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J.A.A. Purves

Arts and Faith Book Club 2011

33 posts in this topic

Alright, there's enough interest, as far as I'm concerned, if one or two other people here besides me are willing to try this. As soon as we select a book, I'll start a thread for it up in the "Featured Book Discussions" Subforum, and hopefully we'll keep it going from now on.

My only concern now is that Murakami doesn't really fit the "pulp fiction" angle a few of us were taking. But since Jeremy suggested reviving the A&F Book Club, I'm willing to let him steer the ship for our first selection. Any objections?

I don't have to be "in charge" or anything, but I'll certainly take the initiative to get it started. If it turns out to be successful down the road, an A&F administrator will of course be free and welcome to take the selection process over to give it more structure at any time. Also, I don't think the "pulp fiction" discussion was in any way related to this one and I don't see any reason to put any genre restrictions on this at all, in fact, I wouldn't even require that the book be fiction.

Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Kafka on the Shore ... struck me as beautiful, haunting, surreal tales to which I'd gladly return. My sense is that either one would be an excellent place to begin for those new to Murakami, but I'm certainly open to reading his other works. Looking at the synopses on Wikipedia, Norwegian Wood sounds appealing, while Hard-Boiled Wonderland might be a bit too far off the beaten path.

I could be persuaded to go with NORWEGIAN WOOD. Regarding PLATFORM, I have to say it seems a bolder choice than Murakami, and the one thing that makes it ideal for this kind of group is that it seems certain to be the kind of book to incite passionate reactions. I wouldn't expect to like it--from what I've read about PLATFORM, it seems a bit too Palahniuk-esque for my tastes (for the record, I despise Palahniuk)--but were we to go for it, I'd certainly read along.

Were I to select something myself, my tastes would probably run to works a bit more established. Something by Nabokov, perhaps. Or Joseph Conrad's NOSTROMO, which I've had on my shelf for far too long.

And it occurs to me that, given the themes of faith running throughout his body of work, the works of Anthony Burgess might provide a fairly stirring starting point, too. Say, for example, EARTHLY POWERS.

After the damning NYT review of Platform posted earlier in this thread, I feel obliged to provide a link to Julian Barne's review in The New Yorker.

As Ryan says, Platform polarized the critics. I'd argue that's exactly why it's a such a good choice for a discussion. Whilst I don't object to re-reading a classic such as Nostromo it seems slightly pointless discussing books that are generally accepted to be of exceptional merit.

Haruki Murakami, Michel Houellebecq, Joseph Conrad, or Vladimir Nobokov all sound like good suggestions to me. I don't see why we need to restrict our options to exclude classics "of exceptional merit" nor why we'd exclude less accepted works that are controversial. I'm personally interested in both. And this being "Arts and Faith," I'm certainly most interested in works of literature that will interact with my Christian faith. With the authors being suggested so far, I think the book we end up with will be just fine. The only limitation I can think that we might want (particularly to distinguish ourselves from other book clubs) is perhaps requiring that we occasionally read something that wasn't just written in the last 50 years. But that's only a problem to worry about for a book club that has survived long enough to establish some sort of reading pattern first.

So, I say we get started. Looking at the deaths of past A&F book club attempts, it looks like starting out with the bar set low would be wise. We want a slow, steady pace. Instead of a book a month, let's try for a book every 2 months. To make things even easier, January won't count, and we'll just use February to pick and obtain our first book. Once selected, we'll give all of March and April to reading and discussing it before selecting a second one in May. At that pace, committing to this will mean you will read just 5 books in 2011 that everyone else here will also read and discuss with you.

I could see us setting up some kind of rotating list where we take turns reading each others' favorite recommendations, but beginning let's just each nominate one recommendation per person, by let's say, February 19th, at 11:59 p.m. Then I'll set up a poll of our nominations and we'll vote on it until Feb 26th, at 11:59 p.m. To make your one nomination, just post and fill out the following -

Title:

Author:

Year first published:

Amazon.com link:

Brief summary of why this would make a good A&F discussion:

One final important note: Most book clubs limit their books selections to bestsellers or other books easily attainable at the local bookstore or library. I cannot emphasize enough how we should NOT necessarily follow this rule. Our Top 100 Film list doesn't limit itself to easily obtainable films (at least at places like Blockbuster or BestBuy). At least half of the best books I read each year were not books sitting on the shelves of Borders or Christian-booksellers. So, try and at least nominate something that isn't only available in used collectors' editions on Ebay, but if you nominate something that is only available on Amazon, or by asking the clerk at Borders or the library to put it on order for you, then that's just fine by me.

Edited by Persiflage

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but beginning let's just each nominate one recommendation per person

Here's mine.

Title: Pictures from an Institution: A Comedy

Author: Randall Jarrell

Year first published: 1954

Amazon.com link: http://www.amazon.co...n/dp/0226393755

Brief summary of why this would make a good A&F discussion: I'm trying to pick something that would qualify for light reading to get this club started again. Jarrell was an American poet who only wrote one novel, and this is it. And it explores and mocks the academic world of the 1950s in ways that are, now, ironic - much of what he considered ridiculous then is the norm today. So, Pictures from an Institution would be both light and literary, throwing in some controversy about politics and academia into the bargain. One of the best recommendations of the book I can find is here.

Edited by Persiflage

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Thanks, Jeremy, this looks great. I'll put my book suggestion out here in the next day or three.

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Mine:

Title: Pale Fire

Author: Vladimir Nabokov

Year first published: 1962

Amazon.com link: http://www.amazon.com/Pale-Fire-Everymans-Library-Cloth/dp/0679410775/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1297121888&sr=8-1

Brief summary of why this would make a good A&F discussion: Because it's one of the greatest works of 20th century literature by one of the greatest 20th century authors, and, I'm guessing, many of us haven't read it, and we should have read it. Because it's allegedly something of a complex read, group discussion can only help explore the nooks and crannies of this fascinating, ambitious novel. Because, as with a good deal of Nabokov's work, it has a healthy sense of humor. Because I'm dying to read it.

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Thanks, Jeremy, this looks great. I'll put my book suggestion out here in the next day or three.

Cool. That makes 2 of us.

Mine:

Title: Pale Fire

And this makes 3. Very impressive nomination. Looks like something I should kick myself for not already reading years ago.

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I read "Pale Fire" in college, and I can't say that it really hit me as deserving the title "masterpiece", any more than "Ulysses", although I know many disagree with me about both books. Could we maybe start with something easier to discuss?

My suggestion would be to read one of the great science fiction novels, like "A Canticle for Liebowitz" or "Stranger in a Strange Land".

Edited by David Smedberg

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I read "Pale Fire" in college, and I can't say that it really hit me as deserving the title "masterpiece", any more than "Ulysses", although I know many disagree with me about both books. Could we maybe start with something easier to discuss?

We'll see what the community wants. Me, I'm all for leaping into something pretty ambitious.

But there are many easier Nabokov novels, from LOLITA (which I love, but I'm guessing many have read it so it wouldn't be a worthwhile pick) to PNIN.

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My suggestion would be to read one of the great science fiction novels, like "A Canticle for Liebowitz" or "Stranger in a Strange Land".

Pick one of the two to nominate, and we'll include it on our voting list.

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Title: Kafka on the Shore

Author: Haruki Murakami

Year first published: 2006

Amazon.com link: http://www.amazon.com/Kafka-Shore-Haruki-Murakami/dp/1400079276/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1297218422&sr=1-1

Brief summary of why this would make a good A&F discussion: A boy running away from his father's prophecy who loses himself in books and music, and a childhood survivor of a strange WW2-era trauma who can talk with cats - what's not to like? An introspective, dreamlike page-turner that considers estrangement and our longing for meaning and community in the 21st Century, Kafka seems like a good way to restart the book club.

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I don't see any point in flogging a dead horse so I won't push Platform. Instead, I suggest something a bit milder.

Title: An American Dream

Author: Norman Mailer

Year first published: 1965

Amazon.com link

Brief summary of why this would make a good A&F discussion: all-American hero bites the hand that feeds him.

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My suggestion would be to read one of the great science fiction novels, like "A Canticle for Liebowitz" or "Stranger in a Strange Land".

Pick one of the two to nominate, and we'll include it on our voting list.

Okey-dokley.

Title: "Stranger in a Strange Land" (original published version, not later version)

Author: Robert Heinlein

Year first published: 1961

Amazon.com link: Click me

Brief summary of why would be a good book to choose: "Stranger" ought to be in the encyclopedia next to "great, but not good". Heinlein provokes so many awesome questions, and touches so many nerves, that even the most ludicrous moments can be overlooked. He wrote many books with better stories than this, but none that I found more thought-provoking, or that lasted longer in my imagination.

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personally, i've always been curious about murakami but have never felt a push to read it. this might be a great opportunity to do so, and i would look forward to the commentary and exploration.

so murakami has my vote so far...

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Might be interesting to read Robert Heinlein though I've never thought of him as a serious writer. (My only previous exposure was Starship Troopers, which came a couple of years before Stranger.) Anyway. happy to give that one a go.

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... each nominate one recommendation per person, by let's say, February 19th, at 11:59 p.m. Then I'll set up a poll of our nominations and we'll vote on it until Feb 26th, at 11:59 p.m. To make your one nomination, just post and fill out the following -

Title:

Author:

Year first published:

Amazon.com link:

Brief summary of why this would make a good A&F discussion:

Oh yeah, also for clarification, we'll make those times on the 19th and 26th Pacific Standard Time.

So far we have these (and I'll keep editing this post to keep a running list of nominations until we put them to a vote starting on the 20th)

An American Dream (1965) - by Norman Mailer

Kafka on the Shore (2006) - by Haruki Murakami

Pale Fire (1962) - by Vladimir Nabokov

Pictures from an Institution: A Comedy (1954) - by Randall Jarrell

Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) - by Robert Heinlein

White Noise (1985) - by Don DeLillo

Edited by Persiflage

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I'm going to suggest,

Title: WHITE NOISE

Author: Don DeLillo

Year first published: 1985

Amazon.com link:Click here

Brief summary of why this would make a good A&F discussion: I've never read it, but want to read it, and it's widely regarded as one of the finest postmodern American novels. It deals with death, academia, and media inundation.

Edited by Anders

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Just over 12 hours to go until nominations are closed and I'll set up a link for us to vote for a week.

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I plan to read and chime in with whatever books are chosen. I read American Dream in college and White Noise a little after but need to re-read them to have anything worth saying on the subject.

I think these book clubs work better if it's an "I'll read yours of you'll read mine" sorta deal. For my suggestion, I would like to suggest a somewhat easy read by an author who has influenced my favorite genre (crime fiction) as much as anyone over the past decade: The Guards by Ken Bruen.

This doesn't have to be an official selection. If anyone wants to read this and discuss why they like it or hate it, I'm game and I'll read you suggestion as well.

The last time I discussed a crime fiction favorite with someone who reads a ton but not in the genre, I learned so much about what someone sees from an outsider's perspective.

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Voting is now here.

I plan to read and chime in with whatever books are chosen. I read American Dream in college and White Noise a little after but need to re-read them to have anything worth saying on the subject.

I think these book clubs work better if it's an "I'll read yours of you'll read mine" sorta deal. For my suggestion, I would like to suggest a somewhat easy read by an author who has influenced my favorite genre (crime fiction) as much as anyone over the past decade: The Guards by Ken Bruen.

Cool, I'll have to check it out.

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Picked up my copy today and hope to start in on it next week.

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Instead of a book a month, let's try for a book every 2 months ... Once selected, we'll give all of March and April to reading and discussing it before selecting a second one in May. At that pace, committing to this will mean you will read just 5 books in 2011 that everyone else here will also read and discuss with you.

To make your one nomination, just post and fill out the following -

Title:

Author:

Year first published:

Amazon.com link:

Brief summary of why this would make a good A&F discussion:

One final important note: Most book clubs limit their books selections to bestsellers or other books easily attainable at the local bookstore or library. I cannot emphasize enough how we should NOT necessarily follow this rule. Our Top 100 Film list doesn't limit itself to easily obtainable films (at least at places like Blockbuster or BestBuy). At least half of the best books I read each year were not books sitting on the shelves of Borders or Christian-booksellers. So, try and at least nominate something that isn't only available in used collectors' editions on Ebay, but if you nominate something that is only available on Amazon, or by asking the clerk at Borders or the library to put it on order for you, then that's just fine by me.

Alright, let's use this week to start our nominations for our May-June book selection. I'll close nominations April 30th, at 11:59 p.m. (Pacific Standard Time). This way we'll be able to spend the first week of May voting on it.

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Alright, since we just read a novel from 2002, in the interest of balance, I'm going to take my nomination this time back a century or so.

Title: The Pickwick Papers

Author: Charles Dickens

Year first published: 1836-1837

Amazon.com link: http://www.amazon.com/Pickwick-Papers-Penguin-Classics/dp/0140436111

Brief summary of why this would make a good A&F discussion:

- The first novel written by one of the greatest Christian authors in classic literature, this is essentially a comedy. I have distant memories of reading this years and years ago, and would love to read it with more depth along with others who like to think and discuss the ideas that are behind a story. After reading Anthony Esolen recently, I'm in the mood for some writing with a sense of joy and wonder in it. If I remember right, the rag-tag, enterprising, adventurous band of characters in the Pickwick Papers had this sense of joy (and appreciation for the little things).

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Title: Atlas Sh...

nevermind ;)

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Too long! ;)

Title: Tsotsi

Author: Athol Fugard

Year first published: 1981 (I think)

Amazon.com link: http://www.amazon.com/o/ASIN/B002MAQT38

Brief summary of why this would make a good choice: Many of us saw the movie adaptation when it won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film, but I am firm in my belief that this novel--by the great South African playwright Fugard, who never wrote another novel-- makes the movie look like an adolescent cops-and-robbers tale in comparison. The novel takes us deep, deep into the soul of this young murderer, but then allows us to see him as that soul is transformed utterly. Moreover, rarely have I seen a more poignant picture of God's action than here in the "Church of Jesus Cries" (as one of the South Africans calls it)--even though the preface reveals that there was much more Christian content that was edited out in the 20+ years between when this was written and when it was finally published.

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I have to say, that blurb's got me interested in reading TSOTSI.

I'm still thinking about what my nomination will be. So much stuff worth reading.

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