Saturday, April 25, 2009

Read Me Vegas - Online book Discussion April 2009

Read Me Vegas, the online book discussion, works differently that the standard "face-to-face" book discussion group. In the live-action book groups, members usually meet in person, about once a month, and discuss their experiences and opinions of the selected title.

In the online book group, there is no face-to-face meeting. The folks involved all read the book and form their own opinions. As the leader of the group, I post topics three times a week.

I always start with an introduction, information about the author, and a list of the characters. From there, things get really different.

I don't usually talk directly about the book itself. I select topics within the book, and investigate them more fully.

The book we've been reading for April has been The Monkey Wrench Gang, by Edward Abbey.

The basic story is: Four whacky people - a lonely widowed surgeon, his confused, new-age hippie girlfriend, a polygamist river guide and a recently returned Vietnam Vet, have a wild and fun time driving over the desert southwest, vandalizing construction sites, until they all get arrested, except for the Vet, who is killed in a Rambo-like firefight.

OK, I didn't enjoy this book. Edward Abbey and I just think different ways. As a really old liberal greenie treehugger, I expected to enjoy this book. I didn't. I didn't find a whole lot of yucks in property damage and police shootings.

This book was written in the early 1970s, and was the basis for the EarthFirst! Environmental extremist organization, which has been linked to similar vandalism.

Many reviewers commented on the humor in this book. The humor totally escaped me. I thought the characters were unappealing, and they all hated themselves. Just not a barrel of chuckles.

The book did give me the opportunity to explore some very interesting topics. We talked about environmental activism, environmental extremism, the American Indian Movement, the Vietnam Anti-War movement, Vietnam Vets, and Vietnam POWs. These were all tremendously interesting.

If you read this book as just a quirky adventure book about some unusual characters, it could probably be entertaining. You might also enjoy books by Kurt Vonnegut or Kinky Friedman.

If you're interested in the environmental aspects, you may want to read more by Abbey, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, or Marc Reisner.

If you're interested in fiction set in the Southwest, with an ecological bent, I recommend Tony Hillerman and CJ Box.


Next month, the library will be celebrating Asian American Heritage Month. We'll be reading Tai Pan, by James Clavell. You may remember Clavell best for his TV Miniseries Shogun. Tai Pan is set in the mid 1880s, in Hong Kong, as the British Traders are first establishing the colony of Hong Kong.

There's a lot of action in this book - heroes, history, love, betrayal, politics, murder, and more. Most of the characters were based on actual people or organizations. The history is fascinating.

Join us online in May for the discussion of this entertaining and involving title!

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