Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Nevermore: Christopher Hitchens, Cold Comfort Farm, Devil in the White City

The first book up for discussion was God is Not Great:  How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens.  Hitchens, who died in 2011, was known for his keen intellect, wit, ability as a debater and his strong opinions on a variety of subjects.  He had particularly strong views on religion, as can probably be discerned from the title of the book.  God Is Not Great reflects Hitchens’ cynical views that all religions are designed to limit believers’ independence and that organized religions promoted hatred. Our reviewer said that it was interesting to read because Hitchens’ arguments are of a sort that is seldom heard, whether or not one agreed with those arguments. In fact, Hitchens had a number of religious friends with whom he had lively, non-combative debates.

Another reader was enjoying Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons.  Set in the “near future” and written in the 1930s, this is a satirical look at class and at a literary tradition.  Flora Poste is an educated, fashion conscious, upper class young lady whose parents perish within a few weeks of one another, leaving her to fend for herself—something for which she is not quite prepared, especially if it involves getting a job. She moves in with relatives who own a farm but not, alas, one of those happy, sun-kissed farms populated by robust, cheerful folk.  Instead, it lives up to its name of “Cold Comfort.”  Flora decides to take everyone in hand and fix their lives.  It’s a clash between sophisticated and country folk, with eccentric characters and, yes, a madwoman in the attic.  While it’s a difficult book to categorize, our reader said, “It’s a really fun book!”

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson is the story of the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. It’s also the story of a notorious serial killer who used the allure of the fair to bring in victims.  Larson has a gift for evoking a time and place through wonderful details, and his research is thorough.  He can make seemingly dull subjects both vibrant and relevant.  This is non-fiction that reads almost like fiction. Our reader was very impressed, and several other members commented on his marvelous style as seen in books such as Isaac’s Storm and In the Garden of Beasts, both of which had been discussed in earlier meetings.

The Nevermore Book Club meets every Tuesday at 11:00 am in the Frances E. Kegley Conference Room.  Readers talk about whatever book it is that they’re reading at the time. Coffee is provided by the library, and doughnuts are courtesy of the fabulous Blackbird Bakery!  Feel free to stop by and join us.

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