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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Monday, October 20, 2014

Tepid discussion last night at book group

A very tepid, low-key book group last night, perhaps because we were down to 6, or perhaps some other reason but it felt as if we didn't, as a group, have much to say, for better or worse, about Jennifer Clements's Prayers for the Stolen. JoRi noted that she could only get through about 20 pp of the novel because it affected her so deeply, and maybe that was the highest complement of the evening, however inadvertent - because she is clearly trying to create a vivid picture of the horrors of the lives of impoverished rural families in general and young women in particular in a culture ruled by drug cartels - who steal young women into slavery and terrorize the entire populace. I spoke about my sense of the cultural or anthropological background to these gangs of thieves and thugs: the clan leader having multiple wives or sex slaves, leaving the protective cadre without enough or without any women, driving them into other villages and territories to steal young women and bring them home in slavery - same as we see in tribal life in colonial America, in the desert gangs of the mideast, or on a broader scale with thugs like Sadam Hussein or Idi Amin. Polygamy consolidates power and leads to massive oppression of women as men deprived of partners in the community become roving terrorist gangs. Well, that got nobody's attention. Others generally admired the book as a social document and LR and others noted its poetic use of language, at times, but none of us particularly admired the literary qualities of the book - all agreeing that the first section was the strongest by far and that the novel suffered from over-use of creaky plot devices, coincidence, and too much telling rather than showing. A very deflating discussion, leaving me wondering whether book group has run its course - of if this was just a drift into a slow back eddy.

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