Wednesday, June 16, 2010

BookLook June 24 "The Imperfectionists"

“The Imperfectionists” by Tom Rachman is a novel for those of us who appreciate newspapers in this day of digital dominance. We are the people who like to turn the page with a soft rustle. It makes us laugh to read a misspelled word that turns into a malapropism as it slips past a proofreader relying on Spellcheck. We enjoy the individual style and personality of each columnist and article author. We want to read something that took time to research and write and not just listen to the hasty opinions attached to the nightly news performances on T.V.
The cast of characters in Rachman’s debut novel is made up of memorable misfits connected to each other by a dying newspaper. Ten chapters, ten employees, and a back-story to explain the history of its founding by a wealthy American in 1953. The paper is an English language daily in Rome, which is about to be closed down since the corporate office in America cannot see any profitability in continuing to publish thirty-five years later.
Each chapter title is assigned a headline. “World’s Oldest Liar dies at 126” tells the story of the obituary writer, Arthur Gopal. Arthur has a boss he describes as “a resentful Alabamian with a toilet-brush mustache and an inability to maintain eye contact.” Arthur muses, “If history has taught us anything, it is that men with mustaches must never achieve positions of power.” As the obituary writer Arthur ‘s goal is indolence, “to publish as infrequently as possible and to sneak away when no one is looking. He is realizing these professional ambitions spectacularly.”
Slipped in between chapters eight and ten we find the story of a reader of the paper instead of an employee. Ornella De Monterecchi is a widow who is slowly working her way through every page of the paper. Since it takes her several days for each daily edition, she is hopelessly behind reading the news of 1994 in 2007. “These are her today headlines…””Mandela Set to Win South Africa Elections”, “Cold War Over, Hot War Begins.”
It’s not necessary to be a newspaper fan to enjoy “The Imperfectionists”. The short story in every chapter style is brilliant for a book about a newspaper where long embellished descriptions cannot be printed. This original novel by a former foreign correspondent for the Associated Press makes us regret canceling our newspaper subscription and validates the small cost of supporting journalism with all it’s imperfections.

Monday, June 14, 2010

BookLook June 17 "Elegance of the Hedgehog"

“The Elegance of the Hedgehog”
My daughter Alyssa and I started our own little book club this month. There’s just two members, living 2,000 miles apart in Chicago and Springville. She came up with the idea to take turns buying two books, one for her and one for me and then reading it together and talking about it by phone and email. Brilliant! Book clubs are all the rage lately and are made up of friends, neighbors, co-workers even congregation members. There are lots of good things about traditional book clubs and we plan to enjoy every one of them – except the treats at the end of the evening.
Our founder chose “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” by Muriel Barbery for the first book to discuss. Translated from the French novel published in 2006 it is a best seller in Europe and the Americas. This is a great book filled with the beauty of language. It does require more concentration and dedication but it is worth the effort. More than a year on the New York Times Bestseller list doesn’t always equal a book we like but in this case the critics and millions of readers were right. “Both of the book’s protagonists create eloquent little essays on time, beauty and the meaning of life, Renee with erudition and Paloma with adolescent brio.” We agree enthusiastically with this blurb from the NYT reviewer.
The novel is written diary style with the chapters revealing the thoughts and point of view of the twelve-year-old Paloma and the fifty-four year old Renee. They share a building in Paris where Renee lives literally on the bottom level as the impoverished concierge, and Paloma lives with her wealthy family above. Both live publicly according to the expectations of their social positions and privately share a passion for learning. Events bring them together and the story begins.
As Alyssa said in our recent book club phone call, “I feel like I want to read it with a yellow highlighter since there are so many great one-liners on every page.” Here’s just one example I marked in my copy describing Paloma watching an art film she rented from the library. “From time to time I rewind, thanks to this secular rosary known as the remote control.”
If you are looking for a book that is a little unusual for your book club I would recommend “The Elegance of the Hedgehog”. Whether your group has ten members or two it will be an enjoyable read and an interesting discussion.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Dominic Jonathan's Baby Blessing

Nico was blessed on Sunday with all our children able to attend including Alyssa. Although Mike and Alyssa had to race to the airport that evening we had a wonderful family event together.Here he is being held by his beautiful mom ready to go to the church.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I do - the rest of the story

Alyssa posted the lovely pictures of her best friend's wedding, but I alone will share ... the rest of the story. This is the only picture of us taken by the fabulous Camille who did the bride's hair. Notice Alyssa is holding the ring pillow? 5 minutes after the bride is supposed to walk down the isle they are standing outside the barn door wondering who has the rings! "Run back to the house and ask Alyssa where they are!" Alyssa runs across the lawn, over the pond bridge and up the gravel drive with the pillow - POP! One heel snaps off of her beautiful orange high heeled shoes. Does that slow her down? No! She is unstoppable. The entire wedding was held up as Camille rushed back to the house to get Alyssa's flats that she has been wearing all day to help set up and decorate. Phew,another happy ending. And that's the rest of the story.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

BookLook June 9 "The Girl of his Dreams"

“The Girl of His Dreams”
You know how I love a narrator with an English accent? Well, an Italian accent is even better! “The Girl of His Dreams” by Donna Leon has been my book on CD this last week and the Commissario Guido Brunetti is once again my co-pilot as I navigate the beautiful highways and byways of Utah. I wish I was navigating the fetid canals of Venice instead. This series of Italian crime novels set in Venice is buon reading and buon listening. Although it’s not necessary you may want to start with the first one “Death at La Fenice” written in1992. Ah, Venice – bella cita.

A body is found floating near the steps of one of Venice’s side canals. It’s a young gypsy girl and she has been dead for a few days. Why hasn’t anyone reported this child missing? And why hasn’t anyone reported the gold jewelry it appears she has stolen? Brunetti searches for her family and the truth as he struggles with prejudice and corruption. The reader despairs for justice as Brunetti seems unable to penetrate the cultural barriers of the gypsy refugees. He is also thwarted by his superiors who want the case closed with a verdict of accidental drowning since a powerful family is involved in the crime. It seems prejudice and politics are international barriers to crime fighting.

The cast of continuing characters includes his endearing wife Paola an English literature professor from an aristocratic Venetian family, his loyal sidekick Sergente Vianello, his vain corrupt boss Vice-questore Patta, and my favorite- the smart and very sneaky secretary Signorina Elettra. Signorina Elettra has shady connections to access any information to aid Brunetti in his fight for right and her ability to work around her boss is award winning. Despite the mafia, internal political pressures, and government corruption, the commissario continues working on the case. Brunetti must once again decide if exposing the truth is worth sacrificing his career. Buon giorno and buona lettura!