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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, June 21, 2024
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At Dolckside: Chasing Birds, Steel Pan and a Young Boy's Search for Healing

Special Note: Pillis J. David Gershator will be giving a book signing from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.
"On the Wing: To the Edge of the Earth with the Peregrine Falcon" by Alan Tennant. Alfred A. Knopf, nature-birds & birdwatching, 320 pp. $25.
In this extraordinary narrative, Alan Tennant, a passionate observer of nature, recounts his all-out effort to radio-track the transcontinental migration of the peregrine falcon–an investigation no one before him had ever taken to such lengths.
"On the Wing transports us from the windswept flats of the Texas barrier islands–where the tundra falcons pause during their springtime journey north–to the Arctic, and then back south, through Mexico, Belize, and into the Caribbean, in a hilariously picaresque and bumpy flight. At the helm is Tennant's partner in falcon-chasing, George Vose, a septuagenarian World War II vet who trusts his instincts as much as his instruments. As the two men nearly lose their lives and run afoul of the law in the race to keep their birds in view and their rattletrap Cessna gassed up and running, Tennant renders with gorgeous precision and skill the landscape and wildlife they pass on the way and the falcons that direct their course.
"On the Wing is a breathtaking encounter with these majestic birds–the icons of pharaohs, Oriental emperors, and European nobility–whose fierce mien, power, and swiftness have fired the human imagination for centuries.
"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" by Jonathan Safran Foer. Houghton Mifflin Company, fiction hardcover, 326 pp. $24.95.
Jonathan Safran Foer emerged as one of the most original writers of his generation with his best-selling debut novel, Everything Is Illuminated. Now, with humor, tenderness, and awe, he confronts the traumas of our recent history. What he discovers is solace in that most human quality, imagination.
Meet Oskar Schell, an inventor, Francophile, tambourine player, Shakespearean actor, jeweler, pacifist, correspondent with Stephen Hawking and Ringo Starr. He is nine years old. And he is on an urgent, secret search through the five boroughs of New York. His mission is to find the lock that fits a mysterious key belonging to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11.
An inspired innocent, Oskar is alternately endearing, exasperating, and hilarious as he careens from Central Park to Coney Island to Harlem on his search. Along the way he is always dreaming up inventions to keep those he loves safe from harm. What about a birdseed shirt to let you fly away? What if you could actually hear everyone's heartbeat? His goal is hopeful, but the past speaks a loud warning in stories of those who've lost loved ones before. As Oskar roams New York, he encounters a motley assortment of humanity who are all survivors in their own way. He befriends a 103-year-old war reporter, a tour guide who never leaves the Empire State Building, and lovers enraptured or scorned. Ultimately, Oskar ends his journey where it began, at his father's grave. But now he is accompanied by the silent stranger who has been renting the spare room of his grandmother's apartment. They are there to dig up his father's empty coffin.
"Ring of Steel" by Cy Grant. Macmillan Education. Caribbean – Pan Sound & Symbol, 120 pp. $5.

This is the mythic story of the only acoustic musical instrument to be invented in the 20th century – the steel drum of Trinidad and Tobago. On this twin-island state at the base of the Eastern Caribbean archipelago, steel drums were first produced from the discarded oil canisters or pans and, over a remarkably short space of time, these rings of steel have been transformed into the finely tuned, melodic and harmonic percussion instruments of the present day.
Pan (the common name of the steel band) is closely linked to the world famous Trinidad Carnival and Calypso and this beautifully illustrated book traces not only the physical development of the instrument, the plight of the early pioneers and their struggle for survival and acceptance, the social function of the panyard and the rivalry between the bands manifest in the annual Panorama competition, but also the spirit and pan-world spread of Pan.
Cy Grant has led a life of extraordinary variety and achievement. Born in Guyana, he served as a flight lieutenant in the RAF during the Second World War, was shot down and spent two years as a prisoner of war. After the war he qualified as a barrister in the Middle Temple. He then began his long career in show business. He has appeared in films and on stage. His one-man show Return to My Native Land by Aime Cesaire was premiered as a platform performance at the National Theatre. He has sung in concert and cabaret as well as on television – singing the news in calypso on the innovative BBC Tonight programme. He was chairman/co-founder of the London-based Drum Arts Centre in the seventies and Director of Concord, and organization for multicultural arts festivals in the eighties. He is an Honorary Fellow of Roehampton Institute, London.
Cy Grant brings this wealth of experience to this, his own odyssey into the symbolic, esoteric and often misunderstood world of Pan. The result is an accessible and highly perceptive account of a unique cultural phenomenon.

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