Between The Lines

Voice Card  -  Volume 33  -  John Card Number 12  -  Mon, Nov 21, 1994 11:17 PM

This is a response to VC 33 Drury 3 ("Read by numbers")...

Well, gang, it's official! Possession, by A.S. Byatt, is the first book in our literary pelacourse. I hope you forgive us, Drury: yes, it's a little too long to finish in one reading but I feel strongly that in matters such as these our reach should exceed our grasp. At any rate, Stuart, Janine, Paul, Suzanne, and I have already taken the plunge. Now that I've read it cover to cover (and I am almost as busy as Drury these days, by the way, and a *much* slower reader to boot but I read it nonetheless) I think it was an excellent choice.

I am reluctant to say very much about it because, A) I think Stuart should lead the discussion, and B) I don't want to impose my reactions on everyone before the discussion even begins. Still, SOMEONE has to get the proverbial ball rolling.

We've never tried this before so, frankly, anything goes. There are no rules when it comes to discussing literature and there are certainly no wrong answers. The reason for this is that each one of us is the supreme and unassailable expert on the events that transpired inside our own skulls during the reading of the book. And no one skull, be it English professor or pastry chef, is inherently right or wrong about the very private experience of reading.

So here, then, is my proposal. I propose that each and every one of us respond to this card with at least a brief statement of what we thought the book was "about," what we liked about it, and what we didn't like about it. If you did find something about the book that was particularly interesting or resonant, dig a little deeper and think about precisely what was so interesting to you and WHY. And if we end up discussing personal episodes that were "unearthed" by the reading of this story, so much the better.

Perhaps, in his response, Stuart can take the additional step of focussing the discussion by asking us some more specific questions.

None of you will be surprised to hear that I am brimming over with reactions of my own. I could talk about fairy tales, and whether the book itself is a fairy tale or a mystery, or a ghost story, and the 19th century, and what it teaches us about the 20th century, and the wacky world of academia where I wandered once as a lad - but I won't. Not yet.

I would like to make one brief observation, though. It seems to me that part of what this book was about was how much (and how little!) we can learn about each other through the words we leave behind.

And that is very much what Archipelago is about as well.