Gimme Fiction!!

(Marco V Morelli) #42

Thank you, Doug, for making this happen! Let’s start a separate discussion on a Playbook-level template for Readers Underground. For now, I’ll cast my vote for Fiction Fridays (hopefully alternating with Film someday :smile:).

(Douglas Duff) #43

At this point, the six of us (@Douggins, @ZacharyFeder, @johnnydavis54, @Dona, @Geoffrey_Edwards and @madrush) have agreed upon the first Friday of the month beginning 6th of April @ 12PM MDT.


Will we all be reading from the English translation by Mabel Lee? There is also a French translation by Noël Dutrait and one in Arabic, among many others.

For the introduction meeting, could we perhaps have a combination of:

A: General Introductions to each other;
B: Introduction to Xingjian’s background, biography, bibliography, etc.;
C: Introduction to China and the Cultural Revolution;
D: Pre-read and discuss his Nobel prize “lecture” entitled “The Case for Literature?” (The lecture would be a good lead in to the discussion of B & C)

Please note: Besides the scheduled date/time, above are only suggestions. Please come out with your own ideas, preferences, concerns. Example: We can have a “host” that would lead us out each meeting, or, similar to previous Spheres and other readings on the site, we can alternate hosts each meeting.

@Dona: As your initial suggestion lead us to this point, wondering if you would like to contribute to the contextualization of Soul Mountain, maybe a intro to Gao Xingjian, your introduction to his work, other ideas…

@ZacharyFeder: Might your wife be our China contextualizer for us readers-in-residence?

(Dona Abbadi) #44

Hello everyone,

I am currently reading Mabel Lee’s translation. @Douggins sure I will do an introduction to Gao Xingjian :slight_smile:

Looking forward to seeing you all on 6th of April.


(Marco V Morelli) #45

That’s good to hear, Dona! And thanks, Doug, for the set-up.

I have a copy of “The Case for Literature” and feel it would be a good starting point for our conversation.

To clarify, will this be a kind of ‘preliminary’ meeting for which we wouldn’t be expected to have completed reading the novel? If so, would our May meeting be the one where we’ve all read it and can discuss it as a whole?

For those interested in the historical backdrop of the novel, there is a 3-part PBS series called “China: A Century of Revolution,” which I am planning to watch with the family.

Part 2 covers the period including Mao’s Cultural Revolution, which is so formative for Gao Xinjiang and seems to loom through the pages of Soul Mountain I’ve read so far. This history is directly addressed in “The Case for Literature.”

(Zachary Feder) #46

I’ll pass on the invite. Although she’s more likely to give me the cliff notes which I shall then happily transmit …

(Geoffrey Edwards) #47

I’d like to start the ball rolling for another fiction reading exercise. The last time around we had four choices on our short list, and two standouts. We chose Soul Mountain, but the other standout was Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. Is anyone else interested in pursuing our list of fiction books to read? We could also reopen the voting for a broader selection of books. Personally the Butler book has long been on my « must read » list, and I’d love to read it as a group, but I am open to a broader discussion.

(Douglas Duff) #48

(Another unposted reply…looks like I was working on a collection of all referenced books for a potential reading group discuss):

Don Delillo: Point Omega, White Noise, Underworld, Zero K
David Mitchell: Cloud Atlas, Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
Philip K. Dick: VALIS,
Ursula Le Guin: The Left Hand of Darkness,
Octavia Butler: Parables of the Sower
Samuel Delany: Nova; Phallos
Gao Xingjian: Soul Mountain
Liu Cixin: Remembrance of Earth’s Past
Geoffrey Edwards: Ido Compendium
Haruki Murakami
Ada Palmer’s « Too Like the Lightning »
Cordwainer Smith: “The Dead Lady of Clown Town” “The Fife of Bodhidharma
James Baldwin: Another Country; Giovanni’s Room
David Foster Wallace
Hermann Melville: Moby Dick, Billy Budd, Benito Cereno, Redburn)
Edgar Allan Poe: The Purloined Letter; The Leatherstocking Tales
Rilke’s Orpheus
Aurobindo’s Savitri
Huxley’s The Island

Personally, open to anything. If anyone has an unmentioned book to add to the list, go ahead and post. I would be fine, too, with going into Butler’s Parables of the Sower.

(john davis) #49

Yes. I read Mind of My Mind and loved it. So let’s do it.

(Geoffrey Edwards) #50

It took me a while to work out what I read, reading through the different synopses. It turns out I read Clay’s Ark, and the related short story « Bloodchild ».

So it looks like there is initial agreement for Parable of the Sower. I think there is a logic to do our top two choices before going on to the broader list. Also, it’s the first book of a diptych. We could commit to the pair of books, maybe? The sequel is Parable of the Talents.

Let’s work out a time. Could be a similar time slot as we used for The Minor Gesture, Wednesday at 10 a.m. say, MDT. That way if there are west coasters who want to participate it’s not too early and Europeans could sign on too. I also propose to meet every two weeks, like we did for The Minor Gesture. Thoughts?

(john davis) #51

That’s fine with me.

(Marco V Morelli) #52

I will read Parable of the Sower gladly, but let me not yet personally commit to the time slot. I am juggling a few balls and trying to keep a light schedule for the summer. I do like the two-week rhythm, though, and time of day is friendly. I would vote for it.

Maybe @dona and @p.mckeever and one or two other new @readers would like to join in?

(Patricia McKeever) #53

Sorry, I’ve already committed my summer reading time. Pat

(john davis) #54

I would like to take a break before we do another book as I am still working with Life Divine and want to do a follow up to Manning’s book with Doug and anyone else who wants to do some process work around Manning and Massumi and Simondon. How do we work with complex unstable systems? What techniques can we co-develop so that we can work with the field? I have some practices to share that need a few participants who want to go much deeper into the field. Safe to fail experiments. Social panoramas. Invisible architectonics.

Doug mentioned using the Weds time slot for that purpose but I am open to change that time for another time to accommodate others. But my top priority for the rest of this summer is to do some process work. I am highly motivated to read Butler. Maybe the fall?

We also mentioned doing something with Bateson, which is another huge mountain to climb. I voice this concern,( as we are in the next phase of planning), because I dont want to over commit again and get overwhelmed by doing too much and have to drop out as I did, unfortunately, with the last fiction group. I am also trying to get some writing projects off the ground. And I am hoping the Cafe will come up with some direction that seems illusive to me at the moment. I had hoped the Cafe would create the conditions for looking at articles or essays and scholar/practitioners in collaborative research, some artistic improvs happening on a weekly basis but that feels kind of wobbly right now. I feel the Cafe is kind of turning into the lizard lounge. Just saying. And there is nothing wrong with a Lizard Lounge. Pass me the potato chips!

Of course different folks can work with different speeds and so that’s cool. I just worry that we may be feeding the frenzied Neo-liberal cookie monster. Going nowhere fast.

How can we co-compose an ecological practice for each of us and all of us? Maybe that is not an appropriate question to ask at this time…I’m not sure…

(margomin) #55

Hi there,

I’ve been lurking for a year on this forum reading some of the books and reading/watching the discussions, but having difficulty participating for several reasons. Anyway, I would like to recommend a book that reads more like non fiction than fiction. It is Star Maker by British philosopher Olaf Stapledon. It was originally published in 1937 and offers a very interesting perspective of not only the evolution of humankind but of the entire universe. I’ve obviously put it in a very simplistic way but the novel is anything but simple. I’m including a link for an intro to it: Olaf Stapledon’s “Star Maker” Is a Lost Sci-Fi Masterpiece

Olaf Stapledon’s “Star Maker” Is a Lost Sci-Fi Masterpiece

Science fiction is a young man’s game. Many of the genre’s most dedicated readers, of course, are women, or men …

I have read both the Parable of Sower and the Parable of the Talents and loved both of them.

Thank you for the ongoing stimulating discussions provided here.



(Geoffrey Edwards) #56

Actually, I was thinking about Stapledon when I was proposing the Butler books - his work is very much in line with the large framework of the Infinite Conversations site. Star Maker is certainly one of his books that is relevant, but I also was thinking about Last and First Men or even Last Men in London. I would love to promote Stapledon’s writing, so thanks so much for bringing this forward @margomin! However, Stapledon is not such an easy read, at least, not these books - he wrote others that are easier to tackle (Sirius and Odd John, for example, both exceptional books). For those that don’t know Stapledon’s writing, Star Maker and Last and First Men deal with the future of humanity from the present through to billions of years from now. They are highly visionary books. I think these would make great texts a bit later on.

Regarding schedules, the reason I wanted to start this is because I miss the focus on fiction that we had with Soul Mountain. I agree that Bateson and Simondon are also good ideas, but they are not fiction. Essentially I am proposing to focus at least some of the time on fiction, and to slide the work on Bateson or Simondon into the fall. I feel that Aurobindo is already a big commitment of my time, but I want to read something that is, well, more “relaxing”. And I also want to put more preparation into setting up the reading group on Bateson, and, if we do Simondon, the same. For Sloterdijk, and even Manning, we had months to prepare ourselves for the reading. I feel something similar is needed for Bateson, and for Simondon, we need to track down the texts in English for the group. That will take time. Butler, on the other hand, is readily available for low cost, and is much “lighter” reading, so I feel it could be done much more readily and expeditiously. If you feel the schedule I propose is too fast (see below), we could slow it down still further. Regarding the Wednesday time slot, if you are proposing something, @johnnydavis54 , why not do it in the alternate time slots, skipping two weeks like I am proposing here? So Aug. 1st, Aug. 22nd, Sept. 5th, etc.)…

Here is my proposed schedule - I tried to post this earlier but it didn’t “stick”!

It may be too soon to start next week, and we also have the writer’s group later in the day on the 25th, and I can’t August 1st because I will be in an airplane at that time. So I propose to start August 8th.

Parable of the Sower

Week 1 (Aug. 8) : Intro to Octavia Butler (I will prepare something)

Week 2 (Aug. 15) : Ch. 1-8

Week 4 (Aug. 29) : Ch. 9-16

Week 6 (Sept. 12) : Ch. 17-25

Parable of the Talents

Week 8 (Sept. 26) : Prologue + Ch. 1-7

Week 10 (Oct. 17) : Ch. 8-14 (I skipped the 10th because of the Gebser conference)

Week 12 (Oct. 24) : Ch. 15-21 + Epilogue

Week 13 (Oct. 31). : Wrap-up

(john davis) #57

I think I will decline this time around for the reasons stated previously. Have a great read!

(Marco V Morelli) #58

Hi Margari, thanks for sharing this suggestion.

I had not encountered the novel before, and based on the description in the article, it sounds fascinating. The connection with Spinoza’s concept of God—Nature as the substance of God that wants to know and exceed itself—is resonant with our reading of Aurobindo, and also Spinoza’s question, “What can a body do?” has some bearing on our various readings.

I, for one, am interested…and definitely suggest we add it to the list that @Douggins shared above. However, I think I would like to read the Octavia Butler books first; but I do also want to take a breath and think through my time commitment so that I’m not struggling later, feeling overcommitted. Like @johnnydavis54 I have various other things I concurrently want to get done over the coming months. But like @Geoffrey_Edwards, I too miss the focus on fiction. I feel it’s important to complement my conceptual mind with the narrative, symbolic spaces that fiction creates.

Personally, I could imagine reading Star Maker or something else by Stapledon after Aurobindo. That said, in the spirit of ‘decentralizing’ I would invite any member who wants to read a particular book, to simply propose it in a new topic. There may be other ‘lurkers’ (better term? active listeners? silent observers?) out there would like to read with you, and use this space to share thoughts and reflections, and they can let you know about it there. That’s what the Readers Underground is here for! Creating a dedicated topic for a proposed reading would be a good way to do bring attention to the book you would like to read, as well as work out the details with anyone who would like to read it with you.

None of this is well-operationalized yet, but I am communicating my intention. I would like to support a culture of deep reading and open dialogue, not any one particular curriculum but a powerful literary zone. I like that we can chart our individualized courses, based on what is ecological for each us, while finding fellowship in various niches where we may intersect.

I have been thinking of sending an email to the Metapsychosis list soon, so perhaps I should mention the Octavia Butler plan? @margomin, are you hoping to join us for any of the video meetings? Would you re-read The Parable of the Sower, or are you holding out for Star Maker?

(john davis) #59

We are floating on a swarm of the indefinable, where, when these niches, come together,have a strong ‘as if’ quality. We share some meaning making, and then move on. And through a medium that is virtual but not actual, what is gobbled up by multiple users? Who pays attention to the delicate web of relationships?

At our best we have been pretty good at this but I worry about getting overly aggressive with texts and reading too much in a half ass way. That hasn’t happened yet. I have to monitor my own levels of affective modulation. Group life depends upon this. This has been traditionally what grandma and grandpa were supposed to be paying attention to, the slow, deep rhythms. That is getting drowned out by the hungry ghosts who want it all right now. As I am becoming older and not much wiser, I want to read the way an absorbed yogi does pranayama. I dont want to read books, I want to breathe them. The quality of attention

So we open to the new and let go of that which is perishing and some of us just want to be alone for awhile. I find the beginnings, middles and ends of social groups are interesting, as this is what fiction focuses mostly upon. That which perishes. And reading books well might be on the endangered list.

I may not have the time to read Octavia Butler carefully but approve of the author and this project. Some of you might know that Butler studied Lynn Marguiles, who with her son, Dorian Sagan, wrote some entertaining biology. Micro-Cosmos is one of their books. It is interesting to discover which kinds of science texts Butler used while crafting her wierd stories. Butler paid exquisite attention to the Undercommons.

Bruce Clarke, who authored, Narrative and Cybernetics, pays attention to many feminist eco writers, which if you are interested in the interplay of Literature and Science, would be of great interest.

But all of this, ( which would get me motivated) is perhaps a niche within a niche and it remains a mystery to me how any of this gets momentum when our asynchronous communications seek harmony but rarely find it. Each of us are probably not coming from a place where ecological wisdom is the norm.

At any rate, moving towards an Ecological Civiliazation, if that will happen, it will be made actual by those of us who care about such an outrageous idea.

(Henna Aslam) #60

Hi Marco! Thanks for letting me know about the new reading group. I’m swamped this summer and won’t be able to join unfortunately. Hopefully I can reconnect when things slow down. I’m still getting through the recordings from the Manning group and inspired by all the insights shared by you and the group!

All the best,


(Marco V Morelli) #61

Thanks for the note, Henna. It was nice meeting you on the Minor Gesture calls. Yes, hopefully you/we can reconnect on another occasion. I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer!