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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Michael & Edie Staff Pick Book Shelf

Villanova Theatre's newest production Michael & Edie (running February 10th-22nd) takes place inside a magical bookstore.  Michael and Edie, both clerks in this literary labyrinth, bury themselves in comforting stacks of the world's greatest authors' greatest books in an effort to escape the messiness and complications of their own lives.  And that's the beauty of books, isn't it?  To lose yourself into vivid worlds built from words and image instead of bricks and mortar.  Below, each character in Rachel Bond's deeply affecting coming-of-age literary love story shares their recommendation for the "Staff Pick" bookshelf!

Michael's pick:  The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara by Frank O'Hara

Michael yearns for intimate connections to others.  When he finds he lacks them, he uses his imagination to create a sense of closeness.  He is drawn, therefore, to O'Hara's deeply personal poetic tone.  This collection, edited by Donald Allen, shared the 1972 National Book Award for Poetry.  Just as Michael speaks his longing musings about Edie aloud, O'Hara was inspired by his daily observations of the world around him.  O'Hara said of his own work: "It may be that poetry makes life's nebulous events tangible to me and restores their detail".

TODAY by Frank O'Hara

Oh! kangaroos, sequins, chocolate sodas!
Your really are beautiful! Pearls,
harmonicas, jujubes, aspirins! all
the stuff they've always talked about

still makes a poem a surprise!
These things are with us every day
even on beachheads and biers.  They
do have meaning.  They're strong as rocks.


Edie's pick:  Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger

Mysterious and sad Edie finds deep comfort in Franny and Zooey, a book comprised of two separate stories dedicated to the youngest members of the Glass family - which was a frequent focus in Salinger's writings.  When Franny finds herself in the midst of a spiritual and existential breakdown, her older brother, an emotionally toughened genius, reaches out to her, offering brotherly love, understanding, and words of sage advice.


"Against my better judgment I feel certain that somewhere very near here - the first house down the road, maybe - there's a good poet dying, but also somewhere very near here somebody's having a hilarious pint of pus taken from her lovely young body, and I can't be running back and forth between grief and high delight."

Ben's pick: The Things they Carried by Tim O'Brien

O'Brien is distinguished from other authors by his ability to merge truth and fiction in this collection of short stories about a platoon of American soldiers in the Vietnam War.  Just as Ben tells a story in order to tell the truth, O'Brien explores the truth of the War by weaving tales inspired by his service in Vietnam, feeling that the realities of of the Vietnam War are best explored in fictional form rather than the presentation of precise facts.


"Together we understood what terror was: you're not human anymore.  You're a shadow.  You slip out of your own skin, like molting, shedding your own history and your own future, leaving behind everything you ever were or wanted to believe in. You know you're about to die.  And it's not a movie and you aren't a hero and all you can do is whimper and wait."

Sarah's pick: Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Sarah feels deeply connected to Charlie, the main character of Perks of Being a Wallflower.  Like Sarah, Charlie is deeply sensitive, shy, and intelligent beyond his years.  Perks of a Wallflower reflects on themes of teenage reality and nostalgia.  Chbosky wanted to convey respect for teenagers, to "validate and respect and celebrate what [teenagers] are going through everyday", dedicating his novel to "anyone who's felt like an outcast."


"I don't know if you've ever felt like that.  That you wanted to sleep for a thousand years.  Or just not exist.  Or just not be aware that you do exist.  Or something like that.  I think wanting that is very morbid, but I want it when I get like this.  That's why I'm trying not to think.  I just want it all to stop spinning."

John's pick:  The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad

Owner of the bookstore in which Michael and Edie meet, John seems to be leading a secret life outside of the store.  Is he meeting a lady?  Does he have a family at home waiting for him?  Or maybe, just maybe, is he involved with something more diabolical?  Conrad's classic novel, set in London in 1886, deals largely with the life of Mr. Verloc.  During the day, he runs a shop that sells pornographic materials, contraceptives, and bric-a-brac.  At night . . . well, the title says it all.


"Mr. Verloc, getting off the sofa with ponderous reluctance, ponderous reluctance, opened the door leading into the kitchen to get more air, and thus disclosed the innocent Stevie, seated very good and quiet at a deal table, drawing circles, circles; innumerable circles, concentric, eccentric; a coruscating whirl of circles that by their tangled multitude of repeated curves, uniformity of form and confusion of intersecting lines suggested a rendering of cosmic chaos, the symbolism of a mad art attempting the inconceivable."

With your tall-tale tastebuds whetted, book your tickets now for Michael & Edie, running February 10th-22nd, by visiting or by calling our box office at 610-519-7474.

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