Category Archives: Cafe Parlez

Book Group News

Here is the schedule for the new Nonfiction Book Discussion Group.  We’ll meet on the third Tuesday of each month starting on October 21, at 6:30 p.m.  This is after the library has closed, so it is a “Library After Hours” program, cosponsored by “Act II”, an LSTA Equal Access grant administered by the Mass. Board of Library Commissioners.

Oct. 21        Nickel and Dimed: On (not) Getting By in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich (copies available NOW!)

Nov. 18       A Year in Provence, by Peter Mayle

Dec. 16       Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace, One School at a Time, by Greg Mortenson

Jan. 20        The Children’s Blizzard, by David Laskin

Feb. 17       The Soiling of Old Glory: The Story of a Photograph that Shocked the World, by Louis P. Masur

Mar. 17      Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War, by Tony Horwitz

Apr. 21       Eight Men Out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series, by Eliot Asinof

May 19       The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia, by Paul Theroux

Jun. 16       A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, by Bill Bryson

After June, we’ll see if the group wants to continue through the summer.  If you’re interested, come in and sign up at the desk and pick up a book.

Cafe Parlez News: the survey for the 2009 season will be distributed at tomorrow’s group.  It will also be posted on the library’s website, to be printed and brought in.

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Cafe parlez for July

This month, we read any book by Carl Hiaasen, so we have a Flamingo theme to our decorations, and a tropical theme for our refreshments.  This is our party month.  We will be doing trivia quizzes, and giving away books.  These are books we’ve collected through the year, books that Oprah and ALA sends us whenever Oprah picks a book, books that we’ve picked up at conferences.  Announcements, packets, people getting food and punch.   J is announcing next month’s book, and the list for the rest of the month.  We’ll post them on the Plumb Library website, in the Cafe Parlez page. 

The first four people got to get books.  M got “The Lace Reader” – awesome book!! 

People’s opinions of Carl Hiaasen – his characters are caricatures.  RB says they work well as audio books, nice and light, you don’t mind interrupting them.  LM likes how the bad guys get theirs in a bad way, especially in “Skinny Dip”.  All of his books are black and white.  All of the characters are crazy.   But the descriptions of the characters are excellent.  There’s one character that appears in two books, so there is some discussion of this guy: braided beard, glass eye, very wacky.  Used to be the governor of Florida.  Hiaasen seems to write himself into most of his books.  These books were “no brainers”, but you need these types of books once in a while. 

LM suggests C.J. West’s “Taking Stock”, a local author writing about – Rochester!  Suspense, nice and light. 

Time to play!  Florida trivia with the Flamboyant Flamingos vs. the Perfect Palmtrees.  Some of these questions are hard, but the Flamingos just pulled one out of a hat!  Go, Flamingos!!  But ML has just gotten back from Florida, so the Palmtrees have an edge.  The winning team gets first crack at the books, but everyone will get a book.  Palmtrees win! 

Next month, we’ll discuss “The Kite Runner”.  Be sure to be there.

We’re also thinking of starting a nonfiction book club that will start in October on the third Tuesday at 6:30.  Sign up at the desk.  If we get 6 people to sign up, we’ll start the club with Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed”.

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Cafe Parlez for May

This month, we had a “twofer”: Reading Lolita in Tehran, and Persepolis.  After an explanation of graphic novels, we are starting in talking about Lolita.   Not everyone loved this book, and many couldn’t finish it.  MC read this book a long time ago, and says that it’s better if you’ve actually read the books the author is talking about.  She assumes you’ve read the books she references.  Some felt it was too much work, and that she wasn’t a good writer.  Too many people involved, and they were not very well drawn.  The author jumped around too much.  LW was not impressed or “edified”.  MC was motivated because she knew an Iranian woman at the time.

People felt that the characters weren’t individuals.  The book didn’t flow, you couldn’t “dance” to it.  PB felt that the women never got out of the confines of the home. 

Most liked Persepolis better.    MC read Persepolis 2  and loved it.  She has likened it to Peter Sis’ The Wall, whick she is showing everyone.  Now people are discussing Majane’s reaction to living in a Western society, and why she moved back to Iran.  

People are discussing the Koran and the treatment of women.  This is being done in the name of religion.  There is much discussion on the culture that creates this treatment, and there is comparison with other orthodox religions. 

Next month’s book is The Professor and the Madman, by Simon Winchester. We meet on June 26.  Y’all come! 

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Cafe Parlez for April

This month we read “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen.  Everyone loved this book!!

SPOILER ALERT!  If you haven’t read this book, do not read this post.

Everyone made the same assumption about who killed August.  And everyone agrees that he deserved it.

A big question is, why does Jake take offense at the other gentleman at the nursing home when he says he carried water for the elephants.  Maybe because Jake alone knew what that really meant.  He got very frustrated when no-one would believe him, and this started his reminisences.

Why did August keep inviting Jacob to those drunken parties?  He may have wanted to throw Jake at Marlena.  He could have had bipolar syndrome.  He could have wanted to associate with someone who was a “doctor”.  Everything August did was down to money and power.

Why did they kill both Walter and Camel?  Was it to leave no witnesses.  G thinks it was to make us hate Uncle Al. 

Someone asks why did Jake leave the knife on August’s pillow instead of killing him.  Maybe this was to show August that he could have easily been killed.  Everyone is glad that Jake didn’t kill him after all; this kept Jake pure.

Overall, this is an uplifting book, very hopeful, with a good ending.  The circus family sticks together at the end.

Next month’s books: “Reading Lolita in Tehran”, and “Perepolis”.  Happy reading!!

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This month’s Book group book

I don’t know about you, but I’m enjoying the heck out of the April Cafe Parlez selection, “Water for Elephants”.  I’m particularly interested in the circus lingo, and wondered what they meant when they refer to Jacob as a “First of May”, early on in his career with the circus.  I went to a website that has a Circus Lingo Dictionary, http://www.goodmagic.com/carny/c_a.htm . According to them, the circus season starts the first of May, so that’s when any circus might pick up a new worker.  Try that website for more definitions.

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Cafe Parlez for March: In the Time of the Butterflies

The group is gathering for our March discussion of Julia Alvarez’s book “In the Time of the Butterflies”.  We have flan, coconut cookies, and guacamole, along with our usual tea.  Jen is catching everyone up to date on next month’s selection.  MC is mentioning Edwidge Danticate’s book about Haiti, the other side of the island that the Dominican Republic is on. 

LS thinks the book is very well written and looked forward to reading it each time.  Jen was reminded of “The Poisonwood Bible”, where each sister takes turns narrating.  LR feels a real connection with these women and their courage and persistence.  The question was raised as to where was the US in dealing with Trujillo.  Since he wasn’t a Communist, the US was ready to support him, even though he was driving his country into the ground. 

Why was it so important for Minerva to go away to school?  She wants to be independent, unlike Patria, who is the caretaker.  

How does Maria Teresa’s diary save her in prison?  She can say things in her diary that she can’t say to her family, and the diary is her confidant, as her sisters are away.  Her diaries have to been hidden, as they will incriminate herself and any others involved in the underground.  Diaries fill in for some of the fabric of theif lives.  What does the woman visitor in the beginning do to move the plot?  She seems like an afterthought, like Alvarez needed something for the beginning.  Most feel it was confusing.  But some feel that the woman was a catalyst to get the story going. 

People believe that the Mirabel sisters were trying to make their country a better place for their children, and were ready to sacrifice being with their children for the cause.    They couldn’t swallow what was happening in their country, so used their wealth and position to make  a difference.  The women in the family had the strength and conviction, even though the men run the country and the families.  Even in the US, men controlled women.  Would the revolution have been run better if it was done by women? 

The party at Trujillo’s – El Jefe was slimy, a lecher.  But was the father any better?  His second family was not well supported, but they helped their half-sisters in prison, and the Mirabels sent them to school.  The father blamed the mother for his affair, he was just looking for a son.  ED thinks he was cowardly.  There is a good discussion on the perceived importance of boys in a family, even in our modern times. 

How does Dede feel about being the only Mirable left alive?  She feels guilty, but this is her martyrdom, to be the one to tell the story.  Plus raising all of the children and caring for the aging mother.  The guilt must be overwhelming, as shown by surviving veterans

Why does their story endure?  Because they were women, because they were sisters, because they fought for a cause.  International Violence Against Women Day is based on the lives of the Mirabel sisters.  They took great risks to get the word out about Trujillo’s dictatorship and to keep secret the names of the others involved in the underground. 

Everyone loved the book, and learned a lot about the Dominican Republic.  Join us on April 24 for our discussion of “Water for Elephants”.

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February’s Cafe Parlez: The Giant’s House

Tonight we’re discussing Elizabeth McCracken’s “The Giant’s House: A Romance”.  Chocolate features heavily in the refreshments tonight.  We have lovely chocolate cake from Lois, our monthly baker, brownies from Jen, and fruit, just to balance things out.  The cake is fantastic!!

Elizabeth McCracken subtitles this book “a romance”.  Was it?  Well, not in the traditional sense.  30-year-old professional women don’t go around falling in love with giant teenage boys.  People like the writing style, and agree that Peggy is insane, but funny.  MS thinks it was “deliciously wierd”.   She’s saying that Peggy was given a gift, the gift of being in love.  She has the ability to focus on “the other”.  Did she see him as an oddity, like herself.  She didn’t experience much love as a child.   She is always viewing her own life as a spectator.  ED thinks that’s an excuse. 

James, the giant boy, was kind of an innocent.  She didn’t act on her feelings in an inapropriate way.  She may have been as innocent as he was.  Why did she love James so much?  Maybe because she was an outcast, like he was.  Maybe there was some sort of mother feelings for her, as she had been distant from her mother, and James’ mother was crippled. 

Are we defining “love” too narrowly?  MTR thinks that what he could provide for her was what she was in love with him.  She provided nothing for him, but took from him.  Her love was all self-centered; she didn’t care to know him very well. 

People like Astoria, the library assistant.  Is Peggy a librarian because she’s a control freak?   Does Peggy use James as a control thing?  Or was it an obsession?  LS feels like Peggy was a voyeur, she was trying to live her life through James.  She felt very uncomfortable.  The book describes tourists looking through the window, and feels that Peggy is looking through a window. 

The ending was so “out there”.  Some feel that the author was trying to end the story somehow and suddenly brings in James’ father to have an affair with Peggy.  Why does she say it’s James’ baby???  Would it have been a bigger scandal if she said who’s baby it really was?  MS says the group created a family of sorts.  It was inevitable that she would sleep with James’ father.  She was so focused on James that she wasn’t able to focus on the child she had.  Self-perpetuating.  She wanted James out of this, and, when she didn’t get him, she distanced herself from her child.

James’ mother is fragile, which  makes James more mature than most children his age.  People who have been around children who have depilitating diseases have found that they have  something, maybe it’s wisdom, something special.  They live in the moment, which is something we need to learn to do.  We all live in fast forward, thinking about what we need to do instead of living in the “now”.

Does being in love give you permission to love yourself?  The other person is not supposed to be making you happy; you are responsible to make yourself happy. 

How do strangers and friends react to James?  Stella doesn’t concentrate on his height, just sees the real person within.  She’s the opposite of Peggy.  Then there was Patty Flood, the Christian.  MS would’ve been glad not to have been with her.  But James liked her and missed her, because she didn’t talk about him. 

Why did “Rocket Bride” resemble James’ mother?  Possibly Oscar feels sorry for her so gave her a new life that she couldn’t have.   People like James’ aunt Carolyn.  She’s a good person.  James’ mother saw Peggy as competition.   She was paralyzed and couldn’t see beyond his problems.

Did everyone see James as a person?  The other kids seemed to when they were hanging out with him after school.  He had a lot of friends. 

What is it about us that fascinates us about the unusual people?  We don’t know.  It’s a sad comment on human beings.  Maybe it’s because we’re glad it’s not us.  Or maybe envious.   We make judgements so quickly. 

Time to go.  Next month’s book is “In the Time of the Butterflies” by Julia Alvarez.  See you March 27!

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