Thursday, November 02, 2006
A Photograph...and a New Book Club Choice and the best thing I did all day
The woman in the photograph being forced to sit still and participate in my experiments with collage is not Edith Sitwell, but my great-grandmother. On seeing her photograph, people have often commented that I resemble her. Whether the resemblance went beyond the physical is only one of the things I don't know about her.
Neither I, nor anyone living, knows her name or anything about her life. I suspect, but do not know, that it was neither an easy one, nor a long one. In a final affront, time has conspired to erase, not only her name and her story, but this last vestige of her face.
Was she an eccentric? Did she make art or write poems? I suspect but do not know that such things were luxuries a young woman of her time and place and class had little opportunity to explore.
But whether she wrote them down or drew them or pasted them onto a piece of old wallpaper or made them rhyme, I know she walked through the streets of her town and the surrounding woods, and dreamed abundant and astonishing dreams.
How do I know that? Because looking at her face, really looking, was the best thing I did all day.
In other news, it's 11:40 on the second of November, which can only mean one thing.
In exactly forty minutes until it becomes the third!
That's right, in forty minutes, amazing bloggers from far and wide will begin to post their thoughts on The Third Day Book Club's first selection, Half of a Yellow Sun. Okay, maybe not in EXACTLY forty minutes. Some of you do sleep.
Twenty something people signed on to read and blog Adichie's novel, but I know many were tentative and busy, oh so busy, and Yellow Sun is a 400+ page book. Thus, I have no idea exactly how many people actually went read it. But I've heard enough from several of you to know there is a solid group of us. A real book club!
So how to proceed? Today, Jordan asked if I would link the other readers, and I definitely will. I also suggest that you all link to one another so we can form a chain. Or a circle. On second thought, a circle is much better than a chain.
I've thought of starting a separate book blog for third day where we all could post our thoughts--another good point Jordan brought up--but at least initially, I think it might be more fun to post our thoughts on our own blogs.
1. It will attract new readers to our blogs, where they will undoubtedly find many other amazing things to fascinate and seduce them.
2. It could also draw some of the readers from our individual blogs into the book club.
Gerry wondered what we were supposed to blog about the book. To that end, I'm posting a few discussion questions. Use them or devise your own, review the book as if you were writing for the New York Times, or respond to it with a poem, a piece of art, or however you're inspired to do. Around here, we're nothing if not flexible.
Possible Discussion Questions:
1. The thing that struck me most about this novel was how war transformed the characters in surprising ways. The strong became weak; the good committed horrific acts; a character who seemed cold and somewhat harsh in the beginning revealed herself to be capable of the greatest generosity and courage. Did this feel like a true assessment of how war changes people?
2. Over the course of the novel, Olanna and Ogdenigbo's relationship, which seems strong and vibrant in the beginning, deteriorates to a near complete alienation. And yet, the final scene if a loving one. Do you believe that when the war ended a couple and a family who had seen and endured all that they had could ever be the same?
3. One thing I admired most about the novel was that it was more than a platform to express Achichie's feelings about war. It was a rich and deftly plotted story. What were some of the ways that the author rewarded her readers for their time?
4. Reading this novel makes us confront some uncomfortable subjects: hunger, forced conscription, and the violence that ethnic hatred so often breeds. Did any of those subjects particularly rattle your sleep--and why?
5. Throughout the horrors they endure, Olanna and Kainene never give in to the madness or despair around them. What do you think was the source of their strength?
6. There were a number of vivid and appealing characters in this novel. Which one did you relate to most and why?
This month, inspired by a rave on Myfanwy Collins' blog, I've chosen Daniel Woodrell's novel, Winter's Bone as our next read. The line in Myfanwy's review that most convinced me: "One part coming of age story, one part mystery, one part thriller, one part literary, this book truly defies classification." As all the best stories do!
When I picked it up at the library tonight, I was surprised by its slenderness and by the sparse number of words per page. At less than 200 pages, it should not place too heavy a burden on those who are doing Nano or involved in major preparations for the holidays.
This will be the last selection I make alone. In the coming months, as Third Day grows and hopefully takes its own direction, I'm hoping we can make nominations and then vote on upcoming books.
It would also be great if we we could take turns hosting Third Day, providing discussion questions and the voting forum on our blogs, festival style.
See you all tomorrow!