The “Live Tweeting From a Book Club Meeting” Experiment

(This actually went pretty well, I think. It WAS quite a challenge trying to keep up with all the great discussion – and especially to convert the highlights to tweet-sized bursts of text. By my count, I sent out 45 tweets, including a few photos (the latter with help from my friend, Bob). The hash tags used were #vonnegut #bookclub #slaughterhousefive – if you search for these individually or in combination you can see the tweets. Or you can follow me (@bibliophilopoly) and also see the tweets I forgot to add the hash tags to… 🙂

I don’t know how many might have followed along, but we did actually get a handful of comments from the twitterverse, which the in-person group was happy to hear.

I’ll try this again in January, when the club will be discussing the Library’s first two issues of its Literary Journal, “So it Goes.” I should point out that an official, much more detailed (and literate!) record of the meetings is posted to the Book Club’s blog (also linked on the left in my blogroll). http://vonnegutbookclub.wordpress.com/

February is my turn at the discussion leader helm again for the short story collection, Welcome to the Monkey House, so I’m sure I won’t be doing any live-tweeting then. Maybe someone else will pick up the baton?

(Below: My ham-handed tweeting efforts)

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“Imprinting” and Slaughterhouse Five

“Imprinting” isn’t really the right analogy to use, but I remember back in the 80s sitting in Professor Lovell’s Psych 101 class and first hearing of this term.  As defined by Merriam-Webster, it refers to : “a rapid learning process that takes place early in the life of a social animal (as a goose) and establishes a behavior pattern (as recognition of and attraction to its own kind or a substitute).” I have to admit the photo image of Konrad Lorenz, who coined the term or defined the phenomenon, walking in his yard with a group of goslings waddling after him (they thought he was their ‘mama’ because he was the first image they saw) in his wake is hard to forget.  I do think, though, that many times authors may experience a ‘defining moment’ – or “learning process that takes place early” in their life, the echoes of which forever reverberate in their subsequent works.  I would suggest Kurt Vonnegut’s experience at Dresden would fall into this category.

Dresden (before):

and after:

I also like to think most of us humans are born with a certain faith in – or at least capacity to have faith in – an underlying “goodness” in humanity.  And of course most of us also have this faith shaken from time to time by events we witness or stories we hear.  (My recent reading of Peter Godwin’s The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe is a personal example of a reeling blow to one’s faith in humanity)  It’s as if our faith is a castle – or at least has ramparts – that these attacks bang up against from time to time.  Sometimes, however, our castle of faith is so overrun and brought to ruin that we can never fully recover its use.  I suggest this is something that happened to Vonnegut as a result of his being witness to the horrors of the firestorm and destruction at Dresden.  It was hard for Vonnegut to view humanity optimistically knowing what he knew about its capacity for horror and brutality.  “So it goes,” as he would say…

Once our castle of faith is overrun and left in ruins, though we may patch up our defenses and try to carry on, it has as a result become much easier to overrun in the future.  Think of Ancient Rome.  The Eternal City made it until 476 A.D. before it was finally sacked and pillaged by Alaric and his Visigoths.  After that, however, it was sacked many times by future invaders.  Once the walls are breached, subsequent breaches are achieved by much less mighty attacks.  For a person whose faith has been routed in this way, a common aftereffect is an adoption of cynicism and pessimism in dealing with or describing the world around him.  I think if one reads Vonnegut’s novels with this in mind, it may be a lot easier to “get” him and understand why he chose to write the way he did.

My participation in the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library’s book club has been enriching for me in many ways, but the way which I’m enjoying the most is that, for the first time, I’ve really focused on a single author over many of his books.  I find myself gaining appreciation as a reader having all that extra reading experience at my disposal when trying to figure out “what the heck he’s talking about” at times. 🙂

April Reading – The Month Ahead

I’m a little behind schedule here with what has become a traditional monthly post, but here’s what’s on tap for me in April:

“Obligatory” reads: I have two. My book club is reading I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. I am actually the one who put this book on our club’s “bookshelf” after reading so many great things about it from my blogging colleagues last year. Someone else picked it to read, but in a sense it is “my” book. The way my club works, usually every three or four meetings you’re either reading a book you added to our shelf or a book someone else added but you picked. I like that, as members have a “connection” with double the books than a normal club where everyone just takes turn picking a book they recommend. In our club, you have to pick a book someone else recommends. My other book club, the KVMLBC, is reading Slaughterhouse Five this month. It’s the second month in a row we’re reading a book I’ve already read, but I plan on reading it again to refresh my memory for the meeting.

Other books? Well, I’m about 200 pages (out of over 600) into Trollope’s The Small House at Allington now, and have gotten more into the characters and more used to the writing style. I’m likely to finish this one in the next couple weeks. I’ve also started and paused Desert Spear by Peter Brett, the sequel to one of last year’s more pleasant surprises, The Warded Man. I’ve also started the depressing book, The Fear, by Peter Godwin. I heard about this on NPR on the way home one day, and it sounded interesting. It’s a non-fiction book about Robert Mugabe’s “reign of terror” in modern Zimbabwe. (A lot of unpleasant material in it, but hard to put down)

Let’s see… What else? Oh, a former boss gave me a copy of a non-fiction book his sister wrote about hiking the Continental Divide Trail. I’m really looking forward to this one as well, since I have hiked a lot in the mountains myself. Another non-fiction book I hope to get to is Dr. Richard Gunderman’s book about the nature of philanthropy, We Make a Life by What We Give. This book is a little out of my comfort zone as far as reading genre goes, but Gunderman happens to be a former college roommate of mine and one of the smartest people I’ve ever actually known personally.

Well, I’m sure I won’t get to all of those this month, but probably four or five will be completed. I also have my ongoing short story reading project. I drew a new card Saturday, and it turned out to be Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily,” but I haven’t read it yet. I’ll have that one and probably three more stories to be randomly determined as the weeks unfold.

What about you? What are you reading in April? Are we reading any of the same things? Is there anything you’d recommend I consider for my may list?

Oh, I almost forgot: Go Butler Bulldogs!!

KVML Book Club Meeting

Another great meeting today of the burgeoning KVML (Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library) Book Club.  We set a new attendance record of 13 today, including 10 veterans and 3 first time attendees.  I’ll write more later (so much of what I hoped to talk about we didn’t have time for) after I get off work (these middle-of-the-day weekday meetings are killin’ me, man!).  Our book this month was Cat’s Cradle.  Next month’s meeting (April 28th) will cover Slaughterhouse Five, undoubtedly Vonnegut’s most famous novel.   Stay tuned…