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The Reader
by Bernhard Schlink




 From: 
     Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) 
 Date: 
     Wednesday, April 14, 1999 02:38 PM 


The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

I did read this after all, so all my worry about not being able to begin the
discussion was unnecessary. I broke into The Idiot to do it, and I don't like
reading more than one book at a time, but The Reader was worth it. I want to
encourage you all to read it. There is much to discuss in this slim book (I
suppose 218 pages is slim after hunkering down with my 600+ page
Dostoesvski). One moral dilemma after another. The erotic beginning has its own
moral dilemma. The boy is 15, the woman is 35 (or thereabout). His emotional
and physical bonding with her have grave consequences. She has secrets. After
he grows up he finds her again, in surprising circumstances. There are no blacks
and whites here, but ever-changing shades of gray. I have many questions I
would like to pose, but I will wait until I know there are others out there who have
finished the book.

Sherry 

 
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (2 of 51), Read 53 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbav@prodigy.com) Date: Wednesday, April 14, 1999 03:44 PM I just started the third section, Sherry. Moral dilemmas indeed. I keep wondering how this is all going to turn out, and if there are going to be answers given or suggested, or if we're just going to be forced to think for ourselves. Not a bad thing, actually. Ruth
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (3 of 51), Read 55 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Wednesday, April 14, 1999 03:50 PM Sherry and Ruth -- Jim is in CA until a week from today but he told me that he had picked up my copy of this book -- it was in the stack to buy in Dec but I put it back -- sheesh, how silly can I be? BUT here is the REAL news -- my non-reading husband -- had already read half of it when he called me at midnight last night and he had just bought it that afternoon when he and his Dutch and Belgian colleagues had gone to the local shopping mall in San Jose! He has also read TWO books since January when our things were all unpacked! He MIGHT have potential yet for CR -- what do you think???? Dottie -- who cannot wait to gulp down The Reader and jump into the discussion! ID is an oxymoron!
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (4 of 51), Read 57 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Anne Wilfong (annewilfong@worldnet.att.net) Date: Wednesday, April 14, 1999 04:01 PM I finished THE READER about the time Oprah did her show on it. The audience perspective shocked me, but I was delighted with Schlink's comments and defense. I'll go into it more as the discussion gets under way. I liked this book a lot, mainly for those "shades of gray" which make for meaty dialogues. But I did not feel satisfied with the end, though I can understand it... Anne
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (5 of 51), Read 59 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Maralyn Fairberg (fairmara@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, April 14, 1999 04:44 PM I finished THE READER last week and I am also eager for the dialogue to begin. Morality. Truth. Love. Meaty topics indeed. Maralyn
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (6 of 51), Read 62 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Ian Marks (cybergoose@kdee67.freeserve.co.uk) Date: Wednesday, April 14, 1999 05:18 PM Ready when you are with The Reader! (I think it benefits - like a lot of books - from a second reading, but don't let that put first-timers off!) Ian
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (7 of 51), Read 48 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@jeffco.k12.co.us) Date: Wednesday, April 14, 1999 08:53 PM I was very disappointed by this book. Yes, it was 218 pages, but with the size of its margins being twice the usual size, the book could have fit into 100 normal pages. There is a lot to discuss, but I felt like Schlink just touched the surface with his book. I wanted more, more! It is interesting that my mother-in-law just finished THE READER as well, and her first comment was, "I found that book to be very disappointing." One part that I found fascinating was Michael's trip to Le Struthof, because I visited that camp when I was studying at the University of Strasbourg. It is in the Vosges mountains out in the middle of nowhere. The people who were sent there must have frozen to death in the winter. Jane
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (8 of 51), Read 49 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Thursday, April 15, 1999 06:44 AM Interesting, Jane. I guess that after reading a couple of really long books, I was looking forward to the shortness of this. I had no expectations, so I was not disappointed. In fact I really liked it. I'm going to pose a moral dilemma for everyone. There are so many in this book, I think the a good way to talk about them is to place yourself squarely in the middle of the quandary. SPOILERS ABOUND Imagine you are Hanna. You find that you are a guard at the camp because you don't want the promotion that would uncover your secret. What would you do? What moral obligations do you have? You don't have the luxury of hindsight or historical perspective. You don't have any power. You see what happens to troublemakers. You see cruelty up close. Would you chose death over doing the right thing? Sherry
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (9 of 51), Read 53 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Katie Kleczka (knp@execpc.com) Date: Thursday, April 15, 1999 07:40 PM BEWARE....SPOILERS, HOWEVER SUBTLE, DO EXIST BELOW!!!!! __________________________ __________________________ During a most trying time in my life, my Grandmother told me that the split-second decisions we make in times of great crisis, are the moments that define our true character. Until I made one of those lightening-fast decisions and came to know a shadowy part of my own existence during my deliberations, I hadn't the faintest idea what she meant. Well, I do now, and you have reminded me again of her words. Like many other people, I see myself as a basically good, morally well-developed individual. And so, when faced with a question such as you have posed, Sherry, I like to think that I would have the courage to stand up and resist that evil with all the moral conviction and strength of character I possess, even if it meant my life. Based solely upon who I am at this point in my existence, and attempting to conjure up life back then sans the knowledge of the horrifying outcome that I now possess, I can't imagine that I would ever have chosen to work as a camp guard, and I can't even begin to imagine that I would EVER leave that church door locked. But deep inside, there was a part of me that followed Hanna's wartime actions with some modicum of compassion and empathy. Were I faced with her struggles, would I have reacted as she did? I don't know. I am further handicapped by knowing little to nothing of her world view, her prejudices, her politics, or her religion. Without her frame of reference, it is hard to visualize myself in her shoes. Thinking only of Hanna and the limitations and challenges of her life, her initial choice to work in the camps is not unimaginable. Her concept of "mercy" which governs her actions in the camp is misguided and distasteful (in my opinion), but not utterly impossible to comprehend. It is when a locked door and a burning church confront Hanna, I think to myself that there is NO "choice" required. The only "right" thing to do was to unlock that door, and I would like to believe that I would have died attempting to do so. Whew! That was TOUGH, Sherry! :) Katie "Everything in moderation, EXCEPT for reading."
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (10 of 51), Read 54 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@jeffco.k12.co.us) Date: Thursday, April 15, 1999 08:04 PM Sherry and Katie, I have always hoped that I would have given up my life to stop the Holocaust, but I am not so sure. Would I have been too afraid to be different from everyone else? Hannah was not educated and had a limited number of jobs that she could take that would not require some sort of reading. To her, it may have been a matter of survival, and perhaps it was more important for her to survive than to do the right thing. She was in the habit of ignoring what was going on in the camp, so it would have been easy to ignore the burning church. What she did is horrible, but it is understandable. I can't condone it, and I hope that I would have unlocked the church. Jane
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (11 of 51), Read 55 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Anne Wilfong (annewilfong@worldnet.att.net) Date: Thursday, April 15, 1999 08:08 PM I'm not sure the moral issue was even acknowledged by Hanna. She was a guard who followed orders. That generation of Germans took pride in their ability to follow any order from authority. There was no question about right and wrong, to me...Her orders were to keep the door locked. It's again that notion of black & white. We Americans agonize over doing the right thing. Everyday people in the SS simply did what they were told. That, in essence, becomes part of the guilt the 2nd generation must begin to understand and accept. Anne
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (12 of 51), Read 55 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbav@prodigy.com) Date: Friday, April 16, 1999 12:12 AM I know that in any discussion, I stand up for my belief in what's right. I also know that there is a side of me that is a coward. I probably would have been very careful NOT to take a job like Hanna did. But if somehow I did find myself in her position, it shames me to admit that I might have been too frightened to do other than obey orders. In considering Hanna's guilt, as Anne has pointed out, we have to consider that this was a time and a place where obeying orders was what you did. That said, we have to think about the fact that Hanna's superiors were not around during the burning of the church. Perhaps the question is---did she or did she not realize they were not coming back? How much did she think she would risk by unlocking the church? Or did she even THINK of unlocking it? Ruth
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (13 of 51), Read 54 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Mary Anne Papale (fdlx59b@prodigy.com) Date: Friday, April 16, 1999 07:26 AM There are any number of examples in history when keeping order among the masses, not just following orders, is what is done. Those who are charged with keeping order, do it quite well, at all costs. An example that comes to mind is the incident in American labor history of the shirtwaist factory fire, when the female workers who were sewing shirtwaist dresses were locked in the building for their shift, and thus perished in a fire. As Katie points out, being able to make that quick decision that will change the order of things is what is needed. But what if an individual does not have the ability to make that decision to change something? Was Hanna capable of it? I am also fascinated by the premise that Hanna was more shamed by her illiteracy than by her bad decision. We could have an interesting discussion here about the perceived difference in valuation. Did anyone else feel that this was two books in one? I had the sensation that I was reading along, la dee dah, and then bam! The book went a direction I didn't expect. I definitely felt the need to re-read the first section. MAP
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (14 of 51), Read 48 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Maralyn Fairberg (fairmara@yahoo.com) Date: Friday, April 16, 1999 12:05 PM I come to this discussion with a very firmly held belief that every human being is capable of moral judgment and independent decision making and that the Holocaust occurred because individual Germans made a decision to act or not to act. I do not accept at face value the usual defenses offered that the Germans were coerced to participate in the killing, or that they were just following orders or that they were psychologically incapable of saying “no”. I believe these “explanations” ignore the extraordinary nature of the deed –the mass killing of 6 million innocent Jews. The Germans did this to other human beings, not to animals or things. We have no evidence whatsoever that Hanna was forced to carry out the killings. We have no evidence that if she had refused to kill Jews she would have been killed, or sent to a concentration camp or severely punished. I believe that Hanna had the capacity to know and to judge and to understand the significance and morality of her actions, and she chose to act inhumanely. She did not want to say no. Maralyn
 
Topic: Re: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (15 of 51), Read 50 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Susan Horning (silverymoon@mindspring.com) Date: Friday, April 16, 1999 12:19 PM I receive Constate Reader by email and don't know if I can post this way .. however .. I'll try .. I don't think Hanna was capable of thinking that change was possible. Had she thought change was possible or something she could accomplish for herself ... she would not have remained illiterate. Suzz ------------------------- But what if an individual does not have the ability to make that decision to change something? Was Hanna capable of it? > >MAP > ===================== Current reads: To Begin Again by Rabbi Naomi Levy King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild Just finished: Replacing Dad by Shelley Fraser Mickle =====================
 
Topic: Re: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (16 of 51), Read 48 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Friday, April 16, 1999 08:09 PM PLOT SPOILERS FOLLOW: I just finished this book tonight -- most interesting. I think Anne is right. At the time she was a guard and during the trial at least, Hana did not even recognize that she was confronted by a moral dilemma. She was just doing her job and she did not question it. If she had unlocked the church doors, the prisoners could not have been controlled and they would have escaped. On page 127, she says: We couldn't just let them escape! We were responsible for them...I mean, we had guarded them the whole time, in the camp and on the march, that was the point, that we had to guard them and not let them escape... Later, when she started reading concentration camp literature, she may have felt differently. We would all like to feel that we are braver than we are. I can also understand that human beings can numb themselves to the horror of their job and carry on with a certain routine, refusing to recognize the pain they are causing. But coward that I am, I do not think that I could leave screaming women locked in a church to burn to death. Because Hana had a personal relationship with the young girls who reader to her, it is also very difficult for me to understand how she could have picked them to go to Auschwitz. There is another moral problem in this book that bothers me a lot, and that is the thought of a 36 year old woman having a sexual relationship with a 15 year old boy. Keep in mind that I am the mother of 18 and 16 year old boys, so the subject seems close to home. A 15 year old is still a child in many ways and is just not emotionally equipped to handle a relationship with an adult women. 15 year old girls are their speed and that's about it. Michael never had a successful adult relationship with a woman and I think Hana was the cause. Hana interested me, but I never liked her or felt much sympathy for her. She used "the kid," whom she could never even manage to call by name. Still, this is a most interesting book, and I'm glad I read it. So how did Oprah's audience react, Anne?
 
Topic: Re: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (17 of 51), Read 43 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Barbara Moors (ncsh82b@prodigy.com) Date: Saturday, April 17, 1999 08:22 AM I had the same sensation of being jerked into another book when I came to Part Two of The Reader. Part One seemed a more realistic version of "The Summer of '42" though there was a little niggling wonder about Hanna's background which allowed her to be so immersed in a relationship with a 15 year old boy for so long a time. During Part Two, there were times that I thought Schlink started to let his political message distract from the novel, when he bordered on preaching. I know we've discussed this factor with other novels, particularly Kingsolver's, and I'm always interested in how novelists blend the two. Particularly on pg. 104, I felt that he started to depart from his character (a college student) and become the adult author. What did everyone else think about this? Regarding Hanna's blame for being a concentration camp guard, I always have trouble assigning too much blame to those in the lower ranks of these monstrous situations. I can't think of too horrible a punishment for Hitler or the others at the top, but I can't summon up a lot of hate for an illiterate camp guard. Like all of the rest of you, I can't imagine not unlocking those church doors, but Ann and Anne's notes on it make a lot of sense. {SPOILER ALERT} I didn't suspect that Hanna was illiterate until she decided to confess to writing the report after hearing that she might be asked to give a sample of her writing. When did everyone else suspect it? I'm surprised that I didn't pick up on it during Part One, particularly when she exploded after Michael left her the note during their bike trip. Barb
 
Topic: Re: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (18 of 51), Read 43 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Saturday, April 17, 1999 09:48 AM Barb, I didn't guess that Hana was illiterate until the narrator revealed it either. You compared the first part of the book to THE SUMMER OF 42. I take it that means you weren't as bothered about the older woman/young boy relationship as I was? Also, did you other readers think that the author was using Hana as a symbol of the older generation, while the narrator's love/disgust relationship with her symbolized their attitude to their parents? Ann
 
Topic: Re: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (19 of 51), Read 44 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Jim Heath (ddrapes@teleport.com) Date: Saturday, April 17, 1999 10:19 AM Let me get this straight. A sensitive young boy has an affair with an older woman who has a sordid past in the concentration camps. Does William Styron get royalties on this? Or would they have had to call it Hanna's Choice? Actually, I'm stuck on page 60 trying to get interested in sensitive young boys coming to terms with their sexuality and wondering how "coming to terms with your sexuality" differs from "getting lucky". Back to Mickey Spillane.
 
Topic: Re: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (20 of 51), Read 41 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Anne Wilfong (annewilfong@worldnet.att.net) Date: Saturday, April 17, 1999 04:24 PM I realized Hana was illiterate when she slapped Michael. She could not admit her inability to read it, so she acted as if it never existed. That really spooked me. The OPRAH audience, as a whole, was aghast about the age difference and the affair. It was almost all they could talk about, and those who hated the book blamed this aspect of it. Schlink was amazed--he never got that response anywhere in Europe, where folks seem less tortured by sex and age differences. And he did use this age difference as a metaphor for the generational gap; if Michael was to begin questioning his parents' role in the holocaust, then Hana had to trigger that by being a part of it, his catalyst. We've never had to reconcile, as a generation, the errors of our parents' generation. This part of the book held me for a long time. It's easy to sit in judgment, but how do you come to terms with such atrocities? How do you--or DO you-- rationalize the behavior? Anne
 
Topic: Re: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (21 of 51), Read 38 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Saturday, April 17, 1999 04:24 PM Well, I figured males would react differently to the sex than I did, Jim, so thanks for posting. In THE SUMMER OF 42 even I thought the kid kid got lucky. How many guys ever get a shot at Jennifer O'Neill? A once in a lifetime opportunity, no doubt, even if it did arrive prematurely. Of course, if the main character were a 15 year old girl with a much older man, how would reactions differ?
 
Topic: Re: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (22 of 51), Read 43 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@jeffco.k12.co.us) Date: Saturday, April 17, 1999 09:29 PM When we are talking about Hannah and the church scene, I keep thinking about that rule of inertia in physics that states, "Bodies that are in motion tend to stay in motion and bodies that are at rest tend to stay at rest". I am paraphrasing here. Anyway, I always think of that when I think of the guards at concentration camp. It must have been much easier to go along with the crowd and do nothing than to start moving and act. It is very existential as well. I understood that Hannah couldn't read when the narrator was talking about the note during the bicycle trip. Jane
 
Topic: Re: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (23 of 51), Read 44 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Barbara Moors (ncsh82b@prodigy.com) Date: Sunday, April 18, 1999 09:24 AM Wouldn't it be wonderful to have the power that Oprah has, choose a book and be able to bring the author to the discussion? Do I understand correctly, Anne, that Schlink was there for the program? Ann, I've been thinking a lot in the past day about my feelings about the relationship between Hanna and Michael, in terms of the age issue. I don't think it bothers me (even if it had been a young girl and an older man) because it is so incredibly common. American culture has spent a lot of time in the past 20 years trying to draw these lines concerning what will be allowed. However, I don't think the new laws have impacted actual occurrence much. Does that make sense? I don't think that this kind of relationship is necessarily a good thing or a bad thing. I don't think I'd want it for either of my sons. And, I certainly believe in laws concerning it for young children. But, among adolescents, I don't think it is as simple an issue. And, associated with that, the one part I wasn't sure I "bought" was how obsessional Michael became about his relationship with Hanna after she left and the implication that he could never have a successful relationship with anyone else because of it. The daughter from the concentration camp implied that this was all due to his relationship with an older woman as a teenager. I have a hard time accepting that given all of the other normalcy in Michael's life. And, I also wondered if it had to do with Hanna as a symbol for the older generation of Germans, that what they had done handicapped the younger generation emotionally. What did the rest of you think? Barb
 
Topic: Re: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (24 of 51), Read 44 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Barbara Moors (ncsh82b@prodigy.com) Date: Sunday, April 18, 1999 09:28 AM Jim, You should have payed attention to the SPOILER ALERTS. Knowing the ending takes away part of the impact of the book. I agree with you that this topic has been done before at a couple of different levels. However, I think Schlink brings a new twist to it. Come back and tell me if you think I'm all wet if you make it to the end. Barb
 
Topic: Re: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (25 of 51), Read 49 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Jim Heath (ddrapes@teleport.com) Date: Sunday, April 18, 1999 10:02 AM Barb, If it hadn't been for the Spoilers, I would never have gotten to page 100. At this point I really dislike the narrator. We'll see what happens next.
 
Topic: Re: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (26 of 51), Read 50 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbav@prodigy.com) Date: Sunday, April 18, 1999 11:01 AM It's a strange little book, but I had no trouble keeping interested. I kept wondering how he was going to tie all this together, and it seems to me he didn't. It stubbornly remains tripartite. It's obvious why Michael is unable to achieve a healthy relationship with a woman. In fact, it may be TOO obvious. But the other connections were tenuous for me. And I never understood why Michael would send those tapes to Hanna. Ruth
 
Topic: Re: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (27 of 51), Read 37 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, April 18, 1999 09:08 PM Guilt, Ruth -- the gift that keeps on giving. Ann
 
Topic: Re: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (28 of 51), Read 38 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbav@prodigy.com) Date: Monday, April 19, 1999 01:00 AM Ann, what do you think his guilt towards Hanna was? Not telling the judge that she was illiterate? But didn't the author make quite a case of the fact that if Hanna had wanted the judge to know, she would have told him? Ruth
 
Topic: Re: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (29 of 51), Read 35 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Monday, April 19, 1999 08:52 AM Well, it didn't make a lot of sense to me, Ruth, but the author says several times that Michael felt he had "betrayed" Hana. He felt a sense of betrayal that he didn't tell his friends about her (which seemed like the smart thing to me), and he felt that he betrayed her by not acknowledging her at the swimming pool right before she skipped town. I don't know about the incident with the judge. I thought Michael's father made a good point that it was wrong to do something for someone that they didn't want, just because you felt you knew better. Michael obviously felt conflicted about this, since he never revealed her secret, but I could see how he might feel responsible that she was locked away for 18 years, while others got off much easier. Ann
 
Topic: Re: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (30 of 51), Read 37 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Anne Wilfong (annewilfong@worldnet.att.net) Date: Monday, April 19, 1999 08:02 PM Ruth, I wonder if the guilt Michael felt toward Hanna mirrored the guilt he/his generation felt toward their parents generation regarding war crimes. Is it a survivor's guilt or something more ambiguous? If he felt guilty about her illiteracy, he could not have prevented it nor corrected it. He could only feel badly about it and wish it weren't so... Anne
 
Topic: Re: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (31 of 51), Read 41 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@jeffco.k12.co.us) Date: Monday, April 19, 1999 08:22 PM Anne, Ann, Ruth and all, If Michael felt guilty for not acknowledging Hanna at the swimming pool and for not telling the judge about Hanna's illiteracy, imagine the guilt that he felt at the end. Anne, I think that you are right that it mirrors the guilt of the father's generation. Just last night on the History Channel, they were showing actual films of people who lived near the concentration camps being forced to visit the camps when they were liberated. This was an order made by General Eisenhower. He wanted the local people to know exactly what they had been ignoring all of those years. Jane
 
Topic: Re: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (32 of 51), Read 42 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Monday, April 19, 1999 10:09 PM I agree that the author wanted Hana to stand for the older generation, but that strikes me as an unfair analogy. How about the rest of you? Ann
 
Topic: Re: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (33 of 51), Read 41 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Katie Kleczka (knp@execpc.com) Date: Tuesday, April 20, 1999 05:55 AM Ann, What do you mean by an "unfair analogy"? I started to think about this in several ways, and so I just want to get a better sense of what you meant by the question. :) Katie "Everything in moderation, EXCEPT for reading."
 
Topic: Re: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (34 of 51), Read 39 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Tuesday, April 20, 1999 10:26 AM I'm in the home stretch of reading THE READER, and so far, for me, it's one of those rare novels (like Josephine Hart's DAMAGE) that's as immediate and inevitable as a dream...or nightmare. One of my many soapboxes (as those posting here for a while know) is the concept of "authority of narrative," author being the root word of authority, and I think the voice that Schlink creates on the page has that quality in spades. I didn't see the Oprah interview, but on hearing it described I'm disappointed that so many in the audience fixated on the improper sexual relationship at the expense of so many profound, life/death questions that the book raises. I wonder if shifting the focus to Hanna and Michael in bed is a sort of defense mechanism--though maybe not at a conscious level--for avoiding the more significant and troubling subject matter that comes afterward? To me, the moral/ethical issues of THE READER are like an infinite hall of mirrors, created to defy any easy answers or categorizations. I think we all have a tremendous psychological stake in believing that we are at heart good and moral people who could never be capable of the kinds of acts we see again and again in human history. But hindsight is a different world...I ran across a quote last week (from G.B. Shaw, maybe?) that said, "Custom can inure us to any atrocity," and I think there's a lot of truth there. I know for a fact that I am a well-intentioned, generally thoughtful, humane person in most circumstances. But when it comes down to the crunch of sacrificing my own life or well-being for another person--particularly someone who is a stranger to me--my lesser experiences in that realm (particularly when I was drafted into the totalitarian regime known as the Army) certainly don't bode well for any hope of Dale as hero. Fortunately, that type of decision is something the vast majority of us in our civilized and relatively peaceful society will never have to make, though we read, with equal parts fascination and horror, of entire races or populations throughout the world who have to make those fatal choices on a daily basis, sometimes for years or decades at a stretch, and find it totally incomprehensible. And while there's no excusing evil or brutality, I think that if we polarize ourselves in that regard we become blinded to all that we can learn about human nature, including our own, by minutely examining the gray areas of the factual evidence. Some philosopher said "Nothing human can be alien to me," and another observed that "No human behavior has a single motivation." Put those two together, and any shying away from the troubling issues of THE READER is a disservice both to ourselves and others. Whew. End of speech. Opposing viewpoints welcomed... >>Dale in Ala.
 
Topic: Re: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (35 of 51), Read 40 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbav@prodigy.com) Date: Tuesday, April 20, 1999 12:01 PM Good speech, Dale. I've long ago come to the conclusion that I don't know what I'm capable of at either end of the spectrum. Neither, I suspect, do the rest of us. Ay, there's the rub. And then there's the question of how much any single person is to blame for a society gone wrong. Schlink has bitten off a handful (or should I say mouthful) here. Ruth
 
Topic: Re: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (36 of 51), Read 38 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Barbara Moors (ncsh82b@prodigy.com) Date: Tuesday, April 20, 1999 04:57 PM Ruth, when you said that you didn't think that the book came together in the end, do you think it was because Schlink couldn't unite the message that he was trying to deliver and the novel he was writing? That was my impression. During the last half of the book, I was too often aware of the author talking to me, standing off from the story. However, apart from that criticism, I'm glad I read it. It's made me do a lot of thinking and it was enough of a good story to make me finish it in 24 hours. Jim, have you finished yet or did you give up? Dale, I absolutely agree with you. In my early 20's, I was so sure of what I would do in these kinds of situations. The older I get, the less sure I am of anything, particularly of how I would react when my own well-being is in jeopardy. Barb
 
Topic: Re: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (37 of 51), Read 42 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Tuesday, April 20, 1999 06:09 PM Katie, Let me try again to explain what I meant by "unfair analogy." It seemed to me (and I could be wrong) that the author was making Hanna a symbol of the World War II generation of Germans who made Hitler's atrocities possible. (See especially Part Three, Chapter I). Michael's feelings towards her were very conflicted, just as the post-war generation had a serious problems dealing with their parents' responsibility for Nazi crimes. He says (p. 157, Book 2, Chapter 15) that he both wanted to understand Hanna and wanted to condemn her, but it was impossible to do both. Later (p. 170), he says that he had to point the finger of guilt at Hanna, "But the finger I pointed at her turned back to me. I had loved her." He ties his feelings for Hanna to his generations' attitude towards their parents: "How could it be a comfort that the pain I went through because of my love for Hanna was, in a way, the fate of my generation, a German fate, and that it was only more difficult for me to evade, more difficult for me to manage than for others."(p. 171) My problem with this is that I consider Hanna much worse than the average citizen in Nazi Germany who preferred to look the other way, rather than take an active role in the Nazi crimes. She was, after all, a guard in a slave labor camp. I seem to be in a minority here, but I also think that her love affair with a 15 year old boy was immoral. So Katie, do you agree that the author intended this symbolism? And, if so, do you think it is a fair analogy? I think a book which explores this issue of the collective German responsibility for Nazi crimes is Ursula Hegi's STONES FROM THE RIVER. It gives you a real understanding of how ordinary people chose to close their eyes to what was happening or made small compromises which, multiplied by thousands, eventually allowed the Nazis to assume complete control. Dale,I am not surprised the Oprah's audience chose to focus on the sex issue. Recently she has concentrated on the self-improvement theme, but her shows used to bear a much closer resemblance to those of Jenny Jones or Jerry Springer. One thing the audiences of all these shows have in common is the desire to be titillated by and simultaneously condemn sexual behavior. They seem to have this overwhelming need to feel superior to someone, no matter how low on the scale of humanity that person is. Hey, I may have my faults, but at least I am not having a lesbian relationship with my son's wife.
 
Topic: Re: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (38 of 51), Read 46 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Tuesday, April 20, 1999 06:38 PM Ann: I agree, I don't think Hanna's experience was typical for Germans of that era, though maybe a common one in the camps themselves. I saw a piece on the History Channel recently about the last days of the Nazis and one of the people interviewed was the son of General Rommel. He said, very thoughtfully but without obvious emotion, that he was grateful to the Allies for defeating Hitler, even though it meant his father's downfall, because "otherwise, there would have been no stopping them. They would have taken over the world." Also, it's not that I approve of Hanna's affair with a teenager--it strikes me as at least irresponsible, and quite possibly immoral depending on the standards one applies. It's just that among other transgressions in the novel, that one pales in comparison. I think you hit the nail on the head, about people's "overwhelming need to feel superior to someone else" that fuels the so-called talk shows, and much political correctness in general. Very human, but very sad. >>Dale in Ala.
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (39 of 51), Read 46 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Tuesday, April 20, 1999 06:40 PM Dale, wonderful post. I was thinking along very similar lines (maybe that's why I liked your post so much {G}). Oprah's audience getting stuck on the sexual issues seems very American and PC to me. It keeps them from thinking about the larger issues. One of which is: how can I possibly identify with a guard in a concentration camp? Aren't all those people, evil, evil, evil? I identified with Hanna very much. I tried to imagine why she would be drawn to a young boy. In some of the early dialogue it seemed that she thought he was a college kid first, which I doesn't suppose is much of an excuse since she didn't end the affair when she found out his age. She probably didn't dare have a relationship with someone her own age, with someone who would make demands and want explanations. The kid (I can't think of his real name) was malleable. He would take the blame for any fight or disagreement. She was able to have someone to love (and someone to read to her) who was totally innocent of what she herself was guilty of. She did not want to be reminded in any way of what she did. But of course that wasn't possible, and when the time came for taking responsibility--the trial--she took more than her share. She wanted punishment, atonement. There was a kind of pride in taking total responsibility and not using the excuse of her illiteracy to soften the blow. Now the big question: VERY LARGE SPOILER Why do you think she killed herself? My theory is that the atonement didn't work. Eighteen years of punishment still did not allow her to be free of her guilt. Sherry
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (40 of 51), Read 48 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Katie Kleczka (knp@execpc.com) Date: Tuesday, April 20, 1999 07:12 PM Thank you for the clarification, Ann. I wanted to respond but was afraid of not addressing the question as you stated it. :) Ann, I agree that the analogy which portrays Hanna as a symbol of the collective guilt of the German people was intended and is indeed inadequate. It cannot possibly address the wide range of behaviours that were prevalent across many peoples during that time. But if the purpose of the analogy is to bring attention to the interaction of the wartime generation and the the post-war generation in terms of such elements as guilt, blame, shame and forgiveness, then I think that the analogy is very effective. It makes you look hard at the questions raised, and that is the success of the analogy. I am unable to call immoral the relationship between Hanna and Michael, but do feel it to be both irresponsible and misguided. I would have to apply standards that I am not sure that, personally, I believe in. However, note that I in no way question or judge your feelings on this issue. MAJOR SPOILER ALERT Having participated in a discussion of The Reader elsewhere, as well, the question of Hanna's suicide has come up before. Although I did not see the Oprah segment with Schlink, I have been told that he felt "the movement of Hanna's life was toward 'withdrawal' and killing herself was the final 'withdrawal'. (1) This was my response to that statement: "How very interesting. This may be precisely what made her suicide seem so totally removed from the story, so incongruous with what was happening. I very much viewed her time in prison, actually, as an opening up of her life. She was well-liked at the prison and formed relationships of a sort with those around her. She learned how to read. She became a "social" creature. I was totally shocked by her last act. Schlink's statement of "final withdrawal" just doesn't gel for me, but at least knowing the author's take on the ending does away with the confusion: he and I were imposing two totally different mindsets on her. I would have been more accepting of Schlink's mode of closure in The Reader if she had chosen to end her life in a response to overwhelming guilt, or even an inability to face life outside of prison after being institutionalized for so many years. However, for me, the "withdrawal" idea just doesn't have validity." (1) From a participant in a discussion elsewhere of The Reader. Katie "Everything in moderation, EXCEPT for reading."
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (41 of 51), Read 40 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Tuesday, April 20, 1999 09:45 PM Sherry, In her relationship with the young boy, whom she never called by name, I saw Hanna strictly as a user. There were no signs that she cared for the "kid" as an individual. Be that as it may, Schlink did make me identify with her later in the story. During the church fire, her reaction of standing by and letting events take their course is a very human one. Although I like to think I could never do that, as many people have said here, we never know what we would do when faced with a true moral crisis until it happens. There have been many times in my own life when I know I should have done or said something, and I took the easy way out by letting the moment pass. Well, said, Katie, and don't ever worry about offending me by disagreeing with me. I love a good discussion. I don't think Hanna was trying to atone for her sins by failing to adequately defend herself at the trial. This was due to her shame about her illiteracy. (Think what awful learning disabilities she must have had to be so interested in books and unable to read them for so many years.) But the fact that she ordered all those books about the Holocaust in prison showed that she learned to accept the responsibility and guilt. SPOILER ALERT Did she kill herself because of this guilt? I don't think so. I understand what the author meant about her increasing withdrawal. One sign of this was the fact that in her final years she completely let herself go, becoming fat and dirty. She also stopped associating with the other prisoners. For someone so isolated from the normal world, life outside of prison would have been torture. Here's a question of everyone -- should Michael have written to her along with the tapes? The matron told him how much it would have meant to her. Why didn't he? Ann
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (42 of 51), Read 34 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Wednesday, April 21, 1999 12:49 AM I MUST talk here -- I have read this thread though not the book -- not yet. It is going to be here tomorrow when Jim arrives back from the US business trip. I believe he will have finished it by then and I plan to talk with him about some of the points raised here and get his reactions/responses and post them. I know my own reading may well be 'tainted' having read the discussion ahead of time but I think it will also be of interest to see what I find in this complicated story having some prior input. Having said all of that -- I wouldn't be talking about the book itself except for the mention of Hegi's Stones From The River -- I had been waiting for that to surface in this thread and had already thought of the comparisons which could be made between these two. Hegi's book was powerful and also raised the issue of what would we REALLY do under such circumstances. I think there was some consensus that given the fact that no one person has lived the exact life that another person has lived -- judgement of the behavior becomes pretty much impossible. Even two siblings raised in one house by the same set of parents will have individual views of incidents in their lives which were shared -- the reaction/response of these individuals will be different in the same way. Can hardly wait to get this book in my hands and like several of you, I am certain it will be a single gulp -- or very close to it. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (43 of 51), Read 25 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Wednesday, April 21, 1999 07:51 AM Ann, I don't think we can know whether Hanna cared for "the kid" or not. All we have to go on is what the kid himself said and felt. We really know very little to nothing of what Hanna was thinking or feeling. I admit that I projected a lot of what I might feel into what I thought Hanna might feel. But since we weren't given anything to go on, I think that is only natural. Since you have boys of that age, I can understand your being so upset with this aspect of the story. Regarding the issue of whether she allowed herself to be the main one to blame; I think she was feeling guilty and wanted atonement. Remember she gave (I'm forgetting what) something of value to the daughter and survivor of the fire? I don't think it was a simple as not wanting anyone to know about her illiteracy. I think it was a mixture of fear, guilt, shame and misplaced pride. Sherry
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (44 of 51), Read 28 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Wednesday, April 21, 1999 09:10 AM Sherry & All: I'm not to the end of THE READER yet, but like some others here I'm finding the final third of the book to be very different in tone from the first two sections: a kind of distant paraphrasing of events in Michael's life, more about ideas than emotions, and somewhat of a letdown from the intensity that went before. But one paragraph in this section really grabbed me: *** I wanted simultaneously to understand Hanna's crime and to condemn it. But it was too terrible for that. When I tried to understand it, I had the feeling I was failing to condemn it as it must be condemned. When I condemned it as it must be condemned, there was no room for understanding. But even as I wanted to understand Hanna, failing to understand her meant betraying her all over again. I could not resolve this. I wanted to pose myself both tasks--understanding and condemnation. But it was impossible to do both. *** I suspect these conflicting motivations are why people react as they do upon hearing of any tragedy, such as the school killings of yesterday, and why something about the tone of most people interviewed on the news after such events makes me kind of angry, deep down. It's easy to say, "Oh, my, how can something like this happen?" but I think this type of response is nearly always rhetorical, which to me makes the questioner either hypocritical or disingenuous or both. Because when somebody starts trying to explain to them some of the influences that may have brought the atrocity about, they quickly become indignant and accuse the other person of trying to "excuse" or "explain away" what is a blatantly indefensible act. The more we understand, the harder it is to totally condemn the offender (as opposed to condemning the act), and I believe many people see it is a slippery slope leading to chaos. I believe that's one reason that fiction writers like Bernhard Schlink, Russell Banks, Larry Watson, Pete Dexter, and others strike such a chord with us, because they create a landscape where things have reasons--as opposed to excuses--for happening, reasons that are based in human (and therefore our own) nature. It's a bitter pill to swallow, but maybe easier to do so in an "imaginary" world. >>Dale in Ala., who needs more coffee as an anti-rambling medication
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (45 of 51), Read 28 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Anne Wilfong (annewilfong@worldnet.att.net) Date: Wednesday, April 21, 1999 09:58 AM Dale, my friend, you keep on with those caffeine-induced ramblings, okay? I think you've got a good point comparing this to the shooting tragedy in Denver yesterday. We can never really know, much less understand, what's in a killer's heart, or how it got there, or why it made him/her act it out. What we have left are a bunch of rhetorical questions and finger-pointing, much like at Hanna's trial. The guilt is left for the survivors, not the perpetrators. I think Hanna's last act is not out of guilt or remorse for deeds done, despite her interest in the Holocaust...I think she was overwhelmed at the thought of having to now DO something with her life, out of the protective confines of the prison. ***SPOILER ALERT**** I know we've touched on this in past discussions, but suicide is a desperate act, the ultimate act of selfishness, and while I expected more from Hanna, perhaps that was an unfair expectation on my part. I don't think she could've done anything else. Anne
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (46 of 51), Read 29 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbav@prodigy.com) Date: Wednesday, April 21, 1999 10:42 AM Anne, I agree with you on why Hanna committed suicide. It's the ultimate excuse for not having to do anything. And Dale, two minutes after writing on the Denver shooting thread and posing one of those rhetorical questions you mentioned, I come here and read your comments. Took me aback and made me think. Thanks. Ruth
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (47 of 51), Read 18 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Wednesday, April 21, 1999 05:22 PM Dale, Very perceptive comments as usual. Sherry, I agree that Hanna felt guilt at the end, just not at the trial. Sorry is I didn't make that clear -- if it makes any difference. Anne, in what way was Hanna's suicide selfish? Who did it hurt? The prison warden, maybe, but I don't think she had any real obligation to her. I suspect "the reader" was relieved. Ann
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (48 of 51), Read 18 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Anne Wilfong (annewilfong@worldnet.att.net) Date: Wednesday, April 21, 1999 06:12 PM Ann, I regard suicide as the ultimate act of selfishness. It's an incredibly ego-centric act. There's no regard to anyone else's feelings, no attempt to change...It's a response to a pain so deep within the soul that the victim feels there's no way out but death. So it's selfish. Or self-centered, if you will. That's all. And with thoughts toward the Denver shootings, the suicides really tick me off because these selfish kids will never have to account for themselves and for why they committed such carnage. (okay, I'll try to save it for the Salon...) Anne
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (49 of 51), Read 15 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@jeffco.k12.co.us) Date: Wednesday, April 21, 1999 08:55 PM I have enjoyed reading this discussion. I know that the counselors at school have always told us that suicide is the ultimate act of selfishness. It is a way to get back at someone or, in the case of the Columbine shootings, everyone. I had the feeling that when Michael finally came to visit Hanna in the prison, she was expecting more from him. She seemed disappointed in his response to her, and from that point on, I expected her suicide. She was getting back at Michael for not really being there for her. Yes, he did make the tapes and he was trying to help her start a new life, but I think that she expected more. Jane
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (50 of 51), Read 13 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbav@prodigy.com) Date: Wednesday, April 21, 1999 09:39 PM Jane, what do you think there was about either Michael or Michael and Hanna's relationship that might have led Hanna to expect more? How could Hanna have felt he owed her anything? I know that Michael seemed wracked with inexplicable guilt, but that was his take on things. I don't remember if we had an indication that Hanna felt he owed her something. Ruth
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (51 of 51), Read 12 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Wednesday, April 21, 1999 10:50 PM Anne, I feel angry too that the kids who killed their classmates "escaped" retribution by killing themselves. I don't know what happened there -- it is so far outside the realm of my experience, I can't fathom that kind of behavior. My guess is that they were playing out some kind of sick game and that deep down they didn't comprehend that it was all permanent, including their own exit. However, I feel differently about suicides in general. I have a very deep sympathy for any family member whose relative has committed suicide. They suffer a terrible burden. However, I think that in the vast majority of cases, suicides are not trying to punish someone, but only attempting to end their own unendurable pain. Of course, they are self-centered; people who are suicidally depressed are not able to relate to anything outside of themselves. It is part of their illness. That doesn't mean we should blame them. I am probably in the minority here, but I thought that if Hanna chose to end her life, that was her right. Because you are a medical professional, I can understand that you look at this very differently. Ann Post | Reply | Reply/Quote | Email Reply | Delete | Edit Previous | Next | Previous Topic | Next Topic Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (52 of 85), Read 92 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Mary Anne Papale (fdlx59b@prodigy.com) Date: Thursday, April 22, 1999 07:28 AM All, I was discussing this book with my husband, who has just started it, and I was startled to be reminded of something that had slipped my memory. And I don't think it was discussed here. It occurs when the young Michael is so obsessed with Hanna, that he gets on her bus, and she ignores him. He is devastated by her betrayal. But I think that this had slipped my mind because it didn't seem all that important at the time. Just one of life's disappointments. But now... I am struck by the fact that Schlink has laid out a spectrum of betrayals for us. There's the little every day slights that we are probably all capable of, all the way to the hideous betrayal, for which Hanna is responsible. I think it is too narrow a focus to say this book is about the collective guilt of the German people, but rather all people, regarding all things -- not just the Holocaust. Knowing that as a human, I would fall somewhere on that scale of betrayal, even though I would hope that my guilt might be for some minor thing, the finger of shame could still point back at me, the reader. And yes, I think there could be a dual reason for Schlink's choice of the title. MAP Post New Topic | Reply to: "THE READER by Bernhard Schlink"
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (53 of 85), Read 91 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Thursday, April 22, 1999 07:07 AM I'm lagging a bit behind on The Reader, having just finished part one which concludes with the break-up of Michael and Hanna. At this point, Michael certainly feels guilty about causing the break-up by his betrayal, his inability to acknowledge his relationship with Hanna to others. What I can't judge yet is whether this betrayal was Hanna's reason for splitting, or if she was actually making a very loving, caring decision by ending a relationship that she felt would lead nowhere and letting Michael get on with his life. Hanna seems to be seeking power and control throughout the first part of the book. She is capable of loving actions, but generally seems to be seeking first her own fulfillment. Michael, at fifteen, is still molding. It all seems very complex, and it's hard to pinpoint exact motivation or types. A lot like real life, I guess.
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (54 of 85), Read 98 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Thursday, April 22, 1999 09:01 AM Jane & All: I don't think Hanna necessarily felt that Michael "owed" her anything after prison, but it's clear that she expected a lot more than she got. As withdrawn as Hanna was, the only evidence of this is in a very brief scene (Page 196 in my paperback) when he meets her in the prison garden the day before her release... *** Her hands lay in her lap holding a book. She wasn't reading it. Over the top of her half-glasses, she was watching a woman throwing bread crumbs to a couple of sparrows. Then she realized that she was being watched, and turned her face to me. I saw the expectation in her face, saw it light up with joy when she recognized me, watched her eyes scan my face as I approached, saw them seek, inquire, then look uncertain and hurt, and saw the light go out of her face. When I reached her, she smiled a friendly, weary smile. "You've grown up, kid." I sat down beside her and she took my hand. *** She may not have been expecting him to run into her arms and whisk her away to live happily ever after, but I don't think a little emotion and display of affection would have killed "the kid" or gotten her hopes up unfairly. Instead he reacts with formal politeness...and as most people who have been through a broken relationship know, that can hurt far worse than anger or abandonment...a sort of "so near, and yet so far" syndrome. I don't recall any place in the book where Hanna mentions a boyfriend, an ex-husband, or for that matter any friends at all. As problematic and manipulative as her relationship with Michael was, it was probably the closest thing to normalcy she'd ever had. And his faithful sending of the audiotapes would lead any reasonable person, I believe, to expect involvement with him at some level after being released from jail. Do you think his relative coolness toward her was an unselfish case of not wanting to raise unreasonable expectations in her, or just a cop-out of being afraid to be in her life again? >>Dale in Ala.
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (55 of 85), Read 102 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Mary Anne Papale (fdlx59b@prodigy.com) Date: Thursday, April 22, 1999 10:35 AM Dale, I see Michael's behavior when visiting Hanna as just another form of betrayal. Not as bad as her betrayal of the women prisoners, but it certainly took the life out of Hanna. MAP
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (56 of 85), Read 53 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Barbara Moors (ncsh82b@prodigy.com) Date: Thursday, April 22, 1999 04:57 PM I believe that the prison warden said that Hanna had no one outside the prison except Michael. No one had written or communicated with her, no friends, no family. The warden was worried about her release because she had spent such a long time in prison and had no one for support in the transition. Looking back, that was probably a foreshadowing. Michael couldn't overcome his protective shell that he'd build to truly make contact with her. I think that withdrawal and, ultimately, suicide was the only logical response from Hanna's mindset. I often think that suicide is a selfish act, but, in this case, I don't. She had no one to mourn her except the warden and Michael. There was hope in her efforts to learn to read. However, what she learned from her reading probably made thoughts of life outside the protected prison environment untenable, particularly when she would be so alone. Barb
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (57 of 85), Read 55 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Thursday, April 22, 1999 05:24 PM Barb: I hadn't thought of Hanna's fate in quite those terms, but it makes a lot of sense. How ironic, that the reading which was her salvation during the very worst times ended up by giving her such a vision of life's possibilities she knew she could never have, and as a result she just gave up on life. >>Dale in Ala.
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (58 of 85), Read 63 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbav@prodigy.com) Date: Thursday, April 22, 1999 06:09 PM Dale, remember that a large part of Hanna's reading material was about the Nazi camps, etc. Maybe her reading not only gave her a sense of life's possibilities, but also made her aware of the enormity of what she had done. Ruth
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (59 of 85), Read 66 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@jeffco.k12.co.us) Date: Thursday, April 22, 1999 08:28 PM Ruth, I was going to answer your post, but Dale has done all of the work for me. Mary Anne, you mentioned the scene when Michael tried to surprise Hanna on the tramway. Her explanation of this meeting was that Hanna thought that Michael was trying to ignore her, because he got into the back of the tramway without acknowledging her. Jane
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (60 of 85), Read 65 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbav@prodigy.com) Date: Thursday, April 22, 1999 10:44 PM Jane, now that you mention that tramway scene, doesn't it strike you as completely adolescent, just the sort of thing two teenagers would do? Of course, Michael was a teenager. But Hanna was not. Or was she actually emotionally a teenager? Could this have been one of the reasons she was attracted to Michael, because she could only relate at this level? On another tack, I don't remember the author's ever giving an explanation as to why Hanna was illiterate. We are told nothing of her background. Do any of you have any thoughts as to why this is? Ruth
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (61 of 85), Read 63 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Edd Houghton (eddh@pacbell.net) Date: Friday, April 23, 1999 02:07 AM RUTH My guess is that Hana is just plain dumb. The Nazis never picked guards for their intellect. I also doubt if their was an IQ test for street car conductors. Having a fling with the kid; maybe she doesn't have a lot of opportunities. And why not? Intellectual equals or close to it. But then he will grow up and she won't. At least not by much. EDD
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (62 of 85), Read 57 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Friday, April 23, 1999 09:32 AM Ruth & All: Good point, that Hanna's reading about the camps showed her the magnitude of what she and so many others had done in the name of "following orders." That, plus the novels about normal people leading adventurous lives, must have been a double wallop for her emotionally. MAP: I agree that Michael's coolness toward Hanna at the end was a betrayal, particularly from her point of view. But throughout the book he seems like a basically good person, pretty self-aware, and not gratuitously cruel except for his relationship with the girl in the short period of time after Hanna left, and which made him feel guilty. But I don't think any of us do anything without some justification in our mind at the time, whether accurate or not. How do you think Michael justified, to himself, his behavior in the prison garden? Also...I'd forgotten that both of them judged the hurtful tram scene from different angles--he thought she was snubbing him, and vice versa. Juvenile though it might be, it's something I don't believe most of us ever truly outgrow. It's frightening to think of how many friendships, marriages, careers, etc. break up because of some mutual misunderstanding--which seems trivial in hindsight, but escalates until the damage is irreparable. >>Dale in Ala.
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (63 of 85), Read 43 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Anne Wilfong (annewilfong@worldnet.att.net) Date: Friday, April 23, 1999 09:13 PM Ann, Getting back to the issue of suicide (I've been off line for a day or two & have some catching up to do!)...I DO agree with you wholeheartedly about an individual's right to suicide, whether by his own hand or through the help of a physician. Self-inflicted suicide does involve, most often, a depressed person. And what a deeply personal choice, no matter how the decision is brought about. And, yes, the families do suffer so much. I didn't want to sound cold or clinical about this issue. I have alot of compassion for people who must really agonize over their lives, their pain that they feel no one else can (or should have to) understand. Maybe it's more the "murder-suicide" issue I'm struggling with. Anne, happy the snow stopped at 28 inches...
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (64 of 85), Read 45 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Friday, April 23, 1999 11:25 PM Anne, It seems we are pretty much in agreement after all. Ann
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (65 of 85), Read 38 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Friday, April 23, 1999 09:17 PM What I found most interesting in The Reader was the calm, detached, almost numb tone of the narration. Even when describing love-making, the colors that came to my mind were warm, solid, neutral, rather than passionate and uncontrolled. Mention was made of the numbness of concentration camp survivors, as well as of the perpetrators of the crimes. Michael slipped into this numbness when his relationship with Hanna ended, and never seemed able to escape it. The tapes were merely therapeutic for him, but they seemed to be a release for Hanna. She may have thought that she was still loved, that she hadn't totally ruined Michael's life. But while she was able to overcome her emotional blocks and become literate, Michael was never able to. That seems to be when Hanna became despondent. When they met in the prison yard, this was confirmed. Hanna never seemed to be able to understand the consequences of her actions outside of her own inner world. But, in that chamber, I think she had extraordinary insight and sensitivity. She may not have been able to comprehend the suffering of hundreds of strangers, but could not bear the thought that she had so badly hurt the one person she truly loved. Michael's betrayals, his real or perceived slights and refusal to acknowledge her, crushed Hanna. But the final blow was the realization that she had helped to create a man who was capable of such betrayal.
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (66 of 85), Read 45 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Saturday, April 24, 1999 01:42 AM I have only begun the book -- but I have read this thread as it developed and I HAVE to say to your note -- you say she didn't recognize the suffering of hundreds of strangers but couldn't bear the thought of having hurt the one person she loved -- and the final blow was that she realized she had helped to create a man who was capable of such betrayal -- do you think it is possible that she saw him as capable of being a person who could be blind to hundreds of people being slaughtered ? Do you think she equated what she felt as his withdrawal and coldness and betrayal with the coldness and betrayal of humanity in general which she had learned of in her reading about the events in which she herself had been embroiled? Do you think the suicide may have been for her own guilt in the burning building and the overall work she had done guarding the prisoners AND for her guilt in creating another UNCARING or INHUMANE human being (Michael)? Don't know what I will think once I have finished the book but this was my immediate connection with your analysis! Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (67 of 85), Read 45 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Barbara Moors (ncsh82b@prodigy.com) Date: Saturday, April 24, 1999 08:59 AM David, I hope you're planning on staying around Constant Reader and Classics Corner for a good long time. I am enjoying your take on the books I'm reading with you. Michael's numbness equated with Hanna's and both of them with the whole German Nazi era attitude is on target from my perception and I didn't think of it. I don't think I agree about your final statement though. I still think that she simply saw that, in the end, the younger German could not reach beyond the gap of her behavior. And, he was her only connection with the world. Also, when you think of it, be sure and reply to the last note on the thread. I almost missed your note because I was scrolling down the notes and not looking back at the left side of the screen. Barb
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (68 of 85), Read 35 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Saturday, April 24, 1999 08:05 PM Dottie: Hanna's suicide may have been the result of many factors; I simply think the final straw was Michael's inability to provide the emotional warmth and acceptance she could get nowhere else and her own belief that her desertion of him had helped make him that kind of person. At least, that is what the timing of the suicide suggests to me, coming the very day before a release from prison which she herself had been seeking. That she put more stock in one person she loved than the lives of a hundred people to whom she had no attachment is tragic, but this is a guilt based on subjective emotion, not on mere numbers. Barb: Thanks for the kind words and the reminder. I'm finding CR a wonderful place for thoughtful discussion where I can learn from others instead of just reading these things in a vacuum.
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (69 of 85), Read 35 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Jane Niemeier (jniemeie@jeffco.k12.co.us) Date: Saturday, April 24, 1999 09:15 PM David and all, I think that Hanna saw that in Michael's eyes she had grown old and unattractive. That may seem a bit shallow to all of you, but I think that it was important to Hanna and to most women. She saw in his eyes that she was old and didn't have much to offer and that she would be a burden to him. That was my impression. Let me know what you think. Jane
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (70 of 85), Read 37 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbav@prodigy.com) Date: Sunday, April 25, 1999 01:20 AM I'm curious as to what makes any of you think that Hanna felt guilt for what she had done to Michael. We are given very few clues as to her character and background in the book, but it seems to me that during her years in prison, while he was sending her the tapes, she built up in her mind expectations that had little to do with reality. Then when she saw him when he came to visit her, she suddenly realized she was not going to receive the emotional/psychological support she had imagined. Couldn't it be possible that she was just frightened, that when push came to shove she couldn't face being on her own with little or no support from Michael, and that's why she killed herself? Ruth
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (71 of 85), Read 37 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, April 25, 1999 01:57 AM Jane and Ruth, Good observations. I agree. Ann
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (72 of 85), Read 39 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Sunday, April 25, 1999 04:21 AM Jane, Ruth, and Ann -- Good thoughts all -- I have read it finally -- my husband said I read it in one day just to show him up. I asked his thoughts after I had finished -- his main response to it was that it was a story built around Hanna's illiteracy to create a sympathetic character which would allow one to excuse the behavior of the Germans during the war and the actions of the Holocaust. The author/story is saying --'see, these were just little people and some of them were just people with things in their own lives with which they had to cope and they were following orders, trying to make their way -- none of this was because they were evil' -- kind of an allowance for a group excuse. I asked some other questions but I won't add anything else here except that it was interesting to get to talk about this one with my husband. Here are some of my own thoughts and connections with this story as it unfolded: Michael's description of his sick room and the unreality of familiar space and so forth -- I was struck that there is that in the confinement process -- for illness, for crimes or for whatever reasons in wartimes -- and that prolonged confinement does lead to this crossover of reality and unreality -- my note to myself begins "the unreality of reality and the reality of unreality" and goes on "comparative to/with confinement within a "box" defined by the person or by society; confinement within one's own mind, ones life/life circumstances,one's own culture/society, confinement of both thought and body". I was thinking that individuals are each a 'confined' being within expanding confines. Within each of these confines there are different influences on that individual's behavior and where there are overlaps there are also overlapping influences. Michael has been shaped by his confinement -- Hanna by hers -- though I do agree with those who have been saying we don't know her -- we don't know anything at all about her -- I think this may have been deliberate in order to give us as readers no outs/no excuse hooks for Hanna's behavior when it is revealed -- we have to think only of what MIGHT have been or what WE would do. In the second part -- I thought about memory -- accurate or influenced or simply reconstructed? It is the story of history as well. Individuals adapt their behavior to memories which may or may not be accurate -- build facades -- societies do the same thing in many ways. I also think this part is meant to get us into the generational divide -- not only the one which always exists but this different version which the Germans have experienced in unique relation to the Holocaust and which the survivors and children of the survivors and victims have also experienced in a unique fashion. The things which were done/the things which were experienced are part of the lives of every individual who participated or experienced these events -- on both sides -- and are part of the lives of every individual since who hears and sees and studies or reads of this time. For those of the war generation and the following generation -- there is a difference in proximity and context. Each generation down -- there are new influences -- changes in memory/changes in facades. Then there is the question of what the events played out in those generation influence in the lives of the following generation -- how did each person who was involved pass this along within the family -- within the normal processes of families? Another thing which is of interest is the numbness and lack of feeling which Michael describes -- the psychology of avoidance -- disaffection -- allows one to do things when staying connected would NOT allow one to do them. Michael's doing this in order to stay with the trial and study it and so on -- extend this avoidance/disaffection to Hanna or any participants in the camps -- then ask the question Hanna asks. Is the author giving readers a window to see where such things could have been/were behind the actions of many who were involved? And the 'what would you do?' question is a textbook one for ethics/philosophical and moral dilemma discussions. I liked the line in Part Three - Chapter Four -- 'Now escape involves not just running away, but arriving somewhere.' Individuals escape -- into research like Michael does, into books?, Hanna escapes into prison (a refuge where she learned to conquer the problem which caused her so much pain in her life before prison), --- into drugs, alcohol, into hate groups (where an individual finds bonds that have been lost in his own family life or were never there to begin with). Those are the meat of my response -- I found some of the events less than complete -- the money and the restitution between Hanna and the daughter/author of the book. I enjoyed the book but I am not sure it changed or added to my thinking on the historical events -- I DO think there may be an underlying implication of 'if we/people do not know how to read -- things can happen which might otherwise not' -- where are our reading skills as a society and where are the reading levels of other countries? Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (73 of 85), Read 41 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Sunday, April 25, 1999 06:54 AM David, Your reason for Hanna's suicide, her understanding of what she had done to Michael, was the first reaction I had, too. But I think everyone else is also right. I don't think there can be too many reasons. I mean suicide is a pretty big step. Maybe any one reason wouldn't have been enough, but all the reasons combined would make life unbearable. Her fear of being on her own without the emotional support of Michael, her realization that she was old in his eyes, her withdrawing, her guilt. Sherry
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (74 of 85), Read 42 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Sunday, April 25, 1999 11:22 AM Jane: I don't think it's shallow at all to say that Hanna's realization of her age, physical appearance, and emotional distance from Michael was the impetus for her taking the final step she did. Sure, there are her earlier mistakes to deal with--her behavior in the camp, and her first seduction of "the kid"--but I don't think guilt was foremost in her mind by the time of her release from prison. I believe there comes a magnitude of guilt and regret beyond which we can no longer function without either ending our own life or somehow distancing ourself emotionally--whether it's the pragmatic realization that what's done is done and our own internal suffering can't change it, or the route of religious faith with its message of forgiveness and atonement, that there's no offense beyond the capacity of a supreme being to erase from our spiritual "record." I don't know which path of reconciliation Hanna took...maybe some of each...but I think what was foremost on her mind was, "What now?" She saw the answer, very understandably, as Michael, and when that fell through she couldn't see any other avenue for trying to rebuild a normal life. >>Dale in Ala.
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (75 of 85), Read 40 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Elaine Walsh (elainewalsh@usa.net) Date: Sunday, April 25, 1999 01:19 PM I'm hopping into the discussion pretty late, but it's taken me some time to digest all of these postings at once. I pretty much read this entire discussion in one sitting. Dale, I was also struck by the section you quoted from Part 3: "I wanted simultaneously to understand Hanna crime and to condemn it . . ." I found myself sympathizing with Hanna, and then feeling guilty for sympathizing with her, like it was somehow a betrayal on my part to the millions of people who died in the Holocaust. But if we are to learn from our society's mistakes, then don't we need to try to understand all perspectives on the situation? Can't I try to understand, without condoning? This is also relates back to the Littleton shooting for me, because I am living in Denver right now. I discussed the tragedy with my third graders, and I was heartened to see how many expressed a need to forgive the killers, and to try to understand how they would reach this point. They said that the kids didn't know how to express their anger, that it was too bad that they couldn't talk to their parents, and one child said she hoped that God would forgive them. I fear that many people think this kind of attitude is a betrayal of the victims. I have sympathy for all sides of this tragedy, and I think that you do need to let go of the anger eventually in order to move forward. At the same time, I do not want to appear judgmental towards the families of the victims who are feeling angry right now. They have every right to be angry, and I of course have no concept whatsoever of what it is like to be in this position. It is a slippery slope. Regarding Michael's avoidance: this is part of why I love the first-person narrative, when done right. It's interesting to think about how the character's own telling of the story shapes our perceptions of what "really" happened, and how his narrative voice reveals aspects of his character. The narrative seems so detached, and void of feeling and imagery. And yet it makes sense in terms of his character that he would describe the events in this way. --Elaine in Denver
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (76 of 85), Read 40 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, April 25, 1999 07:05 PM Dottie, I enjoyed your note. It was interesting reading your husband's reactions. (I sure wish I could talk mine into reading one of these books.) I hadn't really thought about Hanna's illiteracy as a method of gaining the reader's sympathy for her and those guilty of Nazi crimes. Your husband's approach made me look at the book in a different way, and I liked that. Also, I liked the parallel you drew between Michael's confinement and Hanna's, and the confusion between reality and unreality that can result. Elaine, do you consider Michael a somewhat unreliable narrator? Generally, I tend to accept the narrator's interpretation as gospel, but you are right, of course, that the personality of the character will influence it. It cannot always be identified with the ideas of the author. Incidentally, this has been a great book for discussion because the author leaves so many unanswered questions. Who nominated it? Ann
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (77 of 85), Read 38 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: S Thomsen (susant3@aol.com) Date: Sunday, April 25, 1999 08:06 PM Greetings, everyone. Your comments on "The Reader," which I just finished, have provided me with some great insights as well as wonderful fodder for discussion--and clarifying my own thoughts. I'm still not sure what I really think about the novel, which I did find fascinating. It struck me as very European. There's another book by a German author about people who survived the war in Germany and are now in exile, and "The Reader" reminded me of that one (whose name I cannot recall at the moment. Anyone?) Of course every "reader" (clever title, that one) of any novel brings his own take and finds his or her own resonances and dissonances. Someone above said that perhaps we have not had to deal with the errors of our parents' generation, but I think that white Southerners probably have. I kept being reminded of that--and of the enormous consequences of action/inaction--in "The Reader." I won't go on and on about this, but I will say that I was only able to put together what happened in the South---the lynchings, the violence, the murder, the African-American struggle for the right to vote (to vote!)--only after reading book after book after book. Previously I had known scraps of information that were hard to put together: The horrible history was not considered a topic for polite conversation. Anyway, I think Shlink's novel, like most good novels, addresses something universal. I was irritated by the end, which struck me as a writer's all-powerful fantasy---having someone learn to read along with tapes you send and then going on to read your (the author's) work. Gag. A little overworking of the old ego on Schlink's part. BUT I didn't think that Hanna killed herself because of her meeting with the narrator. Essentially she went into jail with tenuous ties to the outside world, and that must have been quite disturbing to ponder when she was supposed to return. The "kid's" re-appearance may have been a reminder of how little she had, but that was surely something she knew all along. Susan
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (78 of 85), Read 34 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Jim Heath (ddrapes@teleport.com) Date: Monday, April 26, 1999 12:01 AM Obviously a great book for discussion with all kinds of interesting issues. The nominator should indeed be complimented. Unfortunately, this one didn't do as much for me as it did for many of the rest of you. I finally finished but never managed to get in tune with the characters. I heartily disliked Michael, and Hanna's reformation and suicide seemed unlikely to me. When you start out on the wrong foot with a book, as I did, it's hard to recover.
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (79 of 85), Read 35 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Monday, April 26, 1999 12:24 AM Ann -- I was taken with Jim's response to this one also -- it isn't often I get the pleasure of finding out what he thinks of a book which we both have read -- he usually doesn't read the same material I read. Susan -- Oh, I AM glad that you brought up that remark on our not having had to deal with our parent's generations mistakes. I wanted to say -- as you did that yes, we have -- the Civil Rights actions and the need for those goes back and forward over several generations -- and cast a shadow as far as I can see into the future. It is one of those things which will continue to be dealt with for the long haul. The Universal things as you put it -- humanitarian things, spiritual things, philosophical and religious things. Jim -- Yes, one can get off on the wrong foot -- but fortunately that is okay, too. I think the person who suggested this one should be thanked also BUT I have another suggestion, too. "I" think this would be a PERFECT -- absolutely perfect -- time to throw in a second book -- A Blessing On The Moon by Skibbell. There couldn't be a more radically different approach to some of the same subject matter -- anyone who has read ABOTM want to jump in and make any comment on it in relationship to the notes here on The Reader? I had not even given this one thought as I read The Reader and this thread as it was developing but just now it 'hit' me! Dottie -- waiting to hear from ABOTM readers who also read this one! ID is an oxymoron!
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (80 of 85), Read 36 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta (rbav@prodigy.com) Date: Monday, April 26, 1999 01:03 AM Dottie, I consider A Blessing on the Moon a far better book, certainly in terms of the writing. I was quite enchanted by it. The Reader, while provocative, never came together for me. The three parts were too disassociated with one another, the characters, especially Hanna, were too sketchily drawn, the character's motives too unsupported. That said, however, I'm not sure I see what these books have in common except that they both deal with the Holocaust. It may be that ABOTM has faded too much from my memory. Ruth
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (81 of 85), Read 29 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Monday, April 26, 1999 06:45 AM Gail recommended THE READER. I think I remember that right. She must be playing lots of bridge because she hasn't made much of an appearance lately. I read A BLESSING ON THE MOON and I agree with Ruth. It had the Holocaust in common with THE READER but the themes were extremely different. I liked ABOTM better, too. Maybe we can tell Oprah. Skibell is such a nice guy. Sherry
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (82 of 85), Read 26 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: S Thomsen (susant3@aol.com) Date: Monday, April 26, 1999 08:58 AM All, the other German novel I was thinking of is "The Emigrants," by W.G. Sebald. According to a phrase I lifted from Amazon, it's about four exiles "uprooted by war and prejudice" and about memory, loss, and both the past and the present. From what I recall of the novel, it's not as specifically about the Holocaust as "The Reader," but both share a stillness that, to me, seems European. A profound subject related in a fairly simple manner. Iain McEwen's "Black Dogs" struck me this way, too. Susan
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (83 of 85), Read 25 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Monday, April 26, 1999 10:11 AM Susan: Excellent point, about Southerners still paying for the sins of the past. As egregious as those were, our region has never had a monopoly on bigotry or hatred, as so many recent examples in the news make clear. But we're still often portrayed by the media as somehow unique in this respect. They say "history is written by the victors," and I certainly think it's true in this case. Speaking of which, I don't think most people realize that Southerners, and the native Americans before them, are the only groups in the country who have experienced defeat--indeed, decimation--in a war fought on their own soil. That perspective doesn't go away in just a few generations, if ever. Preachers here often use the text (Jeremiah 31:29, I believe) "The fathers have eaten a sour grape and the children's teeth are set on edge." How true. >>Dale in Ala.
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (84 of 85), Read 20 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: S Thomsen (susant3@aol.com) Date: Monday, April 26, 1999 11:48 AM Dale, you're absolutely right about the South not having a monopoly on bigotry and racism; nearby NYC has been occasionally racked with racial problems over the last ten years or so, the most recent of which was the police killing of the young Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo. And the New Jersey governor has admitted that racial profiling was indeed used by state troopers on the NJ Turnpike--some people were stopped only because of the color of their skin. Back to the novel. I did sense a lot of numbness in "The Reader," the kind of numbness that the narrator himself talks about. It was somewhat distancing. It was interesting to hear that the Oprah audience was outraged by the affair between the 15-year-old boy and the woman of 35. I wasn't, though it was inappropriate. I doubt I'd be as accepting if the genders were reversed and the guy was 35 and the woman(?) 15. A double standard on my part? I have to think about this one. Susan
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (85 of 85), Read 20 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Monday, April 26, 1999 03:14 PM Ruth and Sherry -- I agree -- ABOTM is a much more readable book -- I just thought of the contrast in styles -- the three parts of The Reader didn't really flow for me either but I began to think they weren't supposed to do so. Then there is the writing in the Skibell book -- outstanding and riveting. It was the contrast in the writing and my own reactions to these that struck me and I decided to check out what others thought -- I agree with Sherry -- we should send Skibell to Oprah for consideration as a selection! It would be interesting to see what her audience would do with that discussion. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (22 of 27), Read 74 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Tuesday, April 27, 1999 12:49 AM Dale - how about the Mexicans in Texas? I'm sure I could think of other examples. I've heard that before - "Southerners are the only . . ." I think it is one of those flip and convenient sayings that won't stand up to much scrutiny. Theresa
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (23 of 27), Read 74 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dale Short (dshort5005@aol.com) Date: Tuesday, April 27, 1999 08:13 AM Theresa: But I've always thought Mexicans and Texans are Southerners... {G} Seriously, good point. By the way, I've just secured my copy of Denis Johnson's ALREADY DEAD and am looking forward to reading it. Didn't you nominate this one? >>Dale in Ala.
 
Topic: THE READER by Bernhard Schlink (24 of 27), Read 72 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Theresa Simpson (theresa.a.simpson@gte.net) Date: Wednesday, April 28, 1999 12:59 AM I think Already Dead was nominated by Lynn, Dale. And by the way, where is Lynn anyway? My nomination that made this year's list is Milan Kundera's The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. I'm reading his latest, Identity, now. This is his second novel written in French. Doesn't live up to Laughter and Forgetting, but Kundera is always good. Theresa

 

 

 
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