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April meeting report

In our April meeting, we finished reading “The Tuttle Twins and the Road to Surfdom”. It was judged to be an easy and interesting introduction to basic economic ideas.

Our May meeting will be held on May 10, and we will read chapter 4 of “How an Economy Grows and How it Crashes”. After that, we will take a break from economics books for a while.

Hope you are enjoying Golden Week.

April meeting report

Our April meeting took place today. The rain made the flowers look beautiful.

We continued reading and discussing Alice Munro’s short story “To Reach Japan”.  As we haven’t finished, we will continue next month.

Our next meeting will be May 25th. We may be joined by a new guest who asked about our group today.

I plan to finish this short story next meeting.

Today’s discussion centred on Greta’s experience at the writers’ party. It reminded me a little of this comedy sketch about a party by British comedienne Victoria Wood, who passed away a few days ago of cancer.

April meeting report

Our May meeting will be May 13th.

Today, we read some articles about Hemingway’s writing style, which has been described as “hard-boiled”, and based on the iceberg principle (Hemingway_handout_2015-04-08). We decuded that perhaps “hard-boiled” was not an accurate description of Hemingway’s style or his intention. What he actually wrote was “boiling it down always, rather than spreading it out thin”.

We discussed some famous hard-boiled writers, especially the detective writers such as Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Chandler’s most famous stories, many of which featured his hard-boiled private detective Philp Marlowe, were made into movies:

  • The Big Sleep
  • Farewell My Lovely
  • The Long Goodbye

Hammett’s most famous story, also made into a movie, was “The Maltese Falcon”, a mystery story featuring the “hard-boiled” private detective Sam Spade.

Humphrey Bogart played both Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe.

Then we read 3 more pages of the story, up to “And just then it occurred to him that he was going to die.” We argued about what else the man had received in addition to security and comfort, and why he did not seem to know what else he had received, even though he tells the reader. We also discussed what the “return of acquiescence” and “this life of pleasant surrender” referred to. Does he mean surrender to death? Or to the comfort and security of his unproductive, non-writing life with his rich wife whom he does not love?

Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe, private-eye.


March Meeting report

Our April meeting will be on Wednesday April 8th at the usual time.

In our March meeting, first we read two chapters from “The Art of Fiction” by David Lodge:

  • chapter 25 “Staying on the Surface”, and
  • chapter 26 “Showing and Telling”

and we discussed how Hemingway uses these two techniques, to what extent, and why. The beginning of the story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” shows rather than tells, i.e. it uses mostly dialogue and very little narrative. In addition, Hemingway stays on the surface: he adds no adjecctives to “he said” “she said”, so we have no clues as to the feelings or thoughts of the characters except as revealed by their words.

Towards the end of the first section, Hemingway introduces some narrative summary which gives us some insight into the main characters thoughts. This is followed by a long narrative summary section which seems to be flashbacks or memories of past experiences in various European places.

Then we read a bit more of the story: from the beginning of the third section (“It was evening now”) to the end of the paragraph that ends “than when he had really loved.” (in my copy, it’s line 2 of page 61).

Next time, we’ll talk and read about Hemingway’s “hard boiled” theory. Image


See you April 8th.

June meeting

Next meeting: July 9th.

Today, we finished chapter 14 of “Reading Lolita in Tehran”, and started reading chapter 15, up to the middle of p. 50 “Look at Salman Rushdie‘s case.” Thank you to all of you who attended and contributed to the discussion. The fact that we did not get very far in the novel is because of all the interesting side-tracks we went down!

Some references that came up today:

  • “To thine own self be true” (said by Polonius to Hamlet in the Shakespeare play of that name). This is a famous quotation, and many people know it, even if they are not sure where it came from. The concept is a key part of Western culture.
  • The Age of Innocence“, a painting by British 18th-century artist Joshua Reynolds.
  • “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, a dystopian novel by George Orwell, considered perhaps the most accurate portrayal of authoritarian and totalitarian thinking, tactics and strategies to control a population: I quote from Wikipedia:

    Many of its terms and concepts, such as Big Brother, doublethink, thoughtcrime, Newspeak, Room 101, Telescreen, 2 + 2 = 5, and memory hole, have entered everyday use since its publication in 1949. Moreover, Nineteen Eighty-Four popularised the adjective Orwellian, which describes official deception, secret surveillance, and manipulation of the past by a totalitarian or authoritarian state.