Category Archives: Ecology

Dunno What Nth Discussion: Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On

simon-bazDunno what nth discussion because someone hasn’t written the past discussions yet. *passive aggressive mode on* Just kidding.

It’s back to the good old days, with Raj, Timmy and Aaron, like we were at the start of the book club 5 years ago. The book is a fan-fic of a queer Harry Potter—queer because he likes the person, not the sex—and a gay Edward Cullum.

static1.squarespaceThese are some of the things we talk about:

  1. Shallow and superficial: Simon wishes father is a footballer, mom is a model (8). All along, Agatha is trying to break out of the “blond cheerleader” typecast, yet at the end, she becomes the damsel-in-distress, and doesn’t even fight to save her life. She wishes she has nicer clothes so that she can die pretty (465). WTH.
  2. All characters are queer but with limited character development: Agatha seems to be the most interesting character because she tries to break out of her mold; none of the other protagonists does it. Simon plays his Chosen One role; Penny plays the Hermione role dutifully, and Baz the anti-hero.But Agatha struggles with her emotions, fakes her emotions (9, 74, 75), and claims “we are all monsters” (14), a deep thought coming from a putative “bimbo.” Unfortunately, the damsel-in-distress part is a big gaping plot hole.
  3. Treatment of LBGTQ characters: These characters are not human. Baz is a vampire, Simon becomes a dragon/devil caricature; and Trixie is half pixie. There is something homophobic in that.

    That is not to say this book isn’t a book with good intentions. Baz’s difficulty of admitting he’s a vampire (262) mirrors the difficult coming out. His dad, preferring him to be Undead than to be queer, is heartbreaking (215, 279).

    Futhermore, there are two gay sex scenes between the homos, and gay sex scenes are always good, even if they are encoded. First scene: Baz and Simon’s fight scene with the dragon is written in erotic terms: “I did something I’ve never done before—something I probably wouldn’t try with anyone I was scared of hurting. [anal sex hurts.] I push I just push it into Baz” (239). “His arm straightens like a rodI push a little more magic. I worry that it’s too much… His shoulder is rock hard… it’s jerking itself…I stop pushing… letting Baz draw on my magic” (240).

    The second scene is more subtle (391).

  4. Sexism: No strong male characters, only strong female ones, like Fiona, Baz’s mother, etc.

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  5. Magic as metaphors:
    1. Class: The powerful magicians are always depicted as “rich and powerful,” kept within old families. Magic is also seen as hereditary, which reeks of biological essentialism; we can never transcend our DNA, which means the novel advocates a racist, sexist, homophobic philosophy.

      In a way, The Mage, wanting to liberate magic so that even people with a smidgeon of magic can go to Watsford, and eradicating school fees, can be seen as democratic.

      But Mitali, Penny’s mom, an Indian woman, who calls The Mage sexist for no apparent reason, wants a traditional Watsford, keeping magic for the best students. She also thinks that they are better than Normals (111, 261, 401). In a way, Mitali is supporting the system that oppresses her. Raj thinks that Mitali and Penny are portrayed as a stereotypical Indian family, which makes the novel racist.

      Unfortunately, the death of The Mage, especially at the hands of Baz from an Old Family and Penny, Mitali’s daughter, implies that Mage’s democratic ways are wrong; they revert to the old traditional methods.

      One could argue, as Raj did, that the Mage represents extreme democracy, ie, he is an extremist that he must be destroy. After all, in the end, he wants to be the most powerful magician of all time.

    2. Magic as Commodity: Magic is often viewed as something to be conserved and not to “waste” (38, 78, 186, 187); it is also seen as something to be “eaten” and consumed (47). We didn’t appreciate this cultivation of materialism.
    3. Magic as Objectification: Simon is often objectified because of his magic; he’s “power” (67), a “vessel” (123), “element” (181), “nuclear” (181, 242),  “generator” (258). Simon even objectifies himself, calling himself a “current” (337), and “I am magic” (455). Ebb is also a “generator” (284). Baz is used as a “wand” (254). Penny’s dad is a “book of footnotes” (247). Like the message of magic as a commodity, this sends the wrong message.
    4. Magic as ozone layer: Magic leaves holes, unfortunately, this is not explored further in the book.
    5. Magic as finding the right words (107)
    6. Magic as texture: Different people’s magic feels differently. An interesting concept that isn’t explored in the novel.
    7. Magic as Religion (197): If magic is seen as a religion, it would explain why Agatha finds it so hard to walk away from the magic community; to become a Normal is to be outcast.

      The theme of outcast recurs in the book, not just gay people—a vampire and a demon—are outcasts. Ebb’s brother, who chooses to leave the world of living to become a vampire, is ostracized by the magic community, and by Baz, Simon, and Penny who need his help badly, bearing in mind that Baz himself is a vampire and that Ebb’s brother is very powerful. Even the outcasts can outcast others.

      Ebb’s death can also be read as her rejection of her power. Because she rejects her immense power, because she lacks the training, she dies at the hands of The Mage.

      Superficially, this book seems to be a message of inclusion, but at a deeper level, the prejudice of the book shows. If you don’t want to be in the magic/religious community, you will be outcast and we will never accept you back, regardless of the direst situation. If you don’t practice your magic/religion, you’ll be punished, and in Ebb’s case, her punishment is death.

 

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Filed under Bisexuality, Class, Coming of Age, Ecology, Family, Food, Love, Queer, Race, Rainbow Rowell, Religion, UK, Young Adult

61st Discussion: Maureen F. McHugh’s China Mountain Zhang

Moderator: Aaron
Attendees: Dominic, Faizal, Hisham, Javin, Jiaqi, Timmy

mchugh, maureen - chinamountainzhangThis is one of the rare times that we decided to do a (gay) science fiction book. Everyone had something to pick on with the book – from its setting (Javin found it “unnecessary” and depressing, Dominic thought it was a dauntingly boring disturbia, Jiaqi didn’t think there was enough “sci-fi” and advanced technology to classify it as futuristic) to the writing style (Raj didn’t find it appealing, Timmy thought it was too static and sterile) and even to how prehistoric some concepts were (Aaron scoffed at the idea of cruising despite being set in the future).

THEMES
1. Structure: Jiaqi liked the diversity in showcasing the varied characters, which Javin disagreed with as he could not invest in them as much. Raj hated having to connect all the dots, which Aaron added made the book all the more messy and chaotic. Hisham felt that it could have been done better.

2. Homosexuality: Everyone agreed that homosexuals were stereotypically portrayed here, from the rich ang mohs to the Chinese gays with the inability to say no to everything. The happy ending that Zhang received drew ire from Aaron and Javin, who felt like it was forced, though Raj and Jiaqi thought otherwise, even if it was clichéd.

3. Women: Portrayed negatively except for the Korean woman (Jiaqi), and the doctor, who came across as domineering (Hisham).

4. Racism: Raj quipped that despite being set in the future, the only thing that was progressive was the food. Aaron pointed out that the Chinese characters suffered terrible fates, eliciting a rather long racism rant.

5. Relationships: The gay relationships featured came across as passive (Dominic) and devoid of love (Javin), to which Jiaqi vehemently opposed, commenting that it was filled with affection. Timmy noted that the heterosexual relationships showed the most growth throughout the book.

Dysfunctional, queer (Aaron) and atypical (Raj) were used to describe the familial relationships, though Jiaqi thought the families featured were portrayed normally.

CHARACTERS

1. Jiaqi didn’t think Angel was a fully developed character, and whose only sole purpose in the book was to be the information superhighway to Cinnabar, according to Dominic. Aaron saw her as a fag hag, to which Javin quipped that her being a fag hag gave her the opportunity to win races.

2. Everyone agreed that Peter was the most well-adjusted out of all: partly because he came off as relaxed and was able to come to terms with himself (Javin), and mainly because he was ang moh and didn’t worry about others’ opinions (Raj). Jiaqi deduced that Peter had it easier than Zhang. Peter is Javin’s favourite character.

3. Aaron thought that as a character, Cinnibar was not properly fleshed out.

4. Raj viewed Matador as another typical young gay boy who didn’t give a hoot about the world, to which Aaron concluded that he was another whiny bottom who just wanted to be taken care of.

5. Based on our observations, Hai Bao was set up as Zhang’s (life?) mentor. His suicide served as a milestone in Zhang’s life, causing him to “wake up” from his “catatonic” state.

6. We looked at Martine as a repressed being who had difficulty expressing her emotions. Timmy envisioned her to be like the ultimate on-screen ice queen, Tilda Swinton.

7. Aaron selected Zhang as his favourite character; citing his determination that gave everyone hope. Jiaqi liked that he was funny, relatable and sympathetic.

The question as to whether he was a depressed individual elicited two responses – Jiaqi, Dominic and Timmy didn’t think that he was ever in that state in the first place, while Raj and Aaron believed that he was.

We also questioned his decision/motive of revealing his sexual orientation to San Xiang at the end, and wrote it off as him finally accepting and being comfortable with himself.

In rounding up the discussion, everyone generally had nice things to say about the book – that it was interesting (Dominic), an “MRT-friendly” read (Raj), likeable and memorable characters (Jiaqi) and being enjoyable overall (Timmy). Aaron appreciated the literary values the book brought across, and being one of the only few books that saw the gay man eventually getting his happy ending (pun not intended). Hisham profoundly expressed that the book made our #firstworldproblems seem minute in comparison. Javin succinctly summed it up best: “It’s a gay book.”

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Filed under China, Class, Colonialism, Ecology, Family, Gay, Love, Maureen F. McHugh, Politics, Post-Colonialism, Race, S/F, Space, Technology, USA, War

58th Discussion: Annie Proulx’s Close Range

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Moderator: Aaron
Attendees: Alexius, Hayden, Jiaqi, Raj, Timmy

Thank you Raj for being the awesome host that you are as well as the food spread. (T: You stop traversing the world can?!)

OPENINGproulx, annie - Close-Range

Timmy made a sweeping statement in kicking off the discussion, proclaiming that Proulx should not be allowed to write. Raj thought the deaths were too gory (“everyone died horribly!”) and that Wyomingans were described like animals (“dangerous, horrible, uncultured”), which resonated with Alexius’ opinion that the characters were “dirty and unhygienic.”

THEMES

(Since most of us only read the minimum requirement (i.e. Brokeback Mountain), we focused our discussion on that short story.)

Is the book homophobic? From Raj’s POV, it was another stereotypical portrayal of homosexuals and how they do not end up together (like, ever), and how unsympathetic Jack’s death was…

…which led us to the question whether Jack’s cause of death was really as per what Lureen claimed, or was he (gay) bashed to death. Jiaqi didn’t think it was the latter, though he noted of the irony of his death involving a tire iron.

We talked about the Jack and Ennis brawl before their final parting, and inferred that that was their way of expressing their feelings since they did not know how to. Aaron viewed it as them loving each other, thus them fighting.

The inclusion of their confrontation scene was to depict conflict (Timmy) while, at the same time, showcase how homosexuality was seen during that time period (a “challenging environment,” according to Jiaqi).

In contrast with the abovementioned, we all agreed that the back hug displayed a tender emotion between Jack and Ennis, perhaps the only emotive act. To Aaron, the act itself was not based in sex and was the most normal, natural illustration of a relationship throughout the entire book.

The most crucial question was posed by Aaron: “why was the sex scene important?” Raj commented that it was a consummation of love, which was “hot, consensual and clearly not homophobic,” according to Aaron. Jiaqi saw it as a realistic portrayal of sex between two males.

We discussed about Brokeback Mountain itself, which the two did not revisit so that – according to Timmy – they could “shroud it in a happy memory”, and Mexico, which we deduced got Ennis jealous when he found out that Jack has been there multiple times to “sample other goods.”

Is Joe Aguirre gay? We pondered briefly on this, before Aaron finally said no. Timmy quipped that he may be voyeuristic though, with Raj following suit by pointing out the binoculars that he has on him.

Timmy went at length explaining his “closet theory”, in reference to Jack hanging Ennis’ shirt inside his shirt, sharing one hanger, in the closet, as a reaffirmation of his love for Ennis. Everyone agreed that this scene ended the book on a positive note.

CHARACTERS

Jiaqi picked both Jack and Ennis as his favourites, specifically the former for being ahead of his time (going to Mexico and subsequently wanting to move in with a new cowboy) and both overall because of their touching love story.

Inez from the Pair a Spurs short is Raj’s favourite, because she was daring, had wonderful spurs and beautiful shoes… basically full of attitude.

Aaron’s pick was the nameless narrator from the short story A Lonely Coast, describing her as contemplative.

Timmy jokingly cited Alma as his favourite, because of her ability to multitask (doing the dishes while questioning Ennis).

CONCLUSION

Ending the discussion on a positive note, Raj thought the Brokeback Mountain short was nice, just like its scenery, and that the portrayal of love in the story is poignant. He even declared that Proulx redeemed herself with that short story.

Jiaqi agreed with Raj, as well as thought that the story was vividly realistic.

Aaron enjoyed the beautiful prose Proulx employed as well as how she truly “trusts her readers” by allowing them to make connections throughout the entire book. He truly believes that the characters are alive to the author and that’s what made it all the more enjoyable for him.

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Filed under Annie Proulx, Class, Ecology, Family, Gay, Love, Politics, Race, Short Stories, USA

54th Discussion: Kathleen Winter’s Annabel

ANNABELSpecial thanks to Raj for organizing a Christmas party for this discussion.

It seemed that everyone, except Aaron and Amit, disliked the book: it’s depressing (Alexius), too slow in the latter half (Timmy), grating style (Raj), and forgettable one-dimensional characters (Amit). Har didn’t read it because he disliked the cover. Javin, Luke, Ben and Gil lent their moral support.

THEMES

1. Parenting:

(a) mother: Raj claimed Jacinta wants to raise Wayne as a girl, not a boy. Timmy agreed, saying that’s why Jacinta encouraged Wayne’s interest in synchronized swimming. Aaron, on the other, believed that Jacinta would raise Wayne as s/he is, as an intersex.

(b) father: Raj and Timmy thought that Treadway has no love for Wayne, but Aaron argued that Treadway shows his love in actions.

(c) Thomasina: Both Raj and Timmy thought that Thomasina loves and understands Wayne. But Alexius pointed that that she is using Wayne as a substitution for her dead daugther. Aaron saw her as the villain of the novel because she makes use of Wayne to cope with her grief selfishly, and makes very bad decisions.

2. Marriages: Amit observed the only happy married couple is Thomasina and Graham, and that’s because, Timmy said, Graham is blind. Aaron opined that since blindness is a classic Freudian symbol of castration, then it seems that a happy marriage is between a woman and emasculated man.

3. Sexuality: Although the portrayal of Mr Henry seems homophobic, the ambiguity of Wayne’s sexuality gives the book an inconclusive stance on homosexuality. However, Amit averred that the author seems to skew Wayne to his female self, and to like women.

Metaphors:

1. Peeling: Alexius read the peeling of skin as a sign of his puberty but Timmy saw it as a metaphoric rebirth.

2. Bridges: Alexius said it was the bridging of Wayne’s genitals to cause his pregnancy; Raj saw it as a bridging of both feminine and masculine traits.

Favorite Characters

Timmy’s and Raj’s favorite is Thomasina because she is a strong, independent woman who keeps it real. Alexius liked Steve. Following in Alexius’s footsteps, Amit liked a minor character, the kind make-up artist, and Wayne who reminded him of himself. Aaron stood up for the misunderstood father, Treadway, who prefers animals to humans.

As a conclusion, Alexius relished the synopsis on the back cover; Timmy, the unpredictability and complex characters and the name “Annabel”; Raj had not seen such a writing style; Amit generally liked it, especially the tender portrayal of Wayne as a human being. Aaron gave three reasons why this might be the best book we read this year: (1) the zen-like placid style mirrors the peace of forest and nature; (2) the author is compassionate and this compassion shows in the treatment of characters, even villains, and Aaron thought the world needs this compassion (although, Alexius chimed, the author isn’t compassionate to dogs); (3) the moral of the story: even if we are born a certain way, with our own defects, or encounter obstacles, like Wally, we can still overcome what we are given and make the best out of the situation. Despite adversities, there are little victories in life, and perhaps that is all that matters.

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Filed under Canada, Coming of Age, Ecology, Family, Intersex, Kathleen Winter, Love, Queer

48th Discussion: Mark Gatiss’s The Vesuvius Club

51PRDXDX23LBecause of the haze, we decided to cancel the meeting. But for those who have read the book, these are some questions to consider. Feel free to comment and discuss online.

1. The start of the novel is a rewriting of Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray, signaled by some keywords such as “Behold! Your immortality!” What is the intention of Mark Gatiss to do so?

2. In the beginning, Lucifer tells Everard a story of Ida’s death but we find out later that Ida is alive. Why does Lucifer lie? What does it show about him?

3. What is up with the corny names, Lucifer Box, Everard Supple, Midsommer Knight, Charles Jackpot, Creataceous Unmann, Christopher Miracle, etc?

3. Themes

Bodies:

a. There are many disabled bodies in the novel: Ida’s limbs, Everard Supple’s glass eye, Mrs Knight’s face, Prof Quibble’s wheelchair. To what purpose do the disabilities serve?

b. There are only fat or slim bodies in the novels. How are fat bodies portrayed? And how are skinny bodies portrayed?

Father Issues:

c. Both Bella Pok and Venus obviously adore their fathers very much and seek revenge for them. Father issues anyone?

gatiss-the_vesuvius_club_fcGender:

d. If we take Venus as a transwoman, how are the women portrayed, bearing in mind that Venus and Bella are the villains in the novel? Is it fair to say that women are either femme fatale or docile in the novel, showing a sexist mindset?

e. List some of the INNOCENT victims who die or suffer in the novel. How many are men and how many women?

Homosexuals:

f. What is the portrayal of homosexuals, Charles Jackpot and Lucifer Box, like?

Race:

g. What is the portrayal of Other races (other than whites)? Is it racist?

Transgender:

h. After Venus’s sex is revealed, whenever Venus is mentioned, the characters go, “Venus, that…. person,” instead of “that man” or “that woman.” This clearly shows the characters not knowing how to place Venus–male or female? But the characters also persistently use “he” as a pronoun on Venus. What does this demonstrate? Is this trans-phobic?

Class:

i. How does class issue come into play? Does it matter than Lucifer lives at Downing St?

Ecology:

j. Is there a metaphor about playing god when blowing up a volcano?

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Filed under Bisexuality, Class, Crime, Disability, Ecology, Italy, Love, Mark Gatiss, Queer, Race, Transgender, UK

44th Discussion: Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home

fun-homeTimmy moderated the discussion at a place provided by Isaac’s company.

Our Initial Reactions to the Book

Aaron and Isaac liked the book for its literary value and complexity in negotiating binaries of fiction/autobiography, public/private and father/daughter; and Luke liked it for its MRT-friendliness; while Raj and Timmy found the book exhausting with no likable characters and its confusing  narrative technique, something that Javin brought up as an authorial intention; further negative criticism both Aaron and Timmy had was that the author-narrator was egoistic and self-centred.

Themes

1. Suicide?

Timmy asked if the father’s death was a suicide. Raj said Alison thought that the father died to steal her thunder for coming out four months before his death, showing how narcissistic she was. Everything had to go back to her: “He died to steal MY thunder.” Perhaps the fact that she tried so hard to convince the readers that it was a suicide shows the kind of person she was.

2. Effeminate Gay Men

The portrayal of the dad, Aaron felt, was effeminate and negative. Perhaps Alison’s hatred for effeminate gay men was as what Melissa said on facebook, that it was a form of victim-blaming.

3. House/Home

Aaron saw the tinseled house as Alison’s metaphor of her dad, living a lie, while both Raj and Timmy read it as the dad directing his sexual frustrations into useful work.

Timmy followed up with another question on the funeral home, linking the real home and funeral home together, signifying how two houses were funereal and showing a metaphoric death of the traditional family unit. Timmy also suggested that the term “fun home” is ironic because the real home was not fun and the term also breaks down the binary of “funeral/fun” or “death/fun.”

Timmy also brought up that house was a labyrinth, with people getting lost, and is a symbol of the characters losing their way.

4. Her Sexuality

Raj and Timmy brought up that while looking at a fashion mag, both her father and she admired the men for various reasons. Aaron questioned if she was blaming her father for her sexuality as in the comics, the author has suggested that she wanted to be a man so that the father could be interested in her. Aaron also questioned if she was a transgender, rather than a lesbian.

Literary Techniques

1. Doubling

Timmy and Raj noted how similar the father and daughter were and Javin conjectured perhaps it was the reason of her dislike for him.

2. Drawing

Raj didn’t think much of the drawing, saying the characters had little or no expressions, while Aaron thought the drawings depicted their emotions well by the body movements and eyes.

3. Symbol

Timmy said the symbol of “I think” from Alison’s epistemological crisis is obviously a symbol of a vagina.

4. Unreliable Narrator & Autobiography

Using the episode on Alison’s grandmother telling her the story of how her dad was lost in the fields, Aaron questioned the reliability of Alison. For instance, the postman was changed into a milkman, and the story was overdetermined that it became mythical and unrealistic. Aaron suggested that perhaps we should read the author as wanting us to have an epistemological crisis as she was having in the book, to question everything.

Luke said that the point of the lost father was to show Alison and the readers a different side of the father.

Can we trust the book as an autobiography? Isaac claimed that the author didn’t mention this was an autobiography and we can see this as a work of art to question the notion of what autobiography is.

5. Literary Allusions

Timmy thought the literary allusions were the author showing off while Isaac thought it was her way of making sense of the world.

6. Scene: Brother Lost at Christopher Street

What is the point of the scene? Raj said it was to show the father’s concern. Aaron thought throughout the memoir, she talked about her perspective and her dad, why shift the focus to her brother? Very strange.

7. Ending

We liked the ending of the book as Luke succinctly put it, it was very simple, she trusted him therefore she loved him. Isaac questioned, he was there to catch her fall but who was there to catch him?

Characters

1. Alison

We didn’t like her much except Isaac. We all thought she was full of herself, self-indulgent (Timmy), and smarmy (Timmy) but Isaac thought her brave to write an autobiography and she shows how fragile people can be, she was screwed-up because of her dad.

2. Dad

Luke found the dad ambiguously portrayed. Timmy said Dad was stoic  and demonized. Raj agreed with Timmy, saying that at least the father stuck around and his decoration of the house involving the children was his way of interaction and showing love for them.

3. Mother

Aaron saw the mother as the villain of this drama. The father was fighting his own demons and had an excuse but she had none. She could have stopped the beating of the children. She could have walked out of the marriage and supported herself, being the strong independent woman who flew to Paris to marry a man. She was nonchalant to the children’s well being.

Conclusion

Despite disliking the memoir, Raj, being masochistic, wanted to read her book on her mother Are You My Mother? before condemning Bechdel completely. Raj called this book a gay Persepolis. Isaac reiterated that the autobiography is self-reflexive and has universal themes of coming out that LGBT can identity with and the characters, neither fully good nor bad, perplex and frustrate the reader. Timmy was convinced by Isaac and appreciated the book more while Aaron stood by his love-hate relationship that it was a good literary book but detested the narcissistic narrator-author as he believes that values, even narcissism, are transmitted through books subliminally.

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Filed under Alison Bechdel, Class, Ecology, Family, Gay, Graphic Novel, Lesbian, Love, USA

41st Discussion: Ali Smith’s There But For The

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Timmy wrote:

This week’s discussion was held at The Pigeon Hole as Raj was admitted into hospital with stomach ulcer (Get well soon!). Thank you to new attendees Andrew and Muslim for joining us this month.

Opening Words

We kicked off the discussion asking everyone’s thoughts on the book. Amit and Har are still reading the book. Amit found the book strange yet interesting, as well as very mysterious as it focuses more on the other characters. Har is appreciative of the novel’s suspense, and found the book anecdotal. Both Isaac and Andrew – the number 1 Ali Smith fanboys – liked the book too. Isaac enjoyed the witticisms and the puns. Both Timmy and Nicole thought the book is funny.

Alexius, however, didn’t particularly like it, feeling that the book was too tedious to be read and was not interesting.

Title

“What does it mean? Why did the author decided to name the book as such?” asked Aaron.

According to Andrew, Ali just decided to name it like that because she “quite liked the phrase.”  He went on: “It doesn’t mean much, but (it) can mean things for other people.” The rest of us just nodded our heads as we didn’t know what else to make of it.

Prologue

Isaac viewed the prologue as a modern fable, concerning youth and the passing of youth. He further elaborated that the man confronting his younger self might even be Miles himself. Alexius felt that this part caught his attention. He thought that the relationship between the boy and the man was never stated, and speculated that it could be alluding to paedophilia.

Short stories

“What’s the point of including them?” Aaron asked.

Alexius felt that the story itself did not hold much context, hence the short stories were add ons to beef up the book. Nicole, meanwhile, thought that the stories contributed to the characterizations. Aaron viewed them as reflections of art, and alluded to Miles’ quote to Brooke. Alexius referenced Jackson Pollock.

Dinner party

Har thought the entire scene was banal, though Timmy felt otherwise. He thought that the entire chapter perfectly captured the mood of the party very well, which Andrew agreed with.

Themes

During the discussion, we briefly touched on death and growing old (Aaron/Isaac); bullying, surveillance and the British system (Isaac); technology (Aaron); philosophy (Alexius); and modern life (Andrew).

We pondered on whether it is better to be cleverest, or cleverist. Aaron felt that the book did not achieve that.

Favourite characters

Amit liked Mark because we are able to glimpse into his thoughts. Aaron described him as hot, although Timmy begged to differ.

Miles was the hot favourite for this discussion, being liked by Isaac, Har, Nicole and Andrew. Brooke followed in second, with votes from Aaron, Andrew and Timmy. They found her precocious and lovable.

Alexius liked the boy in the prologue, describing him as “significant”.

Least favourite

Isaac found Genevieve pretentious and irritating.

Har started disliking Miles after he locks himself in the room.

Alexius cited the man in the prologue as his least favourite.

Last words

Isaac described the book as an anti-novel, almost like giving the middle finger as to how a novel should be written. Har intends to finish reading it, as he appreciates the writing style. Andrew remains as Ali Smith’s fanboy and described the book as a biting social critique of the harsh celebrity life. Nicole said she will have to read till the end; she does, however, like the characters and the tricks Smith employed throughout her novel.

At the other end of the spectrum… Amit remains indifferent to the book. Alexius, however, still finds it boring post-discussing the book, declaring it as too “textbook” and stylistic. He doesn’t plan on continuing reading it. Ernest too didn’t like the book, finding the wordplay too hard to comprehend, and the overall style as being too chunky and dry.

Aaron declared the interactions between Miles and Brooke to be magical, though in closing the discussion, he felt that overall it wasn’t a fruitful one. “The novel is indubitably technically brilliant but it either went over our heads and we couldn’t understand it, or it’s just meaningless that we cannot extract meaning out of it.” Oh dear.

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Filed under Ali Smith, Class, Ecology, Family, Lesbian, Love, Politics, Race, Technology, Time, UK