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2016 Book Discussions > Slade House - 1979 and 1988, Spoilers Allowed (March 2016)

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message 1: by LindaJ^ (last edited Feb 29, 2016 06:24PM) (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2351 comments This is a short book but to kick off the month, let's start with the first two chapters. One thing that struck me in these chapters was how much I did not care what might happened to Nathan, his mother, or the cop. I wasn't scared for them, just curious as to what was going to happen. Did anyone find either of the situations suspenseful?


message 2: by Peter (new)

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments I tend to find kids in danger upsetting, and that included Nathan. But the cop was a jackass, and it was hard to care what happened to him.


message 3: by Veronique (new)

Veronique I did care about Nathan, not so much about the cop, but ultimately I became more interested in finding out what was happening and how Mitchell would repeat the process with enough change to keep the reader's attention.

The feeling of threat is present from the first page (description of the pub sign), but what really got to me were all the literary references and allusions (Wyndham is one of my favourite authors / mad woman in the attic / Dorian Gray / etc.). I also kept thinking of the twins as Hansel and Gretel, weirdly enough.

Mitchell's efforts to ground these two episodes in their time frame did feel to me a little forced, but that may be due to the length of the text. What did strike me was his use of colour. I'm not usually this nitpicky when I read, at all, but I found myself chasing these and their meaning. Anyone else felt that? I do wonder if all these aspects are part of the author's usual style...


message 4: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2351 comments Veronique,

I was going to say I didn't notice the use of color but that would be true only for the first 2/3's of the book. Even I saw it when hit over the head! I will need to revisit the first two parts to look for color.

I did not recognize a lot of the references to literature or music and wondered if it was because the novel is placed in London as opposed to an American city and the author is British.

The most symbolic thing for me was the little gate that opened into a lush garden. That seemed like fantasy, while seeing oneself in a picture frame was, for me, a clear indication of horror or at least upcoming horror!


message 5: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2351 comments Peter wrote: "I tend to find kids in danger upsetting, and that included Nathan. But the cop was a jackass, and it was hard to care what happened to him."

I've seen a couple of references to him as being like a cop from Starsky and Hutch or perhaps Miami Vice! Do you think the cop was in the spirit of the year 1988?


message 6: by Kathy (new)

Kathy  | 22 comments Another literary reference is the tiny little iron gate once you go through it you are in a different reality much like Alice falling down the rabbit hole.


message 7: by Portia (new)

Portia Linda wrote: "Peter wrote: "I tend to find kids in danger upsetting, and that included Nathan. But the cop was a jackass, and it was hard to care what happened to him."

I've seen a couple of references to him a..."


What a good point, Linda! I can definitely see the 1988 cop. Based on the success of those shows, they were really popular.


message 8: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2351 comments Kathy wrote: "Another literary reference is the tiny little iron gate once you go through it you are in a different reality much like Alice falling down the rabbit hole."

True -- it was clear to me that the small iron gate was symbolic but I failed to make the connection to Alice's rabbit hole. Looking at it that way, I can see a connection to the cupboard through which C.S. Lewis had the children, at least initially, pass to reach Narnia. Any other similar passageways??


message 9: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2351 comments Veronique wrote: "I also kept thinking of the twins as Hansel and Gretel, weirdly enough."

I can see a connection between Hansel and Gretel in that Gretel was smarter than Hansel and Norah is smarter than Jonah, in the sense of what needs done to stay alive. Are their other famous literary twins that Mitchell might have borrowed attributes from?

The connection you make with Hansel and Gretel and that Kathy makes with Alice in Wonderland, reminded me of an interview I am listening to in which Mitchell discusses the fantasy and sci fi books he read as a child. The interview is here -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJvcx.... (Caveat - there is a 3 plus minute spiel about Casper mattresses before the interview starts that is pretty funny!)


message 10: by Catherine (new)

Catherine (catjackson) Kathy wrote: "Another literary reference is the tiny little iron gate once you go through it you are in a different reality much like Alice falling down the rabbit hole."

The little iron gate with the garden behind it also reminded me of The Secret Garden.


message 11: by Veronique (new)

Veronique Catherine wrote: "The little iron gate with the garden behind it also reminded me of The Secret Garden...

Yes! I also thought of Tom's Midnight Garden, especially with the grandfather clock :O)


message 12: by Veronique (new)

Veronique Linda wrote: I can see a connection between Hansel and Gretel in that Gretel was smarter than Hansel and Norah is smar..."

Good point Linda about the difference between Norah and Jonah. I guess there is also the fact that they hunger for life all the time. Thanks for the interview link. It was very interesting and makes me want to read more of Mitchell's books. I particularly liked his reaction to scifi/fantasy literature being often snubbed. I love many of the books he mentioned and funnily enough I've just bought Ishiguro's The Buried Giant


message 13: by James (new)

James | 69 comments Linda wrote: "I wasn't scared for them, just curious as to what was going to happen. Did anyone find either of the situations suspenseful? ."

I felt little suspense. I felt I was just reading it through - interested, following the developing puzzles, and looking for links to The Bone Clocks.

One basic reason for my lack of emotional involvement was that both chapters are written in the first person, providing immediate confirmation that both Nathan and Gordon survive - at least in some form or other. I remember a similar situation occuring in Bone Clocks.


message 14: by Peter (new)

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments Jim wrote: "One basic reason for my lack of emotional involvement was that both chapters are written in the first person, providing immediate confirmation that both Nathan and Gordon survive - at least in some form or other. "

Except they don't, not really. Their souls are eaten, and all that persists is sort of an echo.


message 15: by Molly (new)

Molly (mollyrotondo) | 30 comments Linda wrote: "Kathy wrote: "Another literary reference is the tiny little iron gate once you go through it you are in a different reality much like Alice falling down the rabbit hole."

True -- it was clear to m..."


My first thought was the scene in Willy Wonka when they walk through the tiny door into the candy garden.


message 16: by Molly (new)

Molly (mollyrotondo) | 30 comments Linda wrote: "This is a short book but to kick off the month, let's start with the first two chapters. One thing that struck me in these chapters was how much I did not care what might happened to Nathan, his mo..."

I actually felt very scared for Nathan. He is so niave and vulnerable and clearly was traumatized by a dog attack. When he thinks he's being attacked again, I felt afraid along with him. Then Jonah and Norah trick him into staying in the house by making him feel safe with his father in Africa. It's so cruel. I agree that I did not care what happened to the officer. He was a womanizer and a crooked cop.


message 17: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2351 comments Molly wrote: "I actually felt very scared for Nathan. He is so niave and vulnerable and clearly was traumatized by a dog attack. When he thinks he's being attacked again, I felt afraid along with him. Then Jonah and Norah trick him into staying in the house by making him feel safe with his father in Africa. It's so cruel. I agree that I did not care what happened to the officer. He was a womanizer and a crooked cop."

When I read Chapter 1, I thought Nathan really was remembering being in Africa with his father. But you are exactly right, that was a ploy to keep him from leaving and was indeed nasty. Perhaps I do care a bit more about Nathan knowing that!


message 18: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2351 comments Molly wrote: "My first thought was the scene in Willy Wonka when they walk through the tiny door into the candy garden."

It is interesting how many different stories going through that little black gate has brought to mind. Do anyone think the story they thought of influenced what they were expecting once inside?


message 19: by Whitney (new)

Whitney | 2156 comments Mod
Linda wrote: "Molly wrote: "My first thought was the scene in Willy Wonka when they walk through the tiny door into the candy garden."

It is interesting how many different stories going through that little blac..."


The numerous references the gate brings to mind is likely due to it being an example of a very common fantasy trope, the "portal fantasy". I think people have already hit on some of the best known (Alice in Wonderland, Narnia, The Secret Garden, Willy Wonka (good one!)!) Some other popular examples: His Dark Materials, Harry Potter to some extent, Coraline, Neverwhere, ad infinitum. I'm sure Mitchell was fully aware of the trope when he used it.

For those who like to geek out further, there's a paper called Taxonomies of Fantasy which lists the various types or fantasy worlds and how their different rules usually work, defined by how the fantasy world is encountered and contained.


message 20: by Whitney (last edited Mar 12, 2016 09:50AM) (new)

Whitney | 2156 comments Mod
Linda wrote: "Peter wrote: "I tend to find kids in danger upsetting, and that included Nathan. But the cop was a jackass, and it was hard to care what happened to him."

I've seen a couple of references to him as being like a cop from Starsky and Hutch or perhaps Miami Vice! Do you think the cop was in the spirit of the year 1988? ..."


I believe there was a reference to Miami Vice in the book, wasn't there? Interesting comparisons. Starsky and Hutch were very much 70's cops. Gordon struck me as more of a 70's cop in that vein, and maybe even more influenced by the 70's cop show "The Sweeney". He's in the mold of the "plays by his own rules" police officer of that era, but now in a time where playing by one's own rules is recognized as leading to corruption and abuse and is no longer (as) acceptable as it was.


message 21: by Zulfiya (new)

Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 397 comments Many of you, guys, mentioned that the book and the first two parts are full of references, allusions, and self-references, and it is so wonderful to decode them. I always feel the elation and pleasure when I find some of them in the text

I personally wonder whether it happens intentionally because authors want us to follow their literary paths or are testing us unintentionally because the world they live in is so thickly permeated with literary texts that the world they create inadvertently contains all those tropes, allusions, and auto-citations


message 22: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2351 comments Whitney wrote: "
For those who like to geek out further, there's a paper called Taxonomies of Fantasy which lists the various types or fantasy worlds and how their different rules usually work, defined by how the fantasy world is encountered and contained. "


Thanks for the link to get this paper. I really enjoyed it and looking at Slade House through the lenses of the paper, it seems to me that the portal fantasy is inside the intrusive fantasy, that the author describes as usually set in our world, with the introduction of the fantastic bringing chaos. She makes this statement that resonated with me, at least with respect to chapters 1-4: "Unlike the portal fantasy, which it otherwise strongly resembles in terms of language, the protagonists, and we, are never expected to become accustomed to the fantastic -- which may explain why the strongest genre of intrusive fantasy is the horror novel."


message 23: by Whitney (last edited Mar 12, 2016 09:23PM) (new)

Whitney | 2156 comments Mod
Linda, why am I not surprised that you read and analyzed the paper in light of the current text? :-)

I think you're right about the two taxonomies, but I see it more as intrusive entering the portal fantasy rather than the other way around. We start by going into the garden of Slade House, and the language is the descriptive anthropology of portal fantasy. After the consumption of the banjax, we start to experience the continuing wrongness and tension that characterize intrusion. It's similar to the way Mendlesohn describes Harry Potter, with the intrusive horror entering the portal fantasy that is Hogwarts.

I think Mendlesohn's paper makes a great lens through which to analyze a lot of literature. As she points out, many 'failed' works are those that don't seem to comprehend the different languages of the different taxonomies; and some of the most successful ones are those that understand and deliberately subvert them. I think Mitchell at his best falls into the later category.

Another point she makes is how horror frequently introduces new characters so as to prevent the loss of tension due to the familiarity that results from extended contact with the strange. Slade House is a textbook example, as we get a new naive character in each chapter.

Spoiler for last chapter: (view spoiler)


message 24: by Portia (new)

Portia Zulfiya wrote: "Many of you, guys, mentioned that the book and the first two parts are full of references, allusions, and self-references, and it is so wonderful to decode them. I always feel the elation and pleas..."

I've actually wondered that myself, if all the allusions are semi-subconscious. I think that those who live literature (or theater, or art, or ...) begin to absorb artists and works at an early age and often don't realize they are name dropping.

And then there are some who are obnoxious ;-)


message 25: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2351 comments Whitney wrote: "Linda, why am I not surprised that you read and analyzed the paper in light of the current text? :-)

I think you're right about the two taxonomies, but I see it more as intrusive entering the port..."


I see your point about the intrusive entering the portal - makes sense. And, I agree with your spoiler.


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