Food for Thought 

Two local literary events will likely provide ample food for thought in the wake of the events of Sept. 11.

On Thursday, Sept. 27, at the Smokebrush Center, New York author Matt Meyer will discuss his book Guns and Gandhi in Africa, co-authored with pan-African activist Bill Sutherland. The book explores the strategies and tactics used in achieving an end to colonialism in several African countries, from the point of view of those who led the liberation movements. The focus is on the means of the individual movements -- non-violent or armed conflicts or both -- and how the methods influenced the independent governments that emerged.

Meyer and Sutherland are both intellectual peace activists, old-timers of the War Resisters League ilk, who have a lot to say about the successes and failures of military tactics and nonmilitant resistance. The introduction to the book is by South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu whose definition of reconciliation resounds throughout. A discussion on justice and nonviolence in Africa and in our local community will follow with a panel of community activists presiding.

James C. Humes, renowned author, lawyer, diplomat, historian and Pueblo resident, will present his dramatic rendition of "Never Give Up," a selection of the wit and wisdom of Winston Churchill, performed in the familiar Brit's persona, as a fundraiser for the McAllister House Museum on Friday, Oct. 15 at the Garden of the Gods Club.

Humes is the author of soon-to-be-released Eisenhower and Churchill: The Partnership That Saved the World, and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his 1981 biography of Churchill. The author of 27 books he has also penned an award-winning biography of Shakespeare and edited My Fellow Americans, a collection of presidential addresses that shaped history.

Music of the Spheres

A world-renowned opera singer. A Japanese business mogul. A band of ragged anti-government rebels in a mythical Latin American country. A Swiss hostage negotiator. An ambitious young translator. All of these characters and a handful of others are vividly portrayed in Ann Patchett's delightful new novel, Bel Canto.

On the surface, Bel Canto is the story of a botched rebel insurgency in which the vice-president's house is overtaken while an elite group of guests are gathered for a night of opera. Held hostage for more than a month in the luxurious villa, captives and captors begin to discover their common humanity through basic daily offerings of food, conversation and music. Patchett tells the tale straight, but understands that the inner and outer workings of the human heart often defy the bounds of narrative. When her disparate characters' hearts begin to open to one another, we witness the power of art -- actions and events defy circumstance and transcend ethnic, class and physical bounds.

Intricately organized, Bel Canto takes the reader from hostage to hostage, captor to captor, all enclosed in a place that has known and can engender love. The vice president, host if you will, busies himself providing clean linens, scrubbing the floors and toilets, noticing all the work that needs to be done in the garden. Mr. Hosokawa, the Japanese businessman and avid opera fan, finds a way to serve his muse, lyric soprano Roxanne Coss, and Coss discovers for the first time in her privileged existence, the real value of her musical gift.

Patchett has seen moderate to substantial success with two earlier novels, The Patron Saint of Liars and The Magician's Assistant. Bel Canto is her strongest novel to date, a gentle human fable told with precise, delicate cadence and glittering prose.

In 1987, Springs resident Frannie Rose came down with a mysterious illness that took 10 years to diagnose. Eventually assured that her condition was known as Systemic Mastocytosis, Rose was grateful to be alive, thankful to a couple of doctors who realized her dilemma and frustrated by the difficulties inherent in chronic illness, especially illness that is difficult to diagnose. She wrote a detailed account of her search for health, published last spring. Rose will sign and discuss Fixing Frannie this weekend at the Citadel Barnes & Noble.


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