Friday, September 11, 2009

The Inner Circle

I was going to start by saying, that Tuesday was an interesting discussion, but that would be redundant since all our discussions are interesting. It was a little unique in that we celebrated Frankie's birthday with cupcakes and had a couple of folks straggle in as time went on. I think that says something - that we're comfortable with each other and would rather come late than not at all.

What a breath of fresh air after The God of Small Things, where you almost had to read the book in a single sitting to keep track of the all the story lines. Circle had a slim cast of characters and was easy to read, compelling in fact.

We agreed that the first person narrative and the small character list helped demonstrate the peculiar control that Prok (Dr. Kinsey) had over those who were "privileged" to be his confidants. The terms Mephistopheles and Svengali came up in our conversation over Prok.

Someone asked if we felt that Prok's research was as landmark as its reputation. Leslie pointed out that the data he collected was all anecdotal, so the results had to be subjective.

Boyle elected to not demonstrate character development in the narrator, John Milk. The only character we liked and whom Boyle developed, was Milk's wife Iris. Prok's wife Mac, was colorless by comparison and seemed to become more so.

Madelon pointed out that Milk seemed quite appropriate for John's surname, since he had absolutely no spine. Other than Iris, none of the characters were likable. We questioned whether Iris would have stayed with John after the end of the book, but given the time period, we thought that she probably would have, since divorce was still uncommon. The beginning of the book, however, indicates that their relationship was not harmonious.

Boyle has a reputation as a satirist and while I struggled to understand what he was satirizing, Leslie felt that it was of the workplace. Carolyn said that she had read Boyle's Tortilla Curtain and enjoyed it very much. It was very clearly satire of class structure in America. A future book??

I think we all agreed that this is an author we would read again. We concluded by saying that while we enjoyed reading The Inner Circle. it wouldn't be the book we'd pass on to a friend, saying - you have just got to read this.

We ended by selecting our books for the first two months of 2010. January will be Plainsong by Kent Haruf and February will be East of Eden by John Steinbeck.