June 2019 Book Club Selection

Mating
Rush, Norman*: Mating** (1991)

* Peace Corps Director, Botswana 1978-1983

** 1991 National Book Award for Fiction, 1992 Maria Thomas Fiction Award

Discussion: Wednesday, June 12, 2019, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Ann and Roger Crockett, 1922 NE 12th Ave in Portland, 801-388-8235. Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Review: © Library Journal: As in Whites, Rush’s first collection of stories, this novel juxtaposes the relationship of two white Americans in Botswana against village life in that country. A woman anthropologist narrates her pursuit of and life with Nelson Denoon, a utopian socialist who set up an experimental matriarchal culture among poor African women in a remote area. Having met Denoon at a party, the anthropologist undertakes a dangerous trek alone through the Kalahari to Tsau, the site. After she gains the acceptance of the women, she is permitted to join Denoon, and their love story develops, interspersed with incidents in the village. Though there is plenty of action and interaction among the characters, this is largely a novel of ideas and anthropological information. The humor is at a sophisticated level, as is the vocabulary.

Where to find it:
Libraries: Clackamas Co | Ft Vancouver | Multnomah Co | Washington Co
Vendors: Powell’s | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

May 2019 Book Club Selection

The Fox Was Ever the Hunter
Müller, Herta*: The Fox Was Ever the Hunter (1992/2016)

* 2009 Nobel Literature Prize

Discussion: Thursday, May 9, 2019, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Lee Norris, 3748 SE Salmon St in Portland, 503-236-0998. Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Review: © Publishers Weekly: Set in Romania at the end of the Ceausescu era, this Kafkaesque tale offers a glimpse of a society unhinged by fear and paranoia and crushed by the hopelessness of its dead-end future. Its principal characters include Clara, a worker in a wire-making factory; her lover, Pavel, a married lawyer; Paul, a musician whose concerts have been raided by the police; and Adina, a schoolteacher who discovers that someone is regularly entering her apartment and systematically—and symbolically—dismembering a fox rug in her bedroom. Suspicions suggest that someone in this circle of friends and acquaintances is giving information to the authorities—but who? Nobel Prize–winner Müller (The Hunger Angel) foregrounds her tale against a bleak landscape mired in pollution and industrial waste, where the natural world is menacing: poplar trees ringing the town are described as “knives,” and the sun as a “blazing pumpkin.” In short, staccato chapters etched with her spare but crystalline prose, she parades scores of nameless working-class people who seem devoid of any inner life and whose prospects for rising above their circumstances are summed up as “Nothing but this gutter of poverty, hopelessness, and tedium, from mother to child and on to that child’s children.” More than a portrait of individual lives under the suffocating weight of a dictatorship, Müller’s novel is a searing appraisal of a people whose souls have been strangled by despair.

Where to find it:
Libraries: Clackamas Co | Ft Vancouver | Multnomah Co | Washington Co
Vendors: Powell’s | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

April 2019 Book Club Selection

I Didn't Do It For You
Wrong, Michela: I Didn’t Do It For You: How the World Betrayed a Small African Nation (2005)

Discussion: Tuesday, April 9, 2019, 7:00-8:30 pm. Location at the home of Jane and Mike Waite, 7008 Kansas St in Vancouver WA, 360-314-4117. Feel free to bring snacks to share.

Review: © Foreign Affairs: Wrong has written a penetrating history of Eritrea, starting with Italian colonialism, working her way through the 30-year struggle against Ethiopian occupation, and ending with independence, the pointless 1998 border war with Ethiopia, and the current dispiriting drift toward a police state. Her major theme is the raw deal the Eritrean nation has gotten from the rest of the world for much of the modern era. Italy, Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union, and, of course, Ethiopia, have all exploited the country or ignored the welfare of its people. Few Americans know, for example, that the U.S. Army long ran a large intelligence base there, Kagnew Station, that housed over 4,000 people — at a time when Eritrea was an integral (albeit contested) part of Ethiopia and Washington had little regard for its national aspirations. Wrong has an eye for the telling anecdote, and the book’s many vignettes, rich characters, and empathetic writing make for excellent reading.

Where to find it:
Libraries: Clackamas Co | Ft Vancouver | Multnomah Co
Vendors: Powell’s | Amazon | Barnes & Noble