Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Nevermore: Irish Game, Sociopaths, Quanah Parker, Devil in the White City, Art of Racing in the Rain, and Stuff Matters

Reported by Ambrea

Nevermore had a plethora of books to discuss for our July 7th meeting, such as The Irish Game and Empire of the Summer Moon and Stuff Matters, and revisited a handful of works from the previous meeting, diving into Confessions of a Sociopath for a second time.

Our Nevermore readers first discussed The Irish Game:  A True Story of Crime and Art by Matthew Hart.  In 1986, Ireland’s Russborough House was robbed and several paintings, including a priceless work of art by Vermeer, were stolen.  Authorities suspected Martin Cahill, a notorious Dublin gangster, of the theft; however, having no proof, they could never make an arrest, until one mistake broke the case wide open.  One member said it was an interesting story as it combines art thievery and the mob, but another member didn’t enjoy it nearly as much, claiming it didn’t quite hold the same appeal.

Members also revisited Confessions of a Sociopath:  A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight by M.E. Thomas.  Another one of our Nevermore members had the opportunity to comment on it, leaving us with two differing reviews:  one positive, one negative.  After reading a handful of pages, our Nevermore reader just couldn’t become involved.  Some chapters were great, but others weren’t.  For example, in the earliest pages of the book, Thomas inserts an anecdote about her earlier life that left our reader with the feeling it was added only for shock value, leaving her with a very negative impression.

One Nevermore reader had several books to share, including The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, Empire of the Summer Moon:  Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches by S.C. Gwynne, and The Devil in the White City:  A Saga of Magic and Murder at the World Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson.

The Art of Racing in the Rain is a story about family, specifically Enzo, a loyal and highly intelligent dog, and his family.  Chronicling events surrounding his family as they struggle to fix relationships, as they endure the hardships of the race circuit (Denny Swift, Enzo’s owner, being an up-and-coming race car driver), Enzo offers a candid picture of “the wonders and absurdities of human only a dog could tell it.  For our Nevermore reader, it was a great book, having a very good ending and a very sweet story.

Empire of the Summer Moon, likewise, received great reviews from our readers.  Set in the middle of the nineteenth century, S.C. Gwynne’s book follows the rise and fall of the Comanche Indians, one of the most powerful and fiercest Native American tribes on the North American continent.  Following the life of Cynthia Ann Parker, who was kidnapped at the age of nine and eventually became a member of the Comanche tribe, and her son, Quanah, Empire of the Summer Moon chronicles a vivid story about the clashes between American settlers and native tribes.  Both our readers who had the opportunity to read it said it was excellent, being very well-written and very interesting as a work of nonfiction.

Additionally, our Nevermore reader called The Devil in the White City “fabulous, absolutely fabulous.”  Set during in Chicago in 1893, The Devil in the White City chronicles events surrounding and within the “White City” that served as the location for the World’s Fair.  Although Erik Larson’s book chronicles various feats of engineering, including the creation of the first Ferris Wheel and the astounding architecture of the city itself, he also follows the startling story of a serial killer who stalked the World’s Fair.  As one reader said, “It was fascinating,” like reading a work of fiction that’s startlingly true.

Last on our list was Stuff Matters by Mark Miodownik.  A piece of nonfiction concerning the origins and creation of “stuff,” Stuff Matters approaches all kinds of stuff, dealing with things that seem inconsequential - like a paper clip, or a nail - but are actually really important, things that one may never even think about.  More importantly, Stuff Matters deals with the how and the why, providing insight into the creation of the simple things that everyone encounters in their daily life.  According to our Nevermore reader, this novel was filled with a lot of little oddities, being “a book about stuff, but never [being] stuffy.”

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