Readings Week Seven: Readings for our Book Clubs

The coming week’s class is devoted to our book club meetings. I’m looking forward to it! As we’ve been saying in class, I think many of us are happy to be doing some fiction and/or non-academic reading and to flex some different parts of our brains. I certainly enjoyed reading the selections chosen by my book club cohort:

“The Story of Atalanta” by James Baldwin

This story is a retelling of a Greek myth about Atalanta, who was abandoned by her parents, a king and queen, in the woods and left to die. A bear finds her and takes her in, and she learns how to hunt and grows up to be very beautiful. There is another story embedded within Atalanta’s, of another kingdom with many sons and daughters (as opposed to Atalanta’s family). Many things happen; the kingdom forgets to worship the goddess Diana and she sics a wild boar on them; Atalanta is recognized as a great hunter and as desirable when she helps to slay the boar; the queen of the kingdom ends up causing her son’s death and then takes her own life. The story then goes back to Atalanta and of how she allows a man to win her as his wife.

There were many themes that struck me in this story, as often happens in myths. One of them is the importance of beauty in the story–Atalanta’s, her suitors, the three Fates who blessed/cursed Meleager as a baby (one of the three was not beautiful and was the impetus for his death).

A Tale of A Snake’s Tail” by Paul Flowers

This is a short story about a railroad telegraph operator who meets a There was a blurb at the beginning that noted the “delightful tongue-in-cheek” story was originally published at such-and-such a place. I may not have known immediately that this was mean to be a tongue-in-cheek story, although perhaps the line “…work for the road with which I am still employed, the Illinois Central, than which there is none finer” should have given it away. I’m not sure I entirely understand the sarcasm and the symbolism in the story. It seems that the narrator is not so fond of the station’s porter, since he names the snake after him, claiming it’s because they are both being long and svelte. This is a great choice for a book club pick–I have lots of questions about the story!

“This Was Our Pact” by Ryan Andrews

I really enjoyed this one. This was a comic, beautifully illustrated in black and white (and generously available for free!). It begins with a group of boys on bikes who set out to follow the village’s lanterns down the river, to see where they end up. The lanterns are dropped into the river to pay homage to an old local legend–which says the lanterns turn into fish who then jump into the sky and turn into stars. Another boy is following the group; they poke fun at him, yet he still follows on. The narrator doesn’t agree with what his friends say about the outcast, but he also doesn’t stick up for him. Eventually his friends break the pact they made–to keep going and not turn toward home–and it’s just him and the outcast. They experience some magical things and see the legend come to life. I’m looking forward to talking about a comic in the book club, and the way the illustrations and the panels without text influenced the narrative. I’m also wondering about the ending. The two boys kept going, kept the pact; they didn’t turn for home–what does that mean?

“Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston

This was a sad story about a washer woman in Florida who is abused by her husband, a really awful man who beats her, takes her money, and has affairs with other women. He knows that his wife hates snakes, and one day brings a rattlesnake home to the house to further intimidate her. Eventually the snake ends up attacking the husband, and while his wife pities him in his dying state, she leaves him to die. It will be interesting to talk about this story because of the tough subject matter: race, domestic violence, verbal abuse, poverty, even religious imagery.

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4 thoughts on “Readings Week Seven: Readings for our Book Clubs

  1. All of these stories sound really interesting and diverse. I noticed that most of the book clubs had five groups in them and the one I’m in only has 4, just due to numbers in class I guess. It sounds silly, but I was kinda bummed that we didn’t have one more story to read, so I’m looking forward to reading some of the more interesting sounding ones from our blog cohort.

  2. I am also glad that we are able to talk about some fiction for this class. it reminds me of how excited I can get about discussing themes etc in literature, though I found I was a little out of practice at analyzing reading for literary purposes, rather than academic ones. The readings your group members chose are all really interesting as well. The addition of the comic will add an extra layer of uniqueness to your conversation. You guys can now discuss the different media, and how information gets transferred differently. I’m slightly surprised, and excited that the stories people chose are so different. You guys have a comic, we have a nonfiction piece, and another group has a couple poems. I assumed we would all be reading 4-5 short fiction pieces.
    Last, I love Zora Neale Hurston and am really excited that your group gets to talk about that story! While it’s really depressing, I also really really like it. However, other than the Hurston piece, I’ve never heard of the other readings. I’m kind of excited to read through your group’s stories. They all sound cool.

  3. All of the groups have been picking some really interesting readings for this weeks class. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun to have discussions about the readings in each group and I imagine that many of the discussions will be pushing past the discussion time limits. I’m really looking forward to reading about the different discussions in this week’s class reflection blog posts!

  4. Mythology sounds like a rich source of discussion. Some of the other stories also seem to have some great imagery and fable qualities as well. I wish I could read all of them, too! Unfortunately this is a crazy time of year…As for Zora Neale Hurston, even though she deals with tough issues, you have to like her narrative voice. I haven’t read that story before, but I really enjoyed the rich language in “Their Eyes Were Watching God.”

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