The Lash of Faulkner’s Birch

IThe Sound and the Fury Faulkner’s most difficult book? It certainly has the reputation of being a merciless novel, almost deliberately obscure for the first 75 pages or so especially, and then only moderately elusive after that.

Recall, the book is divided into four sections, the first and main story being told by Benji, the 33-year old retarded younger brother. His is “sound and fury signifying nothing,” “a tale told by an idiot.” But only Benji can tell the story: mother is sick, Quentin is dead, Caddy is run off with another man, and Jason is a “Bascomb”.

The confusion of time is a key component in the book. The four stories are told out of order. Benji’s especially is nearly impenetrable; he has no concept of time. Quentin’s watch has no hands.

The contemporaneous or “present day” portion of the book takes place during Passion Week and the scene in the church on Easter is the climax of the story. 

Dilsey is prescient, the black prophetess; “I’ve seen the first and I’ve seen the lst of the Compsons.” The story is of the destruction of a prosperous, white family in the south. The black family knows what’s going on. “They endured,” says the narrator. The Compsons did not. It was observed in our group that Dilsey was the main character of the book.

This summary is itself confused, as much because of the difficulty of the book as by the tardiness of this report. We read this book for November’s meeting. But as usual, a complexity and punishing demands of Faulkner’s prose yielded somewhat to several hours of our collective deliberations. And by the end of our meeting even those first-timers who found the book a herculean effort to read came away loving the story, professing its genius and its insight into the human condition.

Life on Mars (and also death)

martianchroniclesThe Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury.

It is perhaps a testimony to the enduring nature of Ray Bradbury’s books that the first question we grappled with at the meeting for this book was What genre is it? “Science fiction” just doesn’t seem to fit very comfortably.

Although much (most) science fiction tells stories that reach well beyond the first level of the narrative into matters of contemporary political, social, or technological significance, The Martian Chronicles seems less about the science or the fiction than ordinary SciFi. The setting of most of the action (Mars) was not essential to the story. It was simply a location of sufficient distance and isolation from the current events on Earth to allow particular bradburypsychologies to develop among the human settlers. It could easily been a story of frontiersmen in the early 1800’s.

In fact, the observation was made that the book could be an allegory of westward expansion, a claim somewhat anticlimactic given the subject matter, but salient nonetheless.

Some favorite moments in this collection of vignettes were the story about the last man left on Mars who seeks and pursues the last woman in another city, how he travels, finds her, discovers she is fat and intolerably annoying, and chooses rather to be alone; paranoid ex-soldier who kills several aliens before they can explain to him that they are giving him their land; the Edgar Allen Poe redux in which the steward of a mansion gruesomely kills the government bureaucrats coming to confiscate his property.

We observed the change in attitudes between Bradbury’s day and ours, when human settlers on Mars returned to Earth en masse to fight when word of nuclear war reaches them. We decided that we are much more cynical and unpatriotic, and would not return.

Finally, we concluded that the book is not about realistically exploring the human soul or presenting a plausible technological enterprise. It is more about mood and quirk factor, and light commentary on the foibles of silly humans bumbling about a new place. It is about a fun read with poignant observations and stimulating the imagination. It is about all the enjoyable things that literature can be about (humor, imagination, human experience, human nature, possibilities, ideas) without sermonizing.

The book got good reviews all around as being an enjoyable read.

E. M. Forster was ahead of his time

passage-to-indiaThe book for September was E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India.

But wait! Before you click away from this blog post, you need to know that this English writer was a man ahead of his time. As evidenced by our book, Forster was advocating a form of civil rights and condemning racism, imperialism, and exploitation of England’s subjugated races decades before any of us were even born, much less speaking out against social inequality ourselves. Our book is an early exposure of particularly British sins in their treatment of the Indian state over which they ruled. Champions of racial equality today should associate Forster’s name with those who broke from the majority in the early 20th century to become advocates of social justice.

Those who have read the book (or at least seen the 1984 film adaptation) will remember the central conflict in which Doctor Aziz agrees to take the young Adela Quested and the elderly Mrs. Moore on a tour of the Marabar caves. In an enigmatic turn, Miss Quested, momentarily alone in one cave, imagines herself to have been molested by Dr. Aziz, who at the time was musing to himself outside the caves. Adela flees the cave and gets a ride back to the English dwellings, and later accuses Aziz of the barbaric attack.

A trial ensues during which tensions between British and Indian natives seeth to a boiling point. On the stand, after weeks of build up and imprisonment of Dr. Aziz (on nothing but Adela’s testimony), Adela admits to her own shame that Dr. Aziz is innocent. But it doesn’t matter. forster1British are convinced that her exoneration of Aziz is due to mental frailty and that Aziz is guilty even without Adela’s testimony. The Indian people are enraged at the injustice and ill-treatment by their subjugators and riots ensue. History tells us that it would not be too many more years until the expulsion of the British Raj and independence of India and Pakistan.

Mention was made of Forster’s skill in setting up the action and fallout at the Marabar Cave. Events led naturally to the set up of a dangerous situation for Aziz. Contrary to all propriety, he and Adela are left alone to explore the caves through a series of unplanned miscues: a missed train, the headache Mrs. Moore suffered following the strange ringing of echoes in the first cave they entered. Adele’s fiance’, Ronny Heaslop, the magistrate in the local province, is especially confounded by the event which works to the worsening of the situation for Aziz.

We noted the irony in the decline of Mrs. Moore who, after the incident at the caves and the ear-ringing echoes, becomes depressed and deeply cynical about life. Though she is seen as the friend of the Indian people and champion of their cause, a goddess whose name is chanted with fervor, she leaves the country before the trial and dies on the voyage home.

The most poignant observation of the evening was to note the ways in which the racial bias and malice between the British and Indians so closely parallels racial tension in the United States. Our history is fraught with stories in which a black man is falsely accused and lynched upon even the suspicion of offense toward a white woman. The automatic suspicion of guilt, the malicious treatment by white law enforcement, the cursory deliberation of juries and judges is all too familiar in the United States. A sympathetic reading of A Passage to India would be good medicine to a many in our country with racial bias—a chance to recognize his own offenses dressed in the guise of other peoples and lands.

forster2Finally, it was interesting to note the friendly toleration between Muslims and Hindus living in the same proximity with each other at the period of the book. It was a poignant aspect to the reader who is aware of the coming murderous conflict to ensue between the two groups 40 years later, another subtle message from the author about the fickleness of human nature.

Moby Dick delights all, some whine about length

melvilleNot infrequently we nominate a book that has everyone at the table rubbing their palms together and giggling like Christmas morning. Moby Dick was such a book, although some did not wear their big boy pants to Athenaeum and complained about the length.

Nathan gave the opening sermon, er, essay in that open-throated hand-extended admonitory we have come to enjoy, summoning the bleak and impaling gravitas of the sermon on Jonah attended by Ishmael before embarking on his voyage.

After not very many minutes, diverting early to ribald matters as this august body is want to do, we fell to debating the impossibly droll subject of whether Melville intended to suggest a homosexual motif, that seafaring cliche’, in the scene in which Ishmael and Queequeg shared a bed, or in the hand-touching scene in which all shipmates were joined in the joyous, manual pulverizing of the waxy viscera known as spermaceti retrieved from the head cavity of the harpooned and dissected Sperm Whale.

While homosexuality is nothing new, and while homosexual references have been included (normally in veiled form) in literature centuries before Melville, such history notwithstanding, it is the privilege of this writer to record his own and a minority of other members’ opinion that, far from the bromide suggestion that actual gay sex acts were a leisure time activity among the shipmates (as mariner lore tells us must happen when any two men find themselves on a boat together), it was a common literary device in which men are placed in an awkward proximity to each other for a humorous effect rather than to plant in the reader’s mind the unsavory information that maritime buggery was prevalent among the berths of the Pequod. Now on to the story.

What sort of literature is Moby Dick? Suggestions include: a travelog, technical study of the whaling industry, a praise song to the glory and virtue of whaling. All agreed that the book is allegorical at some level; Melville himself alludes to the many symbols operating in the life and experiences of the whaler.

The name of the clever commenter who suggested that the Pequod is equivalent to America’s drive to industrialism is now forgotten. But the dictum that man is a money-making animal was useful for the observation that the whaler’s wanton utilization, commodification, and ultimately destruction of life and creation is a parody of the contemporaneous explosion of the fires of industry.

Starbuck: the upstanding family man, working faithfully for the company, is the foil to Ahab, the crazed, homicidal, suicidal prodigal whose vengeance and blood thirst knows no limit. What a poignant moment when the two men’s gazes lock and find for a moment a connection as Ahab sees Starbuck as a real man, sees his family, his humanity. The encounter only adds to the mystery of Ahab’s psychology.beale-1a

Is Ahab all of us? Humans pursuing a course they know is damned? Observation was made by John that the name Pequod seems uncannily close to the Old Testament word “pekod” or “judgment” from the book of Jeremiah. But rarely content with one dimension, Melville’s ship was also the name of an Indian tribe destroyed in the 1600’s.

Moby Dick defies nailing down. There is no key to explain the book, no easy symbolic code. Allegorical it would seem, but allegory of what? The associations and connections are such a web of complexity that can be interpreted in any way with at least some success. Is it about religion? American industrialism? money? the whaling trade? man vs nature? human nature? Is the Great White Whale God and Ahab modern mankind who would eliminate him as an unwanted relic of an ancient world? Who can say.

It cannot be about the ‘glory of whaling’ because on one hand he talks about the honor of the trade, while on the other he describes the horrific scenes of hunting and processing the slaughtered beast. Someone said, Melville serves it up with both hands.

Ahab is the man of reason and the man driven by passions, contrary to reason. There just seems to be no end to the dimensions of this book.

I add as a conclusion my thoughts that Ahab’s quest, with many men in his train, is punctuated, especially toward the end, with a note of the inevitability of fate and the mockery of opportunities of repentance for one whose destiny is sealed. Recall that Ishmael is a Presbyterian, a Calvinist. As the ship’s last days pass before the final encounter, nature gives them respite of warmth and clear skies, brushing away their fury and offering them an opportunity to abandon the damned quest. Everyone feels the beneficent breezes of sanity restored momentarily. Other passing ships urge them to retreat, offer opportunity to join a reasonable mission. It is as if all creation for a time set the past behind and summoned the men to rejoin the community of divine favor. Yet the Pequod’s fate is confoundingly set. Was the offer of repentance real or a dream? Was human responsibility operative or the immutable decree of heaven? The old theological paradox is as impenetrable in Moby Dick as it ever was.

The book was unanimously praised. Nevertheless, some trolls among us spoke the equivalent of Emperor Joseph II saying to Mozart that his symphony had too many notes and that he should just cut a few. We reply as Mozart did (at least in the movie): which notes did you have in mind? 

Next book: A Passage to India

Pearl Buck says much in few words

Pearl_BuckIn one of the biggest unexpected discoveries of Athenaeum’s history, Pearl Buck’s 1932 Pulitzer winner found generally enthusiastic and appreciative reception. The Good Earth is the first book in a trilogy and was influential in her winning of the Nobel Prize for literature.

Written in the style reminiscent of old Bible stories or parables, or perhaps affecting a Chinese storytelling mode invented for western readers, The Good Earth tells the life of Wang Lung, a man who goes from a young poor farmer to an old wealthy city man with all the trappings that go along with it.

She does not judge her protagonist for his misjudgments, compromises, his vanity, his treatment of his wife, or his later quest for peace and quiet. She just tells what happened. Given the fabled style and the knowledge that Buck herself was the child of missionaries in China, one may expect something of a morality tale. But instead she tells the events in concise, unaffected prose, letting the reader think about what it means.

Jordan’s nomination was given introduction by his cogent essay in which he pointed out that the Chinese culture was portrayed by Buck as universal and timeless, yet realistic. The land is a character all its own in the book, and it is a source of salvation. His criticism was that Buck seemed captive to a romantic notion of the final goodness of land, an idea with real merit but possibly overplayed in the story. Nevertheless it is an ideal shared by farmers for millennia on every continent, from the banks of the Nile, to the Promised Land of Israel, from vineyards of Tuscany to the fruited American plain.

goodearthEveryone admitted their love for O-Lan, Wang Lung’s boxy, globe-faced bride who bore him sons and daughters, yea, bore in isolation, without a cry, and then returned to the work in the fields before the day was over. Matt went to far as to suggest that the book is really about O-Lan, so prominent was her role. She is always noble in her own moral structure. She is the strong one in the family, and Wang Lung weeps at her death, unable to process the loss of her. She is always practical (she picks up the pork strip that Wang Lung throws in the dirt and washes it off), and his guilt is usually about how he’s treated her.

Finally, status and position seem to be the things to concern characters the most after their bellies are filled and the land is free of famine and pestilence. When Wang Lung takes Lotus as a concubine (followed later by Pear Blossom), O-Lan’s anguish is not over his sexual preference for Lotus’s youth, but for the loss of her status. “I bore you sons,” she protests, “I bore you sons!”

Along the same lines, Wang Lung’s grasping for status is seen in the classic conflict between the country bumpkin and the city slicker; we look on knowingly at his new haircut, his fancy new clothes, his new habit of regular bathing.

This book does not submit to easy analysis or dismissal. It treats many complex subjects at a deep level. Some in the group said that the book failed to reach them, and that is fair enough. Others, myself included, were touched by the book, and I recognized uncanny familiar feelings and attitudes experienced by the characters.

The vote for August was tied in the vote and the runoff, and it came down to a coin toss. The coin was lost in the dark for some seconds and was eventually discovered in Randy’s seat, head’s up. The coin decided in favor of Moby Dick, a book that we are reading for the second time, the first time being near the time of the founding of Athenaeum.

Next meeting: In The First Circle.

The Count of Monte Cristo in comments

Now is your chance! Your chance to contribute to the Austin Athenaeum CMCblog. The May 2016 book was Dumas’ perennial serialized favorite, The Count of Monte Cristo.

I cannot find my notes for CMC and so this will be the first ever Athenaeum blog post where the real meat of the discussion is to be found in the comments section.  As I recall, although the book was generally enjoyable, it took a lot of heat from our discriminating literary group.

Nevertheless, scroll on down, sharpen your pen (or tongue, or whatever), and post your recollections of CMC in the comments section!

Come on. Don’t be shy. We need some record of the evening. Remember how we compared it to David Copperfield? Remember that sense of realizing that you had spent an entire month reading what was essentially a young boy’s adventure story? 1100 pages or something for Pete’s sake! You could have been reading Alasdair MacIntyre or Alvin Plantinga, but instead you were following Messer Dantes on his overweening quest for revenge.

Now it’s your turn to say what you thought. So get started.

PS. Book for June: The Good Earth – Pearl Buck. Book for July, In The First Circle, by Solzhenitsyn

Oscar Wao gets warm applause

OscarWaoThe book for April which was nominated by yours truly was The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, the bestselling and Pulitzer Award winning novel by Dominican novelist Junot Diaz.

I commend to the reader my essay, the link to which can be found in the left column if you are viewing this on a computer screen. Those comments deal with why we should not shrink from reading admittedly coarse and contemporary novels such as this one. Oscar Wao is indeed packed with vulgarities and descriptions of brutalities that are difficult to stomach at times. But I argue that we should still read them, and that is in the essay.

The task here is to record some little trifle in memoriam of our April 2016 meeting. And the plums of the evening tended to be the various observations of the ways in which the Dominican Republic parallels Mordor under the dictatorship of Trujillo, the contemporaneous Sauron. In Oscar’s obsession with fantasy role playing games, fantasy novels, films, comics, etc., we find an epic fantasy world version of the horrors of 20th century tyranny.

Adding significant dimension and depth to the book, we see that Oscar adopts a new persona at the end. He goes to his own Mordor, the DR, on his own quest, for love perhaps, or at least for the physical act of love—a broken man on a broken quest of self-realization of the Dominican male stereotype of the poon hound.

An even more erudite observation made by first-timer Gerry was the striking parallel to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness: Oscar himself goes to the heart of DR darkness where at the end of the book instead of “the horror”, he is saying “the beauty…”

Most everyone conceded that the book was very good. Absent were encomiums of the highest tenor, elevating the book or its author to some pinnacle of immortality. It may have been the barrage of sex-laden vulgarities. Or the subject matter. Or something requiring greater introspection.

I grant myself the license as curator of this blog to wonder out loud if the psychology of interacting with universally acknowledged heroes of literature does not predispose us to favoring their work (Dickens and Dumas for example, authors whose ascendancy we routinely debate), while recent novelists, people with whom we share space and air, people appearing in the media, who could conceivably one day soon appear on Oprah, people whom death has not yet sealed away from sight so that their work so that it can be the topic of dissertations, these novelists do not have the mindshare of the lovers of classic books in advance. What if, instead of Dickens, Junot Diaz had just written David Copperfield? Would we be more ready to pan it than we were last year when we read it?

Or are we living in a post-literary time when our fully deconstructed culture is simply no longer capable of producing heroic writers? Or even if it were still producing great writers, they are not given a platform and publicity by publishing companies who historically had the tacit duty of selecting the pantheon of writers? Why? Because the enormous heard of wonky New Yorker-opinions in every publishing house that must sign off on a new book? Because of financial risk that incurs when one writer becomes too famous, thus too powerful to control?

Whatever the reason, the book was mostly applauded and enjoyed by all. Few expressed intention to seek out more Diaz fiction.

Winning the vote for June’s book was long-shot proposal The Good Earth by Pearl S Buck.

Catching up on two months

I’m afraid I have fallen behind with this blog so I will record two meetings with this entry.

MailerThe February meeting enjoyed more pleasant temperatures for the discussion of The Naked and the Dead, a very young Norman Mailer’s novel about World War II in the South Pacific.

This was the first novel in some time in which opinions were sharply divided on the virtue of the book, probably not far from 50/50. Even Tony who proposed the book opened with a concession about “the perils of recommending a book one is not familiar with” and lamented what many felt were cardboard and stereotypical characters.

Nevertheless discussion drew out the implicit satire of the book bitterly critical as it nakeddead1was of how the US military conducted the war. Perhaps the nugget of the evening was the observation that victory came not because of heroism, nor because of brilliant leadership or strategy, but because of soldiers with training doing what they were told in the combat manuals. Obedience. Like a cog in a wheel, blindly doing what they had prepared for. In Mailer’s vision, there was no greatness among the troops or the leadership. It was anything but the “greatest generation.”

As discussion developed, opinions also warmed up. Characters were realistic to some, fake to others. The psychology of characters was a good representation of how soldiers would act some said, others decidedly not. It was agreed that the first 2/3 of the book frequently dragged while the last 1/3 picked up.

LowryUnder the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry was the book for March. While I personally read the book, I was not present at the meeting. However reports are that for the second month in a row, many found the book hard going. No doubt. Lowry’s book falls in a small category with Joyce’s Ulysses for it’s stream of consciousness style, dizzyingly long sentences, sections of verbal opacity, vast quantities of allusions to history, literature, film, war, astronomy, and so on, and so on.

And yet it must be acknowledged that it is a great book. Indeed, it was reported that upon a second reading the book becomes much more lucid and can be read in less time. A second read will also make the work more enjoyable and enriching.

One personal comment: I think nowhere in literature have the idiosyncrasies, the degradations, the mannerisms, the thought patterns of alcoholism been better portrayed. For all of its first-reading obscurities, Volcano is a marvelous book.

The venue switched back to Gourmands this time where it will remain for the time being. This was due to the crowded quarters, the constant near traffic, and the death metal/biker bar across the street that drove us out.

The book for April is Junot Diaz’ The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. The book for May is The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

Updike delights, obfuscates in Rabbit, Run

updike2Warmed by wisdom’s holy flame against the fierce cold and abominable gusts, the doughty men of the Austin Athenaeum met in January to discuss an author new to our tribe: John Updike.

Updike’s first novel, Rabbit, Run (1960), reads like a cautionary tale. Harry (Rabbit) Angstrom is 26 and, due in part to his celebrity as a high school basketball star, he is almost entirely oblivious to the feelings of others. He is feckless, a coward, and worships his own desires. He is also, at least nominally, a Christian, although he relates to the church in the same way he relates to everyone else around him: never with sincerity, never with depth or engagement or investment, but only as something from which he can get something he wants.

Remarkably however, the reader does not loathe him. Rabbit is looking for something, for “it,” but he does not know what “it” is. Unsatisfied with his elbow-bending, boring, “stupid,” pregnant wife, he leaves home one day with no intentions to return. But 24 hours later he is back in his home town trying to find “it” in the company and attentions of Ruth, his new mistress. By the end of the book, he has bounced around between women like quarry and fleeting good intentions only to utter the most cruel words to his estranged wife at his newborn child’s funeral.

Yet for some reason we are interested in his plight, as apparently modern readers were in view of the series of Rabbit books that Updike produced, one even garnering a Pulitzer. We are all puzzled by our interest in him.

Updike apparently knew of what he wrote being a serial adulterer himself. Rabbit, Run was at least somewhat autobiographical and therefore self-deprecating.

updike1One theme common to literature is nature, and that is certainly true of this book. Here, nature is symbolized in at least two places: Rabbit’s brief employment as a rhododendron gardener for Mrs. Smith, and at the end in his running through the forest at the end. He is wrestling with his human nature vs. animal nature, the side that responds only to appetites and instincts.

Updike’s reputation was as a writer of Christian themes and sympathies, although his liberality with themes of sexuality and his lackluster portrayal of churches and clergy ensured that he was never warmly received by them.

It is worth mentioning the observation about the repeated references to the light in the church window that Rabbit sees from Ruth’s apartment. Each time the description of the light declines, starting with “transcendent” and steadily darkening until it is “a dark hole in the limestone facade.” What could Updike mean by this obvious bit of symbolism?

More than one opinion was offered. But whether it was Rabbit’s eroding connection to the church and faith by his failure to repent, or suggestive of the general decline in the plot and character, his abandonment of the search for “it,” clearly Updike used this and other significant moments and objects effectively in this book.

With the exception of the usual minority of detractors, the book was praised and enjoyed by the group.

February’s book: The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer

March’s book: Under the Volcano, by Malcolm Lowry.

A noir twofer with Chandler and Hammett

BigSleepDecember was the month in which the Austin Athenaeum read two books from the noir genre: The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon, a divergence from our normally more heady fare, but an opportunity to branch out into new territory however so low-brow.

On the one hand, Philip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep (a street euphemism for death), the former cop who didn’t play by the rules and had to become a private detective. He chases down multiple threads, dodges bullets and dames, tells law enforcement where to get off, and in the end reveals just about every other character in the book to be a shyster.

Raymond Chandler

On the other hand, Sam Spade, detective of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, the slightly more gentlemanly shamus who blows up the whole intrigue over the bogus statue and sends the greedy artifact collectors back to the Middle East to find their quarry.

In our lively discussion it was noted that Flannery O’Connor was famously harshly critical of the noir genre. No question that the 1950’s sensibilities and manners of the books are howlingly sexist and un-PC by today’s standards. The provenance of the books was alcohol-fueled and tinged by Hollywood bouncing gleefully nearby waiting to turn the books into movies.

maltesefalconSome interesting aspects were brought out. The sheer Americanism of the heroes, for example. The noir genre seems largely borrowed from the British gentry such as Father Brown and Sherlock Holmes, and coupled with the pent-up cynicism toward institutions that bloomed in the United States following World War I. It was then taken into an alley, forced to drink bourbon, and pistol-whipped into something fiercely individual, jaded, disillusioned, and cynical, just the ticket for American audiences.

In the United States, law enforcement isn’t enough. It’s too corrupt. It’s like it’s all a game, see, you have to go outside the system, see, if you wanna get things done and get to the bottom you gotta break some rules, crack some skulls, smack some yeggs around, see.

Finally, two interesting features in Maltese Falcon were discussed at length. First, the parable of “Charles Pearce”, the guy who is almost killed by a falling beam and is stirred thereby to change his life view from one of personal control of one’s own destiny to one of surrender to the randomness of fate. The real life Pearce was a philosopher who emphasized the importance of randomness in nature, and the parable seemed a clever commentary on Sam Spade himself.

Dashiell Hammett

Dashiell Hammett

The second feature was the uncanny similarities between Wilmer Cook, Casper Gutman’s punk hitman, and Rhea Gutman, Casper’s daughter who appears is only one scene drugged and barely conscious. Could these be the same person? The evidence grew as we considered it: his feminine features, his relating to Gutman as a father, his resistance to looking directly at Spade. Why would Hammett do that? It was odd. It didn’t seem to advance the story, and Rhea was the most minor of characters.

The final opinion of the group toward the books was both general enjoyment but a sense that it is not a genre that we would return to. Compared to the wealth of reward we generally receive from our selections, these two had less to offer beyond an atavistic imagination informed almost unavoidably by Humphrey Bogart.

The book for February was voted to be The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer.