The Kafkaesque Book Club
Start the new year right, and join a small alienated group of unworldly ciphers in uncovering the real subgenre of literature lurking beneath this verbal tick of the literary critic. Kafka is so frequently name checked on book blurbs and so often cited as an influence that the term has nearly lost meaning: easily applied to any novel with a persecuted main character or a menacing bureaucracy, any devoted reader of Kafka knows that there’s no literal definition of the Kafkaesque, and the Kafkaesque Book Club is for those readers. Each of the books in our list would seem to take us to an undiscovered place or time in Kafka’s own world, and yet without being derivative of any particular one of his books. Strikingly, the works range broadly over time, from the forties, to contemporary works by living authors. The titles are also varied in origin, having been written in Fance, Japan, and including two expat authors, one Russian and one American. Perhaps some titles will seem less Kafkaesque than others, perhaps some will out Kafka Kafka.
Meetings will be held on Wednesdays every other week at This Ain’t The Rosedale Library. Discussions will be informal, but will be preceded by a short presentation on the history and context of the novelist and the particular work just read, presented by the book club’s instigator, Jesse Huisken.
Orientation and screening of The Castle, a West German adaptation of Kafka’s 1928 novel. Anyone who wishes to join will need to pass through an endless series of enigmatic tests to get their club badge. Notes on further reading and a filmography for further watching.
Wednesday January 7th, 7pm
Camera, Jean-Philippe Toussaint
Perhaps the least likely member of the group, we might wonder is this a Kafkaesque book at all? We might wonder if Beckett is Kafkaesque?
Wednesday January 14th, 7pm
Bend Sinister, Vladamir Nabokov
Nabokov managed to take what could have been a horribly simplified treatment of the dystopian theme, in the Huxley or Orwell tradition, and turn it into a strange deja vu inducing dreamscape. Certainly unique among Nabokov’s many novels.
Wednesday January 28th, 7pm
The Kangaroo Notebook, Kobo Abe (with screening of one of several films based on Kobo Abe’s works directed by Hiroshi Tishigihara)
Any one of Kobo Abe’s novels could have been chosen for this book club. The story begins with a character hoping to find treatment for the radishes (as in the vegetable) growing on his legs. Enough said.
February 11th, 7pm
Tlooth, Harry Mathews
While more often citing the wealthy French eccentric Raymond Roussel as his great source, the impossible to describe scenarios of this one-of-a-kind novel, all displayed with the most poker-faced neutrality of voice will remind the reader of the more bizarre apparatus and events of Kafka’s creation.
February 25th, 7pm
The Most High, Maurice Blanchot
Is it possible to be too Kafkaesque? Definitely one of the more extreme of the many extreme novels of modern French literature. The Most High might remind one of how uncompromising Kafka was for his own time.
March 11th, 7pm
The Honey and Hotsauce Bookclub
The Honey and Hotsauce Bookclub is not a club about foodwriting – but it could be. Here taste is a metaphor. What we’ll be doing is exploring literary titles that have become popular – or have faded away into a kind of cult status. We hope to facilitate serious discussion of lighter topics and lighter discussions of life and death issues. Initial presentations will be by Charlie Huisken, founder of This Ain’t The Rosedale Library, but may be shared by other club members as the club matures.
Gatherings will be at 86 Nassau Street, the new home of This Ain’t The Rosedale Library on Sundays starting in January, 2009. KOS Restaurant opens at 9:00a.m. i deal coffee opens at 10:00a.m. The bookstore will open its doors at 9:30, and the bookclub discussion will get going by 10:15. Admission is free.
Sunday, January 11, 10:00a.m. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
Conjecture: what if HRH Elizabeth II became enthralled with contemporary literature? A fictional romp by one of the Beyond the Fringe crew.
Sunday, January 25, 10:00a.m. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
What could be the difference between “A” history and “The” history of something as grand and daunting as “love?” This novel has been described as hilarious……and poignant.
Sunday, February 8, 10:00a.m. Childhood by Andre Alexis
The host of CBC’s “Skylarking” wrote this book in the 90s. It was shortlisted for The Giller. Is it an unusual book about an unusual childhood – based on memory? Or entirely made up in the author’s wild imagination?
Sunday, February 22, 10:00a.m. Great Lakes Suite by David W. McFadden
This collection of “Trips” was originally published by Coach House Press in three separate volumes. McFadden was describes as “a freshwater Ulysses” by William French in The Globe & Mail. His poetry collection Why Are You So Sad? – edited by Stuart Ross – was recently shortlisted for The Griffin.
Sunday, March 8, 10:00a.m. Cool for You by Eileen Myles
Bust magazine has described Eileen Myles as “the rock star of modern poetry.” She has been the Artistic Director St. Mark’s Poetry Project. She toured with Sister Spit in 1997 and again in 2007. This particular book has been described as a nonfiction novel. What is a nonfiction novel?
Sunday, March 22, 10:00a.m. The Clockmaker by Thomas Chandler Haliburton
The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade by Herman Melville
The Clockmaker is perhaps a Canadian classic, skeptical in its temperament and Tory in its politics. The Confidence-Man is about the suspension of skepticism and participation – willing or no? – in “the con” “any con.” What is the relation between being short changed and making changes in one’s life?