Monday, June 18, 2007

Life Lessons from Gareth van Meer

During one wonderful 80 degree weekend afternoon, which was an amazing respite from all the cold weather we were having, Shelley, Matt and I wanted to start a book club during the summer. Easily wanting to be distracted from our studies of neuroanatomy lab (ick), we furiously wrote down all the novels we wanted to read during our lazy days in the summer we were all looking forward to. Mysteries, road trip novellas, psychological thrillers. All we wanted to read. Anything but medicine please. Ahem, no.
When summer came around, I was excited that Book Club was coming into fruition thanks to Shelley. We read our first novel "Eleven Minutes" by Paul Coelho, a fascinating erotic novel of a blossoming young prostitute from Brazil working in Switzerland. Never have I read a novel that dealt so much of the clitoris. Anyways, book club session was amazing, just listening to people talk about the novel we have invested for the past two weeks. Knowing me, I've never was the best or enjoyed small group sessions, going on and on discussing about a particular subject. Just my minor case of ADD I guess. But I loved how every person had an opinion and brought it to the table. Ideas bounced back and forth, making us reconsider our thoughts about the novel. Definitely meetings I will be looking forward to for the rest of the summer.

After "Eleven Minutes", I've been meaning to read "Fieldwork" by Mischa Berlinski.Stephen King recommended it in on issue of Entertainment Weekly, which he described how certain publishing companies are letting amazing novels in the dark, preventing anyone from reading the novel. With his rave review, and me forking over money for a hardback (shock!) I had to read it. I found it a great story taking me into the deep depths of the jungles in Thailand, describing the mysterious death of a anthropologist who committed suicide in a prison after she was sentenced for killing a missionary. It really was a novel like one of those Russian dolls, where one story opened up to another which opened to another story. Just descriptions of all the food being eaten in Thailand made me wish I weren't sitting cooped up in my apartment, enjoying my relatively bland PB&J sandwich. This is a book I certainly would recommend, but wait for it to come on paperback.

I recommended the next novel for book club, "Special Topics in Calamity Physics" by Marisha Pessl. Tina had been talking about this novel for a long time and just reading the synopsis and the concept for the novel intrigued me. Having the book stem from a guide similar to a syllabus of a literature course. Every chapter of a novel has a basis that is one classic novel in literature. Plus there are pictures!I just love the narrative of Blue van Meer and the relationship she has of her father. It's an interesting combination of admiration of her father, but also a critical eye of him that I find hilarious.

But what Blue's father said to her after an unpleasant day in school where she was ridiculed by her peers, he gave the most sage advice to his daughter, that certainly affected me.

"'But most critically, sweet, never try to change the narrative structure of someone else's story, though you will certainly be tempted to, as you watch those poor souls in school, in life, heading unwittingly down dangerous tangents, fatal digressions from which they will unlikely be able to emerge. Resist the temptations. Spend your energies on your story. Reworking it. Making it better. Increasing the scale, the depth of content, the universal themes. And I don't care what those themes are--they're yours to uncover and stand behind--so long as, at the very least, there is courage. Guts. Mut, in German. Those around you can have their novellas, sweet, their short stories of cliché and coincidence, occasionally spiced up with tricks of the quirky, the achingly mundane, the grotesque. A few will even cook up Greek tragedy, those born into misery, destined to die in misery. But you, my bride of quietness, you will craft nothing less than epic with your life. Out of all of them, your story will be the one to last.'"

I can't wait to finish this book.

1 comment:

NeoPeo said...

I'm reading Calamity Physics too!!!! I heart the nerdiness and the myriad literary and cultural references.