The Forest Unseen by David George Haskell

The Forest Unseen by David George Haskell

The Forest UnseenLast month I heard author and professor of biology at the University of the South, David George Haskell, speak on the subject of his latest book, The Forest Unseen.   I have zero interest in biology, but if I had a teacher like Professor Haskell, I’d be studying salamanders today!

Some of you may have read about Haskell in The New York Times last year or perhaps you follow his popular blog, Ramble.  In any event, it is not often that I recommend a science book (like never!), but The Forest Unseen is Zen science – educational and enlightening.

The premise is simple– for a year Haskell studied one square-meter of old-growth Tennessee forest (about the size of a dining room table) and wrote about what he experienced.

The resulting series of lush essays in The Forest Unseen make perfect bite size reading.

It’s Only a Play by Terrence McNally

It's Only a play Nathan LaneIt’s Only a Play by Terrence McNally

The big play in NYC this Fall is It’s Only A Play—heavy on celebrity casting–  F. Murray Abraham, Matthew Broderick, Stockard Channing, Rupert Grint, Nathan Lane and Megan Mullally– and light on dramatic merits.

Some reviewers were less than enthusiastic, but it appears that theatergoers didn’t listen as the performance I attended was sold out.

SETTING: It’s the opening night party for Peter Austin’s (Matthew Broderick) new play and he, his best friend (Nathan Lane), the leading lady attired in a court-ordered ankle monitor (Stockard Channing), the boy wonder director (Rupert Grint), grumpy critic (F. Murray Abraham), and just-off-the-bus actor /coat check boy (Micah Stock) are anxiously awaiting the reviews from the producer’s (Megan Mullally) sumptuous townhouse.

PLOT: see Setting.

Nathan Lane’s ten minute monologue in the opening scene is hilarious.  Stockard Channing is also wonderful as a newly paroled, over-the-hill actress. Matthew Broderick is a deep disappointment, but the rest of the cast is so good you (almost) don’t care.

Essentially a series of one liners, It’s Only a Play resembles Letterman’s Top Ten List more than a theatrical performance. But with pitch perfect timing, this cast of pros turns this into a memorable evening and a howling success, which is more than can be said (spoiler alert!) for poor Peter’s play.

NOTE: Nathan Lane is leaving the production in January to be replaced by Martin Short.

Nashville Home Sales October

Nashville Home Sales October

Doorway from the Samuel Colton House, Long Meadow, MA 1754.

Doorway from the Samuel Colton House, Long Meadow, MA 1754.

In Davidson County, there were 810 home sales reported for the month of October. This figure is up almost 25% percent from the 650 closings reported for the same period last year.

Year-to-date closings for the county have increased 7%.

The average home sales price was $266,323.

No such similar gains exist in Williamson County. .

The number of monthly closings was 355, down from 366 last October. Year-to-date, there were 3891 home sales. This represents a slight increase of less than 2% from the same period last year.

The average sales price in the county was $455,929

ECW at the Colton Door, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston June 2011

ECW at the Colton Door June 2011, Museum of Fine Arts Boston

 

Book Club Reading Suggestions-More!

Book Club Reading Suggestions-More!

Every year Reading Group Choices, an organization that has been selecting discussible books for reading groups since 1994, asks thousands of book clubs to share their group’s favorite reads.

The top ten titles for 2013:Gone Girl

  • The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  • The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin
  • State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeanette Walls
  • The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
  •  Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail by Cheryl Strayed

 

The results of previous book club surveys (through 2002) are published on the RGC website.

When Is The Best Time Of Year To Sell Your Home?

When Is The Best Time Of Year To Sell Your Home?

House Autumn

Pre-internet,  the real estate market revolved around the school year. Since parents wanted to get their families moved before school started in September,  Spring  was the big season for buying and selling homes.  Showings slowed in the summer and then spiked again in the Fall. Winter was sluggish.

With the advent of online listings, those old cycles no longer hold true.  With  access to listing information 24/7, serious buyers are in the market all the time.  [No need to battle the elements (or the airport) when you can preview a home from the comfort of your own living room!] Granted the “fair weather” buyers will not be shopping in the off season, but as a serious seller, you aren’t interested in them anyway.

Furthermore, savvy real estate professionals are hustling on behalf of their buyers all year! I have negotiated inspections Christmas week, closed in the dead of winter, and written contracts on holiday weekends!

In the off season, there may be fewer players, but those that are in the game are motivated, and that’s good for both sides!

So don’t wait around unnecessarily for the “right” time to sell your home. The time is right when it is right for YOU and your family.Talk to your real estate professional about your options.

The Long Way Home by Louise Penny

The Long Way Home by Louise PennyThe Long Way Home

Despite her gothic prose, the new Louise Penny is reliably gratifying.   (I have forgiven Penny for her transgressions in The Beautiful Mystery.)

In The Long Way Home, Chief  Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec retires to the tiny village of Three Pines, the site of many of his previous cases. But when his friend Claire’s husband disappears, he reluctantly agrees to help her, enlisting the assistance of his former second- in-command and son-in-law, Jean-Guy Beauvoir.

(Why Gamache retires to the homicidally inclined community of Three Pines is the real mystery, but  presumably Gamache in Florida would be even more puzzling!)

The Trip to Italy

The Trip to Italy

The Trip to Italy

A sequel (somewhat) to their earlier movie,The Trip (northern England), this culinary road trip through Italy staring comedians Steve Coogan (right in photo) and Rob Brydon is  delightfully silly.  (And what’s with men of a certain age and The Godfather references?!) With mouth-watering scenery and eats, Italy looks stupendous! I can’t wait to see where the guys go next!

Vertigo 42 by Martha Grimes

Vertigo 42 by Martha Grimes

Vertigo 42

The four-legged members of Melrose Plant’s  (a/k/a Lord Ardry and Superintendent Richard Jury’s civilian sidekick) household include a  horse named Aggrieved, a goat named Aghast, and a stray dog named Aggro (a/k/a Joey.)

The fact that all Plant’s pets have names beginning with Ag has nothing to do with the plot of Grimes’ latest whodunit, Vertigo 42, but it is one of the many delightfully quirky details that characterize Grimes’ novels. But beyond the quirks, Grimes delivers another satisfyingly knotty mystery featuring Richard Jury, his law enforcement sidekick, Detective Sergeant Alfred Wiggins, and a Staffordshire terrier named Stanley (a/k/a Agape.)

The Heir Apparent, A Life of Edward VII, The Playboy Prince by Jane Ridley

The Heir Apparent by Jane Ridley

The Heir Apparent by Jane Ridley

The Heir Apparent, A Life of Edward VII, The Playboy Prince by Jane Ridley 

Royals make the worst parents. Take poor Edward VII or Bertie as he was known to familiars.  Raised by aristocratic wolves, (his parents Queen Victoria and Prince Albert) Bertie was given a lousy education, zero encouragement, and no real responsibilities until he inherited the throne in late middle age.

Historians have treated Bertie no more kindly than his parents, but in her biography The Heir Apparent author Jane Ridley persuasively argues that Bertie was a better man and monarch than his detractors claim.  Continue reading

A Spy Among Friends by Ben Macintyre

A Spy Among Friends, Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben MacintyreA Spy Among Friends

I’m a big fan of the non-fiction works of Ben Macintyre, Operation Mincemeat and Double Cross, and his latest, A Spy Among Friends, doesn’t disappoint.

Ken Philby was one of the infamous Cambridge Five, a group of young men who were recruited by the Soviets while at university during the 1930’s. Philby went on to work for the British Secret Intelligence Service MI6 where he flourished for decades and successfully sabotaged dozens of British operations.

Philby’s charm, intelligence, and genius for subterfuge were instrumental to his success as double agent, but his membership in the old boys club, who exclusively populated the British foreign, colonial, and intelligence services in the mid-20thC made him unquestionably trustworthy. Even in light of overwhelming evidence of Philby’s treachery, his colleagues stood behind him. It was just unthinkable that “one of us” could so ruthlessly betray his country.

Like Macintyre’s earlier books, A Spy Among Friends reads like fiction—colorful characters and locales and surprising plot twists.  (For a fictionalized account, read John Le Care’s novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy which was inspired by the Philby case.)

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