A Home at the End of the World Archives
A post at the end of the week
Thanks to everyone who participated in the discussion (still ongoing, so jump in late if you've had a busy week or something) of A Home at the End of the World.
A follow-up question related to the book: A couple of people mentioned during the discussion that the novel was not being their favorite book ever, or even a book they liked, but still mentioned that it was a worthwhile read.
I thought about that, and I'm wondering, what do you take away from this book, whether or not you liked it? What lingers in your mind, if anything, days or weeks after you put it down?
And, on a larger level, and for those of you who didn't read (ahem), what do you generally take away from books that you've read?
Michael Cunningham's A Home at the End of the World
Soon many people will know A Home at the End of the World from its screen adaptation (as we discussed). This is the second time I've read the novel, and I've found it to be quickly inhabitable and deeply absorbing, even though I know what's coming next in terms of the plot.
In a review of The Hours, The New York Times says both AHATEOTW and Cunningham's first novel "are remarkable for the intensity with which their characters experience their own strangeness -- as if to be ordinary were an accomplishment, only rarely within reach." That's a perfect, if ambiguous, definition, I think, for a book that's very ambiguous. Or maybe it's perfectly clear.
What did you all think?
Other thoughts to kick off the discussion:
- How did you like Michael Cunningham's use of language? What about his metaphors? The book is almost poetic in many places for me; as a writer, I aspire to this level of writing and depth of vocabulary. Still, there were times when the language didn't work as well. For example, when he'd repeat a relatively underused word ("flesh" is a good example), I'd recall its earlier usage and that tended to pull me out of the narrative.
- The narrative structure, with the chapters alternately narrated by each of the four main characters, works well here for me. However, I don't think you can really tell the difference between each voice (if you opened the book to a random page, you'd have no idea who was narrating). That may be intentional, but I found it hurt my understanding of the characters on an admittedly more surface level. For example, when Jonathan first makes fun of Alice's accent, I just wasn't convinced, because I hadn't imagined her as having an accent at all. Does the novel's structure work? What did this technique reveal about the characters for you?
- If anything, this novel works for me on an emotional level. That decreases slightly in each of the three parts, so I think the first is definitely the strongest. And as mentioned above, I think the narrative structure ultimately enhances the emotional depth. Is this novel emotionally honest?
- Are the novel's depictions of different types of friendship, love, and family realistic? Or is this more of a gritty fantasy?
Our discussion of A Home at the End of the World starts next Monday, but I just wanted to check in.
I hope everyone's been able to at least begin to explore Michael Cunningham's prose, and hopefully get lost in some of it. This is my second time reading the novel, and although I know the plot, it's even better this time, because I can just revel in his use of language.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Hope you're all enjoying it, or at least formulating arguments about why it sucks. We'll converse soon.
I hope everyone had a spooky yet safe and fun Halloween. Now that October is over, the holiday season is just about upon us. Discussions normally take place during the last full week of each month, but Thanksgiving and Christmas both fall during that time. As a result, the next two discussions have been moved up to the following dates:
November 17, 2003, for A Home at the End of the World by Michael Cunningham
December 15, 2003, for Watch Your Mouth by Daniel Handler
In January, we'll return to our regular schedule.
I've placed my copy of this month's book right on top of my barely cracked open copy of The Diamond Age and I swear I'm going to find the time to read both of them. I hope you do, too.