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Group Read: Tim Gautreaux - Waiting for the Evening News
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Chibiabos83
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Joined: 19 Nov 2008
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Location: Cambridge, UK

PostPosted: Sat Jun 14, 2014 10:10 am    Post subject:  Reply with quote

Very happy to go along with that.


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chris-l



Joined: 27 Nov 2008
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 14, 2014 5:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Me,too.


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Castorboy



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
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Location: Castor Bay Auckland NZ

PostPosted: Sun Jun 15, 2014 2:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am on my fifth story so reaching 10 by June 23rd will be a breeze Ė now Iíve started I canít stop.


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Chibiabos83
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2014 9:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

chris-l wrote:
I think I am about halfway through now, and the two stories so far that stand out for me are 'The Courtship of Merlin LeBlanc', and 'People on the Empty Road'. That is not to say that I could not find something to say about the others, just that those two made most impact.

Six stories in, I am of entirely this opinion. Looking forward to discussion soon.


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Sandraseahorse



Joined: 21 Nov 2008
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2014 10:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've finished it.  I feel almost as if I've been greedy and scoffed a whole box of chocolates in one go.  It's been a long time since I enjoyed a book of short stories - or any book - so much and I'd like to thank Jen M. for recommending it.


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Castorboy



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
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Location: Castor Bay Auckland NZ

PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2014 10:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My sentiments entirely - I never expected to be so overwhelmed by the sheer display of various experiences and emotions which I feel everyone has seen in their own life. Superb.


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Jen M



Joined: 24 Nov 2008
Posts: 596


Location: Middlesex, UK

PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2014 10:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sandraseahorse wrote:
I've finished it. †I feel almost as if I've been greedy and scoffed a whole box of chocolates in one go. †It's been a long time since I enjoyed a book of short stories - or any book - so much and I'd like to thank Jen M. for recommending it.


I'm delighted this book has gone down so well - the credit must go to Iwishiwas, who recommended Tim Gautreaux to me when I wanted some suggestions of books to read when I was visiting Atlanta.  

I am enjoying these too and will join in the discussion next week, however far I have got.



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iwishiwas



Joined: 21 Nov 2008
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Location: NE England

PostPosted: Sat Jun 21, 2014 9:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm glad to see Waiting For The Evening News has been well received. I didn't realise that it also contained all the stories from Welding With Children until I bought the Kindle edition. I love the writing, so evocative and detailed with plenty to dwell upon during and after reading.



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Chibiabos83
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 22, 2014 10:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excuse me for getting the ball rolling a little ahead of schedule, but I may not have time to post much tomorrow. (We're an international lot, so I dare say it is already tomorrow for some of you.) I'm about 2/3 of the way in (14 down, 9 to go), and so should finish in two or three days with a favourable wind behind me.

Thanks to Jen and Iwishiwas for suggesting the book. It took me a while to get into the world Tim Gautreaux's characters inhabit, but as I've gone on I've been more and more impressed, and some of the stories are quite superb. If I have a favourite so far, it's probably 'Returnings', the story of a bereaved mother who helps a lost Vietnamese pilot navigate back to his barracks. I found it unspeakably poignant, and full of the little acts of kindness that appear in many of the other stories in this anthology, which often deal with people who are down on their luck and trying to fix things that have gone wrong, or to atone for their past misdeeds.

There are recurring themes in these stories. One is intergenerational relationships, especially relationships with one generation missing -- 'Little Frogs in a Ditch', with Lenny, abandoned by his parents, acting against the wishes of his grandfather to sell pigeons to credulous people; 'Welding with Children', with a man taking care of the four children of his four unmarried daughters and trying to work out the best way to fight the values they have learned from violent films, trash TV and magazines; 'The Courtship of Merlin LeBlanc', which features five (!) generations of the same family, people who love each other but find their relationships tested, and (again) worrying about bringing up a baby with an absent mother. I assume the Louisiana society Gautreaux writes about, and must know inside out, is like this. My own knowledge of this area of the USA is sketchy and picked up from probably unrepresentative films like Walter Hill's Southern Comfort, a film about a bunch of arrogant guardsmen being picked off by hostile Cajuns. I found the French language that creeps into the dialogue more evocative of place than anything else, probably because I already had this association in my head - the French language and the bayou.

There's also a heavy emphasis on machinery, in almost every story in fact. I wouldn't have noticed it if it hadn't irritated me at the start. If there is one story that I didn't like in the collection, it is 'Navigators of Thought', which has several incompetent ex-academics trying to pilot a tugboat. They get into trouble and one of them drowns trying to save the manuscript of his book. It's a wonderful idea for a story, and might have been comic and poignant in equal measure, but I thought the comedy and sadness were both diffused by the protracted descriptions of their boating procedures. There are other stories in which the machinery is instrumental to the plot, like the tragic 'License to Steal', in which drunkard Curtis tries to get a job in a sawmill but destroys a car, and, by implication, his own life. In 'Welding with Children', the decision to get rid of an engine block hanging up in his yard is symbolic of the narrator's turning over a new leaf to provide a better life for his grandchildren. Machines are important to this world, and provide a livelihood for many of the characters.

Just a handful of thoughts that have occurred to me, anyway. Would anyone like to discuss particular stories? Do you have favourites (or least favourites)?


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chris-l



Joined: 27 Nov 2008
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2014 6:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am happy to see that you have got the discussion going! I haven't posted for the past few days, because I have been away, with little internet access, but that has given me time to read through all the stories.

I agree with you about the themes, especially the family aspect. It seemed to me that this was quite unusually presented most often from a male perspective: we all too often look upon. 'family' as being a female preserve, but the crucial role, for good or for ill, of the man is very forcibly presented. That was, I think, what first struck me about 'The Courtship of Merlin LeBlanc'. Many of you who have been on the board for a long while, will know that I am a great admirer of John Updike. I always loved his work because he seemed to deal with aspects of life that I recognised. I was a little startled when someone once questioned why I liked him so much, asking 'Isn't he a bit blokeish'. At first, I thought that was an absurd idea - he has some wonderful female characters - but eventually, I did come to see that much of his fiction revolved around the dilemma of how a man should behave in modern society. This seems also to apply to Tim Gautreaux. Obviously the geographical and social setting here is very different from Updike's New England, but I do see similarities.

The other aspect of these stories which surprised me somewhat, was the extent of humour. Sometimes, they are almost laugh out loud funny, despite the grim settings. 'The Piano Tuner' could almost have been, in parts, a Buster Keatonesque movie, and 'Easy Pickings' had a strong element of farce (while still examining the role of the male!). Sometimes the humour arises from the self-deception of the characters, often from  their inability to properly control the machinery, which, as Chib has noted, is present one way or another in most of the stories.

I won't say much more for now, but I do look forward to hearing the impressions of others who have read these stories.



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