November 19, 2012 marked yet another wonderful chapter in the ongoing saga of the Crandall Public Library Monday Evening Book Discussion Group. The festivities focused on Paula McLain’s historical novel The Paris Wife. It proved the perfect foil for an evening of literary love and learning. Richard “The Professor” Schneider spoke about the relatively new paradigm of reader response criticism, which places heavy emphasis on perception of a work, and casts readers as co-conspirators in the artistic process. Although one might debate the value of reader response as a metric of a literary work’s value, it is, without any doubt whatsoever, the essence of a successful book discussion.
In fact, our discussions often remind me of the fable of the blind men and the elephant. Each of us latching on to a portion of the prose pachyderm, feeling that we truly understand the whole of a written work, but much like the blind men, not fully understanding the business at hand, until it’s illuminated by the light of collaboration.
Of course, mutual respect for the notion that everybody brings something worthwhile to the table is a must, as it fosters the sort of dialogue where all involved feel safe to share their opinion. Such a setting is capable of manifesting muse, of creating a shared synergistic understanding. I think that famed photographer Ansel Adams spoke of much the same thing, when he explained that:
“No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.”
In any case, I don’t believe that the chemistry between members has ever been finer, and the conversation created was equal parts personal, passionate and profound. Bravo! Topics touched on during the course of the evening include the following:
- The Paris Wife: Highbrow Chic Lit
- Hadley Behaving Sadly
- Polyamory Paris Style
- The Lost Generation
- Left Bank Literati
- Polarity: Public Perception Versus Private Persona
- Bullfighting as Metaphor
- Hemingway’s Work: Technical Considerations
- Midnight in Paris
Paris Without End by Gioia Diliberto
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway: The Paris Years by Michael Reynolds
I am looking forward to our final discussion of 2012, which is slated for December 17, and will feature Robin Oliveira’s novel My Name is Mary Sutter. It’s the story of a strong woman during difficult days, tends toward graphic at times, and the faint of heart may want to sit this one out. In any case, I am hoping for a platoon of brave readers to soldier on, as this is a fantastic work of fiction. According to Amazon:
“Rich with historical detail-including cameo appearances by Abraham Lincoln and Dorothea Dix, among others-My Name Is Mary Sutter is certain to be recognized as one of the great novels about the Civil War.”
Oh yeah, did I mention the drawing for a signed first edition of the new James Howard Kunstler book – Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation? All I can say, is that you got to be in it to win it!