Together in Spirit

An online reading group ('TIS a reading group!) to bring together friends, and friends of friends, who aren't able to be in a conventional reading group due to constraints of time or geography.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Helen Slavin

I have no idea what this is so have no objection to having it. There's trust for you!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Next book suggestion

Hi. I have a suggestion for our next book, which would be rather a departure from our recent choices and is also fiction. It is "The extra large medium" by Helen Slavin. Are we all OK with that, if no-one else has any other suggestions?

Monday, January 05, 2009

Booker shortlist

Sorry you didn't all enjoy the Didion, which I was glad to have read. But interesting thoughts on that and Anna K, thank you.

Fascinating idea to do a Booker-style vote. I also read the Booker article, and was very disappointed to hear how random, political and arbitrary the winners were. Makes more sense of the results, though, which are very seldom as I'd choose! I also clocked The Blue Flower preference. Since it was one of the most disappointing and depressing books I'd read in a while, I'm not sure letting the Booker judges reform the process would solve the problem of bad or unrepresentative choices! A classic study in choice by committee, isn't it? It isn't even that they all agreed on a compromise candidate. Quite often, it seemed, a majority would not have voted for the winner, and things got inadvertently dropped before shortlisting which, if included, many felt would actually have won. There seemed to be little facility (except for the odd honourable exception amongst the chairs of judges), to take a step back. "Do any of us actually want this? Is there a book we'd planned to drop which would be a better compromise candidate?" etc.

As to OUR choices... you're quite right, Valerie, that the choice is almost paralysing. Especially, I think, as we read such an eclectic selection. We're comparing fiction, non-fiction, self-help type, crossover... So I personally would have to choose: In non-fiction, "Shakespeare" was just so informative, and in a way I manage to retain some of! In self-help type category, "Counselling for Toads". J's been reading The Wind in the Willows to M5, for the first time since we read the adult book, and I'm struck again by how absolutely on the money it is. For technical artistry I'd have to vote for "We need to talk". I still find it extraordinary. For book I most often return to, it's "A month in the country". There is not a syllable out of place in that book and it is neither bleak nor sentimental but perfectly judged. I don't know if there's a word for satisfyingly-a-bit-depressing-but-uplifting-because-it's-perfect-and-has-crucial-redemptive-theme, but that's what i mean. Reminds me of "The Shipping News" in that respect. And a highly commended for "Bel Canto", which I still return to and warm to enormously, somewhat despite myself.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

TIS Booker

By just looking at Val's list and taking the titles that jump out, my choices would be Kevin and Night watch. A Short History of Nearly Everything and A month in the Country. The latter is the best honed work of art, Kevin just pips it for a novel and the Bill Bryson is just extra ordinary in its research and breadth. I would have to give considerable thought before I could just pick one.

Joan Didion 2

I was rather disappointed with this book. Obviously, much sympathy has to be given to Joan Didion as she finds herself in such an appalling situation. The writing however, did not engage me more than a medical case-study. One important fact emerged was that in a grief such as this, the body and mind undergo changes to the chemical and hormonal balance and take time to recover. I felt most touched when she realised that she was still hopeful that her husband could be saved until he had been taken to hospital and only after some time she was told he had died when the paramedics were obviously fully aware that he died in the home. It must have been painful when she remembered this. Would she have preferred to have been told the truth earlier?

I agree with Emily that I was at a disadvantage as I did not really know who Joan Didion and her husband were, so lacked a back story to enable me to relate to her more fully. Vanessa Redgrave has just finished a one woman performance with this at the National and I am intrigued to find out how she approached it. I think this book could be helpful to people also bereaved.