Soul Stop Cafe Book Group
Our next meeting wil be on Monday the 13th of May, and we will be reading 'The Great Gatsby' to coincide with the release of the movie at the end of next month (which looks FABULOUS by the way!)
Also, make sure you bring along an old book you have read and enjoyed as we are doing a swop that night. This is a really good opportunity to share some of your favourite books with everyone. We'll give everyone a couple of minutes to tell us what their book is about and give other members a brief insight so they can take it home to read between May and June.
Junes date has been set for the 10th, so as well as briefly discussing the books people have swopped, we will also be reading 'The Castle of Otranto' by Horace Walpole. Its a teeny tiny little book and is a really good example of early gothic literature, so you should be able to get that read as well as the book you've swopped.
As a few of you already know, we are planning a trip to Horace Walpoles' home in Kent, named Strawberry Hill. Walpole had it built in the style of a gothic mansion, so should be quite a quirky and interesting afternoon out! We've decided the trip will be on the 23rd of June, so for anyone that's interested could you please bring your ticket money along on the 13th May (I can't remember the exact amount but if everyone brings about £20 along then we can always give you change if it's less).
The Great Gatsby is a novel by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald. The story takes place in 1922, during the Roaring Twenties, a time of prosperity in the United States after World War I. The book received critical acclaim and is generally considered Fitzgerald's best work. It is also widely regarded as a "Great American Novel" and a literary classic, capturing the essence of an era. The Modern Library named it the second best English language novel of the 20th century.
Set in the prosperous Long Island in 1922, The Great Gatsby provides a critical social history of America during the Roaring Twenties within its compelling literary narrative. That era, known for unprecedented economic prosperity, the evolution of jazz music, the flapper culture, and bootlegging and other criminal activity, is plausibly depicted in Fitzgerald's novel. Fitzgerald utilizes these societal developments of the 1920s to build Gatsby's stories from simple details like automobiles to broader themes like Fitzgerald's discreet allusions to the organized crime culture which was the source of Gatsby's fortune. Fitzgerald educates his readers about the garish society of the Roaring Twenties by placing a timeless, relatable plotline within the historical context of the era.
Visiting Long Island's north shore and attending parties at mansions is said to have inspired the writer to create the setting in the Great Gatsby. Today there are a number of theories as to which mansion was the inspiration for the book. One possibility is Land's End, a notable Gold Coast Mansion where F. Scott Fitzgerald may have attended a party.
Writing and publication
Oheka Castle on the Gold Coast of Long Island was a partial inspiration for Gatsby's estate.
Beacon Towers, a now-destroyed mansion on the coast in Sands Point, was another. View from the beach.
With The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald made a conscious departure from the writing process of his previous novels. He started planning it in June 1922, after completing his play The Vegetable and began composing The Great Gatsby in 1923. He ended up discarding most of it as a false start, some of which resurfaced in the story "Absolution." Unlike his previous works, Fitzgerald intended to edit and reshape Gatsby thoroughly, believing that it held the potential to launch him toward literary acclaim. He told his editor Maxwell Perkins that the novel was a "consciously artistic achievement" and a "purely creative work — not trashy imaginings as in my stories but the sustained imagination of a sincere and yet radiant world." He added later, during editing, that he felt "an enormous power in me now, more than I've ever had."
After the birth of their child, the Fitzgeralds moved to Great Neck, New York, on Long Island, in October 1922; the town was used as the scene for The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald's neighbors in Great Neck included such prominent and newly wealthy New Yorkers as writer Ring Lardner, actor Lew Fields, and comedian Ed Wynn. These figures were all considered to be 'new money', unlike those who came from Manhasset Neck or Cow Neck Peninsula, places which were home to many of New York's wealthiest established families, and which sat across a bay from Great Neck. This real-life juxtaposition gave Fitzgerald his idea for "West Egg" and "East Egg." In this novel, Great Neck became the new-money peninsula of "West Egg" and Manhasset the old-money "East Egg."
Progress on the novel was slow. In May 1923, the Fitzgeralds moved to the French Riviera, where the novel was finished. In November 1923 Fitzgerald sent the draft to his editor, Maxwell Perkins, and his agent, Harold Ober. The Fitzgeralds then moved to Rome for the winter. Fitzgerald made revisions through the winter after Perkins informed him that the novel was too vague and Gatsby's biographical section too long. Content after a few rounds of revision, Fitzgerald returned the final batch of revised galleys in the middle of February 1925. He had received a $3939 advance in 1923 and $1981.25 upon publication.
Original cover art
The cover of The Great Gatsby is among the most celebrated pieces of art in American literature. It depicts disembodied eyes and a mouth over a blue skyline, with images of naked women reflected in the irises. A little-known artist named Francis Cugat was commissioned to illustrate the book while Fitzgerald was in the midst of writing it. The cover was completed before the novel; Fitzgerald was so enamored with it that he told his publisher he had "written it into" the novel.
Fitzgerald's remarks about incorporating the painting into the novel led to the interpretation that the eyes are reminiscent of those of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg (the novel's erstwhile optometrist, depicted on a faded commercial billboard near George Wilson's auto repair shop) which Fitzgerald described as "blue and gigantic — their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face, but instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a non-existent nose." Although this passage has some resemblance to the painting, a closer explanation can be found in the description of Daisy Buchanan as the "girl whose disembodied face floated along the dark cornices and blinding signs."
Ernest Hemingway recorded in A Moveable Feast that when Fitzgerald lent him a copy of The Great Gatsby to read, he immediately disliked the cover, but "Scott told me not to be put off by it, that it had to do with a billboard along a highway in Long Island that was important in the story. He said he had liked the jacket and now he didn't like it."
Fitzgerald was ambivalent about the title, making it hard for him to choose. The title may have originally been borrowed from Alain-Fournier's Le Grand Meaulnes, a novel he admired.  He entertained many choices before settling on The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald shifted between Gatsby; Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires; Trimalchio; Trimalchio in West Egg; On the Road to West Egg; Under the Red, White, and Blue; Gold-Hatted Gatsby and The High-Bouncing Lover. Initially, he preferred Trimalchio, after the crude parvenu in Petronius's Satyricon. Unlike Fitzgerald's protagonist, Trimalchio participated in the audacious and libidinous orgies that he hosted. Fitzgerald refers to Gatsby by the proposed title once in the novel, which reinforces the view that it would have been a misnomer. As Tony Tanner observed, there are subtle similarities between the two. A notable difference between Trimalchio and The Great Gatsby is a less complete failure of Gatsby's dream in Trimalchio. In Trimalchio, the argument between Tom Buchanan and Jay Gatsby is much more even, although Tom still wins in that Daisy returns to him.
On November 7, 1924, Fitzgerald wrote to Perkins. — "I have now decided to stick to the title I put on the book [...] Trimalchio in West Egg" but was eventually persuaded that the reference was too obscure and that people would not be able to pronounce it. His wife and Perkins both expressed their preference for The Great Gatsby and the next month Fitzgerald agreed. A month before publication, after a final review of the proofs, he asked if it would be possible to re-title it Trimalchio or Gold-Hatted Gatsby but Perkins advised against it. On March 19, Fitzgerald asked if the book could be renamed Under the Red, White and Blue but it was at that stage too late to change. The Great Gatsby was published on April 10, 1925. Fitzgerald remarked that "the title is only fair, rather bad than good".
The Soul Stop Cafe in George Lane South Woodford is running a regular monthly book group. Around 20 people attend each month, men and women and a mixture of ages and there is a lively discussion.
The £3 entry will get you a cup of coffee or tea as well as an interesting confab. The meeting always takes place on a Monday evening at 7pm and lasts roughly one hour.
The February meeting is Monday 18th February and the book is J K Rowling's Casual Vacancy. (moved due to snowy weather on 11th Feb.!)
The Casual Vacancy is a 2012 novel written by British writer J. K. Rowling. The book was published worldwide by the Little, Brown Book Group on 27 September 2012. It was Rowling's first publication since the Harry Potter series, her first apart from that series, and her first novel for adult readership.
The novel is set in a suburban West Country town called Pagford and begins with the death of beloved Parish Councillor Barry Fairbrother. Subsequently, a seat on the council is vacant and a conflict ensues before the election for his successor takes place. Factions develop, particularly concerning whether to dissociate with a local council estate, "the Fields", which Barry supported an alliance with. However, those running for a place soon find their darkest secrets revealed on the Parish Council online forum, ruining their campaign and leaving the election in turmoil.
Major themes in the novel are class, politics and social issues like that of drugs, prostitution and rape. The novel was the fastest-selling in the United Kingdom in three years and had the second best-selling opening week there since Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol. It became the 15th best-selling book of 2012 during its first week of release. Within the first three weeks the book’s total sales have topped one million copies in English in all formats across all territories, including the U.S. and the U.K. The book also set a Goodreads record for the all-time biggest "started reading" day later winning the Best Fiction category in the Goodreads Choice Awards 2012.
The book is being adapted into a BBC television drama for release in 2014.
Next meeting will be Monday 11th March :
"The Yellow Wallpaper" is a short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
"The Yellow Wallpaper" is a 6,000-word short story by the American writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman, first published in January 1892 in The New England Magazine. It is regarded as an important early work of American feminist literature, illustrating attitudes in the 19th century toward women's physical and mental health.
Presented in the first person, the story is a collection of journal entries written by a woman whose physician husband has confined her to the upstairs bedroom of a house he has rented for the summer. She is forbidden from working, and has to hide her journal from him, so she can recuperate from what he calls a "temporary nervous depression – a slight hysterical tendency," a diagnosis common to women in that period. The windows of the room are barred, and there is a gate across the top of the stairs, allowing her husband to control her access to the rest of the house.
The story depicts the effect of confinement on the narrator's mental health, and her descent into psychosis. With nothing to stimulate her, she becomes obsessed by the pattern and color of the wallpaper. "It is the strangest yellow, that wall-paper! It makes me think of all the yellow things I ever saw – not beautiful ones like buttercups, but old foul, bad yellow things. But there is something else about that paper – the smell! ... The only thing I can think of that it is like is the color of the paper! A yellow smell."
In the end, she imagines there are women creeping around behind the patterns of the wallpaper, and comes to believe that she is one of them. She locks herself in the room, now the only place she feels safe, refusing to leave when the summer rental is up. "For outside you have to creep on the ground, and everything is green instead of yellow. But here I can creep smoothly on the floor, and my shoulder just fits in that long smooch around the wall, so I cannot lose my way”.
The first new year meeting at the Soul Stop café was on a Tuesday 15th January at 7pm. The book discussed was Ali Smith’s quirky read “There but for the”.
There but for the is the sparkling satirical novel by bestselling Ali Smith. 'There once was a man who, one night between the main course and the sweet at a dinner party, went upstairs and locked himself in one of the bedrooms of the house of the people who were giving the dinner party...' As time passes by and the consequences of this stranger's actions ripple outwards, touching the owners, the guests, the neighbours and the whole country, so Ali Smith draws us into a beautiful, strange place where everyone is so much more than they at first appear. There but for the was hailed as one of the best books of 2011 by Jeanette Winterson, A.S.