The Quick Fiction Book Club
Big things come in small packages, The Quick Fiction Book Club explores those small overlooked or underappreciated short works of fiction.
Meets the 4th Tuesday of each month at 7:00 PM
Books Inc. Burlingame
1375 Burlingame Avenue
New members always welcome!
September 2018 Selection: Collected here in Penguin Classics are two of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's shorter works, Notes from Underground and The Double, translated by Ronald Wilks with an introduction by Robert Louis Jackson. Alienated from society and paralysed by a sense of his own insignificance, the anonymous narrator of Dostoyevsky's groundbreaking Notes from Underground tells the story of his tortured life. With bitter irony, he describes his refusal to become a worker in the 'anthill' of society and his gradual withdrawal to an existence 'underground'. The seemingly ordinary world of St Petersburg takes on a nightmarish quality in The Double when a government clerk encounters a man who looks exactly like him - his double, perhaps, or possibly the darker side of his own personality. Like Notes from Underground, this is a masterly tragicomic study of human consciousness. Ronald Wilks's extraordinary new translation is accompanied here by an introduction by Robert Louis Jackson discussing these pivotal works in the context of Dostoyevsky's life and times. This edition also contains a chronology, bibliography, table of ranks and notes on each work. Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky (1821-1881) was born in Moscow. From 1849-54 he lived in a convict prison, and in later years his passion for gambling led him deeply into debt. His other works available in Penguin Classics include Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, The Idiot and Demons. If you enjoyed Notes from Underground and The Double, you might like Dostoyevsky's Demons, also available in Penguin Classics. 'Notes from Underground, with its mood of intellectual irony and alienation, can be seen as the first modern novel ... That sense of meaninglessness of existence that runs through much of twentieth-century writing - from Conrad and Kafka, to Beckett and beyond - starts in Dostoyevsky's work' Malcolm Bradbury
August 2018 Selection: Phoebe Lin and Will Kendall meet their first month at prestigious Edwards University. Phoebe is a glamorous girl who doesn't tell anyone she blames herself for her mother's recent death. Will is a misfit scholarship boy who transfers to Edwards from Bible college, waiting tables to get by. What he knows for sure is that he loves Phoebe.
Grieving and guilt-ridden, Phoebe is increasingly drawn into a religious group--a secretive extremist cult--founded by a charismatic former student, John Leal. He has an enigmatic past that involves North Korea and Phoebe's Korean American family. Meanwhile, Will struggles to confront the fundamentalism he's tried to escape, and the obsession consuming the one he loves. When the group bombs several buildings in the name of faith, killing five people, Phoebe disappears. Will devotes himself to finding her, tilting into obsession himself, seeking answers to what happened to Phoebe and if she could have been responsible for this violent act.
The Incendiaries is a fractured love story and a brilliant examination of the minds of extremist terrorists, and of what can happen to people who lose what they love most.
July 2018 Selection: The "perilously beautiful" ( Boston Globe) first story collection by the author of the acclaimed Pulitzer Prize-winning #1 New York Times bestseller All The Light We Cannot See.
The exquisitely crafted stories in Anthony Doerr's debut collection take readers from the African Coast to the pine forests of Montana to the damp moors of Lapland, charting a vast physical and emotional landscape. Doerr explores the human condition in all its varieties--metamorphosis, grief, fractured relationships, and slowly mending hearts--conjuring nature in both its beautiful abundance and crushing power. Some of the characters in these stories contend with hardships; some discover unique gifts; all are united by their ultimate deference to the ravishing universe outside themselves.
June 2018 Selection: Ask the Dust is a virtuoso performance by an influential master of the twentieth-century American novel. It is the story of Arturo Bandini, a young writer in 1930s Los Angeles who falls hard for the elusive, mocking, unstable Camilla Lopez, a Mexican waitress. Struggling to survive, he perseveres until, at last, his first novel is published. But the bright light of success is extinguished when Camilla has a nervous breakdown and disappears . . . and Bandini forever rejects the writer's life he fought so hard to attain.
May 2018 Selection: In the aftermath of the Civil War, an aging itinerant news reader agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people in this exquisitely rendered, morally complex, multilayered novel of historical fiction from the author of Enemy Women that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.
In the wake of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings from newspapers to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.
In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna's parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.
Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act "civilized." Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forming a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.
Arriving in San Antonio, the reunion is neither happy nor welcome. The captain must hand Johanna over to an aunt and uncle she does not remember--strangers who regard her as an unwanted burden. A respectable man, Captain Kidd is faced with a terrible choice: abandon the girl to her fate or become--in the eyes of the law--a kidnapper himself.
April 2018 Selection: Raymond Carver's third collection of stories, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, including the canonical titular story about blindness and learning to enter the very different world of another. These twelve stories mark a turning point in Carver's work and "overflow with the danger, excitement, mystery and possibility of life. . . . Carver is a writer of astonishing compassion and honesty. . . . his eye set only on describing and revealing the world as he sees it. His eye is so clear, it almost breaks your heart" (Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World).
March 2018 Selection: A national bestseller for almost an entire year, The Days of Abandonment shocked and captivated its Italian public when first published. It is the gripping story of a woman's descent into devastating emptiness after being abandoned by her husband with two young children to care for. When she finds herself literally trapped within the four walls of their high-rise apartment, she is forced to confront her ghosts, the potential loss of her own identity, and the possibility that life may never return to normal.
February 2018 Selection:
Life in a city can be atomizing, isolating. And it certainly is for William G. and Neaera H., the strangers at the center of Russell Hoban's surprisingly heartwarming novel Turtle Diary. William, a clerk at a used-book store, lives in a rooming house after a divorce that has left him without home or family. Neaera is a successful writer of children's books, who, in her own estimation, "looks like the sort of spinster who doesn't keep cats and is not a vegetarian. Looks...like a man's woman who hasn't got a man." Entirely unknown to each other, they are both drawn to the turtle tank at the London zoo with "minds full of turtle thoughts," wondering how the turtles might be freed. And then comes the day when Neaera walks into William's bookstore, and together they form an unlikely partnership to make what seemed a crazy dream become a reality.
January 2018 Selection: "Radiant as [To the Lighthouse] is in its beauty, there could never be a mistake about it: here is a novel to the last degree severe and uncompromising. I think that beyond being about the very nature of reality, it is itself a vision of reality."--Eudora Welty, from the Introduction
The serene and maternal Mrs. Ramsay, the tragic yet absurd Mr. Ramsay, and their children and assorted guests are on holiday on the Isle of Skye. From the seemingly trivial postponement of a visit to a nearby lighthouse, Woolf constructs a remarkable, moving examination of the complex tensions and allegiances of family life and the conflict between men and women.