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Old 01-02-2012, 07:52 AM   #6
fantasyfan
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Posts: 831
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Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Ireland
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First of all, let me wish everyone in the club a very Happy New Year!

I had worries about how to handle a discussion of a book of over thirty stories. As has been pointed out in a previous post, discussing short stories can be a quite challenging project for a book club. Happily, just recently I ran across an interesting guide to approaching the genre by Robin Black--herself a short story writer. Robin Black clearly had in mind a group which met at a physical location rather than an on-line club, but I feel that the method can be adapted so as to work effectively for us too. The relevant link is:

http://robinblack.net/short-story-co...r-book-groups/

I thought that I would try to adapt her approach to Saki’s work. To begin, she suggests that the group should start with an analysis of three specific stories to focus on the author’s theme and style. I think that one could start with six in the case of Saki as his stories tend to be very short.

So perhaps we could begin with an examination of these six pieces from the Beasts and Super Beasts collection: In numerical order they are:

2. “The Boar Pig”
5. “The Open Window”
11. “The Schartz-Metterklume Method”
20. “The Dreamer”
27. “The Story Teller”
32. “The Lumber Room”

Black suggests that one should take the approach of viewing a picture-gallery. Examine and experience each story on its own merits. Quite possibly some may stand out as particularly significant. After familiarising oneself with the group, one could begin an exploration by considering some of the following questions.

1. Is there a common theme running through them?

2. What kind of a fictional world does Saki create? Is there a dominant ethical, social or life perspective? Is a particularly significant authorial tone { e.g. sarcasm, bitterness, humour, cruelty} present? One might look at the kind of characters which people it. Are the clever? greedy? self-absorbed? shallow?

4. What sorts of conflicts drive the plots? Does Saki resolve them satisfactorily? Does he want to? Did you find the endings at all unsettling in some cases?

5. Does Saki manage cross gender writing? Does he manage to create a believable perspective when writing from a child’s point of view?

6. Which of the stories ddid you find to be the most rewarding? Why?

Black mentions that one could explore the significance {if any} of titles and whether any of the characters stand out with a special intensity.

The final step would be to move to other stories in the collection which you found interesting and examine them in light of this opening discussion. For instance, I find “The Cobweb” much darker than most of Saki’s stories and with a melancholy feeling one doesn't often find in his work, but he still focuses on a social theme. “The Philanthropist and the Happy Cat” is a brilliant slash at the comfortable “do-gooder”, but I find “The Romancers” quite cruel. “Blind Spot” has a brilliance of wit but a very unsettling {and shocking} conclusion. "The Treasure Ship" is a very hostile glance at a corrupt and parasitical upper class with some very strange ideas thrown in and there are multiple ironic plays on the title.

Speaking generally, it has been said of satirists that they spend their time "examining the bars of their cages" but they don't provide any answers. Is this true of Saki?

I hope you will find these suggested guidelines useful. Please add any ideas you may have.

Last edited by fantasyfan; 01-02-2012 at 08:23 AM.
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