Thursday, December 13, 2018

DECEMBER 2018 BOOKERS MINUTES & MUSINGS, Mr. Dickens and His Carol, by Samantha Silva

           Aren’t we all angels in training…just waiting to spread our wings and fly?

25 Bookers joined together to celebrate the holidays at the home of Bonnie Magee in her dual role of hostess and food czar extraordinaire. Many thanks to her for coordinating our fare and to all those who brought yummy sustenance to soak up the spirits as we toasted the season of joy and good tidings. If there was a Bah Humbug among us a Mimosa took care of it.

As we’ve done in the past, our community rallies when one of our “own” needs to be lifted by the warmth of our caring arms. Sheri Green is participating in clinical trials and will undergo a CT scan on December 17 to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment. On my front porch (315 St. Andrews Drive) is a “Boost Sheri Christmas Tin” and we are asking that you please add a note of encouragement; a poem; a quote; a prayer; or simply that you wanted her to know you are thinking of her…anything that might put a smile on her face. Also, if you prefer, email me and I’ll print out your message and include it in the tin, which will be placed on her front porch the morning of the 17th. Thank you for your compassion.

Everyone had either read Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” or had seen one of the movies or plays of this classic. He changed the way we see Christmas forever by featuring how the Ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future showed a crotchety old miser the error of his ways reminding Mr. Scrooge what it means to have love in his heart.

In her novel, Samantha Silva details how she imagined Charles Dickens came to write this timeless classic. Charles is not in the spirit of the season. His latest book is a flop, the critics have turned against him, and his relatives hound him for money while his wife is planning a lavish holiday party. He doesn’t have “sugar plums dancing in his head” …only visions of the poor house as his publishers try to blackmail him into writing a Christmas book to save them all from financial ruin, which he refuses. To make matters worse, he has lost his muse, his great palace of thinking, the city of London, has forsaken him, and he’s experiencing a serious bout with writer’s block.

Within the context of the novel not only did the author detail how she imagined Charles Dickens came to write “A Christmas Carol,” she shared the secret to storytelling and the challenges every author no matter their credentials face at some time or another…insecurities, writer’s block, self-worth dictated by reader loyalty, self-doubt coupled with criticism, especially from peers. A “shank” in golf and a “block” in writing have the same DNA as they saturate your subconscious with negativity. Victor Hugo increased his caffeine intake threefold and stripped naked instructing his staff not to return his clothes until he met his deadline. On the practice tee one day I saw the “shank” in person as my hubby, a pretty decent golfer in his own right, hit an entire bag of balls dead right. I innocently asked if he was doing this on purpose. His response was not G-rated. Both dilemmas require burying the words deeply hoping they never resurface.

Ms. Silva drew on the truths of Mr. Dickens’ life as his celebrity had faded, he was deeply in debt, his fifth child was on the way, and his publishers threatened to deduct monthly from his paycheck, which would have ruined him at the time. One of the great ironies of his creation of “A Christmas Carol” is that it was created and written in six weeks because of his financial situation, but the result was the clearest example of his vision of the world, not only at Christmas but for all time…we must be responsible for those who have less and generosity is the only antidote for our selfishness, greed, and miserliness. Interestingly, because he wanted it priced so people could afford to buy it, even offering to pay for it himself, he didn’t make money on this novel.

Rebecca Brisendine did an excellent job of leading the discussion of this month’s selection using Dickens’ reflections on his past, present, and future to compare with our own. In addressing the significance of the City of London to Dickens’ life and livelihood, we reflected on the influences of our own stomping grounds…are we products of where we grew up? We talked about the usages of clocks in the novel and how each one signaled a different meaning. We spoke of Dickens’ view of his past filled with social injustice, his present producing an ever-enlarging world, his future filled with uncertainty. We wished our actress, Bernie Crudden, had been there to give us some insight into an actor’s role in character development. Most were shocked at the ending to find Eleanor was indeed a ghost although several “tells” were planted by the author to suggest this…her payroll records and that she left no footprints. We asked who dressed him in his disguise if she wasn’t really there and marveled at the detail used in describing the chemistry between the two…and what was the purpose of the “ghost” factor – maybe to make the relationship between Eleanor and Charles more acceptable given he was married and a father of five. Several had issues that it seemingly took so long to name his newborn. The author says, “a biography tells the truth of a person, whereby a story tells the truth about us.”

                               Look inside and you will find an abundant of blessings.
    On the business side:
Great news…a new independent bookstore opened nearby…Athens Alley Books & Boutique is stocked and ready for shoppers. It is located at 408 North Prairieville, a couple of blocks north of the square.
RED:              CHALLENGING
Jan. 8, 2019:    The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Set in Alaska in 1974. The ultimate test of survival for a family in crisis.
                        Discussion Leader: Patty Evans
Home of Daryl Daniels
February 12:   The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor
Set in 1917 England and based on a true story, two young cousins somehow convince the world that the magic exists.
                        PALE PINK
                        Discussion Leader: Daryl Daniels
                        Home of Beverly Dossett
March 12:        Stormy Weather by Paulette Jiles
Set in East Texas during the depression, a story of hardship, sacrifice, and strength.
                        Discussion Leader: Ann Ireland
                        Home of Melanie Prebis
April 9:          Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen, Sarah Bird
A forgotten part of history detailing the hidden story of Cathy Williams, a former slave and the only woman to ever serve with the legendary Buffalo Soldiers.
Discussion Leader: TBD
                        Home of Aulsine DeLoach
May 14:           Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens
Set in the 1950’s in very rural North Carolina revolving around a young woman named Kya Clark – celebrating strength through tragedy and the resourcefulness of a child left to fend for herself in the swamp.
Discussion Leader: Jean Alexander
                        Evening Wine & Cheese Meeting at the home of TBD        
Summer Read: Book TB
                      He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.
Happy Reading,

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