#BookBeginnings The Library Book by Susan Orlean

Have you seen The Library Book by Susan Orlean yet? Let’s take a look for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-Gershkowitz

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Nonfiction

Summary:  Using a horrific arson fire in the Los Angeles Public Library on April 29, 1986 as an “inciting incident,” Susan Orlean explores not only multiple facets of the crime, but also the importance of libraries and librarians.

First Sentence:

Stories to Begin On (1940)
By Bacmeister, Rhoda W.
X 808 B127

Begin Now – To Enjoy Tomorrow (1951)
My Giles, Ray
362.6 G472

A Good Place to Begin (1987)
By Powell, Lawerence Clark
027.47949 P884

To Begin at the Beginning (1994)
By Copenhaver, Martin B.
230 C782

Even in Los Angeles, where there is no shortage of remarkable hairdos, Harry Peak attracted attention.

 

Discussion:

Do you see it?  The author has started the chapter with book titles and their call numbers relating to “beginning.”  All the chapters start with appropriate book titles like this. Isn’t that cool?

I am glad I sprang for a hardcover edition because the book has so many extra special touches, starting with deckle edges. The end papers have the standard book jacket blurb in the front — printed on the endpapers — and an image of one of those old-fashioned library card pockets in the back. The image is so 3-D that it looks real at first glance.

I am really, really enjoying this book.

Have you read The Library Book? Would you like to read it?

#BookBeginnings The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury

Today we’re starting the next novel in The Bestseller Code Challenge List, The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury, for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-Gershkowitz

The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: When four men on horseback dressed as Templar knights steal rare artifacts from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, archaeologist Tess Chaykin, who witnessed the theft,  and FBI agent Sean Reilly team up to investigate.

This novel is a historical thriller of sorts. Some say it is similar to The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, an author who also has a book on the challenge list.

First Sentence of Prologue:

The Holy Land is lost.

And so starts the prologue, set in Acre, Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, 1291.

First Sentence, Chapter 1:

At first, no one noticed the four horsemen as they emerged out of the darkness of Central Park.

The setting in Chapter one is modern day (for a book published in 2005) New York City.

I’m actually about half way through and I’m enjoying the action. It seems like the plot is a bit less convoluted than The DaVinci Code, but the author hasn’t revealed everything yet.

What do you think? Have you read this? Ever read The DaVinci Code?  How do you think they compare?

 

Have you read The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury? Join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 47. Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan (2011) – Discussion begins February 25, 2019
Domestic Fiction

More About About the Haiku Monster #nahaiwrimo

Regarding yesterday’s post, this month is National Haiku Writing Month or Nahaiwrimo.  I found out about it while listening to the radio. Our local public radio station has a new podcast series that highlights the literary arts. The first  was about Nahaiwrimo.

Why do I call it Haiku Monster? To me, writing haiku is so addicting that it could take over my life, eating up my time and creativity with delicate little nibbles. If I can contain it to a single month, however, it won’t be quite so dangerous.

By the way, these are first, spontaneous drafts.

Today’s contribution:

blanket cloud sky
speckles drip in mirror pools
breathing fogginess

 

Public Domain Photo from ABSFreePic

The Haiku Monster Strikes for #nahaiwrimo

tender green spears
grow lush under Cassia
must be weeds

#BookBeginnings The Spy and The Traitor by Ben Macintyre

Today I’m reading a true spy story recommended by a friend, The Spy and The Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by Ben Macintyre for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-Gershkowitz

The Spy and The Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by Ben Macintyre

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  This is a nonfiction biography of Russian spy Oleg Gordievsky, who secretly worked for Britain’s MI6 during the cold war years. Britain hid him from the CIA, but the Americans wanted to have a piece of the pie. CIA officials assigned Head of Counterintelligence Aldrich Amos to find out the Russian’s identity.  In a spy thriller-worthy twist, Aldrich was secretly spying for the Russians. Which spy will win?

First Sentence:

For the KGB’s counterintelligence section, Directorate K, this was a routine bugging job.

Discussion:

This has been very exciting to read so far. The first paragraph reveals the spies sprinkled radioactive dust in their targets’ clothing and shoes, so they could track them with a Geiger counter. A few paragraphs later we learn the spies made a small, but critical error which let their primary target know they had breached his home. Still, his life is in extreme peril.

 

What do you think? Have you read The Spy and The Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by Ben Macintyre? Is it something you’d like to read?

 

by Ben Macintyre

#BookBeginnings The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

Today we’re getting ready to start the next novel in The Bestseller Code Challenge ListThe Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling, for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-Gershkowitz

The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  In the little town of Pagford, Barry Fairbrother’s seat on the council comes open when he dies unexpectedly. Behind the scenes of Pagford’s idyllic small town atmosphere are different groups of residents who are regularly at odds with each other; rich fight with the poor, teenagers battle and annoy their parents, wives attack their husbands, teachers  grapple with their pupils. Before long, however, Barry’s empty seat on the town’s council soon becomes prize for the biggest brawl the town has ever seen.

First Sentence:

Barry Fairbrother did not want to go out to dinner. He had endured a thumping headache for most of the weekend and was struggling to make a deadline for the local newspaper.

Discussion:

I missed reading this when it first came out because I knew I’d be disappointed because nothing could match the Harry Potter books and my expectations were too high. Now, enough time has probably passed that I can give it a fairer reading. Plus, I did like the first three of Rowling’s mysteries.

Have you read The Casual Vacancy? What do you think?

___________________

Karen and I have been reading through the 100 novel challenge list and doing formal reviews of each novels, which is time consuming and no one reads them. So instead, we invite you to take part in our casual discussions on facebook. If we get enough interest, we’ll post a discussion summary here on the blog.

Have you read The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling? Join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 48. The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury (2005) – Discussion begins February 11, 2019
Mystery/suspense

#BestsellerCode100 Writer’s Review of The Martian

Let’s take a look at The Martian by Andy Weir from a writer’s perspective.

This post contains spoilers.

The Martian by Andy Weir

 


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  When a freak accident leaves astronaut Mark Watney stranded alone on Mars, — with no one aware that he survived — his chances of making it back to Earth safely are nonexistent. That, however, doesn’t stop the rebellious mechanical engineer/botanist from figuring out how to survive.

Path to Publication:  The Martian became a bestseller in an unusual way. Andy Weir started out publishing a chapter at a time via a newsletter to about 3000 science and technology-oriented readers. He admits he did that because he didn’t think the novel would have mainstream appeal. However, after he self-published it (giving it away for free at first!), it was picked up by a traditional publisher. Eventually he sold over 5 million copies and the novel was made into a major movie (See more details at StoryFix.)

Characters

At the beginning of the book, astronaut Mark Watney is stranded alone on Mars. How do you create a compelling story with one lone character? First of all, Weir makes Watney endearing and someone who readers will root for.

He also puts his main character in the direst of circumstances. At first neither the crew on Earth nor the astronauts who left him behind know that Watney has survived and there isn’t any way to communicate with them. Although there is another landing scheduled, it isn’t for an number of years and may be cancelled because of his supposedly fatal accident. He is quickly running out of supplies, especially food. The tension is incredible. How can he possibly survive?

Instead of dialogue, Weir reveals Watney’s thoughts and feelings through a diary/log. He writes in a conversational, humorous tone, which helps move the story ahead quickly.

Plot

Weir says he used a series of problems and solutions to drive the plot. Each time either Watney or the supporting characters solve one problem, they either discover another or the solution causes another problem. And the problems just keep coming.

If you are interested, StoryFix also deconstructs the plot by finding pinch points, etc.

Setting

The secret to Weir’s success is in the scientific details. By picking the planet Mars, Weir has chosen an intensely real setting for his science fiction. Weir did a lot of research, including creating trajectories for his spacecraft and even picking a particular launch date, although no dates are given in the text.

Since publication, we have learned a few things were inaccurate. For example,  recent studies have shown Martian soil has more water than Weir thought. Still, the Mars setting makes the story realistic and concrete.

 

Mars Dust Storm NASA

Discussion

The Martian is truly a one-of-a-kind novel. It is a perfect mix of compelling storytelling and hard science underpinnings. The unbearable tension and rapid-fire action make it an excellent read. This is one of the best novels on our list so far and one that all writers — not just those work in science fiction — should study.

Edit:  Here’s a bit of our discussion from Facebook:

RG — I was thinking about his problem/solution plot structure — which is often used in thrillers — when I realized the novel also reveals something bad is going to happen and the suspense is whether or not the protagonist can stop it from happening. It is a classic thriller set up. So, it is a science fiction thriller?

KG — Good point. I think that is one reason I enjoyed it so. It wasn’t filled with off space creatures, but instead every day problems that just happened to create life or death situations. And it was up to our hero to overcome every challenge thrown his way, even sometimes those he himself created.

Join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number49. The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling (2012) – Discussion begins January 28, 2019
Tragicomedy

Old Nano Blog from 2008

I’m retiring and consolidating a bunch of blogs/domains this month and I thought I’d add a few old posts from a blog written in 2008 here before I delete them.

 

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

This month is the annual novel writing month. If you have never heard of it before, visit the National Novel Writing Month website. I have had friends and relatives who have taken part in the past, I was curious to find out what it was about. So, here I go!

My novel is in the Mystery/Suspense category. The tentative title is “A Possibility of Murder.” I choose to do a mystery because I love reading mysteries and I’m very familiar with most of the most famous authors in this genre.

After a week of meeting my writing targets and feeling quite good about this whole NaNoWriMo process, I had a bad day yesterday. You see, a bunch of negative information flowed in from a number of different sources, all on the same day.

First, I attended a meeting of the library committee for our school. This is the first year the school is open and they don’t have a library yet. We are working hard to get one going and have fundraisers planned to buy books and book shelves. One item on the agenda was deciding on lists of books to purchase once we have some funds. Jan, our chair, mentioned she had read that for libraries with limited budgets, it is best to buy fiction and avoid nonfiction. The idea is that children now use the Internet for all their nonfiction research.

I have to admit I was devastated. My son and I use the nonfiction section of our local libraries almost exclusively. We rarely read fiction from the library, although I do buy fiction. That’s because we usually have nonfiction projects that interest us for a short time. We read every book in the library on that subject, and then another project comes up and we get out books on another topic.

Back to using the Internet, sure there are some fantastic sites, but you are just as likely to get sites that are just links to other sites, sites full of urban myths, or sites that people fill with junk just to have fun. I want my son to be able to pick up a well-researched, insightful book and have confidence in the information it contains.

But that is only the start of the negativity that flowed. I opened my e-mail and there was my daily dose of one of my favorite blogs “On Living By Learning.” Guess what the thesis was? To Blog or Not to Blog in the Microblog Era. She quoted people who stated we should kill our blogs because blogs are out of date. Sandra, the author of On Living By Learning blog, said that blogs still have a place in the world and listed some reasonable ideas why this is the case. However, it was still disturbing to me, because I love blogging and feel like I’ve gotten a lot out of it. How much can you communicate on Twitter? I find that form of writing is for people with the attention span of a fruit fly. My depression deepened.

Now comes the best part. Next I opened an electronic newsletter I receive for writers. At this point I need something to cheer me up. Nope, more bad news. The featured article is a link to this blog post: 5 Reasons why you don’t need to write a book, although the link actually says 5 reasons why you should not write a book. Can you believe it? Such cheery thoughts as “You’ll make more money working at a fast food restaurant.” The good news is that she’s not anti-blog. She says that if you write a good blog you might get a book deal out of that.

I am not superhuman. To have that much negativity about writing books all hit, wham, on one day was totally disheartening. I only did about 400 words on my novel.

But you know what? I got some hope, from a very unlikely place. My sister had given me a subscription to Oprah magazine. After making sure the homework was done and the dishes were at least off the table, I opened it up. There were articles about writers, by writers and even a list of favorite books. People still do appreciate books. People do still read something besides Twitter. And you know what I realized? Some people will write about anything to get some attention on the Internet.

So, I’m still going for it.

Read a book today!

The Beauty of Writing

Writing this novel has really opened by my eyes to how the process of writing works. I compare it with a painting. I guess I always thought that when you wrote you sketched out the design, maybe lightly or even just had the design in your head. Then you started to write, and it was like a fully finished beautiful painting would be revealed with each stroke you added. You would work from left to right and when you were done the entire painting would be revealed.

What I have discovered, however, is that it is more like a real painting process. You draw the sketch, and then you revise it. Then you put down the bottom layer, revise again, add some color, change your mind, try some of this over there. At least for this novel, for me, I’m adding washes and layers of color over previous layers. It is an exciting process, nothing like I expected.

Read something today!

 

A Sense of Place

The experts say that a good mystery novel should have a strong sense of place.  I can think of several examples of novels where this is true, like the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. I always want to have a relaxing cup of red bush (rooibos) tea after I read those books, which are set in Botswana.

I have a horrible confession to make now. I don’t have a clue where to place my mystery novel. Yikes! I have 9,000 words and I haven’t decided yet. How can this be? Worse yet, how long can I go on like this?

I think the problem is that I don’t feel roots to a place myself. I grew up in Upstate New York. I have traveled a lot, and now have ended up in Arizona. I love the East, but I feel disconnected from it. When I go back, I have the eerie feeling I’m revisiting the past. I am also not confident that I can recreate somewhere I only visit now and then.

But I also don’t feel like I have roots where I am living now. I don’t have the love for and understanding of this area that someone who grew up here would have.

So right now my poor characters are living in generic town, USA. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. I only have a few weeks to solve this problem.

And oh yes, thanks for reading this.

What Writing a Book is Like

I just came across an interesting quote from Leonard Cohen about his book Beautiful Losers in Gayle’s Blog. (Gayle runs Changing Hands, a wonderful indie bookstore in Tempe, Arizona.)

Because the quote very hard to find on the blog, I’m going to copy part of it here:

Beautiful Losers was written outside, on a table set among the rocks, weeds and daisies, behind my house on Hydra, an island in the Aegean Sea. I lived there many years ago. It was a blazing hot summer. I never covered my head. What you have in your hands is more of a sunstroke than a book.”

How Do You Find The Time?

A friend asked my how I am finding the time to write a novel. Because I have asked this question myself before, I will try to figure out an answer. I have a disclaimer though: what works for me one week probably isn’t going to work for me the next week, let alone work for anyone else.

Some people might say, “she’s a stay-at-home mom, what else does she have to do?” Sorry, I’m afraid stay-at-home mom’s are just as busy as everyone else, although most days it seems we just don’t get any pay or any respect.

Right now I am finding the time to write by condensing my housework and errands into a few very intense bursts. I make meals and clean the dishes at the same time. Before I started writing, I would have waited until after I dropped my son off at school to put the dishes into the dishwasher. Now they are dropped in as I make breakfast. I am moving fast and furiously. My son doesn’t seem to notice the difference.

Two other things I have done is not jump up when the phone rings. I have been letting the machine catch it and then picking up if I want, using the phone next to my computer. I have also tried to cut back on time spent on e-mail, although my husband started complaining that I wasn’t responding to him, so I had to pick that back up a little.

I am also finding that writing creates its own niches. Instead of creating more work for myself with this project and that project, I am simply writing. For the time being, that is enough. I am afraid though, that someday soon the projects are going to loudly demand attention and I’ll have to stop writing so much. Until they do, I’ll write.

And now back to NaNo.

Second Trimester

Now that I’ve passed the 1/3 way mark (16,667 words), it feels like I’ve moved into the second trimester of a pregnancy. The initial excitement and adrenalin rush have mostly worn off, and the big event is still a long way away. I’m starting to feel some discomfort, both literally and figuratively (I need to rest my hands when I finish this). Now it is time to become quietly introspective.

I found this painted lady butterfly this morning. It’s beauty inspired me to keep writing.

May you find inspiration today, too.

New Writing Buddy

Everyone in my family had Veteran’s Day off yesterday. Not much writing happened, but we did spend a great morning at the Desert Botanical Garden taking a walk and checking out the Dale Chichuly exhibit that is being built. The garden is expecting the exhibit to be so popular that after next week you’ll have to make reservations to get in, even with a membership card. We wanted to beat the rush.

On the way home, we stopped by the pet food megastore to get some pet supplies. My son led us over to the cat rescue area and before we knew it we were bringing home a six month old kitten. Must have been sunstroke from being in the sun all morning.

Actually, we have been being visited by a stray yellow cat over the last few weeks. I think he (my husband calls him Mooch) whetted our appetite for a new cat, but we weren’t sure whether he was a true stray or just a neighbor’s cat who likes our cat food better. We didn’t feel we should capture Mooch if he did belong to someone else,  so we got a kitten of our own. Make sense? Nah, it didn’t to me either.

Our new kitten kept me up all night last night, so my NaNo writing has taken some interesting turns today. Ah, that’s what editing is for, right?

Do you have a writing/reading buddy?

How is it going?

The muse has left the building, I’m really struggling. But I guess that is how everyone feels about this point. So I will struggle on. I need to get 30,000 words by tomorrow night if I’m going to have a realistic chance of finishing by the end of the month. Instead of flowing out in streams, the words are now trickling. The ideas aren’t bad, they just don’t amount to many words.

Appreciate an author today!

NaNo Draws to a Close

November 30, 2008

National Novel Writing Month is almost officially over and I didn’t get to the 50,000 words needed to be declared a winner. My son and I both got sick last Friday and I didn’t write another word until yesterday afternoon. By then I was in such a big hole, I knew I could never finish. C’est la vie.

Because I didn’t finish a 50,000 word novel in one month, it is easy to assume that I failed. But I don’t think I failed at all. I learned a lot from this experience.

  1. I learned I can write a couple of thousand fairly coherent words in a couple of hours. This is a huge discovery for me.

  2. I learned that moms are incredibly important people, and when they are distracted and too busy to perform their normal duties, things can fall apart fast.

  3. Never, never, never adopt a kitten in the middle of NaNo month. 🙂

  4. Writing is a wonderful, difficult and mysterious process. Some of the things that came flowing out onto the page from my subconscious astounded me.

  5. The NaNo sages who said don’t edit your work until December were right, but I didn’t follow their advice. Now I wish I had. I found out that as soon as I started the left-brain/logical editing process, my right brain/creative side got squirrelly.

  6. Sometimes you just have to stop and enjoy the rainbows.

Appreciate a writer today!

 

#BestsellerCode100: Number 50. The Martian by Andy Weir

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 listThe Martian by Andy Weir.

This post does not contain spoilers.

The Martian by Andy Weir

 


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: When a freak accident leaves astronaut Mark Watney stranded alone on Mars with no one aware that he survived, his chances of making it back to Earth safely are nonexistent.  That, however, doesn’t stop the rebellious mechanical engineer and botanist from figuring out how to survive.

Have you read The Martian by Andy Weir? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about The Martian by Andy Weir? Feel free to add a link to your review in the comments.
__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number49. The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling (2012) – Discussion begins January 28, 2019
Tragicomedy

#BestsellerCode100: Writer’s Review of The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Time to review our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, from a writer’s perspective.

This post contains spoilers.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

 


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: Westish College baseball star Henry Skrimshander is destined for the big leagues. That is, until he throws a ball that hits his roommate and friend Owen in the face. Will Henry be able to overcome the crippling self doubt that puts his future career in baseball — and even his life — in jeopardy?

Literary Fiction

As Karen mentioned in her review, this novel is an example of literary fiction.  If reading through this Bestseller Code list has taught me nothing else, it has revealed to me how much I dislike reading literary fiction. Spending excessive time in a person’s head mulling over his or her inner turmoil is claustrophobic. Even when a character does something interesting it is so overthought and overwrought that it loses impact.

It is a matter of taste, of course. Everyone has their own preferences. For example, I absolutely love ballet. I would gladly give up much to see someone dance for a couple of hours. Some people, on the other hand, would rather be poked with forks than subjected to the same performance.

Come to think of it reading this novel was rather like being poked with forks; ones which, of course, Pella washes afterwards.

 

Let’s review the specifics.

Characters

The characters in the book all intertwine in ways that makes six degrees of separation seem capricious. First we meet Mike Schwartz, a college athlete who has the skills to make things happen. When he sees Henry Skrimshander chase balls after a game, he realizes the kid has talent. He brings Henry to Westish college to play baseball. Henry’s roommate is Owen, the object of affection for Westish College President Affenlight who is the father of Pella who starts a relationship with Mike, but then sleeps with Henry.  Yes, it is all a bit incestuous to say the least.

In fact, so much so that when Affenlight begins to pine for the affection of a mysterious “O” it didn’t take a second to guess that it is Owen. It couldn’t be anyone else. There isn’t anyone else.

Setting

The vast majority of the “action” (I use that term loosely) takes place at the fictional Westish College in Wisconsin.  The campus resembles many others,

“…the green groomed lawn and the gray stone buildings that surrounded it, the sun just risen over the steamy lake and the mirrored-glass facade of the library…”

yet intimidates Henry, who doesn’t feel like he belongs.

Themes

Literary fiction is all about themes. Along with themes about human relationships (which may be why the computer chose it), I noticed a strong theme of people’s relationships with food. Specifically, people depriving themselves of or pushing away food.

For example, on page 156 Pella :

“Once , late at night, not long after she’d moved to San Francisco, she’d really, really wanted to cut up a slightly mushy avocado and rub the pit in her hands. It was an ecstasy-type desire, though she hadn’t taken ecstasy. She made David drive her to three supermarkets to find the right avocado. She told him she was craving guacamole — a more acceptable urge, if just barely. Luckily he’d fallen asleep while she was rolling the slimy pit in her palms, pretending to make guacamole. In the morning, having buried the chips and the yellow-green mush in the kitchen trash, she claimed to have eaten it all. She still had no idea how to make guacamole. “

On page 185, Owen reveals when he broke up with his boyfriend Jason that he had stopped eating. Henry was there to force him to eat. Later Owen, who is vegan, also refuses to eat fish.

On page 415, we find out roommates Noelle and Courtney live on red wine and Red Bull. On the next page, Henry has also given up on eating, and maybe drinking coffee, too.

“The thought of no more coffee and no more food made him momentarily happy.”

Rejecting food is a symbol for the emotional pain of the character.

I recently read a discussion about counter themes. In this case Henry’s use of the body building powder would be a counter theme.

Discussion

With literary fiction, we expect a lot of “fancy” writing to show off the author’s cleverness. Although Harbach’s writing is complex, as seen in the avocado paragraph above, it stays pretty much grounded. There aren’t any tricks or gimmicks, unlike Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. For that, I applaud.

If you’d like to read more about the author and how the book came about, Vanity Fair has an interesting article from 2014. The Atlantic also has an insightful review.

Join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 50. The Martian by Andy Weir (2011) – Discussion begins January 14, 2019
Science Fiction

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