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Book Club

BPP Book Club: Ready to Talk?


Hisham Matar's In the Country of Men hide caption

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(UPDATE, 04.01.08: The BPP Book Club is now in session.)

The ancient tale of Scheherazade — in which a beautiful woman saves her own neck by spinning tales for a murderous sultan — is sometimes seen as symbolic of the civilizing power of the feminine. But in Hisham Matar's In the Country of Men, the inaugural BPP Book Club selection, the mother of the 9-year-old narrator — herself a furious prisoner of an increasingly repressive society — has quite a different take on the story:

Nothing angered Mama more than the story of Scheherazade. I had always thought Scheherazade a brave woman who had gained her freedom through inventing tales and often, in moments of great fear, recalled her example.

"You should find yourself another model," Mama once began. "Scheherazade was a coward who accepted slavery over death."

Our online discussion of the book is coming up on March 28, a week from Friday, but I'm hoping to talk to some of you who have been reading it — about the cowardice of Scheherazade or any other aspect of the book. Drop a line in the comments if you're up for that, and we can set up a time for a quick audio interview.

Hey, we're official! The BPP Book Club now has its own e-mail address.



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Oops, gotta go by the bookstore tonight and get reading!!!

Sent by Summer | 2:17 PM | 3-18-2008

Don't worry, Summer, or anyone else who hasn't started yet.... It's not long and it's a pretty quick read.

Sent by Sarah Goodyear | 2:39 PM | 3-18-2008

Luckily (??) had flu over weekend so read much of the book. Excellent. The young narrator is a wonderful character. Love the writing style.

Sent by David Hollis, Hamilton, NY | 2:42 PM | 3-18-2008

Um, I had to give up on the book. The writing style didn't pull me in, and I didn't care much for the narration. I got halfway through it and decided I'd rather be reading something I enjoyed. . . I wrote about it here:

Sent by eliz. (@elizs) | 2:47 PM | 3-18-2008

I read the book in order to join the club but was surprised to find how much the story of a Libyan boy spoke to this American expat woman. I underlined many phrases for discussion. In defense of Scheherazade (and questioning his uncle) he says "It's one thing not to fear death, another to sing under its sword." On finding he sleeps like his father, he asks: "How much of him is there in me? Can you become a man without becoming your father?" Of identity he concludes: "How readily and thinly we procure these fictional selves, deceiving the world and what we might have become if only we hadn't got in the way, if only we had waited to see what might have become of us."

I have a technical question: I catch npr online and after the fact. Is there a way to follow the "meeting" in real time from a computer in Barcelona? If so, what time? And thanks, this is great.

Sent by Kymm (Barcelona, Spain) | 6:07 PM | 3-19-2008

Not ready to be interviewed yet, but I did get it from the library and read the first couple of chapters. I like deadlines -- won't let you down.

Sent by Seth in Kansas | 10:27 PM | 3-21-2008


We'll be posting the setup for the online conversation next week. People from all time zones will be able to participate through the miracle of the interwebs.

Sent by Sarah Goodyear | 8:15 PM | 3-22-2008

beautiful read. i am curious to know if it was difficult for the author to choose a child character to unveil difficult truths of a world I am assuming not many readers will be familiar with.

Sent by michelle | 12:35 PM | 3-24-2008

is there an actual link to the online conversation for the book club? what time is the meeting?

Sent by m | 11:26 AM | 4-1-2008