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The Long Take
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9/19 The Long Take > Long Take - 1951, 1953 and Whole Book (spoilers)

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message 1: by Hugh (last edited Sep 02, 2019 01:02AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2627 comments Mod
This is the place for free discussion of the whole book. A couple of starter questions: How well did Robertson capture Walker's mental disintegration, and what part did his Normandy experiences play? Do you share Robertson's nostalgia for what was lost in the 50s rebuilding work?


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2319 comments Do you share Robertson's nostalgia for what was lost in the 50s rebuilding work?

What stuck with me was what happened to LA. I am quite nostalgic for what was lost in that city. The few times I have visited there, I was astounded by the lack of sidewalks and the challenge it is to walk anywhere.


Mark | 289 comments LindaJ,

Yes, the loss of old L.A. is a clear theme of the book, foreshadowed by that crack across his bathroom floor.

On another front, I was struck by Walker's insecurity. In 1953, he's a regular newspaper reporter, trusted and funded to do a remote investigation of the homeless in San Francisco, yet, when he's asked if he'll see the girl he knew on Cape Breton, he says (P. 149):
...'I can't, Billy.
The island. My family. Annie. It's all gone now.'
He stared hard at the floor.
'I can't let her see me. What I've become.'


In fact, his self-revulsion is laid out in even starker terms on P. 131, but at that point, I just thought it was some sort of dream logic.

I suppose we'll learn more about what happened in France that has left him feeling undeserving. (Echoed and foreshadowed by the silver star bum on P. 123.) That seems to be the central mystery of the book.


Kathleen | 266 comments I think the portrayal of his mental disintegration worked, primarily because of the fact it was done poetically. It would not have been the same in regular prose lines. The shape of the verses and the pauses added much to its power.

And yes, I completely share his nostalgia for what was lost. I remember some of the anger at paving paradise and putting up a parking lot. I never see that anger now. That's the thing about losing things--once they are lost, people won't know what they're missing.


message 5: by Mark (last edited Sep 12, 2019 11:16AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mark | 289 comments I'm a little disappointed with the lack of postings on this title; perhaps the word "poetry" turned readers off, or turned libraries off from buying it.

It's a misnomer, as far as readability goes: scenes are crystalline and immediate.

I was surprised that there was quite a long thread on the book in this another group, at:

https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...

I'll be looking over that thread with interest.


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2319 comments Quite a few of us who are members here are also members there and participated in that discussion, which was in connection with the 2018 Booker short list. Mookse and the Gripes is where you want to be at Booker time! I suspect that participation here is decreased from usual because many of us are reading the Booker short list, especially with the very recent release of two of those books. The Long Take was my favorite on last year's short list.


Adrian Alvarez (adrianasturalvarez) | 19 comments I feel guilty. I read this last week and I just didn't like it very much. Generally, I try to back away from discussion if I don't have anything nice to say (particularly early on). I was searching for a way to appreciate the novel from someone enthusiastic but in this case I came up short. The writing was crisp and often painted a dark and beautiful image, but ultimately I found the book very pessimistic and I just don't want that voice in my life right now. A completely personal problem.


Hugh (bodachliath) | 2627 comments Mod
I am an active member (and a moderator) of the Mookse and the Gripes group, and I participated in last year's discussion of this book.

It is perhaps inevitable that when we choose Booker longlisted books for discussions here, those discussions will seem quiet compared to the discussions there, but I see the groups serving fundamentally different purposes - the Mookse group is mostly dedicated to new books and current prizes, this one's focus is trying to identify books that will stand the test of time.

Adrian - no need to feel guilty - if you didn't enjoy the book you should feel free to say why here.


message 9: by Sam (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sam | 189 comments Just a note referring to Mark's post: Activity seems to be down all around except Booker posts. I also think getting back to school or experiencing the last of summer and various other reasons might be contributing. I only updated my own reading for the first time in a month. I expect things will be busier once November rolls in.


Gregory (gregoryslibrary) | 54 comments I voted for this as our book club selection, but was ultimately disappointed. Clearly a skilled poet, Robertson deserves credit for this first novel's effort to weave together so many well-written sketches of places and people. As a native New Yorker who grew up mostly in Los Angeles, I looked forward to the protagonist's journey from NYC to LA as he wrestled with his postwar PTSD. Sadly, neither he nor the female stereotypes he meets ever rose above abstraction-level for me. And the plot was as repetitive as it was unengaging. How many trips to the bars do we need to hear about for the author to feel he's established some noirish cred?


message 11: by Mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mark | 289 comments Plot? This was a portrait: of a disintrigating WWII veteran and a vanishing city. It plays in images, strongly reminiscent of the noir films the author loves. It make an important point that much of the character of '50's culture was predicated on WWII and its aftermath. As a child in the 50's, it explains a lot to me.


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2319 comments This book did not have a plot. It was a period piece, taking us back in time to post-WWII. We lived live with a traumatized vet, back when no one recognized PTSD, and experience urban development decisions that resulted in the LA of today. I was mesmerized.


message 13: by Hugh (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2627 comments Mod
I wouldn't call this book plot-driven, but there is at least a narrative arc, and Walker's character does change, particularly in the last part.


James | 63 comments I was also quite mesmerised. Maybe there was some repetition in the activity but in the second half there was a cyclical descent in Walker's psyche and a gradual revelation of the atrocities he experienced and had participated. It was a revelation that the cause of his PTSD was not just what he had seen but what he had done himself.

I found there was not much hope for the human race here and I understand this causing readers to be depressed. I certainly felt somewhat like that on finishing. I thought of all the conflicts we still have and the ongoing fallout. I thought of all impacts of big business still - probably still modernising LA but also planting for palm oil and cutting down forests.

You can tell how cheerful I was after this. Still it was mesmerising and I'm glad I read it.


James | 63 comments I'm guessing that you may all have had a look at the film Robin Robertson was involved in with film editor Paul Martinovic - I found it equally fascinating and obviously echoing the book.

https://www.nowness.com/story/the-lon...

Did anyone have any thoughts on the role of Pike?


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2319 comments Thanks for that link Jim. Can't say I liked the narrator's voice, but film was cool.


message 17: by Sam (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sam | 189 comments Jim wrote: "I'm guessing that you may all have had a look at the film Robin Robertson was involved in with film editor Paul Martinovic - I found it equally fascinating and obviously echoing the book.

https://..."


Jim I am rereading the book. I'll try and give some attention to Pike as I go through this the second time.On my first read I looked at Pike metaphorically or symbolicly. I saw him as the villain, representing what threatens Walker, a manifestation of Walker's dislikes. Since we see the character filtered through Walker's perception, I was questioning if Pike is even imagined by Walker in certain scenes. At times he seemed devil, at other times fate, and I saw him as the inevitable future. The corporate middle management yes man.


message 18: by Mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mark | 289 comments I like the Dickensian naming: Walker on the streets, and murderous Pike snapping in the murky water with his toothy jaws.

I tried a couple of other LA Noir titles, and the winner right now is Ask the Dust by Fante. It was published in '39, before the WWII fun. Look at this language!
I went to the restaurant where I always went to the restaurant and I sat down on the stool before the long counter and ordered coffee. It tasted pretty much like coffee, but it wasn't worth the nickel.


Thanks Jim, for the movie link!


Kathleen | 266 comments Mark wrote: "I like the Dickensian naming: Walker on the streets, and murderous Pike snapping in the murky water with his toothy jaws.

I tried a couple of other LA Noir titles, and the winner right now is Ask the Dust by Fante. ..."


Oh, thanks for that sample. Hadn't heard of it, and after checking it out, it's definitely a must read for me.


message 20: by Hugh (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2627 comments Mod
Thanks to everybody who has participated in this discussion - as always all threads will remain open for late comments.


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