Into the Wild - Book Group

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bonuela
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Postby bonuela » Fri Sep 29, 2006 12:33 pm

My impression is that he saw avoiding contact with his sister as a method of self preservation. He knew that his parents would get to him through her. He could not let that happen. Most likely out of anger, he rejected everything that represented his father's lifestyle. This forced him to reject his mother as well. I think if he felt he could remain in contact with his sister without either parent finding him he would have. He remained in contact with others that he knew would worry about him. Only those with non connection to his father.

I don't believe this rejection lead to his wanderlust or his need for adventure, but I that is a different discussion. :wink:
I let my music take me where my heart wants to go. ~ Cat Stevens

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Postby Sue Ellen » Fri Sep 29, 2006 12:46 pm

Oh, and was it rejection or a sense of betrayal?...and was he protecting himself and/or punishing his father...and was the crime worth such a sever punishment?

and I agree about the spirit: I think the wanderlust and need for adventure were an intricate part of his being. Wasn't there a story about how he headed out of the house at night when he was just two? And several stories about his childhood and youth where he consistently pushed his own limits and when he committed to something it was full throttle.
"...I implore you, I entreat you, I challenge you to speak with conviction, to say what you believe, in a manner that bespeaks the determination with which you believe it, because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker, it is not enough these days to "question" authority, you have to speak with it, too."
Taylor Mali, "Like, You Know?"

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Postby KarenZ » Fri Sep 29, 2006 12:55 pm

As I recall he managed to get out of the house to raid the neighbor's candy drawer when he was two or three. Not sure if that counts at wanderlust at such a young age - more like fearlessness.

KarenZ

Sue Ellen wrote:Wasn't there a story about how he headed out of the house at night when he was just two? And several stories about his childhood and youth where he consistently pushed his own limits and when he committed to something it was full throttle.
"Some people are born to make great art and others are born to appreciate it. It is a kind of talent in itself, to be an audience, whether you are the spectator in the gallery or you are listening to the voice of the world's greatest soprano. Not everyone can be the artist. There have to be those who witness the art, who love and appreciate what they have been privileged to see." -- Ann Patchett in Bel Canto.

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Postby bonuela » Fri Sep 29, 2006 1:32 pm

Sue Ellen wrote:Oh, and was it rejection or a sense of betrayal?...and was he protecting himself and/or punishing his father...and was the crime worth such a sever punishment?


I think he was rejecting his father's entire lifestyle over his perceived betrayal. Right or wrong, I don't think Mr. McC's actions deserve any punishment from his son. It is all about the choices he made before Chris was born. I'm sure that is one thing that would have changed had Chris survived. Given another few years his anger would have subsided and perhaps they would have had a relationship again.

As for protection, he was protecting his lifestyle choices as his parent's plans for him were a threat to that. He did not really treat them any differently then he did during his college years.
I let my music take me where my heart wants to go. ~ Cat Stevens

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Postby Sue Ellen » Fri Sep 29, 2006 2:20 pm

Or maybe even before then; I am more cynical, I wonder if he would have changed drastically had he survived. I wonder too, given his spirit and temperament, what would he have chosen had life placed him in different circumstances? In a different place, or a different time?
"...I implore you, I entreat you, I challenge you to speak with conviction, to say what you believe, in a manner that bespeaks the determination with which you believe it, because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker, it is not enough these days to "question" authority, you have to speak with it, too."
Taylor Mali, "Like, You Know?"

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Postby Sue Ellen » Sat Sep 30, 2006 4:14 pm

Sorry to post back-to-back, but now that I've purged my trouble with the way CMcC treated his family, I can go back and put some thought into some of the responses:
Bonnie wrote:I think he was rejecting his father's entire lifestyle over his perceived betrayal.

Wendy wrote:do you suppose he read any Herman Hesse (we don't hear of any in the book)? Many, if not most of Hesse's books seem based on young men trying to find their ways by rejecting their parents' worlds, one way or another...

JayceK wrote:I admire Chris. So many people talk about their dreams and their passions and values. But so few actually live by them and take ACTION.

Ellis wrote:I think this was part of Chris' quest. He may have become so offended by his father's affair and lies, that he started to deconstruct the very foundations of his father's life-- the white, upper middle class, 2.0 kids, suburban, capitalists, go to school, get a job, write a resume, go to college, work for the man, etc...


All in all, I think it did take courage in many ways for CMcC to escape the trappings of his upbringing, which seem to have included tremendous pressure to be something and someone he was not, to fit into and become a suit, with a high powered career making loads of money. The contrast, in looking at the courage it took for him to break away, I wonder about the incredible potential he had to become...As I read these comments, I wonder, given the freedom to explore himself for himself, rather than having to in essence take it by force, and ultimately defeated by it, in what ways he would have been a positive force in the world. And, this is how my mind works, this makes me think a little of Neo in the Matrix, pulled forceable from a prescribe existence that totally contradicted his spirit. I'm a little worried about sounding too harsh on the parents. But it's what I've been thinking after re-reading these posts.

Sue Ellen
"...I implore you, I entreat you, I challenge you to speak with conviction, to say what you believe, in a manner that bespeaks the determination with which you believe it, because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker, it is not enough these days to "question" authority, you have to speak with it, too."
Taylor Mali, "Like, You Know?"

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Postby KarenZ » Sat Sep 30, 2006 10:27 pm

I'll play devil's advocate. Did it take as much courage for CMcC to leave everything behind than it would have taken to stay and face his parents? Maybe he took the easy way out. According to Krakauer, Chris' parents didn't really have a clue about how Chris felt. They seemed like pretty reasonable folks to me.....they let him spend the summer after his graduation traipsing around the country. He paid them back by not bothering to call them, although they asked him to check in periodically. It took a great deal of independence for Chris to leave possessions behind and hit the road....but I'm not sure independence translates into courage. I believe it was Mark Twain who said that courage isn't absence of fear but rather courage is acting in spite of fear. Chris had no fear as far as we can tell. So I'm not sure it took courage for him to set out on his quest.

One positive thing that came out of Chris' journey is that both Ron Franz and Jan Burres temporarily found a replacement for the sons they had lost....

KarenZ
"Some people are born to make great art and others are born to appreciate it. It is a kind of talent in itself, to be an audience, whether you are the spectator in the gallery or you are listening to the voice of the world's greatest soprano. Not everyone can be the artist. There have to be those who witness the art, who love and appreciate what they have been privileged to see." -- Ann Patchett in Bel Canto.

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Postby Richard + Jela » Mon Oct 02, 2006 4:43 am

It's been a week now since I kicked of the discussion and I have been so pleased with the contributions made so far - I have so enjoyed reading your views and thoughts. Thank you all for making this such a wonderful thread and I look forward to more posts - there is such a lot to say about the enigma that is Chris McCandless.

I thought that I'd sit back a while before posting my impressions and it now seems the time to do that...

I think that CMcC’s age had a lot to do with his behaviour – I think that when we are young we take risks that as we get older, we look back and wonder ‘how could I have done that?’ but at the time never thought twice about it. Yes he was unprepared for the harshness of Alaska but had probably built up enough confidence from previous travels to not even think too much about the possibility of getting into real difficulties or what he might need to do to survive. Older people trying to help him, to give advice were ignored – it’s that thought so typical of the young in many cultures ‘oldies/parents don’t know what they are talking about - I know better’

I know that I’ve been guilty of thinking like this when I was younger, I don’t think that its arrogance more a sense of being unaware of the risks involved (maybe because they are beyond the realm of experience so far) so we just plough headlong into situations. To this day, if someone tells me I can’t do something I’ll do my utmost to prove him or her wrong – shades of CMcC?

I believe that his relationship with his father had so much to do with his behaviour. He was rebelling against father and the double (family) life he led. CMcC felt betrayed and no doubt very hurt so wanted to pay him back and hurt him too. However in rejecting all that his father aspired for him he also rejected mother and (to me) more importantly, his sister. They had been very close and I cannot forgive him for putting her through so much pain and worry by not keeping in touch with her. The relationships he built, albeit short, with people he met on the road, showed that he was personable, someone others warmed to quickly and a number of them wanted him to keep in touch, which he did via the postcards he sent – would it really have been so bad to send a few to Carine or asked someone to post them to her from a place he was leaving if he really did not want his parents to find him?

I am encouraged to believe that having spent so much time alone and having time for reflection, he realised that he needed other people around him, that being alone was not as romantic/idealised as he had envisioned. The note 'HAPPINESS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED’ suggests to me that he had realised this but sadly all too late.

Had he survived, we wouldn’t have known about his story. I think that whilst he may have been more compassionate towards his family and started to build sounder relationships, he’d have continued to travel and would not have lost that wanderlust – the pull of ‘the wild’ would have remained strong. He’d have had more adventures but next time would have been better prepared and kept in touch with family. I can imagine that he would have worked with the underprivileged and/or campaigning to improve the environment with an organisation like Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth. His determination and grit would have ensured that whatever path he chose he would have been a success but sadly we will never know what the future may have held for him. I’ve recently read an article about a climber who died on Everest, he too did not listen to wise advice, wanted to go it alone and did not prepare properly – his story reminded me of CMcC. We mostly only hear the sad stories.

Krakauer’s research seems so thorough – he really was taken with this story and to a large extent it think he was consumed by it because of ‘there but for the grace of God, go I’ As a climber/mountaineer he had been through some challenging times and could therefore easily identify with CMcC. The addition of other stories almost serves to condone that of CMcC – in a sense Krakauer is saying that CMcC was not that unusual, other young men had felt the pull of nature and others too had died trying to find whatever it was they were seeking ‘in the wild’. This doesn’t excuse his actions but maybe helps a little in trying to understand what it is that draws people to take such risks against nature.

Ellis’ song really does capture the essence of CMcC and it was many, many years after I first heard it that I found out it was based on a true story – a story that has captivated this Book Group – please keep on contributing your comments – there are so many questions that the story raises.


Jela

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Postby KarenZ » Mon Oct 02, 2006 9:34 am

Jela,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I, too, hope that the discussion will continue - I'd like to see more dialogue. It's been interesting for me to observe the dynamics of our online book club....and I'd actually like to start a separate thread about that! I think we're breaking new ground here. I'll be patient though and wait until our book discussion ends before starting a thread about the dynamics of having an online discussion.

In the meantime, I'll toss out a question. Did anyone think/notice that the times Chris became close to people was when he needed something? A job. Food. A place to sleep. A ride. Was that coincidence? Maybe he needed people more than he realized.

KarenZ
"Some people are born to make great art and others are born to appreciate it. It is a kind of talent in itself, to be an audience, whether you are the spectator in the gallery or you are listening to the voice of the world's greatest soprano. Not everyone can be the artist. There have to be those who witness the art, who love and appreciate what they have been privileged to see." -- Ann Patchett in Bel Canto.

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Postby Sue Ellen » Mon Oct 02, 2006 9:37 am

It crossed my mind that he was looking for a surrogate father. I wish he had healed that rift.

Sue Ellen
"...I implore you, I entreat you, I challenge you to speak with conviction, to say what you believe, in a manner that bespeaks the determination with which you believe it, because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker, it is not enough these days to "question" authority, you have to speak with it, too."
Taylor Mali, "Like, You Know?"

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Postby SusanH » Mon Oct 02, 2006 2:32 pm

I just wanted to add my own thoughts about Chris' relationship with his father.

While I do think that his father's other family was a huge part of the resentment. I think there was something else. I don't know what. But something was said or done at some time that drove a permanent wedge between Chris and his Dad.

If I remember correctly, His father was military at one time, and Chris seems the type to totally reject that type of mentality. I think they were both stubborn in their attitudes and would refuse to bend. His father probably doesn't even remember, but a dissagreement about something trivial, could have brought around a huge resentment.

Do I think Chris would have forgiven his Father had he lived? I think that would have depended on how bad it got before he survived. If he had just walked out no problem, No. He would still be wandering today. Or would have died taking the same risks somewhere else. If he had rescued early, before he got ill on potato seeds, possibly. He may have understood, or least decided to try to put their differences behind them. If he was rescued once he was very sick, I think he would have definately reconcilled. At the end he realized and understood. And only if he was rescued near the end, would he be alive today.
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Postby Sue Ellen » Tue Oct 03, 2006 6:39 pm

Susan wrote:Do I think Chris would have forgiven his Father had he lived? I think that would have depended on how bad it got before he survived.


I think that is great insight Susan. I think there were signs early on that pointed to a very independent personality, self-focused, not dependent and perhaps not overly interested in connectedness to others. I wonder also, had he survived, if the relationships he developed during his journies would have endured, or if he would have simply transferred his affections to whomever happened to be in his space.

Sue Ellen
"...I implore you, I entreat you, I challenge you to speak with conviction, to say what you believe, in a manner that bespeaks the determination with which you believe it, because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker, it is not enough these days to "question" authority, you have to speak with it, too."
Taylor Mali, "Like, You Know?"

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Postby KarenZ » Tue Oct 03, 2006 6:53 pm

A couple of comments about the book itself (as opposed to Chris' life). I would have liked to have had an appendix that contained more or all of Chris' journal entries. The journal entries come closest to speaking directly to him. I would have also welcomed a Glossary of Terms. I thought I had a pretty good vocabulary until I read this book. My two favorites are contumacious (stubbornly disobedient or rebellious - p. 11) and phantasmagoria (1. display of optical effects and illusions; 2. a scene that constantly changes; 3. a bizarre or fantastic combination - p. 139). There were some that I was able to figure out in context, but many others where I didn't have a clue.

I'm hoping the discussion will continue. Shall we each toss out additional questions?

KarenZ
"Some people are born to make great art and others are born to appreciate it. It is a kind of talent in itself, to be an audience, whether you are the spectator in the gallery or you are listening to the voice of the world's greatest soprano. Not everyone can be the artist. There have to be those who witness the art, who love and appreciate what they have been privileged to see." -- Ann Patchett in Bel Canto.

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Postby Sue Ellen » Tue Oct 03, 2006 8:52 pm

I hope no one is contumacious about continuing this discussion (think I used that correctly?) :wink:

...so many more things to discuss.

Sue Ellen
"...I implore you, I entreat you, I challenge you to speak with conviction, to say what you believe, in a manner that bespeaks the determination with which you believe it, because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker, it is not enough these days to "question" authority, you have to speak with it, too."
Taylor Mali, "Like, You Know?"

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Postby Richard + Jela » Wed Oct 04, 2006 6:34 am

Karen - I can appreciate what you say about the vocabulary used but I don't find it off-putting when I read words that I'm not familiar with in the English tongue. However it does distract me when an author refers to something in the local language and then you have to guess what that means (if they haven't explained) because you can't easily look it up.

Your comments also bring to mind some observations made by a friend upon reading the latest Zadie Smith who felt that the use of unfamiliar words were the author's way of showing off her wide vocabulary (almost one-upmanship) rather than really adding to the text.

Does anyone else have a view as to why Krakauer used words not commonly known? Did it prove a distraction or was it stimulating to have to look up and learn new words?

Jela

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Postby KarenZ » Wed Oct 04, 2006 7:29 am

I truly think that Krakauer used vocabulary that is part of his "normal" language. :) I suspect many of the words he used to specifically describe topography and mountain-climbing are probably understood by followers of those subjects. I appreciate learning new words, but I must say that in this case I found it a bit distracting simply because there were so many! I didn't want to have to stop and check the dictionary. I can be very contumacious that way. ;)

KarenZ
"Some people are born to make great art and others are born to appreciate it. It is a kind of talent in itself, to be an audience, whether you are the spectator in the gallery or you are listening to the voice of the world's greatest soprano. Not everyone can be the artist. There have to be those who witness the art, who love and appreciate what they have been privileged to see." -- Ann Patchett in Bel Canto.

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Postby Sue Ellen » Wed Oct 04, 2006 9:13 am

I really enjoyed the style of the book, the history woven into the main story...the fluctuation back and forth between the main thrust of Chris's journey itself with the supporting details from Chris's, his aquaintances', family's, and even Krakauer's lives, the pauses for details. I thought the style made the book ebb and flow nicely.

Sue Ellen
"...I implore you, I entreat you, I challenge you to speak with conviction, to say what you believe, in a manner that bespeaks the determination with which you believe it, because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker, it is not enough these days to "question" authority, you have to speak with it, too."
Taylor Mali, "Like, You Know?"

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Postby wendy » Wed Oct 04, 2006 9:55 am

I agree with SueEllen - really enjoyed the style of writing for the same reasons, but to tell the truth, I could have done without the odd vocabulary.

There were only 4 words I had to look up (guess my rock-climbing background came in handy for something! :)), and only one of them was something not easily replaced with one or two simpler words. Most could be guessed at accurately in the context they were used. So why bother using them? Has anyone else read more of Krakauer's writing? Does he do this elsewhere? Just curious... do you suppose they are used intentionally to create an atmosphere? Is that possible?

A bit perplexed in Maine....
-wendy

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Postby KarenZ » Wed Oct 04, 2006 10:23 am

Oh my. I just read a truly distressing review of Into the Wild that was posted on Amazon on Aug. 27, 2006. Not sure what to think....please read what Jim G. has to say at the link below....

Review posted by Jim G. of Mat Valley, AK

KarenZ
"Some people are born to make great art and others are born to appreciate it. It is a kind of talent in itself, to be an audience, whether you are the spectator in the gallery or you are listening to the voice of the world's greatest soprano. Not everyone can be the artist. There have to be those who witness the art, who love and appreciate what they have been privileged to see." -- Ann Patchett in Bel Canto.

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Postby Sue Ellen » Wed Oct 04, 2006 12:59 pm

Huh, that is a distressing. I think Krakauer is a credible author and researcher; however, I am prone to believing in conspiracy theories...any idea how one would find out or clarify the discrepencies? You librarians must have some ideas.

Sue Ellen
"...I implore you, I entreat you, I challenge you to speak with conviction, to say what you believe, in a manner that bespeaks the determination with which you believe it, because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker, it is not enough these days to "question" authority, you have to speak with it, too."
Taylor Mali, "Like, You Know?"

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Postby wendy » Wed Oct 04, 2006 4:44 pm

First off, you can't believe everything you read on the internet. That's rule number One :wink:

Secondly, iIf what the Amazon reviewer says is true, you'd have thought the first version of the story that JK wrote for Outside magazine would have at least left you in some doubt about how CMcC died. That magazine doesn't generally try to hide unpleasant truths.

Given my respect for Outside magazine and Krakauer's other writings, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt (until proven otherwise).
I know nothing about JimG, or what ulterior motives he might have so will take his "word" with a grain of salt.

My two cents :roll: I'll get off my soapbox now.
-wendy

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Postby Sue Ellen » Wed Oct 04, 2006 6:15 pm

You're two cents are worth a million...yeah, the research and detail seem way too solid.

Sue Ellen
"...I implore you, I entreat you, I challenge you to speak with conviction, to say what you believe, in a manner that bespeaks the determination with which you believe it, because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker, it is not enough these days to "question" authority, you have to speak with it, too."
Taylor Mali, "Like, You Know?"

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Postby Richard + Jela » Thu Oct 05, 2006 5:30 am

I think that if Krakauer's story about the way that CMcC died was not genuine then there would have been a good deal of publicity about it before now. The article which spawned the book was published many years ago - it drew a huge postbag and from what I can gather both 'pro and con' views were ventilated which suggests that Krakauer hid nothing.

I'm not sure what the procedures are in the US but a death like this in the UK would have been subject to an inquest, the findings would be in the public domain as too would the death certificate stating the cause of death.

You are much more advanced than we are with regard to Freedom of Information so I think that it would not be difficult for anyone to check out the facts.

Also, whilst I am not familiar with Krakauer's other writings I doubt very much if he would risk his reputation (and therfore his living) by knowingly publishing an untruth.

Jela

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Postby KarenZ » Thu Oct 05, 2006 7:29 am

Now that the shock has worn off, I'm sure you guys are right.

Do we know where Chris is buried? I don't remember reading that....

KarenZ
"Some people are born to make great art and others are born to appreciate it. It is a kind of talent in itself, to be an audience, whether you are the spectator in the gallery or you are listening to the voice of the world's greatest soprano. Not everyone can be the artist. There have to be those who witness the art, who love and appreciate what they have been privileged to see." -- Ann Patchett in Bel Canto.

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Postby Richard + Jela » Thu Oct 05, 2006 8:33 am

It mentions that he was cremated and that Carine & Sam collected his ashes but I don't think it mentions where his ashes were buried or scattered.

Jela

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Postby Richard + Jela » Sun Oct 08, 2006 4:50 am

Do any of you want to pose further questions for discussion?

Jela

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Postby KarenZ » Sun Oct 08, 2006 2:10 pm

Jela,

The Book Club is being announced in an EP Newsletter coming out shortly so I'm hoping that will spark some interest in folks becoming members of the board and/or joining our book discussion. One benefit of having an online book club is that the thread will always be here! We don't have to be politely asked to go home! :)

KarenZ
"Some people are born to make great art and others are born to appreciate it. It is a kind of talent in itself, to be an audience, whether you are the spectator in the gallery or you are listening to the voice of the world's greatest soprano. Not everyone can be the artist. There have to be those who witness the art, who love and appreciate what they have been privileged to see." -- Ann Patchett in Bel Canto.

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Postby Richard + Jela » Sun Oct 08, 2006 2:17 pm

Karen, that's great news about it being featured in the next newsletter.

Should we wait to see what it says before deciding to set up the vote for the next book to read (I don't want to say something that is going to compromise the newsletter in any way) or should we set up the vote later this week?

Jela

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Postby KarenZ » Sun Oct 08, 2006 4:39 pm

Jela,

Let's wait to see what happens after the newsletter goes out and go from there. :)

KarenZ
"Some people are born to make great art and others are born to appreciate it. It is a kind of talent in itself, to be an audience, whether you are the spectator in the gallery or you are listening to the voice of the world's greatest soprano. Not everyone can be the artist. There have to be those who witness the art, who love and appreciate what they have been privileged to see." -- Ann Patchett in Bel Canto.

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Postby Richard + Jela » Mon Oct 09, 2006 3:52 am

Karen - sounds good to me

Jela

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Postby paddyinthepub » Mon Oct 09, 2006 4:02 am

Richard + Jela wrote:Do any of you want to pose further questions for discussion?

Jela



Just wondering - will this discussion remain " open " for those who come after and decide to discuss it among themselves? Or is it a one time proposition that is likely to be "locked" once the original discussion wraps?
"once we're inside, it's a carnival ride" ~ ellis paul
paddy

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Postby KarenZ » Mon Oct 09, 2006 5:31 am

Paddy, this should answer your question. :)

Karen

KarenZ wrote:One benefit of having an online book club is that the thread will always be here! We don't have to be politely asked to go home! :)
"Some people are born to make great art and others are born to appreciate it. It is a kind of talent in itself, to be an audience, whether you are the spectator in the gallery or you are listening to the voice of the world's greatest soprano. Not everyone can be the artist. There have to be those who witness the art, who love and appreciate what they have been privileged to see." -- Ann Patchett in Bel Canto.


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