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What makes a monster a monster? And heroes - what makes a hero? And what do the monsters think of us? Are we monsters to them?
Join us as we read three relatively short books that can challenge our thinking, if we're willing. Read just one, or, preferably, all three. And from what I've read about them, the introductions are not to be missed!
Beowulf by Maria Dahvana Headley -
"Nearly twenty years after Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf--and fifty years after the translation that continues to torment high-school students around the world--there is a radical new verse translation of the epic poem by Maria Dahvana Headley, which brings to light elements that have never before been translated into English, re-contextualizing the binary narrative of monsters and heroes into a tale in which the two categories often entwine, justice is rarely served, and dragons live among us..."
~ Publisher's comments
Grendel by John Gardner -
The first and most terrifying monster in English literature, from the great early epic BEOWULF, tells his side of the story.
"Wonderful. I read this twenty-five years ago... Reading it now, knowing more details of the story, I find it marvelous. Gardner not only made the villain of the old poem into a fascinating and even likeable monster, he created a whole world populated with brilliant nihilistic dragons and Bards whose songs had the power to shape reality. Oh, but Grendel himself - self-pitying, self-mocking, part Hamlet, part Caliban - is one of the greatest characters of all."
~ Reader comment from KCLS Library website
Mrs. Caliban by Rachel Ingalls -
"In the quiet suburbs, while Dorothy is doing chores and waiting for her husband to come home from work, not in the least anticipating romance, she hears a strange radio announcement about a monster who has just escaped from the Institute for Oceanographic Research ... Reviewers have compared Rachel Ingalls's Mrs. Caliban to King Kong, Edgar Allan Poe's stories, the films of David Lynch, Beauty and the Beast, The Wizard of Oz, E.T., Richard Yates's domestic realism, B-horror movies, and the fairy tales of Angela Carter--how such a short novel could contain all of these disparate elements is a testament to its startling and singular charm."
~ from the KCLS website summary
As always, if you RSVP as a "yes" and then realize you won't be able to attend after all, please update your attendance status on this site so that we know not to expect you. Thanks.
Our theme book for this year is The Brothers Karamazov, conveniently divided into four parts, and an epilogue, that are not equal in length, alas. Please do your best to get the translation done by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. The New York Times Book Review lauds this translation with "One finally gets the musical whole of Dostoevsky's original." Let's enjoy that bit.
For this third session, let's read Books Nine through Eleven, to the end of chapter 10 - "He said that"
"Dostoyevsky KNOWS how to write excellent characters, and he KNOWS how to convey ideas that will grip you and toss you on your back. There's a lot of religion, philosophy, and spirituality on these pages, nestled in an honestly thrilling crime drama (though the crime takes place 3/4 way through the book)." ~ Reader review on KCLS websit
"Set in 19th-century Russia, The Brothers Karamazov is a passionate philosophical novel that enters deeply into questions of God, free will, and morality. It is a theological drama dealing with problems of faith, doubt and reason in the context of a modernizing Russia, with a plot that revolves around the subject of patricide. Dostoevsky composed much of the novel in Staraya Russa, which inspired the main setting. It has been acclaimed as one of the supreme achievements in world literature." ~ from the Wikipedia entry for The Brothers Karamazov
Sounds like there will be lots to discuss each time! I’ve listened some of them at the end of this description, to get creative juices flowing.
As always, if you RSVP as a "yes," and then realize you won't be able to make it after all, please update your attendance on this site so that we know not to expect you. Thanks.
Photo: Brandon Morgan / Unsplash
Penelope Fitzgerald launched her literary career at the age of 58 after co-editing a magazine and teaching, which she continued to do until she was 70. She started her literary career with scholarly biographies and then books tied to her own experiences in life. The Blue Flower was her final novel, won the National Book Critics Circle award in 1977 and has been called her masterpiece. ~ Information gleaned from Wikipedia
"An entirely original work, unlike any novel I've ever read. Though it's set in 18th century Saxony and includes some wonderfully tactile details of life in that time and place, The Blue Flower isn't a "historical novel." It's more concerned with conveying the interior state of poet and philosopher Friedrich von Hardenberg (Novalis). Fitzgerald pens some beautiful, cinematic passages that mimic Novalis' romantic, mystical frame of mind. In Fitzgerald's hands, Novalis' love for a common 12-year-old girl is rendered as the mystery that it is, a reflection of his perception that's not entirely of this world. Particularly stunning is a chapter in which Novalis is walking in a graveyard and sees a vision. "The external world is the world of shadows," he reflects, "The universe, after all, is within us. The way leads inwards, always inwards." ~ Reader comment from the KCLS website
As always, if you RSVP as a yes and then cannot attend after all, please update your attendance status on this site so that we know not to expect you. Thanks.
(Length of time for discussion is approximate.)
Photo by Yousef Espanioly / Unsplash
"'Fathers and Sons' is the powerful, classic novel of ideas in which Bazarov and his friend Arkady, two members of the generation of young Russians, confront and dispute with Arkady's father, Nikolai Kirsanov, and Nikolai's brother, Pavel, about everything: art, science, love, marriage, progress, history, wealth and poverty. In Bazarov, the novel's protagonist, Turgenev creates literature's most famous nihilist, and one of the first and finest in a long literary line of angry young men. The interaction of Bazarov with his friends, his friends' parents, his own parents, and the woman on whom he bestows his unrequited love is provocative, fascinating, and timeless in the psychological truths it unveils." ~ Note from KCLS website
"Did Turgenev deliberately set out to create in Barazov an objectionable protagonist, or as sometimes happens in literature, did he allow his character to take on a life of his own, leaving his creator struggling to keep up? ...The fellow is rude, arrogant, bloody-minded and totally enamored with what he perceives as his unique insight into the affairs of mankind. He is mentally lazy: simply rejecting all social values requires no thought. Barazov seems eminently suited for a life in politics, where mouthing empty slogans is a recipe for success...
"Mercifully, Turgenev populated his novel with a range of far more appealing characters and he draws wonderful pictures of country life in old Russia." ~ Reader comment from KCLS website
As always, if you RSVP as a "yes" and then realize you won't be able to attend after all, please update your attendance on this site so that we know not to expect you. Thanks
(Length of time for discussion is approximate.)
Photo by Matheus Ferrero / Unsplash