Dec 13, 2013

End of the book (with beautiful spoilers)

Dear Cookies,

I did not want to read Steinbeck's book, I did not purposely vote for it. I had read "the pearl" many years ago and is still a book I remember, the kind of story that remains, engraved forever in your mind. In that book, as in this one, you can feel the tragedy coming slowly but irreversibly as you advance on each page. You can deeply feel sorrow, injustice and the unfair situation of the poor and the ignorants. Steinbeck is damn good to masterly describe that kind of situations, the kind of writer that deserves a Nobel prize, but that shocks those that read him and even more those that dare to do it twice.I think this book is more than great. On one hand we have a perfect, sharp description of a part of the american society in the thirties of the 20th century. Clear as a picture. Everything from the clothes or the food to the cars or technologies used to crop (to me, having studied agriculture, is amazing to discover that theree was not machinery available to pick the cotton on that time). The roles of each one in these family groups, the social cliches, the prejudices and hierarchies, everything detailed. That is the history book. But in the other hand it is an actual text, a description of things that are currently happening all around the world, not only in Spain, or in the US, but also, as you have said, in developing countries, all around the world. I guess abuse of power, injustice and hunger is something inherently attached to the human beings that will happen once and once again, wherever, always.The end of the book is as good as the rest of it. Tom goes away, as others before him, he will never be back. The flood, the Nature, spoils the little things the Joads still had. The coming baby, the hope, the  future, is not a baby anymore. We do not know the sins of John, we do not need to know, he will pay for them anyway. We do not know the fate of the remaining members of the family, but we can imagine that they will do the same as the rest of the okies: to suffer, to die sooner than later in misery, it does not matter how. That is irrelevant, the book is elegant enough not to make us read that. We can only hope that they will manage to survive, in order to not to feel too sorry for them, maybe guilty. Then we close the book, and go back to our reality, hard as it can be, but that is not the same as the one of the miserable, of those that have lost everything and are starving.I did not want to read this book. I was sure that it was going to make me thirsty, hungry, cold, tired. Nothing good. But also angry, impotent, desperate. It is so terribly good, actual and real that it will stay carved in my memory, as the one from the same author I mentioned above. I will have to think about ethics, about society and about Justice, while at the same time people around us are desperately looking for a job, searching food in the trash or sleeping in the streets.I will bear the burden of this two books, I only hope we will choose, in our always interesting club, a new one, lighter to read and not to carry on our shoulders.

Dec 6, 2013

The grapes of wrath: the rest of the chapters

It seems that we are all late, but as always, it's not a problem! We'll just add up from here all the comments for the rest of the book, so please add whatever remarks, comments, ideas that "The grapes of wrath" are provoking you... By the way, a very good title, if you ask me... what do you think?
We'll give some more weeks to reach the final line before we start thinking about the next book, the first of 2014, sounds good?

Nov 11, 2013

The grapes of wrath: Chapters 13 - 18

Life at the road continues.

There are signs of hope in these chapters, like the friendship of the Joad's family with the Wilsons, the story of Mae the waitress, or the bonds and humanity that emerge among families that meet on the road. However, overall, drama and tragedy increase. First, death strikes the family, who looses Grampa and Granma. Even the death of the dog brings a component of bad luck. Second, uncertainty and strong worries about the future in California appear as they meet people for whom the California dream did not work. Finally, the unraveling of the family. Not only with he grandparents death, but also with the departure of Noah.

How do you feel the tragedy is affecting the characters? For instance, Ma Joad?
The story of Mae, the waitress, seems like a drop of kindness among so much harshness. How do you think that story fits? Do you think that kind of circle of gratitude happens in real life? Or is it too idealistic?
What about the illustration of capitalism that Steinbeck does? Again, it is interesting to remember that the book was written in 1939.

Oct 26, 2013

The grapes of wrath: Chapters 7-12

We are getting to know better the family, the father, the mother, the brother... they are all preparing to go West, selling their stuff and trying to organize the trip that will change their lives. It is amazing how Steinbeck describes the attachment of the family to the land, and how he expresses how the family has its roots there, and there they will remain for longtime in their memories, wherever they go, it might as well be Orange County, but they are from the Dust Bowl. How do you see this? Do you have such an attachment somewhere? Is home where your family is or a certain place? And finally, is there anything in particular that catches your eye in these chapters?

Oct 13, 2013

The grapes of wrath: Chapters 1 - 6

Well, well, well... what about the start of "The grapes of wrath"? Steinbeck presents a dramatic situation in the deep countryside of the USA. One of the main issues is the land and the attachment to people, to a family, that is a universal situation, isn't it? What about the role of banks? It does sound too familiar... It is striking, it was written over 70 years ago!

Oct 10, 2013

Nobel Prize for Alice Munro!

Did you guys see this? I read that the final run was between her and Murakami. We have such a top quality collection of books and authors in our bookclub!

Sep 25, 2013

After-summer winner

The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck

One of the most beloved novels of American literature by one of its greatest novelists. It has been described as epic, transcendental, human, captivating, tragic and idillic, a must-read… A perfect combination for our club!

Thanks everybody for your votes!

Suggested reading schedule coming soon.

As always, looking forward to reading with you.

Sep 5, 2013

Final chapters: "What is Remembered", "Queenie", "The Bear Came Over the Mountain"

As we are running behind schedule, again, I decided to sum up in one post for all the last three stories. We can discuss here about Queenie and Mr.Vorguilla, and how some things, are the same in no matter what culture... the widow man that cannot be alone for a few minutes and the runaway girl, is this a stereotype or does it really happen? This was set in Canada, years ago, but do you see that now, wherever you are?
What do you think of the whole book? Are like we were saying, some characters universal? Are family issues the same everywhere and always? Is loneliness the big character of all the stories?
Are you willing to go on other short stories? Or do you feel it is always better a good old novel? Feel free to comment on these and other topics that you might have thought while reading this book. We hope you enjoyed it!

Aug 25, 2013

Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage - Post and Beam

So we meet Lorna, her husband and Polly, the uncomfortable relative. This is something that actually happens a lot, families with time get more distant, life circumstances change, and someone that was a perfect companion at some point, later on when years and lives have gone on, doesn't seem to be that same person anymore... In Post and Beam, do you think Lorna acts right? Does she "dislike" Polly because her husband does? Or is there something else? Is actually Polly the one that is imposing herself and wants to make Lorna feel guilty because she left? And what about the end of the story? Where does the change come from?

Aug 22, 2013

Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage - Nettles

It seems the summer is keeping us all too busy! In any case, we know some of you are there and we thank you. We specially thank Arantxa, who keeps sharing her always interesting thoughts with us. Although with some delay, we are here too, enjoying Ms. Munro and her stories.

How did you like "Nettles"?

In this story, the no-named narrator is a recently divorced, middle-aged woman who is confronted with her life and her feelings toward her ex-husband, kids, lover… In that context, she reencounters Mike, a friend of childhood.

How did you feel about the narrator? Do you think Mike has the same feelings that she has about their relationship as kids? What do you think is the meaning of Mike's revelation in the context of the story? What's the point? How does the reencounter affect the protagonist and the way she continues with her life?

Do you remember a similar story as a kid? Do you recall having similar (confusing?) feelings when looking back to old days and friends?

As with all Munro' stories, a lot of interesting things to reflect on.

Aug 5, 2013

Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage - Comfort

Death and illness presented again in this story. Now, from the point of view of the partner and exploring tolerance, hopes, commitment, conformism…

What do you think of the title of this story? Why and where comfort?

What do you see in the relationships presented? Love, marriage, courtship...

Jul 28, 2013

Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage - Family Furnishings

How do you like this story? What about the relationships in it? Alfrida and the father? Alfrida and the main character (I can't think of her name now!)? Conservative versus modern, more open? Have you had any situation that makes you think of this a familiar story? Some person that you knew and admired at a time and that then, you grew to dislike...

Jul 9, 2013

Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage - Floating Bridge

This story if build up by very different characters with very different feelings, with Jinny and her condition as the thread that guides all those feelings.

What do you think of the different characters? What do you think is the point of the story? Why do you think the story starts with Jinny's brief escape and ends up with her being driven home by a young stranger?

If you had to choose one word from the title of the book, which one would it be? Hateship? Friendship? Courtship? Loveship? Marriage?

Jul 1, 2013

Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage - First story

How did you like the first story of the book?

How did you feel about the different characters?  It is interesting how the point of view in the narrative smoothly changes from one character to the other, allowing us to see how they feel, and making it easier to empathize with them. Were you actually able to feel empathy for the girls? for Mr. McCauley? What about Ken and Johanna? 

Did you see the end coming?

Some critics suggest that the message Munro's work conveys is that the greatest purpose marriage has in a woman's life is to limit it. Do you see that in this story?

As always, looking forward to reading your thoughts on the author, the book, and on such interesting matters as hateship, friendship, courtship, loveship, and marriage. 

Jun 18, 2013

Our Summer 2013 Winner is...

Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage: Stories 
by Alice Munro

- Wilt, by Tom Sharpe - 3 votes
- Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage: Stories, by Alice Munro - 6 votes

Thanks for your fast responses and valuable votes!  We are now officially ready for our summer reading together. 
We look forward to reading your thoughts and feelings on all, or some, of the nine stories that the book compiles.  
Suggested reading schedule, coming soon.

Jun 2, 2013

Chapter 4 "April Eighth, 1928"

One week after what we had scheduled, here we are to discuss the last and final chapter of Faulkner's "Sound and fury"... did you already finish it? What did the last part add to the story? Globally, what do you think of the book? Would you read another Faulkner? Which chapter did you like best and why? Who is the main character of the book? Take your time...

May 12, 2013

Chapter 3 "April Sixth, 1928"

If you have been brave enough to get here, you have been rewarded with a much easier to read chapter, congrats!!! This is Jason's turn, with his point of view of the story and his values. What do you think of him? And about the others? Somehow, Caddie has gone a transformation, from being the sweetest sister (Benjy's point of view) to the fallen one (Jason's), how blurry is that line?
The title of the novel is inspired by Shakespeare's Macbeth: 

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Told by an idiot, many say, does not only refer to Benjy, but to all of them with their limited views and acts, do you agree?

May 2, 2013

Interview with Junot Díaz

Dear NoCookies,

Junot Díaz, the Dominican-American writer and Pulitzer Prize winner read in this bookclub, was recently interviewed by El País (sorry, only in Spanish!). Very interesting and down-to-earth man who gives loads of ideas for future readings!

I hope you enjoy it!

Apr 30, 2013

The Sound and the Fury: June Second, 1910

In the second chapter we read the voices and memories of Quentin, one of the three brothers of the family and a young student at Harvard. If in the first chapter it was difficult to understand Benjy' story, it is now complicated too to follow Quentin's narrative and the chronological jumps of his thoughts. 

For those of us struggling to understand each one of the pages as well as to keep being motivated to keep reading, it might be helpful to know that we are not alone: in many reviews and analysis of the book it is said that the book requires intense concentration and patience to interpret and understand. 

So, we encourage you to keep reading and sharing your thoughts… and doubts.

Apr 14, 2013

The Sound and the Fury: April Seventh, 1928

The first chapter of "The sound and the fury" presents a southern family in 1928. Different topics are touched, family, children, the rich and the poor, death, segregation... from the perspective of the the youngest of all the kids in the family. What did call your attention the most?

Mar 25, 2013


So William Faulkner made it to the top! Not only in the No Cookies Bookclub... we will be reading "The sound and the fury". Please check our book schedule page for more details to follow the discussion. Go get your copy fast!

Mar 14, 2013

Your suggestions

One more time, great suggestions for our great reading-together!

Make your pick and email us by Sunday (March 17th) what do you feel like reading.  Thanks!

The White Masaiby Corinne Hofmann – sent by Arantxa M.

I have neither seen the book nor watched the movie. I learnt about this book reading a travel review on Kenya, where apparently many single women go on vacation looking for their Masai (can you believe that?). It may be a girlish book, not even sure it is a good one (too cheesy?), but I am curious about it. Knowing it is a true story makes it more interesting to me.
Corinne, a European entrepreneur, meets Lketinga, a Samburu warrior, while on vacation in Mombasa on Kenya's glamorous coast.Despite language and cultural barriers, they embark on an impossible love affair. Corinne uproots her life to move to Africa--not the romantic Africa of popular culture, but the Africa of the Masai, in the middle of the isolated bush, where five-foot-tall huts made from cow dung serve as homes. Undaunted by wild animals, hunger, and bouts with tropical diseases, she tries to forge a life with Lketinga. But slowly the dream starts to crumble when she can no longer ignore the chasm between their two vastly different cultures.

The sound and the fury, by William Faulkner – sent by Jorge

The Sound and the Fury is the story of the Compson family, featuring some of the most memorable characters in literature: beautiful, rebellious Caddy; the manchild Benjy; haunted, neurotic Quentin; Jason, the brutal cynic; and Dilsey, their black servant. Their lives fragmented and harrowed by history and legacy, the character’s voices and actions mesh to create what is arguably Faulkner’s masterpiece and  one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century.

Oblivionby David Foster Wallace – sent by Rocio H.

David Foster Wallace is a name that I have heard again and again, so it might be because he died young, or it might be because he was actually a very good writer. I would like to check it myself... 
In the stories that make up Oblivion, David Foster Wallace joins the rawest, most naked humanity with the infinite involutions of self-consciousness--a combination that is dazzlingly, uniquely his. These are worlds undreamt-of by any other mind. Only David Foster Wallace could convey a father's desperate loneliness by way of his son's daydreaming through a teacher's homicidal breakdown ("The Soul Is Not a Smithy"). Or could explore the deepest and most hilarious aspects of creativity by delineating the office politics surrounding a magazine profile of an artist who produces miniature sculptures in an anatomically inconceivable way ("The Suffering Channel"). Or capture the ache of love's breakdown in the painfully polite apologies of a man who believes his wife is hallucinating the sound of his snoring ("Oblivion"). Each of these stories is a complete world, as fully imagined as most entire novels, at once preposterously surreal and painfully immediate.

Strangers on a Trainby Patricia Highsmith – sent by Macarena

This is Highsmith's first novel and the source for Alfred Hitchcock's classic 1953 film. The world of Patricia Highsmith has always been filled with ordinary people, all of whom are capable of very ordinary crimes. In her  debut novel we encounter Guy Haines and Charles Anthony Bruno, passengers on the same train. But while Guy is a successful architect in the midst of a divorce, Bruno turns out to be a sadistic psychopath who manipulates Guy into swapping murders with him. "Some people are better off dead," Bruno remarks, "like your wife and my father, for instance." As Bruno carries out his twisted plan, Guy is trapped in Highsmith's perilous world, where, under the right circumstances, anybody is capable of murder.

Mar 6, 2013

The Stranger: Part 2

How did you like the book? Was the second part as you expected? 

It seems that the absurd honesty of our protagonist, the anti-hero Mersault, reaches its highest in this second part. For instance, when after being asked if he regrets the criminal act, he says that, after reflecting on it, it is rather boredom than regret what he feels. Also,when he talks about the conveniences of the legal system, or on how nice the policeman was that he felt like shaking hands…

What is the point of such long trial trial when there is no doubt, denial, remorse or regret for the crime? And what is really the focus of the trial? The protagonist's murder of a person, or his attitude at his mother's funeral? Society's seek of a "rational" explanation of the crime leads to a process that makes no sense, for is hopeless and irrational.

How do you feel about our protagonist in this second part where he seems to start feeling something and gaining consciousness? What is he really feeling? 

This has been a reading full of opportunities to reflect on our very own existence, along or in opposition to the protagonist's process.  

"You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life".  Albert Camus

Feb 18, 2013

The Stranger: Part 1

This book has been widely discussed from a philosophical point of view, being Camus a key exponent of existencialism. But beyond any philosophical analysis, this seems to be a book about feelings - or maybe for that matter, about not feeling, about how life is lived or just passed by, about how the world keeps moving despite the protagonist apparent lack of interest and respect for that movement.  
We would love to hear how did it make you feel this first part in which the protagonist is introduced and his crime takes place. What do you think about him? What about the people that surrounds him? How do they react to his general apathy? Do they even realize?

Jan 29, 2013

Next book: The Stranger from Camus

Come back soon for our reading schedule and get ready for some good French existentialism!

Jan 22, 2013

Our newest candidates

So we have three potential, very interesting, books to read, in the mood for the classics, Saul Bellow or Camus, or maybe reading about a journey in Africa, which one will you vote for?

Rocío suggests: 

My suggestion is for Saul Bellow and his novel "The Adventures of Augie March", that has been said one of the greatest american novels of the 20th century and its opening paragraph is one of the most famous (curious to read it already?)
Saul Bellow has received the Nobel Prize of literature, the Pulitzer Prize, the National Award for Book Fiction (three times) .
I have just read his life and wikipedia, a very interesting one, so I decided, time to read the 20th century classics...

Jorge has two suggestions this time:

"The Stranger" is not merely one of the most widely read novels of the 20th century, but one of the books likely to outlive it. Written in 1946, Camus's compelling and troubling tale of a disaffected, apparently amoral young man has earned a durable popularity (and remains a staple of U.S. high school literature courses) in part because it reveals so vividly the anxieties of its time. Camus won the Nobel Prize in 1957 and was noted for his existentialist aesthetic. The remarkable trick of The Stranger, however, is that it's not mired in period philosophy.
The plot is simple. A young Algerian, Meursault, afflicted with a sort of aimless inertia, becomes embroiled in the petty intrigues of a local pimp and, somewhat inexplicably, ends up killing a man...

And the second (a Spanish book, feel free to use google translate on the right side to get an instant imperfect translation, but again, instant!):

"El sueño de África", con el subtítulo de «En busca de los mitos blancos del continente negro», es un libro de viajes escrito por Javier Reverte que relata un viaje del autor de varios meses por África oriental. El el primer libro de los 3 que el autor ha escrito sobre este continente, que juntos reúnen la «Trilogía de África».
Publicado en 1996, fue un éxito de ventas y está considerado como uno de los libros de viajes más representativos del género publicados en España.1 2 La edición dispone de bibliografía e índice alfabético, que permiten que sea utilizada como obra de consulta.

Jan 17, 2013

Dance, Dance, Dance: Final Discussion

So we are finished with Murakami, the Sheep Man, and our protagonist and his particular world and "friends". 

What were your thoughts when reading  the last page? Were you expecting that end? Do you feel everything gets connected? Or maybe you were not waiting for any particular connection... And at the end of the day, do you think you will be reading another Murakami soon?

We would love to hear from you!

Jan 9, 2013

Dance, Dance, Dance: Chapters 23 - 32

Things have been busy during the holidays so this post is coming a few days later than scheduled. However, it seems the reading has been good and fast for many of you. Great!

In these chapters we get to know more about Yuki "skills" and the relationship with her particular family. What do you think about them? What about Dick? What is the purpose of his role in the story, if any? And what about the trip to Hawaii? How do you feel about the evolution of the relationship between Yuki and the protagonist? Is it everything clear and clean in it?

Worth mentioning too is the bizarre persecution of Kiki and the elements of classic mystery novel in that persecution that, in Murakami's hands, are at the same time not classic at all. And again, is it all in the protagonist's mind or is it real? Will we know as we keep reading? Looking forward to find out.