This week’s reading comprised Chapters Six and Seven, which in fact (this was not premeditated on my part) have a certain unity, swirling around Harald Petersen, the husband of Kay and, as we’ve found out, the lover of Norine, a Vassar graduate who was not a member of “the group,” but a sort of bitter admirer of their wealth, beauty, and self-assurance.
What is surprising, however, is that this focus on Harald allows McCarthy to move into the consciousnesses—in what is generally referred to as a close-third person point of view or free indirect discourse—of persons beyond the women of “the group.” Rather than a section from Pokey Prothero’s point of view, we have one from her family’s butler, Hatton; rather than another section from Dottie Renfrew’s point of view, we have one from her mother’s. Helena Davison has the whole of Chapter Six narrated from her viewpoint, however.
Why McCarthy would decide to leave the actual members of “the group” for their families and servants is more than a little obscure; perhaps the fuller meaning of these characters will be revealed by subsequent events, but I do have a guess. (more…)asks “Does It Help To Know History?”
I love it when these kinds of big philosophical questions are posed in highly public fora. Let’s analyze Gopnik’s answer—paragraph by paragraph (don’t worry, it’s only eight paragraphs long).
Gopnik’s opening (bolds mine): (more…)
I thought I’d just take a moment on here to re-post the reading schedule for our group read of Mary McCarthy’s The Group, and to make another proposal for anyone who’s going to the S-USIH conference in Indianapolis this October.
Since we’ll be finished with The Group by that date, if anyone would like to read another novel and get together some time during the off-hours of the conference, I thought we could have a face-to-face discussion over drinks or dinner. My suggestion, although I am certainly open to suggestions (please comment below), is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s recent novel Americanah. From what I’ve read about it, it should provide ample material for a lively tête-à-tête.
Now, the schedule for the remaining weeks of our group read of The Group: (more…)
Note: The writing below is a reworking of material I presented here a couple of weeks ago. It is mostly new, but includes some passages that might be familiar. I have opted to present this essay in its current form–in process, still to be considerably revised, fated ultimately to be the first chapter of my dissertation (which, thank goodness, I have been writing out of chronological order). For those interested in process, I thought that it might be interesting to shed some light on how this sort of thing comes together. (more…)
Today we begin the second week of classes here at the University of Oklahoma. This semester, like most semesters, I’m teaching my lower-division Honors class on American social thought, an entirely primary-source based journey from the Puritans to the present by way of Hollinger and Capper. During the first meeting of this course, which fell on Tuesday last week, I always say a few words about how my students should approach the texts that we’ll read. This is particularly important to do in the fall semester, as this is a course largely for first-year students, who will not have taken a college class before.
Three prisoners are about to be executed by firing squad. The sergeant in charge of the execution approaches each of them, asking if they want to be blindfolded.
He asks the first: “Do you want a blindfold?”
“Yes,” comes the reply, in a resigned tone.
He turns to the second man.
“Do you want a blindfold?”
Finally, the sergeant arrives at the third man.
“Do you want a blindfold?”
“No,” the third man replies.
At this, his neighbor leans over, and says: “Don’t make trouble. Take a blindfold.”
I have been thinking about this bit of gallows humor (from the deep archive of Jewish gallows humor) a lot lately. It is a profound joke, more profound, maybe, than it seems at first. In any event, not making trouble is no longer an option, if it ever was. (more…)