Round Rock New Neighbors is a social organization of women welcoming women in the Round Rock area since 1978. Both "new" and "old" neighbors are welcome. For more information: rrnewneighbors.org [Barnes & Noble requires that RRNN's book club be open to the public, so you do not need to be an RRNN member to attend book club, and both men and women are welcome and do attend. ]
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Thursday, April 19, 2012
Round Rock New Neighbors Book Discussion Group Reads More than 10,000 Pages
In Round Rock, TX during the early spring of 2012, a good baker's dozen people read the 866-page book, An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser! This is a piece of history! And at least 13 liked the book! I'll bet no other group in RR read this many pages this past month! This was one of the more ambitious books our club has chosen. It was intense, dense, and time-consuming for a month's read. As a long-time reader and librarian, I have enjoyed books of all kinds, many during a variety of school experiences, many more quietly alone, and a few with my family. Nevertheless, I find our book club endlessly refreshing and inspiring with its many dedicated readers and insightful, interesting discussions! It impresses me when the group voluntarily reads a long or otherwise daunting book, and I am duly inspired to skip my cryptograms and YouTube for a few weeks to complete the book. There are so many aspects of our world that are abridged! The group gives me (and I hope "us") the incentive to read and thus receive the gifts offered by the books read. Book clubs are popular, and I can see why!
An American Tragedy is divided into "Books" 1, 2, and 3. Using some insights from our discussion, I would characterize these parts briefly in this way: Book 1 - In which we meet Clyde and lose respect for him when he refuses to help his sister. Book 2 - In which Roberta:Clyde:Sondra and the crime is committed. Book 3 - The trial. Patty used these divisions to keep our discussion on track. Having not taken the time to research the book or author, I thought the author's talents were even more amazing than they really were. I thought that not only was he an excellent writer with an outstanding vocabulary but that he was particularly erudite in his creation of the legal details of the trial. Learning that Dreiser based the book on a real crime and trial, I must guess that he used a lot of the details and trial characteristics from the real trial. With no stone left unturned (who knows where a suit might be hidden?) and no loose ends, the book's rendition of the trial is too amazing to be manufactured by anyone without detailed knowledge of a similar case.
The group addressed the question as to why the book was banned in 1925 when it was published. Here is the list of possible reasons we suggested: the bellhops go to a brothel, sex is mentioned 2 or 3 times in the book and sexual undertones abound, the efforts to create or get an abortion are detailed and could be considered almost instructive, the word "pregnant" is used approximately twice, the extramarital relations is a theme of the story to the point of being considered almost incriminating even if Clyde were to be declared innocent of the crime, and it is possible that the upper social class who had the power to ban the book found the depiction of the shallowness of the upper social class in the book distasteful.
Jay observed that except for some of the language and a few details, this book could have been written today. This says a lot for Dreiser as an author as well as opening a new topic of discussion. Another topic we did not get to was the question as to whether the book was a steppingstone toward social reform. This long book merits much more discussion! How novel would it be to nominate the book again soon and discuss more of its sides?