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The House That Smelled Like Urine and Other Short Stories
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W&R Book Club (Archived) > Sept. 2013 Dissussion: The House That Smelled Like Urine

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message 1: by A.F. (last edited Aug 31, 2013 06:27AM) (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1778 comments Mod
Okay, it's September and time to discuss the book, The House That Smelled Like Urine and Other Short Stories by Giovanni Russano. We'll start out by posting our overall impression of the book and then I'd like participants to post discussion questions or points of interest they like to dissect.

I'll be moderating the discussion, to keep it on topic as much as possible and to keep it civil.


message 2: by A.F. (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1778 comments Mod
Here's my impression of the book:

For the most part I enjoyed the book, although sometimes, for me, the crime thriller aspects didn't mesh as well as they should with the sci-fi/fantasy elements. I found the first few paragraphs a bit dry for my taste, but the style picked up after that and I enjoyed the beginning quite a bit. I liked the side stories somewhat more than the main narrative, but I was taken with the sly bits of juxtaposition in the world details. I found the story a touch slow in the middle, slightly confusing, with some philosophical meandering. Also, I found the characters slightly hard to relate to or empathize with as I felt at times detached from the plotline. Still, the book had intriguing ideas and was a reasonably good read.


message 3: by Catherine (new) - added it

Catherine Greenfeder | 8 comments Interesting book with a lot of plot twists and turns. I laughed at the hard edge humor, gasped at the gore which sometimes got too graphic, and enjoyed the witty satirical meanderings. I had trouble sympathizing with the protagonist whose only redeeming feature seemed to be the brief courtship with the woman and his search for the truth. I didn't quite get the vamp's role, but I enjoyed his character. This was a very different read for me, but it proved entertaining!


message 4: by Giovanni (last edited Sep 03, 2013 11:22AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Giovanni Russano | 11 comments I am glad neither of you hated the book. :) It's the big fear as you could guess. I just wanted to drop in and and let you guys know I am here to answer any questions you may have.

For instance, The Vampire as Catherine mentioned... without spoiling too much, he is an emotion/event like all the rest of the characters. Beyond that I will say, his role in this book is much greater than I let on. He's a tricky devil who's behind a lot more than one might expect.


message 5: by A.F. (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1778 comments Mod
I didn't mind the vampire, although I was a bit surprised by the abrupt introduction of vampires as characters.


Giovanni Russano | 11 comments I actually have a question for you guys...

What did you think of my choice for the vampires "name?"

I personally think that's one of my favorite elements of the book but i've always been unsure if readers would like it as much as I do.

Remember, this is the honest room lol. You're in a safe place. Say all the negative or positive ;) things you want. Do not consider my feelings. They have no place in making the art better. I will not be offended even if one of you (including those who have yet to say hi, Grrrrr...) rips me to sheds.


Giovanni Russano | 11 comments A.F. wrote: "I didn't mind the vampire, although I was a bit surprised by the abrupt introduction of vampires as characters."

I hope that it was a successful surprise. My intent for that moment was to "throw down the gauntlet," and let you know that this book is not what it claims to be.

The biggest secret (revealed so early in hope of sparking some further discussion) I'm not even sure it's a secret anymore now that you've finished. The book is an allegory for my interpretation of this life we've found ourselves in.

Life can be fun, sh!#ty, vibrant, pale. Life is full of questions but only some of them will ever get answered. I'm suggesting that life is one big clusterf#$k of joy and pain and bemusement and clarity. In the end... you possibly get nothing. I'm not offering an answer to religion vs spirituality vs nothingness. I wasn't trying to offer an answer from beyond the end. It's all through the perspective of the waking man. The man without the answers.


message 8: by A.F. (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1778 comments Mod
I had no problem with the vampires as characters; I just found by manner in which they were introduced a bit jarring. I could have done with a little more WTF disbelief from the main character. I thought he went with it too quickly.
And I can't say the vampire name entirely worked for me. I appreciated the cleverness, but it did wear thin a smidgen by the end.


message 9: by Catherine (new) - added it

Catherine Greenfeder | 8 comments Sorry, I've been away and just catching up on this discussion. Also, I returned to work today. I enjoyed the vampire character as a parody of the vampire mystique and his naming was clever. After I read the book, I sensed that it was a parody of the cliché on vampires, horror stories, taboo subjects, the mafia, and cheap detective tales. What I had problems with at times had more to do with continuity. I had to flip back and forth a few times to put together the different story lines.


message 10: by Catherine (new) - added it

Catherine Greenfeder | 8 comments I also sensed the quest for meaning by the main characters in a time of disillusionment with traditional venues for finding that meaning such as religion, the family, even the government. The quest to find a God by the main character became a compelling theme given the chaos, the lack of morals, and the sense of hopelessness. So, I wondered about the theme, if you had intended a theme, or if you left it for the reader to come to their own theme.


message 11: by A.F. (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1778 comments Mod
I enjoyed the parody aspects of the book as well, Catherine and I think I had less problems with the continuity than I did with the pace of the book. The main story felt uneven to me, some parts rushed, some a bit slow.


message 12: by Catherine (new) - added it

Catherine Greenfeder | 8 comments I'd have to agree on the pacing, but overall I found it an interesting read. Certain places felt rushed and unclear until I reread the passage and went back to an earlier passage. What helped me piece the puzzles together was the table of contents and the subheadings. Few characters gained my sympathy, but the Chris Brooks did somehow even though he was part of the insanity, he was a victim too, and he had some redeeming qualities. I thought Russano did a neat job of bringing closure to that in "A House of Ghosts".


message 13: by A.F. (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1778 comments Mod
Catherine wrote: "I'd have to agree on the pacing, but overall I found it an interesting read. Certain places felt rushed and unclear until I reread the passage and went back to an earlier passage. What helped me pi..."

Yes, I enjoyed the closure of Chris' story as well, and I thought he was one of the stronger characters in the novel. I think possibly of the reasons why the characters don't seem very sympathetic is there's not a lot of character arc. The book is more plot and theme driven than character driven. Chris' story is the most emotional one, so I think there was more of a chance for a reader to connect.


message 14: by Catherine (new) - added it

Catherine Greenfeder | 8 comments It was also surprising for me when the salesman's daughter comes in toward the end. I hadn't expected that nor the relationship that ensued. I agree that the characters were not as sharply defined, but they were interesting as archetypes, and once immersed in the book, I felt compelled to read on until the end.


message 15: by A.F. (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1778 comments Mod
Catherine wrote: "It was also surprising for me when the salesman's daughter comes in toward the end. I hadn't expected that nor the relationship that ensued. I agree that the characters were not as sharply defined,..."

Oh yes, the characters were interesting. I was just observing that with a plot driven book, characters might not get as much development.


message 16: by Catherine (new) - added it

Catherine Greenfeder | 8 comments Hi, I noticed your interest poll. I thank you for your hard efforts in forming a book club. I'm not able to continue my participation due to outside commitments. I want to thank the author for donating his book to this event and wish him luck. All the best, A.F. to you as well.


message 17: by A.F. (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1778 comments Mod
Catherine wrote: "Hi, I noticed your interest poll. I thank you for your hard efforts in forming a book club. I'm not able to continue my participation due to outside commitments. I want to thank the author for dona..."

I think you did more than your share for this first (and possibly last) book club discussion.


message 18: by Jane (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jane Hi Giovanni, when you chose your title The House that Smelled Like Urine, did you consider it's appeal to readers? I'm asking as A F is worried about lack of participation and I'm wondering if the title has put off some people. I really liked the title - to me it said something quirky and original might lie and inside but I think there are a good number of people who might not see it that way as the title and cover don't really suggest any genre - and as publishers are always telling us that we readers are fixated by genre it may be important. What are your thoughts?


message 19: by Cathy (last edited Sep 17, 2013 12:12PM) (new)

Cathy Tully (ectully) I have to say the Title did put me off and I didn't buy or read the book. This also might be because I did not remember seeing the title when we voted, so it threw me off.


message 20: by A.F. (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1778 comments Mod
I'll grant the title was unusual, but it didn't put me off. The strangeness made the book stand out to me.


Giovanni Russano | 11 comments I'm sorry for not responding sooner everyone. It's been a hectic couple of weeks for me and honestly, I thought I killed this group *_*

The reason? Yup, the title. I'm pretty sure people didn't want to play with us because of suspected vulgarity. While I think you'd be hard pressed to find more than two pages in a row without the F word, vulgarity was definitely not one of the themes. I was going to go with a few other titles, ("Leonard's End" being the only one I really considered otherwise. The rest were just thoughts.) I thought about the old saying, "Never Judge a Book by its Cover" and I realized "The House That Smelled Like Urine" was the embodiment of the main theme of what I was going for. A title that said, this book is about excess and shock when in reality, the book is about something completely different. It's about smaller feelings that feel larger than they really are.

My purpose of this book was to summarize my view on life so far. It's given me more questions than answers. All of the people, places and things have come and gone with very little fanfare. The big events weren't so big, they just sort of were. Life, too me, seems like thin air.

With that said, I enjoy my thin air. Wouldn't give it up for the world. Life is whatever it is and I, mostly, enjoy exploring it. It's kind of like a cartoon or a trip to the funhouse.

I aimed to give you a vague but somehow enjoyable experience that felt profound but probably wasn't. Life as I know it.


message 22: by A.F. (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1778 comments Mod
Giovanni wrote: "I'm sorry for not responding sooner everyone. It's been a hectic couple of weeks for me and honestly, I thought I killed this group *_*

The reason? Yup, the title. I'm pretty sure people didn't wa..."


I'm sure the title did discourage some people, but several people did vote for the book, title and all, in the poll.

The fact is I was hesitant to start up a Book Club because of the group's checkered history of non-participation. I doubt the choice of book or book title influenced members greatly.


message 23: by Cathy (new)

Cathy Tully (ectully) If you don't mind another opinion. The phrase "The house that smelled like urine" made me think of stink and decay, filth and dysfunction. Urine, in my opinion is not at all shocking and I don't see what urine or the smell thereof has to do with excess, unless you are speaking of excess alcohol consumption. In that case, I have heard stories of persons who over imbibed and urinated in various inappropriate places, such as in bed, on themselves, on the floor, and once on a television set.

The problem is, I do not want to read a book of stories about any of these excesses.

As I said earlier, I didn't remember seeing the book during the voting process, where I could have read some blurbs, etc. . . and gotten more insight on your choice of title.

Next time I will try and be more thorough during the voting process, but at any rate, I have committed to the next title to try and help this book club stay afloat.


message 24: by A.F. (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1778 comments Mod
Liz wrote: "If you don't mind another opinion. The phrase "The house that smelled like urine" made me think of stink and decay, filth and dysfunction. Urine, in my opinion is not at all shocking and I don't ..."

I've posted October's theme already, if you want a sneak peek: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1...


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