Saturday, June 15, 2013

Going on Hiatus

After a good deal of thought, I've decided to cease club meetings for the time being following next month's W.G. Sebald discussion (July 21st).  It's been a great 2.5 years!

Thanks for the love and support!

Friday, June 7, 2013

W.G. Sebald - The Rings of Saturn

Sunday: Varamo by Cesar Aira discussed at 6 PM!  Still gotta finish it.

Next month, weird meeting time because I have an engagement on the 2nd Sunday.  Let's try the 3rd Sunday, which should be nice because this book could prove a little on the challenging side, perhaps?  W.G. Sebald - The Rings of Saturn.  Discussion = 6 PM July 21st at Books Inc Opera Plaza.

And, as with many books, I found out about this fellow through music.  The Caretaker's Patience (After Sebald), which is a soundtrack to a movie about W.G. Sebald, which I haven't seen.

"Ostensibly a record of a journey on foot through coastal East Anglia," as Robert McCrum in the London Observer noted, The Rings of Saturn "is also a brilliantly allusive study of England's imperial past and the nature of decline and fall, of loss and decay. . . . The Rings of Saturn is exhilaratingly, you might say hypnotically, readable. . . . It is hard to imagine a stranger or more compelling work." The Rings of Saturn - with its curious archive of photographs - chronicles a tour across epochs as well as countryside. On his way, the narrator meets lonely eccentrics inhabiting tumble-down mansions and links them to Rembrandt's "Anatomy Lesson," the natural history of the herring, a matchstick model of the Temple of Jerusalem, the travels of Sir Thomas Browne's skull, and the massive bombings of WWII. Cataloging change, oblivion, and memories, he connects sugar fortunes, Joseph Conrad, and the horrors of colonizing the Belgian Congo. The narrator finds threads which run from an abandoned bridge over the River Blyth to the terrible dowager Empress Tzu Hsi and the silk industry in Norwich. "Sebald," as The New Yorker stated, "weaves his tale together with a complexity and historical sweep that easily encompasses both truth and fiction." The Emigrants (hailed by Susan Sontag as an "astonishing masterpiece-perfect while being unlike any book one has ever read") was "one of the great books of the last few years," as Michael Ondaatje noted: "and now The Rings of Saturn is a similar and as strange a triumph."

Sunday, May 12, 2013

César Aira - Varamo

I am now trying an experiment very frequent among modern authors; which is to write upon nothing; when the subject is utterly exhausted, to let the pen still move on; by some called the ghost of wit, delighting to walk after the death of its body. - Jonathan Swift

Tonight: discussion of Hunger by Knut Hamsun ensues in earnest at 6 PM at Books Inc Opera Plaza.  New spot, new time!

Next month: Varamo by César Aira.  Never read it and don't know jack about it, but it's short, probably bitter and/or sweet, and very recent.  Thanks to my colleague Greg from SFPL for the recommendation!  (Meeting = June 9th at 6 PM)

Unmistakably the work of Cesar Aira, Varamo is about the day in the life of a hapless government employee who, after wandering around all night after being paid by the Ministry in counterfeit money, eventually writes the most celebrated masterwork of modern Central American poetry, The Song of the Virgin Boy. What is odd is that, at fifty years old, Varamo hadn t previously written one sole verse, nor had it ever occurred to him to write one. Among other things, this novella is an ironic allegory of the poet s vocation and inspiration, the subtlety of artistic genius, and our need to give literature an historic, national, psychological, and aesthetic context. But Aira goes further still converting the ironic allegory into a formidable parody of the expectations that all narrative texts generate by laying out the pathos of a man who between one night and the following morning is touched by genius. Once again Aira surprises us with his unclassifiable fiction: original and enjoyable, worthy of many a thoughtful chuckle, Varamo invites the reader to become an accomplice in the author s irresistible game.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

New Book, New Meeting Location

Tomorrow is our last meeting at Books Inc. Chestnut Street!  We're moving to Books Inc. Opera Plaza for our May discussion, which will be on May 12th at 6 PM.  Thanks to Books Inc. Chestnut Street for two years of extreme hospitality.

Tomorrow's book is J.G. Ballard's High Rise and the discussion is at 7 PM at 2251 Chestnut St.  The title for May is Hunger by Knut Hamsun and will be hosted at 601 Van Ness Ave. in San Francisco.

A true classic of modern literature that has been described as “one of the most disturbing novels in existence” (Time Out), Hunger is the story of a Norwegian artist who wanders the streets, struggling on the edge of starvation. As hunger overtakes him, he slides inexorably into paranoia and despair. The descent into madness is recounted by the unnamed narrator in increasingly urgent and disjointed prose, as he loses his grip on reality.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

2nd Anniversary

I wanted to recap all the books we've read since April 2011.  Thanks for participating!

J.G. Ballard - High Rise (current title; to be discussed April 14th, 2013)
Iain Banks - The Wasp Factory
Philip K. Dick - Valis
William Faulkner - The Sound and the Fury
Gertrude Stein - Three Lives
Kobo Abe - The Box Man
Andre Gide - Lafcadio's Adventures
Herman Melville - The Confidence-Man
Italo Calvino - If on a Winter's Night a Traveler
Vladimir Nabokov - Pale Fire
Andre Breton - Nadja
J.P. Donleavey - Ginger Man
Virginia Woolf - Orlando
Georges Bataille - Story of the Eye
Samuel Beckett - Watt
Richard Brautigan - Trout Fishing in America, The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster and In Watermelon Sugar
Franz Kafka - Metamorphosis & Other Stories
Raymond Queneau - Exercises in Style
Jean-Paul Sartre - Nausea
Nathaniel West - Miss Lonelyhearts and Day of the Locust
Djuna Barnes - Nightwood
Robert Walser - Jakob Von Gunten
George Orwell - Down and Out in Paris and London
Flann O'Brien - The Third Policeman

Friday, March 8, 2013

J.G. Ballard - High Rise

Hello--hope you dug The Wasp Factory.  We'll discuss it on Sunday at 7 (yeah, back to the normal meeting time).

Next month, how about J.G. Ballard's High Rise?  I've read a few from this fellow and thoroughly enjoyed them, hope this is no exception!  April the 14th at 7 PM!

"Harsh and ingenious! "High Rise" is an intense and vivid bestiary, which lingers unsettlingly in the mind."--Martin Amis, "New Statesman."

Friday, February 8, 2013

Iain Banks - The Wasp Factory

Hello.  Hope everyone is enjoying or enjoyed or will enjoy VALIS as much as I did!  Don't forget, we'll meet at 5:15 PM instead of 7 PM this Sunday, February 10th.

The pick for next month is The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks.  Word on the street: it's pretty dark and intense.  Hopefully it proves to be an entertaining/engaging selection.  We'll meet on March 10th at 7 PM.  Don't forget to move your clock hands forward and give me a hug for being on planet earth for 27 years.
**Update: I started reading The Wasp Factory and am enjoying it but felt I should post a disclaimer: the book contains fairly graphic depictions of animal and human cruelty.**


Meet Frank Cauldhame. Just sixteen, and unconventional to say the least:
Two years after I killed Blyth I murdered my young brother Paul, for quite different and more fundamental reasons than I'd disposed of Blyth, and then a year after that I did for my young cousin Esmerelda, more or less on a whim.
That's my score to date. Three. I haven't killed anybody for years, and don't intend to ever again.
It was just a stage I was going through.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Valis meeting time chage

I accidentally double booked my night next Sunday during the discussion, so the regulars and I agreed to meet at 5:15 PM instead of 7 PM on February 10th at the usual spot, 2251 Chestnut St.  If there's any issues or questions, reply to this post and I'll sort you out!  We'll be back to the normal time next month.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Phillip K. Dick - Valis

Welcome back after a month off... hope everyone enjoyed reading The Sound and the Fury.  We'll discuss it on Sunday the 11th at 7 PM.  I still have a bit left to go, so don't spoil it for me or anything.

For next month, I thought we should try something a bit different--how about Phillip K. Dick's Valis?  This fellow was pretty much my favorite author in high school, but after getting sucked into the whole modernism thing, I feel like I lost the science fiction thread.  Thing is, I feel like the two aren't mutually exclusive, so I think we can swing this thematically.  That meeting will be on the second Sunday as usual, February 10th at 7 PM at Books Inc on Chestnut St.

The first book in Philip K. Dick's final trilogy (followed by The Divine Invasion and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer), VALIS encapsulates many of the themes that Dick was obsessed with over the course of his career. A disorienting and bleakly funny novel, VALIS (which stands for Vast Active Living Intelligence System) is about a schizophrenic man named Horselover Fat (who just might also be known as Philip Dick); the hidden mysteries of Gnostic Christianity; and reality as revealed through a pink laser. VALIS is a theological detective story, in which God is both a missing person and the perpetrator of the ultimate crime.
Taking place in the same universe as Dick's soon-to-be-published Exegesis, VALIS is a dense novel, but one that is absolutely essential to understanding the author's off-kilter worldview. Much like Dick himself, the reader is left wondering what is real, what is fiction, and what the price is for divine inspiration.