Round Rock New Neighbors is a social organization of women welcoming women in the Round Rock area since 1978. Both "new" and "old" neighbors are welcome. For more information: [Barnes & Noble requires that RRNN's book club be open to the public, so you do not need to be an RRNN member to attend book club, and both men and women are welcome and do attend. ]

Literary Events

Literary Events:

The TEXAS BOOK FESTIVAL will be held in and around the Capitol Building November 4-6 2016


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Coxville Zoo, USDA-regulated zoo vs roadside zoo & question for Lydia

What is the difference between a zoo/aquarium that is USDA regulated and one that is not? One of the main differences is that Zoos regulated by the USDA do not allow members of the public to handle or feed infant exotic cats like tigers, lions, cheetahs, jaguars or leopards; conversely roadside zoos ENCOURAGE and PROMOTE the public's handling of any and all animals (photo ops).

"Coxville Zoo" IS the seedy place Frank recalled with a gas station and roadside monkeys in cages.  The internet says it was located at the intersection of Yeager** Lane and Lamar on the south west corner of the intersection along Lamar, although I thought it was further north than that. As Claudia said, it closed in 1969 but was there many decades. Growing up in Pflugerville, we drove down Lamar MANY times (IH 35 in Austin didn't open until I was 9 years old). I recall Coxville Zoo fondly, although it was the only "zoo" I had been to so nothing to compare to; I was probably just excited to see animals in the flesh that I had only seen in books. **In the old days what is now Yager Lane was YEAGER Lane, much like Parmer and Palmer, but as a local, don't get me started....

Regarding the exotic animal acreage I mentioned Northeast of Pflugerville, it is at the SW corner of the intersection of Rowe and Hodde Lanes. The last few times I drove by it I did not see any animals. Previously it held some exotic animals. I googled quite a bit but didn't find anything out about it.

LYDIA if you are reading this, the question that everyone seemed to want to hear an answer from you on was why did you pick this particular children's book to nominate. Don't get me wrong, as Claudia said, 100% of those of us who read it, liked it, but we were curious why it was one of the 3 you nominated.

Thanks for the great writeup Claudia.  Look forward to Leviathan and Luisitania discussions.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Children's Book Introduces Animal Rights and Animal Conservation Issues

Among 13 of us at the discussion, 11 had read and liked The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate and Patricia Castelao.

Lydia nominated the book but was out of town on the day of our meeting, so she sent her discussion notes to Pam, who led the discussion, asking questions from Lydia's notes and adding some of her own. The discussion moved from specific details about the story to broader issues about animal conservation, animal rights, zoos, and habitat scarcity.

The first question Lydia listed was, "Why did the Big Top Mall sign show Ivan as angry and fierce?" Answers:  I (Claudia) was taking notes on my new tablet computer, so I figured that while everything was working, I would contribute an answer; so I said that the fierce gorilla was a stereotype that travelers would want to see. Jay said the sign was to attract attention. Pam said that the sign depicted the opposite of what travelers would see at most roadside zoos, which is usually a petting zoo with opportunities for family photos among the friendly animals.

Another question was, "What are the contradictions in Mack's character?" Mack, the owner of the mall zoo, seemed to care about the animals, having literally traded his marriage for keeping the young Ivan at his home; but he did not call a veterinarian quickly enough to cure Stella from an obvious infection, and he was cruel to the new baby elephant, Ruby. Angie noticed a contradiction when Mack showed anger about Ruby refusing to perform, even though Mack had been patient with the animals in the past. Carol said that Mack was under pressure to bring in more customers and more money, which was why he was impatient with Ruby's refusing to learn tricks quickly. Patty suggested that Stella's death because of Mack's neglecting to call a vet might have been a mistake Mack made, but that it was indirectly caused by Mack's financial difficulty. Mack's likely regret and frustration at losing Stella might have contributed to his displacing anger toward Ruby, though there was also the potential contradiction of Mack reasoning that Ruby would eat less than Stella and thus cost less to keep alive.

The discussion moved away from the details of the story toward roadside zoos. According to Pam's research, there are currently 3000 roadside zoos in 43 states. Local Austin-area animals include a wildlife preserve Pam mentioned in Pflugerville, which she thinks could be raising the animals to send to places that have customers pay to hunt the animals. Frank reminded us of Coxville Zoo in North Austin (off Lamar) (1939-1969) which Pam had visited quite a few times as a child. Frank said it was a roadside zoo, apparently as part of a gas station. While Pam had considered this a zoo, Frank recalled it as a nasty place with animals crammed in small cages. Video of Abandoned Coxville Zoo Frank also mentioned a roadside zoo off of 2222 in Austin that had a lot of snakes. He said there was an old gas station on North Lamar that was seedy and creepy and had a roadside monkey house.

The evolution of zoos has moved alongside the evolution of wildlife preserves. For many years, good zoos have been creating habitat to mimic the natural habitat of the animals. When I was in college, I had the opportunity to work one summer with 6 other young women from my college as zoo guides at the Bronx Zoo. We had an entire week of training, learning how the animals were cared for and how the enclosures and outdoor habitats were created and maintained to serve the animals. After seeing these beginnings in the rethinking and redesign of zoos, I noticed that the Central Park Zoo in New York City, just a few subway stops away from the Bronx Zoo, was mostly made of small cages with hard surfaces and dirty water. The Central Park Zoo was renovated about 10 years later. It's quite lovely now.

Laura grew up near the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus's winter home in Florida. Last November, the big top came down. This was partly because of publicity and complaints about treatment of the animals. The circus had to quit having elephant acts, their main attraction. Laura said she never thought the animals were treated cruelly. She suggests that we can help animals in small ways by supporting zoos and donating useful items to local animal shelters.

You can watch a video about the current home of the Ringling circus animals:  If you continue watching, the next video is about Hanako, an elephant who is 69 years old; although life  expectancy of zoo elephants is 40 years. She is a killer elephant so has to be alone. The next video after that is about some acreage in Cambodia for endangered species. There is plenty of information about animals on the Internet!

Patty gave us a good report about the San Diego Zoo, which teaches children and families and everyone about animals, including some extinct or endangered ones and allows many children to participate in field trips. One of the zoo's purposes is to bring more awareness about animals to the public. Patty feels that the animals in good zoo environments are protected better then they would be in the wild.

From Lydia's notes: Animal welfare has been in the news recently.  Just a few weeks ago, Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey circuses announced they were retiring their elephants.  This is after legislation outlawing bullhooks and animal performances.  SeaWorld Orlando’s revenues were damaged by a 2013 documentary called “Blackfish”, calling for the end of keeping orcas in captivity.  Last week they announced the retirement of their performing killer whales.  On a lighter note, Inky the Octopus, formerly of New Zealand’s National Aquarium became a global celebrity via the Internet when he slipped through a gap at the of his enclosure, squeezed into a small drain and made his way back into the Pacific Ocean.

The gorilla in the story we read, Ivan, was real. His story was adapted for young people to read, but the book wasn't far from the truth. Ivan did have trouble getting used to his new home among gorillas, but think about how his life had been for 27 years and whether he was actually better off in his new social habitat at the Atlanta Zoo. He lived there until dying at the age of 50 in approximately 2011. See more information and photos and video of Ivan here: Ivan at Atlanta Zoo 

Poaching is a big killer of animals. When our Book Club discussed In the Heart of the Sea, we talked about the killing of whales for their oil and ambergris. We learned that whale killing continues but because of publicity, a lot of people have lost interest in killing whales, especially for food. Poaching of elephants and rhinos in Africa is a problem. Many animals are killed for their tusks or teeth or horns. Recently, in the news, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya set fire to 105 tons of elephant ivory that has been seized from poachers, to show how important it is to stop poaching and to make a statement against trade in ivory. This president burned $100 million worth of animal parts that had been poached. For the story, click here:

From Lydia's notes: According to the World Wildlife Fund, there are fewer than 900 gorillas left in the wild. 35,000 elephants were killed last year, up from 25,000 the previous year.  Lions have lost 85% of their habitat, so now live closer to humans, prey on their livestock and are killed by farmers.  At current poaching rates, elephants, rhinos and gorillas may be gone within our lifetime. It seems zoos are the only hope to save endangered species. Money, of course, is the root of the poaching and also plays a large part in conservation.  A visit to Austin Zoo costs $11 for an adult and $8 for a child. Atlanta Zoo, where Ivan spent the rest of his days, charges an adult $25 and a child $17. And San Diego Zoo costs an adult $50 and a child $40 – they have pandas. The Austin Zoo is rescue zoo, containing only rescued animals.

The spread of humans has decimated the animal habitat all over the world. The consensus at our meeting was that reputable zoos and preserves are many animals' only chance of long-term survival except, as Dennis pointed out, the complete annihilation of humans.

Movie mentioned at the meeting: Madagascar. Another cartoon about animal abuse: Tarzan.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Here is a photo of a 40' sloop. It has one mast, with the mainsail behind (and attacked to) the mast and the jib in front, supported by the jib stay (the line that runs up from the nose to the top of the mast). If the jib overlaps the mast, it is a genoa jib. If a spinnaker is used, it is a sail that balloons out in front of the jib stay, and may have one corner held out by a spinnaker pole (that pivots against the mast).

Thursday, April 28, 2016

We Read About Chechnya As a Complex and War Torn Society

I liked the way Marla introduced A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, by Anthony Marra. She said the author painted a picture of what it was like to live in war-torn Chechnya. She said that ordinary people were forced to experience extraordinary situations, often as part of what theoretically should have been ordinary daily life. The characters in the stories faced physical dangers, possibilities for betrayal that could lead to death or extreme suffering, and moral decisions in addition to the daily pursuit of food and shelter and safety for themselves and their families.

In the book, the title of the book is listed as a Russian dictionary's definition of life. Thia is thought-provoking, as were many of the characters' deeds and descriptions. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. Holds together but is made up of parts, scientific but also imaginative.

Marla led us into a discussion by asking questions but also by describing the book. At one point, she said that the characters were striving to find normalcy within the war-torn life that they were surrounded by and forced into. Dennis said that he liked the writing style of the author but found the war to be an unpleasant situation that he didn't like reading about. Carla said that she got involved in the book and wanted to continue reading to find out what would happen to the characters, but that she knew they would have bad and sad things happen to them.

Pam said that the characters would have had their own personalities whether or not there had been a war surrounding them. Thus, she said, Sonja would have been a weird person even without the war. Maybe she would have been a physician, but she would have been the same. Someone said that Akhmed might have been a painter instead of a reticent physician if it hadn't been for the war. But, Akhmed was somewhat of an artist anyhow and created portraits of those who had died. Ken said that in the story, the bizarre was considered normal. Marla added that the image the authors gave of the 8-year-old girl, Havaa, was almost that of a normal girl, but then when the reader got closer to the girl, she was shown to be excessively unkempt and dirty and wearing hand-me-downs; essentially because of the war.

Family relationships was a theme throughout the book. One example of relationship was fathers, from the fathers' points of view as well as from the children's. About Ramzan,  Marla asked the group to discuss whether we felt compassion for him because he had been in 2 wars. Pam noted that Achmed and Ramzan both had the same father but had very different lives and different experiences as sons. She said that Ramzan didn't know they were brothers and resented Akhmed. Carla felt that Ramzan wasn't right psychologically and that this might have been an implication that Ramzan was deeply hurt and deeply, but not on an outer level, aware of the comparison between the way his father treated him and treated Akhmed. Marla brought up how Havaa had a father who loved her and that the author might have been using her family life to express a normal healthy father/child relationship. Regardless of the health of that family, the war tore them apart, but Havaa's short time with her family might have given her the stamina and security and grounding to carry on as was told at the end of the story.

Another flawed familial relationship the author examined was the one between siblings. This was expressed by Ramzan and Akhmed, who lived as if they were not brothers but might have felt the relationship at some level; and Sonja and her sister Natasha, who grew up as opposites and kept their separate personalities but moved toward and away from closeness throughout their lives. Discussing Sonja and Natasha, Carla suggested that throughout Chechnya during the war, the story was about insiders who were outsiders.

This brought on some attempts by Book Club members to characterize the Chechen wars. Cindy T noted that she had recently read a book that had the fighting between Sicily and Tunisia as a theme. Sicily had conquered Tunisia, but the fighting continued on and on. This seems to be similar to the Chechen and Russian and Central Asian interactions. The history is complicated. Russia wanted to replace the central Asians with Russians, but the Central Asians wanted Hitler to conquer Russia (probably because the Central Asians couldn't). Carla thought the conflict was over oil, and that whoever controlled Chechnya would control the oil business and make the money. Frank chimed in to say that the Chechens were so poor and oppressed that for many years they were unable to develop the oil industry that the natural resources promised. Frank knew some of the history and told us that the wars in the area stemmed from World War I, when Great Britain was in charge of the map. The Arabic tribes were constantly at war and the Germans and the Russians formed a delicate balance with all these groups.

A complex and war-torn society, indeed!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

But First, Are You Pickwickian?

More than 60 years ago, our Patty went out on a first date with young William Sanford. Conversation turned to books, and William said he was currently reading The Pickwick Papers, by Charles Dickens. What a match! When Patty was getting ready to nominate for January, her husband William suggested The Pickwick Papers. Since they recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary, she thought the book was aprapos.

Charles Dickens serialized The Pickwick Papers and became famous at the age of 25 when it was published in 1837. Previously, the Dickens family, including his parents and his 9 siblings, had lived in debt and poverty. At one point, his family was living in a Debtors' Prison. Dickens wrote fiction but managed to incorporate opinions advocating social reform and criticizing injustice. He wrote Little Dorrit specifically against the concept of the Debtors' Prison and eventually was instrumental in the dissolution of the Debtors' Prison in England.

Dickens was a master of the printed word and was able to publish many popular works of fiction, packing each one with satirical social criticism; funny names, e.g., Ebenezer Scrooge of A Christmas Carol and Job Trotter, Tracy Tupman, and Augustus Snodgrass of The Pickwick Papers; and absurd situations, such as Pickwick falling into a drunken stupor on a hunting outing and ending up asleep in a cart and awakening in prison in The Pickwick Papers.

Patty led our meeting by asking us to choose sections of The Pickwick Papers to read aloud and choosing some herself. The book was good for reading aloud, and it was very enjoyable to listen to the chosen passages and their backgrounds. Then Patty asked some questions, encouraging a discussion about the book.

One part of the discussion evolved around the timely topic of the portrayal of women in The Pickwick Papers. Carla said that women were portrayed as grasping, and wanting only to catch a man. Cindy T noticed that the women in the book were either sweet young things or greedy older ones. Linda H. said that Little Dorrit was a Dickensian heroine but many of Dickens' women characters had bad intentions.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

We Travel Between Ireland and Ellis Island in a Historical Novel

Most everyone, or everyone, at the book club meeting had read Ellis Island, by Kate Kerrigan. Carol told us some details from Kerrigan's life: Kerrigan was indeed Irish, which is not a surprise. She writes for radio and she has written comedies and has a new novel. Carol brought a list of questions to get us talking about the book. Below are some highlights and notes from the discussions of 3 of the questions. Disclaimer: Most of the information is from notes taken during the meeting. Please feel free to note any discrepancies or explain any understandings.

The first question asked us to discuss Ellie's parents and her relationship with them, in comparison with John's parents and Ellie's relationship with them.

               Linda H. said that Ellie's parents were cold.

               Susan noted that Ellis's mother softened a little after her husband, Ellie's strict and religious father, had died. She also said that some of the reason for the couple's distance from Ellie might have been because Ellie was their only child and had been born when they were somewhat older than most parents. This was similar to the situation between Cathy and her parents in Too Close to the Falls.

               Linda H. thought Ellis's mother was emotionally bankrupt. (Good description!)

               Carla said the father's strictness might have stemmed from his having studied to be a priest as a young man and failed to make the priesthood, plus he ended up working for the British, so he followed British law.

               Laura said Ellie's mother couldn't connect.

               Ken stated that Ellie's family was "largely deceased." Could he have been alluding to the characters in the story? Ken also noted that John's mother, Maidy, treated Ellie like a daughter, which might have explained the bonding between them.

Another question asked about the character in New York City, Isobel. Was she a good person?

               Linda H. called Isobel a "low life" and said she was a low-class person.

               I said she was an alcoholic.

               Dennis said that for the time and with the customs of the time and place, Isobel was a product of her time and place.

               Linda S. said that Irish women make good characters in stories. She said that at home, Ellie wasn't told about good things (such as the clothing and belongings Isobel had) so that Ellie would not get "above herself."        

               Susan said Ellie had to have the position working for Isobel to be qualified to go to Ireland.

The conversation seemed to change direction here, moving toward talking about immigration and immigrants, involving Ireland particularly.

               Lydia shared her family's experience, which was that a generation in her husband's family had emigrated from Ireland; and the order in which they left was the oldest first, and then the next oldest, etc. Lydia said that immigrants were never popular, giving the example of the disliked German immigrants in Little Women.

               Carla said that it's still hard to find work in Ireland, though it's better now than it was during the time in the book.      

               Ken reminded us that we are a nation of immigrants and that mixed nationalities came to America for a variety of reasons, many of which were economic.

Another question was why John didn't go to New York, when Ellie was expecting him and seemed to believe that arrangements had been made.

               Shirley said that John's not being there when he was expected was very disappointing to Ellie, especially since she had sent him a ticket. The distance at that time was very far and communicating across the ocean took a long time and was apparently often incomplete.

               Kathleen suggested that John might not have gotten through Ellis Island and been allowed to stay in Ireland, because of his limp.

A question asked about the relationship between Charles and Ellie.

               Marla remarked that it was interesting to see in the book that love and marriage meant different things then than now. She suggested that had the circumstances been similar in modern days; when John didn't show up, Ellie might have been more likely to run to Charles.

               Patty said that Ellie loved John and made the right decision. She said that if Ellie had stayed in New York City with Charles, but her life there would have been shallow.

               Cindy T. added that Ellie would have had a shallow life in Ireland after she returned, if she hadn't learned in New York City to stand up for herself. Cindy thought Ellie would have stayed poor if she hadn't matured, as she had been poor when she left Ireland.

               Pam said that Ellie was naturally independent and figured out who she was in New York.

So, this was a coming of age story in a way.

As a sort of summary, Patty read aloud the last sentence in the book. Ellis as narrator said, "America had planted the seed of freedom in my heart, but it was the rich soil of home that had enabled it to grow."

Personal note: I grew up with the last name, Ellis. My Dad grew up with that name, too. His parents had entered the USA via Ellis Island in the early 1900s from Russia. I don't know of any other name they had, ie, whether they had a name change at Ellis Island. I know my great uncle and aunt did change their name. Maybe my grandparents changed it before they left Russia or after they were through Ellis Island and in New York.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Hogarth Shakespeare (From the New York Times)

A year and a half ago, the novelist Jeanette Winterson got an irresistible offer from a publisher. The assignment: Choose any Shakespeare play she wanted, and adapt it into a novel. “I said, ‘That would be great, put me down for “The Winter’s Tale,” ’ and they looked at me like I was insane,” Ms. Winterson recalled. “They said, ‘Do you really want to do that?’ And I said, ‘That’s the play, no question.’ ” Ms. Winterson was one of the first writers to sign on for a project conceived by the publisher, Hogarth, which asked contemporary writers to reimagine Shakespeare’s plays. She more or less had her pick of the canon and could have chosen “Hamlet,” “Macbeth,” “King Lear” or “Othello,” juicy dramas that were later snapped up by the novelists Gillian Flynn, Jo Nesbo, Edward St. Aubyn and Tracy Chevalier. Instead, she surprised her publisher and picked “The Winter’s Tale,” one of Shakespeare’s most baffling, jarring and uneven plays. The opening acts build up to a tragic climax that leaves the king, Leontes, mourning the loss of his wife, son and infant daughter, who is abandoned in the wilderness on his orders. Then, after a memorable stage direction – “Exit, pursued by a bear” – and a 16-year gap, the play morphs into a wacky pastoral romp, with a statue that comes to life and one of the most awkward family reunions in all of literature. In her adaptation, “The Gap of Time,” which comes out on Tuesday, Ms. Winterson manages to preserve the play’s weirdness and uncomfortable blend of tragedy and humor. “It is an odd play,” said Ms. Winterson, 56. “It’s almost as if Shakespeare couldn’t be bothered to finish it.” “The Gap of Time” takes the play’s themes of love, jealousy and estrangement and spins them into a taut contemporary tale about an insecure London banker who accuses his wife of cheating on him, and destroys his marriage and a friendship in the process. It’s a promising start to an ambitious new series from Hogarth, which has assembled an all-star roster of stylistically diverse writers to translate Shakespeare’s timeless plays into prose. So far, eight novelists have joined the series, which arrives in time for the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death next year. Ms. Chevalier, author of “Girl With a Pearl Earring,” is tackling “Othello.” Margaret Atwood is reimagining Shakespeare’s wild fantasy tale “The Tempest,” set in a prison. Ms. Flynn, author of the best-selling novel “Gone Girl,” is adapting the tragedy “Hamlet” into a novel about murder, betrayal, revenge and madness. Mr. St. Aubyn, who has written about his profoundly dysfunctional family in his best-selling Patrick Melrose series, is recasting the dark, tangled family drama of “King Lear.” The Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Anne Tyler took on “The Taming of the Shrew” and set the tale in contemporary Baltimore, where a young preschool teacher, Kate, is pressured to marry her father’s awkward lab assistant, who faces deportation. All Hogarth had to do to recruit award-winning authors for the series was drop the name Shakespeare, which apparently is the literary equivalent of catnip. “It seemed to be a very visceral thing for most of these writers,” said Becky Hardie, the deputy publishing director of Chatto & Windus/Hogarth in Britain, where the books are being published simultaneously. “If you put the greatest storyteller of all time together with some of our greatest storytellers of now, you get this alchemy.” William Shakespeare wrote nearly 40 plays, and there have been countless adaptations of his dramas over the centuries. Jane Smiley used the plot architecture and character archetypes from “King Lear” in her novel “A Thousand Acres,” and Tom Stoppard took two side characters from “Hamlet” and made them the stars of his existentialist comedy “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.” Shakespeare himself was a notorious mooch who borrowed liberally from other people’s plots, raiding Greek tragedies and British history as well as works by his rivals. “Shakespeare was unbelievably clever at figuring out what stories have long lives,” said Stephen Greenblatt, author of “Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare.” “He was a great recycler of stories, and there’s no reason why his stories shouldn’t be recycled.” Most of the writers Hogarth approached were game, and immediately had a play in mind. “I said, ‘If I can have “Macbeth,” then I’m in,’ ” said Mr. Nesbo, the best-selling Norwegian crime writer. Mr. Nesbo was drawn to the moral ambiguities in “Macbeth,” Shakespeare’s tragedy about a Scottish nobleman whose hunger for power drives him to murder the king, Duncan, at the behest of three witches. In Mr. Nesbo’s version, due out in 2017, Macbeth is the leader of a SWAT team in a gloomy, coastal European city, where crime and corruption are rampant. The three witches are making illegal drugs rather than a witches’ brew, and promise Macbeth that he will ascend through police ranks – but only if he kills Duncan. “Those classic plays, they read like crime stories,” Mr. Nesbo said. Not all the writers got their first choice. Howard Jacobson, whose work often grapples with Jewish identity, said he somewhat grudgingly took on “The Merchant of Venice,” one of Shakespeare’s most controversial plays, after his first few suggestions were rejected. “I was hesitant, because I’d never liked that play,” said Mr. Jacobson, the Man Booker Prize-winning British novelist. When he first read the play as a teenager, Mr. Jacobson said, he was troubled by the depiction of Shylock, a Jewish merchant who seeks “a pound of flesh” from a gentile who owes him money. But when he reread it more recently, he saw Shylock as a more subtle and sympathetic figure rather than a crass Jewish caricature. In “Shylock Is My Name,” due out in February, Mr. Jacobson imports Shylock into a wealthy enclave south of Manchester, England. Shylock becomes an unlikely friend to a grieving father whose daughter has taken up with a gentile, a soccer player. While Mr. Jacobson modernizes the story, he made sure to preserve the problematic aspects of the play, he said. “I would never dream of cleaning up Shakespeare,” he said. A similar sort of fraught emotional chemistry infused Ms. Winterson’s version of “The Winter’s Tale.” Ms. Winterson, author of “Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit,” chose the play partly because she related to the abandoned baby at the center of the story. Ms. Winterson was taken in by well meaning strangers after her mother gave her up for adoption, an experience she recounts in her memoir, “Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?” “As someone who was given away and is a foundling, I’ve always worked with the idea of the lost child,” she says. “It’s like starting a book with some of the pages missing. You know you missed something, but that sense of exile can also become a place of creativity, because you have to be self-invented.”