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2. Does Mose's approach change when he's telling a story about his childhood in Iowa, compared with tales from showbiz? How does he balance the comic and tragic elements of his recollections? What tone is set by the scene titles?
3. What accounts for the special bond that developed between Hattie and Mose? What does her roof climbing indicate about her nature? How do you respond to the provocative "what if" that accompanies her death? What might Mose's life have been like if she had not died at such a young age and in such a sudden way?
4. How is Mose affected by his memories of his mother and of Hattie? How does he perceive women throughout his life? What qualities set Jessica apart and signal the end of his bachelor days? What distinguishes his love for her from Rocky's love for Penny?
5. What do the Sharp children demonstrate about innate talents versus other factors in shaping a life? Besides taking the helm of his father's store, what responsibilities are placed on Mose as the only son among daughters Annie, Ida, Fannie, Sadie, Hattie, and Rose?
6. Part of the shtick between Carter and Sharp involves hitting: Mose has to continually lose patience with Rocky, then hit him. Why is this a key ingredient to their popularity? Does any of their stage relationship match offstage reality?
7. Mose fills a variety of roles: prodigal son, "professor," playboy, big-city star, midwestern boy. What parts of his life are genuine? Who gets to see the side of him that is not an act? How much of his act is necessary for his survival?
8. To Mose, how significant is Judaism to his identity? Would the beloved rabbi of his ancestry be proud of him? How did anti-Semitism influence Mose's sense of his place in the world?
9. In "Niagara Falls the First Time" (page 91) Mose talks Rocky out of going over the falls in a barrel. What makes this scene appropriate for the novel's title? In what way does this scene replay throughout the characters' lives?
10. What do you believe accounts for the differences in temperament between Carter and Sharp? Why do they make such dissimilar choices? What enables them to remain together for so many years despite these differences? How do these differences make for good comedy? Do those same traits also make for an enduring friendship?
11. Money is a source of friction between Carter and Sharp. Would you have agreed to Rocky's terms if you have been in Mose's position? How might the novel have unfolded if Tansy had been the narrator?
12. Chapter Five, "Good-bye, Freddy, Good-bye," provides more details about Rocky's original sidekick, Fred Fabian. Was Mose the key to Rocky's success, or was he simply in the right place at the right time?
13. The drowning of Jessica and Mose's daughter almost ends their marriage. Following wise advice, Mose manages to reach out to Jessica and restore their relationship. He also rekindles his friendship with Rocky. What keeps him from making that friendship last permanently? What must be in place in order for two people to weather a tragedy together?
14. When Mose returns to Iowa with Rocky in tow, how does his hometown measure up to his memories of it? At that point in his life, where is he really most at home? How does Mose define home near the end of the novel?
15. Discuss the techniques Elizabeth McCracken uses to deliver the experience of seeing Carter and Sharp perform. What enables her writing to become "cinematic?" For the audiences described in the novel, how would the experience of a live show compare to one broadcast on the radio or projected on film? How do these entertainment media compare to the experience of reading books for pleasure?
16. If you were to be featured on a reunion television show like the one that reunited Carter and Sharp, which figures from your past would you want to see? Which ones would you dread seeing? What myth would you want to dispel, as Rocky did when he explained that Carter and Sharp had broken up?
17. Does Junior have an accurate understanding of his father? What was your reaction to Mose's sleeping with Penny? Was that truly the basis for Rocky's long-standing anger?
18. Mose becomes a widower and outlives most of his relatives, while Rocky ends up in Reno with Gertrude. How does this bittersweet ending compare with what you know about other Hollywood duos and the ways in which they concluded their careers?
19. Are there any 21st-century equivalents to vaudeville? What did the novel illustrate about the way American entertainment has evolved? What does it take to make a contemporary audience laugh?
Posted September 14, 2011
Posted August 4, 2009
NIAGRA FALLS ALL OVER AGAIN By Elizabeth McCracken
This is a golden find for an inveterate reader, such as myself.
There are always a group of books awaiting me, many to which I never paid much attention, until I began reading. My mind is open and easily excited when something special comes along.
This book -- Niagra Falls All Over Again by Elizabeth McCracken, captured my imagination.
Surprising was the fact, that the book is a novel. As I was reading, I actually "Googled" into my computer, wanting to know more about the characters. Then I happened to check into the beginning of the book, advising that this is definitely a novel.
The book begins with a very tiny Midwest town in Iowa and some of the Jewish residents who settled there after their escape from their difficult lives in Eastern Europe. They struggled with big
families to make ends meet, build new lives, and to give their children a good upbringing and education.
Mose is the only son, along with six daughters. He is a gentle soul, helping his father in his business. Mose had dreams and followed his heart to finally make it in the world of vaudeville. The time is in the early to mid Twentieth Century. The place was Iowa. The Great Depression played a great part in the struggle of the people.
During these times Mose met Rocky, they became partners and close friends. They married, raised families, and wound up in the world of Radio, Stage, Screen and Television.
The book is written with much humor, sadness, and human kindness.
It is so human, that it could have been in the lives of anyone who reads, and perhaps finds a father, grandfather, great-grandfather, to match these lovely people. No one is perfect! There is tragedy, great love and friendship. The reader will not be able to put the book aside, without thinking about what they are experiencing, as they relax and quickly grab the book to re-enter into these lives.
There is no violence. If the reader is looking for blood and violence, this not for him. This is out of the ordinary of what reaches the new bookshelves these days.
Everyone should enter this world in our recent past.
Enjoy, laugh and cry a little!
Posted April 25, 2002
I really enjoyed this book. The characters were well-developed and realistic. Funny one-liners! I learned a lot about the business of vaudeville. The relationship between the two main characters was interesting. I would highly recommend this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 24, 2001
I was deeply affected by Niagara Falls All Over Again. It gave what appeared to be a genuine account of vaudvillian comics as the entertainment industry evolved into the film and TV world. But the book was much more than a study of professional comics; comedy was a metaphor for life. It was a book about relationships; how the most difficult might also be the most meaningful. If you read as a way to help you think about things, then I would very highly recommend this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 10, 2001
I saw this book written up in the BN New Fiction Newsletter and my interest was piqued enough to read it. I was impressed by the author's writing as well as her ability to weave a good story. Her characters were interesting, but sad (the whole book was sad, really). I would have liked more information about Jessica in general as well as more about her feelings in regards to Mose's/Mike's/The Professor's career and what life in Hollywood was like for her. In the right hands, this book could be made into a good movie.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 28, 2011
No text was provided for this review.
Posted December 6, 2009
No text was provided for this review.