Monday, 7 March 2011

God speaks for the silent man

The Quaker book group is beginning to outgrow its birthplace. The small room upstairs in the Blue Moon cafe was crowded, with more new people along for Barbara Kingsolver's Lacuna. We started with a concern from some who felt they were personally not giving enough back to Blue Moon; I know that some months I have turned up and hardly even bought a coffee (if that). We agreed to mention this in our publicity so that we share the concern. Some of us thought about staying on after the group for supper, the advantage of that being you can then have a wine or beer during the group; not too much of a sacrifice.

People commented what a good group discussion we had. What I remember was the comment by someone that Trotsky (who appears in the book) was depicted as rather a bureaucrat, whereas Pasternak in Dr Zhivago painted him as a visionary military genius. There was something there about - what does someone actually do month by month to qualify as a military genius - how, if at all, does that differ from being a militaristic leader - can those capacities ever be put to right use, even by someone fighting for the oppressed?

We talked about the social hierarchy of shades of skin colour in Mexico and Jamaica; about how Kingsolver joyfully throws artistic creativity in with the political mix; about the theme of successful people coming to need help from others to manage their lives so they can go on doing what made them sucessfull.

Someone noted how the structure of the book had similarities with the Gospel of St John, and someone else immediately pointed out the first line of the book ('In the beginning were the howlers'). We sat for a minute taking in this example of the synergy of the group (I think that means the sum being greater than the parts); perhaps Kingsolver had the Gospels in mind, as well as Frieda Kahlo, Trotsky, and the McCarthy hearings, when she wrote the book. 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God' (John 1.1)

And God speaks for the silent man.


Nadine Wills said...

Some of us often go for dinner afterwards which is a nice way to get to know one another :-). I remember some food-eating with you too RMC.

What stays with me most from this discussion is your comment about how this is a book about creation and how we imagine ourselves into our own/best lives. And how we can imagine ourselves into our own worst realities as well. So, your comment about how it was - at its most basic and also higher level - about writing and how you deal with "coming into your own" (your truth, your success, living adventurously in whatever way that might mean and not letting the "howlers" get you) has really mad eme rethink this novel. I love it when this book group does that...and it does that for me almsot every time.

Laura Kerr said...

Now I have my computer back (a whole week without it!) I can read this blog and I really wish I had attended that book group meeting. It sounds like a wonderful discussion. Its such an interesting book, and a strange one too, structurallly, with the meaning of the first half coming to make sense in the second half. Did anyone else like the second half more than the first, as I did? Its so nice this book group is flourishing...

Nadine Wills said...

I've wondered where you've been :-). Weclome back. This book seemed like such a departure for her especially. It discombobulated me at first...and then I loved it. We sort of came back to that collage idea we talked about with Elliot as well.

I think most people like the second half (although Roger pointed out I think it could be seen in thirds actually) best. There was one person who liked the first bit best though and they had a quite convincing point...I just can't remember what and why now. Maybe someone else can chip in with it now. Perhaps it was Alison? She always makes such brilliant points.