Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Nevermore: Douglass, Birkett, Nash, Berg, Gowar, DeForest Krugman

Reported by Jeanne

Our Nevermore Book Club readers have diverse tastes.  That’s what makes it so much fun: everyone reads what they choose and then gives their opinions to the group, often prompting someone else to try the same book. Sometimes everyone loves a particular book; other books produce contradictory reactions. There’s also a mix of old and new, light-hearted books and deeply philosophical ones, classics and newly published.

This week opened with an essay by Frederick Douglass, “On Slavery and the Civil War.” Our reviewer said he was ashamed it had taken him so long to pick up Douglass’ writing but he was glad he had because of the thoughtfulness of the comments and the elegant expression of ideas.  The essay was passed around and several members read sentences aloud that impressed them.  The original reader said he was definitely going to read more by Douglass.

For lighter moments, he was reading the poems of Ogden Nash.  Nash, who died in 1971, was known far and wide for his light and humorous verse. 

Our second reader was enthralled with Norse Myths by Tom Birkett, a beautifully illustrated and fascinating retelling of the myths.  While she admitted it sometimes got confusing between the Vanir, Aesir, Frost Giants, and actual historical personages of Norway and Sweden, she thoroughly enjoyed the book and recommended it to everyone.  She pointed out the influence that these stories had on Tolkien and Wagner.

The next book has long been a favorite at Nevermore: it just keeps making the rounds.  Elizabeth Berg’s The Story of Arthur Truluv features the title character, a widower who visits his late wife’s grave, and a teenage girl he meets in the cemetery. The two form an unlikely bond. Our reviewer could not put the book down; it grabs your heart and won’t let go.

A second book by Berg did not fare as well.  What We Keep is the story of two sisters, Ginny and Sharla, who were abandoned by their mother decades ago.  While their mother attempted to keep in contact at first, the girls rebuffed her.  Now a family crisis has prompted them to attempt a reconciliation.  Our reviewer said this book about mothers and daughters was good, but not Berg’s best.

The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock is a debut novel by Imogen Hermes Gowar.  Jonah Hancock is more than a little taken aback when his ship’s captain shows up at his door announcing that he has sold the entire ship for something rare:  a mermaid, a dried specimen with a fish tail, teeth, and claws.  In an effort to recoup at least some of his losses, Hancock decides to put the mermaid on display for a fee.  He has no idea how much this is going to change his life.  Professional reviewers praised the book’s 18th century setting and the historical accuracy. Our reader concurred, adding, “It was weird, but I liked it.”

Women who changed film is the topic of Dynamic Dames:  50 Leading Ladies Who Made History by Sloan De Forest. The book covers both the actors and the characters portrayed, being in the 1920s and going into the 21st century.  The lineup includes Josephine Baker, Zhang Ziyi, Meryl Streep, Dorothy Dandridge, Gal Gadot, and Bette Davis. It features lovely pictures as well as good information about how women have influenced the movie industry.

Finally, Paul Krugman’s Arguing with Zombies is a collection of essays about various economic topics such as social security and health care.  It is a very good book, the Nevermore member said, but it can also be a hard book. Some of the essays originally ran as columns in The New York Times.

No comments:

Post a Comment