Another way to think about books

I went to a conference this weekend on mystery writing – well it’s really for writers but they took my check.  One of the sessions was on reading as a writer and it was a process that involved identifying subjects/themes/things within a book and tracking them through the book – examples were following the money trail, looking at the ethics, making a time line (remember these are mysteries).  So the question is  — does anyone have a process they follow when they read or are you just reading, hoping for both enlightenment and entertainment?

Today’s Discussion

DSCN4371You have to be really dedicated readers to spend time inside on a day like today — but we are.  This was the discussion featuring Irish authors and books about Ireland or books that brushed against Ireland lightly.  And when readers get together the talk about books often strays off in other directions.  One of the terms that came up frequently in talking about these books was DARK – many of them are very dark – which led to us pondering what impact location and weather has on writers (Scandinavia was mentioned) as well as economic circumstances.  So does anyone have a light funny Irish book to recommend?

Here are some of the books we read

The Gathering by Ann Enright – a booker Prize winner – story of an Irish family but a bit stream of consciousness – well written but not recommended as a book the reader loved.

The Lilac Bus by Maeve Binchy – young people from Dublin head back each week to their Irish village where family histories are shared and scandals don’t stay secret for long.

Edna O’Brien’s books and stories were mentioned but not a specific title.

The Infinities  by John Banville  – On a languid midsummer’s day in the countryside, the Godley family gathers at the bedside of Adam, a renowned mathematician and their patriarch. But they are not alone in their vigil. Around them hovers a clan of mischievous immortals—Zeus, Pan, and Hermes among them —who begin to stir up trouble for the Godleys, to sometimes wildly unintended effect.

The Sea by John Banville  – The Sea – Max Morden, a middle-aged Irishman who has gone back to the seaside town where he spent his summer holidays as a child to cope with the recent loss of his wife. It is also a return to the place where he met the Graces, the well-heeled family with whom he experienced the strange suddenness of both love and death for the first time.

(he also writes mystery/thrillers under the name Benjamin Black – Christine Falls is one of his early titles under this name)

John Boyne – A History of Loneliness  – The riveting narrative of an honorable Irish priest who finds the church collapsing around him at a pivotal moment in its history

and The Absolutist – A masterfully told tale of passion, jealousy, heroism and betrayal set in the gruesome trenches of World War I.

A Star of the Sea – Joseph O’Connor – In the bitter winter of 1847, from an Ireland torn by famine and injustice, the Star of the Sea sets sail for NewYork. On board are hundreds of refugees, some optimistic, many more desperate. Among them are a maid with a devastating secret, the bankrupt Lord Merridith, his wife and children, and a killer stalking the decks, hungry for the vengeance that will bring absolution.

Picture of Dorian Gray – by Oscar Wilde – check out the portrait in the attic

Column McCann  Let the Great World Spin Let the Great World Spin (the title comes from Alfred, Lord Tennyson, riffing on themes in old Arabic poetry) is again set in New York, and much of its action takes place on a day in August 1974. Early that morning — in real life, not just this novel — a Frenchman named Philippe Petit used a bow and arrow to sling into place a cable uniting the giant Twin Towers of the recently built World Trade Center. Then, unbelievably, he walked across this cable.

and Dancer  Dancer wove its wide research into the intimately imagined story of Rudolf Nureyev, the driven ballet genius born into Soviet poverty.

Other authors mentioned included William Trevor (Felicia’s Journey), Sebastian Barry(The Sacred Scripture), Katherine Webber (The Music Lesson) and Colin Toibin (Brooklyn)

The bus leaves today for Israel – please plan to join us on December 1 when we will look at Israel – past and present (maybe even future if anyone can find that).

Getting ready for December reading

In December our armchairs will take us to Israel.  Here are some titles to get you thinking about what you’d like to read.

How about a trip back in time to the beginning of the current state – Exodus by Leon Uris the towering novel of the twentieth century’s most dramatic geopolitical event.  Leon Uris magnificently portrays the birth of a new nation in the midst of enemies—the beginning of an earthshaking struggle for power.  Here is the tale that swept the world with its fury: the story of an American nurse, an Israeli freedom fighter caught up in a glorious, heartbreaking, triumphant era.  Here is Exodus —one of the great best-selling novels of all time.

The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan – In 1967, Bashir Al-Khayri, a Palestinian twenty-five-year-old, journeyed to Israel, with the goal of seeing the beloved old stone house, with the lemon tree behind it, that he and his family had fled nineteen years earlier. To his surprise, when he found the house he was greeted by Dalia Ashkenazi Landau, a nineteen-year-old Israeli college student, whose family fled Europe for Israel following the Holocaust. On the stoop of their shared home, Dalia and Bashir began a rare friendship, forged in the aftermath of war and tested over the next thirty-five years in ways that neither could imagine on that summer day in 1967. Based on extensive research, and springing from his enormously resonant documentary that aired on NPR’s Fresh Air in 1998, Sandy Tolan brings the Israeli-Palestinian conflict down to its most human level, suggesting that even amid the bleakest political realities there exist stories of hope and reconciliation.

Amos Oz – according to Wikipedia – is regarded as Israel’s most famous living author.  He has published 38 books including 13 novels, 4 collections of stories, children’s books and nine books of articles and essays.  His memoir A Tale of Love and Darkness was named best Jewish Book of the Year in 2005.

A family saga and a magical self-portrait of a writer who witnessed the birth of a nation and lived through its turbulent history. A Tale of Love and Darkness is the story of a boy who grows up in war-torn Jerusalem, in a small apartment crowded with books in twelve languages and relatives speaking nearly as many. The story of an adolescent whose life has been changed forever by his mother’s suicide. The story of a man who leaves the constraints of his family and community to join a kibbutz, change his name, marry, have children. The story of a writer who becomes an active participant in the political life of his nation.