Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What We've Been Saying

Four years of reading and discussing books has produced both heat and light, mirth and controversy. The one conclusion we can draw is that the Alexandria Campus Faculty and Staff are an opinionated bunch. Our first book, Atonement generated much interest -- some readers loved it while others loathed it. One member compared Ian McEwen to Jane Austen. Another member found the novel futile and depressing. General favorites included the inspiring Untouchables (which we discussed over Indian food) and the creepy Never Let Me Go (which didn't lend itself to any tasty treats!).

The discussion of A Hole in the Earth was enlivened by the presence of the author, Robert Bausch (at left), who teaches at the Woodbridge Campus.

Occasionally we stumble across a theme -- such as when our discussion of Reading Lolita in Tehran led to the adoption of Nabakov's Lolita for a future discussion.

We've courted controversy: in 2006 we read Annie Proulx's short story Brokeback Mountain and many of us watched the "gay cowboy movie". In 2004 we tackled the disurbing and controversial The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things even as questions began to surface in the press about the identity of the author JT Leroy (or Laura Albert).

Nonfiction has not been ignored. We delved into pedagogy with The Peaceable Classroom (is it significant that the only book we read about teaching drew the smallest attendance?). Food proved popular as we followed the food chain in Omnivore's Dilema and considered the world of restaurant reviews in Garlic and Sapphires.

Some discussions led to interesting revelations -- like the faculty member who said "I hated reading this book! This must be how my students feel when they have to read books I assign them that they don't like!" Others expressed appreciation for finding the time and impetus to read books they wouldn't otherwise have read. And almost all of our readers report enjoying getting to know Alexandria colleagues from other discplines. Book club members have included mathemeticians, librarians, deans, English teachers, ESL teachers, biologists, counselors, business and marketing folks, communication teachers and more.

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