. Imagine sitting around a dinner table covered with a delectable feast, surrounded by smiling faces and lively conversation. Your nourishment won’t be limited to just what’s on your plate, we’ll be discussing five memoirs this year focusing on notable essay collections. It’s a fabulous way to meet new friends, discover great books and engage more deeply with the texts we read. We’ll meet every other month on a Friday evening for dinner and discussion. Sign up for one at a time by registering below or save your seat at the table and register for all five and get a discount to boot by clicking HERE.
Friday, February 22, 2019 6:00 – 10:00pm: The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich Gretel Ehrlich is a poet, and in this collection, you’ll know it. In 1976, she moved to Wyoming and became a cowherd, and nearly a decade later, she published this lovely, funny set of essays about rural life in the American West. “Keenly observed the world is transformed,” she writes. “The landscape is engorged with detail, every movement on it chillingly sharp. The air between people is charged. Days unfold, bathed in their own music. Nights become hallucinatory; dreams, prescient.” Cost: Dinner & Discussion $60, Book Included $75 Sign up for February 22, 2019 by clicking: HERE Friday, April 26, 2019 6:00 - 10:00pm: Sex and the River Styx by Edward Hoagland Called the best essayist of his time by luminaries like Philip Roth, John Updike, and Edward Abbey, Edward Hoagland brings readers his ultimate collection. In Sex and the River Styx, the author's sharp eye and intense curiosity shine through in essays that span his childhood exploring the woods in his rural Connecticut, his days as a circus worker, and his travels the world over in his later years. Here, we meet Hoagland at his best: traveling to Kampala, Uganda, to meet a family he'd been helping support only to find a divide far greater than he could have ever imagined; reflecting on aging, love, and sex in a deeply personal, often surprising way; and bringing us the wonder of wild places, alongside the disparity of losing them, and always with a twist that brings the genre of nature writing to vastly new heights. His keen dissection of social realities and the human spirit will both startle and lure readers as they meet African matriarchs, Tibetan yak herders, circus aerialists, and the strippers who entertained college boys in 1950s Boston. Says Howard Frank Mosher in his foreword, the self-described rhapsodist "could fairly be considered our last, great transcendentalist." Edward Hoagland, who John Updike deemed “the best essayist of my generation,” has a long and storied career and a fat bibliography. Hoagland is a great nature writer (name checked by many as the modern Thoreau) but in truth, he’s just as fascinated by humanity, musing that “human nature is interstitial with nature, and not to be shunned by a naturalist.” Cost: Dinner & Discussion $60, Book Included $75 Sign up for April 26, 2019 by clicking: HERE Friday, June 28, 2019 6:00 – 10:00pm: Boys of My Youth by Joanne Beard Rarely does the debut of a new writer garner such attention & acclaim. The excitement began the moment "The Fourth State of Matter," one of the fourteen extraordinary personal narratives in this book, appeared in the pages of the New Yorker. It increased when the author received a prestigious Whiting Foundation Award in November 1997, & it continued as the hardcover edition of The Boys of My Youth sold out its first printing even before publication. The author writes with perfect pitch as she takes us through one woman's life - from childhood to marriage & beyond - & memorably captures the collision of youthful longing & the hard intransigencies of time & fate. Jo Ann Beard’s award-winning volume also includes the incredible “Bulldozing the Baby,” which takes on a smaller tragedy: a three-year-old Beard’s separation from her doll Hal. “The gorgeous thing about Hal,” she tells us, “was that not only was he my friend, he was also my slave. I made the majority of our decisions, including the bathtub one, which in retrospect was the beginning of the end.” Cost: Dinner & Discussion $60, Book Included $75 Sign up for June 28, 2019 by clicking: HERE Friday, August 30, 2019 6:00 – 10:00pm: Against Joie de Vivre by Phillip Lopate “Over the years I have developed a distaste for the spectacle of joie de vivre, the knack of knowing how to live,” begins the title essay by Phillip Lopate. This rejoinder to the cult of hedonism and forced conviviality moves from a critique of the false sentimentalization of children and the elderly to a sardonic look at the social rite of the dinner party, on to a moving personal testament to the “hungry soul.” Lopate’s special gift is his ability to give us not only sophisticated cultural commentary in a dazzling collection of essays but also to bring to his subjects an engaging honesty and openness that invite us to experience the world along with him. Also included here are Lopate’s inspiring account of his production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya with a group of preadolescents, a look at the tradition of the personal essay, and a soul-searching piece on the suicide of a schoolteacher and its effect on his students and fellow teachers. By turns humorous, learned, celebratory, and elegiac, Lopate displays a keen intelligence and a flair for language that turn bits of common, everyday life into resonant narrative. This collection maintains a conversational charm while taking the contemporary personal essay to a new level of complexity and candor. Cost: Dinner & Discussion $60, Book Included $75 Sign up for August 30, 2019 by clicking: HERE Friday, October 25, 2019 6:00 – 10:00pm: Art and Ardor by Cynthia Ozick One of David Foster Wallace’s favorite writers, Ozick has no less than seven essay collections to her name. This one, however, includes her stunner “A Drugstore in Winter,” which was chosen by Joyce Carol Oates for The Best American Essays of the Century. Cost: Dinner & Discussion $60, Book Included $75 Sign up for October 25, 2019 by clicking: HERE Arrive at 5:30 to settle in for dinner at 6:00 to be followed by book club discussion Sign up for all five dinners at the Series Discount Price: All 5 Dinner & Discussion: $250 All 5 Dinner & Discussion, Book Included: $325 Sign up for ALL FIVE Dinners by clicking: HERE