Posts filed under ‘LT Book Club’

LT Book Club: ‘Through the Looking-Glass’ by Lewis Carroll

aliceMy New York Book Club’s October read was Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass. This is a total classic and tells the follow-up story of the famous Alice after she returns from Wonderland. After Alice climbs through the mirror in her drawing room, she finds herself in the world of the Looking-Glass, where all kinds of ridiculousness occurs before she wakes up back home with her kittens.

I honestly can’t say I enjoyed Through the Looking-Glass, even though my favorite poem, “Jabberwock,” is first found in its pages. I just found it too silly, which I realize is sort of the point and I should probably loosen up. All the same, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at Alice.

Recommended Edition:
I read the Books of Wonder edition published by Morrow in 1993, which was terrific because:

a) it had beautiful silver edges
b) it replicated John Tenniel’s illustrations using the original wood-blocks
c) it followed Victorian standards of type-setting and font

It was a great little copy and I highly recommend it.

I recommend taking a page from Alice in Wonderland and having a little tea party. Break out the tea cups, sugar cubes, and loose-leaf! (more…)


November 25, 2014 at 6:48 am 1 comment

‘All Passion Spent’ by Vita Sackville-West

allpassionspentAll Passion Spent was my very first Vita Sackville-West. She’s a figure of some intrigue who has floated peripherally around my studies and reading for many years, but I’d never read any of her books until now, which, as it turns out, is a real shame.

My New York Book Club chose All Passion Spent as their September read and I’ve been loyally reading along, long-distance. So while I don’t know what they made of the book, I certainly enjoyed it.

All Passion Spent has been described as the literary companion to Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, which is a pretty accurate description. Passion tells the story of the eighty-something Lady Slane who, having spent her entire life denying herself in service to her politician husband and string of children, decides to move out on her own to a cottage in Hampstead after her husband’s death. It shocks her children, but, so close to death, she decides she has well-earned the right to make her own choices.

Stylistically, Passion isn’t a very novelish novel—the entire middle portion is a philosophical musing by Lady Shane over the course of one afternoon about her life and feminism—but it is a very satisfying one. (more…)

September 30, 2014 at 5:52 am Leave a comment

How to form a new book club in 4 easy steps!

The Anti-Clemming Society, July 2013

The Anti-Clemming Society in Central Park, July 2013

After my recent move, the first order of social business was the formation of a new book club. As I think I’ve waxed poetic about on this site before, I had the unqualified best book club ever back in New York—a wonderful group of intelligent, funny, and deeply engaged women who were all so perfectly different that they each brought amazing new perspectives to the table. These guys are The Best, no joke.

And even apart from the terrific individuals who made up my New York Book Club, the mere fact of having such a club was pretty wonderful. It’s a social gathering organized specifically to discuss books. What could be better? That’s all I ever want to talk about anyway! (Well, and my dog. But since she came to most meetings of the New York Book Club anyway, it all worked out pretty darn well.)

My Nantucket Book Club is now well underway (our first proper meeting, to discuss The Traitor’s Wife, is scheduled for September) and I’m looking forward to some spirited book chat with a new group of amazing women to see me through the long Nantucket winter.

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it takes to form a new book club. What should you think about before jumping in? What needs to be decided? And who should you invite? (more…)

August 27, 2014 at 7:04 am 4 comments

‘The Traitor’s Wife’ by Allison Pataki


That was my reaction throughout and upon infinishing Allison Pataki’s The Traitor’s Wife, a historic novel purporting to tell the story of Benedict Arnold’s wife, Peggy Shippen Arnold. The novel starts with Peggy Shippen, flirty teenager, to establish her pre-Benedict loyalist sympathies and then continues to track her relationship with Benedict in the most unflattering way possible to both parties through to the famed betrayal.

Like Kate Pullinger in The Mistress of Nothing (two books I couldn’t help but compare), Pataki chooses to tell the story of a fascinating and often challenging woman from the perspective of her maid. While this could be an interesting choice, and I look forward to reading Jo Baker’s Longbourne to see how she fares, neither Pataki nor Pullinger make it really work. In Pataki’s case, the maid in question serves mostly as a patriotic space-filler, alternately mooning after the stableboy and trying to SAVE AMERICA by thwarting her conniving mistress.

And this is a real missed opportunity. (more…)

August 20, 2014 at 9:56 am 1 comment

LT Book Club: ‘The Sense of an Ending’ by Julian Barnes

senseendingSecond book up for the LT Book Club is Julian Barnes’ Booker-winning The Sense of an Ending. Ending, narrated by a fairly ordinary middle-aged English man named Tony, explores the ways in which we perceive our pasts and how a sliver of new light on old paths can change everything.

The book alternates between contemporary London, where Tony struggles with new information about long-past events, and England in the 1960s, where most of the action of the story actually takes place. Despite its revelations and a clever framing structure that suggests a mystery paperback more than a philosophical novel, it is an almost placid read with Tony’s middle-aged, vaguely content tone downplaying even the highest of revealed drama.

For such a read, you can go two routes when it comes to feeding your fellow readers: comfort food which echoes the familiar story Tony thinks he knows from the first part of the book or something spicy and unexpected, reflecting the shocks provided by Tony’s angry erstwhile girlfriend, Veronica, in the second half of the novel.

Comfort Food

  • Cottage pie (recipe via the BBC) – Nothing says warm, English comfort like a steaming cottage pie. A variant on the more common shepherd’s pie, cottage pie features beef instead of lamb and can be flexibly stuffed with a variety of seasonal vegetables.
  • “Rocket” salad – To offset the heaviness of the pie, serve with a crisp side salad. Toss arugula (aka: rocket) with olive oil and top with freshly ground pepper, cubed pears or apples, and thinly shaved Parmesan cheese.
  • Jam thumbprint cookie (recipe via Ina Garten) – Top off the meal with this simple and light cookie. Perfect with a cup of tea and a reminisce.

Spicy and Unexpected

  • Chicken and onion curry (recipe via Almond Butter Binge) – Time-tested by our very own Kate, the kicky blend of spices in this curry mirror the shock Tony receives upon learning of his surprising inheritance from Veronica’s mother. It also very nicely brings us into 21st-century England and out of the mid-century past of cottage pies and puddings.
  • Garlic naan (recipe via Big Flavors Tiny Kitchen) – You simply can’t have curry without naan. I mean really.
  • Ginger cookies with cardamom and black pepper (recipe via Serious Eats) – One more taste surprise before closing up discussion shop for the day. These cookies pack a surprising punch and will keep you on your toes until the very last taste (and Tony’s very last realization).

April 2, 2014 at 9:50 am 2 comments

LT Book Club: Inaugural Meeting and Madame Bovary

Madame BovaryWelcome to the inaugural “meeting” of the Literary Transgressions Book Club! This book club is actually the digital counterpart of Corey’s real book club, featuring a wonderful kaleidoscope of women with mixed tastes, strong opinions, and a yen for delicious food. While the actual club is based in New York City, the LT version is geographically unlimited and open to all.

The Book Club alternates months between “classics” and newer titles (ah, my constant quest for contemporary classics continues!), as will the LT Book Club. Sometimes I’ll add particularly interesting points of discussion that were brought up at the “real world” club or supplemental reading, but otherwise I’ll focus on the book selections and menus.

To help others join in the fun, I will be posting once a month with this month’s book and a sample menu for your own meeting. One of the most fun parts of the club (apart from the reading itself, of course!) is the remarkable creativity of my fellow readers in coming up with delicious and thematic menus to go with each book. The value of food for a book club simply cannot be understated and I hope to share some of our yummy eats here with you.

Our first book up is Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (1856). (more…)

March 5, 2014 at 6:14 am 4 comments

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