The Books of My Numberless Dreams

Weekly Geeks

Posted on: July 19, 2008

I joined this initiative started by Dewey months and months ago but never participated until now. Members come up with a weekly theme question bloggers partake if they are so inclined, links are collected, we visit each other, mingle and have great fun. Since I’m one of those awful persons who swear up and down that they have something great about to splash on this blog in the next instant, lovely readers voice their anticipation, and nothing comes forth, this one is right up my alley.

1. In your blog, list any books you’ve read but haven’t reviewed yet. If you’re all caught up on reviews, maybe you could try this with whatever book(s) you finish this week.

2. Ask your readers to ask you questions about any of the books they want. In your comments, not in their blogs. Most likely, people who will ask you questions will be people who have read one of the books or know something about it because they want to read it.

3. Later, take whichever questions you like from your comments and use them in a post about each book. I’ll probably turn mine into a sort of interview-review. Link to each blogger next to that blogger’s question(s).

4. Visit other Weekly Geeks and ask them some questions!

My vast list. Asterisks denote books for which posts are pending. I left out books that I never intended to review:

Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys
Literature and Knowledge – Dorothy Walsh
Finding a Girl in America and Other Stories – Andre Dubus
Spin – Robert Charles Wilson
Persuasion – Jane Austen
How the Dead Dream – Lydia Millet*
The Chrysalids – John Wyndham*
The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham*
The Trouble with Lichen – John Wyndham*
Chocky – John Wyndham*
Paradise – A.L. Kennedy
Chess Story – Stefan Zweig, translated by Joel Rotenberg
The Line of Beauty – Alan Hollinghurst*

Ask away (if I have any readers left)! Make it as long, short, trivial, profound, facetious as you like. I am your humble servant. It’s likely that I’ll answer questions in an actual post since I can blather on…


26 Responses to "Weekly Geeks"

What was your favorite (or least favorite) part of Persuasion? Did you think Captain Wentworth wrote the best, most romantic love letter of all time??? Have you seen any movie versions of Persuasion? Which one is your favorite if you have?

How would you describe Andre Dubus’ literary style?

Tell me more about Wide Sargasso Sea! Most of the reviews I’ve seen of it have been on the fence. Personally, I didn’t like the way either Rochester and Annette were protrayed. Also, Rhys changed a lot about her main character (including her name), which disturbed me. What do you think of Rhys’s writing style? Do you think she did Jane Eyre a service or disservice by writing a “sequel?”

I just recently read a Lydia Millet novel. What’d you think of her? In the one I read, the characterization was brilliant, although her writing felt heavy at times.

How were Millet’s characters in the novel you read? How well were they drawn? Did you find yourself attracted to some while repelled by others?

I’ve been wanting to read Wide Sargasso Sea for ages. How did you like it in comparison to Jane Eyre?

What’s Literature and Knowledge like? Easy to read and understand?

I have never read any of the books on your list or heard of these authors. What genre are Lydia Millet and John Wyndham? If I wanted to try a book by these two, which one would be a good one to start with. I like books that are character driven so would these books fit in that category?

I started Wide Sargasso Sea once… it seemed to weird so I never finished it. Did you like it? Find it weird? Did it mess up the Jane Eyre story for you or add to it?

“How the Dead Dream” is a book I have been meaning to read for some time now.

Who this book would speak more powerfully to. Do you believe that animal lovers/owners would connect with the main character more so than non-animal people?

Did this book make you think about the differences in how people treat their human family members as opposed to thier animal family?

What do you think is the main message Millet is trying to get across to her readers?

OK, here’s one. Was Nick right to sacrifice his vocation (teaching, scholarship) for a life of beauty and pleasure?

Why do Nick and the MP argue about Richard Strauss?

That last question is like a Reader’s Guide question, and is sort of a joke. The first question is serious.

Wow, lots of questions! I’ll get to some of them immediately, might have to break it up depending on how long my answers are.

Amateur Reader you’re funny. I wrinkled my nose at the last question before I read the last bit ;). I have a question for you too though: How did you like that novel, especially in relation to Hollinghurst’s other works, if you’ve read them? I prefer “The Swimming-Pool Library” but I don’t know if that’s because I haven’t read any Henry James or something.

[…] July 20, 2008 · No Comments The Weekly Geek activity […]

Have you read any of Dubus’ novels? Which form do you think he masters, or is he skillful with both? Which was your favorite story from this collection?

Oh, that’s a quick one so I’ll get right to it. Dubus only wrote one novel at the beginning of his career — he’s a short story writer in the main. It’s the son that does the novels. I’ll answer the other question in a post. 🙂

I liked “The Line of Beauty” more than “The Swimming-Pool Library”, but I wouldn’t want to argue the case. I found the story of “Line” – not necessarily Hollingurst’s great strength anyway – a little better, and I thought Nick was an extremely genial fellow to spend time with. I also found some of the ideas about aesthetics and taste in “Line” very intersting and well-integrated into the story. For example, the R. Strauss joke, or the use of the William Holman Hunt painting.

Hollinghurst is good at pushing against his own ideas. “Swimming-Pool Library”, for example, is very nostalgic (for the pre-AIDS cruising world) but undercuts its sentimentality with the storyline about the older gay men – the business with Ronald Firbank, for example.

“Line of Beauty” to some extent does the same thing with the underlying hedonism – the world of beauty does fall apart at some point. But I wish he would push his ideas a little farther. There’s a utopian hedonism underlying both novels that could use a little more thought or criticism. Or irony, maybe.

I don’t think you need to know any more about Henry James to appreciate “Line” than you need to know about Firbank to enjoy “Swimming-Pool.”

Yeees, I loved the artistic and musical allusions, even those I didn’t quite get because I admired how seamlessly Hollinghurst integrated them into the novel. Didn’t seem forced at all or aimed at the A-level market.

You liked Nick better than I did. That might be it. And while I didn’t mind the relative lack of story in Swimming-Pool it bothered me more for Beauty. Nothing really happened for pages and pages and the character exploration and the other literary stuff that should have held me rapt, didn’t.

A friend who’s a big, big Hollinghurst fan tells me that the stories-as-such are even more minimal in Hollinghurst’s other novels. Definitely not his strength.

I’m Jane Eyre’s biggest fan but I’ve been wanting to read Wide Sargasso Sea for a long time. Do you think I’d be happy with the portrayal of Rochester? Did you think it was fair? Some people have said it’s fanfic even though it’s literature as well. What do you think?

Amateur Reader well, I’m still something of a Hollinghurst fan so I’ll read his other novels and see for myself. 🙂

Chris Honestly, I don’t know if you’d be “happy” — it’s a hard question for me to answer. Jane Eyre is one of my favourite novels but I did not approach Wide Sargasso Sea with any preconceived notions or expectations as to how Rhys should portray anyone. I didn’t know anything about the book before I read it except that it had a more sympathetic portrayal of Bertha (but I didn’t know how Rhys went about it). On top of that I truly don’t think Bronte gave any real details on Rochester’s sojourn in the West Indies. We get what amounts to an outline with the good, bad and the mad easily labelled …so Rhys had a lot of room to develop Bertha’s background.

As to “fair”…like I said before it was plausible and worked in the story Rhys created. Really once I became involved in the novel…Jane Eyre almost became irrelevant in the sense that I wasn’t busy mapping out all the routes to see if it held up to “canon”, so to speak. It’s a novel in its own right, produced in a completely different time by a completely different woman and able to exist outside of Jane Eyre, IMO.

If it’s more a question as to whether it’s fair to portray Rochester as thinking Creoles lesser creatures to the illustrious English, and have that influence his behaviour, well that’s evident in his ideas on the poor French and spring from Bronte’s own nationalist bent, completely in-step with popular thought in her time, and hardly controversial.

I don’t find the “fanfic” label very useful. It reads a bit like the way contemporary romance writers wear out Austen’s name in an effort to add some pedigree to a genre that is profoundly different from the books writers like Austen and George Eliot wrote. (I’m not referring to quality but everything from writer’s intention to execution.)

Good questions, thanks! 🙂

Hope it hasn’t been mentioned and my old eyes have deceived me, but have you seen the PBS version of Persuasion? I really enjoyed the whole PBS Jane Austen series.

With all the Wyndham you’ve been reading, can you tell us which one appealed to you most? What about him made you want to read multiple titles?

Also, re: Wide Sargasso Sea — do you have an opinion in general on the writing of “sequels” using another author’s characters?

On Literature and Knowledge: Is this more a theoretical book or more an op-ed from the author? Do you disagree with any of the author’s arguments?

How do you think Persuasion compares to other Austen novels? Would you recommend it to someone new to the author, or would you tell them to try something else first?

Thanks for answering my questions. You’ve been very helpful.

I’m interested in the technique and art of storytelling itself so anything along that line would interest me. My questions are for any or all of the fiction titles in your list:

How was Point-of-View handled? Was there a single POV character or did it alternate among two or more. Was it always clear whose eyes and mind were filtering?

How was language used to set tone and mood?

Was the prose dense or spare? Were sentences generally simple or complex?

How was metaphor used? Were associations fresh or did they tend toward cliche? Did they add to your understanding of the theme?

What was the central or organizing theme?

How does the title relate to the story? Was it fitting?

Re Wyndham: I’ve never read any but have often noted in that infinite TBR list i keep in my head that I should. Since you’ve read three you must have something to say about why I should give him a try sooner rather than later.
BTW I’m hosting a book giveaway this week. Four copies of Still Summer by Jacquelyn Mitchard. Four chances to enter until Saturday 3PM PST

I’ve been seeing a lot of “Wide Sargasso Sea” in the bookstores and online. If you owned your own bookstore and could create your own categories, what category would you place this particular book into?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: