Kafka, Woolf on Reading List for Poetry Center Book Club

Kafka, Woolf on Reading List for Poetry Center Book Club

By Amanda BallardUniversity Communications
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Meetings of A Closer Look Book Club are at the Poetry Center and participants are welcome to attend a few or all of the discussions.
Meetings of A Closer Look Book Club are at the Poetry Center and participants are welcome to attend a few or all of the discussions.
Members will meet on Thursday to discuss Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" and how the novel fits into this year's theme, "Genre Meets High Art."
Members will meet on Thursday to discuss Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" and how the novel fits into this year's theme, "Genre Meets High Art."

Whether you crave the horror of Kafka or want to get lost in the words of Woolf, some of history's most notable authors will be discussed by the Poetry Center's A Closer Look Book Club.

Members will meet for the first time this semester on Thursday at the Poetry Center to talk about Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" and how the novel fits into this year's theme, "Genre Meets High Art," said Cybele Knowles, program coordinator for the Poetry Center.

"With this year's theme, I'm going to ask members to propose a genre you could put each book into," said Knowles, who will lead this week's discussion. "'The Metamorphosis' is an amazing work of fiction – it's genius. I would classify it as horror. Another person could say sci-fi or speculative. For me, I think horror because it's about violation of the body."

Knowles said she picked the "Genre Meets High Art" theme about a year ago, and then consulted with club members and colleagues to settle on the books to be discussed.

Participants are welcome to join as many meetings as they like. Other titles on this year's reading list include:

  • "Orlando: A Biography" by Virginia Woolf on Oct. 17 from 6-7 p.m.
  • "The Collected Works of Billy the Kid" by Michael Ondaatje on Nov. 21 from 6-7 p.m.

Members will debate which traditional literary genre each book represents and evaluate its qualities as artistic and intellectual literature. They will also talk about the differences between genre and literary fiction.

Rather than focusing on New York Times bestsellers, the book club's reading list include primarily literary titles about topics that are intended to stimulate intellectual conversations. Each year, Knowles selects a different theme to create a cohesive and fulfilling experience for participants.

"One of the things we learned early on is that it makes the book club more rewarding if we read books associated by a theme," Knowles said. "If you set a theme, you not only have the opportunity to read and study the books, you find yourself learning more deeply about new topics."

Previously, the club has explored such themes as "Works in Translation" and, during the Poetry Center's 50th anniversary year, "Great American Novels."

A Closer Look Book Club has been meeting for the past five years and is open to the public. There are no dues and participants are welcome to drop in at any time. The club is designed for working professionals with assigned books typically 400 pages or less. Meetings last about one hour. "I think what works well about our book club is that we get into discussion quickly so people can jump right into the experience of talking about literature," Knowles said.

Meetings also typically feature guest discussion leaders, such as local poets, authors or UA faculty members.

Knowles said the book club discussions often lead to intimate conversations about life and how it is reflected in books. Being part of a book club also encourages members to dive more deeply into what they read, she said.

"You just become a reader who is capable of getting more pleasure from reading," she said. "I've noticed how some book club members who have been coming for years have become more sophisticated readers. The book club is one of my favorite programs at the Poetry Center."

Similar to the book club, the Poetry Center also features Shop Talk, a discussion group for poetry lovers. The center also offers workshops for writers and one of the most extensive collections of contemporary poetry in the U.S. The book club was created to help draw more people to the center and promote its offerings.

Prior to the spring semester, Knowles will select the additional novels that will be discussed. She said making the decision is always her most difficult duty.

"Narrowing them down is really hard," she said. "It's actually quite painful for me. The problem is, there are always way too many awesome books."

The Poetry Center is located at 1508 E. Helen St. For more information about A Closer Look Book Club or other Poetry Center programming, call 626-3765.

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