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Old 05-01-2019, 02:18 PM   #1
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An Unusual Viewpoint • May 2019

Help select what we'll read and discuss next!


The topic is An Unusual Viewpoint.

fantasyfan writes of the topic- A different point of view could apply to a story written from a minority social/spiritual/gender perspective. Perhaps it might incorporate an iconoclastic approach such as a narrative which views the Mount Rushmore sculpture as an insult to Native American culture. I don’t know of a book which actually uses that specific topic but such works can often be both challenging and revelatory.


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 complete. Initial voting is complete. Run-off voting is complete. Final results-
  • The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
    Post . Goodreads . 336 Pages . Votes 5 . Run-off 2 . 1929 . The U.S.

  • The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald
    Post . Goodreads . 239 Pages . Votes 1 . Run-off – . 1992 . Germany

  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
    Post . Goodreads . 672 Pages . Votes 5 . Run-off 6 . 1859 . England

  • Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov
    Post . Goodreads . 169 Pages . Votes 5 . Run-off 2 . 1957 . Russia & the U.S.

  • De Profundis by Oscar Wilde
    Post . Goodreads . 160 Pages . Votes 2 . Run-off – . 1897 . Ireland

  • Historia Calamitatum by Pierre Abélard
    Post . Goodreads . 080 Pages . Votes 5 . Run-off 4 . 1135 . France

  • My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk
    Post . Goodreads . 434 Pages . Votes 5 . Run-off 2 . 1998 . Turkey

  • The Incarnations by Susan Barker
    Post . Goodreads . 387 Pages . Votes 2 . Run-off – . 2014 . England

  • Nutshell by Ian McEwan
    Post . Goodreads . 199 Pages . Votes 1 . Run-off – . 2016 . England

  • Stonedogs by Craig Marriner
    Post . Goodreads . 355 Pages . Votes 1 . Run-off – . 2002 . New Zealand

  • The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo
    Post . Goodreads . 510 Pages . Votes 5 . Run-off 2 . 1831 . France

  • Proud Beggars by Albert Cossery
    Post . Goodreads . 199 Pages . Votes 1 . Run-off – . 1955 . Egypt & France

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Old 05-02-2019, 06:25 PM   #2
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I’m finding this topic enjoyably challenging. I’m thinking about nominations from points of view (natch), which is a different experience for me. I already have a few possibilities to consider.

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Old 05-02-2019, 09:13 PM   #3
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I am suggesting 3 novels which employ multiperspectivity. I am not sure if that meets the "Unusual Viewpoint" criteria, but I am not at all into books from the fringes having a strong woke, tribal, activist, etc. type alternative view as their predominant theme. So novels structured with multiple narrations is the only alternative I could think of .

The following 3 novels tell their stories from the points of view of multiple narrators or have multiple characters who have parallel experiences:

The Sound and the Fury - William Faulkner
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sound_and_the_Fury

The Emigrants - W G Sebald
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Em..._(Sebald_novel)

The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Woman_in_White_(novel)

The Woman in White is probably best described as being popular literature rather than serious, the literature tag (if earned) gained from its place in the history of the development of mystery novels.
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Old 05-03-2019, 08:08 PM   #4
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AnotherCat, your interpretation is fine! I meant the theme to be very broad and not too difficult! I have been too busy this work week to check in and provide a clarification. For example it could be an unusual narration technique. It could be the same story told by multiple people. It could be an historical event told by a minor character you wouldn’t expect. It could be a book that makes you put yourself in someone else shoes. Here are some examples which I hope will spark some ideas and help.

I’m reading a book right now that has an ethical question posed by a main character but throughout the book chapters are inserted by people affected by the question with their viewpoint.

I read a book about a relationship told in first person by a male and the female point of view was told through a diary.

I just read a book split in two halves about 2 English girls in a plane crash in France during WW2. One is captured and becomes a Nazi POW. One is rescued by French Resistance.

I read a book earlier this year narrated by an agoraphobe - definitely an unusual choice for a narrator and not an experience many of us relate to.

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Old 05-03-2019, 11:55 PM   #5
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These are my nominations.

1. Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov

Quote:
Goodreads: One of the best-loved of Nabokov’s novels, Pnin features his funniest and most heart-rending character. Professor Timofey Pnin is a haplessly disoriented Russian émigré precariously employed on an American college campus in the 1950s. Pnin struggles to maintain his dignity through a series of comic and sad misunderstandings, all the while falling victim both to subtle academic conspiracies and to the manipulations of a deliberately unreliable narrator.

2. De Profundis by Oscar Wilde

Quote:
Goodreads: De Profundis (Latin: "from the depths") is a 50,000 word letter written by Oscar Wilde during his imprisonment in Reading Gaol, to Lord Alfred Douglas, his lover. Wilde wrote the letter between January and March 1897; he was not allowed to send it, but took it with him upon release. In it he repudiates Lord Alfred for what Wilde finally sees as his arrogance and vanity; he had not forgotten Douglas's remark, when he was ill, "When you are not on your pedestal you are not interesting." He also felt redemption and fulfillment in his ordeal, realizing that his hardship had filled the soul with the fruit of experience, however bitter it tasted at the time.

3. Historia Calamitatum by Peter Abelard


Quote:
Wikipedia: This extensive letter provides an honest self-analysis of Peter Abelard's up to the age of about fifty-four. The Historia Calamitatum provides readers with knowledge of his views of women, learning, monastic life, Church and State combined, and the social milieu of the time. Within this important piece of literature, not only is one side of one of history's best-known love stories told, but integral parts of the history of the Middle Ages are revealed. It should be particularly noted that this book was written at a time when Western Europe was just surfacing into the world of philosophy. The Historia is exceptionally readable, and presents a remarkably honest self-portrait of a man who could be arrogant and often felt persecuted. It provides a clear and fascinating picture of intellectual life in Paris before the formalization of the University, of the intellectual excitement of the period, of monastic life, and of his affair with Heloise, one of history's most famous love stories. Throughout this letter, Abelard emphasizes how persecuted he feels by his peers. He quotes saints, apostles, and at one point, compares his struggles in likeness to those of Christ.
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Old 05-04-2019, 08:14 PM   #6
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My first nomination is My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk. This book has been on my TBR for a long while. It won the International Dublin Literary Award in 2003. The author uses 12 different viewpoints to tell the story and solve the mystery.

From Goodreads:
Quote:
At once a fiendishly devious mystery, a beguiling love story, and a brilliant symposium on the power of art, My Name Is Red is a transporting tale set amid the splendor and religious intrigue of sixteenth-century Istanbul, from one of the most prominent contemporary Turkish writers.

The Sultan has commissioned a cadre of the most acclaimed artists in the land to create a great book celebrating the glories of his realm. Their task: to illuminate the work in the European style. But because figurative art can be deemed an affront to Islam, this commission is a dangerous proposition indeed. The ruling elite therefore mustn’t know the full scope or nature of the project, and panic erupts when one of the chosen miniaturists disappears. The only clue to the mystery–or crime? –lies in the half-finished illuminations themselves. Part fantasy and part philosophical puzzle, My Name is Red is a kaleidoscopic journey to the intersection of art, religion, love, sex and power.
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Old 05-04-2019, 09:46 PM   #7
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My second nomination is The Incarnations by Susan Barker. A travel through history following one's past lives.

From Goodreads:
Quote:
Who are you? You must be wondering. I am your soulmate, your old friend, and I have come back to this city of sixteen million in search of you.

So begins the first letter that falls into Wang’s lap as he flips down the visor in his taxi. The letters that follow are filled with the stories of Wang’s previous lives—from escaping a marriage to a spirit bride, to being a slave on the run from Genghis Khan, to living as a fisherman during the Opium Wars, and being a teenager on the Red Guard during the cultural revolution—bound to his mysterious “soulmate,” spanning one thousand years of betrayal and intrigue.

As the letters continue to appear seemingly out of thin air, Wang becomes convinced that someone is watching him—someone who claims to have known him for over one thousand years. And with each letter, Wang feels the watcher growing closer and closer…

Seamlessly weaving Chinese folklore, history, and literary classics, The Incarnations is a taut and gripping novel that sheds light on the cyclical nature of history as it hints that the past is never truly settled.
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Old 05-04-2019, 10:45 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Spinnenmonat View Post
These are my nominations.

1. Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov...
I toyed with proposing Nabokov's unusually written Pale Fire but then decided that I would not enjoy the poem element of it. Unfortunately, I was so fixated on it that I did not get around to considering other Nobokov works; so am pleased to see Pnin, which I haven't read, proposed.
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Old 05-05-2019, 10:32 AM   #9
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Great nominations so far. I'm finalising mine (it can be hard to whittle down after enough are found!).

Quote:
Originally Posted by AnotherCat View Post
I am not sure if that meets the "Unusual Viewpoint" criteria
I think one of the best things about our move towards interpretive topics is that months now are generally very open-ended and it's interesting to see each person's take with their nominations. You have an interesting, ahem, viewpoint on this month's!

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Originally Posted by AnotherCat View Post
The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
This was a selection for the general book club long ago in December of 2010. We did once have a guideline of no former selections from any of the book clubs here, but we did away with that in favour of only no selections from any of the book clubs here that anyone present was there for if that poster objected (and the onus would be on anyone affected to speak up before the vote began; once the vote begins all nominations in the vote are eligible). There are a few of us who've been around the clubs for a long time so most selections of the book clubs are still ineligible, but The Woman in White happens to have preceded those of us participating so far the last few months (and I notice it was the selection only two months before I myself joined!).

Quickly glancing over those who participated in the original discussion of The Woman in White, I'm actually a bit shocked to find that astrangerhere was present for it! However, as she hasn't objected this month, it's still eligible. I did PM her just now about the situation just in case. If there aren't any objections before the vote begins, then it's eligible. That's a bit short notice for astrangerhere to have time to object, but in this instance looking at the whole I think it's more prudent to err on the side of keeping closer to the schedule.
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Old 05-05-2019, 10:47 AM   #10
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My first nomination is Nutshell by Ian McEwan. It has a very unusual viewpoint- from inside the womb! It is something of a very unique interpretation of, or perhaps just heavily inspired by, Hamlet. Goodreads 199 pages, 2016, England

Quote:
Nutshell is a classic story of murder and deceit, told by a narrator with a perspective and voice unlike any in recent literature. A bravura performance, it is the finest recent work from a true master.

To be bound in a nutshell, see the world in two inches of ivory, in a grain of sand. Why not, when all of literature, all of art, of human endeavour, is just a speck in the universe of possible things.
It's such a short and strange description that I'll also give excerpts from a few of the top Goodreads reviews-

Quote:
WOW......
Isn't that what everyone says to themselves when they read this?

It's so original, that I'm almost surprised it has not been written until now.
There is beautiful prose --- and then there is BEAUTIFUL PROSE!!!! I'm a little flabbergasted. I've been an Ian McEwan fan from way back...but this little slim book blows my mind. I think it's pure genius. Genuinely - I could not have loved this 'creation' more.
Quote:
OMG OMG OMG! This book really did knock my socks off. In fact, it goes on my all-time favorites list. Who could resist this bizarro opening line?

So here I am, upside down in a woman. Arms patiently crossed, waiting, waiting and wondering who I’m in, what I’m in for.
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Old 05-05-2019, 12:09 PM   #11
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Note that Historia Calamitatum is also known as The Story of My Misfortunes.
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Old 05-05-2019, 12:17 PM   #12
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The list should now be updated with the nominations so far. There's about two hours left before the vote begins if anyone has any other nominations.

I'm down to three books to choose from for my final two nominations and I'm having an awful time eliminating one.
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Old 05-05-2019, 12:49 PM   #13
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Out of the three I'm still considering, only one hasn't ever been nominated before, so that's my deciding factor to nominate it this time. I'm not sure how well a fit it is for the club as it's quite violent and has been compared to Quentin Tarantino and Irvine Welsh, but I think that makes it an unusual viewpoint for our club. It's also been compared to A Clockwork Orange which has been nominated in our club before so it's not unprecedented, heh.

The book is Stonedogs by Craig Marriner. It's about a young violent group of delinquents in Rotorua, New Zealand (a touristy place known as 'Roto-Vegas'). I think this point of view of a group of young criminals in New Zealand is a viewpoint not heard so much about (at least internationally), so not usual, but the book is also structurally unusual in its points of view. Some parts of the text takes the form of a play complete with stage directions, there are shifts from the regular narrative to an inner narrative, and there are sudden shifts from the narrator's voice to an outside observer's perspective.

Stonedogs has won awards such as the Ockham/Montana New Zealand Book Award Deutz Medal for Fiction or Poetry and the Hubert Church Best First Book Award. Goodreads 355 pages, 2002, New Zealand

Quote:
Craig Marriner is New Zealand's response to Irivine Welsh and Quentin Tarantino. A novel, which won the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, to make you cringe and shudder, then wet yourself laughing. Its raw and scathing prose breaks new ground against the backdrop of a world-view as chilling as the nightly news.

In between drug deals and binge-drinking, reckless driving and street fights, the delinquents of the Brotherhood wage the holiest of wars. Yes, they will derail the Juggernaut before it can suicide … or have a ball trying at least. But when one of them falls prey to Roto-Vegas gang members, the cultural terrorists mobilise in earnest. Revenge takes them on a road-trip - a coming of age from hell. It is a journey to the corners of a collective psyche peopled by nightmares as real as the headlines of today, a New Zealand the tourists and executives had better pray they never stumble upon. Alone and gut-shot, the Juggernaut closing in, the Brotherhood will rally for an audacious final stand, a last ditch fight for their minds and their lives … and perhaps for the future of us all.
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Old 05-05-2019, 01:01 PM   #14
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For my third nomination I wanted something that was a classic. I'm going to nominate The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo. This book is about other tragic characters, not just Quasimodo, and it's very much about the Cathedral. One of Hugo's objectives in writing this book was to highlight the value of the Gothic architecture which was often neglected, destroyed and replaced with modern architecture during that time period.

From Goodreads:
Quote:
This extraordinary historical novel, set in Medieval Paris under the twin towers of its greatest structure and supreme symbol, the cathedral of Notre-Dame, is the haunting drama of Quasimodo, the hunchback; Esmeralda, the gypsy dancer; and Claude Frollo, the priest tortured by the specter of his own damnation. Shaped by a profound sense of tragic irony, it is a work that gives full play to Victor Hugo's brilliant historical imagination and his remarkable powers of description
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Old 05-05-2019, 01:47 PM   #15
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For my final nomination, it was between an Egyptian/French book and a Japanese one. I couldn't decide any other way so I went with the one from a country we've least recently read from, which means the Egyptian/French book wins out since we've read a book from Japan more recently than either of the other two countries. So, I nominate Proud Beggars by Albert Cossery. It is a 'wry black comedy' set in the lowest societal strata of Cairo and begins with a senseless murder in a brothel and the subsequent search for the murderer. The odd thing is that police investigator, himself harbouring secrets, finds the suspects very likeable, full of warm good humour, and possessing a joie de vivre despite living amidst degrading poverty. I thought this viewpoint sounded like an interesting and unusual one to read about. Goodreads 199 pages, 1955, Egypt & France

Quote:
Early in "Proud Beggars," a brutal and motiveless murder is committed in a Cairo brothel. But the real mystery at the heart of Albert Cossery's wry black comedy is not the cause of this death but the paradoxical richness to be found in even the most materially impoverished life.

Chief among Cossery's proud beggars is Gohar, a former professor turned whorehouse accountant, hashish aficionado, and street philosopher. Such is his native charm that he has accumulated a small coterie that includes Yeghen, a rhapsodic poet and drug dealer, and El Kordi, an ineffectual clerk and would-be revolutionary who dreams of rescuing a consumptive prostitute. The police investigator Nour El Dine, harboring a dark secret of his own, suspects all three of the murder but finds himself captivated by their warm good humor. How is it that they live amid degrading poverty, yet possess a joie de vivre that even the most assiduous forces of state cannot suppress? Do they, despite their rejection of social norms and all ambition, hold the secret of contentment? And so this short novel, considered one of Cossery's masterpieces, is at once biting social commentary, police procedural, and a mischievous delight in its own right.
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