The book club met yesterday morning to talk about The Good Lord Bird by James McBride. The discussion was spirited and far-reaching, including discussions of current events as well as the historical realities of John Brown’s time.
One of the most interesting parts of the discussion revolved around comparisons to Huckleberry Finn, which many reviews have noted. Some of the book clubbers thought this was a valid comparison, given the dialect, the humor, and the satire, but some didn’t quite see it.
One book club member brought a biography of John Brown in order to talk about the accuracy of the book’s portrayal of Brown. Most of the broad strokes of Brown’s life were true to all accounts, but some of the specific actions of secondary characters were embellished or completely created by McBride.
Because this book was based on real events and real people, we also discussed some of the additional secondary characters, such as Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. Douglass does not get a particularly positive treatment in the book, but we discovered no basis in reality for these descriptions. Continue reading
Tomorrow morning, July 15, at 10 am, we will be meeting to discuss John Brown and Henry (Onion) Shackleford in the novel The Good Lord Bird. What did you know about John Brown, aka the “Old Man,” before reading this book? Did it change your views at all?
And if you get a chance, watch this interview with the author James McBride before then. He has a lot of interesting things to say about the book.
Today we met at the Morris County Library to discuss the sci-fi classic Kindred by Octavia Butler. We had several new Book Clubbers, and it was a really fascinating hour and a half. We started by talking about why Butler chose to take a modern (well, modern in the 1970s) woman and transport her back to the Antebellum south, instead of just writing a more straightforward slave narrative. Some people didn’t feel like that worked for them; they didn’t like the time travel because it wasn’t realistic. Once we discovered how she came up with the idea of this novel, however, most of the book club members appreciated her reasoning, even if they still didn’t necessarily think it worked. As she stated in an interview:
I wanted to take a character, when I did Kindred, back in time to some of the things our ancestors had to go through, and see if that character survived so very well with the knowledge of the present in her head.
Join us on Wednesday, April 15 at 10AM for a discussion of Someone by Alice McDermott.
We first meet Marie at age seven, when she’s sitting on the stoop in her tight-knit, Irish-Catholic Brooklyn neighborhood, waiting for her father to come home from work. Down the street, boys play stickball, consulting with dapper Billy, their blind umpire, an injured WWI vet. Tragedies and scandals surge through the enclave, providing rough initiations into sex and death. Gabe (Marie’s older brother) becomes a priest. Marie works at a funeral home as a “consoling angel,” acquiring cryptic clues to the mysteries of life via teatime gossip sessions with the director’s wise mother and a circle of wryly knowing nuns. Eventually Marie finds joy as a wife and mother, while Gabe struggles with his faith and sexuality. A marvel of subtle modulations, McDermott’s keenly observed, fluently humane, quietly enthralling novel of conformity and selfhood, of “lace-curtain pretensions” as shield and camouflage, celebrates family, community, and “the grace of a shared past.” – from Booklist
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