A book club query…

Last week in the threads over at Mindless Diversions, I tossed out the idea of having a Beowulf/Grendel Book Club.  It was really just a random afterthought at the end of an overly long comment – kind of like that moment at the end of a night out when you and your friends say, “Hey! We should totally open our own bar!,” and you decide on the name and the theme and who will work which shift and then no one really remembers any of it the next day.

But I’m finding that the more I think about it, the more I like the idea.  So, some questions for our readers:

1.  First of all, is there any real interest?  Were we to have such a Book Club, would people not named Tod actually participate?

2. If we did such a Book Club, should we do it here on the Front Page, or might we want to do it over at Mindless Diversions?

3. John Gardner’s Grendel is written in English, so no real issues there – but there is the question of which translation to use for Beowulf.  My initial choice would be to go with Seamus Heaney’s version, both because it’s well regarded and because it’s widely available.  But if you want to make a pitch for a different version, feel free.

4. My inclination would be to read Beowulf through and then read Grendel.  However, we could read them at the same time, or in the opposite order, or something else.


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27 thoughts on “A book club query…

  1. 1. I’m in, finally time to dust off that English Lit. degree.

    2. Agnostic on this, depends on how much interest you’d like given I’m pretty sure MD is a lot quieter than the front page.

    3. I already have Heaney’s translation and it’s really good, so I’m happy to stick with it.

    4. I’d prefer to go traditional and talk about Beowulf first, myself, but I’ve read both several times. already.
    It may be more accessible for folks who’ve not read either to read Grendel first and then assess whether or not they’re also interested enough to get into Beowulf.

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    • Even though Beowulf isn’t that long, breaking it into two or three posts might be a good idea — there are two adventures/settings/halves in the poem. Maybe it depends on how many parts we’d be inclined to spend on the Gardener?

      And I should definitely dig around to see if I’ve still got the Beowulf parody I wrote in 10th grade English — and see whether I still find it at all funny.

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        • The Heaney Beowulf is only about 20 pages longer than Grendel, and I think 3 adventures sound just right.

          I can’t possibly read Grendel a chapter at a time as I will have flashbacks to my tenth and twelfth grade English classes, in which the life was wrung from several classics at a similarly stately pace.* However, if y’all read it, I will read it too.

          *the 11th grade teacher was much better; she made us read faster and spend more time reacting to what we’d read. My small group made a Star Trek:TOS parody of Romeo and Juliet.

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          • Your parody sounds much better than my 9th grade attempt to do a Godfather-esque parody/setting for a scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. (My Brando impression left a great deal to be desired.)

            But anyone into TOS parodies of classic literature should track down Kevin Brockmeier’s short story, “The Lady with the Pet Tribble.” (From, of course, Tolstoy’s “Lady with the Pet Dog.”) It’s in his collection The View from the Seventh Layer.

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  2. 1. I’d do my best to participate, though my attempt to curtail my book-buying budget might mean that I’m only actively involved in the Beowulf half of things. Or maybe it’ll force me start taking advantage of the library situation around these parts…

    2. I see no reason NOT to do it on the front page, but I’ll defer to the crowd on this one.

    3. The Heaney translation as the “official” one is fine by me, though I always want to welcome alternate translations as long as everyone’s aware that the line numbers might not match up. I’ll be using whichever one is in the Norton Anthology — I think, in fact, that it’s the Heaney.

    4. I agree with you, Tod.

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