The Gaze by Elif Shafak

the gaze Host & Lead: Nina

The author was recommended by a dear colleague and as Elif Shafak is such a great woman I though I need to read one of her books. So I suggested it for the book club. So far I don´t like it too much, I also assume that it is a completely different thing to read it in Turkish – but this is something I still need to learn 😉 I try to keep going as from the blurb it sounds like a really great book.

Check out this TED talk Elif Shafak: The politics of fiction

About The Gaze:

Originally published in Turkey in 1999 to wide acclaim, this screwball love story is Shafak’s third novel. Loosely organized around a neurotic obese woman and a feisty dwarf, it teems with parallel plots and digressions, freely leaping from modern apartment living in Istanbul to a 19th-century Turkish freak show and fur hunts in 17th-century Siberia. Shafak’s prose follows a humorous, idiosyncratic course, seizing on arresting visual details, such as “a house the color of salted green almonds” and dispensing oddly charming aphorisms: “Love is a corset.” (She adds: “In order to understand the value of this you have to be exceedingly fat.”) At one moment, a faceless newborn’s features are etched on by an anxious aunt; at another, a shipwrecked Russian sailor surprises a shaman in flagrante delicto with an oversized sable. The early parts of the novel can feel maddeningly unfocused for a book about the power of the stare. Later pages home in on an unexpected emotional trauma, and the atmosphere of fantastical levity clears to reveal an urgent, human pain. Shafak probes the many ironies of appearance and perception with entertaining and affecting results.

The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter Tevis

the_man_who_fell_to_earth_bowie_george_underwood_76 Host & lead: Karen

Thomas Jerome Newton is a humanoid alien who comes to Earth seeking to construct a spaceship to ferry others from his home planet, Anthea, to Earth. Anthea is experiencing a terrible drought after many nuclear wars, and the population has dwindled to less than 300. Their own starships are unusable for lack of fuel and 500 years of neglect. The Antheans have no water, an abundance of food that is slowly dwindling, and feeble solar power. Like all Antheans, Newton is super-intelligent, but he has been selected for this mission because he has the physical strength necessary to function in Earth’s hotter climate and higher gravity.

Arriving at Earth in a lifeboat, Newton first lands in the state of Kentucky. He quickly becomes familiar with the environment and forms a plan. Using advanced technology from his home planet, Newton patents many inventions, and amasses incredible wealth as the head of a technology-based conglomerate. He plans to use this wealth to construct space vehicles for the rest of the Anthean population.

Along the way he meets Betty Jo, who falls in love with him. He does not return these feelings, but takes her and his curious fuel-technician Nathan Bryce as his friends, while he runs his company in the shadows. Betty Jo introduces Newton to many Earth customs, such as church, fashion, and alcohol. However, his appetite for alcohol soon leads to problems, as he begins to experience intense emotions unfamiliar to Antheans.

Eventually, Newton’s alien nature is discovered by Nathan Bryce, and it comes as a relief to Newton to be able to reveal his secret to someone. He expresses the hope that the Antheans he will ferry to Earth will flourish and use their superior intelligence to help Earth achieve peace, prosperity, and safety.

However, the CIA arrests Newton, having followed him since his appearance on Earth and having recorded this private conversation with Bryce. They submit him to rigorous tests and analysis, resulting in conclusive evidence of his alien identity, but decide not to release the results for fear they would simply not be believed, and possibly even embarrass the government, which at this point is controlled by the Democratic Party. Newton is released, but is immediately arrested by the FBI, which begins its own examinations. Their final examination is an X-ray of Newton’s skull, through his eyes. Newton, whose eyes are sensitive to X-rays, is unable to stop them and is blinded. The story of Newton’s blinding becomes a scandal which enables the Republicans to take power, eventually leading to a catastrophe.

Newton, speaking to Bryce for the last time, explains bitterly that he is unable to continue his spaceship project because of his blindness and because of planetary alignments which have changed during his captivity. He records a message which he hopes to broadcast via radio to his home planet. (excerpt from wikipedia)

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

the paris wife Host: Lynn, Lead: Lynn

“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstatsy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.” Ernest Hemingway

A deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, The Paris Wife captures a remarkable period of time—Paris in the twenties—and an extraordinary love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.

In Chicago in 1920, Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway and finds herself captivated by his good looks, intensity, and passionate desire to write. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group of expatriates that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

But the hard-drinking and fast-living café life does not celebrate traditional notions of family and monogamy. As Hadley struggles with jealousy and self-doubt and Ernest wrestles with his burgeoning writing career, they must confront a deception that could prove the undoing of one of the great romances in literary history. Taken from The Paris Wife website

Worth checking out: The Hemingway Project and an audio where Hadley is talking about the lost manuscripts.

I Am Finished with Being Dead by Jane Ellen Glasser (Goodreads Author)

I found this beautiful poem in my Goodreads Newsletter:

Pushing through gray sheets,
the sun teases the world
into being:

a few clouds, rooftops,
a neighbor’s dog
loosened into the yard,
yipping, the starting up
of engines purring
to go somewhere,
do something.

Does it really matter
what the crow in the crown
of the cherry tree
is plotting?

Black feathers in pink snow!

I remember the hours
of love’s holding,
sleeping and waking—the same.
I remember the fog and the pain
of love’s fumbling,
sleeping and waking—the same.

I let go, abandon dreams
of being abandoned
the way, now, the egret
sweeps white wings
across the clearing sky.

At the river’s rim, a goose
tucks the black snake
of its neck
along its soft spine.

Like an eye
awake in its sleeping—
the white cheek-patch.

Like time stalling—the river
in its fullness, still.

Still in their clothes,
layered like the homeless
in everything they own,
a man and a woman
hiding inside their history.

There is no memory that can undo me!

Weightless without wanting,
a man undressing
before a woman,
a woman undressing
in the presence of a man.

There is no nakedness that can kill me!

There is only this:
the moving in and moving out
of water, of light;

the beating and the resting,
black wings, white wings—the same;

the wind breathing
into the day and the day’s
receiving mouth.

Women by Charles Bukowski

Women Host & Lead: Nina

“… If I had been born a woman I would have certainly been a prostitute. Since I had been born a man, I craved women constantly, the lower the better. A yet women — good women — frightened me because they eventually wanted your soul, and what was left of mine, I wanted to keep. Basically I craved prostitutes, base women, because they were deadly and hard and made no personal demands. Nothing was lost when they left. Yet at the same time I yearned for a gentle, good woman, despite the overwhelming price. Either way I was lost. A strong man would give up both. I wasn’t strong. So I continued to struggle with women, the idea of a woman.”

Charles Bukowski’s Women – in his book and life