What we're about

"Classic lit" goes beyond standard 19th-century English novels. We look for, read, and discuss works of fiction (usually novels, but occasionally plays) that have endured in their genre. The time-frame may be thirty years or three hundred - yes, there ARE modern classics (looking at you, Don DeLillo). Now, that doesn't mean we don't love 19th-century English novels. We just want to challenge ourselves to discover authors and works beyond that narrow (albeit superb) category.

We have two basic rules for book selection: nothing over 400 pages, and nothing out of print. (Personally, I have a "no Russian literature" rule, but the page limit generally takes care of that.) Generally speaking, we have a poll among three or four books that fit a theme, such as "Dystopian Futures" or "Women of the Early American West". Members then vote and the meetup is posted. We try to keep at least two months out so people have time to find and read the selection.

At the end of each discussion, we usually ask for a volunteer to lead the discussion in two months. That person suggests possible themes of interest to him/her/them, and may have some titles in mind; other members may also suggest themes or titles. Eventually the sausage is made: we have a theme. The leader then sends three titles pertaining to that theme to the Organizer, who posts the poll. Sometimes no one volunteers, or we forget because we got to talking about movies, so the Organizer selects a book by fiat, because it is good to be the Queen.

Upcoming events (4)

"Passing" by Nella Larsen (1929)

Needs a location

As Meetup no longer provides polling, I have by fiat chosen the book for February. It is good to be the queen.

Set primarily in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City in the 1920s, the story centers on the reunion of two childhood friends — Clare Kendry and Irene Redfield — and their increasing fascination with each other's lives. The title refers to the practice of "racial passing,” and is a key element of the novel. Clare Kendry's attempt to pass as white for her husband, John (Jack) Bellew, is a significant depiction in the novel and a catalyst for the tragic events.

Larsen's exploration of race was informed by her own mixed racial heritage and the increasingly common practice of racial passing in the 1920s. Having been widely praised upon publication, the novel has since been celebrated in modern scholarship for its complex depiction of race, gender, and sexuality, and the book is the subject of considerable scholarly criticism. As one of only two novels that Larsen wrote, the novel has been significant in placing its author at the forefront of several literary canons.

Claudia Tate, a noted literary critic and Professor of English and African-American Studies at Princeton, noted, "Though 'Passing' does indeed relate the tragic fate of a mulatto who passes for white, it also centers on jealousy, psychological ambiguity and intrigue. By focusing on the latter elements, Passing is transformed from an anachronistic, melodramatic novel into a skillfully executed and enduring work of art."

Other scholars have discussed the novel's treatment of motherhood, social class, and eugenic ideology

A 2021 adaptation available on Netflix is generating renewed interest in the book.
The text is available to read online on a number of sites.

VNSA Used Book Sale - Day 1

Needs a location

It's the big one! The 65th Annual VNSA Used Book Sale is on!

Saturday, Feb. 12, 8:00 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 13, 8:00 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Arizona State Fairgrounds, Ag Building.
(https://maps.app.goo.gl/SWpNic4V5anxzs7x9)

ADMISSION
Admission to the VNSA Book Sale is free. Please be aware that the Arizona State Fairgrounds charges a parking fee that supports the Fairgrounds. VNSA does not receive any money from parking fees.

No food, pets, or weapons are permitted in the VNSA Book Sale.

PRICING
VNSA sells hundreds of thousands of books, media, and other related items at prices significantly reduced from retail prices. Except for books in the Sets Area, books are marked with a price sticker on the spine, upper right cover and/or inside the front cover. All unmarked standard-size paperbacks are $2.00.

All items are half-price all day Sunday (except for the books in Rare & Unusual).

FAQs about the VNSA Book Sale: https://vnsabooksale.org/faqs/

VNSA Used Book Sale - Half-price Day

Needs a location

It's the big one! The 65th Annual VNSA Used Book Sale is on!

Sunday, Feb. 13, 8:00 a.m. to 4 p.m. - Half-price Day!

Arizona State Fairgrounds, Ag Building.
(https://maps.app.goo.gl/SWpNic4V5anxzs7x9)

ADMISSION
Admission to the VNSA Book Sale is free. Please be aware that the Arizona State Fairgrounds charges a parking fee that supports the Fairgrounds. VNSA does not receive any money from parking fees.

No food, pets, or weapons are permitted in the VNSA Book Sale.

PRICING
VNSA sells hundreds of thousands of books, media, and other related items at prices significantly reduced from retail prices. Except for books in the Sets Area, books are marked with a price sticker on the spine, upper right cover and/or inside the front cover. All unmarked standard-size paperbacks are $2.00.

All items are half-price all day Sunday (except for the books in Rare & Unusual).

FAQs about the VNSA Book Sale: https://vnsabooksale.org/faqs/

Call for titles: which Irish-themed book should we read for March?

Needs a location

Ron has quite sensibly suggested that we read something Irish for the March meetup. Our tentative choice is Edna O'Brien's "The Country Girls" (1960), the first volume of The Country Girls Trilogy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Country_Girls. The novel is "an exploration of the trials and tribulations of two friends set against the backdrop of 1950s Ireland, showing the influence of James Joyce in the humane attention to detail and thought and the rather lyrical prose of the narrator Cait." The book shocked and infuriated Irish readers with its frank sexual imagery and its critiques of the country and its government. Banned in Irland: check. Publicly burned in O'Brien's hometown, check. Praised and condemned by both feminists and anti-feminists, check.

If you have other suggestions, please post them in this Comments section. Remember our guidelines: 400 pages max (okay, if it's 405 we'll get a dispensation from the Pope), and in print at a reasonable price or available in the public domain. Please submit by Saturday, January 22nd.

You can of course comment on another member's suggestions but do be civil. Or if not, be clever.

And no, we're not reading Joyce. One, his books are too long; two, we've already read Dubliners and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and three, I concur with these assessments of him and his work:

“A poor dotty Irishman called James Joyce, who was thought to be a great influence in my youth… wrote absolute rot.” — Evelyn Waugh

“Ulysses could have done with a good editor.” — Roddy Doyle

“My God, what a clumsy olla putrida James Joyce is! Nothing but old fags and cabbage stumps of quotations from the Bible and the rest stewed in the juice of deliberate, journalistic dirty-mindedness.” — D.H. Lawrence

“He’s a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples.” — Virginia Woolf

“I declare to god, if I hear that name Joyce one more time I will surely froth at the gob.” — Flann O’Brien

And finally, from his wife:
“Why don’t you write books people can read?” — Nora Joyce, to her husband.

Past events (121)

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

Needs a location

Photos (4)