Pulitzer Book Club Inclusion Guide

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GET THE BOOK

"Foreign Affairs" by Alison Lurie

INCLUSION MILESTONES

1985

• Live Aid Ethiopian famine relief concerts
• Gwendolyn Brooks first Black U.S. Poet Laureate
• Penny Harrington first female police chief of a major U.S. city

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AUTHOR INSPIRATIONS

Alison Lurie was first woman tenured in Cornell University’s Creative Writing Department. She taught folklore, children’s literature and writing; her publications included children’s folktale collections and essays on children’s literature.

Cindy Baum-Baicker, Ph.D., Carversville, PA

Featured Reader

We would all do well to base our choices on interior rather than exterior qualities for any given person. Both Fred and Vinnie learn this. Chuck, while oblivious to most elitism, learned this too when he found pride in his plain, non-noble ancestors.
When the book opens, we learn that Virginia Miner is 54 years old, small, plain, unmarried, and an English professor at an Ivy League University. Nowhere are we told her race. How does the reader see her? Is she Hispanic? African American? Caucasian? Asian? When in the story do you see her as the member of a specific race and why?
Virginia’s nickname is “Vinnie,” yet she professionally goes by V.A. Miner. She hides her gender behind her initials. Was this her strategy to be accepted into the club of academics, which in the mid 1980’s was still a men’s club?
Inclusion criteria decide who is “in” and by extension, exclusion criteria decide who is “out.” In “Foreign Affairs,” the thematic inclusion criteria of “in” and “out” seem to be based on gender role stereotype, physical attractiveness, and social standing.

Cindy’s Inclusive Cause: The Scattergood Foundation – Behavioral Health

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American professors major in love during London sabbatical

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Three quarts of watercress avocado soup spills; love ensues.

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A study in contrasting perceptions and behavior: tourists and locals, Brits and Americans, beautiful and ordinary, young and mature, and hyper-educated and not, slick and not so polished.

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Short, easy to track book; 304 pages, 11 listening hours.

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Embarrassment reveals. Awkwardness/shame about being with someone says you haven’t accepted the person you’re with and/or you’ve encountered really judgmental people.

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Lots of white privilege. White Ivy league professors on sabbatical in London interacting with mostly literary white people. Liaisons with rich royal/actress and wealthy retired waste-disposal magnate from Tulsa. Gay-bashing photographer.

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You’ll have tea and the apricot tart you wanted last night and introduce your philistine companions to the pleasures of the trifle.

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“Words don’t matter to actors as they do to a literary person. For them meaning is mainly in expression and gesture; the text is just the libretto, a line of empty glasses that the performer can fill with the golden or silver or bronze liquid of his or her voice.”

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Fancy tea room or Tea Celebration hamper delivered from Fortnum and Mason to your swank parlor. Do the right thing if anyone hands you an ugly raincoat.

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Does appearance influence who becomes a tenured Ivy league professor and why? Has that changed over the years?
What is the role of elite university professors in society?
How does beauty as a relationship screening criterion vary based on age and gender in the novel and in life? What happens in the event of “mismatches” based on beauty, age, resources?
What does it take for visitors to foreign countries to tap senses other than sight and taste?

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Go to London and spend serious time in the BM reading room. Or go to one of Cornell/“Cornith” University’s many libraries in Ithaca, NY. Alternatively, choose between the Oral Roberts University chapel in Tulsa and an art gallery exhibiting artsy dick pics.

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1993 movie adaptation “Foreign Affairs”

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“Clever Gretchen and Other Forgotten Folk Tales” or “Don’t Tell the Grownups” by Laurie or “Garland Library of Children’s Classics” which she edited. Or read a John Gay like “Beggar’s Opera” or a snarky Atlantic review. You won’t find Alison Lurie’s work trash-talked in the Atlantic though. https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2020/12/pulitzer-winning-writer-and-professor-alison-lurie-dies-94