Tag Archives: James Howard Kunstler

The Paris Wife

 November 19, 2012 marked yet another wonderful chapter in the ongoing saga of the Crandall Public Library Monday Evening Book Discussion Group.  The festivities focused on Paula McLain’s historical novel The Paris Wife.  It proved the perfect foil for an evening of literary love and learning.   Richard “The Professor” Schneider spoke about the relatively new paradigm of reader response criticism, which places heavy emphasis on perception of a work, and casts readers as co-conspirators in the artistic process. Although one might debate the value of reader response as a metric of a literary work’s value, it is, without any doubt whatsoever, the essence of a successful book discussion.

In fact, our discussions often remind me of the fable of the blind men and the elephant.  Each of us latching on to a portion of the prose pachyderm, feeling that we truly understand the whole of a written work, but much like the blind men, not fully understanding the business at hand, until it’s illuminated by the light of collaboration.

Of course, mutual respect for the notion that everybody brings something worthwhile to the table is a must, as it fosters the sort of dialogue where all involved feel safe to share their opinion.  Such a setting is capable of manifesting muse, of creating a shared synergistic understanding.  I think that famed photographer Ansel Adams spoke of much the same thing, when he explained that:

“No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.”

In any case, I don’t believe that the chemistry between members has ever been finer, and the conversation created was equal parts personal, passionate and profound.  Bravo!  Topics touched on during the course of the evening include the following:

  • The Paris Wife: Highbrow Chic Lit
  • Hadley Behaving Sadly
  • Polyamory Paris Style
  • The Lost Generation
  • Left Bank Literati
  • Polarity: Public Perception Versus Private Persona
  • Bullfighting as Metaphor
  • Hemingway’s Work: Technical Considerations
  • Midnight in Paris


Publisher’s Page

Ms. McLain Speaks

NPR Review

NY Times Review

Relevant Reads

Paris Without End by Gioia Diliberto

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway: The Paris Years by Michael Reynolds

Parting Thoughts…

 I am looking forward to our final discussion of 2012, which is slated for December 17, and will feature Robin Oliveira’s novel My Name is Mary Sutter.  It’s the story of a strong woman during difficult days, tends toward graphic at times, and the faint of heart may want to sit this one out.  In any case, I am hoping for a platoon of brave readers to soldier on, as this is a fantastic work of fiction.  According to Amazon:

“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.”

Oh yeah, did I mention the drawing for a signed first edition of the new James Howard Kunstler book – Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation?  All I can say, is that you got to be in it to win it!


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Ogawa’s Fable

I loved Yoko Ogawa’s The Housekeeper and the Professor, which brought to mind a lovely old limerick:

There was a young man from Trinity,
Who solved the square root of infinity.
While counting the digits,
He was seized by the fidgets,
Dropped science, and took up divinity.

In any case, all those who attended the July 16, 2012 gathering of the Crandall Public Library Monday Evening Book Discussion Group seemed charmed by Ogawa’s spare mathamagical fable.  Major points of conversation include the following.

  • The attributes of attraction
  • Math as a lens on existence
  • The nature of names
  • Family is where you find it
  • The elegance of equations

Mention was also made of the challenges related to the translation of written works.  For the most part, I think that Robert Frost had it right when he opined that “poetry is what gets lost in translation.”  Thankfully, that did not seem to be the case here, and all in attendance commended translator Stephen Snyder for a job well done.  Bravo! 


Wikipedia on Yoko Ogawa

New York Times Review

More Yoko Ogawa

The Diving Pool

The Diving Pool won a Shirley Jackson Award in 2008, and according to a New York Times review:

“Still waters run dark in these bright yet eerie novellas, whose crisp, almost guileless prose hides unexpected menace…Stephen Snyder’s elegant translations from the Japanese whet the appetite for more.”

Hotel Iris

I think that Publisher’s weekly does a fine job of serving-up the skinny on this slender novel:

“Ogawa….explores the power of words to allure and destroy in this haiku-like fable of love contorted into obsession.”

Home Grown

He’s back!  Local genius and author extraordinaire James Howard Kunstler has penned what seems to be a follow-up to his classic The Long Emergency.  Although I have not had a chance to finish Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation, what I have read is pure dynamite.  He must be lauded for both the clarity of his reasoning, and the eloquence with which he expresses it.  You can expect a full review soon, but in the meantime Publishers Weekly sums it up nicely:

“With characteristic curmudgeonly enthusiasm, Kunstler brilliantly if belligerently shows us what a pickle we’re in and how inept we are at dealing with it.”

Check it out at LibraryThing

Fetch a library copy

Recomended Reading

Phyllis Funari wanted to let the group know that she really enjoyed Burn this Book, especially John Updike’s essay Why Write?.  I’ve already requested a copy.  Maybe you should too, and then we can talk about it.

Parting Thoughts

As ever, I am looking forward to our next get-together, which is scheduled for August 20, 2012, and will feature Beryl Markham’s extraordinary autobiography West with the Night.  Seriously, Ms. Markham has mad skills, but don’t take my word for it.  Check out what Papa Hemingway has to say on the matter:

“As it is, she has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words, picking up whatever was furnished on the job and nailing them together and sometimes making an okay pig pen. But [she] can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves writers.”

Mr. Hemingway is not the only one to speak favorably about West with the Night, as group member Ann Davran seems delighted with what she’s read so far.  In her own words:

“I picked up “West with the Night” and started reading it, ten pages into the book I knew I had to own it….I must tell you that it is the style of the author, the sensitivity, and her ability to pull the reader into the narrative, which adds to the joy of reading ….the language is plain but captivating, her story is simple but engaging.”

With recommendations like that, you know that it’s got to be good.  I can’t wait to see you on the 20th!

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