Friday, November 9, 2012

William Faulkner - The Sound and the Fury

I'm really into "Three Lives" and I hope you are, really, too excited about reading Gertrude Stein and her "Three Lives," the titular book being ever awful absurd and also actually being really entirely right heartbreaking in one fell stroke, really.  I am with my continual thinking wondering how it is that she does that, making it so ever real absurd and ever so rightly heartbreaking all at once.  We'll completely be having our discussing it at each other now at 7 PM on Sunday, ever for real, with our Gertrude Stein and her mighty present volume of "Three Lives," so won't you come along, now, won't you.

As for next month, we'll be taking a pass because of the holidaze and resuming in January.  For then, Vincent's pick, "The Sound and the Fury" will be the star of the show.  I've never read Faulkner, so I'm in pretty dire straits as a result; not sure how I've even made it this far in life without him, honestly.  January 13th at 7 PM.

“I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire. . . . I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all of your breath trying to conquer it. Because no battle is ever won he said. They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools.” —from The Sound and the Fury

The Sound and the Fury is the tragedy of the Compson family, featuring some of the most memorable characters in literature: beautiful, rebellious Caddy; the manchild Benjy; haunted, neurotic Quentin; Jason, the brutal cynic; and Dilsey, their black servant. Their lives fragmented and harrowed by history and legacy, the character’s voices and actions mesh to create what is arguably Faulkner’s masterpiece and  one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Gertrude Stein - Three Lives

Sunday: THE BOX MAN 7 PM.  Let's do this.

I just finished reading Ida by Gertrude Stein in one sitting yesterday, while procrastinating on Ulysses.  I was delighted and appalled in equal measure; her style is ridiculously repetitive, simplistic, and contradictory to the point of absurdity (you may have heard this about her).  Strong outsider vibes emanate--I was reminded of Richard Brautigan, only without the hippie connexion, especially in regards to her treatment of death/interpersonal relationships.  Things just happen, constantly, and for entirely no reason.  That's life.  So you'd better accept it, otherwise you're going to be completely miserable.  Just check out this chapter from Ida for some seriously mental ART--when I read this I laugh/cried for a few minutes flat, though I imagine the effect is less if you haven't just trawled yourself through 5 hours straight of "unreadable, self-indulgent, and excruciatingly boring" prose.  I also happen to be in the position to recommend reading reviews and parodies of Ida, or Stein's writing in general--easily some of the best worst reactions from critics I've had the pleasure of playing witness to.  This writing really drives people freakin nuts, but fortunately that's what we wanted all along.

I understand Miss Stein's Three Lives is a bit less esoteric, so we'll see how that goes for November.  Good luck.  See you on the 11th at 7 PM.

Three short stories comprise Gertrude Stein’s first significant work, each a psychological portrait of a different woman. “The Good Anna” is a kindly but domineering German servant. “The Gentle Lena” apathetically endures her miserable life until she dies in childbirth. “Melanctha” is a young Black woman learning about sexuality and love. Different as they may be, all three women are bound by poverty—and all three face the restrictions of class, race, and sex with resignation.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Kōbō Abe - The Box Man

Tomorrow night: Lafcadio's Adventures by André Gide discussion at 7 PM.  As usual, the prediction is that it will be worth the consideration of those to whom it may prove worth considering.  See you there!

For next month (October 14th, 7 PM) I chose The Box Man by Kōbō Abe.  I just finished reading The Secret Rendezvous (while procrastinating reading Ulysses) which knocked my socks off, so hopefully The Box Man is of similar calibre.  I enjoyed Abe's rare ability to find humor and human persistence in the face of absurdity and hopelessness without forgetting about concept, plot, and character development.  Also there's an abundance of erotic medical goings-on (at least in the case of The Secret Rendezvous), something easy to get jazzed about.

Kobo Abe, the internationally acclaimed author of Woman in the Dunes, combines wildly imaginative fantasies and naturalistic prose to create narratives reminiscent of the work of Kafka and Beckett.
In this eerie and evocative masterpiece, the nameless protagonist gives up his identity and the trappings of a normal life to live in a large cardboard box he wears over his head. Wandering the streets of Tokyo and scribbling madly on the interior walls of his box, he describes the world outside as he sees or perhaps imagines it, a tenuous reality that seems to include a mysterious rifleman determined to shoot him, a seductive young nurse, and a doctor who wants to become a box man himself. The Box Man is a marvel of sheer originality and a bizarrely fascinating fable about the very nature of identity.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Ulysses Book Club

There's a temporary book club organized by my co-worker Tom from Classics I Forgot to Read and regulars of the Modern Lit Book Club which I wanted to draw attention to.  The purpose is to read James Joyce's Ulysses over the course of three meetings, occurring on the following dates: September 20th, October 18th, and November 15th.  Meetings are held at Books Inc in the Marina, 2251 Chestnut in San Francisco at 7 PM.  The idea is to read roughly a third of the book before each meeting.  Fabulous idea.  I'm hoping to pull myself together enough to read this thing and make the meetings, but we'll see.  In any case, I think this club could possibly give Finnegan's Wake Popcorn a run for its money in SF Weekly's "Most Pretentious Book Club" category, if Modern Lit hasn't already given an adequate showing...  On top of that, both Classics I Forgot to read and the present book club will continue normally scheduled meetings on the last Wednesday and second Sunday of each month, respectively (see the post below for information about our selection for September).

One of the greatest novels of the twentieth century, Ulysses has had a profound influence on modern fiction. In a series of episodes covering the course of a single day, June 16, 1904, the novel traces the movements of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus through the streets of Dublin. Each chapter has its own remarkably innovative literary style, and the book is one of the great, extended tours de force of stream-of-consciousness narration. It is an essential stop in any tour of English literature.
This marvelous edition reproduces in facsimile the original 1922 text. Today critical interest centers on the authority of the text, and this edition republishes for the first time, without interference, the original 1922 text. Equally important, Jeri Johnson's editorial material is acknowledged to be by far the best there is. Her textual apparatus--notes, introduction, stemma of published versions--is unsurpassed. Johnson strikes the perfect balance between what readers need to know in her notes and introduction. Her fantastic explanatory notes begin by giving the time and location of each episode and a description of the correspondence with the episode in Homer being paralleled. In addition, the introduction is a model of scholarship and lucidity, leading the first-time reader through the intricacies of the text.
This edition also includes a full list of errata, a Composition and Publication History, an up-to-date bibliography, a chronology of Joyce's lie, a map of Dublin of the period, appendices reproducing Gilbert and Linati schema (i.e. the tables that set out the symbolic significance of each episode in the novel by title, hour of the day, place of the action), and much more. It is the perfect introduction to the crowning work of modernist literature.

Friday, August 10, 2012

André Gide - Lafcadio's Adventures

The Confidence-Man discussion will be on Sunday at 7, usual spot.  Should be a great jam.

Next month I'm predictably and regrettably going back on my promise not to pick a dead white bearded French male author for at least a few months.  André Gide Lafcadio's Adventures has simply been on my shelf for too long... it was the first thing that sprang to mind when prompted for a selection, so it must be taking up too much head space in these realms.  I'll make up for it next month....  I think Lafcadio should appeal to members of this club for its supposed mystery content, not to mention Nobel Prize-winning authorship, for what that's worth.  Discussion is at 7 PM on September 9th.

Passing with cinematographic speed across the capitals of Europe, Nobel laureate André Gide’s Lafcadio’s Adventures is a brilliantly sly satire and one of the clearest articulations of his greatest theme: the unmotivated crime.
When Lafcadio Wluiki, a street-smart nineteen-year-old in 1890s Paris, learns that he’s heir to an ailing French nobleman’s fortune, he’s seized by wanderlust. Traveling through Rome in expensive new threads, he becomes entangled in a Church extortion scandal involving an imprisoned Pope, a skittish purveyor of graveyard statuary, an atheist-turned-believer on the edge of insolvency, and all manner of wastrels, swindlers, aristocrats, adventurers, and pickpockets. With characteristic irony, Gide contrives a hilarious detective farce whereby the wrong man is apprehended, while the charmingly perverse Lafcadio—one of the most original creations in all modern fiction—goes free.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Herman Melville - The Confidence-Man

Tomorrow: If on a Winter's Night a Traveler discussion will ensue.  I really enjoyed this one, especially as a compliment to Pale Fire, with both books being very entertaining investigations on writing, art, love, obsession, etc etc...  See ya at 7 PM!

Next month: Vincent's choice, Herman Melville's The Confidence-Man, a book which should prove to be quite different from the reputation wrought by Moby Dick and/or Billy Budd, or so I've been told.  I'm eager to indulge as usual, should be a good read.  Discussion is on August 12th at 7 PM.

Herman Melville's The Confindence-Man: His Masquerade was the tenth, last, and most perplexing book of his decade as a professional man of letters. After it he gave up his ambitious effort to write works that would be both popular and profound and turned to poetry. The book was published on April 1--the very day of its title character's April Fools' Day masquerade on a Mississippi River Steamboat.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Italo Calvino - If on a Winter's Night a Traveler

Welcome back.  Tomorrow we'll discuss Pale Fire--I hope everyone is enjoying it in some capacity.  I'm oscillating between rapturous epiphany and crushing bamboozlement as well as struggling with a lack of time to devote to it.  Unfortunately, I'll have to take off a bit early from the discussion, so hopefully that won't put a damper on anything.

For next month, let's try some Calvino.  I've read four or five of his works and can definitely vouch for the man, but the present selection, If on a Winter's Night a Traveler, is one I haven't read.  Seems like his works tend to fall into either more "standard" charcter-driven narratives (The Watcher) or more Borges-esque examinations of metaphysics and the nature of reality (T-Zero).  Kind of sounds like this one combines these elements... but I can't say for sure.  Discussion is at 7 PM on July 8th at Books Inc, 2251 Chestnut St, SF (the usual spot).

If on a Winter's Night a Traveler turns out to be not one novel but ten, each with a different plot, style, ambience, and author, and each interrupted at a moment of suspense. Together they form a labyrinth of literatures, known and unknown, alive and extinct, through which two readers, a male and a female, pursue both the story lines that intrigue them and one another.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Vladimir Nabokov - Pale Fire

Interesting Nadja discussion tonight--thanks for attending!  Next month, Vincent's request, Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov.  I've never read anything by him, so the only information I can divulge is that I'm basically jazzed about the whole operation.  Discussion is on June 10th at 7 PM.

In Pale Fire Nabokov offers a cornucopia of deceptive pleasures: a 999-line poem by the reclusive genius John Shade; an adoring foreword and commentary by Shade's self-styled Boswell, Dr. Charles Kinbote; a darkly comic novel of suspense, literary idolatry and one-upmanship, and political intrigue.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Andre Breton - Nadja

So next month I promised we'd do Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov, but I know I'm going to be (again) hard pressed for time finishing off term papers, so I thought I'd postpone Nabokov to June and do Andre Breton's Nadja next month, a book I know quite well and can be read in a matter of hours. We've been discussing the relative merits/demerits of surrealism lately, so we might as well go to the source! Discussion is May 13th at 7 PM.

Nadja, originally published in France in 1928, is the first and perhaps best Surrealist romance ever written, a book which defined that movement's attitude toward everyday life.The principal narrative is an account of the author's relationship with a girl in the city of Paris, the story of an obsessional presence haunting his life. The first-person narrative is supplemented by forty-four photographs which form an integral part of the work--pictures of various 'surreal' people, places, and objects which the author visits or is haunted by in Nadja's presence and which inspire him to meditate on their reality or lack of it.

Friday, March 9, 2012

J.P. Donleavy - Ginger Man

Still on for Sunday--sorry about the seriously lacking pitch last month for Orlando... since then, I read it and utterly enjoyed it (and I hope you all did too), not that I expect that statement to convince anyone to read it by tomorrow at 7 PM, when we'll have our discussion about it, but hey...

Got to get this one down for J.P. Donleavy because I can feel the busy-ness breathing down my neck for next week... Thanks to Jolee for the suggestion of The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthasar B, but I had to go with Ginger Man for distribution/availability/length issues (sorry!). Should be a good read and accidentally fits the Irish theme happening right now for St. Patrick's Day... Discussion is April 8th at 7 PM.

First published in Paris in 1955, and originally banned in the United States, J. P. Donleavy's first novel is now recognized the world over as a masterpiece and a modern classic of the highest order. Set in Ireland just after World War II, The Ginger Man is J. P. Donleavys wildly funny, picaresque classic novel of the misadventures of Sebastian Danger-field, a young American ne'er-do-well studying at Trinity College in Dublin. He barely has time for his studies and avoids bill collectors, makes love to almost anything in a skirt, and tries to survive without having to descend into the bottomless pit of steady work. Dangerfield's appetite for women, liquor, and general roguishness is insatiable--and he satisfies it with endless charm.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Virginia Woolf - Orlando

Next month, Virginia Woolf's Orlando will be discussed on March 11th at 7 PM. I know nothing about it!

Begun as a "joke," Orlando is Virginia Woolf's fantastical biography of a poet who first appears as a sixteen-year-old boy at the court of Elizabeth I, and is left at the novel's end a married woman in the year 1928. Part love letter to Vita Sackville-West, part exploration of the art of biography, Orlando is one of Woolf's most popular and entertaining works. This new annotated edition will deepen readers' understanding of Woolf's brilliant creation.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Georges Bataille - Story of the Eye

Finished Watt, whoa... I'll can it til the discussion tomorrow (7 PM). In the meantime, thought I'd start repping for next month, we'll be reading Georges Bataille's Story of the Eye. Very quick book but a definite favorite. Only caveat: there's abundant lewd conduct and a bit of violence, so discretion is advised to those possessed of sensitive palettes... in other words, it's a crowd-pleaser! Discussion is February 12th at 7 PM.

In 1928, Georges Bataille published this first novel under a pseudonym, a legendary shocker that uncovers the dark side of the erotic by means of forbidden obsessive fantasies of excess and sexual extremes. A classic of pornographic literature, Story of the Eye finds the parallels in Sade and Nietzsche and in the investigations of contemporary psychology; it also forecasts Bataille's own theories of ecstasy, death and transgression which he developed in later work.

Tonite: James Joyce's 'The Dead' -- Part 2 on KQED

"James Joyce's 'The Dead' -- Part 2
The show features "The Dead," by James Joyce, performed by Rene Auberjonois, Fionnula Flanagan and Isaiah Sheffer.
Sat, Jan 7, 2012 -- 8:00pm"