As promised last week, here is a list of “serious” novels for our 2024 RCC-RILL book club. The twelve members have chosen to meet four times and discuss eight novels this year. We begin in March with Kazeo Ishiguro’s A Pale View of Hills, and Marilynn Robinson’s Housekeeping. In June our novels are The Master by Colm Toibin (a fictional work about Henry James), and HJ’s What Maisie Knew. We head to the American South in September with Toni Morrison’s Beloved and William Faulkner’s Light in August. Then in November our two novels share the same title, Snow, by the Irish and Turkish writers, John Banville and Orlan Pamuk. In December for our end-of-the-year fest, we’ll discuss Orwell’s Animal Farm and Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland. A perfect duo after November’s election, regardless of the outcome.
To end this brief opening, I offer a quote from Frederick Buechner. “Words you read become in the very act of reading them…part of who you are, especially if they are the words of exceptionally promising writers. If there is poison in the words, you are poisoned; if there is nourishment, you are nourished; if there is beauty, you are made a little more beautiful. In Hebrew, the word dabar means both word and deed. A word doesn’t merely say something, it does something. It brings something into being.” From Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC.
When I read serious literature, I do not experience Future Shock. And today while cleaning out files (metal variety), I found a long piece from 2008, when I went to Sri Lanka to do three weeks of volunteer teaching for an NGO. At the time, American Airlines had instigated “total” self-check- in at D.C. National. The machine sent me to the desk set up for rejected humans. I was not alone and joined a long line. Two of those serving the desk disappeared, which left a man past retirement age to handle the many confused customers. When my turn came, I learned the computerized system could handle only four flights. I was using miles, the One World Alliance, and taking five planes to Colombo. Then I heard, “We have no manual tags.” The man left. Fortunately, my practical husband, the pilot, was with me. The AA fellow returned with a white tag, from which dangled a thin string. He slowly began copying my flight numbers onto the tag, one at a time. The destiny of my large black bag? It would be heaved on and off aircraft ten times. I looked at the string and said, “Oh, my god. Three weeks in Sri Lanka with nothing!” My husband intervened. “In his USAF commander’s voice he said, “Use some tape.” Finally, it was time to weigh my one piece of luggage. I could have had two bags, totaling 100 pounds. I could have weighed 300 pounds. But I could not have a bag of 52 pounds and not pay extra for the one bag. Did the overweight bag with its paper tag make it to the Emerald Isle with me? That’s another story and not for today. But I will ask what counters a machine laden and now Beyond Future Shock AI world? For me, only beauty, in all its manifestations. Here is a photo sent to me the other day.
Until next week…. Gail