**The July/August Hometown or Ancestry Challenge

KeskusteluClub Read 2011

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**The July/August Hometown or Ancestry Challenge

Tämä viestiketju on "uinuva" —viimeisin viesti on vanhempi kuin 90 päivää. Ryhmä "virkoaa", kun lähetät vastauksen.

kesäkuu 27, 2011, 7:48 am

Read a book set in your home town/state/country – either where you live now or where you are originally from or lived for some time. Alternatively, read something set in a city/state/country of your ancestry.

Discussion ideas: Are you familiar with the location? If so, does that increase or lessen your enjoyment? Is place treated as a character or a setting?

kesäkuu 27, 2011, 8:15 am

I read a book last month set in Pretoria, Sunnyside Sal by Anton Krueger. He used to teach me in first year at the University of Pretoria. Although I didn't much care for the book, I found the recognition of places I had actually visited (the main character goes to a school just down the block from where I am typing this!) quite interesting. It is set in an earlier time (end of the Apartheid years) when I was only a child, so I couldn't relate to everything, but I did recognise some typically South African experiences.

In the end, it felt more like a memoir than a novel. Maybe that is one of the less positive results of knowing the settings intimately. Krueger treated place mostly as a setting, although the character of Pretoria (more laidback and provincial than, say, Johannesburg) did come through.

I doubt I will be able to find a never book set in my home town, but I'll try to read another South African book sometime during the challenge.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 27, 2011, 10:21 am

another excellent idea Jane!

I grew up in Michigan and plan to read American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell -- stories set in small-town and rural areas of the state and recommended by many LTers.

kesäkuu 27, 2011, 12:44 pm

This is a great idea! I love reading books set in New York City, but I also might read something from where my ancestors came from (generally speaking Jewish Eastern Europe, as boundaries have been fluid, to say the least, but from towns now in Lithuania, Poland, Austria, and France).

#3 I'm one of the ones who loved American Salvage and I also just read and loved Bonnie Jo Campbell's new novel, Once upon a River.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 27, 2011, 3:07 pm

Damn, I think I read the only book I've ever come across to be set in the town where I now live last year. Oh, well, I think I have at least one on the TBR pile that counts as local, for a slightly wider definition of "local." (New Mexico is a big state.) I might have one that's at least close to my old South Jersey stomping grounds, too, I'm not sure.

ETA: Or I could finally read that history of Ireland I bought when I was there in '99. I do have ancestors from Ireland, I'm almost certain.

kesäkuu 27, 2011, 4:29 pm

So does anyone know of a novel set in Western Massachusetts, preferably in the twentieth or twenty-first century?


kesäkuu 28, 2011, 12:33 am

I was born in Dallas, and currently live nearby. I don't know of any worthwhile books set in this cultural wasteland, but I have at least two books set in Texas I can read: Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre, and The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson. Both apparently feature a lot of gunplay--how surprising is that?

kesäkuu 28, 2011, 11:17 am

#6 - Robert, I grew up in NY state, across the border from the Great Barrington/Pittsfield area. The only thing springing to mind is The Red Garden byAlice Hoffman, but that sort of work is not everyone's cup of tea, and I have not read it myself, so I can't recommend it. You could goa little farther west and read one of William Kennedy's books set in Albany...?

#7 - Steven, I laughed at your description of Dallas as a cultural wasteland. I currently live in Dallas but am a transplant and often think the same thing myself (though it has gotten a little better).

Lots of options here for me, having been born in Connecticut, raised in New York, schooled in Massachusetts, and lived in Washington DC and Dallas. Or I'll just go with something set in Ireland.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 28, 2011, 11:33 am

>4 rebeccanyc: rebecca
yes! your comments hooked me, also avaland's. Must head over to your thread to read about Campbell's next.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 28, 2011, 1:47 pm

>6 Mr.Durick: how west are we talking? the Berkshires? Here's a fairly contemporary list from the Springfield library, Robert. Their definition of "west" seems to be from the Quabbin reservoir west. I liked the William Weld and the Michael C. White titles well enough. I also read the Rob Drew title but can't remember much about it.

kesäkuu 28, 2011, 2:55 pm

#9 > Well, it's less of a wasteland now that I know there is another LTer here. Maybe we'll run into each other at HalfPriceBooks. I'll be the old guy filling up a basket in the Fiction & Literature Clearance section.

Actually I realized that I do have a book to read that is set at least partly in Dalllas, I just didn't have it tagged as such: Libra by Don DeLillo is about Lee Harvey Oswald and the Kennedy Assassination. I've been putting off reading it. It's not a subject those of us who were living here at the time are eager to relive.

kesäkuu 28, 2011, 3:06 pm

I'm not sure I'll be participating in this one. I'm French but I've been on such an Asia kick that I don't know if I'll be reading anything French during this quarter. Plus, reading French books isn't exactly a challenge for me.

I do live in the States (more specifically Austin, TX) but like the fellow Dallas peeps above I don't know if I really feel like tackling any Texas specific books. As for Dallas being a cultural wasteland, I can hardly agree more. I've been going there a lot lately but if it weren't for a certain boy I've been visiting I'd hardly have any desire to find myself back in Arlington again. Yuck! At least there a lot of good pho restaurants there.

kesäkuu 28, 2011, 5:53 pm

#13 - I love Austin. Green with envy :-)

#12 - Which HPB do you go to? I love the main one on NW Highway in Dallas, but I often find some gems in the smaller stores. I'm also a fan of Paperbacks Plus in the Lakewood area...

I will now stop hijacking the thread - sorry, all.

kesäkuu 28, 2011, 7:00 pm

Katie, The Red Garden doesn't come out in paper until August 2. I've put it on my "Forthcoming" wishlist and may be able to get to it in time for this challenge.

Lois, I spent my first seventeen years in Springfield. That list is interesting enough that I expect I will read a couple of novels from it that I wouldn't have known about without it, and I have put the link on my profile.

Thank you, both,


kesäkuu 28, 2011, 7:07 pm

Dallas a cultural wasteland? - I though it was famous for its Book Depository.

kesäkuu 28, 2011, 7:22 pm

#14 > I like the big HPB on NW Highway the best as well, but I go to the ones in Garland, Richardson and Rockwall more frequently because they're closer. The store on North Lamar Street in Austin is really good, too. I'll have to try Paperbacks Plus. (Now I'll shut up, too.)

kesäkuu 28, 2011, 7:34 pm

>16 baswood: I thought Dallas was famous for ...er... Dallas :-)

Well, I might indulge in this "challenge" but first, I have to read Bellefleur for the Oates group - and it's a tome.

kesäkuu 29, 2011, 12:33 pm

#16. Very funny!

kesäkuu 30, 2011, 6:03 pm

Two days early I started Ethan Frome set vaguely in Western Massachusetts, presumably more up in the Berkshires than close to the Pioneer Valley. If I finish it today, I'll find something else for the challenge.


heinäkuu 5, 2011, 5:14 pm

The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson

The setting of this cult crime novel is a fictional oil town in West Texas named "Central City." From the geographic clues, the population size, and the name, I have little doubt that it is modeled on the real city of Midland, Texas, halfway between Fort Worth and El Paso and at the heart of the Permian Basin oil fields. Ironically, two future Presidents Bush would have been living in Midland at the time the novel takes place.

I'm very familiar with the location, having lived for a year in the city of Odessa, which is only 20 miles from Midland. The physical aspects of the setting do not play a major role in the story, but the cultural traits do. The narrator is a psychopathic killer, hiding behind a deputy sheriff's badge. What enables him to escape suspicion as long as he does, is the traditional "good ol' boy" network, where the rich and powerful call the shots, and where social position and friendships override truth and justice. This culture, the mannerisms and dialect, are all convincingly portrayed by the author.

heinäkuu 11, 2011, 12:43 pm

Don't know of any books set in Aruba, but I think I'll read Telex from Cuba by Rachel Kushner which sounds like it may be somewhat similar to my childhood/youth.

heinäkuu 18, 2011, 8:03 am

American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell, a collection of very good short stories set in the rural addictions and poverty of southwestern Michigan, a couple hours from my childhood home. I could look through my yearbook and point out the characters in these stories.

This does not feel like finishing the challenge but only just beginning.

heinäkuu 18, 2011, 9:02 am

I am reading a nonfiction book about New York City: Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York by Luc Sante

heinäkuu 18, 2011, 9:03 am

I don't have the time to read a book set in my hometown during July or August, but I did read one a couple of years back. Now, I have to say, there are a lot of books set in Leiden (often spelled Leyden in English), but almost none in translation. Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates by Mary Mapes is a book set (in part) in Leiden, a very nice story, and the details of the setting are incredible. Especially considering the fact that Mary never visited the Netherlands, but took all of her descriptions from talks with people who came from there. It was a very nice read.

heinäkuu 21, 2011, 10:36 am

I just read a nonfiction work, Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York by Luc Sante, a lively and fascinating look at the underside of downtown New York City from about 1840 to 1920. My review is here and on the book page.

heinäkuu 23, 2011, 12:13 pm

Followed that up with Manhattan Noir, edited by Lawrence Block. A nice light antidote to the heat, this collection contains stories, mostly but not exclusively crime stories, connected to different neighborhoods of Manhattan -- although, to my way of thinking, most didn't capture the feel of the neighborhood but just took place there. As with any collection, I liked some stories better than others, but some were really gripping.

heinäkuu 28, 2011, 4:22 pm

I've just finished No Life for a Lady by Agnes Morley Cleaveland, a memoir about growing up on a New Mexico cattle ranch about sixty miles west of me and a hundred-and-some years in the past. I've had this one on my TBR pile approximately forever, and I'm really glad this challenge motivated me to read it now, because it was rather charming, and really did bring the local past to life for me. It's really not so long ago that this was the Wild West!

heinäkuu 30, 2011, 11:03 am

I've just finished another work of nonfiction, The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum, a book that interweaves the story of two pioneering men who created forensic medicine with tales of classic murders by poison and chemistry. My review is here and on the book page.

heinäkuu 31, 2011, 7:55 pm

I've read Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre, which is set mostly in the fictional town of Martirio in Central Texas. The novel is a satire, chiefly of America's media-driven culture. I appreciated the points the author was making, though the plot was much too silly for my taste. However, Pierre did have the setting pegged. As soon as the narrator said "we decorate our pump jacks" I thought of the towns of Lockhart and Luling, and, sure enough, they were both mentioned as neighboring towns. This region is about 200 miles from where I live, but I've driven through it a couple of times in recent years and stopped to enjoy its famous barbecue.

The author made use of the population's unsophisticated and impressionable nature in his humor, but the novel wasn't what I would call regional. It could have been set in any small American town.

For those who don't live near oil wells, here is what a decorated pump jack look like. In the book there was one dressed up as a praying mantis.


elokuu 5, 2011, 1:24 pm

30 - I had forgotten about the decorated pump jacks. I've spent a fair amount of time in Texas / driving through. That brought back some very specific memories.

elokuu 7, 2011, 10:38 pm

I am in again with The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman although it is set in the Berkshires rather than Springfield, Massachusetts.


elokuu 8, 2011, 4:22 pm

I stayed up until 2 am to finish it. The succession of stories in The Red Garden are compelling and simply told. My exposure to rural Massachusetts was limited, mostly passing through it. So I know the chill of winter but not how that could have constrained the mountain roads. And I think I didn't know about bears, coyotes, and eels as part of the natural fauna of the area. I've known people in Massachusetts like the people in this book, and some of them terrify me. But I also know the alienation and redemption and attempts at redemption shown and have sympathy; I may even aspire to some of the redemption myself.


elokuu 8, 2011, 5:16 pm

Very nice comments, Robert. Hoffman has another book - Blackbird House - that is strcutured similarly but set on Cape Cod. I have not read it yet, but many people have said it is better than The Red Garden.

elokuu 8, 2011, 6:07 pm

Cape Cod is a little far afield. The Berkshires were over my shoulder, so to speak, but Cape Cod was way over there. I do have some memories of sand and cold, salty water rippling ashore that I could get back to. I'll keep Blackbird House in mind; thank you.


elokuu 8, 2011, 6:27 pm

Yes, sorry, I didn't mean for this challenge; I just thought it might be of interest.

elokuu 9, 2011, 12:18 am

I looked for it when I went to Borders today, but it wasn't among the Alice Hoffman in the several places I found her.


elokuu 9, 2011, 9:15 am

What was once America’s fourth largest city, spread across 138 square miles, is now one-third empty land. Many of these empty stretches are now fields of high grass.
Detroit Disassembled is a collection of photographs taken by Andrew Moore in 2008-9 for an exhibit at the Akron Art Museum (and then national tour), illustrating the decay of Detroit’s civic and industrial buildings, with a general eye toward the “recycling of human construction by nature.” Moore’s images are powerful but perhaps objective, even in the selection of what content is covered; it’s the accompanying essay from poet (and former Detroit-er) Philip Levine that brought a personal connection to Detroit.

elokuu 23, 2011, 10:49 am

Found this thread just in time to add The Malayan Trilogy. I moved to Malaysia exactly ten years ago for those reading this message early September.

As for discussion: I'm familiar with the place, with the climate and with the people, though not equally with every ethnic culture (I married into Malay and have quite some Chinese friends but mostly from university so there's a selection effect. Hardly any Indian/Tamil/Sikh friends.) This familiarity allows me to gawp at the changes that have occurred here over the past 55-odd years.

Though the stress is mostly on the people and the way different groups have to learn to live together (brought in a humorous way); place also plays some role. The plantations, the jungle and, though not exactly place, the heat and the tropical rains. This is not pursued to the level of 'this street', 'that corner' etc.