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Please join us on Wednesday January 28, 2015 when we discuss A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines.  We will meet at 12:30 p.m. in room 1550.

From Random House -

Ernest J. Gaines’s award-winning novel is set in a small Louisiana Cajun community in the late 1940s. Jefferson, a young black man, is an unwitting party to a liquor store shootout in which three men are killed; the only survivor, he is convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Grant Wiggins has returned home from college to the plantation school to teach children whose lives promise to be not much better than Jefferson’s. As he struggles with his decision whether to stay or escape to another state, his aunt and Jefferson’s godmother persuade him to visit Jefferson in his cell and impart his learning and pride to Jefferson before his death. In the end, the two men forge a bond as they come to understand the simple heroism of resisting—and defying—the expected.

In a story whose eloquence, thematic richness, and moral resonance have called forth comparisons to the work of Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and William Faulkner, Gaines summons the reader to confront the entire bitter history of black people in the South—and, by extension, America as a whole. A Lesson Before Dying is about the ways in which people declare the value of their lives in a time and place in which those lives seemingly count for nothing. It is about the ways in which the imprisoned may find freedom even in the moment of their death. Gaines’s novel transcends its minutely evoked circumstances to address the basic predicament of what it is to be a human being, a creature striving for dignity in a universe that often denies it.

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Please join us on Wednesday December 17, 2014 when we discuss The Chimes, by Charles Dickens.  We will meet at 12:30 p.m. in room 2537.

From Wiki -

The Chimes: A Goblin Story of Some Bells that Rang an Old Year Out and a New Year In, a short novel by Charles Dickens, was written and published in 1844, one year after A Christmas Carol and one year before The Cricket on the Hearth. It is the second in his series of “Christmas books”: five short books with strong social and moral messages that he published during the 1840s.

Other discussion topics include: books we’ve read this year and would recommend to others, and books on our wish lists.

Please join us on Wednesday November 19, 2014 when we discuss The Hound of the Baskervilles, by A. Conan Doyle.  We will meet at 12:30 p.m. in room 2537.

Project Gutenberg’s The Hound of the Baskervilles,  Chapter One –  “Mr. Sherlock Holmes”,  by A. Conan Doyle  -

“Really, Watson, you excel yourself,” said Holmes, pushing back his chair and lighting a cigarette. “I am bound to say that in all the accounts which you have been so good as to give of my own small achievements you have habitually underrated your own abilities. It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but you are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it. I confess, my dear fellow, that I am very much in your debt.”

He had never said as much before, and I must admit that his words gave me keen pleasure, for I had often been piqued by his indifference to my admiration and to the attempts which I had made to give publicity to his methods. I was proud, too, to think that I had so far mastered his system as to apply it in a way which earned his approval. He now took the stick from my hands and examined it for a few minutes with his naked eyes. Then with an expression of interest he laid down his cigarette, and carrying the cane to the window, he looked over it again with a convex lens.

“Interesting, though elementary,” said he as he returned to his favourite corner of the settee. “There are certainly one or two indications upon the stick. It gives us the basis for several deductions.”

“Has anything escaped me?” I asked with some self-importance. “I trust that there is nothing of consequence which I have overlooked?”

“I am afraid, my dear Watson, that most of your conclusions were erroneous. When I said that you stimulated me I meant, to be frank, that in noting your fallacies I was occasionally guided towards the truth. Not that you are entirely wrong in this instance. The man is certainly a country practitioner. And he walks a good deal.”

 Elementary.

Please join us on Wednesday October 29, 2014 when we discuss The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.  We will meet at 12:30 p.m. in room 1550.

From Penguin Classics:

First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

Happy Birthday Book Club!  6 years old.

We will meet to discuss One Man’s Meat by E. B. White on Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at 12:30 p.m. in room 1550.

From One Man’s Meat – Walden:

   Miss Nims, take a letter to Henry David Thoreau.  Dear Henry:  I thought of you the other afternoon as I was approaching Concord doing fifty on Route 62.  That is a high speed at which to hold a philosopher in one’s mind, but in this century we are a nimble bunch.

   On one of the lawns in the outskirts of the village a woman was cutting the grass with a motorized lawn mower. What made me think of you was that the machine had rather got away from her,  although she was game enough, and in the brief glimpse I had of the scene it appeared to me that the lawn mower was mowing the lady.  She kept a tight grip on the handles, which throbbed violently with every explosion of the one-cylinder motor, and she sheered around bushes and lurched along at a reluctant trot behind her impetuous servant, she looked like a puppy who had grabbed something that was too much for him.  Concord hasn’t changed much, Henry;  the farm implements and the animals still have the upper hand.

   I may as well admit that I was journeying to Concord with the deliberate intention of visiting your woods;  for although I have never knelt at the grave of a philosopher nor placed wreaths on moldy poets,  and have often gone a mile out of my way to avoid some place of historical interest,  I have always wanted to see Walden Pond.  The account that you left of your sojourn there is,  you will be amused to learn, a document of increasing pertinence;  each year it seems to gain a little headway,  as the world loses ground.  We may all be transcendental yet, whether we like it or not.  As our common complexities increase, any tale of individual simplicity (and yours is the best written and the cockiest)  acquires  a new fascination;  as our goods accumulate, but not our well-being,  your report of an existence without material adornment takes on a certain awkward credibility.

~~  E. B. White  June 1939

Selections from One Man’s Meat for our meeting -

Foreword
Removal
Children’s Books
Salt Water Farm
Movies
The World of Tomorrow
Walden
First World War
Freedom
The Practical Farmer
Maine Speech
Dog Training
The Trailer Park
Once More to the Lake
Memorandum
Intimations (written after Pearl Harbor)
Bond Rally

Please join us on Wednesday August 20, 2014 at 12:30 pm when we discuss The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson.  We plan on holding this meeting in the courtyard.   In case of rain or high temperatures, the discussion will be held in the IT Conference room (room 0424).

From Bill Bryson’s  Official Website:

Bill Bryson was born in the middle of the American century—1951—in the middle of the United States—Des Moines, Iowa—in the middle of the largest generation in American history—the baby boomers. As one of the best and funniest writers alive, he is perfectly positioned to mine his memories of a totally all-American childhood for 24-carat memoir gold. Like millions of his generational peers, Bill Bryson grew up with a rich fantasy life as a superhero. In his case, he ran around his house and neighborhood with an old football jersey with a thunderbolt on it and a towel about his neck that served as his cape, leaping tall buildings in a single bound and vanquishing awful evildoers (and morons)—in his head—as “”The Thunderbolt Kid.””

Using this persona as a springboard, Bill Bryson re-creates the life of his family and his native city in the 1950s in all its transcendent normality—a life at once completely familiar to us all and as far away and unreachable as another galaxy. It was, he reminds us, a happy time, when automobiles and televisions and appliances (not to mention nuclear weapons) grew larger and more numerous with each passing year, and DDT, cigarettes, and the fallout from atmospheric testing were considered harmless or even good for you. He brings us into the life of his loving but eccentric family, including affectionate portraits of his father, a gifted sportswriter for the local paper and dedicated practitioner of isometric exercises, and OF his mother, whose job as the home furnishing editor for the same paper left her little time for practicing the domestic arts at home. The many readers of Bill Bryson’s earlier classic, A Walk in the Woods, will greet the reappearance in these pages of the immortal Stephen Katz, seen hijacking literally boxcar loads of beer. He is joined in the Bryson gallery of immortal characters by the demonically clever Willoughby brothers, who apply their scientific skills and can-do attitude to gleefully destructive ends.

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We will meet to discuss Catch-22 by Joseph Heller on Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 11:30 a.m. in room 2609 1550.

From Wiki:

Catch-22 is a satirical novel by the American author Joseph Heller. He began writing it in 1953; the novel was first published in 1961. It is set during World War II from 1942 to 1944. It is frequently cited as one of the greatest literary works of the twentieth century.  It uses a distinctive non-chronological third-person omniscient narration, describing events from the point of view of different characters. The separate storylines are out of sequence so that the timeline develops along with the plot.

The novel follows Captain John Yossarian, a U.S. Army Air Forces B-25 bombardier. Most of the events in the book occur while the fictional 256th Squadron is based on the island of Pianosa, in the Mediterranean Sea, west of Italy. The novel looks into the experiences of Yossarian and the other airmen in the camp. It focuses on their attempts to keep their sanity in order to fulfill their service requirements so that they may return home.

The phrase “Catch-22″ has entered the English language, referring to a type of unsolvable logic puzzle.

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