have been stolen and recovered.  One of the heists was resolved on May 7, 1994.  Edward Dolnick’s The Rescue Artist: A True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece paints a compelling picture of the incident.   But don’t take my word for it.  As author Mary Roach enthuses:

“The Rescue Artist is a masterpiece. Engrossing, entertaining, often surreally hilarious.”

Case The Rescue Artist at LibraryThing 

Fetch a library copy here

For further insight into man, muse, and masterpiece; you might also consider checking out Sue Prideaux’s acclaimed Edvard Munch: Behind The Scream.  According to a Booklist starred review:

“As Prideaux vividly chronicles Munch’s tumultuous life in turbulent times in Norway, Paris, and Berlin, the reader’s appreciation of this bold spirit who risked all to descend into the realm of archetypes and create art depicting “the secret life of the soul” grows exponentially.”

Explore further at LibraryThing

Fetch a library copy here

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Reading Selections Ballot

I am asking for your help in selecting the titles we’ll read between July and December of 2012.  The first half of this post consists of titles and descriptive info.  The second half of the post is the ballot.  Please pick the six titles that you’d like to read.  In the spirit of transparency, all results are available for public view.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
Fiction (336 pages)
“Told in the voice of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain, is a richly imagined portrait of bohemian 1920s Paris, and of American literature’s original bad boy.”
–Town & Country

Doc by Mary Doria Russell
Fiction (416 pages)
“Fact and mythmaking converge as Russell creates a Dodge City filled with nuggets of surprising history, a city so alive readers can smell the sawdust and hear the tinkling of saloon pianos…Filled with action and humor yet philosophically rich and deeply moving—a magnificent read.”
–Kirkus Reviews

West with the Night by Beryl Markham
Non-Fiction (320 pages)
West with the Night is the story of Beryl Markham–aviator, racehorse trainer, beauty–and her life in the Kenya of the 1920s and ’30s. Regarded by many as one of the best adventure books ever!”

My Name Is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira
Fiction (384 pages)
“Rich with historical detail-including cameo appearances by Abraham Lincoln and Dorothea Dix, among others-My Name Is Mary Sutter is certain to be recognized as one of the great novels about the Civil War.”

Blood, Bones, & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
Non-Fiction (320 pages)
“Dazzling . . . brilliantly written . . . [Hamilton] is as evocative writing about people and places as she is at writing about cooking.”
–The New York Times

The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok
Non-Fiction (320 pages)
“A disturbing, mesmerizing personal narrative about growing up with a brilliant but schizophrenic mother…Richly textured, compassionate and heartbreaking.”
–Kirkus Reviews

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Non-Fiction (496 pages)
“A master class in narrative storytelling…Extraordinarily moving…A powerfully drawn survival epic.”
–The Wall Street Journal

Nothing to Envy: Everyday Life in North Korea by B. Demick
Non-Fiction (336 pages)
“A fascinating and deeply personal look at the lives of six defectors from the repressive totalitarian regime of the Republic of North Korea…”
–Publishers Weekly

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
Fiction (335 pages)
“…an exploration into the mysteries of friendship…this is a wonderfully rich, warm, and affecting book. Highly recommended.”
–Library Journal

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Fiction (352 pages)
“Card has taken the venerable sf concepts of a superman and interstellar war against aliens, and, with superb characterization, pacing and language, combined them into a seamless story of compelling power. This is Card at the height of his very considerable powers—a major sf novel by any reasonable standards.”

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
Fiction (192 pages)
“[A] mysterious, suspenseful, and radiant fable . . . The smart and resourceful housekeeper, the single mother of a baseball-crazy 10-year-old boy the Professor adores, falls under the spell of the beautiful mathematical phenomena the Professor elucidates, as will the reader, and the three create an indivisible formula for love.”
— Booklist



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