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Freeper Reading Club Discussion: "Invisible Man" (Ralph Ellison)
November 18, 2002

Posted on 11/18/2002 3:34:26 AM PST by PJ-Comix

This month's Freeper Reading Club (now over 100 members) discussion is about Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man." As I stated when assigning this book, as soon as you think you know where this book is heading, it completely changes directions and surprises you. Upon re-reading "Invisible Man" it seems apparent to me that Joseph Heller, author of "Catch-22," must have read this book since much of the surreal absurdity in "Invisible Man" was reflected in his own acclaimed book years later.

As we saw in "Invisible Man," nobody really saw the man (never named) as he really was. To them he was just a symbol but never really existed as a man. Does this remind you of something nowadays? I sure saw a lot of this in how liberals treat blacks. To them, black people are merely voting blocks to be counted on at election day. Too bad that this strategy didn't quite work this time around.

I really like the section of "Invisible Man" where the man (not named) puts on a hat and sunglasses and is immediately mistaken for Rinehart, another black man who uses his invisibility to assume many different roles. Somehow on the first reading of this book, I missed the significance of this. It sure opened the eyes of the Invisible Man to the possibilities of life.

Also fantastic was the often hilarious look at the internal workings of the Communist Party U.S.A. circa the 1930s era. The character of Brother Jack was right on in it's characterization of a deceitful Communist Party bigwig.

Oh, and one other thing. Can anyone out there tell me why "Invisible Man" (Ralph Ellison book) has NOT been made into a movie. If ever there was a book SCREAMING out to be made as a movie this one is it. Perhaps its Politically Incorrect look at the antics of the Communist Party makes this book too embarrassing for liberals to make as a movie.

All in all, "Invisible Man" is an incredible book! Those of you who didn't read this one missed out on an incredible treat.


TOPICS: Announcements; Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: bookreview; freeperreadingclub; invisibleman; ralphellison
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I'll be away from the 'puter most of the day so go ahead with the discussion. The next Freeper Reading Club assignment is From Here To Eternity by James Jones due on Monday, January 13. From Here To Eternity is perhaps the greatest American novel ever written. Also Peggy Noonan wrote an article on why it is important to read From Here To Eternity so READ IT! The only person you will be cheating by failing to read From Here To Eternity will be you. The writing quality is nothing less than astonishing.
1 posted on 11/18/2002 3:34:27 AM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: mhking
FYI.

And if anybody wants to join the Freeper Reading Club (over 100 members strong) please let me know and I'll put you on the Freeper Reading Club Ping List. The pings are low level since I usually never ping more than once or twice a month, just to let you know when a book discussion has started and to give the next book assignment.

BTW, the next Freeper Reading Club book discussion will be From Here To Eternity by James Jones. This book is probably the GREATEST American novel ever written. Because i want as many Freepers as possible to read this book (Peggy Noonan even wrote a column on why this is an IMPORTANT book to read), I am giving two full months and several holidays to complete From Here To Eternity which will be due on Monday, January 13.

2 posted on 11/18/2002 3:50:35 AM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: rdb3; Khepera; elwoodp; MAKnight; condolinda; mafree; Trueblackman; FRlurker; Teacher317; ...
Black conservative ping

If you want on (or off) of my black conservative ping list, please let me know via FREEPmail. (And no, you don't have to be black to be on the list!)

Extra warning: this is a high-volume ping list.

3 posted on 11/18/2002 3:53:04 AM PST by mhking
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To: mhking
I just got a Freep Mail from someone who said he rented the Invisible Man movie.....

SIGH!

That was the H.G. WELLS Invisible Man, completely different than Ralph Ellison's book of the same name. This is why I always made sure to mention RALPH ELLISON as the author so there would be no confusion as to what book we're talking about. I sure hope others out there have NOT read the H.G. Wells Invisible Man thinking it was the book that I assigned which was written by RALPH ELLISON.

4 posted on 11/18/2002 3:59:23 AM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: PJ-Comix
I'm heading off to work so won't be able to discuss in detail until tonight but let me just say that the "Mr. Norton" character reminds me of a lot of white liberals today with respect to his attitudes and actions towards black people. I'll explain why when I get home tonight.

I purchased "From Here To Eternity" over the weekend and started Chapter 4 last night. Looks to be a great read already. I'll be back here tonight.

5 posted on 11/18/2002 4:00:48 AM PST by SamAdams76
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To: SamAdams76
....but let me just say that the "Mr. Norton" character reminds me of a lot of white liberals today with respect to his attitudes and actions towards black people.

BINGO!!! And can you guess why Mr. Norton was so fascinated by that story of incest?

Oh, I made an error in my previous reply. The movie I was Freepmailed about was From Here To Eternity, not Invisible Man. However, this brings me to an important point about the next book assignment. From Here To Eternity, the novel is MUCH DIFFERENT than the movie. In fact, after reading the novel, the movie will seem to be a very hollow shell of what the novel is. So don't think you know the book by merely watching the movie.

6 posted on 11/18/2002 4:07:42 AM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: PJ-Comix; mhking
Thanks for the ping, mhking! This is one book I HAVE to get! Sounds fascinating!
7 posted on 11/18/2002 4:09:48 AM PST by WaterDragon
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To: mhking
Unfortunately, I apparently get to be the first poster on this book, and I have to say I couldn't read it. I'm not sure if it was the style in which it was written, or the nude dance scene coupled with boxing early on that turned me off. Either way, I couldn't get going trying to read it, and did not feel like forcing myself to do so.
8 posted on 11/18/2002 4:10:40 AM PST by stylin_geek
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To: stylin_geek
My God, when I started to write about "The Invisible Man," I was the first one, and when I finished, I was not. I gotta be quicker.
9 posted on 11/18/2002 4:12:15 AM PST by stylin_geek
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To: stylin_geek
Unfortunately, I apparently get to be the first poster on this book, and I have to say I couldn't read it. I'm not sure if it was the style in which it was written, or the nude dance scene coupled with boxing early on that turned me off.

You really should finish the book. You left off when it looked like this would be a "hate whitey" type book but soon after that section it changed into something MUCH BROADER.

And what was the problem with the scenes your read about? Nothing much different there than what you would see on HBO or WWF (or that new wimpy WWE name). I really suggest you finish the book. That early scene was about as risque at it got.

10 posted on 11/18/2002 4:23:54 AM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: PJ-Comix
please do include me in the book club!
11 posted on 11/18/2002 4:24:56 AM PST by TomSmedley
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To: PJ-Comix
From Here To Eternity which will be due on Monday, January 13.

I don't know how long you've had the Freeper Reading Club....but it's something I've been thinking would be a great idea....just now saw this thread. Would you please put me on your ping list? Thanks.

12 posted on 11/18/2002 4:30:12 AM PST by nicmarlo
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To: PJ-Comix
I did get further than that, that was what stuck in my mind. No, I didn't see a "hate whitey" theme coming, just more descriptions of how ugly racism was. The scene where they were trying to collect money from a carpet that was electrified wasn't very pretty. As for HBO or WWF, I don't watch either. Anyway, back later, off to work.
13 posted on 11/18/2002 4:31:25 AM PST by stylin_geek
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To: stylin_geek
The scene where they were trying to collect money from a carpet that was electrified wasn't very pretty.

It wasn't but scenes like this did happen a lot back in the Jim Crow South. What did you want Ellison to do, gloss over conditions that existed back them? BTW, a lot of liberals would have you believe that conditions for blacks haven't changed since then. However, they did change for the better....DRAMATICALLY. Sorry if you were offended by those scenes but that was the reality of the South (and to some extent the North) back about 70 years ago.

14 posted on 11/18/2002 4:38:25 AM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: PJ-Comix
PJ, can you please add me to your ping list? Thanks.
15 posted on 11/18/2002 4:41:08 AM PST by DC native
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To: nicmarlo
I don't know how long you've had the Freeper Reading Club....but it's something I've been thinking would be a great idea....just now saw this thread. Would you please put me on your ping list?

You're on. At this rate the Freeper Reading Club will have 200 members before long. BTW, a few weeks ago Katie Couric had some members of a Miami Reading Club on her show and yet they had fewer than 20 members (Yuppies) plus they read mainly touchy-feely type books. When I saw that and compared it to the size of the Freeper Reading Club, I wanted to pull an Elvis on my TV set.

16 posted on 11/18/2002 4:41:42 AM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: PJ-Comix
Please add me too. Thanks.

I read "Invisible Man" in high school and i have to say it was a very difficult book to get through. I have never cared for stream of consciousness. Maybe it is just that my consciousness and theirs do not stream in the same direction.

17 posted on 11/18/2002 4:51:42 AM PST by Straight Vermonter
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To: SamAdams76
James Jones, drunkard and hell raiser wrote the two best novels of the last half of the 20th Century, "From Here To Eternity", and "The Thin Red Line".

When I was in the Army in the 60's there were still a few WW2 Vets around and the tales that they told are mirrored in these books, great read.

18 posted on 11/18/2002 5:31:52 AM PST by Little Bill
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To: stylin_geek
I have to say I couldn't read it

Oh, try again. I haven't read it in 15 years, but I've read it a couple of times, and it's a great book. I'll have to dig it back out and read it again...

19 posted on 11/18/2002 5:41:44 AM PST by Lyford
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To: PJ-Comix
Please ping me PJ.
20 posted on 11/18/2002 5:47:07 AM PST by whipitgood
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To: PJ-Comix
When I was a kid in the early sixties and an active Civil Rights Activist, much to the amazement of my High School class mates, I was Youth For Goldwater, I read the "Invisable Man"

I want to a Catholic prep school and to be left wing was cool, we had alot of assigned reading, "Black Like ME" for example. I was given the "Invisibe Man" by a protohippy and was told that I might find I interesting, it was.

21 posted on 11/18/2002 5:47:50 AM PST by Little Bill
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To: PJ-Comix
Please add me to your ping list!
22 posted on 11/18/2002 8:31:42 AM PST by fellowpatriot
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To: PJ-Comix
During my life - 45 years thus far - I have read From Here To Eternity three times. In fact, James Jones is one of my favorite authors.

Yes, the book is much different - and better - than the movie. Why does Peggy Noonan stress this is an important book to read. I agree with her, but if you can point me in the direction of her article, I would appreciate it.

Last year I read Black Boy - I forget the author but it was a great read. Sort of like reading about the Nazi attrocities during WW II. Very evil things happened to blacks in the south during the Jim Crow era - and some of those people are still alive who did those things.

I would appreciate it if you put me on the ping list.

23 posted on 11/18/2002 9:02:33 AM PST by 7thson
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To: PJ-Comix
I didn't even realize there was a Freeper Reading Club; the idea sounds great! My English teacher has been encouraging me to read more novels, so this could be one way to get book suggestions.

Please add me to your ping list.
24 posted on 11/18/2002 10:27:26 AM PST by panther33
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To: DC native
PJ, can you please add me to your ping list? Thanks.

Ok. I'm not at home right now but I'll do it when I get back. Thanx.---P.J.

25 posted on 11/18/2002 12:07:54 PM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: Straight Vermonter
I read "Invisible Man" in high school and i have to say it was a very difficult book to get through.

Most literature is poorly taught in high school. Plus your teacher might have had an agenda that had little to do with the theme of the book.

26 posted on 11/18/2002 12:09:38 PM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: Little Bill
James Jones, drunkard and hell raiser wrote the two best novels of the last half of the 20th Century, "From Here To Eternity", and "The Thin Red Line".

Make that FOUR best novels. Whistle which was the last part of a trilogy starting with the two books you mentioned and Some Came Running.....Oh wait! Make that FIVE best novels. Ask any scuba diver and they will tell you that the BEST novel ever written on the subject of scuba diving is Go To The Widowmaker by James Jones. And there is even an underwater cave named "Widomaker" off the coast of Jamaica named in honor of that novel.

27 posted on 11/18/2002 12:12:53 PM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: panther33
My English teacher has been encouraging me to read more novels, so this could be one way to get book suggestions.

I'll put you on the Ping list and if you follow the book discussions here and read the books, you'll be guaranteed an A in your book reports.

28 posted on 11/18/2002 12:15:12 PM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: stylin_geek
Actually the "Battle Royale" scene, as the nude dance/boxing scene is called, was very gripping. It's hard to believe that black people could be treated so poorly (and that some white could be so cruel).

The part that I got hung up on was the 7-page sermon at the University, but once past that, the book pretty much held my attention throughout. I'm still at work so can't say much more. I'll have more thoughts tonight.

29 posted on 11/18/2002 1:31:44 PM PST by SamAdams76
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To: PJ-Comix
Add me... I am an avid reader...sounds like fun...
30 posted on 11/18/2002 1:35:36 PM PST by antivenom
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To: PJ-Comix; Lyford
I don't think it is a matter of being offended by certain scenes. I admit such things happened, however, it does not mean I care to read about them. The best analogy I can come up with is bitter childhood memories one relives some times. Memories that bite hard and are things best forgotten.

Another factor for me is writing style. The style in which the book is written rather grates on me.

All that aside, I will try and work my way through the book, and give it another chance.

31 posted on 11/18/2002 1:41:33 PM PST by stylin_geek
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To: PJ-Comix
Most literature is poorly taught in high school. Plus your teacher might have had an agenda that had little to do with the theme of the book.

Of course it may also have something to do with the long legged redhead sitting next to me.

32 posted on 11/18/2002 2:27:37 PM PST by Straight Vermonter
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To: PJ-Comix
PJ-Comix,

Please add me to your ping list. I've been meaning to read From Here to Eternity since Noonan's article and this will force me to get it done over Christmas.

This is a great idea, BTW!

33 posted on 11/18/2002 3:19:31 PM PST by Snake65
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To: PJ-Comix
Here is more on my take of the Mr. Norton character. Right from the start, Mr. Norton reminded me of the typical liberal, you know the type, the ones that are always engaged in works of charity for the poor and downtrodden, but they never want to get too close. That is, they will go to the $1,000 black-tie charity benefits where they can hob-nob with others like them, and then go home praising themselves on how philanthropic and enlightened they are.

Well in this story, Mr. Norton is one of the major trustees (financial contributors) to the black college that our protagonist attends (I will refer to him as the narrator for now on). During the car ride that the narrator takes him on, Mr. Norton blabs on about how fortunate the narrator is for having this wonderful opportunity to better himself, made possible, of course, in large part by himself (Mr. Norton).

In a very patronizing manner, Mr. Norton lectures the narrator on how "your destiny is my own." In other words, Mr. Norton is essentially telling the narrator that any success he might enjoy in life would be because of him (Mr. Norton). But Mr. Norton doesn't really seem to care about the narrator personally. This is borne out later when Mr. Norton fails to stand up for the narrator when he is booted out of college by Bledsoe and fails to answer the narrator's letter when he come to New York. At the end of the book, the narrator makes mention of meeting Mr. Norton in the subway and Mr. Norton either fails to recognize "his destiny" or has long forgotten about him.

In my opinion, Mr. Norton is characteristic of most liberals today. Liberals always make a big show of how much they help the blacks, but in reality, they are keeping them at a distance. They use social welfare programs to keep the blacks in their debt, hoping that it will pay off at election time.

You ask me why Mr. Norton was so fascinated by that story of incest by Trueblood. Well, during the ride with our narrator, Mr. Norton spoke in a curious way about his daughter, who apparently died at a young age while on a European trip that he and his daughter were on alone. Mr. Norton even carried a picture on him of her (that he showed to the narrator) that showed her in a dress of "soft, flimsy" material. More like the picture that a boyfriend or husband would carry around than a father. Perhaps that might explain why Mr. Norton was so interested in the story of incest.

34 posted on 11/18/2002 4:23:30 PM PST by SamAdams76
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To: 7thson
Last year I read Black Boy - I forget the author but it was a great read. Sort of like reading about the Nazi attrocities during WW II. Very evil things happened to blacks in the south during the Jim Crow era - and some of those people are still alive who did those things.

I went to Amazon.com and found that it was an autobiography by Richard Wright. It's got some good reviews there. Guess I'll have to add this to my ever-growing reading list!

I'm too young to remember Jim Crow but since most of my family is from down south (Alabama), I often visit there, but not many in my family are willing to talk about it. My father grew up there during the 1930s and 1940s and remembers how everything was segregated. Blacks and Whites were not allowed to share the same bathroom, drinking fountains and lunch counters, etc. Blacks were made to go to the back of the bus and if they were in a department store, whites were allowed to cut in front of them. It was actually like this up to the 1960s! But like I said, nobody down there wants to talk about it. It's as if they all want to pretend it never happened. My father never went for that kind of thing and I think that is one of the reasons he decided to stay up North after he got out of the Navy. Especially since he served with many black men in the Navy and realized that they weren't the inferior people that some of his kinfolk made them out to be.

35 posted on 11/18/2002 4:42:41 PM PST by SamAdams76
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To: PJ-Comix
Most literature is poorly taught in high school.

You got that right. I can remember my high school "English" classes quite well. I remember being force-fed snippets of Shakespeare or "Tale Of Two Cities" by Dickens. We were never allowed to absorb the literature. Instead, we focused on one or two chapters and then moved quickly on the next subject. When the teacher did assign an entire book, most of the class cheated by getting "Cliff Notes" and they often ended up getting the best grades on their paper. It was discouraging.

36 posted on 11/18/2002 4:51:30 PM PST by SamAdams76
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To: PJ-Comix
I'd like to join your list, please. I'll go check out FHTE tomorrow!

I'm poorly and haphazardly read, but I'm getting better. I just finished a book called "Mephisto Waltz" (Stewart) and I'm now reading "Starship Troopers" (Heinlein) and "Bias" (Goldberg). I wanted to check out "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" as per recommendations here, but they didn't have it.

37 posted on 11/18/2002 6:03:43 PM PST by stands2reason
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To: stands2reason
You'll really enjoy FHTE and I placed you on the Ping List.
38 posted on 11/18/2002 6:17:43 PM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: SamAdams76
When the teacher did assign an entire book, most of the class cheated by getting "Cliff Notes"...

Or reading Classics Comics.

39 posted on 11/18/2002 6:19:04 PM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: SamAdams76
But like I said, nobody down there wants to talk about it. It's as if they all want to pretend it never happened.

Yeah, that is kind of interesting. BTW, did you know that Fritz Hollings used to be Attorney General for South Carolina and was one of the leaders in the fight to preserve segregation? You won't hear him talking about it either.

40 posted on 11/18/2002 6:22:03 PM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: SamAdams76
I think it was pretty apparent that Mr. Norton had incestuous relations with his daughter which somehow led to her death. The thing that makes me curious is why Ellison included this in his book. But the fact that Mr. Norton was so fascinated by the story of the black sharecropper's incest with his daughter plus the fact that he later went into a sort of semi-coma seems to me that Ellison wanted us to think that Mr. Norton had incest with his daughter although this wasn't explicitly pointed out.
41 posted on 11/18/2002 6:27:34 PM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: SamAdams76
Dr. Bledsoe sort of reminded me of a cross between Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. The school that the narrator attended was definitely based on Tuskeegee Institute which is verified by the fact that Ellison did attend that school. I wonder if he based Dr. Bledsoe on some Tuskeegee Institute official. As to The Founder, I am sure this character was based on Booker T. Washington although Ellison did mention them separately at one point in the same paragraph. Oh, and the Brotherhood is definitely the Communist Party U.S.A. since Ellison has stated that he was in the Party although he didn't officially hold a CPUSA card.

It wouldn't surprise me if Brother Jack was based directly on a comrade that Ellison knew in the CPUSA.

42 posted on 11/18/2002 6:37:12 PM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: PJ-Comix
Another interesting part of the book was when the narrator worked at Liberty Paints and his first job there was to mix the "optic white" paint (Slogan was "If it's Optic White, it's the Right White"). In order to make the paint as white as possible, it has to be doped with a "jet black" liquid, which ends up disappearing into the paint, somehow making it even whiter then it was before. I think this was somehow symbolic of the black man becoming invisible to whites. I wonder if this is something that the author made up or if it really is true that white paint becomes even whiter if it is doped with a jet black liquid.

Anyway, things really got bizarre for a while when the narrator went downstairs with Lucius Brockway.

43 posted on 11/18/2002 6:43:57 PM PST by SamAdams76
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To: SamAdams76
Anyway, things really got bizarre for a while when the narrator went downstairs with Lucius Brockway.

Also funny since Brockway was a real nutcase.

44 posted on 11/18/2002 6:46:58 PM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: PJ-Comix
Dr. Bledsoe sort of reminded me of a cross between Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

Only difference is, Dr. Bledsoe had an actual job and probably did real work. For some reason, I thought of D.C. mayor Marion Barry. I don't know much about Barry (other then his drug bust) but he seems like a flawed man who manages to hold on to power no matter what.

45 posted on 11/18/2002 6:50:40 PM PST by SamAdams76
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To: PJ-Comix
Please add me to your list!!!

I'm an avid reader... when I'm not online reading FR. I remember the first book that had a lasting affect on me. I read "The Ugly American" when I was about 14. I credit that book with starting me down the long road toward the Vast Right Wing.

46 posted on 11/18/2002 6:53:34 PM PST by SunTzuWu
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To: SunTzuWu
What I like about these kind of book clubs is that you end up reading books that you never otherwise might have considered reading. So far, none of the books that PJ-Comix has selected were on my reading list and all of them have been worthy. I am into Chapter 5 of "From Here To Eternity" and hopefully many of the nearly 200 people in this club will get to finish it. It doesn't seem like many of us made it through "Invisible Man" based on the response so far. It was a tough read at times but overall a rewarding book.
47 posted on 11/18/2002 7:27:14 PM PST by SamAdams76
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To: SunTzuWu
I read "The Ugly American" when I was about 14.

I'll probably be assigning that book down the road. Col. Lansdale of the CIA was fictionalized as a character in that book.

48 posted on 11/18/2002 7:32:09 PM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: SamAdams76
What I like about these kind of book clubs is that you end up reading books that you never otherwise might have considered reading.

Also I'm re-reading a lot of books and noticing how much I missed on the first go-around.

49 posted on 11/18/2002 7:33:40 PM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: SamAdams76
Hmmmm..... I'm wondering if anybody but us two actually READ Invisible Man. Oh well, I'm looking for MORE participation on the From Here To Eternity thread in January. After all FHTE is probably the BEST American novel ever written and Peggy Noonan wrote a column saying why FHTE is an IMPORTANT novel for us to read. Also I am giving all the way to mid January (Jan. 13) to complete FHTE and with the holidays and all there is no excuse for members of the Freeper Reading Club not to read it.

Anyway, as always, you have been the most active participant in the Freeper Reading Club. Perhaps I should prescribe Sam Adams beer for the others to drink to inspire them to read more.

50 posted on 11/19/2002 4:05:29 AM PST by PJ-Comix
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