Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
1. In the title essay, Ephron writes, “ . . . I have been forgetting things for years, but now I forget in a new way” [p.5]. How do the examples she uses capture the difference between her past and present ways of forgetting?
2. Does Ephron’s list of the symptoms of old age mirror your own experiences or things you have observed in older friends or relatives [p.6]? What does Ephron’s inability to identify the celebrities in People magazine, for example, reflect about the different interests that naturally develop as we get older? How does this relate to Ephron’s list of what she “refuses to know anything about” [p. 10]?
3. Ephron writes about the start of her career as a writer in “Journalism: A Love Story.” Does the essay explain the rather unusual subtitle she has chosen? What does the atmosphere she encountered at Newsweek show about the times?
4. “The Legend” offers a colorful portrait of Ephron’s childhood surrounded by Hollywood and literary celebrities, including her mother, a highly successful screenwriter, and the noted New Yorker writer, Lillian Ross. What does the anecdote at the heart of the essay, as well as the vignette about her graduation, convey about Ephron’s feelings for her mother? How does she capture the ambivalence experienced by a child of an alcoholic?
5. What does “Twenty-five Things People Have a Shocking Capacity to Be Surprised by Over and Over Again” reveal about human nature and our tendency to accept conventional beliefs despite lots of evidence to the contrary? What particular needs, emotions, or prejudices perpetuate our “capacity to be surprised”? Which entries resonated with you? What would you add to her list?
6. “The Six Stages of E-Mail” is a very funny chronicle of Ephron’s evolving reactions to e-mail. Do you share her mixed feelings about e-mail and more recent (and, perhaps, more intrusive) technological advances like Facebook and other social networks? Have these new forms of communication made life easier or more complicated?
7. In one of the most moving pieces in the collection, Ephron describes the traditional Christmas dinners she shared with friends for twenty-two years and the changes that occur when Ruthie, one of the participants, dies. What does “Christmas Dinner” reveal about the particular pain of losing friends as you get older?
8. Ephron writes, “The realization that I may only have a few good years remaining has hit me with a real force . . . ” [p. 129]. How do her memories of her younger years inform her feelings of loss and how do they shape her approach to the years to come?
9. Several essays are entitled “I Just Want to Say” and go on to explore a specific topic. What do these pieces have in common? What do they and her short, funny, and to-the-point personal revelations like “My Aruba,” “Going to the Movies,” “Addicted to L-U-V,” and “My Life as a Meatloaf” contribute to the shape and impact of the collection?
10.Reread the lists (“What I Won’t Miss” and “What I Will Miss”) at the end of I Remember Nothing and create your own versions highlighting what you cherish—as well as you’d gladly give up.
Friday, October 21, 2011
By the end of World War II, Silvana is a ghost of the wife Janusz once had. She and their 7-year-old son Aurek travel from Poland to England to reunite their family--a family that has been separated for 6 years. That's where 22 Britannia Road, Amanda Hodgkinson's stunning debut novel, begins. As the past unfolds from multiple points of view, it becomes clear that despite their determination to make a fresh start, the hidden secrets of the past threaten to destroy Silvana and Janusz's dreams of becoming a family once again. The irreversible events that passed during their years of separation still linger, including the horrors of war, Janusz's betrayal by a love affair with another woman, and the devastating secret that Silvana will do anything to conceal.
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
On the ship to England, Silvana is asked if she's a housekeeper or housewife. Why does this question jar her?
Aurek thinks of Janusz as "the enemy." How do his feelings change over the course of the book, and why?
Hodgkinson toggles back and forth from the past to the present in this novel. How does telling the story in this particular way affect the experience for the reader? Could she have told it in any other way?
Janusz longs for an English life. What are some of the things he does to try to adapt and assimilate to his new homeland?
The relationship between Silvana and Janusz and their English neighbors Doris and Gilbert is complicated. Do you believe they are genuinely friends?
Silvana is obsessed with discarded clothes and photographs of children. What do these objects represent for her, and how do they comfort or help her?
What is it that draws Silvana to Tony? How does her relationship with Tony differ from her relationship with Janusz?
When he learns the truth about Silvana, Janusz tears up his English garden and begins planting trees. What does this act accomplish for him?
Almost everyone in this novel has a secret—is there any instance in which keeping the secret might have been better in the end? Are secrets always destructive in relationships?
In the final third of the book, there's a shocking revelation about Silvana's past. How did you react to this development? How did it make you feel about her as a character?
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
In a quirky farmhouse outside Boston, 70-year-old Percy Darling enjoys a vigorous but mostly solitary life — until, in a complex scheme to help his oldest daughter through a crisis, he allows a progressive preschool to move into his barn. The abrupt transformation of Percy’s rural refuge into a lively, youthful community compels him to reexamine the choices he’s made since his wife’s death, three decades ago, in a senseless accident that haunts him still. No longer can he remain aloof from his neighbors, his two grown daughters, or, to his shock, the precarious joy of falling in love. With equal parts affection and satire, Julia Glass spins a captivating tale about the loyalties, rivalries, and secrets of a very particular family.
1. From the stories characters remember and tell, what kind of mother was Poppy?
2. How do Percy's age, background and profession shape the way he thinks about the world around him? How do others describe Percy, and how does he describe himself?
3. By the end of the novel, how has Percy changed/evolved?
4. Why has Percy not been with any women since Poppy's death? Is it habit and routine, nostalgia and commitment to his wife, or guilt over her death; or a combination of all three?
5. Why is the novel called The Widower's Tale? What do you think of this allusion to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales?
6. This is a novel about family and the intricacies of the intertwining relationships between family members. Discuss and compare some of the central familial relationships in the novel.
7. Discuss the importance of the tree house in the novel. What does it represent, if anything, for the four main characters?
8. How have libraries changed over the course of Percy's working in one, through his youth, his daughter's youths, and now Robert's youth? Percy doesn't seem to approve of the direction libraries are going. Do you?
9. "Daughters. This word meant everything to me in that moment: sun, moon, stars, blood, water (oh curse the water!), meat, potatoes, wine, shoes, books, the floor beneath my feet, the roof over my head." (page 109). Compare and contrast Percy's two daughters.
10. While visiting a museum, Percy's friend asks, "What sort of landscape are you?" And Percy replies, "A field. Overgrown and weedy." "Or a very large, gnarled tree," his friend adds. (pages 281-82) How would you describe him?
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Meetings are the 3rd Tuesday of the month at 7:00 pm
Please pre-register by calling 419-586-4442 or emailing Connie Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org