At the most recent book club, which took place on December 13th, we covered Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. A relatively short novel (at least for bibliophiles), coming in at a little under 400 pages, it nevertheless succeeds in painting a Wonderland-esque parallel reality that is rather dark and well-fleshed out. In addition, it is essentially the extended version of the BBC show of the same name. You can find various clips on YouTube and revel in the camp so characteristic of many of the network’s offerings.

 

In a perfect world, our book club would have met at Motomachi Station, traveled together in an unwieldy mass of bodies, and found ourselves happily seated over café fare in Modernark, complete with more than four not-quite-White-Elephant gifts. We live in reality, however, so the twenty minutes leading up to our designated start time involved our fearless leader discovering Modernark (who does not take reservations, at least not for absurdly-sized parties) could not accommodate us, followed by me and another participant scrambling from café to café trying in vain to find somewhere suitable. Alas, it was not to be. On the upside, happily, the weather was uncharacteristically warm, so we opted to settle into the nearby Kenmin Oasis Park.

 

No outing is complete without refreshments, so a lone Family Mart suffered our barrage. In a shocking show of self-restraint, I purchased only orange juice. Afterwards, I helped form the Ring of Foreigners™, which I’m sure the passersby were thrilled with, judging from their longing stares. After our circle was completed, it had to disband again as we redoubled our efforts to reach the park.

 

Upon discovering our chosen locale, we immediately noticed an intimidating security guard scrutinizing us from the corner. We hesitantly entered and placed ourselves near one of the benches. Though it became slightly chilly the longer we sat, it was a pleasant first completely-outdoors experience for the book club. As we broke into our goodies, we introduced ourselves and put forth any gifts we’d brought (my favorite attempt was a half-eaten bag of popcorn). Using the much-loved rock-paper-scissors, we broke into smaller groups to discuss questions about the book.

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We had generally favorable things to say about the novel, and it received an aggregate 3.25 stars (out of 5) from those who had read and finished (all but two of the first wave!). Personally, I really enjoyed Gaiman’s prose, which lent the story a cheeky and entertaining tone.

 

Following our discussions, several of us reconvened to visit the Luminarie. This was my first visit even though I’ve been here for two and a half years (I know, I know), so it was a pretty great experience despite the ridiculous line situation. Should you visit next year, definitely go during a weekday if you can.

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photo by Stephen Crafton

 

The next book club will be held on January 31st, when we will discuss Slade House by David Mitchell. Like his other novel that we’ve read, Cloud Atlas, it hops through both time and genre, weaving seemingly disparate threads into one tapestry of a narrative. Keep an eye on the Facebook event page https://www.facebook.com/events/1722463971318137/ for further details on time and location!

 

Keep your eyes peeled for a small black iron door.

 

Down the road from a working-class British pub, along the brick wall of a narrow alley, if the conditions are exactly right, you’ll find the entrance to Slade House. A stranger will greet you by name and invite you inside. At first, you won’t want to leave. Later, you’ll find that you can’t. Every nine years, the house’s residents—an odd brother and sister—extend a unique invitation to someone who’s different or lonely: a precocious teenager, a recently divorced policeman, a shy college student. But what really goes on inside Slade House? For those who find out, it’s already too late. . . .

 

Spanning five decades, from the last days of the 1970s to the present, leaping genres, and barreling toward an astonishing conclusion, this intricately woven novel will pull you into a reality-warping new vision of the haunted house story—as only David Mitchell could imagine it.

 (from Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Slade-House-Novel-David-Mitchell/dp/0812998685)

 

Brittany Teodorski