Literary Circle

The Amerikahaus Literary Circle is a free English book club open to the public. Meetings (usually) take place in the Amerikahaus in Munich on the first Wednesday of each month from October through July.

 

The titles are nominated and voted upon by the members twice a year.

Meetings and Titles for 2018

17 January 2018: 10 North Frederick by John O’Hara (6:00 P.M. – 7:30 P.M.)
This novel, which won the National Book Award for Fiction, opens with a storybook life: A successful, small-town lawyer with a beautiful wife, two lovely children, and aspirations to be president, Joe Chapin seems to have it all. But as his daughter looks back on her father’s life, a different man emerges—one who is in conflict with his ambitious wife, in fear that the misdeeds of his children will dash his political dreams, and in love with a fashion model half his age. With mordant wit and penetrating insight, Ten North Frederick brilliantly portrays the personal and political hypocrisy of mid-century America.

7 February 2018: Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton (6:00 P.M. – 7:30 P.M.)
The best-known novella by Edith Wharton, Ethan Frome is widely considered her masterpiece, wherein in her exquisitely crafted style is most fully realized. Set against the background of a bleak, New England landscape, the novel tells of Frome; his ailing wife, Zeena; and her companion, Mattie Silver.  Wharton superbly delineates each character as all are drawn into a deep-rooted struggle of domestic entanglement. Ethan Frome is a moving and tragic tale whose end is both genuinely shocking and savagely ironic.

7 March 2018: Widow Basquiat by Jennifer Clement (6:00 P.M. – 7:30 P.M.)

New York City in the 1980s was wild and mesmerizing place—and, as a hotbed for hip hop, underground culture, and unmatched creative energy, it spawned some of the most significant art of the twentieth century. Here, too, is where Jean-Michel Basquiat, an avant-garde painter, swiftly achieved worldwide fame. Before his untimely death at the age of twenty-seven, Basquiat shared his life with his muse, Suzanne Mallouk.  In emotionally-resonant prose, award-winning author Jennifer Clement details their passionate affair amid the unrelenting power of addiction, obsession, and everlasting love. Widow Basquiat was reviewed and recommended by NPR’s “You Must Read This” series.

4 April 2018: The Aspern Papers by Henry James (6:00 P.M. – 7:30 P.M.)
Written in a palazzo near Ponte dell'Accademia and originally published in The Atlantic Monthly in 1888, this novella is one of James's best-known and most acclaimed longer tales, based on the letters that the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote to Mary Shelley's stepsister, Claire Clairmont, who saved them until she died. Set in Venice, The Aspern Papers demonstrates James's ability to generate suspense while never neglecting the development of his characters.  Often adapted for both the stage and screen, a new film version, starring Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and Vanessa Redgrave, is slated to premiere sometime this year.

2 May 2018: The Easter Parade by Richard Yates (6:00 P.M. – 7:30 P.M.)

First published in 1976, Richard Yates' fifth novel explores the tragic lives of two sisters. Along with Revolutionary Road, The Easter Parade is considered to be Yates' finest work.  The story begins in the 1930s and continues through the 1970s: Even as little girls, Sarah and Emily, are very different from one another—Emily looks up to her sensible older sister and is jealous of her seemingly perfect marriage; Sarah chooses a different path for herself.  Although the bond between the two women endures, they grow gradually apart until, one day, the unexpected occurs.

The Literary Circle is sponsored by the Amerikahaus Verein and the Bavarian Center for Transatlantic Relations.

[Translate to EN:] The Amerikahaus Literary Circle is a free English book club open to the public. Meetings (usually) take place in the Amerikahaus in Munich on the first Wednesday of each month from October through July.

 

The titles are nominated and voted upon by the members twice a year.

 

Meetings and Titles for January - July 2019

 

Wednesday, 9 January 2019 (6:00 P.M. – 7:30 P.M.)

Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks

 

Tom Hanks is a noted advocate of the manual typewriter, and it is this machine that threads and binds the articulate and moving stories of his first collection. A gentle Eastern European immigrant arrives in New York City after his family and his life have been torn apart by his country's civil war. A man who loves to bowl rolls a perfect game—and then another and then another and then many more in a row until he winds up ESPN's newest celebrity, and then he must decide whether perfection or celebrity has ruined the thing he loves. An eccentric billionaire and his faithful executive assistant venture into America looking for acquisitions and discover a down and out motel, romance, and a bit of real life. These and other stories reveal that the Oscar-winning actor has brought his considerable talent for crafting singular characters to the page as well.

 

 

Wednesday, 13 February 2019 (6:00 P.M. – 7:30 P.M.)

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

 

Between the first and second world wars a group of young, non-English-speaking Japanese women travelled by boat to America. They were picture brides, clutching photos of husbands-to-be whom they had yet to meet. Julie Otsuka tells their extraordinary, heart-breaking story in this spellbinding and poetic account of strangers lost and alone in a new and deeply foreign land. The Buddha in the Attic won the Pen Faulkner Award in 2012 and was shortlisted for both the National Book Award as well as The Los Angeles Times Book Prize in 2011.

 

 

Wednesday, 06 March 2019 (6:00 P.M.-7:30 P.M.)

Democracy by Joan Didion

 

Set in Hawaii and Southeast Asia at the end of the Vietnam War, the book tells the story of Inez Victor, wife of U.S. Senator and one-time presidential hopeful Harry Victor, and her enduring romance with Jack Lovett, a CIA agent and war profiteer who dies shortly after extricating Inez's daughter Jessie from Saigon, where the girl had incautiously ventured.  Democracy is unusual in that its narrator is not a character within the novel's world but a voice whom Didion identifies as herself, a writer self-consciously struggling with the ambiguities of her ostensible material, the ironies attendant to narration, and the inevitable contradictions at the heart of any story-telling.

 

 

Wednesday, 3 April 2019 (6:00 P.M.-7:30 P.M.)

The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes

 

Born in 1902, Langston Hughes came of age in the early 1920s and worked on a ship traveling for six months through West Africa and Europe, where he disembarked for an extended stay.  The Big Sea is his memoir of those memorable years in the two great playgrounds of that decade, Harlem and Paris.  In Paris, he was a cook and waiter in nightclubs, where knew all the musicians and dancers (as well as the drunks and dope fiends).  Later, in Manhattan, from these European experiences, he found his voice to become the young poet whose work would nourish the heart and soul of the Harlem Renaissance.

 

 

Wednesday, 8 May 2019 (6:00 P.M.-7:30 P.M.)

Hotel Honolulu by Paul Theroux

 

In this hilariously ribald and tenderly tragic novel, Paul Theroux captures the essence of Hawaii as it has never been depicted. The novel's narrator, a down-on-his-luck writer, escapes to Waikiki and soon finds himself the manager of Hotel Honolulu, a low-rent establishment a few blocks off the beach. Honeymooners, vacationers, wanderers, mythomaniacs, soldiers, and families all check in to the hotel. Like the pilgrims of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, every guest has come here in search of something—sunshine, love, happiness, or what you will—and everyone has a story. 

 

 

Wednesday, 5 June 2019 (6:00 P.M.-7:30 P.M.)

The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty

 

A shorter version of this work first appeared in The New Yorker in 1969, which Eudora Welty expanded into a novel that was published in 1972, the year it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.  Here is the story of Laurel McKelva Hand, a young woman who has left the South and returns, years later, to New Orleans, where her father is dying. After his death, she and her young stepmother return to the small Mississippi town where Laurel had grown up. There, in the old house, Laurel finally comes to an understanding of the past, herself, and her parents.

 

 

Wednesday, 3 July 2019 (6:00 P.M.-7:30 P.M.)

Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut

 

Broad humor and bitter irony collide in this fictional autobiography of Rabo Karabekian, an Armenian-American Abstract Expressionist painter who, at the age of seventy-one, only wants to be left alone in his beachfront estate on Long Island with the secret he has locked inside his potato barn safely secured. But then Circe, a mysterious young widow, badgers Rabo into telling his life story—and Vonnegut, thereby, tells us the plain, heart-hammering truth about art and mankind’s ceaseless and careless fancy to create or destroy that which is loved most.

The Amerikahaus Literary Circle is sponsored by the Amerikahaus Verein and the Bavarian Center for Transatlantic Relations.