At BOLLI, we spend a great deal of time talking about books–in class and out. Recently, a large bookshelf appeared outside the Purple Room, bearing a BOLLI BOOK EXCHANGE sign. The shelves are already full–and changing daily. Here, on our blog, we have an opportunity to share some of our “good reads” with each other. Book lover Abby Pinard kicks off our monthly “Book Nook” Feature with the following items. (Be sure to leave a comment! And feel free to send your favorites as well. Send to: email@example.com)
by Edith Pearlman, 2015
Where has Edith Pearlman been all our reading lives? Right down the road in Brookline, turning out sparkling gems of short stories that are filled with strikingly intimate observation and precise language and that capture a life and a world in just a phrase. This is Pearlman’s fifth collection — she is now near eighty — and she was little known until the last one, Binocular Vision, was showered with prizes. Better late than never.
The lives of four young women are shaped by a parlor game as the mother of one of them has them pick from a hat the names of the men they will marry, assuring them that men are “interchangeable” and they will be “happy enough.” The headmistress of a girls’ school, pregnant with her married lover’s child, tries to help his daughter, a brilliant and desperately ill anorexic. A middle-aged real estate agent, contemplating a second marriage that will secure her financial future, is shaken by what she finds in the chaotic home of an annoying neighbor.
Many of these characters who have known loss and disappointment have learned to adjust their expectations, have found that they can indeed be “happy enough” as they navigate complex relationships and surprising turns. Edith Pearlman is generous to her characters, gives them the gift of quiet determination and moments of grace.
If you love short stories, read these. If you don’t read short stories because you think only a novel can deliver the satisfaction of fully developed characters you care about and stories that stay with you, read these.
THE 6:41 TO PARIS
by Jean-Philippe Blondel (translated byAlison Anderson), 2015
I seldom buy, borrow, or otherwise acquire books I’ve never heard of. But once in a while, I take a flier. This was one of those times. The 6:41 to Paris caught my eye two different bookstores in Cambridge and the second time I took it home. It turned out to be a happy diversion for a cold winter day.
Two people who haven’t seen each other since a nasty breakup twenty-seven years ago find themselves sitting side by side on a crowded early morning train to Paris. Neither acknowledges recognizing the other but both are drawn into the past and roiled by still-raw emotions. Cécile is still angry. Philippe is still embarrassed. Neither of their lives has turned out as might have been expected when they were twenty.
There’s no fancy prose in this short, competently translated novel, thankfully without romantic drivel. In alternating chapters, we are made privy to the thoughts and reminiscences of Cécile and Philippe and each gradually becomes a fully realized character.
I liked this slight book. The lives and feelings of these two people felt real. And there’s a natural tension as the train rolls toward Paris. Will they speak to each other? What could they possibly say? Nicely done.
THE LOST: A SEARCH FOR SIX OF SIX MILLION
By Daniel Mendelsohn, 2006
The two teenage girls at the right in the back row in the picture below are my paternal grandmother and her sister. Their parents and grandfather are in the front row. The picture was taken around 1900. A few years later, my grandmother, rebellious and politically inclined, left the small town in Poland and came, alone, to the United States. She was one of the very few members of her family to escape the Holocaust.
Like many American Jews, I don’t know precisely what happened to my relatives. Daniel Mendelsohn didn’t know what happened to six members of his family who he heard spoken of in hushed tones as a child. His effort to find out took many years and took him all over the world in a frantic effort to interview eyewitnesses before they died.
The story he tells in this book is both personal and common to millions of people. It is beautifully written, sometimes tedious, often suspenseful, always heartbreaking and indispensable in commemorating what has been lost.
Abby Pinard is a lifelong book nut who retired from a forty-year computer software career in 2007 and ticked an item off her bucket list by going to work in a bookstore. She is a native New Yorker who moved to Boston recently to be among her people: family and Red Sox fans. She is a music lover, crossword puzzler, baseball fan, and political junkie who flunked Halloween costumes but can debug her daughter’s wifi.
The Scene-iors end-of-term staged reading presented on Thursday, May 19 was, indeed a hit, and, for the first time, BOLLI members who may not have been in attendance, can see a variety of photos of the production–provided by Bunny Cohen and Allan Kleinman. (Let your cursor hover over a picture to see its caption.)
Welcome to The Dining Room by A.R. Gurney!
The group would love to see your comments–use the box below!
Karen grew up in Pittsburgh, PA and attended Pennsylvania State University, graduating with her BS, MA, and Ph. D. in Geophysics in 1969, 1972, and 1976. Dr. Wagner went to work for AMOCO Production Company in their research lab in Tulsa, OK and simultaneously became adjunct professor of mathematics at Tulsa University from 1977 to 1980. She also continued competitive fencing in the tri-state fencing league. She transferred to Houston, TX to work for a production division of AMOCO in 1980 where she both continued competition fencing and became an avid catamaran sailor. In 1982, Karen began working for Natomas Petroleum International out of San Francisco where she actively traveled and worked the Bahamas and South America. During her time in California, Karen became a wildlife vet technician working for the Alexander Lindsay Junior Museum on weekends. In 1984, she returned to Houston, TX to become Product Development Manager for Borehole Seismic work at Schlumberger North American Headquarters. This work took her to Europe, Alaska, and Japan. During her extended stays in Japan (where Schlumberger had a research lab on the outskirts of Tokyo), she continued to play kendo which she had begun studying under Darrell Craig at the Houston Budokan.
In the mid 1980’s with the oil bust, Dr. Wagner switched careers from oil to radar and moved to the Boston area to work for the MITRE Corporation. She spent 13 years working on different projects including ground penetrating radar and over-the-horizon radar. She continued her martial arts training at a Uechiryu Karate dojo studying under Walter Mattson. In 1999, Karen began working for Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems. She worked on the Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AWACS), the Stealth Bomber weapons load, and the Ballistic Missile Defense System. She became a Raytheon Six Sigma Expert along the way.
After 35 years in high tech, Karen left Raytheon in 2011 and began a sabbatical that involved BOLLI and the pursuit of all things relaxing. Along with several colleagues, Dr. Wagner became an SGL for the “Science Sampler: Five by Three” which gave students introductions to eclectic topics in science and ran for four semesters. After taking a writing course with Marilyn Katz Levenson, Karen discovered a talent for poetry which she pursues to this day in the BOLLI Writers’ Guild. She has been a contributor to the last two issues of the BOLLI Journal. A sample of her poetry is included here, entitled “Delayed Departures,” about a pirate ship chasing a Spanish galleon.
Reflections on The New York Times Special Section, May 1
The New York Times published a Special Section on May 1 of this year. Fraying at the Edges is about Geri Taylor, a New Yorker, newly retired, aged 73. If she lived in the Boston area, she certainly might have been a BOLLI member. Her appearance, career, her interests, and her marriage(s) all easily correspond to our own. Geri is a woman in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s, and what distinguishes her from others with this disease is that she has taken a pro-active approach to coping with her failing memory. She knows full well the trajectory of Alzheimer’s, but right now, in the beginning stages of her disease, she and her husband find strategies that enable them to cope with their new realities, to plan for the future, and to each find pleasure and satisfaction in the here and now.
Geri is aware of her growing deficits, her need to plan ahead, her slowing down, and her physical changes—like walking in her sleep, like having an unsteady gait, like having less of an appetite. She said, “Alzheimer’s brings on apathy is what I find. Years ago, I definitely had more of an ego. Now I don’t have an idea of myself. And so I have less of an ego. Frankly, I don’t care what people think of me. I’m more in a survival mode, one foot in front of the other. Don’t spill the coffee.”
After participating in a support group for several years, Geri and a few other members advocated for a new kind of group, workshops where people with Alzheimer’s could “swap strategies” for living with early-stage memory loss. (There ARE simple strategies that work, like putting glass doors on kitchen cabinets so one can see where particular items are stored.) Advocating for and initiating a workshop is an amazing accomplishment for people whose executive functions and memories are slowly but surely deteriorating. But it DID get started. This new workshop, with the sponsorship of the Alzheimer’s Association in Connecticut, is called GAP, Giving Alzheimer’s Purpose.
The “Times” supplement is well worth reading. Geri is a remarkably positive role model. The article, indirectly, also shows how friends and family can help someone with Alzheimer’s maintain a sense of self.
After all, according to this article, “Alzheimer’s is a disease that strikes an American every 67 seconds.” It may not strike you or me, but, almost inevitably, it will strike someone we know and love.
Some Scene-ior “veterans” were asked to reflect on what drew them to the activity. Eileen Mitchell, Ron Levy, Carolyn Allen, and Davida Loewenstein shared some of their thoughts and memories…
I was inspired by active & engaged SGLs who led lively discussions & encouraged play readings: Jim Robbins, the Shakespeare guru, who is now in Arizona; Elaine Reisman, modern plays with morals, who is now at Brookhaven, and Lois Ziegelman, from Aeschylus to Tennessee Williams, who is still at BOLLI.
My favorite story is our first public performance that took place in a cozy conference room at South Street – in the former BOLLI offices. We did Table by the Window by Terrence Rattigan, and there was only one person in the audience, but when he laughed — we were hooked! Then we moved to a classroom on campus & 30 people filled the room. Most shows have been at Turner Street, but once we even played at Spingold — on the main stage.
The shared laughter, caring, and emoting are my best memories.
I acted minor roles in high school productions that used to be reviewed by the London “Daily Telegraph”, and so I joined the Scene-iors. The best part of the experience was always the camaraderie among the regulars and how we often succeeded in making something from less than whole cloth.
There were and probably still are challenges, particularly the Turner Street location and our so-called “stage”. What was always most impressive was how the company scrounged and loaned props and costumes. And how about those family a.k.a. cast parties?
When my husband turned sixty, I gave him acting lessons at New Rep. It was like a new room had opened for him, and he loved it. Everyone asked me if I was acting too. ” Oh, no,” I said. “Every bell needs a clapper.”
Then, years later, when I joined BOLLI, I decided to try it–after all, I didn’t have to memorize anything. So, I threw myself into the role of a hag ( I prefer not to think of it as type casting), and I was paired with fellow hag Bunny Cohen in a play by William Inge. I had such fun disappearing into the role. For the performance, my daughter came down from NH, my other daughter left work and took my two grandkids out of elementary school, and my son Bruce blew off work for the afternoon. It was a treat to have them there, and I was thrilled to discover how easy and wonderful it all was.
I also loved the people — I was part of a team — Eileen, Becky Myers , Davida, Pete Rieder, Irwin, Ron Levy, Bunny, Monique Frank.
Bobbe Vernon and Charlie Raskin played teen-agers in love . I watched, entranced, as the years fell away from them. ” Wow,” I said. “They really have chemistry together.” I was thrilled when Charlie wore my late husband’s Navy jacket. It was as though Bob were in the play, too.
The next best experience was Separate Tables, another wonder-full team experience. I dragged tables and windows and curtains and plants from home, along with taking over the role of the hotel manager from Wendy Hiller! I watched the movie a couple of times, and the group spent a post-performance meeting watching it too. I, a confirmed loner, felt the joy of belonging.
First and foremost, Scene-iors is fun! But that’s not why I originally joined the group. I did it to answer a challenge–from me to myself. I dare you, Davida, to be in a play. I had NEVER been in a play and just wanted to add acting to my experience bag. I assumed it would be a one-shot activity, but I loved it and have been in Scene-ior productions ever since.
I think acting has made me really think about the characters in plays and books–who they are at a point in time and how they came to be that way. It’s not much of a stretch to then apply this type of thinking to people I actually know. I guess this is another way of saying that I think that even my limited acting experience in Scene-iors has served to increase my sensitivity.
Participating in Scene-iors is such a wonderful opportunity for BOLLI members. I’m surprised that more people don’t give it a try…but, then again, it took a dare to push me to “take the plunge!”
I developed a passion for photography after receiving my first click n’ shoot camera in 2004. I would spend hours in my backyard and around my neighborhood shooting everything, most especially nature. In 2007, my husband and I took a trip to South Africa, so I purchased my first DSLR, a Canon Rebel, for the trip. I was so excited about photographing such a magical place that I took over 5000 photos during a 3 week period. 600 of them were shot in 3 hours as I watched a giraffe giving birth in the wild! After this adventure, I spent a lot of time trying to learn everything I could about photography.
In the spring of 2016, I entered the world of BOLLI. The first semester I took only one class, “Memoir Writing” with Jane Kays, and was not sure what to expect. Since I had spent my career in the world of science, I had decided to take classes in areas that I knew very little about and did not feel not good at. Writing fell into this category. After my first class, I wondered if I had made a good decision. Everyone in the class wrote wonderfully, and I did not feel that I belonged. In my professional career, I loved challenges and problem solving, so I bit the bullet and decided that I would do my best, even if I was the worst writer in the class! After all, I was doing this to expand my life experiences. In the end, this was the best class that I could have chosen as a first. I am a people person, and as everyone shared their personal experiences, I began to feel bonds with my classmates and BOLLI. The next semester, I was fortunate enough to get into Arthur Sharenow’s photography class which reignited my interest in photography. I have especially loved all of his photo outings! My passion for photography has grown, thanks to the photography classes that I have taken, and we now have the BOLLI Photography Group, which I am helping to facilitate.
OUR MOST RECENT PHOTO GROUP OUTING
On Friday morning, March 18th, nine members of the BOLLI Photography Group (Diane Becker, Linda Brooks, Maike Byrd, Bunny Cohen, Linda Dietrich, Rickey Ezrin, Carole Grossman, Sandy Miller-Jacobs, and I) met at the Wellesley College Botanical Gardens Visitor Center and toured the Margaret C. Fergus Greenhouses.
The greenhouses are warm in temperature, so we were able to leave our winter coats in the Visitor Center before we embarked on our walk through the five attached spaces. We spent about two hours meandering through the various houses where we shot lots of photos of unusual cacti and flowers.
Here is a “gallery” of some of the pictures that I took. (Put your cursor over each image to read its caption.)
Most of us will be going back for another visit to shoot all the amazing plants that we did not have time to get to on our first go-around..
To top off our photo shoot, six of us enjoyed a delicious lunch at Juniper Restaurant on Central Street in Wellesley!
Highlights of the Self-Guided Greenhouse Tour:
Desert House containing desert-dwelling plants from around the world; observation of desert adaptations; exploration of the concept of convergent evolution.
Tropic House with several layers of plantings; observation of adaptations to a rainforest environment; exploration of a bromeliad’s habitat.
Hydrophyte (Water) House containing pools filled with fish and water-growing plants.
Economic plants such as banana, coffee, sugar cane, papyrus; explanation of growth cycles and uses.
Tropical Pitcher Plants; discussion of the adaptation of these insect-eating plants to their environment.
Misters: being sprayed by the misters in the Fern House and propagation beds is often a highlight for elementary school kids!
The greenhouses are free, open from 8 am to 4 pm daily but closed on weekends during the summer. Parking in the Grey Lot is also free.
In my life before BOLLI, I taught 6-year-olds how to write stories. Now I am doing the same thing with 86-year-olds! No matter the age of the author, I am always surprised and delighted at the results. Everyone has stories to tell, and they are always different. I’ve been writing my own for years. Some are true. Most are fiction. But this part is true…. I taught high school English for a short while. Kindergarten and First Grade for a long while. I love Mozart Operas, Billy Collins’ poems, and the Boston Red Sox. When I’m not writing, or going to BOLLI, or rushing to catch the ferry, I’m at home reading and feeding the cat.
By Betsy Campbell
They stopped at Dunkin Doughnuts on the way to the Ferry. Alice had a small latte while Bill had a glazed doughnut and a large coffee with extra cream. She offered to drive the rest of the way while he ate. It was the least she could do under the circumstances. Cars were already driving up the ramp to the ferry when they arrived at the dock.
“They’re loading,” said Bill. “You better hurry.” He wiped a smear of sugar from his mouth and took a swig of coffee. She left her unfinished latte in the cup holder and got out to collect her bag from the trunk.
Bill opened the car window. “Got everything?”
“Yes. I’m all set.” She hoisted her shoulder bag in place and raised the handle on her roller bag.
“Bye,” she said. “Thanks for the ride.”
“Have fun,” he said and took another bite of doughnut.
Alice hurried up the gangplank and dragged her suitcase up a flight of stairs to the outside deck. She found a seat near the rail on the stern from where she could look down on the parking lot. Bill’s car was still there. He was probably still eating. A line of cars moved toward the loading ramp. Alice leaned on the rail, watching the activity below, trying to calm the sad, nervous feeling in her gut. She had done it. She had left him, and rightly so, for he hadn’t even bothered to kiss her good-bye.
She had moved into his place with great hopes, and it had seemed a happy choice at first. But, gradually, she saw that he was content with his routines. Frozen waffles every morning. Pasta for dinner every night. Sports radio and fantasy football. Even sex had to happen when the Red Sox had a day off or when there was no football on TV. Alice had tried to adapt to his ways, but there were things he didn’t notice. Little things that she tried to do for him. Clean sheets and towels didn’t matter to him. When she replaced a mildewed shower curtain with a new one, he didn’t care. He didn’t notice flowers on the table and had no taste for fresh green salads or healthy grains. She began to feel that there was nothing she could do for him. Sometimes she thought that, if she left, he wouldn’t even notice.
“Get out,” her friends advised. “You have to end it. He’s never going to change.”
But Alice hated making scenes. Even now, she had told him she was going to visit her sister for a few days without hinting that she might not be coming back. He had offered to drive her to the ferry, and when she said he needn’t bother, he had said, “No problem. I can listen to the game on the way back.”
With a blast on its horn, the ferry started to edge away from the dock. Alice looked down at Bill’s car and saw him fling open the door, jump out, and race toward the departing boat. He was looking up, searching for her among the passengers lining the rail, waving his arms, and yelling. Her heart jumped. He was calling her back! She leaned over the rail, straining to hear. him call her name.
“Alice! The keys! Where are my keys?”
As the ferry slid away, leaving an ever larger stretch of water between stern and shore, Alice slipped her fingers into her pocket and felt a familiar clump of keys. She knew, without looking, that they were attached to a New England Patriots key ring. She pulled them from her pocket, dropped them over the rail, and raised her empty hand to wave good-bye.
After four years and eighteen courses at BOLLI , I continue to be an eager and voracious learner. I’ve enjoyed classes in history, philosophy, literature, poetry, music and more. Thanks to three writing courses, I am now assembling my memoirs. Best of all, I discovered my very first “creative” hobby –photography!
For BOLLI’s spring term 2015, I signed up for Joe Cohen’s Photography course. When Joe described the term project, I was intrigued. We were to present an essay of twenty photos on a single theme. He distributed a sheet with dozens of theme possibilities. I scanned the list and the word “WINDOWS” jumped off the page. Joe suggested we keep our topics a secret from the class.
During the last three weeks of April, I was married to my camera, visiting many sites and taking hundreds of photos of windows. I wanted to capture the reflections both inside and outside of the glass. The early ones were just awful, but slowly they improved. At the last class, we were called on to present our slide shows with commentary. I was very proud that “Windows” was well received by Joe and the group.
Immediately following my presentation, Linda Dietrich was called upon to present her project. Linda is a charming woman I had sat beside and chatted with throughout the term. I often thought that I would like to continue our relationship outside of BOLLI. Much to my utter surprise and delight, Linda’s topic was “DOORS”! She had assembled photos from her New England travels that captured doors or entryways in the most beautiful and unique way.
That did it! Linda Doors and Linda Windows laughed heartily, and so began a dear friendship outside of BOLLI. We decided to put our favorite doors and windows into a 2016 calendar. It was modestly published and distributed to family members as gifts. We are presently working on another joint project—a calendar for 2017.
With the busy life at BOLLI, it’s always a challenge to make new friends, but definitely possible!
Here is a photo of “Linda Doors” and “Linda Windows.” If you see us at BOLLI, say hello. We’d love to chat.
Our 2016 Calendar
A blog devoted to the interests of BOLLI members and potential members