April's Book of the Month

Erika Webb | April 3, 2022

For book group this month, please join me in exploring a few short stories by Karen Blixen, who primarily wrote using the nom de plume Isak Dinesen.  We’ll be considering her book Anecdotes of Destiny. I’d love to see what you think. Honestly, I’m curious to see what I think so many years after I first encountered Blixen’s work, and I can’t wait to hear other folks’ viewpoints as we discuss some fantastical, strange, and also dated stories.  That said, I can’t look away.

I was introduced to Blixen via Meryl Streep in the film Out of Africa, which is based on Blixen’s time as a Danish colonialist landowner of a coffee plantation in Kenya.  I know.  I had no idea.  As a privileged, young, white girl, I didn’t understand the myriad problems Blixen’s memoir did and didn’t address.  We can talk about that.

Later, in a college literature course, I studied Babette’s Feast.  The narrative structure of the story itself was both strange and familiar to me in its simplicity and theatre-like, act-styled organization. I was drawn to the women in this tale--striving for perfection, sacrificing for others, seeking their truest selves. We can also talk about that.

Blixen thought of herself as a storyteller in the most traditional sense.  Her tales are often allegorical, at times funny, and frequently sad.  She drew from her experience. They are imperfect, especially in our modern context.  As I read them again, I am thinking about these stories’ themes of loss, about not knowing where you are, about the hurt of loving where you’re from despite knowing you should leave. I'm certain there are others. I hope we can talk together about what you find in them or maybe how you feel Blixen misses the mark.

If you’d like, I encourage you to watch the 1987 film version of Babette’s Feast.  It’s beautiful and haunting.  I cry every time I watch it.  It differs somewhat from the story, though, and that could be a good point for conversation, too, although not necessary.

If any of this sounds intriguing, please join me for an exploration of these stories.  Hope to see you then!

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