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House of Sand and Fog
by Andre Dubus


Andre Dubus III wastes no time in capturing the dark side of the immigrant experience in America at the end of the 20th century. House of Sand and Fog opens with a highway crew composed of several nationalities picking up litter on a hot California summer day. Massoud Amir Behrani, a former colonel in the Iranian military under the Shah, reflects on his job-search efforts since arriving in the U.S. four years before: "I have spent hundreds of dollars copying my credentials; I have worn my French suits and my Italian shoes to hand-deliver my qualifications; I have waited and then called back after the correct waiting time; but there is nothing." The father of two, Behrani has spent most of the money he brought with him from Iran on an apartment and furnishings that are too expensive, desperately trying to keep up appearances in order to enhance his daughter's chances of making a good marriage. Now the daughter is married, and on impulse he sinks his remaining funds into a house he buys at auction, thus unwittingly putting himself and his family on a trajectory to disaster. The house, it seems, once belonged to Kathy Nicolo, a self-destructive alcoholic who wants it back. What starts out as a legal tussle soon escalates into a personal confrontation--with dire results.

Dubus tells his tragic tale from the viewpoints of the two main adversaries, Behrani and Kathy. To both of them, the house represents something more than just a place to live. For the colonel, it is a foot in the door of the American dream; for Kathy, a reminder of a kinder, gentler past. In prose that is simple yet evocative, House of Sand and Fog builds to its inevitable denouement, one that is painfully dark but unfailingly honest. --Alix Wilber



59108 11 481 0 House of Sand and Fog 11/16/2000
11:30:53 AM 12/08/2000 4:00:10 AM -1 56 0
This book, by Andre Dubus III, was a real Life
Interrupter for me. I read it just after it
came out and promptly forced it on everyone I
could get to stand still long enough. so I was most pleased
to find that it is the new Oprah
pick and that means that many people who would
not have read it will now do so.
Sandy

59120 11 109 0 House of Sand and Fog 11/16/2000
12:07:57 PM 12/08/2000 4:00:10 AM -1 54 0
This has been on my TBR list for a long time. I just moved it
up a mental notch or so, thanks to your recommendation.

Ruth

59126 11 481 0 House of Sand and Fog 11/16/2000
12:40:03 PM 12/08/2000 4:00:11 AM -1 56 0
On 11/16/00 12:07:57 PM, R Bavetta wrote:
>This has been on my TBR list
>for a long time. I just moved
>it up a mental notch or so,
>thanks to your recommendation.
>
>Ruth
>
If I had a list of the ten best books I ever
read, this one would be high on the list.
Sandy



59132 11 406 0 House of Sand and Fog 11/16/2000
1:10:07 PM 12/08/2000 4:00:11 AM -1 59 0
Sandy and all -

I have a question about Oprah picks and libraries, so I am
sure someone on CR will know the answer. Are libraries
notified prior to Oprah's announcement which pick will be
chosen for the month.

After reading Sandy's message, I went to our library internet
system and it showed the six of the nine libraries in the
county has this book on order, while only three copies
were available otherwise.

Just wondering.

Chris

59144 11 109 0 House of Sand and Fog 11/16/2000
1:26:31 PM 12/08/2000 4:00:11 AM -1 61 0
David's our man for library questions. I'm sure he'll
show up soon.

Ruth

59154 11 542 0 House of Sand and Fog 11/16/2000
1:51:38 PM 12/08/2000 4:00:11 AM -1 64 0
I'd like to chime in here to say that this is a superb Oprah
pick. I am not a fan of her other choices - only
liking The Reader and Drowning Ruth. Drowning Ruth was
good but not great and then I had the silly Oprah sticker
on my library copy.

House of Sand and Fog presents two very interesting sides to
an issue that you will have trouble deciding who is
right. It is terrific to the final scene.

Sandy, do you know if this author has anything new in the pipeline?

Peg

59156 11 481 0 House of Sand and Fog 11/16/2000
2:17:40 PM 12/08/2000 4:00:11 AM -1 69 0
Peg, I am sure he does, but have heard
nothing.
Sandy

59168 11 391 0 House of Sand and Fog 11/16/2000
5:10:33 PM 12/08/2000 4:00:12 AM -1 70 0 "OK, will one
of you enthusiastic people clue me--what's this book about?? :-)

~~Susan~~

""Then would you read a Sustaining Book, such as would help
and comfort a Wedged Bear in Great Tightness?"" ---
Winnie The Pooh

59171 11 481 0 House of Sand and Fog 11/16/2000
5:49:50 PM 12/08/2000 4:00:12 AM -1 72 0
Briefly; it involves a young woman whose life
is falling apart. What she has left is a
house, which, through bureaucratic error, she
loses. An Iranian man, who was a Colonel in
the Shah's regime, acquires the house. The
rest of the book is about the struggle
between them. It was an amazing book for me
to read, because I lived in Iran for two
years, and Dubus did such an incredible job
of painting the Colonel and his family. He
draws you into sympathy for both sides.
Sandy

59174 11 648 0 House of Sand and Fog 11/16/2000
6:05:44 PM 12/08/2000 4:00:12 AM -1 75 0
Sandy,

>>I lived in Iran for two years
Under what circumstances, if I may ask?
That's a part of the world that I haven't had much exposure
to. I spent a couple months studying in Israel
during college but that's as close as I got.

Bo

59184 11 481 0 House of Sand and Fog 11/16/2000
8:04:27 PM 12/08/2000 4:00:12 AM -1 75 0
Peace Corps during the Shah's regime.
Sandy

59186 11 182 0 House of Sand and Fog 11/16/2000
9:05:19 PM 12/08/2000 4:00:12 AM -1 74 0
I can shed light on the connection between libraries and the Oprah books. Nope, libraries don't receive advance notice
of the choices (Supposedly, no one does, or even knows
the date of each announcement; I think Oprah sees that
as part of her mystique.) It's *better* than that! Any
library that has an institutional membership to ALA (American Library Association) automatically receives 3 free copies of the book in the mail, compliments of the publisher! Often those copies arrive within a week or so of the announcement, so the publisher must know well in advance - and invariably prints a shiny new dust jacket with the gold ""Oprah"" seal on it. I shouldn't sound snide; I got an institutional membership for my school library and really appreciate the free books. They more than cover the cost of an annual membership. I have written to ALA more than once to express my appreciation and have asked that my sentiments be shared with the publisher.

Diane

59192 11 39 0 House of Sand and Fog 11/16/2000 9:50:47 PM 12/08/2000 4:00:12 AM -1 76 0 "This was such a good book I nearly nominated it for the next CR list! I disapproved of the sheriff's actions just enough to keep it out of my ""all-time favorite"" list, though it was certainly headed that way for a while. Oprah made a good choice, and I'm sure her discussion will be wonderful.

Anne
Reading is life...the rest is just details

59200 11 65 0 House of Sand and Fog 11/17/2000 1:04:12 AM 12/08/2000 4:00:13 AM -1 82 0 "Sounds interesting -- and I'll get to it eventually -- I will really. I'm in a cycle where I feel like I'm not reading at all though I am -- it just isn't as much as I often/usually do.

I keep saying that even if some aspects of the Oprah thing irritate a bit at times -- like that little seal on the front sometimes -- I have to keep cheering this effort and this influence -- it has to have good results if even one person at each selection decides to keep reading the next and the next and then starts going off and reading other stuff -- there must be an expansion of CR types happening out there, don't you think?

Dottie

ID is an oxymoron!

59201 11 63 0 House of Sand and Fog 11/17/2000 2:10:05 AM 12/08/2000 4:00:13 AM -1 67 0 "DOTTIE

I really doubt that Oprah is creating new readers. Rather I think she is creating a readership for the authors she chooses. Taking a lot of random readers and focusing them into a pattern.

I always come back to my theory that readers read. And that it is harder to stop reading than anything else in the world. I have to salute Oprah for making an audience available for some authors who might still be in obscurity.

EDD letting you know that Orange County weather has gone to the bottom of the thermometer, at least 40F. And Santa Ana winds for the week end. But we'll clinch our teeth and pray for warmer weather.

59203 11 648 0 House of Sand and Fog 11/17/2000 2:56:35 AM 12/08/2000 4:00:13 AM -1 71 0 "Edd,

Not sure how we could assess Oprah's influence. I suspect that you may be right on one level---people who aren't at all book oriented probably wouldn't read Oprah's selections. But I do think that people who may have had limited interests in the past--let's say only reading adventure or romance novels-- may well have been shaken to broaden their horizons. I think that's probably where she's done the most.

Bo

59205 11 63 0 House of Sand and Fog 11/17/2000 3:19:24 AM 12/08/2000 4:00:13 AM -1 74 0 "BO

""Broadening horizons"". Those are the words I was feebly trying to get across.


EDD

59223 11 65 0 House of Sand and Fog 11/17/2000 9:44:32 AM 12/09/2000 4:00:03 AM -1 73 0 "EDD -- and Bo -- yes, she is broadening horizons/tastes BUT -- EDD -- I'd be willing to bet that some one person (maybe not one every selection -- I was carried away on that I suspect) but one person every few selection -- maybe one a YEAR even is lured into a book when they haven't read anything for twenty years maybe or for ten or five -- and they read that one and then in a month when she hypes that next book, they think -- well, I can do another one -- I'm just saying she gets those few odd readers HOOKED and they start sailing on their own -- whether they get to the level of CRs or readers who would read regardless is, of course, completely another matter!

Dottie
ID is an oxymoron!

59239 11 313 0 House of Sand and Fog 11/17/2000 12:41:14 PM 12/09/2000 4:00:03 AM -1 69 0 "Sandy,
This book is on the schedule for my local reading book. I'm glad to hear the good report.

Ann

59253 11 648 0 House of Sand and Fog 11/17/2000 4:44:53 PM 12/09/2000 4:00:03 AM -1 74 0 "Dottie,

RE: Oprah

>>-- I'm just saying she gets those few odd readers HOOKED and they start sailing on their own -- whether they get to the level of CRs or readers who would read regardless is, of course, completely another matter!

I know it sounds snooty of us to categorize other readers. And I certainly have had people make fun of me because I read science fiction as though I wasn't a 'thinker'. Hah!

There are groups who actually seriously discuss romance novels and analyze plot and marketing. Not my cup of tea but I won't write them off as 'dumb' people.

I do agree that Oprah's made an impact--helping people to see the possibilities in books where they may not have otherwise. And I see this as good. I just wish she'd pick more variety in the themes of her books.

Bo

59420 11 130 0 House of Sand and Fog 11/19/2000 8:45:30 AM 12/11/2000 4:00:08 AM -1 72 0 "greetings SANDY..

yes yes.. tu for reminding me of this book.. i will affix it to my BOOK GROUP list.. what would i do without you all.. !!!!

we read so much and i have so many notes and books with notations that sometimes one slips away and this one did!!! i would have entered it on the list for NOMINATIONS for CR .. hmm... was it already:-)

a thousand thanks SANDY:-))

gail..a passionate reader.. .yes yes enthralled with A FEAST OF LOVE by charlie baxter...short listed for the NATIONAL BOOK AWARD!

59447 11 109 0 House of Sand and Fog 11/19/2000 12:41:30 PM 12/11/2000 4:00:08 AM -1 81 0 "I polished this off in 2 days. It's a real page-turner. Dubus did a marvellous job in making us see the characters three- dimensionally, good points and flaws. And of keeping us on the edge of our seats as to what could possibly happen next. And of making us want all sides to win.

I give him credit for not wimping out at the end. It was the only kind of ending that could possibly be. And it was riveting.

That said, I'll quibble a bit with the writing. Oh, it was smooth enough, very competent, no glaring flaws. But it just wasn't good enough to put this book onto an alltime list for me. Only very occasionally did the writing rise above workmanlike. Seems to me this is a book which succeeds on plot and characters more than writing. (For that, I prefer Dubus, II)

After Oprah gets done with it, I wouldn't be surprised if this gets made into a movie. And that was one of the flaws, especially with all the sex, I felt a bit like I was reading a movie.

But it was a very good read.

Ruth

59492 11 39 0 House of Sand and Fog 11/19/2000 6:06:06 PM 12/11/2000 4:00:08 AM -1 78 0 "I think you summed it up really well, Ruth. I rarely read with an eye toward a movie, but I had that notion, too. And, as sad as the ending was, it was the only one that would work.

Anne
Reading is life...the rest is just details

64117 11 380 0 HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG 01/02/2001 11:44:44 AM 01/02/2001 11:52:57 AM -1 3 0 "MY god, all the principles in this story wind up either in prison, or dead. Wonder if that snake Lester will go crying back to Carol? Thom

Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @#@ (1 of 83), Read 101 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Thursday, January 18, 2001 07:09 PM I saw nothing lacking in the last 30 pages of this book. In fact it offered some sort of closure to me. Beej
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @#@ (2 of 83), Read 94 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Thursday, January 18, 2001 08:18 PM I can't make up my mind about the end. On the one hand, he'd kind of written himself into a box. How else could it end? On the other, I just didn't feel it was up to the complexity of the rest of the book. I think I might not have minded being left wondering when I finished reading. Ruth
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @#@ (3 of 83), Read 97 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Thursday, January 18, 2001 08:22 PM I don't know, Ruth..there was just something about her taking that cigarette at the end that just finished it off for me perfectly..to me it was saying she would adapt and cope. Beej
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @#@ (4 of 83), Read 98 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Thursday, January 18, 2001 08:23 PM I don't even remember the cigarette. What I'm talking about is the downtown scene. (Don't want to spoil it for Robt) Ruth
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @#@ (5 of 83), Read 102 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Thursday, January 18, 2001 08:25 PM Aha! Okay..sorry Robt... I'll tag a spoiler warning in front of my previous post. Beej
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @#@ (6 of 83), Read 103 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Thursday, January 18, 2001 08:27 PM Did you say something that would spoil it for Robt? I just didn't want to describe the downtown kerfluffle. Ruth
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @#@ (7 of 83), Read 107 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Thursday, January 18, 2001 08:29 PM Oh, probably nothing of great importance..but I still added a spoiler warning.. Beej
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @#@ (8 of 83), Read 106 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Thom Hanser (thomhanser@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, January 19, 2001 08:48 AM Duh, I think this entire thread is labeled "spoiler." I believe that means we can discuss whatever points of the novel we wish. Please continue with the senseless killing of his son. Thom
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @#@ (9 of 83), Read 112 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Friday, January 19, 2001 08:51 AM Hahahahahahahahahhaaaa!!!!! Um, I think you got your point across, Thom.. too funny! I guess I should go back to my post a third time now, and remove the spoiler warning..would that please you? hahahhaaa Beej
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @#@ (10 of 83), Read 111 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Beej Connor (connorva@mindspring.com) Date: Friday, January 19, 2001 09:01 AM There is something I don't quite understand about this plot. If the house was auctioned off through a mistake made by the government, even though they had mailed her notices that she ignored, would that not invalidate the sales contract Behrani had on the house? I was telling my husband about this book and he thought the entire deal would have been invalid. Beej
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @ (11 of 83), Read 106 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Friday, January 19, 2001 10:32 AM Okay -- I started this and under ten pages into it I'm yelling at it -- there are too many things that are making me crazy already -- BUT -- I WILL read this. More details later but one of the first was the $3,000 dollar a MONTH apartment in Berkeley --- I don't care WHAT their culture was -- I'm sorry -- there was something WRONG with this scenario -- and compare the luxuries of his colonel position with those in other countries -- not of course -- that it's all alike but -- expectations are a bit high end here. STILL -- I haven't gotten to the sale thing really -- BEEJ -- I think I'd agree that these things often are based on flimsy procedural doings but I also am sure they happen more often than we like to think. SO -- I think I have the bait for continuing to scream at this novel! {G} Dottie -- who just realized that part of this may be coming out of my having watched part of A Civil Action this afternoon and if anyone here has forgotten I nearly had a nervous breakdown getting through the first 100 pp of that book and drove away an Oriental business man from the hotel lobby sitting area with my sobbing. ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @ (12 of 83), Read 106 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Friday, January 19, 2001 10:34 AM And about that question on Lester up there, Thom -- OF COURSE he'll go crawling back to Carol! I haven't even MET that Lester character but I can see how this thing is going already! Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @ (13 of 83), Read 107 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Friday, January 19, 2001 11:07 AM I have no trouble with a 3000 a month apt. 1500 a month in LA doesn't get you anything exciting. Ruth
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @ (14 of 83), Read 108 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Karen Slongwhite (kmbookworm@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, January 19, 2001 11:08 AM I wire money to landlords on behalf of some of the clients where I work. I wire $2500/month for an apartment in New York... Karen
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @ (15 of 83), Read 109 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Friday, January 19, 2001 11:57 AM I was unclear there -- I KNOW the price is not unrealistic MY trouble was that THEY were paying it and had been for a LONG time. ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @ (16 of 83), Read 109 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Thom Hanser (thomhanser@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, January 19, 2001 01:27 PM OK Dottie, since you want to get involved prior to paying your dues and reading the book; One of the main sub-plots is that back in Iran they were wealthy, influential folks. Unknowing to the Ms, they left with only a pittance of their worth. Behrani has never been truthful to his wife, or family about their current financial position, allowing them to live as much like they did as possible. That's why he's picking up garbage in the daytime, and living like the Bavetta's in the nighttime, and paying big-buck rent. Thom
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @ (17 of 83), Read 103 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Friday, January 19, 2001 01:56 PM CRs -- please note -- breathe at appropriate moments as you read this, okay? I'm too lazy to go edit it! HEY -- I got all that in the first two pages or so -- I'm just ticked off about all of it -- don't worry -- I finished watching A Civil Action and my nervous system will be okay by tomorrow and I'll soon catch up to Robert and you (you're finished with this one, right?) and I'll be fine -- won't promise not to get excited again and start yelling at it along the way though -- deal? {G} Dottie -- who realized she hadn't breathed through all that -- silly me ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @ (18 of 83), Read 103 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Thom Hanser (thomhanser@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, January 19, 2001 02:37 PM Sure glad you got that out of your system.
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @ (19 of 83), Read 104 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Friday, January 19, 2001 03:21 PM You're glad. Thom -- sheesh! -- me too! And now I'm into this lady with the cigarette habit and not smart enough to know she has to OPEN the mail from the tax folks -- GOOD GRIEF! I think this book is going to be bad for my health. Nah -- I'm only kidding. Dottie - already making mental comparisons with Princess and Tortilla Curtain -- did Dale read House of Sand and Fog yet? ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @ (20 of 83), Read 75 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Monday, January 22, 2001 01:55 PM Sheeeeeeee's Baaaaccck!!!! And she finished reading House of Sand and Fog -- every last word --even the last 30 pages. {G} But weren't there some notes in here somewhere from Robert? I didn't see them as I very hurriedly cruised down the thread. Who else is still reading this one? Shall I wait to say more or plunge right in? Dottie -- asking if anyone in this thread or any reader of House of Sand and Fog has also read Princess which is written supposedly with a true Iranian Princess telling the inside story to the author whose name escapes me? ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @ (21 of 83), Read 74 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Monday, January 22, 2001 04:56 PM Okay -- first I want to respond to Thom's earlier post by saying that after paying my dues and reading the book I saw Behrani's withholding of the facts of the finances from his family not at all based solely on the circumstances -- this is how these families operate -- the men know and the men decide who knows what and the men hand out the money and though in status levels such as this family they hand it out lavishly indeed -- they are still the ones handing it out. At least from the males standpoint this is how it is. ALSO -- I do not absolutely do not believe that Nadi -- in the circumstances set forth in this story -- had no inkling of the status of their finances or how much of what they had was indeed brought with them and how much was left behind. As protected as these women are -- or as suppressed as they are -- they DO know a lot of what the males are under the impression is information which only they/the males know. I am basing this on reading of Princess and the sequel some years ago. This knowledge is shared among the women in a family though there is care taken not to let children know things and certainly care is taken not to speak of such things before the men of the family -- as they are not supposed to know and so they pretend they do not. I had no trouble with the last 30 pages -- I saw the street scene as having been very well set up beforehand -- almost too well set up as were some of the other points of the story -- I was many, many times yanked out of the story by one thing or another. The aftermath of the street scene was for me totally within the realm of expected results for this family -- within what little I know of Iranian culture at the level this man was/had been. I did stop yelling at the book -- but there were recurrent outbreaks which cropped up {G} -- I concluded the story is strong -- but it has trouble spots. If one can gloss over these it is a fine read, I just had trouble with them -- and one of the worst -- was VERY close to the end -- when Kathy is in prison in those orange khakis -- huh? Orange khakis -- not satisfactory terminology for my money! And that was the last straw -- so close to the wind up and BOOM I am yelling --"Orange khakis?!!? What? I don't think so!
But I settled down and read the last little bit. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @ (22 of 83), Read 74 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Thom Hanser (thomhanser@hotmail.com) Date: Monday, January 22, 2001 05:31 PM Dottie, thanks great review and come back. Right, should/could have been orange chinos?
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @ (23 of 83), Read 72 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Monday, January 22, 2001 08:36 PM Dottie, I need to borrow the book from my sister. Then I'll read your note and respond. Ann
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @ (24 of 83), Read 71 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Tuesday, January 23, 2001 03:09 AM Ann -- dagnabit -- I KNEW someone else was going to jump into this -- hope I haven't spoiled anything further on it for you and will look forward to hearing what you think on it. And where's Robert? Am anxious for his ideas on this one. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @ (25 of 83), Read 73 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Mary Anne Papale (mapreads@aol.com) Date: Tuesday, January 23, 2001 07:29 PM Just finished reading this, so I'll just jump in. I liked the fact that there are no natural heros, no obvious underdogs to root for. This, of course, is part of the problem since you have to end things somehow. My only gripe on the ending is that only the Iranians die. As I was reading, especially when Lester's gun entered the picture, I could see that there would be some deaths. It could have been anyone, but the author picks the son, the most likable character in the book; and then the rest of the family as a consequence of the son's death. When the son died, I felt sorry for the colonel, even though he was a miserable SOB. He thought he was doing the right thing by telling his son to point the gun at Lester's heart. He didn't count on the prejudices of the authorities who would assume the worst of the immigrant youth. The fact that Lester caused death, but didn't suffer physically himself, felt phony to me. Speaking of prejudices, I thought the author did a great job of demonstrating the subtle and not-so-subtle ways immigrants are demeaned, including insensitivity about names. The colonel was able to have a simple chess game with an Iraqi immigrant. But with most others, he couldn't get what he needed the most: respect. Beej, in the real world of county government, I doubt that an auction would be held so promptly after the eviction. The wheels of most county governments work a lot slower than depicted here. Metaphors be with you... MAP
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @ (26 of 83), Read 73 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Robert Armstrong (rla@nac.net) Date: Tuesday, January 23, 2001 08:44 PM Spoiler Spoiler That's pretty damn brutal. I haven't finished the last 30 or so pages. I have to take a break here. What, Lester gets out of jail 30 years later and drives to the house and goes that's a damn shame? I haven't read this thread so as not to spoil the ending. I let the author spoil it for me. Geesh. I try to keep a positive attitude generally speaking, knowing that things can go wrong, but this kind of story makes me a little shaky. I feel quite vulnerable after reading this. Some Christmas present. Robt
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @ (27 of 83), Read 68 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Tuesday, January 23, 2001 11:22 PM MAP -- just to keep this in some sort of warped perspective -- two of those deaths were Behrani's doing and had from what I saw in terms of Iranian background culture -- perhaps a very long time coming -- more on that later. AND Behrani had after all killed or certainly attempted to kill Kathy. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @ (28 of 83), Read 70 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Robert Armstrong (rla@nac.net) Date: Tuesday, January 23, 2001 11:58 PM Okay, I finished the last 30 pages. I feel better now, don't ask me why. Sometimes I get too wrapped up in these damn fictions. The book upset me. Dottie, my comments about this book were on some other thread. I forget which one. I was commenting about how I was feeling sympathetic toward all the characters. Dubus did a good job about getting inside of the minds of each opposing force so that I could understand the varying viewpoints and I liked that he equaled the playing field for awhile. I get tired of good vs evil simplification. It's more real if two valid world collide and more tragic, too. But slowly he leads Kathy and Lester down the criminal path but then I thought it was insightful to see criminal action in a way that the reader could somewhat identify with it. When Lester was doing heinous things to the Behrani family with Kathy as backup I couldn't separate myself from them. Their motivations were understandable and yet their actions reprehensible and unpredictable. Like Ruth, I didn't know where the story was going. I liked the shifting first person points of view for Kathy and Mr. Behrani and found the shift to third person narration for Lester curious but effective. I agree with Sandy that Dubus evoked the Iranian cultural identity excellently. The novel was maddeningly right on in depicting how each side in a conflict sees only their position and automatically judges the opposing side as wrong and how that ultimately works against everyone. "I'm dead right on this issue." So, you end up dead but right. I think it's true that the immigrant family often gets the bad end of the deal. I thought his details of current American life were well chosen and observed. However, he described what everyone was wearing a little too much for me. Basically, the book took me in and I believed it. Robt
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @ (29 of 83), Read 71 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Wednesday, January 24, 2001 03:54 AM Robert -- I have to agree with everything you said generally -- I wasn't so bothered by the fashion thread as I thought it served as an indicator of the difference in expectations and in relative financial well-being of the people involved. I also feel the Iranian family was very much 'real' in ways true to the culture -- though I know little first-hand. I also noticed the shifting viewpoints of Kathy and Behrani and felt these shifts underscored the manner in which each of the sides was walking the line between doing right and becoming criminal or soldierly. Some of that was also seen with Nadi -- but in her case, I believe it played up he own "crossing of lines" -- she seemed to me to have been perhaps a bit more in control of her own situation/life than many or even most Iranian wives. Something in the thoughts of the couple seemed to indicate that perhaps they'd had a bit looser version of the typical marriage and that this more relaxed marriage may have been the largest part of what she had lost by this flight to a country where she should have been hopeful of eventually having a more equalized marriage but instead was living a much more restricted (the more usual Iranian marriage)life and telling lies through gritted teeth about things which HAD once been so. Overall I would also say that Dubus did a fine job -- but then something tiny would just bring me outside the whole world he'd so wonderfully constructed. I might be tempted to try another Dubus when it appears but I'm also a bit wary. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @ (30 of 83), Read 72 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Thom Hanser (thomhanser@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, January 24, 2001 10:41 AM Robt,re; comment on how we view ourselves as right, excellent. Thom
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @ (31 of 83), Read 71 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Mary Anne Papale (mapreads@aol.com) Date: Wednesday, January 24, 2001 04:04 PM This may be more information than you want to know, but since I live in the birthplace of General Motors, I can't resist commenting on Dubus' choice of cars for Kathy and the colonel. The colonel drives an immaculate white Buick Regal. The Buick has long been associated with luxury, but the Regal is very moderately priced. In other words, it's the kind of car you might buy if you wanted to give the appearance of wealth. And it worked. Every time Kathy saw that car parked in "her" driveway, her blood boiled. Kathy drives a red Pontiac Bonneville. A Bonneville is essentially the top of the line for Pontiac. And while Kathy's car didn't seem so luxurious with the smoke and the alcohol bottles, it's still a mighty nice car. In fact, the MSRP for the cheapest Regal is less than the MSRP for the cheapest Bonneville. That's it for my GM primer. But the use of these cars serves to show me how the appearance of extravagance on the part of an immigrant really rankles and pushes those jealousy buttons. Metaphors be with you... MAP
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @ (32 of 83), Read 70 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Thom Hanser (thomhanser@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, January 24, 2001 06:59 PM MAP, only someone from Detroit would think of that. Thom
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @ (33 of 83), Read 74 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Wednesday, January 24, 2001 11:58 PM I picked this up when I ran out of reading material in San Francisco, and read about half on the plane home. It's not bad, but I doubt I would have continued reading if I hadn't been a captive audience. But now that I'm half through, I am compelled finish. Dubus handles the transition between the different voices very well. The woman is exasperating in her seeming intent on screwing up every aspect of her life (Dubus does make the point that she is well aware that this is a characteristic of addicts). Every time I start to feel a little sympathy for the Colonel, his total lack of empathy for others wipes it away. True, this guy doesn't get the respect he thinks he deserves - but he bases this respect on the fear people had for him as an officer of the Shah. And he is so contemptuous of the other immigrants! He is as much a screw up as Kathy - this guy came to the U.S. with about $250,000 (and where did he get all this moolah - supposedly only a small portion of his wealth in Iran, doubt it was from his pay as an Army officer). He chose to fritter it away in keeping up appearances. I grew up in the Bay Area, and most of the cities and locales I recognize. Some, of course, are made up for the book. It's a bit jarring when Dubus sometimes gets the geography a bit wrong - for example, Redwood City and Pescadero are NOT in the same county. And I don't think a sheriff based in Redwood City would ever patrol near the coast. Theresa
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @ (34 of 83), Read 76 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Mary Anne Papale (mapreads@aol.com) Date: Thursday, January 25, 2001 09:17 AM There's a little parallel between the colonel, who is infuriated by the lack of respect for his former position and the mispronunciation of his name. When Lester goes to jail, his name is mispronounced and his rank as a deputy sheriff is a liability. Even though we see a lot from Kathy's point of view, her past and her family remains a mystery. There's something about the way her father looked at her. Her past is part of the fog of the title, I think. And hey Lester. Do you think you can encourage this recovering substance abuser to drink a little more? Metaphors be with you... MAP
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @ (35 of 83), Read 77 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Robert Armstrong (rla@nac.net) Date: Thursday, January 25, 2001 11:27 AM MAP, I've really enjoyed your comments on this novel. Robt
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @ (36 of 83), Read 76 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Gail Singer (gailsinger_gross@hotmail.com) Date: Thursday, January 25, 2001 09:40 PM greetings MAP.. i must agree i have enjoyed your comments on HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG.. very good insights that i never thought about:_)) gail..a passionate reader who is finishing THE TIE THAT BINDS ..and highly recommends!!
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @ (37 of 83), Read 73 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Mary Anne Papale (mapreads@aol.com) Date: Friday, January 26, 2001 02:35 PM Golly gee, I'm blushing. Thanks! But this book has intrigued me. When I was in high school back in the 60s, my algebra teacher was Iranian. His sister, who was about my age, was living with him in this country and attending the same school. She and I became quite close, but that relationship stopped when we graduated. When the revolt came in the 70s, I thought about them quite a bit. They were very western, and if you recall, that was a significant factor in the revolution. The Shah was very pro-American, and his wife behaved like any other western first lady. Certainly, the women did not wear traditional garb. And even in post-revolutionary Iran, Iranians absolutely do not consider themselves to be Arabs. In this book, Kathy constantly calls the Behranis Arabs. She doesn't really get the fact that such thoughts would be highly offensive, and doesn't much care anyway. Lester is a little more savvy, and he says they are Iranians after his visit. The colonel's picture with the Shah made quite an impression on Lester. Enough of an impression to know that he will not be able to help Kathy get her house back with just intimidation. But even then, Kathy doesn't really get it, and the distinction between Arabs and Iranians is lost on her. Metaphors be with you... MAP
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @ (38 of 83), Read 68 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Saturday, January 27, 2001 10:33 PM I gave in and bought this one yesterday afternoon. I'm having a hard time putting it down. I should be done soon and then I'll go back and read these notes. Ann
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG @ (39 of 83), Read 78 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Sunday, January 28, 2001 07:13 AM I'm in the middle of reading it now, too. After James, it's refreshing just to be able to read and read and read. And not have to work too hard. I hope the notes don't all disappear before I'm through. Sherry
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (40 of 83), Read 91 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, January 28, 2001 11:32 AM Yes, it is that kind of page-turning story, isn't it, Sherry? I don't think the actual writing is as graceful as his father's, but the story keeps you ever on edge, and the characters are well-drawn. Ruth
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (41 of 83), Read 87 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Sunday, January 28, 2001 12:34 PM I finished this last night. It was a good plane book, but got put to the side during the week after I got home. I thought Dubus did a very good job with the voice transitions, and with showing how, as they got deeper and deeper into an irrational situation, Kathy and Lester still kept fruitlessly trying to come up with rational solutions that would get Kathy her house back! Those geography glitches bugged me though. Theresa
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (42 of 83), Read 69 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Monday, January 29, 2001 01:16 PM During the 70's I taught Iranians English as a second language. Like Mary Anne, I have often wondered what happened to some of the students I taught. They wouldn't have fared well under the revolutionary regime. I hope they survived. I knew the Shah was bad and that he spent millions on useless luxuries, but I didn't know much about the Savaki, his secret police. I feel shame that our government gave him such unqualified support. This book made Iranian rage at American a bit easier to understand. Because of my background, the Iranian family fascinated me. At times the Colonel disgusted me, but I probably felt more sympathy for him than many readers. He was a very limited man, limited in part by his culture, but also by his pride and his past. He was desperate, much like Kathy. Dubus did a good job making sure he acted in character throughout the novel. The wife was also very well drawn. My interpretation was that she didn't know more about her family's financial situation because she didn't want to know. She was obviously severely depressed. Depressed people have a difficult time dealing with realities outside their inner pain. ******PLOT SPOILER****************** I dreaded the ending, but this book seemed to follow the patterns of a classic tragedy, wherein everyone is destroyed at the conclusion, so I wasn't surprised. The most painful death for me was, of course, the boy's. After that everything seemed to fall into place. I was relieved when the colonel killed his wife. The pain of knowing her son had been killed would have been unbearable for her, and he spared her that. Likewise I understood that the colonel could never live with the guilt he felt because he had instructed his son to keep the gun pointed at Lester's chest. In many ways, I feel that Kathy and Lester suffered the worse fate. They were weak, but not bad. They had to live with what they had done. I wondered at first why Dubus spent so much time on Kathy in prison during the final pages, but I decided that he wanted to show that Kathy was now irretrievably lost. She had survived cocaine addiction, she managed to get through Nick's leaving her, she even hoped for awhile that she and Lester could get a new start. At the end, she became part of the prison group. That is her fate and she will never rise above it. Mary Anne, I also wondered about Kathy's father. I expected Dubus to reveal some deep dark secret about their relationship, but it didn't happen. Perhaps it was especially difficult for her to let go of his house because their relationship had always been distant and somewhat disappointing. I was very intrigued by the fact that both sides in the conflict were so misled by appearances. The colonel decided that Kathy had money because of the car she drove. Lester and Kathy likewise assumed the Iranians were extremely wealthy because of the way they dressed and the luxuries they had salvaged from their old lives. I think the main reason Dubus described their clothing so much was that he wanted to make this divergence between appearances and reality clear. The position of both sides in the conflict was based on false assumptions. Ann
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (43 of 83), Read 60 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, January 29, 2001 01:55 PM Great note, Ann. Ruth
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (44 of 83), Read 57 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Thom Hanser (thomhanser@hotmail.com) Date: Monday, January 29, 2001 03:01 PM Yes Ann, excellent. Thom
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (45 of 83), Read 52 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Gail Singer (gailsinger_gross@hotmail.com) Date: Monday, January 29, 2001 11:19 PM greetings ANN.. great insights!! gail..a passionate reader
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (46 of 83), Read 57 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Susan Strahan (tales@1001knights.com) Date: Tuesday, January 30, 2001 11:32 AM I stopped reading this thread when the Spoiler warning came up in the heading. I finally read the book yesterday and now I find that most of the notes in this thread are gone. :( One of the things that struck me was that this was almost existential in the way things happened. At one point Kathy thinks that none of this would have happened if she had just called her brother Frank and her mother, that it all happened because she couldn't face her family. Looking at it another way, it all happened because her family looked down on her rather than being supportive of her trying to get her life together. People are dead and lives are ruined all because Kathy wants to keep up appearances to her family. When you think of it that way, you can see that the tragedy is also facilitated on the other (Behrani) side by the same impulse. If Behrani had simply sold the house back to the county for what he paid for it, none of the tragic events of the book would've happened. But he couldn't do that because he, too, in trying to keep up appearances for his daughter's prospective in-laws (and his wife) had spent most of the wealth that he had arrived in this country with. He couldn't face other Iranians with the appearance of reduced circumstances, of the hard realities of their new life. He couldn't afford to sell the house back for what he paid for it because that pride had cost him too much leading up to this moment and also he would feel humiliated to his wife and son if he had sold the house back for what he paid for it. He had carried on an elaborate charade of working as a businessman so his family wouldn't know the truth about how far he'd fallen. Just like Kathy was keeping up the charade of a husband and a decent life so her family wouldn't know of her desperation and despair. Both Kathy and Behrani were trying to keep up appearances for their families and thus, neither could afford to back down. I, too, wondered why they followed her so long in prison and it wasn't until her brother and mother showed up that I really got it; in an awful way that's what the whole book was about: Kathy trying not to face them and doing literally anything to avoid it. Death was better than facing them. Right up to the moment they showed up, she had avoided the worst thing she could imagine. Once they found her in the jail, then the charade was all over. The book was over. When you think of the whole book in terms of Kathy trying to avoid facing her family after her life had gone to hell then all her actions make an awful sense and the book becomes even more horrifying. ~~Susan~~ "Then would you read a Sustaining Book, such as would help and comfort a Wedged Bear in Great Tightness?" ---Winnie The Pooh
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (47 of 83), Read 56 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Tuesday, January 30, 2001 12:02 PM Susan -- If you go into Conferences and click on this thread there are still 46 notes there -- but you are right about many being gone already and I'm not sure why that is because I thought when it was an active discussion the notes held on longer than seems to be the case lately. You are also right about it being even more chilling if one focuses solely on that single aspect of both Behrani and Kathy needing so terribly not to be seen as having fallen any lower than than they feel they have already. Even scarier to me is that I found Kathy's actions as the story progressed totally realistic with what I see as the "sociopathic norm" -- she and her family do that little dance quite well and they all suffer but Kathy in a broader sense -- and others they encounter also get involved in it -- again for their own "dances". And to go back to the little sign in the back window of that van "Normal people scare me" -- I still think of this tale in conjunction with that. As I put more time between me and HOSAF I am calmer but the story isn't any easier to contemplate. I think I'll think about it a long time. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (48 of 83), Read 55 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Tuesday, January 30, 2001 12:56 PM Susan, I just finished the book this morning. It was obvious that the reason the Colonel was in his financial mess was because of "keeping up appearances", but I hadn't really thought much about how Kathy's problem was the same. I blamed her for sticking her head in the sand and not taking responsibility (like tossing the mail). But I do know people like her, and her plight seemed very realistic. I also knew Iranians when I went to Cal, and that sense of immense cultural pressure was also realistic. I wish everybody in this book had not been so damned intractable, but then, that wouldn't have been much of a story. The violence was foreshadowed and the intensity was turned up bit by bit, so that the outcome was horrifying, but somehow inevitable. I kept expecting Lester to be the one to die, though. Sherry
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (49 of 83), Read 50 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Tuesday, January 30, 2001 02:45 PM Susan, Excellent points. I hadn't thought about it much, but you are certainly right about the significance of Kathy's family showing up to visit her in prison at the end of the book. However, I'm not sure I would agree that her family was unsupportive. It seems to me that they treated her quite generously. Her first marriage, pre-Nick, was to a fellow cocaine addict. In recovery, she met and married Nick, also a user. Many families would have given up on her sooner. Yet, Frank gave her an expensive car and the family gave her a house to live in rent free. Kathy couldn't face disappointing them one more time because she had done it so many times before. But was that their fault, or hers? I think the latter. Kathy is an interesting character. She didn't have real friends even when she was a teenager, and her loneliness is painful. We are told in several places that she is beautiful (at least to Lester). However, it was difficult for me to have a clear picture of her, or most of the other characters, in my mind because Dubus spends very little time on their normal physical appearances. As someone pointed out, he devotes much more attention to the clothes they are wearing. Did this bother anyone else? One thing I liked about this book was the way that Dubus kept shifting my sympathies from one character to the other. That took real skill. Ann
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (50 of 83), Read 50 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Susan Strahan (tales@1001knights.com) Date: Tuesday, January 30, 2001 08:10 PM I also thought the character of Lester was fascinating. My first impressions of him are different from later impressions which are different from last impressions. We get Lester lay by layer and all in all it's an interest---and puzzling--character that we are presented with. One thing in particular struck me in regard to him. At the end of the book he is thinking something to the effect that he is more his true self, than before. I don't have the book at hand, but there is sort of an implication that there was a monster (or at least criminal) inside him and he was glad it had finally been revealed (released?). While I would agree that there was some violent impulse in him, the idea of him embracing this evil impulse as his true self is awful to contemplate; what does this mean for his children--who he loves? One gets the feeling that he thinks he has just been living a lie, but the love for his children is real isn't it? And his wife? and Kathy? What about that young robber he held while the young man sobbed? There was a tenderness, a caring, in him (which is what got him sucked into Kathy's situation). Are we supposed to think now that the darkness inside him has obliterated all the goodness? ~~Susan~~ "Then would you read a Sustaining Book, such as would help and comfort a Wedged Bear in Great Tightness?" ---Winnie The Pooh
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (51 of 83), Read 51 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Tuesday, January 30, 2001 08:32 PM Is it possible that he thought he was more his true self because he finally felt that he was really living, instead of just going through the motions? Also, he felt that it was a farce that someone who had always been afraid to stand up for himself was working as a law officer. There must have been some real relief in shedding what he felt was a hypocritical role. I agree that Lester was a very interesting character. My attitude towards him changed a lot. By the end it was difficult to have any sympathy left because of the terrible harm he had caused, and yet he remained all too human.
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (52 of 83), Read 50 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Mary Anne Papale (mapreads@aol.com) Date: Tuesday, January 30, 2001 08:59 PM I love these posts. With regard to Lester, there was a section that said something like "regret is the little sister of fear". Lester was beginning to admit to himself that he was not a man of courage. Ann, you used the word "hypocritical". That's exactly the realization that Lester comes to: he is not right man to be in such a job, and he has many regrets about his life's choices. Like choosing Carol because she had convictions. Lester needs to be needed, and he grasps on to Kathy with all his might. Metaphors be with you... MAP
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (53 of 83), Read 48 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2001 06:24 AM Itís been almost a whole day since I finished this book, and I am still feeling a sense of loss over the deaths of the Behranis. I think Dubus was much more successful in describing the Colonelís motivations than he was with Kathyís. Or maybe itís that I seem to be able to identify more with Behraniís motivations than with Kathyís, which seemed to actually be a kind of anti-motivation. Did Dubus really give any reason why Kathy didnít look at the mail? Was there ever anything other than a brief explanation of why she wouldnít tell her mother and brother that her husband left. Why the charade for eight months? I think Kathy is the Fog in the title of the book, and the Colonel is the Sand. All her reasons are foggy, wispy, hard to pin down. Behraniís reasons are based on a whole culture of male responsibility and pride. I see this whole book as a cautionary tale of what can happen when there is an imbalance of responsibility in oneís life. Behrani kept too much responsibility for himself, disregarding the softening effect that his wife and son would have had on him. Kathy just floated along, hiding from herself and her family. Even in the end, when she was in jail, she blamed the real crimes on Lester, when in reality, she had much more influence than she would admit to herself. I have to admit, that I understand that Kathyís situation was brought on by a bureaucratic error, and losing oneís house is a steep price to pay for being an ostrich and disregarding oneís mail, but I feel sorrier for Behrani. He paid an even heavier price for wanting to protect his family and being too proud to admit his financial mistakes. I do have a question, though. Do you think itís realistic to say: ďWell, I canít get a job as an aeronautical engineer, so Iíll just have to be a garbage picker-upperĒ? I think he could have found something a little more in between. Or am I being idealistic? Sherry
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (54 of 83), Read 50 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2001 08:26 AM Sherry -- yes -- I had that trouble with the I can't be an engineer so I am picking up trash scenario, too. But I decided that perhaps it was more a matter of staying out of sight while staying in the top of the top layer of Iranian society which already existed there. Kathy and that mail thing really got me too because I kept saying well, dummy -- one SHOULD check the mail from the county tax office ESPECIALLY when one has already gone through one interview and so on and knows they want money from you. Good grief! Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (55 of 83), Read 52 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Robert Armstrong (rla@nac.net) Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2001 09:24 AM Sherry and Dottie, Regarding Behrani's plight as a trash picker: it is shocking but sometimes that is the only job a new immigrant can get regardless of his or her credentials. He was able to get part time work at night at the convenient store also, but it is believable to me that this was the best he could come up with. I don't remember any reference in the book to him turning down any other jobs. Where Behrani's thinking was off is that he then assumed that he would never get anything better and would always be condemned to picking up trash which probably is not true. Eventually he would rise as his US work history accumulated, but it was likely to be a very slow rise. He may have had to relocate to another area of the US in order to get better work. It's tough getting a job in the SF Bay area due to its geographic desirability. His experience of picking up trash made his intractability much more understandable to me. Robt
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (56 of 83), Read 51 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2001 10:01 AM Robert -- this reminds me that I questioned location because I didn't think the aeronautical firms were in that area so much as in Los Angeles County or Orange County or even in Washington State. Any thoughts or info on this anyone? In fact -- I do know that this is a very difficult thing -- the director of my daughters' preschool was -- hmm -- SouthAmerican I believe but have lost the country -- anyway -- this woman was a medical doctor in her own country but had worked her way up in the field of education once they arrived in the US. ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (57 of 83), Read 51 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Thom Hanser (thomhanser@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2001 10:14 AM It's interesting that the premise of the novel is that Kathy and Behrani both had their heads stuck in the stand. She ignored the mail, he ignored other possibilities for making a liveable income(good point Robt). And Behrani was being totally unrealistic thinking that just like that he could have a career buying and selling real estate, especially in an area that he was unfamiliar with. You don't start a business that easy. The chances of purchasing a house on auction for a third of the market price is comparable to hitting the lotto. Probably the weakest part of the book is the way the house was taken from Kathy. Surely the law provides for some sort of notification prior to actual eviction, certified mail, carrier endorsement. Thom
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (58 of 83), Read 53 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Susan Strahan (tales@1001knights.com) Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2001 10:24 AM Thom, Kathy was notified of the eviction and of the date the house would be auctioned. That's one of the things her lawyer found out. The date of the auction (and that she had to be out of the house by that date) was in the mail that she threw out without reading. ~~Susan~~ "Then would you read a Sustaining Book, such as would help and comfort a Wedged Bear in Great Tightness?" ---Winnie The Pooh
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (59 of 83), Read 49 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2001 11:13 AM Yes -- but Susan -- I had that same thought that even the County Tax folks have to follow stricter notification processes than this -- they have to have a signature saying that the person knows this is happening surely? Or not? I don't know -- somehow I wonder if one hand knows what the other is doing in those bureaus of government -- and that in itself makes me thing that sale would have been scheduled and rescheduled and so on. And how did Behrani just fall into this whole thing -- those sales are publicized but they aren't widely publicized and there seems to me that more folks would have been after that deal than there were. So what it comes down to is we are quibbling on the details of the bade of the story but overall -- this one definitely packs a wallop and gets the thoughts flowing concerning ourselves, our government and others and their government -- and the divide between good meetings between two cultures and those meetings which result in disaster -- whether large scale or personal scale. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (60 of 83), Read 54 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Thom Hanser (thomhanser@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2001 11:15 AM Susan, she was notified by regular mail I believe. My thought is that that severe of an action would require more than just ordinary mail. There are many reason, sickness, unable to read, etc, why a person may not be able to respond to regular mail. Thom, who spent 30 + years analyzing the USMail. And BTW, notification by ordinary mail won't stand up in any court.
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (61 of 83), Read 50 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2001 11:23 AM Thanks, Thom -- that was sort of what I was thinking. There had to be more notification than those letters that she dumped. I don't recall any indication they had tried to notify her other than that mail -- anyone ? If there is nothing on this line in there then I would say it is a major flaw in the premise -- but still, look at the temperature of the talk generated here. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (62 of 83), Read 53 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Thom Hanser (thomhanser@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2001 12:07 PM Dottie, yes it must have been a very satisfying read for me to continue in lieu of the fragile plot. I think waiting for something good to happen to somebody was compelling. Dubas was very manipulate with who he wanted you to like at various times, a pretty good trick. Thom
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (63 of 83), Read 53 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2001 01:50 PM I love these notes. Sherry, excellent point about Behrani taking too much responsibility and Kathy none. Kathy not opening the mail from the County was a stumbling block for me too, but I accepted it in order to get on with the story. I can see it happening with a person like Kathy, who seems to have lived most of her life in a daze and was probably in a depressed state after her husband left. It was easy for me to understand why she couldn't confess to her family that her husband had left her and that she had lost the house. As for Behrani's jobs, did the book specifically state that he was an engineer? I know he was in the air force, but I thought he worked with purchasing rather than a job involving real technical skills. Correct me if I am wrong. Many educated immigrants work in very low level jobs when they come here, especially if their English skills are low. My Chinese friend was a high school music teacher in China, but here she works as a waitress. The Colonel's English was good, but I don't know if he had any marketable skills. Robt is certainly right about San Francisco being a very difficult area to find a job. Ann
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (64 of 83), Read 51 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2001 02:01 PM Thom, You made a good point that the notice should have been sent registered or certified mail. Even if Kathy were dazed and depressed, she surely would have paid attention to that. Ann
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (65 of 83), Read 52 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2001 02:36 PM I wondered about the mail/notification issue, too. I suppose the procedure varies depending on what bailiwick you're in. I'm sure tho, it would have been sent by registered or certified mail, or even had a bailiff deliver it. Debus is too good a writer, I would think, to let his premise rest on such shaky grounds, so I'm wondering if there isn't more to it. I'm just brainstorming here, but could the sight of that piece of mail she had to sign for have been so frightening and upsetting to Kathy, that she just threw it in a corner. I've been served by one of those guys that rings the doorbell and hands you a letter you don't want to see. The damn thing looks like a rattlesnake. Ruth
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (66 of 83), Read 52 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Kathleen Mulcahy (readerk@aol.com) Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2001 05:39 PM My feelings about this book are deep and dark so I won't add too much to the conversation other than to say that, in NJ, after notification by registered mail there is a process. Whether or not the certified mail is signed for, the Sheriff's office comes to the house and plasters a large orange sticker on every door with the time & the dates of the possession of the property. An appeal can then occur. Kathleen
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (67 of 83), Read 53 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Thom Hanser (thomhanser@hotmail.com) Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2001 05:43 PM Registered mail, and certain certified mail must be signed for, and if stipulated, only by the addressee. Thom
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (68 of 83), Read 52 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Robert Armstrong (rla@nac.net) Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2001 06:17 PM When was this story set? I got the feeling it was not present day but rather more like 20 years ago or more. When was the Shah of Iran overthrown? A while back wasn't it? A house like that today would sell for half a million, don't you think? Or more. My friend just sold his place in Berkeley and bought in El Cerrito and the prices are exorbitant now. Could this speedy method of auction have taken place back then but not now due to reforms catalyzed by scenarios like this one? Robt
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (69 of 83), Read 52 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2001 07:00 PM (I'm moving this for MAP) The Shah was overthrown in Nov. 1979. You will recall that there were Americans taken hostage, who were not released until Ronald Reagan took office in Jan. 1981. From the aging of the Behrani's daughter, I got the impression that about 10 years had elapsed between their exile and this story. That would make this about 1990. As a former real estate agent, I am still pondering over the lack of information about the original sale of the house. Was the house purchased before or after the father's death? If before, did he ever actually see the house? Did Frank? Why did the house get put in both Kathy and Frank's name when Frank lives 3,000 miles away? And about that deck. If Frank had never seen the house, how would he even know that there was no deck on it before? Why would Kathy need Frank's approval to put a deck on the house (as implied in that final meeting scene). Metaphors be with you... MAP
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (70 of 83), Read 55 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Wednesday, January 31, 2001 07:03 PM From what I gather, the father lived in the house (apart from the mother?). He died and left it to his children, Kathy and Frank. Frank didn't need it, so he said Kathy could live in it. But said he wanted to split up the proceeds eventually. Sherry
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (71 of 83), Read 41 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Thursday, February 01, 2001 03:50 PM Today I actually went to an "in person" book club. They were discussing this book, so I figured, why not. Most of the women there were very unsympathetic with Kathy to the degree that they were mad that she wasn't dead. I think that was a rather extreme reaction. How did you all feel about Kathy's non-death? Sherry
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (72 of 83), Read 41 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Robert Armstrong (rla@nac.net) Date: Thursday, February 01, 2001 04:34 PM Sherry, I felt sympathetic to Kathy right up until she became complicit in the hostage holding. At the end of the book I hoped that she would find some kind of community and renewal in prison even though it was a sad situation. What I thought was realistic about the book was the way people sometimes perpetrate crimes that destroy lives not out of overt maliciousness or intent to destroy, but rather out of escalating chaos resulting from making bad choices. I didn't regard Kathy as evil but rather tragic. I would not find any joy in her death. I don't think she found any joy in the Behranis' death. Well, maybe Mr. B, but in the end even that is understandable. One of the strengths of the novel was to make a horrific crime understandable. Absent was the classic bad guy/girl. So, I don't share the need for further "justice
re: Kathy as do your in-person bookclubbers. Robt
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (73 of 83), Read 44 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Thursday, February 01, 2001 06:14 PM Robt, I think you pretty well articulated how I feel, too. Both about Kathy, and about how nobody set out to commit a crime here, but just bungled into it by unerringly taking the wrong turning at every choice. Kind of scary, isn't it? Ruth In human existence, permanence is a temporary condition. Donna (Bookstore) Pohlman
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (74 of 83), Read 36 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Friday, February 02, 2001 07:47 AM Yes, Robt., I agree. I thought my in-person group was a bit harsh. I saw a pattern of bad choices that evolved into tragedy. What do you all think about her muteness in the end? Sherry
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (75 of 83), Read 40 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Friday, February 02, 2001 10:13 AM I found the muteness not surprising -- I don't think it is permanent -- and I'm not sure it is so much a choice as a continuance of the enforced silence while she healed. I know that I once encountered a woman giving a seminar at a church women's convocation who had been forced to silence for over a year and recall her saying that she initially used her voice only for very important speaking once it was back. But gradually she went back to her normal. Meanwhile she had invented The Ungame -- maybe some of you know that game -- all about communication and with many versions out there. She was very,very interesting -- made a lasting impression certainly. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (76 of 83), Read 38 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Kay Dugan (okaychatt@mindspring.com) Date: Friday, February 02, 2001 11:21 AM Dottie- Never heard of the Ungame. What is it, basically?
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (77 of 83), Read 37 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Thom Hanser (thomhanser@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, February 02, 2001 12:38 PM I had empathy with Kathy throughout the book. She was going through a serious time in her life, and fate just let her down. She was cleaning houses to stay afloat, very hard work, so certainally that says something. Those of us who have had some fortune surely had a break along the way. Lester was a jerk. His badge was his manhood, and he liked pushing people around. The Colonel, was of a different culture, a stranger in a strange land. He needed a dose of Yankee realism, unfortunately it came too late and too harsh. Thom
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (78 of 83), Read 37 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Friday, February 02, 2001 02:58 PM Sherry, I find that certain members of my in-person book club are often very harsh in their judgments of characters. Some people find it impossible to empathize with characters radically different from themselves. They also have a hard time seeing themselves in the same predicaments. It is all too easy for me to identify with the losers and unfortunates of this world. There but for fortune,etc. etc. To give an example, you may remember Ishmael, the reporter in Snow Falling on Cedars. Ishmael had lost an arm in the war and couldn't stop loving his Japanese-American childhood sweetheart. My heart bled for this guy, but a couple people just could not understand why he didn't "just get over it.
Robt summed up my reaction to Kathy very well. She was definitely an addictive personality and I was surprised that she hadn't gone back to cocaine as soon as Nick left. She also did well with the booze until Lester came along. I kept expecting him to announce that he had been in treatment too. Considering her background, she was showing considerable strength until her home was taken away from her. Did I feel bad that she lived? Hardly. For me, living with that kind of guilt and loneliness would be worse than being killed outright. I think her life in prison was going to be horrible. Ann
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (79 of 83), Read 34 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Susan Strahan (tales@1001knights.com) Date: Friday, February 02, 2001 03:01 PM I was surprised when Kathy turned out not to be dead. I felt like the author was sort of jerking me around by bringing her back to life when we'd seen her strangled to death. I felt her death was tragic and then followed as it was by the death of the remaining Behranis it seemed to be the conclusion the book was working it's way toward, with Lester as the surviving (albeit ruined) casualty of the fatally destructive Kathy-Behrani vortex. I was puzzled by Kathy surviving and the book seemed to go slack at that point, meandering through the prison scenes until the penultimate scene with her family. I think he only kept her alive so she could look her family in the eye again as a failure. Sure she would've been a failure dead, too, but the author I think wanted to give us that outside judgemental eye as the final word on Kathy and that was better done face-to-face. It's possible Kathy may have been resurrected from apparent death because the author couldn't solve some technical problems of the denoument to his satisfaction without her. (Maybe Dale, our resident writer, would like to weigh in on the difficulties of the denoument in a story like this?) Personally, after the big devastating climax, I think a shorter denoument might have been called for---and I would have no trouble with Kathy being among the fatalities. Not that I think she deserved to die--none of them deserved to die--but this is a tragedy in an almost classic sense and traditionally the main characters die at the end of tragedies. ~~Susan~~ "Then would you read a Sustaining Book, such as would help and comfort a Wedged Bear in Great Tightness?" ---Winnie The Pooh
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (80 of 83), Read 27 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, February 04, 2001 05:51 PM Dick, Here's the discussion for House of Sand and Fog. Ann
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (81 of 83), Read 30 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Sunday, February 04, 2001 06:04 PM Just finished this one and enjoyed it by and large. On the legal aspects of the foreclosure, Dubus was indeed a little weak -- but not much. Locally you definitely do *not* need to serve via registered or certified mail; regular mail service is permitted. However, the property must be posted (a one page typed notice of sale; just plain old bond paper) and an additional two locations (nearest post office and some other 'public place' -- I usually use the bulletin board at the local supermarket). We also advertise the sale in the newspaper (the ads the Colonel was reading). Once there has been a sale you can buy back the property for what was paid for it *plus* interest and costs -- which often are in the many thousands of dollar range. This post-foreclosure right of redemption extends for a period of one year after the confirmation of the sale (that's Alaska; I'm sure California has a version that isn't far different). Here, I think an astute lawyer could have gotten with the county to exercise the right to redeem, using the $48,000 paid by the Colonel plus a little discretionary money from the Risk Management unit to avoid the inevitable lawsuit from Kathy. Clearly, however, this was not a book about procedural due process or real estate foreclosure law. Personally I was very unsympathetic to Lester and Kathy -- they remind me too much of far too many dysfunctional clients who manage to squander opportunity after opportunity as their lives gradually spiral down the drain. You can place them face to face with a great situation and they will just turn away -- very frustrating. I was about as equally unsympathetic to the Colonel's whiny little wife who apparently had never gotten over being a pampered rich girl. The Colonel -- well, he interested me. I thought his solidness throughout the book (don't expect me to advise giving the property back) was very convincing in terms of the cultural context Dubus created. The hysterical decision to kill his wife and himself after the shooting of the boy was not quite as convincing to me -- he'd been a major emotional tough guy and it wasn't quite clear to me that the justification for cracking was that well made out. Interesting book. But Kathy and Lester? What a couple of losers. And I thought that scene at the end showed Kathy heading right back down the emotional and psychological toilet (to the extent she ever got out) -- cigarette in hand, looking for a little jail-house hooch and maybe a little nose-candy with the sisters. Dick In The 21st Century
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (82 of 83), Read 20 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Monday, February 05, 2001 04:53 AM WHEW -- okay, Dick. I have to come back and tackle this unfortunately for me but probably fortunately for rational/logical content. {G} Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (83 of 83), Read 16 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Thom Hanser (thomhanser@hotmail.com) Date: Monday, February 05, 2001 08:55 AM Yes DIA, thanks for the "substantial amount" of feedback. Thom

 

 

 
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