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Saturday, May 28, 2016

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante: Discussion Notes

Our usual biographical intro was quite one knows for sure who Elena Ferrante is.  She has said that she wants her books to stand on their own...not to be muddled by her real identity and biography. Some did not like the fact that someone tried to "out" her.  See link above.

Members listed authors whose true nature did impact their reading.  (Can't think of one.  Salinger?) Best  not to know and get absorbed in the writing.

One member read the 4 books out of order...she read Book 3 first.  Interesting that she did not feel order mattered.  Although she was confused by names. (Thus the list of characters in the front of each novel.)

One was pointed out that Lenu's mother, makes it possible for Lenu to advance beyond what is expected.  Will Lenu realize that as she ages?  

Another pointed out that the men do not come across very well.  At least not yet.  Will there be a mostly positive male  appearing?

Another mentioned that the complexity of friendship--with its ebb and flow from love to envy to emulation back to love--was beautifully portrayed.

Many have already read all four novels in the series.  Others are on their way.  

Next up:  Russell Banks The Darling

Saturday, May 14, 2016

MISLAID by Nell Zink: Discussion Notes

Waited way too long to post the comments.  Since I left my copy home, couldn't keep notes in the margin. Perhaps the borders of my brain have retained some marginalia.  So here goes:

The quirky novel satirizes the American south of the 1960's.  Including:  Its view of race.  Attitudes towards gender and sexual identity. Traditional gender roles. The institution of marriage. The literary world of professors, celebrity poets and poetry critics. Zink, who now lives in Germany, has abandoned the America that she grew up in.  She said in an interview that from afar America feels like a third world country like Brazil. Thus the harsh humor?

Also Zink was married to a poet for a time. Could that be way she included this description about one celebrity poet?

"One of them brought along a Ouija board and let spirits write his poems." [page 18]

Just one sentence out of a whole passage of devastatingly hilarious comments.

Image result for nell zink

Much to the joy of the sponsor, me, the novel was well received.  This novel...similar in structure to a Shakespeare comedy--has characters switch races and sexual roles, disappear for a while, and then reconnect to make a happy ending. It was a good amusing read for all (or most.)  Even non-attendees liked it...they weren't avoiding the discussion!  Surprising to me, because my quick reread made me sorry I recommended the book.   I realized that it is not a book to skim; the plot is not what it is about. Enjoy it slowly.  Savor the humor.

And once again, a popular book, made for a shorter discussion.  T---p dominated the discussion. I will not spell out his name.  Perhaps we are a third world country as Zink suggests.

Next Up:

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

BB Comment on Signature of All Things

"At book group, K, you said you thought the cave scene in “Signature” was silly. Since you missed the discussion, I want to point out that that scene completed a relationship of three’s of which there are at least three in the novel—the three young women; Alma, her husband and the "caveman;" and the three scientists. It seems to take three people, a trinity of sorts, to complete relationships, at least for this main character. Both she and the “cave man” loved the same man, and the cave sex scene completed and fulfilled Alma. “Signature” is constructed along the lines of an old fashioned novel, very artfully patterned.  “Mislaid,” on the other hand, seems purposely unstructured. "

Brooklyn By the Book Event sent by LFC


Brooklyn By the Book presents Jonathan Safran Foer
"Here I Am" is the monumental new novel from Jonathan Safran Foer. Unfolding over four tumultuous weeks, in present-day Washington, D.C., "Here I Am" is the story of a fracturing family in a moment of crisis. As Jacob and Julia and their three sons are forced to confront the distances between the lives they think they want and the lives they are living, a catastrophic earthquake sets in motion a quickly escalating conflict in the Middle East. Showcasing the same high-energy inventiveness, hilarious irreverence, and emotional urgency that readers and critics loved in his earlier work, "Here I Am" is Foers most searching, hard-hitting, and grandly entertaining novel yet.

This program will take place at Congregation Beth Elohim. General admission is $10; CBE/BPL-member admission is $7. Tickets may be used for a $7 discount on (1) copy of "Here I Am" on the night of the program. Book Bundles come with free admission. All books available for pickup or purchase at the program.

Please print tickets or have them available on your mobile device for faster admission. Doors at 7pm.

Brooklyn By the Book is a collaboration between the Brooklyn Public Library, Community Bookstore, and Congregation Beth Elohim.

Link to purchase tickets:

Jonathan Safran Foer

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Elena Ferrante: A Fan?

Listen to her translator speak with Leonard Lopate.
R.K.sent the following link:

Information on Leonard Lopate Broadcast...

Signature of All Things: Discussion

A novel in the style of Dickens, fittingly so as it took place in the 1800's, brought us all together in agreement:  A really enjoyable book.  Including G!  (Although there was a moment when she almost talked herself out of liking it..)

Linear with a plot that chugged along, years flew by...written off  in a sentence--Signature of All Things was a welcome change from last month's book.  No time switching, no spiraling around to get to the truth...just a steady trip forward from point A to point B.
However, members commented:  Characters were flat, one dimensional--like the ones that people Dickens' novels.

Some comments not heard: Blogger had not finished book.
Sexual stuff felt forced and anachronistic.  Agree?
Character went on her own journey filled with Food, Love, and Spirituality similar to author's journey in Eat, Pray, Love?

How are evolution and altruism compatible?  Here is a link if you want to read up on it.

Next month:  My recommendation is up.  Yikes.