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Book Club

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Re: Book Club

Postby shootist » Thu Dec 01, 2016 2:39 pm

atticus wrote:The film is a Hollywood bastardisation. You should not regard a trailer for the movie as an advertisement for the novel.

May we conclude that your only exposure to literature is through the movies?


That would be a bloody silly conclusion, but feel free if it suits you.

The trailer supplies a most unfortunate association. As the saying goes, some things just cannot be unseen.
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Re: Book Club

Postby atticus » Thu Dec 01, 2016 3:24 pm

Why not add Captain Corelli to your reading list; you can report on it after you have finished Atonement.
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Re: Book Club

Postby shootist » Thu Dec 01, 2016 6:49 pm

atticus wrote:Why not add Captain Corelli to your reading list; you can report on it after you have finished Atonement.


I'm not sure I can summon the mental strength to avoid seeing Nicholas Cage's incomparably dismal despondent depressing face every time the character gives voice. I might try for all that if you will in turn read a Heinlein book of my choice.

I will not read Atonement. I have read a summary of the novel, which broadly accords with the film. It confirms the spineless, cowardly, self serving, and thoroughly contemptible attitude of Briony in the writing of her novel, which seems to be treated as somehow a 'nice' thing to do. If some white haired old author sweetly explained why she wrote the novel the way she did I do believe I would find it difficult not to spit in her eye.
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Re: Book Club

Postby Smouldering Stoat » Thu Dec 01, 2016 7:24 pm

Ian McEwan's novels are meant to be challenging*. Briony's actions may be loathsome, and her way of dealing with it in the future self-serving, but that's rather the point: we're meant to reflect on the nature of atonement. Has Briony atoned for her earlier actions? Are her actions, in fact, anything for which she ought to be required to atone? She may be an unpleasant character to have as the leading character of a novel, but in real life people are complex, sometimes unlikeable, and we act from mixed motives and try to justify ourselves after the event. It's not meant to be a fairy story.

*History does not record whether he has been driven to write difficult fiction by the experience of being taught maths by Atti's mother.
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Re: Book Club

Postby shootist » Thu Dec 01, 2016 8:26 pm

Smouldering Stoat wrote:Ian McEwan's novels are meant to be challenging*. Briony's actions may be loathsome, and her way of dealing with it in the future self-serving, but that's rather the point: we're meant to reflect on the nature of atonement. Has Briony atoned for her earlier actions? Are her actions, in fact, anything for which she ought to be required to atone? She may be an unpleasant character to have as the leading character of a novel, but in real life people are complex, sometimes unlikeable, and we act from mixed motives and try to justify ourselves after the event. It's not meant to be a fairy story.

*History does not record whether he has been driven to write difficult fiction by the experience of being taught maths by Atti's mother.


I really mean it when I say thanks for making the effort to discuss this novel. To me that is a little like avant garde modern jazz. It seems to exist mostly so that pretentious prats can explain how you have to understand the 'music' in order to appreciate it, as if somehow only the intellectually superior can do so. Good music, and good novels, should drag the reader in and hold him there till the end. Why on earth is there some need to reflect upon the bleeding obvious? Briony's actions are loathsome in the beginning, but anyone can make a mistake. The real awfulness is that she continues to magnify this loathsomeness throughout her life then suggests she has somehow atoned by writing a story that amounts to her saying "The big boy did it but he's said sorry so it's alright now." She has no need to atone if she doesn't give a damn, none of us do, but her self satisfied saccharine solution is enough to cause vomiting.

Some classic tales I have always had difficulty in appreciating. "Gone With The Wind." is one that comes to mind. A great love story that revolves around a self obsessed God awful woman of the worst kind. OTOH, Wuthering Heights is a dark tale of obsession and woe that illustrates with drama that indeed, some people are complex, unlikeable, and that life is often no fairy story. Or perhaps "The Cruel Sea." Certainly far away from being a fairy tale, a riveting read.
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Re: Book Club

Postby dls » Thu Dec 01, 2016 8:59 pm

I have over the last few years tries several booker club and similar winners. I will not names names, but I recognise in them something of which Shooter speaks.

I have come to the conclusion that I do not owe an author anything. I do not ask for instant gratification or even not to be challenged, but if after ten pages I am still feeling that this is a load of self obsessed tripe, I feel quite ready to give up. I do not ask for my money back, but he or she will get no more.
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Re: Book Club

Postby shootist » Thu Dec 01, 2016 9:17 pm

One of the most interesting works of fiction I have read (Neither the Bible nor the Koran were that interesting) was "Satanic Verses." When Salman Rushdie received his death sentence I immediately ransacked the local bookshops until I found one that would allow me to smuggle it out in a plain brown wrapper. I found it amusing in parts but mostly dull and uninspiring to the point of tedium. What was interesting was the description of Islamic history at the beginning. While there was probably some literary liberties, it seems in the light of a bit of research passably accurate. However, it defeated me and I gave up after about three quarters of the way through. It now stands in the centre of my main set of book shelves as a statement about freedom of speech rather than any literary tribute.
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Re: Book Club

Postby atticus » Thu Dec 01, 2016 10:14 pm

I read the atonement as commencing in the 1940 section. Briony is already wanting to make amends to her sister and her young man for what she had done as a child.

Maybe the film was not a faithful representation of the book.
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Re: Book Club

Postby atticus » Sat Jan 21, 2017 7:11 pm

I have just read The Hungarian Who Walked To Heaven, by Edward Fox. This is a short (about 90 pages) biography of Alexander Csoma de Körös, a Szekely Hungarian from an area of Transylvania now in Romania. In the 1830s Csoma walked through the Middle East and India, seeking to prove that Hungarians were descended from Uigur tribes in north west China.

He never made it to China. However, he spent years in Ladakh, and became the first European to learn the Tibetan language, writing a dictionary and an encyclopaedia of Tibetan literature.

A short book, a fascinating life.
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Re: Book Club

Postby tph » Sun Jan 22, 2017 9:32 am

shootist wrote:One of the most interesting works of fiction I have read (Neither the Bible nor the Koran were that interesting) was "Satanic Verses." When Salman Rushdie received his death sentence I immediately ransacked the local bookshops until I found one that would allow me to smuggle it out in a plain brown wrapper. I found it amusing in parts but mostly dull and uninspiring to the point of tedium. What was interesting was the description of Islamic history at the beginning. While there was probably some literary liberties, it seems in the light of a bit of research passably accurate. However, it defeated me and I gave up after about three quarters of the way through. It now stands in the centre of my main set of book shelves as a statement about freedom of speech rather than any literary tribute.


I have read the Satanic Verses and could not see what all the fuss was about. Midnight's Children is a good read as well.
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