Thursday, 22 January 2009

you must read this!

For those of you who enjoy short stories with a dark twist,can I recommend Stephen King's latest collection,Just After Sunset.
I have to admit that, being an avid fan of Stephen King's early writings, I have been a bit disappointed with some of his more recent works. But I am glad to report that this latest offering is both gripping and chilling -the kind of stories which stay with you for a long time.
Perhaps this is because most of these stories were written in the aftermath of 9/11,and therefore focus on the unimaginable becoming real,and normality transforming into terrifying abnormality.
Many of the stories prey on our worst fears,and for me,the most disturbing was the final story, A Very Tight Place.
All in all,I would say this Stephen King back on top form and well worth a read.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Book Group 20/01/09

Tuesday's meeting was well attended,with ten regular and two new members coming along.
The book under discussion was Mr Pip by Lloyd Jones,which was my choice. My reasons for choosing this title were from other readers' recommendations and also from reading very positive reviews. I felt this was a book which would keep me hooked to the end, and it did not disappoint in that respect.
Most of the group enjoyed the book,although Janet felt that the ending wasn't in keeping with the rest of the story,and some people agreed with this.
There was some discussion on the setting of the story and the politics which influenced the plot,which led to further comments on colonialism and how authentic the details of the rebel activity were. Andy said he believed that the story was loosely based on actual events.
Further discussion followed on Dickens,the composition of Great Expectations,how well the story adapts to film,the parallels between the plot of Mr Pip and that of Great Expectations and the significance of certain aspects of the plot which don't become clear until the final chapter.
We also considered how the story would have worked without the link to Dickens,and agreed that this was what made the story stand out from other stories of oppressed communities.
On the whole,most of the group had found this a worthwhile read,despite one or two admitting to having skimmed the later chapters once the story shifted from the main plot!
Everyone is now looking forward to reading the Memory Keeper's Daughter and Silent in the Grave,which are next month's choices.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Mister Pip

Wow! What a wonderful book. It is the best book by a contemporary writer that I've read in long, long while. I sat and thought about the book for about an hour after finishing it and began to re-read it immediately....I'm really looking forward to the discussion on this one! Now I need to buy my own copy because I have to return the library copy which naturally has a waiting list.

Dubliners discussion

Well after some gentle prodding by Karen….here are my recollections of the discussion of James Joyce’s Dubliners. (I am sure my memory is imperfect now that the holidays have taken their toll…so chime in folks and add to or correct me.)

I choose Dubliners because it is a book I have read several times. I also like to re-read the story The Dead during the Christmas holidays because it seems to me to capture the melancholic but also sweet memories of the passing of one year into another.

As I re-read the stories this time I noticed that they seemed inter-linked with similar characters appearing on several stories. (Andy compared them to a book of stories by Will Self where characters from one story crop up in another.) I can see that there is a sort of narrative arc moving through the stories depicting youth through middle to old age. Joyce wrote in a letter about seeking to describe a Dublin that he saw as the “centre of paralysis” and indeed many of the characters of Dubliners are trapped by their circumstances, fears or belief.

Several people in the groups mentioned that Joyce’s language made them fell they could really “hear” the characters. Others felt his descriptions are “dead on”. For instance the description of Maria in the story “Clay” as a “very, very small person indeed but she had a very long nose and a very long chin,” allows us a clear picture of her physical character.

We discussed the fact that Joyce had difficulty in getting the stories published and that there were elements, particularly about the church and sex, which would have riled the average Irish reader of his time.

I also quite clearly remember someone mentioning that the stories “didn’t go anywhere” and indeed the stories are less concerned with describing an event or series of events than describing an interaction between people or describing a situation. Many of the stories seem to trail away and come to no real resolution…I imagine this is another way to indicate Dublin’s “paralysis”.