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Book Discussion: Grief by Andrew Holleran

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Transcript of Live Discussion
Grief by Andrew Holleran
July 30, 2007

A discussion of Andrew Holleran's Grief held on www.summerreading.org

Summer Reading: Welcome to tonight's online discussion of Andrew Holleran's Grief. Thank you all for joining this evening's program. As your moderator, I will be asking a series of questions to help facilitate the discussion of the book.

Summer Reading:: To get us started, I would like to open with the following question: What is the nature of grief?

picturegoers: Whatever one feels one can't "get over," no matter how hard you try.

barbara: A lot of the characters in the book experience varying degrees of grief. Some have lost friends to AIDS. Some, like Mary Lincoln, have lost spouses. Grief can be profound. Grief can be passing.

loumanthony: The nature of grief has multiple interpretations as describe by the author. A sad event in one's life can be termed as grief and loosing a family member through death.

Summer Reading: Where does grief take the main character?

picturegoers: Away from one "home," and back to another.

barbara: It takes him through the museums and streets of Washington.

picturegoers: Into the life of Mary Todd Lincoln.

loumanthony: The main character reminisced about his mother. Reading the life of Mary Todd Lincoln and how he missed her assasinated husband puts the main character back to grieving.

barbara: I'm not sure if he really found a home in Washington ultimately.

Summer Reading: Is Mary Lincoln's story relevant?

picturegoers: His history is there, as well as that of the USA.

barbara: Absolutely!

loumanthony: I do not think that he found a home in Washington. There were lots of interesting things in Washington and places where of interest where he visited, but ultimately returned home at the end of the book.

Summer Reading: What is "his history"?

picturegoers: MTL "grieved" until she died, as will the narrator, who rediscovers grief when he returns to his parents' house.

loumanthony: I think that Mary Todd Lincoln's story was relevant because it connects and ties to the subject of the book. She grieved all her life with guilt over the assasination of her husband Abraham Lincoln.

barbara: Other people in the book grieve as well. His landlord seemed to be wistful about his passing youth.

picturegoers: In a sense "his" history is the landlord's passing youth - 30 years in the house, the pictures of departed friends.

Summer Reading: Is grief a luxury?

loumanthony: Some people feel that grief is necesssary and is a way of manifesting love and remembrance for lost ones or sad events in our lives.

picturegoers: The landlord thinks it is (one, he thinks, he can't afford), but the narrator says he's watched people try - and fail.

bookworm07: in a sense, because the main character certainly had time to grieve the passing of his mom as well as indulge himself in the story of Mary Todd Lincoln- so perhaps grief can be the "luxury" of time to stand still

barbara: One of the people in the novel said something to the effect that grief is a luxury that he could not afford. He wanted to move on and stop indulging himself.

Summer Reading: How does the main character relate to his landlord?

loumanthony: The main character and the landlord were all gay males and had things in common with friends in their lives, some of whom died of aids.

picturegoers: The narrator says "the past becomes their home" about people who never get over certain things. The landlord has become an observer, not a participant, in gay life.

barbara: He loves the company and friendship of another middle-aged gay man. he appreciates the fact that he also reads and enjoys being along and appreciates architecture and knows where he is coming from.

richard: He sees him as someone who can give him the intimacy he both craves and fears. He thinks he understands the landlord and the landlord understands him more than the real situation suggests.

Summer Reading: Would you agree that he is only an observer in gay life?

barbara: I think that he tries to desperately tries to connect with other gay men. At this stage in his life, he is looking more for friendship and validation and support, than sexual relations.

picturegoers: He's most interested in the Whole Foods store!

bookworm07:he is looking for more than what he observes in this stage of his life.

loumanthony: I agree with Barbara. He placed an ad in a paper looking for a companion. That is an indication of interest to participate even if he were not successful in finding the right match.

bob: i think that he is pretty passive in his approach. the man is tired--utterly exhausted by losing his mother.

Summer Reading: Are the characters in the book undone by their grief?

picturegoers: At one point the landlord is referred to as the "homosexual emeritus," because he uses the 70s method of placing a personal ad in the newspaper!

bookworm07: i don't think they are "undone" by their grief but searching for ways to continue life, they have not totally given up.

bob: i found that such a funny passage. i think that the landlord and the narrator had a lot in common.

laura: grief inspired the characters to question their lives...that is, how they should proceed with their life and as gay men, how they should approach love and sex and relationships.

bob: frank and the landlord could have been undone by their losses, but they seemed to find a way to manage and move on. having "the lug" helped frank to forget about losing so many loved ones.

picturegoers: The narrator comes to realize that his time in DC gave him something to be grateful for, as did returning to his parents' bedroom. His "spirit lifted," and he prayed.

barbara: he doesn't seem undone by grief. actually he finds home in it. he comes to understand himself and his world through his loss.

bob: i would agree. in the end, his spirits lifted. so he wasn't undone by losing his mother.

bookworm07: and he understands how others grieve and his connection to others in the process.

Summer Reading: That will have to be the final word. Thank you all very much for participating in this rich discussion. I hope that you will join us again on Monday, August 13th, 2007 for our next online chat. We will be discussing Bernice L. McFadden's Nowhere is a Place.