Hopes were low going into this meeting. An easy read, many expected there would not be much to talk about, that we would quickly sift through the meager intellectual offerings and end the evening early. Boy, was that not the case.
Sparks flew from the earliest moments as some panned the book as unworthy of our group and suitable only for 13-year-olds, while others maintained that its admittedly plain-spoken form was the bearer of many serious, adult themes. And it was, after all, Orson Scott Card’s first novel written when he was young. Still, the unadorned style, pervasive ‘telling’ instead of ‘showing’, and rushing through processes that would have taken considerable time to occur (like getting up to speed on global politics), made the book a lackluster aesthetic experience.
The only consensus was that it was an engaging story.
Other areas of disagreement included:
- would anyone be reading this book in 100 years
- was it a great book
- was it a great science fiction book
- was it believable that Ender was so young
- did the author accomplish his purpose
- what WAS the author’s purpose
- does a book have to be literary, erudite, or more skillfully written to be worthy of reading at Athenaeum
- of what value is the contribution of science fiction
- should we read books written at a lower level just to be informed about the culture
Noted by more than one attendee was the fact that the book contains several themes, all of which would be worthy of discussion: the use of children to accomplish the military wishes of adults, the relevance of this book to the generation of gamers many of whom today are operating drones from Colorado Springs, and others that I can’t remember now. [You can leave them as a comment if you like.]
The evening was substantially disrupted by some kind of MBA student’s party at the Dog & Duck. Hordes of shrill, dumpy coeds filled the establishment and spilled out onto the deck. The volume of their raucous blathering was so loud that we had to shout at each other just to hear down the table. The surrounding tenor may have contributed to the strong sentiments expressed over the course of the evening.
In other news, the former record of 101 degrees for hottest temperature during a meeting was broken. The new record in 103 degrees.
Next month’s book is Cormac McCarthy’s first novel, The Orchard Keeper (1965). For the month of September, we will read Lanterns on the Levy by Will Percy, the uncle of Walker Percy.