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: rrnewneighbors.org [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:

ALICE IN WONDERLAND AT THE RANSOME CENTER through JULY 6th:
The Ransom Center celebrates 150 years of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland with an exhibition for the curious and curiouser of all ages. Learn about Lewis Carroll and the real Alice who inspired his story. See one of the few surviving copies of the first edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Discover the rich array of personal and literary references that Carroll incorporated throughout Alice. Explore the surprising transformations of Alice and her story as they have traveled through time and across continents. Follow the White Rabbit's path through the exhibition, have a tea party, or watch a 1933 paper filmstrip that has been carefully treated by Ransom Center conservators. The Center's vast collections offer a new look at a story that has delighted generations and inspired artists from Salvador Dalí to Walt Disney.


The 2015 Texas Book Festival will be October 17th and 18th.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Elegance of the Hedgehog is Aptly Titled

Our discussion began with tying the book to the author's background. Dennis, who nominated and presented The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery, told us some biographical details about the author. It was clear that the author's history impacted this book. Barbery grew up in France, has a degree in philosophy and taught philosophy before her book became such a grand success that she was able to become a full-time writer. As a writer, the author was free to live wherever she chose, and she chose Japan. This book is her second;  the first included the same concierge character. (Let us know if you read it!)

Our conversation about the author and how her biography relates to her book went into some of the, not necessarily stereotypes, but culture, of France; where the snobbery in the story would be a normal way of life for the author to have experienced. We were not blind to the similarities to American society, but there seem to still be differences between American and European culture. Someone suggested that the European countries have richer humanities histories than we do because of the relative ages of the countries and that these histories. We are Paloma to their Renée and Ozu! The author's knowledge of art, music and philosophy were important additions to the story and character development. Marla said that she has read some books in French and noticed that they tend to have more presence of cultural history than do American novels. Partly because these kinds of references and interests are not as typical of the American awareness as they might be in France, this book might not have been published in the United States had it not been popular in French first, and it was slow to catch on in the USA. Also interesting was the author's choice of a Japanese hero in the story and her apparent love for Japan in her real life.

Linda H. suggested that because the author was a professor, maybe she purposely used advanced vocabulary in an attempt to teach and stretch the reader, rather than just because it comes naturally to her. Then we were off on a discussion of education and whether educated grammar is important to the message or whether it doesn't matter as long as the message is sent and received. We touched on the future emphasis or lack thereof on grammar and writing in education, and the current cultural/educational trend toward production and acceptance of writing that is less and less impeccable grammatically and in other ways. Cindy T. brought us back into the book with a quote from page 167, in one of Paloma's "Profound Thoughts." Paloma writes, "And when intelligence takes itself for its own goal, it operates very strangely: the proof that it exists is not to be found in the ingenuity or simplicity of what it produces, but in how obscurely it is expressed." Was this a foreshadowing of Paloma's later appreciation for Renée?

Hedgehog was one of the many books that that make me think during the meeting that there could be semester classes or at least several book club sessions on the book. In this case, I thought of a good topic for a study: Paloma's Profound Thoughts: Aspects that Showed Paloma's Maturity Beyond Her Years and Aspects That Reminded Us That She Was Yet a Child.

Everyone at the meeting, or almost all had read the book. Everyone apparently liked it except a few who were willing to speak up and criticize the whole or parts of the book. It seems that our group finds it interesting to know why someone has a different overall opinion or experience of a book, especially when that opinion that goes against the majority opinion. We like to hear these opinions and the reasons for them. It seems to put that reader on the spot, but it enriches our discussions. We thank those who are willing to explain their personal dislike of a book, particularly one that most others enjoy. I will refrain from listing names when I write about these divergent opinions unless told otherwise. One comment was that the book didn't make sense and didn't give the reader an understandung of what the author was trying to say. Another said that she didn't like the pretension in the book and wanted more story about the characters rather than psychoanalysis of them; this reader liked Ozu because he stood out as being genuine instead of pretentious. Another critique was that the book made the reader feel like there was a lot that she didn't know. This was a mixture of praise and criticism, as the book inspired the reader to do a little research, whether for vocabulary or cultural or artistic references. Others in the group also said they were moved to do some research and learned some things as they read this book.

A lot of us did like Ozu for his bucking the trend of those around him. Cindy T. noted that Ozu saw people for who those people were, rather than seeking himself through his relationships. Thus, Ozu was able to pierce what Carla called the concierge's "reverse snobbery" and get past Renée's sham outer personality to become friendly with her and have fun with her. Shirley said that perhaps the author was emphasizing this ability of Ozu to get out of his own ego and challenging the reader to see people for themselves rather than as mirrors. Did this idea relate to Paloma's description of the rugby player who she noticed because he maintained an inner focus rather than an outer one like other athletes? (Was there a theme of focus?) Dennis told us that the book sold well in Japan and suggested that this was because of Ozu and the core of the book being about beauty and aesthetics, which are valued in Japanese culture perhaps more than here. We value our aesthetics, but more so (do you like "moreso" or "more so"?) when we decide to go to a museum rather than in the media that appeals to the general public.

Hedgehog had some moments and some depth! Our discussion? ALL moments and depth...as always!






Sunday, January 25, 2015

"...A farmwife...went into the fields summers and lay down among the sheep, to have company."

Horses, check. Women, check. Guns, check. Covered wagons, check. Fights, check. Lynching, check. Deaths, check. The Homesman, by Glendon Swarthout, was a Western! Insanity, a strong woman who owned her own home and farmed her own land, and a destination in Iowa added plot and character. And the book became a page-turner. More than one book club member hesitated to try it at first and then had difficulty putting it down before finishing it. Almost everyone at the meeting had read and liked the book.

Patty noted that although many westerns focus on heroes or outlaws, this one was about victims. Briggs was certainly an outlaw, but all the other characters were victims of the time, the place, or circumstance. And even Briggs lost his money, the victim of a not uncommon bank closure. The crazy women and, to a great extent, their husbands, were victims of the time and place. Mary Bee was a victim of time, place, and being homely and educated - deal-killers for most potential suitors in Loup.

Marcia asked a key question about the book's plot and Briggs' character. "Why didn't Briggs abandon the crazy women?" Was it because of the way they followed him wherever he went, so he would have had to lock them in the wagon to escape them? The author was able to create some tension periodically, when Briggs would arrive at a place where he would consider leaving the women. Did Briggs have a streak of "good" in him? Or maybe the author wanted to give Briggs a little redemption. Swarthout let the reader know that Briggs had never shot anyone, almost at the very end of the book, thus giving the character a cleaner slate than most readers would have suspected. Janice and Carla questioned whether Briggs was losing his mind, especially when he danced at the end of the book.

This was a 2-character book: Mary Bee Cuddy and Briggs. Others added a bit of flavor (the crazy women, their husbands, the traveling Reverend, and Altha Carter). Briggs was a typical Western character, but he was an antihero, according to Janice. Marla suggested that his ethics involved taking what was there at the moment. Marla and Carla suggested that Mary Bee was showing signs of craziness when she accepted the Homesman job. Carla, aside, said that Briggs was also crazy. Patty thought Briggs' rejection of Mary Bee was what sent her over the edge. I agree with Patty, adding that Mary Bee's seeing what Briggs could do that she couldn't and realizing how much more than her capabilities would be needed to keep running her farm over the years was what made her think she needed him to marry her.

The ending worked. We weren't sure what happened after the ending, but we felt like there was a distinct probability that Briggs would go back to Loup, maybe take over Mary Bee's homestead; after all, he was a claim jumper by trade. This possibility was distinct but not definite. There was also the possibility that Briggs would continue traveling and being a professional "opportunist," as Carla called him.

Carla mentioned an Oregon Trail Museum, where she saw a display of lots of stuff that people discarded along the trail, for various reasons you can imagine. When you're headed to Oregon, there are 2 museums listed online, the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City, Oregon and End of the Oregon Trail in Oregon City. Oregon is one of a very few states I have not yet visited, so I hope to get there.

Now the book is a movie. The Los Angeles Times called it, "Love and Madness on the Frontier," and " Disquiet on the Western Front." It seemed to have a quick run around town without many stops. Of course...say it with me..."The book is better than the movie." But I want to see the movie. Please let me know if you find it when it reappears,

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Holiday Party: A Literal Literary Feast


What a wonderful holiday party we had! Overall, I think 25 of us gathered, with lots of delicious lunch dishes, and we had the usual jolly time talking and eating. Then we folded up the tables and set up chairs making a large oval in the living room, bathed in the light from Lydia's 2-story wall of windows. And here is where this party was different from all the others. We had the cookbook/food theme this time! Plus, Marcia and I brought some items to give away in drawings, and Cindy V. brought quotes about food for us each to read aloud as we went around the circle. So we drew numbers for some to win a book or a DVD, read the quotes, and everyone either recommended a book about some aspect of food or showed a cookbook they had used to create the recipe that they had brought to share. At the end of this post, there is a list the books that each of us brought for show and tell.

 I don't know about you, but I do look forward to the delightful meal we always have...the food itself as well as the company! Food is very important to us all. Planning and preparing fresh food is a delight to some of us, and eating it is appreciated by all. For many years, our group has been bringing pot luck dishes for our holiday party. Whether we like to prepare food or not, most of us bring something thoughtfully planned if not cooked. So there is a focus on food at our party. We enjoy our meal, and we enjoy the chance to talk, and we enjoy the book discussion. This time the book discussion focused on food and especially on the food we had shared. When we went around the room and many of us showed the cookbook that they had used to create the dish they had shared, I remembered tasting or at least noticing each dish. I would guess every one of us remembered either tasting or noticing each dish that was mentioned at the discussion. There was a sort of holistic feeling to the focus on the food that we had spent thought, time and money to bring for our friends. I think the food theme added depth and breadth to our meeting and our sharing of cheer at the beginning of December.

Please be thinking about next year's party, even if only in the back of your mind. I liked the theme idea this year, and I think it works well for the holiday party; although all reading the same book has its charm every month as well as for the annual party. So let's think and please send or give me suggestions any time, and I will save them for next October's discussion. I have been listening to an audio version of Tom Robbins' new autobiography, Tibetan Peach Pie, and in it he mentions a quote that I think he got somewhere, or maybe he made it up. (One downside to audio books is that it's difficult to go back and find anything.) Anyway, the quote was something like, "Christmas comes every 10 years when you are young and every 10 minutes when you are old." So, it's not too early to consider whether you might want to host the holiday party at your house next year and/or what kind of theme might be fun for our party. You could offer to lead the theme or not. What do y'all think? Not really a big rush; we have more than 10 minutes, surely. And I won't bother you about it until after next summer; I promise!

Below is the list of books shared at the party. Please let me know if I left anything out or have anything wrong or incomplete. I apologize for not keeping a list of everyone's dish, but if you are having a hankering for a recipe someone brought and you know who brought it, I will be glad to help you connect with that person.

Patty:
An English Afternoon Tea. Book written by Patty in 1993 and reprinted this year!
The Steinbeck House Cookbook. 1984
The Jane Austin Cookbook, by Maggie Black, 1995
Pillsbury Bake-Off 1978, with Patty's finalist recipe in it
Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook, a once-new edition of cookbook from 1930 that is in its 16th edition now

Kathleen:
Provence Beautiful Cookbook

Jay:
 A Matter of Taste, by the Lake Geneva Women's Association 2005
Chicago Tribune Cookbook, 1989

Cindy T:
Vegan  Holiday Kitchen, by Nava Atlas

Pat:
Eating the Plates: A Pilgrim Book of Food and Manners, by Lucille Recht Penner, 1991

Shirley:
Luby's 50th Anniversary Recipe Collection, 1996

Carol G:
Breaking Bread Together, by the St. Cyrus Ladies Guild, 1977

Diane:
 At Your Service: A Collection of Favorite Recipes From the Round Robin Dinner Groups, from St. Thomas More Church, 1990

Jan:
Barefoot Contessa Parties, by Ina Garten, 2001

Marcia:
Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child, 1961
Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously, by Julie Powell, 2005

Claudia:
Vegan Express, by Nava Atlas, 2008

Lydia:
Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American             Taste, by Luke Barr, 2013, paperback 2014

Janice:
Our Favorite Recipes, by the Round Rock Hospital Auxiliary, 1998

Peggy:
Heartburn, by Nora Ephron, 1996
The Male Chauvinist's Cookbook, by Cory Kilvert, 1974

Judy (+ Dennis):
Consider the Oyster, by M.F.K. Fisher, 1988
How to Cook a Wolf, by M.F.K. Fisher, 1988
Serve it Forth, by M.F.K. Fisher, 2002

Carla:
Gastronomical Me, by M.F.K. Fisher, 1989
            
Pam:
Betty Crocker's Cookbook for Boys and Girls, 1957

Linda (in absentia):
Cooking for Mr. Latte: A Foodie Memoir of Courtship, with Recipes, by Amanda Hesser,                   2004

Happy Holidays 2014-15!!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Hi Dennis,
Couldn't find your email.  The cheese was Sartori Brand, Bella Vitano, from Sprouts.

Cranberry Mustard for anyone who is interested
1 12oz, package of cranberries, fresh or frozen
1 cup of sugar  I used a scant cup
2 T Champagne Vinegar, I subbed White Wine Vinegar
Add these 3 ingredients to a sauce pan and heat stirring over medium hear until the sugar is dissolved and the cranberries burst and are soft. About 15 minutes maybe less.
Transfer the cranberry mixture to a food processor or blender.
Add 1/3 cup Dijon Mustard  I used a generous third cup
Process until mixture is smooth.
Serve with meats, and or cheeses or whatever you think would be good.
YUMMY

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Books Selected, 2014

2014
  • World Made By Hand == James Howard Kunstler
  • Garden of the Finzi-Continis == Giorgio Bassani
  • Nothing Daunted == Dorothy Wickenden
  • The Paris Wife == Paula McLain
  • A Partial History of Lost Causes == Jennifer DuBois
  • Catwalk == Jennifer DuBois
  • Main Street == Sinclair Lewis
  • The Snow Child == Eowyn Ivey
  • Peace Like a River == Leif Enger
  • Still Alice == Lisa Genova
  • The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet == Reif Larsen
  • Cookbooks/Food themes == Christmas party

Books Selected, 2013

    2013
  • The White Tiger == Aravind Adiga
  • Waiting for Snow in Havana == Carlos Eire
  • Faith Bass Darling's Last Garage Sale == Lynda Rutledge
  • In The Woods == Tana French
  • The Forgotten Garden == Kate Morton
  • Picture of Dorian Gray == Oscar Wilde
  • The Lemon Tree == Sandy Tolan
  • Defending Jacob == William Landay
  • Gang Leader for a Day == Sudhir Venkatesh
  • Ready Player One == Ernest Cline (and his DeLorean)
  • 11/22/63 == Stephen King

Books Selected, 2012

    2012
  • Author visit == Jim Hornfischer
  • Into Thick Air == Jim Malusa
  • Moloka'i == Alan Brennert
  • An American Tragedy == Theodore Dreischer
  • Einstein's Dreams == Alan Lightman
  • Welcome to Utopia == Karen Valby
  • In the Garden of Beasts == Erik Larson
  • Mystery == Jonathon Kellerman
  • Olive Kitteridge == Elizabeth Strout
  • The End of Overeating == David A. Kessler
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle == Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Worst Hard Time == Timothy Egan