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Mark

A&F Book Club

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As it happens, last week I made a list of all the books that had been mentioned, and planned on posting them with brief descriptions. I'll be glad to do that later today or tonight.

What do I need to do to create a poll?

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I have acquired more time to read recently, and will consider joining this discussion group. smile.gif

For upcoming books, may I recommend some "The Dispossessed", by Ursula K. LeGuin.

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Well, I guess there are certain books that just shouldn't be reread. That has become my feeling with AHWOSG... I finally bogged in chapter 5, and could not find any reason to continue. Perhaps the frame of mind I was in when I originally read this book has a lot to do with the fond memories I had of the experience. But this time around, I haven't felt any of the same emotions, and have quickly tired of Eggers. Finally, I decided my time would be better spent on continuing the Lonesome Dove series. I'll keep checking back to see what the Book Club has in store for the future, and I hope the rest of you get something more out of this book than I did.

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Well, I guess there are certain books that just shouldn't be reread.  That has become my feeling with AHWOSG...  I finally bogged in chapter 5, and could not find any reason to continue.  Perhaps the frame of mind I was in when I originally read this book has a lot to do with the fond memories I had of the experience.  But this time around, I haven't felt any of the same emotions, and have quickly tired of Eggers. 

You know, I think part of the reason I liked it a lot better than expected was because of the personal stuff I've been going through lately. Very suspicious timing that I'd be reading this book right now. I have a feeling if I go back to it in a few years, it won't mean nearly as much. It's pretty easy to get tired of Eggers' writing style if you're not relating to some of the emotional stuff he's going through.

BTW, today I should be posting those summaries of the books previously mentioned, and we can start a discussion to see which ones we want to vote on for the next round.

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OK, time to start the ball rolling. I read through a bunch of the old discussion and tried to pull out all the books that were mentioned for our next selection. If I missed any, apologies. As Alan suggested, once the discussion gets rolling, we can narrow the list of nominees down to four or five, then have an official poll to choose the selection. (Summaries come from Amazon; also tried to be as accurate as possible about publication dates and length.)

American Jesus by Stephen Prothero (376 pages; 2003) -

"The United States (it is often pointed out) is one of the most religious countries on earth, and most Americans belong to one Christian church or another. But as Stephen Prothero argues in American Jesus, many of the most interesting appraisals of Jesus have emerged outside the churches: in music, film, and popular culture; and among Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and people of no religion at all.

"Popular revisions of Jesus are nothing new: Thomas Jefferson famously took scissors to the New Testament to produce a Jesus he could call his own. In Prothero's incisive chronicle, the emergence of a cult of Jesus--as folk hero and commercial icon--is America's most distinctive contribution to Western religion. Prothero describes how Jesus was enlisted by abolitionists and Klansmen, by Teddy Roosevelt and Marcus Garvey. He explains how, in our own time, the proliferation of Jesus' image on Broadway stages and bumper stickers, on the cover of Time and on the Internet, in a Holy Land theme park and on a hot-air balloon, expresses the strange mix of the secular and the sacred in contemporary America.

"American Jesus is a lively and often witty work of history. As an account of the ways Americans have cast the carpenter from Nazareth in their own image, it is also an examination, through the looking glass, of the American character."

The Violent Bear it Away by Flannery O'Connor (256 pages; 1955) -

"First published in 1955, The Violent Bear It Away is now a landmark in American literature. It is a dark and absorbing example of the Gothic sensibility and bracing satirical voice that are united in Flannery O'Conner's work. In it, the orphaned Francis Marion Tarwater and his cousins, the schoolteacher Rayber, defy the prophecy of their dead uncle--that Tarwater will become a prophet and will baptize Rayber's young son, Bishop. A series of struggles ensues: Tarwater fights an internal battle against his innate faith and the voices calling him to be a prophet while Rayber tries to draw Tarwater into a more "reasonable" modern world. Both wrestle with the legacy of their dead relatives and lay claim to Bishop's soul.

"O'Connor observes all this with an astonishing combination of irony and compassion, humor and pathos. The result is a novel whose range and depth reveal a brilliant and innovative writers acutely alert to where the sacred lives and to where it does not."

Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor (232 pages, 1952) -

"Wise Blood, Flannery O'Connor's astonishing and haunting first novel, is a classic of twentieth-century literature. It is the story of Hazel Motes, a twenty-two-year-old caught in an unending struggle against his innate, desperate faith. He falls under the spell of a "blind" street preacher names Asa Hawks and his degenerate fifteen-year-old daughter, Lily Sabbath. In an ironic, malicious gesture of his own non-faith, and to prove himself a greater cynic than Hawks, Hazel Motes founds the The Church Without Christ, but is still thwarted in his efforts to lose God. He meets Enoch Emery, a young man with "wise blood," who leads him to a mummified holy child, and whose crazy maneuvers are a manifestation of Hazel's existential struggles. This tale of redemption, retribution, false prophets, blindness, blindings, and wisdom gives us one of the most consuming characters in modern fiction."

Oscar & Lucinda by Peter Carey (433 pages, 1988) -

"This sweeping, irrepressibly inventive novel, is a romance of the sort that could only take place in 19th-century Australia. For only on that sprawling continent, a haven for misfits of both the animal and human kingdoms, could a nervous Anglican minister who gambles on the instructions of the Divine becomes allied with a teenaged heiress who buys a glassworks to help liberate her sex. And only the prodigious imagination of Peter Carey could implicate Oscar and Lucinda in a narrative of love and commerce, religion and colonialism that culminates in a demented scheme to transport a glass church across the Outback. "

I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe (688 pages, 2004) -

"Dupont University--the Olympian halls of learning housing the cream of America's youth, the roseate Gothic spires and manicured lawns suffused with tradition . . . Or so it appears to beautiful, brilliant Charlotte Simmons, a sheltered freshman from North Carolina. But Charlotte soon learns, to her mounting dismay, that for the uppercrust coeds of Dupont, sex, Cool, and kegs trump academic achievement every time.

"As Charlotte encounters Dupont's privileged elite--her roommate, Beverly, a Groton-educated Brahmin in lusty pursuit of lacrosse players; Jojo Johanssen, the only white starting player on Dupont's godlike basketball team, whose position is threatened by a hotshot black freshman from the projects; the Young Turk of Saint Ray fraternity, Hoyt Thorpe, whose heady sense of entitlement and social domination is clinched by his accidental brawl with a bodyguard for the governor of California; and Adam Geller, one of the Millennial Mutants who run the university's "independent" newspaper and who consider themselves the last bastion of intellectual endeavor on the sex-crazed, jock-obsessed campus--she gains a new, revelatory sense of her own power, that of her difference and of her very innocence, but little does she realize that she will act as a catalyst in all of their lives.

"With his signature eye for detail, Tom Wolfe draws on extensive observation of campuses across the country to immortalize college life in the '00s. I Am Charlotte Simmons is the much-anticipated triumph of America's master chronicler."

A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe (742 pages, 1998) -

"Big men. Big money. Big games. Big libidos. Big trouble.

"A decade ago, The Bonfire of the Vanities defined an era--and established Tom Wolfe as our prime fictional chronicler of America at its most outrageous and alive. This time the setting is Atlanta, Georgia--a racially mixed late-century boomtown full of fresh wealth, avid speculators, and worldly-wise politicians. The protagonist is Charles Croker, once a college football star, now a late-middle-aged Atlanta real-estate entrepreneur turned conglomerate king, whose expansionist ambitions and outsize ego have at last hit up against reality. Charlie has a 28,000-acre quail-shooting plantation, a young and demanding second wife--and a half-empty office tower with a staggering load of debt. When star running back Fareek Fanon--the pride of one of Atlanta's grimmest slums--is accused of raping an Atlanta blueblood's daughter, the city's delicate racial balance is shattered overnight. Networks of illegal Asian immigrants crisscrossing the continent, daily life behind bars, shady real-estate syndicates, cast-off first wives of the corporate elite, the racially charged politics of college sports--Wolfe shows us the disparate worlds of contemporary America with all the verve, wit, and insight that have made him our most phenomenal, most admired contemporary novelist."

How to Be Good by Nick Hornby (320 pages, 2001) -

"Katie Carr is a good person. She recycles. She's against racism. She's a good doctor, a good mom, a good wife....well, maybe not that last one, considering she's having an affair and has just requested a divorce via cell phone. But who could blame her? For years her husband's been selfish, sarcastic, and underemployed, writing the "Angriest Man in Holloway" column for their local paper.

"But now David's changed. He's become a good person, too-really good. He's found a spiritual leader. He has become kind, soft-spoken, and earnest. He's even got a homeless kid set up in the spare room. Katie isn't sure if this is a deeply-felt conversion, a brain tumor-or David's most brilliantly vicious manipulation yet. Because she's finding it more and more difficult to live with David-and with herself."

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (384 pages; 2003) -

"An epic tale of fathers and sons, of friendship and betrayal, that takes us from Afghanistan in the final days of the monarchy to the atrocities of the present.

"The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father's servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption, and it is also about the power of fathers over sons-their love, their sacrifices, their lies.

"The first Afghan novel to be written in English, The Kite Runner tells a sweeping story of family, love, and friendship against a backdrop of history that has not been told in fiction before, bringing to mind the large canvases of the Russian writers of the nineteenth century. But just as it is old-fashioned in its narration, it is contemporary in its subject-the devastating history of Afghanistan over the last thirty years. As emotionally gripping as it is tender, The Kite Runner is an unusual and powerful debut."

Rope Burns: Stories from the Corner by F.X. Toole (237 pages; 2000) -

(Recently re-issued as Million Dollar Baby: Stories from the Corner)

"Seventy-year-old F.X. Toole has exploded onto the literary scene with this astonishing first collection of stories drawn from his own experiences in boxing. In these powerful and moving tales, he reveals a complex web of athletes, trainers, and promoters and their extended families, all players in an unforgiving business where victory, like defeat, comes at a dark and painful price.

"F. X. Toole breathes life into vivid, compelling characters who radiate the fierce intensity of the worlds they inhabit. In "The Monkey Look," an aging cut man with an incorrigible sweet tooth works the corner for Hoolie, a featherweight "bleeder" with attitude. "Black Jew" brings Reggie Valentine Love and his camp to a brutal elimination bout in Atlantic City, where they are treated like second-class citizens by a promoter. In "Million $$$ Baby," seasoned trainer Frankie Dunn faces the most daunting challenge of his life when he agrees to aid the fearless Maggie Fitzgerald in her quest to become a champion boxer. "Fightin' in Philly" and "Frozen Water" are stories in which youthful dreams of glory and celebrity are threatened by the harsh realities that suffuse both of these narratives. The novella "Rope Burns" is the crowning achievement of the collection, offering a gritty, heartrending account of the indestructible bond that develops between a devoted fighter and his trainer."

"In Rope Burns F.X. Toole exhibits the skill of a miniaturist: in precise and exquisite detail, he peoples a world rich in unforgettable characters, like Se

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What an impressive collection of possibilities! We have quite a literary group here.

What are the conditions for voting? In other words, if I think I won

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Well, if I can tip the balance toward Wolfe, I will, because I'm halfway through the audiobook, but it's a huge book that would take a lot of time to read (or even to hear, as in my case, although I'd argue at this point that it's well worth the effort).

UPDATE: I feel guilty about this post. I pushed for the Eggers book last time -- and ended up not caring for it -- so I encourage others to lobby hard for their own choices this time around.

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If I understand Mark's post right, this is just an initial discussion of what we would be interested in, then an actual vote will take place through a poll.

If I misread, I apologize.

The Kite Runner sounds rather interesting to me. I want to learn more about other areas of the world, and this one fits in well with current events, if I read the summary right. I want to be challenged to see more than just my own little corner of the world.

Diane has highly recommended the Flannery O'Connor novels to me, so I'm up for either one.

The Tom Wolfe novels don't really interest me at this time. From what I understand of Tom Wolfe, and I'll admit it's very little, is his works tend towards the depressing.

Whatever you decide though, I'll probably follow along with the comments, even if I don't add any myself, such as with Egger's book.

The above is all JMO, of course. smile.gif

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Oh, right. This is the discussion that precedes the vote.

Well then, I want to discuss my interest in The Silence. Not only does the story sound fascinating -- but Endo is often compared to Graham Greene, and it might help stimulate my not-quite-there-but-should-be-greater interest level in Greene's work.

As for Wolfe, I've not read many criticisms of his his writing being too depressing.

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Yeah, and both Wolfe novels are super-long. There's a demonstrated upside to shorter books these days, I regret to admit.

OK-- change mine to O'Connor and O'Connor. Though, I looked through American Jesus at the library the other day and thought it looked intriguing.

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So many good possibilities, it's hard to decide. smile.gif

The Kite Runner and Silence both sound quite intriguing. I would also be interested in discussing the O'Connor books at some point. I have just gotten Rope Burns from the library, so I could go along with that one as well.

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Considering where this seems to be going, I'll leave LeGuin behind (for now wink.gif ) and say I'd really be interested in reading the O'Connor book, Wise Blood. That'll end up being my vote, I'm pretty sure.

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If I understand Mark's post right, this is just an initial discussion of what we would be interested in, then an actual vote will take place through a poll.
That is my understanding; perhaps in a week, we'd do a poll.

Yeah, I was thinking we'd give about a week - maybe two - for everyone to weigh in, then when we get four or five that seem to keep coming up, we'll create a poll. (Judging from the initial discussion, both O'Connors and the Kite Runner would be pretty likely to make it.)

How 'bout we each list our top three choices, then I'll tally up which titles get the most mentions?

O'Connor would be great choices for me, too, and I'm also intrigued by Silence, so those would be my top three choices.

BTW, I hope everyone really will take Christian's advice and lobby hard for their choices so we can get a spirited discussion going.

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1. Wise Blood

2. Helprin's new book of short stories (The Pacific?)

3. Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry (I just finished it, so that would probably be cheating)

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1. Wise Blood

2. The Dispossessed

3. I am Charlotte Simmons

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I'll say,

1. Kite Runner

2. Wise Blood

3. Silence

Any of those are cool by me.

Alan, whatever choice we decide on, I'll assume you'll add an Amazon ad for us to click on, like you did with Eggers book? I'll probably end up buying up, and might as well support A&F while I'm at it. smile.gif

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I'd lost track of this discussion. Glad to see that it's progressing!

I'd have to say that of the short descriptions the ones that grab me are (in order):

The Kiterunner

American Jesus

I'd also be interested in Silence and Wise Blood from previous discussions here and also in the Silence/Scorsese thread in the film section. Others might benefit from checking this out.

Having said that, I'm finding it difficult to lobby for the book I nominated: Oscar & Lucinda. Not out of having grown out of it, but because I'm quite excited about the opportunity to be introduced to these other works.

However, I feel that I owe it to the book to push it a little further. The description of the plot doesn't do the book justice which isn't to do you diservice Mark but to emphasise it's kinetic energy and passion which I don't think is possible to encapsulate in a summary. I have never been at all interested in the late 20th century, or Australian history, and this novel managed to open my eyes to how fascinating both are. Carey paints incredibly real characters - societal anomalies that manage to avoid the trap of being simply eccentricities - and his grasp of what lies between the spoken and unspoken, and how that defines our actions is on a par with Kazuo Ishiguro. Simultaneously, in developing these passionate contradictory messy characters (who I just couldn't help but love whilst being frustrated by them) Carey investigates the clash between British romanticism and Australian realism and their place in the colonialisation of Australia. I would also say that this is a very funny book, although equally sad and poignant. Carey really seems to love investigating into the often overlooked crevices of history -Oscar and Lucinda is essentially one of the crazy stories you might hear your grandmother telling but don't hear about in the history books or acadmic literature. It's a truly compelling work.

There! How was that? Wow! I've never sold a book before...

Edited by gigi

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My vote:

1. Wise Blood

2. Kite Runner

3. Silence

Of course, all the offerings sounded interesting. I have a feeling that no matter what ends up winning, it'll be an excellent choice. Go team!

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I'll go with:

1. Silence

2. The Kite Runner

3. Wise Blood

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A Wise Blood plurality of mentions seems to be forming. I'd add to it, though the other choices seem fantastic as well.

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