I was so thrilled with the outcome of the rejuvenated book club, as several members posted blogs on reading last month’s book. I can’t say that many of you enjoyed Trollope’s novel and I can state that I was not entirely happy with it either. Soon I will make my blog post on The Fixed Period and share my insights there.
For our end-of-summer book I’ve selected Nobel Prize winner Yasunari Kawabata’s novel The Lake (Japanese, 1954). I teach Kawabata’s “The Izu Dancer” in one of my World Literature courses but I have heard that The Lake is quite different from his usual writing, as it is less subtle. Moreover, it deals with adolescent sexuality (much like “The Izu Dancer”), and I’d like to consider this work alongside others I have read recently that deal with a similar theme, such as Henry James’s The Other House and Vladimir Nabokov’s Ada. Also, I frequently teach Death in Venice by Thomas Mann — Kawabata’s novel may be a great work to put into conversation here.
One synopsis (from Amazon) of the novel is as follows:
The Lake is the history of an obsession. It traces a man’s sad pursuit of an unattainable perfection, a beauty out of reach, admired from a distance, unconsummated. Homeless, a fugitive from an ambiguous crime, his is an incurable longing that drives him to shadow nameless women in the street and hide in ditches as they pass above him, beautiful and aloof. For their beauty is not of this world, but of a dream-the voice of a girl he meets in a Turkish bath is “an angel’s,” the figures of two students he follows seem to “glide over the green grass that hid their knees.” Reality is the durable ugliness that is his constant companion and is symbolized in the grotesque deformity of the hero’s feet. And it is the irreconcilable nature of these worlds that explains the strangely dehumanized, shadowy quality of the eroticism that pervades this novel.
In a sense The Lake is a formless novel, a “happening,” making it one of the most modern of all Kawabata’s works. Just as the hero’s interest might be caught by some passing stranger, so the course of the novel swerves abruptly from present to past, memory shades into hallucination, dreams break suddenly into daylight. It is an extraordinary performance of free association, made all the more astonishing for the skill with which these fragments are resolved within the completed tapestry.
Join me in reading this novel, if you feel up for it! Please add your discussion to our Facebook page, to our Goodreads discussion, or post a link to your own blog with insights. Looking forward!
Getting any reading done as a single mom has felt impossible, but this summer, after two years, I finally feel as if I can allot some time for reading again. I recently read Henry James’s The Other House and that showed me that I have the potential once more to finish a novel! So, I hope that you’ll join me in reading a short and strange novel from Anthony Trollope this summer entitled The Fixed Period, which has been on my list for a long while due to its nature as a dystopian piece of Victorian fiction in the key of Jonathan Swift’s satire in Gulliver’s Travels. We shall see how it holds up.
The Fixed Period is a seldom-read work from a prolific author, and I want to learn why! Join me in reading this summer’s pick and chime in with your thoughts on our discussion board.
Our next book will by Arthur Conan’s Doyle’s The Complete Sherlock Holmes (English, 19th century). This volume can be procured for free through the Amazon store, and includes:
Four novels, 5 books of 56 short stories.
1 A Study in Scarlet
2 The Sign of the Four
3 The Hound of the Baskervilles
4 The Valley of Fear
1 The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
2 The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
3 The Return of Sherlock Holmes
4 His Last Bow
5 The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes
I have chosen this book because I am brainstorming a new article about it, and I look forward to our discussion in the forums. See you there!
After a little hiatus from the book club we crawl in to 2015 with Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003, British).
Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.
Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, for fifteen-year-old Christopher everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning. He lives on patterns, rules, and a diagram kept in his pocket. Then one day, a neighbor’s dog, Wellington, is killed and his carefully constructive universe is threatened. Christopher sets out to solve the murder in the style of his favorite (logical) detective, Sherlock Holmes. What follows makes for a novel that is deeply funny, poignant, and fascinating in its portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing are a mind that perceives the world entirely literally.
I hope you will join us in discussing this novel in our forums at Goodreads.
Our November 2014 Book Selection is Charles Baudelaire’s collection of poetry The Flowers of Evil (French, 1857/1861).
“In the annals of literature, few volumes of poetry have achieved the influence and notoriety of ‘The Flowers of Evil (Les Fleurs dur Mal) by Charles Baudelaire (1821-67). Banned and slighted in his lifetime, the book that contains all of Baudelaire’s verses has opened up vistas to the imagination and quickened sensibilities of poets everywhere.”
Join us for a discussion of this text in our Goodreads group discussion forum.
Through October we read Leslie Marmon Silko’s Yellow Woman (Native American — Laguna Pueblo — 1997): a text with an essay that I have taught before in an undergraduate world literature course, and look forward to revisiting, especially as a whole work.
Bold and impassioned, sharp and defiant, Leslie Marmon Silko’s essays evoke the spirit and voice of Native Americans. Whether she is exploring the vital importance literature and language play in Native American heritage, illuminating the inseparability of the land and the Native American people, enlivening the ways and wisdom of the old-time people, or exploding in outrage over the government’s long-standing, racist treatment of Native Americans, Silko does so with eloquence and power, born from her profound devotion to all that is Native American.
Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit is written with the fire of necessity. Silko’s call to be heard is unmistakable; there are stories to remember, injustices to redress, ways of life to preserve. It is a work of major importance, filled with indispensable truths–a work by an author with an original voice and a unique access to both worlds.
I look forward to hearing about your experience reading Silko’s text! Feel free to let us know your thoughts in our Discussion Forum!
I have wanted to read Vladimir Nabokov’s Ada (1969, Russian) for a very long time and I am thrilled to feature it as the Literary People book selection for September.
Published two weeks after his seventieth birthday, Ada, or Ardor is one of Nabokov’s greatest masterpieces, the glorious culmination of his career as a novelist. It tells a love story troubled by incest. But more: it is also at once a fairy tale, epic, philosophical treatise on the nature of time, parody of the history of the novel, and erotic catalogue. Ada, or Ardor is no less than the supreme work of an imagination at white heat.
Join us in the reading of this controversial book and chime in with your thoughts on our club’s discussion boards at: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/130927-literary-people
We close the summer with The Inhabited Woman (1988) by Nicaraguan writer Gioconda Belli:
This book, by a highly regarded Central American poet, is an intelligent romance, an action-adventure with considerable depth. The German edition alone has sold over half a million copies. Lavinia Alarcon, 23, an aristocrat from “Faguas” (read Honduras), has returned from her university studies in Italy to take her first job as an architect. By the standards of Faguas she is a very liberated woman: She lives alone, frequents discotheques with a group of modern young friends, avoids romantic commitment, and refuses to examine the hunger and violence all around her. Her life is slowly disrupted by her affair with her boss, Felipe, who is a leader in the National Liberation Movement. Lavinia is drawn into the Movement in spite of herself, aided by the spiritual presence of Itza, a 15th-century female resister to the Conquistadors who now inhabits an orange tree in Lavinia’s garden; whenever Lavinia makes fresh orange juice, her spirit and Itza’s become further intermingled. Itza’s story and Lavinia’s run parallel; this is a case not of possession but of spiritual influence. Lavinia’s gradual change from rebel-without-a-cause to guerrilla is carefully detailed and presented as her own destiny. With each small adjustment in her consciousness she leaves her old self farther behind. Felipe also undergoes a slow transformation from a stereotypical macho male into a real companion who can fight with his woman at his side, even if she does come from a higher social class. A gripping page-turner with a historical basis, an action tale that boldly dramatizes an inner struggle. Lavinia is the Everywoman of the 21st century, searching for a balance between the extremes of violence and privilege.
Chime in with your insights as you read this novel in our Goodreads discussion forum. See you there!
Russian author Fyodor Sologub’s novel The Little Demon (also translated as The Petty Demon, 1907) puts us in the heart of summer.
Mad, lascivious, sadistic and ridiculous, the provincial schoolteacher Peredonov torments his students and has hallucinatory fantasies about acts of savagery and degradation, yet to everyone else he is an upstanding member of society. As he pursues the idea of marrying to gain promotion, he descends into paranoia, sexual perversion, arson, torture and murder. Sologub’s anti-hero is one of the great comic monsters of twentieth-century fiction, subsequently lending his name to the brand of sado-masochism known as Peredonovism. The Little Demon (1907) made an immediate star of its author who, refuting suggestions that the work was autobiographical, stated ‘No, my dear contemporaries … it is about you‘. This grotesque mirror of a spiritually bankrupt society is arguably the finest Russian novel to have come out of the Symbolist movement.
Join us in discussing this book in the Literary People Goodreads forum here.
This June we read Philippino author Jose Rizal’s novel Noli Me Tangere:
In more than a century since its appearance, José Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere has become widely known as the great novel of the Philippines. A passionate love story set against the ugly political backdrop of repression, torture, and murder, “The Noli,” as it is called in the Philippines, was the first major artistic manifestation of Asian resistance to European colonialism, and Rizal became a guiding conscience—and martyr—for the revolution that would subsequently rise up in the Spanish province.
I am very excited to read this text, following on the heels of our May read Touch. I am particularly interested in how the sense of touch is so vastly different — and the same — in these texts. Hope to see you in our discussion forums. The book club looks to be taking off!