Previous Books

These are books we’ve read before:

October 2010

The Beautiful and Damned

October’s Birch Coffee Book Club selection is The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The novel was first published in 1922 and it follows the heir to an East-coast tycoon in his romantic relationships. I’ll post more once I start reading it.

In the meantime,this is what has to say- “It is seven thirty on an August evening. The windows in the living room of the gray house are wide open patiently exchanging the tainted inner atmosphere of liquor and smoke for the fresh drowsiness of the late hot dusk. There are dying flower scents upon the air, so thin, so fragile, as to hint already of a summer laid away in time.”

This is the story of a young couple Anthony and Gloria Patch living out their days to the hilt in New York City as they await the death of Anthony’s grandfather, Adam Patch from whom they expect to inherit his massive fortune.

Gloria is a spoilt child from Kansas City turned into a sophisticated and most beautiful woman. Gloria does not intend to lift a finger to do any domestic work in the home, no matter how slight; while Anthony who considers himself an aesthete, finds it quite hard to get his act together and instead of buckling down to some work, prefers instead to hang with his wife and their friends on nightly binges. They drink and eat in the classiest restaurants and hotels, rent the most expensive apartments, travel out to the West in the spring time driving plush cars, wearing top-of-the-line clothing and just generally living it up high on the hog, as they wait.

Meet Maury Noble who is Anthony best friend who spends his time between New York and Philadelphia; Richard Caramel who has just completed writing a book and looking for new ideas for a second one. Joseph Bloeckman from Munich who started out small in America and is now a big shot in Show Biz. Also the quiet Jewess Rachael Barnes and Muriel Kane who is young, flirtatious and sometimes a bit too talkative and Tana the Japanese housekeeper of the Patches.

We are shown the Patches at their very best as the novel starts, with the world at their feet and loaded with cash with which they make very expensive choices. But, as we get further in, we see things begin to change gradually and we realize that those very choices will be their very downfall. It was quite a good read but it could be very heartbreaking at times as we put ourselves into the shoes of the main characters. All lovers of F. Scott Fitzgerald should read this book if you haven’t done so already, and those of you who like reading about the ultra rich in the Roaring Twenties this one is for you. It is the kind of book that you feel you will want to read again. It is that good and I shall miss it.
Reviewed by Heather Marshall Negahdar (SUGAR-CANE 10/04/04)

September 2010

Shalimar the Clown

September’s Birch Coffee Book Club selection is Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie.

Shalimar the Clown follows several characters as they grow from childhood through adulthood as their lives take them through family conflicts, romantic conflicts, cultural conflicts, and a history of political conflicts including WWII and the current war on terror. The story stems from and primarily details the strife of a fictional village in the Indian region of Kashmir where Hindus and Muslims coexisted peacefully.

Salman Rushdie is an Indian author living in England. He is the author of Midnight’s Children (which brought him fame as a writer) and The Satanic Verses (which brought him infamy as a writer). Following the publishing of the latter, Rushdie was accused of blasphemy toward the religion of Islam by a large populations of Muslims. Ayatollah Khomeini issued a ‘fatwa’ on Rushdie which labels him as  a target for assassination by those who believe him a heretic. Though Rushdie has not been the victim of any violence since the controversy began in the late ’80s, many of the book’s translators have been killed for the same reason. He is know for his historical and magically-realistic fiction and also his essays.

The book club will be meeting on September 13th at 7:00pm in Birch Coffee to discuss the book and make the next selection. Please join us.

August 2010

Civilwarland in Bad Decline

Civilwarland in Bad Decline (1996) by George Saunders is a collection of six short stories (including the title title) and one novella. The stories appeared in various magazines until they appeared in this, George Saunders’ first published collection. The stories entail first person perspectives of frustrated lives and vicious consequences.

George Saunders (b. 1958) grew up in Chicago, received a masters degree in geophysical engineering from Colorado School of Mines in 1981 and a creative writing degree from Syracuse in 1988. Saunders’ writing is often likened to Kurt Vonnegut. He is a recipient of the MacArthur Genius Award and a Guggenheim fellowship. Saunders has published 3 short story collections, 3 novellas and several essays.

Book Club Response

Everyone at our August book club meeting agreed that Civilwarland in Bad Decline employs an altogether original style of writing. Some were extremely put off by the graphic, morbid, and ‘disastrous’ content, but the content did not detract from the satire it enabled. And while the stories were all equally clever and deavishly chortlesome, we would have appreciated more variation in voice. On the same token, it was evident from the consistency that Saunders was writing straight from his head, however absurd it may be. The stories observe many ills the American culture currently faces.

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