Shall We Book Club Some More?
June 23, 2010 11:29 AM   Subscribe

The recent MetaChat book club gathering to discuss Lolita was very enjoyable. So, is there interest in arranging another, to discuss the next book in Yale Professor Amy Hungerford's course on The American Novel Since 1945? That next book is On the Road.

This MeFi book club was Shothotbot's idea -- he thought it would be very interesting to read the books on the Open Yale course reading list, and read, listen to or watch the accompanying lectures, then talk about the books

Shothotbot is now buried in graduate school, but I'm happy to coordinate our next "meetup" on MetaChat if there is interest in taking up On The Road. Maybe on August 16, 2010?
posted by bearwife to MetaFilter Gatherings at 11:29 AM (47 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Personal prejudices will keep me away from this particular book, but if you guys keep going down the syllabus I'll hop aboard when the train reaches Blood Meridian. I've listened to the professor's lectures on the book and sorely missed discussing her ideas with someone else.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:45 AM on June 23, 2010


I must admit On the Road has never been a book I wanted to read, so if people want to skip it and go to something else, that is fine with me.
posted by bearwife at 11:58 AM on June 23, 2010


On the Road feels like a high school assignment. Let's move on!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:03 PM on June 23, 2010


I've never read On the Road, so I'd be up for it. But to be honest, I'd be up for reading anything (whether from the list, or just some arbitrary random book) and discussing it.
posted by lriG rorriM at 12:04 PM on June 23, 2010


I'd vote for skipping Franny and Zooey too and pick up that list with The Crying of Lot 49.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:05 PM on June 23, 2010


I've been meaning to get to The Crying of Lot 49 for a while now, so I'll definitely vote for that. (Though we may want to poke at the main post here, in case it's scaring off the "ugh, McCormack" contingent.)
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:28 PM on June 23, 2010


No, not The Road by Cormac McCarthy, but On the Road by Jack Kerouac is the next book on the syllabus.

And, though I have never been able to get through it, I'm going to add my vote for Crying of Lot 49 as our next book.

I'm planning on adding up all the votes in a day or two and letting the majority rule on which our next selection will be. What made the Lolita thread so good was that a fair number of people had read the book.
posted by bearwife at 12:41 PM on June 23, 2010


I'd vote for Crying of Lot 49, mostly because I can't really remember what the plot is anymore (and I just read it earlier this year).
posted by shakespeherian at 12:56 PM on June 23, 2010


I'm interested in reading and discussing On the Road and The Crying of Lot 49. I've been meaning to read both.
posted by malapropist at 1:22 PM on June 23, 2010


I'm about a third of the way through On the Road right now. Not loving it. My thoughts so far are that it consists of "and then this happened, and then we went here, and then he said this, and then we left and went over to there, and then we met these guys, and then...."

Having said that, it might be interesting to read it with others so I can figure out what all the big fame is about.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 1:30 PM on June 23, 2010


Here I'll save you the need to read On The Road by posting the only part anyone remembers:
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!”
posted by empath at 1:40 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you're totting up votes, bearwife - yes please to The Crying of Lot 49.

(Thanks for volunteering to do this, btw. :)
posted by arachnid at 2:11 PM on June 23, 2010


I'd like to revote for the skipping On The Road and going to The Crying of Lot 49.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:18 PM on June 23, 2010


Another vote for Pynchon.
posted by reductiondesign at 2:22 PM on June 23, 2010


I've been reading On The Road and would be interested in a discussion of it, mainly because I want to know if other people find it as self-indulgent as I do. I could totally understand why ya'll wouldn't be interested in it, though, and will not protest if you want to skip it.
posted by NoraReed at 2:23 PM on June 23, 2010


Seriously? You folks are seriously considering skipping On the Road? If it's not the Great American Novel, it certainly covers all the bases required. You might not like the protagonist, the prose might seem a little overdone based on modern standards, but good lord, people, if you haven't read it, and you just think you don't want to, what on earth are you basing that on? Give it a try. Read it both as a novel, a window into a time that just doesn't exist anymore (hitchhiking? best of luck these days), or even as a quasi-historical document that gives you insight into the Beats, and what they were like. But don't just dismiss it out of hand. It's a fantastic novel, and worth reading at least once.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:48 PM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Read it years ago, no need to do it again, let alone talk about it. Pynchon though? Yeah, that's worth a rereading!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:23 PM on June 23, 2010


Er... dammit. Could someone hand me a towel? I seem to have egg on my face. (I'd still rather do Pynchon. But. Er.)
posted by Tomorrowful at 3:57 PM on June 23, 2010


Somehow or other, I've never actually read On the Road. Which is weird, as I used to be really beat-obsessed, and even have a couple of Kerouac's books of poetry.

I'd do On the Road.
posted by roll truck roll at 4:04 PM on June 23, 2010


I just finished reading On the Road last week. I had to drag myself through it and only finished it out of pure stubbornness on my part. It was interesting as a relic of the Beat era, but I'd be interested in hearing what others think about it so maybe I can figure out what the hubub's about.
posted by lilac girl at 4:09 PM on June 23, 2010


Oh, jeez, sorry, Tomorrowful! Considering that one preposition separates the titles of the books and I put Kerouac's name only in the tags for this post, no reason to feel embarrassed. (And thanks for reiterating your vote. Yes, I am counting noses at the end of this so we all know what the majority decided to read. If there is a significant minority for another choice, I'll consider setting up two MetaChat threads on the same day.)
posted by bearwife at 4:12 PM on June 23, 2010


Not On the Road! I did not like it and am not particularly inclined to read it again... but I'll read The Crying of Lot 49 happily!
posted by ChuraChura at 5:05 PM on June 23, 2010


I don't think any book has disappointed me as much as On The Road. My inner hippy/beat wanted to love it, and I had grown up hearing it praised by people I respected (mostly musicians), but wow what puerile piffle. What was it Truman Capote said... "That isn't writing at all, it's typing."

(that said, I do enjoy hearing him read it out loud)
posted by puny human at 5:42 PM on June 23, 2010


Huh. More antipathy towards On The Road here than I would have expected. It's been some years since I've read it, but came away thinking that I liked Kerouac the wordsmith, but disliked Kerouac the human being.

Maybe it's because I'm a schmoopy maudlin sentimentalist, but I really disliked the way he tossed women aside like yesterday's newspaper. It is really florid in places, though.

That's all the discussing I'm up for, as it is.

However, I have just started The Odyssey by Homer, so if you schedule that book for discussion in November or December, I'll be just about ready.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:57 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'd be down for rereading Pynchon. I agree with earlier sentiment: On The Road is great when you're a senior in high school. I can't look at the list but I'd rather not skip Franny and Zooey. How do others feel about Salinger?
posted by thankyouforyourconsideration at 6:49 PM on June 23, 2010


Oops, got to the list. I think Barth would be really fun to discuss too! I'm feeling nerdy now. Time to step away from MeTa.
posted by thankyouforyourconsideration at 6:52 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


On the Road is a gorgeous work of Americana. I'd totally join the mefi book club if this was next.
posted by nevercalm at 7:48 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love Barth. But we need not track the syllabus order. Just cast a vote for a book in the syllabus we haven't discussed yet that you'll read by August 16.
posted by bearwife at 7:58 PM on June 23, 2010


I think sticking to the syllabus order is a good idea actually. The more that people's assumptions and associations can be left out of the book choosing process, the better. As a document of a time and place, any book on that list is worth looking at.

It might be worth asking: What other directions can the conversation go in besides "I liked it because x" or "disliked it because y"? Because that would probably start to feel one-dimensional.
posted by Jagz-Mario at 8:26 PM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


On the Road is chock full of flaws (or maybe the author was), but it really is a gorgeous American novel. One might as well dismiss Huck Finn (a novel On The Road, in all its enthusiasm, naïveté, and tragedy, resembles). If you've any interest at all in 20th century American literature (instead of just books that appeal--not that there's anything wrong with that), you'll read On The Road and think about all its glorious beauty, and dumbness, and Americanness.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:47 PM on June 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Jagz, shall I take it you're voting On the Road??
posted by bearwife at 8:52 PM on June 23, 2010


I first read On the Road when I was 18, I ' d love to reread it with others to see how my perspective has changed.

I really wanted to join in with Lolita but work and school got in the way.
posted by nestor_makhno at 10:30 PM on June 23, 2010


BTW -- also down for The Odyssey; I put that one down last year and it's just been staring me down ever since.
posted by malapropist at 1:13 AM on June 24, 2010


I'm in; would suggest following the syllabus is the easiest method.

(On a personal level: read On the Road last year, no real desire to read it again. Studied Lot 49 in university a while back and have read it several times, but would love to hear what MeFites think about it).
posted by Infinite Jest at 4:59 AM on June 24, 2010


Bearwife, yes.
posted by Jagz-Mario at 6:25 AM on June 24, 2010


On The Road: Deadbeat dads waste the child support in the most banal and dullest manner possible.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:24 AM on June 24, 2010


BTW -- also down for The Odyssey

I really wasn't seriously suggesting that-- I'm averaging about 10 pages a day at best, and I may end up putting it back down, like you. I picked it up becaue I started into Joyce's Ulysses and realized I had not one clue about what the hell is going on in that book, so I thought I should pick up on some of the history. Now, I find I also have not one clue about what the hell is going on in The Odyssey. I mean, I know he got thrown off course on the way home from sacking Troy, but all the place names, Greek god names & various & sundry characters' names are really throwing me for a loop.

Every time I go further back for background material, I find I have to go back further than that. I'll be at stone tablets soon, with no earthly idea about what the hell is going on in them, either.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:36 AM on June 24, 2010


I'll read anything on that list that mefites want to discuss. I will weigh in that it might be useful to read them in syllabus order.
posted by thankyouforyourconsideration at 7:47 AM on June 24, 2010


I'm sorry if my starting off the thread with a dismissal of On the Road poisoned the thread a bit; I haven't been an active member of the book club and I'm not sure I should get a vote in what's read next.

but to compare it to Huck Finn? Blasphemy.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:25 AM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Beware, Bookhouse, I am counting all votes ( though since Odyssey is about as far from a post 1945 American novel as possible, it is not a contender ) unless someone posting in this thread expressly retracts theirs. Are you doing that or can we persuade you to join the book club this time around? Just think how nicely it fits with your name . . .
posted by bearwife at 8:36 AM on June 24, 2010


Me too! Have not read OTR, but it always seems to divide people up (for the most part) into those that really dislike it and those that kinda like it / are okay with it. Following the syllabus sounds okay as long as it's what the consensus is, but if several people are already strongly opposed to this particular book, then the chat will probably suffer or be skewed.

So Pynchon appeals more to me, but I've read neither and am cool with either.


I'm assuming there's no formal joining procedure, just participation in the Metachat thread? Please correct me if I'm wrong.
posted by mondaygreens at 8:47 AM on June 24, 2010


Read all the Hungerford lectures on Lolita and everyone's comments at Metachat. Should I repeat that, I'd rather do Pynchon.
posted by xod at 9:58 AM on June 24, 2010


I would vote for On the Road, and participate. I have read most of the beatnik canon, but strangely have not read this one. I feel like I would have something to contribute.
posted by Danf at 10:58 AM on June 24, 2010


I would skip On The Road if we did it. I read it 25 years ago (yeah, I think I was a senior in high school) and have no desire to read it again.
posted by matildaben at 12:59 PM on June 24, 2010


*bribes voting officials*
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:09 PM on June 24, 2010


Discussing On The Road is like having a really really really good song, song 'X', by this band 'Y', and you first listened to song 'X' eons ago in high school, and it was the soundtrack to the journal sessions in which you would write about your unrequited love (LiveJournal / mood: depressed / soundtrack: song 'X'), and it was there, playing in the background when you ran around in the city with your best friend whom you also had a crush on, and you've got the album CD for song 'X' all scratched and dinged-up in some storage box somewhere, and nowadays every time you it comes on iTunes you skip to the next track because even though it's a wonderful song, you've heard it too many times, and it's too laden for meaning for you --

and then today a friend comes up to you and says, hey suedehead, "Have you heard of this band 'Y'? They have this really really great song called song 'X'! It's soooo great!"

and you nod your head weakly.

I vote for The Crying of Lot 49.
posted by suedehead at 1:45 PM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pynchon, like Kurt Vonnegut, was a student at Cornell University, where he probably at least audited Vladimir Nabokov's Literature 312 class. (Nabokov himself had no recollection of him, but Nabokov's wife Véra recalls grading Pynchon's examination papers, thanks only to his handwriting, "half printing, half script".)[8] The year before Pynchon graduated, Nabokov's novel Lolita was published in the United States; among other things, including the novel's adaptation to cinema in 1961 by Stanley Kubrick, Lolita introduced the word "nymphet" to describe a sexually attractive girl between the ages of nine and fourteen. In following years, mainstream usage altered the word's meaning somewhat, broadening its applicability. Perhaps appropriately, Pynchon provides an early example of the modern "nymphet" usage entering the literary canon. Serge, the Paranoids' teenage counter-tenor, loses his girlfriend to a middle-aged lawyer. At one point he expresses his angst in song:

What chance has a lonely surfer boy
For the love of a surfer chick,
With all these Humbert Humbert cats
Coming on so big and sick?
For me, my baby was a woman,
For him she's just another nymphet.

posted by xod at 2:08 PM on June 24, 2010


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