Thursday, November 11, 2010

November Discussion 2- In the Woods

In The Woods by Tana French

First, let's get this off our chest- is it equally offensive when the Brits drop the f-bomb? Just wondering.

In The Woods.

Did you hate it? Did you love it? Did you throw your book against the wall when you were done (like me)?

When Rob Ryan and his spunky, tough-but cute- partner take the case of a murder he is brought back to the scene of his kidnapping (?) and disappearance of his two best childhood friends. The case brings up anxieties, tensions, and night sweats as he tries to piece his memory together in a way that may help the present investigation.

The case has it all.....rape victims, rape witnesses, strange families with weird relationships, weird work site employees, a history of beast like folklore, missing persons, and a beautiful, troubled sister.

We picked it for more of a thriller for our Halloween read (How did it do? Did it keep your attention?)

French did an excellent job in character portrayal. That was her strength for me. It was hard, though, to slowly dislike the main character (and perspective voice) as he revealed himself to be just a commitment phobic, scamming kind of a guy as the story unfolded.

I don't want to include any spoilers here, in case you haven't read it yet, so I am again including a link to LitLovers for their In The Woods discussion guide (please scroll down for the publisher discussion questions).

I will leave you with one question.....
will you be reading book 2?

I am not sure if I trust French enough to go on another joy ride.

November Discussion- The Fountainhead

The month is finally here- we have finished our "Semi-Annual" book, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.

Last year we read both Atlas Shrugged and Anthem, also by Rand. We were kind of surprised how much we enjoyed the books and the discussions as a group, so this year we added Fountainhead to our picks.

In talking to the members of the group it was agreed this book was a harder read. The characters, while great at symbolizing their chosen quality, were completely unrealistic, and many members of the group had a hard time sympathizing with them. The bulk of the book, for me, towards the middle lost momentum. As the conclusion drew near, and the characters began to reveal their true motives in their words, it helped book come together and the spotty conversations make more sense.

There was no lovable Francisco, and Dominique had none of the spunk we loved out of Dagny, but really- does that matter?

I am wondering why I, as a reader, tend to always compare books to each other- especially by the same author. In reality, each book tends to be it's own unique journey and universe, and I am now questioning if this tendency hindered my enjoyment of Fountainhead....but enough about that. Let's get to the discussion.

Here is a great little background and a few questions you can refer to before book club. If you have a little more time to spend you can get into Google books and search all sorts of Rand commentary. I am going to just leave a few of my general thoughts and we will put it all together at club. There are many, many discussions, essays and articles about the book online.

I absolutely loved the theme of the producers vs. the takers. It ran parallel to the idea of the individual vs. the objective, and to be a true producer we must remain true to our integrity as an individual. Did Roark take this too far? What about Toohey- as a "Second hander' how far could this take him? Is it true that the greatness of one man can diminish those around him?

How did you feel about the idea of buildings being viewed as a living being? Roark had to rescue a few of Peter's sketches, as 'he would have had to rescue a drowning man'. Did this symbol of a man draw you in or push you out as a reader?

Did you envy the relationship of Wynand and Roark? (how did it compare to Galt and D'Anconia?) What about a male/female relationship in the book? How did Rand choose to portray romantic love, if at all?

Also, think on the following ridiculously simplified definitions

altruism- the unselfish regard or devotion for the welfare of others- in animals, this regard can be at their own demise as it is harmful to themselves, but not for the species (do you feel Rand views humans as mere evolved animals?)
objectivism-reality exists independent of conscious, and we have contact with reality through sense perception, we can gain knowledge through reasoning and pursue happiness and self-interest, and socially should be allowed individual rights. (much more here on the definition) Also at the previous link are definitions for reason, ethics, politics and more as viewed my Rand.

These two themes propel the 3 books we have read so far. Which one best conveyed the message to you?

Finally, if you really want to dig deeper and find out more about objectivism and Rand's philosophy please go to the Ayn Rand Institute (trust me and give yourself some time, this is a very interesting website).

Finally, I am still experiencing PTSD from the loss of my copy of the book. I had it tabbed, highlighted, scribbled up and ready to go. So many pages filled with amazing quotes.....I am mourning my loss. Do not stop me from ordering large amounts of chocolate and Diet Coke at our dinner. Thank you.

My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.

—Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged[4]