September 2015: When Irish Eyes Are Reading

Every month, Roxanne's Dear Reader talks about the books she is most excited about, authors coming to the store who she can't wait to meet, and anything else that is on her mind.

 

Dear Reader,
 
I'm writing to you from a train in Ireland traveling two hours to the southeast from Dromod to Dublin. We have just come from a 70th birthday party for Kevin's sister Ellie at the ye old Bohan homestead in Mohill, (Kevin's mom's side of the family — not many Hungarian Jews from my family settled in Ireland)! It was festive with an after-party at a pub in Carrick on Shannon with an ever-growing group of musicians playing traditional Irish music. The homestead was bucolic with a beautiful pasture on the edge of a pond and a dozen cows wandering about the property. Above all, the days were about family and connections.
 
 
Being in this beautiful, literary-rich country (if you need reminding, take a look at the picture  I took at the Long Room at Trinity College), reminds me of the joy of fine fiction that envelops you in the lives of its characters. There are times that I put down one fiction book after another without finishing them — they just feel like I read that story before — not learning something new or thinking about something differently. The last few books I have picked up are exactly the opposite — I can't put them down, the characters fascinate, amuse or provoke me and the writing is wonderful. As you can imagine this all makes me deliriously happy!
 
First and foremost is Bill Clegg's Did You Ever Have a Family. If you only read one fiction book this fall, this should be it — it was recently long-listed for the Man Booker prize. Clegg uses the device of short chapters from the perspective of key and seemingly peripheral characters to tell a story of grief and loss. I was immediately riveted, attached, interested and concerned about them all. As they cope with their grief and regrets, you share their emotions, you learn from their mistakes, you commiserate — you want to talk with them, hug them. This exquisite book will linger with me for a long time -- and will encourage conversations we want to have with others who read the book. We are so fortunate that Bill will be here to discuss his book on October 1 — I encourage you to read it before he stops by; sign up quickly, here. This book has gotten and will get huge press and I would hate for you to miss the opportunity to meet and hear him. (I think the review in The New York Times has it all wrong!)
 
The second fiction book you need to read is Fates and Furies -- you might think of it as a literate Gone Girl. (This New York Times review has it right.) If you want a third, read Sweet Caress by William Boyd, a novel that languidly draws you in and when you're finished you realize just how much fun you had. I could go on and on but just encourage you to check these books out.
 
Before leaving for Ireland, I attended a screening of The End of the Tour that we co-hosted with Madison Art Cinemas, and it included a talk by our friend and Pulitzer Prize-winner Donald Margulies who wrote the screenplay.  The movie is based on journalist David Lipsky's interviews with David Foster Wallace during the Infinite Jest book tour. Infinite Jest sits on my bookshelf unread as it does with most people, but it wasn't until I attended the screening that I thought back to Wallace's interview with Charlie Rose in the late 1990's and his Kenyon College speech, among others. My fascination with Wallace had been renewed and it made me want to take Infinite Jest off the bookshelf and start reading it again, as well as his short story collections. (In fact, since the movie's release, Infinite Jest has found a new audience and sales in our store and nationwide reflect this.)
 
Now remember the book I mentioned earlier, Sweet Caress? This is a quote from the introduction:
 
"However long your stay on this small planet lasts, and whatever happens during it, the most important thing is that — from time to time — you feel life's sweet caress."
 
It made me think of the new empty nesters among you and how you're handling your newfound "freedom." I have a couple of ideas — we have a display downstairs filled with adult coloring books, they're the hottest trend, and it reminded me of the playfulness of coloring as a kid, so start with that — now's the time to color with abandon! Next, there's plenty to do here, you can take your time in the store or attend an event without anyone needing to rush home. You can even start your own book club — we have a book club soiree coming up that will give you some ideas, you can register for it here.
 
In closing, I still consider September the start of a new year--some of it is the vestige of starting school (the excitement of new pencils, new notebooks and a new pencil box) and the other is that it is the Jewish New Year.   The grown-up me's  (so to speak) version of a new pencil box is contemplating all that is possible for the new year.
 
With that I'd like to leave you with these words that we'll be reciting at our synagogue this Rosh Hashanah:
 
May my mind come alive today
To the invisible geography
That invited me to new frontiers
To break the dead shelf of yesterdays
To risk being disturbed and changed
May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love
To postpone my dream no longer
But do at last what I came here for
And waste my heart on fear no more
 
With warmest wishes for the fall version of a new year.
 
See you in the store,
Roxanne J. Coady
P.S. To be able to announce that we're hosting the brilliant Brian Selznick for his latest masterpiece, The Marvels is thrilling. He is the genius behind The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Scorsese's movie was based on his book) and Wonderstruck (now being made into a movie). The multi-media presentation is unlike any we've ever held...it showcases Brian's innovation and creativity and you won't want to miss it. The event is being held at the First Congregational Church in Madison on September 17 and you can click here for more info. Don't miss it!
 
P.P.S. I forgot to mention that I am reading Anne Enright's The Green Road. This is the quintessential Irish book and reminds me of the ability of the great Irish writers like William Trevor and Ann Enright to tell stories that are powerful, spare and important.