- Sunday, May 26, 2013 - 10:00amGlobe & Mail/Ben McNally Books Authors' Brunch
- Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - 6:30pmThe Fine Print Presents Miss Montreal by Howard ShrierThe Dora Keogh
- Saturday, June 1, 2013 - 2:00pmFictionKNITsta!Ben McNally Books
An occasional preview of some forthcoming books of interest.
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
Daniel James Brown’s robust book tells the story of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936.
The emotional heart of the story lies with one rower, Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not for glory, but to regain his shattered self-regard and to find a place he can call home. The crew is assembled by an enigmatic coach and mentored by a visionary, eccentric British boat builder, but it is their trust in each other that makes them a victorious team. They remind the country of what can be done when everyone quite literally pulls together—a perfect melding of commitment, determination, and optimism.
Drawing on the boys’ own diaries and journals, their photos and memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, The Boys in the Boat is an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times—the improbable, intimate story of nine working-class boys from the American west who, in the depths of the Great Depression, showed the world what true grit really meant.
The Wry Romance of the Literary Rectory by Deborah Alun-Jones
Thames and Hudson
The British rural idyll is epitomized by the mellow walls of the rectory: the icon of serenity and continuity. All is not what it seems but, for many, the archetypal Georgian rectory nestling beside an ancient church evokes a scene from Jane Austen. For others it conjures up something much darker and elemental, such as the parsonage on the Yorkshire Moors where the Brontë sisters led such confined yet creative lives.
In this engaging, attractive book, Deborah Alun-Jones explores the lives of writers and poets who were either the children of clergy – such as Tennyson and Dorothy L. Sayers – or who, such as Rupert Brooke and John Betjeman, were seduced by the romance and enduring values that these houses embody.
The story is sometimes one of overcoming adversity, whether it was exile in a Yorkshire rectory for the essayist Sydney Smith in the 1800s; struggling with a melancholic father for Tennyson; or seeking his vocation in the Welsh hills for the poet-rector R. S. Thomas.
More recently it has been a question of entering a world where literary voices still resound, such as Vikram Seth at the Old Rectory near Salisbury, where George Herbert lived, or Edmund de Waal growing up in the Chancery at Lincoln, home to the prodigiously creative Benson family a century earlier.
The stories from the rectory are often heart-warming and fit the image of a golden age, but Deborah Alun-Jones reveals that the serene exterior often belied the tensions within that have produced some of the greatest writers and poets in the English language.
Bad Monkey by Carl Hiassen
Andrew Yancy—late of the Miami Police and soon-to-be-late of the Monroe County sheriff’s office—has a human arm in his freezer. There’s a logical (Hiaasenian) explanation for that, but not for how and why it parted from its shadowy owner. Yancy thinks the boating-accident/shark-luncheon explanation is full of holes, and if he can prove murder, the sheriff might rescue him from his grisly Health Inspector gig (it’s not called the roach patrol for nothing). But first—this being Hiaasen country—Yancy must negotiate an obstacle course of wildly unpredictable events with a crew of even more wildly unpredictable characters, including his just-ex lover, a hot-blooded fugitive from Kansas; the twitchy widow of the frozen arm; two avariciously optimistic real-estate speculators; the Bahamian voodoo witch known as the Dragon Queen, whose suitors are blinded unto death by her peculiar charms; Yancy’s new true love, a kinky coroner; and the eponymous bad monkey, who with hilarious aplomb earns his place among Carl Hiaasen’s greatest characters.
Here is Hiaasen doing what he does better than anyone else: spinning a tale at once fiercely pointed and wickedly funny in which the greedy, the corrupt, and the degraders of what’s left of pristine Florida—now, of the Bahamas as well—get their comeuppance in mordantly ingenious, diabolically entertaining fashion.
Moonlight Sonata at the Mayo Clinic by Nora Gallagher
This taut yet lyrical memoir tells of the author’s experience with a baffling illness poised to take her sight, and gives a deeply felt meditation on vulnerability and on what it means to lose the faith you had and find something better.
One day at the end of 2009, during a routine eye exam that Nora Gallagher nearly skipped, her doctor said, “Darn.” Her right optic nerve was inflamed, the cause unknown, a condition that if left untreated would cause her to lose her sight. And so began her departure from ordinary life and her travels in what she calls Oz, the land of the sick. It looks like the world most of us inhabit, she tells us, except that “the furniture is slightly rearranged”: her friends can’t help her, her trusted doctors don’t know what’s wrong, and what faith she has left just won’t cover it. After a year of searching for a diagnosis and treatment, she arrives at the Mayo Clinic and finds a whole town built around Oz.
In the course of her journey, Gallagher encounters inhuman doctors, the modern medical system—in which knowledge takes fifteen years to trickle down—and the strange world that is the famous Mayo Clinic, complete with its grand piano. With unerring candor, and no sentimentality whatsoever, Gallagher describes the unexpected twists and turns of the path she took through a medical mystery and an unfathomably changing life. In doing so, she gives us a singular, luminous map of vulnerability and dark landscapes. “It’s the nature of things to be vulnerable,” Gallagher says. “The disorder is imagining we are not.”