HPPR Radio Readers Book Club

HPPR Radio Readers Book Club is an on-air, online community of readers exploring themes of common interest to those who live and work on the High Plains. 

The 2018 Fall Read's theme is Let's Talk—Aging, Death, & Dying.  You'll find the thoughts and ideas about books from Radio Readers through a series of BookBytes posted below. If you'd like to contribute a BookByte, simply contact Kathleen Holt at kholt@hppr.org for more information. 

Become an HPPR Radio Reader today! Click here to join the Book Club—and stay informed by liking our Facebook page!

To download materials from previous seasons of the Book Club, please visit our archive.

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HPPR Radio Readers Book Club is made possible in part by a generous contribution from Radio Readers:  Lon Frahm of Colby, KS and Lynne Hewes of Cimarron, KS.  HPPR thanks them for their support!

  

No Man's Land

Jan 29, 2018

Hello, this is Daniel Helbert from Canyon, Texas. This installment of HPPR’s Radio Reader’s Book Club is about Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse—a novel that follows the journey of a farm horse named Joey who travels back and forth across the Western Front of World War I.

In what is unequivocally the central scene of the book, Joey has inadvertently wandered into No Man’s Land after being terrified by tanks, starved by the scorched earth of the battlefield, and mercilessly mauled by barbwire fortifications.

WWI Comics and Poetry: A Fine Example

Jan 26, 2018

This is Denise Low, a regular contributor to HPPR.

Dear Listener, first a confession before I discuss Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics, edited by Chris Duffy. I don’t like comic books. My mother forbade them when I was a child, except for Bible stories. So, what mixed feelings I had when I opened this World War I book of poetry about a gruesome trench war. The word “comics” suggests humor, but Above the Dreamless Dead is in no way a humorous book.

Pintrest

I’m Jonathan Baker, a writer in Canyon, Texas, and I’ve been asked to talk a little about this month’s Radio Readers Book Club selection, War Horse by Michael Morpurgo. This spring’s Book Club theme is World War 1, but we decided to forego the novels on the conflict that you might have expected us to select.

You won’t find Hemingway or Ford Madox Ford or Erich Maria Remarque on our reading list. That’s mostly because anyone who’s interested in fictional recounting of the Great War has likely already read All Quiet on the Western Front and A Farewell to Arms.

Let's Be Honest

Jan 22, 2018
Pintrest

Hello, I’m Daniel Helbert from Canyon, Texas for HPPR’s Radio Reader’s Book Club. Joey, the horse who is the main character and the narrator for Michael Morpurgo’s novel War Horse is a spectacular and noble steed who has a noticeable emotional effect on humans that associate with him.

The Whole Wretched Mess

Jan 19, 2018
Wikimedia Commons

Hey, this is Andrew Taylor, a 17-year-old junior from Wheatland High School coming to you from Grainfield, Kansas.

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo is an interesting look at many different perspectives of World War I. At the center of these is a horse named Joey. Throughout the war, Joey trades hands from a farm boy named Albert to Captain Nicholls of the English cavalry, to being captured by German soldiers.

Heroism, Horses & Humanity

Jan 17, 2018

Hi, I’m Daniel Helbert from Canyon, Texas; I teach literature at West Texas A&M University and I research and write about the literature of the British Middle Ages.

For HPPR’s Radio Readers Book Club, I’m going to talk to you today about Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 novel, War Horse. The book bills itself as a children’s story, but—as its recent adaptations into an award-winning stage-play and film attest—it certainly has the potential to appeal to a much wider audience. 

Perspectives - Introducing the 2018 Spring Read

Jan 15, 2018
Wikimedia Commons / U S War Bonds Poster

My father once said “You could call this place six-foot country.” He was an Arkansas native, raised among the trees of the Ozark foothills. His most vivid first impression of the Texas Panhandle area was that a six-foot tall man like him could see for ten miles in any direction, although he said that in 1932, there wasn’t really that much to see.

I remember vividly standing in our front yard in our small town and him pointing to the solitary barn lights of farmers whose places were five, maybe ten miles away.

   The first white explorers of this vast emptiness we call the High Plains agreed there wasn’t much to see. The leader of a mid-nineteenth century surveying party reportedly wrote across his map that “this is a vast treeless plain, unfit for human habitation.”

So what does HPPR Radio Readers Book Club's 2018 Spring Read have in store? 

Here's more info about all four books! 

Radio Readers BookByte: Tsil Cafe & New World Foods

Nov 10, 2017
Tom Averill / Topeka, Kansas

I’m Tom Averill, author of the culinary novel Secrets of the Tsil Café, and a “foodie” in my kitchen and in my library. My book, published in 2001, came from years of research, starting in 1992, the 500th anniversary of the Columbus voyage.  I wasn’t on the Columbus bandwagon, given the European decimation of the New World:  the killing and enslavement of people, the pilfering of gold and silver, the outlawing of languages and religions, even the environmental damage done. 

Radio Readers BookByte: Edible Stories? Not so Much

Nov 8, 2017
Free Republic

What is edible about this book, Edible Stories: a novel in 16 parts?

Not much, really. A far cry from the Kurlansky selection we read in August, there are no recipes, no community stories… The most mouthwatering descriptions are of Orangina and caviar… Things already prepared for us, and placed on a shelf in a store for us to pick up.

We start this book with a lie. A man decides to lie rather than be embarrassed for a single moment… He pretends his entire life to everyone he sees and knows. It makes them wary of him; they stop trusting him. The people around him—his wife, his secretary, his boss and colleagues—they grow tired of his false front. They can’t connect to this persona.

Radio Readers BookByte: Control the Food - Control the Culture

Nov 6, 2017
Wikimedia Commons

There’s a certain possessiveness with art, even if we did not create it ourselves.  People love to be the “discoverer” of greatness.  I have this possessiveness toward books.  When I read an incredibly powerful book, I am torn between my desire to share the greatness with others so that we may talk and revel in the wonder of it together, and my desire to keep it to myself.  A part of me wants to own it and hoard it.  I realize this is completely irrational. 

Radio Readers BookByte: Memama's Sweet Roll Dough

Nov 3, 2017
Lynne Hewes / Cimarron, KS

Every year at Thanksgiving, I spend quality time with my grandmother, a wonderful woman who died about 40 years ago.  Together, early each Thanksgiving morning, she and I pour a cup of coffee, dig out a handwritten recipe card, peel, cut up, and boil one large potato, and set about creating “Memama’s sweet roll dough.”

Radio Readers BookByte: Food and Common Ground

Nov 1, 2017
Jason Harper / Ft. Hays State University

Today my focus is on Mark Kurlansky's Edible Stories, and how food is one of the many bonds that people find as common ground.

This common ground through food is true in fact, fiction -- and in teaching. Years ago, beginning in 2006, I taught college composition courses in a partnership program between Pittsburg State University and a university in Asunción, Paraguay. Then, a year later, I was teaching for partnership between Fort Hays State University and a university in China. 

Radio Readers BookByte: Name that Character

Oct 30, 2017
Wikimedia Commons

Welcome to the Radio Readers book club and the 2017 Fall Read.  We’ve been discussing our second Mark Kurlansky selection. 

Earlier in my chats about Edible Stories: A Novel in Sixteen Parts, I promised I would touch upon Kurlansky’s use of names.  While I don’t believe that Kurlansky chose every single name in the book for symbolic reasons, I do think paid close attention to this task.

Radio Readers BookByte: Belons and Oysters

Oct 27, 2017
Kansapedia / Kansas State History Society

Hello Radio Readers!  Dana Waters from Fowler, Kansas, here.  When I read Mark Kurlansky’s Edible Stories: A Novel in Sixteen Parts, I found the oysters in the story titled “Belons” especially intriguing.  Wouldn’t it be fun to compare the Belons to the Portugaises, paired with a bottle of Sancerre of course?  I’m thinking a small Paris café, since Belons are probably not a High Plains specialty, right? 

Radio Readers BookByte: City Food

Oct 25, 2017

Mark Kurlansky’s Edible Stories is an odd collection of strange characters and strange experiences. People fall into holes and go to baseball games and watch the stock market at the gym and argue with their neighbors. Throughout these braided stories of characters that criss cross one another is the food—pink salt, fattening muffins, wine—that punctuate misunderstandings and hurt feelings. It’s a book about people, mostly.

And yet the stories are about food. Food, really, in cities.

Radio Readers BookByte: Win Friends & Influence People

Oct 23, 2017
Wikimedia Commons

Welcome to the Radio Readers Book Club, where we are wrapping up our Fall Read with discussion of Mark Kurlansky’s Edible Stories.  I’m Valerie Brown-Kuchera, your discussion leader for this title, coming to you from Quinter to delve into the idea that people who snack together, pack together. 

Library of Congress

I believe in Jackalopes. They exist in postcards, seen throughout the western plains at truck stops. They must be real. This is one story I have heard about a particular jackalope named Jack, who is the hero of my book called Jackalope, from Red Mountain Press in Santa Fe.

Radio Readers BookByte: Six Degrees of Separation

Oct 9, 2017
Wikimedia Commons

Hello, Radio Readers.  This is Valerie Brown-Kuchera, talking to you again from Quinter.  I’m introducing our final selection, Edible Stories by Mark Kurlansky.  You might recognize the author because he’s also responsible for the Federal Writers’ Project collection The Food of a Younger Land, which was our first book in Food and Story. 

Radio Readers BookByte: Edible Stories

Oct 6, 2017

Hello Radio Readers!  Now that we’ve explored the food described by Federal Writers’ Project authors in The Food of a Younger Land, and mulled over Joanne Harris’s novel of food, family, and a community caught up in the complexities of wartime occupation, Five Quarters of the Orange, it’s time to move on to the third book in our Food and Story series, Edible Stories: A Novel in Sixteen Parts

Mark Kurlansky, a noted food author with best selling books on salt, cod, and oysters, throws us a real curve with Edible Stories.  His mining of the Federal Writers’ Project depression era essays in our series opener, Food of a Younger Land, did not prepare this reader for the wacky, disjointed-but-not-disjointed series of stories he creates in Edible Stories: A Novel in Sixteen Parts.  I found these fictitious short stories (or are they chapters?) both delightful and baffling.  Kurlansky presents us with a parade of characters who are odd, to say the least.  He organizes this book with a motif of, yes, food, but in a most unexpected way.  Each of the sixteen stories bears the title of a specific food: “Muffins,” “Hot Pot,” “Orangina,” “The Icing on the Cake.”  The exception is the last story, titled “Margaret.” 

Radio Readers BookByte: Larger than Life

Oct 4, 2017
WIKIPEDIA

Hi, Radio Readers – I’m Melany Wilks talking to you from my home in Colby, KS.

The book, “Five Quarters of Orange,” by Joanne Harris brought many different emotions and thoughts to me as I read it.  As the author talked about Les Laveuses being in a small town in France, she led us to understand that the Dartigen family and community may not have suffered such oppression as those in a city.  She shares the crop failures and natural disasters that came along with the invasion of an occupying force.  These events worked together to create circumstances that encourage Boise, Cassis and Reinette to deal with the enemy soldiers.  The book shares intrigue and caring between the three youth and a particular soldier.  It is a circumstance that will keep you reading!

Radio Readers BookByte: Something to Chew On

Oct 2, 2017
Jason Harper/Hays Kansas

Hello, Radio Readers – I’m  Jason Harper, food and fiction connoisseur (as well as a solely self-proclaimed chef and author) coming to you from Hays, Kansas. I’ll be talking about High Plains Public Radio Reader's Fall 2017 theme – Food and Story, delivering the final segment of my four-part Book Byte about Five Quarters of the Orange, a novel by Joanne Harris.

Radio Readers BookByte: Harper Breakfast -- or Not

Sep 29, 2017
Jason Harper / Hays, Kansas

Hello. This is Jason Harper in Hays, Kansas. Earlier this morning I was looking at the clock, waiting to take a work break, when I remembered something that happened a couple of years ago: "The Breakfast Bomb."

Last time we talked I mentioned how my wife May has said that before she met me, she was living alone in a bleak, dark, drafty apartment, working long hours at a law firm, and only ate ramen noodles every day because she was too busy with work to learn how to cook on her own.

Radio Readers BookByte: Orange Wine

Sep 27, 2017
Meagan Zampieri / Norton, Kansas

Greetings, Radio Readers, I’m Meagan Zampieri, here in Norton, KS. I hope you’re having a wonderful Autumn … Myself, as I read these selections from our Fall Read—Food and Story, I have appreciated the opportunity to reflect and write about the most important things in my life. Which is that

I am growing a son.

I keep coming back to that thought –after reading Five Quarters of the Orange, the story of a young girl’s life during the Nazi occupation of France. Joanne Harris is crafty, creating empathy for those who aided the Third Reich’s occupation of the French countryside.  

There is a metaphor that Framboise, the grown-child narrator, uses mid book—describing her mother’s parenting style. That she treated her children like trees in her orchard. That you plant them and feed them, trim them back often and correctly, and they will grow strong and true. Clip them back. Pluck their fruit.

It’s barbaric, no?

Radio Readers BookByte: Food as a Weapon

Sep 25, 2017
Wikimedia Commons

Hello, Radio Readers – I am Jason Harper, food and fiction connoisseur (as well as solely self-proclaimed chef and author) coming to you from Hays, Kansas. Today, I’ll be talking about High Plains Public Radio Reader's Fall 2017 theme – Food and Story, delivering part three of my four-part Book Byte about Five Quarters of the Orange, a novel by Joanne Harris.

Today, my focus is that the characters in Five Quarters of the Orange use food as a weapon.

In the novel, the narrator describes how she, as a child, would bring oranges surreptitiously into the house because the very smell of them would trigger her mother's migraines, thus buying the child hours of freedom after her mother took heavy narcotics and lay in bed. Unbeknownst to her, these frequent headaches and that "medicine" she took led to a crippling opiate addiction.

Pintrest

This is George Laughead of Lawrence and Dodge City.  I grew up in Dodge, as did my father and my grandfather, who was on the first city commission.   My cookbook recommendation comes with a personal note.  I have a recipe in The New Kansas Cookbook: Rural Roots, Modern Table by Frank and Jayni Carey with beautiful illustrations by Louis Copt and published by the University of Kansas Press.  I’ll come back to that cookbook in a minute and explain why I have a Moroccan style recipe in it.

Food had always had a big effect in Dodge.  A lot of people had to be fed because of the Santa Fe Depot and all the buses that went through in the 1950s and 1960s.  There were probably 20 trains a day.  There was a lot of hotel space in downtown Dodge City.  It doesn’t have that now.  There were hundreds and hundreds of rooms.  The Harvey House set a standard and the women’s church groups were always a feature at each community holiday or event. There were thousands of travelers, so there were many restaurants, cafes, bars and grills. 

Radio Readers Book Byte: In Times of Distress

Sep 20, 2017
Melany Wilks / Colby, KS

Hi, Radio Readers – I’m Melany Wilks talking to you from my home in Colby, KS.  

The book, “Five Quarters of Orange,” by Joanne Harris talks about food in the midst of WWII.  I kept being drawn to the fact that the families had homes and farms where they normally grew food for their lives. But that the soldiers came in and took what they had grown or stored. When the floods came and the weather destroyed the crops the community really began to suffer.

As Francoise Simon is describing her family having to harvest the fruit from the trees when all that was left was rotten fruit in habited by hornets.  And the need to pick the fruit, then boil the fruit and skim off the insects from the top of the jam or syrup.  Sounds really gross but that is what happens when food is scarce.

Radio Readers BookByte: Food Becomes Currency

Sep 18, 2017
Wikimedia Commons

Hello, Radio Readers – I’m Jason Harper, food and fiction connoisseur (as well as a solely self-proclaimed chef and author) coming to you from Hays, Kansas. Food is used in several ways throughout Joanne Harris’ Five Quarters of the Orange, fictional WWII exploration of a set siblings. On multiple levels, food peppers this novel and leaves the reader with quite a lot to chew on. 

In my first Book Byte, I discussed how creating a great book is a bit the same as baking a delicious dessert, and then I compared recipe steps from Five Quarters of the Orange to the elements of storytelling.

Today, another food angle in Five Quarters of the Orange is how these characters in the novel use food as a kind of currency — partly as a currency of collusion with German soldiers. Chocolate, oranges, bread, and many more examples feed the storyline.

For centuries, food has been used as a form of money. I would like to serve up the following three morsels of trivia of how food was historically a kind of currency that might tantalize our Radio Readers: 

Radio Readers BookByte: Two Deer

Sep 15, 2017
CREATIVE COMMONS

Deer fascinate me, and sighting them is always magical, maybe because they move so effortlessly, compared to us.

Here are two deer poems, “Levitation” and “White Deer Chirascuro.”

Chirascuro is an Italian term for high contrast paintings, where black background emphasizes the light.

Levitation

The psychic says ghosts float

above ground. When deer waver

in sunrise fog over asphalt,

I believe. Front-on, only ears show

but sideways, slanting northward,

full bodies appear—soft-tan fur,

solid torsos, brown cherub eyes.

Melany Wilks / Colby, KS

Hi, Radio Readers – I’m Melany Wilks talking to you from my home in Colby, KS.

Today, I am bringing you some thoughts that I had as I read Five Quarters of the Orange, by Joanne Harris.  Our subject discussion is on food and story this quarter.  As I read the book so many stories came into my mind.

Joanne Harris the author places the Francoise Simon in a small town, Les Laveuses. Mirabelle Dartigen shares how her mother wrote all her best recipes down in a book and handed them down to her daughter. In the midst of the recipes were snatches of history of life, especially during WWII.  It reminded me how my mother always wrote in the recipe books she used. She’d write down when it was first used it and what the occasion was.  Then she would write down how she changed the recipe to make it better or easier. 

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