Over at Yahoo groups I have sponsored several reading discussions through the years — Big Fat Book, Shakespeare, Literature Study, Experimental Fiction, Asian Readers, and probably a couple more that I have forgotten momentarily. Most of the groups had their run and became too much for me to keep up as I grew old and full of sleep; now only the Experimental Fiction and Literature Study groups are active. LSG still has a couple of years to go on its advance schedule but is getting a little long in the toe nails; the Experimental Fiction group (XFX), however, looks like it will be going for a long time, if anything because so much of the scheduled reading is as new to me as it is to the other members.
At XFX I make the final choice for each quarter’s reading schedule but any of the members can make comments, suggestions, or obscene gestures which I always consider in my selection process. Generally the schedule is available at least two months before the reading period so there is ample opportunity to find those titles that are less common or even down-right hard to find. The guideline at the XFX group is that thicker books need more time to read so we allocate about 350 pages for every two weeks. Books over 350 pages generally are assigned a four-week period for reading and discussing and really big books, say over 600 pages, might even be assigned a six-week period.
If you’re interested, drop by the group at Yahoo groups:
The only requirement to stay is that something in the reading strikes your interest. Discussion is always welcome but never required. Right now we’re cooking up the schedule for the first quarter of 2012; the current suggested reading list is:
Tropic of Capricorn – Henry Miller (1-1-12)
Banned in America for almost thirty years because of its explicit sexual content, this companion volume to Miller‚s Tropic of Cancer chronicles his life in 1920s New York City. Famous for its frank portrayal of life in Brooklyn‚s ethnic neighborhoods and Miller‚s outrageous sexual exploits, The Tropic of Capricorn is now considered a cornerstone of modern literature.
The Dog King – Christoph Ransmay (1-16-12)
Here’s some revisionist history for you: World War II has ended, but only in the West. The war in the Pacific will drag on for another 20 years before the atomic bomb is finally dropped at Hiroshima; in Germany, instead of the Marshall Plan, the victorious Allies have instituted a policy based on vengeance. The country has been completely deindustrialized: factories are torn down, roads destroyed, and the economy shattered. People live hardscrabble existences, scraping a living from the soil if they are honest, preying on others if they are not. Throughout the countryside, granite memorials have been erected as constant reminders of the Germans’ transgressions, and long lines of repentant citizens pray before them for forgiveness that never comes. Such is the bleak landscape of German author Christoph Ransmayr’s third novel, The Dog King.
Ransmayr constructs his dystopian tale around three characters: Bering, a young man who lives near the quarry that provides the special green granite for the memorials; Ambras, the crippled master of the quarry; and Lily, known as “the Brazilian” for her attempt to seek refuge in South America. Having assembled his cast, Ransmayr sends them on a journey from the horrors of postwar Germany to the jungles of Brazil in search of more green granite. What happens there makes for a sensational ending to a very disturbing tale.
A Frolic of His Own – William Gaddis (2-1-12)
The author of Carpenter’s Gothic (and winner of a 1993 Lannan Award) takes a brash, entertaining swipe at the legal profession in his fourth novel. Oscar Crease is a quiet, middle-aged history professor whose father and grandfather were both high-ranking judges. The story begins as Oscar contemplates two lawsuits: one against the Japanese manufacturer of the car that ran over him; the other against a filmmaker Oscar claims stole his play, Once at Antietam , and turned it into a gory, lavish movie. Before long, the legal wranglings, strategic maneuvering and–of course–the whopping bills dominate Oscar’s life and wreak havoc on his relationships. There is no description or third-person narrative. Like Carpenter’s Gothic , which is rendered wholly in dialogue, this narrative is a cacophony of heard and found voices: Oscar’s conversations with his myriad lawyers, his flighty girlfriend, his patient sister and her lawyer husband are all spliced with phone calls, readings from Oscar’s play and various legal documents. Rather than slow the action down, these documents add to the grim melee. This is a wonderful novel, aswirl with the everyday inanity of life; it may also be the most scathing attack ever published on our society’s litigious ways.
Jesus Freaks – Andre Duza (3-1-12)
For God so loved the world that he gave his only two begotten sons. and a few million zombies Thugs, pushers, gangsters, rapists, murderers; Detective Philip Makane thought he’d seen it all until he awoke on the morning of Easter Sunday 2015, to a world filled with bleeding rain, ravenous zombies, a homicidal ghost, and the sudden arrival of two men with extraordinary powers who both claim to be Jesus Christ in the flesh.
Parabola – Lily Hoang (3-16-12)
Fiction. The simple act of a butterfly flapping its wings, and our journey begins. A tracing modern day mythologies, PARABOLA weaves through genres, mathematical formulas, and photographs, all while following the curve of a parabola, stopping at various points to pick up strands of intersections or stories. Lily Hoang’s debut novel offers readers tender snapshots of an Asian-American girl coming-of-age juxtaposed with the Pythagorean belief in numerology placed right beside a physical manifestation of dark matter contrasted with interactive IQ, personality, and psychological tests. Smart, challenging, sad, and kind, by the end of Parabola, you will have moved through every emotion, and you will end right where you began, with that simple act of a butterfly flapping its wings.
[Note that descriptions are lifted from the cover blurbs or from the publisher’s remarks.]