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Reading Group's On-line Chat Transcript for Our March Selection

Two Cities
(click to buy book on-line)

by John Edgar Wideman

Published by Houghton Mifflin Company
September 1998

This Discussion Occurred
April 5th 2000 9:00 PM EST

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[Thunderer] all sukky sukky, now!!
[Thumper6488] and I'm ready for it. Because my Gumbo is da BOMB!
[Thunderer] Dont chicken out like Carey, Thump
[tabonnefee] Thumper ... see, you're just down the road from me
aalbc> 'Sup y'all!
[tabonnefee] lol Thunderer
[tabonnefee] hey aa
[Thunderer] hi aalbc
[jdbaxter] i'm in colorado, how do i get the gumbo??????
[Thumper6488] Hey, troy
[Thunderer] who are you aalbc
[tabonnefee] lol jd
[Thunderer] oh...hi Troy
[Thumper6488] jdbaxter: I don't know
[tabonnefee] Thumper...are you in Indy?
[Thumper6488] tabonnefee: yes, I'm in Indianapolis
[Thunderer] Nap town
[Thumper6488] yeap
[tabonnefee] lol Thumper ... you're just a 3 hour ride away
[Thunderer] More than just a name
[Thunderer] a way of life
[tabonnefee] less than that the way I drive
[Thumper6488] I won't say all of that. *smile*
[Thunderer] so...where are you "my good fairy"

[tabonnefee] geographically speaking?
[Thumper6488] Are we ready to discuss Two Cities?
[Thunderer] no...within the "space-time continum"
[Thunderer] of course geographically, silly girl
[tabonnefee] I'm somewhere in the passe simple
[tabonnefee] Cowlumbus OH
[Thumper6488] OK, who all had trouble with Two Cities
[Thunderer] got cousins there
[Thunderer] HATE EM
[tabonnefee] lol Thunderer
[Thunderer] I did...cause I have not read it
[tabonnefee] Thumper ... I had problems ... it read like my ADD mind
[Thunderer] hehehe

[tabonnefee] shame on you Thunderer
[Thunderer] was hoping to get the 411 from you all
[Thunderer] I know
[Thunderer] reading another book now
[Thumper6488] Well see, Thunderer, the whole point of the thing is that you should have read the book BEFORE the meeting, not after.
[tabonnefee] this book is definitely a summer read book when there are no distractions
[Thunderer] but i promise, if you guys like 2 cities i will read it next week

[Thunderer] yes sir!!
[Thumper6488] Thunderer: see was that hard? *LOL*
[Thunderer] was what hard
[tabonnefee] so jd ... how did you like the book?
[Thumper6488] thunderer: agreeing to read the book before the meeting
[Thunderer] ok...I got you Boss Man
[Thunderer] deal!
[jdbaxter] it was hard for me to get into it at first but after awhile i related to the street scenes (i'm from l.a. orignally)
[tabonnefee] zzzzzz...are we done yet gentlemen?
[Thumper6488] My first obstacle of the book was that the main characters didn't have a name until the end.

[tabonnefee] jd... how long did it take you to get into it?
[Thumper6488] It struck me as one of those books that you had to throw away

[Thumper6488] all preconceived notions of what a novel is?
[jdbaxter] seemed like names were not important at first because the characters were trying to define themselves as black males, females, love
- affairs, relationships etc.

[tabonnefee] they were characters defined by their needs
[Thumper6488] tabonnefee: What needs?
[tabonnefee] I think I'd have to agree with you Thumper ... but please don't pass that around....k?
[jdbaxter] about page 42---related---didn't like my siblings much until we were grown
[tabonnefee] just basic needs in their lives
[tabonnefee] lol... same here jd
[tabonnefee] not even basic needs ... needs to pull them out of their situations I suppose

[Thumper6488] tabonnefee: not meaning to be a pest, but they didn't appear to have any money problems, so what needs were lacking
[tabonnefee] needs aren't about money ... some of us have need to answer questions within our lives so that we can grow
[jdbaxter] most interesting part to me is how the woman could define herself through her relationship with Mr. Mallory
[Thumper6488] jdbaxter: yes, exactly

[jdbaxter] i agree tabonnefee (needs aren't about money)
[tabonnefee] and there, dear Thumper , would be a need
[tabonnefee] excuse me ...Sous Chef Thumper

[Thumper6488] I saw the woman's emotional status and identified with her more clearly than the male character.
[jdbaxter] it was sad but real that the woman found it hard to establish close relationship to her new lover after losing her husband and two sons.
- she would have rather keep her distance that experience another loss
[Thumper6488] Did anyone reall get his story
[jdbaxter] i agree thumper about the woman's emotinal status being more defined
[Thunderer] Thumper: HAHAHA!!!
[tabonnefee] does anyone really get a man's story?.... you all are so closed lipped about what's really behind your eyes
[jdbaxter] i did not get the theme of the story; the ending left me hanging
[tabonnefee] and in your heart ... such a shame
[Thunderer] Now, now..."My Good Fairy"
[Thunderer] have a care
[Thumper6488] tabonnefee: considering that it was a man who wrote the book, I wouldn't think that getting a man's story would have been hard to
- do.

[tabonnefee] THumper ... that was part of the reality
[jdbaxter] can someone tell me what "Two Cities" means
[Thumper6488] jdbaxter; I'm going to go with the theme being about relationships
[tabonnefee] you could see the woman's emotions because women are the ones that supposedly spill everything
[tabonnefee] whereas men tend to keep it in and allow those around to assume
[jdbaxter] makes sense thumper

[Thumper6488] jdbaxter: I'm thinking the Two cities referred to pittsburgh and philadelphia
[Thumper6488] and then it could refer to philadelphia with John Africa alive and philadelphia with John Africa dead
[jdbaxter] i think its about two people and how their understanding of relationships can be miles apart
[Thumper6488] jdbaxter: good point
[Thunderer] expand on that theme, jb
[tabonnefee] I agree jd

[Thunderer] sorry, "jd"
[jdbaxter] i was afraid someone would ask me that---the woman is afraid to love again and her lover does not understand why (i know this answer is
- vague but i'm still thinking)

[tabonnefee] lol jd
[Thunderer] just because her husband died?
[Thunderer] or is there something else
[jdbaxter] also he does not understand how she related so much to Mr. Mallory and the pictures, negatives, etc.

[Thumper6488] Thunderer: it was more that she lost her identity
[Thunderer] when he died?
[jdbaxter] not because her husband died but because of the magnitude of the losses---two sons that she birthed and raised, having to wear that
- black dress three times in such a short span of time
[Thumper6488] she was somebody's mother and somebody's wife, and when she lost the men in her family, she lost herself. Hence she had to define
- herself again
[tabonnefee] Thumper ... I think it was more her will to live die for a minute ... I can't imagine any pain greater than the death of a child
[Thunderer] then...maybe it was unreasonable to expect her to be able to move on
[Thunderer] was it
[Thumper6488] At the end of the book, she tells her lover that she was going to keep a little of herself for herself

[Thumper6488] She found out that she could move on and at the end was ready to do it
[jdbaxter] i agree thumper---during the time her husband and children were alive it seems that's where her identity lied--then after she had to
- struggle to find her identity in herself with the help of Mr. Mallory

[Thunderer] ta bonne fee: did she do anything that you would not have done
[Thumper6488] jdbaxter: I agree
[Thunderer] Ta bonne fee: considering what she had and lost
[tabonnefee] sistergirl is a very strong character even in her despair and sorting out
[tabonnefee] I don't know that I would have done anything different given her circumstances
[Thumper6488] Do you think that's why Wideman didn't name the characters until the end?

[Thunderer] Ta bonne fee: thats interesting
[jdbaxter] thumper---glad you brought up about her going to keep a little of herself for herself---i don;t think she ever did that before. it also
- means that she can possibly accept losing her new lover for whatever reason because she will not give all of herself to him
[tabonnefee] the characters had to define themselves within the confines of the book cover
[Thunderer] ta bonne fee: Then, what really is the lessen learned here
[Thumper6488] jdbaxter: exactly right

[Thumper6488] tabonnefee and didn't we have to be open to their defining themselves
[Thumper6488] could that be why he didn't name them
[jdbaxter] this story really made me think of how we can get involved in relationships and lose ourselves if we don't know who we really are
[tabonnefee] what I got from it is that we seek to define and redefine ourselves continually ... there will be many folks and scenarios that play
- out ... some will be permanent players others will just have cameo appearances
[Thumper6488] jdbaxter. yes
[Thunderer] and...
[tabonnefee] yes Thumper

[jdbaxter] i like that comment tabonnefee---cameo appearances vs. permanent players
[Thunderer] "word up"
[Thumper6488] I agree with all of your statements. Aren't the you-go-girl books trying to say the same thing?
[tabonnefee] jd...don't we oftentime feel that everybody that walks up into our world is a permanent player?
[Thunderer] ta bonne fee: you really think that?
[tabonnefee] I think it's that limited thinking that lends itself to our perpetual state of heartbreak ...if we could only see the contribution
- that folks make and move on we'd be fine
[jdbaxter] yes---at first until we realized that every player can't be permanent
[tabonnefee] think like what Thunderer?
[Thunderer] that the people you meet will be "permanent players"
[tabonnefee] jd...some folk realize a bit too late

[Thunderer] I am never think that
[tabonnefee] I don't think that way ...MOST of the
[Thunderer] and most of the time never desire such
[Thunderer] hehehe

[jdbaxter] thank you thank you thank you tabonnefee---affirmation or ourselves will allow us to learn from others then move on
[Thunderer] so...should I read this book or what
[Thunderer] is that what you think jd
[Thunderer] very philosophical*
[tabonnefee] it , it's definitely different
[Thumper6488] What about Mr. Mallory? What was his story?

[Thumper6488] Why take the pictures over the same film?
[Thunderer] Is the book mostly about the woman
[jdbaxter] yes thunderer---it is very different---i really didn't think i would finish it or join in the chat tonight but i kept an open mind about
- it and am glad i did.
[tabonnefee] it goes back and forth

[Thunderer] jd are you are girl?
[jdbaxter] yes thumper i am still puzzled as to why the pictures over the film---i know there's a meaning and i'm still thinking on that one
[Thumper6488] Thunderer: you're new to this aren't you?

[Thunderer] to what, Thump?
[Thumper6488] jdbaxter: I am as well. I was hoping that someonce could give me a hint or a clue.
[Thumper6488] Thunderer: New to chat rooms
[jdbaxter] do you think the pictures over the same film has something dto do with double exposure--i know i'm stretching it but i am intrigued by
- the symbolism
[Thunderer] kinda...I guess...why?
[Thunderer] is there some etiquette I should observe?

[Thumper6488] Thunderer: your excitement is refreshing. *smiling*
[Thunderer] Thanks...I guess...
[Thunderer] ....HAHAHA!!!

[Thumper6488] jdbaxter: could it be that he knew he could never get the pictures he wanted?
aalbc> smile

[Thunderer] I wish I had read the book
[Thunderer] I would be out of control!
[Thumper6488] He kept striving for his pictures to reflect something
[Thumper6488] that he didn't think he achieved. I kept wondering if he could have been incorrect.
[Thumper6488] Mallory's pictures being a case of "think long - think wrong" theory
[tabonnefee] lol Thumper
[jdbaxter] has anyone read anything else by wideman---i'm trying to figure out his style. thumper i think that may be so---it's not coincidental
- the he portrays the dying person with a many stories to tell in the pictures he takes but the only one left to interpret them is the woman who he
- sees as the most real person he has met

[Thumper6488] jdbaxter: but he had to know that the pictures that he took over the years didn't exist.

[Thumper6488] Was Wideman saying something about the history and emotions of AAs in this country?
>> careycarey has joined channel #XC.1141852

[jdbaxter] i think so thumper
[tabonnefee] well well well ...looky what the cat dragged in
[careycarey] Hi All
[jdbaxter] hi carey
[tabonnefee] hey Carey
aalbc> Hey Carey tell Ms. Ann Helllo

[Thunderer] Hi Carey!!
[careycarey] Well what did I miss HA HA.
[Thunderer] So we meet at last!!!
[careycarey] Thunderer what are you doing here?
[careycarey] Hi T, sorry about the last post
[Thunderer] Now that you are here, i am "slumming"
[Thunderer] HEHEHE
[careycarey] Hello Thump Ann's noyt here tonight
[tabonnefee] perhaps the pictures were meant to overlap and obcure details as well as elaborate on others as is the way of real life

[tabonnefee] Carey ... I may NEVER talk to you again
[Thunderer] MEOW!!
[tabonnefee] obcure = obscure
[careycarey] Thunderer, did you read the book? *LOL*(
[careycarey] I know better T.
[Thunderer] Hand up in the air
[Thunderer] you got me!
[tabonnefee] questioning my integrity like that ... you out did yourself

[careycarey] NO NO LOve I only meant honest to yourself!! really.
[Thunderer] said she was dishonest, Carey
[careycarey] Okay, what the number on this book?
[Thunderer] I saw you
[tabonnefee] and that's suppose to be better??????

[tabonnefee] lol... you're a mess

[careycarey] Well I'll it you with an e-mail, hows that
[tabonnefee] so Thumper, jd.... yeah or nay on the photo theory?
[Thumper6488] Carey: What did you think of Two Cities?
[Thumper6488] tabonnefee, I kinda disagree with you on the photo theory
[tabonnefee] ok ...kinda tell me
[careycarey] Hands up. I didn't- couldn't finish it. Does that telll you what I think.

[tabonnefee] lol Carey
[Thumper6488] I'm torn between believeng that it's a case of an artist not being satisfied with his art
[Thunderer] Dont worry, Carey...jd will tell you all about it
[tabonnefee] and....????
[Thumper6488] and the fact that it could be that the scope and depth of emotions that we experience as AA could never be fully captured on film

[jdbaxter] that's what it seems like to me too thumper---
[careycarey] Hello JD, What did you think of the book, I guess he's the only one besides Thump who read it huh
[Thunderer] thats deep, Thump
[Thumper6488] Thunderer: Well, I'm a deep person. LOL
aalbc> carey, why don't you call us all out! smile
[Thunderer] LOL
[jdbaxter] yes carey---i had a hard time completing the book---partly being rushed and not really easing into it like some other books i've read
- but it does have a message

[careycarey] I'm just thrilled that my man Thunderer showed up. Man not that was a surprise. Hello Troy!!
[Thumper6488] Troy: I don't know why Carey is so salty, playa hatin' can be like that sometimes though. LOL
[Thunderer] jd...are you a woman?
[jdbaxter] yes thunderer
[Thunderer] "Dont hate the play, hate the game"
[Thunderer] thanks, jd
[tabonnefee] "...when I stack slices of light onto each square of film. Different views, each stamped with its own pattern of light and dark but
- also transparent, letting through some of the light and dark of layers beneath and above."
[careycarey] NOw NOW Thump. Besides you and Thunderer are just killing that word.
[jdbaxter] well i'm signing off for tonight chat with you next time---bye
[Thunderer] It is interesting to know gender sometime when you are discussing books
[careycarey] Give it a break, PLEASE
>> jdbaxter has left channel #XC.1141852

[tabonnefee] "Like a choir singing. Each voice distinct, but also changing the sound of the whole, changing itself as it joins other voices."
[Thumper6488] tabonnefee: nice quote
[tabonnefee] Thumper... use this quote to defend your stance
[tabonnefee] perhaps the voice of the collective experience?

[Thunderer] You GO, ta bonne fee!
[tabonnefee] Carey ...see how nice nice SOME folks can be???
[Thumper6488] tabonnefee: nice quote but I don't think that it relates to my stance
[Thumper6488] Because with a choir singing, you have sound
[tabonnefee] don;t be so literal
[Thumper6488] but with a photograph that is suppose to engage the sense of sight, you have transparency
[Thunderer] you know guys are literal, Darlin'
a choir without dropping a note
[tabonnefee] lol Thunderer
[Thunderer] very true, ta bonne fee
[Thunderer] music inspires my writing
[Thumper6488] tabonnefee, sure, but what does a picture of an exposed negative show
[tabonnefee] photos are not only to engage the sense of sight....

[tabonnefee] I can look at a photo and smell what the photographer has captured
[tabonnefee] I can taste his purpose
[tabonnefee] I can feel his intention
[Thunderer] You can "smell it" , ta bonne fee

[tabonnefee] ANYWAY ... enough of that I guess
[Thunderer] thats "interesting"

[Thunderer] and taste and feel too
[Thunderer] LOL
[Thumper6488] I'm not talking about photography per say, I am talking about Mallory's pictures specificllyI understand that, but Mallory'[s
- pictures were taken so often that what is left of the film is nothing. Is there a message here about AA in America?

[Thunderer] interesting, Thump
[tabonnefee] or just a message of what a man chooses to leave behind?
[Thunderer] go on
[Thumper6488] tabonnefee: granted. But he didn't want it left behind though. didn't he tell her to destroy everything when he died?

[tabonnefee] perhaps he wanted his story known when he was there to tell it because when he's gone his experiences escape this world with him
aalbc> Hey yall -- I've archived the discussion from the point I joined until now. I have to sign off see next month for Etheridge Knight - peace


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