Our 25th book club is coming up and that means we’ve read 25 great and not so great books. However it also means there are 25 possibly great books that we’ve left unread. We wanted to do something special for our 25th book club anniversary, so we’re introducing the Zombie Round! All the books that just didn’t make it the first time around get another chance in this zombie round. We’ve made brackets of all 22 books that didn’t make it and over the next few weeks you get to vote which one will get another chance to be read.
Our third randomly selected bracket is The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck vs. Mr. Robinson for a Better World by Donald Antrim vs. Foreign Gods. Inc by Okey Ndibe. Our first three-hitter of the Zombie Round!
The Grapes of Wrath lost out in our Classics Battle against Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. Most people couldn’t finish Dickens, but the ones that did loved it. So, are we really ready for another classic? If so, vote for Steinbeck!
First published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads-driven from their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. Out of their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of an America divided into Haves and Have-Nots evolves a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, elemental yet plainspoken, tragic but ultimately stirring in its human dignity.
A portrait of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, of one man’s fierce reaction to injustice, and of one woman’s stoical strength, the novel captures the horrors of the Great Depression and probes into the very nature of equality and justice in America.
The Grapes of Wrath summed up its era in the way that Uncle Tom’s Cabin summed up the years of slavery before the Civil War. Sensitive to fascist and communist criticism, Steinbeck insisted that “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” be printed in its entirety in the first edition of the book—which takes its title from the first verse: “He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.” At once a naturalistic epic, captivity narrative, road novel, and transcendental gospel, Steinbeck’s powerful landmark novel is perhaps the most American of American Classics.
Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World was pretty unknown to us, but once the book had lost out against Strange Bodies by Marcel Theroux, it kept on popping up everywhere. Still high on our to-read list, so we’re definitely up for giving this another try!
In his first novel, Donald Antrim demonstrates all of the skill that critics have hailed in his subsequent work: the pitch-perfect ear, the cunning imagination, and the uncanny control of a narrative at once familiar and incandescently strange.
In Pete Robinson’s seaside suburban town, things have, well, fallen into disrepair. The voters have de-funded schools, the mayor has been drawn and quartered by an angry mob of townsmen, and Turtle Pond Park is stocked with claymore mines. Pete Robinson, third grade teacher with a 1:32 scale model of an Inquisition dungeon in his basement, wants to open a new school, and in his effort to do so he stumbles upon another idea: he needs to run for mayor. Uniquely hilarious, this novel is a horrifyingly insightful tale of a world not so very different from the one in which we live.
We’re going way back this round to our 7th book club with Foreign Gods Inc. by Okey Ndibe. The book lost against Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw. We haven’t heard much about the book anymore, but maybe we should change that?
Foreign Gods, Inc., tells the story of Ike, a New York-based Nigerian cab driver who sets out to steal the statue of an ancient war deity from his home village and sell it to a New York gallery.
Ike’s plan is fueled by desperation. Despite a degree in economics from a major American college, his strong accent has barred him from the corporate world. Forced to eke out a living as a cab driver, he is unable to manage the emotional and material needs of a temperamental African American bride and a widowed mother demanding financial support. When he turns to gambling, his mounting losses compound his woes.
And so he travels back to Nigeria to steal the statue, where he has to deal with old friends, family, and a mounting conflict between those in the village who worship the deity, and those who practice Christianity.
A meditation on the dreams, promises and frustrations of the immigrant life in America; the nature and impact of religious conflicts; an examination of the ways in which modern culture creates or heightens infatuation with the “exotic,” including the desire to own strange objects and hanker after ineffable illusions; and an exploration of the shifting nature of memory,Foreign Gods is a brilliant work of fiction that illuminates our globally interconnected world like no other.
Who will win round 1.3? Steinbeck, Antrim or maybe Ndibe? You get to decide!