March Book Club - moved online

March Book Club - moved online

March 17, 2020 2 Comments


Dear readers, our whole world - yours, mine, everyone's - has been mightily disrupted with the arrival of COVID-19 and the measures taken to 'flatten its curve.' So we find ourselves without a physical meeting to have a discussion.  Please, share your thoughts inspired by these books - first impressions, free-associative ideas, full-on Pauline Kael-style reviews - in the comments section. 

Whatever fears, challenges or surprise blessings these circumstances have brought us, there's no disputing that it's a great time to read.  Thank you for participating - your voice is very welcome.

Two more thought-provoking reads to curl up with - The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram and Orlando by Virginia Woolf!

'In The Spell of the Sensuous David Abram draws on sources as diverse as the philosophy of Merleau-Ponty, Balinese shamanism, Apache storytelling, and his own experience as an accomplished sleight-of-hand of magician to reveal the subtle dependence of human cognition on the natural environment. He explores the character of perception and excavates the sensual foundations of language, which – even at its most abstract – echoes the calls and cries of the earth. On every page of this lyrical work, Abram weaves his arguments with a passion, a precision, and an intellectual daring that recall such writers as Loren Eisleley, Annie Dillard, and Barry Lopez.' - Penguin Random House

'How extraordinarily unwilled by me but potent in its own right...Orlando was! as if it had shoved everything aside to come into existence.'
Virginia Woolf, in a letter to Vita Sackville-West

Genre-bending, gender-busting Orlando is an important social treatise disguised as a playful frolic through convention and social norms. Cultural phenomenon, runaway bestseller in its day and as significant in 2020 as it was in 1927. 

If you read and enjoyed either of these titles, please feel free to share your thoughts with your fellow readers in the comments section!  And if you'd like to be notified of upcoming meeting dates and book club-related events, please email 



2 Responses

Shelly Faulkner
Shelly Faulkner

May 31, 2020

I’ve long had a fascination with the denizens of the Bloomsbury Group, the network of bohemians and artists in the 1900s who lived to create art and challenge societal norms, Virginia Woolf being the most well-known. She was intelligent, intense and witty. She also struggled mightily with mental illness, most notably depression and body dysmorphia. And she was a genius with language who used to bring the day’s pages into the bath so that she could read them aloud to herself to hear how well her words resonated. Her connection with Vita Sackville-West was a passionate one; they adored each other. I don’t think I knew, before I read Orlando, that the entire book was written specifically to please Vita.
One of the things that I really enjoyed about this book is how evident it is that is was written for fun, as a flight of fancy. I like to think that the confection of a story that she was creating, as she was creating it, gave her some lightness of heart. Not that it’s a book to be taken lightly in terms of its astute skewering of gender norms; it was far ahead of its time. Given that it was written in 1928, it’s amazing that Virginia not only got away with the scandalous satire she’d created (although I imagine it helped a great deal that she co-owned the Hogarth Press which published it) but that it was also a roaring success.
I love how Woolf sets the stage for Orlando’s transformation early on, and throughout. There isn’t one element of the book that doesn’t playfully upend traditional narrative, imagery or style in a fanciful way. She describes an Elizabethan world of absolutes where ‘the rain fell vehemently, or not at all. The sun blazed or there was darkness’ but Orlando exists in this world as a contradiction, a young man of ‘brown earth and blue blood’ and a taste for ‘low company.’ When he sees Sasha for the first time, he sees enrapturing beauty before he can discern gender, and even Woolf’s choice of words to describe desire-at-first-sight are cheeky and high-spirited: ‘He called her a melon, a pineapple, an olive tree, an emerald, and a fox in the snow all in the space of three seconds; he did not know whether he had heard her, tasted her, seen her, or all three together.’
There are so many scenes in this book that are just delightful: fizzy and fun, literary champagne. For instance when Orlando is desperately trying to organize his thoughts and get a handle on things – (p.70) ‘“The sky is blue,” he said, “the grass is green.” Looking up, he saw that, on the contrary, the sky is like the veils which a thousand Madonnas have let fall from their hair; and the grass fleets and darkens like a flight of girls fleeing the embraces of hairy satyrs from enchanted woods. “Upon my word,” he said…“I don’t see that one’s more true than another. Both are utterly false.” And he despaired of being able to solve the problem of what poetry is and what truth is and fell into a deep dejection.’
I could – but won’t, I promise – go on and on. Orlando is a treat.

If you’re interested in more reading about Vita, this article is entertaining:

Zack Straker
Zack Straker

May 22, 2020

The Spell of The Sensous
David Abram

One of the most Beautiful Covers and Enchanting Title. I was giddy with anticipation.
I forded the massive River. Fought valiantly through the tumultuous rapids. Hung by me finger tips on the sheer cliffs, to summit the peak of this book. It was an arduous journey.
The linguistic harassment was almost unfathomable.
If you strained this jumble of letters through, first, burlap, then perhaps a piece of tightly woven wool and again through cheese cloth and finally, pressed delicately to fine silk. Throw away the fines. You would have a Very Fine literal wine.
For the average reader, (perhaps not who this was penned for) one may not have travelled further than the first 30-40 pages and likely awarded this volume -2.
Having the tenacity to forge forward, I gained a slight insight of something to come I might have missed.
More heavy slogging. Still looking and hoping for the Magic promised. Then getting lost in the “Aleph-beth v/s Alphabet” and the original Hebrew Bible was actually quite educational. If I were and Egghead I may have found this contribution rivetting.
Magic did come in the Gleaning. The important underlying message is almost completely lost in the mountain of academic banter!
Breath has reentered my lungs.
After my complete dark desert wandering lost in all the WORDS, comes enlightenment.
When finished, I am personally connected to the thoughts expressed and delivered. But dam. It was so excruciatingly difficult to get here. I can’t believe this was written and so well accepted, or not, way back in 1996, even with 1960’s undertones. Extremists in a multitude of theatres drew it to their bosom as said. Even they couldn’t determine where this text was meant to Live.
I am glad I persisted! Quite emotionally Opened.
I had to make extensive notes right from the beginning to keep my thoughts straight as it took so long to complete. Like with most concepts that are more than surface deep, ones perception can change with the deeper one searches or is open to the message attempting to be delivered.
Enough said.

Rating : Book Club 1.5
Me – 7.5

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