Listen up to The Book Babes' March radio show on WMNF-FM at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, March 17. Remember you can always listen to it live, streaming on the Internet, at wmnf.org or listen to it later in the archives at that same site. Here are the highlights:
INTERVIEW WITH TWO GLAMBERTS
Margo interviews Kathryn Hollinsworth and June Kinoshita, two professional Baby Boomers who have co-written a book called On the Meaning of Adam Lambert. Responding to an essay by Allegra Huston about her secret obsession with singing sensation Adam Lambert on the wowOwow website, June and Kathryn, signing on as Juneau and Xena, began to share their intimate thoughts about Lambert and about their own lives with hundreds of other women who also declared themselves Glamberts. Several months -- and more than 8,000 posts – later, they have compiled their reflections in a book, which is as much about the lives of Juneau and Xena as it is about the iconic Adam.
Ellen and Margo ponder our enduring fascination with disaster books, from the Bible, which includes accounts of floods, plagues of locusts and blood-red rivers, to Walter Lord’s account of the sinking of the Titanic in A Night to Remember, published in 1955. Here are some of the other disaster books the Book Babes discuss:
NOVELS ABOUT DISASTERS
THE STORM, by Margriet de Moor -- This newly published novel by a Dutch writer (translation by Carol Brown Janeway) revolves around a freak hurricane in 1953 that occurred off the coast of The Netherlands that swallowed up a third of the country's land mass and traumatized its citizens. The tragedy and its aftermath are viewed with psychological insight through the lives of two sisters and death of one of them.
THE TIN ROOF BLOWDOWN: A David Robicheaux Novel, by James Lee Burke -- Set in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Burke describes the devastating destruction caused by the storm but also uses the novel to vent his anger and frustration at the incompetence and greed that amplified the impact of nature’s fury. Detective Robicheaux, whose name has become synonymous with Cajun country, is called on to investigate the shooting of two looters and track down a third who ransacked a home in a wealthy neighborhood that happened to be owned by a powerful mobster.
TRIANGLE: A NOVEL, by Katharine Weber – Novelist Weber recreates the horror of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire through the eyes of Esther Gottesfeld, the last remaining survivor of the disaster. Gottesfeld lost her fiancé and sister in the fire, which killed 146, mostly female, workers. Living in a New York Jewish retirement home, Gottesfeld tells the story of that grim day to her grandchild, but is it really what happened? A feminist scholar doesn’t believe all the details of Gottesfeld story and tries to find out the real truth about the day that had such an impact on changing the labor laws governing such sweatshops in this country.
NONFICTION: HURRICANES & FLOODS
THE JOHNSTON FLOOD: The Incredible Story Behind One of the Most Devastating "Natural" Disasters America Has Ever Known, by David McCullough -- The well-known biographer started his career with this book about a Pennsylvania town where bad weather and a broken dam took more than 2,200 lives in 1889. First published 1968, the book was written in McCullough's characteristic narrative sty le, which influenced the "deluge" of disaster books that came after it.
THE PERFECT STORM, by Sebastian Junger -- Another classic of the "watery deluge" genre, first published in 1997. This work of nonfiction explored a freak storm off the New England coast that took the lives of the crew of the fishing boat Andrea Gail. It's also a movie, but the movie is not as suspenseful as the book. This is the Book Babes’ pick as the Best Disaster Book.
A CRACK IN THE EDGE OF THE WORLD: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906, by Simon Winchester -- Winchester, a writer known for covering a range of topics, draws from his background as a geologist to discuss the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and its impact on the American psyche. The book also deals with topics of contemporary relevance -- very contemporary, given the recent big one in Chile -- such as plate tectonics and the San Andreas fault.
THE MYTH OF SOLID GROUND: Earthquakes, Prediction and the Fault Line Between Reason and Faith, by David Ulin. Not strictly an account of a disaster, Ulin’s 2005 book is part personal rumination on the uncertainty of living in earthquake country (in this case California) and part journalistic probe into the science of earthquake science, which turns out to be, um, shaky at best.
TRIANGLE: The Fire That Changed America, by David von Drehle – This is a 2004 nonfiction account of the fire that consumed the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in New York City on March 25, 1911 (see the fiction account above). With a death toll of 146, mostly young, immigrant Jewish and Italian women, was the worst disaster in the city until September 11, 2001. Most of the deaths occurred on the ninth floor where workers were trapped behind a locked exit door, forcing many to jump to their deaths.
YOUNG MEN AND FIRE, by Norman Maclean – Maclean graphically describes the 1949 forest fire in Montana that claimed the lives of 13 out of the 16 Forest Service smoke jumpers sent in to stop the blaze. The tragedy resulted in a serious rethinking ;not only of how forest fires should be fought but even if they should be fought at all.