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Reader’s Den

Reader's Den: After Claude by Iris Owens, Week 2


After Claude's Harriet is nothing if not offensive.  So, is it wrong to kind of want to hang out with her, if only for a few hours? Last week, we started off with a little bit of background about this 1973 novel, and its author, Iris Owens. This week, let's get into some discussion questions! 

Greenwich Village, New York City, 1969 contact sheet 1. Image ID: 1621672
  • When After Claude was released in 1973, Leonard Michaels reviewed it positively for the New York Times. He wrote, in part,  "I haven't read a more wittily offensive serious novel lately, certainly none that made me wonder, while laughing if I weren't disgracing myself by laughing." Does this book make readers laugh today? Is the style of humor, which Michaels also compared to Lenny Bruce, a style that still resonates? 
  • This book is set in the New York City of the early 1970s, which, by all accounts was very different from the New York of today. How do you think this novel captures that time? The art house movie theater, the wild taxi ride, the sense of danger, the Chelsea Hotel—if you experienced that time in the city, does it take you back there? And if you didn't, does it make you wish that you had been there, or happy that you weren't? 
Map of the Greenwich Village section of New York City. Image ID: psnypl_map_352
  • In an interview, Owens' former friend Stephen Koch said that the book's final scene in the Chelsea Hotel "was for her (Owens), everything. The final scene was essential. It couldn’t not be there. Its role was overwhelmingly significant." What do you make of the book's last scene? And what do you think happens after the book ends? Does Harriet join the cult? Or, does she wait in vain for Roger to return for her? 
  • As you read After Claude, are you on Harriet's side? After all, she does some pretty terrible things throughout the book. (Setting up Rhoda-Regina to live out her rape "fantasies"—by surprise—comes to mind!)  Are you still rooting for Harriet as you read these things, and is it important for you to want a character to triumph? 
  • What would Harriet be like, if Owens wrote the book today? Could this book be written today? What books can you compare to it? 

Please leave your comments in the box below! Next week we will talk a little bit about antiheroines in fiction, and the question of likability in female authors and characters.  


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