Books Stephen King Recommends discussion

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Sai King's Favorite Books > The Memory of Running (May Contain spoilers)

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message 1: by Almeta, co-moderator (last edited Nov 02, 2011 06:05AM) (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 1093 comments Mod
Picking up The Memory of Running next week. Any one want to join me in reading it? Or have you read it and want to join the discussion?

King was terribly enthused by the audio version, which at the time was the only way that it could "be read". I would not be surprised if it was his endorsement that got it accepted by a print publisher.


message 2: by Kit★ (new)

Kit★ (xkittyxlzt) Sure! I can start it as soon as I finish the book I'm working on now :)


message 3: by Debra (new)

Debra (debra_t) | 2574 comments Mod
Stephen King said the following about the audiobook in 2003, before the written book was published. By the time I'd read about the audiobook, the written book has been published and I read it. It was wonderful, I cared about the protagonist, and I'm so glad SK took the time to promote it!

From Entertainment Weekly, 9/11/2003 column titled "Listen Up: The best book you can't read. No, "The Memory of Running" isn't in print, but you can still hear it."

"My gig at EW isn't writing book reviews, but I can still state with a fair degree of certainty that Ron McLarty's ''The Memory of Running'' is the best novel you won't read this year. But you can experience it, and I'm all but positive that you'll thank me for the tip if you do.

''Memory'' is the story of 279-pound Smithson Ide, a smokes-too-much, drinks-too-much, eats-too-much heart attack waiting to happen. I mean, this guy is a mess -- a lovely, addled mess. And then one day, Smithy finds himself riding across America with his ''fat ass'' hanging over the seat of his boyhood bicycle. He's on his way from Rhode Island to L.A. -- where he aims to retrieve his sister's body from the county morgue -- and along the road he meets a parade of colorful characters. Unlike Huck Finn's adventures, Smithy's don't amount to literature, but they are always entertaining and sometimes wildly funny.

So why can't you read it? Because -- so far, at least -- no publisher will touch it with a 10-foot pole. Publishing houses, once proudly independent, are today little more than corporate wampum beads, their cultural clout all but gone. Novels that were neither dopey best-sellers (think James Patterson) nor dull ''serious fiction'' (think William Gaddis, Paul Auster, and their overpraised ilk) were one of the first things to go when the conglomerates took over. Dull or dopey: These days that's pretty much your choice at the bookstore.

What place does that leave for Ron McLarty (an actor, playwright, and chronic insomniac who scribbled the tale of Smithy Ide in the wee hours of the morning, on a succession of yellow legal pads)? There should be a place, because -- you'll just have to trust me on this, at least for the time being -- Smithy is an American original, worthy of a place on the shelf just below your Hucks, your Holdens, and your Yossarians. And, thanks to a combination of luck and plain old coincidence, there is a place.

One of Ron McLarty's day jobs, you see, is narrating for Recorded Books, a company that's been producing unabridged novels on audio since 1979. His boss is a woman named Claudia Howard, and one day four years ago McLarty showed Howard his novel, which had been turned down ''by the best in the business,'' as we say. She was charmed by Smithy and horrified by the fact that such a fine novel should not only not find an audience but not even find a chance to find one (if you see what I mean). So Howard did what she could do, which was to issue ''The Memory of Running'' as a Recorded Book.

Which brings us to how you can experience the book: Visit www.recordedbooks.com and buy or rent the CD or cassette version of the book, as voiced by McLarty himself. This is why I say it may be the best book you won't read this year. You might listen to it on your Discman while jogging, or in your car while you're going to see Aunt Doris in Des Moines, but you won't actually read it. (I'm not even sure if the hero's Smithy or Smithie, because I've never seen his name in print.)

Recent publishing history is full of worthy novels that were published only by the skin of their teeth. J.K. Rowling's maiden ''Harry Potter'' voyage was one. Then there's the sad case of John Kennedy Toole's ''A Confederacy of Dunces,'' published only after the despairing author had killed himself. (It then reached the best-seller list, which may or may not have been of some comfort to his surviving relatives.) The moral? It's a jungle out there, baby, and in a world where the corporate bottom line is god (or maybe the word I'm searching for is mammon), the strong survive but the worthy often do not.

That ''The Memory of Running'' has found its own little performance stage is a miracle. I hope it won't be a wasted miracle. What I hope is that you'll order a copy and experience it for yourself; I hope, in fact, that EW readers will inundate Recorded Books with orders for Smithy (Smithie?) Ide's adventures. Let's make a little history here, what do you say? If that happens, the book probably will be published -- remember the corporate motto of the '90s and the double zeros: Money talks, bulls--- walks. This is a book that can do more than walk; it has a chance to be a breakout best-seller. No, it's not literature (please remember I said that), but it's bighearted and as satisfying as one of your mom's home-cooked Sunday dinners.

So why not ride across America with Smithy and root for him as he loses weight, falls in love, and rediscovers life? You'll be striking a blow for the good old American novel. More important, you'll do the stuff good novels are supposed to make you do -- laugh a little, cry a little, maybe ride (or jog) an extra time around the block in order to find out what happens next. You'll also discover a fine American voice…and actually get to hear it talking. Do I want some of the credit if this nice thing happens?

You know I do.

Tell 'em Steve sent you."


message 4: by Debra (new)

Debra (debra_t) | 2574 comments Mod
Not sure if I could be relied on to provide many comments while you guys read the book, as memory doesn't serve me well. I'd have to re-read the book; which I might do!


message 5: by Kit★ (new)

Kit★ (xkittyxlzt) I'm ready to go whenever anybody else is :)


message 6: by Almeta, co-moderator (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 1093 comments Mod
Kit★ wrote: "I'm ready to go whenever anybody else is :)"

I'm ready also. On the last chapter of another book.

Is it just us?


message 7: by Kit★ (new)

Kit★ (xkittyxlzt) Looks like just you and me unless Debra decides to go for that re-read :)


message 8: by Kit★ (new)

Kit★ (xkittyxlzt) Ok, I'm at chapter 4 or 5. Pretty good so far, I'm liking the narrative tone, and I want to keep reading to find out more about this guy. My copy has a discussion guide/questions in the back, do you want to do those when we're finished? I can type 'em up on here :)


message 9: by Almeta, co-moderator (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 1093 comments Mod
Kit★ wrote: "Ok, I'm at chapter 4 or 5. Pretty good so far, I'm liking the narrative tone, and I want to keep reading to find out more about this guy. My copy has a discussion guide/questions in the back, do yo..."

Using the discussion guide might be fun. Let's try it.


message 10: by Kit★ (new)

Kit★ (xkittyxlzt) Ok cool. I have to go to my sister-in-law's until Wednesday, so I won't be able to get back online 'til then, but I'm taking the book with me as a diversion lifesaver :)


message 11: by Almeta, co-moderator (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 1093 comments Mod
At chapter eleven. So far I am learning about a beautiful mentally ill exhibitionist and a socially awkward boy who grew into a disgusting socially awkward man!


message 12: by Almeta, co-moderator (last edited Jan 29, 2012 04:08AM) (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 1093 comments Mod
Uh oh! Father Benny Gallo has just served up a tuna sandwich and a confession. He has assumed that Smithy is homeless.

I get the idea now. (view spoiler)

Was about to fall asleep; Now I’m packing my bags. ROAD TRIP!!!


message 13: by Almeta, co-moderator (last edited Nov 26, 2011 03:45PM) (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 1093 comments Mod
Chapter 42!

I logged on here to make comments about Chapter 42 which, by-the-way, I thought was awesome enough that I wanted to interrupt my reading to immediately talk about it.

Well, how did I get from Chapter 11 to chapter 42 without making comments? Must have been pretty engrossed in the story, huh?

Sooo, back the bike up.☺

I like the switch back and forth between the “on the road story” and “Bethany’s story”. I don’t think I could take Bethany’s story as a continuous monologue. Presented in small doses makes me imagine that Smithy is reminiscing about these things as he pedals across country, creating his own adventure at the same time.

What is it about this guy that causes him to be misunderstood so often? In every encounter that he has, he is unable to defend himself when wrongly accused. What makes the people he meets automatically assume the worst of him? He behaves as a child who fears authority. Internally I scream: Speak up!

Speaking of childish, (view spoiler)

What do you think of Norma?(view spoiler)


message 14: by Almeta, co-moderator (last edited Nov 26, 2011 10:36AM) (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 1093 comments Mod
Okay, back to Chapter 42.

Is Bethany just having a dialogue with herself or is there really a separate entity in there? I don’t mean in the “Exorcist way”, I mean in the “ Sybil way”. Dr. Glen Gordon didn’t seem to give “THE VOICE” much credence, (GOLF spoke to him). The family and (view spoiler) Norma believe!

Dr. Georgina Glass doesn’t believe in “THE VOICE” either. She believes in “the voice” of her patient. (view spoiler) It was astounding !

Do The Vogue.☻


message 15: by Kit★ (new)

Kit★ (xkittyxlzt) Ok, I'm back. Finished last night. I thought it was really good. Strange in places, but always held my attention. I loved his whole road trip adventure, I think it'd be neat, though I don't think I'd have the courage to do something like that myself. I agree with you on the misunderstandings. I kept wanting to shake him, tell him to defend himself. I liked the alternating points too, the parts about his past and Bethany, and the parts about him now on his bike. All in all I think I'm going to give the book 4 Stars, maybe 5, I'll have to see how I feel when I get to writing my review. I was very entertained, and I felt for Smithy's character, rooted for him, understood him. Good book! Lots of good characters, and I think the author did a good job of telling the tale. :)
I'll try and post up the questions tonight or tomorrow morning if that's ok? :)


message 16: by Almeta, co-moderator (last edited Nov 30, 2011 10:30AM) (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 1093 comments Mod
I really enjoyed reading this book also.

I'm right in a deadline to read one more book before today is over, so have ignored all of my "review duties"! I am undecided as well.

(view spoiler)


message 17: by Almeta, co-moderator (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 1093 comments Mod
Kit★ wrote: "I'll try and post up the questions tonight or tomorrow morning if that's ok? :)..."

Looking forward to seeing what questions are posed. If there are a lot, just post a few at a time....or just pick ones that you find interesting for us to discuss.

Welcome home.


message 18: by Kit★ (new)

Kit★ (xkittyxlzt) Lol in regards to your spoiler. I think it was sort of realistic. At least for a man like Smithy, not really good with the social graces and all, no real responsibilities or friends/relationships, stuff like that. My guy is 48, and believe me, he acts pretty dang childish sometimes, especially when alcohol is involved, so it seemed kind of normal to me. I think a lot of guys are still really immature and kinda lame strange sometimes :D


message 19: by Almeta, co-moderator (last edited Jan 29, 2012 04:15AM) (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 1093 comments Mod
Kit★ wrote: "Lol in regards to your spoiler. I think it was sort of realistic. At least for a man like Smithy, not really good with the social graces and all, no real responsibilities or friends/relationships, ..."

Yeah I once remarked, about women raising three children...a daughter, a son and a husband.


message 20: by Kit★ (new)

Kit★ (xkittyxlzt) Lol! Too true :)


message 21: by Kit★ (new)

Kit★ (xkittyxlzt) Ok, here are the discussion questions from the back of the book.

Questions for Discussion

1. Smithy Ide's bicycle odyssey begins on a whim - something he just falls into - but it winds up transforming his life. Do you think that people can change their lives profoundly without initially intending to do so? What does the novel seem to be saying about redemption and second chances?

2. As a youth, Smithy was a "running boy" who "made beelines", first on foot and later on a bike. His sister, Bethany, was always running away. And Smithy's cross-country ride is yet another kind of running. What other significance does "running" have in the book?

3. The novel intersperses chapters describing Smithy's parents' death and his ride with chapters about his youth. The present chapters are all consecutive, but his memories of the past jump around somewhat. How do the chapters about the past reflect or relate to the story of Smithy's present?

4. At the beginning of the book, Smithy is an alcoholic, and throughout the book he encounters others whose lives have been overwhelmed by alcohol or drugs. What do you think the author is saying about addiction and the stress and strain of daily life?

5. Smithy reads a number of novels about the American West while on the road. How do these relate to his own story?

6. In the book, Smithy's schizophrenic sister, Bethany, goes through periods of near normalcy, only to disappear or hurt herself when she begins to hear "the voice". She is treated by a succession of psychiatrists, none of whom seem to recognize the nature of her problems or to do her much good. Yet Bethany is always the one who tells Smithy the truth. What do you think the author is saying about madness?

7. Smithy came out of Vietnam with twenty-one bullet wounds, yet his sister's madness and disappearances seem to have wounded him much more seriously. Why do you think this is? Why is Smithy haunted by his sister's apparition?

8. On the road, Smithy encounters many people - a compassionate priest, an eccentric Greenwich Village artist, a man dying of AIDS, an angry black youth, a Colorado family, a seductive fellow cyclist, a truck driver haunted by the past, and an empathetic Asian mortician, among others. Most of the encounters are marked by kindness, some by violence, and some by both. How is Smithy changed by the people he meets? What do these people tell us about the American character?

9. As a young man, Smithy rejects Norma's schoolgirl crush on him and turns away from her altogether once she's paralyzed. His junior prom is a disaster. The prostitutes he patronizes in Vietnam hate him. And he rebuffs the advances of an attractive young woman he meets on the road. Why does Smithy seem to have so much trouble with women? Do you think his rekindled romance with Norma will work out?

10. Stephen King has called Smithy Ide an "American original" and placed him in the company of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, J.D. Salinger's Holden Caulfield (of The Catcher in the Rye), and Joseph Heller's Yossarian (of Catch-22). Are there other fictional characters you would also compare him to?


message 22: by Kit★ (new)

Kit★ (xkittyxlzt) I need to ponder for a minute on these, they remind me of the tests we'd get in high school for the books we had to read lol! I'll get my responses up soon :)


message 23: by Almeta, co-moderator (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 1093 comments Mod
Kit★ wrote: "I need to ponder for a minute on these, they remind me of the tests we'd get in high school for the books we had to read lol! I'll get my responses up soon :)"

I'll have to ponder as well. For a couple of them, I do have some input. For some of them, I just didn't get the impression that is suggested. For others, I agree with you...I didn't know there was going to be a test.

I guess I am a pretty simplistic reader. I want to be entertained in some way, I will even take a little bit of a "larnin' lesson", but I don't analyze very much.☺


message 24: by Debra (new)

Debra (debra_t) | 2574 comments Mod
I wish I could locate my audiobook of this novel. It's in a box somewhere... sigh...


message 25: by Almeta, co-moderator (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 1093 comments Mod
Debra wrote: "I wish I could locate my audiobook of this novel. It's in a box somewhere... sigh..."

Since King gushed so much over the audiotape, I think it would be cool to listen to it.


message 26: by Almeta, co-moderator (last edited Jan 29, 2012 06:01AM) (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 1093 comments Mod
1a. Do you think that people can change their lives profoundly without initially intending to do so?


I think that is the only way profound changes happen. "Intending to" is never enough of a catalyst. I don't think people change until they are smacked in the face with something catastrophic. (whether it’s as big as a death or as small as a hurtful insult.)

1b. What does the novel seem to be saying about redemption and second chances?


Hmmmmm. I've seen these words used for this book before. I don't get it. What did he need to be redeemed from? As far as I could see, he never hurt anyone, but himself. Oh wait, maybe Norma.

Well, I suppose she listened to all of his self discovery telephone calls. Except I didn't think that she was a very good listener AND she really wasn't that quick to forgive. I mean she might lend a sympathetic ear and then explode over being mistreated or lack of understanding of her self-reliance. Does she offer redemption?

Second chance at love with Norma? Yes. Forgiveness? I doubt it.


message 27: by Almeta, co-moderator (last edited Jan 29, 2012 06:01AM) (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 1093 comments Mod
2. As a youth, Smithy was a "running boy" who "made beelines", first on foot and later on a bike. His sister, Bethany, was always running away. And Smithy's cross-country ride is yet another kind of running. What other significance does "running" have in the book?


I don't know. What?


message 28: by Kit★ (new)

Kit★ (xkittyxlzt) Almeta wrote: "Except I didn't think that she was a very good listener AND she really wasn't that quick to forgive. I mean she might lend a sympathetic ear and then explode over being mistreated or lack of understanding of her self-reliance."

Lol, no she wasn't a very good listener was she? I felt like most of the time she was just yelling at him to get all the years of feelings off her chest, and not so much learning to love him for who he really is now.

Almeta wrote: "I guess I am a pretty simplistic reader. I want to be entertained in some way, I will even take a little bit of a "larnin' lesson", but I don't analyze very much.☺"

^I completely agree with this. I take stories for entertainment, not to find some super deep and meaningful analyzations, and I usually get annoyed at people who read only to find some meaning of the universe or something in the story. :)


message 29: by Kit★ (new)

Kit★ (xkittyxlzt) Questions for Discussion

1. Smithy Ide's bicycle odyssey begins on a whim - something he just falls into - but it winds up transforming his life. Do you think that people can change their lives profoundly without initially intending to do so? What does the novel seem to be saying about redemption and second chances?
I like your answers for this one. Sure some people can change easily just because they want to, but for a lot of other people, it takes something big, a catalyst to get 'em motivated, whether it's a doctor saying you have to lose weight because you're about to have a heart attack, or saying you have to stop drinking because one or two more drinks will shut your liver down, or even something less life-threatening too. It can be like the high dive, some people just stand there scared looking at the water until someone pushes 'em off while others can run up and dive headfirst.

2. As a youth, Smithy was a "running boy" who "made beelines", first on foot and later on a bike. His sister, Bethany, was always running away. And Smithy's cross-country ride is yet another kind of running. What other significance does "running" have in the book?
Um, I don't know. Maybe it's like Forrest Gump, he's just running to run and there's no big deep meaning to it? Lol.

3. The novel intersperses chapters describing Smithy's parents' death and his ride with chapters about his youth. The present chapters are all consecutive, but his memories of the past jump around somewhat. How do the chapters about the past reflect or relate to the story of Smithy's present?
Hmm, they relate because, well, if it weren't for the events of his past, Smithy wouldn't be the guy he is now. They jump around because memory isn't perfect, and certain things can trigger certain memories, while others remain back in the box, forgotten until something else makes you think of 'em.

4. At the beginning of the book, Smithy is an alcoholic, and throughout the book he encounters others whose lives have been overwhelmed by alcohol or drugs. What do you think the author is saying about addiction and the stress and strain of daily life?
That it's all too easy to fall into addiction to ease the stress and strain of normal life, and you think in the beginning, y'know, oh it's just a couple of drinks, but then before you know it, you're drinking all day long and your life sucks, and you're wondering how in the heck you got here.

5. Smithy reads a number of novels about the American West while on the road. How do these relate to his own story?
They relate because Smithy's traveling cross-country, similar to many people who braved the journey to settle the West. I think also because the characters in the novels he read were all flawed and imperfect in some way, like Smithy himself.

6. In the book, Smithy's schizophrenic sister, Bethany, goes through periods of near normalcy, only to disappear or hurt herself when she begins to hear "the voice". She is treated by a succession of psychiatrists, none of whom seem to recognize the nature of her problems or to do her much good. Yet Bethany is always the one who tells Smithy the truth. What do you think the author is saying about madness?
I don't know if the author's saying it or not, but me myself, I feel like sometimes there's a certain clarity in madness. Crazy people see the world differently, and sometimes it can make them more insightful in strange ways.

7. Smithy came out of Vietnam with twenty-one bullet wounds, yet his sister's madness and disappearances seem to have wounded him much more seriously. Why do you think this is? Why is Smithy haunted by his sister's apparition?
I think it's because she was the older sibling, he probably looked up to her as a child, and when she would fall apart, he most likely didn't know how to handle it. Especially back in the 60s, when psychiatry didn't know what it knows now. He loved her and wanted her to be happy and healthy, she definitely seemed like his best (and only) friend. I think he's "haunted" by her because he's never stopped thinking about her, wondering what ever happened to her, and also because he feels, I dunno, guilt or something for not being able to help her, save her.

8. On the road, Smithy encounters many people - a compassionate priest, an eccentric Greenwich Village artist, a man dying of AIDS, an angry black youth, a Colorado family, a seductive fellow cyclist, a truck driver haunted by the past, and an empathetic Asian mortician, among others. Most of the encounters are marked by kindness, some by violence, and some by both. How is Smithy changed by the people he meets? What do these people tell us about the American character?
Not sure really how he was changed by them, he did seem to take the "lessons" he learned from these encounters and file them away in his mind, but I don't know if I'd say he was actually changed as a person. As far as what this says about the American character, I think it was a good representation, a cross-section of the country. There are good people all over the US, but there are also a lot of nasty people too. America is still a melting pot, the mix of different cultures and socio-economic standings leads to many varied types of people. But I think all in all, people tend to be decent, some more so or less so than others of course, but I don't think it's strictly an American thing, I think people are probably like this all over the world.

9. As a young man, Smithy rejects Norma's schoolgirl crush on him and turns away from her altogether once she's paralyzed. His junior prom is a disaster. The prostitutes he patronizes in Vietnam hate him. And he rebuffs the advances of an attractive young woman he meets on the road. Why does Smithy seem to have so much trouble with women? Do you think his rekindled romance with Norma will work out?
I think a part of his problem with women is because of his sister. He spent so much of his formative years worrying about her, chasing after her, trying to help her, that he kind of doesn't seem to know how to act in a normal social situation. Plus he just seems sort of naturally awkward around other people, and I can relate to that lol.

10. Stephen King has called Smithy Ide an "American original" and placed him in the company of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, J.D. Salinger's Holden Caulfield (of The Catcher in the Rye), and Joseph Heller's Yossarian (of Catch-22). Are there other fictional characters you would also compare him to?
Well, perhaps my reading is lacking in some places, but I've never actually read any of those books mentioned (well, I did read the Great Illustrated Classics version of Tom Sawyer when I was a kid, that's about my extent of knowledge of Huck Finn). As far as the books I have read, there aren't really any other characters I can think of that remind me of Smithy, he's sort of an "everyman" in a way, and yet a misfit too.


message 30: by Kit★ (new)

Kit★ (xkittyxlzt) I would like to listen to this one on audio, I think it might give it some extra pizzazz or something, but all in all, I'm glad I read this book, and thanks for reading with me! I saw another book by the same author at Goodwill the other day but I didn't buy it b/c I hadn't read this one yet, so I didn't know if I was going to like the author's style, but now I'm sorta kicking myself... shoulda bought it. After all, I picked up three books by John Irving and I've yet to read any of them, but I still bought more than one to try... shoulda got the other one by McLarty :(


message 31: by Almeta, co-moderator (last edited Dec 02, 2011 06:26PM) (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 1093 comments Mod
Kit★ wrote: "After all, I picked up three books by John Irving and I've yet to read any of them, but I still bought more than one to try... shoulda got the other one by McLarty :( ..."

You should go back! I've enjoyed McLarty much more than Irving personally...although I've promised to keep trying.☻


message 32: by Kit★ (new)

Kit★ (xkittyxlzt) I think I'm going to go back and look for it. Hopefully it'll still be there, b/c it's officially on my wishlist now :)


message 33: by Linda (new)

Linda Boyd (boydlinda95gmailcom) | 598 comments I am starting this one today on audio.


message 34: by Almeta, co-moderator (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 1093 comments Mod
Linda wrote: "I am starting this one today on audio."

I think that is a great idea. It is what King raved about. You'll enjoy it.


message 35: by Linda (new)

Linda Boyd (boydlinda95gmailcom) | 598 comments So far I am really enjoying this book, I have not read Kita's questions yet - I don't want to spoil anything for me. I can see why this one of Stephens recommended books, can't wait to finish so we can talk about it!!


message 36: by Linda (new)

Linda Boyd (boydlinda95gmailcom) | 598 comments Almeta wrote: "Chapter 42!

I logged on here to make comments about Chapter 42 which, by-the-way, I thought was awesome enough that I wanted to interrupt my reading to immediately talk about it.

Well, how di..."


Not sure what chapter I'm on - the audio doesn't say - but I totally think that that Norma and Smitty will fall in love - actually - from where I am now in the book - I think they have.


message 37: by Linda (last edited Dec 21, 2011 07:43PM) (new)

Linda Boyd (boydlinda95gmailcom) | 598 comments Ok, since I am still listening to the book, I have not read the questions from Kit's book. But I wanted to talk a little about this book.

I think that Smitty was the way he was because of his parents - not trying to blame them - but I think that since there was so many issues with Bethany - they didn't really have time to have a relationship with Smitty as he was growing up. Bethany took up all of their time - and just what was up with Bethany - I can't belive the way some of these doctors treated her, I think she suffered entirely too long and during all of this suffering for her - I think Smitty suffered as well - maybe the whole family suffered.

I am only on disc 9, 3 more to go and I will have more comments I'm sure - but so far this book is really good, and I can see why Stephen recommended this book.

Oh and by the way does anyone think Smitty is somewhat of a pervert besides me!!!!


message 38: by Linda (new)

Linda Boyd (boydlinda95gmailcom) | 598 comments Finished this book today - and I loved it!!!!


message 39: by Debra (new)

Debra (debra_t) | 2574 comments Mod
Since I've already got my reading list developed through the end of February (Seasonal Challenge list), I can't start the audio for this book until March. But, I think I'm going to do it! I'll post my comments here as I'm listening to it... maybe answer some of those deep discussion questions, even!


message 40: by Linda (new)

Linda Boyd (boydlinda95gmailcom) | 598 comments Debra, I think you will really enjoy this book.


message 41: by Debra (new)

Debra (debra_t) | 2574 comments Mod
Linda wrote: "Debra, I think you will really enjoy this book."

I read the hardcover years ago, but don't remember much of it. So, the audio should be refreshing.


message 42: by Kit★ (new)

Kit★ (xkittyxlzt) Cool! I've been MIA for awhile due to computer issues which I hope are fixed for good now, but I'm glad to see others have decided to try this book. Yay! :)


message 43: by Almeta, co-moderator (last edited Jan 30, 2012 01:53AM) (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 1093 comments Mod
Welcome Debra. Your note as reminded me that I need to complete more of these discussion questions! Kit, has completed the assignment on time! I'm doing the make up test!


3. The present chapters are all consecutive, but his memories of the past jump around somewhat. How do the chapters about the past reflect or relate to the story of Smithy's present?

I think that having the present be told in consecutive order lends to the sense of being there as it happens, and gives the narration more tension.

When I travel, after the initial observation of scenery, I also begin to reflect upon the past; sometimes the recently past conversation, sometimes on the distant past. Who knows what string in the brain is pulled to make me think of something. Was it that cow I just passed, or that billboard, or a word in the conversation of another, a song I heard on the radio?

Sometimes Smithy’s journey into his memories helped him put into perspective the purpose of his quest, both internal and external.


message 44: by Almeta, co-moderator (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 1093 comments Mod
Linda wrote: "Oh and by the way does anyone think Smitty is somewhat of a pervert besides me!!!! ..."

Well I don't know how perverted but I would say sexually stunted for his age! Here's what I said in an earlier spoiler: (view spoiler)


message 45: by Almeta, co-moderator (last edited Jan 29, 2012 07:58AM) (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 1093 comments Mod
4. What do you think the author is saying about addiction and the stress and strain of daily life?

Smithy was pretty much disconnected from his family. His sister took all of the family's effort. His sister loved him but Smithy could not help her. Smithy was the parent's bloodhound.

Relying on chemicals to ease stress is a very common mechanism. So much so that we have establishments to go in order to use some of them in the company of others. Without the communing with family and friends, we try to interact with strangers; bartenders and the local pub squatters, looking for the means to express and belong, or just the opposite; to completely disconnnect from aloneness.


message 46: by Almeta, co-moderator (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 1093 comments Mod
8. How is Smithy changed by the people he meets? What do these people tell us about the American character?


I agree with Kit. I did not really see a change in Smithy. I was initially appalled that there was so much distrust around him. I don’t know people who act immediately violent. I think most people take a “wait and see” attitude to new-comers, so was surprised by some of the immediate reactions.

Still, I do think Americans are a people of quiet distrust. Our politics, religion, families have all presented us with some alarming betrayals. We are more guarded than we used to be.


message 47: by Linda (new)

Linda Boyd (boydlinda95gmailcom) | 598 comments Almeta wrote: "4. What do you think the author is saying about addiction and the stress and strain of daily life?

Smithy was pretty much disconnected from his family. His sister took all of the family's effor..."


Smitty definitely had his own set of issues, but the parents were so focused on Norma, they couldn't see his to be able to help him - not that they really helped her - I think they didn't know what to do with either of them, which I thought was very sad...


message 48: by Almeta, co-moderator (last edited Jan 30, 2012 02:25AM) (new)

Almeta (menfrommarrs) | 1093 comments Mod
6. What do you think the author is saying about madness?

Bethany may go through periods of normalcy, but as a reader I just knew it wouldn't last. Her family must have known that it was too good to be true also. I can imagine the tension that would have caused.

I'm not sure how madness "works". The Doctors seemed to have had a pigeon hole pre-defined into which the symptoms were shoved. What separates my “crazy idea” from hers? Just a consensus of what is “normal”? The ability to sort thoughts into a “reality box” versus the “trash bin”?

"The only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad." – Salvador Dali


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