The Ninth Hour | Book Review

Book Review by Leslie Finkel

The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott

I was taught by Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and by the Order of Franciscans through the 1950s and ‘60’s so I have a 12 years’ experience of their demeanor and vocation and their patience with the antics I and my friends brought into their classrooms. One of the regrets of my life is how we treated them — we, who understood nothing of their sacrifices. Through a combination of fear and love, they taught us how to concentrate, how to be still, how to listen. In a very literal sense, they gave all of their lives to us.

The Ninth Hour begins with a suicide in early twentieth-century Brooklyn and then shows how that act, quickly forgotten by the larger world, infiltrates the lives of two families and one convent house of Catholic nuns. Sally, the daughter of the man who committed suicide is the primary character of the novel, but that can be a misleading description because the characters of the nuns, a large family, Sally’s mother, and others are drawn with such compassionate respect for their own individuality that we feel as if we know well a whole small cosmos of people by the time we come to the end.

This is a quiet book, but it understands that what really forms the center of our lives is always personal, intimate, fundamental like forgiveness and mercy and simple endurance when life’s circumstances turn unfortunate. This is a quiet book but one with a great heart. It left its mark on me.

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The Man Booker Prize -“Bring Up The Bodies”




This year’s winner of the Man Booker Prize 2012 went to Hillary Mantel’s Bring Up The Bodies her follow up to the highly awarded Wolf Hall, which makes her the first women to win the award twice. Girl power!  So what exactly is the Man Booker Prize?

The Man Booker Prize

A Little History … .

Ion Trewin, Literary Director of the Booker Prize Foundation states:  “From the very beginning of what was originally called the Booker Prize there was just one criterion – the prize would be for ‘the best novel in the opinion of the judges”. And 42 years later that is still a key sentence in the rules.

“It is a measure of the quality of the original drafting that the main ambitions of the prize have not changed.” Unlike the Pulitzer Prize- last year they didn’t even pick an award for fiction- they left the nominees hanging in the void with their head scratching. (Many also think that the nominees and past choices of the Pulitzer have been wayward as well.) Trewin goes on to say that the aim was to increase the reading of quality fiction and to attract ‘the intelligent general audience’. Our judges are not confined to any in-group of literary critics, authors and academics, but over the years have included poets, politicians, journalists, broadcasters and actors. This ‘common man’ approach to the selection of Man Booker juries is, I believe, one of the key reasons why ‘the intelligent general audience’ trusts the prize.

The prize, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2008 after launching in 1969, aims to promote the finest in fiction by rewarding the best novel of the year written by a citizen of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland.To maintain the consistent excellence of the Man Booker Prize, judges are chosen from a wide range of disciplines, including critics, writers and academics, but also poets, politicians and actors, all with a passion for quality fiction.

The winner of the Man Booker Prize receives £50,000 and, like all the shortlisted authors, a cheque for £2,500 and a designer bound copy of their book. Fulfilling one of the objectives of the prize – to encourage the widest possible readership for the best in literary fiction – the winner and the shortlisted authors now enjoy a dramatic increase in book sales worldwide.

Julian Barnes’ Sense of An Ending won last year’s 2011 Man Booker Prize

Interview with Craig Brown author of “Hello, Goodbye, Hello”





Today at 5:00pm on WCHE 1520am, Sam interviews Craig Brown author of hello, Goodbye, Hello.

From “one of the funniest writers in Britain—wise, clever, hilarious, and a national treasure” (Helen Fielding, author of Bridget Jones’s Diary) comes this delightful book of “101 ingeniously linked encounters between the famous and the infamous” [The Observer (London) Best Books of the Year]. Can you imagine more unlikely meetings than these: Marilyn Monroe and Frank Lloyd Wright; Sergei Rachmaninoff and Harpo Marx; T. S. Eliot and Groucho Marx; Madonna and Martha Graham; Michael Jackson and Nancy Reagan; Tsar Nicholas II and Harry Houdini; Nikita Khrushchev and Marilyn Monroe? They all happened. Craig Brown tells the stories of 101 such bizarre encounters in this witty, original exploration into truth-is-stranger-than-fiction.

“Captivating… . A glittering daisy chain that reads like a mathematical proof of the theory of six degrees of separation… . Mr. Brown constructs portraits that have all the immediacy of reportage, all the fanciful detail of fiction. He has whipped up a gratifying summertime confection — funny, diverting, occasionally sad.”  —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“The book that made me laugh most was Craig Brown’s quirky game of biographical consequences.” —Julian Barnes, Times Literary Supplement “Books of the Year”

Craig Brown has been writing the Private Eye celebrity diary since 1989 and is a columnist for London’s Daily Mail. He has also written parodies for many publications, including the Daily Telegraph, Vanity Fair, The Times, and The Guardian. The author of several books of fiction and nonfiction, he lives in London.

Hip Hot and Happening in the Bookshop – Jerry Spinelli

We are excited to announce that Jerry Spinelli will be in the Bookshop on November 3 from 11am-1pm.

A little bit about Jerry:

When Jerry Spinelli was a kid, he wanted to grow up to be either a cowboy or a baseball player. Lucky for us he became a writer instead.

He grew up in rural Pennsylvania and went to college at Gettysburg College and Johns Hopkins University. He has published more than 25 books and has six children and 16 grandchildren.

Jerry Spinelli began writing when he was 16 — not much older than the hero of his book Maniac Magee. After his high school football team won a big game, his classmates ran cheering through the streets — all except Jerry, who went home and wrote a poem about the victory. When his poem was published in the local paper, Jerry decided to become a writer instead of a major-league shortstop.

In most of his books, Jerry writes about events and feelings from his own childhood. He also gets a lot of material from his seven adventurous kids! His wife, Eileen, also a children’s book author and will be joining him here at the Bookshop.

In addition to the Newbery Award winner, Maniac Magee and Wringer, Jerry has a number of books on the middle school summer reading lists.  His latest book is Jake and Lily.

Come join us and welcome Jerry to the neighborhood.

What’s Cooking? – Jamie Oliver’s “Great Britain”

If you follow our blog then you will know by now that I love Jamie Oliver so I get excited when he puts out a new cookbook.  What I love about Jamie is his straight forward approach, use of fresh and in season ingredients and his enthusiasm for cooking REAL food.  Not all of his recipes are easy, quick or to my taste but that is true for all cookbooks. 

So let’s dive into Jamie’s latest,Great Britain.  This is his attempt to debunk the bad reputation of British food.  I have to say, my grandmother was British and she was an amazing cook but she never made anything weird (blood sausage – ugh!).  I started my adventure with the Cauliflower Cheese Soup with creamy stilton, bacon bits and country bread.  This was a very hearty soup, more like a stew and I really enjoyed it (my daughter, not so much).  The soup is like a cauliflower version of French onion soup with the bread layered in with the soup and  cheese.  This was great for a chilly evening.

My world was rocked when I came across the Empire Roast Chicken with Bombay roasties and amazing Indian gravy.  I love roasting whole chickens and this one was epic!  You rub the chicken with a mixture of Indian spices (garlic, coriander, turmeric, cumin, garam masala) and then roast it over a pan of more spices and broth that then becomes the gravy.  While the chicken is cooking you toss some par-boiled potatoes with herbs and spices and then roast them too.  If you like Indian food and you like roast chicken this is the best of both worlds. 

I rounded off my cookbook experiment with Early Autumn Cornish Pasties.  These are like pot pies without the dish or little envelopes of dinner.  You make a simple pie crust, separate it into 6 pieces and roll the pieces out into rounds.  You then pile a heap of filling (steak, squash, potato, onion, carrots, herbs) in the middle, fold it over and bake.  Served with a simple side salad you have a delicious meal that could also be portable.

Given more time I would probably make about 90% of the recipes in this cookbook, they all sound delicious.  However, I would make them over time because if the rest of the recipes are as time consuming as these three I will have to plan out my time appropriately.  In addition, the chicken recipe used every pan in the house and was a bit messy.  The recipe calls for putting the chicken directly on the oven grate and a pan on the shelf below.  To give you a true review, I followed the instructions but next time I believe I would just put a roasting pan rack directly on the pan so that I don’t have to clean my oven rack again.

Jamie has done it again.  Enjoy!

This Week In The Bookshop – R.I.P. Robin’s Books

We are sad to see the closing of another independent bookstore, Robin’s Bookstore

After 76 years in business Philadelphia’s oldest independent bookstore will be closing its doors forever. 

It begs the question:  What’s it worth to your community, to your common culture, to have an independent bookstore?

We are so grateful to those of you who shop in our store.  We love when you bring your children and grandchildren to read books and play.  We love when you get a cup of coffee or tea and sit in the back and read.  We love it when you come to Open Mic Night and play a song or read a poem.  We especially love when you buy books and tell us how much you love us!

We want to continue to offer you a great selection of books and gifts in a warm and cozy atmosphere.  Our staff loves helping you find just the right book or gift for yourself or your loved one so don’t hesitate to ask for recommendations. 

Please continue your patronage and tell all your friends about us.  We are always open to suggestions as well so if there is anything you would recommend we would love to hear from you.

We will be opening our Holiday Shoppe next month so stop by and see all of the great, hand picked items we will be carrying for the holiday season.


Wellington Square Bookshop

“Steal Like An Artist, 2012” by Austin Kleon

What, we don’t do original work?

Not according to Austin Kleon, artist and author, in his New York Times Bestseller Steal Like An Artist, 2012.

In the book Kleon gives us 10 simple ideas to create and live by and supports each with meaningful quotes and examples:

Idea # 1:  Steal Like an Artist, is that we cannot help but be influenced by those who have come before us but we do get to choose who we surround ourselves with and what we do with it. “The basketball star Kobe Bryant has admitted that all of his moves on the court were stolen from watching tapes of his heroes. But initially when Bryant stole a lot of those moves, he realized he couldn’t completely pull them off because he didn’t have the same body type as the guys he was thieving from. He had to adapt the moves to make them his own.”

Idea #3 (my favorite part of the book):  Write the Book You Want to Read, in which Kleon gives us the oh so logical manifesto to “draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use – do the work you want to see done.”

Idea #4:  Use your hands – the true meaning of the “digital age”!

Idea # 8 – Be nice (the world is a small town).  “One time I was up late on my laptop and my wife yelled at me, “Quit picking fights on Twitter and go make something!”  This one had me laughing out loud.

It’s a brash, bold, simple read for creative thinkers, which if you think about it, is all of us!  Austin Kleon  brings it all to light in a twenty first century way balancing appreciation for the benefits and limitations of a technical age with the rewards and challenges of working with one’s hands.

For those old enough to remember life before Facebook, this book reminded me of the classic All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum (1988), but with the decided influence of a 2012 Twitter, Facebook, iPhone  world.
It won’t take you long to read Steal Like and Artist, you’ll return to it again, and you’ll find yourself quoting him to your friends and giving the book as a gift.
Couple this with another classic in creativity, Ish by Peter Reynolds (2004). Ish is one of those children’s books that adults love too.

As an artist, a writer, a cook, a parent, a human being, I treasure these encouraging words. They free me to give my gifts without flinching. Both books are easy reads that will inspire you to new worlds of creative freedom.

~ Judy #2

Interview with Richard Horton author of “The Years Best Science Ficiton and Fantasy: 2012”

Today at 5:00pm on WCHE 1520am, Sam interviews Richard Horton author of The Years Best Science Ficiton and Fantasy:  2012

This fourth volume of the year’s best science fiction and The Best Scifi & Fantasy 2012 fantasy features thirty stories by some of the genre’s greatest authors, including Jonathan Carroll, Neil Gaiman, Kij Johnson, Kelly Link, Paul McAuley, RJ Parker, Robert Reed, Rachel Swirsky, Catherynne M. Valente, and many others. Selecting the best fiction from Asimov’s, F&SF, Strange Horizons, Subterranean,, and other top venues, The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy is your guide to magical realms and worlds beyond tomorrow.

Listen to Sam’s interview with Richard on Podomatic or you can download the podcast on iTunes.

Hip Hot & Happening in the Bookshop – Book Signing

Join us tomorrow, Saturday October 20th, from 11am-1pm for a book reading and signing by local author Dr. Jolene Borgese. Dr. Borgese is the author of Revision Strategies for Adolescent Writers: Moving Students in the Write Direction.

What is the difference between editing and revision?  What revision strategies are you using to help your student become an independent thinker and writer?

Join Dr. Borgese for this FREE hands-on workshop, with tips and tricks about revision strategies from her book.

Topics include:

  • The Process Approach
  • Writer’s Workshop
  • Frontloading Activities
  • The 6 Traits of Effective Writing
  • Digital Communication
  • The Common Core State Standards

Revision Strategies offers strategies and lesson ideas for helping students re-think and re-envision their drafts and in so doing produce outstanding work. The authors make the hard work of writing well something all students can accomplish. You need this book!”Carol Jago, Director, California Reading and Literature Project, UCLA and Past PresidentNational Council of Teachers of English, Urbana, IL

“This is an important reference for language arts teachers. The strategies give students concrete ways of revising, and for kids who have a hard time verbalizing or explaining their ideas, this book provides techniques for them to expand and describe what they’re talking about.”  Sarah Lucci, Middle School English TeacherAllentown School District, PA

Kids’ Corner – “Mossy” by Jan Brett

Children’s author, Jan Brett, has done it again with her beautiful new book  Mossy.

Mossy is an Eastern box turtle who lives at Lilypad Pond.  She spends so much time there that the moss around the pond began growing on her carapace, until her shell was covered with it.  When the weather turned warmer tiny ferns and wildflowers began to bloom on her back until she was walking around underneath an amazing garden.

One day Dr. Carolina came across Mossy and decided that she would be perfect in her museum so she took her back and put her in a beautiful viewing pavilion for everyone to see.  Mossy, however, became sad.  She missed her misty pond and her new friend Scoot.  When Tory, Dr. Carolina’s niece, realized how sad Mossy was they decided to take her home.  But how would they share Mossy with the museum visitors? 

The illustrations in this book are so beautiful.  From Mossy and her garden to the border images you will discover new treasures hidden within each scene.  This is a beautiful story to share with a child and to teach them about preserving and respecting nature and all of its creatures.