Big Readers Forum Index


Group Read: Tim Gautreaux - Waiting for the Evening News
Page Previous  1, 2, 3, 4  Next
 
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Big Readers Forum Index -> Read a chosen book together
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
Sandraseahorse



Joined: 21 Nov 2008
Posts: 1154



PostPosted: Tue Jun 24, 2014 8:28 am    Post subject:  Reply with quote

I too found "Navigators of Thought" disappointing.  It seemed a contrived set-up and appeared to be heading towards farce rather than tragedy.   But there were only a couple of stories in the collection that failed to engage me.

My two main thoughts are, first,  how engrossed I became in the stories in just a couple of pages.  I remember once trying to persuade my book group to do a short story collection and one woman said she always found short stories "thin" and wanted something to really get into.  With this selection I was really gripped by the characters' dilemmas.

The second aspect is how much compassion there was in the stories.  I found myself drawn to characters that probably I wouldn't immediately warm to; the reckless young  driver, the drunken train driver who has made a terrible error of judgement.  Gautreaux doesn't sanitise all of his characters; they are still liable to utter the occasional racist remark.  But we empathise with the characters' situations.


Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Jen M



Joined: 24 Nov 2008
Posts: 596


Location: Middlesex, UK

PostPosted: Tue Jun 24, 2014 1:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have read 7 so far, and all but one, Died and Gone to Vegas, have engaged me very quickly.  Rather like the woman in Sandra's book group, I don't usually find short stories very satisfying, but I am very much enjoying these.

I did like Navigators of Thought.  I found it both poignant and funny, and the descriptions of boating procedures didn't bother me.  I liked it that the team did save the boat, as they were instructed, although at huge cost to one.  I found myself wondering what I would have done in that situation (not that I am an academic with my life's work in one manuscript).

I think my favourite so far is The Bug Man. I was initially shocked at his treatment of the 'Slug' family, but at the same time understood it.  Again, I wondered what I would have done in a similar situation (and also again, one that is not likely to arise).

So, yes, I can identify with the emotions and reactions of the characters; ordinary people struggling against circumstances and making the best of things, as we all do to an extent.



_________________
Jen
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Castorboy



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 1798


Location: Castor Bay Auckland NZ

PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2014 12:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sandraseahorse wrote:
My two main thoughts are, first, †how engrossed I became in the stories in just a couple of pages. †I remember once trying to persuade my book group to do a short story collection and one woman said she always found short stories "thin" and wanted something to really get into. †With this selection I was really gripped by the characters' dilemmas.

The second aspect is how much compassion there was in the stories. †I found myself drawn to characters that probably I wouldn't immediately warm to; the reckless young †driver, the drunken train driver who has made a terrible error of judgement. †Gautreaux doesn't sanitise all of his characters; they are still liable to utter the occasional racist remark. †But we empathise with the characters' situations.

I experienced the same reactions - all the stories made me think, and I must decide which are my favourites.


Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Chibiabos83
Site Admin


Joined: 19 Nov 2008
Posts: 3406


Location: Cambridge, UK

PostPosted: Wed Jun 25, 2014 5:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've now finished the collection. Thanks again to those who recommended it. As has been mentioned, this is actually two sets of short stories, originally published separately, now in an omnibus volume. If I were an editor I could easily trim it down to a favourite ten or twelve.

Short stories, being short, have to make their mark. One way of doing that is to have an arresting opening. I didn't always feel that with these stories, and it often took a page or two for my mind to focus (which may be my shortcoming, not that of the stories). Another way is to have a satisfying ending, and there were quite a few stories in this collection that made me sigh with admiration as I got to the end, just because they felt so absolutely right. I'm thinking of 'Resistance', for instance, where an old man helps his neighbours' daughter with her science project. The girl's father is a brute. He insinuates that the old man may be a paedophile, and trashes the science project the night before it is due in. The old man stays up all night remaking the project, as once his own father did for him. He presents the girl with it the following morning, and she takes it without thanking him, just as he failed to thank his father. The story ends with him going to his father's grave and giving thanks. I can't think who wouldn't be moved by the circularity of this man living the actions of his own father, two generations later. I dare say it's a simple enough device for a writer to use, but in this instance it's very well done.

The reason I say I could cut the book down by about half its length is partly because some of the stories were just too bleak in their resolution for my taste. True to life, I'm sure, but not as I would have liked them. That was the case with 'The Pine Oil Writers' Conference' (among other stories), where a minister who dreams of being a writer has an epiphany on a residential course when one of the tutors says he is the best new writer she's seen for years. He doesn't write another word, and his roommate makes a fortune writing pulpy thrillers. There's so much hope in Gautreaux's characters that I want things to work out for them -- as Sandra says, he inspires you to feel compassion for the less likely characters as well as the more likely -- and sometimes they do, but often they don't. Occasionally there was a story like the ghoulish 'Rodeo Parole' that was too unpleasant for me, not that I have a particularly weak stomach. Can anyone enlighten me as to its message? It felt like a fable.

Sometimes the story ends with a twist, something pleasingly unexpected. In 'Good for the Soul', a tipsy priest is asked to go and read a dying man the last rites. He crashes into a parishioner's car and breaks her arm, and has his licence suspended. He is then prevailed upon to steal a car in order that it can be returned to its owner anonymously, which he does partly out of the goodness of his heart and partly because he is too ashamed to admit he isn't allowed to drive. He gets caught by the police and is scorned by the people who once respected him; but then he sees the dying man in the congregation, who has never set foot inside the church before, and perhaps that means his trials have been worth it after all. That's a distillation of the plot that doesn't quite represent the feeling of poetic ... not justice, exactly ... but there is a feeling once more of rightness, that some kind of divine order is at work, and if it's not a fairytale ending then it is at least an ending where things are brought into alignment, if not in the way you'd expect.


Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Castorboy



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 1798


Location: Castor Bay Auckland NZ

PostPosted: Thu Jun 26, 2014 2:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have only read ten stories with my favourites being The Courtship of Merlin LeBlanc and The Bug Man. The main, and very subjective, reason for those two choices was the way the men were made to feel concern for or were passionate about the welfare of a baby. Totally believable from my point of view as a grandfather.  In the first that concern came from the great-grandfather who established the needs of the baby, and was going to ensure that Merlin would care for and realise what a joy he could anticipate by nurturing the baby girl. While in The Bug Man it was plain that Felix and Clarisse desperately wanted a child but it wasnít to be on account of a racist woman.

Iím not sure what to make of the first story. Nine of the ten stories are based in post WW11 America concentrating on the male perspective and action whereas the female takes up the more passive or a bystanding role e.g. neglected wife, runaway girl friend. Very rarely is the woman shown taking an aggressive stance except in Little Frogs in a Ditch where a swift punch flattens the selfish Lenny. So it comes as quite a surprise in Same Place, Same Things to a story set in the Depression. Here the man is the one who is passive while the woman is, I think, a serial killer intent on escaping a life of boredom on farms, and wanting to travel anywhere as long as itís 100 miles from where she is at present. Is this the only Depression story in the collection or is Gautreaux using it to indicate that women can also be violent, can become irrational if times are hard, that the men folk on rural properties need to consider the womanís needs? For whatever reason, it prepares us for the subsequent absorbing stories.


Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
chris-l



Joined: 27 Nov 2008
Posts: 731



PostPosted: Fri Jun 27, 2014 9:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was a little puzzled about the summing up of Mrs Malone in 'The Bug Man' as 'a racist woman'. I have reread the story in order to see if I had missed some clues about a racial element. Certainly the bug man has dark hair and eyes and Mrs Malone seems to be a blue-eyed blond, but I could not detect anything that suggested a racial difference. Differences of social class, education and economic status are certainly evident, but, unless I am being very obtuse, no evidence of any divide of race.

Certainly she seems to be a snob, but I think there is also an element of not wishing her child to be brought up by someone known to her, within the local community, where she might be frequently reminded of what she had lost. The latter sentiment, at least, did not seem to me to be wholly unreasonable.

It was a very poignant story: the couple who longed for children with  no hope of fulfilment of their dreams, the woman who found herself unwillingly a parent, and the family with numerous children, with no notion of how blessed they were. All of this could be extended to cover so much in life, in the way that those who have are unaware of their good fortune, while those who have not are powerless to change their position. It is by no means a simplistic tale: Felix and his wife prosper on a material level, and achieve a significant level of fulfilment in most aspects of their lives. It is simply in the way that means most to them, their wish to have a child, they are doomed to disappointment.


Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Castorboy



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 1798


Location: Castor Bay Auckland NZ

PostPosted: Sat Jun 28, 2014 2:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You are right chris - I used the wrong word, it should have been a xenophobic woman because she tells him the baby wouldn't be like him, a Frenchman. She continues that it would be cruel to give the child to him.
Your summing up is correct; it is far from being a simplistic tale for all the reasons you have given. Now I am reading the next five stories in the book.


Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
iwishiwas



Joined: 21 Nov 2008
Posts: 352


Location: NE England

PostPosted: Sat Jun 28, 2014 8:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sadly I am lagging behind, will try and read a few more tomorrow!



_________________
Keep smiling!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Chibiabos83
Site Admin


Joined: 19 Nov 2008
Posts: 3406


Location: Cambridge, UK

PostPosted: Sat Jun 28, 2014 8:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don't worry - I'm sure the discussion will go on for a while longer. I'm still mulling over the stories in my mind and will try to think of something interesting to say at some point (not always easy) Smile

Thanks all for your contributions so far - very interesting.


Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Jen M



Joined: 24 Nov 2008
Posts: 596


Location: Middlesex, UK

PostPosted: Fri Jul 04, 2014 2:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm still working my way through these, still enjoying them, but on looking at the list of titles, find I can't remember what some of them were about.

On the subject of race, I too was puzzled about Castorboy's comments about a racist woman in The Bug Man. †I realised that I don't know much about the racial make-up of Louisiana, so I did a bit of googling. †For those who don't know (and I didn't) the Cajuns are French Canadians from the part of Canada known as Acadia (say "Acadian" quickly and you will see...). †According to Wikipedia (and I know Wikipedia can be unreliable), the Cajuns are a distinct racial group.

The following interview with Tim Gautreaux is interesting:
http://www.southernspaces.org/200...cartographer-louisiana-back-roads †He says he doesn't write about race, he writes about people. †

I wonder whether Mrs Malone is simply aware of the differentness between herself and the bug man.

I will come back to the discussion later.




_________________
Jen
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Big Readers Forum Index -> Read a chosen book together All times are GMT
Page Previous  1, 2, 3, 4  Next
Page 3 of 4

 
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum

Card File  Gallery  Forum Archive
Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2002 phpBB Group
Big Readers Theme by Mike Alexander
Based on Artemis by Vjacheslav Trushkin
Create your own free forum | Buy a domain to use with your forum