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Gould's Book of Fish: DIscussion Thread

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message 1: by Ben (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:07AM) (new)

Ben (deadwolfbones) | 88 comments Mod
So I'm 150pp into this. I'll have some preliminary thoughts soon.

Anyone else reading yet?


message 2: by Jon (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:07AM) (new)

Jon (kuboaa) | 13 comments I got my copy today so I'm only about 30 pages in, I'm enjoying it so far.


message 3: by toph (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:08AM) (new)

toph | 24 comments So far about 80 pages in, but I feel like the actual Book of Fish has just started, so I don't have a whole lot of comments yet. By next weekend I should have it done or at least almost done though after a plane ride.


message 4: by jacob (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:08AM) (new)

jacob | 4 comments got my copy yesterday. im about 50 pages in so far. going camping for a couple days so i'll probably be able to breeze through it by the weekend. will post comments then!


message 5: by Rebecca (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:09AM) (new)

Rebecca i'm about halfway through, but i've got two 3 hour bus rides this weekend so i should be done by monday.

i noticed there are some discussion group questions and things here http://www.panmacmillan.com.au/picado...
if anyone is interested?


message 6: by Ben (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:09AM) (new)

Ben (deadwolfbones) | 88 comments Mod
Finished this afternoon.

I'll refrain from discussing specifics until a) I re-read some parts and b) everyone else finishes.


message 7: by chase (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:10AM) (new)

chase Adams | 44 comments i hope everyone's almost finished. my copy didn't show up until monday or so, and i've got about 90 pgs left. really enjoying myself.


message 8: by chase (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:10AM) (new)

chase Adams | 44 comments so who needs more time?


message 9: by toph (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:10AM) (new)

toph | 24 comments Thought I'd finish yesterday but I didn't get as much read as I thought I would. I'm somewhere between 1/2 and 2/3 of the way done. Wasn't convinced I'd be able to keep up with everyone else anyway, but I'm enjoying it a lot so far regardless.


message 10: by Brian (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:11AM) (new)

Brian (guidedbywire) Sorry to have to do this, but you will all have to start without me and I'll catch up when I can.


message 11: by Ben (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:11AM) (new)

Ben (deadwolfbones) | 88 comments Mod
LAAAAAAAAME


message 12: by Rebecca (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:11AM) (new)

Rebecca i have about 10 pages to go


message 13: by chase (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:11AM) (new)

chase Adams | 44 comments here's a quick paragraph on it: http://slewofarrows.blogspot.com/

the writing is shit but it's usually just for my own benefit, to keep track of what i've read (before there was a goodreads)


message 14: by Jon (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:11AM) (new)

Jon (kuboaa) | 13 comments I wrote my quick comments on this book in my review on the book's page, read it if you would like.

I enjoyed it alot, quick read, my only complaint is that sometimes it seems to get too wrapped up in itself, but thats a pretty common thing.

great selection


message 15: by chase (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:11AM) (new)

chase Adams | 44 comments i thought the author did a great job at affirming the creative process after every attempt to portray its futility.......he's obviously a believer in a sense, if he allows gould's book to actually start the island's fire.....
for all his cynicism i assume flanagan is hoping his writing can have a similar effect.


message 16: by Jon (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:12AM) (new)

Jon (kuboaa) | 13 comments I think at some point Gould's actual book hard-copy book becomes meaningless; like when he is about to burn it and hes reading lines that are happening as he's reading or how he mentions near the end that he is actually writing it in his head.
maybe at that point Billy's mind has become so unraveled, as it seems slowly do that as the book progesses, that he uses the book at times to justify his actions, like letting the island burn


message 17: by chase (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:12AM) (new)

chase Adams | 44 comments sure. but then again, there weren't any actions to actually justify. the magical way that the fire spreads is certainly telling us that these actions are allegorical, and i guess i'm more interested in this sort of proactive version of the creative process when its something flanagan alludes to repeatedly in his story (strapped to a circling train in order to paint a phony world, appropriating history to make old furniture look worse). fish represent this loophole in the process i guess. some things are actually worth doing.


message 18: by Ben (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:12AM) (new)

Ben (deadwolfbones) | 88 comments Mod
This is the second book in the past month (following Colson Whitehead's The Intuitionist) where I've felt like the illustrious critics writing the glowing reviews that grace the jacket are like traders playing the futures market. There's no denying that Flanagan has great talent, but I'm not sure that Gould's Book of Fish is the masterpiece so many of the blurbs paint it to be, and it's certainly not (as one of them put it) "a partial answer to the question of the relative value of human existence."

There is lots of imagination at work in the Book of Fish. The reconstruction of the colonization of Tasmania is fevered and vivid if a bit myopic at times (Sarah Island often seemed as if it were the size of someone's backyard, and the overall claustrophobic nature of the book, while probably intended to a degree, was a bit too much for me).

The book's book about a book that's a reconstruction of a book that's a reconstruction of a book hook felt a bit familiar--kind of postmodern old hat at this point (the ghosts of House of Leaves, most of Eco's work, and Borges' "Pierre Menard," and even Delany's Dhalgren hang heavy). This book feels like it very much wants to be about narrative structure, but loses that thread for much of the middle before picking it up again in the Crayfish chapter when Gould discovers that the registers he'd kidnapped from the penitentiary office are in fact the manuscript that he himself is living. The afterword, which reveals Fight Club-style that Gould has himself been all of the characters he's described, wants desperately to be clever, but it really adds nothing to the content of the book. It should be suckerpunch but it just produces a bemused "...huh."

What I got from The Book of Fish, what I take to be its central meaning, is that all history is invented. The main character (both Gould and Hammett) is a forger. The book is an elaborate recreation of nothing that ever happened. The multiplicity of personalities are really all products of the mind of the (invisible) writer. This revelation alone is not worth the 400+ pages it took to deliver. The mediations on racism, self-delusion, and the general savagery of human existence take up the bulk of the novel but are really just the (occasionally relevant) padding around the existential framing questions.

I think Flanagan has it in him to write a Great Novel, but I don't think Book of Fish is it. It has great moments, great descriptions, some amusing or horrifying set-pieces, and a mostly good sense of place, but it feels like a dress-rehearsal for something truly significant. Too many of Flanagan's attempts at philosophical thought ring hollow or fall short of the meaning they're grasping for. Too many fragments go nowhere. I enjoyed reading it and will certainly look for other books by him, but I felt let down at the end.


message 19: by Ben (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:13AM) (new)

Ben (deadwolfbones) | 88 comments Mod
Shit, did I kill this?


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