Told from four different perspectives, Julia Holmes’ Meeks is an engaging read that presents a satirical view of marriage and society. While short, it is full of thought-provoking ideas. Here are some discussion questions by Kimberly Pavlovich to get you started. And, of course, there are no right answers:
- The theme of grief is first introduced when Ben discovers his mother is dead. He is fitted for a black suit, during which the tailor asks, “What is grief but a sudden inability to sustain belief in the story that preceded it?” (13). Do you agree? How would you define grief? How does grief play a role in the novel?
- Marriage is highly valued in Meeks; there are consequences for those who remain unmarried. How do you think Holmes views marriage, based on the ideas in the book? Do you think the way marriage is presented in the novel reflects some of our own society’s ideas? What are your own thoughts on marriage?
- How are each of the characters’ perspectives (Ben, Meeks, the Brother, and the Father) connected? As you read Meeks, did you find yourself wanting to hear an additional character’s story? How would the story change if characters’ viewpoints were added or omitted?
- When Ben discovers his room at the Bachelor House is connected to another bachelor’s room, he immediately wants to switch – until he meets him. How would you describe Ben’s and Finton’s friendship? Meeks and Bedge also have an interesting bond. How would you describe their friendship?
- What is your take on the Brothers of Mercy’s role in society?
- What holds Ben back from becoming a “typical” bachelor? Is it his black suit, or is it something else?
- Ben longs for a pale suit, while Meeks longs for a gun. Eventually, they steal these items from the same prone bachelor. What compels each of them? Would you have done the same?
- In the course of the novel, Ben wears a black suit, a pale suit, and finally a gray smock; each act as a symbol to other people. How does Ben’s behavior change with his attire, as well as the behavior of the people he interacts with? Why do you think clothing has the ability to temporarily change the wearer and how the wearer is treated – not only in Ben’s society, but in our own? Have you ever felt “changed” by your clothing?
- What is the significance of the heavens watcher’s story about “the man marooned on an island”?
- Who is “the man in the black jacket”? Do you think Meeks made the right decision when he refused to switch costumes with him? How would the story change if he had?
- What is your interpretation of Ben’s last line: “Let everyone see him, let them finally get it: when something is lost, it’s lost forever” (185)?
- Were you satisfied with the ending? Did it surprise you?
The Boston Book Fair was a ton of fun—thanks to everyone who stopped by. Most of whom, of course, didn’t know us. At some point we really must publish a small book on beer. The hit of the day was definitely the Working Writer’s Daily Planner which made me think maybe I should just set up at stalls at writerly conferences and fairs all over the country and forget about these book things. But happily there were enough readers that we sold some books, too. And that’s despite the high winds. At one point I was attacked by a mini-twister that blew everything on The Common‘s side of the booth all over the place. The Common is a new journal for everyone to subscribe to. Go on, might as well! They’re into the fictions, the poetries, and the images—aha, something different!—and their editorial angle is “a sense of place.” I didn’t get to Kelly’s panel (and neither did some others as it was full!) but reports are that it went well. With luck we’ll be back next year.
Ok, so: if you’re in the Santa Cruz area tonight, there’s only one thing to do: go see Karen Joy Fowler. She will also be in Danville on Thursday (1o/21). Those in LA have to wait until 11/5 when she will be at Vroman’s.
That rare writer who can match the power of her novels with the power of her short stories. She works in the world of myth with great ease. We feel, reading her stories, that we are in our world, but some portion of it that connects vitally with everything else. What happens here is gripping, important, compelling, and often terrifying. Her new collection of stories, ‘What I Didn’t See’ offers readers perfect renderings of a New American Mythos.
Yesterday Cory Doctorow BoingBoinged the heck out of Under the Poppy:
This book made me drunk. Koja’s language is at its poetic best, and the epic drama had me digging my nails into my palms. It’s like a Tom Waits hurdy-gurdy loser’s lament come to life, as sinister as a dark circus.
The multi-format ebook version is available now. The book has arrived from the printer and it is so heavy! We compared it to another recent hardcover and it was about twice as heavy. Maybe we should use lighter paper?
Talking of ebooks, Weightless continues apace: we added a single-title publisher: Sator Press! Plus, Featherproof titles are onsale. And so on.
If you’re in the Boston area, tonight Kelly will be at the Literary Death Match! (Me, I’ll be babysitting.)
The World SF Blog introduces you to Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud.
And, we have copies of Meeks in stock in the office. Everywhere else will be getting new stock in soon. Turns out if you publish a lovely book with French flaps, then it will take a little more time for the reprint to get done.
That’s most of what’s going on. Time, methinks, to go back to sleep!
Last week: found a postcard on the street for a band called A Sunny Day in Glasgow. Well that can be some rare thing so had to check them out. They have a fun—weather inappropriate—video filmed in New Orleans.
This week: prep for Sunday which is the Brooklyn Book Festival—come on by and say hi!
We could take a week in reviews like last week any time. Just in case you were worried and thought you should call your friends at Good Morning America and maybe Terri Gross or Jon Stewart and say, “Hey, you know, I think Small Beer needs a bit of down time. Why don’t you cover the Boring Blockbuster of the Week this week instead?” because, really, we don’t need you to do that. We love it! Bring it on!
Julia Holmes’s Meeks got a total dream review in the New York Times Book Review and then was an Editor’s Choice this week. Swoony! Also, Julia was interviewed on Portland’s Reading Local and picked 5 Recent Reads for Impose Magazine.
With that review and us bringing some stock back to the office for the Book Festival both of our debut novels, Meeks and Redemption in Indigo, have shipped out their first printing—Whoop de do! (Ok, so go on: order the Alasdair Gray!)
A Life on Paper got a handful of great reviews this week—we’re hoping to publish more of Edward Gauvin’s excellent translations of Châteaureynaud. All these people agree:
“The celebrated Châteaureynaud, who over the course of a distinguished career has created short tales that are not exactly contes cruels but which linger on the edge of darkness and absurdity.”
—New York Times
“Châteaureynaud is a master craftsman, encapsulating weighty themes with pith and heart. In his hands, the short story is a Gothic cathedral whittled from a wine cork.”
“Châteaureynaud celebrates the quiet, hidden beauties of the world and the objects or knowledge we hold tight like talismans to protect us from its losses and horrors.”
—The Quarterly Conversation
You can get a great taste of Karen Lord’s Redemption in Indigo from her set of readings taped on launch night. From the pictures and so on it looks like a fun night and the readers were great. I had them on in the background and enjoyed their take on the book.
“A clever, exuberant mix of Caribbean and Senegalese influences that balances riotously funny set pieces (many involving talking insects) with serious drama initiated by meddlesome supernatural beings.”
—New York Times
That’s it for now. Back at some point with more on the Brooklyn Book Fest, a Steampunk! update, some reprint news from Kelly, and so on und so weiter.
If you’re in Portland (Monday, 8/23) or Seattle (Wed. 8/25) next week don’t miss the Meeks roadshow. Then, on Thursday the 26th Julia will be reading with our own Jedediah Berry at the Porter Square Bookshop in Cambridge (that place next to Cambridge, not that place in England). Fingers crossed I’ll see you at the Boston(ish) one!
Next month Julia will be reading with Karen Lord who is visiting from Barbados and will be at McNally Jackson and Greenlight Books as well as the Brookyln Book Festival—where she’s reading with N.K. Jemisin. October and November are busy with readings, too: check it out.
Some exciting updates from the Brothers of Mercy. The launch party for Meeks by Julia Holmes is next Tuesday, July 20th, at WORD Bookstore in Brooklyn. To celebrate (and to keep us mindful of our fates, Brothers and Sisters!), a raffle will be held, and with a raffle comes prizes, and oh, what prizes!
Signed copies of Meeks, for starters. And a one-of-a-kind hand-sewn “The Bachelor” action figure. And a piece of original artwork by Robyn O’Neil, “The Hill.” We are especially covetous of this last item, as Robyn O’Neil’s work is strange and haunting stuff, and this piece was created just to mark the publication of Meeks. Robyn’s art has appeared in galleries around the world, and you may have seen it in some other nifty places.
So we are wondering: Which lucky souls will walk away with the loot? Because we can’t keep it for ourselves, sadly…
More details about the event (with link to RSVP) over at the WORD Bookstore site.
We have good news: we have copies of Redemption in Indigo and Meeks! Which means that soon enough your local bookstore (and maybe some other retail outlets) will have them, too. Pre-orders (for which: thanks!—and more TK soon about that for Kathe Koja’s book…!) and more review copies have been shipped from the office. Consortium ship out books to stores, soooon. Of course, you can see both authors in New York (and other places!) over the next couple of months. Keep an eye out here (ouch) or see the handy dandy events thingy.
And, also, Ladies and Gents! All this week! Karen Lord has been blogging at one of the biggest bookshops in the universe: Powell’s Books in Portland, OR. Listening to stories. Making a book trailer. Cake! And today: Authenticity.
Ok, another tab to be opened: Edward Gauvin is at Kepler’s Books’s Well-Read Donkey this week writing about talking to himself and then getting to talk to everyone else about G.-O.C. now that A Life on Paper has been published and ways of reading Châteaureynaud.
Lastly, Kathe Koja on writing what you have to at Ramblings of a Tattooed Head.
Next: tea time and wondering if the tea lady will have any of those nice gingery biscuits left by the time she reaches this part of the office.
In the world of Meeks, a debut novel by Julia Holmes, young men must find wives (and the right suits) or be doomed to a life of factory work or worse. It’s a dark satire, and it’s a truly funny, truly frightening novel. We are pleased as kids with extra Independence Day cake to be publishing it.
Here’s what you need to know for now:
- There are bachelor suits and there are mourning suits. What you want is one of those nice bachelor suits.
- You can read an excerpt from Meeks over at Conjunctions. And another at The Collagist. And one on the website of Ben Marcus, who once said: “Julia Holmes is that rare artist who, with invention and mythology, reveals nothing less than the most secret inner workings of the real world we overlook every day.” Truth.
- If someone asks whether you’ve heard the story of Captain Meeks, you say: “I have heard it, but it feels good to remember.”
- On July 20th, to celebrate the publication of Meeks, there will be a party at WORD Bookstore in Brooklyn. There will be drinks and there will be Independence Day cake. There may even be auctions. Details here.
- Julia will also read in New York, NY; Portland, OR; Seattle, WA; Boston, MA, and elsewhere. Check our handy calendar so you’re sure not to miss her.
- Cover art by Robyn O’Neil, perhaps our foremost portraitist of Doomed Young Men.
- Can’t afford the cookies? Have a mint.
Mon 26 Apr 2010 - Filed under: Not a Journal., Alasdair Gray, blind consumerism, bookshops, Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud, Interstitial Arts, Julia Holmes, Karen Lord, translations | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin
Catch-up post about recent happenings with our books.
1) April: Alasdair Gray! At last! Nope. Now a June book due to a printer error. Sigh. You can see an excerpt on Scribd.
2) May: Edward Gauvin (translator of A Life on Paper) was recently blogging on translations, Belgium, and more at the 3% blog. (Surely 3.5% by now?)
4) June: 2 starred reviews so far for Karen Lord’s Redemption in Indigo!
5) July: good news coming soon on Julia Holmes’s debut novel Meeks.
Ok, bored with numbering now. The Interstitial Arts Foundation has a call for papers for a new interstitial-sounding anthology:
What is Interfictions Zero? Interfictions Zero is an online virtual anthology, comprised of a Table of Contents listing seminal pieces of published interstitial writings (with live links to those texts where possible) and original essays about the focus pieces listed in the TOC. With the online publication of Interfictions Zero, the Interstitial Arts Foundation will begin to create a historical context for how interstitial writing affects the growth and development of literature over time.
There’s also an interesting addition to the ongoing conversation about translations at the IAF blog.
Poets & Writers spotlights one of Chicago’s many wonderful bookstores: Women & Children First.
Do you like Rachel Maddow? Essentials in Northampton has the shirt for you—in white or pink and 10% of all proceeds will be donated to support the Capital Campaign for the Northampton Survival Center.
Apparently the folks at Essentials aren’t having quite enough fun there so there’s this site, too: My Parents Made Me Wear This.
The NY Center for Indie Publishing their 6th Annual New York Round Table Writers’ Conference, May 1 (er, tomorrow!), 9AM- 7PM, where you can meet various people in publishing—including Kelly’s fabby agent Renee Zuckerbrot. Tickets are Members – $69.00/Non-Members – $89.00/Student – $20.00:
Please e-mail [email protected] to reserve or confirm a spot today – we hope to see you all here on May 1st!
And that’s it for now. Maybe there’ll be more later. After all, what else is there to do on a spring afternoon but haunt the web and wait until the tick tick tick hits leaving time!