Timothy W. Ryback's "Hitler's Private Library: The Books That Shaped His Life" recounts how the author pored through 1,200 out of an estimated 16,000 books that the former German dictator and all-around Worst Person in the World collected and, apparently, actually read (most books evidenced Der Furher's propensity to underline passages in pencil, only occasionally doodling butterflies and birds in the margins). Amongst Hitler's Top Books to Take to a Desert Bunker were the collected works of Shakespeare, Robinson Crusoe, Don Quixote, and Uncle Tom's Cabin. Obviously, these books were loved, as they were selected by Hitler for preservation in a Berchtesgaden salt mine. That, or the official in charge of the books' caretaking mistook them for pickling cucumbers. Ryback does not describe how the books were cleaned by their current owner, the rare book collection of the Library of Congress.
Tuesday, Aug 30th
Discussion leader: Sarah Jane Tomkins Book: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides Treat to eat: Bryan brought a fresh veggie platter with homemade hummus and baba ganoush dips Discussion: Sarah Jane started the conversation by praising the wide scope yet human focus of this pseudo-memoir. Gus thought the metaphors were a little obvious, with the personal changes standing in for what was going on in America as a whole. Kim said she got "most of the way through" -- again -- though she did get far enough to complain about the "Asian girlfriend" character. Seriously, this is like the fourth book she hasn't bother to finish this year. Hog admitted he was uncomfortable with all the clinical sex stuff, though he wondered if that was the point. Adolf was quiet, being new to the group. When we got him to open up, he said this book, "if true", showed the decay of the American-er (something like that) way of life, and that the scenes of bootlegging across national borders by the frozen waterways of Michigan gave him some inspiration, though he wondered how much armored weight the ice would hold.
Thursday, Sep 8th
Discussion leader: Augustus Theoharis Book: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez Treat to eat: Sarah Jane's famous ambrosia Discussion: Gus praised the genre of magical realism and gave a long talk about it, forgetting we'd read Borges and Ruolfo six and nine months ago, respectively. Sarah Jane said this was her fourth time re-reading it, and that she saw something new each time. Kim said she hadn't seen ice or snow until she was 14, so the opening always threw her as too matter-of-fact. Hog shared with us some of the other regional authors he thought we might like, and made us laugh when he recounted the racy plot of "Dona Flor and her Two Husbands". It seems like Adolf is still hanging back, but when prodded, he said that the lyrical language reminded him of an unfinished and unpublished novel he had by a friend of his named something like Gertie (sp?), though "obviously" translated poorly. He did say that South America did seem like it could be a nice place to retire to. This led to Sarah Jane showing us all her photos from her last cruise.
Tuesday, Sep 20th
Discussion leader: Hogarth Smith Book: Packing for Mars by Mary Roach Treat to eat: Augustus brought a Godfather's pizza -- he said it was an ironic political statement, but the group consensus was that he was being cheap Discussion: Hog apparently is a big fan of Ms. Roach's books, though some of us shied away at wanting to read a book about dead bodies. He said this wasn't the strongest of her works, but he'd picked up Adolf's interest in rockets. Adolf did seem to appreciate that. But we broke pretty early; the conversation was about Gus being cheap, and this got pretty heated.
Thursday, Oct 6th
Discussion leader: Adolf Hitler Book: A Million Little Pieces by James Frey Treat to eat: Hogarth's Homemade Hoagies. And beer. Discussion: Adolf didn't get a chance to introduce the book and start the conversation, as we all began with talking about how it was a fake. This shocked poor Adolf, who hadn't heard, and had taken the story apparently really, really to heart. He startled us all by screaming that it couldn't be a fake, not at all! He was so adamant, and finally started to break down in tears, crying that the story spoke to him deeply, and he felt it was really the tale of his life. We spent the rest of the evening taking him out for smoothies (which he really likes) and listening to his own stories -- apparently he had quite an unhappy childhood. We were trying to be supportive, but I don't think most of him got all the details (Adolf's accent can get really thick when he's upset). We all gave him hugs, Gus dropped him off at his apartment, and we haven't met since.