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Lit Lunch: Where Readers Mix with Authors!

Sunday, June 22nd 11:30 am to 2pm Fork Restaurant, 306 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106 Enjoy a delicious meal at Fork in the company of the authors of some wonderful new books! Here’s how it works: brunch will be served in the private dining room at Fork. Four authors will be in attendance. Each author will do a short reading from her latest book and then join you, the guests, at your table: four authors, four tables. Four rotating authors, who will switch tables throughout the meal so that, by the end, you and your dining companions will have had a chance for conversation with each writer. Authors in attendance include: Elise Juska, author of The Blessings (May, 2014) and many more Nomi Eve, author of The Family Orchard and Henna House (coming in August) Robin Black, author of If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This and Life Drawings (coming in July) Pam Jenoff, author of The Kommandant’s Girl and The Winter Guest (coming in August) Cost: $55 Books will be available for sale separately at the event. To sign up, email lynn at lynnrosen.com or click here. With questions, email or call...

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Literary Larks
Apr10

Literary Larks

It’s spring and time to hit the road. Open Book is taking some fun field trips to literary venues in the Philadelphia area. Join us! Saturday June 14th Pearl S. Buck House Perkasie (Doylestown), PA Time: 11am to 2pm Buck’s classic novel The Good Earth, published in 1931, still resonates with its story of man’s striving to better himself, and the societal challenges of tradition versus modernization in China. In exciting news, a heretofore unknown novel, The Eternal Wonder, written by Buck in 1973 just before her death, has just been published for the first time. The Eternal Wonder tells the coming-of-age story of Randolph Colfax (Rann for short), an extraordinarily gifted young man whose search for meaning and purpose leads him to New York, England, Paris, on a mission patrolling the DMZ in Korea that will change his life forever—and, ultimately, to love. In this Literary Lark, we will convene for a private tour of Buck’s home in Perkasie. This will be followed by lunch at Vintage Grill and a discussion of both novels, The Good Earth and The Eternal Wonder. Cost: $65 This includes house admission and a copy of The Eternal Wonder, which you will receive when you sign up for the program, and lunch. Lunch will offer a varied menu of choices. Logistics: We will meet at the Pearl S. Buck house; you must provide your own transportation to the house. The restaurant, The Vintage Grill, is an easy straight drive three miles down the road from the house. Sign up HERE: With any questions or for more information please email lynn@lynnrosen.com or call...

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A Skeptical Scholar
Mar24

A Skeptical Scholar

  Frank Smith, Director, Books, at JSTOR spoke today at a symposium honoring the outgoing Director of Temple University Press, Alex Holzman. Smith began by talking about a new technology that had come along and was expected, basically, to put print out of business. He did not at first name the technology, in a sneaky attempt to fool the audience into thinking he was going in the obvious direction of invoking the print vs. “e” debate. But no—the technology to which Smith was referring is microfilm. And for his audience, made up mostly of scholarly publishers and librarians, the significance of microfilm, even to this day, was, shall we say, a no-brainer. On a broader level, what Smith was telling his audience was that “we continuously mislead ourselves about the potential for technology to change our lives.” Was being able to store fragile, sensitive, and bulky materials on microfilm a tremendously helpful development? Yes. Is the technology still in use and still useful? Yes. Did it change the way we read and write and research? Some, but really, not so much, according to Smith (who notes that even in this day and age, microfilm readers are awkward to use). With the digital tumult we are currently experiencing, we are, says Smith, “in the grip of futurology.” We should shake off our obsession with the new, he suggests. Smith notes that many, if not most, of the inventions we use on a day-to-day basis are not actually new—they’ve been around for some time. That obviously doesn’t apply to some of tools we most frequently rely upon—smartphones and iPads, for example—but when I think of the other technology that gets me through the day—microwave oven, cordless phone, ATM card—it’s not brand new. A friend recently sent me a poster that quoted news sources bemoaning how technology was ruining the fabric of our society, and it turned out these complaints came from newspapers going back to the 19th century and they were referring to inventions like cheap and rapid newspaper printing, “artificial locomotion,” and airmail. The more things change, the more they really do stay the same. I’m not saying new technologies like ebooks and search engines don’t have the potential to create significant change, nor do I think that is what Smith is saying. I’m just saying: the sky isn’t falling, Chicken Little. Smith says we can’t ignore new technology, but we should be more skeptical about its promise. That sounds like sage advice. Now I’m going to go read a...

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Mar18

Helen Oyeyemi, author of the new novel Boy, Snow Bird, gave a reading last week at the Free Library of Philadelphia. She is bright, charming, and upbeat, and here’s one thing she said that really stayed with me: “I don’t have a sense of a single culture. I’m just basically made up of books and pieces I read.” How I love that! I feel the same way. Do...

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The Powers Problem?
Mar17

The Powers Problem?

In a review in The New York Times of a new book by novelist Richard Powers, critic Jim Holt asked: Is it premature to talk of the “Powers Problem”? He goes on to explain that the novels of Richard Powers, eleven in all, often tend to be called “cerebral.” Powers is clearly an intellectual, and he writes about weighty, complicated subjects such as genetics, artificial intelligence, and game theory. His latest book, the recently-published Orfeo, tells the story of Peter Els, a retired composer in his 70s who returns to his love of chemistry, builds an in-home lab, and begins manipulating the DNA of bacteria. His lofty goal: to implant music into the cells. However, when he is accidentally discovered by law enforcement, they view his experiments as a terror threat, sending Els on the run. The book contains complicated, lengthy passages that use highly-technical language to explain details of how both chemistry and music work. Hearing this, does it make you run for cover? Or does it intrigue you and make you want to read the book? I like intellectual novels. I like to be challenged while I’m reading. After reading early reviews of this book and seeing that the critics seemed to think that Powers provided excellent storytelling that was not overwhelmed by too-heavy technical or scientific detail, I decided to read the book, and I loved it. I was moved by the story of Peter Els, and found him to be a very real, flawed character with a touching story, whose motivations I could understand. I selected the book for my “Hot Off the Press” class to read. In this class, a group of passionate readers gather, under my guidance,  to discuss works of recently-published literary fiction. I looked forward to our discussion of Orfeo. I was moved by the book; I cried upon reading the final pages, something I rarely do these days with a book. I was surprised to find my class had a very different reaction. They were not happy. They did not enjoy the detailed musical and scientific passages. They are smart people and smart readers, yet they felt overwhelmed, put off. One likened reading the book with its descriptions of avant garde music to an unpleasant experience she had had attending a concert of John Cage’s music. Another asked with irritation: “Who is he writing for?” It’s a valid question. If the smart and engaged readers in my class can’t wade through this material, who can? Do you need a degree in science or music to read this book? Why does the author put so much detail in that he has...

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