2nd Book Club! (A Prayer for Owen Meany)

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Vote for one book from the list below.

Poll ended at Wed Oct 25, 2006 7:53 am

Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain
0
No votes
A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
7
70%
Mark Twain: a Biography - Ron Power
0
No votes
Woody Guthrie: A Life - Joe Klein
3
30%
 
Total votes: 10

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Sue Ellen
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Postby Sue Ellen » Tue Jan 09, 2007 4:34 pm

I think we should finish the book before discussing.

Maybe a prayer is offered up for Owen, a big long one in the form of a book, because he's so mean and needs all the prayer he can get.

I'll have to think about the other responses and reply tonight, and I'd like to talk about the way John Irving writes.
"...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 Jan 10, 2007 10:28 am

Bonuela and SusanH, I understand your dilemmas!

I had that problem with Into the Wild, so read this one with pencil in hand (and my own copy of the book, which I found used for $2.50), so I could fold over page corners and make marks in the margins. That helps a lot! I suspect that if you can do that, you'll find it easier to join the discussion and remember the things you wanted to comment on. Meanwhile, I think that it's probably best to finish the books before beginning discussion, but you can always your own lists of questions as you read along...

Back to the quotes from the beginning of the book,
I suspect Irving includes them to start our minds thinking along the lines he's hoping to entangle us in with the story. I agree 100% that the last one is difficult - depends on your definition of Hero, and that depends on the situation. (that sort of confusion is fairly typical of Irving's writing, I think, though I read Hotel NH and Garp eons ago)

I still haven't figured out exactly what Irving is "trying to say" with this book, if indeed he is trying to say anything specific. The character who gets most of my sympathy is Hester, who seems closest "normal" for that era of time& history. Owen and Johnny get my sympathy only occasionally. Certainly all of them are flawed, but Owen seems to have a direction (driven by his Dream), and Hester is trying to find one. Johnny seems to be floating, as a youngster, teen and adult. It's Owen Meany who seems to give John's life the most direction, actually, even after he's gone.

(obviously, I'm not satisfied with the way I'm feeling about these characters yet. Can I please hear other's interpretations?)
-wendy

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Postby KarenZ » Wed Jan 10, 2007 12:20 pm

Folks,

Like Wendy, I don’t know what Irving is trying to say. I can’t seem to see a particular theme or lesson in this book. I’m going to share some random thoughts that will no doubt be very disjointed and rambling.

*We all experience childhood friendships that seem bigger-than-life, all encompassing at the time. Typically those friendships are left behind, rarely do we carry them with us into adulthood. (That’s been my experience.) We tend to move on….but Johnny Wheelwright never seemed to move on. He remained fixated, even obsessed, with Owen Meany and the past.

*Johnny says in the first paragraph of the book that he’s a Christian and believes in God because of Owen Meany. Why? Because Owen was small and was picked on? Because Owen accidentally killed Johnny’s mother? Because Owen cut off Johnny’s finger to keep Johnny from being drafted? Because they went to school together? Because of Owen’s so-called faith? Should one’s belief in God be because of any of those things or because of another person?

*I must confess my copy of Owen Meany included an Afterword witten by Irving. He says that Owen being lifted up and passed around in Sunday school was symbolic of Owen’s “weightlessness” – indicating that Owen was always in God’s hands. Aren’t we all?

*Speaking of symbolic – I wish there was less symbolic behavior by Owen and more dialog between he and Johnny. Cutting off the arms of the armadillo, breaking off the arms of the statue, there was the incident with the missing baseball cards, etc. But Dan and Johnny always managed to figure out what Owen was saying …..

*We never really learn how/why Owen and Hester got together….nor do we ever know for sure if they ever “did it.” Actually we never know for sure if Hester, The Molester did it with anyone. Hated the cruelty that her brothers showed her and everyone else.

*The reader is lead to believe that even into adulthood, Johnny was never intimate with a female. Even when his teacher co-worker came on to him. Is that normal (for a male anyway)? ;) Is it possible that Johnny was confused about his sexuality? That might explain his fixation/obsession with Owen. Would it also explain Owen’s cutting the arms off everything? More symbolism?

*And what about Owen’s parents? We never learn much about why they were as odd as they were – or what the story was surrounding Owen’s so-called immaculate conception. And why was Owen so cruel to them if he believed that story?

*Christians are taught that they have free-will…..yet Owen refused to exercise his free-will regarding his pre-determined dream death by inviting Johnny to visit him on the day when he believed he was going to die. Is that faith? Faith isn’t believing in God. Faith is trusting in God. I saw very little faith in any of them. Even Ebeneezer Scrooge changed his ways and the date of his death as foretold by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. He used his free will. He trusted. Owen could have helped a lot more people, left the world better off for his being it in, if he hadn’t been so bogged down in the belief that his death was destined to happen according to the dream. All he had to do was NOT invite Johnny to Arizona.

* Overall, an odd book. Not a book about faith. A book about being stuck...both in the past and in the future. Thus missing out on living in the moment.

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 paddyinthepub » Wed Jan 10, 2007 1:21 pm

I've enjoyed "lurking" here since discussion began. The time got away from me and I've yet to even begin reading this book. I WILL at some point and now I have a "different" motivation. I'll be lost in a number of places, it seems, and it's nice to have this as reference.

Someday I will google other book club's discussion of this book, to see what some of their takes on OWEN MEANY happen to be. Perhaps somewhere on the www are a few answers from the author himself.

Simon Birch is the movie version......based loosely on the book.

No Wonder! :roll:
"once we're inside, it's a carnival ride" ~ ellis paul
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Postby Richard + Jela » Thu Jan 11, 2007 10:57 am

Karen, your thoughts are very interesting and I've tried to respond to them but I think that my answers just raise more questions...

We all experience childhood friendships that seem bigger-than-life, all encompassing at the time. Typically those friendships are left behind, rarely do we carry them with us into adulthood. (That’s been my experience.) We tend to move on….but Johnny Wheelwright never seemed to move on. He remained fixated, even obsessed, with Owen Meany and the past.

Perhaps the things that happened to him such as not knowing for a long time who his father was, losing his mother at a young age and the constant reminder that he was going to lose his best friend Owen contributed to his inability to move on. Perhaps he found the past a safer place to be?

*
Johnny says in the first paragraph of the book that he’s a Christian and believes in God because of Owen Meany. Why? Because Owen was small and was picked on? Because Owen accidentally killed Johnny’s mother? Because Owen cut off Johnny’s finger to keep Johnny from being drafted? Because they went to school together? Because of Owen’s so-called faith? Should one’s belief in God be because of any of those things or because of another person?


Shouldn’t a belief in God come from within?

*I must confess my copy of Owen Meany included an Afterword witten by Irving. He says that Owen being lifted up and passed around in Sunday school was symbolic of Owen’s “weightlessness” – indicating that Owen was always in God’s hands. Aren’t we all?

But what about the people who have no belief in God or a God – whose hands are they in?

*Speaking of symbolic – I wish there was less symbolic behavior by Owen and more dialog between he and Johnny. Cutting off the arms of the armadillo, breaking off the arms of the statue, there was the incident with the missing baseball cards, etc. But Dan and Johnny always managed to figure out what Owen was saying …..


Dan came across as a very wise character and always seemed to see the positive in a situation – his explanations of events were often really quite illuminating and not necessarily how I might have perceived them. In fact he was the most likeable character in the book. I think we could all do with a Dan from time to time to help us see beyond the immediate situation. I guess that a lot of counsellors help people to do this – to understand the back story so that you can deal effectively with the ‘now’

*We never really learn how/why Owen and Hester got together….nor do we ever know for sure if they ever “did it.” Actually we never know for sure if Hester, The Molester did it with anyone. Hated the cruelty that her brothers showed her and everyone else.

Growing up in a household with five younger brothers made me sympathise with Hester, not that mine were cruel but being the only girl meant that I didn’t have a girlie outlook on life and I do think that it is different. Boys will be boys! I think that it made Hester a strong character, as she constantly had to fight her corner. It was great to see how successful she had become, in a world that is difficult to break into and I would have loved to have read/known more about her. If an accompanying book had been written from her point of view I think that it would have made for a very interesting read.


*The reader is lead to believe that even into adulthood, Johnny was never intimate with a female. Even when his teacher co-worker came on to him. Is that normal (for a male anyway)? Is it possible that Johnny was confused about his sexuality? That might explain his fixation/obsession with Owen. Would it also explain Owen’s cutting the arms off everything? More symbolism?

I never got to understand the nature of the relationship between these two and am struggling to make sense of it. I do however think that the relationship in some way impacted on Johnny’s inability to form any kind of sexual relationship. There are of course people who are asexual and maybe he falls into such a category.

*And what about Owen’s parents? We never learn much about why they were as odd as they were – or what the story was surrounding Owen’s so-called immaculate conception. And why was Owen so cruel to them if he believed that story?

Like you I would have welcomed knowing much more about them as I think that it would have helped me to understand Owen and his behaviour/motivations. Perhaps Irving deliberately leaves the reader in the dark so that they can form their own opinion (but its difficult to have an opinion with so little information to go on).

*Christians are taught that they have free-will…..yet Owen refused to exercise his free-will regarding his pre-determined dream death by inviting Johnny to visit him on the day when he believed he was going to die. Is that faith? Faith isn’t believing in God. Faith is trusting in God. I saw very little faith in any of them. Even Ebeneezer Scrooge changed his ways and the date of his death as foretold by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. He used his free will. He trusted. Owen could have helped a lot more people, left the world better off for his being it in, if he hadn’t been so bogged down in the belief that his death was destined to happen according to the dream. All he had to do was NOT invite Johnny to Arizona.

Perhaps he felt that he didn’t have a choice in the matter. I must say that I found the ending ‘too neat’ and it was almost as if the ending had been written first and then the rest of the book built around that. I was disappointed in the way it did end.

This book has certainly been a challenging read and is also a challenge to discuss via the Board but I'm so pleased that we are doing our best to do so and if we can encourage the 'lurkers' as Paddy describes himself, to engage next time around, then that's an extra bonus.

Jela

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Postby paddyinthepub » Thu Jan 11, 2007 12:16 pm

Hey...I thought I had engaged...finally..if only to say I couldn't engage...due in no small part to not even opening the book.

Also...I think even more than I did before.....it might be fun to try our best to watch the movie on DVD that is based on the book. Or maybe the two have so little to do with one another it won't really help understand the issues discussed here.
"once we're inside, it's a carnival ride" ~ ellis paul
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Sue Ellen
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Postby Sue Ellen » Fri Jan 12, 2007 1:32 pm

Wendy wrote:obviously, I'm not satisfied with the way I'm feeling about these characters yet. Can I please hear other's interpretations?


I too had difficulty feeling consistent empathy for many of these characters. I did feel for Dan Needham (is that his last name? It just struck me how apropos that is!!) and Tabitha’s sister. The grandmother also seemed very real to me. I found the main characters, Owen and Johnny, to be very difficult. Early I did feel sad for Owen, and I really liked Johnny before his mother was killed. The loss of his mother really stilted Johnny, and I think left him unable to experience and embrace life fully. I think in trying to come to grips with his own conflict, he simplified the world around him and became extremely concrete in his interpretations and interactions, even in his memories. I agree with Karen that he was never able to move on, remaining fixated on and obsessed with Owen Meany and the past.

The thought I have about Owen in the end is that he was a little tyrant, with very little kindness. Karen, the lack of dialogue between Owen and Johnny also bothers me. There seems to be a stilted connection between them, no emotional connectedness based on true understanding or acceptance of the other, no understanding of each other’s inner workings. Perhaps that is what is bothersome to me as a reader. After all those words, all those pages, we are given very little insight into these characters through their communication with each other. A male voice in this discussion would be useful and interesting. Does the relationship between Owen and Johnny seem stilted to men too? Or is it just women who feel there is only action and proximity that connects them?

I am struck by the interpretations of faith, which really does seem lacking in this tale so centered on religion and what is purported to be faith. Karen’s, Wendy’s, and Jela’s comments remind me of a favorite quote: “Faith is not what I see, but the light by which I see.” If anyone can tell me to whom that quote is attributed, I’d appreciate it, because I use if frequently.
"...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 » Mon Jan 15, 2007 5:31 am

Sue Ellen - I haven't managed to track down the origin of your quote but have found something similar

Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe
St. Augustine

The quote in the Owen Meany book which I just love is Grandmother's

Made for Television


when she was disparaging anything - it made me laugh and laugh as I think that there is so much junk on TV that this quote hits the nail on the head, even in today's world.

Jela

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Sue Ellen
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Postby Sue Ellen » Tue Jan 16, 2007 9:30 am

Jela wrote:Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe
St. Augustine


I heard the quote I was referring to, "Faith is not what I see, but the light by which I see," on Fresh Air, an NPR show hosted by Terri Gross. She was talking to an actor I think, and I want to say his last name was Dubois, and he was quoting his dad, and I want to say the first name was Andre, but I can't track it down through Google.

The context of the conversation had to do with people basing their faith on what happens in their personal lives, rather than using their faith to understand their lives and what happens in them, especially the "bad." As I think more about it, I think actually the adult Johnny might have done that to some extent. He was trying to make sense of everything through his faith, but not just his faith. He seemed, as an adult, to be able to deal with only so much (perhaps his soul had handled all that was possible for him already?) and so limited and controlled his life so much, especially in terms of interacting and connecting with others on an emotional level. Hmm, when I think of it in those terms, I'm able to have a little more sympathy for him.

In a way Johnny's life reminds me of a short story I read in high school English. I can't remember the author, it could possibly have been Hemmingway? The story was of a man who kept passing up opportunities because he had a sense something great was going to happen in his life. At the end of his life the realization was that he had spent his whole life waiting for that great thing to happen and life had passed him by. Hmm, my brain just isn't working the way it used to!!
"...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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Sue Ellen
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Postby Sue Ellen » Tue Jan 16, 2007 10:12 am

I want to add that since there there seems to be no male voice on this thread, maybe we can consider reading "The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Women's Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine." I know it's not on Ellis Paul's list, but I thought I'd throw out the suggestion. The author is Sue Monk Kidd, author of "The Secret Life of Bees," and generally thought of as a "Christian" writer. I think it would flow nicely from the discussion of "Owen Meaney" which has centered so much around questions of faith. I think "Dance of the Dissedent Daughter" is an empowering work, and important for anyone who is a woman, journeying through through this life that is so male-dominated.

In case you are not familiar with this book, consider this from the first chapter, "That's How I Like to See a Woman" a story of the author picking her 14 year old daughter up from her job at a convenience store:
In 'Dance of the Dissedent Daughter' Sue Monk Kidd wrote: I spotted her right away kneeling on the floor in the toothpaste section, stocking a bottom shelf. I was about to walk over and say hello when I noticed two middle-age men walking along the aisle toward her. They looked like everybody's father....My daughter did not see them coming. Kneeling on the floor, she was intent on getting the boxes of Crest lined up evenly. The men stopped, peering down at her. One man nudged the other. He said, "Now that's how I like to see a women--on her knees."
The other man laughed.
Standing in the next aisle I froze. I watched the expression that crept into my daughter's eyes as she looked up. I watched her chin drop and her hair fall across her face.
Seeing her kneel at these men's feet while they laughed at her subordinate posture pierced me through."


I'll be interested in your thoughts.
"...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 paddyinthepub » Tue Jan 16, 2007 10:47 am

This male voice chimes in to say......that sounds like a great idea. Or at the very least an interesting book. I thought the passage you shared with us from the first chapter was strong evidence that this is an author, a story, and a book worth reading. Even if it's not on the EP recommends list, and thus, not on the ballot of next book to read and talk about.

Thanks for sharing that today Sue.
"once we're inside, it's a carnival ride" ~ ellis paul
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Postby Patti » Tue Jan 16, 2007 10:54 am

Wow, Sue Ellen that grabbed my attention.. I have a 14 year old daughter and I don't think I would be able to control myself if I witnessed something like that happening to her. Sounds like something I would like to read. I read and enjoyed very much the Mermaid Chair also by the same author.. Might have to check this one out.. ( but I hope it's not a male bashing book)

I tried reading Owen Meany a few years ago and couldn't get into it.. I have enjoyed reading your discussion and maybe that will help me get through it if I give it another chance.... I was going through my bookshelf to find something to read, and picked up The House of Sand and Fog. I know it's been around for awhile but I don't usually get to reading the books when they're hot off the press... This one may have a movie made about it, which I will probably watch when I'm done.

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Postby paddyinthepub » Tue Jan 16, 2007 11:10 am

Patti...omg.....It's a real coincidence you bring up House of Sand and Fog, the book and the movie. We have the book here at the house, and my wife started to read the book, and could not get past the first several pages without losing interest and giving up.

On the other hand, I have seen the movie, GREAT MOVIE, btw...imho.

So, when I began reading the book, I was instantly aware of what the main character was talking about and could follow along easily.

I often wonder if the movie ahead of the book is the better way to go.

In some cases, I think it is.

Enjoy both!!!
"once we're inside, it's a carnival ride" ~ ellis paul
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Postby wendy » Tue Jan 16, 2007 11:14 am

In defense of A Prayer for Owen Meany, I enjoyed reading the book much more than I enjoyed making myself analyze it.
(ie. it was more fun to read along letting the story unfurl by itself than it was to go back and try to figure out why characters said and did certain things. I found myself getting irritated with the characters and the author for problems that MY mind had created.)

That's not to say that I think analysis is a bad idea, but it can take some of the simple pleasure away from reading... :roll:
-wendy

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Postby Sue Ellen » Tue Jan 16, 2007 11:15 am

I did not find this at all to be a male-bashing; questioning of the accepted male norms for society, religion, and culture, but it is about a femine perspective in relating to the Divine.
"...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 » Tue Jan 16, 2007 12:01 pm

Wendy wrote:In defense of A Prayer for Owen Meany, I enjoyed reading the book much more than I enjoyed making myself analyze it.


Well said Wendy. There were so many enjoyable parts of this story, disturbing as it was, and as difficult to analyze. I particularly recall the passage in the first chapter that described swimming in the granite quarry. Having frequented marble quarries through high school and college, this passage really touched my core:

In chapter one of Owen Meany, The Foul Ball, John Irving wrote:One did not actually swim in those quarry lakes, which were rumored to be as deep as the ocean; they were as cold as the ocean, even in late summer; they were as black and still as pools of oil. It was not the cold that made you want to rush out as soon as you'd jumped in; it was the unmeasureable depth--our fear of what was on the bottom, and how far below us the bottom was.


Hmm, as I think on it, it sounds like an analogy of how Johnny ended up dealing with life: he rushed out, so to speak, not due to the cold, but from his fear what might be deep inside. Brilliant writing.
"...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 » Tue Jan 16, 2007 1:08 pm

Wendy said...
That's not to say that I think analysis is a bad idea, but it can take some of the simple pleasure away from reading...


I can see what you mean but I like the fact that the analysis makes me look at things differently and question my own perceptions of characters, events etc in a book. I think that often it would be good for me to re-read a book after the discussion and see where my views have differed or been changed by the views expressed by others.

Many, many years ago I had a Personal Development Adviser who used to recommend books to me and I was always taken by the fact that he could remember so much about the content - turned out he'd read and re-read over and over.........not something I tend to do.

I'd like to know if 'Owen Meany' was the first Irving book that you read, has it encouraged you to read more of his work or has it put you off?

Jela

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Postby wendy » Tue Jan 16, 2007 2:13 pm

Neither.
It's not the first Irving book, nor has it put me off trying others.
(I think only Cider House Rules is left :lol: )
-wendy

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Postby Sue Ellen » Tue Jan 16, 2007 5:23 pm

In high school and college I was an avid John Irving fan, I really loved Garp and Hotel New Hampshire. I think Owen Meany may have put me off a bit, although my life got very hectic just about the time it was published. I've found that all of the John Irving books I've read, while enjoyable, take alot of cognitive and emotional effort.
"...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 » Wed Jan 17, 2007 10:44 pm

Sue Ellen,

I loved "Secret Life of Bees". And there was an Ellis Paul connection (for me anyway) when I read it...because of the lyrics to "The Honey Song" which appear in the book. I guess when I first read them, Ellis' "Jukebox on my Grave" was relatively new and in heavy rotation.....and I had to smile when I read "The Honey Song" lyrics....somebody else letting folks know what he/she wants on his/her grave. :)

The Honey Song

Place a beehive on my grave
and let the honey soak through
When I'm dead and gone
that's what I want from you.
The streets of heaven are gold and sunny
but I'll stick with my plot and a pot of honey
Place a beehive on my grave
and let the honey soak through.


:)

Jela, "Owen Meany" was my first John Irving book. Since others have spoken so highly of his others, I would like to read them.

KarenZ

Sue Ellen wrote:I want to add that since there there seems to be no male voice on this thread, maybe we can consider reading "The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Women's Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine." I know it's not on Ellis Paul's list, but I thought I'd throw out the suggestion. The author is Sue Monk Kidd, author of "The Secret Life of Bees," and generally thought of as a "Christian" writer.
"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 Jan 21, 2007 11:19 am

I held off until now from looking at the comments Ellis made about this book in his list of recommendations, and given that the book discussion has been between females I thought I’d just remind ourselves what he said as a way of interjecting with a male voice. Ellis said….

This is one of my favorite books. It has an amazing central charachter that somewhat spiritual, and somewhat socially awkward, but very endearing. it's his life story, intertwined with the story of the people in the town where he grew up. i think John irving is a great writer with very colorful characters, many who seem destined to be side show acts in the traveling circus. Owen Meany stays with you long after you have finished it.

Just to follow through on the comment about Irving being a great writer, I found his writing style to be very engaging – he has the ability to make me laugh and cry almost simultaneously; he took me from darkness to light almost in the blink of an eye and once I had finished reading ‘Owen Meany’ I had to reflect and ask myself ‘well what was that all about?’

So many themes run through the book - faith, friendship, family - all interlinking to present a very powerful portrait of a complex character, growing up in adversity who throughout had a very firm belief, that he was ‘God’s instrument’ and never wavered, regardless of what life presented him with. Owen was so sure of himself, which depending upon the way someone behaves can tip from confidence (acceptable) to arrogance (unacceptable), that he took people with him. Apart from Hester, I can only recall one character who stood up to him and that, if my memory serves me correctly, was the new headmaster. What was it about Owen that made people go along with him regardless of the way he treated them?



Sue Ellen, your suggestion about reading a book that is not on the recommended list is something that I think is worth considering; my initial thought was that we should stick to the ‘recommendations’ as that was the reason we formed the reading group, however if as a group we prefer to have a wider choice then, then if we add your suggestion to the next vote, we’ll know what the favoured views are and take it from there.

Jela

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KarenZ
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Postby KarenZ » Mon Jan 22, 2007 12:33 pm

Jela,

Thanks for including Ellis' comments on the book. I didn't think to look at them. Not surprising, Ellis captures the book in a few words....especially with the comment that the characters were destined to be side show acts in the traveling circus. Not sure I think of Owen Meany as being "endearing".....OK....maybe when he was 10 years old and playing baby Jesus in the Christmas pageant....but that's about it.

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 wendy » Tue Jan 23, 2007 8:30 am

I'm going to be devil's advocate again, I think...:roll:

It seems to me that Owen thought he KNEW what (and when) his destiny was, so his life was spent biding his time, trying to figure out what he was meant to do until that instant. In that respect, I feel sorry for him. It's as if he felt he had no choice but to follow whatever path seemed to open before him. That does not relieve him from responsibility for his actions, but may help to explain some of his least-explicable behavior.

The concept of pre-destination is pretty much an anathema to me; a cop-out, a way to avoid taking responsibility. But I suppose that if you believe in it strongly enough, it takes control.

That said, Ellis certainly hit the nail on the head with
Owen Meany stays with you long after you have finished it
-wendy

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Postby KarenZ » Wed Jan 24, 2007 12:49 pm

Wendy,

I agree.

KarenZ

wendy wrote:The concept of pre-destination is pretty much an anathema to me; a cop-out, a way to avoid taking responsibility.
"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 Jan 25, 2007 5:23 pm

Seems like it might be the right time to think about setting up the vote for the next selection in our reading group.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to 'Owen Meany' - a challenging read but one well worth persevering with and it certainly raised lots of questions with some interesting points being made. I will certainly read more John Irving books now that I have had a taster of his work.

Karen, can you set the new vote up when you have a moment and give people the option of also voting on the suggestion Sue Ellen made - 'Dance of the Dissident Daughter' by Sue Monk Kidd

Thanks,

Jela


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