Book club: time to discuss ONE MISSISSIPPI

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by kholmes, Jan 27, 2008.

  1. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    Hello, one and all. What did you think of this book? I finished a few weeks ago and I've started MIDDLESEX, our February book, so I've forgotten a lot of it already. I greatly enjoyed the book and Childress's style, and found a lot of good observations about race and the painful high school experience. I enjoyed the dark humor in the novel. I remember thinking, though, that the Columbine-style ending was a bit heavy-handed. I also wondered why Daniel found Tim so funny. He just seemed mean and creepy to me from the beginning. Of course, I didn't always choose the best friends when I was in high school.

    I don't want to overwhelm you, but to get discussion going, I found these study questions online and have decided to post all of them. Feel free to address any one of these, or talk about anything you want related to the book. No need for essays here; short responses are okay, too. Anything goes--and new members always welcome!


    1. When Daniel Musgrove learns that his family is moving from Indiana to Mississippi, he angrily muses that "there was nothing down there but redneck sheriffs and protesting Negroes and civil rights workers buried in earthen dams" (page 6). Are his perceptions of the South proved correct in any way? At the end of the novel, do you think Daniel would describe the South differently?

    2. Tim and Daniel spent their early years in very different communities, and grew up in quite different families. Why is their friendship such a strong one? What do they have in common?

    3. What was your reaction when Arnita — fresh out of a coma — announced her new identity? Do you think she truly believed what she said, or were there other reasons for her insistence? Why was Arnita's speech to the school so provocative to both black and white students in the audience?

    4. In an interview Mark Childress once said about readers of One Mississippi he encounters: "Everyone [tells] me about their own high school experiences, and that is exactly what I wanted. I wanted the book to remind you what it was like to be sixteen." What was your high school experience like? Did parts of this novel make you feel nostalgic for the early 1970s? What do you miss about those days? What don't you miss?

    5. Tim harbors a secret throughout the novel that propels him to the book's explosive conclusion. Did learning his secret help you feel sympathy for his choices throughout the book — especially regarding Arnita and Eddie? What did you think of Daniel's reaction to Tim's revelation?

    6. Daniel has a fraught relationship with his father. What do you think motivates Mr. Musgrove to be so hard on his younger son? Have they reached any kind of mutual understanding by the end of the book, or is this just a temporary reprieve? How do you think their relationship will develop from here on in?

    7. Do you think everyone in the novel feels guilty about something? Do you think anyone in the novel is completely innocent? Trace the lines of guilt that connect the characters to each other and each other's secrets.

    8. Mr. Waxman's students devoted much time to preparing for the All-State band competition, so the black students' protest during the competition itself was especially upsetting to many of their white classmates. Do you feel the protest was justified? How did Daniel's perception of this protest change as he considered both sides of the debate?

    9. One Mississippi ends in a shocking way. What unexpected sides of Tim's and Daniel's characters are ultimately revealed? Might anything have averted the events at the school in the final scene?

    [This Message was Edited on 01/28/2008]
  2. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    previously posted:

    "I started it too, and liked it very much. But then the plot started to get ugly so I moved on to something less abrasive.
    In this case a book by Barbara Pym (recommended by Barry)."

    Have been reading various other books.

    "Nudie" is not about expanses of skin, but the modified version of "Nuta", first name of a Russian immigrant who became the flashiest tailor in the business. He made those colorful costumes for Roy Rogers, et. al.

    The book is mostly pictures of various celebrities clad in his colorful creations: Gene Autry, Dale Evans, Elvis, Hank Snow, Johnny Cash, Ricky Nelson, Elton John, and of course, Glen Campbell.

    "Hollywood Then and Now" is also a picture book. Famous sights from the past and what is at that site now. For example the famous nightclub The Coconut Grove was located in the Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Blvd.

    I used to work across the street. Somewhere I have an old LP of someone (Vic Damone?) singing at the Coconut Grove. One of my coworkers told me he took his wife there during the Depression. They had dinner and drinks. The bill was under $5.

    The Coconut Grove was the venue for the Academy Awards several times. another of my coworkers was at the Ambassador Hotel in l968 when Robert kennedy was assassinated. The police kept everyone there for hours.

    In the 70s I used to take my mother to the colorful buffet lunch at the Ambassador. Good food and ice sculptures; what more could one want?


    [This Message was Edited on 01/29/2008]
  3. mollystwin

    mollystwin New Member

    I've not been on much and just noticed this book club post.

    It's been so long since I've read it, so I hope I can remember. One thing that I remember about the book is Daniel's relationship with his dad. His dad seemed so hard hearted, it made me sad. Then at the end he pulled through for his son and got things together with the job and move and everything. He did it for Daniel and I would like to think that it is not just a temporary repreive. They will have their problems, but not like before.

    There are a lot of eye openers and thought provoking things that happen in the book.

    The band director should have handled things differently for sure. I think the protest was justified!!!

    The ending was too extreme for me. I guess a lot of things were extreme in the book. The shootings, the hit and run with Arnita, the wierd house the family moved into at the drive in, Tim's secret, Arnita thinking she is white after the coma etc.

    Just rambling here. What did everyone else think??

  4. Toga

    Toga Member

    But so thought-provoking. All the relationships were so complicated.

    And it was weird also. I guessed pretty early in the book that the main character's best friend was gay. (I can't even remember their names right now.)

    I couldn't believe he didn't see it.

    And the father burning the house, that was scary.

    All the characters were so huge and complicated. It really made you think.

    I couldn't believe all the bad things the characters did and didn't get caught or punished.

    I am really interested in other people's reaction to this book. When I was finished I wanted to read it again and try to figure these people out.

  5. desertlass

    desertlass New Member

    I came back to the board here, because I finished Middlesex! Whewie! What an incredible and incredibly looonnnnnggggg book. But to me, worth it!

    I read a few portions out loud to my husband, and he got interested in it, and wanted to read it himself. Then we started fighting over it, so then we took turns reading it to each other as we did stuff, when both of us wanted to have it.

    (Okay, mostly me reading to the poor man while he does most of the chores :( I have CFS/FM, so I try to be the morale officer)

    So, did I miss the discussion, or was it moved up to February?

    I will check back.

    I hope everyone enjoys it. I followed it by starting to read "The Mermaid Chair" by Sue Monk Kidd.

    I thought it was extremely thin, and I could predict everything that was going to happen. It's like she is trying out a formula for "Southern writer"-- but after the depth of Middlesex, it just doesn't do that much as far as opening our eyes to a new world or culture.

    I know you guys discussed The Secret Life of Bees, a while back, and that was better, but don't waste your time on Mermaid.

    So, I will wait until February--

    I see that something unfortunate happened here. I hope you all weather it and continue with your lovely community here.

    I sort of overdosed on medical research last year, so I have been taking a break, and doing the unthinkable, which is to follow my doctor's strategy for me, and leave it at that for a while. Gasp, I know!

    But, I still have a bunch of people stuck in the Southern part of the U.S. from Road Trip 2, and so we need to get a moveon. But I am not going anywhere without Elaine!

    Catch all of you fine people later.
  6. mollystwin

    mollystwin New Member

    We are discussing Middlesex later after everyone has a chance to finish it. Because it was such a long book!!! So be sure to check back!!!

  7. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    Thanks, Clubbers, for the feedback so far, except for Rockgor, who's off reminiscing about the Coconut Grove and the Ambassador Hotel. :) (I wish they hadn't razed the Ambassador Hotel, Rock; I would have liked to see it). Reminds me of the classic I LOVE LUCY episodes where Ricky, Lucy, Fred, and Ethel take a trip to Hollywood. By the way, Rock, I found an interesting book at the library called HOLLYWOOD AND CRIME: ORIGINAL CRIME STORIES SET DURING THE HISTORY OF HOLLYWOOOD. It's a collection of short stories by various authors.

    Glad you're joining us, Toga and Lisette! We decided to make MIDDLESEX our February book, because of its length and waiting list at the library.

    I'm remembering more about ONE MISSISSIPPI. I enjoyed the cultural references: Suzy Quatro, the Carpenters, Joni Mitchell's album, Blue. Also, wasn't the Soony and Cher concert they attended both hilarious and harrowing? It seemed plausible to me that Sonny and Cher would be so nasty to each other back stage. I wonder if Cher would have shared a joint with some teenage boys who snuck backstage.

    I just remembered the part where Tim shoots Mr. Beecham, Arnita's father, who was a janitor at the school. I thought that was very sad.

    Molly, I also wondered whether Childress was engaging in a little gay-bashing himself, by having Eddie engage in sexual abuse and and making Tim a dangerous, even psychotic character. I guess it could be that he was simply revealing the effects of prejudices against not only blacks but gays in the deep south of the early 1970s. But there did seem a bit of stereotyping there.

    [This Message was Edited on 01/30/2008]
  8. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    I noticed that I had dog-eared a page and had forgotten why. On page 268, I found the following passage:

    "You know, Tim," said Arnita, "everything is not funny."
    He peered at her oddly, as if the sun had just turned into the moon. "Sure it is." "Everything is funny all the time."

    What did you think of Tim's statement? Do you agree or disagree?

    Also, did you idolize anyone in the 70s--like Cher--that you're embarrassed to admit to now? For me, it was the "Lords of Dogtown" skateboarders: Tony Alva, Jay Hawk, Stacey Peralta. I couldn't get enough of skateboarding, circa 1978, when I was 12 years old. I read Skateboarder magazine and dreamed about skateboarding, like these Venice, California boys, in empty swimming pools.

    Lastly, Daniel comes to love Mississippi even though he found it a grim, barren backwater at the beginning. Have you ever moved somewhere you thought you'd hate, only to fall in love with the place later?

    What on earth did you make of Jacko, the elderly, disabled man who lived with Daniel's family?

    Hope I'm not overloading you with questions (but see, Rock, you can answer some of these without having read the book!)


    [This Message was Edited on 01/30/2008]
  9. Toga

    Toga Member

    about the book I had already forgotten. I knew I should have read it again.

    I am a fast reader and when I'm reading a good book (which I think this was really good) I tend to just speed through it.

    While I was waiting for the end of the month I read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. This was a good one too.

    I thought Jacko was a little creepy. He seemed to know everything that was going on.

    Arnita was strange also. Everyone in the book is strange including the mother who was the closest to being normal. I am definitely going to read this one again.

  10. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    I think you're right; almost all of the characters were unusual or unpredictable in some way. I suppose that is what makes fiction interesting. Jacko and Arnita's mother both sort of had a sixth sense about things, didn't they?

    Good for you for reading it again!

    By the way, THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME was our first book club book, which we read about two years ago. I loved that book.

    [This Message was Edited on 01/30/2008]
  11. mollystwin

    mollystwin New Member

    I had forgotten so much about this book!! The Sonny and Cher part really cracked me up!!

    And I had forgotten all about Jacko too. And that he seemed to know so much as did Arnita's mom.

    Molly and I were discussing the book yesterday and she reminded me about taking those twins to the prom. And how everyone knew that Tim was gay. How could Daniel not have known about that? Was that the reason why Tim and Daniel became friends? Because they were both outsiders for different reasons, but they each needed a friend??

    Another part I had forgotten was when Arnita came to stay with Daniel. They get caught kissing on the driveway and Daniels dad is furious!! Next thing you know Arnita is sitting on thier couch watching TV with Daniel's Dad and she is staying for dinner and spending the night!! Very smooth on Arntia's part.
  12. Marta608

    Marta608 Member

    I can't comment because I haven't read the book but I wanted to say Hi!

    Matter of fact, I think it's a book I'll take a pass on, from the sound of the reviews. I find that what I'm reading really affects my frame of mind at the time now. Perhaps I need more real life.

    Are you feeling better, Ken?

  13. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    Your view of the Minnesota Twin sounds like something from the Readers' Digest.

    I was reading about twins. "Don't tell them twin jokes. they've heard all of them."

    Maybe so, but I found one I never heard before.

    Headline: Suicidal twin goofs; kills sister by mistake.

  14. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    Hi, Marta. Sounds like you're in need of something positive and uplifting, then. Reading anything good right now? I'm doing a little better and getting out a bit more, thanks! How are you?

    Dar: I liked your point about Daniel and Tim both being outsiders and needing a friend. Arnita was sly, wasn't she? That scene after Daniel's dad catches him and Arnita kissing was interesting, wasn't it? I was surprised that he didn't kick Arnita out of their house. Daniel's dad was a more complicated character than he first appeared.

    Molly: Your idols were interesting. I still admire Michael Landon in some ways, even though from all accounts, he could be an S.O.B. in real life. I wonder what "pulling an O.J." means now?! That's also hilarious about you thinking the Detroit Tigers playing only the two Minnesota Twins! I grew up in Minnesota, and when I was little, thought there were only two of them also. My dad was and still is a huge Detroit fan, since he grew up in Michigan.
  15. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    I wonder if the Twins have heard it before.

    Hope you are well.
  16. mollystwin

    mollystwin New Member

    Ken and Rock,

    I actually have never heard that twin joke before!! Very funny!!

  17. kellyann

    kellyann New Member

    Hi all,
    I am glad that for the most part every one seems to have liked the book since I suggested it. I happened to find it one day while, looking on my favorite author Stephen Kings' website, and it was a book that he had read and highly recommended.
    I can't keep a hold of the book long enough to quote from it, another of my kids has it now!
    But, I personaly loved the book. I read it straight through, with very few breaks. I loved the Sonny and Cher stuff, the marching band stuff, teen love, and silliness like with the church choir. I didn't much care for the bad attitude toward the gayness, but maybe it was intentional on the part of the author as far as the story goes, I don't know. Maybe he thought it made the story more interesting?


  18. kellyann

    kellyann New Member

    Have ya'll ever read Jodi Picoult? I read one of her books awhile back called "My sister's keeper" it was extremely sad. Anyway, I found this other book she wrote called "Vanishing Acts" has anyone read it? It looks pretty good!

    Well, I'm off to read my new Stephen King book, if my headache will let me.
  19. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    Thanks for recommending One Mississippi.

    What do your kids think of it?

    I didn't realize Stephen King was a fan of the book. I'm on the wait list at the library for his new one. I hope your headache goes away so you can read it! I also hope you join us next month for MIDDLESEX.

  20. kellyann

    kellyann New Member

    Of course I will join in next month for Middlesex, I was the one who recommended that book too, haha! I loved it!

    My kids love One Mississippi, both of my girls who read the book are in or have been in their high schools' marching band, so they liked that part of the book a lot.

    Not much luck last night reading, I ran out of pain meds and had to take sleeping pills just to get through the night. Duma Key does look so good though, doesn't it? Did you read Kings' last book Lisey's Story? I loved that one. I didn't like the "Cell" much though. I thought the ending totally dumb. I have read all of Kings' books even the ones written under his psydo-name Bauchman. Well, all except the gunslinger ones, I didn't like those.

    Take Care!
    [This Message was Edited on 02/01/2008]