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The Postman Always Rings Twice
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100 Best Novels - Discussion > The Postman Always Rings Twice - James M. Cain

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Shawn (sounix) | 123 comments Mod
The November 2011 book select is The Postman Always Rings Twice, by James M. Cain.


Shawn (sounix) | 123 comments Mod
My copy arrived in the mail today. It is has a big font and weighs in at 116 pages composed of 16 chapters.

I propose we read it as follows:

November 2nd - 6th: Chapters 1-4
November 7th - 12th: Chapters 5-8
November 13th - 18th: Chapters 9-12
November 18th - 25th: Chapters 13-16
November 26th - 30th: General discussions on the entire book.


Chris (ChrisMD) | 20 comments That's fine with me. The book is so short, I think I may actually get through this a lot faster than Augie!


Shawn (sounix) | 123 comments Mod
Yah, I absolutely agree. I'm already in chapter 6 without even trying.

I knew the title sounded familiar-- I realized I watched the movie a few years ago and enjoyed it.

I'll post the link to it in case anyone is interested. Apparently, there's a newer version but I haven't seen that version:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0038854/


Garlan There was a newer version with Jack Nicholson and (I believe) Jessica Lange. This was about 20-25 years ago if I recall correctly. It was pretty good.


Gregory Rothbard (Polycarp55) | 118 comments I think I saw the play in London. I really enjoyed this book... although it was really really short. I would love to read more by James Cain.


Chris (ChrisMD) | 20 comments OK, so to start our discussion, what do you think of the first four chapters? An awful lot happens in a very short time.

Are you able to keep in mind the time period? This is the early 30s, although the basic plot is timeless. How do you think the early Depression would have affected Frank, Cora and Nick?

What do you think about Cain's writing style? I've found several instances where I was brought up short because I didn't understand something. For example, in Chapter 3 when Nick and Cora are driving and she says, Look out, Frank. You'll break a spring leaf." I still don't know what that means.


Shawn (sounix) | 123 comments Mod
Like you say, a lot has happened! I find his writing style very clipped which allows him to move with rapidity from event to event.

I'm rather fond of this time period-- there was just something cataclysmic about the events of this period that allowed for wild events to surround people's life. Perhaps this still happens today, but I feel that it's in more muted contexts.

I was thinking a spring leaf might have been one of those huge suspension springs that went down the sides of the car. I could be wrong though. Most of the terminology has been fine. For the most part, I've just noted a few words that were slightly askew from what we would say in today's parlance.


Chris (ChrisMD) | 20 comments Perhaps that wasn't the best example because it also includes an unknown term. (I had to look up "wind wing" - although I remember them very well, I'm not sure I ever knew there was an actual name for them.) It's more than certain sentences seem to come out of the blue. Another example is the first sentence of Chapter 3: "For two days after that I was dead, but the Greek was sore at me, so I got by all right." Does this mean his sexual encounter with Cora left him physically exhausted? emotionally exhausted? Or when he hits Cora on the leg and she says, "How do you get that way?" Not how DID you, but how DO you. I find the choice of language interesting.


Shawn (sounix) | 123 comments Mod
Gotcha. Yes, it is interesting how the English language changes over time.

Regarding the plot, what do you guys think about the budding romance between Frank and Cora? Anyone feeling sympathy for the Greek?


Chris (ChrisMD) | 20 comments I get the sense that there's more than just lust there between Frank and Cora; but given the genre, we know they're star-crossed, ill-fated, no-happily-ever-after lovers. I feel only slightly sorry for Nick but I can't quite say why. He seems very full of himself, and I love the description of all the time he spent on the scrapbook after his "accident." We don't get any real sense of how he really feels about Cora. Mostly I feel sorry for Cora. I see her as being totally trapped. The only time she seems to come to life is when Frank is hitting her.

When the first attempted murder fails, do you think Frank and Cora are genuinely relieved?


Trisha | 17 comments I did not love this novel. I'm not sure if it was the writing style, or the dialogue, but something about it just didn't seem to flow. It made a little more sense when I got to the end, but it made for a very choppy narrative that was distracting from the plotline itself. It was an ok story, but I don't think that it was very imaginative or different from any other relationship triangle. (view spoiler)


Shawn (sounix) | 123 comments Mod
I think it is one of those novels that was probably trail blazing for the time in which it was set. That is, how dare they break marital convents etc much less write a novel portraying it as condoned.


Chris (ChrisMD) | 20 comments I agree the writing is choppy. It's a very set style and I actually think Cain worked hard to make it like that. Whether that's successful with a modern audience is another story. And I think all (most?) of the books of this genre are peopled with characters who put themselves first and are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure they benefit. Overall I liked the book, if not the characters. I thought it represented a certain genre in a certain time period.


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