This is our reading group’s raffle page. I am guessing you are thinking, “What is a raffle page?” I will tell you. This is how it works: On this page books will be listed that have the potential of being selected for reading in the coming months. I’ll put up a picture, the title, author and a brief description. You can check them out and read the info and then comment on how interesting or how boring it sounds to you. You can also comment in with suggestions of things that you want to read and think may be a good selection for our club. Books that get the most positive feedback will most likely be used at some point and books that get no comments or negative feedback will have no friends. We will be sad for those books, but we most likely will not read them as a group.
Reads for June
The Best American Essays of the Century
“Here is a history of America told in many voices,” declares Oates in her introduction, revealing the heart of her intelligent and incisive collection of 55 essays by American writers. Never attempting to capture or replicate a single, authentic “American identity,” this collection succeeds by producing a comprehensive and multifaceted look at what America has been and, by extension, what it is and might become. While it’s not explicitly political, the volume’s multicultural intentions are visible. Beginning with “Cone-pone Opinions,” a 1901 Mark Twain essay that uses the wisdom of an African-American child as its central image, Oates has fashioned a collection that calls attention to the way that “America” is made up of competing, and often antagonistic, cultural and social visions. There is not only the apparent contrast between the populist, overtly political visions of W.E.B. Du Bois’s “Of the Coming of John,” James Baldwin’s “Notes of a Native Son” and Mary McCarthy’s “Artists in Uniform” and the cultural elitism of T.S. Eliot’s “Tradition and the Individual Talent.” Oates has managed to find numerous pieces whose vision and philosophy resonate with one another without becoming homogeneous, so Gretel Ehrlich’s meditation on pastoral aesthetics in “The Solace of Open Spaces” contrasts abruptly and ingeniously with Susan Sontag’s urban-centered “Notes on Camp.” In all, Oates has assembled a provocative collection of masterpieces reflecting both the fragmentation and surprising cohesiveness of various American identities.
Wilsey’s Eggersesque memoir of growing up rich and dysfunctional is dependent for effect on its deadpan, forthright tone of voice, underscoring the impact of his humorous, unsettled childhood. Brick performs this with flair, inhabiting that voice with ease. Born to a wealthy older father and San Franciscan socialite, Wilsey had a childhood that combined overwhelming privilege with an unusual family dynamic (his father divorced his mother and married her best friend). He mines his lonely childhood amid the lap of luxury for its absurdist comic potential, finding nuggets of humor in the wreckage of a fortunate yet empty upbringing. Brick underplays the comic and emotional undercurrents with poker-faced sophistication. His oft-hushed tones belie the comedy of situations; he renders lines like “Sean, I have hot flashes…. I just thought you’d want to know what’s going on with your mother” with as little fuss as possible. Capturing Wilsey’s knowing, self-mocking tone, Brick’s performance of this confusing, bittersweet childhood is, like the book itself, just the right mixture of comic and tragic.