Arden Dimick Library Open Book Club – Summer 2010 Books Particular People in Specific Places
SUNDAY, MAY 16, 2‐3:30 – The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery Renée Michel is the dumpy, nondescript, 54‐year‐old concierge of a small and exclusive Paris apartment building. Its handful of tenants include a celebrated restaurant critic, high government officials and members of the old nobility. Every day these residents pass by the loge of Madame Michel and, unless they want something from her, scarcely notice that she is alive. As it happens, Renée Michel prefers it that way. There is far more to her than meets the eye. Paloma Josse also lives in the building. Acutely intelligent, introspective and philosophical, this 12‐year‐old views the world as absurd and records her observations about it in her journal. She despises her coddled existence, her older sister Colombe (who is studying at the École normale supérieure), and her well‐to‐do parents, especially her plant‐obsessed mother. After careful consideration of what life is like, Paloma has secretly decided to kill herself on her 13th birthday. These two characters provide the double narrative of The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and you will ‐‐ this is going to sound corny ‐‐ fall in love with both. (Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World)
SUNDAY, JUNE 13, 2‐3:30 – Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers Imagine Charles Dickens, his sentimentality in check but his journalistic eyes wide open, roaming New Orleans after it was buried by Hurricane Katrina. He would find anger and pathos. A dark fable, perhaps. His villains would be evil and incompetent, even without Heckuva‐Job‐Brownie. In the end, though, he would not be able to constrain himself; his outrage might overwhelm the tale. In Zeitoun, what Dave Eggers has found in the Katrina mud is the full‐fleshed story of a single family, and in telling that story he hits larger targets with more punch than those who have already attacked the thematic and historic giants of this disaster. It’s the stuff of great narrative nonfiction. (Timothy Egan, New York Times)
SUNDAY, JULY 18, 2‐3:30 – Digging to America, by Ann Tyler The retail anthropologist Paco Underhill, who travels the world doing behavioral market research, has identified a group he calls expat‐expats: people who have left their own land to take up residence elsewhere, but settle in an enclave of foreigners like themselves. In her 17th novel, Anne Tyler reminds us that the United States has sheltered many such individuals. And at the turn of the 21st century, the littlest expats — foreign babies adopted from abroad — have added a further twist to our national mosaic, linked not so much to a country as to an idea of belonging. In "Digging to America," two families meet in the summer of 1997 at a Baltimore airport lounge as each awaits the arrival of a baby girl from Korea. Bitsy and Brad Donaldson's all‐American entourage drips with adoption "flair": buttons that read "MOM," "DAD," "GRANDMA" and "GRANDPA" ("twice over"); "flotillas of silvery balloons printed with IT'S A GIRL!"; half a dozen video cameras, an infant car seat, a skirted bassinet and so on. The other expectant couple, Sami and Ziba Yazdan, "foreign‐looking, olive‐skinned and attractive," linger on the sidelines, balloonless, accompanied only by Sami's regally reserved Iranian‐born mother, Maryam. Improbably, the two families strike up a lasting friendship. (Liesl Schillinger, New York Times)
Introduces the three books Arden Dimick's Open Book Club will read in Summer 2010 -- The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Zeitoun and Digging to Am...