Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 30 of 38

Thread: UB5 Book Club Thread - Book # 1 - The Sympathizer

  1. #1

    UB5 Book Club Thread - Book # 1 - The Sympathizer

    Okay, here is the unveiling of the first book in our newly established everyone-a-member-if-they-want-to-be book club...

    CAUTION - THERE WILL BE SPOILERS IN THIS THREAD.

    But, feel free to post what you want to post and analyze what you want to analyze about this book. Remember that disagreements over something that another person took away or interpreted from a book are lame; just say "thank you for your perspective" and then give your own 2 cents about the book. We will all silently judge the caliber of your comments and keep them to ourselves. However, engaging in a conversation is a completely different beast. Challenge and digging into ideas is what makes really good literature a venture worth pursing. Also, if you take some kind of analysis from Sparksnotes or anyone else, you damn well better attribute the idea or comment to them. I don't want to get a letter about this site getting sued for plagiarism because we had a friggin' book club on here.

    Once we exhaust a discussion of it, we will have someone else pick another book and create a new thread to talk about the next book.

    Book to read for the Club in February 2017 is the Pulitzer winner in 2016 for Fiction, The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. https://www.amazon.com/Sympathizer-N...ds=sympathizer

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by OrangeUte View Post
    . Remember that disagreements over something that another person took away or interpreted from a book are lame;
    'Round here we call that little maneuver the 'LA Ute'.

  3. #3
    Sam the Sheepdog LA Ute's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Los Angeles, California
    Posts
    15,266
    Quote Originally Posted by NorthwestUteFan View Post
    'Round here we call that little maneuver the 'LA Ute'.
    Thank you for your perspective.

    "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
    --Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold."
    --Yeats

    “True, we [lawyers] build no bridges. We raise no towers. We construct no engines. We paint no pictures - unless as amateurs for our own principal amusement. There is little of all that we do which the eye of man can see. But we smooth out difficulties; we relieve stress; we correct mistakes; we take up other men's burdens and by our efforts we make possible the peaceful life of men in a peaceful state.”

    --John W. Davis, founder of Davis Polk & Wardwell

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by LA Ute View Post
    Thank you for your perspective.
    See? That wasn't so hard. Good job!

  5. #5
    I'm in! :willy:

  6. #6
    Sam the Sheepdog LA Ute's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Los Angeles, California
    Posts
    15,266
    Quote Originally Posted by NorthwestUteFan View Post
    See? That wasn't so hard. Good job!
    ...you commie.

    "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
    --Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold."
    --Yeats

    “True, we [lawyers] build no bridges. We raise no towers. We construct no engines. We paint no pictures - unless as amateurs for our own principal amusement. There is little of all that we do which the eye of man can see. But we smooth out difficulties; we relieve stress; we correct mistakes; we take up other men's burdens and by our efforts we make possible the peaceful life of men in a peaceful state.”

    --John W. Davis, founder of Davis Polk & Wardwell

  7. #7
    I'm in as well. Thank you OrangeUte. I'll get started this weekend.

  8. #8
    I thought about the choice for a day and went over probably 30 books that I thought would be great. someone mentioned grapes of wrath in the other thread and I almost chose that, one of my favorite books. but, ultimately I have heard lots of good things about this book and got tired of torturing myself over choosing "the right book". I hope it lives up to its billing.

  9. #9
    Sam the Sheepdog LA Ute's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Los Angeles, California
    Posts
    15,266
    Just downloaded it to my Kindle.

    "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
    --Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold."
    --Yeats

    “True, we [lawyers] build no bridges. We raise no towers. We construct no engines. We paint no pictures - unless as amateurs for our own principal amusement. There is little of all that we do which the eye of man can see. But we smooth out difficulties; we relieve stress; we correct mistakes; we take up other men's burdens and by our efforts we make possible the peaceful life of men in a peaceful state.”

    --John W. Davis, founder of Davis Polk & Wardwell

  10. #10
    awesome!!!

    feel free to start posting as soon as you begin. I will start the book Saturday or sunday and start posting then about it.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by LA Ute View Post
    ...you commie.
    Well that lasted about 5 minutes. You are improving!

    I am in. I look forward to this book. I hear good things about it. And we could use a good dystopian novel to distract from our dystopian reality.

  12. #12
    "It'd be nice to please everyone but I thought it would be more interesting to have a point of view." -- Oscar Levant

  13. #13
    Here is a very interesting (excerpt of an) article written by Viet Thanh Nguyen:

    http://lithub.com/the-prophecy-of-ma...etnam-to-iraq/

  14. #14
    Sam the Sheepdog LA Ute's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Los Angeles, California
    Posts
    15,266
    Quote Originally Posted by NorthwestUteFan View Post
    Here is a very interesting (excerpt of an) article written by Viet Thanh Nguyen:

    http://lithub.com/the-prophecy-of-ma...etnam-to-iraq/
    His perspective is left-leaning. It'll be interesting to see how that expresses itself in the book. I don't mind if it does -- I like LeCarre novels and he's consistently anti-West. He says interesting things like "Ideologies have no heart of their own. They're the whores and angels of our striving selves."

    "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
    --Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold."
    --Yeats

    “True, we [lawyers] build no bridges. We raise no towers. We construct no engines. We paint no pictures - unless as amateurs for our own principal amusement. There is little of all that we do which the eye of man can see. But we smooth out difficulties; we relieve stress; we correct mistakes; we take up other men's burdens and by our efforts we make possible the peaceful life of men in a peaceful state.”

    --John W. Davis, founder of Davis Polk & Wardwell

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by LA Ute View Post
    His perspective is left-leaning. It'll be interesting to see how that expresses itself in the book. I don't mind if it does -- I like LeCarre novels and he's consistently anti-West. He says interesting things like "Ideologies have no heart of their own. They're the whores and angels of our striving selves."

  16. #16
    Sam the Sheepdog LA Ute's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Los Angeles, California
    Posts
    15,266
    Quote Originally Posted by NorthwestUteFan View Post
    Nah. I'll be fine. Besides, I already paid for the book. There's no turning back now.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

    "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
    --Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold."
    --Yeats

    “True, we [lawyers] build no bridges. We raise no towers. We construct no engines. We paint no pictures - unless as amateurs for our own principal amusement. There is little of all that we do which the eye of man can see. But we smooth out difficulties; we relieve stress; we correct mistakes; we take up other men's burdens and by our efforts we make possible the peaceful life of men in a peaceful state.”

    --John W. Davis, founder of Davis Polk & Wardwell

  17. #17
    Ha. I've been struggling with this one. I don't like it much at all. But I'm only about 60% through it. I remember I was reading the Pulitzer winner from a couple of years ago, The Orphan Master's Son, and wasn't too crazy about it, then all of a sudden it pivoted--there was this amazing development and scene that transformed the whole book from beginning (retroactively) to end, and now it's one of my favorites. I've been waiting for that kind of magic with this book, but none yet. I'll give you my analysis when I get a chance after finishing it. The problem with awards these days, is they often tend to be very politically motivated. This book seems a prime example.
    One thing I have learned in a long life: that all our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike -- and yet it is the most precious thing we have.

    --Albert Einstein

    The fact that life evolved out of nearly nothing, some 10 billion years after the universe evolved out of literally nothing, is a fact so staggering that I would be mad to attempt words to do it justice.

    --Richard Dawkins

    Be kind to all, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.

    --Philo

  18. #18
    Here is a sentence that is emblematic of what I find so unpleasant about this book: "I was in close quarters with some representative specimens of the most dangerous creature in the history of the world, the white man in a suit." It isn't the politics. The statement may even contain much truth. This is supposed to be funny, and it's just not. I actually like funny novels that tease me and test my convictions--give me a guilty pleasure. See the French novelist Michel Houellebecq's novels; his views are to a large extent aligned with Donald Trump's but the stories do not anticipate greatness, they are nihilistic. I think Trump is loathsome and I am not nihilistic, but I love Houellebecq' novels. There needs to be artistry, originality, wit, artfully rendered context. The problem I'm having with this novel is the artistry. Lacking that, the tired, dogmatic, nihilistic political theme is not provocative, it's just annoying.
    One thing I have learned in a long life: that all our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike -- and yet it is the most precious thing we have.

    --Albert Einstein

    The fact that life evolved out of nearly nothing, some 10 billion years after the universe evolved out of literally nothing, is a fact so staggering that I would be mad to attempt words to do it justice.

    --Richard Dawkins

    Be kind to all, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.

    --Philo

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by SeattleUte View Post
    Here is a sentence that is emblematic of what I find so unpleasant about this book: "I was in close quarters with some representative specimens of the most dangerous creature in the history of the world, the white man in a suit." It isn't the politics. The statement may even contain much truth. This is supposed to be funny, and it's just not. I actually like funny novels that tease me and test my convictions--give me a guilty pleasure. See the French novelist Michel Houellebecq's novels; his views are to a large extent aligned with Donald Trump's but the stories do not anticipate greatness, they are nihilistic. I think Trump is loathsome and I am not nihilistic, but I love Houellebecq' novels. There needs to be artistry, originality, wit, artfully rendered context. The problem I'm having with this novel is the artistry. Lacking that, the tired, dogmatic, nihilistic political theme is not provocative, it's just annoying.
    I got torn between this book and "Lincoln In The Bardo", which I just finished. Funny and beautiful book. Basically flipped a coin. I'll be interested in your thoughts.

    I'm hoping that the Ox milking scene in the orphan master wasn't the turning point in that book for you. I had a similar experience with that book. Struggled through it and then the "escape" began and I absolutely loved it.

  20. #20
    Sam the Sheepdog LA Ute's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Los Angeles, California
    Posts
    15,266
    Quote Originally Posted by OrangeUte View Post
    I'm hoping that the Ox milking scene in the orphan master wasn't the turning point in that book for you. I had a similar experience with that book. Struggled through it and then the "escape" began and I absolutely loved it.
    I loved that one too.

    "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
    --Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold."
    --Yeats

    “True, we [lawyers] build no bridges. We raise no towers. We construct no engines. We paint no pictures - unless as amateurs for our own principal amusement. There is little of all that we do which the eye of man can see. But we smooth out difficulties; we relieve stress; we correct mistakes; we take up other men's burdens and by our efforts we make possible the peaceful life of men in a peaceful state.”

    --John W. Davis, founder of Davis Polk & Wardwell

  21. #21
    Sam the Sheepdog LA Ute's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Los Angeles, California
    Posts
    15,266

    "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
    --Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold."
    --Yeats

    “True, we [lawyers] build no bridges. We raise no towers. We construct no engines. We paint no pictures - unless as amateurs for our own principal amusement. There is little of all that we do which the eye of man can see. But we smooth out difficulties; we relieve stress; we correct mistakes; we take up other men's burdens and by our efforts we make possible the peaceful life of men in a peaceful state.”

    --John W. Davis, founder of Davis Polk & Wardwell

  22. #22
    not much analysis yet, but I am 40 pages in and think the set up for the story has been done nicely. as with many books, most actually, that I read, until I get knee deep in the story I have a tendency to cruise over words while my mind travels elsewhere. This has happened quite a few times in this book for me so far. I haven't been disappointed with the writing, and the story really is engaging me, so I don't think it means anything yet.

    A few quotes that I liked:

    On the effect of the war on the Vietnamese common citizen (page 4): "She was a poor person, I was her poor child, and no one asks poor people if they want war."

    On the American withdrawal from Vietnam (page 4): "Having given us the needles, they now perversely no longer supplied the dope"; and (page 6) "Why is it that the only people who do not know that the Americans are pulling out are the Americans". He has a few humorous lines thrown in, but Viet Nguyen is no George Saunders with comedic relief thus far.

    Page 32: "It is always better to admire the best among our foes rather than the worst among our friends."

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by LA Ute View Post
    I listened to a discussion with him on youtube last night. here is one about the author's experience as a refugee in 1975. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOc6Unc_9ws

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by OrangeUte View Post
    I listened to a discussion with him on youtube last night. here is one about the author's experience as a refugee in 1975. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOc6Unc_9ws
    I do love the fact that a Vietnamese refugee is not only a Pulitzer winner for a novel written in English, but also a Berkeley PhD in English, and a professor at UCLA and Chair at that school's English Department.

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by OrangeUte View Post
    I do love the fact that a Vietnamese refugee is not only a Pulitzer winner for a novel written in English, but also a Berkeley PhD in English, and a professor at UCLA and Chair at that school's English Department.
    lucky for him he isn't Muslim

  26. #26
    I learned a new word from this book. I am listening to it on Audible, and while talking about the fat major, I assumed the narrator was butchering the pronunciation of "corpulent", because he continued to refer to the major's weight as his most defining feature. I did not know that "crapulent" was a real word. I would have guessed it meant something different from it's Oxford dictionary definition, referring to excessive drinking or intoxication.
    Dyslexics of the world, untie!

  27. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by chrisrenrut View Post
    I learned a new word from this book. I am listening to it on Audible, and while talking about the fat major, I assumed the narrator was butchering the pronunciation of "corpulent", because he continued to refer to the major's weight as his most defining feature. I did not know that "crapulent" was a real word. I would have guessed it meant something different from it's Oxford dictionary definition, referring to excessive drinking or intoxication.
    Fans of The Simpson's will recognize this famous line from Mr Burns:

    "Smithers had thwarted my earlier attempt to take candy from a baby, but with him out of the picture, I was free to wallow in my own crapulence."

  28. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by OrangeUte View Post
    I do love the fact that a Vietnamese refugee is not only a Pulitzer winner for a novel written in English, but also a Berkeley PhD in English, and a professor at UCLA and Chair at that school's English Department.
    Which makes his contempt for this country all the more ironic.
    One thing I have learned in a long life: that all our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike -- and yet it is the most precious thing we have.

    --Albert Einstein

    The fact that life evolved out of nearly nothing, some 10 billion years after the universe evolved out of literally nothing, is a fact so staggering that I would be mad to attempt words to do it justice.

    --Richard Dawkins

    Be kind to all, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.

    --Philo

  29. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by SeattleUte View Post
    Which makes his contempt for this country all the more ironic.
    I am not far enough in to know if his novel is contemptuous. The interviews with him that I have heard have all been late night talk shows as I don't usually listen to anything analytical on a book until after I read it. sounds like his writing, at least, strikes chords of annoyance?

  30. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by OrangeUte View Post
    I am not far enough in to know if his novel is contemptuous. The interviews with him that I have heard have all been late night talk shows as I don't usually listen to anything analytical on a book until after I read it. sounds like his writing, at least, strikes chords of annoyance?
    His protagonist is very unhappy in America and a Communist spy (no spoiler), even though given his birth conditions in Vietnam he's been really lucky and received a superb education in the US. That he lacks self-awareness and bites the hand that feeds him (not just the USA) is not his worst trait, but I don't want to give away any spoilers. It's hard to tell just what the US did to him that is so terrible, given where he came from, and where he is. It's not even clear to me that the US did anything so terrible to his country. The entity that got the worst deal seems to me the US, particularly those GIs who got mixed up in an ages old conflict not of their making that they probably didn't even really understand.

    I'm not really close to any Vietnamese here in the US. I quite often eat in their restaurants, and sometimes go with my wife and get pedicures from them. I don't discern that any of them feel that this country has been unfair to them. I know some of these small business owners have kids in places like UW and Stanford.

    But the protagonist is not the author of course. One of those canned bits of advice for aspiring novelists you hear all the time is that if you write in first person, you should make the protagonist likeable. I think that's an oversimplification. I'd say that if he's not likeable, make him interesting, and I could give you plenty of examples of dastardly and fascinating first person narrators. This character just hasn't measured up in my opinion. We'll see. I'm not devouring this book, to say the least, and I've set it down for a few days as I've been traveling, working hard, and also engrossed in my own writing project which I'm trying to finish. I'll finish The Sympathizer eventually and give you my final assessment. Fiction awards have gotten increasingly political, and it seems to me that this novel may have gotten the Pulitzer because it's contrary to all the Vietnam war stories that have come before it. But I'm not finished with it.
    One thing I have learned in a long life: that all our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike -- and yet it is the most precious thing we have.

    --Albert Einstein

    The fact that life evolved out of nearly nothing, some 10 billion years after the universe evolved out of literally nothing, is a fact so staggering that I would be mad to attempt words to do it justice.

    --Richard Dawkins

    Be kind to all, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.

    --Philo

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •