Next Group Read This Fall

We’re pulling into the last two weeks of Your Face This Spring, and I want to thank everyone who has read along. I’ve really enjoyed reading Javier Marias like this and hearing everyone’s thoughts over email and in the comments.

I think many of you have also enjoyed YFTS–so let’s do it all again in the fall.

I’ve been telling everyone that I talk to about YFTS that its success is in no small part due to the quality of the book that we picked for the group read. So I want to make sure that we get another good one for the fall. To that end, I’ve put together a few brief questions so that I can figure out the best way to do this next group read.

If you’re interested in participating in the next group read, please either answer these questions in the comments, or shoot me an email at scott_esposito AT yahoo.com. This will be a huge help to me!

1. Genre of Book: Which of the following genres most interests you for a group read?
a. Fall new release (e.g. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen)
b. Contemporary, non-new release (e.g. The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro)
c. 20th-century U.S. (e.g. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison)
d. 20th-century non-U.S. (e.g. Confessions of Zeno by Italo Svevo)
e. Classic (e.g. Bleak House by Charles Dickens)
e. Other (please specify what other genre or subgenre of those listed above you would be interested in)

2. Reading Load: Roughly how many pages would you prefer to read each week?
a. 50 or less
b. 51 – 80
c. 81 – 100
d. over 100

3. Duration: How many weeks would you like the group read to last?
a. 4 weeks or less (1 month or less)
b. 4 – 6 weeks
c. 6 – 8 weeks
d. over 8 weeks (more than 2 months)

4. Length: What length of book would you most like?
a. 300 pages or less
b. 301 – 400 pages
c. 401 – 500 pages
d. 501 – 600 pages
e. over 600 pages

5. Recommend a title: Is there a particular book you want to recommend for the group read? If so, let me know here.



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Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom would be a good choice, since I’m going to read it anyway. I think 80-100 pages per week is a good number. It would be nice if it lasted 4-6 weeks at the most. I didn’t read the Marias novel, but found the posting interesting anyway. I’m sure I will read it in the near future.

I like reading fiction for this type of group read – preferably 20th century non-US. Obviously it depends on the size of the book, but a 4-6 week or 6-8 week read seems doable. I would suggest Robert Musil’s Man Without Qualities for no other reason than it’s been a classic I’ve long wanted to tackle.

Hm, I would say that contemporary non-new or a 20th century book (US or non) would appeal to me most — forthcoming titles can be a risky proposition. I like the Musil suggestion above; also have been meaning to read Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, and the Tin Drum. 80-100 pages a week is a comfortable pace, 4-6 or 6-8 weeks, and I think it’s really nice to have something on the long side to dig into — 400 pages or more.

My vote is for The Unconsoled. I have loved everything else I’ve read by Ishiguro, and many people have told me that this is his masterpiece. From what I’ve heard, there will be enough enigmas and density to support a group read easily, but Ishiguro writes so cleanly that it’ll be easy to follow along.

I think Musil would be great too. Longer books work better in this format I think, so it has that going for it. I’ve read it before, but would love to have others to discuss it with. Plus it is funny and a lot of fun to read.

I would also second the Tin Drum, Darkmans or Kristin Lavransdatter.

I vote for The Unconsoled, 80-100 pages, 4-6 weeks.

I wasn’t involved with the Marias group read, but I would be tempted by either The Unconsoled or Cloud Atlas. Otherwise, contemporary non-new or 20th-C. 80-100, 4-6 weeks. 400-600 for length.

I’m so glad to learn you’ll be doing this again in the fall, Scott. It has been one of the more fascinating, stimulating, wonderful reading experiences of my life to do YFT in this way with you and the others who have contributed. I tend to agree with those above who focus on 20th century non-U.S. novels or series that are on the longer side–there’s so much more to dig into, and even if not everyone loves the read, a longer book allows that there will potentially be at least something for everyone to dig into. I love the suggestion of The Man Without Qualities above–I’ve started it three or four times, but never got very far–and I think it’s only because there are always so many books to read around me, combined with the fact that I did not know one person with whom I could discuss it as–or even after–I read it. 2666 would have been great, but I would imagine many of the readers of your site will have already read it, as have I, and it’s fun to tackle something a little less, er…in the recent consciousness. I’ve also always wanted to read Women and Men by Joseph McElroy, but seeing as it’s just about out of print, I think that might be a little out of the way for some people. I would, however, also put my vote in for David Markson, just so recently passed. I’ve read everything by him, but for some of the books, it’s been a while. What would you think of doing, say, September–Wittgenstein’s Mistress, October–Reader’s Block, November–Vanishing Point, December–The Last Novel (I tossed out This is Not a Novel and put in Wittgenstein on purpose, because I think there is a definite progression from the last one in all of the novels except perhaps for between TINAN and RB, and Wittgenstein is the first hint of his late style–but any combo would be great) Also, none of these novels is over 200 pages except for WM, and that one’s only about 240 pp. Whatever the choice is ultimately, I will be on board!

Yes! These reading groups are a great motivator, and motivation is what i need to tackle “The Man Without Qualities.”

Also, as the post above mentions above, not having anyone to discuss a longer work with can be a serious detriment to tackling a longer work.

Or, in a similar vein: “The Sleepwalkers” by Hermann Broch might be a good one.

sorry, forgot to mention that i’m OK with 80-100 pgs per week. MWQ is, when all said and done, close to 1700 pages? I think thats a nice length. If the group starts in the beginning of September, that will put us through the end of the year.

Another option: Gaddis’ JR, but I know “the modern word” forum just did a group read of this within the past year…

80 or more pages a week and I’d be interested in contemporary, but not necessarily a new release. The problem with picking an older book, however, is that I’m sure any book we choose will have been read by somebody who wants to be in the group. JR, for example, would be an amazing book-club book, but I read that recently.

That said, does Witz or The Tunnel interest anybody?

Alasdair Gray’s “Lanark” would be perfect for this. Make it for 51-80 pages a week at 6 to 8 weeks.

Im reading Witz now, but I do believe that would be a good choice. However Ive had The Tunnel on my shelf for some time, so I would like to see that one chosen personally. Also I would much rather do a Gaddis (JR or The Recognitions) than Musil. Sorry, but The Man Without Qualities, while Im sure a great piece of literature, wont be something Ill join in on.

I second the nominations for The Man Without Qualities, The Sleepwalkers, and The Tunnel, all of which I’ve been waiting too long to start reading.

Anyone for Hopscotch?

Scott, after your reading group, I have got motivated to start reading the YFTS myself – and what a work! I would definitely like to be a part of the second group read – a Non-new contemporary (preferably Non US) or Non-US 20th Century would be the ideal read. 4-6 weeks at a pace of 100 pages a week is good, but I would prefer a book which is within 500 pages.

Here’s another vote for Musil. The books are mocking me from the shelf, and it’s time to sink into it.

Oh man, part of me wants to move away from my ongoing German language binge, but I skipped over Man Without Qualities even though I loved Young Torless and the other part of me really, really wants to go back and do Man Without Qualities, and with a group would be as good a time as ever.

I know I already voted for Musil, which is great and garnering support from others, but I would also like to second the Sleepwalkers and then suggeset anything by Thomas Mann, especially Joseph and His Brothers.

1. Genre of Book: Which of the following genres most interests you for a group read?
a. Fall new release (e.g. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen)
b. Contemporary, non-new release (e.g. The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro)
c. 20th-century U.S. (e.g. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison)
d. 20th-century non-U.S. (e.g. Confessions of Zeno by Italo Svevo)
e. Classic (e.g. Bleak House by Charles Dickens)
f. Other (please specify what other genre or subgenre of those listed above you would be interested in)

B or E.

2. Reading Load: Roughly how many pages would you prefer to read each week?
a. 50 or less
b. 51 – 80
c. 81 – 100
d. over 100

A or B.

3. Duration: How many weeks would you like the group read to last?
a. 4 weeks or less (1 month or less)
b. 4 – 6 weeks
c. 6 – 8 weeks
d. over 8 weeks (more than 2 months)

D.

4. Length: What length of book would you most like?
a. 300 pages or less
b. 301 – 400 pages
c. 401 – 500 pages
d. 501 – 600 pages
e. over 600 pages

No preference.

5. Recommend a title: Is there a particular book you want to recommend for the group read? If so, let me know here.

“Swann’s Way” – the Lydia Davis translation; “The Book of Disquiet” – the Richard Zenith translation

Great idea! I would say:

1. Genre of Book: Which of the following genres most interests you for a group read?
b. Contemporary, non-new release
c. 20th-century U.S.

2. Reading Load: Roughly how many pages would you prefer to read each week?
c. 81 – 100

3. Duration: How many weeks would you like the group read to last?
b. 4 – 6 weeks
c. 6 – 8 weeks

(Depending on when it starts, but anything going too far into November is a losing proposition for me.)

4. Length: What length of book would you most like?
c. 401 – 500 pages
d. 501 – 600 pages

5. Recommend a title: Is there a particular book you want to recommend for the group read? If so, let me know here.

Among those already suggusted, The Unconsoled would be cool, as would The Tunnel or Witz.

Maybe it would be nice to read something by a female author? If so, I’ll throw out Vanessa Place’s “La Medusa” (Fiction Collective 2, 2008)

Another thought: the recent revised translation of Perec’s Life A User’s Manual?

Adding to my #5 answer – “The Unconsoled” or, as Michael suggested, the recent Perec translation.

1. B or D, I’d rather not do a new release
2. A or B
3. Doesn’t matter
4. Doesn’t matter

I really love the idea of Cloud Atlas or The Tunnel…

I also vote for THE SLEEPWALKERS by Hermann Broch. Otherwise, non-U.S. 20th century, up to 600 pages, 100 pages a week.

Please nothing current or postmodern.

Following the discussion of YFT was a pleasure.

I’ll throw in another vote for Cloud Atlas.

Instead of Cloud Atlas, which I’m sure a lot of us have read, we could do his new one. Eggers’ review in the times was really enthusiastic. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/04/books/review/Eggers-t.html

I was reading Your Face Tomorrow with the group, up until I got an ARC of the new Mitchell novel in the mail (as if by magic). The book is really poorly executed and removed any enthusiasm I already had for his work. Not to be a downer or a naysayer.

DN, I’ve heard similar things…maybe from this blog, come to think of it. I’ve always taken Eggers with a grain of salt, so I could definitely see the new one being a disappointment. Apparently, the switch from 1st to 3rd person wasn’t extremely smooth for Mitchell.

Perhaps, Rosa Chacel’s Dream of Reason. The suggestion is utterly out of the blue; I know nothing about the book except that Marias’ recommends it.
I don’t know if it would be appropriate for a group read or not. The Sleep Walkers certainly would, so I’ll support that as well. I never realized the book was so popular, as great as it is. Like others, I have tried to get through MWQ a number of times but ultimately got side tracked by other books as MWQ is such a huge commitment, too great at a time when I could discriminate less and wanted to read everything worthwhile. I would also suggest The Obscene Bird of the Night. Although, again, I really don’t know much about this book.

I want to add my votes to the Tunnel and the JR camps. Although I also would seriously not mind rereading Witz already (I don’t want the gestalt to fade even a little while I try to connect the detail dots during a reread), considering the pace of the group would not prohibit me from reading other things.

I feel like Witz would be a very obvious choice considering current buzz and the fact that this blog would become an amazingly useful and (not that it isn’t already) resource for all future readers of the novel. There have been group reads of the Gaddis books and the Musil. There is not yet one for Witz.

Another vote for the new translation of “Life: A User’s Manual”…

I think this group read — which is great — works best for books that are a) requiring of serious motivation — the group helps here; b) often so difficult that the group mind can help with understanding.

To that end, I nominate:

a) Man Without Qualities, already amply supported here.

b) If we do Broch, Death of Virgil. I think Sleepwalkers is great, but it is not as difficult as Death of Virgil, which is often called one of the least read masterpieces.

I do like Recognitions or Tunnel, too.

The common threads that linked successful reading groups like Infinite Summer and YFTS were: Novels of great length that many already had on their shelves because they were interested in them, but didnt yet devote the time it would take to read them, and also these novels were from a group of newer “masters” like David Foster Wallace and Javier Marias. Let those old dust covered tomes of Musil and Broch stay on the shelf, or in the classroom. Its our duty to celebrate and discuss the new vibrant and challenging literature that is being produced in OUR TIME. These novels are relevant to us, and while of course there are universal elements in the old masters yellowed pages, they cant approach the mindset of the modern man as reflected by the modern writer.

Cohen’s Witz, which Im almost finished with, is an excellent choice, with plenty for discussion groups to chew on for the duration of the reading. You dont have to pick this novel per se, but lets not look backward with the selection, rather look forward. Those Old Modern Masters have had their path strewn with roses for long enough, I challenge the lot of us, as readers, to create our own masters.

I’m on board for a reading of Musil’s Mann, though Witz sounds fine too. Just as longs as it’s not dragged for too long.

I say American fiction new or not since am living endless quest to get to core of what it amounts to be living in United States or to have lived say in 1930s and faced WWII. This lifetime quest and have to make choices and narrow down quest rather than more superficially bouncing from one national lit to another. I strongly support what Matt says about confronting “new vibrant and challenging literature” rather than lord help us another round of like Henry James. Yes, get us out of and away from the classroom classics.

Having heard the eloquent cry for contemporary American fiction, and the universal desire for serious ambition, how about Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves. I’m told it is great, challenging, avant-garde, etc.

So many great suggestions here–and I find myself torn between a desire to become immersed in Musil or Mann or Broch, etc., and agreeing with the recent call for newer work that hasn’t yet been trod through by hundreds of scholars and other explorers who kept logs of kinds various and sundry…and pondering all of this the past few days I suddenly thought of two disparate challenges: 1.) what about traversing what has been published so far of Vollmann’s Seven Dreams series? I know only four of them are currently extant, and I know they are technically four separate novels, but I did adore working my way through the three volumes of YFT, and do sort of hunger for something 1,000+ pages…and while I have tackled other Vollmann (Europe Central being the most recent), I have never actually cracked the pages of The Ice Shirt, Fathers and Crows, Argall, and The Rifles; in the words of Nabokov in Transparent Things: “it might be fun.” 2.) Beckett’s “trilogy”–Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnameable, which are all thoroughly interrelated in a bizarre sort of way…Just two thoughts…I’m sure whatever Scott decides upon will provide a thrill for us all…

Oh, let’s do “A Man Without Qualities” in that gorgeous two-volume English edition from ten years ago! It’s a great book everybody’s always meant to know better: perfect for a slowly-unfolding group read!

1. D.
2. B.
3. C.
4. D.

If we do do Musil, we do both volumes!!

I would like to try Kazuo Ishiguro, if for no other reason that I read so much translated fiction it would be nice to return to English.

SInce there are plenty of nominations, what the hell, here are a few more (Straying FAR away from Man Without Qualities). Once again, Ill throw out Joshua Cohen’s Witz, Adam Levin-The Instructions, The way under read 90’s masterpiece by William Gass-The Tunnel, I would also be very down with some Vollmann. The suggestion of the Seven Dreams series seems interesting, as would the selection of The Royal Family. One thats been on my personal shelf for years, and one that Ill probably never read outside a discussion group is DeLillo’s Underworld. Then Id finally be able to judge if its worth all the plaudits, the opening section in particular has sent literary hearts a flutter for years. Though it may seem somewhat trite, Im sure many would support a group read of Pynchon’s Against The Day. A massive tome that no doubt would have plenty of discourse for the group to chew on. And a few oddballs: News From The Empire by Fernando del Paso, The Notebook, The Proof, The Third Lie: Three Novels by Agota Kristof, and the massively perplexing Women and Men by Joseph McElroy, though it may be out of print im sure we can pool our resources to find plenty of copies on the secondary market. Hopefully Ive confused things much more than they already are.

I’m in for 80-100 pages a week, 4-6 or 6-8 weeks. I’m most interested in 20th century (American or non-American) or contemporary (not fall release).

I’m excited by this idea and have always wanted to tackle The Man Without Qualities, but has anyone thought about Larva: A Midsummer Night’s Babel by Julian Rios?

Oh God! Larva is insane. I didn’t make it 3 pages.

So when will there be word of the selection? I would like to start finding a nice edition of the chosen book. Unless, of course, The Man Without Qualities is chosen. Not in the mood for 1700 pages of an irony laden critique of pre WWI Austrian society. I would rather read the entire oeuvre of Ayn Rand. Ok, not really, but you get the point. Since Ive read Witz (though I wouldnt be upset if it was chosen because this book deserves to be read by more) I am FIRMLY in the William H Gass-The Tunnel camp. I want to be dazzled, and he has the chops to do it.

[…] new work in translation from FSG: 03 by Jean-Christophe Valtat. Not a whole… »Next Group Read This FallWe're pulling into the last two weeks of Your Face This Spring, and I want to thank everyone who has […]

[…] new work in translation from FSG: 03 by Jean-Christophe Valtat. Not a whole… »Next Group Read This FallWe're pulling into the last two weeks of Your Face This Spring, and I want to thank everyone who has […]

[…] Reading This Fall July 13, 2010 bythefirelight Leave a comment Go to comments Scott at Conversational Reading is putting together a new group read for the fall. You can make your voice heard if you hurry. This […]

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