Too Close To The Falls was hard to come by, since our system has only a few copies left. Most of our members had a chance to finish it.
The general consensus was we really liked the story, mostly because it was in a child's voice with a child's perceptions and naivety. We found the details made each story come alive and wondered how Catherine Gildiner could remember so many vibrant details. We agreed that most of us can remember SOME stories from our very young lives in extreme detail, if the event was a major one, but we still wondered how Gildiner could remember so very many of her daily life details.
We found that her memories fondly triggered our own memories from those years, such as, tv jingles and playing unsupervised in a seemingly more innocent world.
We liked her eccentric, one-of-a-kind set of parents and loved Roy, the illiterate Black delivery man, for whom 4-year-old Catherine would read the map. We loved their adventures on, literally, the wrong side of the tracks. We marveled at her sense of justice and rooted for her moral stand and choice of heroes, especially, because the world as-we-know-it would never choose those people. We liked the stories about the Indian reservation and the denizen of the town dump.
We loved her self-confidence in knowing she would win the contest, which, of course, she didn't win.
We discussed loss of innocence and how very innocent she was....how very clueless of the reality around her. We talked of loss of innocence.... meaning finding out about the reality in the daily lives of others that are kept secret.
We liked that the last deed of the corrupt "Rod" was a good one He encouraged her to Get Out of the little world she was in. .....which if you read the next book you will find out she does. .....sort of, out of the frying pan, into the fire.
We wondered what happened to all those remarkable people we met. We learned that in the original version of this book, Catherine had indeed told what became of the main people. Her publisher, however, told her to leave out that information, because it was not in the "child's" voice of the book. We were disgruntled. We wanted to know! "At least put it in the postscript!!"
A few questioned whether or not some of the events could have really happened and others resoundingly thought that, "Yes, of course, they did!" ...and we could actually tell some of our own stories which were similar, or tell stories of people we knew who had lived through similar events. Specifically some felt the story of the predatory priest was hard to believe, but those of us who have personally known of hypocrisy and deceit from "religious" people vouched for the truth of her narrative.
One member of our group brought her ipad and showed us photos of Catherine. (Try Google, Images and just type in her name.)
Some of the group wondered if, indeed, Catherine was a "little" crazy, as some of her elders thought. One book club member mentioned that they thought her personality was slightly dissociative and mentioned that some of the online photos showed "crazy" eyes.
(Reminder to Self: "Self, don't share candid photos of self with this group.") . :>
Some were ready to read her sequel, called After the Falls, which covers her college years and we look forward to what will be her LAST memoir, which will cover the years in her 20s.
While this may never be a "classic of literature," it was a very entertaining and engaging memoir. (Everyone to whom I've recommended this has told me they REALLY liked it.) Those of you, who have not read it, call me and I'll help you get a copy!
Ten of us were at Lakeview to discuss The Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror, and Deliverance in the City of Love by David Talbot and all liked it!
We started out discussing the writing style of David Talbot. Three of us mentioned it was difficult to track at times and maybe more editing could have helped that. One pointed out that most of it was based on interviews Talbot had done with participants and observers of these events. The rest thought there was no problem with the writing at all and that the book was gripping and the details based on the extensive research filled gaps we didn't know we had in our own knowledge, which was based on news or books written right at the time. We all felt we understood San Francisco better and many shared their own experiences and knowledge which expanded on the book's information.
Our personal stories included antiwar events, taking a coyote to schools to talk about protecting the wilderness and experimenting with new life styles.
We thought the author cared about his topics. One noted a review which mentioned frustration that Talbot did not include women's history and its forward movement at the time. Another mentioned that the 60s were a sexist time and we all agreed. I thought he did focus on a few major female leaders who arose at that time and loved the details about those lives such as Dianne Feinstein.
Topics we discussed, from the many covered by Talbot, were the loss of the Fillmore District and the reduction of the Black population in San Francisco from around 30% to 17% (partially remembered numbers on my part). Others were the saving of neighborhoods with the rise of power of the people, with a special note of the quiet and strong uprising Asian communities. Other topics were free clinics, Zodiac and Zebra murders, the charisma and corrupt power of Jim Jones...how if he were stopped when people in charge began to understand his power, that a mayoral election might be overturned, the clash of conservative blue collar Irish and Italian Catholic with the new hippie movement, the magic of the early love and Flower Power times and their disintegration into crime and repression by the city, the Patty Hearst kidnapping and the power of the press, the stories of lawyer Hallinan and his activist wife, the rise of the gay population and the start of the aides epidemic, the Harvey Milk assassination and the candlelight march of hundreds of thousands of mourning citizens and the legacy of all these events.
We wondered, "Why San Francisco?" for all these major events? We kicked around some ideas and came up with that it started with the Gold Rush in 1849 when San Francisco created itself as a wild, free place where anything goes. We mentioned the feeling people get when leaving a conservative world elsewhere and arriving in San Francisco to the freedom to be different. We discussed the many gay people who were severed from the military during World War II and the Viet Nam war and stayed, creating new lives and a new culture.
We talked of the influence of Herb Caen and The 49ers Superbowl victory on the city. Out of the upheaval of that era has come gay marriage, medical marijuana, immigration sanctuary, universal health care, recycling and renewable energy.
If you haven't read it yet, I would say that this is one you might want to put on your list. Both people who lived in San Francisco or the Bay Area at that time and people who were in other parts of the country felt they understand San Francisco better and are glad they read this modern history.