Sunday, April 9, 2017

A New Year - A New Idea

In a discussion that happened several weeks ago, we decided to put a little more effort back into our Cunningham Girls Book Club and expand it to include art, music, cinema and poetry. It's all in an effort of self-improvement and fun! Last month on a whim I decided to assign an artist to you and have you post your favorite work by "your" artist. This month I have poetry and I will do it a little differently. I will select a poet and you can tell us about one of his/her works that you enjoy. Shiloh has music, I don't know who has art, but our book and movie are still "Murder on the Orient Express". I hope you can set aside a few minutes this month to participate in this little piece of family fun. I love you!
Mom - Sis - Cindy

Classical poet of the Month! 
John Keats 1795-1821

He studied to become a surgeon and was almost finished with his education when he decided he wanted to be a poet. He was a contemporary with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley and is credited with reviving and reinventing the English Ode. When John was 8 his father was thrown from a horse and died of a skull fracture. His mother died when he was only 14 from Tuberculosis, a disease that also killed two of his brothers.  He was first published at the age of 19, but it was not a great success. His success came a year or two later. His two great loves were Isabella Jones and Fanny Brawne. The latter was the true love of his life and she stayed in mourning for 6 years after his death and didn't marry until 12 years after his death. He wrote hundreds of notes and letters to Fanny that survived her death. In October of 1819 he wrote
"My love has made me selfish. I cannot exist without you – I am forgetful of every thing but seeing you again – my Life seems to stop there – I see no further. You have absorb'd me. I have a sensation at the present moment as though I was dissolving – I should be exquisitely miserable without the hope of soon seeing you ... I have been astonished that Men could die Martyrs for religion – I have shudder'd at it – I shudder no more – I could be martyr'd for my Religion – Love is my religion – I could die for that – I could die for you."

Could there be a more beautiful declaration of love? He also wrote a poem for her entitled "To Fanny".  In 1821, after moving to Rome in hopes for improvement to his health from the dreaded disease that killed his mother and brother, John Keats died. He is buried in Rome.

Comment below and let us know what your favorite Keats' work is. I believe mine is "Ode On a Grecian Urn" because his prose makes the scenes on urn come to life for me. I have included his poem to Fanny in this post.  Enjoy!

To Fanny

Physician Nature! let my spirit blood!
   O ease my heart of verse and let me rest;
Throw me upon thy tripod, till the flood
   Of stifling numbers ebbs from my full breast.
A theme! a theme! Great Nature! give a theme;
         Let me begin my dream.
I come—I see thee, as thou standest there,
Beckon me out into the wintry air.

Ah! dearest love, sweet home of all my fears
   And hopes and joys and panting miseries,—
To-night, if I may guess, thy beauty wears
         A smile of such delight,
         As brilliant and as bright,
   As when with ravished, aching, vassal eyes,
         Lost in a soft amaze,
         I gaze, I gaze!

Who now, with greedy looks, eats up my feast?
   What stare outfaces now my silver moon!
Ah! keep that hand unravished at the least;
         Let, let the amorous burn—
         But, prithee, do not turn
   The current of your heart from me so soon:
         O save, in charity,
         The quickest pulse for me.

Save it for me, sweet love! though music breathe
   Voluptuous visions into the warm air,
Though swimming through the dance’s dangerous wreath,
         Be like an April day,
         Smiling and cold and gay,
   A temperate lily, temperate as fair;
         Then, heaven! there will be
         A warmer June for me.

Why this, you’ll say—my Fanny!—is not true;
   Put your soft hand upon your snowy side,
Where the heart beats: confess—‘tis nothing new -
         Must not a woman be
         A feather on the sea,
   Swayed to and fro by every wind and tide?
         Of as uncertain speed
         As blow-ball from the mead?

I know it—and to know it is despair
   To one who loves you as I love, sweet Fanny,
Whose heart goes fluttering for you every where,
         Nor when away you roam,
         Dare keep its wretched home:
   Love, love alone, has pains severe and many;
         Then, loveliest! keep me free
         From torturing jealousy.

Ah! if you prize my subdued soul above
   The poor, the fading, brief pride of an hour:
Let none profane my Holy See of Love,
         Or with a rude hand break
         The sacramental cake:
   Let none else touch the just new-budded flower;
         If not—may my eyes close,
         Love, on their last repose!

March Book Discussion - Murder on the Orient Express

Agatha Christie's most famous "Who Done it" was our first book of 2016.  I do hope you found time to read it or listen to it. As soon as you do we all want to set a time to watch the 1974 movie together and have a discussion on Voxer while watching it! What fun! Please leave your comments in the comments sections! Happy Reading and Viewing!

Image result for murder on the orient express movie

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Heart Mender

I would like to suggest this book for your consideration for March or April "Book of the Month." It's a very quick read, a compelling, true story, (well, a lot of truth in the story anyway) and will teach you a thing or two that you didn't know about war being waged in US waters during WWII. 
By Andy Andrews

Here is a short You Tube Video to get you interested.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Book Request by Your Father

By now each of you should have received in the mail and copy of this book along with an email of why Dad felt it was important for you to read it. When we read it together several years ago I was amazed at how much of this story I did not know. I was 10 years old when all of this was happening and I remember hearing the news stories but I never really understood the vital geopolitical and social implications of what was happening in the middle east and how it has changed the outlook of the world. All I really knew was after this, no one really wanted to mess with Israel, and that was a good thing. This is a short month and it is a pretty short book, so please take the time to read it and be ready to join the discussion here (on the blog) on February 28th. 
Looking forward to hearing your opinions. 
Love you, 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Discussion for The Sherlockian

Okay, I'm going to open up discussion on the Sherlockian.  One of the things that piqued my interest about this story, was the knowledge that, although the story was purely fictional, many of the facts which it is based on are true.  I found this author's "theory" of what could have happened, not only plausible, but an enjoyable read.

I think the way it was written with how the story bounced back and forth between the modern day murder mystery and the historical story about Arthur Conan Doyle's experiences, really helped move the narrative along quickly.  The mystery was well written and not terribly confusing or bogged down with unnecessary red herrings.  (Skye and I recently had a lengthy conversation about what makes a good mystery.  For both of us, one of the hallmarks of a good mystery is that it's very simple.  The author doesn't try to mislead you or steer you in a particular direction, but instead, keeps the evidence almost unremarkable, causing you to mislead yourself.)  I did eventually figure out the answer to the modern murder mystery before they revealed it, but it was still so entertaining I didn't mind.  I particularly enjoyed the "historical" story.  (I loved that Bram Stoker was his "partner in crime" so to speak. I loved their friendship and having read both the original Dracula and much of the original Holmes canon I find the idea of their close friendship intriguing knowing the differences in their writing styles and the stories they told. It's hard to picture the somewhat old-fashioned, very outspoken and devoutly Christian Doyle, so closely aligned with the flamboyant  theater manager and author of the macabre. But their friendship is well document and one of the true facts upon which this story was based.)

Probably my favorite line in the book was when Sarah and Harold were discussing the differences in the character of Sherlock Holmes before and after the great hiatus.  Harold says something about him changed, while Sarah perceptively notes that the biggest changes or events were not those to the character of Holmes, but whatever had happened to Arthur Conan Doyle.  It was the author who had changed, not the fictional detective.  I think it's clear to anyone who has read the Sherlock Holmes canon that something traumatic must have happened to Doyle to affect the changes that we see reflected in the character of Holmes.

I wasn't as satisfied with the conclusion (throwing the book off the Falls in the company of the woman who lied and manipulated him, while he's running from the police left a few too many loose threads for my taste) but I could live with it because at least Harold finally got his answers.  At least he finally knew what had happened.

All in all, I enjoyed the story a second time.  And It did make me want to visit the Reichenbach Falls and the various Doyle properties and museums.  As well as go back and read the original Holmes stories.  I'm interested to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

September Selection

So for September, I'm suggesting "The Sherlockian" by Graham Moore as our book of the month.  And since no one else offered a suggestion, I guess you're stuck.

I read this book a couple of years ago, and have recently been re-reading the Sherlock Holmes canon.  I'm trying to go in chronological order of the stories as they were written by the author, NOT the dates they were published. 

This fictional story is based on several true facts and events that we know about the life of Arthur Conan Doyle.  It centers around a missing diary kept by Conan Doyle, but never found among his papers or other journals after his death.  What makes it so compelling is the fact that the missing diary is from the period exactly when Conan Doyle would have been working on the first Sherlock Holmes story in nearly a decade.

Everyone knows that in 1893 Doyle killed Holmes in a fall off the Reichenbach Falls (a story which, the author dated as taking place in 1891.)  Doyle never offered an explanation for why he killed the beloved detective and just as mysteriously in 1901 he released "The Hounds of the Baskervilles" (which takes place only two years later in 1893 and which some scholars argue is the greatest of all the Sherlock Holmes stories.) True to form Doyle never offered any explanation of why he suddenly decided to resurrect Holmes, thus the missing diary is thought to include his thoughts and reasons for returning to Holmes and the entire mystery genre.

When a modern day Conan Doyle scholar is found murdered at an annual Holmes convention after having claimed to find the missing diary, every Sherlock Holmes expert in the world suddenly finds himself trying to be Holmes and solve an unsolvable mystery.  The story jumps back and forth between the modern day account of one Harold White, a Sherlock Holmes fanatic whose knowledge and obsession of the detective draw him into the murder investigation, and a story of Arthur Conan Doyle in that pivotal year of 1900 when he would have been contemplating writing again about his long dead detective.

It's a quick, easy and entertaining read and actually motivated me to go back and start re-reading the Sherlock Holmes canon from the beginning.  I'd only ever read two of the novels and a handful of the short stories, so going back and reading the original stories has been very interesting.  (Especially when I watch "Sherlock" and Benedict Cumberbatch for fun on the side.) Anyway, I'm excited to hear your thoughts.  Enjoy.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

A Good Read

Hello my dear family and friends. I think it is time for a new read. Let's start the new book on September 1. Any suggestions?  Please type your suggestions into the comments. 

Until then, see if you can answer these trivia questions: 

1. When and where was the first public library established on the North American Continent?

2. As of the year 2000, what was considered the most valuable (monitarily) book in the world?

3. Before settling on the moniker "Tiny Tim", what other names did Charles Dickens consider for his sickly character in "A Christmas Carol"?

4. What was "Dr. Suess" full name? Do you know what year he wrote his first book?

5. A.A. Milne's son was the inspiration for the Christopher Robin of the Winnie the Pooh books. What was his name and how did his parents decide on it?

6. Murasaki Shikibu wrote the world's first Novel. In what year was it written?

7. Harriet Wilson was the first African American to have a novel published in the United States. She wrote it in 1859. What was the title? (I might get in trouble if I publish it here. ;-)

8. German Johann Gutenberg invented the moveable type in 1440 and printed his first book, the Latin Bible, in what year?

9. The first book printed in English was in the year ______ ?

10. What is the historical significance of the books Freeman's Oath and An Almanack, published in Cambridge, Massachusetts?

Find the answers here. ANSWERS and more.