Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Merci to La Madamoiselle for hosting a really fun BC last night.  It was great to have Logan's Run back with us but it sure is a revolving door these days--Ms. K will be out next, then the Highlander. Pretty soon, we'll need to take volunteers for apps, dessert, and next pregnancy!

We started out with the Contessa's ever-delish roasted eggplant dip with baguette slices, followed by that perennial IKEA special, Swedish meatballs! Kudos to La Madamoiselle for finding a way to keep in theme without serving us herring and mustard sandwiches with coffee.  Alas we didn't think to bring the Aquavit!  But really, those meatballs were delish, with Swedish cheese inside, served over egg noodles with a side salad.  And for dessert, mixed berry tarts. Quite an impressive feast, as usual.

Now, onto the book.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, nee, Men Who Hate Women, generated a surprising spread of ratings. Everyone thought this would be right up La Madamoiselle's alley (we're still waiting for something to impress her as much as the Da Vinci Code; maybe Dan Brown's new novel?  It's available at Costco!), but no, she gave it a lackluster rating as did several others. Only the Highlander's write-in "9" saved it from total mediocrity. On average, a little over a 7. Which isn't bad, and certainly the book spurred a lot of conversation.

Every person finished this 500+ page suspense murder mystery, and across the board we all agreed it was a page turner. But, we were split between those who knew it was Martin from the moment they saw the Vanger family tree, and those who didn't suspect the pudgy, friendly CEO for a moment until they entered his underground lair (don't you love the word "lair?!");  those who knew Harriet was alive and sending pressed flowers to her great uncle each year, and those who had to do a double-take (or double-read) upon discovering her on a sheep farm Down Under.  But, whether fooled by the mystery or not, there was not a single one of us who was prepared for the dark, Satanic, sadistic twist that the novel took in its last 100 pages. Our reactions ranged from not wanting to read about such disgusting acts, to thinking it was just so over the top that it ruined the book. In any event, we did agree that this author has some serious issues that needed to be worked out, and we wondered how they contributed (as they most certainly did) to his untimely demise. Finally, El Jefe would be remiss not to mention--especially following upon the ast meeting's titillating conversion about M.H.'s--how much air time we gave to B.P.'s. Did you guess it yet? They look like big mushrooms and they can be used as votive holders. Is El Jefe hearing things or did someone actually throw that out there....and over dinner!?

Our November book is Lie Down in Darkness, by William Styron. The November meeting is at the home of Logan's Run (we can't wait to meet little Logan!) on the first Wed. in Nov., the Doctor is bringing apps and the Foxx dessert. The December co-ed book club is at P_____'s house at Mandy (tentatively, Dec. 2), and the January meeting is at the Doctor's. The January book is The Help.  Until next time, read early and often! xoej

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Strangers on a Train

Thanks to La Mademoiselle for hosting a very lively BC at her new home! Over the river and through the woods--the directions were a full paragraph shorter this time. And no cars were towed!  Better yet, no sooner had we started to sip our first glass of wine than we got a wonderful announcement from Logan's Run.  Ms. K, can you guess? We all did before Logan's Run even got the last word out of her mouth. That's right--BC offspring #11 is on the way!! We are all very very excited!

We started off with a dalish platter of assorted cheeses salami, grapes, and raisin toasts, followed by tomatoes stuffed with chicken and herbs over saffron rice, a luscious green salad, and profiteroles topped with Valrhona chocolate sauce. Tres Francaise, and tres lishy.

Moving right on to the book since it was so well received.... Strangers on a Train got an average rating of 8.3--easily ranking in the top 10 percent of all BC selections. Not only was the rating high, but there was a lot of discussion over this story of a psychopathic closeted homosexual, who meets a social-climbing architect on a train, murders his wife after she just miscarried another man's baby, and then is driven to madness ultimately killing the psychopath's father in return, until he finally is nabbed in a sting operation by a private detective while confessing his crime to the real father of his wife's illegitimate, miscarried baby. And yet somehow, this book did not come across as overly dramatic (in fact, La Mademoiselle thought it was somewhat dull and predictable). Our group was fascinated by all the characters. Bruno started out as repulsive (because of his zit, natch) and annoying, but then a few people found themselves understanding and perhaps even sympathizing with his psychoses, which clearly stemmed from confused sexual identity, a feeling of jealousy and worthlessness, and some weird unnatural attachment to his mother. And thinking about it now, the same comments came up in relation to Guy: he was alternately annoying and weak, and at the same time you could get an insight into where he was coming from and you really wanted him to succeed.  As the Doctor pointed out, it was almost as if Guy turned into Bruno over the course of the book.  Plus, the story was just a lot of fun to read with its deliciously retro throwbacks--the two martini lunch, the boat rides "upstate," the dressing jacket, the gumshoe private detective, the cougar country mom standing to gain from her husband's life insurance policy.  All in all, we had a lot to talk about analyzing the characters and reviewing the twists and turns of the gripping plot. (And talk about analysis, I'm not sure we spent quite enough time probing how Red's dad happened to "just turn up" an article on Patricia Highsmith from, ah, 6 months ago in a hard copy of the newspaper?!--int.)

Please note the dates for the next 2 BCs: Thursday, Apr. 9, and Monday, May 11 at the Doctor's and Foxx's houses, respectively. Logan's Run volunteered for apps and the Tiger is getting volunteered for dessert. Also, Jackie is on Jury Duty for the next week so PLEASE ORDER THE BOOKS YOURSELVES! There are links below people--click and ship! Until next time... xo

The Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell (Note: he is really hot and there's a video of him on Amazon)

Now that he's gotten us talking about the viral life of ideas and the power of gut reactions, Malcolm Gladwell poses a more provocative question in Outliers: why do some people succeed, living remarkably productive and impactful lives, while so many more never reach their potential? Challenging our cherished belief of the "self-made man," he makes the democratic assertion that superstars don't arise out of nowhere, propelled by genius and talent: "they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot." Examining the lives of outliers from Mozart to Bill Gates, he builds a convincing case for how successful people rise on a tide of advantages, "some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky."

The Gardner Heist, Ulrich Boser

Shortly after midnight on March 18, 1990, two men broke into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and committed the largest art heist in history. They stole a dozen masterpieces, including one Vermeer, three Rembrandts, and five Degas. But after thousands of leads, hundreds of interviews, and a $5-million reward, not a single painting has been recovered. Worth a total of $500 million, the missing masterpieces have become the Holy Grail of the art world and one of the nation's most extraordinary unsolved mysteries.