April's Read

This month we are reading Michael Chabon's Telegraph Avenue.
From the back cover: As the summer of 2004 draws to a close, Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe are still hanging in there—longtime friends, bandmates, and co-regents of Brokeland Records, a kingdom of used vinyl located in the borderlands of Berkeley and Oakland. Their wives, Gwen Shanks and Aviva Roth-Jaffe, are the Berkeley Birth Partners, two semi-legendary midwives who have welcomed more than a thousand newly minted citizens into the dented utopia at whose heart—half tavern, half temple—stands Brokeland.

When ex–NFL quarterback Gibson Goode, the fifth-richest black man in America, announces plans to build his latest Dogpile megastore on a nearby stretch of Telegraph Avenue, Nat and Archy fear it means certain doom for their vulnerable little enterprise. Meanwhile, Aviva and Gwen also find themselves caught up in a battle for their professional existence, one that tests the limits of their friendship. Adding another layer of complication to the couples' already tangled lives is the surprise appearance of Titus Joyner, the teenage son Archy has never acknowledged and the love of fifteen-year-old Julius Jaffe's life.

An intimate epic, a NorCal Middlemarch set to the funky beat of classic vinyl soul-jazz and pulsing with a virtuosic, pyrotechnical style all its own, Telegraph Avenue is the great American novel we've been waiting for. Generous, imaginative, funny, moving, thrilling, humane, triumphant, it is Michael Chabon's most dazzling book yet.
 
We've also chosen May's book. If you want to get a jump on it, it'll be Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent.*
 
As always we meet the last Wednesday of April (the 30th) at 6pm...read, enjoy, and join in the discussion.
 
*Text curtsey of Mairi Beacon
And just in case you had some curiosity about our October-December 2013 hiatus, we did not meet because I was a little busy taking care of this little gal:
 
She is now 3 months old and I am back behind the bar on Friday and Sunday nights :-)
And we're back! Our lovely books and booze club had a rousing January meeting discussing East of Eden, with its beautiful, haunting, difficult characters and its monstrously impressive story line.  For February we are going to take it a bit easy on ourselves and enjoy My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss.  A dear autobiography of that tender and internationally cool gal I have often wished I could be, Ms Weiss also provides some delish and easy to emulate recipes.  Enjoy this quick read (available at most independent bookstores in the city and via amazon in print and for Kindle), make a dish or two and join us on Wednesday March 5th from 6p-8p to discuss.  Happy Reading!

Until We Meet Again....

Hi all:

Our dear book club has decided to curl up with a substantial book, and meet again in January 2014 to discuss.  With all of the excitement in our lives and the holidays looming, it seemed most prudent to choose a long one, enjoy it in our spare moments, and meet again when the chaos has subsided.  As such, the choice was made to read East of Eden by John Steinbeck. 

While East of Eden was not outright banned (unlike Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men) Steinbeck's language and forthrightness was difficult for his contemporaries to swallow.  That same language speaks to us -- calls us back time and again to his work -- almost universally, and acts as a potent reminder of the necessity of shared language in literary form.  In recognition of this necessity, seek out banned books (a good place to start is http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/ -- Toni Morrison's Beloved has come up time and again, almost as if by tradition)...read them...support their authors.  In doing so we help to carve out a literary space where thoughtfulness, creativity, self-expression, and shared experiences trump fear and conformity. 

Enjoy East of Eden and then join us on January 29th 2014 from 6p-8p...I am looking forward to getting to join in once again in the booze part of our club!

August Reading

Hi all:  So baby-brain consumed me and I COMPLETELY forgot to post this month's read.  Luckily for all of us, it is a brief and mesmerizing read: The Buddah in the Attic by Julie Otsuka.  Here is the NYTimes Review of Otsuka's work when it was first published.  Please enjoy and join us on Wednesday August 28th (lil' sis's birthday!) for discussion and libations from 6p-8p.

July Reading

Divisadero, by Michael Ondaatje, is a completely compelling and captivating read. If Mark Twain and Italo Calvino joined forces a work like Divisadero would be the concomitant result.  This book is like riding a massive river, at times crushing and then, moments later, serene.  Just read it....and then we will have a drink...Trust me, you will want one after this powerhouse! Wednesday July 30th from 6p-8p at Two Sisters.

June's Reading

I am perpetually drawn to stories of women who make their way in the worlds of wine, beer and spirits.  Even today the worlds of wine, beer and spirits betray a maschismo (or at least are normatively masculine) despite sincere attemtps to appear egalitarian.  As such, I am inspired by the character at the center of this month's reading: The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It by Tilar J. Mazzeo.  Born to obscure parents, Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin was widowed at the age of 27 with a small child to care for.  Without much in the way of resources, Ponsardin steers her family's fledging winery through the Napoleonic Wars and into history as the most well-know house of Champagne in the world.  Savoured by many and recognized by all Veuve (Widow) Clicquot is a household name, and now, thanks to Ms Mazzeo, we can know a little more about the woman who gave us this delicious indulgence.  Join us on Wednesday June 26th for a lively discussion and something bubbly!