Photos, events, and information of interest to members of the DePaul Emeritus Society will be posted to this blog. Please take a look, add your comment, offer to be an "author" or just enjoy.
Friday, January 28, 2022
Tuesday, January 4, 2022
It is with great sadness I learned of Dr. Cornelius Sippel death today. I was using his name and wanted the correct spelling and found his obit instead. Dr. Sippel was my History 101 teacher in 1964! May he rest in peace.
FRIENDS & FAMILY
Saturday, December 18, 2021
About a dozen members of the Book Club convened on Zoom to discuss Angle of Repose, a long, complex novel dealing with a marriage and the struggles of an engineer and an artist in the harsh environment of the western states. Some found it “depressing” or even “confusing.” while others admired Stegner’s skills in structure and style, finding his characters sympathetic and the narrative engaging. Some of these differences centered on Stegner’s use of a limited narrator, Lyman Ward, who researches and recounts the life of his grandmother Susan; especially in view of Lyman’s strong opinions and the dream fantasy at the end of the novel, we might distrust some of his judgments. Readers’ responses to Susan ranged from impatience with her social snobbery and her decision to marry Oliver Ward (a “consolation prize?”) to sympathetic admiration for her strength and courage in the difficult circumstances of western life. Lyman views her sympathetically but never defends or excuses her possible involvement with Frank; he is notably evasive about the nature of their relationship and perhaps also condescending towards her work as an artist.
Our next book will be John LeCarre's memoir The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories of my Life. Next meeting willbe Wednesday, February 2, still on Zoom. Discussion starts at 11 am, with link open at 10:30 for log on and chat. Please contact Kathryn DeGraff or Helen Marlborough with any questions.
Sunday, December 12, 2021
Saturday, October 30, 2021
A group of about a dozen readers met to discuss Stephen Johnson's The Ghost Map. We found many areas of interest in Johnson’s account of John Snow’s efforts to pinpoint the causes of a cholera epidemic in 19th century London. One obvious and widely shared response was a horrified awareness of the limits of 19th century sanitation and the dangers it posed to public health. Johnson also provided a wealth of accompanying detail on living conditions and popular ideas; in fact, some readers found the second half of the book overloaded with “scattershot” detail that interrupted the narrative. Others appreciated Johnson’s analysis of issues, such as his lively account of a cholera infection or his explanation of popular resistance to Snow’s claims because of the belief in miasma or poisoned air. One reader noted that we might have learned more about the media and transmission of information in this society, while others recognized Snow’s vivid demonstration in his map of fatalities near the Broad Street pump. Johnson also notes the persistent human tendency to blame the poor or lower classes for their own illnesses, as many believers in miasma did. The linkage of illness to “weak morals” has been documented in other places as well; Johnson gives a good account of the social dimensions of public health issues. We also discussed Johnson’s perhaps optimistic view of the possibilities of urban life; discoveries like Snow’s help to alleviate the risks of life in crowded urban areas, but public health efforts, as we know, face many challenges.
The next meeting, December 1, will focus on a work of fiction. The group selected Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose for this meeting. As we agreed in August, our February meeting will discuss John LeCarre’s memoir The Pigeon Tunnel. We will continue to meet on Zoom in December and we eagerly welcome new members. The Zoom link will be sent prior to the meeting, we open the link at 10:30 with the discussion beginning at 11 am Central Standard time. If you have questions or suggestions, please contact either Kathryn DeGraff or Helen Marlborough.
Wednesday, August 25, 2021
About a dozen Book Club members met to discuss Britt Bennett’s novel The Vanishing Half, exchanging thoughts on a number of topics literary, historical, and social. One reader noted at the start that the novel might well have been titled “Passing,” because its central characters were attempting to “pass” as members of another race or sex; in that reading, Stella and Rees are particularly important, “passing” by huge efforts in social behavior or even surgery, and their characters are developed in depth; but in another sense the entire town of Mallard, with its preference for light skin, attempts to pass as racially other. Other readers commented that these transformations are also “vanishings” because old identities are left behind or disappear; and when Desiree flees from her abusive husband, she too vanishes, absorbed back into the town she left as a teenager.
These reflections led to a number of comments on the pervasive racism of American society and the traditional themes of American identity. The inter-generational trauma of racism finds violent expression in the brutal murder of the twins’ father, for example, and helps to explain Stella’s fears of discovery and Kennedy’s unfocused resentments. All the characters seem to be engaged in the traditional American quest to discover or shape a new identity, free from the constraints of the past, but all these quests are shaped by the stresses of racism and oppression. Still, a few characters, such as Jude or Earl, accomplish their goals and represent the strength and integrity possible within (and beyond) Black communities.
Some readers noted weaknesses in the novel’s structure or style; in an effort to cover a number of current issues and locations, Bennett sometimes leaves characters and situations undeveloped: Stella’s husband seems a stereotype, for instance, and Stella’s black neighbors might deserve more treatment. On the whole, however, the novel raised important questions about current American culture and exposed the high costs of racism in America, whether to individuals or to the culture as a whole.
Our next book will be The Ghost Map by Stephen Johnson. We will meet on Wednesday, October 6, at 11 am Central Time, via zoom. The link will open at 10:30 to provide for some connecting time prior to the book discussion. If you have any questions, please contact Kathryn DeGraff or Helen Marlborough.
We enjoy catching up with our fellow retirees and we welcome new members to the group. These zoom meetings have provided a great way for us to connect virtually with local and distant DES members.