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Old 02-01-2020, 03:03 PM   #1
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X • February 2020

Help select what we'll read and discuss next!


The topic is X.

This could lead a few directions. It could be something to do with x marking the spot, such as adventure, treasure seeking, finding some person, place or thing that is lost or hidden. It could also be something to do with x as a censor, such as books that were banned at some point or somewhere, books that were controversial, or plots having to do with books, people, society or whatnot being banned, jailed, repressed or censored for ideas. It could also be something to do with the Roman numeral meaning ten. It could also be something to do with an ex or exes. It could be something to do with x as in the standard symbol for variables in maths, or to do with mathematicians, logic, coherence/incoherence, etc. It could even be something to do with the X Window System! Or, it could just be something to do with a title with a word beginning with an x, or if stretched even just an x somewhere in the title. There's a lot of possibilities with 'X'.


Detailed nominating and voting guidelines can be found here. Basically, nominations are open for about four days and each person may nominate up to three literary selections which will go automatically to the vote. Voting by post then opens for four days, and a voter may give each nomination either one or two votes but only has a limited number of votes to use which is equal to the number of nominations minus one. Any questions, feel free to ask.

We hope that you will read the selection with us and join in the discussion.

*

Nominations are now complete. Initial voting is complete. Run-off voting is complete. Final results-
  • The Tenth Muse by Catherine Chung
    Post . Goodreads . Preview . 298 Pages . Votes 1 . Run-off – . 2019 . U.S.

  • Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
    Post . Goodreads . Preview . 592 Pages . Votes 5 . Run-off 2 . 1957 . Russia

  • 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak
    Post . Goodreads . Preview . 316 Pages . Votes 1 . Run-off – . 2019 . Turkey, England, France, Spain, Jordan & U.S.

  • Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
    Post . Goodreads . Preview . 303 Pages . Votes 5 . Run-off 0 . 1968 . U.S.

  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
    Post . Goodreads . Preview . 242 Pages . Votes 4 . Run-off – . 1882 . Scotland

  • Hard Times by Charles Dickens
    Post . Goodreads . Preview . 321 Pages . Votes 1 . Run-off – . 1854 . England

  • The Decameron: Selected Tales by Giovanni Boccaccio
    Post . Goodreads . Preview . 192 Pages . Votes 2 . Run-off – . 1348 . Italy (Republic of Florence)

  • The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami
    Post . Goodreads . Preview . 327 Pages . Votes 2 . Run-off – . 2014 . Morocco, U.S. & England

  • Crusoe’s Daughter by Jane Gardam
    Post . Goodreads . Preview . 265 Pages . Votes 2 . Run-off – . 1985 . England

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Old 02-02-2020, 01:11 PM   #2
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My first nomination is The Tenth Muse by Catherine Chung. It has dual meaning for the letter X, both a representation of Ten in the title and the seeking of a treasure (unsolved mathematical problem). [EDIT: I suppose it has a triple meaning with the relation to mathematics! ]

From Goodreads:
Quote:
The first thing I remember being said of me with any consistency was that I was intelligent—and I recognized even then that it was a comment leveled at me with as much disapproval as admiration. Still, I never tried to hide or suppress my mind as some girls do, and thank God, because that would have been the beginning of the end.

From childhood, Katherine knows she is different, and that her parents are not who they seem to be. But in becoming a mathematician, she must face the most human of problems—who is she? What is the cost of love, and what is the cost of ambition?

On her quest to conquer the Riemann Hypothesis, the greatest unsolved mathematical problem of her time, she turns to a theorem with a mysterious history that holds both the lock and key to her identity, and to secrets long buried during World War II in Germany. Forced to confront some of the most consequential events of the twentieth century and rethink everything she knows of herself, she strives to take her place in the world of higher mathematics and finds kinship in the stories of the women who came before her—their love of the language of numbers connecting them across generations.

In The Tenth Muse, Catherine Chung offers a gorgeous, sweeping tale about legacy, identity, and the beautiful ways the mind can make us free.
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Old 02-02-2020, 01:32 PM   #3
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My second nomination is Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. I wanted to select something around the concept of being banned/censored/challenged.

From Goodreads:
Quote:
This epic tale about the effects of the Russian Revolution and its aftermath on a bourgeois family was not published in the Soviet Union until 1987. One of the results of its publication in the West was Pasternak's complete rejection by Soviet authorities; when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958 he was compelled to decline it. The book quickly became an international best-seller.

Dr. Yury Zhivago, Pasternak's alter ego, is a poet, philosopher, and physician whose life is disrupted by the war and by his love for Lara, the wife of a revolutionary. His artistic nature makes him vulnerable to the brutality and harshness of the Bolsheviks. The poems he writes constitute some of the most beautiful writing featured in the novel.
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Old 02-02-2020, 01:33 PM   #4
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My third nomination is 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak. It was shortlisted for the 2019 Man Booker Prize.

From Goodreads:
Quote:
'In the first minute following her death, Tequila Leila's consciousness began to ebb, slowly and steadily, like a tide receding from the shore. Her brain cells, having run out of blood, were now completely deprived of oxygen. But they did not shut down. Not right away...'

For Leila, each minute after her death brings a sensuous memory: the taste of spiced goat stew, sacrificed by her father to celebrate the long-awaited birth of a son; the sight of bubbling vats of lemon and sugar which the women use to wax their legs while the men attend mosque; the scent of cardamom coffee that Leila shares with a handsome student in the brothel where she works. Each memory, too, recalls the friends she made at each key moment in her life - friends who are now desperately trying to find her. . .
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Old 02-02-2020, 07:24 PM   #5
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Mine are:

Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness - Edward Abbey
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desert_Solitaire
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/...sert_Solitaire
{Non-fiction, set in Arches National Park, Utah; the lower half of letter "X" forms a triangular arch.}

Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treasure_Island
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treasure_Island
{Couldn't resist wanting to read it again; X on original editions' maps, and most every other treasure map since.}

Hard Times - Charles Dickens
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_Times_(novel)
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5344.Hard_Times
{I like Dickens and haven't reread any for many years; "times" as in multiplication as in "x" times.}
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Old 02-02-2020, 07:26 PM   #6
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My second nomination is Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak...
This has been on my reading list for a very long time, I don't even recall seeing the movie.
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Old 02-02-2020, 09:54 PM   #7
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I know I have not seen the movie because I was waiting to read the book!

Desert Solitaire has been on my TBR. It’s quite popularly recommended as a regional book where I live. Ironic that I was looking at Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez this morning, and it had a review blurb by Edward Abbey.
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Old 02-02-2020, 10:09 PM   #8
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...Desert Solitaire has been on my TBR. It’s quite popularly recommended as a regional book where I live...
Way back I was sitting in an airport lounge in Los Angles waiting to catch a flight back to NZ, next to me was a group of Americans coming out to NZ and Australia for a tour. They were talking about what they were going to go and see. One said that they were going to see Ayers Rock (now usually called Uluru) in Australia, one of the others said they had seen it already and after a long bus ride all they could see was a red rock in the desert, he then added that he was from Utah .
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Old 02-05-2020, 07:50 AM   #9
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I’m not sure exactly when I’ll be able to get the voting started so it might be a little longer (or not), but there’s about seven hours or so left for nominations. The more the merrier!

Great nominations as usual, Bookworm_Girl. I again have too many that I’m trying to cull. An especial problem with a topic like this is I find nominations to fit (ahem) x interpretation but there’s many possible interpretations. So I end up wanting to nominate at least one of each kind of interpretation I find but I can’t!
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Old 02-05-2020, 09:33 AM   #10
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Somehow I missed the post with your nominations before my last post, AnotherCat. Of course great nominations from you, too! You could also say x marks the spot of Arches National Park. I’ve never read Treasure Island all the way through and it’s been on my list forever, and Hard Times is a Dickens I haven’t read yet.
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Old 02-05-2020, 02:40 PM   #11
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My first nomination will be The Decameron: Selected Tales by Giovanni Boccaccio, translated by J.M. Rigg and edited by Bob Blaisdell (and this is the Dover Thrift edition).

This one fits the topic on so many levels. X is of course the Roman numeral for ten, and this was written by someone living in the ruins of the Roman Empire and still using Roman numerals everywhere. 'Deca' is also a prefix meaning 'ten of'. This book is about a group of ten people trying to escape the Black Death by fleeing to the remote countryside, and passing the time by telling ten tales to each other per day for a total of ten days. So many tens!

I've opted to nominate an abridged version of the book, as it originally runs closer to a thousand pages. This one still spans all ten days, but only gives certain tales from each day. I am generally not a fan of abridgements, but when it comes to a very lengthy world classic I'd love to read like this, that I haven't got around to and don't know when I'll ever get around to reading it in its entirety, I think an abridgement makes sense to be able to experience at least a part of it. I was careful to choose a version that is available and cheap on ebook in the U.S., U.K. and Australia Kindle stores (the links are: U.S. . U.K. . Australia). Of course if it wins we can each read whichever version or edition we want (even if in its entirety if anyone is feeling courageous!), but this is the recommended version for the nomination to keep the selection more compact and available. Goodreads, Preview, 192 pages, 1348, Italy (Republic of Florence)

Quote:
While the Black Death rages through fourteenth-century Florence, a group of young people retreat to the healthful air of the countryside and amuse themselves by telling tales of romance and adventure. This is the premise of Boccaccio's Decameron, a landmark of early Renaissance literature and one of the world's great story collections.
Vast in scope, teeming with colorful characters, and rich in worldly wisdom, these 25 tales from the original 100 encompass a variety of genres — folktales, ancient myths, fables, and anecdotes ranging from earthy satires of hypocritical clergy to gripping tales of murder and revenge and stories of passionate love. Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Keats drew upon Boccaccio's masterpiece for inspiration, and the grand old storyteller’s fables continue to captivate modern readers.

[edit- This version seems to only include the selected tales and does not seem to include the frame story which would've been nice, but the only two good versions I can find as ebooks are this one and the Penguin abridged one titled 'Tales from the Decameron'; the Penguin one does seem to include frame story but the Penguin version is twice as long (approaching 400 pages) and costs more, so I'll keep this Dover version as the nomination though people can decide which version they prefer to read of these two or any others (and note if looking around that there are at least two Penguin versions: 'Tales from the Decameron' which is the one available in ebook, and the shorter 'Ten Tales from the Decameron' which is not.]

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Old 02-05-2020, 03:40 PM   #12
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My second nomination is The Moor's Account by Laila Lalami. This sounds like what I would consider a very unique and interesting mesh of different cultural and historical fiction. It's about a Spaniard in the 16th century who sailed with a crew of many hundreds to what is now Florida, on a quest to claim the Gulf Coast for the Spanish crown and in the process become as rich and famous as Cortes. However, after encounters with Native American tribes, disease, errors and starvation, all of the expedition died except for four- three Spaniards and a Moroccan slave (the Moor of the title). These four go on to make a journey across America. I thought it fit the topic because of the x marking the spot of the expeditions intended destination and quest, and also for the moor since as a slave he would've been basically muted ('x'-ed) as a slave from giving opinions and such, yet it sounds like his is the account of the journey we'd be reading. Goodreads, Preview, 327 pages, 2014, Morocco, U.S. & England

Quote:
In 1527, the conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez sailed from the port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda with a crew of six hundred men and nearly a hundred horses. His goal was to claim what is now the Gulf Coast of the United States for the Spanish crown and, in the process, become as wealthy and famous as Hernán Cortés.

But from the moment the Narváez expedition landed in Florida, it faced peril—navigational errors, disease, starvation, as well as resistance from indigenous tribes. Within a year there were only four survivors: the expedition’s treasurer, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca; a Spanish nobleman named Alonso del Castillo Maldonado; a young explorer named Andrés Dorantes de Carranza; and Dorantes’s Moroccan slave, Mustafa al-Zamori, whom the three Spaniards called Estebanico. These four survivors would go on to make a journey across America that would transform them from proud conquistadores to humble servants, from fearful outcasts to faith healers.
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Old 02-05-2020, 04:55 PM   #13
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My last nomination is Crusoe's Daughter by Jane Gardam. It's about a girl who in 1904 goes to live with her aunts, and she is orphaned. The aunts live in remote northern England by the sea, so isolated that it seems to the girl like she's marooned on an island. One of her favourite books growing up is Robinson Crusoe. She ends up staying there for over 80 years, as the world around her changes in incredible ways. I loved the preview I read, and this fits the topic as first of all there's the titular allusion to the famous Robinson, which an x would've marked the spot of the island he was shipwrecked on. As well, the protagonist of this book stays in the same place and so this isolated place could be viewed as the stable x while the world around changed so much. Goodreads, Preview, 265 pages, 1985, England

Quote:
In 1904, when she was six, Polly Flint went to live with her two holy aunts at the yellow house by the marsh -- so close to the sea that it seemed to toss like a ship, so isolated that she might have been marooned on an island. And there she stayed for eighty-one years while the century raged around her, while lamplight and Victorian order became chaos and nuclear dread. Crusoe's Daughter, ambitious, moving and wholly original, is her story.
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Old 02-05-2020, 06:01 PM   #14
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Also, because I'm feeling frisky, I'll list my complete longlist options:

-Philida by André Brink. This South African novel tells the story of a slave, Philida, in 1832 who has given birth to four children by her master’s son, Francois. Rumours of slave liberation are in the air. Francois reneges on his promise to set Philida free and instead as ordered by his father must marry a white woman from a prominent family and also plans to sell Philida to new owners in the harsh north country. Because of this, Philida risks her life to lodge a formal compaint against Francois, which is allowed under law. Eventually she goes on a journey with a Muslim slave in the great wilderness. This one fit the topic of X as about muted/censored slaves and also about the taboo subject then of masters and slaves having children together.

-The Ten Loves of Mr Nishino by Hiromi Kawakami. This contemporary Japanese novel is narrated in ten different chapters by ten former lovers of Mr Nishino, and the preview was enjoyable. This fits the topic as X as the number 10.

-Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. This 18th century epistolary novel was a scandal in its day (and enjoyed by people such as Queen Marie Antoinette), and was the basis for the film Dangerous Liaisons. The X for this one is the secrecy and scandal element, as well as the singular of dangereuses in French, dangereux, having an x.

-Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin. It’s Weimar Berlin, and Franz Biberkopf, a pimp and petty thief, has just finished his prison term for murdering his girlfriend. He is determined to turn over a new leaf and make an honest man of himself, but finds it difficult and finds hiimself continually mixed up in sordid proceedings. The X here is for the seedy underbelly of society that’s often hidden and censored, as well as the x in the title (which, it’s harder to find good novels to nominate with ‘x’es in their titles than I would’ve thought!).

-King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard. Following a mysterious map of dubious reliability, a small group of men trek into Africa to search for a lost friend, and a lost treasure. This one is definitely for the x marks the spot on a treasure map!

-Zuleika Dobson: Or, an Oxford Love Story by Max Beerbohm. A humourous novel from 1911 about a woman who, after a stint as a governess and after becoming skilled at prestidigitation, comes to Oxford to visit her grandfather, a college warden, and in the process pretty much fells all of Oxford by her skills/charms. The x in this one is for a ‘mark’ as a person- both Zuleika as the mark all the men are after, as well as the opposite, the men that she charms. As well, it is because of the ‘x’es in the title and author’s name.

-From A to X: A Story in Letters by John Berger. A’ida lives in a dusty, ramshackle town and her lover Xavier has been imprisoned, possibly falsely as a political prisoner. A’ida sends resolute, sensuous and tender letters to Xavier detailing her daily life and the life of the town. The X is definitely for the glaring X in the title, which is also the first letter of the first name of one of the protagonists. Also for this one I thought of x as in xoxo ‘hugs and kisses’ that many people put on letters, and also for the possibility of Xavier being imprisoned to silence (x) him for his political views or actions.

-The Neighbourhood by Mario Vargas Llosa. This is a politically charged detective novel weaving through the underbelly of Peruvian privilege. In the 1990s two wealthy high society couples become embroiled in a disturbing vortex of erotic adventures and politically driven blackmail, and eventually there’s a murder. I love how this sounds like something I don’t know anything about (1990s Peruvian political corruption? definitely hasn’t been on my radar before). The x is for the underbelly/hidden side of high society and politics as well as for blackmail. But mostly, the x is for the cover:



-The Tenth Man by Graham Greene. Originally written for a film and then hidden in movie studio archives for years, this sparse literary book is about a small group of men held by the Germans in WWII, who determine one in every ten of them must die, and it is to be decided by lots. The protagonist, a rich lawyer, is chosen as one of the condemned, but he offers all his money to (the family of) any man who will take his place. Someone takes the offer. Later, upon his release, he must then face the consequences of his actions. This X is for the number 10, as in the tenth of the title, and the plot point it describes.

-Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. The famous ancient play, for not only having an x in its title but also for being about the major taboos (‘x’es) of patricide and marrying one’s own mother.

(in the interest of length, the rest, though also all interesting, I’ll just list the titles and authors)

-Diary of a Madman and Other Stories by Xun Lu

-CoDex 1962 by Sjón

-Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

-Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Despentes

-Unexploded by Alison MacLeod

-Death in Bordeaux by Allan Massie

-Billiards at the Hotel Dobray by Dušan Šarotar

-The Autobiography of Malcolm X

-XX by Angela Chadwick

Last edited by sun surfer; 02-05-2020 at 06:07 PM.
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Old 02-05-2020, 06:29 PM   #15
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