Monday, 8 September 2008

Books to Think about::My Book Discussion Season opens This Week

The fall season of book discussion groups starts today for me. One of my pleasures of the past few years has been being invited to lead book discussions in various libraries. This evening I meet a group in the Montreal suburb of Pierrefonds to talk about Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook, and tomorrow I lead a causerie littéraire on her Carnet d’or. The book is much longer than I remembered, and I re-reading it these past couple of weeks, I found myself leaving the English version downstairs and the French version upstairs, switching back and forth depending upon where I settled down to read. That meant I could compare the original and the translation, and still make headway in a book that is challenging if you take it seriously.

Tomorrow afternoon the group consists of some elderly ladies living in the Résidence Outremont who have been reading from a group of biographies of queens that the Outremont library put at their disposition. I’ve dipped into most of the choices, and found them very interesting. Since this is the first time, I’ve animated this kind of discussion I found myself trying to figure out how to get the ladies talking as I walked along this morning. Should be an interesting experience.

On Wednesday, it’s the Atwater Library’s turn, and the book will be the amazing Impac Dublin prize winner De Niro’s Game by Rawi Hage, while on Thursday it’s out to another suburb, Kirkland, to chat about Muriel Barbery’s L’élégance du hérisson.

All are good books, dealing with a wide variety of human concerns. As such, they provide a very rich background to the current political ferment here and the US. That, of course, is one of the reasons to read fiction: the stories resonate in our lives, allow us to reflect on what is happening and—sometimes—to find a way, at least temporarily, out of the impasses we find ourselves in.

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