WHIRL (What Have I Read Lately) Books is a site for readers to find books for themselves and their book clubs. Liz at Literary Masters runs book groups and literary salons where we "dig deep" into literary treasures.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Comedy in a Minor Key by Hans Keilson

Written in 1947 by Hans Keilson, this German novella, translated brilliantly by Damion Searls, is a quick little read that will stick with you for quite some time. The story is simple: Wim and Marie, a Dutch couple, take the decision to hide a Jew called Nico in their home. Although the trio is faced with an extraordinary situation, they endeavor to keep life as ordinary as possible.

Until Nico unexpectedly dies.

I didn't give anything away there; you find out about his death in the first few pages. But Wim and Marie must now deal with his body, and therein lies the 'comedy' mentioned in the title. I must warn you, though: you'll only laugh if you find the cosmic sense of humor funny.

There's a lot in this novel for a book club to discuss, but most of it will be quite heavy. If your group is up for an existential journey, then it could be a good choice. If not, I still highly recommend this book for any individual reader--it really makes you stop and think about life and its meanings, or lack thereof. For a more in-depth and wonderful review by Francine Prose of this and Keilson's other work, The Death of the Adversary, click here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/08/books/review/Prose-t.html

Friday, December 24, 2010

Literary Masters has a Facebook page. I say this with mixed feelings. I hate it when people of my generation (not that old, just not that young either, never mind the specifics) act disdainful toward the current craze of social networking and all that entails, you know, Facebook, Twitter and the like. Instant info, constant sharing, keeping it short, what's the buzz now. I'm not against any of it, I just wonder about the value of it all. And I wonder, where is it taking us?

I mean, after all, I run book groups and literary salons. We're kind of the antithesis of what I've just described. We take time to read books. We take time to think about what we've read. We take time to 'dig deep' into what we've read and we take time to discuss what we've read.

And I think every single person in every one of my groups would tell you that there is tremendous value in what we do. Not only do we connect with each other every month, we connect with readers across time, we reflect on what it means to be on this earth, and we contemplate how we want to live.

Hmm...that was a bit heavy.

Having said all that, I agree with Tracy from the musical Hairspray, who sings, "You can't stop an avalanche when it's racing down the hill," and so I am, better late than never, going to embrace my new Facebook page. I'm not sure where it's leading me, but I'm curious. So, I plan to update it frequently. Go there today and you'll find a last minute gift suggestion--one of the funniest books I've read all year.

So please visit Literary Masters on Facebook. And let me know if you "like" it!

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Writers' Block at KQED

KQED, the San Francisco Bay Area affiliate of NPR, contacted me to say that Nicole Krauss, author of Great House, the novel I blogged about here, recently read from her book on KQED's weekly reading series "The Writers' Block."

KQED thought my "readers at Stick With Lit might be interested." Thanks so much, KQED!

Readers, let me know what you think. You can find the episode here:


You can also embed the reading - you'll find the code to the right of the
audio player.