**Valeria Luiselli Group Read**

KeskusteluClub Read 2020

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**Valeria Luiselli Group Read**

heinäkuu 2, 2020, 10:31am

A few of us had discussed reading Lost Children Archive and Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions this month. Post your progress and thoughts here!

heinäkuu 2, 2020, 11:51am

Thanks for starting this thread.

My brain immediately thinks: I should spend a time looking through my copies and thinking about which I should (re)read first and what might be a good pace for posting here.

Also, thinking about what mindset to bring in.

(Ok, full disclosure. My first thought, “oh, right! Completely forgot.” So thanks for the reminder too)

heinäkuu 2, 2020, 11:56am

Daniel, I'm going to start with 40 Questions since Lost Children Archive will be a reread.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 2, 2020, 12:55pm

>3 RidgewayGirl: Ok, I’ll do that too. Saturday morning (July 4th) I’ll start Tell Me How It Ends.

heinäkuu 2, 2020, 1:34pm

Thanks, Kay! I had forgotten as well. I just purchased the Kindle version of Tell Me How it Ends, which cost $6.55, and I'll start reading it this weekend.

heinäkuu 2, 2020, 4:25pm

Since I've read Tell me how it Ends I'll start the Lost Children Archive this weekend. First few pages I managed this morning were amzing already, but it's got me wondering: What car are they driving? That trunk is huge. That's got to be a 3+ body trunk.

>5 kidzdoc: I'm glad I bought the Kobo version of Lost Children Archive when I did at $4.99, now its at $13 something. Ebook prices drive me nuts.

heinäkuu 2, 2020, 5:26pm

Oh shoot, I forgot about this! I have a book club book and a library book and a brand new bought book all in progress, but maybe I can slip this in too this month. Library's got it available... At any rate, I'm interested in this discussion and I'll follow along.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 2, 2020, 6:07pm

>1 RidgewayGirl: Thanks, Kay, for starting a thread! And it looks like some of you have already answered the immediate question I had -- which book are you going to read first?

I've not read either book, so I will start with the novel and maybe intersperse it with the essays if one seems apropos.

heinäkuu 3, 2020, 1:38am

This might be what I need to finish Lost Children Archive, which (lowers voice) I've been struggling with. I started it in February and have been reading it in fits and starts since then. I think I'm missing something. I just don't get the book, but I'm willing to give it another chance so I'll dust it off (again).

heinäkuu 4, 2020, 10:05am

Ok, I’ve started. Last time it took me two and a half hours to read Tell Me How It Ends, there’s a lot to process in that small window of reading time. It’s rushing me with half-considered thoughts and images again - because it doesn’t pause to allow me to work through the thoughtS.

heinäkuu 4, 2020, 12:47pm

I find it arresting how Luiselli is able to weave her own personal and emotional struggles with the subject of her stories. I don't know why this is so effective, but it makes the tragedy of unoccupied minors seem more relatable, which in turn makes it all the sadder. It's such a risky approach. It could very well shift the focus from the terribleness of it all and make it about her the author, but I think it helps those of us privileged enough never to have had to live through such shitty circumstances find a way to empathize without it becoming a depressing melodrama.

heinäkuu 4, 2020, 2:30pm

>11 stretch: that's a question I ask myself occasionally - I mean, did she shift the focus to the wrong place - but I didn't ask while I was listening, because I was just involved in the story.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 4, 2020, 2:35pm

Regarding Tell Me How It Ends - it was an uncomfortable read the first time, and I'm finding it more so this time. I'm going to have to figure out how to spread it out, slow it down.

Some quotes from the first 24 pages:

"The problem with trying to tell their story is that it has no beginning, no middle, and no end."
page 7

"the unimaginable story"
page 18

"How do you explain any of this to your own children?"
page 18

"how do you explain that it is never inspiration that drives you to tell a story, but rather a combination of anger and clarity?"
Page 24

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 4, 2020, 2:51pm

I was looking for videos of Luiselli reading, because she is a fabulous reader. I stumbled across an interview where she explains the unintended layers in title (only 3 minutes). Then I found a talk she gave where she reads for about 5 minutes (even though she first says she will only read one minute). Both are worth a look.

Link to 3 minute interview explaining the title of Lost Children Archive, on YouTube

Link to 20 minute talk, on YouTube. To hear her reading, jump to the 15-minute mark.

heinäkuu 4, 2020, 2:54pm

>11 stretch: In the first link above Luiselli talks about why she wrote Lost Children Archive as she did. First it was all about the children "aliens", but it wasn't working. So she wrote Tell Me How It Ends and then came to Lost Children Archive and changed approach.

heinäkuu 4, 2020, 3:08pm

>13 dchaikin: Your first quote echoes this from the first page of LCA:

"I'm not sure which parts of our story we might choose to pluck and edit out for them, and which ones we'll shuffle around and insert back in to produce a final version--.... But the children will ask, because ask is what children do. And we'll need to tell them a beginning, a middle, and an end. We'll need to give them an answer, tell them a proper story."

I love novels that are self-aware and comment on the the process of telling stories and how stories make us who we are and shape our perceptions of the world, the universe around us.

heinäkuu 4, 2020, 3:18pm

>16 ELiz_M: Thanks for that quote!

Interesting that lately I'm finding I need that self-awareness from an author. If I don't see it, I get uncomfortable. (Shakespeare has it, for example. So does Dante, but without Shakespeare's "huzzah!, you're watching a play!" Sorry, maybe a little adhd here...)

heinäkuu 4, 2020, 3:20pm

>15 dchaikin: That is interesting. Tell Me How It Ends is certianly more poltical, but it still reads similar to me as the novel. As her the author coming to grips with the confusing/frustrating circumstances or conduit for one way to process the horrible realities of it all. Certianly the frustration and sadness is there, but lacks in a personal sense of politcal anger she talks about. At least that was my reading. She presented this horribly confusing, overhelming thing that was met thing burcuracy and system that doesn't allow for the capacity to care. In the end its an exhausting and emotionally draining, but the system continues on. Its only through her students efforts and niece that any of the politics really comes up. Maybe I'm missing a subtext or something?

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 4, 2020, 3:54pm

>18 stretch: I admit I sense a harnessed anger in both these books.

heinäkuu 5, 2020, 10:38am

I finished Tell Me How it Ends yesterday, and it was very interesting to read it after Lost Children Archive; I won't say more about the relationship of the two books than that at the moment. The essay was an eye opening and educational one, and I'm glad that you and Kay recommended reading it.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 6, 2020, 2:02pm

As I read Tell Me How It Ends, I’m understanding it’s about what isn’t covered. She talks about the thousands, and hundreds of thousands, she hints at all the multitudes of untold awful stories, yet at over halfway through she has told us about 3 kids.

Some more quotes, and the gaping holes of meaning around them:

"Homeland Security was ‘suffering’"
page 44

"Around one-fifth of the population of El Salvador fled"
(1979-1992) page 46

On the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act - 2008: “if a child comes from either Mexico or Canada, he or she is immediately ‘deportable’"
page 53

"And where did you cross the boarder?
I don’t know.
Texas? Arizona?
Yes! Texas, Arizona.
(Age 7 with 5 yr old sister) page 56

"the majority of children who find a lawyer do appear in court and are granted some form of relief. All others are deported, either in absentia or in person."
(it appears that the main reason for deportation is lack of a lawyer, which is not provided to asylum seekers) page 67

heinäkuu 6, 2020, 4:45pm

I've been waiting for this, and I have both books in hand. Does anyone care to make a suggestion where to start and how much to read at a sitting? I haven't read either, and I don't think I know where to start. If left to my own devices, I would start with the novel, but I'm a little scared of the feelings it might engender--I already am very angry about this, and very sad.

heinäkuu 6, 2020, 6:12pm

I’m not sure there is a wrong decision. I listened to the novel first (last year), and now I’m rereading the essay first. I admit, I’m a little anxious to get back to the novel.

She mentions that she put all the political stuff in the original writing, then pulled most of it out of the novel and instead wrote the essay because it wasn’t working in the novel, which needed a different more layered feel. So, the essays are sort of a discarded by product. Not sure if that helps though.

heinäkuu 7, 2020, 2:52pm

>22 sallypursell: I've read both books, the novel followed by the essay. Based on your comment I might suggest starting with the novel first, although I agree with Dan that there is no wrong decision on which book to read first.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 25, 2020, 8:16am

I love the structure of this novel; it is working for me so much better than The Story of My Teeth. The short titled segments, the passages on stories and the creation of self and history are lovely.

I assume the family remains nameless for the entire novel. A technique that when done well can mythologize the characters. Especially here where the family are really well-depicted and individuals. When race is not specifically mentioned, as a default I would usually picture all the characters as white, but for some reason, I pictured the husband and son as people of color even though later in the book it hints at the mother as being (possibly) not white -- a reference to her accent as similar to a Mexican's.

For an author who writes very unconventional books, she seems awfully concerned with a traditional narrative arc (second quote about beginning, middle, end):
"Beginnings, middles, and ends are only a matter of hindsight. If we are forced to produce a story in retrospect, our narrative wraps itself selectively around the elements that seem relevant, bypassing all the others."

Am I the only person that was bothered by the narrator digging around in the husbands boxes?

I love the references to all the works of art and literature that inform the narrators thoughts, the other novels, the Copland ballet choreographed by Martha Graham, etc.

heinäkuu 9, 2020, 11:11am

>26 RidgewayGirl: I'm reading the essay very slowly, having been warned by Daniel that it's easy to plow through it. It's certainly been in my thoughts. I read the novel last year and it's interesting to see how she pulled from her experience, like the girls' mother's phone number being embroidered into the clothing they wore.

There's a lot to think about, and it's tempting to see this issue as one with such large, geopolitical causes at play that there's nothing we can do really except feel a vague sympathy for the idea of these children. Luiselli is thoughtful in how she intersperses the children's experiences with facts and history.

heinäkuu 9, 2020, 2:29pm

>26 RidgewayGirl: I ended up “stretching” it out all of three days. Oh well. I’ve cracked open LCA. Such a difference - hard facts to plot-focus-unmooring sound play...

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 11, 2020, 9:40am

So, Lost Children Archive, I’m getting started but it’s so much to not stop and comment to myself or somewhere else, like here, about what I’m reading. Of course, nothing specific happened. But the sentence structure, the voice, the way it goes all over, grabbing different thoughts and observations, and yet stays together, is actually very clean, leaving the reader a good narrative and also a variety of thought-seeds to chase or juggle or just have around.

My thought of the moment is this style is what Luck Ellman was maybe going for in Ducks, or could have strove for, or maybe should have. Or, judgy opinions aside, they have a parallel. Luiselli is also writing a stream of conscious prose, but she’s cleaned it up, tied it to a road trip that happens to have “a beginning, a middle, and an end” that is clean. But everything along the way is wandering thoughts and the texture and atmosphere they create, and the emotions they express or offer us, the reader, to share in.

Sorry, I’ll hit stride eventually. Just noting down a moment as I adapt and work through a thought process.

heinäkuu 16, 2020, 11:39am

Still thinking through what I want to say about Tell Me How It Ends. The parts I highlighted are all facts and history, but the parts that run through my mind are the human stories. Mixing the two is a very effective way to fully communicate that each number in a chart represents very real people, with full lives, hopes and trauma.

I've moved my copy of Lost Children Archive from the shelf to the table by my bed and should start it soon.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 16, 2020, 2:12pm

>29 RidgewayGirl: I haven’t been able to review TMHiE (but I do have my review from earlier this year)

I started LCA but then set it aside for the moment. I’m part of 3 group reads on Litsy now, and leading two of them, one started last week and the other this weeK. So, need something lighter for the moment. But I should get back to it next week or the one after.

heinäkuu 16, 2020, 4:38pm

>30 dchaikin: I'm trying to stay free of book obligations, but somehow there are always a few books that I have scheduled myself into reading on the stack.

heinäkuu 17, 2020, 7:37pm

I'm really enjoying the plodding introspection of LCA so far. It's very different from the Tell Me How It Ends. What I'm not connecting is what the inventories of the contents of the boxes means. They seem to serve as chapter breaks that in my mind should be symbolic of something. What that something is I have no idea. As far as I can tell they are haphazardly thrown together collections of useful references and nostalgia. Nothing indicative of someone whose spent months planning project or years as a professional audio historian. They seem to just take up headspace and physical space. Maybe I'm not well-read enough to see how the contents align with the text.

heinäkuu 17, 2020, 8:37pm

>32 stretch: Flip to the appendices where she explains how some of the material listed in the box contents is incorporated in the text.

heinäkuu 17, 2020, 9:25pm

>33 ELiz_M: There's an appendix? Trouple with ebooks, table of contents not always clear.

I kind of see the connections, but not as clearly as the works cited section makes it. Oh well, it will be ok if this bit goes over my head.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 19, 2020, 3:28pm

Sorry it has taken me so long to get started. I had multiple arresting books keeping me going, and then, after making sure that I had both books on July 1, I couldn't find the novel. This drove me crazy, and I spent more time looking than I would like to admit to.

Today, with no trouble at all, I found the book only two down in a stack of books, and I'm ready to go.

Now here's an important question. Has everyone started? What I really want to know is whether I can speak in detail about what I read, and whether I need to avoid spoilers. I'd like to be free to react, since so many of you have read this already, but I don't want to spoil this thread for anyone else. Does anyone know if there are people still waiting to start, besides my tardy self?

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 19, 2020, 4:55pm

Here's an initial thought. I am immediately drawn to this book for the first-page inclusion of "Family Lexicon", an entity I entirely understand. Our oldest child is forty, and our family lexicon is layered and both humorous and sometimes very, very, sad.

A little later: "Conversations in a family are linguistic archaeology."

heinäkuu 19, 2020, 3:42pm

In the Inventory ... "zeppelin and dead cat windshield." I am entirely one ?

heinäkuu 19, 2020, 3:50pm

>35 sallypursell: I can't answer for others, but I think we can speak without worrying about spoilers. Does everyone else agree?

heinäkuu 19, 2020, 3:55pm

Two suggestions. Preface your posts with where you’re at and, using your judgement, note spoilers ahead of time (Or use the spoiler code). I think we all know to read this thread with some caution because of potential spoilers.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 19, 2020, 5:22pm

>39 dchaikin: >38 RidgewayGirl: Thank you both for good advice.

I am still in Part I: family soundscapes. Right now what resonates for me is the description by the author of life as building archive, and of being lost in her own archival materials. I entirely understand this description. One reason our house almost resembles that of hoarders is that I have always been a life archivist. I know it is unlikely that anyone will ever want to know what we spent in 1975 on electricity, but if I threw away old bills, that information might be irretrievable. Right now I have carefully assembled an archive of our lives, although I have pruned it to one December bill of each year beyond the last three. Every year or two I prune the last few years. Still, it is a lot of paper. I think it is wrong to keep it all, but so much help to a researcher it is in its current state! How can I impinge on that?

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 25, 2020, 8:27am

Lost Children Archive

One of the most beautiful vignettes, imo, is "Vigil" in Part I: Soundscape, Missing (p. 115 in my paperback)

p. 120 "Why is there always a little hum of hate running aside love?"

I think I was reading this a little too fast and found myself rather confued about "Elegies for Lost Children". First i didn't realize it was a novel-within-a-novel (just thought it was a work extensively quoted like the Sontag earlier) and second I thought it was more literally about The Children's Crusade and was perplexed by the modern references.

How did this embedded novel work or not work for you?

heinäkuu 25, 2020, 8:30am

Lost Children Archive

end of part 1: "Children force parents to go out looking for a specific pulse, a gaze, a rhythm, the right way of telling a story, knowing that stories don't fix anything or save anyone but maybe make the world more complex and more tolerable. And sometimes, just sometimes, more beautiful. Stories are a way of subtracting the future from the past, the only way of finding clarity in hindsight."

heinäkuu 25, 2020, 9:57am

>42 ELiz_M: A lovely, and crushing, view of the duty of parents and caregivers. It is our duty to digest the world and make inspiring and clarifying stories to make it more tolerable, explicable, and workable.

elokuu 8, 2020, 7:24pm

I had to pause for a while after part 1, because the pain of the dissolution of the marriage that this wife is expecting was so vivid for me. When I came back, we spent some time looking into the contents of the boxes, especially box V. Now the older child is narrating, and he, too, believes their family is headed to a parting. The background stories of the Lost Children are so wrenching, that the parallel in the traveling family are the more sad. This book is very well done, but I can't say that I am enjoying it.

elokuu 12, 2020, 8:39pm

I suppose everyone else is finished with this thread. I have just finished the novel, and I hated it. I'm not sorry I read it, but it was so very painful. This was why I stopped reading a lot of good literature--good writing plus sad story equals impossibly painful. I'm sorry. I had such fortitude as a younger woman, but after the life I have had, and my current situation, it was too much.

elokuu 15, 2020, 9:25pm

Sally - I frittered out on LT (and reading) and didn't contributed to the thread, apologies. Coming back now as I've finished. I kind of agree with your last comment, whereas the text is beautiful, the book is always difficult. On audio I could just get carried away on the voice. But reading, I have to notice the nuance of the text and wording, the lack of paragraphs in the long section near the end, and the endless feeling that it leaves that I was blind to on audio. I'm surprised how difficult this book was. Also, there is that mixture of elegant text and dreadful stuff said and unsaid.

Looking a my reading log (I track with Bookely) I stared on July 7 and by July 12 had read 18 pages. My next entry in July 31. I just started and sputtered. I found myself rereading, noting quotes and wording, picking at it but never getting very far. Finally I pushed through the end.

elokuu 15, 2020, 9:29pm

>41 ELiz_M: I loved "Elegies for Lost Children". Its so vivid I remembered so much from audio and kept wondering how long till I got to parts in the text. And, I think it helps carry us through with Swift Feather's narration. I'm ok with that long section at the end, without paragraphs, mixing Elegies and Swift Feather's narration, the endless text in the endless desert under the brutal sun with occasional relief of a breeze...but it made for tough reading. I felt lost with the children.

elokuu 15, 2020, 9:34pm

Two extra notes:

I like how the search for lost sounds echoes the lost stories of the lost children, the bones in the desert along the border. It's a powerful message.

I liked the appendix or kind of bibliography where she quotes the quotes she paraphrased in the Elegies.. Of course I didn't catch any of that while reading, but it's pretty cool how she mixed these texts into her novel within a novel.

Oh, one extra note...

>41 ELiz_M: The Elegies didn't confuse me in the sense that I could immediately tell it was modern children refugees - this is my memory from audio in November. I did wondered why she suggested it up front that it's kind of about the children's crusade. It's an interesting reference.

elokuu 15, 2020, 10:08pm

>47 dchaikin: Well, the children were on more than one crusade, were they not? They were personal crusades, but mixed with larger perspectives, on the part of Swift Feather, at least.

I was amazed at the patience and tolerance of the youngest, Memphis, when they were on their children's quest. I don't think that was really very realistic.

A lot of the pain was in how continuous was the sense of lowering doom--in the marriage, in the children who eventually died in the desert, and in those being led to the plane. There was nothing uplifting, no successes, no accord, except fleetingly, and vanishingly little enjoyment, or pleasure, or warmth. They all know all the time that only bad things are coming. I couldn't help but think of each child alone at the end, bereft of his or her sibling, and each parent bereft of his or her partner, because my long marriage is the backbone of my life.

I could not fully engage with the parents' obsession with sound recording. It seemed slight to base a marriage on, but maybe that was because I suspected what was coming. I think maybe I might have shared the project but not gotten married yet. (I shouldn't talk, I fell in love with my husband at first sight, even though I don't believe in that.)

I think of the Children's Crusade as nearly the low point of human civilization. The Crusades as a whole were unforgivable, and so sad, because it was a great example of men going to war while completely wrong about its object, and even which was the civilized side of the conflict. Both sides were brutal, of course, but the Christians were the more so, and couldn't be trusted with treaties they signed. At around this time the Islamic world had physicians, and hospitals, and medical schools. They performed cataract surgery and appendectomies, and used asepsis, when Europe had nothing but travelling barber-surgeons to pull teeth with gory pliers and dirty hands.

Sorry, I got rather involved in my thoughts, there.

elokuu 15, 2020, 11:35pm

Interesting, Sally. I didn’t feel the sense of doom so much as the sense of loss. The marriage was over before the book started. The children were a small part of a big process with thousands and thousands of children and adults over many years. She makes their story a little mythical because it’s a representation of so much - 7 or 8 more lost sounds in a windstorm. Whether doom or loss is of course, perspective. It’s hard anyway we look at it.

I completely agree with you about the echoes of the real children’s crusade. I hadn’t considered the perspective that those medieval children might also be a kind of refugee searching for the 1st world to escape their 3rd world dark ages. That’s interesting. Of course their failure - I think they were supposedly mostly sold into slavery or deceased and lost, very much reflects this migration.

elokuu 16, 2020, 12:52am

>50 dchaikin: What gave you the sense that the marriage is over at the start? I think maybe the husband planning a different life than the wife might qualify. So tragic.

Your point about the mythical sense of these children's travels is well taken. I believe my words about the bereft siblings and partners was the sense of loss you are describing.

And yes, I believe the children from the crusade were mostly lost, dead, or enslaved. There were raiders from the Mediterranean area that took whole villages from England to slavery there, having sailed there along the coast of Spain and France, and then up the Western sides of Ireland and England to do their raiding. I have read that pale European men, women, and children were very valuable slaves. I believe some of the raiders were Vikings who were shock troops in Istanbul/Constantinople, especially prized by the Islamic government there. I can't think of the name of their special unit. (I know the Mamluks were Rus and Circassians who were trained as special troops for the Sultan or Caliph, and were later responsible for repelling the Mongol invasion.) Other raiders were from North Africa.

I see the parallel of The Children's Crusade with the current immigrant story, but I think it is pretty strained. Still, it was from Third World to First World, and most slaves in Islamic countries were literate, and some could buy their freedom. They were often allowed to keep the proceeds of entrepreneurship, and additional labor completed when they had satisfied the demands of their owners/employers.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 16, 2020, 2:22pm

>51 sallypursell: My impression was that the marriage is over once her husband decides he wants to go to Arizona. He's gone his own way without regard to our narrator. It's an insolvable divide. Basically their relationship was based on and also was a project they were doing together. That project is their NY recording but also their marriage. It has a second meaning. They stopped working on their "project".

It adds a lot of tension to the relationship with the children. In the beginning the children/step-children are one entity. Once they leave NY, the girl is hers and the boy is his - but they never verbally acknowledge this. It's a taught cord through the rest of the novel. (again, this is an interpretation on my part)

The comparison with the Children's Crusade is...well maybe is... interesting because of the imperfect fit. It forces us to open up how we view these children and think of them in other contexts, to see other comparisons and contrasts, to think it through more and differently. She's maybe pushing us. Also, they both echo the many meanings of a pilgrimage and, I think, lost sounds.

elokuu 16, 2020, 5:36pm

Thank you all for reading and commenting. I just purchased Tell me how it ends and will hopefully be reading it in the next few weeks. (I listend to the audio of Lost children archive early this year.)

Sally, I too struggle with things that are difficult to read (i.e. painful). I find them necessary to know about and reflect on, but have to ration my energy so I don't get burned out.

marraskuu 27, 2020, 8:07pm

>53 markon: Markon, I don't think I fail to know about or appreciate those things without fiction. I have sufficient imagination, although you may be right that depth is reached this way. I have been a nurse for the under-priveleged all my career; I feel it has been enough. My husband could not tolerate my stories past the years of nursing school, and I had to keep them to myself. I would certainly never have told my children!