Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Assistant

by Bernard Malamud

Dorian: I love his stories and am teaching them extensively this semester, but I have never read any of his novels. Time to rectify that omission with all of you.

Tyler: About a third of the way in.  Malamud seems to keep the narration at arms length from the characters. We are privy to some of their thoughts and feelings, but it seems that they all (with the possible exception of Helen) are not particularly self aware. They do not seem in control of their lives, but are pushed here and there by fate - and this creates a somber tone. It is also very visual - easy to see in the mind's movie theatre.

     He asked were what book she was reading.
     "The Idiot. Do you know it?"
     "No. What's it about?"
     "It's a novel."
     "I'd rather read the truth," he said
     "It is the truth."

Tyler: (Something of a spoiler alert - something of a warning). At close to 3/4 in, there is an incident that I found very difficult to read.  In fact I had to put the book down for a while. There are some ugly things in this world I know exist but I try to forget about...perhaps it is wrong of me. Perhaps when we ignore these things it creates the environment that allows them to continue. I admire this book for it's willingness to expose dark truths...but I would caution you all to be ready for some heavy shit. I'm going to watch youtube clips of cute kittens now.

Saturday, October 10, 2015


by Tim Powers

Eric: Best magical realism/Cold War spy novel I've read in some time.

Friday, October 9, 2015


by Marjane Satrapi

Janis picked because she thought it would be good to have a book by a woman (nobody else picked one) and a graphic novel might be good. She had never read it and this might be a good chance to hear what other people think.

Tyler - I'm about a quarter of the way in and I'm quite captivated. Like many people my age (just a bit older than the author), I saw images of the Iranian revolution on television and had little idea what was behind all of it. It has me thinking a lot about how effective government works; that it is not simply a question of democracy vs autocracy, but a system of checks and balances. It is impossible for a Canadian reading Satrapi's account of how she was made to wear the veil, and not think of our last government's attempt to ban niqabs from citizenship ceremonies. While many will see it as a triumph of democracy that the government was voted out, it was actually the supreme court that defended the rights of the citizens. So...anyway...yeah, I like the book.

Tyler- I just finished. Wow. Satrapi achieves a wonderful balance in her story-telling; something very personal, but that anyone could identify with. Perhaps part of the reason it is so effective is that the reader learning about the history of Iran is put in a similar position to young Marjane, who has to filter though propaganda to get a sense of the truth. Or something. I can't put my finger on it and really it's simply a matter of really good story telling. It seems very honest.

Tyler - I just read the second Persepolis book. Maybe better than the first.