Last night was a great book club. Good discussion, good beer, good times. Thanks again to Jed for hosting and for exposing us all to Sloppers. We ended up picking The Lost City of Z for October’s club.
The next book club is on October 27. It will either be at Gunbarrel Brewing or at Morgan’s place in Gunbarrel. Jed will be picking the books. Hope to see you there!
Also, I’ve updated the email preferences so if you signed up, you should now be receiving emails for posts like this one. If you did not, would like to receive them, or don’t want to receive them, let me know.
- The Lost City of Z: A tale of deadly obsession in the Amazon (400 pages)In 1925, the legendary British explorer Percy Fawcett ventured into the Amazon jungle, in search of a fabled civilization. He never returned. Over the years countless perished trying to find evidence of his party and the place he called “The Lost City of Z.” In this masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, journalist David Grann interweaves the spellbinding stories of Fawcett’s quest for “Z” and his own journey into the deadly jungle, as he unravels the greatest exploration mystery of the twentieth century.The Left Hand of Darkness (1987) by Ursula K. Le Guin (304 pages)A lone human ambassador is sent to Winter, an alien world without sexual prejudice, where the inhabitants can change their gender whenever they choose. His goal is to facilitate Winter’s inclusion in a growing intergalactic civilization. But to do so he must bridge the gulf between his own views and those of the strange, intriguing culture he encounters…
Embracing the aspects of psychology, society, and human emotion on an alien world, The Left Hand of Darkness stands as a landmark achievement in the annals of intellectual science fiction.My Father the Pornographer, A Memior. by Chris Offutt (272 pages), Non-FictionIn “one of the most sensitive, nuanced examinations of father and son relationships” (The Boston Globe), award-winning writer Chris Offutt struggles to understand his recently deceased father, based on his reading of the 400-plus novels his father—a well-known writer of pornography in the 1970s and 80s—left him in his will.
Andrew Offutt was considered the “king of twentieth-century smut,” with a writing career that began as a strategy to pay for his son’s orthodontic needs and soon took on a life of its own, peaking during the 1970s when the commercial popularity of the erotic novel reached its height. With his dutiful wife serving as typist, Andrew wrote from their home in the Kentucky hills, locked away in an office no one dared intrude upon. In this fashion he wrote more than four hundred novels, including pirate porn, ghost porn, zombie porn, and secret agent porn. The more he wrote, the more intense his ambition became and the more difficult it was for his children to be part of his world.
Over the long summer of 2013, his son, Chris, returned to his hometown to help his now widowed mother move out of his childhood home. As he began to examine his father’s manuscripts and memorabilia, journals, and letters, he realized he finally had an opportunity to gain insight into the difficult, mercurial, sometimes cruel man he’d loved and feared in equal measure. Only in his father’s absence could he truly make sense of the man and his legacy.
In My Father, the Pornographer, Offutt takes us on the journey with him, reading his father’s prodigious literary output as both a critic and as a son seeking answers. He “enters the darkest and most mysterious of places—the cave of a monstrous enigma named Andrew J. Offutt—armed with nothing but his own restless curiosity. Spoiler alert: He makes it out alive, walking into the daylight to bring us a deeper, funnier, more tender and more heartbroken truth—and his masterpiece” (Michael Chabon).Little Failure: A Memior by Gary Shteyngart (368 pages) FUNNY FUNNY FUNNYAfter three acclaimed novels, Gary Shteyngart turns to memoir in a candid, witty, deeply poignant account of his life so far. Shteyngart shares his American immigrant experience, moving back and forth through time and memory with self-deprecating humor, moving insights, and literary bravado. The result is a resonant story of family and belonging that feels epic and intimate and distinctly his own.
Born Igor Shteyngart in Leningrad during the twilight of the Soviet Union, the curious, diminutive, asthmatic boy grew up with a persistent sense of yearning—for food, for acceptance, for words—desires that would follow him into adulthood. At five, Igor wrote his first novel, Lenin and His Magical Goose, and his grandmother paid him a slice of cheese for every page.
In the late 1970s, world events changed Igor’s life. Jimmy Carter and Leonid Brezhnev made a deal: exchange grain for the safe passage of Soviet Jews to America—a country Igor viewed as the enemy. Along the way, Igor became Gary so that he would suffer one or two fewer beatings from other kids. Coming to the United States from the Soviet Union was equivalent to stumbling off a monochromatic cliff and landing in a pool of pure Technicolor.
Shteyngart’s loving but mismatched parents dreamed that he would become a lawyer or at least a “conscientious toiler” on Wall Street, something their distracted son was simply not cut out to do. Fusing English and Russian, his mother created the term Failurchka—Little Failure—which she applied to her son. With love. Mostly.
As a result, Shteyngart operated on a theory that he would fail at everything he tried. At being a writer, at being a boyfriend, and, most important, at being a worthwhile human being.
Swinging between a Soviet home life and American aspirations, Shteyngart found himself living in two contradictory worlds, all the while wishing that he could find a real home in one. And somebody to love him. And somebody to lend him sixty-nine cents for a McDonald’s hamburger.
Provocative, hilarious, and inventive, Little Failure reveals a deeper vein of emotion in Gary Shteyngart’s prose. It is a memoir of an immigrant family coming to America, as told by a lifelong misfit who forged from his imagination an essential literary voice and, against all odds, a place in the world.
Quotes from this story:
- “Koyla was eighteen when he saw stars for the first time. It had been his first night in Chechnya.”
- Danilo and Kolya are prisoners of the old man, they build the landscape from the famous painting
- “This well, this pit has become for him a burrow. He considers the endpoints of escape – reenlistment, death, home – and the happiest outcome he can envision is this, right here, recaptured and resentenced to work a peaceful plot of land.”
- Galina complains about not being in a Bond movie… how the world is so unfair.
- pg 152 Galina about the film industry.
- She touches his hand, “My nerve endings gasped.”
- She wants to give the painting to Kolya’s brother
Notes, but mostly quotes.
- “It must be an error, they thought, a bureaucratic oversight. How could Soviet jurisprudence remain infallible if it failed to recognize innocence?”
- “In distant cities, they were expurgated from their own histories. In photographs, they donned India ink masks. We never knew them, but we are proof they existed.”
- “… he hadn’t risen through the ranks by giving anything away for free. For a man determined to wring maximum productivity from his prisoners before they died, the ballet proved an effective coercion.”
- “She raised her daughter and taught schoolchildren the tenets communism.”
- “They worked long days, adhering to the second principal of the Moral Code of the Builder of Communism: conscientious labor for the good of society – he who does not work, neither shall he eat.”
- “They were faithful communists, children of the labor camp, with a daughter who looked like her grandmother. Galina’s father knew her best hope for prosperity would come from dulling all that made her exceptional until the plural voice accepted her as one of its own.”
- x-ray rib records for phonograph… “our parents called the music capitalist pollution, as if the cancerous masses on the X-rays had been caused by a song recorded on the other side of the world, rather than by the pollution that flowed from the smokestacks just outside our windows, free for us all.”
- The White Forest. Metal trees, plastic leaves.
- “A romantic stroll around Lake Mercury.”
- “You not only mine the fuel of the Soviet Union, he proclaimed, you are the fuel of the Soviet Union.”
- Textbooks about Stalin being an effective leader…. “Arctic labor camps were a vital part of his drive to make the country great. We reconsidered our grandmothers. Perhaps theirs was a necessary suffering, an evil justified by a greater good…..”
- “95% of the worlds catalytic converters are made with Kirovsk palladium and our town prospers beneath denser layers of pollution thanks to the efforts of American and European environmentalists hell-bent on keeping their skies clean.”
Notes and quotes, mostly quotes from Anthony Marra’s book The Tsar of Love and Techno.
- Here we meet Galina’s rich husband.
- “I spent the first morning writing Tourist Bureau on a piece of cardboard…. I taped the sign to the front door, but within five minutes it had disappeared…. After the fifth sign, I went to the kitchen and drank the vodka bottle the minister had sent over in celebration until I passed out in tears on the floor. So ended my first day as Tourist Bureau chief.”
- “Over the following weeks, I designed a brochure. The central question was how to trick tourists into coming to Grozny voluntarily. For inspiration, I studied pamphlets from the tourist bureaus of other urban hellscapes: Baghdad, Pyongyang, Houston. From them I learned to be lavishly adjectival, to treat prospective tourists as semiliterate gluttons, and to impute reports of kidnapping, slavery, and terrorism to the slander of foreign provocateurs.” p 91-92 worth reading aloud, gets really funny.
- Nayda the neighbor and former co-worker sees the censorship artist’s brother in censored paintings and it was for her dissertation.
- “… she says she will move to Sweden. I fear for her future in a country whose citizenry is forced to assemble its own furniture.”
- his wife and child in the famous painted field. landmines.
- “If you want to be a martyr go join them in the woods.”
- He takes businessmen tourists to his little house museum. “This is what remains, the charred canvases cry. You cannot burn ash! You cannot raze rubble! …I give myself a long overdue promotion. No longer am I deputy. As of today, I am director of the Grozny Museum of Regional Art.”
- “Let’s give the thirteenth richest man in Russia an intestinal parasite!”
- “The office doors of dead administrators clatter beneath us….” he is with Galina in this scene.
Hoping to kick up the conversation a bit at club next week, so I’m sharing some notes for conversation. From the Tsar of Love and Techno story Granddaughters.
- “How could Soviet jurisprudence remain infallible if it failed to recognize innocence?”
- “expurgated from their own histories. In photographs, they donned India ink masks.”
- “for a man determined to wring maximum productivity from his prisoners before they died, the ballet proved an effective coercion.”
- “”the second principal of the Moral Code of the Builder of Communism: conscientious labor for the good of society – he who does not work, neither shall he eat.”
- “Galina’s father knew her best hope for prosperity would come from dulling all that made her exceptional until the plural voice accepted her as one of its own.”
- “rock and roll inscribed by phonograph onto exposed X-rays.”
- “Yellow fog enshrouded the city like a varnish aged upon the air…. Rain burned our skin.”
- White Forest – manmade woods of metal trees. Comes up in a later story too, I think.
- “a romantic stroll around Lake Mercury”
- “You not only mine the fuel of the Soviet Union, he proclaimed, you are the fuel of the Soviet Union.” A repeated line that may contain irony.
- “The world had feared us. A paternal state had provided. Now what did we have? Epidemics and addictions.”
- “We reconsidered our grandmothers. Perhaps theirs was a necessary suffering, an evil justified by a greater good.”
- Galina’s father was the prison boss.
- “Ninety-five percent of the world’s catalytic converters are made with Kirovsk palladium and our own town prospers beneath denser layers of pollution thanks to the efforts of American and European environmentalists hell-bent on keeping their skies clean.”
- “…what makes them unremarkable is what keeps them alive.”
So, with Luke’s help, I’m hoping to kick up the conversation a bit, so I’m sharing some notes for conversation. From the Tsar of Love and Techno.
- Artist first, censor second – first words
- Humor: His nephew had his father’s forehead, “His future lay under a hat.”
- Humor: “How could you kill yourself with underwear.”
- Did he betray his own brother?? – “You prove your loyalty through betrayal.”
- He told his nephew of the Tsar’s huge painting of the future of the country, used all the nation’s resources, got bigger and bigger, people went without under the huge painting of their glorious future.
- False threat of his assistant who he was mean to.
- Lunch break tunnel walks. To deal with censorship?
- 2 sided painting in his home w/ leopard and Stalin.
- Relates to 1984 etc as he is a censor/correction artist.
- Painting his brother in everything.
- Dancer’s hand.
Here’s the pick for next club: https://www.amazon.com/Tsar-Love-Techno-Stories/dp/0770436455
So my address is 13630 Via Varra, but we’re in a complex of complexes. Mine is Terracina. There is a big fountain and roundabout out front and that is right where we’ll be meeting for games and hangs. Parking is to the left or right and you can park anywhere that’s open. Club will be up in my place.
If you can, bring your beer in cans. I’m not sure the rules on glass in the commons area. Shouldn’t be a big deal either way.
I’ll be making sloppy joes. If anyone wants to bring chips or a snack that would be cool.
Call or text me if you have any trouble finding the place 720.288.9718
RSVP for Club here (I know you won’t) its at Chris Dorsey’s new house 13630 Via Varra Way, Broomfield, CO 80020. He is cooking us food. Bring drinks.
Erik our VP is bringing the picks for voting.
- The Tsar of Love and Techno – Anthony Marra
- The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead
- The Sympathizer – Viet Thanh Nguyen
- The Angel Esmeralda – Don DeLillo
See you there.