Saturday, January 28, 2012

JANUARY 2012 BOOKERS MINUTES - The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman

If you believe the Mayan prediction of the end of the world coming on December 21, 2012, we need to make hay while the sun shines – many books to read, so little time.
Just in case this proves true – thanks for the memories.

Melba has loaned her Cookbook Collector to someone and cannot remember to whom.  Her name is in it and she wants to reread the book.  Please contact her directly if you can help.

Thank you to everyone who offered get-well wishes, thoughts, prayers, and sentiments to dear John Tucker, who is in the midst of a battle with bladder cancer.  We hand-delivered the cards to his daughter’s house today and we know he will appreciate the kindness, love, and support we feel for our treasured friend.

20 met at the home of Bonnie Magee, co-hosted by Patty Evans, on a day in which we could wring the water out of the sky and anticipate a lake on the rise.  Beverly Dossett did a wonderful job of leading the review of The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman with its two storylines – the world of the technology explosion in Silicon Valley meets collectors of rare books – intertwined with a cast of colorful and contrasting characters.  Her family of scholars surrounded Ms. Goodman with philosophy, biology, arts, and science contributing to her own credentials; a Harvard graduate majoring in philosophy and English with a PhD in English Literature from Stanford.  Add it together and you can understand why every word, sentence, paragraph, chapter…was relevant and purposeful throughout the three hundred and ninety-six pages of the novel.  Absorbing this expertise through osmosis would have been easier than trying to dissect and analyze each element of the book, but clearly not as challenging or rewarding.  The sentences beautifully constructed, the dialogue rich and meaningful, and with her narrative forming the spine, we are treated to“ a delicious novel about appetite, temptation, and fulfillment” leaving no one to wonder that she “deserves to wear the mantle of (the contemporary) Jane Austen.”

We were asked to close our eyes and silently answer these questions: Who was the cookbook collector in this novel and are you one?

In a book about hunger and acquisition and whether to follow or improvise, we find a tale of two sisters; Emily, graduate of M.I.T., chief executive of a start-up technology company is oddly old-fashioned in her private life yearning for marriage, kids, and the scent of fresh-baked muffins drifting through the house; Jessamine, a graduate student in philosophy studies Hume trying to understand human nature, is a reckless romantic who “collects people” and wanders into magical encounters.  Different as night and day in their ideologies, they are polar opposites in the men they choose or who choose them.  Emily’s Jonathan is driven and fearless, his character coming to the forefront when he betrays her using the logic that lies are “only futures waiting to come true.”  Jess prefers the company of tree-huggers and fanatics, until George, the retired first-generation Microsoft millionaire, who owns a dusty bookshop enters the picture. As Emily’s personal life was falling apart, Jess and George continue to skip around their attraction to each other, but when a rare collection of cookbooks becomes their bond, the reader is finally satisfied at a love ready to blossom.

As if the plot needed to be thickened, we are introduced to a Hasidic rabbi, whose name, Helfgott, translates to “With the Help of God.” The author uses this segment as an instrument for unearthing family secrets and calls on a simple Jewish philosophy, although a Messianic issue – When?  “When will we die…When will we find love…When will be betrayed…When will we find happiness…When will we recognize the value of what we already have?”

Jonathan dies on September 11th and Emily learns of his betrayal at his memorial service; George rescues Jess from a tree and she agrees to marry him; the girls are united with their mother’s sister, their Jewish aunt exposing a heritage they didn’t know existed; Jess is finishing her PhD dissertation; and Emily explores more family ties and embarks on another business venture, a start up social network.  It appears the happy-ever-after bird blew into conclusion of the novel leading us to evaluate what is really valuable…is it company stock, a person’s promise, a forest of redwoods, a collection of rare books, or is it the people we hold most dear that matters most?  During George and Jess’s wedding ceremony, the Rabbi spoke of King Solomon’s riches and asked what good comes from collecting such things.  “Where do we find God when He is so great, transcending our comprehension?  The answer, “We find Him in each other.”

Our group discussion was lively with friendly battle lines being drawn between the I loved every word, every page, every reference – sheer joy from cover to cover side – to I read it and still haven’t a clue what it was about and who cares what font they used and why devote pages to the ripeness of peaches.  Some preferred the IPO technology angle, others the literary and philosophical twists.  We talked about how throughout the novel the characters seemed to use the things in their lives to replace people – i.e. collectors. We talked of the importance of having someone to share experiences with…we pondered the role of asparagus (look it up) and the seduction of a warm bath…the choices of names and their meanings, and the art, literary, philosophical and even wine references abundant throughout the novel.  The book was touted as a historical look at the evolution of the technology era exploding hourly with new advances and the fierceness of the competition driving IPO’s to produce “paper” worth in the millions of dollars without a profit or sometimes even nothing more than an idea.  The book dealt with environmental issues and waste to a mother’s hopes for her daughters.  The discussion proved why the color- coding on this novel was red and pointed out how different each of us read – that’s what we’re all about folks.  Thanks to everyone for asking pertinent questions, participating in the discussion, listening, and most of all respecting our diverse opinions. Most of us were confused as to the meaning of the poem Orion’s father read at Jonathan’s memorial service.  We are going to contact the author to see if she can enlighten us.

We all collect things, objects, but the investment we make in people is what is important in life.

On the business side:

A listing on with membership of 32,000 book clubs, lists their top 10 books for 2011: Room, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Unbroken, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter & Sweet, Little Bee, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Cutting for Stone, Water for Elephants, The Paris Wife, The Help, Sarah’s Key – we seem to be in line with what other clubs are enjoying – 70% we have selected, the rest are on our recommended reading list.

We have been asked to hold our collection (there’s that word again) of monies for the Pinnacle Women’s Club golf tournament until the details are finalized.  We’ll keep you posted.

We made a mistake when selecting the top 5 books for the remainder of the year.  We have three selections that have not been assigned and only one month available.  MN & I have not yet come up with a treasure for April so the group voted to send A Fierce Radiance to the recommended reading list, move The Art of Fielding to April, and Unbroken to our summer read.  Our May meeting has also been moved to May 1st due to a conflict on the regular date and will be a book exchange and discussion.


                                    WHITE:                       LIGHT READ
                                    PINK:                          MODERATELY CHALLENGING
                                    RED:                            CHALLENGING

February 14th:               The Paris Wife by Paula McClain
                                    Home of Daryl Daniels, co-hosted by Janet Noblitt
                                    Reviewer: Patty Evans

Since we are meeting on Valentine’s Day, if you so choose, please wear pink, red, and/or white, our color-coding colors in a tribute to V’Day.

March 13th:                  Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese
                                    Recommended by Beverly Dossett, Lee Durso, Alison Crawford,
                                    Jane Freer, Melanie Prebis, Jean McSpadden
                                    Home of Lee Durso, co-hosted by Kay Robinson
                                    Reviewer: Lee Durso

April 10th:                     The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
                                    Not yet rated
                                    Home of Donna Walter, co-hosted by Charlotte Pechacek
                                    Reviewers: Pat Faherty and Melba Holt

May 1st :                       5th Annual Wine & Cheese Evening Meeting, 6:00 PM
                                    Home of Melanie Prebis, co-hosted by Linsey Garwacki
                                    Book sharing meeting & discussion
Note change of date
                                    Bonnie Magee, Food czar will coordinate the menu

Summer read:               Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
                                    Reviewer: Patty Evans
                                    September host to be determined

In case you’re curiosity didn’t compel you Google, a palimpsest is an overwritten manuscript – one in which the old words can be read beneath the new – inamorata is the literary word for lover, and of course a lichenologist studies algae and fungus growing on rocks…even Galadriel, the 2,000 year old redwood destined for the lumber yard, is the same as ‘Lady’ Galadriel in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of Rings, “…the depths of (her) eyes…wells of deep memory.”  And yes, philosophers, Hume, Locke, and Berkeley are in my recent history cache.  Philosophy is defined literally as love of wisdom.  Mine seems to be the thirst for the underlining of the story…what is the author trying to tell us?
Ask yourself…If you lived in the Renaissance era, wouldn’t you paint?

                                     Look familiar? - I know - palimpsest...inamorata...lichenologist
Happy Reading,

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