Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Book Reading Schedule

Please share you suggestions of books you would like to share and discuss. This could be a book you have already read or one you want to read. Fiction and non-fiction are welcome: novels, short stories, plays, poems, biographies, social commentaries, etc. 

Please share recipes that you think would be especially tasty and apropos for any of the books listed.

We have a whole month to discuss so don't think you have to be done the first day to join the discussion.

June 15 - July 14
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

July 15- August 14
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

September, 2011
Three Plays: Blood Wedding, Yerma, The House of Bernarda Alba, by Federico Garcia Lorca; edited by Michael Dewell and Carmen Zapata

Lorca's Blood Wedding is a classic of twentieth-century theatre. The story is based on a newspaper fragment which told of a family vendetta and a bride who ran away with the son of the enemy family. Lorca uses it to investigate the subjects which fascinated him: desire, repression, ritual, and the constraints and commitments of the rural Spanish community in which the play is rooted.

Yerma (meaning 'Barren') is one of three tragic plays about peasants and rural life that make up Lorca's 'rural trilogy'. It is possibly Lorca's harshest play following a woman's Herculean struggle against the curse of  infertility. The woman's barrenness becomes a metaphor for her marriage in a traditional society that denies women sexual or social equality. Her desperate desire for a child drives her to commit a terrible crime at the end of the play.

La casa de Bernarda Alba (The House of Bernarda Alba) was one of the last plays to be written by Lorca, shortly before he was executed by the Franco regime at the age of 38, in 1936. It was not performed until 1945 several years after his death. Along with Blood Wedding and Yerma it forms Lorca's Rural Trilogy. The play is based around five daughters who live with their fearsome and tyrannical mother. The daughters have been kept sheltered from the opposite sex, but the arrival of a suitor after their father's death catapults the family into a downward spiral of sexual jealousy and death. The play explores themes of sexual oppression, passion, and conformity, and examines women's lives in Spain at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Bernarda's cruel tyranny over her daughters foreshadows the stifling nature of Franco's fascist regime, which was to arrive just a few weeks after Lorca finished writing his play. The introduction by Jonathan Thacker addresses the main issues of the play and the issues involved in translating it. 

Note: My sister, Dr. Susan Divine, Assistant Professor of Spanish at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, will be our special guest commentator!

October, 2011
The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
This elegantly written account of a young man's search for signs of purpose in the universe is one of the great existential texts of the postwar era and is really funny besides. Binx Bolling, inveterate cinemaphile, contemplative rake and man of the periphery, tries hedonism and tries doing the right thing, but ultimately finds redemption (or at least the prospect of it) by taking a leap of faith and quite literally embracing what only seems irrational.

November, 2011
Galore by Michael Crummey
Out of the belly of a whale, Michael Crummey pulls the marvelous story of Paradise Deep, a remote settlement on the northern Newfoundland coast, a place "too severe and formidable, too provocative, too extravagant and singular and harrowing to be real," teeming with fierce rivalries, affections, and loyalties spanning five intertwined generations. His tale opens in a hungry winter, when a beached humpback arrives as an unexpected gift and the townspeople convene to claim their piece. From a slit in its gut spills a man--white, mute, and eerily alive--who assumes a central role in the lineage of the Divine family. Alternately feared as a devil and revered as a healer, Judah fathers a fish-scented son with the raven-haired Mary Tryphena. Their family comprises the heart of the town's rich mythology, with all its ghosts, mermaid trysts, strange accidents, miraculous babies, and impossible loves, rendered in language so gorgeously raw, it will transport you to a land whose sky is "alive with the northern lights, the roiling seines of green and red like some eerily silent music to accompany the suffering below."

December, 2011
Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak 
First published in Italy in 1957 amid international controversy—the novel was banned in the Soviet Union until 1988, and Pasternak declined the Nobel Prize a year later under intense pressure from Soviet authorities—Doctor Zhivago is the story of the life and loves of a poet-physician during the turmoil of the Russian Revolution. Taking his family from Moscow to what he hopes will be shelter in the Ural Mountains, Zhivago finds himself instead embroiled in the battle between the Whites and the Reds. Set against this backdrop of cruelty and strife is Zhivago’s love for the tender and beautiful Lara: pursued, found, and lost again, Lara is the very embodiment of the pain and chaos of those cataclysmic times.

After the business of the holidays, January would be a good time for a collection of short stories. I haven't read the short stories of Henry James in decades and would like to revisit those. But I am always open to other suggestions.

For February - I am thinking of Walden by Henry David Thoreau. As my cousin Becky pointed out, winter is a time when many species hibernate and when we are forced inside. Walden is an introspective book and might be perfect for those cold winter days when we are stuck inside.