Book Club: Our July and August books are... (drum roll)

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by kholmes, Jun 29, 2007.

  1. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    TEACHER MAN, by Frank McCourt for July. McCourt is most famous for his memoirs of growing up in Limerick, Ireland, ANGELA'S ASHES. But he was a teacher in New York's public schools for 30 years, and TEACHER MAN is about his experiences there. McCourt is a terrific, deceptively simple writer.

    Here's a teacher joke:

    What are the three best reasons to be a teacher?
    June, July, and August.

    For August, as Molly suggested, let's go with Barbara Kingsolver's new book, ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE. This one is in high demand; I would get on the library hold list as soon as possible unless you're planning to buy it. It's about Kingsolver's family's attempts to grow their food and live off the land on a farm in Virginia's Appalachian Mountains. This one is getting excellent reviews on Amazon.

    [This Message was Edited on 06/30/2007]
  2. sisland

    sisland New Member

    I'm headin' to the Library Ken! or as we used to say when we were kids (Libary),,,,,,,,,Sydney,,,lol on the june july and august joke!
  3. Rosiebud

    Rosiebud New Member

    I've got McCourt's book on hold at the library and having August' title already, means I can get them to order it for me.

    Loved the joke.

  4. mollystwin

    mollystwin New Member

    I'm psyched to read these books. I already ordered the Kingsolver book. Now I just have to get my hands on "Teacher Man".

    Loved the joke!!!
  5. Marta608

    Marta608 Member

    I should be caught up by August.

    Good one, Ken.

  6. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    I'll put them on hold as soon as I can get to the library. Used to be I could put books on hold from my computer, but now my computer and the library computer are estranged. Don't talk to each other anymore.

    My mother was always pestering me to read Angela's Ashes. I was too polite to explain to her I don't read books about children who are abused, live in poverty, etc. Brings back too many memories of my own terrible childhood.

    I bet the three reasons joke is old, Ken, but I never heard it before. I remember the feeling at the end of the school year. No More School till next fall! That was years away. Made me happier than Christmas! (Christmas at our house was a drunken, dysfunctional brouhaha.)

    Just started a bio by a writer named Jonathan Franzen. If it's good I'll look at some of his novels.

    Happy leafing, Everydobby


  7. mollystwin

    mollystwin New Member

    Angela's Ashes was a pretty intense book. I remember crying at many points throughout. But it was well written and I'm glad I read it. Can understand why you didn't want to though.

    I think we will all like "Teacher Man". I'm looking forward to reading it.

  8. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    Just got my copy of Teacher Man at the library today. They were fast; I just put it on hold yesterday!

    Teacher Man is considerably lighter going than Angela's Ashes.
  9. sisland

    sisland New Member

    Just thought i'd let you know that Frank MCcourt has another book in the middle called "Tis" the librarian told me today when i picked up Teacher man,,,,,Sis
  10. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    I had heard of his middle book in the trilogy, 'TIS, but I didn't know what it was about. Thanks.
  11. sisland

    sisland New Member

    Can you order it from the Library or on line? I know this one is so good ,,,,,i'll have to get the other 2 also!,,,,s
  12. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    I finally got and read Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. At least I read until I realized the elephant was going to be murdered. Then I quit.

    Now then, Ken, oh mighty poser of stiumulating questions. Why did the author write the story as memories of an old man? Why not just tell the story in a straight forward manner? A novel w/ a historical background.

    That is what Elmore Leonard did in his latest book. It is set during ca. WWII and it is his worst book IMHO. All the color and zip in his other books are missing from this one.

  13. Marta608

    Marta608 Member

    I also finished Water for Elephants and must say I enjoyed it in spite of some dire reminders of aging. The elephant didn't get killed, Rock, so maybe you can finish the book.

    While I understand Rocky's thoughts about "the old man's point of view", I think we too often disregard and disrespect the aged which is one reason aging is so hard. I loved the ending of this book. Hint, hint, Rocky.....

    Sorry to drag us back to what? June or July? but good books never go out of style.

  14. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    Well, it occurred to me that maybe the elephant didn't get killed but the clues were there. Not only the story but the epilogue. But it was one of those catch 22 situations. In order to be sure I'd have to read the part I probably didn't want to read.

    (The great inventor T.A. Edison was once involved in the killing of an elephant as well as the first electric chair execution. He wanted to show people alternating current was dangerous.)

    Ok, so now I can finish the book.

    Just found an old Lena and Ole joke book. Ole has figured out the secret of eternal life. He's going to pay a fortune teller to advise the place where he will die. Then he simply won't go there.

    Thanks and ha det bra

  15. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    Glad you finished it, Marta! Better late than never, unless, as Rock says, you're waiting for a pardon from the governor.

    I've seen a film clip of Edison's electrocution of the elephant that you're referring to, Rock. It was heartbreaking. I think the clip was part of a film that Paul and Linda McCartney had made, showing cruelty to animals in order to advocate for animal rights.

    Hmm...why was WATER FOR ELEPHANTS told as a series of flashbacks, instead of just as a straightforward narrative? Good question. The frame story is an age-old device. I think of the Canterbury Tales or the Arabian Nights. And a lot of contemporary novels and movies use flashbacks. Thomas Berger's 70's novel, Little Big Man, does this very well, as does the movie, Forrest Gump--though Forrest isn't old. The frame provides a contemporary perspective on the past as not just history, but individual memory. In Water for Elephants, the narrative focuses as much on an old man's memories of his youth, and maybe how they've made him who he is now. Sometimes I get irritated with this structure and would prefer a straightforward narrative, but in this case, I think Gruen adds a poignant and interesting layer to the story. By putting us in the mind of the old man, she gives us a more thoughtful, reflexive perspective than if she simply recounted the 1930s events.

    I just finished reading Mitch Albom's most recent book, FOR ONE MORE DAY. He does the same thing, and it's fairly effective.

    I also like your notion, Marta, that the book suggests that old people shouldn't be cast aside by society. The chances are good that most people in their 80s or 90s have at least one amazing story to tell.

    Here's a question for you both: how would you explain the difference between plot and story?
    [This Message was Edited on 07/05/2007]
  16. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    The Secret of Santa Vittoria? About 40 years ago. It was a best seller and was made into a movie w/ Anthony Quinn, inter alia.

    Aside: Dispite his Irish name Quinn was from Mexico but lived part of his youth right here in my neighborhood. Spent his career playing ethnics: Mexicans, Italians, Arabs, Greeks, etc.

    Anyway, the author of Santa Vittoria set the book in an Italian village during WWII. The narrator was an American. the author said in an interview that he did this so if there were any mistakes, they could be blamed on the ignorance of the American pilot rather than on the author.

    The worst example I've seen of this was the recent book by Larry McMurtray. The book includes the most famous shootout in the old west, at the O K Corral. But some historians are now saying the gunfight took place on the street, not in the corral itself. And there has always been a dispute about which side opened fire first.

    McMurtray smudges and evades by having the narrator, a girl, say she can't see over the heads of the men and doesn't know what's going on. What a cop out! Why bother to write the book anyway?

    And you can do the same thing if if your narrator is old. E.g., he got the details of the Rooseveldt assassination attempt wrong due to a failing memory. This is better than having the mistakes blamed on the author's faulty research.

    Another aside: how many people in this country even know there was an assassination attempt on FDR? And the mayor of what city was killed?

    Enought asides: this is a P.S. The killer was arrested on the spot, tried and executed the following month. How different from today. Ken's friend in his book Freakonomics says the death rate is lower on death row than outside the prison.

    So there you have it, boys and girls. And now it's time for Christopher Robin and me to take a walk in the forest and see if there are any heffalumps about.


  17. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    I had heard about the assassination attempt on FDR, but didn't know the details, except that it happened in Miami in the mid-30s. Just looked up more about it and found out that the mayor who was killed was from Chicago. Five people were injured. The assassin was an Italian immigrant named Giuseppe Zangara, who suffered from stomach pains and said, "I don't like no peoples." Roosevelt was probably somewhat protected because he spoke from the back of rail cars instead of a podium because of his disability. Imagine all of this happening in the age of TV and the internet.

    I was watching the musical, 1776, on TV last night and realized how little I know about the signers of the Declaration of Independence, except Jefferson and Franklin. We tend to think that George Washington and Paul Revere did all of the fighting, and these men were stuffy aristocrats (i.e. in the famous painting). But many of them didn't fare well after the signing. I'm checking out David Mcullough's book, 1776, to find out more.

    I agree; to blame lazy research for a novel on an unreliable narrator is inexcusable. Larry McMurtry is an otherwise fine writer. In the case of Water for Elephants, though, I think Gruen really did her homework, but wanted to add a layer of nostalgia and poignant memory. I just read Mitch Albom's latest, FOR ONE MORE DAY, and he also uses the flashbacks of an older narrator, who tells the story of his career in baseball and his relationship with his mother and father. Albom can be sentimental and moralistic, but the strategy was fairly effective in this book and there's a fine payoff in the end.

    Interesting that Laura Hillenbrand didn't use the frame story for SEABISCUIT. No flashbacks there; just intercutting of narrative. She definitely did her homework.

    Okay, Rock: what's the difference between story and plot? (A professor in college once asked me this).

    [This Message was Edited on 07/05/2007]
  18. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    Story and plot. OK, Ken. They are the same thing from a semantic point of view. Just checked my dictionary. Each one is used to define the other.

    Of course a college prof. might have a more technical definition. "Plot" could involve aspects such as flashbacks, foreshadowing, the double plot that eventually comes together (ala Edgar Rice Burroughs), the separate chapters for several people who all eventually connect (ala Maeve Binchy,) etc.

    What did your prof say?

    Oh yeah, I put the upcoming books on hold. On one of them I am number 161. There are 3 dozen copies. If 36 people take an average of 2 and a half weeks to read one medium-size novel, let me see, deduct line 32, which train will get to New York first?

  19. Marta608

    Marta608 Member

    First of all, in simple terms, a plot is the plan/outline for the book and the story is the telling of it, the fleshing out of the plot. How'd I do?

    Intersting things you both wrote about the D of I. I've never been much of a history buff until lately. Must be because I'm blending into it more. :>/

    Still waiting for the Kingsolver book. I'm not a McCourt fan so I haven't ordered that but I did read The Road by Cormac McCarthy and got appropriately depressed as a result.

  20. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    My professor said that story is simply the chronological narrative of events: A happened, then B happened, then C happened, in that order.

    Plot is the way the author artistically organizes or arranges the events of the story (thus allowing for flashbacks, narrators in the present, interweaving of time and place, etc...) This adds dramatic, thematic, or emotional significance.

    Ok, I have another question for you. The film director, Alfred Hitchcock, said that in a good movie, suspense was far preferable to surprise. What's the difference?

    [This Message was Edited on 07/08/2007]