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Hope everyone’s been enjoying our book. Drama! Personal histories! Conflict!
Anyway, we’ll get to all that later today during our chat. Stay tuned for the specific chat time, but just like our last chat, you can start submitting your thoughts on pages 88 to 200 now. Even if you didn’t make it to 200 (or read further!), let us know what you’re thinking so far.
Come chat for a bit if you’re reading ‘Gold.’
It is valuable to read a book like Gold once in a while. As E.M. Forster said, a reader must sit down alone and struggle with the writer—and, worst luck, for it takes a long time to read a book. We often choose books we will love for sure, according to our tastes. (“I adore baseball, so I’m guaranteed to love The Art of Fielding.”) Or we rely on award-winners and books already sufficiently praised. (A Visit From the Goon Squad won the Pulitzer, so it must be good.”) There are too many books and too little time.
But we ought to be tested on our critical skills often, lest we fall into complacency. It can be easy to classify Gold in the many different ways it is classifiable, and to justify yourself writing it off. “It is an Olympics book, which is not a topic worthy of serious literature.” “It is sentimental, and that is not worthy of my attention.” “It is about cyclists, and I don’t care for sports.” “It is a tearjerker, and who wants to go through that?”
But reading a book like Gold allows us to struggle with the writer. Why is this particular sentimentality bad? Wuthering Heights is sentimental, and many great novels are. How far can you take pathos? Are all novels featuring a child with advanced leukemia necessarily shamelessly capitalizing on tragedy? What makes schmaltz? A well-equipped critical mind can think more about these questions as the eyes roll over the sentences. Gold is a book that’s hard to submit to, because you’re aware of its contrivances and ways it wants to manipulate you. It is the perfect book to fight against—and in the process, sharpen your critical skills. - Jimmy So
Jimmy posted this over on the nwk book club tumblr and we wanted to share with y’all on nwktumblr because, well, damn! This is a great little contemplative tumblr post.
Where, in your everyday existence, is your favorite place to read?
Our official response: the subway. If we can get a seat.
After consulting with our brilliant books editor, we selected 5 titles from our “Best Summer Reads of 2012” list. Now it’s up to YOU to pick which of the 5 we read first. We’ll announce your pick later this week, and let’s plan to start reading next week (July 2nd)!
Here are summaries of the 5 books you can vote for:
Trollopian, Dickensian, Balzacian—all should spring to mind when you pick up John Lanchester’s hefty new novel about near present-day London. Set on a typical (and dear reader, atypical in having a writer as gifted as Lanchester tell its story) London street (Pepys Road), he weaves a rich story about the financial collapse and its impact on financier and graffiti artist alike. We’re all connected by capital.
“Literary thinking relies upon literary memory, and the drama of recognition,” Harold Bloom once wrote. Shipstead’s first novel can be read as an unremarkable Harvard-tinted, golf-club obsessed WASP comedy about a—what else—wedding on a—where else—Cape Cod island. But read past that and it’s clear Shipstead is coming to terms with T.S. Eliot (quoted in the epigraph), Shakespeare, Arthurian legends (chapters include “The Castle of the Maidens” and “The Maimed King”), and other mythologies (“A Centaur” and “The Ouroboros”), and connecting it to the American Camelot. (Even the title “Seating Arrangements” brings to mind the round table.) This is ambitious, but if you grew up in New England, how many times have you sat on your beach chair with The Once and Future Kingand a biography of JFK, purling these mythologies in your sunned head?
There’s a red house over yonder, and just as Jimi Hendrix splintered and exploded the blues while remaining exciting and accessible, Haddon, the author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, has the same tendency on narrative. So it is that the story of Richard, a doctor who invites his sister’s family to stay at his vacation home, is told through the perspectives of eight different people, with almost each paragraph beginning with “Daisy wants happiness…” “Melissa tries to ring…” “Benjamin was crying…” At its best, it resembles a game of “Clue.”
The rotation of the world begins to slow, and the end of days (at least, of 24-hour days) is written not only as the struggle for survival but also a terrible bummer when 11-year-old Julia tries to maintain her crush on hottie Seth Moreno. This debut novel might sound like a cross between The Lovely Bones and Lar von Trier’s film Melancholia, but the conceit is memorable and there are hilarious moments. “We were not required to squeeze our days into twenty-four little hours. No new law was passed or put into place. This was America.”
Incendiary and the mega-million bestseller Little Beedepended on the driving force of plot, and Gold is the same. But the story of three friends eyeing their last chance at a gold medal in track cycling at the 2012 Olympics (and a daughter battling leukemia) is told like one long episode of Law and Order, with each scene prefaced by a date and setting, even including the hilariously imagined “Death Star, 1:55 p.m.” and “Dagobah System, 12:55 p.m.” alternating with the heartbreakingly real “Pediatric intensive care unit, North Manchester General Hospital, 12:35 p.m.” Cleave is at last completely aware of his reliance of contrived events and emotions, just like in a television drama, and there need not be any shame in it.
It’s happening! Get up in our book club, tumblr! You’ve got a few days to vote and tell us which book we’re reading for July. AND! Make sure to follow the NWK Book Club tumblr for updates, discussion points, questions, #readingfaces, etc.