Archive | April, 2013

The Dog of the South, by Charles Portis

26 Apr

For the lighter side of life in the shadows, we’ve been reading this odd and wonderful road trip novel. About halfway into the book, we’ve got a lot going on. Midge is now in Belize (called British Honduras in those days), where he’s met a new cast of wacky characters, and apparently someone’s even seen Dupree. The plot thickens, as the saying goes. Consider the following questions:

How would you characterize the Dix book? On the surface, of course, it’s a simple salesman’s guide, but of course Dr. Symes treats it more like a sacred text. Is Symes onto something, in his strange way?

The detective story has continued to unfold. What “plot points” have we uncovered so far, and what do you make of them?

We’ve come upon a slowly developing, subtle theme of mysticism. Has that continued through these middle chapters? To what end?

What do we learn about Midge through Meemaw?

Finally, consider the religious “argument” between Meemaw (and Melba) and Midge. How seriously can we take it? Compare it to the religious argument between the Catholic and Protestant missionaries in At Play in the Fields of the Lord. 

“Call at Corazon” and “Under the Sky” by Paul Bowles

5 Apr

Here we have two stories set in Mexico or thereabouts. Though the setting is quite removed from Morocco, we see some of Bowles’ main preoccupations–the intellect trying to overrule the emotions; the inscrutability of the other; the violence of the oppressed. Let’s consider the following questions:

How does the setting affect the characters and actions of these stories? How would they be different if they were in northern Africa?

How is “Call at Corazon” a love story? How does it go beyond a traditional love story?

What do each of the two main characters in “Corazon” want? What are they after?

What does the monkey signify? How is this “motif” repeated, and to what effect?

If this is a battle of the sexes, who wins? What happens next? Is the young wife in any way justified in what she does? Is her “punishment” fair, considering her “crime”?

Briefly describe these two characters. What attracts them to each other?

How does the author work with the “noble savage” trope in “Under the Sky”?

What kind of person is the unnamed main character in this story? Can we understand his motivations and faulty reasoning? It is possible to pity him?

Why does he start weeping at the end? And why does Bowles take us out of his point of view at that strange moment?