Gather Yourselves Together discussion

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message 1: by Meredith (new)

Meredith | 155 comments So, what does everyone think of the book so far? I love Shaun Tan's artwork. Actually, the only other book by him that I've ever "read" is The Arrival, which is a wordless graphic novel. It was really fascinating. So far, I think the pictures add a lot to the stories.

message 2: by Becca (new)

Becca | 160 comments Mer ~ I am a little nervous and dont know if I will be able to finish it in 2 weeks LOL!

message 3: by Meredith (new)

Meredith | 155 comments Hmm, if only I had figured out how to proofread my topic headings.

Anywho, as I believe I mentioned, it was a fast read. Very short, and I finished it already! So, I have some questions for you. Which story was your favorite? Least favorite? How did you feel about the writing style? Do you think they could have been as effectively told without pictures? If you have lived in the suburbs, how does this compare to your experience? Hee hee!

message 4: by Becca (new)

Becca | 160 comments I haven't finished yet, but I just wanted to let you know that Todd has a new favorite book. He LOVES this book!

message 5: by Meredith (new)

Meredith | 155 comments Score! I'm glad to hear it.

message 6: by Meredith (last edited Aug 19, 2009 08:23AM) (new)

Meredith | 155 comments I was looking on Shaun Tan's website earlier, and I read that the idea for the book started out because he has sketch book full of drawings and story ideas. I'll just quote him on this one: "My doodles are often like strange cartoons, concise and with limited narrative; and while all of my stories begin this way, many of them would not endure elaboration into longer forms. My feeling is that they would lose their charm and mysteriousness."

Did you feel like his stories were charming and/or mysterious? I always hesitate to use the word "Charming" because I had a teacher once forbid us to us it (or the word "cute") in her class. But the stories are certainly mysterious. And while I wouldn't say charming, they do have a certain charm, which is a bit different than being "charming" I think. I'm thinking, for instance of Eric, the little leaf man exchange student. That story definitely had charm.

Just for example, the last story in the book, with the turtles, was very mysterious. I kept flipping back and forth saying, "wait, is that really the last page?" But I loved the mystery.

Tan also talks about why he set these stories in Suburbia: "I think it is also a fine substitute for the medieval forests of fairytale lore, a place of subconscious imaginings." What do you think about that? I wouldn't have equated modern suburbia with fairytale forests, but actually, it's a pretty excellent comparison. We're no longer surrounded by big dark forests in actual life, so the big dark forests in stories lose a little bit of the meaning. I mean, they're still pretty great settings for stories, but surburbia is much more relatable to the average reader these days. There are meanings attached to the suburbs for us that forests generally lack, these days.

Hmm, the computer is telling me that "relatable" isn't a word! Can that be true?

Back to suburbia for a second. The story that, for some reason, I first thought of when I read Tan's idea about fairytale forests, was the creepy one with the stick people. I don't know just the idea of these mysterious and harmless creatures being ignored by most and hunted by packs of boys immediately put me in mind of some of the dark, original fairytales. That particular story was very haunting.

Anywho, I don't know if any of that is interesting or meaningful at all, but I thought I would share.

message 7: by Tiffany (new)

Tiffany | 194 comments Mod
I love it! I haven't finished it yet, cause it's kind of hard, but I love quirky little short stories that could almost be considered scary.

Have any of you ever read "The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy" by Tim Burton? This book reminds me of that. It's short, weird stories that are scary, yet rad.

Also, I finished my first day as a teacher. Woot! Woot! It went really well. (In case anyone was wondering)

message 8: by Meredith (new)

Meredith | 155 comments Nice job! With the teacher thing, I mean. Also with starting the book, though.

I'm not aware of the Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy. It sounds cool, though! We don't have it in the library where I work, but they do have it in the city where I live, so I'll try to get it.

I definitely agree with you about some of the stories being a little scary. The last one in particular creeped me out. Oh, and the one with the stick people. I'm glad you're liking it so far.

message 9: by Meg (new)

Meg Sherman (megsherman) | 85 comments I'm so jealous!!! Of course I can't get the book. You guys are not gonna believe this story. So remember, for the FIRST TIME EVER, my library actually had it. So I reserved it. It came in while I was out of town in Texas and I told my husband to pick it up at the library. He forgot it. I went back the DAY I returned from Texas and... that's right, folks!... someone else had already checked it out. It's like a curse.

However, just because my life is one long exercise in irony, the librarian said, "Wait a minute... we DO have a book on hold for you..." And it was... drumroll... Temple of Kokopelli!!! Which I requested like 2 months ago.

So... I'm thinking I'll read Temple this month, then get Suburbia as soon as it's back in.


message 10: by Chelsea (last edited Aug 22, 2009 09:58PM) (new)

Chelsea | 58 comments Okay, apologies first. Meg! Forgive me. I had already renewed How Green, and they wouldn't let me renew it again, plus I just felt like I would never get through the rest of it with all the mayhemery that is going on this month. I will try again someday, I vow! That being said, I did read the book for August. And I loved it! Mer, thanks for including all the neat info on Shaun Tan and how this book came into being. I don't know why, but I thought Shaun Tan was a woman. Me thinking that has nothing to do with anything, I just thought I'd share. Anywho, I would definitely use the word mysterious to describe these stories. And, on many of them, haunting. I think several of them (Amnesia Machine, Stick Figures, Alert But Not Alarmed) are social commentary, but told in a beautiful little story. I don't like books or movies that beat you over the head with ideals or whatever, but these stories let you draw your own conclusions and decide what you learned or felt by reading. I liked them all, but I did have some favorites. The Water Buffalo, Broken Toys, Distant Rain, Undertow, Stick Figures, The Amnesia Machine (boy howdy, does that make you think of anything going on these days?), and Night of the Turtle Rescue. Did I just list basically all of the stories? Yes, yes I did. My least favorite was Grandpa's Story, and it was one of the longer ones. This is going to sound weird considering that all of the stories are strange and don't necessarily "make sense", but I didn't get this story. I liked that the book is set in a world that I know, but that has a mystery and magic all its own. I love fantasy worlds and magical forests, but a story with fantastical elements set in a real life setting is very...impactful. (Spell check says impactful is not a word either, Mer). It always makes me wonder if there is more to this world than we can see and understand. I kind of hope so. Anyway, I've decided I'm not very good at sharing my thoughts, ideas, etc. but I sure do love to read what everyone else thinks.

message 11: by Meg (new)

Meg Sherman (megsherman) | 85 comments Chelsey- don't even worry about it. And I think you were AMAZING at expressing your thoughts and ideas. It made me even more excited to get my hands on Suburbia. I keep reading through all these entries and I'm so mad I don't have the book!

message 12: by Walker (last edited Aug 23, 2009 01:31PM) (new)

Walker I am new to this group--just picked it pretty much randomly--and I joined because I want to discuss books on a more regular basis with a relatively small number of others who [I hope:] love reading as much as I do. I've been on Good Reads for a couple of years now but up until now never joined a reading group. Anyway, I am just finishing Kim Barnes' A Country Called Home and I hope to pick up Tan's book when I am in town (Belfast, Maine) tomorrow. I check in again then.

message 13: by Meg (new)

Meg Sherman (megsherman) | 85 comments Welcome, Walker! Let us know what you want to read!

And speaking of which... what are the next two month's books? Does anybody remember? Gotta do the library request thing... Is there a way we could put the next two or three books we'll be reading on the group site instead of just one? (Or are they already there and I just don't see it?)

message 14: by Walker (new)

Walker Meg wrote: "Welcome, Walker! Let us know what you want to read!

And speaking of which... what are the next two month's books? Does anybody remember? Gotta do the library request thing... Is there a way we..."

Thanks for the welcome, Meg. I had no luck getting Tales from Outer Suburbia; apparently it is no longer in print, and neither my local bookseller nor the town library has a copy. I can order it up online, but I'm unlikely to get it before the end of August. In any event, I'd still like to participate next month. What is on the docket?

message 15: by Becca (new)

Becca | 160 comments Welcome Walker~ We don't have a book yet (that I know of) for next month, but I have really been wanting to read "Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins what do you all think?

message 16: by Meredith (last edited Aug 24, 2009 03:34PM) (new)

Meredith | 155 comments Ooh, good book. It's very popular here, so I'm not sure if everyone would be able to get it right away, but I'd definitely say if we can't get it for Sept, we should try it for another month.

Also, I third the welcome, Walker.

message 17: by Meg (new)

Meg Sherman (megsherman) | 85 comments I'm reading Hunger Games RIGHT NOW! I'd love it if you guys would join me.

message 18: by Meredith (new)

Meredith | 155 comments How advantageous! What does everyone think, then. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins for Sept.?

message 19: by Walker (last edited Aug 25, 2009 01:28PM) (new)

Walker I'm game (pardon the pun). I'll try to pick it up on Thursday. I hope it's in print!

message 20: by Chelsea (new)

Chelsea | 58 comments Aw snap. I just checked Provo and Orem and both libraries have a billion and one copies...all checked out. I'll check BYU, though, so let's all cross our fingers and toesies, eh? And finally, a very enthusiastic welcome to you, Walker. We have been sorely lacking in the male perspective department.

message 21: by Chelsea (new)

Chelsea | 58 comments I forgot to mention how much I enjoyed the illustrations in Tales from Outer Suburbia. In my opinion, they definitely add to the stories in every way. Sometimes I dislike pictures because they distort the pictures I created in my mind as I read. In Tan's case, his vision of his stories was way better than anything I could have envisioned on my own.

message 22: by Meredith (new)

Meredith | 155 comments I agree about Tan's pictures, Chels. There's no way that I could ever imagine some of that stuff. If you enjoy the pictures, you really should check out The Arrival. By Shaun Tan. There aren't any words at all, but you really have to pay attention to the pictures to get what the story is. It's very cool.

I also agree that we have been lacking in the male perspective. You should get Shay to join, Chelsea! Or any other boys that you know who read! All the men I know say they don't like reading. Sigh.

I hear ya about trying to get the Hunger Games at the library. That was my concern. But, it was a really fast read (because I could not put it down), so if Tiff got it, I'm sure she could lend it to you. Right, Tiffany? Is it okay that I offer to lend your stuff? ;)

message 23: by Chelsea (new)

Chelsea | 58 comments Also, and I'm sorry I don't just start a new discussion or whatnot, but I never remember how, who is picking for the next few months? Like Meg, it is usually best if I know in advance so I can put things on hold if needed. Anyone have anything they've been dying to read?

message 24: by Walker (last edited Aug 26, 2009 01:00PM) (new)

Walker Has anyone read any Kazuo Ishiguro? I've read Artist of the Floating World, Remains of the Day, and Never Let Me Go. I have not been disappointed by any of them, and I'd like to read When We Were Orphans, which does not get quite such high reviews as the others but is still vintage Ishiguro (it was a Booker Prize nominee in 2000, I believe). October?

message 25: by Chelsea (last edited Aug 26, 2009 01:09PM) (new)

Chelsea | 58 comments I've never read any of those, Walker. When We Were Orphans for October sounds great to me!

message 26: by Meredith (new)

Meredith | 155 comments Sounds good to me, too. We even have it here at the library!

message 27: by Meg (new)

Meg Sherman (megsherman) | 85 comments I'm in for Orphans--sounds fun!

message 28: by Becca (new)

Becca | 160 comments @ Chels I am going to get Hunger Games on my dads Audible (pending his okay that is). I will tell tiff to download it and lend you a copy.

@ Everyone I will check out When we were Orphans from the library.

message 29: by Becca (new)

Becca | 160 comments I am reading the book slowly but surely. I like trying to figure out the meanings behind all these parables. The first one jumped out at me. It is obviously a parable for the way God helps us. I will have to sit here with the book to remember all the connections I have made. I can really see why Todd loves the book so much

message 30: by Tiffany (new)

Tiffany | 194 comments Mod
Welcome to the group Walker!

Sadly, I have not finished "Tales" yet. Happily, I have not cried once in my 7 days of my first year teaching. You guys are fantastic. Thanks for picking out the book for next month. We don't have any books for the near future (I'll check to make sure). So, let's start generating more ideas for the months to come, so everyone can get them on their libraries waiting list.

Walker, if there's anything you want to pick, you get it first, since you have never picked a book for the club.

message 31: by Meredith (new)

Meredith | 155 comments Good job on your first seven days of teaching, Tiffany! I'm super proud of you!

message 32: by Meg (new)

Meg Sherman (megsherman) | 85 comments Meredith--I have to thank you for recommending Tales from Outer Suburbia. I positively ADORED it. Brilliant!

My favorite story is hard to choose... it was probably a tie between Distant Rain (the long poem made out of scraps of many people's writing) and Grandpa's Story (which I thought was an AMAZING parable for marriage--the reality vs. the fairytale). My least favorite was the turtle one--I'm still not entirely sure what it meant, so it didn't have quite the impact of the others for me.

There is NO WAY the story could have carried itself without the pictures. The way I read this book, it was mostly ABOUT the pictures (which I LOVED) and the words were really just a way of making more concrete sense of the artwork.

I've lived in the suburbs all my life, yet never met a soothsayer buffalo or crushed a stick person. There's no intercontinental missile in my backyard (to my knowledge). Then again... maybe I haven't been looking hard enough...

message 33: by Meredith (new)

Meredith | 155 comments Yay me! thanks, Meg! I'm glad you liked it.

I also really loved Distant Rain. I'm not sure what it is about that one, but it seems to have been a favorite with several of us. (:

I agree with your assessment of the words vs. the pictures, Meg. For me, I feel like Tan first and foremost tells his stories through the pictures that he draws, rather than the words that go along with them. It's definitely a unique skill.

I've read a few really great wordless books lately, and it's a unique experience. It's somewhat like reading a graphic novel, but not quite the same. I recommend checking some picture books by David Wiesner (not The 3 Little Pigs, though, which also relies on words) or The Arrival. Another really unique format is The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick. Even though I usually favor the traditional way of reading, it can be very enjoyable to mix it up once in a while.

message 34: by Walker (last edited Sep 04, 2009 05:01AM) (new)

Walker I just finished Memoirs of a Geisha, and I have started The Hunger Games, which I believe is the September read. What is the protocol for beginning a discussion on it?

Tiffany, hang in there. The first year is the toughest (speaking from experience; I've been teaching for a number of years myself). What level are you teaching?

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