2015: The Year of Reading Women discussion

The Lacuna
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message 1: by Bloodorange (last edited Apr 30, 2015 01:17PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bloodorange (pani_od_angielskiego) | 618 comments This is a discussion thread for The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver starting May 4 (tentative ending - 31 May).

Regarding the reading schedule: we have four weeks. The book consists of five parts; looking at them, I think it would be best to discuss them as follows:

4 to 10 May - Parts I and II
11 to 17 May - Part III
18 to 24 May - Part IV
25 to 31 May - Part V, 'Loose Pages', 'Afterward' (sic!)

Each of the sections could be split into two parts - we could post more systematically, and there would be less chance of spoilers. Do we want to discuss the book that way? Or do we feel like posting 'new section' comments around the same time each week, and then just adding some ideas?


Connie G (connie_g) | 147 comments I have a hardcover copy of the book, and would be OK with posting the page number if it might be a spoiler.
Spoilers don't worry me too much in this type of book. I'm flexible about how we read it.


Bloodorange (pani_od_angielskiego) | 618 comments For the record: I have a Faber and Faber paperback published in 2010, of 670 pages.


Connie G (connie_g) | 147 comments The hardcover book has 507 pages, so I won't bother posting the page number.


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 258 comments Bloodorange wrote: "This is a discussion thread for The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver starting May 4 (tentative ending - 31 May).

Regarding the reading schedule: we have four weeks. The bo..."


This is awesome for me; thanks! Sorry, didn't see it earlier.


message 6: by Bloodorange (last edited May 03, 2015 07:29AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bloodorange (pani_od_angielskiego) | 618 comments A quick question: What does the beginning of the novel feel like for you? For some reason, I have a problem with Kingsolver's writing style (disclaimer: I loved Prodigal Summer), and cannot *get* into the novel. I planned to read the entire section during this weekend, but will probably need to do some catching up on Monday.


message 7: by Linda Abhors the New GR Design (last edited May 03, 2015 07:19AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 258 comments Hi
Same here!!!! I bought it years ago, and have been dying to dust it off. "The Poisonwood Bible" is one of my all-time favorites. Yet, I'm five to six pages in and it's bugging me.
I was just going to write it off to the language thing; I'm a language hound, and it bugs me when people can't bother to fact-check (aullaros, when they're really called aulladores, or using the formal "Andele" when it's "andale"). What it gives me is the feeling that she's trying to paint the picture of having been there when she really hasn't. yep, she got the difference between the unfamiliar/familiar forms (except when she messes it up, see above). Yep, she got the whole "walk around the square/zocalo as social activity--hey, with an accent, if you're gonna bother with the rest of the accents-- but it is giving me the impression of someone who researched it from afar.
I'm also gonna check when "posilutely" evolved (I use "absotively", but am pretty sure it wasn't around in the 20's).
And maybe it's because she's trying to write from the perspective of a 16 year old boy. Dunno....


Bloodorange (pani_od_angielskiego) | 618 comments Linda,
Thanks for writing all this! It would have been completely lost on me:/

Anyhow- I disliked the opening of the book. It's not only that the way Kingsolver structures her sentences in an intentionally convoluted and parenthetic way, which I hate; I also find the difference in presentation of Salome and her son in the first and second sections too great to reconcile the two images; I think I understand what Kingsolver wanted to achieve, but it feels bad on a gut-response level. Enrique feels like a paper tiger villain (at least at this stage), and I find the whole business of not telling them what howlers far from plausible. She even made the boy's exchanges with the cook sound creepy.


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 258 comments Ha, I'm the queen of parenthetical expression, though I often disguise them with dashes! :)
But I agree completely. While the later exchange with the cook, when Henry is working as his "assistant", seem normal enough, there was something odd about that episode on the beach. I think it was meant to come off as Leandro, someone, an adult figure, demonstrating care and concern for the boy, but it did seem odd.
And you're right, even if Enrique were that much of a control freak, which doesn't seem as far off for me as for you, someone else in the house would have noticed their reaction and told them what the howlers really were. They are indeed some scandal-making monkeys, though!


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 258 comments She did get the oropendola call, right, though--I just looked that up, and part of the call really does sound like water coming out of a container. And I was wrong about Posilutely-apparently, it was a jazz thing, though I'm not certain that even his scandalous mother would have moved in those NY circles at the time.


Connie G (connie_g) | 147 comments Linda, I don't speak Spanish so it's great to have an expert commenting.

Barbara Kingsolver is known for her portrayals of the oppressed in her novels. There seem to be parallels between the treatment of the Aztecs by the Spanish in Harrison's history books, and the way the "indios" are treated by Enrique who does not pay them an adequate wage. It was especially heartbreaking that Leandro did not have enough money to feed his children.

I'm about 75% through Part One. We're getting to know Harrison as a character in Part One. He seems sensitive, quiet, and observant. He's been exposed to two cultures, and doesn't seem to fit in either. He has no playmates his age, but Leandro is acting like a big brother to him at times. Solome is young, looking for security and excitement, and does not offer him the maternal emotional support he needs. Harrison spends a lot of time in his own head, and writes down his thoughts about what is happening in his life.


Connie G (connie_g) | 147 comments Barbara Kingsolver has a website, and the FAQ section has an interesting interview about The Lacuna, why she wrote the book, and her research. This will take you to her interview:

http://www.kingsolver.com/faq/about-t...


Connie G (connie_g) | 147 comments I agree with you both that someone would have told Salome and Harrison about the sounds of the howlers before a year had past. The author probably wrote it that way to set up the atmosphere. Enrique is being painted as a very macho, controlling man. On the second page in Part One: "He had been raised to understand the usefulness of fear." Enrique also will only unlock four books of his choice for Harrison to read each week. The house is on an island which Salome describes as "so far from everything, you have to yell three times before even Jesus Christ can hear you". They are in an isolated area with a man who calls all the shots, and demons shrieking in the trees every morning.


Bloodorange (pani_od_angielskiego) | 618 comments Connie, thank you for the link! The interview was a great background reading, and confirmed my initial impressions - namely, that the message of this novel may be subservient to form.

My sincere apologies, but it appears that I will have little to contribute to this particular discussion, HUAC being the only thing I know anything about. I can promise to keep whining under control (although currrently I'm forcing myself to read at the speed of 22 pp per day, to finish the section before the end of the week. Ugh.)


message 15: by Connie (last edited May 07, 2015 09:11PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Connie G (connie_g) | 147 comments Bloodorange wrote: "Connie, thank you for the link! The interview was a great background reading, and confirmed my initial impressions - namely, that the message of this novel may be subservient to form.

My sincere a..."


It will give us all a chance to learn more about the history of the 1930-1950s.


message 16: by Linda Abhors the New GR Design (last edited May 05, 2015 05:48AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 258 comments I'm having trouble getting through it, too BloodOrange, half because we're in finals week and I'm pulling grades together. Half because of the above. But I hate to put down a book once started, and especially since I spent a few bucks on it, I"ll soldier through.

I know they always say "write what you know". Of course, we wouldn't have science fiction if everyone did that, would we? Still, this just feels too "researched" and not "lived". Artificial.

There, I'll try to quit whining, too!


message 17: by Connie (last edited May 07, 2015 08:54PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Connie G (connie_g) | 147 comments Part II tells about the Bonus Army protests in Washington DC in 1932. I wanted to know more about it so I read these two short eyewitness articles:

http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/sn...

http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/bo...


Connie G (connie_g) | 147 comments Part I: Mexico City October 1930.

Harrison helped mix plaster for Diego Rivera who was painting murals in the National Palace.

Here's some large photos of the murals:

http://www.delange.org/PresPalace2/Pr...


message 19: by Bloodorange (last edited May 07, 2015 10:15PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bloodorange (pani_od_angielskiego) | 618 comments Thank you for the resources, Connie! I'll read the articles when I come to the relevant section, and the murals are stunning!

I'm still at the beginning of the first(?) diary section, and I start to feel engaged. I see many postmodern features; fragmentation, mixing historical and fictional sources and figures, the metafictional 'archivist', the protagonist's alienation (his mixed Mexican-American background, suspended existence on the island, homosexuality). This adds to the sense of 'artificiality', but rather in a good way.


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 258 comments I'm starting into the diary, but again, the same thing bugs me, and it's recalled another book from the past. I remember that while I liked the basic premise of Women Who Run with the Wolves, I was annoyed by the fact that the author would include terms in a language other than English, and immediately follow them with the translation. So my thought was, "If one can pick this up by context, allow your reader to do so. If it requires translation, and the foreign word has no significance in illuminating any other aspect of the story, then go ahead and just translate it." I thought that by using the foreign terms/words/expressions and then translating them immediately after, it made the author seem pretentious.

Same here, but on top of that, the words in Spanish are misspelled, confused with French, etc. Even more annoying than what Pinkola Estes did. An editor with a clue or some fact-checking would have eliminated this. Ugh.

There, I've said it, and will keep going. Encouraging to know that you both find it gets better.


Connie G (connie_g) | 147 comments I'm finding that I am looking up the definition of many of the Spanish words where I'm not sure I've got the exact meaning. What did I do before Google? I wish she had included a glossary of the Spanish words she used. (I learned French in high school. Maybe that's why I enjoy reading about Paris.)


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 258 comments Connie wrote: "I'm finding that I am looking up the definition of many of the Spanish words where I'm not sure I've got the exact meaning. What did I do before Google? I wish she had included a glossary of the ..."

Good luck finding some of them, Connie! Ca depende, as you know, is French, not Spanish (which would just be "depende"). And sergente, should be "sargento", and at that time, women in the army were only just emerging (there were women who fought with their men in the Revolution, but few in positions of power/officers), so I don't know that he'd include the girls, even in play.
If there's something that she doesn't actually bother translating, just hollah!


Connie G (connie_g) | 147 comments Linda wrote: "Connie wrote: "I'm finding that I am looking up the definition of many of the Spanish words where I'm not sure I've got the exact meaning. What did I do before Google? I wish she had included a g..."

If I run into trouble, I'll shoot you a message. Thanks, Linda.


message 24: by Paula (new) - rated it 1 star

Paula (pkalin) Just picked up the audiobook from my library. Looking forward to joining in on discussions.


Bloodorange (pani_od_angielskiego) | 618 comments Welcome, Paula!


message 26: by Paula (new) - rated it 1 star

Paula (pkalin) Thank you. The Poisonwood Bible is a favorite of mine. Haven't read any others by the author. Looking forward to it.


message 27: by Bloodorange (last edited May 09, 2015 01:17AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bloodorange (pani_od_angielskiego) | 618 comments I must say I like Harrison's 'diary voice' and his grumpiness (what do you call that in young people?). Also: How do you feel about Salome? I realize I should be revolted by the fact that her maternal instinct compares to that of Scarlett O'Hara's (or feel sorry for her because of the limited options she had), but I don't care too much for her; she seems to me largely a capricious plot device, a vehicle for transporting H. here and there.


message 28: by Connie (last edited May 09, 2015 07:34AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Connie G (connie_g) | 147 comments Paula wrote: "Thank you. The Poisonwood Bible is a favorite of mine. Haven't read any others by the author. Looking forward to it."

This is the sixth Barbara Kingsolver book that I'm reading, and The Poisonwood Bible is my favorite. All her books seem to highlight social or political problems. She has been sponsoring a book prize, the Pen/Bellwether Prize, for writing which is socially conscious.

http://www.pen.org/content/penbellwet...


Heather Fineisen I read the book and then listened to it. I enjoyed hearing the author read her work. I just ran with the story and ended up really enjoying it as a whole.


Bloodorange (pani_od_angielskiego) | 618 comments Hi, I just wanted to say I'm still here and reading - I'm somewhere at the beginning of the section for this week. Will try to catch up.


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 258 comments Not close, as is Bloodorange, but hanging in....just have a lot to wrap up with semester.


message 32: by Connie (last edited May 15, 2015 01:18PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Connie G (connie_g) | 147 comments I started the third section last night. I'm enjoying the humorous remarks between Frida and Harrison. I can picture the tiny kitchen in their modern house--designed by a man who has never cooked in his life.


Bloodorange (pani_od_angielskiego) | 618 comments Yes, the moment she barks "Bauhaus!"... :) I was actually surprised they lived in a Bauhaus building.

One googling session later - here are the pictures (scroll to bottom of the page):

http://en.wikiarquitectura.com/index....

I must say I imagined something less impressive.


Connie G (connie_g) | 147 comments Thanks for posting the pictures of the building. I was expecting smaller buildings. The studio space must have been wonderful with the large windows letting in the light.


message 35: by Linda Abhors the New GR Design (last edited May 15, 2015 06:35PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 258 comments Not in this book right now, but where Frida ended up later (your comments made me look up the place, bc one of my colleagues has been there--alas, it wasn't included the year I took students!--and I remembered it looking smaller in the photos. And so it was, bc it wasn't the place she shared with Diego).

https://www.google.com/search?q=frida...


Connie G (connie_g) | 147 comments Thanks for the link, Linda. I associate Frida with that vibrant shade of blue on the walls of the house, and other intense colors.

The Huffington Post has a story about Ishiuchi Miyako's photographs of Frida Kahlo's colorful clothes and other artifacts.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05...


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 258 comments Some of the clothes photographed for that article come from the town of Juchitan, a town where the women play a somewhat more important role in the family's economy than in other places. Juchitecas are suppoed to be known for being independent, strong, and determined. Frida, as sotry goes, liked to wear something from that area every day. The famous self portrait with a monkey, for example, is in Juchiteca style (the way her braids are worn as well as the blouse and red skirt).


Bloodorange (pani_od_angielskiego) | 618 comments I found an amazing article online - an interview with the curator of the exhibition of Frida's clothing. I actually typed a long summary on my phone and lost it:( but it's a fascinating read.

http://www.collectorsweekly.com/artic...


Connie G (connie_g) | 147 comments That's a wonderful article, Bloodorange. It's amazing that Frida accomplished so much in her life considering how much pain she must have experienced.


message 40: by Connie (last edited May 18, 2015 08:57PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Connie G (connie_g) | 147 comments I'm reading Part 4, set in the United States during World War II. Harrison is writing to Frida about the journalists reporting on Japanese-Americans and putting fear into the public. He calls these journalists "the howlers", connecting that term back to the first pages of the book about the monkeys with a scream of a demon. In both cases there is a fear of the unknown. People listening to the "howlers" can imagine a terrible scenario.


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 258 comments Connie wrote: "Part I: Mexico City October 1930.

Harrison helped mix plaster for Diego Rivera who was painting murals in the National Palace.

Here's some large photos of the murals:

http://www.delange.org/Pre..."


Third photo in the scroll.......the "puta" that Harrison mentions is on the bottom right of the frame (half cut out), lifting her skirt to show one leg. Anyone recognize that woman? :D

Some of those frescos which depict individual tribes, the ones not in the stairway but rather up on the second floor gallery, are removable (they're something like 4 feet wide by say, 10 high). Don't recall ever seeing any of them in an exhibit, though. Amazing that the weather doesn't get to them.


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 258 comments Still catching up, on part III now. Has anyone noticed that, regardless of his nickname of the moment, he refers to himself in the third person, unless Mother's involved, and then it's "we".
And I'm still bugged by some of the word choices in English; don't know if this is deliberate, bc she's trying to make Harrison's voice sound still a bit untrained, or what (Part 2, "hurling arrows" comes to mind. You don't exaclty "hurl" arrows). And there's one that in the second part that just doesn't follow.

But I'm staying with it........While I feel sympathy for this character, who seems to know he's unwanted and is shuttled back and forth, that in itself isn't enough to make me really want to invest in him.


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 258 comments Connie wrote: "I'm reading Part 4, set in the United States during World War II. Harrison is writing to Frida about the journalists reporting on Japanese-Americans and putting fear into the public. He calls the..."

He does the same in Part 2, somewhere near the end. Cant remember to whom he's referring, but it grabbed my attention, too.


Connie G (connie_g) | 147 comments You've got sharp eyes, Linda!


Bloodorange (pani_od_angielskiego) | 618 comments OffLinda wrote: "Third photo in the scroll.......the "puta" that Harrison mentions is on the bottom right of the frame (half cut out), lifting her skirt to show one leg. Anyone recognize that woman? :D"

Ugh. Nothing says "I love you" like painting your wife as a prostitute... Very anti-burgeois:)

Off-topic, @ Linda: Could you take a peek at the Rodoreda thread?


Connie G (connie_g) | 147 comments Linda wrote: "He does the same in Part 2, somewhere near the end. Cant remember to whom he's referring, but it grabbed my attention, too."

He had a conversation with Lev about the Russian newspapers in the beginning of Part 3, with mentions of Zola's views of the press. I imagine we'll have more mentions of the howlers with the HUAC later.


Connie G (connie_g) | 147 comments Linda, I've also noticed that Harrison occasionally uses an English word in a "not quite right" sense. I think you're right that it's deliberate since English is not his primary language. (I've never noticed it in her other books.)

I liked most of Part 3 since Frida Kahlo and Lev Trotsky were both interesting characters.


Bloodorange (pani_od_angielskiego) | 618 comments Connie wrote: "Linda, I've also noticed that Harrison occasionally uses an English word in a "not quite right" sense. I think you're right that it's deliberate since English is not his primary language. (I've n..."

This is my guess as well, although I'd love to see it confirmed by some 'false friends' in his idiolect, not just borrowings. Also, Didn't he grow up in the U.S.? His mother would be a huge influence, but a complete immersion in an English-speaking culture would most likely balance that.

I love the way Frida is presented (I'm in Part III).


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 258 comments Connie wrote: "You've got sharp eyes, Linda!"

Haha, no, not really. The unibrow makes it very obvious who it is, if you see the full scene. Use that painting to give students a visual of what Tenochtitlan must have looked like to the Spaniards (I'm sure Rivera knew the same 5 letters that Harrison refers to, the ones Cortes wrote to the queen, plus Diaz del Castillo's very detailed descriptions in his memoir--he was one of Cortes's soldiers).


Linda Abhors the New GR Design | 258 comments Bloodorange wrote: "OffLinda wrote: "Third photo in the scroll.......the "puta" that Harrison mentions is on the bottom right of the frame (half cut out), lifting her skirt to show one leg. Anyone recognize that woman..."

I've often thought the same thing! And the fact that it was anti-bourgeois probably is what he thought Frida would like about it!

Btw, has anyone noticed (and again, I'm one section behind) that Harrison, up to Part 3, has yet to refer to Frida by name? He calls the painter "Señor Rivera¨, but he never refers to her, except for ¨the queen¨. Interesting, right? There wouldn´t be any power in naming her, it´s almost as though he´s afraid to. Weird...


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