Red Wheelbarrow Writers December Book Club
Red Wheelbarrow Writers Book Club December 2015
Our theme was Celebrations! As with most things RWB, we left it loose and received a diverse assortment of titles from readers and writers.
We all agreed that perhaps the best celebration story ever is BABETTE’S FEAST by Isak Dinesin, the story of a woman, a cook, a refugee from the France of Napoleon III who lives in bleak, cold Norway, keeping house for two spinster sisters. She comes into money and uses the funds to create a fabulous life changing meal and celebration for everyone around her.
Another beloved celebration is the tea party in ALICE IN WONDERLAND. And there are great celebrations in the HARRY POTTER books, as well as LORD OF THE RINGS, especially Bilbo Baggins’ birthday party. The Mary Poppins books too feature celebrations.
The Great Virginia (Woolf) created two wonderful celebrations in her novels. MRS. DALLOWAY begins on the day of the party and follows through it, rattling the lives of her characters . And of course Mrs. Ramsay’s famous bouef en daube at the summer dinner in TO THE LIGHTHOUSE is a celebration not to be missed.
James Joyce’s classic THE DEAD is wholly formed around a Christmas tradition, the Misses Morken’s Christmas party where the reader is an invited guest to the merriment—and the undercurrent of mortality.
Gertrude Stein’s THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF ALICE B. TOKLAS has a wonderfully comic chapter on a dinner party celebration these two and a few of their friends (Picasso etal) threw for the painter Roualt in about 1907. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong, and the results are absolutely antic and memorable. THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF ALICE B TOKLAS has made other appearances in these RWB Book Club discussions. It remains one of my favorite books.
And of course there is Katherine Mansfield’s famous novella THE GARDEN PARTY. Not as well known as THE GARDEN PARTY, but in my opinion just as devastating is her story BLISS about a young woman getting ready for a dinner party for her friends, and the mood of happiness that overcomes her. And then, of course, what sadly ensues. This would make an excellent pairing with MRS. DALLOWAY esp. as Woolf and Mansfield were contentious contemporaries.
Carson McCullers’ A MEMBER OF THE WEDDING was a favorite of RWB writers, though the wedding itself is not as important as the events before and after, still it is central.
Eudora Welty’s LOSING BATTLES opens memorably with the preparations for a huge family celebration to welcome home a son and husband who is getting out of prison.
Another reader recommended an anthology with the great title, DRINKING, SMOKING AND SCREWING. How’s that for celebration!
If the above titles also suggest the possibility of hangovers to go with celebrations, some readers took the notion of celebration in a more spiritual context: SOUND OF WILD SNAILS EATING by Eli Tovah Bailey celebrates life, and her friendship with a snail in a terrarium while she was recuperating. This book too makes a return visit to the RWB book club. We talked about it when we discussed Friendship as a theme.
HOW TO WALK by Najaf Hahn is a collection of short reflective essays to celebrate and urge you to think about your own life.
Two RWB writers had Christmas celebrations of their own to share:
Janet Oakley’s THE CHRISTMAS WELL
Here’s the link: http://www.amazon.com/The-Christmas-Well-JL-Oakley-ebook/dp/B00688RGG4
And Pam Helberg reposted her Christmas memoir/blog after our meeting. http://pamelahelberg.com/author/phelberg/
Merry Merry Happy Happy Celebrations to all the RWB Writers.
We will meet again January 10th 2016 and our canopy/theme will be (fittingly) Fresh Starts, New Beginnings