Monday, December 29, 2008

When jeans were tight, and weapons off limit

The Outsiders
The Outsiders is a novel by Susan Eloise (S.E.) Hinton first published in 1967 by Viking Press. Hinton was 15 when she began writing the novel[1] and 17 when it was published. The Outsiders is the life story of fourteen-year-old Ponyboy Michael Curtis. Hinton explores a multitude of themes throughout the story, such as friendship, and coming of age, by following two rival groups, the Greasers and the Socs (pronounced "soashes" by the author, short for Socials), who are separated by status.

The Outsiders is ranked on the American Library Association's top 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990[2] and 38th on their 1990-1999 list.[3] The book was challenged in South Milwaukee because of its portrayal of violence, language, drug and alcohol abuse, underage smoking, and the fact that "virtually all the characters were from broken homes"[citation needed].

Monday, October 13, 2008

Dark Sun Glasses and Floppy Hats Now a Must For Chapter Chatters!

"Chapter Chat" was interviewed by "Book Browse" and here is part of that interview

Hello Carrin, thanks for taking the time to chat. First off, please tell us a bit about Chapter Chat.
We've been together in our current format for 8 years, but some of us have been reading together for 15 years. We have 16 on our e-mail list but typically 8-12 show up for any given month. We are in our 40's and 50's, all women. Our core started as a Mom's Group at our church, but we have since taken jobs, sent kids off to college, had surprise babies, grandchildren, divorces and marriages. Like most groups of women we have been there for each other through cancer, deaths in the family, and general support and laughter.

So how did it get started?
My friend Nancy and I started a book club at our church in 1992. It went for a few years and we relaunched it with our moms group in 1998. A couple of years later, as the two of us sat looking at each other and only each other, for the third month in a row we determined to figure out what we were doing wrong and start a book club that was exceptional. We began visiting other successful book clubs, and interviewed as many as we could to figure out what the "it" factor was to make a book club successful.

And what was the "it factor you discovered?"
We learned two major things:
Meet on a consistent night. Passionate readers will schedule around the book club.
Meet in homes because when a meeting is hosted by a church or library it's so easy to think…'Oh there will be other people there, I don't have to go" etc. Adding dessert and wine didn't hurt either!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Can it Happen Here?

If anyone is able try to find the movie "Shadow on the Land" A perfect companion piece to this book, but it was made for TV, shown once and then mysteriously disappeared! Hmmmm

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Richard Patterson Biography, and Time interview

Richard North Patterson was born on February 22, 1947 in Berkeley, California. He grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland and graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1968. In 1971 he graduated Case Western Reserve Law School and went on to serve as an Assistant Attorney General for the state of Ohio. He was a partner in several of the country’s leading law firms and also served as the liaison for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to the Watergate Special Prosecutor.He started writing at the age of 29 when he had completed law school. He began his first book, The Lasko Tangent, as part of a creative writing course at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. It won the Edgar Allan Poe Award in the category "Best First Mystery Novel (American)" in 1980. In 1993, he retired from the practice of law to devote himself to writing. He is currently chairman of the National Governing Board for Common Cause, and has served on boards of several advocacy groups dealing with gun violence, political reform, and reproductive rights. He lives in San Francisco and on Martha's Vineyard with his partner, Dr Nancy Clair. In addition to winning the Edgar Allan Poe Award, he is also the recipient of the 1995 International Grand Prix de Littérature Policière (the most prestigious award for crime and detective fiction in France).

Bibliography to date

Christopher Paget seriesThe Lasko Tangent (1979)

Degree of Guilt (1992)

Eyes of a Child (1994)

NovelsThe Outside Man (1981)

Escape the Night (1983)

Private Screening (1985)

Caroline Masters (1995), published in the UK as Final Judgement Silent Witness (1996)

No Safe Place (1998)

Dark Lady (1999)

Protect and Defend (2000)

Balance of Power (2003)

Conviction (2005)

Exile (2007)

The Race (Oct 2007)

TIME: What made you decide to take on the topic of the Presidential race?
Patterson: I describe it as the American odyssey. It's the hardest thing a person can do. It's a gauntlet in which privacy means absolutely nothing. Every aspect of character is exposed, and every decision can destroy a [candidacy], and perhaps even the candidate, in a way that's unique to the merciless public exposure that running for President brings. To me, it's like a courtroom drama intensified. There are always surprises. There are always revelations of character, and nothing is out of bounds. It's great drama.

Your main character, Corey Grace, is a former POW who's a Republican Senator and a presidential candidate. That sounds familiar!
I couldn't have made him up without the example of John McCain, but that said, I want to exempt Corey. He, like my other characters, is very much his own man. His experiences are quite different than John's, and his beliefs as you will note are markedly at variance with John's. John is an example of somebody whose character was formed outside of politics, as was Corey Grace's, which is very interesting. But otherwise, this fellow isn't John McCain any more than he's Bill Cohen [former Republican secretary of defense under Clinton], although he has some similarities to Bill as well.

Are you friends with the two of them?
Yes, they're both good friends.

Are you friends with a lot of political people?
Friends in the sense that we really are friends. Friends is an elastic concept in politics, as you know. But yes, Ted Kennedy and Barbara Boxer are close friends. Congresswoman Stephanie Jones from Cleveland is an old friend. So I learn a lot from them about how this business works, and the cost of it.

Is there something you see in common among the kind of people who take on "the race"?
I think you have to have almost an extra chromosome. You have to have extraordinary dedication and discipline to succeed in politics, because you're never off. You and I can go home, and that's it. But there's no downtime in politics. Things are always happening. You can be confronted by somebody at the supermarket; you lose all privacy. And it's exhausting. John McCain and Barbara Boxer, for two, have a wicked commute just to get back and forth to the Senate. So it takes an extraordinary person. I often say that actually, our politicians deserve a better system than we have, in that the people in office are better than we know. It's the system, the way that we raise money and the way, frankly, that we abuse these people in their private lives, that is so dismal.

Your own career got political when you were a Watergate prosecutor.
Yes, I've always been interested in politics, and I had very early exposure to the stakes involved at the Presidential level when I was sent by the Securities and Exchange Commission to assist in an aspect of the Watergate prosecution. So I've been sort of engaged in things ever since. I was chairman of Common Cause, the public-interest lobby founded by John Gardner, and on the board of Washington advocacy groups which espouse reasonable gun laws, reproductive freedom, women's and family health issues and the like.

Do you ever miss practicing law?
No. It was a great career, but writing books is self-assigned work. You get to write about what interests you. Learn new and exciting things, whether it's about the Middle East, in my last book [Exile], or the Presidential race, for this book, and translate it for readers in a way that hopefully engages them emotionally but also interests them in the subject matter. It's just great work.

You were 29 when you changed careers, right?
I was 29 when I wrote my first novel. But I was 45 when I quit for good. I was a 16-year overnight success.

Initially, was it hard for you to get published?
Oh, yes. I had three rewrites and 13 rejections. But I just kept at it. I've never written anything ultimately that hasn't been published.

You do so much digging and research for your books that it must be like being a reporter.
It's like journalism, but with two advantages. People will tell me things they won't tell reporters, because they don't worry about it showing up on the front page of a newspaper, or an article in a magazine, and I'm also able to say things that reporters can't, in terms of underlying truths that reporters have to be cautious about. In a way, I look upon what I do as intensified truth. It is a more real version of reality than sometimes journalism can get to.

Do you always write in the morning?
I'm like a civil servant. I show up at my desk at 7:30, and I don't leave until mid- to late afternoon, when I've revised what I've written for that day. I do it five days a week until the book is finished.

Does anyone ever confuse you with novelist James Patterson?
(Laughs.) I always say to people, I don't do body parts. He's had a very successful career, but he and I have very different aims.

Where does your middle name, North, come from?
That's my mother's given name. Actually, it goes back to my ancestor Lord North, possibly the worst politician in the history of England. He's the one who blew the Colonies. I come by my interest in feckless politics honestly.

Would you like to run for office yourself? You have the right background.
I know what it takes well enough really to be very happy writing about it. I have a lot of access, so a fair amount of understanding, without having to suffer the consequences of it.

You once said that you were devastated not to be on the National Rifle Association's Enemy list. Have you made it yet?
I did, thankfully. It took hard work, because they were busy focusing on other people. But by God, I finally made it.

A review of the Persian Gulf War

Persian Gulf War, conflict beginning in August 1990, when Iraqi forces invaded and occupied Kuwait. The conflict culminated in fighting in January and February 1991 between Iraq and an international coalition of forces led by the United States. By the end of the war, the coalition had driven the Iraqis from Kuwait.

Causes of the War
The Iraqi-Kuwaiti border had been the focus of tension in the past. Kuwait was nominally part of the Ottoman Empire from the 18th century until 1899 when it asked for, and received, British protection in return for autonomy in local affairs. In 1961 Britain granted Kuwait independence, and Iraq revived an old claim that Kuwait had been governed as part of an Ottoman province in southern Iraq and was therefore rightfully Iraq’s. Iraq’s claim had little historical basis, however, and after intense global pressure Iraq recognized Kuwait in 1963. Nonetheless, there were occasional clashes along the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border, and relations between the two countries were sometimes tense.

Relations between the two countries improved during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), when Kuwait assisted Iraq with loans and diplomatic backing. After the war ended in 1988, the Iraqi government launched a costly program of reconstruction. By 1990 Iraq had fallen $80 billion in debt and demanded that Kuwait forgive its share of the debt and help with other payments. At the same time, Iraq claimed that Kuwait was pumping oil from a field that straddled the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border and was not sharing the revenue. Iraq also accused Kuwait of producing more oil than allowed under quotas set by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), thereby depressing the price of oil, Iraq’s main export.

Iraq’s complaints against Kuwait grew increasingly harsh, but they were mostly about money and did not suggest that Iraq was about to revive its land claim to Kuwait. When Iraqi forces began to mobilize near the Kuwaiti border in the summer of 1990, several Arab states tried to mediate the dispute. Kuwait, seeking to avoid looking like a puppet of outside powers, did not call on the United States or other non-Arab powers for support. For their part, the U.S. and other Western governments generally expected that at worst Iraq would seize some border area to intimidate Kuwait, so they avoided being pulled into the dispute. Arab mediators convinced Iraq and Kuwait to negotiate their differences in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, on August 1, 1990, but that session resulted only in charges and countercharges. A second session was scheduled to take place in Baghdād, the Iraqi capital, but Iraq invaded Kuwait the next day, leading some observers to suspect that Iraqi president Saddam Hussein had planned the invasion all along.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Sept Book Club

Deb's review:

Last night was lovely at Sarah's comfy home. She made Polish food that the six of us forced ourselves to taste, again and again to make up for those of you who couldn't make it. She informed us there were no Polish wines, so she offered alternatives. Cindy launched us into the technological book group age by having researched videos of Poland in World War 2 and the Warsaw Zoo whicwe watched on a laptop. Fabulous. She had lots of interesting info about the author as well. We discussed the "maybe" December selection and that it is yet another WW 2 themed book. We decided to open it up for more suggestions. So everyone start offering ideas for the December 4 book. We have usually had a tie-in to Christmas, but it is not a must. Keep in mind most members have expressed that they don't want to buy hardcovers, so focus on choices from 2007 and earlier and they are usually out in paperback. Both the October and November selections are available in paperback.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Warsaw Zoo on the Big Screen

Blue Heron International Picture Presents:
A Gary Lester Film
Safe Haven: The Warsaw Zoo
Ryszard Zabinski and Asia Doliner
Feliks Pastusiak, Producer (Poland)
Alex Ringer, Producer (Israel)
Richard Lester, Executive Producer
Charlie Carlson, Associate Producer (USA) See More Here

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Would a rose by any other name...

Hey, we were mentioned in the Readers Group article (I have us registered with them by the way!)....A fun article on names!

Reading Groups Choose Creative Ways to Describe Themselves

It’s not surprising that words are important to book group members. Readers search for just the right word to describe how they feel, what they see and experience, what they might like to experience or feel, and what they abhor. They marvel at their favorite authors’ ability to put words together in a way that evokes deep emotions, both positive and negative. They appreciate and choose words for their meaning, of course, but also for their sound, their nuances, their derivations, and their double meanings.

So it’s probably not surprising that book groups put considerable effort and creativity into selecting the words to describe themselves. The names that they choose somehow reflect the character of the group as a whole, which may be quite different from the words that each member would choose to describe themselves.

Take, for example, the groups that obviously intensely enjoy the reading group experience. A sample of group names from Reading Group Choices subscribers include the Better Than Therapy Book Club; Reading Between the Wines; Who Picked This Book? Club; Chapter Chat; Friends, Wines & Books; Face2Face and Woman2Woman; Boisterous Banter Book Club; Wine, Chocolate & Books; It’s Not Just About the Food Book Club; and Beyond the Book.

Apparently, some groups just like to have fun – and that includes taking the time to name themselves. For example, there are the Marmaladies; the Litwits; the Chapter Chicks; the Alleycats; the Bookworm Biddies; the Literal Hotties; Out on a Tangent; the Literary Lofty Dogs; the Happy Bookers; Girlz R Us; the Deadly Divas; and the Bemused Bibliophiles.

And then there are the groups that take on their own identity – comprised of, but beyond, the identity of the individuals within it. The names tell you a lot about the character of the group – the Benson Bifocals; Book Broads and John; the Amigos & Flamingos Book Club; the Book Club for People Who May Not Be Women; Cool Girls Read; Soul Sistas; Readers Dozen; the Crazy Eight; the Eclectics; English Teacher Nerds Unite; Party Girls; Smarty Pants; Bad Girls Book Club; Babes with Books; Soccer Moms Book Club; Peppy Ladies; Sweet Potato Queens; Sisters n Touch; YaYa Mommas; Women of Substance; the Dirty Girls Book Group; Reading for Christ; the Renaissance Men’s Book Club; and the Bamamas.

Some groups express their appreciation for the written word in the name they choose, such as the B.A.G. Ladies (Books Are Good); the Rabid Readers; Readers Delight; Berthoud Book Junkies; and As the Page Turns. And some actually play with words within their name, like the Literary Locusts of Lochmere; the Louisiana Literati; Secret Sworn Sisters; WOW (Women of Words); Women, Wine & Words; StatIS Quo; and Laughter, Lunch & Literature. Other groups apparently really like the reading experience, like the Spine Crackers; the Joyful Page Turners; Between the Covers; and the Cranial Crunch.

A few groups are literally literary, like the AlaKaye Literary Society; the Bellaggio Cultural Club; the Final Word Literary Guild; the Grand Dames of Literature; La Literati; the Literary Ladies; Joie de Livre – and perhaps Barely Literate.

Some groups are not so obvious about their meaning, leading one to wonder exactly what they are up to! Take for example, the C.H.A.R.I.S.M.A.; the FAUSA; the R.A.F.T.S.; the SLTSBC; the StARs; the KIBBIES; and the TWOGHIES.

But some groups leave no doubt what they are up to. Whether you approve or not, there are the Bath Tub Readers, for example, Andy’s Wives; and the Read Naked groups. You can also guess what goes on during the gatherings at Just Mai Tai’n; Literate Epicureans; the Martini Book Club; Mysteries on Main Street; Fiction Addiction; Not Just Desserts; Read and Feed; Page and Palette; Literary Potluck; Coffee by the Book; and Tea and Tales.

Some groups may use their name to remind themselves of when or where they meet. For example, the BLT Club’s expanded name is Books Last Tuesday. Then there is the Bar and a Book group; the Gazebo Gathering; Booked for Lunch; MysticMommas; Phat Tuesdays; See You Tuesday?; the Fort Dix Chicks; Books on the Bluff; Books By the Bay; Beach and Books; and the Rural Readers. In some cases, though, the mnemonic device may lead to some confusion – consider for example Reading in the Rafters, Across the Ocean, and The Red Truck!

For those of you who may be forming new groups, perhaps there are some ideas here that can lead you to the perfect name. For those – and there are many, we’re sure – who have other creative descriptive devices, please send them to us. We’ll publish a few of them in an upcoming e-newsletter. In any case, thanks for keeping the joy of reading alive.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Charlie and Tea

A Great Compliment to Three Cups of Tea

Charlie Wilson's War is a 2007 biographical drama film based on the true story of Democratic Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson, who conspired with a "bare knuckle attitude" CIA operative named Gust Avrakotos to launch an operation to help the Afghan mujahideen resist and ultimately defeat the Soviet Union's military occupation of the nation.
For movie clips go to
For more info on the movie go to's_War

Saturday, July 12, 2008

प्रेपरिंग फॉर टी

Preparing For Tea: In case you can't read the above! By the way... Here is our Gordon West connection

#1 New York Times Besteller
Three Cups of Tea
One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace...One School At A Time

“Three Cups of Tea is one of the most remarkable adventure stories of our time. Greg Mortenson’s dangerous and difficult quest to build schools in the wildest parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan is not only a thrilling read, it’s proof that one ordinary person, with the right combination of character and determination, really can change the world.” -Tom Brokaw

"A stunningly simple story of how to make peace" -Bloomsbury Review

" only hopes U.S. policymakers read Mortenson's book" -Philadelphia Inquirer

"Astonishing tale of compassion - and of promise kept" -Time Magazine Asia Book of the Year

"Laced with drama, danger, romance, and good deeds" -Christian Science Monitor

Friday, July 11, 2008

After a stormy afternoon, skies over beautiful White Bear Lake cleared to provide Chapter Chatters with a evening of calm seas and perfect tempertures to discuss our latest read. Donning laurel wreathes on our heads we explored the ancient world from which the Olympic games evolved. Some we squeemish of the barbaric nature of the ancient games but after a little processing we concluded that it's not so different today. Some Chatters have brushed with Olympic greatness and most look forward to watching the up coming games. We munched a variety of Greek inspired foods including humus, olives and baklava. YUM. Thank for a lovely evening!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Garrison Keillor Trivia

Today in the small town of Isle, Minnesota I found out some interesting Keillor trivia.
On the wall in my Mom's doctor's office was a framed letter from Garrison Keillor to Dr.Bracken (he was my Dad's doctor). The letter started with an apology to Dr. Bracken for reading Moby Dick.....Keillor never meant to encourage that. He said he read the first 30 pages, put it down for he only reads books that give him pleasure.
Here's his interesting quote: " I spent quite a bit of time in Isle when I was a boy and whenever I imagine Lake Wobegon I always see Isle - Isle, Holdingford and a little bit of Anoka."

Gosh, I could have been hanging out with him on Mille Lacs all those years ago........

He went on to recommend his favorite authors who he described as - " Christian comic writers, who write extensively about small towns and rural people." J.F. Powers, Carol Bly, Charles Portis and Flannery O'Connor.

After the Dr. appointment I took Mom to the grocery store where we ran into Dr. about small town!!! I had a chat with him about the letter and Dr. Bracken went on to talk about some of his favorite authors and books.....I attached a review of one of those books below. Sounds like a great read.......Deb H.

Morte D'Urban

By J.F. Powers

Winner of The 1963 National Book Award for Fiction.
The hero of J.F. Powers's comic masterpiece is Father Urban, a man of the cloth who is also a man of the world. Charming, with an expansive vision of the spiritual life and a high tolerance for moral ambiguity, Urban enjoys a national reputation as a speaker on the religious circuit and has big plans for the future. But then the provincial head of his dowdy religious order banishes him to a retreat house in the Minnesota hinterlands. Father Urban soon bounces back, carrying God's word with undaunted enthusiasm through the golf courses, fishing lodges, and backyard barbecues of his new turf. Yet even as he triumphs his tribulations mount, and in the end his greatest success proves a setback from which he cannot recover.
First published in 1962, Morte D'Urban has been praised by writers as various as Gore Vidal, William Gass, Mary Gordon, and Philip Roth. This beautifully observed, often hilarious tale of a most unlikely Knight of Faith is among the finest achievements of an author whose singular vision assures him a permanent place in American literature.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I want to go to this party!

Regarding our August pick....
Greg Mortenson, the author of Three Cups of Tea is doing a book tour. He will be very near. Alas, it seems that we are not invited...yet. I am going to call them!


Sunday, October 5, 2008 at 5:00 PM (Private)
United’s 150th Anniversary Banquet
628 West Fifth Street
Red Wing, MN 55066
Contact: Pastor Randall Johnson
Phone: 651-388-3583
Limited to United Members and Special Guests
For more information go to

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Jeanette Walls

Wanda and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Jeanette Walls at the Kahler Hotel in Rochester yesterday. She brought her amazing story to life and inspired all who listened to her story.

She was so gracious and thankful for the outpouring of love she received after sharing her story. She said she was always afraid to tell her story for fear of people rejecting her.
She gave us an update on her family: Sister Lori-an artist in NYC, did not want Jeanette to write the book. Brother- most supportive of her writing the story and helped her remember. He is a retired police officer now teaching school. Younger sister Maureen, in CA, didn't speak to each other for 10 years, now do speak, she lives in a "safe" place in CA. Her mother is now living in a trailer on Jeanette and her husband's property helping to care for their horses.
Jeanette is working on another book, it's in the early stages and she thinks it will be about her mother. She says she's not creative and therefore cannot write fiction. Throughout her talk she never said a negative thing about her parents, she says she learned to dream from her father and learned wisdom from her mother. She's taken these gifts and made the most of her life. She stressed how reading was a gift her parents gave her, she never had TV or any other source of entertainment. We briefly said our hello's to Jeanette as she signed our books......a wonderful day!!
Deb H.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Water for Elephants Revisited

So this was my favorite read of 08! I loved the insights from the nursing home, brought back many memories of working at the old Ramsey County "Poor Farm" as they called it once upon a time!

Nancy outdid her self as usual, we LOVED going to the Big Top for the evening.

Deb Wheeler, with her exceptional period and circus research, added layers on an already fascinating book.

I won't say more as I'm sure you will add your two cents worth in the comments!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Time Travelers Wife Hits the Silver Screen

For those of you who have read it... we can only hope the movie lives up to the book. If you haven't....Oh you really should, it is so very, very good!

What do you do when you meet the love of your life when you're six years old? And he's 36, but he's really only eight years older than you are? If you're ClareAbshire, you wait for each of his visits throughout the years until you meet him in real time.

Henry DeTamble is a time traveler, although not by choice. A genetic mutation causes him to spontaneously travel through time, disappearing from view, leaving behind his clothes and possessions, and arriving naked in another time and another place.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Nuala O’Faolain, 68, Irish Memoirist, Is Dead

Here's another death to report....aren't we cheerful today??? Nuala O’Faolain, 68, Irish Memoirist, Is Dead Nuala O’Faolain, an Irish journalist who mined a rich vein of longing and childhood suffering in two midlife memoirs and an acclaimed first novel, “My Dream of You,” died on Friday night in Dublin. She was 68 and lived in Barrtra, County Clare, Ireland, and Manhattan.

Often seen as a feminine (and feminist) counterpart to Frank McCourt’s “Angela’s Ashes,” Ms. O’Faolain’s first memoir, “Are You Somebody?,” created a sensation on its publication in Ireland in 1996. Her unblinking, unsentimental description of Irish life in the 1940s and ’50s, and her loveless, impoverished home, where she grew up the second of nine children, struck a chord with Irish readers and went on to sell well in Britain and the United States.

Nuala O’Faolain (pronounced oh-FWAY-lawn) grew up in the countryside near Dublin in shabbily bohemian circumstances. Her father, who wrote a newspaper society column under the pen name Terry O’Sullivan, spent his nights on the town in Dublin. “He was a dapper, clever, reticent man and he treated the family as if he had met them at a cocktail party,” Ms. O’Faolain wrote. Her mother, a voracious reader and a romantic who never wanted children, sank into despair and alcoholism, to which her mostly absent husband turned a blind eye.

Two of her brothers eventually died of alcoholism. She is survived by six brothers and sisters, Grainne O’Broin, Deirdre Brady and Terry O’Faolain, all of Dublin; Noreen, of London; Marian, of Westport, Ireland; and Niamh, of Tarbert, Ireland. She is also survived by her partner, John Low-Beer of Brooklyn, N.Y.

Ms. O’Faolain inherited her mother’s hunger for love and her father’s flair for journalism. After attending a convent school in the north of Ireland — she had been expelled from her first school for sneaking off to dances to meet boys — she studied English at University College, Dublin, and medieval English literature at the University of Hull before earning a postgraduate degree in English from Oxford.
She then returned to University College as a lecturer in the English department. “I had no sense of being at the start of a career,” she later wrote. “My aim in life was something to do with loving and being loved.”

Shortly before her death, Ms. O’Faolain gave a spirited, tearful interview on Ireland’s most popular radio program in which she reflected on life, love and her impending death. “I thought there would be me and the world, but the world turned its back on me,” she said. “The world said to me, ‘That’s enough of you now, and what’s more, we’re not going to give you any little treats at the end.’ ”

Eye-Opener: A Blind Man’s Rare Opportunity to See

Will a blind person be improved by gaining eyesight, or will an already-complete person become impaired in unexpected ways?

With his first book, “Shadow Divers,” Robert Kurson told the endlessly interesting
story of how divers discovered a mysterious sunken submarine off the coast of New Jersey. “Shadow Divers” also had the human-interest elements of the divers’ bravado and the sub disaster’s casualties to explore. Mr. Kurson set a very high bar for his next nonfiction endeavor.

UGH! No word on who is in it yet!

Robert Kurson
A True Story of Risk, Adventure and the Man Who Dared to See
By Robert Kurson
Illustrated. 306 pages. Random House. $25.95.
“Crashing Through,” a book about much more personal and interior adventures. Mr. Kurson writes about Mike May, who was surely one of the world’s most enterprising blind people even before he embarked on a risky series of procedures to restore his vision. Mr. May lost his eyesight in a chemical explosion at the age of 3. He had gone on, among other things, to set the world’s speed record for a blind skier, climb a 175-foot ham-radio tower to make repairs and travel 85 miles by train, bus and taxi to take his future wife on their first date.
So Mr. May’s life was a can-do success story even before the idea of repaired eyesight became an option. “Crashing Through,” which takes its title from the May style of dealing with any obstacle, describes the many innovative ways devised by Mr. May for moving through the world more vigorously than many sighted people do.
He lived in a remote Ghanaian village. He earned a graduate degree in international relations. He worked for the C.I.A. until it was decided that he could not be an inconspicuous spy. And he studied electrical engineering. “Blind electrical engineers were rare, which was one of the reasons he wanted to do it,” Mr. Kurson explains.
He worried about every risk that eye surgery would entail, including the impermanence of new vision and the use of a possible carcinogen to keep his body from rejecting corneal transplants. As he explained to his wife at the moment of decision, there was every good reason to refrain from taking this chance. The only reason to do it was curiosity.

“Crashing Through” becomes most interesting when the flaws in Mr. May’s new eyesight become apparent. He makes wondrous discoveries of things blind people never hear about — shadows, freckles, the movement and transparency of running water — but has more difficulty with the cognitive aspects of pattern recognition. He can see facial features but cannot decipher facial expressions.
Eventually the joy of sight fades for him and the investigatory challenges begin. Ingenious as ever, he finds ways to meld everything he has learned with everything new he can see, and to navigate the world imaginatively.

Michael May (center) was blinded at age three. Forty-two years later, a revolutionary stem cell transplant surgery gave him his sight back. Above, on his first day of vision since childhood, May sees his sons for the first time.

Calif. winemaking patriarch Robert Mondavi dies

By MICHELLE LOCKE – 20 hours ago
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Robert Mondavi, the pioneering vintner who helped put California wine country on the map, died at his Napa Valley home Friday. He was 94. Mondavi died peacefully at his home in Yountville, Robert Mondavi Winery spokeswoman Mia Malm said.
Always convinced that California wines could compete with the European greats, Mondavi engaged in the first French-American wine venture when he formed a limited partnership with the legendary French vintner Baron Philippe de Rothschild to grow and make the ultra-premium Opus One at Oakville. The venture's first vintage was in 1979.
Mondavi was an enthusiastic ambassador for wine — especially California wine — and traveled the world into his 90s promoting the health, cultural
Later there was a bittersweet family moment when Robert and Peter Mondavi, aided by members of the younger generation, made wine together for the first time in 40 years. Using a 50-50 split of grapes from Robert Mondavi and Peter Mondavi family vineyards, the brothers made one barrel of a cabernet blend that sold for $401,000 at the 2005 Napa Valley wine auction.
The auction lot was called "Ancora Una Volta," or "Once Again."

Remembering Rober Mondavi

It happened slowly.

As news of Robert Mondavi’s passing spread through the valley Friday, the winery that bears his name canceled winery tours at 1 p.m. A half hour later, officials at the landmark Oakville winery closed the tasting room and set the winery’s three flags — the American flag, the California flag and the Italian flag — at half mast.
By 2 p.m. an employee set out cones at the entrance to the winery, alerting motorists that the winery was not open to the public.

Eric G. Morham, president of Icon Estates, which operates the Mondavi winery, said the winery will remain closed Saturday and Sunday out of respect for the Mondavi family. However, the grounds will remain open and people are welcome to come walk the grounds and pay their respects.
The winery will reopen Monday.

Morham said Mondavi’s death was unexpected and that Margrit Mondavi, his wife, was in London and would return to Napa Valley immediately.
“(Mondavi) had a vision that Napa Valley wines could stand in the company of the great wines of the world,” Morham said.

He said the family will hold a private service.

But in accordance with Mondavi's wishes, there will be “a big party” at the winery within weeks. A firm date has not been set. The memorial will be open to the public.

Even tourists who aren't immersed in Napa Valley culture understood the significance of Mondavi's death.

Deb Mertz of Connecticut said she was visiting Far Niente winery when she heard the news.

“I know he and his family are so important to the valley,” she said. “In reading some things to prepare to come here, it was obvious how much the family contributed to the area.”

Others, like Mike and Nicole Young of Las Vegas, were aware of Mondavi's reputation primarily through his wines. They said the quality of Mondavi's riesling inspired them to visit his winery.

Jim Silberman, visiting from New Jersey, learned of Mondavi’s death while at the winery.

“Our tour guide was telling us about the wines and mentioned this was one of Mr. Mondavi's favorites and he gets a tear in his eye, then later we heard he had died,” he said.

Ryan is interim city editor at the Register. Duarte is a staff writer for the St. Helena Star. Register Photo Editor J.L. Sousa contributed to this article.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Suite française

Several reviewers and commentators have raised questions regarding Némirovsky's attitude toward Jews, her generally negative depiction of Jews in her writing and her use of anti-semitic publications in advancing her career. A review of her work published in The New Republic states:
Némirovsky was the very definition of a self-hating Jew. Does that sound too strong? Well, here is a Jewish writer who owed her success in France entre deux guerres in no small measure to her ability to pander to the forces of reaction, to the fascist right. Némirovsky's stories of corrupt Jews-- some of them even have hooked noses, no less!--appeared in right-wing periodicals and won her the friendship of her editors, many of whom held positions of power in extreme-right political circles. When the racial laws in 1940 and 1941 cut off her ability to publish, she turned to those connections to seek special favors for herself, and even went so far as to write a personal plea to Marshal Pétain.


The name "Auschwitz" actually refers to a complex series of camps and sub-camps in southwest Poland. The photos below are of the camp known as "Auschwitz-I." The camp was ordered constructed in 1940 by Heinrich Himmler, the chief architect of the extermination of the Jews and second in command of Nazi Germany. Thousands of people were murdered in Auschwitz-I, but this particular camp was not known as a "death camp." To be classified as a "death camp," murdering prisoners can be the ONLY function of the guards and workers. Auschwitz-I does not fit this criterion. This camp was also used for forced labor, medical experiments and other activities. The primary killing of Jews at the Auschwitz complex occurred at Auschwitz-II (also known as Auschwitz-Birkenau).

Irène Némirovsky was the daughter of a Jewish banker from Moscow, Léon Némirovsky. Her volatile and unhappy relationship with her mother became the heart of many of her novels.
The Némirovsky family fled Moscow at the start of the Russian Revolution in 1917, spending a year in Finland in 1918 and then settling in Paris, France, where Irène attended the Sorbonne and started writing when she was 18 years old.
In 1926, Irène Némirovsky married Michel Epstein, a banker, and had two daughters: Denise, born in 1929; and Élisabeth, in 1937.
In 1929 she published David Golder, the story of a Jewish banker unable to please his troubled daughter, which was an immediate success, and was adapted to the big screen by Julien Duvivier in 1930, with Harry Baur as David Golder.
In 1930 her novel Le Bal, the story of a mistreated daughter and the revenge of a teenager, became a play and a movie.
The David Golder manuscript was sent by post to the Grasset publisher with a Poste restante address and signed Epstein. H. Muller, a reader for Grasset immediately tried to find the author but couldn't get hold of him/her. Grasset put an ad in the newspapers hoping to find the author, but the author was "busy": she was having her first child, Denise. When Irène finally showed up as the author of David Golder, the unverified story is that the publisher was surprised that such a young woman was able to write such a powerful book.
Although she was widely recognized as a major author, by Jewish authors like Joseph Kessel and anti-semitic authors like Robert Brasillach alike, French citizenship was denied to the Némirovskys in 1938.
Irène Némirovsky was Jewish, but converted to Catholicism in 1939 and wrote in Candide and Gringoire, two anti-Semitic magazines—perhaps partly to hide the family's Jewish origins and thereby protect their children from growing anti-Semitic persecution.
By 1940, Némirovsky's husband was unable to continue working at the bank—and Irène's books could no longer be published—because of their Jewish ancestry. Upon the Nazis' approach to Paris, they fled with their two daughters to the village of Issy-l'Evêque (the Némirovskys initially sent them to live with their nanny's family in Burgundy while staying on in Paris themselves; they had already lost their Russian home and refused to lose their home in France), where Némirovsky was required to wear the Yellow badge.
On July 13, 1942, Irène Némirovsky (then 39) was arrested as a "stateless person of Jewish descent" by French police under the regulations of the German occupation. As she was being taken away, she told her daughters, "I am going on a journey now." She was brought to a convoy assembly camp at Pithiviers and on July 17 together with 928 other Jewish deportees transported to Auschwitz. Upon her arrival there two days later, her forearm was marked with an identification number. According to official papers, she died a month later of typhus.
Her husband was sent to Auschwitz shortly thereafter, and was immediately put to
death in a gas chamber.

The rediscovery
Némirovsky is now best known as the author of the unfinished Suite française (Denoël, France, 2004, ISBN 2207256456; translation by Sandra Smith, Knopf, 2006, ISBN 1400044731), two novellas portraying life in France between June 4, 1940 and July 1, 1941, the period during which the Nazis occupied Paris. These works are considered remarkable because they were written during the actual period itself, and yet are the product of considered reflection, rather than just a journal of events, as might be expected considering the personal turmoil experienced by the author at the time.

oldest daughter, Denise, kept the notebook containing the manuscript for Suite Française for fifty years without reading it, thinking it was a journal or diary of her mother's, which would be too painful to read. In the late 1990s, however, she made arrangements to donate her mother's papers to a French archive and decided to examine the notebook first. Upon discovering what it contained, she instead had it published in France, where it became a bestseller in 2004.
The original manuscript has been given to the Institut mémoires de l'édition contemporaine (IMEC), and the novel has won the Prix Renaudot—the first time the prize has been awarded posthumously.
Némirovsky's surviving notes sketch a general outline of a story arc that was intended to include the two existing novellas, as well as three more to take place later during the war and at its end. She wrote that the rest of the work was "in limbo, and what limbo! It's really in the lap of the gods since it depends on what happens."
In a January 2006 interview with the BBC, her daughter, Denise, said, "For me, the greatest joy is knowing that the book is being read. It is an extraordinary feeling to have brought my mother back to life. It shows that the Nazis did not truly succeed in killing her. It is not vengeance, but it is a victory."

Monday, May 5, 2008

What They're Up To Now!

A couple of things to look forward to from authors we've read:
This Wednesday evening from 4-6:30 William Kent Krueger will be hosting a "Totally Criminal cocktail Hour" at the Dock Cafe in Stillwater. Call 651-430-3385 for reservations...I'm sure he'd love us! And so we all can recognize him a photo to study

Also, for all of you Leif Enger lovers, he has now come out with a second novel called So Brave, Young and Hnadsome. He'll be at Edina's Barnes & Noble this Friday at 7:30. The St. Paul Pioneer Press printed a wonderful review of it earlier this week. The theme centers around his love of the wild west. So Brave, Young, and Handsome is this story told of three primary characters, with a few others thrown in along the way. It is a road story telling of a physical journey that brings out the metaphysical of each of the characters, but not in a mushy, spiritualistic, heavy-laden way. And that’s what is so brilliant about the book. It’s not philosophy. It’s a great tale in the tradition of great American writers from decades past.

This is a book about in between times and in between people drawn with immense clarity and insight, while retaining a direct and sparse prose. Enger tells us of an era and certain characters, a story not a message. It is in this story, however, that we see so much of real life as it so often is: in between.

We are between the old and the new, the good and the bad, the honest and the false, the artist and the laborer, the young and the aged, the adventurous an the prosaic. The characters hope, but don’t know how to find this hope. What they do is carry on, having tasted something of who they know themselves to be they won’t let themselves go back. As Enger says in his acknowledgments, “Sometimes heroism is nothing more than patience, curiosity, and a refusal to panic.”

What I like so much about Enger’s work is that it is so hopeful. Absolutely honest, mind you, there’s no false hope to be found here or sentimentalism seeking to manipulate our emotions. These are real people, faults and all. But unlike so much contemporary literature and film Enger doesn’t feel a need to obsess with corruption or ruin. His is a book that shows people who are not handsome, or young, and rarely brave. But they want to be, and be such in ways that matter to them, not to others around them. They are seeking wholeness for themselves.

Not all succeed. Some do, but not in the expected ways.

“For at the same time he lost everything–the very direction of his own steps–he won the thing he held so precious he wouldn’t approach it in words.”

It is a story of real life. Not gritty, corrupted, malformed caricatures. Real people, or at least characters who are desperate to become real people, who learn what it is to be a real person.

With all this depth and insight it might sound ponderous. But it’s not. It’s very gentle and easy-going. It moves along at a varied pace, with enough movement to never seem tiresome and enough twists to never seem predictable. My only slight irritation is that sometimes Enger jumps ahead a bit and is so eager to bring a slight twist that he breaks the moment with unnecessary foreshadowing, sort of a “you’ll love what comes next!” moments. I wish he just let us experience the story as it happened a bit more. But this is a minor qualm and he does even this within the contexts of a fitting narration.

It’s a brilliant book, in craft and theme and insight. It’s the best work of contemporary fiction I’ve read in a very long time and guess it will be my favorite book of 2008

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tatoos, Beards, and More...Sorry Nance!

The Socially Inclined

There were many people of the sideshow circuit who had nothing wrong with them, but traveled as freaks for the profit and publicity. Perhaps the most popular of these characters was the tattooed ladies. Beginning in 1882 with Nora Hildebrandt, a handful of women became heavily tattooed so that they could travel with circuses and carnival sideshows. Their appeal superseded that of tattooed men for the titillation they engendered in their audiences; not only were "tattooed women" publicly displaying themselves with fewer clothes than women in any other line, but also the stories describing how they became tattooed typically consisted of kidnapping. Nora Hildebrandt's father owned the first tattoo shop in America. Her story was that she and her father were kidnapped by Sitting Bull, who, along with his tribe, forced father to tattoo daughter. Every day for a year, so the story goes, she was tied to a tree until she was tattooed from head to toe. Cesare Lombroso was one of the first "criminal anthropologists" and through his studies he publicly concluded that tattooed people were instinctive criminals. Lombroso's work vindicated all those disgusted or otherwise put off by tattoos, but for the sideshow stage his work was useful because it provided scientific backing for tales of savagery, criminality, and decadence. Hildebrante was only one of hundreds of tattooed performers of her time. During the Depression many tattoo artists were forced to close their shops so they joined traveling circuses and sideshows to support themselves. Jean Furella became a tattooed lady for love. She was a bearded woman when she met her future husband but he would not become involved with her because of her beard. So she shaved her beard and to stay in the business had her body covered in tattoos.

In today's society, the use of mentally challenged or physically handicapped people as circus sideshows is largely frowned upon, if not prohibited. But those who scrutinize this history might not have looked closely enough. Many of these freaks enjoyed happy and long lives, perhaps longer than they would have lived otherwise.
Prince Randian was billed by P.T. Barnum in the late 1800s as the "human caterpillar." After years in the circus business he was married to a devoted wife and had five children. He spoke four languages and his personal philosophy was that "no physical handicap need matter if the mind is dominant."
Another performer named Schlitze was born with microcephaly. This disease caused severe retardation and in turn a small cranium, which led to the nickname of "pinhead" in the circus scene. Schlitze performed in the circus for thirty years and was unusually intelligent in spite of his condition. He was able to dance, sing, count to ten, and was said to be friendly and affectionate. When his guardian and manager died he was forced into an institution where he nearly died of loneliness until a Canadian Circus Promoter found him and bargained for his care. Shlitze traveled the country until his death at the age of 80, which is an unusually long life for a microcephile.
Physical Disabilities

Frances O'Conner was born without arms and toured with the Cole Brother's Circus for many years. She skillfully used her feet to dress herself, sew, and was said to enjoy her life to the fullest, never emitting a hint of self-pity. She was billed as "The Living Venus de Milo."
Johnny Eckhardt was the second son of twins and his brother was physically normal. As their interest in circus life grew they began touring as a magic act. Johnny's brother Robert pretended to saw him in half and a midget posing as his legs ran off the stage chased by Johnny. Johnny developed many exceptional talents and excelled in school. During the circus off-season Johnny toured with his own twelve-piece orchestra in which he led with the piano. He made a few film appearances, including the film Freaks in 1932. He withdrew from public life after his home was burglarized in the early 1980's. One burglar sat on him as the other robbed his house in front of his eyes. After this traumatizing experience his remaining years were spent in bitter seclusion. Johnny is quoted as saying, "If I want to see freaks, all I have to do is look out the window."

Thursday, March 27, 2008