Literature as Escape


In a blurry mirror, just a few sentences into the first chapter,  Aaliya. focuses a vision of herself, not helped by two glasses of red wine: a dye job gone blue. She's a mess. She's a reflection, perhaps, of all of us.

This week Chapter Endnotes Book Groups will dive into Rahib Alameddine's An Unnecessary Woman. So far, feedback is strongly mixed. Why?

Aaliya Sohbi, a 72-year-old woman whose physicality has practically become one, molded into her reading chair cushions, rooted in the confines of her Beiruti apartment and way-too-large one, per her mother's estimation, is either received as likable or crusty. Readers accuse Aaliya or the author, another subject, I digress, of being a gauche name dropper of literary heavy hitters, an affect that either bore or overwhelm the reader. Conversing, the self-aware Aaliya is admired for being a strong woman in a war-torn city, who knows what she wants: to be left alone; to embrace ritual; to sleep with an AK-47, thank you very much; to fall into the biblio-rapturous rabbit hole of literary free-fall. 

Does anything really happen in this book? Consider: the beauty of sleep, the conundrum of translation, the problems with religion, the rejection of social norms, the pain of aging, the absurdity of war, the worth of hot water, the dependence on flicking on your lights. Nostalgia, memory. loss and friendship. Perhaps it is just a trip to a museum, a walk to a book store or simply reflections on times-past.

Aaliya is Clarissa. Beirut is her London. Virginia Woolf's protagonist leaves her place to run errands to prep for a party. Aalyia has to escape her apartment in order to avoid a neighbor's knock. 

As Ruth Ozeki's Old Jeko would say, "Same, same."

Why should we care about an aging hermit? We hear Camus' pointless philosophy tiptoeing throughout her apartment, her brain.

And yes, what is with all the allusions, imitated a la Alemmedine right here, throughout this entire epistle? Eye-rolling? Fun?  

 An Unnecessary Woman offers a reading list for life. As a book lover, what could be lacking? 

Looking forward to discussing this 2013 National Book Award Finalist. Although not a fan of lists, awards and all the other accolades, would this title have surfaced without the press that comes along with the honor?

A wonderful acknowledgment,


Strong Women of the Books











And you.

Join me for a discussion of recent strong women who have crossed our pages.

See below for details.

April 14. 1pm. Main Libary.

After we've explored literary strong women, join me next door at Jacksonville's MOCA for a free docent-led tour of A Dark Place of Dreams, featuring the works of artists Louise Nevelson with Chakaia Booker, Lauren Fensterstock and Kate Gilmore. 

See you soon!



Explaining Irma a la Yossarian

Our book discussions take place in Jacksonville and Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. As Irma gets ready to make her turn, once she slows a bit on Friday, despite the hyperbole, no one knows, at the moment, her path. 

 In the meantime, decisions need to be made. A real Catch-22. 

Unfortunately, relying on the hair-on-fire media can descend into illogical thinking and result in panicky circular reasoning. Witness the run on bottled water at Publix. May I suggest a faucet? While at it, take a cold shower. 

Until Friday, we in Jacksonville, like Schultz, no nothing. Meantime, instead of letting the hysteria fuel your anxiety, may I suggest some dry, non-dramatic, trusted weather sources: 




If you like a little drama, but still seek a knowledgable source, nothing is better than storm chaser Jeff Piotrowski of catastrophic #blueshed fame: enthusiasm and knowledge.

Like Joseph Heller's Catch-22, Mother Nature's threats force us to face our illusion of control and random mortality.

Thinking it is rare when a book discussion floods into weather prognostication. 

That's some book discussion, that Chapter Endnotes.