Saturday, November 11, 2006


The surest way to incite revolt is to neglect one's slaves. I haven't driven any of you nearly hard enough, and so have failed as a good slavedriver. Though I enjoy this endeavor, I find it difficult to keep up in the manner fitting--see how the blog still mentions HG Wells as the current read. Therefore you are all granted your freedom. I hope to continue to participate, and that the group may carry on in the same manner. What I will do, then, is to grant administrative functions to the Slave who is making the next book selection, so that Slave may remodel the blog accordingly, with updated links and all the decorative stuff that should rightfully appear in the sidebars. Be crazy and make it your own! SFP, the whip is now in your hands.

Thanks all for your good service. We will meet again in January on the Street of Crocodiles. Now go and be free.

Friday, November 03, 2006

A modern classic next time?

I've been tagged by Danielle for the next Slaves selection, but before I throw out a few titles for the group's consideration, I wanted to say that I hope we can modify our schedule and put off discussion until late January instead of at the end of December. That would give us all time to make some headway with our own out-of-control reading lists between now and the end of the year, and maybe, possibly some of our errant members or others who'd like to read along with us for the first time will resolve to take part if they have a bit more time to plan for it.

At any rate, there are three books I'd enjoy reading with the group: Bruno Schulz's The Street of Crocodiles; L.P. Hartley's The Go-Between; and Elspeth Huxley's The Flame Trees of Thika. I assume we're all considering taking part in the Classics Challenge in January and February, and any of these titles count would count toward that as a modern classic.

The Street of Crocodiles is a novella by a Polish writer who was killed by the Nazis during WWII. If you're a fan of Calvino or Garcia Marquez, if you like your stories Kafkaesque, if you're in the mood for something poetic and odd, then this appears to be your baby. I've wanted to read it since Nicole Krauss referenced it in The History of Love last year.

First paragraph:

In July my father went to take the waters and left me, with my mother and elder brother, a prey to the blinding white heat of the summer days. Dizzy with light, we dipped into that enormous book of holidays, its pages blazing with sunshine and scented with the sweet melting pulp of golden pears.

The prologue to The Go-Between begins with a line I'm sure you've heard before: The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.

An old man looks back half a century to the adolescent summer that changed the course of his life. Proustian memories triggered by the unearthing of an old diary. The loss of innocence at the height of Empire. An Ian McEwan plot and an Evelyn Waugh setting. The Heinemann Foundation Prize of the Royal Society of Literature and an internationally successful film.

'Has the twentieth century,' I should ask, 'done so much better than I have? When you leave this room, which I admit is dull and cheerless, and take the last bus to your home in the past, if you haven't missed it--ask yourself whether you found everything so radiant as you imagined it. Ask yourself whether it has fulfilled your hopes. You were vanquished, Colston, you were vanquished, and so was your century, your precious century that you hoped so much of.'

Elspeth Huxley's family moved to Kenya when she was six to start a coffee plantation.

We were going to Thika, a name on a map where two rivers joined. Thika in those days--the year was 1913--was a favorite camp for big-game hunters and beyond it there was only bush and plain. If you went on long enough you would come to mountains and forests no one had mapped and tribes whose languages no one could understand. We were not going as far as that, only two days' journey in the ox-cart to a bit of El Dorado my father had been fortunate enough to buy in the bar of the Norfolk hotel from a man wearing an Old Etonian tie.

Have any of you already read this memoir? I can't remember. I read Huxley's novel Red Strangers a couple years back and loved it.

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