Thursday, July 30, 2020

"Kindness eases Change." (from The Books of the Living, verse 24)


What a beautiful wrap to an amazing summer dedicated to reading and discussing Octavia Butler's incredible novels, Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents! Our final book discussion today was so thoughtful; you may watch the recap of the meeting here:

Password: Ses1=x=g

I feel so thankful to have had the company and insights of all our participants throughout this summer for the Big Book Challenge. As mentioned by several readers, these are challenging books for challenging times, but the feedback I've received so far has indicated how deeply Butler's works have moved you. I hope you continue to explore more of Butler's incredible catalog and continue stretching your reading experience.

Thank you, too, for being so flexible and patient as we moved the challenge to a virtual format for the first time ever. We learned a lot along the way, but it seemed like we encountered more successes than snags. As verse 24 of The Books of the Living reads, "Kindness eases Change," and your kindness has certainly eased so much of the potential stress from making such big changes to the Big Book Challenge. Perhaps we have our own Acorn sprouting right here in University City!

As we wind down for the summer and prepare for the fall, I wanted to leave you with a litte (or a lot!) of Earthseed to take with you. Inspired by today's comment by Edmund that he wishes to read more from The Books of the Living, here are all the Earthseed verses compiled in one place, in case you'd like to bookmark it for days you need some inspiration:

🚀 Lindsay 🚀

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Recap of Monday's live Q&A with Dr. Wanzo

Thank you text in green, bordered by roses

Many thanks to Dr. Rebecca Wanzo and all our participants who were able to attend last night's live Q&A. It was a rousing discussion to wrap up a tremendous group read of Octavia Butler's Earthseed books. Here is the recording of the conversation--my apologies, I forgot to start recording until just after Dr. Wanzo's first question, which was "Do you think Parable of the Talents ended on an uplifting note or a depressing note?" (paraphrased):

Password: 7ie=wLNv

If you would like to watch Dr. Wanzo's presentation that sparked this discussion, you can find it here.

We have one final discussion for the Earthseed path of the Big Book Challenge tomorrow, Wednesday, July 29, at 3 p.m. If you would like to attend, be sure to email to receive an invitation.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Infinite Jest in Translation

A tangential topic, but one that always interests me, is translation of important works of literature.  I found this, Infinite Jest around the World, by Scott Esposito at LitHub. 

Translating IJ would be quite a feat, I think.  Contemplating that makes me wonder about all those Russian novels we've read - how well have we understood them?

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Great Wednesday Night Discussion!

Last night's discussion of the middle portion of Infinite Jest was terrific!  Many thanks to Michael O'Bryan for joining us again and answering our many questions. 

More thanks go to reader Mary McFarland for sharing this 2018 New Yorker piece by Claire Friedman called 'How to Read "Infinite Jest".' 

Read it and you'll see that we, the Big Book Challenge readers, will never have such problems.  We've got each other to get us through!

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

View Dr. Rebecca Wanzo's Earthseed presentation AND event registration information!

Many thanks to Dr. Rebecca Wanzo for this virtual presentation on Octavia Butler's Earthseed duology! Dr. Wanzo is a professor and chair of the Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Washington University. In her presentation, Dr. Wanzo addresses ideas surrounding the literary tradition of sentimentality, new age religion and spirituality, and generational conflict, particularly as they relate to racial oppression. Please note that this presentation is in three parts and are posted in order below:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Registration is now available for next week's two events via Zoom:
  1. Monday, July 27 @ 7 p.m.: Live Q&A with Dr. Rebecca Wanzo
  2. Wednesday, July 29 @ 3 p.m.: General book discussion of the Earthseed duology
Please email to receive an invitation to register for one or both of these events (please indicate which events you wish to attend!).

So Many Fun Infinite Jest Sites!

Because if we ever needed visual aids it's now: Take a look at a site called brain pickings for an Infinite Jest flowchart, an Infinite Jest map of Boston, below, and an Infinite Jest character map.   Are any of these helpful? 

Boston Locations in Infinite Jest from

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Dr. Wanzo's presentation is delayed

Dr. Wanzo's presentation will not be available until next week (the week of July 20). We apologize for the inconvenience, and we will make it available on the blog as soon as possible (along with a newsletter reminder).

In the meantime, I hope you are steadily making your way through the Parable of the Talents. Quite a lot occurs during this book. Do you have any questions or comments so far? Thoughts about how Earthseed has progressed? I would love to hear about your experience--email

Until next week, happy reading!

Monday, July 13, 2020

Black Science Fiction and Fantasy

During the two discussions of Parable of the Sower last month, several participants mentioned that they don't often read science fiction or are rarely drawn to the genre, but that Octavia Butler's work is piquing their interest to explore more science fiction, particularly Black perspectives in science fiction. While a simple Google search will bring back dozens upon dozens of science fiction recommendations by Black authors, you may find a lot of overlap, which belies the tremendous canon of Black authors in the genre. As luck would have it, acclaimed author Nisi Shawl recently published an annotated list on that may help interested readers find their next great read: Take a Tour Through the History of Black Science Fiction. Here you'll find many different ways to dip into science fiction (including Octavia Butler!), and most are available to checkout through the library.

I also mentioned that I celebrate "Sci-Fi July" with a group of friends, and we usually make a bingo for each year. This year, we are celebrating female and non-binary Black authors in science fiction and fantasy. There are too many to include on one bingo sheet, so use this as a jumping-off point!

Sci-Fi July bingo card for 2020

Monday, July 6, 2020

And, because we need an illustrated version of Infinite Jest...

From Poor Yorick Entertainment:

So, Eschaton...

The Decemberists' Calamity Song

The chapter which begins our middle challenge portion (page 321, approximately) recounts in scrupulous detail the ETA ritual of playing this game, simulating nuclear world conflict by lobbing tennis balls on various world targets, mapped on the court.   I had a lot of trouble getting through this one, but found watching this video, created by Parks and Rec's Michael Schur, helpful.

For more background on the creation of the video, this New York Times article will bring you up to speed.