Talking about books on the streets of New York, in the mountains of the Catskills and on the road. I find that when I ask people about what they’re reading, they tend to start talking about books generally and then start talking to others about books. Encouraging the discussion of books cannot be a bad thing!
“Books are a sort of cultural DNA, the code for who, as a society, we are, and what we know. All the wonders and failures, all the champions and villains, all the legends and ideas and revelations of a culture last forever in its books.” @susanorlean, The Library Book
My friend Jim Finnegan (who was my guest on episode #3 of our podcast) discusses Shuggie Bain, by Douglas Stuart; a tough book but a great read. An unfortunate tale of growing up gay in working class poor Glascow with an alcoholic mother; anger, sadness, lack of hope, despair and dependence. Jim and I also discuss Milkman, Ironweed, The Vanishing Half, The Shadow King, Deacon King Kong, The Pope of Greenwich Village, Interior Chinatown, Lolita, Caro’s LBJ biographies, The Power Broker, Motherless Brooklyn (film), Angela’s Ashes, The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777, Ten Lessons For A Post-Pandemic World. A Swim In a Pond in the Rain - In Which Four Russians Give A Master - Class on Writing, Reading and Life, Passing, The Tenant and The Natural. Another whirlwind of a discussion with Jim. Reviews of each of these books are linked in my website www.bookwormsinthewild.com
Special Edition (March 31, 2021) Our friend Evelyn Lerman wrote a loving biography titled “A Dressmaker's Threads: The Life and The Legacy of My Russian Immigrant Mother", which was published in 2013. In July 2018, I sat down with Evelyn in her cabin in Winslow Maine to discuss the biography she wrote about her mother. As you will hear, I use the excuse of talking to Evelyn about her book to talk with Evelyn about her own life as well. Evelyn describes her mother - Celia Gorfinkel - as a remarkable woman, who in 1920, with a sick husband and an infant, escaped from the Czar's Army in Russia, walked across Europe from the Ukraine, and sailed to Ellis Island. Celia was a dressmaker who worked 12-18 hour days at her sewing machine and whose love for education motivated her to put Evelyn and her two sisters through college. Our warm, loving and dear friend, Evelyn passed away on March 17, 2021. Ev, as remarkable as her mother, was 95 years old; married to Albert for almost 74 years. Evelyn was vibrant to the end. We are all very sad, but have been reflecting on what a wonderful, fulfilling and productive life Ev had, a journalism degree from Simmons College, graduate degrees in education and human development from Harvard, a teacher and later an administrator in the Brookline, Massachusetts Public Schools for 27 years, author of four books, traveling (including cross country with Albert in their RV in their late 80s), teaching writing to adults and directing a reading program for third graders while in her 90s, the blessings of her children, her grands and her great grands, Camp Caribou, and, most of all Albert. Our entire family is so blessed to have been a part of Ev and Al’s life. Carol was 19 years old when she first met Evelyn as a student teacher in Ev's elementary school classroom, and Carol and Ev then taught together as colleagues. Carol adopted Evelyn as her “chosen mother“ and Evelyn and Albert also adopted us. We visited Ev and Al at Camp Caribou in Maine almost every summer beginning in about 1972 for over 40 years. Melanie, Dave and Ben also had wonderful relationships with Evelyn (and with Albert too). Evelyn was a role model and a friend for us all, but most especially for Carol, whose loving relationship with Evelyn was very special. The Altarescus all feel the pain, Carol most deeply among us, but it was Carol who so wisely referred to this loss as a part of the circle of life. We love the entire Lerman family and know that there are so many wonderful memories to sustain them all. I’m so glad to have had this discussion with Evelyn a few years ago, and to publish the discussion now as a tribute to our friend.
Charlotte Cross of Oxford, England is working on a tale of the “Brides of Dracula”, following in the footsteps of other novels that have given voice to “marginalized characters”, characters (usually women) who haven't been given the chance to speak in the originals. These others include The Silence of the Girls, by Pat Barker and Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys. Charlotte discusses those books, and others, as well as her writing process. Charlotte also discusses the books she has recently read: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Bronte, Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.
Andrew Wilcox discusses So Much to Do: A Full Life of Business, Politics, and Confronting Fiscal Crises, a memoir by Richard Ravitz, former head of the New York State Urban Development Corporation and of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority; Keeping At It, by former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul Volcker; The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis; JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century, 1917‒1956, by Fredrik Logevall; Being Nixon: A Man Divided, by Evan Thomas; and These Truths, A History of the United States, by Jill Lepore
Andrew Rice discusses Jonathan Mahler's book, Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx is Burning 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City, which includes stories of New York City in 1977, the mayoralty race, Cuomo, Koch (Bess Meyerson), Bella, Giuliani, Bloomberg, LaGuardia, The Daily News, The New York Post, New York Magazine, Murdoch (Succession), Breslin, Hamill, Steinbrenner, Reggie, Billy Martin, Thurman, Cosell, Son of Sam, Bed Stuy, Bushwick, South Bronx, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Saturday Night Live, Rolling Stone, Studio 54, Tavern on the Green, Windows on the World, Elaine’s, Maxwell’s Plum (Warner LeRoy), Jim MacMullen’s, etc.
Andrew also discusses his forthcoming book, A Popular History of the Year 2000 in the State of Florida, which will describe the Bush v. Gore election controversy ("the most wild and improbable election outcome you can imagine - so far"); the pilots planning 9/11 who were training at flight centers on Florida, for 18 months before the attacks; Donald Trump's presidential run as a Reform Party candidate; young Cuban kid, Elian Gonzalez, washed up on the shore in Miami; enraged Cuban community in Florida, determinative in Presidential election; resulted in 24hour coverage (the first reality television); and an arms dealing, money laundering case ("the most obscure but most fascinating tale"). giCFrjk28vXx9A4GkET1.
Rob Chesnut discusses his new book Intentional Integrity - How Smart Companies Can Lead an Ethical Revolution— and Why That’s Good for All of Us, and explains how intentional integrity and intentional inclusion make companies more attractive to employees and to customers, and make such companies out-performers as well.
Rob began his journey in the U.S. Justice Department, including as a federal prosecutor, and then he joined eBay as an early employee and ultimately had responsibility for overseeing all site rules and policies for the eBay global community of over 150 million users. Rob later was General Counsel of LiveOps, Inc. and then of Chegg. Most recently, Rob was General Counsel and then Chief Ethics Officer of Airbnb.
Allen Guy Wilcox, founding Artistic Director of The Theater at Woodshill, a not for profit summer Shakespeare festival in central New York, discusses "A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles, an elegant, historical novel in post revolutionary Moscow, expounding on the literature, poetry and classical music of the time, and on the timelessness of friendship, children, parenting, food and wine, and on the pace of life itself. Grand entertainment, and more, surrounding the life of Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov. "He was wise enough to know that life does not proceed by leaps and bounds. It unfolds. At any given moment, it is the manifestation of a thousand transitions. Our faculties wax and wane, our experiences accumulate, and our opinions evolve - if not glacially, then at least gradually. Such that the events of an average day are as likely to transform who we are as a pinch of pepper is to transform a stew."
Camilla Calhoun discusses The White Moth, a beautifully told, moving and lovely memoir, both historical and very personal. Much of the story takes place on a 15th century farm villa in Tuscany during very challenging times in Italy, from the 1930s to the 1970s: wars, political upheaval, deprivation, fascism, occupation and change. The book is very much a tribute to Camilla’s rock of a mother-in-law, Alda Innocenti Rafanelli. The tribute is offered in the form of Camilla’s memoir of what was intended to be a sojourn in Italy to pursue her passion for writing, her romance with and marriage to Alda’s son, Aldo and eventually a story of three generations at the villa.
When Andrea Phillips, who was then Vice Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, started a book club to encourage her fellow Iowans to read the books written by the 2020 Democratic party Presidential candidates, my wife Carol and I heard Andrea interviewed on MSNBC. Andrea said that Iowa Democrats take their role in vetting the presidential candidates seriously, and that she hoped the book club would help voters know the candidates better so that people can make a good decision on caucus night, which is on February 3.
Andrea decided to launch the 2020 Book Club and to put up a 2020 Book Club Facebook page so that Iowans, and others as well, could have a forum to discuss the books written by all of the Democratic presidential candidates.
After hearing the interview, I immediately thought that we should do a podcast discussion of the books authored by the candidates and I tracked down Andrea on FaceBook.
Andrea is now busy full time seeking the Iowa House District 37 seat, but we were really fortunate to have the opportunity to have a discussion with Kendra Dodson Breitsprecher, the owner and editor of the Dayton Leader newspaper in Dayton, Iowa, a small town located in the middle of the state. Kendra is also a charter member of the 2020 Book Club.
After discussing the Subway Book Review project in our Episode 22, Uli Beutter Cohen and I discussed five books that Uli has recently read and recommends: How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee, an essay collection by a Korean American artist and activist; The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls by Mona Eltahawy, which has been referred to as a striking anti-patriarchal manifesto written by an Egyptian American activist, “with enough rage to fuel a rocket”; On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong Ocean is a young Vietnamese-American writer — born in Saigon, he was raised in Hartford, Connecticut and his book is semi-autobiographical and speaks to his experiences as an immigrant and a gay man; COMMUTE - An Illustrated Memoir of Female Shame by author and illustrator Erin Williams, which has been referred to as intimate, clever, and ultimately gut-wrenching graphic memoir about the daily decision women must make between being sexualized or being invisible; and How to Start a Revolution, by Lauren Duca. To compliment Chee’s work, Uli also mentioned and discussed Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott; and Devotion: Why I Write, Patti Smith
For the last five years, Uli Beutter Cohen has been talking with people on New York City subways about the books she sees them reading on the subway. Uli refers to her Subway Book Review as a social media project. The project now also has contributors in Washington D.C., London, Berlin, Milan, Barcelona, Mexico City, Sydney, and Santiago. Discussions with subway readers, pictures of the readers and their books are posted on Instagram @subwaybookreview.
Tracy Sidesinger, a clinical psychologist and psychoanalytic psychotherapist in New York City, discusses “What My Mother and I Don't Talk About: Fifteen Writers Break the Silence”, edited by Michele Filgate. (“Some of these essays are harrowing, some heartwarming, some — like a lot of mother-child relationships — a mix of both. All of them suggest, though, that if you can talk to your mother, you should.” Tampa Bay Times)
Tracy also refers to Mothers: An Essay on Love and Cruelty by Jacqueline Rose, and also Feminine Law: Freud, Free Speech, and the Voice of Desire by Jill Gentile with Michael Macrone. Tracy has said that all three books are along a similar theme, that is, addressing expectations of the feminine and opening up more authentic and useful discourse.
Call Me Ishmael is a New York City-based project that invites readers to call and leave a voicemail message about their favorite book. Thousands of readers have already called and over a million readers have listened to this library of stories. Steph Kent and Logan Smalley are the founders of the Call Me Ishmael project and they are privy to the reading interests of the thousands of people who have called in. To call Ishmael, call Ishmael’s number: 774.325.0503. It goes straight to voicemail. Listen to Ishmael’s short answering machine message and leave a voicemail about a book you love and a story you have lived. The Call Me Ishmael website shows the books that readers have called in to discuss. Listen to the recordings on the Call Me Ishmael Youtube channel.
While visiting the Golden Notebook bookstore in Woodstock last summer, my daughter Melanie and I met and struck up a conversation with bookseller, author and poet, Gretchen Primack. It turns out that Gretchen is also an educator in a more formal sense. Gretchen has taught and/or administrated with prison education programs (mostly college) in maximum security prisons since 2006.
Gretchen recently released a new book of poems called ”Visiting Days”, which is inspired and informed by her years of first hand experience teaching and administrating in maximum security prisons.
Visiting Days has been described as a collection of short, keen dramatic monologues, a work of advocacy as well as of poetry.
In connection with the celebration by my law firm, @Orrick, of Pride Month and the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, I discussed with Alvin Lee and Amy Pasacreta of Orrick The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai, which is a very moving, beautiful and at the same time devastating, award winning novel about the AIDs epidemic in Chicago in the 1980s, its impact on young gay men and on the survivors as well.
I’m very proud to say that Orrick has a long standing commitment to inclusiveness that enables the LGBTQ lawyers and staff of the firm to be authentic and to thrive. For 13 consecutive years, Orrick achieved a perfect score in the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s annual Corporate Equality Index, which evaluates LGBTQ-related policies and practices, and Orrick was one of the first global law firms to offer benefits to same-sex couples and to also offer fully inclusive transgender benefits.
A discussion by a serious and thoughtful,reader of four sets of "paired" books - Song of a Captive Bird + The Age of Light/ Churchill & Orwell: The Fight for Freedom + East West Street: On the Origins of Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide/ Chefs, Drugs and Rock & Roll + Fasting and Feasting/ Golden Hill + His Bloody Project - and also Solitary; The Village: 400 Years of Beats and Bohemians, Radicals and Rogues, a History of Greenwich Village; Ninth Street Women: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler: Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art; and The Coral Island: A Tale of the Pacific Ocean. This is one full agenda!
Sophie McManus (master's degree in fiction writing/ teaching writing at Sarah Lawrence College; author of critically acclaimed novel, The Unfortunates) discusses The Art of Time in Fiction by Joan Silber, and a variety of books written in Classic Time, Long Time, Slowed Time, Switchback Time and Fabulous Time.
Nick Lyons is a lifelong fisherman and has also written 20 highly regarded books about his passion for the outdoors and fly fishing, has edited and published many more, and Nick also for 25 years wrote the Seasonable Angler column for “Fly Fisherman” magazine.
Nick’s memoir, Spring Creek, is a love letter to a creek in Montana. In it, Nick writes that he aims for his writing “to be rich enough to catch some of the stillness, complexity, joy, fierce intensity, frustration, practicality, hilarity, fascination, [and] satisfaction” that he finds in fly fishing. If you read anything that Nick has written, you will enjoy that richness.
We discuss on the podcast the Esopus Creek, the Amawalk, the East Branch of the Croton, the Odell in Montana, the Bourne in the U.K. and the rivers in New Zealand, as well as the books and authors Nick loves. We also talk about fly selection, fly tiers and solitude on the river.
Emma Holland discusses what she is reading as well as how she reads, highlights and rereads, her love for words, and also her favorite book in the last decade, Too Much and Not the Mood by Durga Chew-Bose.
Dr. Hardin Coleman discusses the 11 distinct regions of the country and their particular political, social and emotional traits, President Grant’s pardon of the Confederate generals after the Civil War in order to preserve national unity and the need to find the right balance between acting locally and globally in order to have an impact on the issues we face in the nation today.