Radio Readers Book Club

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

 

The 2017 Spring Read's theme is Water and Replenishment.  You'll find the thoughts and ideas about books from Radio Readers through a series of BookBytes posted below.  Of you'd like to contribute a BookByte yourself, simply contact Kathleen Holt at kholt@hppr.org for more information.

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Paul Phillips

From the Panhandle of Texas to the southern regions of South Dakota, the High Plains has a landscape generally characterized as flat and monotonous.  American explorers traveling west from the eastern wooded areas were not impressed with the “sea of grasses” they found covering the region, and proclaimed the area to be part of the “Great American Desert” unfit for agricultural settlement. 

American settlement arrived later, but this sea of grass was already home to many pastoral tribes, including the Comanche - peoples who had developed a nomadic lifestyle, following and hunting the more than 60 million buffalo that moved in herds across these vast grasslands.  As you will read in the Empire of the Summer Moon by S. C. Gwynne, the buffalo was key to the Comanche’s survival, providing food, shelter, and tools.

Jonathan Baker

I’m a writer in Canyon, Texas, and I’ve been asked to talk a little about this month’s Book Club Read, Empire of the Summer Moon, by S.C. Gwynne. I love this book, because it paints such an unflinching picture of the staggering beauty and brutal reality of my homeland.

The High Plains is perhaps the greatest grassland in the world. It’s hopelessly wide and unnervingly flat. And until somewhat recently, it was uninhabitable. But with the introduction of the horse to the plains, something remarkable happened. The confluence of the Comanche, the horse, and these limitless grasslands led to the rise of one of the most powerful mounted forces the world has ever known. If you were to invent the ideal denizen of the High Plains, you couldn’t do much better than the Comanche. Their very natures echoed this place in countless ways.

Leaving Plainsong

Feb 19, 2016
Kathleen Holt

 Shall we peer again into Kent Haruf’s world?

 

Just outside Holt at the McPherons’ farm, all the people we’ve grown fond of—Ike, and Bobby, Harold and Raymond, Maggie and Tom, Victoria and her baby—gather. Outdoors, the men talk, children play, while, inside women prepare a holiday meal. Meanwhile, barn swallows floating on a cool breeze of an evening let us know that all these folk—after all their searchings, shiftings, and yearnings—have finally found a haven, family, with each other.

I'll Miss the Characters of Plainsong

Feb 16, 2016
Lynne Hewes - Cimarron, KS

Over the past two weeks, my book thoughts have been peopled with the characters in Plainsong the book we’re now discussing in the 2016 Spring Read for HPPR’s Radio Readers Book Club.  We’ll be moving on to the second book soon, and when we do, I’m going to miss the characters in Holt.

Rural Characters: Types or Stereotypes?

Feb 14, 2016
Russell Lee, August 1939 / FSA, Library of Congress

Today, you and I have the opportunity to sit down at Washburn University with professors Thomas Averill and Tom Prasch.  They’ll challenge us to think about types or are they stereotypes of people sharing our rural landscape.  Let’s drop in to Thomas Averill’s office and join the conversation.  

Plainsong brings awareness lessons

Feb 11, 2016
Kathleen Holt

I’m Cindee Talley.  Today, I’d like you to meet two of my Radio Reader Book Club Friends.. Kathi Holt and teacher, Lynn Hewes.  They’re sitting around the table at the historic Cimarron Hotel, talking about our current read… Plainsong.    

Their chat is a perfect example of the paying attention.. whether it be to our children, or our surroundings.  These two lovely women are so engrossed in their conversation, they had no idea they had captured the sound of a semi going by.  Kathleen starts the conversation:

Kathleen Holt:  Is there a place in our lives these days for parents and adolescents or adults and adolescents to discuss literature – to explore how we might look at this differently or similarly?

Do the people of Plainsong represent us?

Feb 9, 2016
Karen Madorin

I’ve been thinking about the people of Haruf’s fictional community of Holt, Colorado.

Is it just me, or is this an ugly place with some ugly people?

Look, for the first half of the novel, give or take a few pages, teenagers seem to have a lot of recreational yet rough sex, fathers prowl bars, a woman is harassed by a coworker, mothers abandon their children, teenagers bully each other and brawl with their teachers. Not a pretty picture.

Kathleen Holt

I'm Eric McHenry, Kansas Poet Laureate.

Today, I'd like to explore the work of another great Kansas poet- William Stafford.  He spent his career years in Oregon where he was the Poet Laureate, but he continued to write about life and "place" on the plains of Kansas.

  Home Is the Place that Holds You

Somebody once asked the poet William Stafford why he kept writing about western Kansas, where he’d grown up, even after decades of living in Oregon. What was wrong with Oregon? “Oregon’s all right,” Stafford said, “except the mountains and the trees get in the way of the scenery.”

For Stafford, the ideal landscape was mostly skyscape. He liked an unobstructed view, prospects limited only by the distant curving away of the earth. The purpose of land isn’t to be seen; it’s to be felt with your soles. His poem “One Home” begins with the line “Mine was a Midwest home — you can keep your world,” and ends with “Wherever we looked the land would hold us up.”

High Plains: A Sense of Place or a Place of Sense?

Feb 5, 2016
Kathleen Holt

Tom Averill and Tom Prasch: a discussion inspired by Kent Haruff's Plainsong.

Tom Averill:  Yeah, I’m particularly interested in Plainsong as a branch of small town literature that I study, whether it is in eastern Kansas or on the High Plains – small town literature and probably small town film, sort of have a certain number of things in common.

Tom Prasch: Yes.

Sense of Place from the Radio Reader's Forum Leader

Feb 2, 2016
Karen Madorin

I’m Rebecca Koehn, Forum Leader for the HPPR Radio Readers Book Club.  I’ll be hosting discussions about the current read in the 2016 Spring Read – A Sense of Place.  We’ll be discussing Kent Haruf’s Plainsong in an on-line forum that you can join by following the simple instructions available at hppr-radio-readers-dot-org.

Plainsong is a GOOD book

Jan 31, 2016
Kathleen Holt

I hope you are enjoying our discussion of Kent Haruf’s Plainsong. I am, by profession, a teacher of English, but with a few publications in print, I like to think of myself as a creative writer. I enjoy studying novels and poetry for craftsmanship.

So.  When I read a book, especially a GOOD book, one that really touches me, resonates with me, as Plainsong does, deeply, I like to learn something about the author’s writing process, the way that he or she sets about to write.  In an interview for The Wall Street Journal, Haruf  noted that he would first read a passage from a favorite author – Chekhov, Faulkner, or Hemingway—so as to remind himself  “what a sentence can be.”  While Haruf’s admiration of these earlier modernist writers is worthy of further exploration, what’s more important to us is to appreciate what it tells us to expect about his style – it’s spare—relatively free of detail and description;  unadorned—plain, common words; yet, indirect, asking us to infer meaning.

Let's talk about the High Plains sense of place

Jan 29, 2016
Kathleen Holt

This is my first on-air, on-line book club, and I’m looking forward to exploring Kent Haruf’s Plainsong with you.  I currently serve as Division Chair of Humanities and English professor at Dodge City Community College where I teach, but the book club is my meeting you as a fellow reader.   

Admittedly, I am somewhat of a newbie to the High Plains having lived her for just over a decade, but in that time, I’ve driven to numerous small community for  Kansas Humanities sponsored book discussions or to vacation in a favorite small Colorado town very much like Haruf’s Holt. Traveling has given me a deep appreciation for the vastness of the High Plains as wel as its beauty – the muted palette, the skies – cloudy or clear--the panorama and for its temperamental weather.  More importantly, I’ve learned to ask, not “how many miles is that,” but “how many hours is that.”

Karen Madorin

By nature, Plains people share what they have with neighbors. It is how we survive and thrive. This opportunity for readers and lovers of ideas to explore and discuss our common landscape and the stories it generates is a gift. Each of us brings original perceptions to our common experience. Those differences can strengthen or weaken bonds necessary to make life good in a hard land. This group offers a venue for us to learn who we are because we value life on the Great Plains.

A Sense of Place – the High Plains

Jan 24, 2016
Karen Madorin

 In 1542, Father Juan Padilla wrote “the sky is so vast and unchanging that it resembles a great blue bowl turned upside down on the landscape.”  He was one of the chroniclers of the ill-fated expedition led Francisco Vasquez Coronado across the High Plains.

Coronado’s trek, along with the others led by fellow conquistadores during the Spanish exploration of the New World was never meant to just gain knowledge of the endless prairie.  The days they spent on the trackless grassland were a means to an end; the sacking of the mythical Seven Cities of Cibola and the forced conversion of the natives they encountered.  Coronado came to the New World determined to spread Catholicism, impose the Spanish regal system on all they met and most important, take all the gold they could find.  They set about to abolish tribal systems in place since the Neolithic, to give those peoples no choice but to be assimilated, dominated or die.

Plainsong

Jan 20, 2016

Plainsong by Kent Haruf is the first selection for the 2016 Spring Read.    

“In the same way that the plains define the American landscape, small-town life in the heartlands is a quintessentially American experience. Holt, Colo., a tiny prairie community near Denver, is both the setting for and the psychological matrix of Haruf's beautifully executed . . . descriptions of rural existence where weather and landscape are integral to tone and mood, serving as backdrop to every scene. This is a compelling story of grief, bereavement, loneliness and anger, but also of kindness, benevolence, love and the making of a strange new family. In depicting the stalwart courage of decent, troubled people going on with their lives, Haruf's quietly eloquent account illumines the possibilities of grace.”  (From Publishers Weekly, Peter Matson, 1999)

Empire of the Summer Moon

Jan 19, 2016

  Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne is the second book for the 2016 Spring Read.  

“The vast, semi-arid grasslands of the southern Great Plains could be dominated by hunters and warriors on horseback. In the first half of the nineteenth century, the Comanches, often referred to as ‘lords of the Plains,’ were the single most powerful military force in the region, to the frustration of both the Mexican and U.S. governments. This engrossing chronicle traces the rise of the Comanche people from their roots as primitive bands of hunter-gatherers to their mastery of the horse and emergence as the feared power brokers of the area. At the center of the narrative is the charismatic Quanah Parker, who skillfully navigated the gaps between his traditional culture and the emerging, settled culture of the late-nineteenth century.” (From: Jay Freeman, Booklist. Amazon)

A Strong West Wind

Jan 18, 2016

A Strong West Wind: A Memoir  by Gail Caldwell is the third book in the 2016 Spring Read.  

“In this exquisitely rendered memoir set on the high plains of Texas, Pulitzer Prize winner Gail Caldwell transforms into art what it is like to come of age in a particular time and place. A Strong West Wind begins in the 1950s in the wilds of the Texas Panhandle–a place of both boredom and beauty, its flat horizons broken only by oil derricks, grain elevators, and church steeples. Its story belongs to a girl who grew up surrounded by dust storms and cattle ranches and summer lightning, who took refuge from the vastness of the land and the ever-present wind by retreating into books. A memoir of culture and history–of fathers and daughters, of two world wars, the passionate rebellions of the sixties -- the book is also about the mythology of place and evolution of a sensibility: about how literature can shape and even anticipate a life” (From Amazon)

Spring Read 2016 Booklist

Jan 17, 2016

Plainsong by Kent Haruf

A heartstrong story of family and romance, tribulation and tenacity, set on the High Plains east of Denver.In the small town of Holt, Colorado, a high school teacher is confronted with raising his two boys alone after their mother retreats first to the bedroom, then altogether. A teenage girl—her father long since disappeared, her mother unwilling to have her in the house—is pregnant, alone herself, with nowhere to go. And out in the country, two brothers, elderly bachelors, work the family homestead, the only world they've ever known.

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