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“Let us read, and let us dance;
these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.”

Monday, 25 February 2013

The People of Sand and Slag - Guest

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Mark Swain - friend of Leeds Book Club and writer of short fiction HERE - is a huge fan of the horror genera, and will be providing us with some reviews!

Feel free to drop him a line on twitter - you'll find him @DemonHeadClash

As always, thanks very muchly to Mark!

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THE PEOPLE OF SAND AND SLAG
PAOLO BACIGALUPI

This story is about 3 biologically engineered humans who, whilst guarding a mining operation, discover a normal household dog and decide to look after the animal.

This tale is set in a distant future in which there appears to be have been a massive environmental disaster which has practically destroyed the planet. Despite this disaster - the cause of which is never explicitly explained - mankind has managed to survive by bioengineering themselves to adapt to this harsh new environment.

Without these advancements; other animals have become a rarity hence the discovery of the dog being an interesting event to the humans.

The humans depicted in this story are not required to breathe oxygen; can instantly repair their bodies to the extent of regrowing severed limbs and can eat basically anything. The most shocking part of this bio engineering is that the humans regularly eat sand, slurry and mining by products. This obviously makes reference to the way our food is processed now compared with decades again when most foods were grown locally. The recent horse meat scandal has just underlined our lack of understanding about modern food production and whilst this tale takes this point to an extreme it is certainly a relatable one.

What is also interesting about the three humans in the story is that they are clearly biologically engineered to no longer feel pain but it also seems to have taken away their ability to feel any kind of emotion. The dog, rather than being seen as something
that can be loved and respected is instead viewing as a curiosity. When one character teaches the dog to shake hands the others view this with an almost scientific reaction rather than one of affection. This lack of affection is not just limited to the dog, we understand there is a sexual relationship between 2 of the main characters but we never got the feeling this was anything more than sexual. One of act of love making in the story takes place in front of another character and the dog, underlining this emotional disconnection from what should be a very private experience.

It is not surprising that the dog quickly becomes a burden to the characters and, following the dog getting injured on some barbed wire, they decide to kill and eat it.
Earlier in the story they are informed that eating proper meat is a real delicacy but having cooked and consumed the animal they decide it was just okay and had tasted slag that was better. It is easy to see how the tale could be interpreted as an allegory
of domestic pet ownership especially as they decide to keep the dog on a whim and part of the decision to eat it is based on the characters preferring to spend money on themselves rather than the dog. Animals in post apocalyptic fiction usually are used
as a metaphor for the way our emotions are changed by an end of world event, in this story the animal serves no purpose for the humans other than being a burden and is quickly destroyed.

This story begins with a very heavy military science fiction slant in that in describes HEV's and exoskeletons but as the tale continues it becomes a piece on the disposable mindset of our society and a warning on the potential outcomes of our modern love affair with fast, scientific progression.

The People of Sand and Slag is available for free online HERE and is part of excellent 'Wastelands' anthology as edited by John Joseph Adams.


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Read more of Mark Swain's writings here!


Review 06 - The People of Sand and Slag
Review 05 - Under St Peter's
Review 04 - Death and Suffrage - Dale Bailey

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Table of Contents - Guest Stars

LBC Puffins - Matilda Write Up - GUEST

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LBC Puffins


Venue: Outlaws Yacht Club
Date:  Wednesday, 20th of February 2013
Time:  6pm
Address: 38 New York Street, LS2 YDY


DISCUSSING:


MATILDA 
ROALD DAHL



Our write up here is supplied by regular book clubber and book lover extra-ordinarie @AlisonNeale. We rate this report: A* 

SCHOOL REPORT:  Matilda, by Roald Dahl

GENERAL:
The first LBCPuffins demonstrated a trait probably likely
to be a recurring theme in this book club: nostalgia. Most
of the Puffins had read the book when young and felt that it
had stood the test of time. Some felt themselves transported
back to childhood as they read, with clear memories of events
and illustrations, and even the book tape to which they had
listened.

CREATIVITY:
Some Puffins, while enjoying Matilda, pointed out that it
wasn’t as imaginative as other Dahl books. It was agreed that
it was definitely a classic fairy tale of rags to riches, but
that the characters weren’t as mysterious as in the BFG, for
example, despite the element of ‘magic’. However, many of the
events in the book, such as the cake-eating incident, caused
much hilarity – even laugh-out-loud moments.

BEHAVIOUR:
Dahl was felt to be encouraging children to battle against
evil adults, although some of the more extreme tricks pulled
by Matilda came with health warnings! While in some ways a sad
and distressing story, the Puffins felt that as children they
had ‘glossed over’ the sadder elements of the tale – perhaps
had not fully understood the implications behind the child
abuse to which Miss Honey and the children were subjected –
but this element had been more disturbing on the re-read.
Fortunately, though, in Dahl’s world, characters who do bad
things surely get their just desserts!

CONCERNS:
Slight concern was expressed at the animal cruelty in the newt
and parrot sketches. There was also some class snobbery in the
portrayal of poverty and family life, amusing in the comment
about margarine, but slightly more vexing (one Puffin felt)
in the negative portrayal of television – a common theme in
books. Others, though, argued that this was more a criticism
of the style of family life and interaction, and the lack of
respect for books and knowledge over money and appearances.

ENGLISH:
Descriptions are short but incredibly visual (even without the
illustrations). The Puffins expressed joy at the characters’
names, some of which are almost ‘filthy’ words, and most
of which gave evidence of the distinction between ‘goody’
and ‘baddy’. One Puffin aptly described the names as
almost ‘Dickensian’.

ART:
The Puffins couldn’t imagine Dahl’s books with illustrations
by anyone other than Quentin Blake. Although a few of his
early books were illustrated by someone else, they are thus
not as memorable. One Puffin suggested that Blake’s art style
was a visual version of Dahl’s words.


MATHS:
While the scores were very high indeed, they were noticeably
lower from those few Puffins who hadn’t read the book when
young. The averages were 4.675 out of 5 for writing and 4.475
out of 5 for story. Grrr ... We all know who decided to
complicate matters with difficult half marks, thus challenging
my maths skills!

In conclusion, then, Matilda, LBCPuffins said, was all about
a child fulfilling her potential, felt to be a common theme
in most of Dahl’s books. Reading here is portrayed as a
superpower. Quite frankly, how could we possibly disagree?!


AVERAGE SCORE:

9/10
YouTube




To find other members of the club, search on twitter for #LBCPuffins

And don't hesitate to contact Outlaws on @OutlawYachtClub

Let me know your thoughts by either tweeting me @LeedsBookClub, commenting below or emailing me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com

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LBC Puffins

NOV - Wee Free Men - Terry Prachett - GUEST
OCT - Black Beauty - Anna Sewell GUEST
SEP - The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson-Burnett GUEST
AUG - Coraline - Neil Gaiman GUEST
JUL - Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh - Robert C O'Brien GUEST
JUN - The Sheep Pig - Dick King-Smith GUEST
FEB - Matilda - Roald Dahl GUEST

Book Club - Table of Contents

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Enid Blyton Challenge Book 02 - The Famous Five

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One of our Superstar Guest Stars has agreed to a new challenge based on our chats relating to #LBCPuffins.

Can't wait to read each review as they come! Huge thanks - as always - to Helen...though now I think on it...missing out on all these wonderful stories... Clearly we need each other!

Helen's Enid Blyton Challenge



About the Author


In 2012 The Famous Five turned 70 years old.

History of The Famous Five from The Enid Blyton society 

The Famous Five are among Enid Blyton's best-loved creations and countless children have gone adventuring with them since the publication of Five on a Treasure Island in 1942, the first of twenty-one full-length adventures and numerous short stories. Armed with maps, torches, packets of sandwiches and a plentiful supply of ginger-beer, Julian, Dick, Anne, their tomboy cousin George (Georgina by rights) and Timmy the dog like nothing better than to spend their holidays hiking and
biking, camping and exploring by themselves, invariably falling into adventure.
Friends like Jo the gypsy girl, young Tinker Hayling, Sooty Lenoir, and even George's scientist father (Uncle Quentin to the others), often get caught up in the strange goings-on too. And what thrilling places they visit and discover — Kirrin Island, Smuggler's Top, Owl's Dene, the lighthouse at Demon's Rocks and farms, castles, caves and secret passages galore. Whether they're outwitting thieves, smugglers or kidnappers, seeking hidden treasure or encountering spook trains, the Five's courage and determination always wins through!
Enid Blyton's original books were charmingly illustrated by Eileen Soper but there have been numerous interpretations and adaptations of the Famous Five over the years including continuation novels written by French author Claude Voilier, cinema films, stage plays, two television series and, more recently, a Disney cartoon series featuring the children of the Famous Five. 
However, the twenty-one original books have never been out of print and remain popular with readers worldwide. Long live the Famous Five!




The very first Famous Five adventure, featuring Julian, Dick, Anne, not forgetting tomboy George and her beloved dog, Timmy! There's a shipwreck off Kirrin Island! But where is the treasure? The Famous Five are on the trail - looking for clues - but they're not alone! Someone else has got the same idea. Time is running out for the Famous Five, who will follow the clues and get to the treasure first?
This is the second book in my challenge for LBC and it did not let me down. I absolutely loved this book, it kept me gripped. I must admit that some of the wording Enid uses made me cringe (I apologise deeply for that) but to be fair it was written quite a while ago and has stood the test of time.

I’m beginning to wonder what I have missed out on regards reading both as an adult and as a child. What was I doing as a child not to read more of Enid Blyton? I remember at junior school taking books home and borrowing from the library and the as I went into teenage years, we always used to visit the library and charity shops for books, but only a very few have stuck with me.

The copy I had, has a cover illustrated by Quentin Blake, I love his work. And like him this is my first introduction to The Famous Five. So let’s begin.

We are straight away introduced to Julian, Dick and Ann, who are sat eating breakfast at home and their parents tell them their holiday is going to be different this year. Instead of going with them they are to be sent to their Uncle Quentin’s, Aunt Fanny’s and Cousin Georgina’s in Kirrin Bay.

The children are driven down by their parents stopping off for a picnic on the way. They get really excited about seeing the sea and I remember as a child sat in the back of the car on a day trip eager to see the sea suddenly appear. It always felt like a different part of the world.

When they pull up outside their Aunt’s house they discover their cousin Georgina or ‘George’ has vanished. They are warned that their cousin prefers to be called George and won’t answer to anything else as she hates being a girl. This instantly made me think we had a spoilt naughty child on our hands.

The next day George is told to take her cousins down to the bay and show them around. George, not being happy with this, as she never wanted them to visit takes them out and shows them Kirren Island and explains one day it will all be hers. Unfortunately her cousins think she’s lying. George has a secret and we find out she has a dog called Tim who she found as a puppy on the moors and took him home. But as Tim grew he became very noisy and parents told her she couldn’t keep him anymore so she pays the local fisher-boy all her pocket money to look after him meaning unlike other children she doesn’t get sweets or ice-cream like other children.

George has become a very isolated little girl and doesn’t have many friends and finds being an only child she very rarely gets to share things with people. She feels embarrassed when her cousin Julian offers her an ice-cream and she doesn’t want to take it as she has nothing to give back saying ‘it’s mean to take from people if you can’t even give a little back’.



George is a very frustrated young lady and Julian tells her after he and Anne try to explain that she would like things and gets frustrated with them by saying

‘All right, All right, my goodness, how you do go up in smoke! Honestly, I believe anyone could light a cigarette from the sparks that fly from your eyes!’

I’m sure at one point everyone’s felt like that, I know I have. She explains she is always tense because she always has to be on her best behaviour because her Father works really hard and earns very little so making him always bad tempered.

George reluctantly agrees to take her cousins out to the island the next day but once she gets there and spends time with them she realises how fun it is to do things with Julian and the others and share her island with them. She also shows them the spot where her Great-great-great Grandfather’s ship went down. They are so busy exploring the island they don’t realise the storm is coming in and end up hiding in a room in the ruined
castle that’s on the island. I forgot to mention there was a ruined castle didn’t I?

I loved this description of the storm: 
‘The lightning tore the sky in half almost every minute, and the thunder crashed so loudly that it sounded almost as if mountains were falling down all around.’ 
The storm causes the wreck to surface and the children agree to get up early the next day and explore the wreck. They get onto the wreck and explore it’s cabins and find a locked cupboard they open it and find a box, as they go to leave they find that other ships have discovered the wreck has surfaced and come to explore.

When the children get home they are in trouble for missing breakfast and Uncle Quentin takes the box away. The children plot to get it back and Julian succeeds when Uncle Quentin finally falls asleep and he seeks in and grabs it. He takes it down to the others who are on the beach. They open the box and find some old papers and a diary that belongs to George’s Great-great-great Grandfather. They put the diary back as they can’t read the illegible writing and discover one of the parchments is a map of the island and the castle, and that it could be where the lost gold is. They decide to trace the map and go and explore the island the next day. When they get back to the cottage, they put the box back but then find out Uncle Quentin has sold it, along with the island, as someone wants to rebuild the castle and turn it into a hotel. George is furious and yells at her Mother for doing such a thing. But Julian later explains that they wouldn’t have sold it if it was useless but now that it’s not and they need the money and that it could mean she could keep Timothy. However Julian believes the man only wants to buy the island to find the treasure.


So the children decide to go and spend the weekend on the island saying they want to spend as much time on their before it’s sold but really to look for the treasure. They go with Timothy in tow. When there, they realise the entrance to the dungeon (where the gold must be hidden) is in the small room and start to clear
it. Suddenly a rabbit pops up and Timothy shoots off to find it ending up down the well, George is frantic and with the help of the others she climbs down the well to get him, lifting him on her shoulders and climbing back up. Anne then stumbles across a stone with an iron ring. They find they have to work together to pull it open and discover it leads to the dungeons. They wander down but find they get lost but then find the door and it’s
locked. They realise that it’s getting late and decide to have tea and return the next day.

When they go back into the dungeons the next day they decide to mark the walls with chalk so they can find their way back. They having taken an axe down and when they reach the door and start to break it down, whilst doing this a splinter flies off and hits Dick in the cheek, so Anne and Julian take him back to clean him
up and leave George to finish breaking the door down. Julian returns to help George and when they get in they find the ‘ingots’ or ‘curious bricked shaped things’.

Suddenly Timothy starts barking. It turns out two men have come down to the island and discover them in the dungeons. George yells at them that they can’t take away the island once her parents know what’s happening, but then Timothy starts growling at the men and he threatens her with a gun and tells her she isn’t going home. They lock Julian and George in the dungeon and they realise there are others so they make George send Timothy up with a note to bring them down. However Dick and Anne realise it’s a warning and set a plan to rescue Julian and George. However, Timothy returns to find George and the men realise something’s up and go in search of the others. Dick and Anne see them coming so hide in the well. The men decide to return to
mainland, leaving the children food but taking the oars from the children’s boat. Dick and Anne return to the entrance of the dungeon and find it blocked up. They have to go in search of the other entrance by the tower but again can’t gain entry. In the end Dick goes down the well and rescues George and Julian.

They then come up with a plan to trap the men in the dungeon. It’s down to Dick to get down the well and hide. The plan doesn’t work and the children find themselves fleeing the island. Before they do they damage the men’s boat, so they can’t follow.

The children return home and try to explain it to Aunt Fanny, knowing Uncle Quentin might not believe them. Even Timothy gets involved. In the end the police are called and they go to the island. Finding the men gone, they secure the gold and return it to the family. The result being it makes Uncle Quentin into a nicer person because they have no more money worries and Timothy gets to live with George.

This book for me was about how George discovers its fun to share things, that doing things or being alone isn’t always the fun. George learns how fun it is to work together as a team. I liked it when George realised that sharing things with people is a lot easier than keeping it a secret and bottling things up I think she says-
‘Talking about things to people does help a lot. They don’t seem so dreadful then; they seem more bearable

and ordinary’.
She also learns how our actions/reactions to people effects the way people treat us in return. ‘Having her cousins there makes her realise how her behaviour, makes her parents react to her and likes the effect her cousins are having on her’.

I think this book teaches us a lot about secrets, about relationships, about life, about how children see adults and vice versa. Like I said before I absolutely loved this book and as a result I think the message there are a lot of messages in this book, It’s good to share, we react in certain ways because of the situation we’re in, but my favourite is that once in a while we should all have a little adventure, but perhaps not go looking for gold on a deserted island.



Next book: Secret Seven


The Book List

Dec - The Twins at St Clare's
Nov - The Mystery of the Pantomime Cat
Oct - The Naughtiest School Girl
Sep - Mr Galliano’s Circus
Aug - The Boy Next Door
Jul - Adventures of the wishing Chair
Jun - The Magic Faraway Tree
May - The Enchanted Wood
Apr - The Adventures of Scamp
Mar - Secret Seven
Feb - Five on a treasure Island
Jan - The Book of Brownies

Helen tweets from @isfromupnorth and has her own blog Hello from me to you.


The Hobbit (book) review


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Friday, 22 February 2013

Women's Literature Festival-Women's Writing Today-Selma Dabbagh

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In the build up to the Women's Literature Festival in Bristol on the 16-17 March, BookElf will be reviewing the work of the writers on the Womens Writing Today panel. The event will look at the issues facing women writers today, and their inspirations for their work.



This book, the debut novel by British Palestinian writer Selma Dabbagh, who has previously published short stories in several Anthologies and along with Festival Chair Bidisha has appeared at PalFest, the Palestine Literature Festival, described in her book Beyond the Wall .

Out Of It describes the longings of Palestinian academic Rashid, who sits on the roof of his home, the only brick building left in the middle of a field of tents, getting high and dreaming of his British girlfriend and ultimate do-gooder Lisa. As he watches bombs fall on Gaza, Rashid is secure knowing soon he will be gone, to study in London and be away from the horror of the bombings and the pressure from his family and friends who run a humanitarian centre.

Rashid's sister Iman, meanwhile, feels torn between wanting to do "something", not quite knowing what that would be or involve, and also flee the chaos of Gaza, and the various intrigues of the different factions and groups, both secular and religious, that compete for the hearts and minds of the people.

This book is extremely complex, and assumes an awful lot of pre-existing knowledge of the history of Palestine, the social mores of the country and how all the different leaderships and UN declarations relate to each other. Despite learning a little more about the situation in Palestine since since Beyond the Wall I started reading this and almost instantly completely lost where I was or what was going on, Wikipedia'd it, and still didn't really know what was going on, to be honest if I was coming at this book knowing nothing of Palestine I would have got very lost very quickly, and there isn't the gripping plot behind the themes and characters to have kept me interested.

More than anything whilst reading this book, which follows Rashid and Iman from Gaza to London and the Gulf and back again, I thought 'wouldn't this make a great play?'. I would love to have seen this on stage, rather than in prose, as what Dabbagh is describing and saying would make much more of an impact I think that in its current form. Rashid and Iman's struggle to discover the truth behind their parents, who were actively involved in the Outside Leadership, who I think were the PLO but am not absolutely sure, and to figure out their place in the world was interesting but, and this is going to sound really harsh, they are my age, have lived all over the world including a war zone and still to me eyes seemed incredibly immature. I didn't like them, and found it hard to sympathise with them.

This book is very well written, she has an excellent voice and it is an important one to hear. How exhausting it must be to live in the conditions described, and the difference between a Gaza and London or the Gulf is striking, and wonderfully done-if you ever wanted to feel real guilt about being able to get a bikini wax or walk alone when only a few hundred miles away there are people cowering in fear this book'll do it. There were also some excellent moments of comedy-Lisa the aid worker who organises petitions and protests, but has no actual human emotions past self-interest, on stage with an elderly pipe smoking politician, would 150 years ago have probably been saving fallen women in Whitechapel, inviting prostitutes to tea in order to look even more caring about her projects. I've met quite a lot of Lisa's in my time and Dabbagh gets her spot on.

I couldn't get on with this book, but if you're not as ignorant as me or enjoy writing that makes your head tense then you'd enjoy this. I am however really looking forward to seeing her speak, as judging from her material here she has a lot to say.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Interview with Peter Bullimore - Podcast

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Leeds Book Club is delighted to have the chance to chat with Peter Bullimore.

Peter was the Guest Speaker at the Sharking Stories launch at Leeds Central Library last month. Peter represented the Hearing Voices Network, and spoke eloquently, honesty and humorously about his experiences. Peter had been a successful business and family man until his mental health deteriorated and he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. For the following eight years, Peter became a ‘revolving door’ patient – in and out of various mental health services.

Peter now divides his time now between chairing the Sheffield Hearing Voices Network, the Paranoia Network – a self help organisation for people experiencing extreme paranoia – which he co-founded and is the business manager of Asylum – a magazine for democratic psychiatry. 

In his spare time, Peter and his voices have collaborated on a children’s book entitled ‘A Village called Pumpkin'. 

SOUND WARNING
Unfortunately, I have a horrible cold at the moment, so sound bunged up and raspy. Peter had a very strange feedback thingy that kicked in every now and again so there are occasional echoes throughout. However, we had a terrific conversation and IMHO it's worth the effort!


Quelle surprise, we managed to behave so I think I can skip our usual language and spoilers warnings. Huzzah for us! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learn more about the Hearing Voices Network HERE Learn more about the National Paranoia Network HERE where you can also pick up a copy of his book!
Mental Health Reading Challenge Blurbs for the books! If you’d like to become involved with “Sharing Stories”, email Leeds Book Club at leedsbookclub@gmail.com or via twitter (@leedsbookclub).
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Table of Contents - Podcasts! * * * * *
Our Podcast Page 
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Write Up's
Dec - Jane Eyre - GUEST
Nov - A life too short - GUEST
Oct - Notes from an exhibition - GUEST
Sep - Day - GUEST
Aug - Tender is the Night - GUEST
Jul - Ariel - GUEST
Jul - Birthday Letters - GUEST
Jun - Poppy Shakespeare - GUEST
Apr - I had a black dog - GUEST
Mar - The Psychopath Test - GUEST

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Table of Contents - Guest Stars

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Sunday, 17 February 2013

Medusa LBC - The Great Gatsby - GUEST

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Medusa LBC

Date:  Wednesday ??th of ?? 2012
Time:  7:30pm
Address: 8-10 Town Street, Horsforth, Leeds 


Discussing: 


THE GREAT GATSBY
F. SCOTT FITZGERALD

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THE BLURB (from Amazon) 
In 1922, F. Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write "something new--something extraordinary and beautiful and simple + intricately patterned." That extraordinary, beautiful, intricately patterned, and above all, simple novel became The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald's finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author's generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald's--and his country's--most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning--" Gatsby's rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.
It's also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby's quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying, but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means--and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing. "Her voice is full of money," Gatsby says admiringly, in one of the novel's more famous descriptions. His millions made, Gatsby buys a mansion across Long Island Sound from Daisy's patrician East Egg address, throws lavish parties, and waits for her to appear. When she does, events unfold with all the tragic inevitability of a Greek drama, with detached, cynical neighbor Nick Carraway acting as chorus throughout. Spare, elegantly plotted, and written in crystalline prose, The Great Gatsby is as perfectly satisfying as the best kind of poem.
So here I am again, having been left in charge of the write-up by the fabulous and excellent @LeedsBookClub for a third time (has she not learnt I hear some of you cry).

But anyway, I shall move ever forward and furnish you with what you came here for…..a slice of birthday cake! Yep, MedusaLBC is now 1 year old… awww! So to celebrate here’s a picture of me celebrating.





Now that I’ve calmed down, are we sitting comfortably? Yes? Well I’ll begin!

So, being the first MedusaLBC of the year everyone was up and at ‘em for the discussion. There was also a glut of new attendees which was brilliant, so we kicked of with a round of ‘Knowing me, Knowing you Ah Ha… so that’s your name’. With the pleasantries put to bed we kicked of with the book. 

One of our regulars kicked of by talking about their first read through. It was when they was 15 years old and mainly because of teachers and absolutely loathed the book. Being young and idealistic, they just couldn’t agree with any of the themes that run through the book. Now though, after a few more read throughs they have come to love the book. They felt that it was maybe because they had become world weary, but they loved picking up the subtexts and how shocking the behavior of the women must have been in the 20’s. However, they found that the more read-through’s they did, the more they started to hate the narrator, starting to find him more unreliable as a voice of what was ‘really’ happening. Another member then mentioned that this was their third time of reading it and that the more they read it, the more they enjoyed and got out of it.

There were members who were reading the book for the first time (me included… shhhh yes I finished it jeesh!). A member talked how they loved the language used by Fitzgerald to create the descriptions and visuals of the world in the book. They had originally been worried that the hype surrounding an American classic would spoil the book through it not living up to what it was held up to be. It had taken them a while to get into the book as they had read it over Christmas while being ill and had struggled to start with, but as they got deeper into the book, the language dragged them into it and they started their enjoyment of the book their. However, they had a dislike for some of the characters. Daisy was the main one who they thought was awful, but there was a tinge of pity for her due to the way the husband character treats her throughout. The husband was another character the member disliked, with his treatment of all women, not just Daisy. They felt that he drops the mistress simply because she doesn’t look right in his world, and that he is incredibly manipulative. Many other members agreed with their
summation of the book that the writing style was very enjoyable, but the characters let it down.

We then moved onto discussion about the setting of the book, with one member commenting that they loved the atmosphere of the age depicted in the book, they didn’t like many of the characters either, but felt they were very much of the ‘age’ of the book. We discussed how it very much portrays our image of the jazz era, with the American dream and the ‘whiffs’ of the coming depression. It was also pointed out that if you look at the life of the author Fitzgerald the book, though no auto-biographical, it could be said it was written from experience of his destructive marriage.

Members then pointed out the speed of the book, it felt that it very much floated along with nothing much happening before ‘BANG’ everything happens all at once and it is left to the characters left to deal with the fallout. Even though it is somewhat of a short book, it was felt that you knew the characters. We moved onto discussing how this was the first classic of a readable length, and how many of the American classics are known for there brevity.

After imagining how much we would have loved to go to a Gatsby party to enjoy the glitz and glamour, we then moved onto the narrator, the character Nick. Many felt that there was a Gatsby-Nick subtext, and that Nick was a sexist character. He very much dismisses many women, with claims that any lady that rebuffed him after he made a pass on her was gay. His subtext with Gatsby is shown strongly in the fact that he seemed to care more for Gatsby then his apparent girlfriend Jordan, a character we felt was someone we shouldn’t like. Nick puts more effort into Gatsby’s funeral then he did at any time during his relationship with Jordan. Members felt that from Nick’s early descriptions of Gatsby that everyone very much loved him, but when we get to the end of the story it turns out that the only people who loved him was Nick and Gatsby’s father. It very much appeared that the people at the party were there only for the party and the prestige of status and not for its host. We then talked about
the attendees of the party, would Daisy have turned up? Many felt she would if her husband had not stopped her attending. We also felt the fact the drug guy turned up was very natural thing for him to do and understood why he had turned up. Gatsby’s dad was then discussed briefly, with many members having him as there favorite character. One of the regulars felt that he was a breath of fresh air and very real after a book of fluff, and that Gatsby’s funeral was a very sparse affair after a life of lushness.

We then started to question ourselves, would we have taken the blame for the accident? We felt that the character of Gatsby was built up as someone who would do anything for Daisy, with this shown in the description of the first kiss between Daisy and Gatsby, with Gatsby’s claim that he could have reached for the stars or do whatever it takes to be with Daisy. Some members were also under the impression that Daisy was very aware of what she was doing, and had she been portrayed too much as the victim by her friend Nick?

As we entered the last knockings of the meeting, we chatted about whom we felt Gatsby would have become if he hadn’t social climbed so he could be with Daisy, with shouts of a great engineer or banker. 

There was then mention of a sequel which had been written by another author, and of the original film and the new Baz Lehrman effort which will probably be released when unicorn dna is found in beef lasagnas. As we drifted onto dreams and fantasies about Robert Redford and Leonardo diCaprio we were dragged back to earth to give our scores for the book and pick another choice.

So that was pretty much it for the first meeting of 2013, and I hand you back to our leader @leedsbookclub for the scores. TTFN!



Score  
5/10


I actually created some playlists for this book - so enamoured was I. 

Spotify:
LeedsBookClub Leeds Playlist - The Great Gatsby
YouTube HERE
LeedsBookClub Leeds Playlist - The Great Gatsby - The Jazz Age
YouTube HERE!



For further details, please email me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com or tweet me @LeedsBookClub!

Contact the bar on @MedusaBar

And feel free to let us know your thoughts using #MedusaLBC!

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2012 - MedusaLBC

14 - Mar - Started Early, Took My Dog - Kate Atkinson
13 - Feb - The Black House - Peter May - Postphoned
12 - Jan - The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald - GUEST

11 - Nov - Empire of the Sun - JG Ballard
10 - Oct - Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell (not *that* one)
09 - Sep - Before I go to sleep - S.J. Watson
08 - Aug - 9 Lives - Clive Rusher
07 - Jul - Sense of an Ending - Julian Barnes
06 - Jun - A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving - GUEST
05 - May - The Life of Pi - Yann Martel
04 - Apr - Diary of a Nobody - George Grossmith 
03 - Mar - We need to talk about Kevin - Lionel Shriver
01 - Jan - Ragnarok - AS Byatt
An exciting new project! - Medusa LeedsBookClub

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Book Club - Table of Contents

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