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Sometimes a Great Notion
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Sometimes a Great Notion discussion

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message 1: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
*We have not yet determined whether we will read the whole book this month or spread it out over 2 months.

I started this today and already feel like I want to take a few days off and immerse myself in it. I grew up in a coastal Oregon town that depended upon logging & fishing, so this is tailor-made for me, but the prose and imagery are captivating, so far.


message 2: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
If anyone is looking for a present for me, get more books like this one. I've got the Stamper clan up in me like influenza. I want to roll around in pages from the book, show it my favorite movies, run along the beach with it and then collapse on the shore and kiss it passionately while the waves cascade over us.

Also, I think it's really awesome.


message 3: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
Cue Jason saying he isn't enjoying the book in 3, 2, 1.... :P


message 4: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
Dave wrote: "Cue Jason saying he isn't enjoying the book in 3, 2, 1.... :P"

That was first thing I thought when I realized I was loving it. "Great, now I'm going to have to gut Jason and ride his carcass like a sled down Jerkface Mountain!" ;)


message 5: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
Leadbelly: "Good Night, Irene" (from whence the title of the book is derived)


message 6: by Jason, Walking Allergen (last edited Mar 04, 2012 12:29AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
Matt wrote: "Dave wrote: "Cue Jason saying he isn't enjoying the book in 3, 2, 1.... :P"

That was first thing I thought when I realized I was loving it. "Great, now I'm going to have to gut Jason and ride his ..."


I realize I hated Ragtime, Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Affliction, The Third Policeman....hell, all of the books we've read. Naturally I'd hate this one too...jerks. ;)

I'm not very far yet (42 pages, I think) but I like it so far. The prose has an interesting rhythm to it. It feels like one of those books that has the kind of narrative density that convinces you these must have been real people, living their real histories. I'm definitely drawn in.


message 7: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
Italics vs. parentheses in the novel. Discuss.


message 8: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (last edited Mar 04, 2012 10:15AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
Dave wrote: "Italics vs. parentheses in the novel. Discuss."
One's all slanty and the other makes the words look like they're in a hotdog bun. Next?

I'll write a real reply later...sorry. :\


message 9: by Jason, Walking Allergen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
Dave wrote: "Italics vs. parentheses in the novel. Discuss."

It feels like I'm reading Dune again sometimes with all the nested thoughts.


message 10: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
What's interesting to me is that the italics and parentheses seem to represent different levels/layers of nested thoughts. The parentheses in particular seem to represent a shifting POV, where the italics feel at times like they're inner thoughts that are being related by the narrator. Does that make sense? I barely have a handle on it myself just yet, so I was curious to get some other thoughts.


message 11: by Jason, Walking Allergen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
That feels right to me, but to be honest, I haven't been that conscious about figuring it out...this is hard to explain, but I almost speed up slightly when I read those parts and hear them in different voices (more like modulations of the same voice) as I read, to keep each "thought stream" in its own track and keep myself from being confused.


message 12: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (last edited Mar 04, 2012 02:55PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
Jason wrote: "That feels right to me, but to be honest, I haven't been that conscious about figuring it out...this is hard to explain, but I almost speed up slightly when I read those parts and hear them in diff..."

Me, too. I haven't dedicated much brain-space to figuring out the pattern, but I have been trying to notice what moments are being juxtaposed when there's leaps (view spoiler) Wow. This is blowing my socks off. Pure poetry.


message 13: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
Okay, now we're getting italics in the parentheses.

I think I smell another one of them there unreliable narrators in Leland. (To say the least.)


message 14: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
All right. Think I'm starting to get a handle on things in the third chapter.

We seem to have a changing narrators situation going on. First chapter was (I think) told in the third person omniscient; but that narrator doesn't completely go away, even in the following first person narrative chapters. Instead, he seems to interject random observations about what other characters are thinking in italics or in ALL CAPS. For instance, in the third chapter, when Hank is trying to connect with Lee over the sunset, we get this:

"There. Look there. There where the sun is."
"There what?" WATCH OUT. "Where?"
I start to tell him but I see he just can't see it, it's clear he can't. No more than a color-blind man can see color. Something is really haywire with him. So I say, "Nothing, nothing. A salmon jumped is all. You missed it."
"Oh yeah?" Lee keeps his gaze turned from his brother, but is alert to his every move: WATCH OUT NOW...

Not sure yet why Kesey has chosen this approach, as it seems to undercut his decision to go with changing narrators. Guessing (hoping?) that'll become apparent as the book goes on.

Where the second chapter was told by Leland, the third is told by Hank. At least, I think it is... Hank seems to speak about himself in the third person as often as not (though not exclusively). I'm trying to suss out why exactly Hank drifts back and forth between referring to himself interchangeably as "Hank" and "I." Do certain events trigger different ways of telling his story? Or is it meant to be a colloquial thing I'm just not picking up on? For instance (italics mine):

He stared at the dark pool of fur as at a dark window, trying to see through it, as Hank entered the house...
When I got on in the kitchen I saw the old man's already up to his elbows.

This technique seems to be unique to Hank, at least thus far. Any ideas?


message 15: by Jason, Walking Allergen (last edited Mar 07, 2012 10:58AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
When we meet Leland, the same thing happens. We're hearing about Leland from a third person narrator, and then we ARE Leland. It switches at least two more times by the point I'm at.

In your exaample dialogue above, the "WATCH OUT" is not, IMO, a third person omniscient narrator; it's Leland himself, remembering the tricks that Hank used to pull on him when he was a boy (and his own panicked reactions to them.) That's consistent with many other places in the book where Kesey uses italics, caps and parenthesis to denote internal thoughts. Exactly how and why he chooses which of those methods to use at which times, I haven't stopped to figure out.

It's complicated, for sure. It's easier to follow than to explain, at least.


message 16: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
I'm reading it the way Jason did. A lot of these interjections seem to be the character's voice from somewhere in the past. It is easier to read than explain.


message 17: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
I haven't detected any rhyme or reason to how any of the conventions are used. Might not be easy to explain, but it sure isn't easy to read, either. This book shoulda come with a decoder ring.


Devin Bruce (doctorteeth) | 77 comments Dave wrote: "I haven't detected any rhyme or reason to how any of the conventions are used. Might not be easy to explain, but it sure isn't easy to read, either. This book shoulda come with a decoder ring."

When I first read this book, the first 40 pages or so really pissed me off. And then somehow, I slid into it and I understood how to read it, and I absolutely loved it. Re-reading it now, it's really interesting to hit my stride right off the top. I kind of miss the struggle.


message 19: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
The different conventions became very lucid once Lee returns home and are used to brilliant effect in contrasting the way Hank & Lee experience their reunion (dueling 1st-person and a 3rd-person omniscient) and Lee's first day working on "The Show." There's some great character development in that section and some heartbreaking, tragic irony in perceptions/motivations.
The more experimental, italicized voice has returned after a revelation, of sorts (view spoiler)


message 20: by Robert (new) - added it

Robert (vernson) | 592 comments When I first read this book, the first 40 pages or so really pissed me off. And then somehow, I slid into it and I understood how to read it, and I absolutely loved it. Re-reading it now, it's really interesting to hit my stride right off the top. I kind of miss the struggle.

I'm a bit relieved to hear this. I thought my struggles were an exclusive lot and this encourages me to continue with the book.


message 21: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (last edited Mar 17, 2012 07:07AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
Anyone have access to the film version of this novel? It was made in 1971, directed by (and starring) Paul Newman. Also stars Henry Fonda, Lee Remick, and Michael Sarrazin, among others. Doesn't seem to be on DVD, and I don't have it recorded from TCM.

Here's the trailer. From the studio that gave you Airport: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vCQtr...


message 22: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (last edited Mar 17, 2012 08:54AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
Dave wrote: "Anyone have access to the film version of this novel? It was made in 1971, directed by (and starring) Paul Newman. Also stars Henry Fonda, Lee Remick, and Michael Sarrazin, among others. Doesn't se..."

You can rent it through Amazon or iTunes. I could also take to the high seas for you. I don't want to watch it until I've finished the book. I wish I hadn't known the cast, because it's affected the way I visualize it.
I forgot to say how trippy it was that the Wakonda Theater/Laundry was screening a Paul Newman movie!

EDIT: Hmm. It's not available at those places anymore. Weird. It used to stream on Netflix, too.


Devin Bruce (doctorteeth) | 77 comments Dave wrote: "Anyone have access to the film version of this novel? It was made in 1971, directed by (and starring) Paul Newman. Also stars Henry Fonda, Lee Remick, and Michael Sarrazin, among others. Doesn't se..."

I have promised myself that I will never watch that movie. As much as I like the actors, I know there's no way it's going to measure up to the book in any way. I'd rather not be disappointed.


And I know I'm probably a little behind everyone, but I just had an interesting thought: (view spoiler)


message 24: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
Doctorteeth wrote: "And I know I'm probably a little behind everyone, but I just had an interesting thought:"
Hmm, I didn't think of it like that, but I like the idea, dramatically speaking. I thought of it more like the final way to fail for Lee. He can't even kill himself right, unlike his mother, so he rises from the ashes of that ultimate failure to go and wreak vengeance on the believed source of the source of all his problems: Wakonda, Henry, and most especially HANK.


message 25: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
Lee's the antagonist of the book as far as I'm concerned.

I'm interested in the weird dynamic between Henry, Hank, and Lee. It's very much as though Henry is Lee's grandfather and Hank his father, even though that's not the case. I think Lee even makes a comment to that effect early on, about his Oedipal feelings towards Hank. Is pregnant Viv more than just a way for him to get revenge, but a stand-in for his dead mother?


message 26: by Jason, Walking Allergen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
Dave wrote: "Lee's the antagonist of the book as far as I'm concerned."

In a way, yes, although I also get a Wade Whitehouse vibe from Hank, in the sense that his intentions often outpace his actions. There is (by page 180) enough evidence to make me believe that Lee was treated as an outcast/object of ridicule by Hank, enough to make Lee bitter and revenge-minded. Hank is obviously not a villain, and he wants to be closer to his brother, but he also admits many times to himself that he's his own worst enemy.

If we weren't in Hank's head, I don't think we'd look as kindly on him.


message 27: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
Weird. I'm looking at the Stamper family as the protagonist/s and not really looking at it in the inter-personal level, at all.


message 28: by Jason, Walking Allergen (last edited Mar 18, 2012 05:22PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
Matt wrote: "Weird. I'm looking at the Stamper family as the protagonist/s and not really looking at it in the inter-personal level, at all."

The book definitely started with the Stamper vs. the union aspect, and that's important, but for me it's become all about the inter-family relationships. I have a feeling the latter will inform the former by the end.


message 29: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
Can someone tell me what's happening at the halfway point? Something's effed up w/ my Kindle. It says I'm at 49%, which is page 340-something, but when I looked for "diabetic" which was in the first passage of the second half, it says that that passage is on 447 or something. That can't be right! Lee just got a lift from the slightly sinister town kids on the way to his date with Viv.


message 30: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
It goes for a ways after that, maybe another 30 or 40 pages I think. You'll know you're near the end when you get to the bit where Hank, Lee, and Joe Ben go to the bar in town.


message 31: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
Dave wrote: "It goes for a ways after that, maybe another 30 or 40 pages I think. You'll know you're near the end when you get to the bit where Hank, Lee, and Joe Ben go to the bar in town."
Thanks, bromigo.
Working on a pitcher of ice-cold Olympia and watching a bug zapper while listening to classic country sounds pretty good right about now.


message 32: by Robert (new) - added it

Robert (vernson) | 592 comments Hmm, appears I have some serious catching-up to do. At least I'm reading it again.


message 33: by Jason, Walking Allergen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
Our release schedule for the next month or so will be as follows:


April 3rd - Skip Week. Talk amongst yourselves
April 10th - Mini
April 17th - Mini
April 24th - The Grifters with special guest
May 1st - Conclusion of Sometimes a Great Notion


message 34: by Jason, Walking Allergen (last edited Mar 26, 2012 09:22AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
Robert wrote: "Hmm, appears I have some serious catching-up to do. At least I'm reading it again."

Nice! I hope it grows on you like the moss up the side of an Oregon pine.


message 35: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
I accidentally spoiled the severed arm's owner. I should really be sequestered when I'm reading a book.


message 36: by Jason, Walking Allergen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
You didn't really spoil it until just now.


message 37: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
Finished the first chapter of the second half last night. I didn't think it was possible to hate a character more than Lee until we started taking a good, hard look at Floyd Evenwright.

Matt wrote: "I accidentally spoiled the severed arm's owner. I should really be sequestered when I'm reading a book."

Are y'all way ahead of me or did I miss something?


message 38: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
Jason wrote: "You didn't really spoil it until just now."
Huh? We talked about it on the show. I said it was clearly described as being a human arm with the fingers tied down to have the middle finger extended. I asked you guys who you thought it might belong to? You didn't think it was grown in a cloning lab, did you?

Jesus...now I know how DAP feels. Why do I bother talking?


message 39: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
I know the arm, but it hasn't come up again in the book that I've seen since page 2. I was asking if you were past the next chapter in the second half (i.e., ahead of me) to find out who the arm belongs to, or if I missed something? Because as of now, I don't know who the arm belongs to, and I don't remember us coming to any conclusion as to who it belongs to for it to be a spoiler.


message 40: by Jason, Walking Allergen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
Matt wrote: "Jason wrote: "You didn't really spoil it until just now."
Huh? We talked about it on the show. I said it was clearly described as being a human arm with the fingers tied down to have the middle fin..."


What I meant was that by confirming that the owner of the arm is the person you speculated it was during the show, you made the speculation a proper spoiler. Make more sense?

There's only room enough around here for one "nobody loves me" guy and I've already staked out that territory. And you'll never know how DAP feels. He's a private, tortured soul. ;)


message 41: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
Jason wrote: "Matt wrote: "Jason wrote: "You didn't really spoil it until just now."
Huh? We talked about it on the show. I said it was clearly described as being a human arm with the fingers tied down to have t..."


I didn't confirm anything about my speculation, actually. I spoiled it for myself by carelessly Googling something like "Sometimes a Great Notion & severed arm" and it came up in the search results.
Nothing has been spoiled for others except that there's a human arm flipping the bird. That's it.

I can be tortured all I want.


message 42: by Jason, Walking Allergen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
I guess it's my fault for assuming that when you wrote "I accidentally spoiled the severed arm's owner" and chastisted yourself for it, you meant on the show, and not by googling it, which you never mentioned until now.


message 43: by Jason, Walking Allergen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
Dearest Peters, I write to you with a pine needle dipped in sap from a place so deep in the remotest reaches of our wide, unruly nation, and so firmly entrenched in my own memories, that it might as well be from the past. My revenge has hit a snag; an apropos term that has taken on new and shin-blistering connotations these past few weeks. My brother Hank...athlete, ladies man, bully...has also proven himself inexplicably capable of charming...nay, hoodwinking...the new breed of internet radio hosts called "podcasters." This trio of sub-literate cretins have riddled this audio recording with attacks upon my character. They call me a douche; they call me pathetic. They even dared compare my harrowing near death experience to a similar event in a National Lampoon Christmas special played for laughs. It's almost unbearable. Ostensibly they record this tosh so that others may listen (although they do give off an air of loving to hear themselves talk...); unless their listeners are similarly misguided, which beggars belief, they will surely see me for the unfairly ridiculed, ostracized victim I truly am. I shall persevere, for my cause is just.

http://bookhouseboyspodcast.podomatic...


message 44: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
Jason wrote: "I guess it's my fault"

We agree. Never assume...weenus. ;)


message 45: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
Jason wrote: "Dearest Peters..."

He was on his 11th joint in a row when he wrote that.

(I'd pay a thousand petite morts to see Jason write a Lee/Floyd fuckface-off.)


message 46: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
Here' some Cockney slang we discussed on the show: http://www.krysstal.com/cockney.html


message 47: by Jason, Walking Allergen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
Dave wrote: "Jason wrote: "Dearest Peters..."

He was on his 11th joint in a row when he wrote that.

(I'd pay a thousand petite morts to see Jason write a Lee/Floyd fuckface-off.)"


Floyd could beat him with one hand tied behind his back and cut off and tied to a pole.


message 48: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
I was struck by the idea while reading this morning that this may not be as fractured a narrative as I previously believed, but may in fact have been entirely composed by Lee. I don't have much support for this theory so far... call it a hunch. I feel like Lee's going to come to an understanding about Wakonda and about Hank in particular, though probably too late. I could be way of base, but that's where I'm leaning with 150 pages to go.


message 49: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
Are you suggesting that Lee is the Rolfe (Affliction) of this narrative? Very interesting!


message 50: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
Matt wrote: "Are you suggesting that Lee is the Rolfe (Affliction) of this narrative? Very interesting!"

That's what I was wondering... Lee's is the first POV voice we hear, and as the narrative goes on his language begins to soften and remold itself in places to adapt to Wakonda's dialect. I've also been thinking about, well, how mentally unstable Lee is portrayed as being right from the start, and how his ongoing letter to Peters (especially on the 3-doob night) is deliberately intercut with conflicting perspectives, especially Hank's (with whom Lee is obsessed).

I guess that last point is what's making me wonder the most... there are several POV changes throughout the book, but certain major characters are conspicuously absent from that sort of reading. Namely, Viv and Henry, the former of whom Lee struggles to be able to read and the latter of whom Lee seems to have little regard for (Henry, far more so than any other character in the book, is a complete cartoon).

Again, could be way off, but the more I think about it the more it makes a weird, disturbing sort of sense to me....


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