I have this sinking feeling no one else read this book? Anyone? Hello? I will skip the post about it then. If someone did read the book and would like to discuss it, please let me know.
October book; Island
The whole point of this book club was to have casual discussions about books, but I feel nervous with this one, like I am writing a book report for school. This is the type of story where most of the subtle points go right over my head. What is the theme of this novel? I'm not sure, but in my opinion he wanted to write an anti-war book that would move people, but realized that no one can stop war, they are part of the human existence - we are all, "bugs trapped in amber." In the first chapter he describes his frustration, "It is so short and jumbled and jangled, Sam, because there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre. Everybody is dead, to never say anything or want anything ever again." (p. 24) I haven't read any interviews from Vonnegut about this book, but it seems the point is, there is no point. He realized there was nothing he could say that would prevent future massacres, so he accepts this and perhaps used the serenity prayer for comfort, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change..."
I enjoy Vonnegut's comments on our society; when he writes about Kilgore Trout's book where people are placed in a zoo on planet Zircon-212 and given a big board showing stock market quotations and a telephone to a brokerage firm on Earth. The aliens told the Earthlings that 1 million dollars was invested for them on Earth and if they managed the money properly they would be, "fabulously wealthy" when they returned. The phone and the board were fake and put there to make the people more entertaining for the visitors of the zoo. They were told that the President proclaimed national prayer week, so they prayed and their stocks went up. Everything manipulated by the aliens. Isn't our economy basically only there because we believe it is?
Some of my favorite quotes: "There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters." I thought this was an insightful thought. We've watched or read many war stories that have characters - someone who rises above their plight, but in reality most cannot.
"...Billy was having an adventure very common among people without power in a time of war. He was trying to prove to a willfully deaf and blind enemy that he was interesting to hear and see."
1. Do you think we are bugs trapped in amber?
2. Why does the quote, "If you're ever in Cody, Wyoming." "Just ask for Wild Bill." Did I miss something here?
3. Why does Vonnegut use "so it goes" after the mention of death?
4. In chapter 2, he writes about Billy's mother, "...like so many Americans, was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops." What does this mean to you?
5. This book is on the reading list for our local high school. Do you think this is the type of story that someone young could understand?
There are so many other comments and questions I could write, but for now I would like to hear your thoughts.
August is flying by and I just realized this weekend there is one week left, so I apologize this is late. I've made it half way though this book (p 147) and will post a discussion of the end next weekend. I've been distracted reading Stephen King, so I've been picking up both books throughout the month and my head is spinning.
In the beginning of the book, Vonnegut discussed the process of writing this book. It was obviously difficult for him; reliving the horror and trying to create what he wanted. I found it touching that he dedicated the book to Mary, the wife of his old war buddy, who he promised would write a book that did not glorify war.
Vonnegut had a gift for commenting on our world in a way that is both funny and sad, but so true. He's brilliant, and I found it interesting that Kilgore Trout is presented as his alter ego, "His prose was frightful. Only his ideas were good." I don't have a problem with his writing, but this comment suggests he felt different. He mention writing thousands of pages for this book, so I am guessing that in the end, he felt what he published had a good message, but was not as polished as he would have liked. I did laugh when Kilgore Trout's book, The Gospel from Outer Space found that the Gospels actually taught, "Before you kill somebody, make absolutely sure he isn't well connected."
This is going to be one of those books that I can't comment on fully until I finish it. Is this his Gospel from Outer Space? Why do you think he used a science fiction story to write an anti-war book? I would like to hear your thoughts so far.
For the Lost fans - Desmond was unstuck in time in the same manner as Billy and Kurt Vonnegut's name was an answer on a game show Michael was watching.
For the September book, I thought we could read along with Lostpedia's book club choice, Lord of the Flies. Their forum link is here, if you are interested. I will put up a poll for October's choice, so you have time to vote and pick up the book - what do you think of Carrie or The Third Policeman?
I didn't write about this book earlier because I thought no one read it, but decided to share my thoughts anyway. The story was written in the 50's by Nevil Shute, who was born in London and worked on the development of secret weapons for the British in World War II. I find this fact interesting because the book is a warning of what would happen after a nuclear war. Overall, the book is worth reading. At times the writing is confusing due to the age of the book and the fact he is British. What I enjoyed about it was how each character handled the fact that life was ending for all. The people in the Northern Hemisphere are all dead and in the Southern Hemisphere the end is approaching as the radioactive clouds drift in the wind. The response to those left is to go on as before, some drink or seek religion and others decide to drive fast cars in a race. This is not a happy story and I doubt you would be able to finish it without shedding some tears.
Dwight is a submarine captain who takes a journey to see if there is any life and what the levels of radioactivity are. Since he is an American, his wife and children have already been killed, but he buys them presents to take with him on his last voyage. He befriends a woman who at the beginning of the story is passing the time getting drunk. As their friendship grows, she goes back to school and drinks less. The couple Mary and Peter, who have an infant daughter, begin planting a garden and fret over it's placement and items like a garden bench. The behavior of these characters makes you wonder if you would do the same; go on as before, attend school when there is no possibility of finishing, or plant a garden you will never see. What would you do? I thought about this and I think I would continue to do what I normally do and spend time with my family.
The war was actually started because of a mistake, but once the large countries were involved, they unloaded their supply of nuclear weapons and it was too late. It was blamed on the smaller countries, who were able to buy nuclear weapons and long range planes, because they became cheap (kind of sounds like today). My favorite quote from the book, "Maybe we've been too silly to deserve a world like this."
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut!
I had so much to say about On the Beach, but now I am at a loss for words. I don't know if anyone read the book, but I will try to put together something this weekend.
It's been difficult trying to think of books that appeal to everyone, so I wanted to know what you thought about reading some of the books mentioned in Lost. There is a new ABC Lost book club and Lostpedia also has one that started this month. We could follow their lead or choose our own. Even if you don't watch Lost, there are some interesting books on the list. I would like to choose books 3 months in advance, so you have more time to find the book. Let me know what you think, if anyone is stil out there!
At the book store they had a display of the required reading for the high schools in our area. I expected to find The Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby, but I was surprised how many books there were that I would read. Since August is back to school month, I thought it would be fun to read one of the books on their list. Here are the choices:
The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut
Please vote by Monday, August 4th. I will have a review of the July book soon.
I enjoyed reading this book, especially the descriptions of the Jewish traditions. Why do other religions always seem to have more interesting holidays? The women were quite cruel to Batsheva, even though they claimed to be so religious. The passage where one of the women was noticing how Batsheva seemed sad and then a minute later commented, "Even so, there was a feeling of festivity in the air. We had our new Pesach clothes on, and this was the first time we wore straw hats." I'm not sure today there are communities that are this conservative - does anyone know of one like this? I laughed at the beginning of the book when it discussed Leanna wearing culottes and, "walking a dangerous line." Not the scandalous culottes! In the end, I was surprised Batsheva did not move. Not that she should have, but to live in a place where everyone gossips about you, would be too much.
Some questions from the book:
What do you think will happen after the end of the novel? Will Batsheva stay? To what extent will she be integrated, if at all?
I think Batsheva will remain an outsider, but will maintain a few close friendships. The women who found her offensive are not going to change their mind about her.
What characters did you identify with most? Was it always Batsheva?
I identified most with Batsheva because most of us have felt left out or awkward in a new place.
Do you think Yosef's doubt about Judaism predated Batsheva's arrival? Or did it grow out of their conversations?
Yosef's doubt about Judaism was there before she arrived. I think she gave him courage to admit what he felt. She was too enthusiastic about her religion to change his views.
Was there ever a point where you agreed with those who thought that Batsheva had "crossed the line?"
Yes, when she allowed the boys at the party. This would not be a big deal in most communities, but she knew this was something not done, but she allowed it to happen. There were times when I thought she could have tried to fit in a little more, even though part of me also thought she should be allowed to be who she is.
I'm glad I read this book. It's not one I would have selected on my own - that's why I like having a book club. For July, I am having a difficult time thinking of books we can vote on. I picked up Nevil Shute's, On the Beachand thought you might be interested in reading it this month, but I just finished it. (The book is not in stock at Amazon, but you can buy a used copy there.) I think it's a good book-not exactly a happy subject. It's an older book about the end of the world. Some of the words are different because of the age and the fact he is British, but as difficult as it was to read a sad story, sometimes these types of books stay with you and give you a different view on your life. There would be a lot to discuss about this book. I also read Cormac McCarthy's, The Road; which is another end of world story- more creepy, but really good. So, I thought you can choose which one you want to read, or read them both and we can have some sad, but interesting discussions about them.
For August, I would like to know what you have sitting in your "to read" pile - let's read one of them!
Sorry this is late, seems to be a common problem here. Wow, these women are awful. At this point Batsheva is being blamed for the risky behavior of the teenagers in town. I'm curious to see how far this goes and I wonder if she is having a romance with the Rabbi's son. Are communities really this conservative?
I've always been interested in the Jewish religion and I hope this book is portraying some of the holy events accurately. The end of this book should be an interesting discussion. I promise to finish it by the end of this month.
What do you want to read for July? I'm not sure if we have time for a vote, but two books on my shelf are David Sedaris' new book, and On the Beach, which is a cheery end of the world story. Please let me know what you think.
I'm sorry this post is late, but every time I tried to write about this book I drew a blank. Overall, I thought this was a good book. Ellie was the type of character you could be friends with, I enjoyed the descriptions of Portland and of the food. What I didn't like about the book was how the story seemed to go in so many different directions; her weight issues, the boyfriend who was married (only so the woman could gain citizenship), her mother, and caring someone with a terminal illness. A story can be good by focusing on a single issue, like taking care of Benny, rather than trying to solve all of life's problems.
When my Mom had cancer we took care of her at home and this book brought back memories of some of the things we had to deal with. I always found it odd that I am drawn to "death" books since I've experienced so much, but for some reason I find it helpful to dive into it and feel bad, rather than avoid those feelings. The author had some experience with taking care of someone with a terminal illness and the story reflected some true insights. On page 243; "We've winnowed down the world to just this space, just these moments when he's not asleep, just the holding of hands, the rubbing of shoulders, the combing of hair. Bed up or down? Room dark or light? Music or quiet, talking or silence. Everything had been reduced to only these small matters, and they take on an infinite importance." This passage was so true. In the beginning of her illness we were focused on getting answers, trying to solve problems and as the days passed and the illness progressed, we began to focus on what we could do; make Jell-O, get Popsicles, wash the sheets, open the curtains, and provide comfort. The outside world shuts off and you become a person of basics. Our experience was different than the book, as I imagine they all are, but it was refreshing to read an accurate version of some of the things that happen.
I still can't grasp why Ellie's Mother didn't come to visit and at times the woman deserved a slap. Why was the other child kept a secret? Was Ellie Benny's daughter? Am I the only one confused by this secret?
At the end of the book there are some questions, if you are interested in responding to them. I couldn't come up with any answers that made sense, and as you can read, I still can't write something worthwhile about this book. I would love to hear your thoughts.
For July are you interested in reading something you normally wouldn't? I will read anything, but poetry. I can't make it through an entire book of poems, sorry. Steven King? Science fiction? Trashy romance? Teen vampire? Kurt Vonnegut? Has anyone read The Road? I read it when Oprah selected it for her book club; very dark, but the kind of story that stays with you - I would read it again. Let me know what you think and enjoy your weekend.