In this issue:

Banner Image: Members' Reading Room by Thorton Oakley, 1929.

Membership    ·    New Books    ·    Event Calendar

Banner Image: Members' Reading Room by Thorton Oakley, 1929.


Holiday Hours
The Athenaeum will be closed on December 24, 25 and 26 and January 1.

Discussion: Architecture and Urban Identity: Themes of Architecture and Cultural Transformation

Italian architects Simone Capra and Dario Scaravelli from the young architecture studio stARTT will narrate their idea of city, both contemporary and future, by presenting selected architectural projects, from which their vision emerges. The discussion will be moderated by Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss. This event is co-sponsored by Professionisti Italiani Philadelphia (PI-Philly) and the Athenaeum, with the patronage of the Consulate General of Italy in Philadelphia.

stARTT is an emerging architecture studio based in Rome. Its focus on transformation at architectural and territorial scale is based both on design and research. In 2014 stARTT was invited to participate in the 14th International Architecture Exhibition, the Venice Biannual (Biennale di Venezia).

Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss is an architect, lecturer and author. He is a founder of NAO (Normal Architecture Office) and SMS (School of Missing Studies). He taught at Columbia University, Harvard University, Penn School of Design, Tyler School of Art and Cornell University.

Free. RSVP to or call 215-925-2688.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015, Reception at 5:30 PM, Program starts at 6:00.

Industrial Philadelphia Art Competition 

The competition has ended, but the exhibition Industrial Philadelphia: Past and Present will open on Dec. 6th with a reception from 2:00-5:00 PM.  Don't miss your chance to purchase one of the accepted works!  RSVP to or call 215-925-2688.

Exhibition Dates: December 6, 2015-January 2, 2016

Lecture: Marjorie G. Jones, The Life and Times of Mary Vaux Walcott

Spanning two centuries, The Life & Times of Mary Vaux Walcott tells the story of a remarkable Philadelphia Quaker (1860-1940), whose life as an avid explorer, glaciologist, photographer, BIA commissioner & above all, renowned illustrator of North American wildflowers, earned her the sobriquet Audubon of Botany.

Marjorie G. Jones is the author of Frances Yates & the Hermetic Tradition, the first biography of the noted British historian. A graduate of Wheaton College, Norton MA, the Rutgers School of Law & the Graduate Faculty of the New School in New York City, she is a member of Writing Women’s Lives Seminar in NYC.

Reception and book signing to follow. Free for Athenaeum Members, All others $10. Members may RSVP to or call 215-925-2688.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015, 5:30 PM

Member News

Athenaeum member, Harry Carl Schaub's new book Abwehr-General Erwin Lahousen.  was released in Mid-October at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Abwher-General Erwin Lahousen details the life of WWII General Erwin Lahousen, the first U.S. witness at the Nuremberg Trials.  Lahausen, an Austrian officer, was the highest German intelligence officer to survive the war and the Gestapo purge after the coup of July 20, 1944.  He was a spy for France and Austria against the Third Reich, with his French teacher Madeleine Bihet-Richor as his handler.  Currently published in German, the book will be published in English at a date early in 2016.

Athenaeum members, Alan Greenberger and Barry Eiswerth co-chaired the team that acquired World Heritage City status for Philadelphia.  Philadelphia is the only city in America to receive the designation.

Top: Harry Carl Schaub
Bottom: Alan Greenberger (Third from Right) and Barry Eiswerth (Second from Right).

Member Critics

Alice Munro: Family Furnishings, Selected Short Stories, 1995-2014, Vintage Books division of Penguin Books, 2014, 766 pages. 

It takes a special kind of arrogance to write a critical review of a book written by the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature as well as 22 other prizes, including the Man Booker International Prize in the UK. However, as I slogged through the 24 stories in this book, all 766 pages of them, I just didn't get it. 

All of the stories, except two, are about people living in small rural towns in Canada (Ms. Munro is Canadian) and are unrelentingly downbeat. Most involve women in abusive or very unhappy circumstances. The few that have a man as its main character, are about someone who is either homicidal or extremely strange. According to the book's foreward, written by the novelist, Jane Smiley, these are some of Munro's best stories, so they give the reader a solid basis for evaluating her work. 

Munro is considered to be one of the best, if not the best, writer of short stories in the 20th and the first part of the 21st centuries, to which her many prizes testify. As a writer, she is undoubtedly a wonderful stylist. It is the content that bothers me. I found the collection to be monochromatic--I felt that I was reading the same story over and over again. How many times can you read about women stuck living on a failing farm in a remote part of Canada near a God- forsaken town in serious decline, before becoming really bored. 

Two of the stories are largely autobiographical. Munro actually grew up on such a farm, and her father was a failed fur farmer who raised silver foxes, minks and other fur bearing animals. Her mother, a former school teacher, tried to market the furs, but the Depression and WW II killed the business. This experience obviously had a serious impact on Munro, as it forms the basis of so many of the stories in this book. 

Despite my negative reaction, I suggest reading the book and making up your own mind. I have come to the conclusion that the reason I did not like these stories may have had more to do with me than the stories themselves. And, I am clearly in a small minority when it comes to Ms. Munro's work. So, jump in and make up your own mind. 

Steve Greenberg


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