Participate in the Pulitzer Dialogues

Read 5 Pulitzer Titles in 5 Months!

To commemorate the centennial of the Pulitzer Prizes, six libraries from across New Mexico are partnering with the New Mexico Humanities C...

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Beloved at Octavia Fellin Library

We had a fantastic time talking about Toni Morrison's "Beloved" at our Pulitzer Discussion Group!  Not the lightest book on the shelf, we discussed everything from haints and the physical nature of the novel's ghost to the mercy and mental horror of killing ones own child rather than seeing her dragged into a life of slavery.  With "Beloved" being such a deep and heavy read, a lot of our readers formed some very strong feelings towards it, which made for an excellent discussion!

I'm really looking forward to our next book, "The Plague of Doves" by Louise Erdrich, and will talk about it more as we get closer to the 21st.  Let's hope it sparks just as much interesting discussion and debate.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The power of literature and writing

John Cheever seems to put a tremendous amount of faith in the power of writing and in the power of literature. Do you agree? To what extent do you think Cheever was able to make sense of his own life with his dozens of stories about suburban disaffection?

Did you find any of Cheever's stories inspiring or alleviating despair? Could they save the world?

Friday, May 20, 2016

Top Five Favorites?

     Reading discussion groups in Las Cruces and Clovis have been talking about John Cheever. With over 60 stories in the book and limited time for discussion, facilitators have had to pick and choose. Las Cruces readers chose to discuss on "The Enormous Radio", "The Swimmer", "Goodbye, My Brother" "The Death of Justina," "The Day the Pig Fell into the Well," and "Artemis, the Honest Well Digger."

In Clovis,  readers focused on "Torch Song," "The Wrysons," and "The Children." NMHC staff favorites so far (we're still reading!!) include "The City of Broken Dreams," "The Death of Justina," and "A Miscellany of Characters That Will Not Appear." 

What are your favorites? Can you pick five?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Are You Ready for Tomorrow's Cheever Discussion?

Just a little humor...
"When the ship sinks, when the plane ditches I will try to reach the life raft with an overhand and drown stylishly, whereas if I had used a Lower-Class sidestroke I would have lived forever."
-"The Jewels of the Cabots"

Monday, May 16, 2016

Lighting Candles in the Vale of Tears

John and Mary Cheever
John Cheever once flippantly stated that "Everything I write is autobiographical." While this is clearly not true, he does draw deeply from his own troubled life, from his childhood to his "intolerable" marriage. 

Even if you haven't read Cheever: A Life by Blake Bailey, take the time to read this fantastic article from the London Review of Books. The puzzles of the stories become clear, from the desperation of the husbands afraid of intellectual wives to the pettiness of suburbanites competing for social status, not to mention the alcoholism, the uncaring sexuality, and the cold relationships between parents and their children (of his own son Federico, Cheever wrote, "I have no freedom from him").

After reading this article, you may be inspired to pick up his biography after all. Can it be possible that the story of John Cheever is even more compelling than the Stories of John Cheever?

Click here for Colm Toibin's review

Our Book Discussion of "The Stories of John Cheever" - May 12

We had our book discussion and heartily discussed the stories we read.   We discussed:
"The Enormous Radio", "The Swimmer", "Goodbye, My Brother" "The Death of Justina" and many more.  When the stories ended, we all kept thinking how the story would continue on.  Some of our group was able to read several stories although not the whole book.  We had plenty to talk about though.  There were two stories that one of our readers said was funny: "The Day the Pig Fell into the Well" and "Artemis, the Honest Well Digger".  We all admitted that we would need to read these stories and more that we discussed in the book discussion.
I will post more about our discussion in the next couple of days. 
Our next book discussion will be on June 9, "The Plague of Doves" by Louise Erdrich.
Please feel free to add your comments below.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Time and Place in John Cheever's Stories

Slowly coming to the end of the long journey that has been the Stories of John Cheever. Cheever takes his readers to a unique place in space and time that may feel incredibly foreign to New Mexico readers-- a land of servants, summer houses, elite boarding schools and malcontent, stay-at-home wives.

It's been fun imagining how these stories were told if they were about New Mexicans instead of New Yorkers. What would be different? A cabin in the Jemez would have such a different feel than the rental in "The Seaside Houses" but it's just as easy to imagine how such a cabin would embody the failed hopes and dreams of the family that owned it.

What would be different in these stories if the characters and settings were New Mexican? Would they be more hopeful overall or are the kinds of people and situations that Cheever writes about more universal?

Friday, May 6, 2016

Favorite John Cheever Quotations

What's your favorite John Cheever quotation?

Here's one I think speaks to many of his stories: "...we were all three characters in some bitter and sordid tragedy, carrying impossible burdens and separated from the rest of mankind by our misfortunes."

So many of Cheever's characters seem to feel this. Is this common or like so many other things in Cheever's stories, have the times changed enough that we no longer have to suffer this kind of isolation?

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Discussion Questions: The Stories of John Cheever by John Cheever

We are just two weeks away from our first Pulitzer discussion!  A few sample questions are listed below.  If you would like more discussion questions, click on the Thomas Branigan Memorial tab. If you have questions or thoughts about any of the stories in the book post them in the comment section or bring them to our meeting.

“Torch Song”

  1. Why is the title “Torch Song”?
  2. How does the narrator describe Joan?
  3. Why does the narrator omit the names of women that Jack dates or marries?
  4. What is the significance of the last paragraph in the story?

“The Wrysons”

  1. Why is Irene always dreaming about the hydrogen bomb?
  2. Why does Donald secretly bake cakes?
  3. The Wrysons are described as incapable of grasping life’s complexities. Is this description accurate?

“The Children”

  1. Does your opinion of Victor and Theresa change as the story progresses?
  2. Does Violet’s perception of her parents influence your perception of them?
  3. How does Mr. Matherly shape Victor’s character?