Please join us on Wednesday December 16, 2015 when we discuss The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens.  We will meet at 11:30 a.m.  in room 1550.

From Wiki –

In July 1845, Dickens contemplated forming a periodical focusing on the concerns of the home. It was to be called The Cricket, but the plan fell through, and he transformed his idea into a Christmas book in which he abandoned social criticism, current events, and topical themes in favour of simple fantasy and a domestic setting for his hero’s redemption. The book was released on 20 December 1845 (the title page read “1846”) and sold briskly into the New Year. Seventeen stage productions opened during the Christmas season 1845 with one production receiving Dickens’s approval and opening on the same day as the book’s release. Dickens read the tale four times in public performance. It has been dramatised in numerous languages and for years was more popular on stage than A Christmas Carol. Cricket is less explicitly Christian than some of Dickens’s other Christmas books, it has been criticised for its sentimentality, but contemporary readers were attracted to its depiction of the Victorian ideal of the happy home.

November 2015 – Hamlet

Please join us on Wednesday November 18, 2015 when we discuss Hamlet by William Shakespeare.  We will meet at 11:30 a.m.  in room 1550.

From the Folger Shakespeare Library:

Events before the start of Hamlet set the stage for tragedy. When the king of Denmark, Prince Hamlet’s father, suddenly dies, Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, marries his uncle Claudius, who becomes the new king.

A spirit who claims to be the ghost of Hamlet’s father describes his murder at the hands of Claudius and demands that Hamlet avenge the killing. When the councilor Polonius learns from his daughter, Ophelia, that Hamlet has visited her in an apparently distracted state, Polonius attributes the prince’s condition to lovesickness, and he sets a trap for Hamlet using Ophelia as bait.

To confirm Claudius’s guilt, Hamlet arranges for a play that mimics the murder; Claudius’s reaction is that of a guilty man.  Hamlet, now free to act, mistakenly kills Polonius, thinking he is Claudius. Claudius sends Hamlet away as part of a deadly plot.

After Polonius’s death, Ophelia goes mad and later drowns. Hamlet, who has returned safely to confront the king, agrees to a fencing match with Ophelia’s brother, Laertes, who secretly poisons his own rapier. At the match, Claudius prepares poisoned wine for Hamlet, which Gertrude unknowingly drinks; as she dies, she accuses Claudius, whom Hamlet kills.  Then first Laertes and then Hamlet die, both victims of Laertes’s rapier.

The Folger website provides the following visual character/relationship chart (on page two).  Please also see the Shakespeare Resource Center for everything Hamlet.

It has been suggested we view the 1996 film production of Hamlet starring Kenneth Branagh.  Specific scenes and the entire film may be found on YouTube.

Please join us on Wednesday October 28, 2015 when we discuss The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving.   We will meet at 11:30 a.m.  in room 1550.

From  the description of our main character to our sharing of his fears, the text holds the clues as to why this story has endured:

He was tall, but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feet that might have served for shovels, and his whole frame most loosely hung together. His head was small, and flat at top, with huge ears, large green glassy eyes, and a long snipe nose, so that it looked like a weather-cock perched upon his spindle neck to tell which way the wind blew. To see him striding along the profile of a hill on a windy day, with his clothes bagging and fluttering about him, one might have mistaken him for the genius of famine descending upon the earth, or some scarecrow eloped from a cornfield.


As he approached the stream, his heart began to thump; he summoned up, however, all his resolution, gave his horse half a score of kicks in the ribs, and attempted to dash briskly across the bridge; but instead of starting forward, the perverse old animal made a lateral movement, and ran broadside against the fence. Ichabod, whose fears increased with the delay, jerked the reins on the other side, and kicked lustily with the contrary foot: it was all in vain; his steed started, it is true, but it was only to plunge to the opposite side of the road into a thicket of brambles and alder bushes. The schoolmaster now bestowed both whip and heel upon the starveling ribs of old Gunpowder, who dashed forward, snuffling and snorting, but came to a stand just by the bridge, with a suddenness that had nearly sent his rider sprawling over his head. Just at this moment a plashy tramp by the side of the bridge caught the sensitive ear of Ichabod. In the dark shadow of the grove, on the margin of the brook, he beheld something huge, misshapen and towering. It stirred not, but seemed gathered up in the gloom, like some gigantic monster ready to spring upon the traveller.

by Washington Irving

Please join us on Wednesday September 30, 2015 when we discuss Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson.   We will meet at 11:30 a.m.  in room 1550.

Here is a small insight into Erik Larson’s creative process from his blog post of June 4, 2015:

For my book, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, I made numerous trips to the UK archives. The first week resulted in a couple of reams worth of documents, which I broke into less immense piles of 200 or so pages, each bound with a large binder clip (and may I just say that if there is a spare Nobel waiting to be awarded, it should be awarded posthumously to the inventor of the binder clip, Louis Baltzley, who invented the clip in 1910, patent number 1,139,627, for his writer-father to help him organize his manuscripts. In my opinion, fasteners do not get the attention from the Nobel Committee that they deserve).


While reading, I highlight only the best bits. These pages get a small tab of Scotch tape (the “invisible” kind, not the glossy old-fashioned kind, which reminds me too much of the indignities of grade school). I then number these tabs in sequential order, and append this number to my code. Thus the 36th item in my UKArch-I stack becomes UKArch-I, 36, where anyone unlucky enough in the distant future to go through my notes will find pages from the 1915 book of Deceased Seamen, once published annually by the British government, which reveal the wide variety of jobs done by the ordinary crew members who were killed when the Lusitania sank.

August 2015 – Ragtime

On Wednesday, August 26, 2015 we will meet to discuss Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow.  We will meet at 11:30** a.m. in a picnic setting in the courtyard.  If there is no room for us or the weather is inclement, we will meet in room 1550.

From Wikipedia:

is a novel by E. L. Doctorow, published in 1975. This work of historical fiction is mainly set in the New York City area from 1902 until 1912, with brief scenes towards the end describing the United States entry into World War I in 1917. A unique adaptation of the historical narrative genre with a subversive 1970’s slant, the novel blends fictional and historical figures into a framework that revolves around events, characters and ideas important in American history.

The novel is unusual for the irreverent way that historical figures and fictional characters are woven into the narrative, making for surprising connections and linking different events and trains of thought about fame and success, on the one hand, and poverty and racism on the other.

In 1998, the Modern Library ranked Ragtime number 86 on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.”

On Wednesday, July 29, 2015 we will meet to discuss The Thurber Carnival by James Thurber.  We will meet at 11:30 a.m. in room 2812.  If weather permits, we will meet in the courtyard opposite the main entrance of the college for our discussion.

From barnesandnoble.com:

James Thurber was one of the finest humorists of the twentieth century (and a crack cartoonist to boot). A bestseller upon its initial publication in 1945, The Thurber Carnival captures the depth of his talent and the breadth of his wit. The stories compiled here, almost all of which first appeared in The New Yorker, are from his uproarious and candid collection My World and Welcome to It—including the American classic “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”—as well as from The Owl in the Attic, The Seal in the Bathroom, and Men, Women and Dogs.

As Thurber writes in his introduction: “This book contains a selection of the stories and drawings the old boy did in his prime.””

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

“It is time that we stopped thinking about James Thurber as a mere funny man for sophisticates and recognized him as an authentic American genius. And the Carnival, by offering the cream of his work in a handy and attractive volume indicates impressively the scope of his gifts. . . . Mr. Thurber belongs in the great line of American humorists which includes Mark Twain and Ring Lardner. ”

Please focus on the following in the book:

Part I–Stories Not Collected Before in Book Form–ALL stories
Part II–from My World and Welcome To It–ALL stories
Part III–from Let Your Mind Alone!–“A Couple of Hamburgers”
Part IV–from The Middle-Aged Man on the Flying Trapeze: “If Grant Had Been Drinking at Appomattox” and “The Greatest Man In the World”
Part V–My Life and Hard Times–ALL stories
Part VI–from Fables for Our Times and Famous Poems–ALL

Please join us on Wednesday June 17, 2015 when we discuss Silas Marner by George Eliot.  We will meet at 11:30 am in room 1550.

From Wiki:

Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe is the third novel by George Eliot, published in 1861. An outwardly simple tale of a linen weaver, it is notable for its strong realism and its sophisticated treatment of a variety of issues ranging from religion to industrialization to community.

From Amazon:

A gentle linen weaver is accused of a heinous crime. Exiling himself, he becomes a recluse, only to find redemption in his love for an abandoned child who mysteriously appears one day in his isolated cottage. Somber yet hopeful, Eliot’s stirring tale continues to touch the human spirit.

The full text of Silas Marner can be found on Gutenberg and an audio version on YouTube.


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