“The novelist is a poor imitation of the Creator God.”
There was a reason for all this suffering.
WHY A READING JOURNAL…
Keeping these notes has helped shape many discussions with fellow-travelers over the years.
I started keeping this blog- in 2008-Tripoli, as an extension of my diaries (kept since 1983-Delhi) to keep in touch with my sons –Sagar and Sahil- who used to stay in Mumbai then, and imbibe in them the spirit of learning and discussion, which has been part of our family through generations.
When the weather allows, I also like to go out into the open, and sit and read, reflect on what has been written in open places. This year- I found a quiet spot near Lake Huron
ANOTHER BOOK CLUB YEAR-2018-19
As the next year of the book club is going to start, I looked back at some of the tools/courses which I have taken to enhance the Reading habit.
In 2017, I took a course on Life lessons from Great books by Professor Rufus Fears.
In Life Lessons from the Great Books, Professor J. Rufus Fears of the University of Oklahoma—a marvellous storyteller with deep historical knowledge—shows you how some of Western civilization’s greatest literary masterpieces can speak to you and provide guidance in your life across the gulf of time and culture. Rich in historical perspective and infused with layers of meaning, these 36 lectures reveal the wealth of insight these enduring works can provide in your life. You’ll come to see that each of these works—whether written 2,000, 200, or 20 years ago—remain relevant to all of us.
What Makes a Book “Great”?
According to Professor Fears, four characteristics define a Great Book:
- Its focus on great themes such as love, courage, and patriotism
- Its composition in a noble language
- Its ability to speak to readers across the ages
- Its ability to speak to readers not as groups, but as individuals
In this course he talked about what makes a great book – (1) Theme (2) Language (3) Speaks across ages. (4) Speaks to readers as individuals.
Using this prism, I tried to see whether any of the books in the 2017-2018 year in our Courtney park book club would speak across ages. Three books came across as possible candidates.
1-The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
2-Requiem- by Frances Itani
3- Do not say you have nothing- by Madeliene Thien.
While I highly recommend going through the course by Professor Fears, in summary the Great Lessons which he got as an individual from the books, which ranged from Addison’s Cato to Lawrence of Arabia’s book on the Arab Revolt to Ellie Wiesel’s -Night-
Night — A terrifying account of the Nazi death camp horror that turns a young Jewish boy into an agonized witness to the death of his family…the death of his innocence…and the death of his God. Penetrating and powerful, as personal as The Diary Of Anne Frank, Night awakens the shocking memory of evil at its absolute and carries with it the unforgettable message that this horror must never be allowed to happen again.
In Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel’s memoir Night, a scholarly, pious teenager is wracked with guilt at having survived the horror of the Holocaust and the genocidal campaign that consumed his family. His memories of the nightmare world of the death camps present him with an intolerable question: how can the God he once so fervently believed in have allowed these monstrous events to occur? There are no easy answers in this harrowing book, which probes life’s essential riddles with the lucid anguish only great literature achieves. It marks the crucial first step in Wiesel’s lifelong project to bear witness for those who died.
Great lessons as an individual (adapted from Professor Fears course)
1-See myself through the Eyes of others
2-Stepping back and look at the follies
3-Stop before a mistake turns into a tragedy
4-Connectedness- Are we really in need of this email?
5-How to make our life choices
6-Find and Follow your Destiny.
JUNE BOOK CLUB SELECTION PARTY
As we met for the Yearly book selection party on 11th June, 2018, I looked back at my Reading Journal of the previous year, and the many discussions had over lovely books.
1-Can a person like Jack Reacher exist…after reading Night School
Some thoughts…While Jack Reacher is a composite character, there are persons from agencies who go to different societies and do the ‘dirty work’ of eliminating people
2-Who has right over the tissues..after reading Henrietta Lacks
Some thoughts..It is what you do with the tissues, which counts. Right from medical school days, we were made to label each and every specimen we took from anyone, and then make rounds in the records division as part of follow-up
3-How powerful are the New Gods…after reading American Gods
Some thoughts…Technology-Twitter and Trump are part of the debate. While many Canadians do not like Trump, there must be supporters of this trend, which put him in the White House.
Synopsis- of American Gods
It follows the tribulations of Shadow Moon, an ex-convict who wanders the U.S. — Gaiman’s adopted country for more than two decades — alongside a mysterious con man named Mr. Wednesday. Along the way, Wednesday and Shadow link up with ancient gods from an array of Old World pantheons, all of whom are living in obscurity in the hidden corners of a decaying America. Wednesday, who may or may not be a god himself, recruits them all to fight a war against the New Gods: media, technology, and the like.
Suggested Further Reading-
THE 2018-2019 Selection
Having 10 books to read and discuss over the year, is a great way to enhance one’s intellectual, emotional and even spiritual horizons. Each book club member has a personality of their own, and I have had many valuable insights and alternative ways of looking at things , while listening to the different takes on the same book.
This year-in Courtney Park Library – we will discuss
1-A Wrinkle in Time- by Madeliene L’Engle
2-Dead Wake- Eric Larson
3-Heart of Darkenss-Joseph Conrad
4-You are a badass- Jen Sincero
5-The Husband’s secret- Liane Moriarty
6-Animal Farm- George Orwell
7-A house in the sky- Amanda Lindhurst
8-15 dogs- Andre Alexis
9-When breath becomes air- Paul Kalarith
10-Underground Railroad- Lolson Whitehead
THE BUILDING OF THE HOME LIBRARY
Having a reading habit, and building a reading life, go a long way into deepening one’s humanity.
The Book club gives a window into works which at least I would have not generally read. It also introduced me to works for further reading.
For example, after Reading the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks I went through –Siddhartha Mukherjee’s- The Emperor of All Maladies.
It also made me re-read my notes of books on similar themes which we had discussed in a previous year- 2015-16-in Tripoli , we had gone through the book –Voices from Chernobyl-by Nobel Laureate Svetlana Alexievich
On April 26, 1986, the worst nuclear reactor accident in history occurred in Chernobyl and contaminated as much as three quarters of Europe. Voices from Chernobyl is the first book to present personal accounts of the tragedy. Journalist Svetlana Alexievich interviewed hundreds of people affected by the meltdown—from innocent citizens to firefighters to those called in to clean up the disaster—and their stories reveal the fear, anger, and uncertainty with which they still live. Comprised of interviews in monologue form, Voices from Chernobyl is a crucially important work, unforgettable in its emotional power and honesty
Looking forward to another year of readings and discussions at Courtney Park
Suggested links of book discussions of past years
2013….A relook at Edward Said’s Orientalism and reflection on the words of G.Lukacs –
“The novelist is a poor imitation of the Creator God.”
2015… As a Ukrainian university instructor in Texas put it, reacting to the news about the Nobel: “my students do not weep when they read Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago, but when they read Alexievich’s Voices from Chernobyl—then they do.”