The Transit of Venus

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Rohan on Tue Apr 05, 2011 2:17 pm

Litlove: on the other hand, living in the UK put you several hours ahead of the rest of us in terms of putting your thoughts in order--loved your post.

On a somewhat different topic, I realize I am supposed to 'tag' the next person to nominate our next book. I'm not altogether sure what the etiquette is, but I had an idea I wanted to float. The recent lists of books have all included so many I'd love to read that didn't 'win' the voting: what about putting together a voting list from those that came second or third in previous rounds, maybe going back three or four turns? But if this is a breach of protocol, we can proceed as usual.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Susan P on Tue Apr 05, 2011 12:44 pm

I love that idea, Rohan. Usually I find myself buying a book or two that didn't make the cut from any suggested list. Many times a book wins by only one vote, so there's definitely interest in the runners-up.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Rebecca H. on Tue Apr 05, 2011 1:31 pm

That sounds like a great idea to me, Rohan! The lists are always wonderful, and it would make sense to keep drawing on old ones.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Lilian Nattel on Tue Apr 05, 2011 1:32 pm

What I liked about this book was her inventive use of language--but I found the constant psychological analysis of character's reactions kept me at a distance from them. At times--as when she is describing Grace and Caro as children and their lives with Dora--the analysis is brilliant. But the density & unusualness of language (though I admired it) and that ongoing analysis kept me on the surface instead of forgetting that I was reading.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Rebecca H. on Tue Apr 05, 2011 1:42 pm

I agree, Lilian, although staying on the surface is not a negative thing for me. The reading did go slowly, and I stopped all the time to think about the language and to puzzle out what was happening. I suppose I rarely forget I'm reading, so I'm content with a book that draws attention to its own language like this one does.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by dsimpson on Tue Apr 05, 2011 1:50 pm

Dense is a perfect word for the story--it was sometimes hard to get past that underneath it all--for me anyway. I never felt very close to the characters--more like I was on the outside looking in. Maybe a second read would would open it up more.

And I like the idea of choosing a book from previous 'runners-up'.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Lilian Nattel on Tue Apr 05, 2011 2:53 pm

I also seldom forget that I'm reading--but it's what I most enjoy when it happens. I think choosing from previous runners-up is a great idea.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Litlove on Tue Apr 05, 2011 3:58 pm

I'm also very much up for choosing from previous near-misses! I love the idea.

You know, what I love about this discussion is that we all respect completely the level of engagement we had with this book, the different ways we appreciated it, the different things that drew us in and held us apart from it. I am so annoyed with a commenter on my site who seems to be pestering me to change my opinion about the book because he loves the baroque language and clearly thinks I should too. Grrrr!! When will it ever become accepted that different readers respond in different ways and that this is just FINE? In fact it's interesting in and of itself, and valuable and intriguing. Sorry for the rant - for some reason this has fallen on a nerve today. Probably PMT! Very Happy

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Rebecca H. on Tue Apr 05, 2011 4:06 pm

Pestering is certainly the right word! Yes, very annoying. Sadly, people's sense of identity is so often bound up in their opinions and they feel threatened when someone disagrees. That's my guess for why such pestering happens, anyway. It's particularly hard to take when it's accompanied by a certain arrogance and sense of entitlement. Arg!

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Rohan on Tue Apr 05, 2011 4:12 pm

That commenter (who I think I have come across before in similar pestering modes!) is underestimating the sophistication of your reading of the novel and taking you to be resisting it because it's not simply an easy read--which is a very reductive reading, on his part, of what you actually said.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Stefanie on Tue Apr 05, 2011 4:49 pm

I was too busu eeking out the last shreds of my birthday yesterday and missed a great conversation! So I'll just say I loved the book, I loved that it demanded I pay attention, I loved the little clues even though it took me a while to clue into that and by the time I got to the end I forgot about Ted's end but I got Caro's right away. I was sad that they couldn't be together after all that, but I felt the end was not at all inappropriate.

Dora and Christian were the two characters that made me angry. Christian because he was always talking about not losing one's humanity but was one of the least humane people in the book. And Dora because she was so mean and bitter right up to the end and poor Caro could never escape from the grip of the obligation she felt towards her.

I like the idea of a list made of choices from past lists.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Litlove on Tue Apr 05, 2011 5:38 pm

Dorothy and Rohan - thank you! You are both so right that it's about identity being bound up in certain opinions, and that such comments often do focus on highly selective readings of blog posts!

Stefanie - happy birthday (belatedly!). It's wonderful to come across an author you really love. The Slaves have often put me in touch with novelists I'd never have considered before but whom I end up really glad to have read.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Lilian Nattel on Tue Apr 05, 2011 6:42 pm

Litlove, it was a relief to me that you had a similar reaction, not because I mind if anyone does love this book, but because I know that you wouldn't be put off by the difficulty of the writing as such.

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Re: The Transit of Venus

Post by Litlove on Tue Apr 05, 2011 9:24 pm

Lilian - bless you. No, compared to Pierre Guyotat, Bernard Noel and Alain Robbe-Grillet, Shirley Hazzard was a walk in the park! To be perfectly fair, the commenter in question has now left a very conciliatory comment, so all is forgiven, and in fact I'm hoping I wasn't too grouchy in my response. Oh the joys of 'tone' in the virtual world!

I do think this book was a really good book club book because I was just so keen to know what everyone else thought of it, how they'd reacted to it. It was certainly one of those books to provoke a wide range of reactions. When I read other online reviews, there were some real battle royales between people who loved it and people who hated it and were bored by it. I wonder whether it's the books that take an extreme line - that push really hard on one part of the narrative, be it language or character or plot - that provoke the most discussion. Or whether it is the 'difficult' books, the ones that ask for a reread, that divide people. Or maybe it's impossible to tell?

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